Updated: March 22, 2021 1:17:50 pm
When Paula Begoun is introduced to her audience comprising 100+ members on a Zoom call, she assumes a calm demeanour, ready to bust some beauty myths and talk about the many products she will be launching in the second phase of her revolutionary skincare brand, Paula’s Choice.
Her journey in the industry has been a long one, and it began when her book Blue Eye Shadow Should Be Illegal was published in 1986.
From there, it has only been an onward journey. From being referred to as “The Cosmetics Cop” at Oprah Winfrey’s show, to publishing 19 bestselling books and launching her own beauty brand on the internet in 1995, Begoun is one of the few established no-nonsense insiders of the beauty industry where rampant misinformation continues to thrive.
In an email interaction, the founder talks about the rise of a knowledge-driven consumer base, products that the industry should get rid of, and what clean beauty means.
Do you think Indian consumers have become more informed? What could be the possible reason?
While there is definitely more information available and accessible to consumers, regrettably, a lot of the skincare advice on the internet is often misleading or outright wrong. People end up making serious skincare mistakes that are either damaging to the skin or not helpful.
Even when consumers can find reliable studies and research, it’s incredibly difficult to decipher. I’ve been studying skincare for 40 years and have a background in science, and even I can get confused. I have to continually read studies to keep up with the facts about what works and what doesn’t.
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What myths you would like to debunk for your Indian consumer base?
Myths, by definition, are not based on facts, but rather fantasy or folklore and have nothing to do with science or research. These myths aren’t merely an opinion, they are according to what current research says is true. Sadly, there are so many myths it’s impossible to list them all, but here are a few that come to my mind first:
Skin repairs itself best at night
Research shows just the opposite is true: skin actually heals better during the day than it does at night because during the day, you are moving around more, leading to increased blood flow and oxygen intake, which, in turn, stimulates healing far more than just lying still in bed does.
A cool, tingling sensation means a product is working
A cooling or tingling sensation is your skin telling you it’s being sensitised and irritated, and that is always bad for the skin. In addition to the irritation you feel on the surface, there is also damage occurring below the surface, destroying support structures.
Dry skin? Drink more water!
Although drinking eight glasses of water a day is a good idea for your body, it won’t change your dry skin. If that’s all it took, no one would have dry skin. The causes and solutions of dry skin are far more complex than just drinking water—that’s where good skincare comes to the rescue.
Your skin adapts to products you use, so they eventually stop working
Skin doesn’t adapt to skincare products any more than your body adapts to a healthy diet. Spinach and grapes are healthy for you today, and they’ll continue to be healthy for you months and years from now, even if you eat them every day. The same is true for your skin: as long as you are applying what’s beneficial (and avoiding things that harm skin such as unprotected sun exposure), it can remain healthy and young.
Essential oils are great for treating skin concerns
Some components of essential oils are indeed beneficial for the skin, but unfortunately, essential oils comprise ingredients that are bad for the skin because the volatile compounds they contain cause inflammation. Non-fragrant plant oils such as jojoba, canola, sunflower, argan, acacia, most berry oils, and so on, impart only skin benefits and have no negative impact on the skin as essential oils do.
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Sheet masks are beneficial for skin
There is no research anywhere showing sheet masks are helpful for skin or have any advantage over using well-formulated skincare products. When it comes to skincare ingredients, absorption is strictly based on the ingredients’ molecular size or the product’s delivery system.
Most importantly, not all ingredients need to absorb on the same level. The best skincare formulations should be designed where some ingredients remain on the surface to protect the skin’s barrier, some absorb a bit more to nourish the lower layers of skin, and others even deeply where they help to repair skin on a cellular pathway level.
Natural ingredients are better for skin
Research makes it abundantly clear that while there are lots of brilliant natural ingredients for the skin, there also are lots of natural ingredients that are irritating and damaging, and these show up in skincare products all the time.
