16 Things I Learnt About Skin Care From Our Skincare School Podcast Series

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Call me arrogant, but I thought I knew *a lot* about skin care.

I'm a beauty editor, after all. It's literally my job to trial skincare products, interview experts and road-test skin treatments so I can tell you all about them. (Sadly, this doesn't usually involve sitting in bed in my robe wearing a sheet mask.)

Then, I started working with PhD chemist and science educator Dr Michelle Wong from Lab Muffin Beauty Science on our Adore Beauty skincare podcast, Skincare School.

I quickly realised I didn't know as much as I thought I did. But that's OK! We grow and evolve!

Over 12 weeks, Michelle and I dove deep on pretty much everything you could ever want to know about getting started with skin care, including:

I highly recommend you go have a listen if you haven't already, but in the meantime, here are just 16 of the many things I learnt while hosting Skincare School.

Some of these lessons gave me even more information on things I thought I already had down pat. Others were completely new (and news to me).

1. There's no point spending money on skin care until you know what your skin type is.

Lots of skin care comes back to trial and error, but if you want to make sure you're investing in products that will actually work for you, the first step is understanding your skin type.

We're all born with a skin type. Think of it as your skin's personality. It determines what our skin likes, what it really doesn't like, and why it behaves the way it does (e.g. why your face looks like the bottom of a deep fryer by midday). Find out your skin type in our YouTube video below.

2. There are 4 skin types (and sensitive skin isn't one of them).

The four main skin types are: Normal skin, oily skin, combination skin and dry skin.

But what about sensitive skin? Nup. Not actually a 'skin type'. Unless you are genetically predisposed to having a sensitive skin condition like rosacea, dermatitis or psoriasis, sensitive or sensitised skin is more of a skin condition or skin state.

3. Dry skin and dehydrated skin aren't the same thing.

Another truth bomb for ya.

Dry skin is a skin type and refers to skin lacking in oil. Dehydrated skin is a skin condition and refers to skin temporarily lacking in water. Knowing if your skin is dry or dehydrated (or both) will help determine which products to use.

4. There are three products everyone should have in their skincare routine.

New to skin care? Forget serums and exfoliants and repeat after me: Cleanser, moisturiser, sunscreen.

Once you've got these three things sorted, you can move onto padding out the rest of your skincare routine with active ingredient products like serums and treatments.

You can learn more about beginner skin care in our YouTube video below.

5. There's no point spending money on expensive serums if you aren't wearing sunscreen every day.

On that note, you might as well tip your $200 serum into the toilet if you're not wearing sunscreen every single day. Even when it's cloudy. Even when you're working from home.

Why? Because aside from increasing your risk of skin cancer, we know around 80 per cent of visible skin ageing is attributed to sun damage. One of the ways we can protect our skin from the sun is to apply enough of a broad spectrum sunscreen in at least SPF30+ (but ideally SPF50+) every day*.

You can browse and shop sunscreen here. To find out which type of sunscreen is right for you, watch our sunscreen YouTube video below.

6. More expensive serums aren't always better than affordable ones... except when they are.

No one wants to spend more money on skin care than they need to. Good news! More expensive doesn't always = better.

There are a few different factors that inform how expensive a product is. What are the ingredients? What derivatives of active ingredients have been used? What things have been left out of the formula? How much money was invested into research and clinical trials? Is the brand prestige or budget beauty?

7. There are two types of vitamin B serums.

One is called niacinamide (or vitamin B3). The other is called panthenol (or vitamin B5). Both help to keep your skin barrier strong and healthy, which is why vitamin B serums are excellent for skincare beginners. You can shop vitamin B serums here.

8. Not all 'retinol' serums actually contain retinol.

So, you've heard about the anti-ageing powers of retinol. But did you know retinol is actually just one type of vitamin A? Vitamin A is commonly referred to as retinol, but there are a bunch of different vitamin A derivatives.

Here's a list of the most common vitamin A derivatives or retinoids found in skin care, from the gentlest to the strongest:

  • Retinol esters like retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate are the mildest types of retinoids.

