Todd Sampson would have you believe no skincare actually works. He’s wrong.

Wait, wait... what?! You think you're a fool for using skincare? Gah - that's crazy talk, Carol. You're a wonderful, sweet little squid who just wants to love and take care of her skin. Quite a NON-foolish thing, if you ask me.

But, listen - you'd be forgiven for thinking the opposite if you happened to watch Todd Sampson's documentary, 'Mirror Mirror'

Everyone's been having a squawk about it, so I thought I'd better open a bag of party sized Burger Rings, take a seat and hear what Todd had to say. And it was... a LOT.

Watch: Here Are 7 Ways To Improve Your Skin While Sleeping! Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

And look, I usually wouldn't give a cat's knuckle if someone was dissing skincare and calling it a load of rubbish - because it's true! There's a whole lot of skincare out there that is full of dirty lies and silly promises. 

And yes - the beauty industry 100 per cent thrives off our collective denial of ageing. That's something we all already know.

However, my issue is that Todd paints anti-ageing skincare, in fact skincare as a whole, to be an egotistical, silly con that we're all blindly falling for - something that is dangerous, almost malicious. 

There's an underlying sense of dismissiveness and judgement used around something many of us value as an aspect of self-love and care. 

It's almost like it's a shameful thing to want to keep your skin looking and feeling good for as long as possible.

As a beauty editor, I spend my days interviewing doctors, dermatologists, surgeons, scientists, and chemists. I've learnt about how skincare can do marvellous things for people's skin AND confidence. I write about it. I've seen it. I've experienced these kinds of changes firsthand.

For this reason, I've gone ahead and broken down some of the main points made in the show (re: skincare), and asked a couple of experts for their thoughts. 


And it's not because I want to s**t on Todd. Nah. As I said before, there IS some truth in some of his statements. But at the end of the day, skincare is way more than fluffy claims and weasel words in pretty packaging. 

1. "No over-the-counter products make any significant difference to ageing skin."

Let's start with the SPICIEST of statements, shall we? Goodie.

Todd said, "Beyond simply moisturising your skin and using sunscreen, no over-the-counter products make any significant difference to skin ageing."

A pretty big call to make, no? Especially when it's not the entire truth.

"This comment just shows a lack of research and knowledge in the field of cosmeceutical skincare," said dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour from Bespoke Skin Technology

Yes, the skincare world is full of fluffy promises, marketing buzz words, fake research and ingredients that do approximately nothing for your skin. BUT - that doesn't mean quality skincare and ingredients don't exist.

DNA repair enzymes, retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids, bakuchiol and antioxidants such as vitamin C, B3, ferulic acid - these 👏 ingredients👏 actually 👏 WORK. 


Dr Armour goes on to say that these kinds of ingredients have a "wealth of scientific evidence attesting to their ability to improve the appearance of aged skin. There are hundreds of textbooks and studies in the medical literature demonstrating these benefits."


"Of course, there will always be the snake oil type products that make big claims, and deliver little. However, the vast majority of cosmeceuticals available in the currently very competitive skincare market are formulated using ingredients back by robust in vitro research and clinical trials," she said.

Meaning? If you're a dame who is not keen on wasting your money (read: all of us), you just need to focus on purchasing products not for the brand or claims on the packaging, but for the ingredients and evidence that supports these ingredients. 

Because Todd is right: There is A LOTTA BS out there.

"It is true that there is a lot of misinformation and marketing hype within the skincare industry. Certainly, many products on the market do not have significant activity at a biological level in the skin," said dermatologist Dr Cara McDonald from Complete Skin Specialists.

"Ingredients alone do not tell you whether they will act at a cellular level and exert a change in the skin which is dependent on absorption, concentration and the quality of the ingredient. Many ingredients listed, including those used in marketing materials, are prevented from penetrating the deep layers of the skin by our very efficient skin barrier," said Dr McDonald.

