Every field has its legends that, with their actions and statements, have brought to light some of the greatest truths that have changed the field itself forever.
When it comes to skincare, Paula Begoun is a true legend. Also known as “The Cosmetic Cop,” Paula spent her entire career, even before founding Paula’s Choice brand, emphasizing the importance of scientific research for the formulation of effective and safe products. For this reason, the “motto” of the brand is “Beauty begins with truth,” always. The truth about ingredients, application, results.
These are the values that characterize Paula’s Choice and in the name of which Paula, also thanks to the many books she’s written, has busted many myths over the years (the latest ones? Gua sha has no purpose other than unnecessarily moving the skin, and sheet masks can be avoided).
For the European launch of the new CBD products by Paula’s Choice, the CBD Oil + Retinol, and the CBD Skin Transformative Treatment Milk, we had the opportunity to chat, between Milan and Seattle, with Paula herself and talk about the effectiveness of CBD against “inflammaging,” the features of these new must-haves, and the difficulties that had to be faced in order to launch them on the market.
We also took a chance to discover her new idea of “time” and to emphasize once again (because it is never enough) the importance of research to build a solid skincare routine that brings real benefits.
Because if it doesn’t bring about visible results, it’s not skincare. Full stop.
You said it is the “Most exciting time for skincare,” what are the best changes you are witnessing today and how do you see the skincare-world changing in the next few years?
I don’t know how it’s going to change in the next few years, the thing I know, that’s happening now, and has been happening over the past 10 to 15 years, is just the increase in research, the incredible amount of scientific literature that’s available, and independent, very well done.
That’s been the most phenomenal change in my life as a formulator and somebody who’s always looking at better ways to take care of the skin. It’s really the amazing research because, previously, people didn’t study skin very much, for whatever reason, and most of the information about skincare ingredients came from the manufacturer. That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s biased, it’s one-sided; like I always say, if those are the ingredients that work, what were the ingredients you looked at that didn’t work? And, of course, they only have ingredients that work, so it’s not the most independent, obviously, so it’s the amount of independent research and the scientific literature about skin, there’s no comparison to what it was a few years ago.
“Inflammaging” – 3 tips to tackle it and specifically, how can the CBD products fight it?
Inflammaging, inflammation: research over the past 10 years has made it very clear that is a major problem for almost every skincare concern we have; acne is an inflammatory disorder; rosacea is an inflammatory disorder; oily skin is an inflammatory disorder; aging is an inflammatory disorder; so anything you can do to interrupt inflammation is incredibly important. At Paula’s Choice, I’ve been formulating products with anti-inflammatories for years – information about inflammation is not new. How damaging, it is, is new.
The research used to say that inflammation, especially from the sun and pollution, but particularly the sun, was just about skin; now, over the past 10 or so years, the literature is saying the cascade event that some damage causes are affecting organs in your body and triggering cancers in the body, not just on your skin. So, anything you can do to interrupt that inflammation is a very big deal, and what’s unique about CBD – because the body has its own endocannabinoid system, the body makes its own form of cannabinoids, but because of age, sun damage, and the irritating things that we do to our skin, the body stops being able to make enough of it to help the skin – is that there really is no other ingredient where there is an endocannabinoid system.
“Inflammaging, inflammation: research over the past 10 years has made it very clear that that is a major problem for almost every skincare concern we have: (…) so anything you can do to interrupt inflammation is incredibly important.”
Now, you could argue that peptides as a category of ingredients are different, there is an extensive peptide system, but we won’t go there; from a scientific point of view, you could discuss how they’re different, but these receptor sites on the skin cells that recognize cannabinoids, particularly CBD literally goes to the cells, sits down on the cell and says, “I want you to ignore this inflammation flying around you. Stop, I don’t want you to recognize it, I’m pushing it away from you.” And that’s just astounding. There are many ways to approach fighting inflammation, and CBD is not the only one. That doesn’t mean you don’t need antioxidants to interrupt pollution, you need skin-replenishing ingredients to put back into the skin the ceramides, hyaluronic acids, hydrating ingredients, omega fatty acids, vitamin C, which is the major antioxidant in the skin, to give back to skin what it can’t make for itself anymore. But how CBD functions as part of a comprehensive skincare routine is pretty fascinating.
What was the biggest challenge in bringing the CBD products to the market?
The stupid legal shit because CBD isn’t legal all over. We did choose a form of CBD – the full spectrum distillate CBD that includes a trace amount of THC because the research seems to make it pretty clear that when you have a range of cannabinoids, the CBD works better. Some companies are just using CBD without any THC, or using CBD without any other cannabinoids and just CBD; and again I think the research has made it clear that what is called an “entourage effect,” the synergy of a wide range of cannabinoids, is the most beneficial to get the benefit you want, the effect you want from using CBD.
