If you are looking for skin care tips, you are guaranteed to find them on TikTok and other social media platforms. But a dermatologist is critical of many of the recommendations and warns of the consequences – not only for the skin, but also for the psyche.

On social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, countless users and influencers share skin care tips and beauty routines. Many promote special products, other cleaning and care methods such as “double cleansing” or “skin flooding”. But should you really follow such tips – and how can you recognize reputable recommendations?

Claudia Borelli is head of the unit for aesthetic dermatology and lasers at the dermatology clinic of the University Hospital Tübingen and chairwoman of the ADK Aesthetic Dermatology and Cosmetology Working Group. In an interview with Utopia, she classifies skin care trends, comments on complex beauty routines and gives tips on how to achieve healthy skin care.

Dermatologist on make-up remover and cleansing oils: “Exactly the wrong thing for oily skin”

Utopia: An example of a beauty routine that some TikTokers recommend: micellar water to remove makeup, then makeup remover oil for residue, then cleansing oil, a cleansing gel, a hyaluronic serum, followed by vitamin C capsules. Finally, you apply a moisturizer and an eye cream. This is the routine for the evening, in the morning there is a different one. What do you think of the recommendation?

Claudia Borelli: We dermatologists cringe when makeup remover oil and cleansing oil are recommended across the board. In recent years there has been a hype about oils as cosmetic products. People with dry skin may tolerate them, but these products are exactly the wrong thing for oily skin.

Utopia: Why?

Borelli: People with oily skin tend to get acne anyway. If they use products that are rich in fat or oily, this can lead to pimples, pustules and blackheads. Many people have a combination skin type with dry and rather seborrhoeic – i.e. oily – areas on their face.

Utopia: What should people with oily or combination skin use instead of oil products?

Borelli: You should clean your face with a cleansing gel or a syndet. Syndets are synthetic detergents that are also suitable for sensitive skin.

Utopia: How do I find out what skin type I have?

Borelli: It is best to have it assessed by a dermatologist. Skin type can also change over the course of a person’s life, for example during pregnancy or during or after menopause.

Utopia: And what do you think about the other products that were recommended – for example the vitamin C tablets?

Borelli: As a dermatologist, I like to comment on products that are applied to the skin. Consuming sufficient amounts of vitamin C is good for the body. In my opinion, it is questionable whether it helps the skin condition in particular or improves it.

Social media skin care tips: “There are channels that are really scary”
Dermatologist Claudia Borelli evaluates social media skin care tips for Utopia. (Photo: Private, CC0 Public Domain – Unsplash/ Solen Feyissa)

“You don’t have to slap your skin with products”

Utopia: There are also similarly complex skin care routines on social media like the one described above that are recommended for certain skin types. Do these make sense?

Borelli: In your example, it’s a very, very extensive skincare routine – that’s too much. You don’t have to slap your skin with products, but you should use a few creams and gels that contain useful ingredients.

Utopia: It is difficult for laypeople to recognize useful products. There are a lot of technical terms on the packaging and not everyone has studied chemistry. Many therefore rely on recommendations from the Internet.

Borelli: Yes, it is difficult for consumers to identify better products. I would advocate critically questioning recommendations on social media platforms. Is the person an expert, such as a doctor? What is their interest? Do they receive money for promoting certain products? Or is it a company that wants to sell as many products as possible? If you want a really competent recommendation for your own skin care routine, you should really ask a dermatologist.

Skin care trends in check: Double cleansing and skin flooding

Utopia: A popular skin care tip from social media is “double cleansing”, i.e. using an oil-based facial cleanser plus a normal, water-soluble cleansing gel. In your opinion, is this useful or necessary?

Borelli: I am not aware of any data that scientifically proves that double cleansing has a positive effect. It is usually sufficient to clean the skin thoroughly once with a water-soluble cleansing gel and plenty of water. If there are still traces of make-up on the skin, you can remove them with a tonic. If you use waterproof eye make-up, you can also use special cleansers. [Anm. d. Red.: Augen-Make-up-Entferner enthalten oft Öle, es gibt aber auch ölfreie Produkte.]

