I’m glad I wasn’t interested enough in my skin as a teenager to scrub my pores raw with exfoliators on a daily basis since that is exactly what many people mistakenly do in an attempt to clear their facial woes. When I did fall into a healthier lifestyle where I finally realised the importance of eating well (with the occasional double scoop of gelato) and staying active, I started caring more about my appearance because to me, how I looked on the outside was a reflection of what I felt on the inside. At this time, I had also lost a significant amount of weight meaning I actually had some confidence in my body for the first time in years – it was a shame that my skin didn’t feel the same way. Lucky for me I stumbled onto a subreddit called Asian Beauty which had thousands of dedicated subscribers posting their specific skin concerns and the products that worked for them as well as a sidebar filled with information about the biology of skin and ingredient recommendations – all backed by actual scientific research no less! I soon had a whole cupboard dedicated to my beauty products and would constantly return to the forum for updates on new products, techniques or simply what I could be doing to treat my skin better.
Fast forward a few years and although I’m still not quite comfortable with a bare face selfie, I’ve definitely come a long way where I’m actually nourishing my skin with dermis-friendly ingredients rather than buying any product with buzzwords like ‘free your pores’ and ‘anti-blackhead’ without checking for potentially irritating ingredients that may make the whole situation worse. And this is where my health nerd side comes out. I’ve been an ingredient stickler with my food for years, but it took me a little longer to have the light-bulb moment where I realised that hey, if my body can’t digest certain food then shouldn’t that rule apply to my skin as well? So lo and behold, here I am scrutinising every makeup and skincare product that crosses my path – luckily most of the products I already own were deemed safe but I did throw out a makeup remover and half-empty FitMe Maybelline foundation that turned out to have alcohol denat. in its list (a highly irritating ingredient that makes it difficult for your skin to replenish itself).
Although it can be frustrating and time-consuming to research ingredients on every single product you own, there’s one site I’ve used that has helped streamline the process a little bit. It’s called CosDNA and the site is essentially a community-driven database where users input the ingredients of a product and a table is produced showing whether it can potentially cause acne or be irritating to the skin (on a scale of 0-5) and whether or not the ingredient is safe to use over extended periods of time (scale of 1-9). Since anyone can input a new product, you should check multiple submissions and I’d recommend looking up the ingredients on either the packaging or on an online store (Priceline, Mecca Maxima and Sephora all have a list of ingredients for a majority of their skincare products) for more accuracy, and then use sites like CosDNA to determine the safety of said product. Again, this can be a bit time-consuming but you’ll soon learn to recognise irritating ingredients and, quite frankly, your skin is totally worth those few extra minutes of research. CosDNA also features a lot of international products so if you’ve smuggled something in from overseas or just lost the packaging with the ingredients on it, all you need is the name of the item and chances are you’ll be able to find all that essential information.
Personally, I’ve had my fair share of acne breakouts in my past, but redness has always been my chief annoyance. For no apparent reason my cheeks became more lobster than rosy and my only way of managing it was through make-up. Even with my initial foray into skincare all those years ago, it’s only quite recently that I’ve finally wizened up and knuckled down on catching any pesky ingredients red-handed while also figuring out which ones soothe my fiery face – enter spreadsheets inspired by blogger Snow White & The Asian Pear.
Not pictured is a comments section where I write about my skin’s reaction to a product as well as a list of ingredients so I can narrow down my skin aggressors. The way I test my products is a bit of an arduous process because I only add one new item to my routine every one to two weeks (although you should take more time for actives like AHA and BHA) which can mean months between a significant visual change in my appearance. On the positive side, I can determine if a specific product will break me out or rejuvenate my skin rather then taking wild guesses as to which item in a eight-step routine is irritating me. On top of that, the more products I test, the more information I have about my skin’s reaction to ingredients so I can learn what to avoid and what to look for in my future hauls – patience is definitely a virtue here. Check out this infographic from MapleTreeBlog if you want some more tips on how to get started – although it’s an Asian Beauty Routine Guide you can substitute in your favourite Western products for each step, just don’t forget to check that ingredients list!