If you don’t know Jessica Defino yet, you need to. She is a beauty reporter gone rogue, calling out the industry’s BS – from questionable ingredients and marketing (even “clean” skincare is on her target list), to impossible beauty standards rooted in white supremacy, colonialism, and the patriarchy. You will never see skincare quite the same after this episode or reading her thought-provoking weekly newsletter, The Unpublishable. In this episode she shares the tipping point that made her question everything she knew about skincare (hint: after using a dermatologist-prescribed pharmaceutical to solve one skin problem, it created another, perhaps worse problem), what she now sees as skincare (food, thoughts, manuka honey…) and what popular products and trends are doing more harm than good.
Jessica Defino is a pro-skin/anti-product beauty reporter dismantling beauty standards, debunking marketing myths, and exploring how beauty culture impacts people — physically, psychologically, and psycho-spiritually. Her work “basically gives the middle finger to the entire beauty industry,” as HuffPost once put it. You can find her articles in The New York Times, Vogue, WWD, Teen Vogue, Harper’s BAZAAR, Allure, New York Magazine’s The Cut, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Glamour, SELF, Coveteur, Man Repeller, HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Zoe Report, Fashionista.com, and more. I also write the weekly(ish) beauty newsletter The Unpublishable, as seen in New York Magazine and the UK Sunday Times.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:06] Welcome back to the Glow Life. I’m your host, Maria Marlowe, and today we’re breaking down beauty myths and dismantling beauty standards with beauty reporter Jessica Delfino. I’ve wanted to have Jessica on the podcast for a while now after hearing her on someone else’s podcast and really ripping the beauty industry a new one. What I love about Jessica is that she goes beyond the surface level, and when she’s reporting on a subject, she goes deep and she’s talking about things I haven’t seen any other beauty reporters talk about. Things like youth obsession, this perfection obsession. She talks about ingredients that are glorified that may actually be doing more harm than good to our skin and so much more.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:55] She really spends most of her time dismantling beauty standards, debunking marketing myths, and exploring how beauty culture impacts people physically, psychologically, and psycho-spiritually. She is basically calling B.S. on the beauty industry. So I think you’ll really enjoy this episode. You’ll learn a lot. There will probably be quite a few surprises, maybe a few disappointments learning about some of the products you may use, but it’s all for the best.
Maria Marlowe: [00:01:25] This episode is brought to you by the Clear Skin Plan, my 90-day program and meal plan to clear your skin from within naturally through dietary and lifestyle changes. Skin issues like acne are not only skin deep. They start deep within with internal inflammation and imbalances. The only way to clear your skin is to address those underlying root causes, and the Clear Skin Plan will help you do just that. With the plan, you’ll discover the potential underlying root causes of your breakouts and how to remedy them through dietary and lifestyle changes. You’ll also get over 100 delicious skin-clearing recipes, which you can mix and match or follow the weekly sample meal plans with shopping lists. This program is science-backed, dermatologist-approved and doctor-recommended. To get it Head to mariamarlowe.com/clear-skin-plan.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:24] Jessica, thanks for coming on the show.
Jessica Defino: [00:02:26] Thanks so much for having me.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:28] So you’re described as a beauty writer who essentially gives the middle finger to the beauty industry. So how did you get here?
Jessica Defino: [00:02:38] Oh, it was a long and winding journey that started with the Kardashians. I guess one of my first experiences of working within the beauty industry was being an assistant editor on the Kardashian-Jenner official apps in 2015. I was part of the launch team that started all of that. And clearly, the Kardashians are big into beauty. So there was a lot of beauty content on the sites that I was creating with the sisters and writing. And the more that I got involved with the behind-the-scenes of beauty media, you know, PR, people were sending me products to try.
Jessica Defino: [00:03:16] I started experiencing my own skin issues because I was trying so many products for the app and because I was in a high-stress environment. And then I started researching like wait, what is my skin going through? And all of this sort of culminated in realizing that the beauty industry is really serving us a bunch of bullshit. And I wanted to change that. So I sort of pivoted career paths and ended up working in beauty. And your writing is so refreshing because I think a lot of beauty writers, they’ll take the press release and just spit it out verbatim, whereas you do a little bit more digging and you’re saying, Oh, is this true or is this really the case, right?
Jessica Defino: [00:03:56] I mean, that has not always been the case for me, and I will say that working within the beauty media has helped me understand why there’s so much misinformation and why so many articles are basically just copy-pasted press releases. Just the way the media is set up is not conducive to thoroughly research investigated and fact-checked information. For example, when I was a staff reporter, I was responsible for writing two to three stories a day. My shift would be six hours long, and within that time I would have to come up with ideas, pitch them to my editor research the story, do interviews, write the story, fact-check everything, source images, create product shopping carousels and publish it. So I mean, it’s impossible to do good work with those parameters. So, it’s sort of been my mission to carve out a space for myself in the industry where I don’t have to work within those parameters and I can really dedicate myself to the information.
