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The bare truth about skincare: less is more

It's a multi-billion dollar industry built on convincing women they need every cream uand lotion under the sun. But is it all a con? Emma Martin investigates the truth and lies behind the skin care industry

My mum has always been disturbed by the amount of money my sister and I spend on skincare, and she often uses my grandma as proof that you can age gracefully while using nothing but soap.

Persuaded to believe my grandma was the exception, I continued my ways and seemingly never-ending journey towards perfect skin.

It all started when my friend and I were amidst a stubborn acne flare-up at the exact same time. My friend sought assistance from a dermatologist in hopes they would guide us towards the product that was going to save us this time. Going against everything we have been told (well, in hindsight, what we had been ‘influenced’ to believe), the dermatologist ordered my friend to stop using all skincare products and revert back to a simple moisturiser.

In a day and age where research and technologies have come so far to provide the most advanced treatments, why would an expert recommend a simple moisturiser?

]This whiplash-worthy advice led me to reflect and wonder about my grandma — who hasn’t touched an active ingredient in her life and yet has healthy skin. My brothers who have never used more than a bar of soap and yet rarely have pimples.

For the sake of all the confused consumers out there, I set out to investigate whether skincare is truly a necessity, or if it all a facade to sell off an indulgent luxury?

To indicate just how great of a hold the skincare industry has on society at this moment, Stativa reports estimate the skincare industry is worth a whopping $171.7 billion globally. The more time spent at home during lockdown and remote working spurred a change in skincare routines as 22 per cent of women reported they spent more time and money on skincare. I conducted a survey on 50 girls in their 20s skincare consumption habits and with 70 per cent saying they spend over $200 on skincare products a year, I wanted to make sure this money wasn’t going to waste.

As a starting point, to delve deeper into the logic from which my friend’s dermatologist’s advice derives, I met with a veteran within the dermatology field, Dr Josephine Yeatman (below).

“The first thing I often say to people is that I see more problems caused by products, than by not

using them at all,” she said.

Dr Yeatman is a firm believer that we should leave our skin to its own devices and trust our body’s ability to self-regulate. By using products on our skin — influenced by the misconception that we are revitalising our skin — we may be in fact disrupting the natural processes and causing harm.

“People are enchanted by the concept of natural skincare with the idea that it is extracted from avocados or whatever,” she said.

“When really the most natural moisturiser we have is the oil that our body produces – which people are stripping off their face and replacing with external oils.”

Skincare enthusiasts may be disappointed to hear that when asked which skincare products consumers should buy, Dr. Yeatman answered: “Sunscreen – number one, two and three.”

While genes are one of the core factors that Dr Yeatman says determines our skin health, wise lifestyles choices (such as avoiding smoking and exposure to the sun) are our main weapons to prevent aging.

There is the myth that you can prevent wrinkles by moisturising daily, which Dr. Yeatman debunks. She says the only way to prevent wrinkles is by staying out of the sun.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an old lady’s bottom, but it’s not very wrinkly. And it’s not because she moisturises it every day, it is because it’s never seen the sun.”

“[Cosmetic manufacturers] design products and advertisements to prey on insecurities, so people buy products that they don’t necessarily need.

“They know how to prey on vulnerabilities and have people thinking if they buy one more product, that's going to fix them up.” 

Dr Yeatman said pressure and fear were the two byproducts of marketing that wee influencing over-indulgence.

“There is the idea that a woman must manually exfoliate her face or something terrible is going to.happen – despite our skin satisfactorily exfoliating itself,” she said.

“Exfoliating is still just another product at the end of the day.”

The skincare market is also encouraging a ‘head-start’ culture where people are pressured to consider and fear skin concerns before they are even present. 

Dr Yeatman has witnessed this with the rise of popularity in procedures such as preventative Botox and girls just 11 years old arriving at her clinic concerned about their flawless, baby skin.


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