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The limits of skin care

“Brighten, boost collagen, and minimize fine lines and wrinkles!!”

“Corrects dullness, plumps the look of lines, and exfoliates the skin!”

“In as little as four weeks, you’ll see firmer skin, reduced appearance of wrinkles, a more even skintone, and less visible pores!1!”

Ever wondered how your creams, cleansers, masks and other potions are actually intending to pull all of these things off?

Because, contrary to the majority of marketing copy and grand sounding product claims, the truth is that there’s only so much topical skin care applications can really do.

Actives and antioxidants

Even truly splendid, actually active ingredients, such as AHA, BHA or Retinoids, aren’t all-powerful, but take time to yield results. And I’m not saying that plant extracts and oils that beauty companies often like to advertise with don’t have a place in skin care either. But with most ingredients that are supposed to do something, anything, there are caveats the regular consumer isn’t usually aware of.

For example, AHA and BHA formulations both need a specific range of pH-level to actually work at all. Or when it comes to Retinoids, such as Retinol, what you have to look for is the right derivatives for the product to do anything at all. As for plant extracts, you’ll want a lot of them. Just a bit turmeric here, a bit Green tea there, will hardly do very much at all. Even if they did, however, the most they can do is pre-emptive.

The case for silicones and mineral oil

Immediately plumper, younger looking, softer skin, on the other hand? That’s probably silicones. Less visible wrinkles, glow, evened out complexion? Again, that’s probably silicones and, who knows, maybe some pearly shimmer.

Don’t get me wrong, though! Occlusive ingredients such as silicones or mineral oil and the like do have actual benefits for the skin. They seal in moisture into the deeper layers of the skin and protect it from transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which is an essential feature in effective moisturizers and can in fact temporarily plump up the skin. But unless we’re talking plant oils also rich in fatty acids and antioxidants which work well as occlusives too, the effects are more or less purely cosmetic.

How to shrink your pores

One more thing I cannot stress enough: you can not shrink your pores.

You also can’t open or close them at your command – not with hot steam or cold water or astringents or whatever. I cringe whenever I read or hear people parroting this urban legend. Pores don’t have muscles or similar built-in mechanisms enabling them to do any of that. Once your pores are stretched out, I’m sorry to say, but that’s how they’ll stay. Claims to the contrary refer to temporary effects or optical tricks at the most.

But my point was…

I could go on and on really. However, what I’m actually here to share with you today is not my rants about typical misconceptions about what skin care can really do, but this post from Korean beauty blogger Fifty Shades of Snail:

Smart Skincare Shopping: Managing Skincare Product Expectations

It will put many skin care product claims into much needed perspective, and answer questions like:

What to look for in a cleanser? What’s in your moisturizer? Are masks really worth your time and money?

A recommended read in any case! Please take a look.


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