Podculture: From St. Ives to CeraVe, the rise of skincare

Joanne Haner, Reporter

The increasing popularity of skincare products and influencers has students on campus revamping their routines. Low-cost brands such as The Ordinary, CeraVe and The INKEY List make a simple routine accessible to college students on a budget.


JOANNE HANER: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Joanne Haner, and this is Podculture, a podcast about arts and culture on campus and beyond.


JOANNE HANER: Everyone has skin. While skincare concerns can vary from person to person, increased awareness of simple and affordable products has allowed members of Gen Z to start taking care of their skin with some help from the internet from a young age.

ABHAV SONI: My morning skincare routine is five steps. And then my evening skincare routine is four. The only difference is sunscreen.

KEVIN FOLEY: That’s kind of a healthy obsession, at least the way I see it. It’s just something to focus on for taking care of myself and stuff like that.

JOANNE HANER: Brands like The Ordinary, The INKEY List and Good Molecules — offered at popular beauty stores like Sephora and Ulta Beauty — market products with transparent ingredient lists and a low price point. Other affordable brands offered at Target, like CeraVe, Naturium and La Roche-Posay, also make it easy for students to grab a few quick skincare essentials on a grocery run.

EMILY STEVENSON: I think number one for what a college student should look for is you don’t have to spend a lot of money. There’s great brands that you can get at the drugstore.

JOANNE HANER: That was Dr. Emily Stevenson, assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. While current skincare trends and influencers are raising awareness for protective skincare practices, she says there are caveats to the hype.

EMILY STEVENSON: Obviously all these brands are trying to sell you something. So there’s a big marketing push to just have more. I have a lot of patients that come in on really complicated regimens, like a 10-step regimen from an expensive skincare brand that they think that they need to buy all of these products. Sometimes that can actually be harmful because a lot of those products can be irritating. And then I think there’s also misinformation out there, too.

JOANNE HANER: Weinberg freshman Kevin Foley got into skincare over quarantine by watching videos from popular skincare influencer Hyram Yarbro, more famously known as Skincare by Hyram.

KEVIN FOLEY: It really used to just be cleanser and moisturizer, like whatever I had my hands on; I never really put that much thought into it. After watching all these YouTube videos and learning more about what is needed in a skincare routine, I was like, “Okay, I need to get a sunscreen and I need to start exfoliating my skin.”

JOANNE HANER: Chemical exfoliation is another popular skincare trend. Chemical exfoliants, as opposed to physical exfoliants like scrubs, are applied once a day a few times a week to gently remove dead skin and unclog pores. Foley’s current routine ranges from five to six steps, but in order to get to that point, he went through a trial-and-error process. Skincare by Hyram focuses mainly on product and brand reviews but also helps fans build their skincare routines through social media. Hyram’s product recommendations work whether you’re on a budget or looking to splurge a little.

HYRAM YARBO: I am going to be creating an entire skincare routine that fulfills everything you need for under $50 — it’s possible. I don’t think it’s right that people don’t have access to skincare based off of how much money they make. That’s seriously messed up. Everyone should have access to skincare, and my mind goes back to when I first started my skincare routine. I think back in college, and girl, I had no money.

JOANNE HANER: However, Hyram is not a dermatologist, and as a result, some creators have criticized his content and the reach of his platform.

KEVIN FOLEY: I would get something that was recommended. And then if it just really didn’t work for my skin, I would stop using it. But if it was good enough, I would just use it to completion just cause I don’t want to let it go to waste. And then once I’d finished, I’d say, “Okay, did that work?” Maybe it was something like the ingredients were too strong or just too harsh on my skin. I’d try and find something with a lower concentration of whatever, like the harsh ingredient was.

JOANNE HANER: While Foley’s routine includes more advanced steps like chemical exfoliation, Dr. Stevenson says a good, simple routine starts with a gentle cleanser and a protective sunscreen in the morning. There are two types of sunscreens: chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens. Both provide protection from the sun’s harmful rays using different active ingredients.

EMILY STEVENSON: When you’re looking for a sunscreen, make sure that it’s at least SPF 30 or above. And another important thing that I think a college-aged person might not realize is if, if there’s SPF in their makeup, they’re probably not getting enough because you would really have to cake it on pretty hard. You need a good dime- to quarter- sized amount to put on your entire face. And for sunscreen on your body, if you’re going to the beach or the swimming pool, you need about a shot glass-full.

JOANNE HANER: In terms of advancing your routine, specific products and ingredients can target specific concerns, including anti-aging, oiliness, texture and hyperpigmentation. Since no two people have the same skin, this process looks different for everyone.

EMILY STEVENSON: First, I would say seeing a board-certified dermatologist to just kind of assess your skin and make some recommendations is a great idea when we’re going to that next step. After sunscreen, I think the next best step to get on board is something with a retinol or retinoid in it. And in the most simple terms, these are vitamin A derivatives. They have a lot of benefits. They turn over the collagen in our skin. They’re anti-aging, they’re anti-acne.

JOANNE HANER: With the large selection of products and brands out there, it can be difficult to sort through the marketing campaigns and figure out what works best for one’s skin. SESP freshman Abhav Soni first got interested in skincare his freshman year of high school to try to reduce his acne.

ABHAV SONI: I think looking back at it, I was doing way too much. I was under the impression that I had to do like, 10 different steps in my skincare routine. I was exfoliating way too much, I was damaging my skin. A lot of the steps I was doing were not even appropriate for a freshman in high school’s skin.

JOANNE HANER: Since then, Soni has trimmed his routine to a four- to five-step cycle, transforming his skincare journey from one focused on insecurities to one of self care.

ABHAV SONI: Just practicing a skincare routine, especially in college, is just a routine thing that you can do for yourself. And I find it to be honestly therapeutic because after a long day, it’s just like washing your face, like putting on all your stuff, it’s kind of nice.

JOANNE HANER: Above all else, Dr. Stevenson emphasized the importance of applying sunscreen on a daily basis. Sunscreen can work to prolong youthful skin, but also prevent skin cancer. At the end of the day, she recommends turning to the professionals, even if it’s through social media.

EMILY STEVENSON: I don’t follow “skinfluencers” other than board-certified dermatologists, and that is an extremely important, I think, message to get out to college students: follow board certified dermatologists, they’re out there. There’s many, many on Instagram, that are on TikTok, that are putting out really great information.

JOANNE HANER: Some dermatologists on Instagram Dr. Stevenson recommends are @dermdoc.jen, @dermguru, @derm.talk, and @dermy_doctor.


JOANNE HANER: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Joanne Haner. Thanks for listening to another episode of Podculture. This episode was reported and produced by me, Joanne Haner. The digital managing editor of The Daily Northwestern is Jordan Mangi and the editor-in-chief is Jacob Fulton.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joanne_n_h


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