However, as Dr McDonald explains - there are MANY ingredients used in skincare that have excellent scientific evidence for their biological activity and anti-ageing effects on the skin. Great, transformative ingredients that do DELIGHTFUL things to ageing skin.

"Ingredients such as vitamin C, ferulic acid and astaxanthin can exert a powerful antioxidant effect within the skin, decreasing oxidative damage linked to premature ageing," she said.

Swerving around the flimsy promises, fake science, and an ingredient list made up of 99 per cent water and silicone, is not an easy thing to do - we get that. But, welcome to being an informed consumer in 2021. 

"The 2021 skincare consumer is well-educated, discerning, and has done their research," said Dr Armour. "In general, skincare products that claim great results, but don’t contain ingredients to deliver these results won’t get much traction."

2. "Most products don't penetrate the skin to have an effect at a cellular level."

In the same vein as Todd's prior statement, dermatologist Dr Shreya Andric claimed that, "Most products don't penetrate the skin to have an effect at a cellular level."

As with all ingredients, in order to be effective, Dr McDonald said chemicals must be stabilised and delivered in an appropriate vehicle to penetrate the skin and promote cellular change. 

She goes on to say that while many skincare products on the market do 'include' these ingredients, they may not have any true biological effect in the skin if they do not have the correct delivery system.


"For example, there is strong scientific evidence for the biological activity of ingredients such as niacinamide (vitamin B3), retinoids (vitamin A ingredients), alpha hydroxy acids and tyrosinase inhibitors (which inhibit pigment production); but unless formulated correctly they will not deliver expected results," said Dr McDonald.

So, it's really all about the quality of the formulation. Right?

According to Dr Armour, Andric's statement is heavily dependent on which end of the skincare market you’re looking at, and which products you’re assessing. 

"In general, I’d disagree with this," she adds.

"Some mass market products may fall into this group as they do not contain ingredients at high enough concentrations to be functionally active. However, brands producing products in the cosmeceutical space need to produce results, or they don’t last."  

According to Dr Armour, the ingredients at our disposal, and the technology used to deliver ingredients to where they need to be in the skin is something that just keeps advancing. 

"We know that retinoids, bakuchiol, and AHA’s penetrate deep enough into the dermis to stimulate fibroblasts to produce more collagen," she said.

"This has been proven in studies where the skin is biopsied and increased collagen production illustrated. The patients in these studies enjoy an improvement in fine lines. This is a great example of skincare exerting its effects at a cellular level."


It's also important to remember that not all ingredients are intended to act at a cellular level. Dr McDonald said other ingredients out there are actually designed to act on or within the outermost skin layer only (the stratum corneum, if you want to get science-y.)

"These ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerol and dimethicone, improve the skin appearance and function through increased hydration, decreased water loss and strengthening of the skin barrier function," explains Dr McDonald.

3. "Dissatisfaction pushes us down a slippery slope to more invasive procedures."

Another interesting point made in the documentary, was that instead of blaming skincare products for their false claims when they may fail, we end up blaming ourselves, moving onto more invasive procedures - whether it be injectables or plastic surgery - to try to find satisfaction and results.

"Most patients that I see are far more pragmatic in their approach to optimising their skin health and beauty," said Dr Armour. 

"They are aware of the importance of external factors such as UV exposure, smoking and pollution in ageing their skin, and realise that there is only so much that topical agents can do to mitigate advanced signs of ageing. Those who approach anti-ageing earlier, may be able to prevent changes of ageing starting in their skin."

Dr McDonald said that not seeing results from your skincare products comes down to various reasons, including: unrealistic expectations, inconsistency, use of the wrong products for your skin, or the use of ineffective products lacking in active ingredients. 


"Skincare basics such as barrier support, antioxidants and sun protection can certainly reduce premature ageing from environmental causes, but reversal of existing signs of ageing or sun damage requires long-term consistency with effective quality skincare products," she said.

"In some cases, though, where there are issues with self-esteem or body dissatisfaction, invasive procedures will likely also fall short and are best avoided. If people feel like they are never really happy with their skin or appearance, then they should seek some professional help to dissect the issues."

