The Science Behind Your Uneven Skin Tone with Health and Beauty Formulator Chris Smith
At Jersey Beauty Company we love learning about our skin. That’s because we know that great skin education is the key to having a great skin care routine. How can we know how to best care for our skin without first understanding how our skin works? We also know that skincare science can be complicated, and we aren’t all scientists so sometimes it can be hard to navigate our way through all the information we might need.
Luckily we know a pretty amazing scientist, Chris Smith, who we like to quiz every now and then on issues we come across - like Uneven Skin Tone. The science behind what causes uneven skin tone is a bit baffling when you first look into it. It is also full of people contradicting themselves and each other. We asked Chris Smith to give us his expert opinion and explain what the science means for us.
Who is Chris Smith?
Chris Smith is a skin care formulator. He’s been formulating skin care products for about twenty years. When he’s not doing that, he is writing about new skin care ingredients and what they really mean for our skin, as science editor of Personal Care Magazine. Chris understands how science can really impact skin care. We also love chatting to Chris as he is always honest about the myths in skin care, using his background in science, he is able to help us dispel unhelpful myths about products and their benefits.
Uneven Skin Tone
When you look in the mirror you probably notice a lot more about your skin than most people do in your everyday life. You know your skin. So you will likely notice every patch of uneven tone, every blemish, every reddened area, fine lines and wrinkles that naturally appear on your skin.
When you are considering skin care products it can be easy to be drawn to ‘instant’ fixes to uneven skin tones and blemishes. But what are these miracle instant coverage products? What do they actually do for your skin? And do they do more harm than good?
We asked scientist Chris to explain it all for us, and what the right solutions might be for uneven skin tones.
The Myth of ‘Instant Coverage’
Whether it’s instant cover-up, instant concealer, instant filling or instant priming… there are a lot of products on the skin market now that are about concealing the uneven skin tone or issues your skin might have.
Offering the equivalent of a real life Instagram filter for your skin, these products by their very nature, are adding a layer on top of your skin to conceal the uneven skin tone or blemish. That doesn’t sound like it would be great for your skin, to add a layer? Surely it might block pores?
Uneven skin tone, blemishes and deepening fine lines are caused by something so just adding a layer to cover up these issues doesn’t quite feel right to us.
Chris explains that these instant coverages do work like an Instagram filter – they work to fill in crevices and even out the tone. What they are actually physically doing is to change the way light reflects from your face – just like an Instagram filter. They aren’t working to solve the underlying issues – they are just masking the issue.
Rather than talking about positive and negative effects, Chris says it’s better to think in neutral terms – a good primer should be a product that is inert, neither positive or negative, sitting on top of the skin.
Chris explains a good primer that is neutral will be made with either natural powders or maybe a plastic powder that will sit in the crevices or on the skin, but doesn't penetrate. The powder is too big to get into the pores. So as long as you cleanse properly, so cleanse before you put it on, and then cleanse to take it off, they won't stop the skin breathing and they won't cause spots or problems. But the main problem with spot generation and such like is if you don't cleanse properly so you get buildup.
One of our concerns with these ‘long lasting’ primers is what goes into them to make them long lasting. Are they full of silicones? And what are they?
What are silicones - are they safe?
Chris explains that silicone is a name of a group of chemicals. Basically they comprise of silica and oxygen, which helps to answer a question a lot of people have - is silicone nature or is it synthetic? Well silicones start from nature because of the building blocks, but they are heavily processed, so they are very synthetic by the time they're made. All of these silicones they have a lot of properties to make them last longer. They are also formulated to stay on your skin and not to come off on your clothes. Which is good news for your make-up being long-lasting but not necessarily good news for your skin.
So are they safe? They are inert – having neither a positive or negative effect so long as they are removed properly. That’s where the problem can lie though – a good primer is designed to stay in place. So you need an effective cleanser to remove it at the end of the day or your skin won’t get access to all the good stuff it needs.
Take reddened patches of skin, which is often a sign of dry or dehydrated skin. We might use a primer that is long lasting during the day to conceal this redness. This won’t negatively affect our skin but it also isn’t treating the underlying concerns. If we then don’t remove it effectively any products we might use to treat the condition at night won’t be able to be as effectively absorbed into the skin.
Get the Good Stuff In First
Chris explains some of it is about getting the order right. If you are wanting to use products to conceal, like primers, with silicones in, then get the good stuff in there first. Use a serum or a booster beforehand so you are effectively locking in that goodness to get to work whilst also concealing the issue.
Non-Comedogenic - what does it mean?
Non-comedogenic is a word we’ve seen on some products. It’s a bit of another language to us – but Chris explains it as basically a term that means it doesn’t block pores. Comedogenic ingredients block pores – they can be some oils, particularly synthetic oils, and some heavy natural oils like shea butter. So, if we have a problem with oily breakouts we need to avoid comedogenic ingredients. What about silicones then? Well, they aren’t comedogenic – they actually are designed to let the skin breathe. It comes back to removing them properly.
What about Primers that are full of good stuff? Do they exist?
Yes! Not all primers are full of silicones. There are some that use other active ingredients to work to plump skin and naturally work on uneven skin tones. They are often the primers that don’t come with the ‘instant’ tag.
What kind of ingredients are we talking about?
You may have read about Hyaluronic Acid before now on the JBC blogs. We love the stuff! It can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water which makes it amazing for rehydrating skin, from the epidermis through to deeper layers. Why is it good in a primer? Well, it plumps up the skin on a localised level, which is great for fine lines and deepening wrinkles. Often dehydration is behind these lines so by putting moisture back into the skin you are treating the issue directly.
Products like Dermalogica Hydrablur Primer uses hyaluronic acid as an active ingredient.
Vitamin C is great for uneven skin tones, as it encourages skin cell renewal. Primers with Vitamin C are great for dealing with the underlying issues of brown spots and skin blemishes.
As well as primers that act as fillers and concealers there are also those products that are colour correctors. Chris explains that they again work by concealing redness with a different colour. It is about tricking the eye, says Chris. These products don’t treat the underlying causes of the redness, they are merely there to lessen the physical appearance.
Instant Relief Ingredients
So what can we do to treat skin for an instant relief when it comes to uneven skin tone and blemishes? Chris explains instant relief isn’t always the best way to go. We need to have a skin care routine that is working to treat the issues our skin faces. Aloe vera is a great calming ingredient, for soothing redness, and products with lipids and ceramides in are great to smooth the skin. And as we’ve already mentioned hyaluronic acid is great to rehydrate. We need to be thinking longer term than the instant fix so your skin can be the truly happy remarkable you.
The Verdict from Scientist Chris on Uneven Skin Tone
Chris says it’s fine to keep using those colour correctors, silicone based products and instant fixes so long as you understand at best all they do is a mask an underlying skin concern. Make sure you are cleansing and treating your skin well at the same time. Use serums, active ingredients and formulas that can treat the causes and really help your skin to repair and be the best it can be!
There’s more amazing advice from Chris Smith in our Ultimate Guide to Skin Care that you can download for free here: