January 31, 2019
American women are buying into Eastern wisdom bigtime: While hordes of U.S. females are following “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo of Japan; many others have gone on to buy and try board-certified esthetician Charlotte Cho’s Soko Glam ten-step Korean Skin Care Routine.
Founded in 2012 with products curated from South Korea, Soko Glam advances an already rampant trend: If there’s a skin “problem,” there must be a cream, mask, serum, or scrub for that.
And, as the Huffington Post points out in a January 29 story, at a time when high-profile politicians— yes, we’re talking about Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) —are sharing their own skin care secrets, and other beauty-obsessed influencers are boasting about their own favorite elixirs and panaceas; it’s easy to convince ourselves that more is more, and more is better—especially on the path to “perfect” skin.
But are all those products really helping us? Do we really need to be spending all that money and piling a ton of stuff on our faces to keep our skin at its best? The HuffPost spoke to dermatologists to get some answers.
It’s true that plenty of people out there really do love their skin care routines. As Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, told the news outlet, “I think part of this whole trend of wanting to do multi-step skin care comes from a real need or desire in our society to do more self-care.”
So it feels good, but is that a good reason to spend so much time and money on your skin?
“Need is a relative term,” Dr. Anna Guanche, a board-certified dermatologist at Bella Skin Institute in Calabasas, California, told the HuffPost via email. She explained that if someone has, say, a ten-step process, that would be “optimal if all ingredients are compatible, stay active on the skin when layered, penetrate, and most importantly, are applied consistently.”
And therein lies one problem: compatibility. There’s a good chance most people aren’t scientists who’ve studied every ingredient in every formula and know exactly how all their products interact with each other.
Chwalek noted that skin care and beauty products are studied for their efficacy on an individual basis, not as part of a layered routine. When you put multiple layers of products on your skin, you can’t always be sure the active ingredients in each of them are penetrating as deeply as they should be for the results you want, she said.
“Not only that, you’re also adding on top of something where there are other ingredients that could be deactivating the active ingredient, or affecting the pH at which the active ingredient works,” Chwalek told the online news source. “It’s hard to know if the active ingredient of the last thing you added actually got [to where it needed] to be in the skin, and if it wasn’t deactivated by something else you put on.”
Chwalek and Guanche both agreed that doing too much to our skin can actually irritate it. And if you’re using so many products, it becomes difficult to pinpoint which one or which ingredient is causing that reaction.
If you do have a large arsenal of products you like using, Dr. Angela Lamb, director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice in New York City, suggested alternating them. “For example,” she told HuffPost “if you have two cleansers you love, use one in the morning and one at night. If you have two anti-aging serums, use one in the morning and one at night, or one Monday, Wednesday, Friday and another Tuesday, Sunday.”
In Guanche’s opinion, a few high-quality products and consistent application are key when it comes to skin care. Lamb agreed, noting that she likes to walk through exactly which products her patients are using and why.
“I try to pin down their goals for each product,” Lamb said. “Once I get my arms around that, then I can really trim down their regimens.”
Chwalek offered a similar viewpoint, saying that each product should have a purpose.
“Each time you’re putting something on your face, you have to ask yourself, why are you doing it? What is its purpose? If you’re using a bunch of stuff and you can’t say why you’re doing it or what it’s doing for you, I think you have to rethink it.”
It’s no surprise, therefore, that it turns out, it’s possible for a good skin care routine to be composed of only two or three basic products.
According to Guanche, the musts in beauty care are few: a cleanser, a sunscreen, and a moisturizer.
Some people might not even need moisturizers, Chwalek said, especially those who find that their skin naturally produces more oil. In her opinion, not every single person should be using the exact same products ― “it needs to be individualized,” she said ― but her typical recommendations include a gentle cleanser, a vitamin C or antioxidant serum in the morning and sunscreen.
Lamb’s essentials were similar: cleanser twice a day (once for those with drier skin), serum, eye cream, moisturizer and sunscreen. She did note, however, that some products, like combo moisturizers with SPF, can simplify things even more.
All three dermatologists told the HuffPost that toner is one product that’s not necessary for everyone. Chwalek noted it could be beneficial for those with oily skin, and Guanche suggested it for acne-prone individuals.
The reality with skin care, Chwalek said, is that we’re all “wowed by marketing and there’s new products coming out every day.”
“It’s such a huge industry. I understand the desire for people to want to use multiple things, but I do think keeping it simple is best,” she said.
Ultimately, “the best skin care is the is skin care you actually use,” Guanche said. And in this case, that doesn’t always mean more.
Research contact: @juliabruc