When was the last time you questioned the ethics of what you do? Or the truth of the products, procedures and advice you promote? As one of Australia’s original beauty rebels and beauty disrupters, I’ve spent 20 years educating clients about the toxic reality of the commercial beauty industry and advocating for a paradigm shift – away from the sludge of chemicals, cheap fillers, never-ending new product launches and questionable marketing claims, to one built on deeper values: simplicity, integrity, nature-nurture and an intrinsic understanding that skincare is self-care.
Not long ago, practitioners who promoted organic skincare and a more holistic approach to beauty were relegated to the sidelines or ignored altogether. Today, thanks in part to the boom in the health and wellness industry – recently valued at a staggering US$3.7 trillion globally, with beauty a US$999 billion slice of the pie – the tide has turned.
According to the 2016 Deloitte Health and Wellness Report, more than 180,000 consumer goods products around the world have now been reformulated to promote a healthier diet and lifestyle, with the removal of parabens the number one priority for personal care and hygiene companies.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but the important thing is that the message of the beauty disrupters is finally being heard. Honesty matters. Integrity matters. Beauty is not just skin deep.
Therefore it is imperative that you and you clients understand the seven beauty truths below.
1. The beauty industry thrives on mediocrity
No matter the new trends or latest breakthroughs, the beauty industry continues to peddle and promote the same message: that the skin you’re in is not good enough, and only more products can fix it. Beauty disrupters fundamentally reject that notion – and with more education, so will most
consumers. Great skincare isn’t about altering or controlling problems with ever more products; it’s about caring for a person’s health, helping them nurture and respect the most visible part of their psyche and spirit. It’s about empowering women. Commercial beauty keeps women trapped in a cycle of disease, insecurity and mistruths that lead to more and more chemical intervention. By contrast, a natural or organic skincare routine is often based around daily ritual – daily moments of self-care that allow women to see, acknowledge and appreciate their skin and their life.
2. Sunscreen is not for everyday use
One of the most overused and unnecessary inclusions in moisturisers and foundations is SPF. Designed to block UVA and UVB rays during extended periods of sun exposure – the kind you experience on holiday or during a day at the beach – commonly used chemical SPF ingredients, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene and octisalate, are toxic and terrible for skin reactivity. Manufacturers of sunscreens are not required by law to disclose ingredients, so you have no way of knowing the preservative system, the number of chemical UV absorbers or the carrier oil – which is most likely mineral oil (a cheap petrochemical derivative).
Clients who complain of congestion, dullness or sensitivity almost always wear sunscreen daily. Almost all of them also work full-time in an indoor environment, meaning their actual exposure to the sun is only for short intervals at lunch or on their commute. None think to question the logic of sunscreen – such is the entrenched fear around sun exposure. Sunscreens should be used appropriately, not by default. SPFs overburden the skin and can create short- and long-term issues. Encourage clients (who present with any form of sensitivity) to rethink their routine.
3. Removing parabens is not enough
It’s a good start, but that’s all it is – a start. Most commercial skincare is still made from a worrying cocktail of synthetic ingredients, many of them petroleum-based. These ingredients do not have a natural affinity with the skin, they do not support it and can in fact interfere with the skin’s natural resilience and ability to protect itself. Just like antibiotics – which experts are now telling us are ruining the balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut, causing increased disease – commercial skincare is interfering with the delicate balance in our skin’s microbiome. By contrast, organic nature-based skincare works to create balance and harmony in the skin, and protect it from external irritants. It’s the beauty equivalent of clean eating. Women aren’t stupid – they know this instinctively, and this is clearly evident as they seek out organic, chemical-free skincare for their children. But decades of conditioning still leads them to choose commercial skincare themselves. This generation may be the change.
4. Over exfoliation will ruin (weaken) your skin long term
Most beauty therapists advocate regular exfoliation, be it granular scrubs, hydroxy acid-based creams and lotions or herbal and enzyme peels. As if this were not enough, the highly-lucrative advanced exfoliating (re-surfacing) modalities including laser, dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are routinely recommended at intervals through the year. A course of six treatments being the rule, with one or two being the exception. The skin on the face is more sensitive than almost any other part of the body and yet we tend not to question stripping it in such a harsh way – and pay handsomely for the experience. Younger and younger people are being told to begin this process earlier in life, when the skin is more than capable of renewing itself and the dead skin cells slough off naturally. The industry has taught us not to trust the skin’s ability to renew itself and to take care of itself. Facial skin in a constantly state of recovery from micro or macro trauma is not natural and it is not healthy, regardless of what the beauty industry tells us.
5. Less is actually more
The commercial beauty counter continues to advocate for more and more products – different moisturisers for day and night, and different parts of their face – with brands built around 120 SKUs and an expensive marketing campaign. The overriding idea is that, in order to feel special, women need the latest and greatest. And to be part of the conversation beauty brands need to be continually launching new products (and labelling these with the latest buzzword). The truth is, a woman needs very little in her bathroom cabinet to have great, healthy looking skin. Literally three or four well formulated products and a three-minute nurturing skincare regime is more than adequate. ‘Less is more’ has been my mantra for almost two decades and we can see through emerging trends and buying patterns that this approach has become more and more appealing to the time poor and the realists amongst us.
6. Anti-ageing has had its day
In August 2017, Michelle Lee, the editor- in-chief of US beauty bible Allure, surprised many when she announced: “[We] are making a resolution to stop using the term ‘antiageing’. Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that ageing is a condition we need to battle – think antianxiety meds, antivirus software, or antifungal spray.” Lee went on to say it’s important that youth isn’t the only beauty that is prized, and that the words we use to describe people have impact. Today’s world is ageless; young and old are equally important in the market. Although driven more by the effects of globalisation than by ethics or critical discourse, this is still worth celebrating as it shifts the way we speak about and use skincare products. Health becomes the priority, not vanity or consumerism.
7. Ethics and integrity matter
Beauty is a feeling, not a look. It’s not one dimensional. We’re all such amazing and complex individuals with so much to offer. How we look on the outside is only a small part of who we are. The older you get and the more life passes you by, the more you put things into perspective. As the organic beauty sector grows – and more of the big players launch and promote products labelled natural and organic – my hope is that the smaller players, the boutique brands that are very much in favour globally, hold onto their ethics. Already so many of them slip the anti-ageing label on their products through industry or investor pressure. Instead, I ask you to stop and consider: what guides your work as a beauty professional? What can you do every day to create a positive impact on someone and change a life forever?
Sharon McGlinchey is an award winning beauty therapist and the founder of MV Organic Skincare.