I might have 35 books in my ‘to read’ pile, but I still find time to read about skincare on an almost daily basis. Everybody needs a hobby ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I think Americans are skeptical. Skeptical of marketing claims. Skeptical of politicians. Skeptical of whether or not something is really “organic,” “gluten-free,” or even “healthy.”
But one thing Americans are not skeptical of is a claim something is “unsafe”. And this is one thing Americans should be VERY skeptical of: Think about it. There are billions, if not trillions, of dollars to be made from convincing consumers perfectly safe ingredients are unsafe, cancer-causing, or harmful, and then developing alternatives. (Jessica Alba didn’t go from an actress to having an organic products company with a billion-dollar valuation because mothers are skeptical of fearmongering.)
At FutureDerm, I am frequently asked about the penetration and absorption of skin care ingredients.
We all know, for instance, that ingredients like Vaseline (petrolatum jelly) lay atop the skin and do not penetrate the skin at all. We also know that ingredients like rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) drink completely into the skin within seconds after application.
So what gives? How do we know the other ingredients are penetrating the skin? Is this even a good thing?
Show the world a teen girl with an unabashed love for cosmetics, and you may hear phrases like “vain” or “self-absorbed” in response. But for Emma, and others like her, the world of makeup and skincare brings much-needed peace, control, and empowerment (and on the tougher days, simply a reason to get out of bed in the mornings). “When I’m struggling with how I look or feel, I can do a full face of makeup, or I can do something crazy, something fun,” says Emma. “It gives me time to focus on something besides what my anxiety is centering on, and it gives me reassurance every time I look in the mirror: ‘Hey, I did that. That’s pretty stinkin’ cool.’”
As it turns out, beauty routines can bestow some pretty powerful cognitive benefits on the brain — especially if you commonly catch yourself stuck in negative thought patterns, like overanalyzing situations, blaming yourself for things beyond your control, or generally feeling pessimistic. These thoughts, which psychotherapist Mike Dow, PsyD, author of Healing the Broken Brain, refers to as “pitfall patterns,” are linked to neurological processes in the brain that have been associated with depression and anxiety, and certain actions — even those as seemingly simple as a skincare or makeup routine — can help to uproot them. “So many processes in the brain are more circular than linear — they look like merry-go-rounds, not arrows,” he explains. “To change them, we have to interrupt the loop somehow.”
You’ll often find different rules and advice for using “physical” and “chemical” sunscreens. One dermatologist says that you need to apply less physical sunscreen compared to a chemical sunscreen. There’s also the belief that “physical” sunscreens provide protection instantly, don’t absorb into the skin, don’t degrade in the sun, and don’t need reapplication.
These are myths and are not backed by research or chemical knowledge. By following these rules (or myths) you’re not using your sunscreen to its greatest effect!
The Acid Queen
For me, the most difficult part of building a good skincare routine was actually listening to my skin. I’d get so starry-eyed over rave reviews that I’d buy a product and slather it on my face without considering whether it would work for me, specifically. I’ve tried three different clay masks in my life. I have very dry skin; there is literally zero reason I would ever need to use a clay mask unless I was cosplaying the Death Valley salt flats.
Everyone’s skin is different, and the best way to get the healthiest, happiest skin possible is to A) know what your skin wants and needs, and B) skip the stuff that’s meant for other kinds of skin. This post is meant to help you figure out your unique skin so you can refine your skincare routine and know what to look for – and what to avoid.