Navigating Skin Care Advice Online: What to Trust and What to Trash –

Opinions: everyone’s got ‘em! Especially when you’re on the internet, and especially when it comes to skin care. Social media can be a great resource when you don’t know where to start when building a routine. But, you know how your teacher might discourage you from using Wikipedia to write a research paper? Getting skin advice online is kind of like that. Anyone can make a social media account and start sharing their favorite skin tips — there’s actually no barrier to entry. The consequences of bad skin advice can be pricey and stressful, and because misinformation tends to travel faster than lightning on the world wide web, it’s crucial to be vigilant. The first step to avoiding it? Understanding the speaker’s (or writer’s, or graphic designer’s) qualifications. Are they a licensed pro? Have they done most of their learning at the University of Google? Below, a handy guide to six voices you’ll find on Tiktok and beyond — get ready to cite your sources.

The Dermatologist

Why you should trust them: Dermatologists have spent a lot of time learning about (and being tested on their knowledge of) skin. They completed a 4-year undergraduate and 4-year medical school degree. They did a one-year medical internship, and also spent at least 3 years doing a skin-specialized residency, where they got hands-on experience under a working dermatologist. And finally, in order to see their own patients, they had to pass state licensing exams and board certifications. Most derms are skin care nerds who love to stay ahead of new research — which means they also understand how to accurately read and interpret scientific papers. But one of the biggest reason you might want to talk to a derm is that they have experience with prescription ingredients (oral and topical) and know how they compare to over-the-counter stuff. When it comes to skin care advice, derms are the gold standard — if you’re looking for a solid source, a board certified dermatologist should be your go-to.

Why you might look for a second opinion: Derms are doctors, and they’re busy! Appointments can be relatively short, and even if you do have insurance that’ll help cover the cost of your visit, most people still don’t see their dermatologist super regularly (though you should be!). Ultimately, there are few reasons not to turn to a derm for your skin advice.

The Cosmetic Chemist

Why you should trust them: Like dermatologists, cosmetic chemists have taken on specialized academic training (a bachelors and often a masters degree or PhD in chemistry  or chemical engineering). That’s somewhere between four and nine years spent studying. Cosmetic chemists understand ingredient lists more intimately than any other skin care pro, and are also able to shed light on the other factors (manufacturing, packaging, etc.) that affect your favorite skin care’s potency. It’s literally their job to stay up on the newest ingredients. And, cosmetic chemists also have tons of experience reading and interpreting scientific data, so they’re great at fact-checking buzzy industry claims.

Why you might look for a second opinion: Because cosmetic chemists have so much information about ingredients, they can get lost in the sauce, so to speak. In other words, unless you’re already a skin care expert, a chemist’s level of nuance might be confusing. Unlike dermatologists (who see patients) and estheticians (who work in a clinic) chemists and formulators lack first-hand experience treating skin — they’re ingredients experts, not skin experts. So while they’re able to explain why skin care works, they might not have the skin care solution that works for you.

The Esthetician

Why you should trust them: Estheticians can be great skin care professionals to get to know if you need a little hand-holding in your routine. They may spend a long time looking at and assessing skin, and unlike editors and enthusiasts, estheticians have real-world experience with how skin types other than their own may react to different processes. Because estheticians are also professionally trained and licensed, some may also able to identify anything that looks like it needs more attention (like eczema or severe acne, for example) and point you in the direction of a derm.


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