Using skin care doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.

Of course it doesn’t! You’re a marvellous, clever sausage with fantastic taste in blogs. And you look after yourself. That’s pretty unidioty.

You might think otherwise if you read This Article, titled ‘Skin care is a con.’

Someone on Twitter was yelling about it this morning, and since I’m in a conference today, while my fellow directors were talking about boring stuff, I read it. And then secretly wrote this blog while they went on about logistics and revenue and blah blah blah.

It feels a bit like high-brow clickbait, and is riddled with dismissiveness and superiority. But just cos the author’s opinion is unpopular, that doesn’t make her article any less deserving of eyeballs than the four million articles published daily blabbing about the virtues of skin care, I guess.

Look, I own a skin care company, Go-To, (OMG you should totally buy some right now it’s sooo good), so you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more bias, but in fact I think in many ways this wildly contrary article is right. A lot of what we are sold and told about skin care IS bullshit! And yes, your beloved products can backfire if they’re used incorrectly or disrespectfully or impatiently.

My problem with the article, though, is that a few buzz products, trends and ingredients were used to frame a daily act of self-love and care into something narcissistic, naive and dangerous. I take umbrage to this and also I’ve never used the word ‘umbrage’ on this blog before and my god it was time.

Please note: I am an insufferable skin care lover/dork/pest. I worked as a beauty editor at Cosmopolitan and Harper’s BAZAAR, wrote a beauty book, and make and sell skin care. I spend a huge portion of my time working with my brilliant chemist and formulators creating products for women and men to put on their skin. (Just the essentials, mind you. No frilly stuff.) It’s hard, and fun, and meticulous, and it’s a titanic responsibility. I think skin care is WONDERFUL. I’ve seen the results, I’ve heard the stories; I know what good skin can do for people’s confidence.

As such, I’ve written some explainers to some of the spicier statements in the piece. Not cos I need to defend skin care, (ummm, it’s just fine), but cos I firmly believe there is more nuance to skin care than it simply being:

A) the answer to all of your self-worth, happiness, and worth, WUDEVAITCOSTS
B) bullshit in nice packaging.

“Perfect skin has become the thinking woman’s quest.”

Nah. The quest is far from new. And actives have been around forever. We just talk about skin care more now because we have more channels to do so, and more access to more products that do more things, because science and technology keeps improving, and so does packaging, and so do the products available to us. It’s not witch hazel toner and sorbelene cream any more, Judith!

We probably always used five things on our face each day, but without Instagram to showcase and discuss them, how would anyone know? We have more access to more faces, and more brands, and more products than ever before. Even outside of uppity online brands like Go-To, it’s a very, very noisy and confusing and overwhelming market.

When I was 17, I had the pharmacy, supermarket and department stores (if I took a bus for an hour to get there). I had no social media, no Mecca, no Sephora, no online shopping. I couldn’t buy products from France, or America. I bought what was available in the stores closest to me. I was guessing, and on reflection, doing it all wrong for my skin type. (Google would have been of terrific help.)

This has changed. I know of 15 year-olds using such a sophisticated skin care routine that I feel like an amateur. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary, but it’s happening, and, well, it’s not really up for judgement, actually. Do what you like with you.

“Perfect skin is unattainable because it doesn’t exist.”

Perfect skin is not the goal of skin care, you dangus! Well, not for me, or Go-To. My goal is looking after something that’s exposed to the sun, wind, air con, makeup and pollution. To protect my skin against all that in the morning, and remove all of that at night. (If nothing else, I tell women to wear sunscreen, then cleanse and moisturise at night. And remember: your face stops at your boobs.) To defend against the damage the sun does with burning and pigmentation, and heal and regenerate the skin when it has been attacked because you ended up playing at the park for an hour with your kids, but didn’t think you would be outside so long, and so you got a bit red, you sweet goose.

“Real, flawed women have real, flawed skin”

Yes… but if your skin is red and sensitive, or over-producing oil, or you have acne, you’re allowed to manage that without feeling like it’s a superficial vanity move. When the skin is not healthy or suddenly changes for the worse, it’s generally symptomatic of something else: diet, stress, hormones, allergies. That’s not something to be ignored.

I use skin care to replenish my skin, and keep it supple and healthy. It’s the thing I see every day, and the thing everyone else sees of me each day, and I feel zero shame in saying I want to keep it looking good, and feeling good, for as long as possible. Especially as a very busy, very tired, very mum-of-two person. If my skin is in good shape, it means I can wear less or no makeup. Good. To me it’s a sign of self-care, and a ritual of self-love. Like washing my hair, or choosing denim over activewear to signify to myself and the world that, ‘I’m making an effort.’ Even if I am hungover, stressed, tired and everything can just get fucked.

“At the core of the New Skincare is chemical violence.”

A touch dramatic. Actives like Vitamin A (which incorporate retinol/retinoids), AHAs (glycolic, lactic acid) and BHAs (salicylic acid) are skin care classics, and when used correctly, are not destructive. They are great, genuinely transformative, that’s for sure, but they can also mess your skin right up if you go too hard. The anecdotes in the article citing wounds and burns from layering too many actives are theatrical, but not uncommon. The author is right: more is not more. When it comes to actives, tread gently, get advice, and if in doubt, limit yourself to actives in 1-2 products daily, max.

