Technology & Beauty: How to decode your skincare routine using the programming skills you didn’t know you had.

I’d always been deeply suspicious of the beauty industry.

To me, skincare brands were dealers of snake oil, fleecing us women of our cash with empty promises. I knew I had to take SOME care of my skin; SPF will protect my Snow White Tan from burning. A quality moisturiser will stop me from drying up like a prune. And I always take my make up off before bed without fail. These things were scientifically proven by actual scientists, and also by my own first-hand experience.
Anything beyond that? Well, it is obviously BS. Retinol? Oh please, don’t try and confuse me with your science fiction names. AHA’s? Glycolic Acid? Some people with buy ANYTHING as long as it sounds fancy. What gullible fools.

But then two things happened.

A beauty-junkie friend of mine gifted me a selection of free samples and products that just didn’t do it for her; and I gave them a go. To my surprise, a couple of these fancy-looking potions did actually have an effect. There were noticeable results. I was a little stunned. Perhaps it isn’t BS after all?

I was also rapidly approaching 35 years old and I felt like my skin was starting to deserve a little more TLC. I’m not bothered about actively reversing the ages process, but I have innumerable blackheads, dark circles and other little complaints that I’d like to deal with.
Finding myself back in unfamiliar territory again, I didn’t know where I should start and I did not want to make any expensive mistakes either. There were a lot of definitions and terminology I didn’t understand and I lacked the knowledge of how use the various potions in the right order. It was exactly how I felt when I started to learn to code; when I really wanted to learn but I just didn’t know how. I was intimidated in much the same way.

Time To Get Educated

I picked up a copy of Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes. I knew Sali’s writing from The Guardian, and the now-sadly defunct The Pool website. Sali is a self-confessed beauty fanatic and writes authentic accounts of all the products she tries. Her first book touts itself as The Straight Talking Beauty Companion and that sounded like exactly what I needed.

If I can learn how to build a website from scratch, I can certainly learn about which products would bring out the best in my skin. I just had to apply the same thought process and use my programming brain to work it out.

A Three Step Process

1. Understand the problem
When programming, it is vital that you understand the problem in a very simplistic way. Write it down. Say it out loud. Break it down into pieces. To get the result you want from the program you, you need to implement very specific instructions so you can’t skip over any aspect of the problem.I applied the same principle to my ‘Bad Skin’ problem and would take it from there.

Problem One: Blackheads caused by oily skin, make up and dead skin cells.
Problem Two: Large pores. Well, they’re genetic so blame whoever you inherited those from.
Problem Three: Oiliness. I have always been very shiny and make-up just slides off my face.
Problem Four: Pale, sun-sensitive skin. I burn very, very easily. Using sun cream just adds to my already problematic oiliness.

2. Plan the Solution

Successful programmers know that you need to take a step back and work out what you need to do for each part of the problem. You can’t just dive right in and code away like there is tomorrow.
Keep checking your thought process.
Does it help you get to your intended result?

Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

It was going to be pretty straight-forward. I just had to do a little research into what particular products were proven in targeting my specific complaint; and in which order they needed to be applied in.  Just buying any old thing because it sounded good or had aesthetically pleasing packaging was not going to cut it. As a web designer, I am a huge sucker for a good design and eye-catching colour palette but I had to STAY STRONG and RESIST.

3. Divide Up The Problem

Smaller, sub-problems are always easier to solve than one big one. Begin with the simplest one first. That will set you up properly. Then move on to solve all the other sub-problems too, and this should give you the solution to the large problem itself! (Because everything is always that uncomplicated, right?!)

It can be tough, especially if you find yourself unable to solve a sub-problem. But you can break those down too. Reduce the whole thing down to a point where you DO understand it, and can easily find the solution. Keep expanding on that until you get to the point where you need to be to find the answer.

Back To Skincare

My large problem of ‘Bad Skin’ was easily divided up into smaller problems, for which I have been able to find the solution to each.

1. Blackheads – I chose Beta Hydroxy Acid from The Inkey List. It sounded scary, much like Javascript did to me in my very early coding days. This product is for blackheads, pimples and breakouts because it clears pores of their impurities and sounded far scarier than it actually is.
And the product is helpfully, pretty much, a 2-in-1 because this also helps with…
2. Large Pores – less debris on the skin to clog up pores and make them larger!
3. Oiliness – Nothing out there is going to be able to change my actual skin-type, but I can certainly control the management of it.

Winning Formula

Well, I have to say that I found this particular product a little revolutionary. Maybe because I am a Cosmetic Luddite. But the Zinc Oxide Cream Moisturiser from The Inkey List was a bit of a game-changer. It contains SPF 50, protects against UVA and UVB rays and it is also formulated with 1% hyaluronic acid, which helps keep my skin hydrated. And it also solves another sub-problem caused the solution to another. (This also happens in programming too. We call it a bug and then we fix it).
Using Salicylic Acids to treat certain complaints will also increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Thankfully the Beta Hydroxy Acid helpfully tells you this on the bottle. And the Zinc Oxide provides the solution.

Enter: Primer. I’ve tried many a primer and I find some of them utterly useless and slightly revolting. But I have found a couple that really work well for me.

My Go-To primer is All-In-One Instablur Universal from The Body Shop. It is super-smooth and super-matte. The other is High-Adherence Silicone Primer by The Ordinary.

4. Pale, sun-sensitive skin – I’ve known for years that we are supposed to wear SPF every day. But did I do it? No, I did not. Unless it’s a sunny day and we are in the months April – September then I completely eschewed SPF. I cannot stand sun cream, I hate the oily feel of it on my skin and it gives me breakouts on my face, neck and back. To me, SPF is nothing but a necessary evil.

Knowledge IS Power

The last step of solving the problem is applying the products in the correctorder, which thanks to both The Ordinary and The Inkey List and their completely transparent descriptions, it was easy!

1. Beta Hydroxy Acide
2. Zinc Oxide Moisturiser
3. Primer


Of course, programming is rarely as clear-cut. You can get really, really stuck and find yourself resorting to Google, or whichever coding community you are part of, to help you find the answer. Goodness knows I have on many an occasion.

Rare is the programmer who just ‘gets’ every single element they need to write a program first time. You must practice, and then practice some more.
Of course, finding cosmetics that suit my skin is a far less complex process than programming Artificial Intelligence. But problem solving is problem solving no matter what your interests are or what industry you work in. The ability to think rationally and systematically is entirely transferable too. You probably have the skills to be a programmer and you don’t even know it.

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