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From Acne Fixes to Sheet Masks, Paula Begoun Answers Your Burning Beauty Questions

The legendary 'Cosmetics Cop' will change your skincare routine forevs! 

Sunscreen is your MVP and sheet masks are meh! 

When it comes to shattering longheld beauty myths with impeccable research, Paula Begoun is the cosmetic cop on every fashionista's speed-dial. The former investigative cosmetic journalist and founder of a global skincare brand, Paula's Choice, sat down with Cosmo for a quick chat. 

Paula begoun paulas choice

From cancelling some beauty rules to reconfirming others, here's what she has to say: 

Cosmo: What is the one product in your personal skincare routine that you just cannot do without?

Paula Begoun: This is my basic routine: I use my gentle water-soluble cleanser twice a day. For daytime, I use my 10% Niacinamide Booster, RESIST Ultralight Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum, and RESIST Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50. For nighttime, I use my 2% BHA Liquid exfoliant and then a serum.

acne skincare

There isn’t just one product I can’t do without because each one is equally important. I need to gently and effectively clean my face, niacinamide is a multi-purpose ingredient for shrinking pores, repairing skin, and hydrating. Sunscreen is the most critical part of any skincare routine. And my 2% BHA Liquid stops me from breaking out and makes my skin unbelievably smooth!

Cosmo: Do you use sheet masks? 

PB: NEVER! Sheet masks are a total waste of time and money! These fibre, rubber, gel, bamboo, or cloth-like masks are saturated with skincare ingredients that you’re supposed to leave on your face for a rather long period of time (some recommend between 20 and 40 minutes every day), with the claim that they allow the ingredients to penetrate better than other types of masks or products but they aren’t true.

sheet masks

Sheet masks don’t help ingredients absorb better. As I mentioned above skincare ingredients absorb into skin based primarily on their molecular size, and sheet masks don’t change an ingredient’s molecular size. However, even if sheet masks could help ingredients penetrate better, you don’t need every ingredient to absorb to the same level. The best products are formulated with some ingredients that remain on the surface, others that absorb a bit more, and others that absorb even deeper to repair skin cells.

Bottom line: there isn’t any research showing that sheet masks work better than traditional masks or just using brilliant skincare products.

Cosmo: What are some of the good skin habits that are underrated?

PB: The need for using a gentle, soothing, effective facial cleanser. The essential need for daily use of a sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater.

Cosmo: If not cosmetics and skincare, what do you imagine would be your passion project?

PB: I would write novels and screenplays. I’ve written 30 books over the years though mostly on skincare. But if I wasn’t involved in skincare (which I really can’t imagine) I would still be a writer and use my love of drama and comedies to create compelling stories!

Cosmo: Having battled acne issues yourself, what is your take on the instant acne hacks – Retinol, microdermabrasion, anti-pollution skincare, Glutathione.

PB: Microdermabrasion is bad for the skin. When you constantly wound skin you impede healing and cause the surface of the skin to become impaired.

Pollution doesn’t cause acne (if it did everyone in polluted cities would have acne and that certainly isn’t the case). Anti-pollution products (those loaded with antioxidants) are important for skin and reduce inflammation which is helpful for all aspects of skin but they don’t directly stop acne.

Retinol is a great anti-acne/anti-wrinkle ingredient with 50 years of research behind it, but for acne, it works best in combination with a BHA product (salicylic acid).

pollution skincare

Glutathione is an important antioxidant and there is some research showing it can be helpful for acne, however, there is no research showing it works better than other potent antioxidants (of which there are many). The gold standard for treating acne starts with BHA, next would be BHA and a product containing benzoyl peroxide. Perhaps the best “hack” is not using any irritating skincare products or tools which inflame and damage skin and risk making acne worse.

Cosmo: Do you believe in the adage- you are what you eat?

PB: The research makes it a 100% clear that an unhealthy diet, along with other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, not using daily sun protection, using irritating and skin-damaging skincare products) causes skin aging and skin disease. It’s that simple.

I only eat low-fat meat and fish, big green salads loaded with fresh vegetables, no overcooked vegetables, no processed foods, no sugar of any kind (they are no healthy sugars), no charcoal foods, low fat (and only small amounts of healthy fats), low carbs (and only carbs with a high fibre content).

Cosmo: What are the 3 skincare advice you wish you could give your younger self?

PB: Sunscreen! Sunscreen! Sunscreen!