What Is The Worst Skin Care Line? Renée Rouleau Shares Her Thoughts


As a skin care expert, celebrity esthetician and someone who studies skin care ingredients and formulations extensively for my own collection of products, I’m often asked “Which skin care line do you think is the worst?” Truth be told, there is no bad skin care line, nor is there a perfect or best skin care line, not even my own. 

Why? Well, the reason for this is simply because every persons’ skin is unique due to genetics, body chemistry, lifestyle, climate and hormones and because of this, will respond differently to whatever is used on it. Differentiations within each type of skin include: thickness, thinness, oil production (or lack of), capillaries, blood circulation, pigment, rate of cell turnover, cell metabolism, pore size, tone, texture, the various types of breakouts (whiteheads, papules, pustules, cysts) and the bacteria associated with it, blackheads and more.

When a product is used on the skin, it will react with your skin either negatively or positively and this will vary for every type of skin. This is the reason why your friend could tell you about some amazing line that has improved her skin greatly, yet when you try it (even if you have similar characteristics) your skin may have gotten worse. Does this mean that this line is bad? No, it simply means that it interacted with your skin differently based on your individual skin type and didn’t give a positive result.

However, I can definitely be very critical of skin care lines and some are worse than others.

In my opinion, a bad product (or one that may not give the best possible result) has:

-An old and outdated formula. I had an $800 facial in France last year at a well known skin care institute (read my review) and the owner had her own skin care line. When I looked at a few of the products, I was surprised to see many outdated ingredients. There were a lot of ingredients that were common to use 30 years ago but clearly this line wasn’t keeping up with all the amazing advancements that truly can give better results. Must-have ingredients nowadays are vitamin C (particularly magnesium ascorbyl phosphate), glycolic acid, sunscreen and retinol and they can make dramatic improvements to the appearance of your skin. When it comes to skin care products, I generally don’t believe in the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mentality where this esthetician probably prefers this philosophy. Using products that your grandmother used (no matter how beautiful her skin may be) will cause you to miss out on some serious benefits.

-Ingredient claims with no scientific studies backing the information. I can’t tell you how many skin care lines out there that make misleading claims of their ingredients firming the skin, getting rid of wrinkles or clearing acne but are not supported by any independent research in the world. Sadly, this is often the case with many organic lines. Talk is cheap. Show me the proof with true results.

-Skin care companies that retouch photos. I am a HUGE skeptic when it comes to before and after photos put out by skin care and cosmetic companies. It’s so easy with computer technology along with lighting to enhance the ‘after’ photos to make the skin look so much better. When I’ve taken classes at UCLA, we have studied this very subject. It’s simple to do and unfortunately, so many companies do it. Trust me when I say, what you see is not what you get. See this before and after photo of our client, that was NOT retouched.

-Harsh or harmful ingredients. I believe there are some skin care ingredients used in products that are bad for the skin. This includes SD alcohol 40 or denatured alcohol (commonly found in toners), sodium laureth sulfate (found in cleansers) and synthetic fragrance can all cause redness, irritation and sensitivity, yet these are still so commonly used in lines. I encourage you to pay attention to the ingredient labels and avoid using these as I have in my skin care line. See my full list of ingredients to avoid.

-Unstable ingredients used in retinol and vitamin C serums. In the case of a vitamin C serum, the biggest problem is that vitamin C has a very difficult time penetrating the skin and staying stable. Improper forms of vitamin C (with L-ascorbic acid being the worst kind), can irritate the skin, cause blackheads and create damaging inflammation all which offer no positive skin benefit whatsoever. (Read: Does Your Vitamin C Serum Turn Brown Over Time?) Retinol, my very favorite ingredient for resurfacing the skin to create a smoother appearance can be completely ineffective and irritating to the skin if it’s not microencapsulated and time-released. A well-formulated, stable form is Advanced Resurfacing Serum for sensitive skin types.

-The one-size-fits-all approach. I’ve never understood how a company can say a product is for “all skin types” when clearly all skin is different. If a product is for good for everyone and anyone to use, then this means that a teenager with cystic acne can use the same products as an aging woman with wrinkles and brown spots? Nonsense. It is with my vast knowledge of hands-on skin care experience that lead me to believe there are nine different types of skin and so my line is extensive to address exactly this. Even the standard dry, normal, oily and sensitive classifications are simply way too generic.

When using any new product on the skin, it’s always best to introduce them one at a time, and to be extra cautious, do a patch test with each product before using it all over the face. Read: How to Avoid a Negative Reaction to New Skin Care Products

There’s a lot of marketing hype out there with skin care products and it’s really easy to get confused about how to make sense of it all and find out how to best care for your skin’s unique needs. It is why I have written over 1300 posts on my blog with the intention of giving you my expert, no-nonsense advice so you can achieve healthy and beautiful skin for a lifetime. Stick with me. I’ll show you the way.

Read: Confused About Your Skin Type? Take This Quiz

Read: The Five Worst Skin Care Products

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take our Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

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Renée Rouleau

Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”