  • Granactive Retinoid.

  • Retinol.

  • Retinaldehyde or Retinal.

  • Tretinoin (also known as prescription vitamin A, retinoic acid or retin-A) is the strongest form of vitamin A for skin and is only available in Australia with a prescription from your medical practitioner.

You can browse and shop all vitamin A/retinol skin care here. Watch more about the different types of vitamin A in our YouTube video below.

9. Skin purging is real.

Ever used a new product, only to break out afterwards? That's what we call 'skin purging'.

Whenever you introduce an active skincare product, your skin needs time to adjust to what's happening. This may involve temporary inflammation, breakouts, redness or sensitivity that will subside.

If it hasn't after around three to four weeks of use, then move onto something better suited to your skin type. Or think about how you're using the product - is it too strong, or are you using it to often?

10. There's a reason SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum is so bloody expensive.

At $228 for 30ml, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum is eye-wateringly expensive. But not for no reason.

Vitamin C is an amazing antioxidant ingredient that can protect the skin against free radical damage and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation/uneven skin tone, but it's also very unstable and hard to formulate into a skincare product.

C E Ferulic uses a highly effective and patented formula of 15% L-ascorbic acid (the most effective form of vitamin C), ferulic acid and vitamin E at a pH of 3.2. This means it's impossible for another vitamin C serum to be a C E Ferulic dupe because it's illegal for brands to copy this exact formula.

You can learn more about C E Ferulic in our YouTube video below.

11. Stronger doesn't always equal better results.

Since skincare brands started putting percentages of ingredients on the front of their products, a myth that stronger = better has emerged.

The truth is actually the opposite. Use a product that's too strong, too often, and you'll impair your skin barrier. This results in skin that feels sore and stings, and generally appears dull, textured and uneven. Plus, it can take around 40 days for your skin barrier to repair itself. Welp.

12. Your skin needs some dead skin cells to function.

Similarly, I had NO BLOODY CLUE your skin actually needs some dead skin cells to function healthily. Here I was exfoliating them into oblivion.

Over-exfoliation is a thing. Get rid of too many dead skin cells, and you guessed it, your skin barrier will crack the sh*ts.

You can learn more about exfoliation in our YouTube video below.

13. Mother Nature doesn't give a crap about your skin.

This one might be a bit controversial, but there's a lot of misinformation out there on 'clean', 'low-tox', 'organic' and 'natural' products being 'better' for your skin.

Whether you prefer clean beauty comes down to personal preference, but one point Michelle raised that makes a heck of a lot of sense is natural products aren't always better for sensitive or sensitised skin.

Why? Because, well, Mother Nature doesn't care about your skin.

Natural ingredients can be hard to formulate in a uniform, standardised way. This is why it's often better for those with sensitive skin to use brands that meticulously formulate their products far, far away from nature in a super controlled lab environment.

14. There are 6 types of pimples.

Um yep. This is true. The six types of pimples are:

  • Blackheads

  • Whiteheads

  • Papules

  • Pustules

  • Nodules

  • Cysts

Learn the difference between them (and how to treat each type of pimple) in this episode of Skincare School below.

15. If a skincare product says it can actually do what Botox can, don't believe it.

I already knew this but I reckon it's worth ramming down your throat just once more. There is only so much skin care can do. It can't replicate the results of invasive skin treatments.

16. We need to change the way we talk about our skin.

Finally, the whole point of skin care is to help your skin function at its best. Forget 'good' skin or 'bad' skin. Healthy, functioning skin can look any number of ways. What it doesn't look like is a pore-less, crease-less Instagram filter.

So, let's all hold hands and promise to aim for healthy skin, shall we?

For more pearls of skincare wisdom, catch up on every episode of the Skincare School podcast below!

Want more skincare advice and product recommendations? Check out these stories below:

*SPF is only one part of sun protection! Always seek shade, and wear sunnies, a hat and protective clothing. Use sufficient sunscreen for all unprotected areas and reapply sunscreen as directed. Always read the label.

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