Q&A with Paula’s Choice: 10 skincare myths debunked by the experts

1, You don’t need to be using retinol until you are in your 50’s

The best skincare tip we can give any woman in her 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond is to forget how old you are because age is NOT a skin type. I’d always advise to look at your skin concerns and judge your skincare products that way, rather than being guided by your age when choosing products. Waiting to use anti-aging products (including retinoids) until you see obvious signs of aging (such as wrinkles) is like continuing to eat a junk food diet until your health begins deteriorating, and then starting to eat a healthy diet and exercising. Whether or not you should consider a prescription retinoid product is a matter of personal choice, if you like the results from over-the-counter retinol products, there is no need to go down the prescription route.

Just know that collagen production in our skin starts declining in our 20s, so adding a retinol product, as well as other beneficial anti-aging products, is a smart move. In addition to giving your skin what it needs to act younger, it is equally important to avoid behaviours and products that make your skin look older. Things like irritating ingredients, getting a tan, smoking, ineffective jar or clear packaging that doesn’t keep beneficial ingredients stable, mediocre formulas and not applying sunscreen every day, rain or shine, summer or winter—all of these are a recipe for skin that looks and acts much older than it really is.


2. If retinol irritates your skin, then you should stop using it

The first thing to ensure is that none of your other products are the culprits for the irritation. It’s very common for ingredients like fragrance, essential oils, menthol, lemon and lime and more to be causing irritation on skin. Be aware of the products you’re using retinol with. It’s really important to introduce retinol slowly into your daily routine, especially if you’re using other active ingredients. Start with 2-3 times a week and gradually build up to daily use, initially using active ingredients on separate days if possible. If you are experiencing irritation from going too fast with retinol, I’d recommend scaling back your active ingredients, and working on healing your skin barrier with ingredients that nourish it with repairing ingredients such as fatty acids, cholesterol, ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Once the irritation has gone, introduce the retinol back into your routine as suggested above. It is rare for people to be irritated by retinol, but everyone’s skin is different. If you have tried all the tips above, and are still facing irritation, then I would suggest to stop using retinol and try other superhero ingredients, such as peptides (for firming), vitamin C (for discolorations), niacinamide (for pores), and hyaluronic acid (for plumping hydration).


3. Makeup with an SPF is enough to protect the skin from the sun

When choosing an SPF for everyday protection from the sun, the most important thing you should look for is that it has a minimum of SPF30 and is broad spectrum which protects your skin against UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately, most foundations have a lower rating than SPF30 and also require you to apply the foundation liberally onto your face, to get the correct sun protection, which most of us don’t do – and then we also blend with a brush or sponge making the foundation layer (and therefore SPF coverage) even lighter.

The best thing to do, would be to apply a separate SPF product, wait for 10 minutes for it to set, and then apply foundation after. Layering different SPF products ensures an even better coverage too!


4, You don’t need to use a moisturiser if your skin is oily

The hormones responsible for oily skin are called androgens. These are the ‘male’ hormones that both men and women have. They sometimes cause excessive sebum production. The pores then widen as they cannot process the high sebum production.

Even with oily skin, dehydration, sensitivity, and signs of a distressed barrier can be addressed, with a well formulated moisturiser that provides weightless hydration and calming benefits. The most important thing is to look for a light, hydrating gel, lotion, or serum that does not contain ingredients that will block the pores enriched with antioxidants and ingredients that strengthen the skin’s protective barrier.

For the daytime, a dedicated moisturiser with sun protection is vital for preventing wrinkles and for reducing the risk of inflammation.


5, Dark circles under your eyes just mean you’re tired

Dark circles are caused by several factors, and each one needs to be dealt with differently. Unfortunately, there aren’t any skin-care products in the world that can tackle all or even most of the causes of dark circles. That’s why product after product you’ve used to eliminate dark circles hasn’t made much, if any, difference.

The causes of dark circles range from: sun damage; veins and capillaries that show through the skin; irritation; allergies; genetic traits for having darker colour around or under the eye area; natural shadows resulting from having deep-set eyes or sagging skin; buildup of dry, damaged skin cells around the eyes causing light to reflect poorly.

Although the solutions below are worth exploring, keep in mind that for some people, getting rid of dark circles entirely just isn’t possible. That’s where a great concealer and highlighter come into play, not to mention the incremental improvements you’ll notice from taking good care of your skin. Use a lightweight moisturiser with sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater) under the eye area every day. If you don’t wear sunscreen you can’t defend against wrinkles or the overproduction of melanin that can make dark circles worse. This is a hugely important step that shouldn’t be ignored! Use a sunscreen around the eye with only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. For some, sunscreen ingredients other than zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can cause irritation around the eye and that can make dark circles worse.

Use a more emollient moisturiser at night. During the day, an extremely emollient moisturiser around the eye can make foundation and concealer slip into lines, making the under-eye area look older. Consider twice-daily use of a brightening treatment. A well-formulated skin brightener, like the Paula’s Choice Radiance Renewal Mask, can help lighten dark circles as it also brightens the shadowed undereye area. Those that contain both niacinamide and vitamin C are worth trying.

Use an eye cream formulated for your skin type. Whether you have dry skin, oily skin or a combination of the two, if you do decide to use an eye cream choose one that is suited to your skin type. Dry and dehydrated skin around the eyes can make circles underneath the eyes look more obvious. Choose a hydrating and nourishing eye cream to help improve water retention and soften the appearance of dark circles. Eye creams which contain anti-ageing and brightening ingredients can help to fight fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, whilst brightening antioxidants give the eye area a radiant look.

