I cringe when I remember the damage I inflicted on my skin as a teenager. Harsh toners, no sunscreen, moisturizers too rich for my skin type that made me break out horribly. Eventually, I learned how to take care of it, but it wasn’t until I started blogging that my knowledge about all things skincare expanded immensely. Here’s what I 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, but in what concentrations too. So many skincare products contain plants extracts or vitamins that are supposed to be beneficial for the skin, but, in the minuscule concentrations they’re used, are pretty much useless. On the other hand, ingredients that are dangerous at high doses are perfectly safe when used in minuscule amounts. 100% Propylene Glycol is an antifreeze that can be very irritating, but in cosmetics, where it serves as a humectant and penetration enhancer, it is used in such tiny doses to be harmless. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that does wonders for the skin, but if you ingest too much, it could kill you. Nothing is either bad or good. It just depends on the dose.
2. Packaging matters
I have always been a sucker for pretty packaging. When I was younger, I often impulse bought something because it looked so good on the shelf. These days, packaging is still one of the main deciding factors when I purchase something. But now, rather than to aesthetic, I’m drawn to functionality. A lot of the best beneficial skincare ingredients, such as retinoids, antioxidants, and sunscreen actives, lose a bit of their effectiveness whenever they are exposed to light and air. So, they must be packaged in air-tight and opaque tubes and bottles. Otherwise, you’re just throwing your money away.
3. Stick with the purpose products are formulated for
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If I don’t like a face moisturizer, I will use it on my body. But I would never do the opposite. Why? Because body care products tend to have heavier consistencies that moisturize the thicker skin of our bodies well, but could easily cause havoc on our faces. And using anything on your skin that hasn’t been formulated for it is a no-no. Dishwashing liquids may contain the same cleansing agents as those in your shampoo or body wash, but the concentrations are higher and harsher, and could seriously dry and irritate your skin. Milk Of Magnesia can seem a godsend for oily skin, but its ph is way too high and could cause all kinds of troubles. Yes, there are times when a brand just packages the same formula in different bottles and charges you double for it (for instance, a lot, but by no means all, eye creams are just facial moisturizer in tinier but more expensive jars), but often, there is a very good reason why a product is labelled for a certain use, so stick with it.
4. Skin is more useful than we think
Our society puts a lot of emphasis on the way we look, so it’s easy to believe the only purpose of our skin is to look good. But skin does a lot more than that. Its main job is to keep stuff OUT of the body, and it is incredible good at that. Think about what happens (or better, doesn’t happen) when you have a shower or a bath. Your body doesn’t soak up all the water, does it? Yet, there are people who would have us believe that everything we put on our skin penetrates it. On the contrary, very few substances are able to get through it. Most stay on the surface or, if they manage to get through, only remain in the superficial layers of the skin, never reaching the blood stream. And why should cosmetic ingredients be able to penetrate so deep into the body, anyway? Their purpose is to beautify and take care of the skin, so they’d need to stay in the zone to do their job properly.
5. You don’t need that many skincare products
Cleanser, toner, facial moisturizer, eye cream, serum, mask, exfoliant, sunscreen… There are so many skincare products we’re told we need, but that’s not true. What your skin needs depends on its problems and concerns. At 31, my skin is pretty good, just a bit oily on the t-zone. My main concern, now, is anti-aging. So, in the morning, I use a cleanser, a serum with antioxidants, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. At night, a cleanser, a serum with retoinds, and an antioxidants-rich moisturizer. A few times a week, I exfoliate, and whenever I feel like it, or my skin needs an emergency pick-me-up, a mask too. Toner? I don’t need it. Eye cream? Nothing can cure my genetic dark circles so I just apply my fragrance-free facial moisturizer on the eye area. Works just fine. Only if the skin around your eyes is different from the skin of the rest of your face, or has a particular concern, should you invest in a separate eye cream.
Rather than purchasing any type of product out there, figure out what problems your skin has, what ingredients can solve it, and choose products accordingly. Only cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliant, and sunscreen are an absolute must for everyone. If you need more (such as anti-acne, anti-aging, or anti-hyperpigemntation products), add more. But don’t buy a toner, or something else, because you think your skincare routine will be incomplete without it, or you may be throwing money away on stuff that does nothing for your skin.
What have you learned about skincare?