Unpopular Opinion: The Obsession With Glowing Skin Is Unnecessary And A Cause Of Skincare Issues


My skin looks like it’s perpetually glowing and shining when it’s actually just oily and sweaty, I have a few qualms with the entire concept of ‘glowing skin’. As a beauty writer, I’m always closely watching beauty trends shaping up the industry, innovative launches taking place and interesting product formulations being introduced in the market. In the past few years, the beauty industry as a whole has developed a newfound obsession with radiant and glowing skin.

Initially, the obsession was justified, I mean who doesn’t enjoy looking like a dewy dumpling in the sunlight? A term coined by Nam Vo, the Internet’s resident glow expert, dewy dumpling describes skin that’s soft, plump and radiant with a glow. This isn’t the first time the Internet has coined a term for their love for glowing skin. We’ve all seen how the iconic Korean glass skin trend swept the beauty industry as a whole. It put Korean skincare at the forefront and acquainted us with the infamous 10-step skincare routine that bestowed you with skin that shines. After this, the industry has seen no dearth of skincare and makeup products which promise you a glow that you could see from space.

Whether it was Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Dew Drops, Rose Inc.’s Luminous Tinted Serum or the e.l.f. Cosmetics Halo Glow Filter, the influx of glowing beauty products doesn’t seem to stop. I’m not complaining about how the glowing skin trend is inescapable (though it is). As much as I enjoy using an illuminating primer and a dewy blush, sometimes I wonder if we’ve have we taken our obsession with glowing skin too far. According to a trend report by Pinterest in 2021, the searches for ‘How to get glowing skin naturally’ had quadrupled.

What Does ‘Glowing Skin’ Really Mean?

There’s no definite definition of what glowing skin really, and the term is often used interchangably. “People assume glowing skin is when your skin is glowing, shining or sparkling (think of Edward Cullen from Twilight), but that isn’t the case at all. Glowing skin is just another term used to refer to what appears to be ‘healthy skin’ i.e. skin that isn’t dull, dehydrated or dry” explains Dr Manasi Shirolikar, consultant dermatologist and founder of online consulting brand, drmanasiskin.com. Dr Madhuri Agarwal, celebrity dermatologist and founder of Yavana Aesthetic Clinic agrees with this wholeheartedly and elaborates on how ‘glowing’ skin is nothing but healthy skin.

‘Someone with glowing skin will have a clear complexion, no pores or blemishes along with minimal sagging.’ That’s just the unrealistic picture society has painted of glowing skin. When observed from a medical point of view, Dr Manasi tells us, “If you have skin that is ‘conventionally’ glowing, it means your skin has good collagen synthesis, a good skin cell turnover rate and good blood circulation. These factors are what ultimately decide whether your skin is healthy or not, in order for it to glow.”

Why Are We So Obsessed With It?

Every single time a friend reaches out to me for skincare or makeup product recommendations, they have a common ask, “Can this product make my skin glow?”. We’ve partly got to thank the industry’s obsession with Korean beauty for this craze of glowing skin. We’ve also got to credit Hailey Bieber for making us all want to look like a glazed donut. Unlike usual beauty trends that come and go, this trend has stayed for quite some time now. Before glowing skin, we were all obsessed with matte skin—mousse foundations, silicone-based primers and excessive blotting powder, remember?

Dr Madhuri explains that social media has a massive role in the rise of our obsession with glowing skin. “We see countless pieces of content with influencers or actors showcasing their skin during golden hour, which is free of blemishes, sagging and any ‘imperfections’. These videos and images paint an impractical picture of what your skin is supposed to look like,” she says. Another factor contributing to our increased need for glowing skin is marketing messaging by beauty brands. Dr Manasi agrees and says, “Heavy marketing and promotions conducted by beauty brands always focus on the superficial aspect of skincare rather than making an attempt to treat concerns from within.”

Breaking Down The Consequences

The first time I visited a dermatologist, I didn’t ask her to treat my hormonal acne or help me with pigmentation. Instead, I asked her to give me a treatment which will make my skin look like it could reflect objects. Like me, countless people who visit dermatologists for consultations often demand radiant skin without tackling the actual problems our skin is dealing with. Experts unanimously agree that the top requests they receive from clients are always for ‘glowing, radiant and smooth skin’.

Dr Manasi elaborates on how blindly following skincare trends and overusing products which claim to bestow your skin with a glow can have adverse effects. “To put it simply, having hydrated skin is a prerequisite for your skin to glow. If you are someone who has oily skin and you use hydrating products in an excessive amount, your skin is going to get congested and be exposed to breakouts”, she explains. Too much of anything can harm the skin. Using an increasing amount of skincare or makeup products can lead to sensitivity, and irritation and can also damage the skin’s barrier—contributing to premature ageing and causing a reduction in collagen production of the skin.

Is It Really Achievable?

Healthy skin that is plump and radiant along with pores, blemishes and imperfections is realistically achievable. Dermatologists recommend following a focused approach to skincare rather than a cosmetic one. Dr Manasi shares the following expert-approved tips with us that emphasise on taking care of the health of your skin instead of the aesthetics.

  • Treat any underlying skincare concerns such as acne, pigmentation or fine lines first.
  • Always use sun protection, no matter what the season is. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and use physical sun protection too if needed.
  • Stay hydrated both inside and out i.e. drink 3 litres of water every day, and apply hydrating products that are specially made for your skin type. In fact, you can also look at incorporating ceramides for hydration since they suit every skin type.
  • Incorporate retinoids into your skincare routine if you are over the age of 25. After 25, the skin cell turnover rate slows down. Retinoids will aid in speeding them up, thus renewing skin cells, leading to fresher and healthier skin.
  • Use a good vitamin C serum to aid in achieving glowing skin. Being an antioxidant, this ingredient reduces the production of melanin and brightens dull skin.
  • Keep a strong focus on nutrition along with adding fresh vegetables, and fruits which are rich in vitamin a, vitamin b complex, vitamin d, zinc, omegas and essential fatty acids to improve your skin’s health.

- Beauty Writer


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