I'm a Cynical Beauty Editor, and I Thought I'd Hate These Skincare Products

I’ll admit, as a beauty editor who struggles with acne, I’m particular cynical and stubborn when it comes to skincare. Even with a deep understanding of ingredients and the skin’s basic functions, I have fallen for false claims and have been overpromised results more times than I would like to admit. 

Over the years, I have drawn up a list in my head of the sorts of skincare products I try to steer clear of, including anything rich in essential oils, anything dubbed “clean” or “natural” and anything that has a whole lot of Instagram hype based on how it looks. And while I know that this list is very specific to me and that others will get along with such products just fine, I have found they almost always leave me disappointed. It sounds snobby and stubborn of me, I know, but up until recently, I really thought it was for the best.

A brand that I had always categorised as one that I would probably never give a real run for its money was California-born skincare brand Youth to the People. I had, of course, seen it all over my Instagram—the products are chic to look at, the formulas are all vegan and, as far as I could gather from the limited information one can take away from a shelfie, they appear to champion natural superfood ingredients. Despite its huge success in the States, when the brand launched in the UK back in April last year, with the very limited information I had, I had already decided it wasn’t going to be for me. A “nature”-inspired skincare brand from California with pretty packaging? Groundbreaking, I thought.

When the products dropped on my desk last spring, I hooked out the cleanser and passed the rest of the products on to my friends. I tried the cleanser despite doing very little research on the brand (cleansers tend to be the only skincare product I’m more inclined to try given they don’t stay on the skin for very long) and actually really liked it. On top of that, friends who had tried the products fed back glowing reviews, and I started seeing other beauty editors and experts rave about the products.

But as my acne progressively got worse and worse throughout the second half of last year, I cut out virtually all experimental skincare products, until I eventually started on prescription treatments. When the opportunity arose for me to sit down with the founders of Youth to the People, I was still reluctant. (I told you I’m stubborn.) Something about the brand just wasn’t appealing to my skincare tastes. I champion science-led formulas, not the sort of herbal remedies I associated with brands like Youth to the People.

But I figured the good cleanser and great reviews from peers were enough reasons for me to give the brand the benefit of the doubt, so I logged on to Zoom to have a conversation with the co-founders and cousins, Greg Gonzalez and Joe Cloyes. And I’ll admit I spent the next half an hour getting one hell of a reality check.

Turns out Youth to the People isn’t just another natural skincare brand out of California. In fact, it’s not a natural skincare brand at all and is, instead, rooted in science and philanthropy. “Our grandmother started a professional skincare line in 1979. She was a true pioneer in the space and actually advocated for and helped write the first curriculum for an aesthetician license. Her whole passion and vision was built on the power of plants and science that was happening in Germany at the time, as well as the power that aestheticians could have as women to be entrepreneurs and business people,” says Gonzalez.

When it came to the two cousins launching Youth to the People in 2015, the philosophy of the brand was very much built from this generational love for beauty and skincare. “In 2015, we thought about how to take the pro formulas that aestheticians use and simplify the approach. Skincare can be confusing, but we wanted to take the efficacy from those products and dive into what we were also inspired by, which is really potent, superfood plant extracts, antioxidants and superfoods,” reveals Gonzalez.

Oh, and my preconception that Youth to the People was just another “organic” skincare brand conjured up at someone’s kitchen sink? Totally incorrect. “Science is very much a part of our DNA. We’ve always believed in synthetics, and we don’t believe in the word ‘chemicals.’ We believe in preservative systems and make our products with scientists, in labs, to create high-performance products. We really believe these things are necessary, especially for plant extracts to be utilised,” Gonzalez adds.

As I logged off the call with my tail between my legs, I was questioning my stubborn approach to skincare. What is it they say about judging a book by its cover? Youth to the People is actually everything I wish more skincare brands could be. It champions both the power of plant ingredients and synthetics, it looks good enough that you want to use it, and, importantly, it puts social impact at the heart of its business. (The brand's Good to the People fund supports a bunch of nonprofit organisations that address issues, from human rights and climate change to gender and racial equity.)

On top of all of this, the products are genuinely really good. As my skin has improved over the past couple of months due to prescription treatments, I have been picking up more and more of the brand’s products to try—and some of them are becoming repeat purchases. Keep scrolling to shop the Youth to the People products I now can’t get enough of.

I already liked this cleanser, but since first trying it last year, I have now gone through another bottle of the stuff (plus a travel mini). It's a zero-fuss cleanser that delivers everything your skin needs for a great daily cleanse, including fatty acids and antioxidants. It leaves skin glowing, plump and soothed.

The latest launch from Youth to the People is this very impressive peptide serum. It contains four different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump at every level, along with a triple bio-peptide to help promote collagen production. I have been using it for a few weeks, and I am very pleased with the results so far.

If you hate the feeling of heavy moisturisers on your skin, then this one is for you. With hyaluronic acid for lightweight hydration and leafy supergreens such as kale and green tea to provide antioxidant benefits, this gel-like moisturiser delivers fresh, plumping, invigorating nourishment with incredible ease.

When it comes to antioxidants, vitamin C leads the way. This powerful little serum contains powerful antioxidant protection and glow-boosting properties thanks to its blend of vitamin C ingredients. Plus, caffeine works to depuff and brighten. It's a total powerhouse of a product.

This is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite product in the entire Youth to the People offering. I take cleansing balms very seriously, and this is easily one of the best I have ever tried. It is full of omega-rich oils that nurture the skin barrier and promote healthy, hydrated skin. The way that it melts into the skin and provides an irritation-free cleanse is truly magnificent. I'm already on my second tub.

The perfect product to use post-cleansing balm, this mask is ideal for days when your skin is looking a little lacklustre and drab. With squalane and hyaluronic acid to hydrate, as well as vitamin C to restore glow, expect supercharged radiant results.

I hope my dermatologist isn't reading this because she will likely give me a telling-off for using an enzyme treatment while I'm applying tretinoin. (Dr. Maruthappu, I promise I'm only using it on my nose!) Seriously, if you battle with blackheads, this stuff is amazing. In just two minutes, it rids your pores of congestion and gunk effortlessly.

Whenever I'm short on sleep (which is more often than not recently), I reach for this eye cream first thing to help brighten and hydrate my dark, tired under-eye area.

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