Maria Marlowe: [00:04:58] So what have been some of the most surprising things you realized? What are some of the popular products where you’re just like, oh, please don’t put that on your skin?
Jessica Defino: [00:05:07] I mean, in the most basic sense, cleansers and exfoliators. A lot of cleansers are made with ingredients that strip the skin of its natural oils. And although the industry has sort of vilified those natural oils, those oils are very important to skin functioning and moisturization, and keeping everything going. So really over-cleansing your skin is kind of the first step of sort of becoming almost addicted to products. Exfoliators as well. We’ve been taught that exfoliating is so great and that it takes off the dead skin cells and reveals the fresh young skin cells underneath. But dead skin cells exist for a reason, and they serve a really important purpose. They’re part of the skin’s protective mechanisms, and they also are a special shape.
Jessica Defino: [00:05:56] When they die, they become… Scientifically they’re called corneocytes. And corneocytes are the only skin cells that can hold the skin’s natural moisturizing factors, which are humectants that draw water from the environment into the skin. And so young cells underneath them don’t have that capacity. So when we’re exfoliating, we’re actually impairing our skin’s ability to moisturize itself. And again, starting ourselves on this cycle of needing products to do what the skin already knows how to do, inherently.
Maria Marlowe: [00:06:26] It’s interesting, right? Our skin is functioning well. Then we start using the products and then we start needing more of the products to fix the issues that the products created.
Jessica Defino: [00:06:37] Exactly. That’s why the industry is so huge.
Maria Marlowe: [00:06:41] And what about hyaluronic acid? This was one I heard you talk about it on another podcast, and I feel like that’s a favorite amongst a lot of people.
Jessica Defino: [00:06:49] Everyone loves hyaluronic acid because they say it holds a thousand times its weight in water. So you think about that and you think, Oh, great, that’ll be super moisturizing for my skin. And there are so many things wrong with this. First of all, the hyaluronic acid that exists within our own bodies, you know, naturally occurs in the body. That stuff is incredible and it is a miracle ingredient. It can hold so much moisture. The body stores this in the deeper layers of the skin, and it stores it within the deeper layers of the skin for a reason. Because it draws moisture, it’s drawing moisture from within from your internal hydration, from drinking water, from eating water-rich foods. All of that. It draws that moisture that you ingest into the lower layers of your skin and uses it for protection, for plumpness, for elasticity, all of those great things.
Jessica Defino: [00:07:42] When you put hyaluronic acid on the surface, it draws water from the closest source and that is your natural moisture stores, your natural hyaluronic acid molecules. So what’s happening is, you put it on the surface. This synthetic hyaluronic acid draws up the moisture that your skin is already holding where it wants. It brings it to the surface. What happens when moisture is on the surface, it can evaporate. So effectively, what you’re doing is you are stealing moisture from within your skin where it can actually do good work, bringing it up to the surface and letting the environment just evaporate it into thin air. Over time that dehydrates your skin. But of course, in the moment you think, Oh my god, I look so dewy because suddenly you have all of this hydration on the upper layers of your skin, but it just doesn’t belong there.
Maria Marlowe: [00:08:35] I think that’s an interesting point. A lot of these products give us that immediate gratification, but when we look long-term, they’re not. They’re causing a lot of problems.
Jessica Defino: [00:08:47] That is, I mean, I would say, one of the largest challenges in this space is really educating people and letting them know that what might look, quote-unquote good, what society has decided is a good look. Right, then right in the moment may not actually be beneficial to the health of your skin in the long term. And yeah, I think that’s a really hard concept for people to really internalize.
Maria Marlowe: [00:09:16] Well, on that subject, let’s talk a little bit about retinoids because I’ve read some of your work on retinoids and I have a similar sentiment. So can you share a little bit about your experience with retinoids and your thoughts on them?
Jessica Defino: [00:09:29] I was put on a retinoid when I was a little bit younger. Just to let everyone who’s listening know I’m not coming at this as somebody who’s always had great skin, I have always had skin issues. I started going to the dermatologist when I was 14, and since then I have been on every possible prescription, topical and internal that you can imagine. I was on antibiotics. It was on retinoids. I was put on birth control at a really young age to help with acne. I was on Accutane and I’ve been on a lot of topical steroids, so I really my skin has been through the wringer and I have the personal experience as well as the scientific research.
