Skincare Science – Some Popular Marketing Myths - Skinoreal

Skincare Science – Some Popular Marketing Myths

Once upon a time skincare used to be a simple process but it’s not anymore. With vague words like “clean beauty” and “green beauty”, fear of chemicals and toxicity in skincare, consumers are confused more than ever before.

Instead of skincare, it feels like a skin war.

A war between different ingredients, a war between different products, and a war between different perspectives.


Green beauty emerged from this fallacious idea that, 60 per cent of what we put on our skin, actually ends up in our bloodstream. FYI, your skin is literally a barrier and despite of what you are told, it does a pretty awesome job of keeping things out.

Gwenyth Paltrow said  if you can’t read the ingredient, you shouldn’t be putting in on your skin!!’ 

I have two things to say –

For once let us stop taking everything that we hear from famous people at face value.

And second, I am sure you would not want to put dihydrogen monoxide on your skin because let’s face it, it’s not easy to read.

But wait, dihydrogen monoxide is the chemical name for water and if we don’t put it in our body, we would die.

Let’s take another example closer to home, the famous ayurvedic green beauty brand Patanjali that preaches the goodness of so called natural ingredients. However, it’s aloe Vera gel is green in colour and smells really nice- I think I have made my point.

Skincare companies sell fragrance and essential oils in the garb of green beauty and blame other skincare companies for selling chemicals.

Having said that, I have no problem with green skincare brands. In fact, I myself own and love some of these green brands. But, I LIKE THEM BECAUSE OF THEIR FORMULATION AND NOT BECAUSE  OF THE ‘GREEN LABEL’.

Instead of asking, ‘Are there chemicals in this product?”, ask ‘ Are chemicals in this product useful, effective and safe for my skin?- This, in my opinion, is a more effective way to approach skincare.

(Side note- Chemicals are not harmful. Substances that contain carbon atoms are chemicals, you, me, water, plants, and everything on this planet by definition is a chemical.)

And if you think that I don’t know anything about green beauty and that’s the reason I am, saying all this, Well I have spent hours with my best friend on Sephora website looking for ‘Clean At Sephora’ seal, so I have had my share of green beauty moments.


Statements like,’ Skincare Products are the new cigarettes’, ‘ Your skincare products are killing you’, XYZ Toxic Skincare Ingredients to Avoid and apps like ThinkDirty (for those who don’t know it’s an app that apparently educates consumers regarding potential toxins in personal/skincare products) are few examples of how lucrative fear mongering can be in the skincare industry.

These pieces of misinformation are not well grounded and I will tell you why –

  • The conclusion is often drawn by cherry-picking information from the scientific literature. Say there is an article titled ‘The relationship between sunscreen and skin cancer’. Some XYZ person/company will pick this up, go through random bits and pieces that serve their biases, and will draw a conclusion that ingredients used in sunscreens actually causes skin cancer.
  • They mix up a correlation (the relationship between two factors e.g.: the relationship between sleeping and good skin) and causation(one factor causes another e.g.: Sleeping for 8 hours leads to good skin). People who don’t have a science background don’t understand this and marketing companies are taking advantage of this confusion.

For instance, there was a study stating that sunscreen usage caused the number of skin cancer cases in the USA to rise. Yes, true it did. But let’s dig deep. The study also mentioned that people started spending more time in the sun after applying an inadequate amount of sunscreen(e.g.-spending 6 hours after only applying SPF 30, not reapplying, not using enough amount) thinking that they are protected. So, spending time in the sun without adequate sun protection actually caused skin cancer and not applying sunscreen.

  • The dose of the ingredient is not considered. In reality, it is the dose that makes the poison and any ingredient can be toxic at high levels(even water) and safe at low levels. So the next time when you read an article about some XYZ ingredient disrupting our endocrine system, don’t forget to look at the dosage that is required to do so.

FINAL THOUGHTS – The drug store skincare brands that has been labelled as toxic by these so non-toxic companies/apps are often recommended by dermatologists. And as rightly said by Dr. Dray our drugstore moisturisers are not AK-47 and they are not out there to get us.


