Forget Beauty. These Days, Skincare Is All About Health. But What Exactly Is Skin Health?

In the beauty industry, beauty is almost passé. Instead, particularly in the skincare segment, health is the big idea. In a major statement to that effect, the Australian beauty retailer Mecca last month introduced a Skin Health assortment at 45 stores featuring anchor brands Tula, Gallinée and Cultured.

According to Mecca, the assortment “showcases brands that support optimal skin health and, while healthy skin doesn’t necessarily mean a flawless aesthetic, it does stand up to aggressors including pollution, internal stress and bacteria to ensure the skin can function at its best. This means keeping the moisture in, bad bacteria out, optimal collagen production and reducing the likelihood of a breakout or skin flare-up.”

Asked further about how Mecca defines “skin health,” Camille Peressini, head of the skincare category at the retailer, answers, “The skin health category and understanding your microbiome presents a new way of thinking about your skin and how to care for it. With the support of our brands, new science and technology, we have been able to shift the conversation from having the ‘perfect skin’ to empowering our customers to feel confident in their healthy, unique skin.”

Still, in a beauty industry full of nebulous terms, “skin health” is yet another term that lacks clarity. In order to get more clarity about what beauty industry players mean when they use it, we decided to put the following questions to 23 beauty brand executives and entrepreneurs: What does skin health mean to you, and what do you think it means to consumers? Why do you believe it’s relevant today? 

Marie Drago Founder, Gallinée

I love that skin health, skin barrier and skin immunity is coming to the front of the beauty conversation. At Gallinée, because we built the whole brand around microbiome skincare, it’s always been the core of our products: Giving you back the skin you’re supposed to have. It’s more about fixing the causes than patching the problem. So, as a pharmacist, I love it.

I think it’s a natural evolution from clean beauty, where consumers were wondering why you would put such and such ingredient in the product. Now, we see a lot of question about how the skin and the microbiome work, and what we can do to support it.

Jane Wurwand Founder, Dermalogica

Skin health was at the forefront of my mind when we created Dermalogica in 1986. Unlike other skincare lines at the time, which were built around the idea of beauty, luxury or pampering, my ultimate goal was to create products that helped people achieve their personal best and healthiest skin ever.

I’ve always hated the word “beauty” as it applies to a person. It is both objectifying and limiting. It is coded with gender, age and superficial characteristics. Millions of people have acne, burns, scarring and major skin challenges, and have felt marginalized by the word “beauty,” as if it could never apply to them.

Every skin is unique and entirely personal. It is part of our visible authenticity. Skincare should not be mythologized as somehow magical or a luxury.  I’ve always felt that skincare should be treated as any other healthy routine such as brushing your teeth.

The idea of skin health is more relevant than ever, as there has been a cultural shift to a more heightened awareness around skincare overall. There is a bigger energy around self-care and health, and there has been an active skin positivity movement that reflects our larger craving for truth, reality and individualism of our uniqueness.

Derma-logica literally means “skin that is logical” and truth-based, not magical and myth-based. I’m excited to see that skincare is being framed in the health and wellness arena, not the cosmetic and beauty industry, which has been my purpose from the very beginning.

Anne Beal Founder, AbsoluteJOI

Clearly, healthy skin is beautiful skin, so a focus on skin health makes sense. Part of the ethos of AbsoluteJOI is to help our customers work with their skin, not against it. This doesn’t mean skin will be perfect, but it will be healthy. That’s fine because most people don’t have perfect skin, but they can have healthy skin.

Instead, we want people to use skincare to keep skin balanced, support the acid mantle and take a gentle approach to skincare. So much of the language of skincare is about working against your skin—anti-aging, fight lines and wrinkles, erase marks.

A healthy approach to skin is about giving it what it needs: pH-balanced products, nourishing ingredients, lipids to promote ceramide production and hydration. Effective skincare is not about overnight results, but is about consistent, nourishing skincare that leads to healthy results.

Desiree Stordahl Director of Applied Research and Education, Paula's Choice

Industry-wide, there’s been a huge shift toward focusing on health and wellness—and it’s long overdue. Rather than encouraging people to strive for unrealistic, unattainable traditional beauty standards, skin health emphasizes taking care of yourself and addressing your unique needs, not someone else’s idea of what beautiful skin looks like.

Skin health is all about giving skin what it needs to thrive. That can look different for everyone, but usually includes resupplying skin with the types of substances that naturally become depleted over time by environmental stressors like sun exposure and air pollution.

