It sounds like the setup for a very bad joke: a therapist, a dermatologist and one of the most followed beauty influencers on TikTok hop on a Zoom call to talk about whether skincare is more than skin deep.
Gen Z is hooked on skincare and is arguably the most intelligent generation of consumers when it comes to product effectiveness. Hyram Yarbro summarized it best when he told In The Know: "Gen Z is turning around the packaging [on products] and looking at the ingredient list."
Yarbro is one of the skincare leaders Gen Z looks up to. While he's not a professional, his TikTok account, Skincare by Hyram — where he reviews products and people's routines — has exploded over the course of quarantine. In March 2020, he had around 100,000 followers. Now he has more than 6 million.
It goes to show that Gen Z wants more bang for their buck. Yarbro describes this generation of beauty influencers as having “democratized insider skincare information to a younger generation.”
But also, the timing of Yarbro’s success aligning with quarantine poses an interesting question about the correlation between skincare and mental health. Skincare and beauty can often be dismissed as vain or superficial interests, and of course, Yarbro completely disagrees.
“It’s an opportunity to really focus on self-care,” Yarbro explained. “It’s almost meditative in nature. Those five to 10 minutes of focusing just on yourself can boost your feelings, confidence and mood.”
Dr. Peterson Pierre is a board-certified dermatologist based in Thousand Oaks, Calif. While his profession is rooted in skincare, he told In The Know that he’s seen the mental health benefits of following his recommendations.
“We know from studies that 70 percent of people who have acne suffer from depression because of their appearance,” Dr. Pierre explained. “[It] is almost really a daily occurrence where a patient will come in, let’s say, for instance, because of their acne [and] they’re really not making much eye contact. The words are very few. They have a hard time expressing themselves. They’re looking down or looking around and you can tell their general demeanor is very sad and depressed.”
Dr. Pierre claimed that the top three skin ailments he encounters that have a real impact on his patient’s demeanor are acne, eczema and psoriasis. All three can be visible on someone’s face or body and can be hard to cover up, leaving people feeling vulnerable and occasionally unwilling to even go outside.
“A lot of people think that it’s just appearance or superficial,” Dr. Lin Sternlicht, an addiction specialist and psychotherapist in New York City, told In The Know. “What I hear from clients who are kind of in the beginning [or] early stage of getting help, is that they don’t look in the mirror.”
Dr. Sternlicht said she will tell patients to actively try looking at themselves in the mirror at least once a day. She said she almost always gets a weird look after suggesting it, but when her patients return the following week, they are always surprised by how hard it was to adjust to her advice — and how difficult it was to slow down and take the time to really look at themselves.
“If people are really unhealthy you know their moods are unstable and they’re not really taking care of themselves, rarely they’ll engage in some kind of skincare,” she added.
Yarbro adds that a skincare routine is also one of the very few daily activities that you can’t multitask while doing. The focus has to be 100 percent on you during those moments.
In terms of examining yourself in the mirror — or on TikTok — Yarbro said he’s seen similar reactions to what Dr. Sternlicht sees in her patients.
“It hits people very deep — you’re dealing with what’s typically this person’s biggest insecurity,” Yarbro said. “It takes a lot for people to recognize the problems they have with their skin and to be open and honest and vulnerable.”
“I’ve had patients, where they were so depressed, [they] wouldn’t even want to go to school, and I watch literally over the few weeks and months how they completely transform,” Dr. Pierre said. “They become this completely different person — [an] outgoing person. Now they’re making eye contact, smiling, having joy in life. It’s really rewarding for me to be able to deliver that for them.”
“Recently I had one girl come up to me, crying, and saying, ‘you don’t understand my skin used to be so bad, you have no idea how much this means to me, how much you’ve improved my confidence,'” Yarbro said. “I got a clip from a subscriber saying, ‘I’m so proud of myself, this is the first time I’ve ever been able to walk out of my house makeup-free.’ It communicates to me that I’m making a positive difference instead of purely materialistic.”
Starting a skincare routine can be daunting. There are misconceptions that the products must be expensive and you need an extensive 10-step routine both morning and night.
But self-care shouldn’t be considered an exclusive benefit to people who can afford high-end beauty products or have the patience for lengthy routines.
“A lot of drug store formulas are effective, you don’t need to spend a lot of extra money,” Yarbro explained. “Take care of the basics and then experiment with whatever you want.”
“I always ask my clients if it’s not something that you can you can see yourself doing in three years that it may not work for you,” said Dr. Sternlicht. “Do something that may be simplistic, but something that you enjoy doing and you know that you can do this at any given moment.”
Both Yarbro and Dr. Pierre agreed on the most basic steps in a routine: cleanser, treatment, moisturizer and sunscreen. Dr. Pierre added that if you can find a moisturizer that has SPF already in it, you’ve saved yourself an extra step too.
“It all comes down to how you approach it,” Yarbro said. “It’s self-care, instead of purely a ‘functionality’ standpoint.”
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