Chances are that you have a completely different makeup and skincare routine than your friends, and even your family. Between so many products, brands, speciality products, price points, who has it right at the end of the day?
Many Purchasing Decisions are Automatic
In our consumerist world, we all make an enormous number of automatic purchasing decisions starting with the coffee and bagels you have in the morning. Routine isn’t lazy or awful. If we deliberated on every decision, we would quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer mass of three choices that we face every day. Those of us who over everything from what to eat at the food court to which sock to wear find it a struggle, and sometimes this is debilitating enough that they seek therapy. If you’re like most, you purchase the brands that your parents bought – without any thought. These sorts of near-unconscious decisions happen without thinking about it. This is indeed the marketer’s holy grail – to make the purchase an automatic, unthinking heuristic. We don’t always default to heuristics or habit; most people agonize over big purchases like cars and houses, and rightly so. On the other hand, generally, we automate purchases that are:
- Relatively inexpensive
- The difference between products is trivial (but still existent)1
- Perceived to be of low impact at least individually
Most household items come to mind: Toilet paper brand, a toothpaste brand, or soda pop – these are things where most of us default to the familiar. Generally, we decide that these decisions don’t matter, and then we stick to the default.2 Unfortunately, many of us also throw skincare products and cosmetics/makeup into this automatic decision since, at first glance, they seem to check off all the boxes of decisions that we should automate.
Cosmetic products first seem a lot like these other purchases – Coke vs. Pepsi, Colgate vs. Crest – in that they are trivial, inexpensive, repetitive, and yet somehow invoke a tribal instinct to prefer one over another. There are reasons why skincare products shouldn’t be treated this way.
1. Your Skin is Unique
Marketers will tell you to use their skincare product to be like the Hollywood star on the commercial, just like the Pepsi commercials. However, there are factors unique to your skin that make it different from your colleague’s skin. If you have oily and acne-prone skin, your skin’s needs are very different from what your colleague with eczema needs. Your baseline skincare needs should be centered around your skin type.
2. The Product Really Does Matter
Is Coke substantially different from Pepsi? This might draw some heated debate, but outside of the realm of personal preference, it doesn’t matter.
With skincare, there are differences in product quality. There are also differences in price points, as well as differences in what the product does. It also doesn’t mean that expensive is better. Your purchasing decisions do matter both for your skin and your wallet.
3. Your Skin Changes as does your Priorities
The needs of your skin change over time. Your skin needs in your teens (relief from acne!) are often very different from your skin needs at 40 (moisture). While it is pragmatic to have a routine that you generally stick to, unlike toothpaste, your skincare routine is unlikely to serve you properly for life.
Don’t be afraid to revisit your routine if it no longer serves you well. Are you experiencing skin trouble? Do you want a new look or a change in your life? Are you revising your skincare budget? Do you want to test one routine versus another to see what works better for you? These are all good reasons to consider a change in your routine. If you notice that something has changed for you, and your products are either not working the way they used to, or your skin has an adverse reaction, you need to assess what’s going on. It may just be an unrelated issue or an overall change in your skin (for example, the skin gradually tends to become drier with age, and you will require stronger moisturizers). If it is an allergic reaction, you need to see an allergist or a dermatologist and determine what’s causing the irritation. Remember that adults aren’t immune to first-time allergies.3
Lastly, Don’t Neglect the Basics
Unfortunately, many of us opt not to purchase any product – and this is completely reasonable for some items, like mascaras, but not so much for others. The necessities of beauty care come down to cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection. These are the three pillars of skincare, yet many people neglect one or more areas. Unfortunately, many people have much more complicated routines but neglect sunscreen or only use it during camping season. If your routine doesn’t have these basics covered, get to it!
At some point, we all build up a skincare routine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but your skin is worth taking good care of, so do your research and experiment until you have a routine that works for you. These are repeated decisions, so don’t settle or compromise for a product that merely works. Don’t forget that your skin changes over time, so be willing to adapt your routine as necessary.
1People selling bottled water are concerned that there is little brand loyalty to…water. It’s quite telling that marketers are surprised at this.
2Even in trivial purchases, we are often irrational in never thinking about changing routines. Suppose you never consider buying an alternative soda that’s cheaper. In that case, the upside is minimal (you avoid having the one-time bad experience), but the downside is potentially big if you’re wrong. It turns out that you are just as happy with the cheaper soda or no soda at all (it costs you more on every purchase, repeatedly).
3People are often surprised by this. It’s not uncommon for a person to suddenly become allergic to something that they used to be exposed to regularly or for a person to lose their allergy to something.