Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Paula Begoun's skincare truths.

I jumped at the chance to meet straight-talking skincare expert Paula Begoun earlier this week. Known as the The Cosmetics Cop in the States – where she is a household name due to her Oprah appearances – Paula's mission is to use independent research and years of experience to cut through the thorny field of skincare myths and false promises.

I am massively sceptical about skincare, after a long and expensive stint as a skincare junkie. Nothing worked as well as my student routine of cleanser from The Body Shop, Nivea lotion and olive oil masks. I was really interested to hear what a bona fide industry expert had to say and Paula really knew her stuff, easily answering tricky questions with statistics and evidence based on independent research. She was extremely persuasive and I was absolutely sold. 

Here are her basic tenets of skincare. Some were a surprise to me!

Expensive doesn’t mean better
Paula told us some very interesting stories about the ingredients in high-end products and how they match much cheaper products. For instance, expensive and super-hyped product SK-II is in fact very similar to Olay's Regenerist range. Paula’s site Beautypedia holds detailed reviews for every skincare range you can think of. If there’s a cream you’re interested in, look it up there first for expert research advice, rather than shooting in the dark.

Never buy products in a jar
Air and UV light deteriorate active ingredients. As soon as you open the jar, the product’s active ingredients will start to go off. The best packaging is a tube with a tiny opening.

Eye cream is not necessary
There is no research to support the theory that the eye area needs a different formulation of product. In fact, most eyecreams don’t contain SPF, so you’re essentially opening up the eye area to greater risk. As Paula herself says, ‘There is no reason in the world to waste money buying a separate product that's labeled as being special for skin around the eyes.’ Check out more of Paula's reasoning on this here.

There is no need for separate products for day and night.
The needs of the skin do not change according to the time of day. Paula fact: the only difference between a daytime and nighttime moisturiser is that the daytime version should contain a well-formulated sunscreen.

You must wear sunscreen
We all know this.

Exfoliation is key
This was interesting. Paula’s analogy was how feet feel following a pedicure: after sloughing off the dry skin and applying lotion, your feet feel soft and smooth. The same applies for the face, but rather than use harsh scrubs, Paula’s advice is to use exfoliatiors that are gel or lotion based with active ingredients.

I’m excited to try her range of products, Paula's Choice, to see if the combination of properly packaged and formulated active ingredients really will make a difference to my skin. The range is very reasonably priced and the product of Paula’s years of extensive research and experience. I’m excited to try it and compare the results to my trusty Nivea. I will report back.


  1. Some good commonsense going on there - her book sounds worth the investment. Wonder where she will sell her product line?
    Interesting to read, thanks. Best wishes Sarah

  2. I read a couple of issues of her book in the 90s and recently picked up the 10th edition from a discount bookshop. I have mixed feelings about her. Her reviews are all based on US formulations so anything involving sunscreen reviews do not apply to Europe (many European sunscreen formulations are not FDA approved). She is very rigid in her views about makeup colours and styles and her skincare reviews seem to primarily revolve around reviewing ingredients listings rather than actual studies of user experience of different products. Overall, the book is an interesting reference (although it only covers brands and products available in the US, many of which you can't get over here - the website, which I believe is subscription only has a wider range of brands) but it should really come stamped with the advisory 'your mileage may vary'.

    1. I don't see why it should be stamped with that. Basically your "mileage" is irrelevant to a book that's based on scientific studies of whether or not a product is able to do what it claims to do.

  3. Hi Sarah - the products and book are available at but I'm not sure about bricks and mortar suppliers at the moment.

    GSE - Paula had very interesting ideas about the validity of user experience! There was a whole discussion around how despite getting good results, products may actually be damaging your skin. One of the group had been using rose oil, with good results, and Paula was extremely dismissive of it, explaining that the fragrance in essential oils is highly irritating to the skin.

    I'm not sure where I stand on that but I'm willing to go with her POV on it!


  4. Great post Caroline. You've reminded me of two things I don't do enough - wear sunscreen (although I don't sunbathe and always wear a ton of foundation!) and exfoliate. I'm off to check out the website xx

  5. I was sold on her too. I can't wait to try some products.

  6. This just saved me some money on the night cream, yay!

  7. Her products are fantastic. I saw a difference right away.