Many skincare consumers use the wrong criteria to shop for their skincare. Your face is how you present yourself to the world. A trained expert can often tell a lot about your lifestyle and health by looking at the expression lines on your face or the level dehydration, discoloration, pore size, puffiness, acne and wether any of those signs of aging correlate with your chronological age.
Many of us care about our skin and want to make the best choices. However, the paradox of choice is especially complex in today's cosmetic world, filled with flashy colors, Instagram-able packaging, miraculous marketing promises, and 18-year-old self-proclaimed experts on YouTube telling you what ingredients are best and sending you in a new shopping direction with each video.
We've categorized major ways consumers shop for skincare. If you've shopped based on one of these four methods, scroll down to the corresponding paragraph where we share our thoughts:
- You typically shop at a department store beauty counter.
- You 100% trust your dermatologist with their drug store skincare recommendations.
- You make purchases based on the advice of your favorite social media influencer.
- You forgo others' advice & simply look for high percentages of ingredients. They must be powerful and hence will solve your skin problem quickly. hmmm...!
If any of the above shopping methods apply to you, you can scroll right to the corresponding section.
1- Department store shopper
I have spent a number of years working at various department stores, and what you don't know is that each cosmetic consultant is employed by, or assigned to, a specific brand. Their earnings rely on commissions paid partly or mostly by the brand, and their training is provided by the brand itself. All this goes to say that the recommendations you get are not without bias and that the training provided barely covers the basics of skincare. It is often created by marketing teams and limited to what the brand wants you to know. So the sales person may be quite passionate about what they are sharing with you because they drank the Coolade during their training ( I did!). I certainly was one that developed a passion for each brand I represented at the time. The brand trainers were pretty convincing! My true skincare knowledge didn't grow till I developed major skin issues and sensitivities and set out to do research and self-educate after all the piles of skincare products I've accumulated over the years were no help to my skin condition. They were rather the cause.
2- Dermatologist recommended skincare
In my years in the industry, I've often encountered clients that take their dermatologist recommendation as gospel. When I developed Periorial Dermatitis, my dermatologist, after about a 2 minute conversation & 3 questions, wrote prescriptions for antibiotics (which he said, I would need long term), Steroid cream (which can help in the short term, but aggravate the issue if discontinued, and comes with a long list of side effects). For my skincare routine, he recommended a chemical-packed, Paraben-filled cleanser and moisturizer from the drug store which; yes- are fragrance-free, but had about 50 ingredients each that I could barely pronounce, many of which have been known to cause cancer or hormonal imbalances.
Just like modern day doctors, dermatologists are trained to react to symptoms rather than dig deep and treat the root cause. That would take too much time and effort, and won't keep you coming to their office would it? Some conditions can easily be treated by making small changes in diet, but you don't hear that often. Additionally, Many dermatologists don't believe in the power of skincare or diet, and rather steer you to antibiotics, drugs and procedures. This, of course doesn't apply to all. We're thrilled to see a number of dermatologists, just like functional medicine doctors, starting to look at skin or body holistically, and make connections to diet and lifestyle. A current favorite is Dr. Jessica Krant, MD of NYC. We need more of you, Jessica!
In short, there are many skincare conditions that can easily be treated adopting healthy habits, avoiding irritants and treating the root cause, rather than jump right into aggressive treatments that often carry negative side effects.
3- Influencer recommended skincare
I truly have a hard time with this trend that's not going anywhere; teens and young adults who've hardly had any training with the various skin conditions, nor real world experience working with customers on a long term basis, managing their skin issues. Yet, millions are following them listening to their reviews solely based on the claims, list of ingredients, and the account of one user experience, that of the influencer themselves. Mind-boggling!
I have to admit, some are very good and get you hooked. I found myself looking up some of their recommendation, only to move right passed them once I've dug a bit deeper into the product itself. I have yet to find an influencer that is non-biased, that truly understands skin function and makes sound recommendations that would improve the skin for the long-term.
4- You shop on your own primarily seeking high concentrations of actives. The Ordinary anyone?
What I say to that is; percentages are often very effective marketing tactics to get you to trust the product. They often mean nothing, expect that in some instances the products are too aggressive and will most likely strip your skin.
The only number you should be paying attention to is sunscreen. It needs to be somewhere around SPF 30. Otherwise, when it comes to Vitamin-C, for example, If you are presented with a bottle that says 5% and one saying 30%, you will most likely go with the higher one not realizing that vitamin-c for the most part is an unstable molecule that can oxidize and work against your skin, not for it. To maintain its stability, it needs to never come in contact with air or light till application. Can you imagine a scenario where that's even possible? So, in the absence of efficacy, what you are left with in some vitamin-c serums is stinging and sensitivity.
The lesson here is that no matter the concentration, your skin can only absorb so much. Some actives can deliver maximum effect at 1%, so there is no need for higher percentage, and what matters more is the formulation itself, the quality of ingredients, and providing the perfect balance between efficacy and minimal side effects.
So, do your research! Or follow The Beauty Doctrine. We've made it our mission to do the research on your behalf. We investigate, educate and curate the best selection of clean brands. We are available for video consultations for personalized assessments and recommendations. Our blogs are a wealth of information, and would be a great place to start your skincare learning.
Be well. Be safe. Be beautiful!