Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

How to be a Savvy Skincare Product Consumer January 23, 2010

How can you be a savvy skincare product consumer?  I think the answer is actually pretty straightforward – don’t believe the hype and know your ingredients.  Of course following through with those two rules is easier said than done.

It is hard not to get caught up in the hype over skincare products.  We all want to look our best, and when we see an ad for the newest cream, lotion, or serum, accompanied by a beautiful photo, rational thinking quickly disappear.  If you have some sort of chronic skin issue like acne, redness, or fine wrinkles you can be especially vulnerable to the lures of cosmetic advertising.   It is important to remember that cosmetic advertisements purposely use promising but vague language and plenty of pseudo-scientific jargon to lure in customers, and it is actually legal for them to do so. 

Yes, it is actually perfectly legal for cosmetic companies to advertise their products using the above mentioned vague and pseudo-scientific language since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require cosmetic companies to prove their claims.  The only restriction the FDA places on cosmetic companies is that they cannot claim that their products can bring about a permanent change to the skin, but even this prohibition is easy to get around if you are creative.  Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulate advertising, but, once again, if you use vague enough language you can pretty much say anything you like about your product.  As such cosmetic ad are filled with phrases like “appears to”, “looks like”, and “may experience”.  Additionally, the results of “studies” that you see listed in advertisements?  As bogus as they come.  Don’t believe a word!

Ok – so you can’t believe a word of what is written in an advertisement for the newest cosmetic product and the photo in the ad is so photoshopped it barely looks like a person anymore – what are you supposed to do now?  The simple answer to that is – learn how to read labels.  You have to learn about ingredients and know the chemical names of ingredients.  It is also very important to note that ingredients are listed on skincare products in descending order – from the largest quantity to the smallest.  That means if you want to buy a serum with a high concentration of Vitamin C in order to fight free radical damage and to perhaps increase collagen production in your skin don’t buy the product where Vitamin C is found at the end of the list of ingredients.  In order to know that you have an effective amount of an ingredient in a product remember that the ingredients that make up the majority of the product will be between the first 5 to 8 ingredients listed on the label. 

Not believing the hype and learning about ingredients will help you be on your way to being a more educated consumer.  Yet there are so many products out there and even when you are armed with a good amount of information and the right attitude you can still be overwhelmed and confused.  I believe one way to remedy that situation is to always read about new research, ingredients, and products.  I know that not everyone is interested in this subject as much as I am so luckily there are lots of different resources out there, depending on your level of interest.

Recommended Reading

Sometime soon I will devote a whole post to Paula Begoun because I have so much to say about her and her work but in the meantime I will recommend a chapter of her book The Original Beauty Bible “Understanding the Hype” where she goes into much greater detail than I have about cosmetic company advertising, beauty myths, and the psychology of cosmetic consumerism.  Begoun also has a short article on her website addressing this subject.  Paula Begoun calls herself “the cosmetic cop” and though she is neither an esthetician or a doctor or a chemist she has set herself up as a consumer advocate and skincare expert.  I certainly don’t agree with all of Begoun’s skincare tips or even all her product evaluations, but her work is important because she is basically one of the only cosmetic consumer advocates out there.  Begoun is also important because she has been able to reach a large audience and many, many people take her advice as truth.  I actually follow her research and even use some of her Paula’s Choice products.  On her website you can access an ingredient dictionary and sign-up for her weekly e-newsletters that cover a wealth of skincare issues.  But please don’t take her word as the final word on skincare issues!  Though Begoun’s opinions are generally well researched they are still her opinions.  Keep educating yourself.

In an earlier blog post from January 14th I listed a number of websites and magazines that normally offer sound and interesting skincare advice and information.  Reading any of those will certainly increase your knowledge about skincare products and ingredients.

Other Ways to Find Good Skincare Products

 Get a facial and have the esthetician recommend products.  Go for a consultation with a dermatologist and ask for advice.  If you have a friend who has beautiful skin you could ask them what products they use.  Of course there is a risk in doing that since your friend’s skin might be nothing like yours.  If you are thinking of buying a specific product look at the reviews for that product on,, or  Seeing what other consumers have to say about a product can really help you make up your mind about whether to buy something or not.  Certain companies do sell sample sizes of their products.  That is always a great way to try a product without making a great financial committment. 

Bottom Line:

Before purchasing the newest cream, lotion, or serum take a little time to do some research.  Both your skin and bank account will thank you.


One Response to “How to be a Savvy Skincare Product Consumer”

  1. […] quiz ties in perfectly with my previous post – How to Be a Savvy Skincare Consumer so I thought it would be a good idea to share the quiz.  As I explained in my earlier post, the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s