Vitamin C is a great example. It’s a naturally abundant antioxidant in skin, but our levels of vitamin C decline as time goes on. Replenishing skin with vitamin C and other antioxidants topically is a step toward preserving its health.

Skin health is also about taking care of the issues that are specific to you. Some of us have acne, eczema or psoriasis. Others have hyperpigmentation or advanced signs of sun damage. You may not be able to completely cure these skin concerns, but managing them through your skincare routine can do wonders for your mental health.

We’re seeing consumers care less and less about having celebrity perfect skin. They just want products that make them feel confident in embracing their own skin. So, yes, skin health is relevant and hopefully, it’s here to stay. It’s always been at the forefront of Paula’s Choice, and we’re excited to see others in the industry move toward this more inclusive, results-driven approach.

Sahar Nezhad Founder, Sundree

Skin health is more than what meets the eye. Our skin is much more than the outer surface for the world to see. It’s an important barrier that protects our body from the outside environment, so it’s essential to care for our skin. For many, skin health seems to be more of a topical issue—and how the world portrays us. It’s important to feel comfortable in our skin, and embrace the imperfections and changes with age.

At Sundree, we encourage a commitment to both the importance of exterior confidence in our skin and being mindful of the effects it has on us. That’s why we’ve created nourishing products to help repair the skin barrier while enhancing your glow.

Our skin has become the crazed obsession of women and men all over the world. At the same time, as we compete with filters and the deterioration of the authentic self, there is also a movement of individuals who are recognizing the importance of embracing the real self. As we compete with the societal trends, we are also becoming more aware of what we put on our skin, and how vital it is to keep our skin healthy.

Our skin’s health and appearance can really affect how we perceive ourselves and can set the tone for our day, and the vice versa is true too—what we are feeling on the inside can take a toll on our skin. At Sundree, we aim to achieve, “Happy Skin, Happy Within.”

Jordan Samuel Pacitti Founder, Jordan Samuel Skin

Skin health, to me, is the name of the game. Giving gentle guidance to this amazing organ in order to keep it in the best possible shape is what skincare should always be about. So, while it's great that it has become "trendy," it is also a bit odd, as that should have always been the focus, in my opinion.

One problem, however, is that I think consumers often equate skin health with flawless looking skin, going so far as to mistake photos of skin that has been heavily filtered for healthy skin, and that’s what creates a kind of slippery slope. People then begin attacking their skin with high-percentage acids and high-strength vitamin A products, which, more often than not, causes further issues.

I think that, instead of the term "skin health" just being a sound bite, there needs to be a fair amount of education behind its meaning, so people understand that, and this is a favorite quote from friend and esthetician Andy Millward, “Healthy skin isn’t always flawless and flawless skin isn’t always healthy.”

Dia Foley Founder, Community Sixty-Six

There is a difference between taking care of your skin’s health and expecting it to be perfect. Healthy skin is more important than “perfect skin.” In the effort to get to perfect skin, we end up causing it more harm than good.

We need to take a step back and focus on getting our skin healthy rather than flawless. It doesn’t take a lot of products to keep skin healthy. Staying consistent is important. A simple daily skin regime, balanced diet, staying hydrated, using sunscreen and getting plenty of sleep does wonders for all skin types.

Of course, we all occasionally get that annoying pimple or breakout. So what? Perfection isn’t reality. It will go away. However, you should address major skin issues with a professional. As for consumers, over the last few years, they have realized the importance of healthy skin habits. Prevention is a lot easier than correction.

Shel Pink Founder, SpaRitual

Skin health is a more positive, affirming term to address hygiene for the skin as well as skin concerns. When we focus on the health of our skin and use nourishing, clean ingredients for overall health, we are practicing a more holistic approach to our skincare rituals and routines.

Jennie Chang CMO, Manyo

Obtaining beautiful skin is not an overnight, instant change, but one that is a progressive transformation to build healthy skin barrier with a supporting, healthy regimen. In the past, we leaned on chemical-heavy products to obtain faster results but, with time, we learned that this could damage your natural skin health and cause more harm in the long term.

Rather than invoke drastic changes, we believe in nurturing and caring for your skin with clean, nature-derived ingredients with high-efficacy boosting methods such as probiotic and fermentation of performance ingredients to churn high resulting glow that radiates from having truly, healthy skin.

