It's a religion — not a hashtag — on Reddit's SkincareAddiction. The message-board wonderland lays bare the issues, routines, and quirks of common folks uncommonly obsessed with their complexions. Follow us down the rabbit hole in search of seven skin truths.
Reddit.com is not beautiful. The website is to Web design what McDonald's is to the culinary arts. Its beauty lies in its content, organized by thousands of "subreddits," threads devoted to what seems like every single topic imaginable (from learning Japanese to pictures of "sexy" toasters).
The site has long played host to a variety of beauty topics, but those pockets were relatively quiet until early 2018. By April, the site was averaging 20,000 posts a month about skin care alone, an 81 percent increase from the previous year. The boost was likely a result of the explosive sales growth of skin care, the patron saint of the self-care movement. Suddenly, there were more subreddits for skin care (22 at time of publication) than there were for dog breeds. And how appropriate, as the skin-care boards also boast veritable toy groups (fun with subscription boxes!), herding groups (threads that round up tips from beauty vloggers), and working groups (identifying products that do what they say they do). One of the most trafficked subreddits of all is r/SkincareAddiction (ScA), home to nearly a million skin-care fans — fervent, erudite, hyaluronic-thirsty fans.
Most dermatologists will tell you to ignore skin-care advice on the Internet, that it’s like Googling a stomachache. But SkincareAddiction (let's say it: the name is offensive to those battling real addictions) isn't just a compendium of consumer advice. It's a community where acne selfies are met with praise, where self-taught chemists with rare skin diseases mingle with people who just discovered retinol. What can we learn from this corner of the Internet? You could spend hours (days? months? years?) trying to answer that question. Or just read on.
The Periodic Table of ScA
To some Redditors, skin care is the adult version of a play chemistry set. But before you mix, study up on the board’s shorthand.
Closed comedones.These blocked pores appear raised due to plugs of oil and dead skin cells trapped beneath the surface. They can be open, too (aka blackheads).
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Sebaceous filaments.Pinch your nose skin to see a few: Thin noodles of dead skin that eject from your pores like eels from undersea grottoes. Extraction can lead to enlarged pores. Let them be.
Mileage, as in "Your mileage may vary." Basically, a cheeky way of warning that not every product works for everyone, and those that do work might take more or less time to get the job done.
As in B&A, before and after. If you want to experience a sudden burst of serotonin, search "B&A Differin," and be prepared to weep secondhand tears of joy.
Shelfies, or styled shots of a person's beauty-storage situation. Do a shot every time you see an acrylic tray; finish your drink whenever The Ordinary's Hyaluronic Acid 2% serum is pictured.
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The Best Skin-Care Tips on Reddit
1. Don't Demonize (or Lionize) Any One Category
"I went through a phase of only using drugstore products, and then I moved on to a phase of 'natural' skin care because I got duped into thinking that toxins and chemicals were causing my skin problems. [But] not all natural things are good (e.g., poison ivy), toxins are pseudoscience (a scientist would never use the word 'toxins'), and everything is made of chemicals (e.g., water)." —LikesGreenTea
2. Always Patch-Test
"Study ingredients, and make a spreadsheet to track which ones irritate you. I religiously use [ingredient-analysis tools] CosDNA and SkinCarisma before even thinking of purchasing. I also rely on my fellow Redditors as well as reviews from [other] consumers. The recommended time for patch testing is one to two weeks, up to a month. Some will respond quicker than others, depending on your skin." —Breakaway9999
3. The Best Products Aren't Pricey
"I talked about my love for Trader Joe's Hyaluronic Moisture Boost Serum. I didn't expect to have such a large reaction about a $9 serum. It's a gel that blends and absorbs quickly, and it hydrates beautifully. The thin texture is great for layering, and I can mix it with a vitamin C powder. I can never get over how soft, smooth, and plump my skin is when I use it." —auborealis
4. A 4-Step Routine Is All You Need
A few clicks away from the home page is one of ScA's most trafficked corners: a community-tested, moderator-approved skin-care routine skeleton, complete with product recommendations culled from the board's "holy grail" roundups. Products like:
Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence.
To be even tangentially familiar with SkincareAddiction is to be well aware of its favorite sunscreen: the Japanese Bioré Watery Essence, an invisible chemical layer of SPF that dries moments after application. Available via Amazon — if you're willing to wait for it to make the transpacific journey.
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Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser.
Universally beloved, but why take our word for it? If you're curious about any product, plug it into the ScA search bar for nuggets like this: "I'd encourage anyone to try [this] if they have irritation-prone skin or even dermatitis like I do." (Thanks for the tip, —SUSHI_WHORE—.)
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Olay Complete UV365 Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30+.
The consummate forum favorite: a simple, hydrating, fragrance-free moisturizer with a built-in sunscreen.
Yes, the textured discs in the red box tucked beneath the medicated ointment at CVS. Redditors rave about their acne-banishing prowess, but they’re also known to smooth skin. (Plus, you can usually find them for $5 or less.)
5. Yes, You Can Win Tough Skin Battles
Take fungal acne — a hot topic. It's not acne at all. Rather, it's an irritation of a hair follicle that's caused by an abundance of Malassezia, a naturally occurring yeast on skin that multiplies when we’re sweaty or the weather is humid. If your "pimples" aren't responding to treatment, talk to your dermatologist. Or, if you're user ithoughtilostyou, head to ScA:
"You guys. YOU GUYS.
"At 22, I started getting milia on my cheeks. Nothing took them down. I've spent thousands on treatments, actives, and prescriptions. Extracting resulted in the hard little keratin plugs' expect, but over time there were just too many. They kept coming. At 36, devastated, extracting a few really bad ones every single day. I was losing the battle.
"I lurked ScA last year, and hit the actives hard. But I had a literal shield of keratin on my face and nothing was working. After Differin failed, I started on tretinoin .1%. Four months later, the rest of my face looked good but the milia remained.
"Then I came across another user asking about whether fungal acne resulted in 'plugs' and thought, Let’s see. I grabbed some Nizoral [Editor's note: It's an anti-dandruff shampoo] at the grocery store two days ago. I've used it twice. The milia have receded 60 percent. I have smooth cheeks. Tears come just typing that out. I thought this was a life sentence.
"Thank you to the knowledgeable, caring people in this sub who took the time to answer my questions and share their experiences. I can't tell you what it means to wake up like this after 15 years of struggling with the pain of extractions and the self-esteem issues that came with all of this. This sub has literally changed my life."
6. Go and Expunge Every Pore at Once
To successfully "grit" is a celebration on ScA, akin to birthing a baby. Gritting is a Reddit-popular technique that involves cleansing your face with oil, putting on a clay face mask, rinsing, another oil cleanse, then evaluating your face and hands. If your face is pristine, your hands will be empty. If your face is a minefield of urban debris, you’ll notice hundreds of tiny, spongy, granular gunk balls everywhere, on your face and on your fingertips. The descriptions will register as either disgusting or deeply satisfying, depending on what kind of person you are. (The most evocative: "handfuls of black dots.")
7. Know Your BHAs (salicylic acid) From Your AHAs (all the other acids)
"I've had really bad closed comedones forEVER. I would attempt to extract them and damage my skin. I used BHA for a while because cc’s=under the skin. BHA is for that, right? As it turns out, AHA works better on cc's. I've been using the 7 percent glycolic from [The Ordinary] and HOLY CRAP the purging is (slowly) happening and my face is slowly flattening out. CC's are/were the only thing in my way of 'perfect' skin." —SupportButNotLucio
A version of this article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Allure.