When Western Michigan University graduate Kelly Swanson isn’t working as a physician assistant at Clarkston Dermatology, she’s running a successful blog and TikTok account where she educates her readers and viewers on proper skin care procedures and products. These credentials make her a go-to person to discuss the intersection of dermatology and buzzworthy social media skin care trends. Below, Swanson weighs in on some of the internet’s most talked about skin care practices.
What it is: Slugging is the application of an occlusive ointment (think Vaseline or Aquaphor) at the end of a skin care routine. Sluggers say that this practice creates a barrier to lock in all the products applied previously, and results in smooth, glowy skin.
What Swanson thinks: “I think slugging became popular as a way of restoring the skin barrier when you’re using stronger ingredients like retinoids, acne medications, etc. I don’t think it’s a bad concept, but what I think people fail to realize is that if you’re using moisturizing brands like Cerave, which is based off of ceramides that are intended to restore the barrier, that’s kind of already doing the job of what slugging would do. If people like it, there’s no convincing them to stop. It’s not horrible, but it’s certainly not necessary in the skin care routine.”
What they are: Ingredients like niacinamide and caffeine have been trending on social media for creating a glowing, smooth complexion.
What Swanson thinks: “They’re trendy. Those kinds of ingredients are often hiding in products anyway, like the Cerave AM and PM lotion has niacinamide in it. I think it adds good things to the skin, but I’m not telling people to run out and buy that ingredient on its own. Caffeine is another one that people can use, but don’t really need to run out and get. Glycolic acid is one that I encourage for a brightening effect. I tend to just encourage the basics.
What it is: Double cleansing is the process of using an oil-based cleanser to break down any makeup or residue on the skin and then following that up with a water-based cleanser.
What Swanson thinks: “It depends on how you define double cleansing. I’ll use micellar water before I wash my face, which I don’t really consider double cleansing. If you’re using two cleansers to wash your face then you are probably stripping a lot of the normal oils that you need and disturbing the barrier of the skin. If you want to use a micellar water and follow it up with a gentle cleanser, it won’t have such an intense effect.”
Celebrity skin care brands
What they are: Celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Pharrell, and Jessica Alba have created popular skin care brands inspired by their own smooth, acne-free complexions.
What Swanson thinks: “Personally, I think these are just buzzy because of the creators. I haven’t seen anything that knocks my socks off in terms of products and ingredients. I think it’s smart what they’re doing; they’re taking ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, etc. that everybody is talking about and using them. Those ingredients are good, but they might not be as impactful as traditional, acne-fighting ingredients.”
What it is: Another huge trend on social media, icing the face is said to reduce puffiness, minimize redness, and tighten pores.
What Swanson thinks: “It’s gimmicky. I know people love it because it feels fancy and it feels like self-care. There’s nothing wrong with doing it; I did it during quarantine, so I could tell my followers if it was worth it or not. I was very diligent about doing it, but did I see results? No. Did I feel fancy and like I was treating myself? Yes.”
What it is: Tretinoin is a prescription retinoid that has gained a cult following on social media. Stronger than retinols and containing a high concentration of vitamin A, retinoids like Tretinoin help speed up cellular turnover to help with acne and anti-aging.
What Swanson thinks: “We prescribe Tretinoin quite often and it’s a really great retinoid. You have to know how to use it in order to get the best benefits. It’s not something you can just slather all over your face and expect results. It’s one of the best retinoids available under direct supervision.
Facial Sculpting Tools
What they are: Devices like NuFace, which use microcurrents to tighten and tone the muscles in the face creating a more sculpted, lifted look.
What Swanson thinks: “Very similar to the ice rolling. I tried these devices as well, and I see how it can help with lymphatic flow and massaging any drainage out of the face in the morning, but it’s definitely not necessary for a routine.”