Industrial beauty is around 100 years old. In the early 1900s, large companies in the US and Europe used the fear of germs to sell harsh soaps to hundreds of millions of consumers. The same companies rapidly extended their reach by promising to “turn back the clock” for a market that was receptive to the “better living through chemistry” promise.

A scientific approach is certainly not a bad thing. Understanding skin gives us insight into the mechanisms that fast-forward the ageing process. When industry uses only select parts of the scientific message to sell exceedingly cheap ingredients for maximum profit…you have industrial beauty.

Industrial beauty missed the value of the life that our skin supports in the form of trillions of microbes – bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more. These microbes, that make up our microbiome, are what really determine how healthy your skin is.

So how should we change to make amends?



Cleansing is one of those habits that feel non-negotiable. We do it first thing in the morning and we do it twice at night.

What industrial beauty taught us

The reasoning made sense a few years back – remove toxins and deep cleanse to create the perfect canvas for all your active skincare investments.

What we know now

Our skin is not a blank canvas – or certainly should not be. It’s a complex environment that is home to billions of microbes performing valuable functions. Knowing this calls into question the practice of stripping this all away twice a day.

What we can do about it

Quite simply, stop cleansing. If you have no make-up or sunscreen to remove, don’t use a cleanser. That means that first thing in the morning, you don’t need to cleanse at all – and if you’ve given your skin a break from make-up, there’s little reason to use a cleanser in the evening either. Rinsing with water luke-warm water is generally enough to remove any accumulation of dirt that might be considered uncivilised.

Cleansers and hot water remove sebum – the skin’s self-manufactured moisturising oil. Oils are expensive (from a metabolic viewpoint) to produce, so we should really come to terms with the fact that our bodies would not go to such lengths for us to wash it all away. Sebum is the perfect prebiotic for the skin microbiome. It is very high in energy, but that energy is only available to tightly co-evolved microbial species that are necessary for optimal skin health. As a matter of fact, some of the fatty acids in our skin’s natural oil are toxic to pathogenic microbes… we should try and hang onto it.



There is little else that makes your skin fresher than a great exfoliation.

What industrial beauty taught us

Regular exfoliation and deep chemical peels were the best way to renew the skin’s surface and start fresh.

What we know now

This no longer makes sense, as we now know that cells can only divide a finite number of times. Regular exfoliation speeds up the rate of skin cell division as it damages surface cells, forcing them to regenerate. It basically uses up a skin cells lives much faster.

What should we do?

Exfoliation isn’t all bad. Mild, occasional exfoliation does help to loosen stubborn, dead skin cells that are not properly released, but avoid chemical exfoliation – it can cause skin trauma and hasten ageing in the long run.




Preservatives revolutionised the skincare industry, allowing manufacturers to extend shelf live – a win for everyone.

What industrial beauty taught us

Preservatives are necessary and any live microbes in skincare should be avoided at all costs.

What we know now

It’s true, no one wants a mouldy moisturiser and preservatives do have a role to play, but the fact is that they’re there to kill microbes. Preservative levels in industrial skincare preparations are enough to damage naturally occurring microbial populations on skin. Along with improperly pH balanced formulations, preservatives can cause a lot of harm to the skin’s microbiome.

What should we do?

It is possible to include mild, volatile preservatives in skin preparations that consider the skin’s microbiome. Find a skincare brand that talks about this aspect of their product and consider it in all their formulations. It is also possible to produce products with live probiotics that are preservative free – you just have to be clever ;).

Industrial beauty frequently ignores the ‘other’ things you can do to support a glowing skin and health in general. You can get a long way toward healthy skin without spending any money at all… get some sunshine, get some nature and think of your microbiome first – it will repay you in kind.

For millions of years, our bodies were intimately integrated with the natural world. The modern lifestyle has isolated us from our natural environment and distanced us from valuable partnerships.

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