Do I need a regimen?
Many times on my constant search for information in regards to skincare I stumble upon inaccurate and faulty information. One such example is certain individuals' constant insistence that people do not need skincare, that "healthy" skin will take care of itself and produce what is needed without the assistance of topical products. Before I became an esthetician I even subscribed to this school of thought not necessarily because it made sense, but because it was an affordable way of thinking. Unfortunately, it is false. Topical actives are actually the single quickest way to keep our skin healthy and treat it for any issues. Don't get me wrong, nutrition is crucial for good skin, keeping yourself healthy inside and out is a positive thing and one I wouldn't dream of disputing. When it comes to skin health however, it is so important to take a comprehensive approach and look at what we are putting in and on our bodies.
When you take a supplement or eat that nutrient dense meal, there are so many parts of the body that benefit from those nutrients, the skin is actually the very last part of your body to receive anything. When you use a well formulated, nutrient dense product, it is impacting the skin directly. From there a million different things will happen based upon the product you have used; certain ingredients can lighten pigmentation, even out skin tone, smooth wrinkles, induce collagen production, some can even block testosterone to help prevent acne or help reduce inflammation in existing acne, the list goes on and on with many single ingredients able to address a number of issues at once. Using a topical product is the single most effective way to care for and treat your skin.
As we age we begin to lose the battle against things like time, gravity and collagen production. Especially when not properly cared for, our skin becomes more and more susceptible to things like the elements and climates we live in, sun damage, even pollution takes a large toll. Unfortunately, it isn't until signs of these stress factors begin to show up on our skin that many people begin to take their first steps towards proper skincare. It can be overwhelming once it becomes apparent that the days of being able to maintain that youthful glow armed with nothing but an orange bottle of Neutrogena in your shower and a tube of toothpaste to pamper your random breakouts with are far gone. I want to help break down the steps and products that make up a well rounded and effective beauty regimen as well as what they do and why you need them.
What is a skincare Regimen?
A basic skincare regimen is going to consist of five main things:
Often times we see this regimen drastically cut down and simplified to include a simple cleanser and moisturizer, but I cannot stress the importance of the other steps enough. Lets take a look at these steps and why you need them.
CLEANSER - This is the most basic step and should be done both morning and night. Not only can not properly cleansing your skin cause clogged pores and result in breakouts, but even if you are not prone to breakouts, buildup in your pores can cause them to stretch out creating enlarged pores and prematurely age the skin. Allowing makeup, pollutants and other factors to sit on the skin for extended periods of time can cause irritation and a breakdown in the skin's barrier function. A good cleanser will be gentle on the skin, not abrasive and will not strip the skin of its essential oils. If you are someone who wears heavy makeup, or even just liquid makeup, a double cleanse is recommended to ensure everything is removed. Gently using a washcloth to help remove product can also aid in the cleansing process. It is important not to scrub too hard and to ensure you use a clean washcloth for every cleanse.
"I use wipes every night" - Life is busy and by the end of the night adding one more thing to that list of things to do can be unbearable but sadly, wipes are not the answer. Not only are wipes fairly ineffective at fully removing impurities from the skin, but when left to sit on the skin the ingredients in wipes can disrupt the skin barrier and cause issues.
TONERS - Toners carry a certain stigma these days. I remember back in high school when using a toner meant applying a potent elixir of anything and everything drying. They had a pungent smell and obviously wasn't working unless your eyes, and more than likely skin, were burning. That's not what I'm talking about here. A well formulated toner can actually help increase the effectiveness of your other products, help repair and restore the surface of the skin after a deep cleanse and since they contain active or hydrating ingredients, they can reduce the amount of serum and moisturizer you will need to use. In short, even though it's one more step and one more product to buy, using a toner regularly can actually save you money.
"I use apple cider vinegar / rose water / witch hazel etc." - Like the majority of DIY skincare, many things utilized as a toner can cause more harm than good. A toner is mainly meant to restore some of the hydration lost during your cleanse but other ingredients can help with things like redness, inflammation and some even exfoliate. By using a single ingredient that isn't properly formulated for the skin you are missing out on many of the benefits of a proper toner. Apple Cider vinegar really has no benefits for the skin, rose water can actually irritate and cause skin sensitivity while witch hazel is often formulated with as much as 15% alcohol.
SERUM - A well formulated serum is your golden ticket to good skin. Whatever you are trying to target with your specific skincare goals in mind, you need a serum. They are concentrated and they work. The only thing to be aware of with these bad boys are the active ingredients and what they target. For example, if your serum contains retinol you will only want to apply it at night and while a good vitamin c serum is always beneficial, it can be even more effective during the summer time as it helps fight off those free radicals from sun exposure. This is where a good esthetician comes into play. While browsing the serum section on Amazon or Groupon can seem like good idea, buying the wrong serum for your skin can cause more issues than it fixes. Buying a poorly formulated serum or a serum that is improperly packaged, exposing the antioxidants in the bottle to oxygen and light can cause the serum to oxidize making it useless.
MOISTURIZER - While a serum is like a powerful supplement full of nutrients for the skin, a moisturizer is like food, and you can't live without food. A moisturizer is essential in helping your skin maintain healthy moisture levels and healing any damage. A wound heals best in a moist environment so even for those with acne, a moisturizer is imperative. Don't be mistaken or misguided, oil is not the enemy here so oil free moisturizers really aren't as beneficial as they may sound. Our skin barrier is made up of 3 main components, ceramides, oil and cholesterol; if you are not using a skincare regimen, specifically a moisturizer that helps support the barrier by including these essential components, you may be causing your skin to in fact lose moisture at a more rapid rate. By using something that contains to much of one of these components such as pure oil in an attempt to keep your skin hydrated you will also experience a compromised barrier leading your skin to revolt down the road.
Another thing to take into consideration when choosing a moisturizer is your climate. Often times a more hydrating moisturizer is perfectly fine in the dry winter months but during the summer months, switching it up to something more anti inflammatory with anti oxidants is necessary.
SUNSCREEN - By far the most important of the group, as much as 90% of skin damage is caused by sun exposure. Finding the right sunscreen and integrating it into your regimen will not only do the obvious and help keep you safe from skin cancer, but it will keep your skin healthy in so many other ways. Hormonal issues such as melasma are exacerbated by the sun, exposing acne to sun can leave you with hyperpigmentation (dark spots that are often confused with scarring) that are difficult to get rid of, it will also prematurely age you. When we are exposed to the sun we produce a specific enzyme, this enzyme's job is to destroy collagen that has been damaged by the sun and replace it with healthy collagen. As we age the "replacing" part of the process slows and eventually comes to a halt completely in our late 20s and early 30s.
Often times sunscreen can be a nuisance, new developments in the cosmetic industry however give you quite a few choices when it comes to sunscreen that actually looks and feels good on the skin.
So while this breakdown of the what and the why may help you come to realize that a true skincare regimen is unavoidable if you wish to have good skin, often times the "what next" can still be overwhelming. Finding an esthetician to help you navigate the complicated world of skincare can really help! Most estheticians are happy to help you establish a home care regimen without demanding that you come in for treatments. However, regular facials are extremely beneficial as this will allow you professional guidance and insight into your skin and your regimen. It also offers in depth treatments and analysis that far exceeds what can be done from the comfort of your bathroom. Once you have established a relationship with your esthetician they can also assist you in expanding your home care beyond these 5 basic steps to maximize your results and reach your skincare goals.