A cosmetic scientist, answers all your frequently asked skincare questions.
The skin is unarguably the largest organ of the human body. It makes up about 16 percent of the overall body mass with a total area of about 20 square feet. Our skin equally protects us from the elements and helps regulate body temperature. Seeing as the skin does a lot of work it is only right to give it the tender, loving care it deserves.
Paying attention to how your skin looks, feels, and developing a consistent skincare routine can keep your skin healthy. Healthy skin will not only protect you against any kind of infection but will also leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
However, in the process of starting a skincare routine, several questions might arise. This is because there are so many products available in the market and so many ingredients to choose from. With easy access to the internet, there is also a ton of false information and partly-researched studies.
So, how do you sift through all of these you ask?
Well, to find answers to some of these frequently asked questions and help you navigate the murky waters of the skincare world, I consulted a skincare expert, Gloria Chiko Opara also known as The Skintelligent Chic
because a girl doesn’t know it all.
Gloria is a certified cosmetic scientist and dietitian. She also runs Thrifted Beauty NG – an online thrift store for makeup and skincare items.
For this article, I put together the most common questions I regularly get, majorly questions about hyperpigmentation and controversial skincare ingredients.
Read her answers below:
1. Are oxybenzone and other chemical sunscreen filters really harmful?
First, I’d like to start by saying that no skincare ingredient that is FDA approved is harmful when used within the approved guidelines because the dose is what makes the poison seeing as apparently harmless substances nitrogen which is abundant in the air can become lethal if introduced to the human body at high doses.
I’m saying this because the scientific studies that proved that oxybenzone disrupted hormones in animals used really high doses of oxybenzone – higher doses than what will ever be used in making sunscreens or ever be absorbed into the human body
So, as far as chemical sunscreen filters go, they are absolutely safe to use on the adult human skin. There are only two drawbacks for me, one is the fact that they are quite allergenic, so I wouldn’t be recommending it for people with sensitized skin or for children because their skin has higher absorption potentials than adults’.
Also, chemical sunscreens can cause reproductive issues in fish and accumulate in their bodies. This is the main reason why they are hardly ever my first choice of sunscreens.
2. Are physical scrubs as bad as people make it seem?
For dark-skinned people (people of color generally), I would say yes, scrubs are bad especially when they have pre-existing hyperpigmentation. I say this based on my personal and professional experiences.
Physical scrubs can do some harm when used inappropriately as many people do. They exert so much force while using these scrubs because they are trying to make sure it works, well this leads to a lot of scarring, and when the skin is scarred it tries to heal itself which leads to overproduction of melanin. This is one of the many causes of dark face syndrome which a lot of people have.
Another group of people whom I would advise to not use scrubs are people who have oily skin simply because those circular motions used in the application of scrubs tend to stimulate the sebaceous (oil-producing –) glands causing them to produce more oils. If you have to massage oily skin, its always best to do lymph drainage and save the circular massages for drier skin types.
3. Should we totally cancel makeup/face wipes?
Yes, absolutely! I’m not saying this to jump on the bandwagon but because there are really no advantages to using a face wipe. Face wipes don’t ever take off all the makeup and dirt on the skin, they leave behind surfactants that dry out the skin and cause irritations, some of them contain fragrance that can further irritate the skin and they are usually not biodegradable which means they are bad for the environment. So #trashthewipes and use other cleansing methods that do not have all these disadvantages?
4. Is shea butter good as a face moisturizer?
A good moisturizer or moisturizing system should have three types of ingredients which include humectants (moisture-binding/hydrating ingredients), emollients (skin softening and barrier repairing ingredients), and occlusives (ingredients that seal in moisture).
Shea butter only checks one of these boxes as it only contains emollient fatty acids, hence it is not an adequate moisturizer yet it can be used to formulate one. It is also worth noting that people that have acne or acne-prone skin are should not be using shea butter or products containing shea butter.
5. What are the best chemical exfoliating acids based on skin type?
I don’t think there are any exfoliating acids for different skin types because choosing a skincare product should take more than your skin type into consideration.
There are different types of AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and they are suitable for all skin types, yet someone with acne would benefit more from lactic and mandelic acid than they would from glycolic acid, whereas someone with hyperpigmentation would see more results from glycolic and mandelic acids.
