Skin Care Will Not Transform Your Skin

Here is something that I wish I had learned before I qualified as a Sephora VIB Rouge member three years in a row: nothing was going to change my skin as much as seeing a good dermatologist. I had seen derms sporadically since I was a preteen, mostly due to intermittent health insurance coverage, but until I began regularly going to someone who I felt heard and understood my concerns, I remained unhappy with my skin.

In the absence of good health insurance that makes specialist visits possible, buying expensive skin care products can seem like the closest fix. The irritating fact is that everyone should have access to a dermatologist, not just to drop-in for cosmetic treatments, but for skin cancer checks and other medical concerns. People should be given time off work to attend doctor’s appointments (something I struggled with even when I had great insurance) and be free to choose an office that fits their needs. As we’re denied the things we deserve, essentially time, money, and security in healthcare, there is a huge marketing push saying going to a dermatologist’s office is too time consuming and expensive, and that they can sell us something to fix the problem just as well. Only it can’t.

If you don’t want a drastic change - say you just want help with dull skin - there are plenty of over the counter things at a range of price points to buy. (Conventional advice will tell you to start adding in a topical Vitamin C treatment, and possibly an acid.) But lifelong acne? Hormonal acne, even? Eczema, hair loss, skin allergies (which often are self diagnosed as acne), scarring  - you’ll find a “cure” for all of them on your beauty store’s shelves, only those won’t have remarkable and long lasting effects. You might notice a small difference, but paying for a small solution ostensibly forever isn’t cost effective. Sephora sells an LED mask that is supposed to reduce skin bacteria for $435.  Nutrafol is an $80 hair growth supplement I can’t escape ads from, which mostly seems to be unproven adaptogens and collagen. Even if you don’t buy products with a high price tag, the constant tryout of new cleansers, serums, and creams on the quest for improvement adds up.

I’m not arguing against skin care. I love my double cleansing and moisturizing routine. But I’ve pared down from when I believed twelve steps and an $800 regimen was going to give me the glowing, flawless skin of my dreams. For years I dutifully bought every recommendation on Into the Gloss and prayed that an hour routine at night was going to erase my pores and give me one less thing to stress about. Sephora currently sells 109 products to combat blemishes and I have tried almost all of them, yet still I dealt with what I considered to be bad skin. After all that time and money, I saw a new dermatologist who adjusted one medication and added in a new prescription and solved everything. My skin care routine is still important, but when I see shelfies with hundreds of bottles or beauty routine advice with a long product list it seems more about shopping than actually fixing anything. (Not to mention using too many products can actually damage your skin, a topic to be covered in a future post.)

The U.S. beauty industry was worth $18.8 billion in 2018, with some reports saying the global skincare market will total $180 billion in 5 years. As our government is restricting health care coverage, capitalism has seen a market opportunity. Startups offer text based therapy at a lower cost than traditional therapy (though not less than just having therapy covered under a mental health plan). The health and wellness industry (which is separate from the healthcare industry and includes diet, meditation, and spas) is worth upwards of $4.2 trillion. Our discretionary spending is being used to replace medical oversight.

You can blame the environment and stress for higher rates of skin care problems; it’s also true that beauty standards have changed and we’re demanding perfection where it shouldn’t be required, especially for women. But the fact remains that having good skin affects our social status and psychological health. I don’t think Botox is something that insurance should cover, but it shouldn’t be difficult and cost prohibitive to get in to see a dermatologist, even just to find out if you’re spending your money on the right skin care.