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Skin Care Secrets

Skin Care Secrets


By Paula Begoun

Cosmetics advertising, cosmetics salespeople, cosmetics companies' brochures, and so-called editorial pieces in fashion magazines continually give women distorted, inaccurate, and specious explanations about skin care and makeup products. Is there a woman anywhere who hasn't purchased a cosmetic that didn't do what it said it would? Haven't most of us felt upset when we bought an all-day lipstick that didn't last all day, a wrinkle cream that didn't change a wrinkle, or an oil-control product that didn't control oil?
However, you must be wondering, if the cosmetics industry's promises and claims aren't real-then what is real? What is and isn't possible when it comes to your skin? If you can ask these questions and accept the following premises, you are much less likely to waste money on overpriced or ineffective skin care products or be swayed the next time you hear a sales pitch for a miraculous-sounding skin care product.

What Works and What Doesn't?
1. You can clean your skin, but you can't "deep-clean" it. You can't get inside a pore and clean it out like a dentist with a drill. Expensive water-soluble cleansers will not make your face any cleaner nor are they necessarily any gentler than the less expensive water-soluble cleansers. In fact, the handful of standard cleansing agents are the same across the cosmetics spectrum. What is essential is to find a gentle water-soluble cleanser that doesn't dry out the skin or leave it feeling greasy and that can remove eye makeup without irritating the eyes.

2. Spending more money does not affect the status of your skin. The amount of money you spend on skin care has nothing to do with how your skin looks. What you use does, however. An expensive soap by Erno Laszlo is no better for your skin than an inexpensive bar soap such as Dove or Cetaphil Bar; on the other hand, an irritant-free toner by Neutrogena can be just as good as or even better than an irritant-free toner by Orlane or La Prairie. Any irritant-free toner is infinitely better than any toner that contains alcohol or other irritants, regardless of the price.

3. Getting a tan is foolish. If you are exposed to the sun, even for as little as 10 to 20 minutes a day, which includes walking to your car or talking to a neighbor outdoors, that cumulative exposure over the years will wrinkle your skin, and no skin-care product except a sunscreen with a high SPF can change that.

4. A great number of skin-care problems are caused by the skin-care products used to prevent them. Overly emollient moisturizers can clog pores; temporary face-lift products can cause wrinkles because of the irritation they generate on the skin; and products designed to control oily skin can make skin oilier. Allergic reactions are often caused by products that are too irritating, too drying, or too thick and creamy, or that contain plant extracts and oils.

5. Dry skin doesn't wrinkle any more or less than oily skin. Oily skin may look less wrinkled, which means it can have a smoother appearance, but wrinkles are caused by sun exposure, genetic inheritance, or illness, not dryness. All the moisturizers in the world won't change a wrinkle, although moisturizers can temporarily make dry skin look smoother.

6. Your skin may become inflamed, dry, and blemished if you use too many scrubs, products that contain potentially irritating ingredients, or several AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) or BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) products, either at the same time or in combination with one another. For example, the following combinations can hurt the skin: a granular cleanser used with a loofah, a washcloth used with an abrasive scrub, an AHA product used with a granular scrub, or an astringent that contains alcohol used with an AHA product. If you use too many irritating products at the same time, you are likely to develop skin irritations, breakouts, dryness, and, possibly, wrinkles.

7. Exfoliating the skin does not regenerate skin or build collagen. It is good to exfoliate the skin but exfoliation doesn't create new skin or get rid of wrinkles. It can smooth the skin, help it absorb moisturizers better, but it doesn't alter the actual structure of the skin.

8. For the most part, the fewer products you use on your skin, the better. The more you use, the greater your chances of allergic reactions, cosmetic acne, and/or irritation.