Jessica Defino: [00:10:05] Retinoids, what they do is essentially they are for aesthetics, and we have been told that they are for health. So retinoids may help you reach a certain sort of skin aesthetic over time. But what happens is they actually impair the health of the skin long-term as they do it. Retinoids disrupt the skin barrier, and the skin barrier is basically your skin’s built-in protective layer. If you keep your skin barrier and your skin microbiome intact, you really don’t have to worry about skincare products. The skin will take care of a lot of it for you. So retinoids essentially disrupt that layer. They cause what people know as the retinoid uglies, which is usually the first two weeks to a month of intense irritation.
Jessica Defino: [00:10:51] And that is a sign that you’re injuring your skin. There is nothing to it besides that. The skin is injured and it’s trying to heal itself. Retinoids over time, make your skin more susceptible to environmental damage, to sunlight, to all sorts of exposures that can affect its ability to moisturize, exfoliate, cleanse, protect and heal itself. So long term, just not anything that contributes to health.
Maria Marlowe: [00:11:21] I think that one’s a hard one to swallow, even though it makes sense when you see your skin peeling off and red and flaky and irritated. It makes sense that it’s probably not good. If anything else, if you were doing anything else to your skin and this was the effect, you would be like, Oh, this is not good, let me stop. But we’re just kind of trained to think this is what you have to go through and it’ll make your skin better. But over the long term, it just actually ends up making your skin more sensitive.
Jessica Defino: [00:11:48] And I think I mean what we can take away from that experience of the initial peeling and how the skin eventually, evens out over time is just like, wow! How incredible, how that adaptive ability of our skin to really adapt to the environment that it’s in, the products that we put on it, that’s evidence that it is this intelligent, almost sentient thing. And it really does respond rather quickly and adapt rather quickly to the things that we put it through. That said, we should not be putting it through so much harm that it has to adapt to. We should just be letting it live its best life.
Maria Marlowe: [00:12:31] Well, I think that brings up a great point, and you and I see very much eye to eye on this. Skincare is more internal, what we eat, what we think, even our stress levels than it is topical. However, the beauty industry is purely topical. So what is skincare to you, then? If it’s not the topical stuff, what is skincare to you?
Jessica Defino: [00:12:53] Skincare to me is just is self-care. The skin is, of course, connected to everything in our body. It is inherently connected to our brains and it responds to what we put in it, what we put on it, what we are consuming, what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling like. The skin is basically like this communication device is how I see it. So whatever’s going on in my body or in my brain because I am very sensitive and my skin is very communicative with me, I see those reactions in real-time on my face, and I know a lot of people see the same because really it comes down to science. What was revolutionary for me when I started researching this was discovering the gut-brain skin axis, which is basically the gut, the brain, and the skin all formed from the same bit of embryonic tissue in utero. And from there they form these lifelong connections and pathways. And they’re connected for life.
Jessica Defino: [00:13:59] So what you eat will often show up on your skin, even emotions like when you’re embarrassed and you blush. That’s an example of the skin-brain connection. When you’re scared and the color drains from your face, skin-brain connection. When you’re stressed and you get anxiety acne. Skin brain connection. So all of it is really connected and often by taking care of your body and by taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing, you are taking care of your skin and crucially, leaving your skin barrier alone and not bothering it with products. And all of that contributes to your overall skin health.
Maria Marlowe: [00:14:37] What’s interesting about the skin barrier is now that we’re a little bit more aware of it, I think more recently than ever before. Now there are products that are good for your skin barrier. So what are your thoughts on those? Is there anything that you use? Are you using anything topically? I know, I believe a while ago you were talking about I forget the author of the book, but there’s some book about like not washing. So what are you doing topically?
Jessica Defino: [00:15:05] The book is called Clean: the New Science of Skin, and it’s by Dr. James Hamblin, who’s a public health expert who focuses on the microbiome and through his research, was led to all of this information on the skin. So if anyone’s interested in how to leave your skin alone and let it thrive, I would really recommend that book. As far as all the skin barrier-friendly products out there now there are a lot of ways to look at it. For one, some of these products can be super healing and helpful, but you also have to remember a lot of them are being sold by brands that are telling you to first exfoliate away your skin barrier and then to heal your skin with our barrier repair cream. So it’s important to be mindful of when it is a marketing tactic.
Jessica Defino: [00:15:49] Overall, I think if you want to support your skin barrier topically, the best thing that you can do is research what your skin barrier actually does and what components are actually part of your skin barrier belong in the skin surface, and then you can mimic that with topical products and help your skin heal in a way that it can recognize. For instance, ceramides are something that your skin produces. Naturally, they’re in a lot of skincare barrier repair creams. Now those are a great thing to have on the surface of your skin. Omega three and omega-six fatty acids. Those are on the surface of your skin. They’re part of your skin barrier. They’re available in a lot of plant-based facial oils. Those are great to have on the surface of your skin if and when it needs help healing and protecting.
Jessica Defino: [00:16:35] Something again, like hyaluronic acid does not belong on the surface of your skin. So if that’s in a barrier repair cream, beware. For me, I keep my routine really simple. I cleanse with manuka honey, which sounds sticky, but really isn’t. Manuka has incredible healing properties. It basically strengthens the skin’s inherent healing mechanisms. It’s so powerful that it’s kept in Western hospitals, in burn units to help repair burned and damaged skin. So it is really and truly incredible. It’s also a humectant, so it helps draw moisture into your skin. It’s a prebiotic, so it feeds your microbiome, the beneficial bacteria of your skin. So many great things about manuka honey. So I cleanse with that.
Jessica Defino: [00:17:21] And then I mostly use herbal oil as a moisturizer. I’ll apply it to damp skin. And I love jojoba because it’s biomimetic, so it mimics the skin’s natural sebum. It’s a ninety-seven percent chemical match to sebum, so the skin really recognizes it and responds well to it. And it really helps the skin regulate and get back on track and become more self-sufficient.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:44] I love jojoba oil. I also use it as a makeup remover.
Jessica Defino: [00:17:47] Yes, yes, it’s incredible.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:49] It’s really good. And then with the honey, funnily enough, I was having dinner with a friend and her mom last night who was telling me five years ago she caught an infection with MRSA, and she didn’t want to go on the antibiotics even though they were telling her to. And so she basically healed it with honey and I think a couple of essential oils. So it’s quite powerful.
Jessica Defino: [00:18:13] It’s super powerful. And there are levels to it. Authentic Manuka honey will have a UMF factor, Unique Manuka Factor. So for skin healing, you need at least a 15 plus rating. But I mean, they go up really high. You can get a twenty-five or thirty and that’s very medicinal. I wouldn’t recommend that for everyday use because it is super powerful.
Maria Marlowe: [00:18:34] Wow. So beyond the topical, you also talk more about the standards and these insane beauty standards that the beauty industry and the media has really created. For example, this emphasis on youth and perfection and having the glassy skin. So can you speak to that and how do we break free from this hardwiring almost that we have where this stuff is ingrained in our heads since we’re little kids. How do we break free from this?
Jessica Defino: [00:19:05] It is so deeply ingrained, and I think part of that conditioning that we get is that we’re told when we adhere to these standards, the younger we look, the glassier here we look, the more perfect that we look. We’ll be happier. We’ll be more confident. I mean, you can even look at the names of beauty products, and they reinforce this. Cosmetics sells confidence in a cream and Philosophy has hope in a jar. And there’s a brand called Dermelect that sells something called self-esteem serum. So we hear these messages and I think why they are so powerful is because we see them as this path to happiness. And I think the most effective way to sort of break that conditioning and get out of that cycle is to understand that it’s not necessarily confidence that we get from this hyper-focus on beauty.
Jessica Defino: [00:19:58] Studies show that this intense focus on our physical and aesthetics increases anxiety. It increases depression. It leads to eating disorders. It leads to body dysmorphia. It is implicated in self-harm and even in suicide. So we’re taught that these things are going to make us confident and these things are going to make us happy. But actually, materially more often they are contributing to these negative mental states. They’re not making us any happier. You know. And I think when we can understand that and see it in our own lives and see it reflected in scientific literature, that is a really powerful starting point to really start breaking down some of these beauty standards and deciding that you don’t want to participate anymore.
Maria Marlowe: [00:20:49] Yeah, it’s hard, though, you know. I think especially because now it’s not just the TV that we’re seeing these standards on. It’s also our social media feed. It’s also the girl next door. And I mean, sometimes when I look at Instagram, it’s like there’s a sea of sameness in terms of just the faces looking exactly the same. And even Botox, I know this is actually an interesting topic. I had a whole episode on this with this lawyer who represented, I think, over 50 cases of people who were injured by Botox. Can you speak to a little bit like your thoughts on Botox?
Jessica Defino: [00:21:25] Yeah. I mean, I think in any conversation about this, it’s important to point out that part of the reason why these things have such a grip on us is because we are rewarded by society when we participate. So quote-unquote, many people who are participating and getting botox and getting lip fillers and getting the surgery and doing all of this, we see that they get better jobs. They are paid more, have better salaries, better social standing, even better legal outcomes in the legal system. So there are material benefits to these things and that also makes it really hard to divest.
Jessica Defino: [00:22:01] So I just want to put that out there. And also all beauty standards are derived from what I see is four main forces: patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism. So you walk back any standard of beauty and it can be traced back to one of those four forces, OK? So for me, once I sort of dove into the history and started to understand that I started to feel not so good about participating and perpetuating these standards. So my thoughts on something like Botox, for example, yes, it might ease the aging anxiety for the person who is getting it. For the individual, it might help them feel better. But for the collective, it actually compounds the problem, it makes that beauty standard all the more powerful and impenetrable and feels like it makes everyone around us feel like it’s necessary to keep up.
Jessica Defino: [00:22:59] And for me, that’s something that’s super important. Sometimes I like to compare it to climate change. You know, when we’re talking about global warming and we’re talking about climate activism. A lot of the times we’ll talk about future generations and how we want to leave something better behind for them and how we want to preserve this planet so that future generations of humans have something to enjoy, something to live on. And that’s how I feel about beauty standards. I’m really passionate about making sure that future generations don’t feel the way that this generation feels. Future generations don’t have the extreme anxiety that makes them want to physically mutilate their faces in order to emulate some arbitrary beauty standard that’s actually a marker of capitalism and colonialism.
Jessica Defino: [00:23:51] I don’t want anyone else to feel the way that I know I feel and so many of my peers feel. And to me, the only way to do that outside of pushing for policy change and advocating for social and environmental and all of those social, environmental justice. Aside from that, the only way I know how to do that is to stop participating myself and to shine a light on these issues, and ask others to stop participating as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:24:23] Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s a lot to unpack, and I think it’s for many people easier said than done. And I think intellectually it sounds good, but then it’s like, OK, when you see whoever, maybe getting the better paying job or getting more followers or getting whatever it is, then it’s like you kind of want to keep up with the Kardashians or whoever’s doing it.
Jessica Defino: [00:24:47] No, I totally get that. And I do think just awareness of it is a huge instigator of change. You don’t have to divest all at once all the time. I haven’t divested completely from beauty standards. There are some things that I do because a lot of our beauty behaviors sort of evolve as emotional coping mechanisms and to take away somebody’s emotional coping mechanisms all at once is not healthy or productive. And I think it’s important to be gentle with ourselves and say, no, I actually really can’t stop doing that right now because, you know, I haven’t worked through my issues with aging and with death and how society treats aging women.
Jessica Defino: [00:25:30] So I really need to get botox between my eyes while I try and work on the deeper emotional issue behind it. Maybe later I can divest, but it’s not healthy to just pull these security blankets out from under ourselves, you know? And then the other thing that I always like to mention is that because beauty standards are derived from patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, there are bigger material consequences for people from marginalized communities to divest. So people of color, gender-nonconforming people, trans people like divesting from traditional beauty standards does have more material consequences for these folks. So it’s important to keep that in mind. Be gentle on yourself, be gentle on others. And I do really think that as a straight, white, sis woman, I feel more responsibility to try and help break down these oppressive beauty standards.
Maria Marlowe: [00:26:32] And since you’ve started doing this work and raising awareness around it, have you seen any changes in the beauty industry or the sentiment of people in general?
Jessica Defino: [00:26:42] Yeah, I mean, I do think that I have seen a lot of sort of surface-level changes in the industry. For example, we see a lot more representation in marketing campaigns these days. Things like that, which are not necessarily the material changes that we need. But again, as Audre Lorde would say, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Like we can’t expect the beauty industry to really help us divest from the beauty industry. It has to be outside of the industry sort of thing. For me, it’s been really encouraging. I have a newsletter where I post a lot of my work and my articles, and I will get emails and comments all the time from people who are doing this work along with me and have decided to stop using skincare.
Jessica Defino: [00:27:33] And they’ll either be like, Oh my God, my skin’s amazing now, or when I hear a lot is my skin is exactly the same. I didn’t need 10 products. It looks the freakin same, which is really encouraging to hear. And yeah, there are a lot of people who are starting to recognize these sort of ugly roots of beauty standards and not participating and just sharing that journey with me. And yeah, it’s scary, but there are a lot of us doing it. I think there’s a great community out there that is part of this work, and we’re always recruiting. Looking for more people to join and spread the word.
Maria Marlowe: [00:28:08] And I really love your newsletter, the publishable, it’s called. How did the name start? Actually, because a lot of the outlets that you write for, they wouldn’t publish some of your material, right?
Jessica Defino: [00:28:21] Exactly. So I mean, I would say my work in the beauty industry wasn’t always as maybe controversial or radical as it is now. And when I started wanting to write about more pressing issues, I found that I had a lot of trouble getting them published by the people who were happy to publish my piece on jojoba oil or happy to publish my piece on the top 10 nail trends. So I had these four stories that I thought were really important to tell in early 2020, and I couldn’t get them placed anywhere. And after a couple of months of trying, I said, You know what, I’m just going to write these myself and self-publish them and call the newsletter the Unpublishable because it’s what the beauty industry won’t tell you.
