Why Do We Keep Coming Back to 100-Year-Old Beauty Products? Because They Work

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Pond’s Cold Cream has been around since 1846, Vaseline just celebrated its 150th birthday, and it’s estimated that 60 Dove Beauty Bars—first invented in 1957—are sold every single second around the world. Despite the fact that new beauty brands are launching every week, beauty enthusiasts continue to sing the praises of tried-and-true products, decades (and centuries!) after they were first introduced. Given that innovation drives the multi-billion dollar beauty business forward, what's behind the back-to-basics mentality?

“The beauty industry is always needing to reinvent itself to sell new products, but just because something is new, doesn't mean it is better,” says Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in San Francisco. That point is easy to miss in the age of shelfie. Overflowing cabinets and countertops are leaving many consumers with a try-it-all mentality that ultimately results in confusion about the options at hand. As such, using tested, dermatologist-backed products is a clear-cut way to combat this. “I think that more people are going back to the basics because they feel like they've been let down by multi-step routines that cost a lot of money and time,” says Papri Sarkar, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Brookline, Massachusetts. “They want something simple that they can do in their sleep...or right before sleep, in this case.”

And some dermatologists even point to fewer, simplified steps as being better for skin. Older products tend to be blander, and these products are meant to keep moisture within skin, whereas newer products are meant to solve specific problems. "Active ingredients," those that provide a proven benefit are found in everything these days. For example, retinol speeds up cell turnover, vitamin C fends off free radicals, which cause fine lines and hyperpigmentation on skin. In OG products, there's no star ingredient to call out because skin moisturization is all that's really happening.

“One of the most important roles that skin care needs to provide is moisturizing, and before the advent of so many active ingredients, that was what a lot of these OG products were effectively doing,” says Dr. King. While potent and powerful, sometimes these active ingredients can do so much for skin that they create irritation. When a patient comes into her practice complaining of sensitive and irritable skin, the first thing Dr. King does is ask them what they have been using, and then ask them to, at least temporarily, stop everything and stick to bland products until their skin calms down. Plain and simple, that's what the OG products do so well.

So what does this pared-down approach mean for the future of new beauty brands? According to Dr. King, there will always be room for new ideas and new products. “I still get excited for new ingredients and new technologies,” she says. “I love going back to products I know and love, but I always enjoy learning about new options, too.”

The OGs will never go away, but as the beauty industry evolves, Dr. Sarkar wants to see more brands develop multi-use products, so that we aren’t having to use a million products at once. “I think there will always be room for multi-step routines, but I'm hoping that brands will start to pivot towards making more multi-use products or give instructions on how to use one product multiple ways,” she says. FWIW: Vaseline is pretty much killing it at this right now...you could say that it's the OG multi-tasker, but that's a story for another time.

By the way, one dermatologist washes her face every. single. night. with the Dove Beauty Bar. Check it out: 

Here's what happened when one editor tried "slugging" with Vaseline and this is what to know about Pond's Cold Cream, the moisturizer-cleanser hybrid.

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