A little skin care experiment…what really happened

Scrub all you like, exfoliant doesn't fix bumps.
It’s my mission in life to give you the healthiest skin possible. Skin that radiates, skin that glows, skin that looks full of life.

Sadly… not all skin care on retail shelves is skin “care” and I have the pictures to prove it!

Below is my account of a 6 week trial, where I put my skin to the test to show you what happens when you use skin care that doesn’t care for your skin. I went on a mission to see exactly what would happen if I stopped using the skin care I work with in my clinic and headed off to the department store to find “skin care” that most of my clients were using before our worlds collided.

Here’s what it confirmed:

Just because a product is expensive, has “trend” ingredients and is a well known “reputable” brand, doesn’t mean it will serve your skin and give you results.

Now let me preface this with how my skin was prior to this experiment.

Skin care experiment

I had really healthy radiant dewy 31 year old skin.

I practice what I preach and have a simple but effective skin care routine and had my skin in really healthy condition. So I thought my skin would withstand 6 weeks of alternate skin care from comparably priced, reputable skin care brands.

The skin care experiment

I walked into the department store ‘incognito’. I left my “skin expert” hat at the door and entrusted my purchase to the lady behind the counter, believing that in selling skin care, she would know the right products for me. (I chose the most “clinical” looking stand in the beauty department based on the skin diagrams in their signage and their “professional” – read knowledgeable – presentation.)

She knew my skin type… kind of…  She guessed that I had dry skin, “you don’t look shiny” was her assumption/diagnosis. She allowed me to choose my moisturiser, but they all looked the same so I let her guide me.

At her recommendation I purchased a night cream for mature dry skin to use am & pm; and a toner for sensitive skin, even though I am not sensitive (and sensitive skin is not a skin type.. you can read about that here.)

I also was recommended to go to the supermarket to get a cleanser “It’s cheaper and is not as important as moisturiser so you don’t need to spend much”.

So at the supermarket… I watched for a while to see what women were mostly buying, I ended up settling with a well advertised brand of cleanser also designed to remove eye make up and the infamous exfoliant with apricot kernels (Shudder!)

All up I spent over $580 on cleanser, toner, moisturiser, sunscreen, serum, scrub, liquid and powder foundation… I was in deep! I wasn’t doing this half hearted. I was replacing everything I would use in the course of a day/week just like I would my professional skin care routine… only with retail skin care.

Aside from feeling a little bit deflated and not at all encouraged thanks to the unsettling experience at the beauty counter, I really didn’t walk away confident that my skin would improve or understanding what I had just bought.

It could have been the bright lights and perfume cloud high I was riding… or the comments from the make up lady telling me “your neck and face are different shade’s so any make up you wear will look funny” or the mature age sales woman treating my concerns about ageing as vain and petty, for caring about what the next few years will bring.

I realised if I could feel like this, that you might feel the same.

I had walked into this experiment with a decade of skin knowledge and experience to back me up! I wasn’t exactly buying blind yet I was still feeling a bit low after the fact.

At home I pulled out my haul, pushing aside my much loved professionally prescribed skin care, placing them in my bathroom along with the high hopes that this “good skin care” would continue to support my skin.

The horror…umm, skin care experiment begins

Upon applying my new skin care I could immediately predict where my skin was going to end up at the end of the 6 weeks.

Cleanser (for all skin types and ideal for eye make up) made my eyes feel dry and like my face was going to crack from the tightness… but this is a good feeling right? It’s “firming” yeah??

Although “hypo allergenic” and “dermatologist tested”, it contained:

  • Cocamidopropyl betaine – associated with sensitisation, irritation and contact dermatitis.
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate – may cause severe irritation to eyes and skin (remember… this was marketed as eye make up remover and cleanser in one).
  • DMDM hydantain – formaldehyde releasing preservative known to be a skin irritant.
  • Tetrasodium ETDA – tested on animals, classified as high human health priority** and expected to be toxic and harmful.

I found nothing in this cleanser to be of any benefit to live skin cells BUT most ingredients were surfactants that disrupt the function of a skin as a barrier.

** High human health priority – it’s a carcinogen and formaldehyde releasing preservative, and can be toxic or harmful (it’s linked to cancer and is high risk to organ toxicity!!!)

Toner- this contained over 40 ingredients, more than half of which were fragrances and none of which were helpful to the function of a healthy skin, many being sun sensitisers (hello pigmentation!)

Ingredients I didn’t want to see but were on the list:

  • Methylisothiazolinone – a biocide and preservative, proving to be a concern because of sensitization and allergic reactions as well as cell and nerve damage. High risk for contact dermatitis.
  • Acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolyme – (yep… it’s all one ingredient) an emulsifier that breaks down the barrier function of skin, harmful to health.

Exfoliant – this I know you’ve used at least once in your lifetime!

Less than impressive ingredients included:

  • Walnut Shell – this is a very harsh exfoliant that leaves micro-tears.
  • Sodium Laureath Sulfate – a detergent known to irritate skin and eyes. Why the heck it is needed in a skin moisturizer is beyond me!?!?!?
  • DMDM Hydantain – formaldehyde releasing preservative known to be a skin irritant.
  • Methylisothiazolinone – a biocide and preservative, proving to be a concern because of sensitization and allergic reactions as well as cell and nerve damage. High risk for contact dermatitis.

Serum ­– a silicone base, it sat on my skin, not absorbing.

