In 2018, I started listening to the delightful podcast Forever 35 where two friends, Doree Shafir and Kate Spenser, talk about self-care, skin care, and serums. The discussions of what they like, what they use, and what is effective lead me to start on my own skin care journey. Prior to listening to the podcast, I had always used moisturizer because my skin felt dry after a shower and I knew I was supposed to use sunblock daily (but didn’t). That was it. I was a blank slate.
Starting a skin care routine wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Cosmetic products are filled with scientific sounding ingredients that all promise variations on a theme: younger, healthy looking skin. Not knowing what to buy, I started taking advice from The Strategist column in New York Magazine. This was a good place to begin, but the different products and serums were not presented in a way that allowed me to understand what to use and why. Plus, the website was always encouraging me to buy buy buy and I knew I didn’t know enough to make smart purchases. I decided that I was never going to understand the various labels and ingredients unless I started a chart and wrote them down.
Before I spend real money, I want to know if the ingredients in a product are “worth it.” Some of the joy of using a product comes from a sense of indulgence that creates real self-care. At the same time, I don’t want to feel like a sucker who fell for beauty industry malarkey. In my mind, it is self-care to know there is science behind the ingredients in the products that I purchase.
Additionally, it was not immediately clear to me how to use many of the products on the market. I had questions about whether products can and should be layered, how to time applications, and whether my skin should be wet or dry. Again, I looked to science to find my answers.
To figure this out for myself I began reading books, reading websites, listening to more podcasts and watching YouTube. I read every skin care book in my public library system and purchased several more. It’s not easy to figure out who is giving it to you straight and who is trying to sell you something (hint: almost everyone).
After reading and organizing the best information I could find, I have pretty much figured out what I should buy and how to use it. Here, I share what I’ve learned in a manner I think will be most helpful to the next person looking to maximize their skin care choices. This book is not a paid endorsement. It is the fruits of my research. I am not a scientist or a dermatologist. Think of me as your friend in the know.
Chapter One is the short answer. This chapter contains a basic routine for a reader who just wants to know what relatively inexpensive products to buy and how to use them morning and evening.
Chapter Two is an in-depth discussion of ingredients. The beginning of the chapter lists ingredients universally agreed upon to be effective. The end of the chapter discusses some commonly encountered and often touted ingredients that have less scientific support. Once you become familiar with the discussed ingredients, you will be able to shop with confidence knowing what each ingredient is meant to achieve and whether the products you are considering contain ingredients that can actually achieve the stated aim.
Chapter Three is a more in-depth discussion of a daily skin care routine. This chapter includes the order to use products, what ingredients work best alone, what ingredients work best when combined, and how long to wait between applications.
Chapter Four is called Cult Favorites and Other Great Products. This chapter contains lists of cleansers, serums, moisturizers and sun protection. Of course, there are tons of great products available today and this chapter lists only a few in each category. Cult favorites are the products mentioned again and again on websites, podcasts, in magazines, and by celebrities. Other great products are less beloved but are often very effective.
Chapter Five is all about dupes. A "dupe" (short for duplicate) is a less expensive product with the same or similar active ingredients in the same or similar concentration as a more expensive product. It is extremely satisfying to find a product with the right active ingredients without the sticker shock price tag. Many cult favorites have less expensive, readily available dupes.
Chapter Six is where I confess all the dumb products I purchased before I knew what ingredients really work and some inadvertent gems I stumbled upon.
Chapter Seven asks what else, besides products, can be beneficial to the overall appearance of your skin. This chapter contains a discussion of nutraceuticals and vitamin supplements, acne and acne treatments, water, natural beauty products, gadgets and other available treatments.
The conclusion is followed by a list of references. The information I acquired while writing this book is readily available but takes a lot of time to organize, digest, and understand. After reading this book, you can continue (or begin) your self-care journey knowing that science is on your side.