At Manyo, we focus on natural, organic and botanical ingredients that help to build the skin barrier, natural health, longevity and deep moisture levels of the skin that help you radiate and glow youthfully.

David Valenzuela Founder, Wish Skin Health

What does skin health mean to me? Skin health means total health. If your skin is not reflecting health, it’s lacking in vitality, which is directly related to not only how we care for it typically, but also the bodies total health. For way too long, we have over-treated our skin from too much exfoliation to 20-step skin care routines. We need to calm down.

Consumers are becoming more aware of skin health and that more doesn’t mean more equals better. There has never been a point in time where consumers have had this much access to information, some of it relevant and some of it not. As we finally put to rest anti-aging and the perfected photoshopped imagery of the past, consumers can now access products that are supportive to their respective life stages and personalized skincare concerns.

Mecca creating a section called Skin Health is amazing if the products are not just being marketed as “skin healthy.” Consumers are smart and can research claims more than ever. We are entering a phase in the industry where claims need to be met with substantiated data.  What’s healthy for one person’s skin type may not be healthy for another.

At Wish, we approach skin health from a breakout-free complexion and microbiome-supportive products [perspective]. Pore [Re] Balancing Toner is not directed at a consumer with dry or sensitive skin, although beneficial for someone experiencing breakouts and oily skin.

April Gargiulo Founder, Vintner's Daughter

At Vintner’s Daughter, we exist to positively impact our community’s skin health and our world. We believe skin health is about the confidence, joy and gratitude we should all have in our beautiful skin. It can be nurtured by truly caring for ourselves and our bodies through the foods we eat, movement, spiritual and self-care practices, connection and the wisdom that comes with each passing day.

Mark Curry Co-Founder, The Inkey List

At The Inkey List, we are all about spreading knowledge to help consumers achieve their version of healthy skin. Our mantra is “progress not perfection,” and we use real humans with real skin in our campaigns because everyone’s healthy skin journey is and looks different. Healthy skin starts with cleansed and hydrated skin, addressing inflammation or breakouts, and above all else, wearing SPF.

Consumers have definitely become more educated about the best ingredients to keep their skin healthy in the past two years and are eager to know how to incorporate ingredients into their routine, what they can and cannot mix, etc. We love supporting them on their journey.

Marc Elrick Founder and CEO, Future Beauty Labs and Byoma

For me, barrier care and better skin health are really the next evolution of skincare, not just a trend. Great skin has always existed, but, with the increased prevalence of overly complex skincare regimes, we’ve witnessed an explosion in self-reported skin concerns. We’ve been missing accessible, science-backed skincare that educated without being complicated, that strengthened skin without stripping and, most importantly, boosted our skin’s barrier with simple, effective formulations.

I knew, when I created Byoma, that we needed to investigate the science of skin to understand the universal causes of common skin issues. We’re well-versed in cosmetics science, but, even with our extensive knowledge, we wanted to partner with experts who had a deep understanding of the skin barrier and overall skin health. We discovered that, when it comes to barrier care, the inclusion levels for ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids are most skin compatible when included at the golden 3-1-1 ratio. This is clinically proven, not only through our own formulas, but through decades of scientific study.

We found incredible partners in our leading Korean labs, who specialize in R&D of the skin barrier and formulating effective products that safeguard skin health. Together, we developed our proprietary tri-ceramide complex, formulated with the three key skin-identical lipids essential to repair the brick-and-mortar structure of the skin, restore natural moisture levels and rebuild the barrier.

I think what it really comes down to is we want to ensure your skin functions at its best every day. So, Byoma is this supercharged daily support system for your barrier.  For me, it’s about taking the science behind the skin barrier, with the thousands of years of human evolution that go along with it, and infusing it with ingredients that support overall skin health, and don’t strip it. That’s the future of skincare for me.

Savannah Sachs CEO, Tula Skincare

Consumers, especially younger millennials and gen Z, are increasingly becoming ingredient-conscious “skintellectuals,” and they want to know more about the science behind ingredients. Plus, the pandemic has led to us all focusing even more on our overall wellness and to invest in our skincare routine as a way to invest in our health and wellbeing. So, the connection between beauty and wellness continues to grow, underpinned by a more informed and discerning customer.

What’s also incredibly important to us at Tula is that it’s about being healthy—not perfect—and so we love the shift in focus and language that emphasizes self-care, skin health, and wellness over unattainable beauty standards that can erode our confidence.

