Is Skincare *Actually* Essential? The Experts Weigh in
Main Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy
Our skin goes through a lot. From the minute we wake up, it is metaphorically pushed and pulled in every direction thanks to daily aggressors like UV exposure, pollution, and makeup removal (to name a few). Only to start all over again tomorrow.
But skin isn’t just a shell to make us look pretty. “It is our largest organ and serves as a protective force against toxins, germs and bacteria,” explains dermatologist Mariano Busso.
“Maintaining healthy skin is essential to our overall health, which is why using sunscreen to protect us from ultraviolet rays is so critically important.”
This is the first step to understanding why having a consistent skincare regime could be essential, both for inner and outer beauty. After all, why wouldn’t you want to look after your body’s biggest organ?
But, in an era of seemingly endless skincare products, trends, hacks and routines, the question of whether skincare is an essential aspect of self-care or merely a clever marketing ploy is more pertinent than ever.
If you’re new to skincare you might ask, how much difference can skincare really make to the health of your skin? How long does it take to notice results? And does everyone really need a skincare regime?
The short answer to the latter is yes, even in its simplest form. But let’s go through it together step-by-step and delve into some expert advice.
Along with Busso, I asked GP and dermatology expert Dr Sonia Khorana, holistic master aesthetician Caroline Dorick, dermatologist Dr Geeta Yadav and aesthetician Laura Chacon-Garbato for their take on one simple question: Why skincare?
How much of a difference can skincare *really* make?
For starters, looking after your skin now will lay good foundations for the future. “It’s important to have healthy skincare habits in your 20s and 30s as this can strengthen and prepare your skin for the effects of aging,” says Dr Khorana.
It can make a huge difference aesthetically too, according to Busso. “If your skin is marred due to blemishes, visible dryness, acne, rashes, conditions like rosacea and psoriasis and the like, you may stand out from the crowd, but for all the wrong reasons,” he says.
“Fortunately, there are steps we can take to protect it.” The same can be said for the health of our skin, thanks to sunscreen for protection from skin-damaging UV, antioxidants for pollution defence and collagen-boosting ingredients to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
Dorick believes that a good skincare regime makes all the difference emotionally too. “My entire philosophy is based on the fact that everything we do, say, think and put into our bodies culminates into who we are,” she explains.
“If you don’t take care of your skin, it will affect your mental and emotional wellbeing and, in some instances, your health.”
If the thought of over-loading your skin with too many ingredients is putting you off, swapping your usual skincare routine for a more simplified one would still make a difference, says Chacon-Garbato.
“By switching to paraben and sulphate-free products, you may experience decreased redness, inflammation and itching, especially if you have sensitive skin.”
A dermatologist’s opinion can make a difference too. “[They] often take into consideration skin type and specific concerns. Using products designed for a specific skin type can address issues like excess oil, acne, dryness or signs of ageing,” adds Chacon-Garbato.
So, does everyone need a skincare routine?
The general advice is yes, but it doesn’t have to be complicated!
Even straightforward cleansing, like washing with soap and water, is regarded as part of a skincare routine. Having said that, using a targeted facial cleanser in place of soap is much healthier for the skin and won’t use up any extra time.
“Bar soaps tend to be full of harsh detergents that can also strip the skin out of its natural oils,” says Chacon-Garbato. They can disrupt the pH balance of your skin, often contain scents and dyes that will be harmful to the skin on your face, they may be abrasive and they will cause your skin to dry out because of the lack of moisturising ingredients.
In other words, using a regular bar of soap on your face is a big no-no.
Chacon-Garbato adds that “using products with simple, more natural ingredients like botanical-based products can reduce the risk of allergic reactions.”
Dr Yadav says even the most dialled-down routine can be beneficial. “The simplest regimen will make a difference to the health and beauty of our skin. For example, basic cleanser, moisturiser and SPF can go a long way, especially in those who have never used a skincare routine.”
How long does it take to see results?
Dr Yadav says result times vary. “While it depends on what you’re using, you can see most skincare products delivering results within 12 weeks of consistent use,” she says.
Feeling impatient? There are products for that. “Some can deliver instantaneous results, especially in those who have never used active skincare ingredients before,” Dr Yadav explains.
“For example, alpha hydroxy acids help remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. Immediately after use, you may notice smoother, more even-looking skin with a visible glow.”
How to build your perfect skincare routine
After determining your skin type, concerns and goals, you can put a regime together that doesn’t have to be complex. Just make sure you’re consistent. “Consistency is crucial for achieving the best results in skincare,” says Chacon-Garbato.