9. Do not automatically buy skin-care products based on your age. Many products on the market are supposedly designed for women who are 30, 40, or over 50. Before you buy into these arbitrary divisions, ask yourself why the over-50 group always gets lumped together. Isn't it unlikely that women between the ages of 20 and 49 have skin that requires three categories, but women over the age of 50 need only one? Categorizing products by decades is nothing more than a marketing device that sells products; it does not benefit the skin. Skin has different needs based on how dry, sun-damaged, oily, sensitive, thin, blemished, or normal it is, and that has little to do with age. Plenty of young women have severely dry skin, and plenty of older women have oily skin. Turning 40 does not mean a woman should assume that her skin is drying up and begin using overly emollient moisturizers or skin creams.

10. Do not automatically buy skin-care products based on your skin type. I know that sounds strange, but there are several reasons for this. It's not that skin type isn't important, but more often than not, your skin type is not what you think it is. Possibly your skin type has been created by the products you are already using. The only way to know what your skin type really is, is to start from square one with the basics: a water-soluble cleaner, an irritant-free toner (or a disinfectant if you break out), an exfoliator (such as an AHA product), a sunscreen for the daytime (which can be included in your moisturizer or foundation), and a moisturizer at night. If your skin is truly dry or you really are prone to breakouts, you can use a more emollient moisturizer at night, a more emollient foundation, or a moisturizer with sunscreen during the day. For breakouts you can try a stronger AHA product and/or use 3% hydrogen peroxide twice a day over blemishes.
A final consideration is that skin type may fluctuate. Skin-care routines based on a specific skin type don't take into consideration the fact that your skin changes according to the season, your emotions, and the climate. Don't hold fast to the idea that your skin fits into only one group-it changes, and so should your skin-care routine. That doesn't mean you need new products; it just means you may need to use less of one item or more of another.

11. Teenagers are not the only ones who have acne. A big fallacy is that women over 20 should not have blemishes. What a joke! Women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s can have acne just like teenagers. Not everyone who has acne as a teenager will grow out of it, and even if you had clear skin as a teenager, that's no guarantee that you won't get acne later in life.

12. Oily-skin types rarely require a moisturizer. Specialty products such as oil-free moisturizers aren't always good for someone with oily skin. Oil-free moisturizers can be good for someone with normal to slightly dry skin, but they are often a waste for someone with truly oily skin or someone who tends to break out. When should you consider using a moisturizer? Whenever your skin feels dry, particularly around the eye area. If the dryness is caused by other skin-care products, stop using those before you decide to use a moisturizer.

Skin-Care Basics: What You Really Need
Here are the skin-care basics: a water-soluble cleanser (never use an eye makeup remover or wipe-off cleanser; pulling at the eye stretches the skin and makes it sag); an exfoliating product (a scrub such as baking soda or an AHA product); a disinfectant if you have blemishes (such as 3% hydrogen peroxide or benzoyl peroxide) or an irritant-free toner if you don't; and a moisturizer or a nongreasy product, for use during the day, that contains a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 (or a foundation that contains an SPF of 15 if you don't want to use a moisturizer or nongreasy lotion).
If you have dry skin, you may want to use a different moisturizer at night, but it isn't essential. The only real reason to use different daytime and nighttime moisturizers is if your daytime moisturizer contains a sunscreen or if you want to use an AHA product at night only. If you have very dry skin, you may prefer to use a more emollient moisturizer at night than the one you use during the day. Same for the eye area: if the skin around your eyes is different from the rest of your face, you need a different moisturizing product for that area. Otherwise, most face products can be used around the eye area, regardless of what the cosmetics companies claim.
Among the vast number of cleansers, toners, exfoliators, AHA products, moisturizers, and sunscreens on the market are many good products. Yet we wonder which company has developed the best ones, or which product contains the latest secret ingredients for procuring a perfect complexion. Perfect skin-that carrot of hope dangled in the form of beautiful, overpriced containers and jars-is not possible. Spending a lot of money to achieve a perfect skin is perhaps one of the biggest deceptions at the cosmetics counters. Even if you can afford the cost, it is still a waste, because being misled never makes you feel or look good.

From Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me, by Paula Begoun. 1996 Paula Begoun. Excerpted by arrangement with Beginning Press. $16.95. Available in local bookstores, or by calling 800-831-4088. For more information, visit the web site at


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