Western vs. Eastern Skincare: I Had 2 Opposing Experts Analyse My Regimen
Throughout my career as a beauty editor, I've come to learn that there are just as many skincare philosophies as there are diets. And just like with food, whatever belief system a person subscribes to, they tend to follow it religiously. I've encountered dozens of skincare experts over the years, and their backgrounds run the gamut: There are the earthy holistic types, who believe that the best skincare products come from your kitchen; then, there are the Beverly Hills dermatologists, who are quick to prescribe you intensive peels and lasers, defying nature in the quest for youthful skin. There's also everything in between.
Personally, that's where I fall. I'm hippie-dippie enough to care that my ingredients are gentle and cruelty-free, but also science-minded enough that I'm sceptical of everything. Generally speaking, I subscribe to provable ingredients and visible results. But I'm also a sucker for pretty packaging, and I tend to switch up my skincare routine often, thanks to all the new products that come across my desk. (I know, it's *so* hard to be me.) So sometimes, I fail to read the fine print on everything I use.
For a few weeks now, I've managed to stick to a pretty consistent routine, and I was curious to learn what experts from each end of the skincare spectrum thought about it. So, I got in touch with a holistic skincare specialist and a traditional esthetician, sent them detailed reports of my routine, and had them review it. Would the natural guru find my routine too intensive? Would the traditional one think it ineffective? Read on to find out how two radically different experts reacted to the same skincare routine.
My Skincare Routine
The first expert I asked to analyze my routine was Adina Grigore, founder of natural skincare line S.W. Basics and author of Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin ($19). Grigore has a truly back-to-basics approach to skincare, believing that the fewer ingredients the better and that some of the best skincare products can be found in organic stores in the produce aisle. My second expert was celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, who told me the first time we met that all-natural, organic skincare was simply "not her thing." Rouleau takes a meticulous, scientific approach to skincare, diagnosing clients' skin types on a nine-type scale and prescribing a routine from her eponymous line accordingly.
I sent each expert the following description of my skin, as well as a detailed breakdown of my day and night routines:
"I have combination skin that isn't too irritable or prone to breakouts, but I do deal with some dryness around my nose in the winter, as well as a few tiny breakouts on my chin surrounding my period. (But I haven't been breaking out lately!) Sometimes I get a bit of rosacea on my forehead, sometimes a little spot of eczema next to my right eye, but haven't been dealing with those lately either. I am very fair and have lots of freckles (I've had them since childhood, and I love them)! This is my skincare routine as of right now:"
- Cleanser: Youth to the People Age Prevention Cleanser ($47)
- Toner: Origins GinZing Energy-Boosting Treatment Lotion Mist ($30)
- Serum: Dermadoctor Kakadu C 20% Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin E ($124)
- Moisturiser with SPF: Renée Rouleau Daily Protection SPF 30
- Lip Balm: CeraVe Healing Ointment, W3LL People Nudist Color Balm in Clear Natural ($32) or S.W. Basics Organic Salve ($15)
Throughout the day:
- Cleanser: Youth to the People Age Prevention Cleanser ($47)
- Toner: Jurlique Activating Water Essence ($70)
- Serum (three nights per week): Renée Rouleau AHA Smoothing Serum ($55)
- Moisturiser: One Love Organics Skin Dew Coconut Water Cream ($75)
- Face Oil (on days when my skin feels dry): French Girl Organics Facial Oil Elixir ($32)
Once a week:
- Mask: GlamGlow Flashmud Brightening Treatment ($98) or Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask With Rose Clay ($37)
- Second mask: Erborian Bamboo Waterlock Mask ($56)
Once every other month:
- Professional facial (estheticians vary)
The Holistic Review
Reading My Tea Leaves
After writing it all out, I was surprised by how many natural products were a part of my routine. So I felt optimistic about Grigore's feedback. "I'm a huge believer in the cliché 'less is more,' especially when it comes to skin," she began her email. "For people with dry skin and freckles (the best!), this is even more true."
