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Q&A: Paula’s Choice founder Paula Begoun busts common beauty myths

Meeting ‘Cosmetics Cop’ Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice is not a smooth-sailing affair as one would imagine. She makes you a tad uncomfortable for the right reasons.

Her knowledge about skincare, ingredients, and regimes with a side of common sense can jolt even the most experienced interviewers because this very knowledge can shatter preconceived notions. No wonder she was called ‘Cosmetics Cop’ by Oprah. This is tough love, for an industry in desperate need of common sense that goes beyond marketing gimmicks and overdone spiels, and I had many beauty assumptions shattered to smithereens in 30 minutes of meeting her.

From founding Beautypedia (a research-based skincare and makeup review platform) to launching her own label, Paula’s Choice, Begoun has almost built a career on ‘calling out’ brands that work with unnecessary, clichéd, and misleading formulas. She’s also authored 20 best-selling books on beauty and regularly appeared on CNN, Oprah, The Today Show, 20/20 Dateline, The View, and Dr. Oz.  In 1995, she launched her own, Paula’s Choice Skincare that has quickly amassed a cult following. The label has made sure it stayed scientifically backed, effortless, and non-flashy; featuring great products like the Vitamin C Booster and the AHA and BHA exfoliators. Currently available in Hong Kong via its online portal and on Net-A-Porter, we got a hot minute with the lady to bust some beauty myths. 

Never use essential oils 

“Lavender is not good for sensitive skin and sandalwood causes inflammation. Inflammation is skin’s number one enemy and women need to be aware of that — so say goodbye to essential oils, products with fragrances, harsh scrubs, as they all lead to inflammation.”

Massaging your skin 

“Jade rollers, massages, and gadgets that talk about massaging and kneading facial skin are a waste of time. You are aiding gravity and they only sag skin. You are breaking the elastin fibres that allow skin to bounce back by massaging too much. Less elastin, as we age, means fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.”

DIY beauty — is it really effective?

“Nothing that you can make in your kitchen can completely change your skin — nothing dramatic anyway. Whether your grandma loves it or it was talked about in Ayurveda 100 years ago, it’s definitely not enough for your skin. Let’s be honest, you can’t make sunscreen or stable antioxidants that absorb and last all day in your humble kitchen. Natural ingredients are not bad, but know that not everything that comes out of the ground is good and not everything that comes from a lab or synthetic is bad. These extremes we follow adds up for bad skincare.”

Ancient wisdom on beauty

“Funny thing about ancient wisdom in beauty? It doesn’t work today as much as it did then. Our ancestors used dial-up phones but not us, we want technology to work harder, work better. Same thing about skincare. You need professional help and the right ingredients in right proportions to better your skin.”

Skin problems irrespective of colour

“Age isn’t a skin type. Being Indian isn’t a skin type — neither is being black or white. Look at it this way, if you have acne irrespective of your skin colour or race, the ingredients you need are the same.”

Interrupt the damage — that’s the mantra for your skincare

Sun damage and pollution damage are two big problems. Sunscreen is undoubtedly a must-have and it’s the only thing your skin really needs. Damage begins the first minute the sun comes up, so never go out without a sunscreen. If you’re using actives, new ingredients, and effective products without a sunscreen, the results will be futile.”

What does your skin need for clear, effective results? 

“A few interesting ingredients like azelaic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, particularly l’ascorbic acid, AHAs and BHAs, and sunscreen among other forms — use these if you really want to see a difference.”

On building an ideal skincare regime 

“For an ideal skincare regime, you need a gentle cleanser. If you are using heavy makeup, then a double-cleanse, soft cleansing brush or cloth is fine. A soft wash cloth is ideal. I like restoring toners minus any irritating ingredients. Then follow it up with an exfoliant, a treatment product for your main skin concern (antioxidants or ceramides) and a sunscreen. Never dilute your sunscreen, it’s the last product.”

Layering sunscreen is a thing

“Most people don’t like heavy sunscreens, let’s be honest, they are not the most elegant products this industry produces. Especially water-resistant sunscreens are difficult and heavy. I opt for mineral sunscreens and then layer them up with a foundation that contains SPF.”

Ingredients to be excited about 

“In terms of skincare, I’m excited about 10 percent azelaic acid. new research is even better with strong anti-inflammatory properties, and improves skin discolouration and tackles marks from acne. Niacinamide is particularly helpful in reshaping pores, hydrating, anti-ageing and cell-communicating. Peptides are fascinating and lab-engineered; they give  specific communication to the skin, better skin colour, hydrate the skin, and repair the skin.”

This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia India.

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