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How to Avoid Pseudoscience Skincare

The skin care world is full of well kept secrets. Celebrities are constantly gatekeeping their elixirs of youth and we are bombarded with articles with titles like: ‘Kate Blanchett’s 18 step routine to perfect skin’ or ‘The Five Simple Tricks your Dermatologist doesn’t want you to know.’ In reality, skin care and dermatology are a relatively new science: dermatology was only recognized by the Department of Medicine in 1922. And, because skincare has become a big cash business in recent years, there is a plethora of pseudoscience skincare products that will not only do nothing for your skin, but can even damage it. I’m your friendly vegan neighborhood esthetician, and here are your five skincare tips that are true to science and to your wallet.


All products listed are vegan and cruelty free.


Yes, I know. You’re tired of hearing people tell you to wear your sunscreen. But, if you want healthy and young skin, sunscreen is the way to go. Daily sunscreen use can reduce fine lines, hyperpigmentation, acne, appearance of scars, and even skin texture. If you’re looking for a cheap option, check out the Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid, and if you’re looking for a more luxury product, check out Ilia Beauty’s Super Serum Skin Tint.


Exfoliation is often made out to be much more confusing and expensive than it needs to be. There are two types of exfoliants: manual and chemical. A manual exfoliant is a scrub or some physical process that is removing skin. A chemical exfoliant is an enzyme or drug that is removing skin. There are variations on how much you should be exfoliating based on if you have acne, sensitive skin, or especially dry skin. The recommendation for those with ‘normal’ skin is twice a week with a gentle manual exfoliator. If you have dry and flaky skin, you may want to exfoliate three times a week, and if you have sensitive skin, only once a week or even every other week. For a deeper exfoliation, you can add a chemical exfoliation after you manually exfoliate. I would only recommend doing this once a week at most. If you have especially sensitive skin and are prone to irritation, you may want to only use a gentle chemical exfoliant and only manually exfoliate once a month. My favorite chemical exfoliant is the Aveda Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant. For a cheaper option, check out The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% Masque. For manual exfoliators, I would recommend the Aveda Exfoliating Creme Cleanser (avoid the St. Ives Apricot Scrub like the plague!).


Keeping the skin clean is essential to avoid pustules, blackheads, whiteheads, and acne irritation. It is also important to retain your skin’s natural barrier. On top of your skin, there is a barrier called the acid mantle, which is a mix of sebum (natural oils), urea (a component of sweat), and healthy bacteria. Overproduction of sebum can cause acne, and too little can cause dry and flaky skin. In order to keep your skin at a happy medium, you should be cleansing your skin twice a day. I’m not going to recommend any specific cleansers (we would be here all day), but check your labels! If alcohol is in the top 5 ingredients, put it back on the shelf. If your face feels tight after you cleanse, that means your cleanser is too harsh and is stripping too much of your natural oils. That can cause your skin to produce more sebum, which will make your skin oilier. If you cleanse and your skin still feels greasy, or you struggle with congestion (blackheads), try to get a less-sensitive cleanser. Look for cleansers with salicylic acid!

Serums, Masques, and Oils, Oh My!

As the beauty community grows, the treatments that are marketed seem to get crazier and more expensive. This topic is tricky, because, when used by a professional, serums, masques, and oils can have great benefits for the skin. When using these products as home, I would exercise caution. These products can contain high amounts of alcohols, chemical exfoliants, and toxins that can do more harm than good. Before investing in a treatment, I would recommend going to a spa or to your esthetician to talk about what would work best for you! If you’re looking for a fun treatment for a girl’s night in, I would recommend the Intense Hydrating Masque by Aveda (you can even leave this masque on overnight for those with especially dry skin).

Retinols, Retinoids, and Retin-A’s

You’ve probably heard someone mention one of these chemicals in your skincare journey. The use of retinols in anti-aging treatments revolutionized the skin care field, and they are considered an essential part of almost any skin care regimen. I recommend the use of retinols from age 25 and onwards. Until then, don’t worry about it! If you are 25 or older and are looking for a retinol, I would highly recommend talking to your dermatologist or esthetician. Retinols are not something you want a cheap alternative to; it’s worth spending some money on. Any retinol product makes your skin more sensitive, especially to sunlight. If you use a retinol, you must be using it with sunscreen! Additionally, retinoids increase cell turnover (they are exfoliants), so decrease how often you exfoliate your skin when starting your retinoid.


I hope you enjoyed my five skincare tips! Remember, plenty of skin care companies are not looking out for you and don’t have your best interests in mind. Check your product labels, research ingredients, and have fun!

Isabelle (Belle) Hoke is a freshman at Michigan State University. She has not declared a major, but is interested in psychology, childhood development, human biology, and neuroscience. Outside of school, Belle likes to explore fashion, dance, and modeling.
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