Harsh toners. No sunscreen. Rich moisturizers that made me breakout.
Gosh, I was so harsh on my skin in my teen years! Thing is, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
My mum only washed her face with soap and water. If her skin were dry, maybe she’d use moisturizer, too.
None of the teen mags I read told me how important sunscreen was. They just promoted whatever product or technique was in at the time (and paid their bills).
It took me years of trial and error to figure out how to take care of my skin. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
1. It’s the dose that makes the poison (or the elixir)
It’s not just about what ingredients are in a product. It’s about how much of them are in a product.
Vitamin C is awesome. It fights free radicals and brightens your skin to boot. But, most brands just use the tiniest amount. Surprise, surprise, that’s not gonna do anything for you.
On the other hand, harmful ingredients aren’t that harmful in tiny doses. Take propylene glycol, for example. Yes, 100% propylene glycol is an antifreeze that can be very irritating. But in cosmetics, it’s used so sparingly, it won’t hurt you.
2. Packaging matters
I’ve always been a sucker for pretty packaging. When I was younger, I often bought something on a whim just because it looked so cute.
For makeup, that may be fine. But, when it comes to skincare practical is way more important than pretty. Some of the best ingredients, such as retinoids, antioxidants, and sunscreen actives, lose a bit of their effectiveness whenever they are exposed to light and air.
These days, if they don’t come in air-tight and opaque tubes and bottles, I leave them on the shelf.
3. Stick with the purpose products are formulated for
Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. I often use hair conditioner as shaving cream. And, if I don’t like a face moisturizer, I’ll use it on my body. But I would never do the opposite. Why?
Cos body creams usually have thicker consistencies that are ideal for the thicker skin of the body but can cause breakouts on the face.
And let not even get me started about using dishwashing liquid, or anything like that, as a body wash or shampoo. Yes, they all contain the same ingredients, but their concentrations in dishwashing stuff is much, much higher and could seriously irritate your skin. Concentration matters, remember?
If it hasn’t been formulated for the skin, don’t put it there. Full stop.
4. Skin is more useful than we think
Your skin isn’t there just cos. It does a very important job: it keeps stuff OUT of the body. And it does it very well. That’s why we still have to swallow most medicines or get injections.
Getting something to get through the skin is hard. Yes, a few things do get through, under the right conditions. But skin doesn’t absorb as much stuff as we’re lead to believe these days.
And even when something gets through, it usually stays in the dead, superficial layers of the skin. They never reach the blood stream.
And why should they be able to penetrate so deep into the body, anyway? Most ingredients work only when left on the skin. If zinc oxide, for example, were able to reach the bloodstream, it would hardly be able to create a protective shield against UV rays, wouldn’t it?
5. You don’t need that many skincare products
If your skin needs some extra help, you can always add a booster or toner later on.
Buying this or that product just because it’s popular or Allure said is a must is usually just a waste of money. Listen to your skin. Figure out what’s upsetting it and what ingredients can fix its woes. Choose products accordingly.
Done. Now both your skin and your wallet are happy.
What skincare lessons have you learned during the years?