How much is too much on your skin? At what point does an extra step become pointless?
There has been an incredible increase in the availability of skincare in the past ten years and it is still increasing.
With this has also come a steady and strong amount of information on ingredients that are essentially from the same three families.
I get concerned when information that is for the most part true about these three families is gathered from all different sites because it often leads to people thinking “I must have this” “I definitely need that” “I’m buying that tomorrow”.
I see quite a few people using everything at once and not understanding why their skin isn’t looking perfectly clear and flawless.
So here’s the heart of the matter. Let your skin grow. That’s your main goal. Giving it the best environment to grow and grow well. Undamaged, full nutrition, good hydration and consistent care and protection
A lot of this is responsive to what you allow to enter your body through your mouth. The very best skincare will find it hard to compete with good internal nutrition and hydration. After all your body only has access to what you give it. Even if this means it has to function without what it needs.
Letting your skin grow presents you with certain disciplines that you should practise.
Cleansing regularly with a cleanser that isn’t too strong. This can be tricky for some. The best cleanser is an Oil Cleanser but for many of us it leads to congestion so we need something that has a water rinsable option like a Milk Cleanser. I don’t think there is a right or wrong option here as long as it isn’t removing too many oils and making your skin dry out. The right cleanser for you removes what you put on for the day without dissolving the underneath clean oils that your skin makes itself.
A cleanser that is too strong often results in skin that feels uncomfortable, a little rough, gets oily and for some an increase in congestion issues. The Cleanser that is right feels only a little or not at all dry once you dry off from a shower and is certainly comfortable after a moisturiser application.
Unless you use a Cleansing Oil you will always require a moisturiser or some form of light to heavy protection after you have cleansed. Why? Because you have removed a soft oily, waxy film from the very surface that even if it was unclean was providing a protective barrier on the surface. This layer is very important and without it the surface drys, separates, sheds and becomes vulnerable to your natural skin flora having access to areas deeper in your skin it shouldn’t.
This is where the infinite bombardment of options begins if you’re hunting around online. Above all else a moisturiser is providing a nourishing, softening, protective layer that is comfortable for you and doesn’t give you congestion. It should do this for you everyday, for your whole adult life. Everyday.
This is where moisturisers used to sit. A jar full of soft creamy nutrition that kept the skin soft and prevented water loss through evaporation throughout the day. Then about two decades ago everything changed with the first cream that contained an active. Now a moisturiser wasn’t just a protective comfortable film but it was a delivery system for an ever increasing array of compounds.
Now a moisturiser can have acids that dissolve the surface layer slowly of skin cells. It can lots of vitamins as a slow drip feed of nutrients. They can have ceramides, amino acids, peptides and minerals. All manner of anti inflammatories and tiny amounts of all sorts of molecules that have shown at some point to influence in some way a tiny part of your skins functioning.
Some of these ingredients I value a lot and others I do not. What is of concern is that these extra compounds are now also found in serums, toners, masks and even cleansers. This worries me because it is now quite likely that someone who has multiple brands in their bathroom could be putting an acidic product on their skin in three layers. Once in their cleanser, once in their serum and lastly in their Moisturiser. Suddenly this person is getting three doses of a weak acid on the skin that now isn’t so weak anymore because they have so much on. Their skin, after some time, will feel dry, very smooth still, but somehow a little rough. It feels tight and very thirsty and may even start to breakout again. This is where the problem starts because often acidic products are purchased for breakout because they are so helpful for it. Overuse can lead to breakout too and often the person will increase their use of acids and end up in a vicious circle of confusion and a skin that is getting ever more out of control. By the time they see me they have immunity issues, quite advanced dehydration, sensitivity, dull skin with no vibrancy and they are frustrated and upset.
Vitamins are another ingredient that are marvellous for skin health but they do have optimal dosages and Vitamin A is the most notorious. It is essential for healthy cell replication and has an excellent antioxidant reputation but it also slows down oil gland function at doses even of 1%. Most creams or serums like to have dosages close to this percentage straight up, so if a person is using two products from different brands that both have Vit A at 1% then she is getting 2% if they are used at the same time. And as before everything will be fine for a while but probably two weeks in and extra moisture will be needed. He or she will feel like they need to put more and more cream on and their skin will go looking wonderful to dull and tired. Because the right dose if Vit A makes the skin so beautiful it may well be the Vit A serum that the person reaches for to fix what they are experiencing and so the problem compounds.
This one causes me the most headache of all. People love to feel smooth skin, really smooth skin so they scrub often. From now on think of exfoliating like sanding back a beautiful piece of timber. You expose a lovely fresh layer of wood that is rich and lustrous but you know you need to protect it otherwise it dries out, gets bleached by sun and eroded by rain and wind. Your skin is the same, in fact much worse. It needs protection but also it already is so thin. It may look tough and feel thick and bouncy to you but in fact that top layer you touch is microscopically thin and a good abrasive scrub makes a very big difference. The problem with scrubbing occurs when the level of surface abrasion is greater than the skins rate of growth.
Exfoliating should be (other than occasionally) never greater than the growth rate of the skin. When it is greater it thins, drys, becomes touchy and sensitive, can be itchy, and looks dull. Unfortunately for a lot of people when they feel this way a scrub is the first thing they do because it gives a short term reprieve that is falsely assumed to be the solution.
So what should you do?
Cleanse well and comfortably. If possible use an emulsion or oil daily and a surfactant (foamy) cleanser on occasion.
Acids are great on the skin but use them slowly. Two or three times a week unless you have congestion, heavy oil flow or an established trouble free history of using them more often. Have the Acid in one product that stays on your skin all day. I like Acids in serums so they can be bought in and out of your routine without having to change your moisturiser.
Vitamins, love them. Use them everyday and at decent doses. Try to use them in one or two products so you can keep track of what levels you are one. For Vit C I like 10 to 20%. For Vit B3 (niacinamide) I like 10%. For Vit A I like 1%. For Vit E I like minimum 5% but it is quite oily so too high is just too uncomfortable.
When you are using Acids or even Vit C your skin will feel smooth to exceptionally smooth depending on if you apply twice daily, daily or sporadically. Your need to exfoliate should be minimal. You may go up to two weeks without using a scrub. Scrub only when you feel roughness on your skin and then do it respectfully and gently. Do not exfoliate just because you have been told too. You are the determiner of scrubbing and no need to exfoliate to me is the epitome of having a healthy beautifully functioning skin.
I really think once you have used a serum and put on a moisturiser that the ability of a product to absorb after that is limited. If you have more that you really want to get on then mix multiple products in your hand first and apply as one application.
Your aim is to have a clean skin, a skin that is then comfortably protected with a moisturiser that is healthy and then assisted and protected nutrition wise with Vitamins and minerals.
So be the masters of what goes on your skin!!