A first-person account of a seven-day attempt
If there has ever been a time when the world collectively suffered from skin trouble, it's now. Yeah, I'm talking about the stressed skin, the WFH-induced welts, the anxious acne—or as most the internet calls it, maskne.
As someone who is consistent with her skincare (six steps, morning and night!), I'll admit I thought I wouldn't be a victim of the pesky maskne that everyone was talking about on the ‘gram. But lo and behold, it seems there's truly nothing enough friction and stress can't do. By month six indoors, my skin began to reveal angry zits on the apples of my cheeks, surrounded by dehydrated islands and redness. I haven't dealt with skin issues this major since last year, when my skin went haywire after a week-long encounter with Seoul's infamous fine dust pollution. Retracing my steps, it seems that what worked for me then might work for me now: a fuss-free, back-to-basics skincare diet. Or as the internet would call it, skipcare.
My regimen orbited around a combination of three products from Cetaphil: the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, a no-fuss hydrating toner, Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion, and in the daytime, a small dollop of Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Light Gel.
Before anything else, let me be clear: Cetaphil's cleanser has got something of a bad rep among skincare enthusiasts.Sodium lauryl sulfate, a surfactant known for its tendency to dry out and strip the skin, is pretty high up the ingredient list. With everyone (rightfully!) doing their own skincare research now, it's understandable that people would want to steer clear of ingredients like this. However, like most controversial products out there: skincare results may vary. Cetaphil worked for me—no drying or stripping—but if you'd rather keep your distance, other gentle cleansers would work just fine.
I decided to orbit around my cleanser-lotion-sunscreen trifecta after assessing my skin type. According to skin expert Dr. Zharlah Gulamtico-Flores, there are a grand total of 16 skin types. This is according to the Baumann Skin Type system, which is reminiscent of Myers-Briggs. Each skin type (or skin personality, as Baumann interchangeably refers to them) is represented by a four-letter combination. Each letter represents a trait the skin possesses: dry vs. oily, resistant vs. sensitive, pigmented vs. non-pigmented and tight vs. wrinkle-prone.
Thanks to enough experience with trial and error (alternatively: terror) that I'd subjected my skin to in the past, I could tell immediately that I fell on the slightly oily, resistant, slightly pigmented and tight portion of the table of types. Taking this Baumann-based online quiz confirmed my suspicions and helped in whittling down which products were worth building my skipcare regimen around.
This was my starting point: scars from pimples past on the chin, dehydration and a subtle redness all around, plus a terrible twosome of zits sitting right on the middle of my cheek like they'd been personally invited to decorate my face. While it was certainly tempting to have a little fun and unbox some of my newly secured skincare, I resisted for seven days in the hopes of seeing results.
Cleanse with facial wash, moisturize with lotion, slather on SPF. Cleanse, moisturize, slather. Ahead, my findings from my seven-day skincare diet:
I swore by Cetaphil's Gentle Skin Cleanser post-college, but took it off rotation when I ventured into other skincare brands. I was admittedly afraid to try it again after all the anti-Cetaphil arguments I'd seen online, but trying it again felt like reuniting with an old friend. The cleanser did its job and did it well: washed away impurities, kept my skin healthy, minimized my use of unnecessary ingredients.
What makes the Gentle Skin Cleanser so gentle (gentler than water, even), is its low pH level. By default, our skin is naturally a little acidic. It depends on this slight acidity to protect us against bacteria, pollution, allergens, you name it. Sticking to products with lower pH levels––similar to that of our skin's acid mantle––keeps the skin balanced, prevents breakouts and aids is gentler, faster cell turnover. The Gentle Skin Cleanser weighs in at a pH of 5.5, which is right around the same level as our skin. That's what makes it gentle. That's also what makes it effective. The very reason why the Twitter rant above was born is the exact same reason why dermatologists recommend this stuff. That's why it actually works. But, be warned: products with too low a pH level can also strip the skin too much and be just as damaging as high pH products.
The next product in the skincare diet line-up: the Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion. Like the cleanser, this product claims to be good for both the face and body. Every single body lotion I've tried is thick and potent which might sound like a dream for my the eternally parched desert that is my shins and forearms, but on my face? Suffice it to say that I was skeptical.
Still, in the name of skipcare, I dove right in and slathered a small, coin-sized amount all over my face after a thorough cleanse and tone. Thankfully, there was none of the over-oiling or pore-clogging that I feared. In fact, despite my doubts, the moisturizer left my skin feeling hydrated with a supple, almost semi-matte feeling to top it off. While this may still be thick for extremely oily or acne-prone skin types, I definitely recommend this for those who fall between the dry to slightly oily spectrum.
The saying “last but not least” unfortunately doesn't apply in this case. The third and last product, Cetpahil's Sun SPF50+ Light Gel, left much to be desired. I stopped using it on the third morning of this entire skipcare shebang, with the biggest reason for the abrupt discontinuation being that for a product called “light gel” it really wasn't light at all. It was thicker than I expected and felt more like your run-of-the-mill beach sunscreen than a gel product for the face. The same goes for the finish: that greasy texture that made us all hate having to put sunblock on before running into the ocean was definitely there alright.
Here we have the skincare diet results.
The terrible twins on my cheek were definitely less angry, which was to be expected given the week-long span of the diet. However, I can attest to the fact that my obnoxious flare-ups calmed down a lot quicker than they normally would with my regular routine. By the third day, the zits had subsided. A calm, subtle redness which I could easily hide with a little drop of concealer.
On a less visible level, my skin felt cleaner. It felt like a reawakening, a shaking off of the fine dust my skin had soaked up over the course of my trip. A push of the proverbial refresh button.
I'll admit that I haven't used Cetaphil since. My skin began to behave, and I haven't experienced any problems since this pandemic-induced breakout. But if anything, I'm glad I didn't gift the cleanser and lotion to anyone else. All arrows are pointing back to skipcare central, so it looks like I'll be back to the skincare diet sooner than I expected.
If you're looking to try the Cetaphil-centric skincare diet for yourself, shop the brand at online via the Watsons website (they deliver!) or head on over to the branch nearest to you.
Art Alexandra Lara