This or That? : The Guideline to Choose Your Skincare Rationally (Part 2)

This or That? : The Guideline to Choose Your Skincare Rationally (Part 2)

Welcome to the Guideline to Choose Your Skincare Rationally part 2!

Skincare should be purposeful, and defining these personal objectives upfront will help you a lot in navigating The Great Big World of SkincareTM. At this point, I assume you already know what you want with your skin and what type of skincare product you’re looking for. If you are still unsure about what you want and need, I suggest you visit the part 1 of the Rational Skincare Guideline before continuing.


  1. Understand what you want/need – see part 1
  2. Know what type of skincare products you are looking for – see part 1
  3. Create a skincare product wishlist
  4. Know what is important to you (“criteria”)
  5. Prioritize
  6. Evaluate

In the part 2 of the guide, we will use MCDA/Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis to guide our skincare purchase. Don’t let its fancy sophisticated name fool you, it is actually quite simple and helpful!

What do you mean, “Criteria”?

When purchasing skincare, there are a lot of things to consider. For some, the luxury experience is important. For others, it doesn’t matter if a product stinks like cow dung as long as it’s proven effective by ScienceTM. Others are more lenient as long as the product is within a certain budget. These consideration for selecting skincare are what we refer to as criteria. We’re using more than one of this, hence the name “Multiple-Criteria”.

To put it simply, Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis is a way to make decision based on analysis of how ‘good’ an option is based on several criteria.

At the end of this exercise, you will be able to say (for example) “I choose to buy serum A instead of serum B and C, because based on my analysis, serum A is better in terms of price, performance and experience.” Let me show you how!

In the unlikely event my supervisor is reading this post : Hi, I hope I didn’t butcher any concept.

Create a skincare product wishlist

Here comes the fun part: listing all the products you want! But instead of a long list of everything, you need to group your product wishlist based on types of skincare product. Create a different list for cleanser, toner, treatment, moisturizer, and sunscreen. The more you know about product types and your needs, you can also make the lists more specific. For example, instead of having a generic “treatment” wishlist, you can have a “hydrating serum wishlist” or “retinol serum wishlist”.

The reason for having different wishlist for each type of products is because we’re going to compare each products based on certain criteria. It is not fair to compare cleanser with serum, for example. They have vastly different functions, and you might value different “criteria” in each type of products. For example, I personally don’t care if my cleanser have fancy extracts since they are going to the drain anyway. On the other hand, fancy extracts in serum is interesting and might be beneficial.

Here is an example of simple skincare wishlist. I am going to use this wishlist to illustrate the next steps.

Vera’s Brightening Serum/Ampoule Wishlist
1. The Saem Brightening Ampoule
2. It’s Skin LI Effector
3. Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Borabit Ampoule

Know what is important to you (“Criteria”)

There are a lot of criteria to consider in choosing skincare, and people value these criteria differently. This is why I don’t rely on skincare review aggregator score, or ratings from beauty influencer. A five-star serum for you does not always mean a five-star serum for me.

How to decide your own skincare criteria, then? You can start with listing the characteristics of your ideal product. How many criteria you should have? The sky is the limit, although I personally think more than 10 would be too complicated. You can also have different criteria for different types of skincare products if you want.

These are my generic skincare criteria as a reference. I used this for all types of skincare products, with slight alterations on definition, which I will explain briefly :

1. Price

Let’s face it, I’m not a member of Kardashian family; affordability is always a huge factor. The limit of money I’m willing to pay for different types of products are different, though. I’m okay with spending $40 for a serum, but $15 for a cleanser is already an overkill.

2. Ingredients

There are a lot of things that affect how a certain product would perform on your skin, but the ingredient is already halfway of the story. It gives you idea how and why a product works a certain way. I tend to give higher rating to products that prominently feature ingredients backed by more scientific studies. Sometimes they put these ‘star ingredients’ under preservatives; this doesn’t count.

For cleanser, I care less about ‘star ingredients’ and put more focus on the surfactants they use. I rate higher cleansers who use gentler surfactants (basically those that do not feature sodium lauryl sulphates and its cronies)

3. Experience

It’s a subjective criteria that encompasses texture, fragrance, and ‘feel’ after it is applied on skin. It is easier to rate if I have tried a product personally, but prior to the purchase, I read reviews from skincare blogger I trust (whose skincare types/needs are similar to mine) and take it into consideration.

4. Environmentally Friendly

I tend to rate higher products from brands with ‘environmentally friendly’ policies. Compostable sheet mask? I’m in. Campaign to return product packaging/bring your own bottle? Here’s a loyal customer. Other environmental-related policies (i.e. CSR, donation) also gained a bonus point

5. Brand ambassador/outlook

The picture says “Welcome” but my money says “Goodbye”.

People say I’m being petty, I say I’m exercising my right as a customer. There are instances when I was less likely to buy a certain brand because I dislike the brand ambassadors/disagree with how brand handle things. Likewise, selection of the boyband Seventeen as brand ambassador of The Saem has been known to affect my skincare purchase decision heavily. It is valid, no one has right to judge you! After all, the criteria are factors that matters to you. It is important to acknowledge it, though, as it will affect the next step : Prioritization.


After you have your list of criteria, you might notice that certain criteria is more important for you than the other. Indeed, before we are prioritizing skincare products, we will prioritize the criteria first!

I use MeenyMo, a handy site for prioritization. There is a need to login with facebook/google/e-mail address, but afterwards, it is free to use. To illustrate how this works, I will use the example wishlist and criteria I have previously mentioned.

1. Enter Criteria

Enter your list of criteria. You need also to define indicators/levels for each criteria, from best to worse. For example, in ‘price’, I split it into cheap, medium, and expensive. It is best if you have clear idea of what each level means (for example, “cheap” for me would be something I can get for $10 and below).

2. Enter Alternatives

Enter product options on your wishlist. Once you enter it, you will find an ‘option’ page, where you could input information on the products (optional) and evaluate it based on the criteria you set on step 1.

3. Set criteria preference

MeenyMo will ask you a series of question to decide which criteria is the most important for you. You need to select which one is better between the two options, or when you really can’t choose, select ‘They’re equal’. Please bear in mind, the more criteria and indicators you have, the more questions they will ask you. After that, they will show you which criteria is the most important for you based on the answers you gave. If you are dissatisfied, you are free to start over.

This is kinda surprising for me (or not? LOL). But the data has spoken.

4. Get Priority Result

After showing your criteria priority, MeenyMo will automatically rank your options based on the values of your criteria. The end result would look like this :

The Saem Ampoule is ranked first because it scores higher in my most important criteria. The little bar chart beside the product name shows how it performs in all of my criteria. So, based on my wants and needs, it would make sense if I prefer buying The Saem Ampoule compared to the other options (although if I have enough money, no one is stopping me from buying all three, MUHAHAHAHA).

Your decision will be saved in your MeenyMo account. If next time you want to add products to your wishlist, change your criteria or its value, you can open your decision and edit it easily.

Unfortunately, MeenyMo does not allow sharing decision-making template, but you can access my example here.


“Another step?” You might ask. “Don’t we have the product priority already?”

Yep. I just want to remind you that whatever result you get from this exercise is not permanent. Your skin needs may change. Some criteria might become more relevant over time, or vice versa. If you have “affordability” as one of your criteria, your definition of “cheap” might change, hopefully because you got richer. Therefore, it is important to evaluate your priorities periodically!

So, those are all the steps you need to do to choose your skincare product rationally! Is it too complicated? Is it helpful for you in any way? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! 🙂

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