On the other hand, there are lots of lab-engineered ingredients that are brilliant for skin and work far better. Sadly, these amazing ‘unnatural’ ingredients get downplayed or are accused of being bad for the skin, when just the opposite is true. Simply put, natural doesn’t mean better, and synthetic doesn’t mean bad!
Drying up skin with astringents and strong cleansers can get rid of acne
Acne is an inflammatory skin disorder so anything you do that increases inflammation makes acne worse! Drying skin’s surface with products containing harsh ingredients like denatured alcohol or using harsh scrubs causes more breakouts, more swollen red bumps, and impedes skin’s ability to heal, which makes blemishes last longer.
Facial massage improves skin health
This is completely false! If anything, facial massage can accelerate skin ageing, especially sagging. Never massage, pull, or tug at the skin. If you see or feel your skin move, whether up or down, sideways, or in a circular motion, you are helping your skin sag faster than it normally would.
This is a physiological fact because the movement of skin in any direction stretches the delicate elastin fibres that give skin its bounce and resilience. Elastin fibres are the rubber band support structures in the skin and just like a rubber band that is constantly pulled and tugged, these fibres stop going back to their original shape, eventually breaking, resulting in sagging!
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Do DIYs really work? Also, what are some of the best ingredients for the Indian skin type?
Do It Yourself skincare is more often than not one of the worst ways to take care of your skin. The assortment of skincare recipes can include everything from honey to turmeric, yoghurt, oatmeal, avocados, vinegar, lemon — basically everything.
All these should be Don’t Do It skincare! These concoctions claim to be good for everything from acne to wrinkles. Not only is there no research supporting the benefit of using any of these things on your face (at least not the versions you have in your kitchen), most of them have research showing they are actually bad for skin because they cause irritation or do nothing at all. The only beneficial options in your kitchen are non-fragrant plant oils like canola or olive oil as they can be good for dry skin but that’s it.
Being Indian isn’t a skin type. Race or skin colour isn’t a skin type, age isn’t a skin type, and even gender isn’t a skin type. Skin type and skin concerns are based on what is taking place on your skin not what country you live in.
Whether you are dealing with dry skin, oily skin, combination skin, acne, clogged pores, skin discolourations, wrinkles, sagging, rosacea, eczema, seborrhea, milia, and on and on, the ingredients that treat those skin concerns are the same for everyone no matter who they are.
When you founded Paula’s Choice, you did it to fight misinformation. Do you think the industry has improved or has it become worse?
It has definitely gotten worse because the amount of misinformation and misleading information available is overwhelming. It is so frustrating and sad to see the utterly erroneous things about skin and skincare being repeated over and over.
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What are some of the products the beauty industry should totally get rid of in terms of environmental damage and efficacy?
Daytime moisturisers that don’t contain sunscreen and any product with bio-active ingredients that comes packaged in a jar (once you remove the lid of a jar, the exposure to air and light starts to degrade these vital effective substances).
Also, harsh scrubs, rough cleansing brushes, and drying soaps/cleansers damage the surface of the skin, destroying its protective barrier, which makes skin more vulnerable to environmental damage, dryness, breakouts, and premature ageing. Lastly, any products that contain irritating ingredients and all products that make false or misleading claims.
There has been a boom in clean beauty brands in the country. How do you define ‘clean’ in terms of beauty?
At the heart of everything I’ve written, every product I’ve formulated is based on my passion for consumers to only use safe, effective skincare products that are proven by published research to work as claimed. I call this view of skincare ‘smart clean beauty.’ This means the best products are the ones that contain the most beneficial blends of natural ingredients plus a smart selection of safe, effective naturally-derived and synthetic ingredients.
The reason smart clean beauty is so vitally important is that it’s what the research shows as best for having healthy, beautiful skin in the short term and long term. Everyone needs to avoid any ingredient — whether synthetic or natural — that research has shown can cause irritation, inflammation, or damage to the skin in any way.
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