Secrets of the Skincare Industry.

Over and over again, I’ve watched women get seduced by the latest “miracle” product, utterly convinced that some new cream or pill will give them the dewy complexion of Scarlett Johansson or the ethereal glow of Cate Blanchett. By the time most of my patients come to see me, they have already tried a number of different skin-care regimens and spent quite a bit of money on products that just don’t work.  Everyone, it seems, is consistently disappointed.  I’m here to tell you why.

Several years ago I set out to create my own skin-care line – Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals – made with Chinese botanicals such as white peony and Scutellaria extracts (ingredients I had researched extensively and that I really believed in) in the hope of providing something better, something real, for my patients.  I quickly discovered that that was easier said than done. In meeting after meeting I explained that I wanted to use a fairly large amount of a particularly rare and delicate ingredient, an herb found only in the Fujian Province in rural China, one that grows just a few months out of every year.  Many manufacturers suggested an array of cheaper alternatives. Then one of them told me she had a great idea, a way to utilize this special herb and still save money. I watched in disbelief as she held out her hand, palm up, and pretended to blow, as if she were showering me in fairy dust. “See? We just use a pinch,” she said, “but you can still list it up near the top of the ingredients so it looks like we use a lot.”  Needless to say, I went with a different company.

Unfortunately, this kind of deception is not at all uncommon. Sin-care companies are incredibly adept at creating sleek and seductive advertisements designed to fool even the savviest consumers.  Meanwhile, nonprofit health organizations are engaging in marketing promotions that mislead the very public they’re supposed to protect. Case in point:  those ubiquitous “seals of approval” you’ll find stamped on everything from skin cream to cereal.

What you may not realize is that companies have to pay for the right to use that logo.  For an annual fee of $10,000, for example, companies pay for the right to use the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation on three separate products.

Think about it:  The first floor of many department stores and a huge section of your local drugstore are devoted to what you put on your face. So are pages and pages of magazine and online ads selling creams that promise to get rid of your crow’s feet. The personal care industry is an $84 billion (in 2018) business in the U.S. alone, and it’s built entirely on the premise that you should care for your skin from the outside in.

This is not a book about miracle products or magic ingredients. Those things just don’t exist. What I’m proposing is a completely different way of caring for your skin, and it’s one that actually works.