On Skincare Rules

Shrewd beauty marketers have figured out one important thing about us consumers: We like rules. In fact, we’re deeply reliant on them: We need rules to navigate the treacherous world of beauty; without them we’ll become pimply, wrinkly, haggard, unattractive, smelly messes. Or at least that’s what we’re told.


I’m no psychologist or anthropologist, but I have a hunch that this has something to do with our collective attitude as a society that problems have solutions. We’re a solution-oriented bunch, possessive of the opinion that anything can be figured out with a bit of elbow grease, the right mindset, and some instruction… in the form of rules.


In the realm of personal care, then, we often rely on beauty marketers to give us said rules. These are the experts, we think, and we entrust them to operate with our best interests in mind. So, when a cosmetics brand advises that their skincare program doesn’t really work unless you use all five steps in the regimen (cleansing, toning, day cream, eye cream, serum), many of us listen and follow the rules. We spend our paychecks purchasing all five steps, use them diligently, and wait for the results.


While playing by these rules might make us feel morally satisfied, they’re actually not very good for our skin, our wallets, or our sense of self. The reality is, a one-size-fits-all model for personal care is a ludicrous concept. No single set of rules can govern billions of complex humans, each with their own unique set of influencing factors: from genetics to environment. As our founder Adina Grigore explains in her book Skin Cleanse:


“Instead, your ideal everyday health is completely unique to your background, your lifestyle, and your diet. If you’re a sixty-year-old Korean woman who’s been active her whole life, your ideal everyday health is going to be very different from that of a thirty-year-old Irish woman who hates exercise, or a sixteen-year-old black girl feeling the stress of teendom.”


What Adina – and I – am saying here is the notion of “rules” in skincare is a pretty absurd one. Yes, I will admit that there are some universal doctrines like drinking water and removing makeup before bed that generally should be followed. (But don’t freak out if you don’t!) Yet to suggest that there’s a single blueprint or regimen that works for everyone is totally misleading.


What’s my point? I’m telling you that you need to create your own set of rules – or, more appropriately, guidelines – for what works for you and your skin. This should be an independent exercise and one that begins with muting the beauty commercials and listening to your body. Does your face look and feel good after washing with water and water only? Then forget what anyone has told you about cleansing and do that. Does that retinoid cream cause your skin burn and itch? Then forget “wrinkle prevention” – listen to those calls for help and stop using it immediately. These rules aren’t rigid; I’ll guarantee they’ll shift over time, because your body is constantly changing. Be flexible.


I think by doing this exercise, you’ll find that you’re going to look better, you’ll save money (your skin is pretty awesome on it’s own), and, most importantly, you’ll feel far more empowered. I can tell you firsthand that it is a wonderful feeling to break free of the “beauty rules” and to come to terms that there is no “solution” for healthy skin. That’s because your skin isn’t a problem to be fixed. And that, my friends, is the only rule we’ll ever endorse.

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