"But I love my skincare". Why people defend their skincare, even if it's bad (I did it too)
If you're using a supermarket, pharmacy or department store skincare brand, then there's a big chance that the skincare you are using is at best doing nothing for your skin, and at worst, creating skin issues that shouldn't exist. But you are convinced it's good, and will defend it by saying things like "I love it", "It's the best thing I ever used on my skin", "It works better than other brands" and so on. So why do we defend our choices?
Because the skincare category is hard to navigate, and our brain makes us feel ok about it.
I KNOW BECAUSE I'VE BEEN THERE
From an early age I wanted healthy skin. At 17 I remember walking into Myer Southland and becoming awestruck at the glossy everything and found myself at the Lancome counter. The sales assistant offered me a facial redeemable on products and it was the most luxurious experience I'd ever had. I promptly purchased what I could afford, and saved up for the rest. For every birthday and Christmas since that day, I requested Myer vouchers and refilled my skincare religiously.
For years everyone told me that the expensive stuff was just the same as the stuff in the supermarket (I would later learn it was actually worse), and I defended that brand as if it were my first born child. At the age of 25 I saw a photo of my skin. It was red, the texture was visibly rough, my pores enlarged. I took forever applying my makeup, because my skin would just look worse. The penny dropped. I realised I had fallen for cellophane, embossed foil packaging, celebrity ads in Vogue, and the smell and feel of the creams. The sensory part of my brain was making the decisions, my ego was rationalising them, and now my skin was sick!
BUT WHY ISN'T IT GOOD FOR YOUR SKIN
Each product needs to be assessed on its individual merits, but here's a run down on the most popular sub-segments.
- Luxury/ department store brands work hard to create a sensory experience. When you think about how you interact with a cream, you will most likely rub it onto the back of your hand, and then smell it. Knowing this, formulators fill their creams with silicone = feels good, and fragrance = smells good. This is a marketing slam dunk. As you'd expect, silicone and fragrance aren't good for your skin and with constant use your skin is going to fall out of balance and let you know about it. They also don't include any skin changing ingredients - at least not in a quantity that's going to do anything.
- Middle of the road brands that are the kings of made up science and misleading claims. Think "Overnight Miracle", "Boost skin's 'renewal' by 60%", "re-densifies the skin" and "skincare clinically proven to challenge a laser session". Dying with laughter. The claims are so ridiculous and plentiful, they are designed to confuse the consumer so much you'll just give up and throw your money at them. Ok, ok, but what about the ingredients? Again, more silicones, fragrance, cheap alcohols - lots, and active ingredients in do nothing quantities, with no delivery system.
- Finally we have budget supermarket and pharmacy lines. Overall, these guys are probably a bit better. They love to claim that they are dermatologically tested (all skincare is... just saying), but they have significantly less ingredients. They may also throw money at a some sort of skin foundation to obtain an endorsement - look for logos. What we will find are still your usual suspects such as parfum/ fragrance, colours, mineral oils and silicone. Don't expect good quality ingredients either. By the time they pay for packing, advertising, celebrity endorsements, distribution, there's not a lot or room to get quality into that little jar or tube.
SO, WHY DO WE DEFEND QUESTIONABLE SKINCARE
We don't want to admit that we made a bad choice. There's actually a psychological reasoning behind it. Often called choice-supportive bias, post-purchase rationalisation or buyer's Stockholm Syndrome, we focus on the strengths of the product we chose, and overlook its faults. We might also focus on the weaknesses of the alternatives. We all do it, and we are essentially justifying our decisions to make ourselves feel good.
In addition our brains want to streamline our decision making process so we can go about a day. Given that skincare is a tough category to navigate (and it's just one of the many things we need to think about), our brain uses cognitive shortcuts to make decisions easier.
SO YOU WANT HEALTHY SKIN BUT YOU'RE NOT SURE YOU'RE READY FOR A BREAK UP
If you do come in to visit us with skin concerns then we are going to discuss all the reasons why your skin might not be functioning at it's best, which includes your skincare. Sometimes this is tough to hear, but whatever you do, don't feel bad about it. Navigating skincare is near impossible. Your Skin Therapist will advise you on what you can use to make your skin thrive, and you can choose to consider the information in your own time. You might decide that you're not ready, and if you're not ready, you're not ready. But we'll be here when you are.
By Jazmin Camilleri
Jazmin is a Skin Therapist + owner of Skinovations, and has a bachelors degree in PR from Deakin University and a masters degree in marketing from Monash University. After years working in pharmaceuticals and FMCG, she made the decision in 2009 to start her skin education, and work with people to get their skin healthy, in a fad free way.