I can’t remember a time when applying products like sunscreen and moisturizer wasn’t a thing, but thanks in part to social media, which has made sheet mask selfies and the creation of thriving virtual beauty communities possible, skincare is more popular than ever.
To some – or at least to one person -, however, skincare is nothing more than a passing fad at best and elaborate ruse at worst. This week, an article published on The Outline titled ‘The Skincare Con’ attempted to make the case that ‘most skincare is really just a waste of money’.
The piece by Krithika Varagur, which argues that humans went ‘millions’ of years without the help of products and that people with extensive skincare regimens don’t always have ‘great skin’, struck a nerve among beauty lovers.
The article has inspired passionate Tweets, a thread on the subreddit SkincareAddiction that has quickly racked up 200 comments and multiple rebuttal pieces defending the use of creams, serums and the like.
To moisturize, or not to moisturize? An article calling skincare ‘a con’ went viral after beauty lovers dismissed the author’s claims that products are a ‘waste of money’
What a pro says: While NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Zeichner says slathering on products isn’t going to change our genes, ‘the right skin products can help support optimal skin functioning’
One of the biggest issues critics have with the article is with a line that reads, ‘Don’t we all have friends who are fanatical about skin care and don’t… really (whispers) have great skin? How can that be?’
‘What about all the people with skin issues they can’t control?’ said one Reddit user with eczema. ‘Sure, I’m never going to have great skin but being “fanatical” over my skincare regime has meant that I currently have significantly better skin.’
Another user shared, ‘I had really awful, painful, deep cystic acne about eight months ago. My face hurt all the time. A “fanatical” skincare routine fixed it’.
As a beauty editor with access to a closet full of products, I have a pretty extensive regimen. Sometimes, my skin looks glowy and clear. Other times, I wake up with red splotches on my face or flaky dry patches thanks to factors like the weather, stress, a late night or yes, a product that didn’t agree with my skin. That doesn’t mean I should throw all of my products away. Like weight or your mood, things fluctuate.
In addition to belittling the efficacy of skincare, the author also calls out the vanity of it. ‘Real, flawed women have real, flawed skin – it’s fine,’ she wrote.
While one can’t deny that the pressure women face to look perfect is a problem that should be addressed, she’s missing the point.
Skincare isn’t just about looking good, it’s about feeling good too. After a busy day, I look forward to removing my make-up, sitting down and massaging yummy-smelling products into my skin. It’s relaxing, refreshing and comforting, like putting on a fluffy robe.
‘Studies also show that suffering from acne can have severe psychological affects on a person. I have hormonal acne, and I feel less energized and confident when it flares up,’ revealed a Racked editor in her take on the article. ‘And when I’ve had a good week with my beloved acids and oils, I feel like I can take on more: My skin barrier is stronger, and therefore so am I.’
And beyond serving as a form of self-care and of empowerment, ‘can’t we just do it because we enjoy it?, asked one Redditor who calls skincare a ‘hobby’.
Counterpoint: Many readers took to Twitter to respond to the article and share how skincare has helped them
To each her own: Some felt that the author was shaming women for using skincare and accusing them of falling prey to beauty industry marketing
If there’s one part of the article that doesn’t feel totally off-base, it’s this: ‘There’s a wide berth for misuse given the freehand, DIY approach that consumers are encouraged to adopt with these chemicals [like retinols and alpha and beta hydroxy acids]’.
‘The right skin products can help support optimal skin functioning, and conversely, the wrong skincare can actually he harmful,’ said New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner.
Dr. Neal Schultz, another NYC-based derm and creator of the skincare line BeautyRX by Dr. Schultz, has seen the latter effects firsthand with patients who come in with chemical burns or over-exfoliated skin.
‘Using too much or too many products with synergistic effects is a perfect storm for the occurrence of irritation, clogging and even scarring,’ he said.
However, when used correctly, these types of products are proven to be beneficial.
‘To assert that today’s skincare products, whether cosmeceutical, over the counter or prescription are not effective at improving the appearance of skin is simply not reflective of reality,’ said. Dr. Schultz.