Confused about skincare? You are not alone.
Welcome to the minefield that is skincare! If you are bewildered about what is best for your skin, then you are not alone. An article by The Telegraph, stated that 87% of women are confused about skincare products. The vast majority of consumers of skincare don't understand the ingredients and how (or if) they work. This was one of my reasons for beginning a course in Cosmetic Science. I wanted to understand what goes into making personal products, so I can relate it back when asked for advice. Having this knowledge has made me rethink skincare massively. It helps me decide which ingredients and subsequent formulations are worth the hype.
The marketing of skincare has exploded with the evolution of social media. I can’t remember the last time I called to a beauty counter in a department store to get advice from a consultant. But I don’t feel that this is necessarily a bad thing. When you ask for help at branded cosmetic counter, they can only suggest their products. I don’t agree that you need 4 or 5 products from one brand in order for 1 product to ‘work’ and it can work out very expensive.
Nowadays, many people prefer a recommendation from their favourite influencer or from skincare gurus such as Caroline Hirons or Jennifer Rock. I will admit that I do enjoy a skincare haul or ‘empties’ video from some of my favourite Instagram or Tik Tok accounts. I think if the people you follow are trustworthy and knowledgable, you can actually find some great new products to try. And no one is putting pressure on you to buy, unlike said beauty counters where it can be harder to say no to add-on products.
It is often not the ingredients in a product that make you interested in buying it, but the claims the brand makes. How many times have you seen the buzzwords, ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘non-toxic’, ‘clean’ when it comes to skincare packaging? These words, imply wrongly, that all other skincare companies that don’t use such phrases are seen as toxic and dirty, which is really damaging and untrue. The worst one, is those that claim to be ‘chemical-free’, I mean, everything including the water we drink is a chemical. Please don’t fear chemicals! Every formulation will undergo safety and toxicology testing prior to going on the market.
Are cosmetic ingredients safe?
All cosmetics products available to buy must follow the regulations in the country where they are sold. This includes all safety data and ensures only allowable ingredients are contained in the products. Just because something is natural doesn’t make it automatically safe for use. Products from nature have to undergo some chemical processes to be able to be used. HowIver, it is often easier now (and often more sustainable!) to make them in the lab. This allows ingredients to be made with ideal specifications for use in skincare products. An example is salicylic acid, once derived from willow bark, now commonly synthesised in labs for use in cosmetic products. If this is an area which interests you, then click here for a brilliant video on this by Nadine Baggott and Sam Farmer.
Whether a product or brand becomes successful is heavily reliant on marketing. However, personally I prefer to follow the science rather than the sometimes extravagant claims. I want to know the facts about ingredients they contain and their reason for inclusion. Many brands are now explaining their INCI lists on their packaging, to offer their consumers complete transparency, which is a welcome step forward. Formulators are the key to quality products as their focus is on safety and effectiveness, as they know which chemicals do what the brand are needing to claim for a particular item.
Advice for consumers
So to make skincare less confusing, my advice, is to find products that you like to use. And from using them, you see a benefit. Find skincare experts that you trust either in person or online. Don’t expect miracles with skincare but do expect your products to cleanse, hydrate, protect, dependent on the product description. Try not to focus on the latest new version of the ‘clean’ term. Skincare products must adhere to certain standards to be available and are never ‘unclean’. The most expensive products are not always the best. Above all, in my opinion, skincare is self-care and promotes wellbeing. It should be a pleasure to use a product because you love it.
Take care always