Getting Too Many Opinions, but Not Enough Answers?

Remember what I said about social media and the democratization of beauty? It’s wonderful that the average consumer is now armed with more knowledge and options than ever before. It’s a double-edged sword, though—that wealth of information provides too many possible answers (and contradictory info) to common skincare questions.

With so many people giving out advice, there are ample opportunities to ask questions. Some people are surprised when I don’t give clear answers to queries like “I added a new SPF, is it making my skin break out?” After all, I’m a licensed esthetician—a credentialed expert with a lot of hands-on experience in the world of skincare. Why can’t I (or won’t I) answer what appears to be a simple question?

Questions like that are rarely as simple as they seem and almost never result in black-and-white answers. Countless variables influence our skin, so any holistic answer will come with caveats or in shades of gray.

To be clear, asking questions is good! But one question won’t lead to one concrete answer; it will lead to many answers. I would need a lot of background information to even begin to answer something as simple as “why is my skin dry today?” Those details might include how you slept last night, if you slept on a fresh pillowcase, if your air conditioner or heat were running, changes in the weather, stress level—the list goes on! These are just a fraction of the follow-up questions I would consider before even beginning to dive into your skincare routine and products.

Even with all this background info, I may not have enough to answer a question definitively. Ideally, I would need to see and touch someone’s skin to make an assessment. The texture, temperature, color, and moisture of the skin all provide valuable clues. This is why, time and time again, I strongly encourage people who come to me with questions online to follow up with their own esthetician or dermatologist.

If you’re looking for answers to your skin woes online, take it with a grain of salt. Even generally good advice may not be applicable to your immediate needs or, at worst, could exacerbate the issue. If you ask about breakouts, you may be told to add a salicylic acid. However, if your breakouts are a reaction to sensitivity or over-exfoliation, adding a new active product might just make them worse.

So the next time you ask a skincare question, remember that there isn’t a solitary, exclusive answer. It’s merely one of a million possible interpretations.