Our founder, Dr. Roshini Raj, began Tula after having a lightbulb moment when she realized that the same types of ingredients that are great for your internal health could be a breakthrough innovation in skin health.

For the modern consumer, skin health is about not having to choose between ingredients that are healthy and ingredients that work, which is why Tula is both clean and clinically effective. For example, our patent-pending S6Pro complex is a proprietary blend of three natural prebiotics and three probiotic extracts that improve overall skin health by balancing, nourishing, and soothing your skin.

We are proud to be a doctor-founded brand that is a member of the Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty initiative, as well as part of Mecca’s Skin Health category, and we’ve most recently joined Sephora's Clean At Sephora category, all of which believe in delivering transparency and empowering the customer to make the right ingredient choices for their own skin health.

Surbhee Grover Found, Love, Indus

I do believe that skin health is a more powerful concept and objective versus beautification. And taking it a step further, skin health, in turn, is interwoven with a sense of overall health and wellbeing. I believe there is no silver bullet, no one product or tool that can achieve robust and lasting skin health. It is achieved when several things work in conjunction and consistently.

It’s no longer just about looking good (quickly), but rather products and experiences that make you feel good, enhance your sense of wellbeing and help drive skin health, which is why what’s in your products matters, the assurance that the ingredients/formulation are nurturing and healing, the comfort that they are really good for you, free of toxins and any harmful elements. It involves curating a thoughtful selection of products that perform and are highly efficacious in delivering on their core promise, be it skin strength or skin health.

I do think the last two-plus years have driven consumers to become more conscious of their choices as they relate to health, better appreciate the interconnectedness of inner wellbeing and outer appearances, made them pause and better appreciate “slow” movement (versus fast fashion/beauty) and driven them to deliberately opt for solutions that are more fundamental/have a deeper connection to an overall sense of mental and physical wellness. All of these together make the concept of skin health even more relevant today.

Kate Somerville Founder, Kate Somerville

Skin health has always been a key pillar of our brand. I started this brand because of my desire to heal skin. Our clinic is called Kate Somerville Skin Health Experts for a reason!

I think the concept of skin health to consumers may have evolved as a result of the pandemic. We’ve come to the realization that self-care rituals like taking the time to take care of our skin can play an integral role in our overall mental health. And it’s a much more all-encompassing term than it was before.

Specifically, the body category has skyrocketed, perhaps due to growth in this mentality. Taking care of the skin and the skin health on our bodies is equally as important as face! Our new ExfoliKate Resurfacing Body Scrub just launched in March and is inspired by our bestselling cult-favorite ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment.

It was the perfect time to debut this product. The 3-in-1 scrub, mask and peel offers a blend of chemical, physical and enzymatic exfoliating ingredients that buff away dry, rough and bumpy skin, giving your body skin a healthy, smooth, all-over glow!

Amy Gordinier Founder and CEO, Skinfix

The interest in skin health seems to be at an all-time high, which is exciting. To us, skin health means a healthy skin barrier and, more specifically, a barrier that has an optimal amount of essential lipids to keep hydration in the body and irritants out of the body.

A healthy barrier also supports all skin functions like immune response, production of antioxidants, elastin, collagen, etc. Skinfix has been focused on skin barrier health from the inception of our brand, and now consumers are understanding that skin barrier health is at the core of all skin concerns from aging to eczema to acne.

I believe skin barrier health has become a central focus in skincare in large part thanks to dermatologists sharing their knowledge so widely on social media. Dermatologists have always talked about the skin barrier and its criticality in all skin functions and concerns.

Because of the explosion of derms on social media, we’re seeing both an emphasis on skin barrier health and an increasing interest in clinical proof, which is thrilling for us because we’ve always believed in the importance of quantitative clinical studies.

Philip Taylor Founder and CEO, Carbon Theory

When we set out to develop Carbon Theory, we knew that there should be an easily accessible, natural alternative to acne and breakout care that would yield great results and keep skin healthy without the use of harsh chemicals. It’s honestly a niche that we’ve proven there is customer demand for in retailers such as Boots, Ulta and Walgreens.

Our products are formulated with natural ingredients such as organic activated charcoal, organic tea tree oil and vitamin E that are effective for treating skin concerns like breakouts whilst also balancing, calming and protecting the skin barrier, a term that has definitely gained more consumer awareness, especially on TikTok (#skinbarrier has over 274.1 million views).