Utopia: What about “Skin Flooding“ that is supposed to moisturize the skin – using cleanser, hyaluronic serum and moisturizer?

Borelli: Such a treatment can be useful for people with very dry skin every few weeks. But it should definitely not be used as part of your daily skincare routine. There is a risk of over-treating your skin.

“Some patients develop an exaggerated fear of the sun”

Utopia: What consequences can too much care have for the skin?

Borelli: You can damage your skin and cause blemishes by using the wrong products and too much care. For example, if you use too many or too many different care products, this can lead to perioral dermatitis. Small pus-filled pimples form around the mouth or all over the face. In order for these to disappear, you have to stop using any care products for a while or even take antibiotics.

Utopia: Do social media nursing tips influence your patients positively or negatively?

Borelli: Social media is making young people more and more concerned with the topic of skin care. But there are also channels that really scare young adults and teenagers, and that is problematic. Some patients, for example, develop an exaggerated fear of the sun. We dermatologists are in favor of very good sun protection, but we don’t want people to panic if they forget to put on sunscreen in the morning. I am also very critical of 12-year-olds being told that they need to protect their skin from wrinkles now.

I think it’s a good idea for us dermatologists and specialists to keep an eye on skincare trends on social media. Patients often come to us with questions about products or routines they’ve heard about online. We need to address them and counter any misinformation. It’s our job to provide patients with science-based knowledge.

Hyaluronic acid, retinol or vitamin C: When are these substances useful for skin care?

Utopia: Many creams and other skin care products advertised online contain substances such as hyaluronic acid, retinol or vitamin C, which are supposed to tighten the skin or counteract age spots. Can the skin absorb such substances well and do they really help?

Borelli: The effect of these ingredients is well documented, but it is still complicated. With hyaluronic acid, for example, the length of the hyaluronic acid chains determines whether the skin can absorb it. It is also not possible to recommend every cream containing vitamin C as the active ingredient in some oxidizes over time and is therefore lost.

We dermatologists often recommend dermocosmetics, i.e. high-dose products with few ingredients whose effectiveness has been proven by scientific studies. They are often available in pharmacies.

Utopia: When should you start using active ingredients like retinol etc.?

Borelli: Hyaluronic acid products, vitamin C products and retinol are anti-aging ingredients. They should only be used when the skin begins to age. For very sensitive skin types, this begins between the ages of 25 and 30, but usually later.

Beforehand, you should pay particular attention to a healthy lifestyle and to consistently use suitable sun protection. You should also clean and care for your skin well, but not over-stress it with incorrect or excessive routines.

How to care for your skin properly

Utopia: So some of the care tips advertised online are exaggerated. What should a sensible care routine look like instead?

Borelli: It is a good idea to clean your face thoroughly with a syndet and plenty of water every morning and evening. It can prevent skin damage caused by air pollution, for example. [Quelle]But giving other blanket tips without having assessed a person’s skin type is wrong from a dermatological point of view.

Once the skin has been sufficiently cleansed, you should apply a cream, gel or serum in the evening that suits your skin type. An eye cream is also a good idea because the skin around the eyes is particularly thin and sensitive and ages differently than other areas of the face. In the morning, after cleansing, you should apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 50 that is suitable for your skin type, which will protect against further skin damage. If you want to apply a cream in the morning, you should let it absorb into your skin for around ten minutes before applying the sunscreen.

You should also eat a balanced and healthy diet. Studies have confirmed that the Mediterranean diet, for example, reduces inflammation levels and has a positive effect on aging and inflammation in the body [Quelle].

Utopia: What skin care tip should you definitely follow?

Borelli: Sun protection is definitely the most important thing. If you want to look healthy and good in the long term, you should actually use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 50 all year round. Sun protection has been proven to prevent brown age spots. Sun protection also counteracts the early stages of white and black skin cancer. However, most people use far too little sunscreen. A normal-sized tube should be used up after two weeks at the latest.

A notice: This article was first published in January 2024.

Please read our notice on health issues.

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