Want free skincare advice?
If you do, you exist in the right time. You’re also in the right place: the Internet. These days, thriving online communities of skincare enthusiasts trade tips and tricks on every social media platform. Many skincare content creators respond to comments and messages. Even some fully trained and highly qualified dermatologists and estheticians make themselves available to answer questions on social media when they can.
The instant access can be intoxicating. No saving up for facials or consultations, no waiting in line, no appointment needed. You can drop your question in a comments section or fire it off via DM the second it comes to mind. No limit, either. You can ask as many questions as many times as you want. In most cases, there’s no cost to you beyond your Internet or cell phone data bill.
Thing is, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
The instant access can be intoxicating. You can ask as many questions as many times as you want. Thing is, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
If you want free skincare advice that’s actually helpful—and if you want to maximize your chances that the person you asked will actually answer you—you might want to keep in mind some common assumptions and misconceptions that can lead us to ask skincare questions that other people can’t (or shouldn’t) answer. Here are some pointers on the most effective ways to ask for skincare advice online, so that you can get answers that will work for you instead of answers that won’t, or no answer at all.
Manage Your Expectations
I’ve spent over half a decade now writing about skincare and participating in the skincare and Asian beauty communities. I’ve watched them grow from small Internet niches into huge and thriving ecosystems capable of making and breaking brands. From the beginning, those of us who answer questions have had some common pet peeves. A lot of those pet peeves boil down to unrealistic expectations.
There’s a perception, especially among people newer to skincare, that content creators are all-knowing, constantly updated databases of skincare knowledge. People sometimes seem to think we can glance at an ingredients list and tell them right away whether the product will work for them and whether it will break them out. We get questions about products we’ve never even heard of. We get questions about skincare for skin types and skin concerns we don’t have. These unrealistic expectations lead to frustration for the content creator and disappointment for the person asking the question.
Skincare is a vast and terrifying landscape these days. It isn’t just a handful of familiar drugstore and department store brands each selling a handful of the same cleansers and moisturizers they’ve been selling for decades. The globalization of the beauty industry means it’s all the brands of all the countries and all the products those brands sell.
Skincare is a vast landscape these days. The globalization of the beauty industry means it’s all the brands of all the countries and all the products those brands sell.
And both brands and products have proliferated wildly, especially in the wake of the K-beauty craze that familiarized beauty consumers all over the world with the concepts of acid toners, hydrating toners, actives, essences, serums, sheet masks, sleeping packs, and half a dozen types of moisturizer. There is absolutely no way on earth for any single person, no matter how many followers they have, no matter how many credentials they display, to be familiar with every possible product that someone might ask them about.
Remember That YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)
Skincare is very personal. Skin types are only the tip of the iceberg of all the possible variances between people’s skin. Because the concept of skin types has been drilled into our consciousnesses by beauty marketing, however, the first question people ask about a product is often if it’s good for their skin type—and by “good” they mean “guaranteed to do what I need it to without causing any problems.”
Unfortunately, beyond some very basic generalizations, it’s not really possible to say whether any given product will work well for your skin in particular. Acne-prone skin is the best example of this. Some people break out from coconut oil, some from olive oil, others from silicones. The list goes on and on.
All those variables also mean that, despite the claims of a million clickbaity articles, blog posts, and videos, there is no one “best” product in any category, for any concern or any skin type. Crowning something the “best” suggests that there’s some objective metric that can be applied to any product. Since different people’s skin responds differently, what’s “best” for some could be “total cystic acne nightmare” for others.
Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not that no one will answer you if you ask them for their opinion on a product they haven’t tried, or whether a product would be suitable for your combination oily acne-prone skin, or what the best eye cream is for dark circles with a shellfish allergy is. Plenty of people will. Sometimes the willingness to answer questions like these comes from ignorance or overconfidence. Sometimes the willingness to answer comes from a desire to be seen as an expert or to make a sale. In any case, the answers you get may not be the ones you need.
It’s not that no one will answer you if you ask them for their opinion on a product they haven’t tried. But the answers you get may not be the ones you need.
Respect Others’ Time and Effort
Which takes us to the final point of this section: The people to whom you ask your skincare questions, whether they’re fellow enthusiasts, content creators, or licensed professionals, are people. Like all people, they have gaps in their knowledge. No one knows everything about anything, let alone about your skin.
Just as importantly, they are people who, like everyone else, have limited amounts of time and energy to expend. Asking a question takes a few seconds of typing. Answering a question thoughtfully and accurately takes much more labor than that. The person on the other side of the screen has a life of their own; they aren’t a 24/7 automated skincare advice bot to whom you just have to type the right sequence of words in order to receive an answer.
Before asking a question, it’s helpful to take a moment and consider whether that answer might be more easily answered with a Google search (or a search of the creator’s content, if it’s about something they’ve discussed before). That leaves the person on the other side of the question with more time and energy to spend answering the questions that they can be uniquely helpful on.
What to Do Next
If you’re feeling uneasy at this point because you’ve asked questions like the ones I discussed above, please don’t. These types of questions are common for a reason. We’ve all been conditioned by popular media to hold out hope for that one miracle product that is absolutely guaranteed to work, and when we find a content creator we really respect and resonate with, it’s easy to assume that their knowledge is all-encompassing. We’ve all been there. And we’ve definitely all had burning skincare questions that we really needed answered.
Speaking of burning skincare questions, stay tuned. In the second part of this series, I’ll take some of the most frequently asked problematic skincare questions and give you tips and suggestions on reframing them so that you can get the skincare advice you need!