HAHAHA, laugh all the glow-monsters. AS IF. I get it! I get it. You see the fresh, glowing skin after using high-strength retinols or AHAs, and you become addicted. The GLOW! The RADIANCE, oh GOD, the RADIANCE!

I discovered my friend was using a cleanser with 10% glycolic acid,  a serum jammed with retinoids (Vitamin A), and a night cream with both AHAs and retinol. She was 40 and looked 13, but OF COURSE SHE FRIGGEN DID SHE WAS REMOVING A LAYER OF SKIN EVERY NIGHT.

This is essentially a daily mini-peel, and it’s a terrible idea. Stop it.

The skin has finite layers. If you start ripping off skin layers with an overuse of DIY actives (without professional advice), you will end up with a compromised barrier, and a weird, shiny, taut complexion that will never, ever look the same.

I advocate AHAs. They are wonderful for all ages, (teens with bad skin will generally be put onto BHAs or AHAs) when used under advice, and with respect. I use lactic acid in my Exfoliating Swipeys because it is gentle, and hydrating, and exfoliates thoroughly. If I swiped daily my skin would likely be more glowy. But I stop at 3x a week. Because skin care is a long-term game.

“Skin care is a scam.”

No. It’s not. It’s purposeful, helpful, useful and, well, just a lot of fun, to be honest.

But as an informed consumer you should know that some skin care, in some ways, is a bit of a scam. There’s marketing gibberish and wild promises and faux science and filler ingredients with zero efficacy but nice smells. This is what inspired me to start Go-To in the first place: I was tired of being sold promises and using silicon-laden creams that did nothing. Of having to write up creams that cost $500 that worked no better than the one that cost $50.

A smart consumer buys skin care for the ingredients, not the brand or promise. 

Antioxidants, AHAs, BHAs, Vitamin A, C, E, peptides, anti-inflammatories, physical UV blockers: these, things, work. There are reams of clinical evidence to support these ingredients. And clinical evidence is not just handed out. It has to be earned. (I know this first-hand. Mr and Mrs Clinical Evidence are complete hardasses.)

“Most skincare is really just a waste of money.”

So is that Zara top I bought on Saturday. So is $18 smashed avo for breakfast. So is that book of stickers I bought for my son. So is lots of stuff.

What we choose to spend our money on is our choice. Buy what you like. (Not this, please. I think you’re terrific, Elon, but no.)

If you’re interested in not wasting money on skin care, just:

  • Buy products with ingredients that are proven to do something (as above)
  • Use moisturiser (or dedicated sunscreen) with at least SPF 15 daily
  • Clean your face at night, and apply something with antioxidants afterwards

I’m kind of grateful someone wrote a skin care diss, cos it has reinvigorated me, and made me remember why I started Go-To.

I love the ‘New Skin Care’ craze. My hope is that it’s not misguided, and people are not taken advantage of, which sounds like lunacy or lies or false concern from a woman who sells skin care, but I mean it.

I don’t care what you use or buy, if you’re gentle, and you’re doing it cos you love and respect your skin, and want to look after it, (just like you eat broccoli and pretend to enjoy tumeric lattes to look after your body), then you’re doing it right.

Enjoy yourself.

Responses to this drivel: 15 Comments
Responses to this drivel ( 15 )
  • Kate W

    Yes! I tell you this much – as a teenager who was plagued by pimples and large pores and the resulting effect on her confidence… I WISH I had had more choice and access to efficacious products and knowledge. Clearasil, pro-activ, harsh Clinique product lines, nutrogena (which I can only imagine was laced with piles of silicones thinking back on the texture…) all of which was completely wrong for me.

    There is a lot of bullshit in skincare. But the access to understand ingredients above and beyond ‘brand name’ is very helpful for those of us who CHOOSE to ‘waste’ their money in this way.

    On that note… I INVEST $120 for a facial every month. It’s a lot. It’s also pretty much the only thing I treat myself to in the regular. It still feels over the top and frivolous. But I’ve committed to it. Why? Because I walk away feeling a million bucks and it’s the most relaxing/connected time of the month for me. I feel clear about the month ahead… 
    The dramatic improvements to my skin are just a quarter of what I’m actually spending the money on. I’m spending the money to feel how I feel afterwards.

    Thanks for wasting your time writing this Zoe 😉 it’s reaffirmed my choice. Xx

  • Julia

    Very well put! As someone who has struggled with acne for the past 15 years (still am from time to time, but it’s much better), I can honestly say having nice skin contributes so much to my psychological well-being! It’s definitely not a trivial thing. 

  • Kate

    Love this Zoe! My dermatologist gave the same advice to me over 25 years ago! In my early 40’s now, I am complimented daily on my skin and the fact I rarely wear make up. When friends ask me what “brand” of skin care I use I inform them “whatever is cheaper than what your feed your kids tonight!”
    Ingredients! Sense! And like a diet, it’s both a combination of balance and moderation. 
    Regardless of what we buy or how much we spend, education on ingredients and a good and effective skin care routine is paramount. 