Maria Marlowe: [00:29:10] And I love it. It’s a really great newsletter. It’s one I look forward to each week because you share the stories that I think sometimes people are thinking but won’t say or things that you really won’t find anywhere else.
Jessica Defino: [00:29:23] Thank you. I appreciate that.
Maria Marlowe: [00:29:25] So are there any beauty or skincare trends that you’re seeing now that are particularly alarming or concerning to you?
Jessica Defino: [00:29:33] Yeah, the number one thing that comes to mind is this trend of slugging, which is basically smearing Vaseline on top of your face as like the last step in your skincare routine. And it’s supposed to, you know, make you look really shiny and glowy and seal in all of your skincare products and blah blah blah. That really concerns me because I mean, petroleum jelly is obviously petroleum. It’s a fossil fuel derivative. It’s purified. So it’s not necessarily that it’s unsafe for your skin, but I think it’s really dangerous as an industry, as influencers, as journalists to be promoting fossil fuels as the number one beauty product right now.
Jessica Defino: [00:30:17] Fossil fuels are destroying the environment. They are contributing to climate change more than anything else and besides the ethical environmental dilemmas there, if you want to look at it from a purely superficial perspective, like environmental damage and the depletion of the ozone layer, and all of that is the number one problem that our skin is facing today, like all of that impairs the skin’s functions and sort of encourages you to use more products because your skin isn’t functioning properly because it’s exposed to pollution because it’s exposed to sunlight.
Jessica Defino: [00:30:56] And I don’t know, just using fossil fuels in your beauty routine is so backward to me. And I think the industry has a real need to stand up against that and advocate for not only a safer industry but a safer environment and just divest from fossil fuels completely. So just the petroleum level that I’m seeing lately is so concerning.
Maria Marlowe: [00:31:20] And it’s so interesting how things take trend. You know, they become so popular, almost seemingly overnight, things that are kind of obscure, like I remember Vaseline, as a kid, you know, using it once in a while for certain things. But it’s interesting how it just pops up. Somebody does it on Tik Tok or Instagram, and then it just explodes.
Jessica Defino: [00:31:42] Yeah, that’s definitely a worrying trend for me.
Maria Marlowe: [00:31:47] And let’s talk a little bit about plastics and the environmental impact, because I know that’s something that you also speak to. So how do we navigate that? Is it just that we stop buying products? I guess when it comes to the environmental aspect and beauty and skincare.
Jessica Defino: [00:32:04] I mean beauty has an incredible impact on the environment. When you think about it, most of the products that we’re using incorporate plastic in some way, if not in all ways. Most of them have between 20 and 50 ingredients. And when you think, when you extrapolate and you think about all of the efforts it takes to farm those ingredients or create those ingredients in a lab, all the component parts that go into creating one ingredient, purifying it, extracting it, putting it all together in one bottle like 20 to 50 ingredients like that is a huge impact for what becomes like a one-ounce bottle of serum in a plastic bottle with a plastic cap and a little plastic dropper.
Jessica Defino: [00:32:49] And none of that is recyclable. Really, that’s the other thing about beauty products is, you know, we’re taught that plastic is recyclable. Really, ninety-one percent of plastic is not recycled, and the plastic that is recycled can only be recycled two to three times before it becomes unusable. And then it just becomes, you know, pollution breaking down and never going away. Literally forever, like every piece of plastic produced still exists in the planet in some form. The other thing about beauty products is that they’re usually so small that they cannot be recycled like there are size requirements for a lot of recycling facilities, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Jessica Defino: [00:33:32] Then you factor in the packaging, the cardboard boxes, the inserts, the papers, the sheets of plastic, that sandwich sheet mask, the fuel emissions from shipping all of these products from factory to distributor to store to consumer. Like it’s a lot. There is a huge environmental component to our beauty behaviors. That scares me. I think it should scare anybody because we are in the middle of an environmental crisis. That being said, it offers such a beautiful opportunity to divest from some of these products and connect with your own body and connect with the land around you and connect with your mind and start thinking of beauty products in terms of things that aren’t necessarily material things you need to buy.
Jessica Defino: [00:34:27] So I always say the first step to sustainability and beauty is getting to know your skin. I have a lot of articles on how to do this, but basically like now, I let my skin reregulate. It does the hard work for me. I need maybe two products every once in a while an SPF to keep my skin going. I don’t need to buy the insane amount of products I was buying before, and my skin looks pretty great. So like that has been a beautiful part of it for me. I think that should be the starting point for anyone who’s concerned about the environmental impact of their beauty routine is just let your skin do what it knows how to do.