Moisturiser – the supposed revitalizing, anti-ageing comfort cream:

  • Mineral Oil – a petroleum based ingredient that occludes the skin, disrupting cell to cell communication.
  • Sodium Hydroxide CAUSTIC SODA … I know… I thought surely it’s a mistake… but after this trial it made a great drain cleaner!!!!!!!
  • Tetrasodium ETDA – tested on animals, classified as high human health priority (yep, the carcinogen again) and expected to be toxic and harmful.
    Methylisothiazolinone – a biocide and preservative, proving to be a concern because of sensitization and allergic reactions as well as cell and nerve damage. High risk for contact dermatitis.

… the only saving grace in this product is shea butter… I doubt the quality of the source or the efficacy of the small amount swimming around in the rest of the muck making up this product.

Why tell you all this?

Now I’m telling you all of this because these are the products that many of my clients come in having used and I can guarantee that you are using products right now that contain these ingredients!

From my first week of the skin care experiment, my skin was not happy. Big pimples – normally, with my skin balanced and healthy, I only get one or two pimples a year (and they usually happen when I travel different time zones and climates).

By the second week, my skin felt like paper and I was getting lumps and bumps showing up all across my cheeks. They weren’t pimples, they just lingered and felt rough. I kept finding my fingers running over them.. not good. Of course exfoliating didn’t help. Exfoliating doesn’t fix bumps.

Scrub all you like, exfoliant doesn't fix bumps.

By week 3, I was waking up with a new pimple every other day. Chin, forehead, temples, nose. I was getting flaky patches and the dewy radiance was gone. My skin looked like it had a fine dusting of powder, a sure sign of deeper dryness.

By the fourth week I was getting really lazy with my skin care – clearly it wasn’t working like I hoped so I had no reason to bother caring for my skin. I could see why so many women I see lose faith in skin care.

By now my skin was really not performing well. Some days my eyes looked puffy other times they were tight, dry, itchy or watery.

Phase of six week skin care experiment

Even with a heavy moisturiser for “dry/mature” skin my face felt dry and tight.  The glow and radiance that my skin once had was replaced with dullness and flakey patches. My makeup didn’t sit well and it exacerbated the appearance of my skin. I felt like I couldn’t face my clients with or without make up!

What happened during the skin care experiment

This is when I realized the effect my skins appearance had on me emotionally:

I was struggling to do my job properly, feeling like clients were looking at my skin and wondering how I could expect them to trust that I knew what I was talking about. I found I was unable to maintain eye contact with confidence.

By the end of the 6-week experiment, my skin lipid readings were ZERO. I am naturally lipid dry anyway, but I had found some balance prior to this trial.

My hydration readings went from medium and balanced to ZERO… no oil and water in skin means no enzyme activity and very poor cell to cell compaction. This looks like bumps, lumps, congestion, slow healing… all the things that my skin was presenting with.

Long term, I could expect to see these concerns exacerbated, having a leading influence on premature ageing, dry skin conditions, breakouts, my skin would over time become more sensitized, red, inflamed.

Had I made the commitment to continue this experiment for several months I have no doubt that this is where my skin was headed.

But the longer I persisted with this path, the longer the repair process would take and whilst at my skin clinic I have all the tools for skin repair at my fingertips, I think you can see from only 6 weeks that not all skin care is actually skin “care” and I did not wish to jeopardise my skin any longer.

So what does this mean for you?

I want nothing but the best for your skin. I want you to wake up confident, with radiant skin that glows with life and health.

It’s clear that not all skin care is created equally and not everyone who sells skin care is knowledgeable about your skin.

I want you to give up the skin care that’s not serving your skin. I want you to feel confident in the skin care you choose; to not guess or hope that what you did buy was ok.

How serious am I?

I’m offering you a free skin assessment so you have a professional skin care expert accurately assess your skin type. That way, you’re far more likely to choose skin care that’s right for you.

Yep, really that serious.

There are only very limited assessments available at any time (running Laser Effect and Skinside Out takes up most of my time) so be sure to jump in quick.

Love, Robyn xx

10 Responses to “A little skin care experiment…what really happened”

  1. Maggie says:

    What a brave girl you are Robyn! This is a real eye opener and demonstrates precisely how the big companies are exploiting the lay person & ruining their skin in the process! Thanks for “suffering” for our art! This is a really useful tool to explain to clients what they’re actually getting and not what they’re promised!! X

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks Maggie!
      It was a loooooong 6 weeks and a shock to see what was really floating around in all that “skincare”.
      I hope my skin suffering will help to shed some light on the issue!

  2. Ashley says:

    Are you still doing skin assessments?

    My skin is a mess. I’ve tried everything to get my skin back on track but I’ve caused damage then good.

  3. Cait says:

    How long did it take for your skin to return to normal?
    I used a retinoid twice and had an awful reaction and my skin looks very similar to how yours does during this process.
    It also looked similar in its before state to your before state.

    • Hi Cait! Whilst my experiment was only for 6 weeks, it took over 4 months to get my skin back into shape. It all comes down to the number of cell lifecycle needed to repair the damage done 🙁

  4. Elleta says:

    I need your help! I’ve gotten 2 vbeam treatments done and my skin looks similar, but worse, than what you experienced. Will you please help me?:(

  5. Agata Maziarz says:

    Hi Robyn!
    This post really speaks to me. I tend to get my skin pretty good for a while and even using natural oils I get a freak out omce every 2 months. I try to be super gentle, exfoliate with a BHA and a Glycolic every other night. I live in Canada and the weather is getting cold and dry I am fearing the worst..please help me!

    • Hello Lovely! I would recommend searching for corneotherapy treatments. I’m based in Australia but know that there are some great corneotherapists on your continent! In the mean time, reduce your use of acids to only once per week xx

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