Also, someone who doesn’t have acne but is trying to get rid of fine lines or soften wrinkles will get more benefit from lactic and glycolic acids even if their skin type is oily. The same thing goes for BHA, people think that BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) are only for oily skin types yet from my experience all skin types can benefit from the pore cleansing action of BHAs. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say the same for PHAs, although they are better suited for sensitive skin really they will exfoliate the dead skin cells off any skin type that uses it.According to a cosmetic scientist, These are the best chemical exfoliants for all skin types! Click To Tweet
I guess all I’m trying to say is that the personal skin needs or condition of an individual trumps skin type when the recommendation for actives are made. Comparisons should be made between the mechanism of action of the acid the condition of the skin to determine what acid should be used by the individual.
6. Are alcohols in skincare really that bad? e.g alcohol denat?
The short answer is NO because like I said before there are no “bad” skincare ingredients and alcohols actually serve a purpose in skincare as a penetration enhancer. There are hardly any clinical studies to prove that alcohols have any long term side effects on the skin so I can’t say it’s bad but, I do have my opinions garnered from experience with my clients.
Alcohol can be quite drying and irritating to most skin types especially dry and mature skin types, even though the drying effects are shortlived and can be immediately corrected by a good moisturizer or hydrating serum I still try to avoid alcohols where I can because I do not believe that everyday skincare should hurt, as is the case with products that contain a high concentration of alcohol.Are parabens in skincare products really all that bad? Find out in this insightful article Click To Tweet
7. What’s your take on parabens and sulfates in skincare?
Parabens are a group of preservatives that help prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms that would otherwise thrive in cosmetics, they have a very broad spectrum of action, this means that they protect from a very wide variety of microorganisms in products, this makes it a preservative of choice for many skincare brands. I do not have any restrictions against parabens because they are safe for use according to the science as there have been no clinical studies to prove that parabens are harmful to humans in the concentrations within which they are used in skincare.
As for sulfates, they are also not poisonous and any dryness (because they can be extremely drying) that is experienced with them can be corrected with a proper hydrating toner or serum. However, I do not recommend them because I have a simple rule that guides my skincare choices, “if there is a better ingredient, use that”. There are better surfactants than sulfates that get the cleansing job done just as well so why not go for those?
8. What are the best skin brightening ingredients?
The best ingredients for anything are the ones that have the most clinical trials (research carried out on humans) to back them up and for overall skin brightening effects, my favorites are L-Ascorbic acid and some of its derivatives. Other ones include chemical exfoliants, lactic and mandelic acids specifically and ingredients like licorice extracts, arbutin, and surprisingly Niacinamide.
You get the best results from a combination of these ingredients than you would from all of them because of course skincare ingredients work better synergistically.
9. What’s your take on hydroquinone in skincare?
Hydroquinone is a safe and effective hyperpigmentation treatment that works on all Fitzpatrick skin types, amazing results with darker skin types which is a major box that ingredients need to tick for me to endorse them.
Hydroquinone doesn’t produce drastic skin whitening effects like people imply, in fact, hydroquinone when used within the FDA stipulated ranges takes up to three months to work, so if anyone says its hydroquinone in their fast action bleaching creams, best believe that’s a lie.
Hydroquinone is controversial because of some misquoted studies showing that products containing hydroquinone causes cancer but further research showed that it was the mercury and other steroids In those products that caused cancer and side effects.
Other studies using safe products made with hydroquinone point out that exogenous ochronosis – the only side effect of hydroquinone happens with long term use of a high percentage of HQ and even this happens in less than 10% of people who use it So my advice would be not to use hydroquinone unless monitored by a proper skincare professional
10. Why do we have to use sunscreen indoors? Is it really that necessary?
For me, the constant fuss about sunscreen by skincare professionals come from the fact that by not wearing sunscreen, all the work put into clearing a client’s skin would be in vain as UV rays account for 80% of all skin damage, so we have to make them understand that they have no excuse to skip wearing sunscreen. That said, wearing sunscreen indoors is only necessary if your curtains are open and direct sunlight would be hitting your skin.
That’s it, people! 10 frequently asked skincare questions answered by a skincare expert. I hope you found answers to some questions that have been weighing on your mind
Got any other skincare questions? Feel free to comment below and I just might get another skincare expert to answer them.
Also, follow Gloria on Instagram @theskintelligentchic for more science-based skincare tips.
Don’t forget to STAY CONNECTED!