The pursuit of perfect skin can feel like an endless journey. Especially with the rise of social media and trends bringing more visibility than ever into obscure products and ingredients.
And if it seems to be working for someone else, well then what’s the harm in testing it ourselves, too?
After all, the true effectiveness of a trend can only be realized by trying it. And fortunately, there’s often little skin risk involved, as long as you remember to patch test. However, skin care trial and error could cost lot of money for little return.
So, before you take out that credit card, figure out if it’s worth it for you.
We’ve rounded up and looked at the science behind six skin care trends that stirred up a flurry of comments in 2018. We also spoke to several people who told us about the lessons they learned in the process and whether or not it was worth it.
In Korean skin care, 24K gold masks are believed to possess anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties — but does the research stack up?
Science has mixed reviews on gold’s effectiveness in skin care. A study conducted just last year found benefits when gold nanoparticles were combined with collagen and hyaluronic acid.
On the other hand, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has suggested that this particular trend does the opposite of what it’s intended to do. Namely, that gold nanoparticles actually accelerate the aging process, while also slowing down the body’s natural wound healing process.
Verdict: While you’ll definitely glow while this face mask on, there’s no guarantee that your skin will stay gold after it’s washed off
- “I started seeing influencers and models suddenly wearing gold masks on Instagram last year. I couldn’t help myself, I was intrigued! I found a pretty affordable one on Amazon, which felt like a good start seeing as there was no real proof that it did anything beyond just being aesthetically pleasing. Turns out, I didn’t even have that to contend with.
- “Once it was on, it didn’t look anything like expected. I imagined looking luxurious and rich, but the effect was overall just messy. Not to mention, it was pretty painful to remove. The mixture was really sticky in application, which left my skin red and irritated from scrubbing so hard at the extra persistent areas of gold.
- “I still wonder if the pricier versions might work better, but considering my negative initial experience, I’m not too sold on taking that risk.”
- — Rachel, New York City
- “I decided to try a gold sheet mask after seeing it all over beauty sites and Instagram. I’ll usually try anything once, so this wasn’t too far out of my comfort zone. I definitely looked a little creepier than expected, but hey — that was part of the fun, I guess.
- “It felt hydrating, which could have been from the gold or just the sheet mask itself. There wasn’t necessarily a huge difference which was pretty underwhelming considering all of the hype about it.”
- — Sarah, New York City
A chemical peel is a technique that involves exfoliating and removing damaged skin cells in order to promote regeneration. The regenerated skin is often smoother than it was before treatment, with an improved appearance of discoloration and wrinkles.
With the rise of clean, natural beauty, it’s no wonder why some people may be hesitant to try this trend. But while the word “chemical” may signal a red flag, not all chemicals are actually bad for you.
Most of the active acids used in chemical peels, from lactic acid to salicylic acid, are derived from natural ingredients. Trending with nearly half a million hashtags on Instagram, chemical peels aren’t merely a passing craze — they’re here to stay.
Recovery time can range depending on your skin type and the intensity of the procedure you select, but it’s a long journey that can be worth it if you’re seeking treatment for acne, fine lines, or hyperpigmentation.
Since it’s a serious and sensitive procedure, we highly recommended consulting a dermatologist first.
Verdict: If beauty is pain, then chemical peels are one skin care trend that are here for good
- “I get monthly facials and visited my normal spa for a peel. My aesthetician recommended a Jessner peel. I thought I’d know what to expect, but…
- “The peel smelled horrible, like stunk up the room horrible. It was also crazy painful. The aesthetician put the peel on and my skin felt like it was burning off immediately. I started freaking out and she gave me a fan to cool my face and said the pain was normal.
- “After what felt like an eternity, she put something else on my face that neutralized the peel. I was in and out of the salon in 20 minutes and the peel cost over $150.
- “My skin felt a lot smoother and some of my dark spots disappeared. The peel also helped minimize small lines that were appearing. Results were what I hoped for, but I’ve since seen similar results by sticking to my skin care regimen and using other (lighter) peel products at home.
- My peel wasn’t worth the money or pain!”
- — Jo, Austin, Texas
A Chinese facial massaging technique, jade rolling consists of slowly rolling a small gemstone tool in an upward motion along your face and neck. The practice is said to aid in everything from boosting circulation to lymphatic drainage.
While there’s no conclusive scientific evidence to prove that jade rolling itself actually works, there’s proven benefit to facial massage, made easier in this case with the pressure from a jade roller. Now made with a variety of crystals, including rose quartz, this ritual isn’t just reserved for skin care, but for spirituality as well.
Verdict: While facial massages possess proven benefits, a jade roller might do little beyond enhancing the aesthetics of an already existing ritual
- “I heard about the trend from my boss. Then I went home and tried it and was like… What am I doing? Rolling my face when I should be rolling cookie dough instead.
- “I was hoping the amethyst energy would relax my facial muscles but it didn’t really do anything. I thought they were used to fight acne and then realized that’s definitely not what they’re used for!
- — Sanjana, Chicago
- “I heard about this [trend] from the wellness and spirituality community first.
- “As someone who has had a collection of crystals since high school, it wasn’t hard to get me on board. Especially once I read about the benefits of lymph node drainage. That’s an area of my health that suffers. Stone rolling helps me make sure that I stay on top of it.
- “The first time I did it… I felt stupid, ha ha, but I kept studying different facial maps and eventually got the hang of it. I’m always told now that my skin looks extremely bright and soft. I also haven’t been sick as often due to my lymph nodes not being blocked.”
