Stop buying into the idea of a skincare 'holy grail'
Before deepfakes and alternative facts, the online world was already telling us fibs. In our series Lies the Internet Told Me, we call 'em all out.
The term "holy grail" has become standard in beauty reviews and in online communities dedicated to skincare. The phrase generally refers to a skincare product so effective that it can singlehandedly transform someone's skin for the better. Sure, other products may lend an assist, but the holy grail — like its Biblical counterpart — is the one with the miraculous powers.
Dozens of beauty articles are dedicated to holy grails: reviews, "top-shelf" profiles, product roundups sourced from Reddit or gleaned from other beauty writers. The same brands and products — Drunk Elephant's Vitamin C serum, Sunday Riley's Good Genes, Glossier's Solution, and CeraVe's Hydrating Face Wash — are praised frequently.
"Okay so I know this is an investment but TRUST ME it's the best investment you can make in your face," reads one review of Good Genes. (The post is sponsored by Sephora.) "I would die for this."
"Ask a person with sensitive skin what their holy-grail product is and there's a 99% chance they'll say Cetaphil," notes another blurb.
While these testimonials don't explicitly declare the products universally good, it's implied that they're reliable investments for people looking to improve their skin. (So reliable, in fact, that they're worth the often — though not always — staggering cost. At Sephora, Good Genes costs $105 per ounce.)
It's true that some skincare products work for more people than others. It's true that some skincare products contain fewer common irritants than others. But there is no single product able to transform every type of skin on Earth. There is no actual holy grail.
Dr. Tara Rao, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC, said in an interview that she doesn't often hear the term around her office. When she sees it online, however, she takes it with a grain of salt. Holy grails are "products that someone finds highly effective that are not going to be appropriate or effective for everyone," she said.
If you're a skincare enthusiast, you're probably thinking, Duh. Of course not every skincare product works for everyone. But for people getting into skincare for the first time, the constant framing of certain products as magical cure-alls can lead to some seriously fruitless investments.
When I decided to start a skincare routine in earnest, I was particularly susceptible to holy-grail messaging. I had just moved to NYC, and with the city air came new irritations my sensitive skin didn't know how to handle. Unfortunately, I also had no money, so I opted for one of the least expensive, most beloved cleansers out there: Cetaphil.
For the first few days, I didn't notice any improvements, but my skin seemed fine. Then, suddenly, my face erupted in painful acne that simply wouldn't go away. I exfoliated, I spot-treated, I did nothing except cleanse and moisturize. It didn't matter. Every remedy proved useless.
The only thing I didn't do was stop using the Cetaphil, which I figured was so innocuous it couldn't possibly be causing the problem. But when I accidentally left it at home during a trip and used a different cleanser for a week, my skin cleared up. That's when I realized: This holy grail did not work for me at all.
Even if a holy grail doesn't outright damage the skin, it can make the consumer feel like they've made a useless purchase. Martha, a creative professional in Brooklyn, had that experience with Drunk Elephant's C-Firma, a much-lauded vitamin C serum that costs $80 per ounce. She didn't hate the serum, and it didn't hurt her skin. Ultimately, though, she felt like it wasn't doing anything.
"I never noticed major changes and felt like it wasn’t worth it to keep buying it in case it might change my skin for the better," she explained via Twitter DM. "I’m impatient — and have found products that make me look glow-y right away as opposed to [far] down the line."
Holy-grail culture has much to do with brands' focus on providing what appears to be quick, straightforward gratification. This idea permeates shopping culture, from Amazon Prime to Seamless to the pre-made cheese plates at Starbucks. Beauty brands are no exception. Take Glossier, for instance. Its exfoliator, Solution, is referred to on the company's website as an "exfoliating skin perfecter." Its mission? To "transform." Damn! Sounds like a holy grail, no? (Like everything else, it is not: Three people told me over Twitter DM that they noticed virtually no change in their skin after making Solution part of their routine.)
Brands, being brands, will try to get you to buy their stuff. This is just marketing, which is not a new idea. But as far as skincare is concerned, buying into the idea of a magical "perfecter" is a recipe for disaster.
A skincare routine, after all, is mostly developed through boring old trial-and-error, probably with several false starts. According to Dr. Rao, you should give a new product around four to six weeks before you know if it's actually working — unless, of course, you have a reaction (looking at you, Cetaphil), in which case it's OK to abandon ship. It's also important to introduce only one new product at a time. If you're incorporating your entire Sephora haul at once, you won't be able to tell which products are helping and which are hurting.
Most importantly, don't feel like you have to try a skincare product because a lot of people (or affiliate-linked product roundups) endorse it. There are thousands of choices out there, and the ones that work for you could be anything: cheap, expensive, prescription, from the wellness aisle at Whole Foods. But you're not going to know what they are from reading MakeupAlley. You actually have to put them on your face.
via Mashable http://bit.ly/2DCFv97
June 21, 2019 at 10:12AM