Skincare industry is full of overblown marketing promises. There are lots of products on the market that are outright harmful to your skin. To figure out what's good and what's not, it is definitely helpful to know a little bit about the science of skincare.
The word "science" sounds intimidating to many of us. What it means though, in a nutshell, is that we test if something is true, instead of assuming or believing it is. This is why science-based skincare follows evidence. Take an anti-aging serum. If you are following a science-based approach to skincare, you will ask two questions. The first one is: "Did someone test this product and was able to confirm that it reduces wrinkles in real people?". The second question comes if there is no positive answer to the first one. This question is: "Did someone test the main ingredients in this product and was able to confirm that they reduce wrinkles in real people?".
You do not need to have a PhD to adopt science-based skincare. You need to follow a few simple principles.
1. Be sceptical. Real breakthroughs in skincare science happen more rarely than once in decade. Despite patents and marketing claims, it almost never happens that one cosmetic brand posses a uniquely effective ingredient or formula. It does not mean that all skincare products are the same. It means that almost every expensive skincare product has a cheaper but no less effective alternative.
2. Less is more. This principle is not about a philosophical approach to life. It is about respecting the complex biology of skin. Skin is an organ with functions that are vital for our survival and health. Its biology evolved over a long period of time to maintain a delicate balance. At the same time, our skin has not adopted to elaborated multistep skincare routines. It assumes that everything that comes in contact with it has a potential to be a harmful substance. This is why routines with too many skincare products and ingredients end up triggering immune responses in the skin, resulting in allergies, irritations, dryness, and inflammation.
3. Boring is good. Effective evidence-based skincare routines are consistent. To see good long-term results, you would need to follow the same skincare steps, with mostly the same products, every single day. Plus, most of your products would be fragrance-free, and of a plain color. Combined with the "less is more" principle, this is the definition of "boring" in skincare. You might wonder about the whole "Skincare time is a me-time" Instagram movement. Isn't skincare supposed to be fun? - Not really, in the same way as your gut care or liver care is not supposed to be fun. It's way better for the health and appearance of your skin to mark your "me-time" with a meditation, a good book, or a walk outside.
4. Look for ingredients with good evidence of effectiveness . The list of skincare ingredients that have good evidence of effectiveness is short. For any skincare concern, an effective evidence-based skincare routine will include a combination of some ingredients from the list below. This list is not exhaustive, but it is very far away from being endless. You can use it as your science-based skincare "cheat sheet": if a "hero ingredient" of a product is not on the list, switch your most sceptical mode on. Chances are that the evidence of this ingredient's effectiveness are not there.
Science-based skincare cheat sheet: Well studied cosmetic skincare ingredients with good evidence of effectiveness
Photo by Hans Reniers