Taking care of your skin. Basics.

Educating people about proper skin care is one of my main responsibilities as an Esthetician. Surprisingly many people are unaware of their skin's basic needs. In this post I will describe a typical daily skin care routine, and explain the purpose of each step.

It is usually recommended that your daily routine looks the following way:

Morning:

Step 1

- Cleanse your face using an appropriate cleanser.

Step 2

- Use a toner (or a freshener, which is pretty much the same thing but contains less or no alcohol at all).

Step 3

- Apply Serums (optional)

Step 4

- Apply a moisturizer with an SPF30 or greater. (or, if your moisturizer doesn't have an SPF, you can apply a moisturizer and then a sunscreen).

Before Bed:

All the same as above EXCEPT: Use a moisturizer without an SPF.

It also is usually recommended that you exfoliate your skin once or twice a week. You would normally do it after cleansing and before toning.

Now let's talk about each of these steps in-detail.

Cleansing

This is a very important step in your skin care routine. Cleansing the skin not only removes makeup, dirt, pollen and other particals that end up on your skin surface, but also some of that sebum (oil) that our skin naturally produces. Sebum is a part of acid mantle, which is a protective layer on the skin. It is very important to choose a cleanser that is composed of very mild surfactants (cleansing ingredients). Using harsh cleansing products will not only make your skin dry but will also strip off that protective layer exposing skin to the environmental damage. Cleanser should be appropriate for your skin type. For instance if you have an oily skin and suffer from overproduction of sebum, you might find that foaming or gel cleansers work better for you than milky or cream cleansers. And vis-a-versa.

Toning

Toners are needed to remove residue left behind by cleansers (or other products) and restore natural pH of the skin, since many cleansers might have a pH that is too high. Toner prepares the skin for further steps. Skin that has been well cleansed and toned would better absorb serum or moisturizer.

Serum application

Serums are concentrated with beneficial ingredients that target specific skin conditions. They are designed for effective penetration into the skin. Finding the right serum and using it regularly would make a huge difference in you skin appearance. Because their primary purpose is to address specific skin concerns (aging, wrinkles, pigmentation etc) and not to moisturize and protect the skin, they need to be applied under a moisturizer.

Moisturizing

Moisturizers are products formulated to add moisture to the skin, to protect and nourish it. There are many different types of moisturizers available on the market nowadays. Lotions, hydrators and creams are all moisturizers. Using a moisturizer is very important to maintain oil-water balance in the skin. Many people with oily skin wrongfully assume that their oily skin doesn't need a moisturizer, that using it would make their skin more oily. When in reality the right water-based product, suitable for oily skin, is a must for people suffering from sebum-overproduction and acne. When our skin lacks moisture (and with a constant use of harsh cleansers and toners this can happen) it starts to produce more oil to overcompensate for the moisture loss. So you end up with skin that is extremely oily which leads to further inflammation and breakouts. Oil-based moisturizers would be more suitable for people with dry or mature skin that doesn't produce enough sebum.

Moisturizers with SPF (or Sunscreens*)

Applying a SPF containing moisturizer before leaving the house is a must! Every day, all year round. I can't stress enough how important it is to protect the skin from a harmful UV rays. Many are aware that sun exposure leads to skin cancer as well as to aging, hyperpigmentation, capillary damage, free radical damage, and collagen and elastin deterioration. But not many realize that you don't have to be in the sun all day in order to get your skin sun damaged. 

Whether its sunny or cloudy, whether it's summer or winter UV rays reach the surface of the ground thus pose a potential hazard to our skin.

When choosing a sunscreen opt for a broad spectrum product (which would protect from both UVA - wrinkle-causing, and UVB - sunburn causing rays) with an SPF at least of 15 (protects from 93.3% of UVB rays) or an SPF 30 (protects from 96.9% of UVB rays). I would also recommend to choose a mineral based sunscreen that would only contain Titanium Dioxide an/or Zinc Oxide. These two are the only inorganic (don't contain carbon) physical sunscreens. They work by "sitting" on top of the skin surface and reflecting those harmful sun rays, while all others (such as oxybenzone, octinoxate etc) are organic chemical sunscreens that do work by chemically absorbing ultraviolet rays.

You can find more information regarding Sunscreens and Sun protection here:

http://www.skincancer.org/ - Skin Cancer Foundation

http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens - American Academy of dermatology

*Please note that not all the sunscreens are moisturizers!

Exfoliation

If you have ever refinished a wooden piece of furniture or even made a new one you know how important it is to sand the wood before painting it, right? Similarly with the skin, it needs to be exfoliated in order to remove outer layer (stratum corneum) and achieve smooth texture and improve further penetration of products applied to the skin. Exfoliation also makes deep pore cleansing and extractions easier, increases the cell turnover rate and stimulates blood flow and circulation. As beneficial the exfoliation is, it is very important not to overdo it. Over-exfoliation can cause irritation and damage to the skin and capillaries. I would recommend to exfoliate once or twice a week.

There are 2 basic types of exfoliation treatments : mechanical and chemical.

Mechanical exfoliation

is a method of physically rubbing dead cells of the skin. Scrubs, microdermabrasion or use of brushes are examples of mechanical exfoliation. Mechanical exfoliation is not recommended for someone with sensitive or irritated skin.

Chemical exfoliation

methods include enzymes, that digest only dead cells on the surface, and AHA's (alpha hydroxy acids: glycolic, lactic, malic, tartaric) and BHA's(beta hydroxy acids: citric and salicylic) that penetrate the skin and dissolve the intercellular glue that holds dead skin cells together. AHA's are more suitable for dry, aging skin while BHA's would be perfect for oily skin types.

Please do not use concentrated chemical peels on yourselves at home! Administering these types of peels requires in-depth knowledge of skin anatomy and physiology. These treatments MUST only be done by a licensed and properly trained professional in a professional setting!

Masking

I haven't included this step in the routine recommendations, although this step is definitely extremely beneficial as well as pampering. It should be done after exfoliation and before application of a serum or a moisturizer. Sometimes it's more beneficial to apply the serum under the mask. It depends on the particular type of a mask and a serum you are planning to use. Skin also needs to be toned after masking.

Masks can do wonders to your skin, but I find it somewhat time consuming and costly to do in a home setting. Why not treat yourself to a professional treatment instead? A professional facial provided by a licensed and well trained Esthetician doesn't have to be done very often. It just has to be consistent and followed by a proper at-home skin care regimen.

Proper skin care regimen can do wonders to your skin!

I hope you find this information useful and the routine easy to follow. But don't forget that these are just general recommendations. To achieve the best results do "listen" to your own skin. You don't have to follow every step all the time, just learn to identify what YOUR own skin needs at this particular moment and go from there.

What does your skin care routine look like? Feel free to comment.


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