  • Brigitte

    Hi Zoe, 

    You’re instagram post caught my attention last night and I read your article and it reinforced to me that I have no idea about skin care!

    I have checked my products tonight and both my cleanser and exfoliator have glycolic acid, I don’t know how much though. And I’ve looked at my serum and night moisturiser and I don’t know what the ingredients are! I feel like I might be like your friend?! 

    What do I do/ how do I know what to buy for my skin? Some days I think my skin is oily other days I think it’s dry. So I have no idea what category of skin care (even make up really) that I need. Do I see a dermatologist to tell me what my skin is like and to recommend products? 

    Thank you!!! 

    • Judy

      A good start is actually Zoe’s most recent book. Thatvhas a great deal of good info. You could probably borrow it from your local library if you didn’t want to buy.
      I also started going to a skin salon and got a specialist to look at my skin to see what I treatment I may need and what (good) products I could use. I should add that I did this after I had my child. My hormones were all over the place and I had raging hormonal acne. Almost 3 yrs later I still see the same lady and she’s never pressured me into buying anything I don’t want to.

  • Sam Leader

    Thanks, Zoe, yours is an authentic voice in this bullshit ridden world.

    Can you rewrite the “If you’re interested in not wasting money on skin care, just:” bit inserting Go To products and perhaps saying what to do each week and each month? Like you’re talking to a 5 year old, but a 5 year old with the skin of a 45 year old.

    Love your work.


  • Jen

    I’m an unknowledgeable git when it comes to skin care and use it purely so I don’t have to wear make-up every day. I use Go-To but have a mango allergy so can’t use all the products BUT using Go-To taught me to check the ingredients of what I do choose to use on my face!!! It also means that expensive does not necessarily equal “good”, or effective. So bless Go-To and Zoe, I say!!!

  • Sara

    There’s also the simple fact that your skin is actually the largest and most vulnerable organ you have. Good skin care is necessary for a healthy life, with less risk of skin cancer or other diseases. My father’s family is INCREDIBLY prone to skin cancer (we all have green eyes), so my mother (a nurse) started showing me how to care for my skin from a young age. My father’s older brother refused to take care of his skin (he lived in Southern California and would not wear sunscreen for YEARS) and you would not believe the number of absolutely enormous carcinomas his doctors had to remove over the years—before he finally gave in and started using sunscreen. Of course, by that point, he looked at least 20 years older than he was and continued to have problems until he died. So, really, it’s just common sense to take care of your skin, if you’re going to be responsible and proactive. 

  • Mel

    Hi Zoe, and readers….I am lazy 35yr old skin care noob who has just started reading Amazinger Face and also just purchased the swipeys and the face oil.
    As a teen I had horrid acne and roaccutane was the only thing that worked. I then enjoyed my 20s with – if I do say so myself – flawless skin. It made me lazy. No make up, but hardly any skin care regime either.
    Now I’m 35 and noticed fine lines and lots of congestion under the surface plus I have always had large pores. My skin tends towards oily but I think very dehydrated.
    My questions are these – Zoe says in AF that in your 30s you should not use foaming cleansers…but Properly Clean looks like a foam, no? Can I use it or is it designed for younger skin? Also, I am using the face oil morning and night, should I still use an actual moisturiser as well?
    Thank you Zoe for sharing so much advice! And thanks in advance to anyone who may be able to assist me 🙂

  • Paige Lumb

    Hi Zoe
    just regarding your comment:

    “I discovered my friend was using a cleanser with 10% glycolic acid, a serum jammed with retinoids (Vitamin A), and a night cream with both AHAs and retinol. She was 40 and looked 13, but OF COURSE SHE FRIGGEN DID SHE WAS REMOVING A LAYER OF SKIN EVERY NIGHT.”

    Now I am panicking – I tried a sample of Alpha H Liquid Gold, only to discover my cleanser, toner and cream has citric acid in it. Is the citric acid to much with the Liquid Gold? Or is the citric acid very mild?I didn’t even know my products had citric acid in them – they are not promoted as AHA containing…… – until I read your blog and checked all the ingredients.

    Ta for any advice x

  • Riaan Swiegelaar

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  • Tahlia

    Hi Zoe,
    Can we please have an updated post on Sunscreen or please reply to my comment? I’ve emailed the Go-To team and have been linked to your website. I’d like to buy some to incorporate daily into my skin care routine with Go-To products and the only post I could find on sunscreen recommendations is from 4 years ago(!) and a lot of the products aren’t linked right. Can you please recommend some fancy and budget friendly physical sunscreen options that you are loving? Thank you.

  • Patricia Moore

    I saw testimonies and good work he has done in the lives of people helping them to get their ex husbands and wives renewing their relationship i was convinced and i contacted him and just in 3 days after the spell was caste my beloved husband came looking for me and right now we are together again and he is taking care of me and the little kids as his responsibilities and family. Once again thank you here are his contact to reach him. ””(( Robinson.buckler @ )) yahoo com……………………………..

  • Annapurna

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

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