The Skincare Scam

My teen years were spent playing chemist at my vanity twice daily, lathering a concoction of up to seven products on my oily, sensitive, acne-prone skin.  

Initially, skincare for me was less about caring for my skin and more about buying cute products on the market that claim to beautify or enhance the appearance of it. My skin’s health took an odd turn for the worse after high school. I amped up my regimen, adding a couple of new serums, but the flare ups got so bad I wound up being prescribed the strongest dose of a topical retinol and daily oral antibiotic. These, on top of my already extensive routine including vitamins, peptides, and sometimes an acid every other night. 

I became so obsessed with getting my acne under control, I never missed a day. It was like saying a prayer each morning when I rose and again at night before bed. After about a year of keeping up with what’s hot in skincare, ingredient combinations, steps of application that are most effective, and a couple thousand dollars later, my skincare prayers were answered. I had clear skin.

Today, this is not so much the case.  

What can I say, when you achieve near perfect skin, you sometimes get lazy with the regimen. Not only this, but I’ve had to shift my budgeting over the last year and there’s not much room for me to re-up on the skin luxuries each month. I’m finding that my skin has been reacting negatively to the change in routine and lack of products, but it is quickly healing itself. As I’ve been forced to slim down my skin regimen, I realize that maybe my skin didn’t need any of this in the first place. 

No one really needs skincare. 

The “science of skincare” tells consumers where, when, and how to best manipulate the skin’s appearance. But the science of the skin says that the skin’s appearance should not be manipulated at all. 

In his 2020 book, “Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less,” Dr. James Hamblin says, “The skin microbiome represents a new and important reason to reconsider much of the received wisdom about soap and skincare … The skin and its microbiome are the interface between our bodies and the natural world.” 

A balanced skin microbiome is essential for the maintenance of skin health. Almost any topical product can alter the balance of the microbiome and impair the skin’s inherent abilities, which can lead to skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.  

We as consumers tend to jump into a pool of skincare that will provide our skin with short term solutions, but do not allow the microbiome to thrive in the long term. Additionally, the root cause of skin conditions is rarely surface level; acne, for example is often tied to issues related to stress, gut-health, hormones, or genetics.  

Globally, the skincare industry was worth $131 billion in 2022, and the demand isn’t projected to decline anytime soon. From firsthand experience, it feels great to have a skin regimen. A small part of a daily routine that some view as an escape from daily stress; a way to feel seemingly in control. I think embracing a more minimalistic approach to skincare that recognizes the microbiome’s importance can allow consumers to foster lasting improvements in their skin’s appearance and overall well-being.

No matter how “science-backed” a product is labeled, no serum goes that deep.  

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