I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
You know when you first discover someone you admire how you want to like everything they like and hate everything they hate? I was like that with Paula Begoun, the "Cosmetics Cop" behind Paula's Choice, for a while.
My introduction to beauty and skincare was online through livejournal, girls sharing favorites and winged liner tutorials, amateurs who were as new to it as each other. So when I stumbled across Beautypedia, Paula's website dedicated to the science of skincare, I was falling over myself in excitement. Some of my favorites were awful, she said, so out they went.
As my knowledge of skincare and my own skin has grown, however, I'm learning that Paula (and other experts) are only human, and while it's important to understand the science behind skincare claims and ingredients, it's not a hard and fast game.
I still check Beautypedia for a product overview before buying most of my skincare, but I no longer take their word as gospel (Paula Begoun now has a team that writes the reviews). Their strict guidelines for reviewing mean that anything containing fragrance, essential oils or alcohol gets a hard no — and while those are good things to consider, a bit of fragrance does not always a failure make.
These are six of my top products which all earned the lowest rating on Beautypedia.
At $105 an ounce, it would be nice to be able to say that Luna is overpriced and not worth buying, but from my experience, that's just not true. On Beautypedia, it earns one star out of five for containing potentially irritating essential oils, blue coloring, and a form of retinol that has less scientific evidence of its effectiveness compared to other retinols.
In my heart, though, it earns five stars for being one of the only facial oils I can use on my oily skin without breaking out, and for making a significant difference towards reducing my redness and improving my skin's texture.
You might know these as "Stridex in the red box," and they're super-cheap. They've got 2% salicylic acid at the right pH to be effective in fighting acne as well as general exfoliation, body included (I like them to help stop razor burn and ingrown hairs).
Paula's words are short and not-so-sweet on these: they contain menthol and "detergent cleansing agents that should not be left on the skin," but I've never had any adverse effects, and I know I'm not the only xoVainer who loves these.
I could tell by the name that this wasn't going to get a good rating, and while I'm wary of anything professing miracles, I can't be mad at this moisturizer.
It's in a jar, which makes it an instant fail on Beautypedia, but I think most people would get through a night cream faster than it would go off (and it's cheap enough you wouldn't be saving it up, anyway). The lavender oil is a legitimate cause for concern (it's a common irritant) so I'd suggest people patch test this, but it does make for a very relaxing night cream experience if you don't get the irritation.
To me, this gets points for being a super-hydrating cream that doesn't feel greasy on my oily skin and doesn't leave a film.
Most Origins products get a one-star rating on Beautypedia for containing plant extracts that can be irritating or aren't able to meet the claims the brand makes about them. This is a clay and charcoal mask, but doesn't dry down to a cracked desert on your face, and doesn't have any smell that I can detect. I use it weekly or less to manage oil and cleanse my pores.
To be fair, the review on Beautypedia is out of date, as the Clear Improvement mask no longer contains horsetail extract and instead contains myrtle leaf water, which as far as I can tell isn't a problem for skin.
Beautypedia says this is "guaranteed" to cause irritation, which I have a problem with, because I know I'm not the only person who uses this without any adverse effects. It smells heavenly and relaxing and sure, it's on the indulgent end of the price scale, but it's a welcome addition in my bedtime routine.
OK, this is a projected one-star because this specific product hasn't been reviewed on Beautypedia yet, but I can guess what they would say. It contains three unremarkable ingredients: water (La Roche-Posay's French thermal water, which Beautypedia sneers at), sodium chloride (salt), and zinc sulfate (an irritant, according to Paula), so it's as good as splashing your face with tap water.
I, however, think Serozinc makes a considerable dent in the appearance of my redness, and this study suggests that might not all be my imagination.
Over time, I've learned to take Paula Begoun's advice (and any skincare expert) with a grain of salt; while I do trust that they're experts, I know my own skin and I know what works for it. They can pry my Luna oil from my cold, dead, smooth hands.
- Where do you turn first for skincare advice?
- Anyone had the same realization as me?