Do you have a favorite between the two CBD products?
One of the reasons we create different versions is to address the needs of different people; there are 7 billion people on the planet, and obviously, I don’t get to 7 billion people, but given the diversity of people, if you’re already using a retinol product, especially a high concentration retinol product, you don’t need the CBD + Retinol, you would rather consider the Skin Transformative Treatment.
Also, the textures are different, some people prefer some texture over the other. So the idea was to give people options, which’s always been a major focus of Paula’s Choice, to give people options so that they can find the combinations of products that give them the best results for their skin type and skincare needs.
“The idea was to give people options, that’s always been a major focus of Paula’s Choice, to give people options so that they can find the combinations of products that give them the best results for their skin type and skincare needs.”
You’re also very famous for myth-busting: what’s the most recent myth that needs to be busted in your opinion?
Oh God, are you kidding? It’s endless! It’s insane!
The latest is probably jade rollers, Gua Sha massage – that bullshit about massage; sheet masks. It makes no physiological sense – if you see massaging the skin, if you see skin move up or down, you are aging skin, the elastin fiber that’s in it is very fragile. The elastin fibers in the skin are the rubber bands in the skin that allow the skin to bounce back; you keep pulling on those elastin fibers, you help gravity and sun damage do their job, and eventually, that rubber band not only stretches out, but it also breaks!
There’s no benefit – jade rollers just move the skin around. They make all kinds of claims about helping ingredients absorb, but, as I say, not everything needs to absorb, in fact, that would be bad skincare. When I’m making a skincare product, I’m always thinking about what needs to stay on the surface, what needs to go a little lower, and what needs to go lower yet: that’s great skincare! So, that saying about getting ingredients to absorb just drives me nuts, and a lot of it is just bad for the skin.
Now, sheet masks are not necessarily bad for skin, some of them are either just okay formulated, some of them have decent ingredients, but mostly they’re just a sticky icky mask, and not worth the time, there’s nothing about them that benefits the skin in comparison to a great skincare routine. Why waste time on what doesn’t really make a difference and significantly help your skin? I get upset, as you can tell, that’s why I stay off of social media, I just can’t take it.
“When I’m making a skincare product, I’m always thinking about what needs to stay on the surface, what needs to go a little lower, and what needs to go lower yet: that’s great skincare! So, that saying about getting ingredients to absorb just drives me nuts, and a lot of it is just bad for the skin.”
You said that “Time is so precious”, and we definitely had a lot of thinking time last year, how has your conception of experiencing time changed over the last months?
At first, I was very disturbed. I travel a lot, and it is one of my joys in life. The trips I had to give up were devastating, for me. And then, as time passed, and I talked to some other people about this, I found that not packing and unpacking, not running through airports, not worrying about getting a taxi, or traffic, is just nice. I love my homes, I’m very blessed, I have homes in beautiful areas, and I’m surprised that I can get along without traveling, all the travel took up a lot of my life, and took me away from a lot of the people I love. I did have a nice “COVID pod” – the people who you trust to be with during COVID. So, I was still very social, I mean, I was very careful how I was social, mostly outside, or inside I had fans all over the place; being outside, depending on what the person needs, we’d sit in masks, I never had more than two or three people, and all due respect to your ages, I didn’t have millennials in the house, no offense to not trusting millennials [laughs].
So, I found that not traveling for me has been one of the positive outcomes. It’s not that I don’t want to travel again, but I can see myself traveling differently. I actually think – and I know that Paula’s Choice doesn’t want to hear this – but I think that what I can do during a Zoom event is far more powerful than doing an in-person presentation because I can just reach so many more people. I think for me that was one of the biggest changes in my life that I wasn’t expecting because I’ve been traveling for decades, I’m very lucky, I get to go to magnificent places, but I’m surprised, that was a big change.
Last question: since you’ve talked about traveling, do you have a particular jet-leg skincare routine?
Jet-leg is not a skin type, age is not a skin type, seasons are not a skin type. The only thing about the skincare routine is, when I’m on long-haul flights, I bring my skincare on the plane, and I’m doing my skincare on the plane. Spring-water on your face doesn’t do shit, that’s such a waste of time, water is not a skincare ingredient, it doesn’t feed the skin, it doesn’t give skin moisture, it’s just silly. But if I’m on a long-haul flight, I take my skincare routine with me, and I’m doing it in the bathroom before I lay down, and then, when I wake up, I do my morning routine. There isn’t anything you can do for jet-lag skin other than what you do for your skin all year long, which is take brilliant care of it, and always give your skin back what it can’t make for itself, or with exfoliation, can’t do for itself.