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The Scandinavian Skincare Bible: A Book Review

by Marianne Navada

Title: The Scandinavian Skincare Bible: The Definitive Guide to Understanding Your Skin | Author: Johanna Gillbro, PhD | Translator: Fiona Graham.

The book is divided into 3 parts: Skin, Skincare, and Lifestyle. We breakdown what you will gain from each section and notable points that will make you rethink the products you buy. Such as, do you really need a face toner? You will finish reading the book with a better understanding of the common ingredients used by manufacturers. And with this knowledge, you are less likely to fall prey to gimmicky marketing.

1: Skin 

This section acquaints you with the skin’s components and how they function. You’ll learn about the skin’s layers and how components such as cells, bacteria, proteins, and acid work together. You’ll gain an appreciation of how the skin naturally provides moisture and protection. Skincare should enhance these naturally occurring processes.

Not a hard read, but get ready for some scientific terms.

2: Skincare

With a thorough explanation of ingredients, you’ll feel more confident when purchasing products. This allows you to know what what to look for, what to avoid, what is useful, and what are catchy marketing tactics. 

Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol

The book breaks down a popular skincare ingredient, hyaluronic acid. This substance occurs naturally in our skin, which has the capacity to bind water. However, she questions the efficacy of applying hyaluronic acid externally. She cites that hyaluronic acid is a large molecule, and this prevents it from penetrating the top layer of the skin. Even with LMWH, a manufactured hyaluronic acid with a smaller molecule, the author claims that: “little scientific evidence that using hyaluronic acid or LMWH in skincare does anything much to hydrate the skin”.

The book also offers an explanation of retinol, which is a must-read if you specifically look for this active ingredient in your skincare products.

Analyses tend to be holistic, use scientific research, and take into account particular use cases.

On Natural Skincare

When we use the word ‘natural’ today, what we often mean is that a substance has been extracted ready-made from a natural source. Examples are natural oils or butters from sunflowers or coconuts. But what’s really most natural, I’d say, is to use the fats that already exist in our skin the ones it’s used to. Our skin doesn’t produce sunflower or olive oil, or shea butter — but it does produce substances like squalene, ceramics, cholesterol, triglycerides and many different kinds of fatty acids…Quite simply, our skin’s happiest with the substances it’s used to, and they can either be extracted from natural or be synthesized.

Scandinavian Simplicity: Less Is More 

True to its Scandinavian ethic of simplicity and utility, the author will empower you to edit the number of products you needs to maintain healthy skin. In contrast to the “South Korean skincare routine which often involves over 10 products”: 

This may give the impression that South Koreans have a superior, more sophisticated skincare regimen. However, using more products also means putting more of the less beneficial substances on your skin: more preservatives, more perfume, more glycols, and so on.

A Quick Rundown on a Few Products 

  • Eye creams: “there is no magic formula that works around the eyes, so invest in one that works for the whole face.”
  • Serum: not any different from cream.  
  • Face toners: a redundant product.

3: Lifestyle

Last, the book reminds us that our diet, lifestyle, and environment all contribute to our overall skin wellness. The book goes through how various vitamins and nutrients affect the skin, and provides skin-healthy recipes. 

Tip: Eat more carrots! 

The Future

For Johanna, the future of skincare involves a more natural process, respecting the microbiome in our skin, and with probiotics based on bacteria found naturally in our skin. Although this promising research is still at its infancy. 

Towards the end of the book, we read the “Ten Commandments for Healthy Skin”. Here’s #5

Be sparing with skin cleaners. Your skin is smart, and it forms a perfect combination of fats and moisturizers to keep itself soft, pliable and healthy. Don’t wash that layer off for no good reason.

About the Author

Johanna Gillbro, PhD, is an award-winning skin scientist from Sweden. For the past 10 years, she “has been the most cited author in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.

Commit to living.