You really should be putting acids on your face - Quartz

You really should be putting acids on your face

February 6, 2015
February 6, 2015

For three years I was a beauty editor, and constantly experimenting with skincare products that breathlessly promised life-changing, time-reversing results. Today, when it comes to skincare, you might call me low-maintenance—or even lazy. But there’s a single, little-known step I still consider as important as cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection. (That’s the bare minimum, people.) It comes right after the first, and you’re probably skipping it.

After my face is clean and dry, I dampen a cotton pad with a liquid that smells mildly of sour cabbage. I swipe it over my nose, cheeks, chin, forehead, and neck, repeating on oilier zones. This little daily effort has benefited me more than even the most expensive potions I’ve tried. The stinky stuff I swipe on my face is called Lotion P50, and it’s part of a family of skincare products that some call liquid exfoliants—although they couldn’t be further from the pulverized peach-pit scrubs we messed with in middle school. Others call them acid toners because, like toners, they are used right after cleansing. I don’t care what you call them; just start using them.

Here’s how they work

At their most basic level, these products loosen the bonds that hold dead surface skin cells together. The result is a fresh-faced glow that inspires evangelism in those of us who’ve experienced it. One devotee compared her friend’s face to a fetus (in a nice way).  The skin cells shed off imperceptibly, and reveal newer ones beneath, which are less damaged by environmental factors like sunlight and pollution. Over time, it diminishes lots of little things that make a big difference: dullness, congested pores, fine lines, and uneven skin tone.

What defines these products is the presence of acids: specifically either alpha-hydroxy acid (the most popular AHA is the sugarcane-derived glycolic acid) or beta-hydroxy acid (the BHA you may know is salicylic acid, which is chemically-related to aspirin and naturally occurs in willow bark). Both acids exfoliate skin and stimulate collagen growth, which makes the face look younger and plumper.

The cult of acid-users

What results is a fresh-faced, baby skin glow that inspires evangelism in those of us who’ve experienced it. Beyond putting up with the acrid smell, P50 requires customers in the US to register online before even looking at the $61 price tag. These are but tiny hurdles to joining the smooth-skinned cult of fashion editors and makeup artists who extol its virtues. One devotee compared her friend’s face to a fetus (in a nice way).

Lisa Airan, a New York City dermatologist, says that liquid exfoliants also make your skin more receptive to other products, allowing for better absorption. That’s part of why I chose a toner rather than one of the many cleansers, serums, moisturizers, or at-home peels that contain AHAs and BHAs. It frees up my cream and serum to deliver anti-ageing ingredients such as peptides, resulting in a potent and winning skincare cocktail.

Find your own

So how to choose a liquid exfoliant? AHAs help reduce pigmentation, fine lines, and acne scarring. BHAs are mildly antibacterial; they unclog pores and ease the reddening effects of rosacea.

Bryan Barron, co-author of The Original Beauty Bible and research director for the skincare line Paula’s Choice, says those with oilier skin or inflammation should go for BHAs. (He calls Paula’s Choice modestly priced Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid the “gateway drug.”) When it comes to concentration, an AHA exfoliator should contain 5–10% alpha-hydroxy acid. A BHA exfoliator should have 1–4% beta-hydroxy acid. In both cases, says Barron, the product should have a low pH—ideally between three and four. Any higher, and you’ll miss out on exfoliating actions. Paula’s Choice makes it easy for neophytes by letting online shoppers browse by skin concern, such as blackheads or redness.

Beyond Paula’s Choice, and my chosen cult of P50, the glycolic acid-based Liquid Gold from the Australian skincare company Alpha-H has a fervent following among my peers. Model and beauty blogger Ruth Crilly swears by it, and Harper’s Bazaar singled it out as 2013’s “best skin brightener.” With its tingling effect, I can’t help but agree: It’s the best Aussie export since Hugh Jackman.

Proceed, cautiously

Once you choose your exfoliator, use it after cleansing at night. Start slow, about twice a week, building up to every alternate day or daily, depending on the product’s strength and your skin. Using one of these makes sunscreen an absolute necessity; and just make sure you don’t combine acids with products that contains retinol (major irritation potential) or vitamin C, which will be rendered ineffective. Make this part of your routine, and your face will thank you.