Skincare products are often classified into three categories based on FDA regulations-

Over the Counter (OTC) cosmetics  – It can be bought over the counter without any prescription ( e.g. retinol serums). Companies selling OTC skincare products only have to adhere to certain guidelines provided by FDA and rigorous clinical trials are not needed.

The Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance

Over the Counter drugs- Drugs that can be bought by the consumer without a prescription(e.g. anti-dandruff shampoo, cosmetic use- cleaning the scalp, drug use- treating dandruff). These products often qualify as both cosmetics and as OTC drugs.

Prescription Drugs- It can only be prescribed by a medical doctor(e.g. retinoids). It has to be approved by the FDA along with passing several clinical trials.

The FD&C Act defines drugs as “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.

Apart from these words like ‘Medical’ or ‘Clinical Skincare’ are not FDA regulated terms and therefore there is no guarantee of any clinical testing or higher efficiency.

FINAL THOUGHTS – Medical grade skincare is just another term for OTC Skincare (cosmetics and drugs). In my opinion, we should focus on the formulation+ effectiveness of a skincare product instead of getting into this battle of made-up terms that have no scientific reality, whatsoever.


These poor guys have a pretty bad reputation in the skincare industry. From causing breast cancer to being endocrine disruptors, ill-informed people blame them for everything (particularly parabens).

It’s like suddenly preservatives are the devil and for some reason, the idea of preservatives in skincare is received with a reaction that it is harmful to the health of individuals using that preservative containing skincare. BUT, WHY?

Preservatives increase the shelf life of our skincare and keep them free from the nasty bacterial growth.

In my opinion, unpreserved cosmetics are really bad for us, not just for our skin but for our overall health.

Where there is WATER, there is a NEED for PRESERVATIVES.

And that includes the majority of our skincare formulas (moisturisers, serums, water based face masks, etc).

Let’s go through different Preservative free claims- 

Water based preservative free products that live up to their shelf life– This is a major red flag because the company is lying to you. They can do it in two ways –

They won’t disclose their full ingredient list and only sugar coated active ingredients will be present.(most of our beloved Indian Ayurvedic brands, I am not taking any names).

Companies use preservatives by masking them under certain non- preservative ingredients so that they can call their product preservative free.

Anhydrous products – Also a note to companies who sell anhydrous(no water) products and claim to be preservative free. Please stop doing that because saying that your anhydrous formulas are free of preservatives is similar to an ice cream, shop selling a strawberry ice cream, free of spices. (Both the ingredients are irrelevant and not required).

FINAL THOUGHTS – I personally have no problems with preservatives in my skincare because studies have shown again and again that preserved cosmetics are much better than the non-preserved ones. Also, synthetic preservatives are cheaper and safer for our skin as compared to the natural ones.

Preservative is a boon that has turned into a bane due to fear mongering and without it the cosmetic industry wouldn’t be the same.


Long story short, beauty supplements are a waste of money. It may come as a surprise to a lot of you but sadly no study has found any significant evidence, suggesting otherwise. Moreover, the limited study that we have is not strong enough to draw a firm conclusion ( at least up until I wrote this post but things can change).

From anti-ageing collagen supplements to acne fighting pills, the market is saturated.

And when people ask me, will XYZ supplement help me with XYZ skin concerns?

I am sorry, I don’t have a direct answer. It really depends upon your goal.

For instance, collagen is essentially a protein and if you have protein deficiency and then you see results from taking a collagen supplement, it makes sense. But if you are eating collagen powder so that your skin starts producing more collagen, you will be disappointed because that’s not how our skin works.

I started taking evening primrose oil supplement because it’s good for regulating hormones and at that point of time I was suffering from acne around my jawline. I took it for six months and my skin cleared out. WAIT, BEFORE YOU START SHOPPING FOR THIS SUPPLEMENT, HEAR ME OUT. During the same time, I switched to a basic skincare routine along with making some lifestyle changes. So I can’t really say for sure that primrose cleared out my skin because there were so many factors involved.

FINAL THOUGHTS – The multibillion dollar beauty industry might tell you that beauty supplements will give you healthy skin but in reality, a lifestyle involving a balanced diet+ regular exercise, sunscreen, and ditching smoking will give you much better results.

So put your skin needs > skin trends and do your research well.


Sreeja S.

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