Jessica Defino: [00:35:05] And then I practice what I call non-skincare skincare. So that’s things like making sure I’m getting a lot of omega-three and omega-six fatty acids in my diet through salmon, through nuts, through seeds. Those go straight to the skin barrier, baby. Like that’s instant glow. Things like bone broth. Bone broth has been really helpful for my skin and my gut. Just eating your antioxidants. You don’t need an antioxidant serum all the time. You can just eat them from fruits and vegetables. Things like meditation. Meditation is scientifically proven to strengthen the skin barrier and lock in moisture. So when people are talking about that inner glow, it’s not necessarily just an inner glow. Your skin is literally holding on to more moisture and reflecting light.
Maria Marlowe: [00:35:52] That’s so interesting.
Jessica Defino: [00:35:54] Gratitude practice. Affirmations. All of these help with your body’s stress response, reduce inflammation, reduce cortisol, and that all translates to your skin. So I just there’s so many things I get worked up talking about it. There are so many things that you can do to contribute to the health of your skin that don’t involve a product.
Maria Marlowe: [00:36:13] I’m curious about that meditation study. Do you know how often they were meditating each day and how long they were meditating before they actually saw this benefit?
Jessica Defino: [00:36:22] Yeah, I mean, the studies are sort of like a bunch of different ones that look at meditation, that look at just breathing, how that impacts the stress response, and then extrapolating for how the stress response affects the skin and sort of merging all of these different studies together. I’ve reported on it a couple of times, and the dermatologists that I talked to about it usually recommend five minutes to thirty minutes of meditation or breathing a day. One dermatologist I talked to about it, her name is Dr. Whitney Bowe. She talks a lot about the gut-brain skin connection. She recommends taking a five-minute breathing break every day, and even that is enough to sort of help your skin barrier repair and reregulate and lock in that moisture.
Maria Marlowe: [00:37:10] And that’s amazing because you might think you have to spend the whole day meditating, but you don’t. Just even five minutes can make an impact.
Jessica Defino: [00:37:17] Yeah, no, it can be so, so easy.
Maria Marlowe: [00:37:22] I’m curious for you personally in terms of meditation, have you found any modalities that you like? Do you do guided meditations? Do you do it yourself? I find that meditation, you know, it’s easier for people to get into the foodstuff, but the meditation, there’s a bit of resistance and a block. So I’m always curious how individuals actually get into meditation or have any tips.
Jessica Defino: [00:37:43] Yeah, I have gone through a lot of different phases. I think when I started meditating, I would just YouTube like three-minute meditation, music, five-minute meditation music and I’d put on like a musical track and just sit there for five minutes. And that was a really great intro for me because sometimes the guided meditations made me feel like a little. I don’t know. I would roll my eyes at them. I would feel weird doing them. I would be like, This is strange, and it doesn’t resonate with me, and I feel weird. So music was helpful. Affirmations and mantras are really helpful for me, too. So I will settle on a mantra or an affirmation, either sometimes centered around my skin, sometimes centered around my life, and incorporate that.
Jessica Defino: [00:38:28] When I was trying to heal my skin for the first time through meditation when I was dealing with really bad dermatitis and topical steroid withdrawal, I started meditating one day and this mantra popped into my head and it was, I am beautiful on the inside and it shines through the outside, and I did a visualization so I would breathe in and I would say I’m beautiful on the inside, and I would imagine my body being filled with a golden light. And then I would breathe out and say, and it shines the outside, and I would imagine that light just pouring through my pores. So I think that that combination of breath, mantra and visualization really helped me get into it.
Maria Marlowe: [00:39:08] And you’re definitely glowing. I can see it radiating from your force. So what else are you thinking about in terms of the beauty industry? You’re always, every time I get the newsletter, there’s some interesting nuggets, something I didn’t think of before. So what’s on your horizon right now? What are the things that you’re thinking about?
Jessica Defino: [00:39:26] Oh man, there’s so much. I really want to write more about how the industry is reliant on fossil fuels and talk about how that affects the environment, how that affects our skin, and what material benefits we would really see as an industry and as individuals from divesting from fossil fuels. So that’s something that’s super interesting to me. I’m also working on a piece right now that’s sort of breaking down the beauty rule of not touching your face and asking whether, is touch that bad? And honestly, it’s really not. Touch is how we spread microbes, and that’s how our skin microbiome becomes strong and resilient and touches a life-saving measure, sometimes. So that research has been really interesting.