- — Tatiana, New York City
We’ve long heard about the benefits of consuming placenta, and research on mice and cells has shown that placenta may help with wound healing, skin sensitivity, and sun damage.
Maryam Zamani, MD, founder of MZ Skin, first began to incorporate placenta as a key ingredient in her own formulas and in a bid to provide access and insight into the elusive trend, more and more skin care brands are following suit.
A Google search for placenta and skin care reveals nearly two million results and rising, suggesting that this is one skin care trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. You can also find skin care products online that contain placenta.
Verdict: Placenta can’t be proven to be better than the rest just yet — you might want to wait for science to catch up
- “I use placenta cream every night. I first saw it in an airport leaving Sydney, Australia and had read about the benefits of consuming placenta, so decided to try it!
- “Most of my body was extremely dry and scaly from sun exposure damage and plane traveling, but I never suffered from any dryness or peeling on my face.
- “I really think that placenta cream had something to do with keeping that hydration. I haven’t suffered from major wrinkles yet, but I have noticed my smile lines filling in.”
- — Susannah, Austin, Texas
Avoid eating placenta The nutrients in placenta, including fiber and protein, could aid in anti-aging, promote collagen production, and improve hydration, but that’s 100 percent speculation. It’s one thing to play around with putting creams on your face, but you should put a hold on any supplements for now.
Utilizing raw foods in your skin care routine is hardly considered strange anymore. After all, the foods we eat benefit our skin internally, so why wouldn’t the same be true of applying them externally?
When it comes to mixing homemade concoctions, it’s important to research which need to be diluted and which shouldn’t be mixed together. Freshness and preservation are key to avoiding the possibility of experiencing breakouts or irritation.
Verdict: With some research (and a recipe), DIY is cost-effective and cuts through the hype
- “Because I used to put mayo in my hair as a mask when I was a teenager, I thought I would try it on my face. Not a good idea! Not only was the smell enough to make me regret the experience right away, it made my skin way too oily.
- “Now, I use avocado, bananas, honey, and pineapple. I mix French green clay with honey and use as a cleanser. Then I mash up the banana and avocado and use as a face mask.
- “I slice the pineapple and use as a toner (like any astringent) which feels pretty magical as the tingling sensation sets in. Right now, my skin is responding really well to the green clay and honey — though I try to switch it up according to how my skin is feeling.”
- — Carlisle, Washington, D.C.
- “The vast world of being a YouTube beauty connoisseur at a young age has led to falling down an endless rabbit hole.
- “We all love a good DIY moment, but who would’ve thought that a combo of plain yogurt, mashed strawberries, and coconut oil could act out as much as it did. I followed the YouTube suggested formula, left it on for 15 or so minutes, went to bed, and woke up in shock.
- “A rash covering my whole face — forehead to chest — had broken out. It was patchy and red! Any DIY skin mask from then on was used with caution and I’ve learned so much about active ingredients since then. It’s hard to filter all of the different skin care “gems” out there among the influence and appeal they have.”
- — Maggie, San Francisco
The newest creams and serums seem to have one ingredient in common — snail slime. While it may sound less than ideal at first, the trend can actually be traced back to Hippocrates. The Greek physician allegedly prescribed a formula of snail mucin and sour milk to remedy skin inflammation.
Since then, Korean scientists have put ample research behind this trend. The hyaluronic acid found in snail mucin is proven to not only keep skin supple, but retain hydration, improve hyperpigmentation, and even keep acne at bay.
Verdict: If slime doesn’t faze you, then this snail trend might just be your secret to healed, supple skin
- “I read an article about K-beauty and started adding steps [to my routine]. The first snail mucin product I tried was COSRX Snail Essence, which I still use. I stuck with it even though it was slimy and grossed all of my friends out because my face finally retained moisture!”
- — Alex, Delaware
- “I was so opposed to snail sheet masks or anything snail-based before making a trip to Malaysia in early 2017. I was so intrigued by how prevalent snail mucin is in their skin care. Dabbling in applying a snail sheet mask was oddly satisfying. My skin was left feeling super hydrated, supple, and plump!”
- — Raeesah, New Zealand
Seemingly unconventional at first, most skin care trends have a longer history than we might realize from only considering their sudden growth on social media. Often stemming from long-held cultural practices, it’s important to note that antiquity doesn’t necessarily equate to effectiveness.
Before trying out a new skin care trend, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does science have to say about it?
- Can the results be achieved through alternatives?
- Does it seem like the best option for your skin’s specific needs?
- Would you still do it if no one else was?
- Is it ultimately worth the money?
Skin care trends can vary in cost, so weighing out the perceived pros against price can help you avoid delving into unnecessary, expensive skin care products.
Everyone’s skin is unique to them, which is what makes skin care so fun in the first place.
Experimentation is part of the process, regardless of whether a skin care trend is backed by science or merely possesses a certain level of aesthetic allure.
Doing your own research and embarking on a trial and error process of what works for you can provide you with some much-needed revelations — and an understanding of yourself that goes beyond skin deep.
Adeline Hocine is an Algerian Muslim freelance writer based in the Bay Area. In addition to writing for Healthline, she’s written for publications such as Medium, Teen Vogue, and Yahoo Lifestyle. She’s passionate about skin care and exploring the intersections between culture and wellness. After sweating through a hot yoga session, you can find her in a face mask with a glass of natural wine in hand on any given evening.