Here is her step-by-step guide for creating the best skincare routine for you:
1. Identify your skin type
“Identify your skin type and choose skincare products that are formulated to address your unique concerns.
For example, someone with dry skin should opt for soothing, gentle ingredients to keep the skin hydrated, whereas those with oily skin may benefit from oil-free formulations.”
To pinpoint your skin type, use the following rule:
- Cleanse your skin with water without applying any products afterwards.
- Ask yourself how it feels 30 minutes later.
- If it feels tight, you have dry skin. Shiny and slightly greasy? All signs point to an oily skin type.
- If it seems irritated or red, sensitive skin. And if you just have an oily t-zone, you likely have combination skin.
Influencer and skincare enthusiast @sparklesandskin shows you how to identify your skin type as well as the kind of products you should be using in this Insta reel:
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2. Use a cleanser suitable for your skin type
“Use a gentle cleanser suitable for your skin type to remove dirt and impurities.”
With so many of us having so little time to practice a 10-step skincare routine every day, one of the most important things you should be doing is cleansing. This will help to remove any impurities and pollutants, keeping your skin clean, fresh, moisturised, and healthy.
3. Hydrate with a moisturiser
“Follow up with a moisturiser to keep the skin hydrated.”
Not only is dry skin tight, itchy and uncomfortable, it’s also pretty bad for the health of our skin overall.
Moisturising is “an important part of a dermatologist’s strategy to maintain skin health as well as treating various dermatoses which co-exist with skin dryness and are linked to impaired skin barrier function, such as in atopic disorders as well as other types of dermatitis,” says the National Library of Medicine.
“Moisturisers improve skin barrier repair, maintain skin’s integrity and appearance by acting as humectants, emollients, and occlusives, each with its own mechanism of action.”
4. Apply a broad spectrum SPF
“Always finish your morning routine with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against UV damage which can significantly contribute to skin aging and sunspots,” says Chacon-Garbato. “For added simplicity, opt for a moisturiser with broad-spectrum SPF already in it.”
I like La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+ SPF 30 with Niacinamide (£21.00 on the La Roche Posay website/$29.00 on the Look Fantastic US website) which protects and hydrates my skin without making it feel greasy.
5. Integrate other treatments gradually
“It’s essential to start with the basics (cleanser, moisturiser, sunscreen) and then progressively integrate treatments like serums, exfoliants, masks or specialised products based on the skincare goals.
“When adding new products to a routine initiate them gradually one at a time. This allows someone to check and observe how the skin reacts to each product and detect any possible allergies or sensitivities”, Chacon-Garbato concludes.
So, is a skincare regime necessary? All roads point to yes.
A consistent routine can improve how your skin behaves – as long as you’re using the right products and ingredients for your skin type.
And, according to the experts, looking after your skin doesn’t just benefit its look, feel and behaviour, but your overall health and wellbeing too. Result!
We all need to start somewhere, and the maze of brands, products and ingredients can be overwhelming (and extremely pricey). If you’re a skincare newbie, there are ways to ease yourself into the skincare game whilst still keeping it simple. Using just a cleanser, moisturiser and SPF is better than using nothing at all and ensures your skin is clean, moisturised and protected from UV rays.
After nailing a simple skincare routine, you can then start adding actives, retinols, and acids gradually to curate the perfect regime for your skin type and lifestyle.
Meet the experts
Dr Sonia Khorana is a GP with a special interest in dermatology, working as an aesthetic doctor, laser specialist and wellness & menopause lead. She is also the Dermatology Expert for Olay UK and Hero Cosmetics UK and a judge for this year‘s Glamour Beauty Power List Awards and Get The Gloss Beauty Awards. Her Instagram page shares her regular skincare tips with thousands of followers.
Mariano Busso M.D is a board-certified dermatologist who operates one of Miami, Florida’s busiest practices for the better part of three decades. He has recently opened a West Coast counterpart in the heart of Beverly Hills, California.
Caroline Dorick is an NCEA and Oncology certified master aesthetician, and the founder of Whole Beauty Bar. Her early career in makeup involved working with major brands like Smashbox, Macy’s, Nordstrom and L’Oreal.
Dr Geeta Yadav is a world-renowned board-certified dermatologist and the founder of FACET Dermatology in Toronto, Canada.
Laura Chacon-Garbato is a licensed aesthetician and has received post-graduate education from the International Dermal Institute in the US. She is a member of the Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP), director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, and is Chairwoman of the Outer Nutrition Advisory Board.