Dr Armour adds that in a clinical setting, most patients are cautious about invasive procedures and do their homework before embarking upon this treatment route. 

"It’s all about creating realistic expectations about what can be achieved with any anti-ageing modality. Procedures get things done relatively quickly, whereas good cosmeceutical skincare tends to be the slow and steady approach.”

4. 'You could put whatever you want in a cream, because it's not FDA approved'.

"You most certainly cannot put whatever you want into skincare in developed countries," said Dr Armour. 

"There are guidelines in Australia which govern which ingredients are safe to use in skincare and cosmetics, and these are controlled by The Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction scheme.

"If you make claims about a product changing the biological functioning of the skin, then it becomes a drug and requires TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) approval. With skincare, you can only make assertions about changes to the appearance of the skin."

When it comes to these assertions about a product's effectiveness (see: the stuff companies can slap on the front of a product's packaging) Dr McDonald said this is an area that is widely unregulated.

"As opposed to regulated medicines or drugs, including sunscreens, which are regulated by the TGA/FDA, cosmetic ingredients do not have to demonstrate effectiveness or provide scientific evidence to support their claims," she said.

Yeesh! So, does this mean that all products are bogus? Course not. The size of the skincare industry says something in itself.

"The huge growth of the skincare industry [is] at least partly due to the fact that people are seeing results and positive changes in their skin," said Dr McDonald.


"Consumers should do their research around active ingredients and be wary of unsubstantiated advertising and marketing claims. If they are not seeing results, then they should get advice from professionals who are not trying to sell them products," she continues.

Dr Armour adds, "I think that 'Mirror Mirror' may have slightly lost sight of the fact that skincare brands want to create effective products so that users experience improvements in their skin. That’s how they become successful, after all."

5. 'Basically, I aged three years in one month.'

No, you didn't Todd. You're being a little (VERY) dramatic, my friend.

In case you haven't seen the documentary and you're just skimming through this like a champ, let's set the scene for you. 

After using a popular anti-ageing face cream for a month, Todd has his skin analysed using a VISIA scan, only to discover the cream had supposedly aged him by three years, according to his prior face scan. 

"Basically, I aged three years in one month," he said. 

"That is definitely not in the fine print. Put that in the ads! 'You too can age three years in one month if you put this on your face.'"


He later claimed that anti-ageing products don't work, advising viewers to stick to a less complicated regimen. 

Just to give you a heads up, VISIA scans are used to measure things like skin pigmentation, photo damage, textural changes, redness and wrinkling, before your skin's condition is then compared with your peer group of the same age and skin type.

Thoughts on this one, Dr McDonald?

"I would not expect to see measurable signs of improvement over such a short period. It is well known that the most effective anti-ageing ingredients can cause some short-term irritation of the skin, which could be interpreted as a worsening of skin age," she said.

"Skin age is difficult to measure and even artificial intelligence-based systems such as VISIA are taking only a snapshot of the skin on the day. The results could worsen in the short term with the use of new active ingredients or vary with general body hydration, skin moisture and even lack of sleep," she adds.

"Not only is it impossible for the skin to age three years within one month, but you would also not expect to see measurable improvements in that period with new skincare. Makes for good TV, though."

Dr Armour notes, "Firstly, it’s impossible to 'age' three years in a month."


"It’s possible that Todd experienced some irritation from the product he trialled and that this showed up as increased redness in the VISIA scan, falsely elevating his 'skin age'. I would take this measurement with a grain of salt in this particular instance."

So, there you have it. No, you're not a fool for using skincare. What you spend your money on is your choice. If you want to use stuff in fancy packaging, that makes you feel good - go for it! If you want to only use proven ingredients that actually work, you do you.

Showing your skin love and respect is not a bad thing - ever. And don't let anyone ever make you think you otherwise. Even Todd Sampson.

Have you seen Mirror Mirror? What were your thoughts on the documentary? Share them with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Mirror Mirror

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