So many skin care products! How to choose?

After 30 ish years in the beauty industry, my friends and family all ask me “ I see all these new products, what is the best skin care line for me?”.  This should be a simple answer.  Afterall, I spend hours each day looking at brands, products, ingredients and the latest innovations in the cosmetic industry. And I try most of them. So my answer is, “Well, it depends….”

As a consumer, it is usually a question of finding out what your expectations are first, in other words “what is it going to do for me?”  If you have specific skin concerns such as breakouts, sensitivity, discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles, or loss of firmness, there are great ingredients that can address many of these and some address most if not all of them.  I believe some of these all-around best ingredients include Retinol, Vitamin C, Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides and Peptides, to name a few. If solving a skin concern is your top priority, seek out clinical and doctor backed products that include these ingredients.

If your current skin condition is what I describe as reactive or over- functioning, you may want to actually do less rather than more.  Reactive skin can be sensitive, red, rosacea-prone, broken out in small raised bumps that don’t seem to be pimples, dry or scaly.  This can be caused by environmental issues like windburn, heat, dry or polluted air or by ingredients that don’t agree with you.  Over-functioning skin is typically an oily skin type that has been over stimulated by too much cleansing, exfoliating or harsh products resulting in oil glands that never stop producing oil and in the presence of P. acnes bacteria make acne worse.  In these cases, I advise to take a week or two to reset the skin by using just a few simple products without any artificial fragrances or dyes, alcohols or essential oils.  A mild cleanser followed by a simple moisturizer with absorbable ceramides or lipids will calm and restore balance.  After skin has been “re-booted”, you can add in one product at a time to address skin concerns, such as a weekly mask, eye creams,  and serums with some of the all-around best ingredients listed previously.

One of the other key considerations in making product decisions is based on your values. While “Clean Beauty” seems to be pretty much everywhere now, there are some other key lifestyle and ethical values that you may consider in your purchasing decisions.  Vegan, cruelty free, organic, sustainable sourcing of ingredients and packaging, recyclable and refillable packaging are important criteria to evaluate in addition to the benefits of the product.

Oh and then there is that pesky little thing – the price tag.  I believe there are great products at every price point.  Of course sometimes the packaging or texture can be more luxurious at the higher end of the price range, but if a product is well formulated you can find good results at the drugstore or big-box retailer.  For really sophisticated or cutting-edge technology in formulations or ingredients, I would look to Sephora, Ulta or specialty stores like Bluemercury and Credo Beauty.  I personally know the decision-makers at these retailers are always looking at the latest and greatest and are very discerning.

As a consultant that assists brands in developing their businesses, I advise strategies based on the specific brand attributes and products. Founders often create products based on their values and the needs they see in the category.  In the best situations, these align with a large group of consumers immediately.  Sometimes awareness and education will lead consumers to the brand as they understand that perhaps this brand may fit their needs based on what they have learned.  Drunk Elephant is a great example of this.  The founder identified six categories of ingredients that caused her skin issues.  In searching for products that did not contain them, she was unable to find anything so decided she was going to create her own products to meet her needs.  As she began her journey, she found that it seemed that many people experienced issues similar to hers so she surmised that the products would help them too.  Sephora partnered with her to generate awareness of her philosophy.  Social Media Influencers jumped onto this idea – it was new and seemed to be working – so something great to talk about and the brand was so visually appealing, too!  The result was massive success.

Ratings and Reviews that are found on most retailers e-commerce can be very helpful to consumers and brands should recognize the value of honest feedback.  Of course there is the occasional “troll” or skeptic that may or may not be a verified user, but I think consumers are smart enough to see beyond these.  They actually give me a chuckle most of the time!

So the short answer is that the reason there are so many to choose from is that we all have different needs and wants that change often.  The products you choose today that work great may not be perfect if you move to a completely different climate or when the seasons change.  There is also the effect on skin of hormones, diet, stress, sleep and lifestyle – we will save these for another time!

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