Are acids a “chemical violence” for the skin?
February 2, 2018
At the end of January, an article made a lot of waves in the small community of skincare addicts. This article was published on the website theoutline.com. It’s called The skincare con and it questions the current success of new skincare brands and it also criticizes what the author called the “chemical violence” of acids on the skin.
Taking care of your skin is certainly not new (go ask Cleopatra!).
Recently, many new indie skincare brands have emerged along with numerous “skincare trends” in the beauty market. Green Beauty is doing very well. K-Beauty is everywhere. Companies like Deciem are surfing on the succes of their brand The Ordinary, which focuses on super effective cosmetic ingredients at a cheap price. In short, as the journalist Cheryl Wischhover from Racked says in an article written in response to the one from theoutline.com, “We are in a golden age of skincare”.
The article on theoutline.com is quite provocative and even calls into question the very legitimacy of skincare as well as its popularity. Being part of the beauty business myself, it’s hard to be completely objective, but I still have to say that I found this article very exaggerated and quite disingenuous about so many things.
My position regarding this article is very similar to what I could read in the article Racked published in response.
But today, I would like to focus on the part of the article where the author compares the use of exfoliating acids on the skin to “chemical violence”.
Exfoliating acids have always generated a lot of fear. Their use is certainly not insignificant but dramatizing it excessively doesn’t help anyone. Especially not the consumers who the author of the theoutline.com article pretends to free from this “skincare con” (easy to say when you’re 25 and you have good skin, but it’s definitely not the case for everyone, including myself).
She gives the example of the brand Glossier which just launched an acid toner, Solution. This product is marketed by the brand as a “skin perfector” toner and in their huge advertising campaign, you can see very young people talking about the results obtained with this product on their acne in just four weeks.
The author also talks about Glossier’s typical marketing methods, primarily aimed at millennials and taking the form of a “friend’s advice”. The brand has indeed made articles dedicated to Solution on the Into The Gloss blog that belongs to the same person who is behind Glossier, Emily Weiss. These articles are “testimonials” of people who have used Solution (I admit that it reminds me of editorial content, just like much of the content of the Into the Gloss blog when it comes to Glossier products). Of course, they explain how their skin has been transformed in a few weeks thanks to Solution. Glossier has also done large ad campaigns on their social media, including their Instagram account.
In the article of theoutline.com, the author discusses the position of Glossier regarding exfoliating acids and their product Solution. They consider these acids “super safe” and “your skin friend”. In particular, the author criticizes the fact that Glossier refuses “to admit the risks of prolonged or inadequate use of acids” by relating many horror stories where people are left with their skin completely raw because they used a terrible combo of acids, retinol, and physical scrub. Obviously, these examples are, IMO, very excessive. People who are interested in skin care are well aware that you need to avoid using scrubs if you’re using acids, it’s a well-known rule.
Even if I found these examples inappropriate and exaggerated or at least extreme cases, I must admit that I wasn’t convinced with Glossier marketing campaigns about this Solution toner.
First, if you go to the product page of the Glossier Solution on their website, there is no precaution mentioned around how to use it and the things to avoid in combination with Solution. It’s not clear, for example, that retinol and physical scrubs should be avoided when you’re using this acid treatment.
Also, the day of the launch of Solution, I was quite surprised to read in the brand’s Instagram stories that the use of a sunscreen with Solution was necessary only in the case that you use this product in the morning (I spoke about it in my focus on exfoliating acids, if you decide to incorporate acids in your routine, whether it is morning or evening, using a sunscreen is mandatory every day!).
Exfoliating acids are extremely effective ingredients, it’s a given, but you also need to know how to use them properly. And it’s the brands’ responsibility to inform their consumers about the best way to use their products.
Many consumers are afraid to use acids. This fear is a little exaggerated in my opinion and is certainly linked to the very name of these ingredients, the acids (think about all these acid bath murder scenes in various movies!). So let’s say I may understand why a brand like Glossier wants to play down the use of the word acid thanks to a very positive communication. Of course, it’s their way to be part of the trend as well. Business is business! (a friend told me the other day on Instagram that Glossier was “90% hype, 10% value”, I found that very funny and holds a lot of truth)
But there is certainly a middle ground between “acids are the best friends of your skin, they are super safe” and “acids are chemical violence for your skin”. They seem to be the two extremes.
Most brands that sell products with exfoliating acids are also positive, reassuring but also very informative when they communicate. Dedramatizing the use of acids, yes of course but not forgetting to tell your customers the basic precautions of how to use it, it’s better.
When the article from theoutline.com writes that all the brands that sell acid products have the same approach, I find it pretty unfair, and on face value simply false.
A brand like Biologique Recherche, for example, the creator of the famous that I previously reviewed, and that is quite violently mocked because of its smell in the article of theoutline.com, insists that it’s necessary to go to their store to receive expert advice from their beauticians. This allows the brand to be certain that the customer will have all the appropriate information before using their products. Of course, especially when online shopping is super easy and quick, it’s quite ambitious but Biologique Recherche has the merit, in doing so, of being uncompromising and very professional.
The brand Drunk Elephant, also mentioned in the article of theoutline.com and which I also talked about a lot here, is always in a very informative approach, on its website first but also on its social media, where the comments of its customer always find an answer.
Considering that all the brands that sell acid products are irresponsible is, in my opinion, very caricatural and reductive and I don’t think that the exfoliating acids are “chemical violence” for the skin, far from it, especially when they’re used correctly!
I’m very curious to know your thoughts on this topic.
Have you read the article from theoutline.com? Do you also think that acids are a “chemical violence” for the skin? Feel free to leave me a comment!
Theoutline.com article: The skincare con (look at the choice of keywords in the url, skincare is maybe a con but I still would like to take advantage of the SEO keywords, thank you very much)
Racked’s article writes in reaction: Skincare is good and also works (the choice of keywords in the url is also an answer to the previous article and I found it hilarious ^^)