The Skin Coach: Tips For Choosing Skincare Products

"The Skin Coach" column is written by Kimmy Williams, owner of Acqua e Sapone, a skin clinic in San Francisco. 

The cosmetics industry makes money, lots of it. Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on products that claim to banish wrinkles or cure acne. Unfortunately, whether it comes from the drugstore, the department store, or even your doctor, there are very few skincare products that actually do what they say they do. In fact, the FDA website clearly states that skincare products are not required to be approved before coming onto the market and the only agency controlling the accuracy of labeling is run by the industry itself. The next time you go to purchase skincare products, use these tips to make sure you are getting what you pay for:

1. Read the ingredients list. Just because the label says “non-comedogenic,” “all natural,” or even “organic,” doesn’t mean anything. There are no dependable agencies controlling the accuracy of labelling and cosmetic companies can write pretty much anything they want. Just like the food you eat, the true test of skincare products is found on the back where the ingredients are, not the front where the label is.

2. Check the active ingredient. If a $10 cream and a $200 cream both claim to fight acne, chances are they both contain the same active ingredient. Go with the cheaper one, don’t waste your money paying for fancy packaging.  

3. Be your own advocate. Cosmetic companies and even many physicians are not looking out for your safety when it comes to skincare products. For example, retinoids and beta hydroxy acids are deemed unsafe for pregnant and nursing women yet it is common for doctors to prescribe them products containing these chemicals. Harmless products like shampoos and body cleansers also often contain these chemicals with no warning label.