It’s one thing to scroll through Instagram or look through YouTube and see people following these “skincare hacks” or routines that send me into full-tilt panic (some of y’all are doing weird stuff with toothpaste and Elmers, stop it), but it’s a whole different experience to experience these things in person. I spent about two years in Sephora and Ulta providing education and training, which included corporate events for clients and new product launches for staff and leadership, and some of the things I’ve seen still make me wonder where people got these ideas. I never thought I’d have to tell someone not to use motor oil as tanning oil, but I was very, very wrong.
I wanted to take my experience of meeting, teaching, and learning from hundreds of people ranging from complete newbies to regional directors of multi-national beauty companies to talk to y’all a bit about the best and worst practices and beliefs I’ve come across in the hopes of providing some guidance for your own beauty and skincare journeys. Let’s start with a topic I get asked and continue to get asked the most about: anti-aging. Here are some of the biggest anti-aging mistakes I want to clear up here and now.
The first thing to successfully making the clock tick a little more slowly on your face is to have realistic expectations of what is possible with topical products. I could go on and on about how much even the term “anti-aging” is something that I take major issue with (in the words of Caroline Hirons, “aging is a privilege”), because I feel that we’re all just trying to look and, more importantly, feel our best as time goes on. Prevention or slowing the process of aging is something that I think we all take part in one way or another if we’re adopting skincare routines, but if I had a dollar for every time I had someone come up to me in a store wanting “fix these wrinkles” while gesturing to their entire face, I’d have enough money to make a product that can actually do that, because it doesn’t exist.
There is no product that will make wrinkles disappear, get rid of sun damage, and instantly rebuild the collagen in your skin. We all get sun exposure at some point, we all (hopefully) make plenty of facial expressions throughout our days, and collagen production, among many other things, slow down over time. Diligent use of sunscreen, hydrating and moisturizing your skin appropriately, and use of proven active ingredients like retinol can absolutely have a positive impact on your skin, but regardless of how many layers you’re patting in or how strong of a retinol you’re using, the loss of firmness and wrinkles are going to come.
And stressing out about them is literally going to make it happen faster. No really, studies are showing that prolonged, high levels of stress age your entire body, including your face, more quickly than it should. Prevention is not only the key, but really all we can do unless you’re going to cross over into the territory of needles and knives.
I always use the same analogy when I’m explaining this concept to people: Skincare is like exercise. You cannot go on a hike once a month and expect to up your cardio game or build up your lower body. You need to be exercising on a regular basis in a way that works for you. Skincare is no different, but I have met so many people coming in to look for a “better” anti-aging serum or cream because whatever they’re using now “isn’t doing anything.” Come to find out that they’re applying a new serum or even prescription-strength retinol at some random, intermittent frequency like for three days straight, then nothing for a week, and aren’t getting the results they were expecting.
You truly do reap what you sow in the arena of skincare, and while things happen to all of us that may throw our usual rhythms off from time to time, there needs to be some general consistency to your routine for it have any real impact. Even with consistent usage, products can take weeks or even a month or two to show noticeable results, and you’re only prolonging that dreaded waiting period by not sticking to some type of schedule.
As I discussed above, there is no eye cream that will “make your bags go away” or a serum that will “get rid of all the wrinkles,” but any softening that may be possible with skin texture or evenness of tone won’t happen if you’re forgetting to apply said products on a daily basis. I recently talked about ways to condense a routine in a previous article I wrote, which might help some of you make things feel more manageable, but do what you can to find your own groove and keep consistent, even when your days get hectic.
As I’m writing this, I’m realizing just how interconnected these issues are, but the biggest message I want to convey to y’all reading is to take things slowly. I know my exfoliation routine may be pretty extreme to some of you, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin, but in general, going zero to 60 is definitely not the answer, especially with things like retinol that can cause some serious damage if not approached with the proper respect. It was pretty common for me to be talking with someone trying to focus on anti-aging who later was searching for a way to soothe and heal their irritated skin. I think we’ve all done it before, but causing more irritation and inflammation in your skin only facilitates further breakdown of collagen in the long run.
That’s the exact opposite of the goal here, so easing into things like glycolic acid or retinol that are going to stimulate our skin processes that support and generate our cells is what will get you where you want to be. I know it can be disheartening to not see changes after weeks or months of (consistent) product usage, but it’s far better than causing more problems along the way.
I just had a friend message me two weeks ago asking about bumps and irritation on her neck that were creeping up to her face, and I quickly discovered she had gone from no retinol usage to using a newly launched 1% OTC retinol cream that she had been assured by the brand was safe for immediate nightly use, face and neck, and had been putting it on every night for the last 10 days. Do not be her. PSA: Please don’t apply retinol to your neck as you would your face. I’d much rather use a very low percentage retinol for three to six months, realize I want to push my results a little further, and slightly bump up my percentage than try to backtrack and repair damage.
I know the topic of “anti-aging” is going to continue to be something people are curious about and will be in pursuit of, but I also know it can be really overwhelming at the same time. If you’ve made your share of anti-aging mistakes or have any questions, please leave them below and I’ll do my best along with the rest of the K-Beauty Squad to provide some guidance to everyone out there. And as always, wishing you all peace, K-pop, and sunscreen!