In the past two years, we know that consumers have become more knowledgeable about skincare and ingredients, as well as that it is more important to have a “healthy skin journey”— and whatever that is for them personally—rather than compromising or irritating their skin to get results.

Allison McNamara Founder, Mara

Skin health is so much more than a glowing, healthy complexion and a supported, supple skin barrier. There is a direct correlation between the gut and skin, so healthy skin truly starts in the gut via consumption of skin supporting foods and supplements.

Mara Sea Vitamin C Glow is an internal supplement with 556% daily vitamin C, calming adaptogens like chlorella and reishi, and superfood moringa, which work to balance skin and get you glowing from the inside out. Taking a dual approach to skin via internal supplements and supportive topicals like Mara Sea Vitamin C Sérum, which is filled with complimentary ingredients, is my approach to having healthy skin.

Angela Caglia Founder, Angela Caglia

Skin health to me means doing things that are not going to damage or disrupt the lipid barrier. For example, instead of needles, strong peels or lasers to trick the skin into being wounded to rebuild collagen, I use my newest launch the CrystalLED Face Mask made with real Rose Quartz Crystals and the healing benefits of both LED and Rose Quartz to stimulate collagen and make me feel better emotionally as well with the soothing ritual.

Natacha Paugam Founder and CEO, Ustawi

Skin health goes much further than having nice-looking skin. It protects our whole organism from external aggressions like UV rays, extreme temperatures or pollution. As I like to say, when your skin is not in good condition, it can so easily affect your mind and that goes vice versa actually as I think our skin intimately links to the psychological dimension of our inner body.

With social media, access to scientific information and education is becoming mainstream, which is great! I think that people start to realize that it takes time and effort to achieve a healthy skin. It is a whole lifestyle, but also it is about picking up the right products for your skin.

Having experienced skin issues myself, I have used harsh ingredients in the past and it took me time to realize it was not doing any good to my dark skin health and was leaving me feeling more insecure. At Ustawi, we wanted to create a melanin expert skincare range that would suit every skin tone. Melanin is extraordinary, but very fragile and sensitive. Using incorrectly concentrated, single-ingredient formulations can throw off the balance of melanin production and leads to hyperpigmentation and inflammation.

This why I believe in creating innovative and clean formulations with the perfect balance of powerful ingredients. Natural, gentle remedies are often the most efficient and what you skin really needs. Exactly as food, the more natural based your skincare diet is, the healthier!

I find the [skin health] idea really relevant. We need to understand that our body envelope can reveal physical and psychological ailments, and skin condition is a very good indicator of an individual overall health, which means that our skin records good and bad messages, both in emotions such as stress, anxieties, frustrations, fears as well as the choice of good or bad diets that can all resurface through skin manifestations.

Hormone imbalance can also trigger skin issues, and I think it very important that women especially understand how their hormones affect their physical and mental health because knowledge is power. Understanding our body is key in our journey towards self-acceptance and self-love.

Lara Devgan Founder, Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty

With the advent of filters and Facetune over the past few years, people began to think of skin in a somewhat unrealistic manner—as a perfect, immutable, airbrushed version of real life. Today in particular, we are bombarded with images of unrealistic skin, and it has given society a feeling of perception drift. We no longer know what normal looks like.

The reality is that healthy skin is not perfect skin. You can have a blemish or some wrinkles or pigment irregularities and still have skin that is healthy, attractive, supple and cancer-free. The skin is an organ that exists in homeostasis, meaning that it fluctuates and changes from day today and week to week based on hormone variation, climate, environmental factors, diet, and normal variability.

A high quality, effective skincare regimen will provide evidence-backed ingredients in clinically meaningful quantities—that is the best way to achieve skin health. For consumers, skin health means focusing on good, not perfect, and I think this is the right direction for us to go in.

Charlotte Knight Founder, Skin Proud, Ciate London and Lottie London

Skin health is a mirror of a healthy body and, therefore, being kind and caring for skin is key! Consumers are looking to this and want it to reflect in their skincare routines, too.

One key point they are looking at is stripping back their routines and opting into less products that can do more rather than multi layers and excessive routines that were popular a couple of years back. Instead, they want simple, transparent products that are innovative, easy to use and affordable.

We have listened to our consumer asking for these and made sure that we have used formulations in our products that have proven skincare benefits so that you are getting the best possible solutions while maintaining top quality scientifically proven ingredients.

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