Overall, Griogre approved of my stash of natural products. "With brands like One Love Organics, Cap Beauty, French Girl, and W3ll People, you are feeding your skin helpful nutrients minus the harsh detergents, preservatives, and fillers," she wrote. "I'm all about these brands and think you should keep them in!"
But Grigore found some areas of improvement, as well. In general, she thought my routine was a bit too complicated. "Putting too many products on your skin is actually causing the dryness, eczema, and rosacea," she said. She also noted that parts of my routine might be causing irritation and cautioned me to look into the synthetic ingredients she found in some of my cleansers and toners. As a gentler option, she recommended swapping in an oil cleanser or using something as simple as Dr. Bronner's soap.
Because Grigore is such a fan of making your own products, she also recommended trying out DIY masks from time to time. "Masks that are sold on shelves can be intense and generally filled with 'carriers' for the main ingredients," she explained. "Things like charcoal, green tea, clay, bamboo—you can find all of these ingredients (for super cheap) at the drugstore or grocery store and whip up a soothing mask at home. Just add yogurt, honey, coconut oil, fresh fruit, or water. It's so easy, much gentler on the skin, and you'll notice results instantly."
I always take natural skincare with a grain of salt, but Grigore's advice seemed perfectly logical. Next, I was eager to see how Rouleau's feedback would differ.
Shop Holistic Skincare
The Traditional Review
I was expecting a wildly different reaction to my skincare routine from Rouleau. But to my surprise, her feedback had many of the same patterns as Grigore's.
Rouleau agreed that overall, my routine was in need of gentler, more moisturizing ingredients. "I don’t recommend that you use a gel cleanser both morning and night," she added. "Instead, I would suggest that you use a cleansing lotion because it dissolves makeup better and is a little gentler to the skin." Rouleau also recommended that I opt for a hydrating, alcohol-free toner and a night cream with extra soothing ingredients to keep my winter skin nourished. In addition, she suspected that the ascorbic acid in my Vitamin C serum might be a bit too acidic for my skin's fragile moisture barrier. (She suggested swapping in a stable vitamin C serum, like her Vitamin C&E Treatment , which is considered a "no-sting’ formula.")
Rouleau also advised that I limit my use of exfoliating masks in the winter and be careful to avoid choosing products that contain artificial dyes and fragrances. She also recommended that I alternate my evening glycolic serum with "a soothing, hydrating serum that is not focused on exfoliation of the skin, but rather focused on delivering comforting hydration and antioxidants."
Interestingly, Rouleau was also skeptical of my face mist. (If you haven't heard, Byrdie editors have a bit of a face mist obsession, so this came as a shock.) "When you mist your skin, you are technically breaking down a little bit of the protection from your sunscreen," she explained. "Also, when the air is dry and you mist your skin, since water attracts water and acts as a magnet, you could potentially be attracting some moisture out of the skin through a process called osmosis. So it could potentially be dehydrating your skin."
In the end, Rouleau's takeaway was not at all dissimilar to Grigore's: She appreciated the steps I was taking, save a; few areas of improvement. "Balancing sensitivity, hydration, clogged pores, occasional breakouts, and age prevention can be challenging," Rouleau wrote. "But with a few tweaks, I think you can have the perfect skin ritual."
Shop Traditional Skincare
I was bracing myself for some pretty harsh criticism from both my experts. But in the end, I was delighted to find that their feedback was not only doable, it made perfect sense. Though my face mist habit will be hard to kick, I am more than motivated to take their insightful suggestions. (In fact, I already switched to an all-natural oil cleanser and swapped in my favourite soothing night cream.)
I suppose I may have judged the skincare community too harshly. Because in the end, both sides of the spectrum seem to agree: Look for pure, active ingredients without harsh, synthetic additives. Sure, one side goes giddy for DIY charcoal masks, while the other prefers lab-crafted Vitamin C. But the ultimate goal is the same: Youthful, beautiful, healthy skin for life.
Next up, don't miss what happened when I had two opposing nutrition experts analyse my diet. (Spoiler: It was very dramatic.)