The other day an Uber driver asked me what I did for a living. Not quick enough to come up with a clever lie that would immediately halt the conversation (I didn’t feel like talking), I replied with the truth, that I was a beauty editor. “Well, you want to know what I think?” the driver asked. (No.) “I think all that skin care stuff is bullshit.” Could this be the same person who authored “The Skincare Con,” the controversial anti-skin care article on The Outline?
In a tired, monotonous tone, as if she had been explaining her theory for the entirety of her life, the driver proceeded to explain to me that I don’t need skin care products. Only what you “put in your body” determined your skin’s appearance. She wasn’t entirely wrong. There are countless books on the market and gurus espousing clean eating and how it can help your skin, and it can.
And while studies have been inconclusive, some people swear that cutting dairy out of their diets has improved their skin tremendously. Of course, there are other people whose diets don’t really affect their skin. The driver went on about all these “creams and serums” being total and utter malarkey until she realized I wasn’t in the mood for an argument. I smiled to myself, knowing I was on my way home to slather Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream onto my face and catch up on The Good Place.
The problem with “The Skincare Con” (and the unwanted conversation in my Uber ride) is the presumption that the entire notion of skin care is useless, trivial, and shallow. That by applying serums, creams, and essences to our faces, we are aiming for an unattainable sense of “perfection.” The author of “The Skincare Con” would rather us spend our money on books, shoes, or “literally anything that gives more pleasure than another useless exfoliant.” What if an exfoliant is someone’s idea of a pair of Louboutins? What if the nightly ritual of applying a serum is someone’s perfect paradise? Some people have had theirs lives changed once they figured out their personal skin care routine. Others can wash their faces with Dove bar soap and call it a day. It’s all a personal preference. You can’t just dismiss the entire existence of skin care as one big “con.” Gawd, have you even tried Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir?
The author points out the money issue but fails to argue that skin care doesn’t have to be expensive. Rosewater is a cheap and easy DIY that has been used as a toner and emollient since the ancient times. And have you ever heard of sunscreen? It’s technically a skin care product that’s also essential.
Having a skin care ritual, where you are paying close attention to yourself alone in this delicate, intimate way, is a pure form of self-love. It’s like cooking yourself a little meal and sitting in the coziest spot of your home to eat it.
Even before I was writing about beauty I loved makeup and skin care. My mom taught me to moisturize at a young age, and I remember being a kid, watching her put on Pond’s Cold Cream at night. Some of us relate our beauty routines to memories with our families. People bond over skin care — there are secrets and rituals passed down from generation to generation. For some, it is a huge part of their familial history.
The writer points out horror stories of skin care regimens gone bad. A cringe-inducing anecdote from Dr. Whitney Bowe describes a patient who suffered irritation after using a loofah to apply a physical scrub, then topping it off with an acid and a retinol. Another example pulled from Reddit describes someone’s face turning into “one big open wound” after mixing glycolic acid and Tretinoin (a retinol). Now, acids and retinols can both be extremely beneficial to skin, but you can’t use all of them at the same time. At its basis, skin care is a science, and you have to educate yourself. Think of yourself like a skin care Harry Potter. The right ingredients used together at the right times can create magical results.
I have had skin issues off and on my entirely life. Birth control pills had paused my acne, but I stopped taking them last summer and just started getting breakouts. While I’m sure I could drink more water, my diet is pretty healthy, yet still I had been getting zits here and there. I recently found solace in a facial at Kate Somerville, Mighty Patch acne stickers, and a glorious Tata Harper face wash. My skin is happy, and I am happy. I won’t let any skin care hater take away my shine.
Our skin has to deal with harsh environmental factors every day, whether it’s dirt, grime, sun, pollution, or Uber drivers. Of course we’re going to want to take care of it.