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Industrial beauty is around 100 years old. In the early 1900s, large companies in the US and Europe used the fear of germs to sell harsh soaps to hundreds of millions of consumers. The same companies rapidly extended their reach by promising to “turn back the clock” for a market that was receptive to the “better living through chemistry” promise.

A scientific approach is certainly not a bad thing. Far from it. A deep understanding of skin gives us insight into the mechanisms that fast-forward the ageing process. But when industry uses only select parts of the scientific message to sell exceedingly cheap ingredients for maximum profit, you have industrial beauty.

Industrial beauty misses the value of the life that our skin supports in the form of trillions of microbes – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more. These microbes, that make up our skin microbiome, are what really determine how healthy our skin is. (For an overview of this, please click here)

So how should we change to make amends?



Cleansing is one of those habits that feel non-negotiable. We do it first thing in the morning and we do it twice at night.

What industrial beauty taught us

The reasoning made sense a few years back – remove toxins and deep cleanse to create the perfect blank canvas for all your active skincare investments.

 What we know now

Our skin is not a blank canvas – and should never be so. It’s a complex environment that is home to billions of microbes performing a range of highly valuable functions. Knowing this calls into question the practice of trying to strip this all away twice a day.

What we can do about it

Quite simply, stop cleansing unless you have to. For example, if you have no make-up or sunscreen to remove, don’t use a cleanser. This means that first thing in the morning, you don’t need to cleanse at all – and if you’ve given your skin a break from make-up, there are few reasons to use a cleanser in the evening either. Rinsing with water luke-warm water is generally enough to remove any accumulation of dirt that might be considered necessary.

Cleansers and hot water remove sebum – the skin’s self-manufactured moisturising oil. Sebum is unique and “expensive” to produce (from a metabolic viewpoint), so we should come to terms with the reality that our bodies would not go to such lengths for no reason, and certainly not for us to wash it all away. Sebum is, in fact, the perfect prebiotic for the skin microbiome. It is very high in energy, but that energy is only available to tightly co-evolved microbial species that are necessary for optimal skin health. Furthermore, some of the fatty acids in our skin’s natural oil are actually toxic to pathogenic microbes…. even more reason to not get rid of it.



There is little else that makes your skin fresher than a great exfoliation.

What industrial beauty taught us

Regular exfoliation and deep chemical peels were the best way to renew the skin’s surface and start fresh.

 What we know now

This no longer makes sense, as we now know that cells can only divide a finite number of times. Regular over-exfoliation speeds up the rate of skin cell division as it damages surface cells, forcing them to regenerate. It basically uses up a skin cells lifespan much faster, so your skin may look good for a while but is not going to age well.

 What should we do?

Exfoliation isn’t all bad. Mild, occasional exfoliation does help to loosen stubborn, dead skin cells that are not properly released, but avoid repeated chemical exfoliation or agressive physical exfoliation – it can cause skin trauma and hasten ageing in the long run.



Preservatives revolutionised the skincare industry, allowing manufacturers to extend shelf life. That seems like a win for everyone.

Or is it ?

For millions of years, our bodies were intimately integrated with the natural world. Today’s modern lifestyle has largely isolated us from our natural environment and distanced us from valuable natural partnerships that we rely on.

What industrial beauty taught us

Preservatives are necessary and any live microbes in skincare should be avoided at all costs.

 What we know now

It’s true, no one wants a mouldy moisturiser and preservatives do have a role to play, but the fact is that they’re there to kill microbes and most preservatives do this indiscriminately. Preservative levels in many industrial skincare preparations are enough to damage even naturally occurring microbial populations on skin, which is detrimental to its optimum condition. Along with improperly pH balanced formulations, preservatives can cause a lot of harm to the skin’s microbiome.

 What should we do?

It is possible to include mild, volatile preservatives in skin preparations that consider the skin’s microbiome. (Volatile preservatives keep the product usable in the container but quickly evaporate on warm skin and so don’t unduly impact the skin microbiome). Find a skincare brand that talks about this aspect of their product and applies it in all their formulations. It is also possible (but not that easy) to produce products with live probiotics that are preservative free – you just have to be smart about it!

Industrial beauty frequently ignores the ‘other’ things you can do to support a glowing skin and health in general. You can go a long way toward healthy skin without spending loads of money… get some sunshine, get in contact with nature and think of your microbiome first – it will repay you in kind.

See more lifestyle tips to help your skin, at this link: