The Need to “MARIE KONDO” How We Find Skincare Advice

Note: I wrote this article about 2 years ago on the state of how hard it was to find credible skincare advice that works. Even with the addition of new innovative companies like Curology coming to the market, I wonder if this has changed the consumer perspective on how difficult it is to find products, ingredients, or a routine that works for your skin.

I, like most of you out there, turn to our good friend Google to find skincare advice. Feeling a zit coming on? Need a quick tutorial on how to get rid of a cystic breakout? Those on the hunt for skincare advice today are very lucky as there is a wide array of resources available at the tip of your finger. Growing up in the 90s with the usual teenage acne, Instagram and Youtube for skincare wasn’t super popular yet and weren’t well-known avenues to explore for advice. I relied on an infomercial selling Proactive and used that for about 5 years with somewhat ok results.

Fast forward to today and I am realizing that adult acne is a very real and common thing for millennials. Long gone are just those “teenage” years of breaking out, zits are very much following us into adulthood. Skincare is now a $130 billion-dollar industry with products out there for just about every need and issue. The caveat, there seems to be too much choice, too many skincare opinions, and too many influencers trying to sell products. So how do you cut through the crap and actually find something you need, that’s tailored to you and has a probable chance of working? How do you find products that “spark joy” for your skin?

I recently conducted a survey where I wanted to find out how women were searching for their skincare advice and the results were somewhat surprising. Many respondents cited the usual methods, Google, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, and estheticians. What was interesting to me was how often we are looking up advice. Almost half of the respondents had looked up skincare advice in the last 7 days. 34% of respondents look up skincare at least twice a week. However, the current methods lack some serious depth when it comes to advice.

Those “shelfie” posts on Instagram give me anxiety. You know the ones I am talking about. The multi-layer shelf is filled to the brim with different products. Where am I even supposed to start with a post like that? How do I get down to the basics of what I really care about when I am looking for skincare advice? I supposed those shelfie posts are more for the aesthetics than for actual practical advice. Cue Marie Kondo's famous decluttering methods here in hope of making room in your life for things you need while tossing the things you really don’t.

The respondents noted that the basics they truly care about (which are often lacking) when it comes to skincare advice were the following (in order of priority):

1. Key ingredients of a product and the biological/scientific reason why they work with a certain skin type

2. Efficacy of ingredients

3. An honest and authentic review of the user’s experience

4. A description of physical properties of the product (smell, texture, color)

5. If the advice comes from someone with a similar skin type/issue

6. If the review can legitimately help make an informed decision about a product

7. What the claims of a product are vs. what it actually does

8. A general brand overview.

Choice overload is real AF when it comes to skincare advice. I learned about this cognitive process when I was in university and let me tell you I never could foresee that I would be using this in the context of skincare, but it's so true!

The phenomenon basically means that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many potential pitfalls of making the wrong choice. Having too many approximately equally good opinions is mentally draining because each option must be weighed against alternatives to select the best one.

In the context of skincare, for example, I have oily skin, but there are so many people with oily skin that all say a different product worked for them, so how do I know which one will work for me? A respondent from my survey noted that us folks with oily skin could have different preferences and different reasons why we are oily. So to sort through all the advice for oily skin is a very exhaustive process.

Initially, more choices lead to more satisfaction, but as the number of choices increases it then peaks, and people tend to feel more pressure, confusion, and potentially dissatisfaction with their choice — cue my anxiety looking at shelfies and tables full of products with some random person saying their skincare routine. Although larger choice sets can be initially appealing, smaller choice sets lead to increased satisfaction and reduced regret.

How do you separate what brings you joy and satisfaction from what doesn’t work? It’s a stressful process many of us must do because there isn’t really a better alternative. Forums are messy, sponsored reviews aren’t authentic and most importantly, everyone has different skin!

Look, I understand the new craze of skincare products that are popping up everywhere. These days it seems that every major cosmetics brand is coming up with a skincare line. I also understand that we are now part of a culture that is into oversharing every minute detail of our lives, right down to the type of milk we like in our coffee (Oat? Almond? Soy? Coconut?)

But when it comes to attaining the holy grail of a consistently clear complexion, it's quite difficult.

There are some resources out there that are trying to take the guesswork out of skincare. I find that most resources help you figure out what kind of skin you have. But for me, I don’t need an app or assessment to tell me I have oily skin. I need to know what will help me control the oil, mattify my skin, and won’t make me break out. Tall order I know.

Sites like MySkin are OK and help match to others that may share your skincare problems with their “skin twin” segment, but the app is so outdated with a very poor user experience. Then there are the multiple companies that make you do a skincare assessment and will curate products for you, like HelloAva.

HelloAva is an interesting concept because they don’t make products. Instead, it acts as a beauty consultant by helping clients find the right products for building a personalized skincare regimen. Customers start the process by filling out a questionnaire about their skin and sending a selfie to the company’s chatbot AVA on Facebook Messenger, text message, or a desktop computer. The system also asks customers which products they are interested in and any problems they want to address, like wrinkles or dark spots.

There are also new apps that seem to do a somewhat better job of this, namely Wishtrend’s Picky App, however, I had never heard of this app until I really went digging to see what my options were. There are sites like What’s in My Jar, that help break down the ingredient list and help with routines, but I am not sure if it's enough.

Then, there are the forums, some more successful than others. I am a part of some great skincare groups on Facebook, where you can even filter through the results with your specific queries. There are also the Reddit and SubReddit skincare groups that shed some limited light on the topic. Finally, there is the Sephora Insider beauty community, but even with that, I find it lacks the depth in the skincare advice users give as well as the user experience leaves much to be desired.

In the end, our (clear) skin means a lot to us. It gives us confidence and lets us project our best selves into this wildly stressful world. My hope as a skincare lover is to develop a way to organize and give validity to good skincare advice for us to use.




Tech | Business | Strategy | International Relations | Skincare | 💡

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Nelufer Beebeejaun

Nelufer Beebeejaun

Tech | Business | Strategy | International Relations | Skincare | 💡

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