About a week ago, my wonderful friend Hannah wrote a blog post about her dislike of skincare products. She had actually been asking me for recommendations a month or so before, which led to me writing this blog post and to her going to Boots to drop some sweet pennies on Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish. But she remained unconvinced, and so she wrote a piece about why she thinks the skincare industry is unhealthy and misleading. She argues that skincare is all a marketing ploy, fuelled by advertising and patriarchal standards imposed on women so they will buy products they don’t really need and won’t make a difference to their face. And as a woman, – as a feminist, even – who has long suffered from the insecurities ingrained in her by unrealistic beauty standards, I get it. I started using bead exfoliators aged thirteen, desperately hoping to get the clear skin of my favourite Skins characters (no pun intended), and over time this progressed into a full skincare routine that’s probably the same value as a very small designer purse. And it’s been a long, expensive journey to find the stuff that works for me.
However: I still think skincare is fundamentally good, valid and important to understand. And honestly, I believe it can really help not only your outside but also what’s going on inside your brain too.
Firstly, let’s talk about skincare being a big old beauty myth. It would be so much easier on my wallet if this was the case, however, I think there are millions of people who have found products that genuinely help to tame their problematic skin. Anecdotally, the evidence is vast, let alone the number of academic studies that have been done on skincare and its ingredients. In my case, my skin has struggled with acne, cystic acne and incredible dryness over the course of a decade. Without the products I found to control my oil production, or the moisturisers I discovered that stopped my skin from cracking within minutes of stepping out of my shower, my skin would be in a lot worse condition than it is now. Skincare is formulated, tested multiple times and often has scientific backing as to its effectiveness. Many ingredients have been proven to help certain skin conditions, or have been used for decades in natural remedies to ease certain skin issues. Whilst there are definitely some products that aren’t as effective, and price tags that don’t reflect the ingredients used, it is difficult to argue that all skincare is simply a dupe on us naive women.
Speaking of which, I don’t contest that there are things you can buy that are marketed as skincare but will likely make your face feel and look worse. Makeup wipes are known for causing irritation, adding unnecessary chemicals and smearing your makeup around your face as opposed to taking it off. Some chemical exfoliators can be very questionable too, and leave skin aggravated and worse off than it was when you started using it. It takes a bit of research, and you have to be a consumer with your eyes open, but the good news is that a ten minute Google will bring up advice on the products that are likely to help your particular issue and steer you away from the things worth avoiding. You don’t have to follow a meticulous six-step routine – in fact, I’d actively avoid doing that – but just finding the right cleanser and moisturiser can make your face noticeably more comfortable and keep acne, dry skin or dullness under control in a low maintenance, sustainable way. Two products! Miracle shit.
Skincare also means a lot more to some people than just clear skin. Many see it as a basic act of self-care; a routine they do twice a day that gives them five minutes to themselves and away from their phone. Even if they don’t see major improvements, the benefits to their mental health and feeling like they’re looking after themselves makes a huge difference to their outlook on their bodies and their brain.
And finally, skincare is so much more than just products. It’s washing your pillowcases regularly; it’s wearing suncream; it’s getting medication to manage the hormonal cysts that develop completely independently of any lotion, potion or pollution that touches your face. Looking after your skin is just like looking after the rest of your body; in the same way that I look after my mental health, or go to the doctor when I’m unwell, I think skincare is just another part of your temple that’s worth maintaining, however big your budget. I’m happy to age naturally – skincare isn’t going to turn back the clock when I’m thirty-five and that’s a-okay by me – but it’s a way to care for what you’ve already got, just like eating your veggies and drinking enough water will help your body in the long run too.
So that’s where I stand on skincare; although I have an arguable bias, with it being my passion and a part of my job, I really do feel that as an aware consumer, the products I use have improved the quality and condition of my skin. Not only that, it makes me feel better to know that I am caring for the biggest organ in my body in the best way I can. I try to protect my skin from bacteria, pollution and sun damage and manage the imbalances that cause soreness, irritation and spots, and if I want to spend a hundred pounds on that then so be it. I hope to empower everyone, no matter their budget, to improve their confidence, mental health and skin health through products that will actually help them. Skincare can enable us to take control over some of the things that cause us the most insecurity and most discomfort, and despite the questionable advertising and occasional inaccurate claim on the box, I think that’s something to be celebrated.