Different worlds

Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet

3 hours ago
3 hours ago

It was in Indonesia three years ago that Helani Galpaya first noticed the anomaly.

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Indonesians surveyed by Galpaya told her that they didn’t use the internet. But in focus groups, they would talk enthusiastically about how much time they spent on Facebook. Galpaya, a researcher (and now CEO) with LIRNEasia, a think tank, called Rohan Samarajiva, her boss at the time, to tell him what she had discovered. “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook,” he concluded.

 “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook.” In Africa, Christoph Stork stumbled upon something similar. Looking at results from a survey on communications use for Research ICT Africa, Stork found what looked like an error. The number of people who had responded saying they used Facebook was much higher than those who said they used the internet. The discrepancy accounted for some 3% to 4% of mobile phone users, he says.

Since at least 2013, Facebook has been making noises about connecting the entire world to the internet. But even Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s operations head, admits that there are Facebook users who don’t know they’re on the internet. So is Facebook succeeding in its goal if the people it is connecting have no idea they are using the internet? And what does it mean if masses of first-time adopters come online not via the open web, but the closed, proprietary network where they must play by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rules?

This is more than a matter of semantics. The expectations and behaviors of the next billion people to come online will have profound effects on how the internet evolves. If the majority of the world’s online population spends time on Facebook, then policymakers, businesses, startups, developers, nonprofits, publishers, and anyone else interested in communicating with them will also, if they are to be effective, go to Facebook. That means they, too, must then play by the rules of one company. And that has implications for us all.

The data

 11% of Indonesians who said they used Facebook also said they did not use the internet. Measuring Facebook penetration versus internet penetration is tricky business. Internet penetration numbers come from national regulators and from estimates by the International Telecommunication Union, a UN body. These are generally months if not years old. Facebook numbers come from Facebook’s advertising platform. These can be tricky, too. Some people have more than one account. Some accounts are rarely used. And some people access Facebook through phones with only the most basic of online features, in which case it is hard to argue that they really are using the internet in any meaningful way.

In an attempt to replicate Stork and Galpaya’s observations, Quartz commissioned surveys in Indonesia and Nigeria from Geopoll, a company that contacts respondents across the world using mobile phones. We asked people whether they had used the internet in the prior 30 days. We also asked them if they had used Facebook. Both surveys had 500 respondents each.

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It would appear, on the surface, that more people use the internet than use Facebook, a perfectly sensible outcome.

But a closer look at the data (available in full here) shows that 11% of Indonesians who said they used Facebook also said they did not use the internet. In Nigeria, 9% of Facebook users said they do not use the internet. These are largely young people; the median age of respondents with this combination of answers is 25 in Indonesia and 22 in Nigeria.

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It would be silly to extrapolate this to the entire population of Nigeria or Indonesia. But the survey does provide replicable evidence of the behaviors described by Stork and Galpaya. Considering the substantial percentages—about 10% of Facebook users in our surveys—the data suggest at the very least that a few million of Facebook’s 1.4 billion users suffer from the same misconceptions. (Quartz commissioned limited surveys in just two countries; we encourage researchers and other journalists to conduct more large-scale studies.)

The effects of the misconception also are visible in the survey results. We asked respondents whether they follow links out of Facebook. In both countries, more than half of those who don’t know they’re using the internet say they “never” follow links out of Facebook, compared with a quarter or less of respondents who say they use both Facebook and the internet. If people stay on one service, it follows that content, advertisers, and associated services also will flow to that service, possibly to the exclusion of other venues.

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How Facebook became the internet

At Davos this year, Sandberg told the well-heeled crowd (paywall) that in the developing world, “people will walk into phone stores and say ‘I want Facebook.’ People actually confuse Facebook and the internet in some places.” Or as Iris Orriss, Facebook’s head of localization and internationalization, has put it, “Awareness of the Internet in developing countries is very limited. In fact, for many users, Facebook is the internet, as it’s often the only accessible application.” (Emphasis in the original.)

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Facebook is “often the only accessible application,” as Orriss puts it, but that’s because Facebook—which did not respond to requests to comment on this story—has worked to ensure that it is the easiest and cheapest to access. The company backs, an initiative to “bring the Internet to the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it.” Yet’s showpiece, an app now available in nearly half a dozen countries, provides free access only to Facebook, Facebook messenger, and a handful of other services (the precise lineup varies by country).