Jessica Defino: [00:40:18] There are so many things I’m working on something right now about the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and their regulation of cosmetic chemicals. It’s fascinating because you look at beauty and you think like, Oh, it’s beauty, but there are so many ways that it can spread out in so many different sectors to cover from the spiritual aspect to the mental health aspect to industry regulation and the environment. And I want to cover it all. Sometimes I feel a little, you know, all over the place.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:49] Well, there are so many things you’re just like, Oh my God, there are so many things to think about. There are so many things to worry about. I’m curious about hyperpigmentation because I feel that’s an issue. A lot of people listening to the podcast maybe had acne or other skin conditions. What have you found to be really beneficial for hyperpigmentation?
Jessica Defino: [00:41:08] Sure. So the first thing that I like to say about hyperpigmentation is that hyperpigmentation is healing. The reason that it’s so hard to treat is because it’s not a problem. The reason it’s so hard to treat hyperpigmentation is that hyperpigmentation is the healing. That is part of your skin’s natural healing process. So the best thing to do for hyperpigmentation is to support the health of your skin cells overall so that they can better perform these processes and work through that hyperpigmentation at a not delayed pace. And I’ve written a ton about that before. It relies a lot on skin barrier health. So you can google my name and skin barrier, and a bunch will come up about that.
Jessica Defino: [00:41:54] For hyperpigmentation, topically, I love rosehip oil. Rosehip is a big one for me. Rosehip and jojoba. I often will mix the two. And over time, I do think that helps lighten scars and just sort of speed up that process of cellular turnover in a really gentle way. Vitamin C is great, and the other great thing about vitamin C is that you don’t have to put it directly on your face. There are no studies that show that topical vitamin C is any more effective than internal vitamin C. So yeah, eat your oranges, eat your vegetables, get a ton of C, and that really does help speed up those internal processes that eventually show up on the surface of your skin.
Maria Marlowe: [00:42:38] Yeah, I think the important part is also eating your antioxidants because again, we’re so used to like putting them on the outside and people don’t realize it’s the inside where you’re actually going to get the biggest impact because you’re really going to let your skin heal from within.
Jessica Defino: [00:42:52] And the other thing about hyperpigmentation is protection, which you’ll read in a ton of skincare articles. So of course, SPF is great for protection, but the biggest protection that you have is your skin barrier. So just trying to disrupt it as little as possible and really just, you know, foster that inherent layer of protection that your skin already has and that that will help with hyperpigmentation over time.
Maria Marlowe: [00:43:21] So you mentioned the gut-brain-skin axis earlier. So are there any things in particular that you do to nourish like you mentioned, that you have bone broth, you know, probiotics, maybe. Can you talk a little bit about the gut-health aspect of things?
Jessica Defino: [00:43:37] Sure. Yeah, I mean, bone broth and probiotics are two great ones. I try not to get super into the probiotic because again, that can sort of create this monoculture in the gut where there’s too much of one certain bacteria and that’s where problems can arise. So I’m very big on prebiotics, a lot of fiber, a lot of veggies to give the organisms that already live within my gut. The food that they’re craving and that will help balance it out naturally because it’ll feed the good ones that we want to thrive. I mean, obviously, as you know, things like meditation and stress relieving exercises and massage, and all of that contributes to gut health as well. It really is all interconnected.
Jessica Defino: [00:44:24] So anything that sort of reduces inflammation helps in that way. And the one thing that I found really interesting about healing my own gut was that initially when I was experiencing skin issues and I could trace them back to my gut, I thought I would have to restrict forever. I thought I would have to cut these things out of my diet forever because they were clearly irritating me. Once I focused on healing my gut with prebiotics, some probiotics and just lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and cooked food. cooked foods were a big one for me because my body was not digesting like raw foods and salads properly. I found that I could incorporate things that I thought would be triggers back into my diet, and they weren’t triggering me anymore.
Jessica Defino: [00:45:13] For instance, I can eat cheese all I want now, and it doesn’t cause problems. Whereas four years ago, when my gut was in a state of disrepair, it caused a lot of problems. So I always just like to say that it’s not so much about restriction, it’s just about healing. And then and then you’re good to go.
Maria Marlowe: [00:45:31] That’s a really important point, because sometimes what you have to do initially to heal is not what you’ll have to do forever and with a lot of these food sensitivities. Once the gut is healed, you’ll find that you can eat these foods again. So is there anything else you want our listeners to know about skin and beauty and culture? Is there any message you want to share or you think people should know?
Jessica Defino: [00:45:57] I just want to help people realize that the power within them is so much greater than the power of any pre-bottled product. I think that’s kind of like my overall mission in a nutshell. And if I can, if I can get that message out to people, I’m happy.
Maria Marlowe: [00:46:17] I love that. Really well said. Well, thank you so much, Jessica. And if you want more from Jessica, you can check out her website. It’s jessica-defino.com and definitely get on her newsletter list. The Unpublishable. It is a gold mine of information.
Jessica Defino: [00:46:34] Thank you so much for having me. I loved it.