Known as ‘The Cosmetics Cop,’ Paula Begoun’s critical eye, ability to separate fad from fact and insider intel on ingredients lists has made her a go-to authority on all things beauty.
Lifting the lid on skincare one active at a time, Paula’s all about helping women make informed choices about what they buy. Motivated by her own struggles with acne and eczema in her teens and twenties, she’s seen first-hand how powerful finding the right skincare can be. “I tried numerous skincare products and medical treatments. Yet my skin didn’t get better,” she says. “Then at the age of 25 (and I’ll never forget this moment), I read the ingredient label on a skincare product I was using and the fourth ingredient was acetone. That’s nail polish remover! No wonder my skin wasn’t getting better. From that moment on I read all of the research I could find on skincare and eventually I was able to put together a skincare routine that completely transformed my skin.”
Driven by a passion to prevent others having to go through the same problems she did, Paula then started making TV appearances and writing books to share what she’d learned regarding which skincare products worked and which ones didn’t. She’s since written 20 books in total, launched her widely acclaimed beauty brand, Paula’s Choice Skincare , and also founded product review and recommendation hub, Beautypedia.
A dream interviewee of ours, we caught up with Paula to talk all things beauty; from the new ingredients that work to the ones that don’t, to gain an insight into her own personal skincare regime, what she wishes was around 20 years ago and the key moments of her incredible career.
GTG: What would you say has made the biggest difference to your skin?
PB: My Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid made the most amazing difference from the beginning, and to this day I’m still surprised at how smooth my skin is. The most impactful thing though is I don’t tan (not even on holiday) - I wear sunscreen 365 days a year, and I layer sunscreens when the days are longer in the summer or when I travel to sunny climates. I also never use products with fragrance of any kind in them.
GTG: Why do you avoid fragrance?
PB: Fragrance, whether it’s natural or synthetic, irritates and inflames skin. This damages the skin’s surface, promotes ageing, causes collagen to breakdown and hurts the skin’s ability to fight environmental damage. Anything that irritates the skin is a BIG no-no.
GTG: Which new ingredients are you most excited about?
PB: New peptides. These are just wildly significant for skin as they are performance-specific. Each one is designed to communicate a different skincare task such as improving skin colour, hydration, firming skin or making new fibroblasts. Unbelievable, and they’re compatible with all of the other brilliant anti-ageing ingredients currently in use so the consumer gets even greater benefit.
GTG: Which ingredients aren’t worth the hype in your opinion?
PB: I doubt probiotics will do much beyond calming and hydration. There are hundreds of types of bacteria on a person’s face, and each person has a different assortment…we don’t have the same microbiome. All the probiotic strains are important, so putting one or two or even five of them on your skin is unlikely to do much. However, prebiotics that help your skin create its own balance is a far more significant concept. Sheet masks aren’t worth the hype, either. Most are messy to use and you can get the same ingredients - often in much better formulas - from leave-on products like serums or boosters.
Skincare has come so far in two decades, it’s like the difference between a typewriter and a computer
GTG: What do you wish was around 20 years ago?
PB: Knowledge about UVA damage from the sun (the sun’s the silent destroyer because you can’t feel the damage) and antioxidants for topical defense, as well as other current technological advances from retinol, ceramides and niacinamide. Skincare has come so far in two decades, it’s like the difference between a typewriter and a computer.
GTG: Which skincare concerns will one product alone never fix?
PB: All of them. Skin is very complicated and what goes wrong is very complex from disease to ageing to dryness to cumulative sun damage. You could no sooner eat one food and be healthy than you can use one skincare product and get the results you’re hoping for.
GTG: When the damage is done, is there anything you can do to reverse it?
PB: It’s never too late to stop causing more damage and to improve skin with gentle leave-on exfoliants (BHA or AHA), products loaded with skin-restoring ingredients like peptides, antioxidants and retinol, and to always keep skin hydrated with products suitable for your skin type.
GTG: Can skincare ever outperform cosmetic procedures?
PB: This isn’t an either/or; cosmetic procedures are about dramatic changes to address what skincare can’t do, but without brilliant skincare you can’t maintain and prevent further damage. Each has different advantages and if you want to look younger, longer, you will need both.