SKIN | When basic is best


The skincare market is crowded to saturation, which makes it very hard to know what you should be putting on your skin. I hope I’ve been somewhat helpful with my What the hell is…? series – which I have no intention of stopping any time soon. I’m thinking peptides and retinol should be next on my list!

There are two mistakes people make when managing problematic skin. One is going to the shelves of the beauty section in Farmers and looking for magic potions labelled with buzzwords. The second is dismissing ‘basic’ and affordable products as worthless. On the contrary, the simplest, fragrance-free, single-focus products in bland packaging are often the best. Today I want to talk about Physiogel (new to the New Zealand market), and Benzac AC.

In the interest of complete transparency, I will be publishing a sponsored post on nzgirl about Physiogel, however I received these products independently from the brand before I came on board that campaign, and have been working on a post like this for some time. I am not being paid for this post.

To be quite honest I may not have bought the Physiogel* products on my own, and I think that’s a symptom of the marketing trap we’re all victims of. The packaging is plain, it’s sold at pharmacies, it looks like a cream you put on babies’ butts. (You could put it on babies’ butts. It would be great for butts.) It’s not exciting. But that’s exactly why it’s exactly what a lot of people need.

I don’t have amazing skin. Part of that is hormonal, part of that is genetic, part of that is because I’m lazy and part of that is because I have a veritable mountain of skincare products building up on my dining table and I feel like I need to test and write about them all. I want to test and write about them all. My skin does not particularly enjoy me doing this. I’m lucky, though, because I know a lot of people whose skin just couldn’t handle that.

Physiogel (or a similar product) is where I would suggest most people turn for problem skin. It has no fragrance. It has no dyes. No alcohol, no preservatives, no silicones that have been put in to make it feel like your skin is smooth. (That shit just washes off – it doesn’t do anything for your skin.)

Instead it contains glycerin, which is a humectant, meaning it attracts water. Combined with the emollient oils in the lotions and creams, it’s a really effective moisturiser. Physiogel’s BioMimic Technology means the moisturiser’s structure strongly resembles the skin’s natural lipid barrier, which is, naturally, effective. I can’t ascertain exactly what the BioMimic Technology entails. Glycerin on its own is a skin-identical ingredient (like hyaluronic acid, naturally occurring in the skin), which could be what they’re referring to.

In summary, Physiogel. Put it on your skin. It does all the things a moisturiser should do, and nothing else. It’s affordable, retailing for NZ$12-35.

For specific problem pimples, benzoyl peroxide is the ingredient you need. Salicylic acid is in all the spot treatments you’ll find on the shelves at Farmers and the supermarket, but for acne benzoyl peroxide is generally more effective. You have to buy it at a pharmacy in New Zealand, but you won’t need a prescription. Benzac AC is the brand I’ve seen in most pharmacies, and you can buy it in 2.5%, 5% and 10% concentration. 2% is usually enough, and the risk of side effects of dryness and irritation will increase as you increase the concentration [source, pdf].

In my experience, BP has been really good at healing pimples fast, and it’s what I’ll recommend to people from now on. It doesn’t have any natural antibacterials like honey or tea tree, but it also doesn’t have a whole host of natural ingredients that could be causing irritation as well. It’s simple, and it’s not glamorous, but it works.

I feel like this post is sounding like a lecture but it’s really reflective of my attitude towards skincare lately. The more I learn about ingredients, the less I can justify spending heaps of money on products that are the same or less likely to work as these, affordable ones. I’m still a sucker for frosted glass bottles and clever branding, but not in quite the same way.

What do you think?

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  • Benzac <3 I bought it for years and years. I don't have it currently cos i tried something else on a whim but it works like a charm. Just wash your hands after you use it as it can stain fabric (source: my hand towels and pajamas)

    • Yes! I actually haven’t noticed it staining (well, technically bleaching) anything yet. This is lucky because I have a tendency to wipe my hands on my jeans!

  • Steph Hicks

    LOVE this post, so so true! I wish more girls new about everything in this post! I use Benzac AC religiously and it’s the best pimple treatment I’ve ever tried. I get really deep hormonal pimples on my chin and I started out using quite a strong BP cream (can’t remember what %) and got quite a lot of irritation so I had to stop until it cleared up, but I’m now using a 4% one and it’s so effective! You need to make sure you moisturise the area you use it on though, coz it does dry the skin out.

  • I’m pretty sure I had some Benzac back in the day when my acne was really bad. Have completely forgotten about it, should pick up some more when I get those hormonal breakouts.

  • I found that Benzac gave me scaly patches (same thing with Differin, so I’ve scaled back the use), but using the face wash instead of the cream helped somewhat — leave it on your skin for a minute or so and then rinse off as normal. That way you’re still getting the benefits of the benzoyl peroxide without some of the drawbacks. I don’t need it at the moment because my acne has calmed down, but would totally go back to it. Waaaay better than paying a billion dollars for Proactive.

  • The hydro boost range is lighter for a daily moisturiser if you do have oily skin – at the moment I’m using hydro boost in the morning/under makeup and physiogel at night and on no makeup days. I hope that helps!

    • Amy

      Thanks! I will look more into hydroboost for a daily moisturiser and keep physiogel in mind next time I need a night one. Super helpful.