‘You’re afraid of what’s in sunscreen but not of the sun? The og carcinogenic.’ says Paula Begoun as she looks in disbelief across a Soho hotel room filled with beauty bloggers and journalists. I’m among them and I’m hungry for whatever hard truths and withering looks she throws my way, because Paula, Founder of Paula’s Choice skincare, is an expert, an alchemist and a healthy skin guru – in short she knows her shit.
‘How much time do you have?’ she asks us as she runs through the ins and outs of how sun damage, pollution and lifestyle all take effect on the tone, texture and health of our skin. Paula has been creating products that protect, cleanse and repair skin for decades and it’s clear she could talk forever about BHAs, skincare myths, her many books and her experience as a chemist at the head of a hard-hitting beauty empire.
There’s a lot of information to absorb, not to mention the further reading I’ve already set myself. It really is easy to get swept up in the rhetoric of what cosmetics companies claim to be selling us and listening to Paula speak, I’m amazed at how many ‘truths’ I take for granted when I shop for skincare. So, here are five essential takeaways from my meeting with one of my beauty heroes…
Sunbathing is terrible for your skin and supplements are the best way to gain Vitamin D. Sun exposure can actually block vitamin uptake and harm your skin in the process. FYI there are no studies to support the idea that SPF blocks Vitamin D uptake.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because a product contains CBD or essential oils that it’s going to work miracles. The same goes for products labelled ‘natural’. Hemp seed oil is not an active ingredient. CBD does work well as an inflammatory, but it doesn’t have magical healing properties. Essential oils can also cause endocrine damage so be aware that just because something is natural, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Microneedling and dermabrasion do produce collagen but not the kind you really want. That good collagen can never really be reproduced because in damaging the skin, the body reacts fast, patching it up with collagen it produces rapidly. Your body is essentially firefighting so yes, it’s making new collagen, but not really the kind you want.
If you’re young you don’t need to waste money on peels and sheet masks. Invest in SPF and put the rest of your money in the bank for when your skin is older in case you want botox. Side note: Paula also told us not to massage our faces too much because it stretches the skin and elastane is hard to reproduce, especially in later life.
A bikini is bad for your skin, bad for your bank account and bad for the environment. Yes, you should always wear SPF but consider this, we buy millions of bottles of SPF every year, the ingredients of which pollute the seas and damage coral and marine life. If you’re swimming in the sea, wear sun-protective outfits to protect your skin, the planet and your budget, rather than opting for a string bikini and a whole bottle of sun cream.
After a pretty enlightening Q&A, Paula tells me I’ve done a good job staying out of the sun and that I’ve got great skin. I feel incredibly validated, not least because I’ve never really been able to sunbathe because of my complexion and have always felt like I’m missing out – it’s not easy when your friends are bronzed goddesses and you rock up at the beach looking like the ghost of Christmas Past.
I’ve been using Paula’s Choice products for the last two years and not only have they really helped with my hormonal breakouts, they’ve improved the texture and brightness of my skin too. I use the Defence range, made with flaxseed and wild cherry, which acts as a pollution barrier – ideal if, like mine, your face suffers in the city. I use the cleanser, exfoliant, AM and PM moisturisers and an antioxidant treatment. I used to use the Age Resist range but I think I’m better off with my new line up. Basically, I read an article that said you should start using anti-ageing products aged 25 and I think it got to me a little. Luckily, I’ve now met the queen of myth busting and honeys, I’m better for it, let me tell you.