Most of us are familiar with the basic steps to a skincare regime: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer but there must be more to it or almost everyone would be walking around with perfect skin. Searching this topic on the web, results in a lot of simplistic information. It is beneficial to understand the reason and importance of each step. A skin professional or aesthetician can educate you on what products and ingredients work best for your skin type and concerns.
Clients often ask me what is the most important step in achieving awesome skin and which products they should purchase first. Below, I will list what I have found to be essential steps to healthy, beautiful skin in order of importance.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90% of visible aging is caused by sun damage. That should be reason enough to have us running for our sunscreen but the risk of skin cancer is an even bigger concern. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers and 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime! It is recommended that you use a broad spectrum (UVA / UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA / UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. You should apply sunscreen 20-30 minute before going outdoors covering all exposed areas including face, ears, lips and back of hands.
Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A and come in several forms (retinol, retinaldehyde and tretinoin). They increase cellular turnover by sloughing off (or desquamating) dead skin cells faster so they do not bind together and clog your pores thereby, stimulating the production of new skin cells. When used consistently, retinoids can keep your skin clear, even out skin tone, repair sun damage, and prevent pre-mature aging by improving elasticity and collagen production, along with other exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties, making retinoids the gold standard for acne and anti-aging treatments. Even those with clear, wrinkle-free skin can use retinoids as a preventative measure to help keep skin young and healthy.
3. Serums and other actives / specialty products
Serums are considered the workhorses of skincare because of their active ingredients and their delivery systems which are designed to go deeper than perfect creams to target specific skin concerns. Serums are not formulated with occlusive, moisturizing ingredients that keep water from evaporating like creams and moisturizers. They contain a high concentration of active ingredients such as antioxidants, peptides, growth factors and skin brighteners. Because active ingredients are more expensive than thickeners and fillers, serums are usually pricier but well worth the investment. And because of their concentration, a little bit can go a long way. Some of my favorite serums for anti-aging are Collagen Peptide, Hyaluronic Acid, Vita-C, Rx Complex and TGF-b or Growth Factor and Booster Serums. Some serums specifically designed for acne prone skin include Glycolic and Salicylic serums. Other serums like Mandelic and Vitamin A are effective for almost all types of skin because they help with skin cell turnover and evening out skin tone.
Properly cleansing the skin can arguably be the most important step to perfect skin because properly cleansed skin allows the other skin products to penetrate and work more efficiently and effectively. There are different types of cleansers (gel, creamy, oil) depending on your skin type; your aesthetician will be able to make recommendations on the one that is best for your skin. In order for cleansers to work properly, they generally need to be gently worked into the skin and removed with a wash cloth or ultrasonic device in order to help clean out the pores. This is not about how much elbow grease you use (gentler is better) but about using proper technique, tools and ingredients. It is also recommended to first remove makeup and then double cleanse until no dirt is visible on a cotton pad.
Moisturizers help keep the skin balanced. They are designed to make the external layers of the skin soft and stable while increasing hydration by reducing evaporation. Most moisturizers contain humectants and emollients. Humectants draw water into the outer layer of skin (epidermis) from the middle layer (dermis) and from the environment. Emollients are moisturizers that leave the skin smooth and soft while sealing in moisture. Some may also be occlusive by forming a thin film on the surface of the skin to prevent moisture loss. Higher quality moisturizers have additional ingredients and delivery systems that help smooth, hydrate, firm and improve durability and elasticity.
6. Eye Cream
The skin around the eyes tend to be more fragile, dry, sensitive and prone to aging and fatigue, including puffiness and dark circles. In fact, the skin around the eyes is 10 times thinner than the rest of the face. Also, there are minimal oil glands around the eyes so using an eye cream is essential for proper hydration especially as we age. Eye creams are specifically formulated for the delicate skin around the eye with a lot more active ingredients that not only moisturize but help with elasticity, puffiness, dark circles and collagen production.
Although there has been a recent debate about whether or not tons are necessary, I find that a good toner can be beneficial. First, toners help balance your skin's pH and return it to normal so that other products in your skin line can penetrate effectively without you having to wait 20-30 minutes for your skin be dry and return to baseline on it's own. Secondly, nowdays toners are made with beneficial ingredients that help address your specific skin concerns whether it is aging, acne, dark spots or sensitive skin.
8. A Healthy Diet and Sufficient Water
The foods we eat are not all created equal. Just like good skincare we can find wrinkle-fighting antioxidants in fruits and vegetables to hydrating healthy fats in fish. Good food sources of vitamin A include fish oil, salmon, carrots, spinach, and broccoli. Sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, papaya, and tomatoes. You can get vitamin E from sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, sunflower seeds, avocados, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables. The mineral selenium has antioxidant properties that help protect skin from free radical damage and can be found in wheat germ, tuna, salmon, garlic, Brazil nuts, eggs, and brown rice.Healthful foods such as Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation and can be found in cold water fish, such as salmon and sardines, flaxseed oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and almonds. Finally, Water helps hydrate your body and leads to plump, healthy skin. Adequate hydration helps flush out toxins that can cause skin problems. It is also essential for skin metabolism and regeneration.
-Everything apply to your face, should also be applied to your neck, décolleté and back of the hands since those are the first areas to show signs of aging and are often neglected.
-Eye creams & Serums should be applied gently with the tip of your ring finger, with a dabbing motion around the orbital bone working inwards towards the bridge of your nose.
-Always use a washcloth or ultrasonic tool to properly remove cleansers