Most of these other services are well-meaning and related to development: Women’s rights. Jobs. Maternal-health information. An Ebola FAQ. The only concessions to the wider web are Wikipedia and Google search. But clicking through on a Google search result requires a data plan—and that must be paid for by the user. (Despite the name, is not a non-profit concern, but very much a part of Facebook Inc.)

 Ghana’s Facebook phone looked like a Blackberry with a big blue “F” as the central button. Telecom operators across the developing world also contribute to the confusion—though this is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mobile web users spend a lot of time on Facebook and WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook). Mobile networks see this and offer these customers social-only plans.

In India, you can get a Facebook-only data plan for $2.50 a year (the cheapest full data plans cost about $10 a year.) In the Philippines, Facebook-only plans cost a fifth as much as data plans. In Ghana, telecom operator Tigo once sold a Facebook phone. It looked like a Blackberry with a big blue “F” as the central button. Even in America, Sprint offers a data plan (paywall) solely for access to Facebook and Twitter.

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Finally, there is Facebook Zero, which predates and allows users of basic phones to access Facebook at no cost. Mobile operators have grumbled about this particular arrangement. Let them. One day Facebook will beam its services from the skies with its fleet of indefatigable, solar-powered drones.

Why it matters

Facebook bosses generally dismiss suggestions that the whole project might be self-interested. Writing in Time, Lev Grossman was granted access to Mark Zuckerberg when the Facebook CEO went to India to promote internet access. When Grossman asks whether is self-serving, Zuckerberg allows only that it may, one day, several decades down the line, pay off: “If you do good things for people in the world, then that comes back and you benefit from it over time.”

Dave Wehner, Facebook’s finance chief, is more forthright. “I do think that over the long term, that focusing on helping connect everyone will be a good business opportunity for us.” If Facebook becomes one of the top services in these countries, he explained in a recent earnings call, “then over time we will be compensated for some of the value that we’ve provided.”

That is a fair goal for any profit-seeking company. And besides, isn’t some access better than none at all? John Naughton of the Guardian argues that this is not the case:

This is a pernicious way of framing the argument, and we should resist it. The goal of public policy everywhere should be to increase access to the internet—the whole goddam internet, not some corporate-controlled alcove—for as many people as possible. By condoning zero-rating we will condemn to a lifetime of servitude as one of Master Zuckerberg’s sharecroppers. We can, and should, do better than that.

 “It has very serious implications. It’s a proprietary platform. It’s not the open internet that we love and cherish.” Already services are starting to move away from the open web and to Facebook. And it’s happening not just in the poor world, but in poor parts of the developed world, where there also exists a sense among some that using an app isn’t the same as using the internet, which requires a web browser like Safari or Internet Explorer. Salix Homes manages government-owned subsidized housing in some the poorest parts of Salford, a deprived area in the north of England. Salix recently decided to accept complaints and rent payments from its tenants on Facebook.

“We took the view that let’s go where people are rather than force them to go to our website,” says James Allan, the firm’s marketing manager. As a result, interactions are up 90% while traffic on the website has fallen.

Allan is not in the business of deciding whether Facebook’s omnipresence among less affluent internet users is a good or bad thing. It is simply a thing. But as LIRNEasia’s Samarajiva says, “It has very serious implications. It’s a proprietary platform. It’s not the open internet that we love and cherish.” Yet he is optimistic that Facebook eventually will lead its users to that place.

“Maybe it will introduce them,” he says, “to the larger concept of the internet. They’re already on the internet. They just don’t know they’re there.”

A note on the methodology: The surveys of Indonesia and Nigeria used through this piece were administered by GeoPoll, which uses SMS to conduct real-time surveys without the need for face-to-face interaction in remote areas. This survey was conducted in late December in Indonesia and Nigeria, with 500 respondents from each country, equaling a margin of error of 4.38% at the 95% confidence level. For more information on this methodology visit In addition, Quartz also commissioned surveys of India, Brazil, and Indonesia from Jana, whose members are reached via smartphone. Quartz asked Jana respondents, “Do you agree with the statement ‘Facebook is the Internet’?” Quartz also asked a representative sample of Americans the same question using SurveyMonkey

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