As A Beauty Expert, This Is The Best Advice I Want You To Follow

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
I've been writing my Dear Daniela column for almost five years. For my final article in the series, I wanted to share the best things I've learned about beauty — from skincare to hair and beyond — as well as how my own routine has changed.
My first job in beauty — and in many ways, my most impactful one — was as a shop girl. For around four years I worked on a busy high street, helping people colour-match foundations, choose gifts, find their perfect nude lipstick, build a skincare routine from scratch or figure out their signature scent. Writing this column has been the most natural extension of that. Whenever someone comes to me with a dilemma here, I do the same thing I did then, which is ask myself: How can I help this person honestly and accurately? 
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Writing this column has taught me that while there may be niche queries from time to time, usually powered by a trend on social media (like, do I have fungal acne? Is a silk pillowcase better? Is it that bad to pick off my Shellac?), for the most part what people want to know is: Am I doing this right? More questions than I could count (or hope to answer) came in about the correct order to use products, whether using one product would counteract the other and how to know if your skin woes are caused by nature or nurture. I don't blame anyone. I think it's really hard to understand the world of beauty because while there is arguably more information available than ever before, not all of it is true. Even when it is, it's presented in a way that makes it hard to understand. Lots of brands would like to sell you many products; they'd also like you to think that their way of doing beauty is the right one. Sadly, the more you've struggled with self-image, be that through a chronic skin condition or an insecurity, the more vulnerable you are to this kind of impassioned messaging.
So here's what I’ve learned in more practical terms. The best money you'll ever spend on beauty will be access to experts and the understanding of your skin and its needs they can help you uncover. We are all more alike than we are different but you may not get on with certain products, ingredients or formulas that other people love. In the UK, dermatology appointments are incredibly expensive but telemedicine services like Dermatica and Skin + Me are making that a lot cheaper. If you have a concern about your skin that truly bothers you and it's within your beauty budget, speak to a dermatologist about it.
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But if you have questions about beauty concepts, like 'clean' beauty or 'chemicals', a dermatologist isn't necessarily best placed to advise. They're skin experts but not always formulation or sustainability authorities. The beauty industry is full of specialisms, from cosmetic chemistry to marketing, makeup artistry to hairstyling. I'd really encourage anyone interested in beauty to follow some science communicators like Michelle Wong (@LabMuffin), Jen Novakovich (@TheEcoWell) and Julian Sass (@Scamander14) because they'll help you understand a lot of what goes on with beauty marketing and unpack concepts like sustainability. Confusion around certain ingredients and greenwashing is only going to get bigger, so inform yourself now. Don't believe absolutes, like 'fragrance in skincare is always bad'. Lean into the grey areas. Skincare in jars is probably fine.
Sunscreen is incredibly important but don't beat yourself up if you forget, or if reapplication doesn't work with your lifestyle. Clean your makeup brushes more than you think. Olaplex really works and SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is worth the money, in my opinion. The best skincare routine is the one you like to follow. Professional brow shaping can be truly transformative, your nails can tell you a lot about your overall health, and microcurrent works (if you have the money and the time). There is no such thing as 'filler ingredients' in skincare but sometimes it's still worth paying more. Try and get some sleep, if you can — turns out, the whole beauty sleep thing is true after all.
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Good luck!
Daniela
P.S. You look great today! Did I tell you that already?
Illustrated by Olivia Santner
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