Keep your expectations reasonable. Traditional skin-lightening products do not have any effect on dark circles unless they are caused by sun damage. If sun damage is the culprit, you can consider a well-formulated vitamin C product. You can talk to a cosmetic dermatologist about options, such as dermal injections, lasers, light treatments, radiofrequency treatments, and chemical peels for lightening dark circles and reducing wrinkles. A dermatologist experienced with the various skin treatment lasers will be able to tell you which one is best for dark circles and your skin colour.


6, Pores can open and close

Your pores can’t open and close, however they can become enlarged. When your sebaceous glands produce excessive sebum that mixes with the dead skin cells in your pores, your pores can become blocked. The sebum cannot discharge freely from the pores, resulting in your pores becoming wider and more clearly visible. This can also cause blackheads.

Use an exfoliant with salicylic acid (BHA) in liquid or gel form, without any irritating ingredients. It will enable you to remove excess skin cells from the surface of the skin as well as in the pores. Sebum can then no longer accumulate, and the pore will return to its normal size. Niacinamide is also a great ingredient to add to your skincare routine, if you’re struggling with enlarged pores. It can help to visibly minimise enlarged pores, tighten lax pores, improve uneven skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles and diminish dullness.


7, You don’t need to use anti-aging products until you see signs of anti-aging

The ingredients that are healthy for your skin and work to fight aging do so in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, and the more of those healthy ingredients you put on your skin the better it will look and act.

Some people are concerned that the ingredients in anti-aging products might be too strong for younger skin – that is not the case. The ingredients needed to fight signs of aging may be potent, but they are suitable for nurturing skin of any age and there is no research anywhere in the world suggesting otherwise. Choose products based on your skin type and skin concerns. Determine what your skin needs based on how much sun damage, signs of aging, dryness or other skin concerns you have, not based on a fear that the ingredients you use now won’t work as you get older because it ‘adapts’ to them (that’s a myth!) or that they are too strong because of your age.


  1. The order that you apply your skincare products doesn’t matter

Skin care isn’t one-size-fits-all. The necessary steps of a good skin care routine will vary from person to person depending on what’s going on with their skin, but there are a few core basics that everyone benefits from: a cleanser, a leave-on exfoliant, and a moisturiser (with SPF for the daytime). If you want a more advanced skincare routine, add in treatments such as retinol, vitamin c etc in order of their texture, going from the thinnest, most fluid consistencies up to the thicker lotions and cream. For example, layer on liquid products followed by thicker products, including serums and/or treatments, and moisturisers. Applying your skin care products in the right order saves time and will help ensure optimal penetration and the best results. These steps make it incredibly easy to get the most out of any skin care routine, from basic to advanced.


  1. Clean beauty products are safer

The truth is there is no universally agreed upon definition of clean beauty nor is it a regulated term…so anyone can use it! Typically, clean refers to the ingredients within a formula, but clean doesn’t mean more sustainable, or good for your skin, or good for the environment. The safest ingredients you can use on skin, are science backed, with research showing their effectiveness and safety. They can either derive from natural sources or be lab-made, but they all have to pass the screening of rigorous regulatory tests for both human and environmental safety before getting into your products, so we can safely choose what ingredient we need in our routine.


  1. You should have the same skincare routine in Summer and Winter

As the seasons change and the weather gets colder, the skin on our body can become drier. To tackle this, many people end up changing their entire skincare routine. While your skin may need a little extra help, your skin type hasn’t changed, so neither should your routine. Effective skincare during winter just means adding one or two products into your routine to provide extra hydration and nourishment.


Questions from the public:

  1. How old should you be to start using retinol?

As mentioned above, age is not a skin type. Listen to your own skin concerns to guide you to the right skincare products rather than judging it from your age. Everyone’s skin is different and the concerns that one person suffers with in their 30s someone else can suffer with in their 60s. If you have concerns that retinol could help with, then it’s safe to use at any age.


  1. What are your top tips to combat rosacea?

It’s critical to assemble the most gentle skincare routine possible so as not to aggravate matters. It’s also vitally important to keep skin drenched in skin type appropriate hydration and skin-defending, soothing antioxidants. Paula’s Choice Skincare Calm collections for normal to dry, and normal to combination/oily skin are formulated with those elements making them ideal for those with rosacea.

And don’t forget sunscreen! Unprotected sun exposure makes everyone’s skin worse, especially those with sensitive skin and those with rosacea. Sunscreen products whose only active ingredients are titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide are incredibly gentle and the least likely to cause sensitivity.

Always avoid products that contain alcohol, essential oils and/or witch hazel. Cinnamon, rosemary, lavender and rose to name a few are typical natural fragrances that can severely irritate skin. Avoid these, as well as synthetic fragrances. Don’t buy skin care products that contain lemon, lime, menthol/peppermint, pine or cedar which all cause significant irritation. And do not use rough facecloths, face brushes or abrasive scrubs with a coarse grain. Rosacea often starts as a mild issue, with some redness here and there on the cheeks and nose. But if you don’t treat it, it will almost always get worse.

Rosacea is a complex skin condition, so besides choosing a gentle and protective skincare routine as explained, we recommend consulting a dermatologist to explore medical treatments, if necessary.


  1. If there’s one thing you would tell your younger self about skincare, what would it have been?

The importance of sunscreen. The sun is the biggest carcinogen on the planet, and it’s so important to protect yourself year-round from it. SPF is the best anti-aging ingredient you could ever use, and it’d save a lot of money for a lot of people if they used it effectively from a young age!