Beauty has taken a backseat during the pandemic. Working from home, wrangling toddlers, homeschooling reluctant students and dealing with increasingly alarming news has taken the phrase, “messy bun and getting’ things done,” to a new level of reality. Now may be the time to put a little snap back into your step with some personal pampering.
Let’s start with skin care because, as your esthetician, I believe it’s the foundation for looking feeling and great. Greeting tired, flaky, broken out skin in the mirror every morning doesn’t get anybody smiling. Glowing, happy skin and groomed eyebrows (we’ll get back to those!) can turn a messy bun and sweats into an Instagram-worthy look. Am I right?
So how can we get you glowing?
No matter what condition is looking back at you in the mirror, from wrinkles to pimples, most respond well to the same ingredients and routines.
No secret, cleansing is important. The goal is to remove makeup and environmental pollutants. Skin’s pH is between 4.7 and 5.75, which is slightly acidic. Maintaining this acidity protects the acid mantle which protects your skin from assault. Grabbing that bar of soap, with an alkaline pH of 6-10, and lathering up disrupts your skin’s acid balance. Over-drying the skin triggers the oil glands to produce even more sebum to compensate. Disturbing the acid mantle can give bacteria a foothold. Most commercially available facial cleansers, whether you prefer foamy or creamy, will honor your skin’s pH.
Back in the day, when cleansers contained soap, it was common to wipe the skin after cleansing with a liquid called a “toner.” One of the purposes of that product was to restore the pH balance of the skin. Toners are still available, but not as critical as they were in the past so the old, cleanse, tone, and moisturize routine can be outdated. Some toners and fresheners have added features which benefit the skin. If you use one or love the feeling of being extra clean, feel free to continue with this step.
Next to cleansing, one of my favorite steps is exfoliating. In healthy, young skin, cells normally turn over every 21 days. New cells are made in the lower levels of the skin and push their way to the top so that plump, fresh cells are always there to reflect light, hold moisture, and look great. Aging causes this process to slow down so that cells don’t turn over as quickly as they used to. Surface cells can be flat, dull, and flakey. If you have oily skin, the dead cells can become trapped in sticky sebum and that debris provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Exfoliation to the rescue!
There are basically two means of exfoliating the skin: chemical and mechanical.
Chemical methods include alpha and beta hydroxy acids. You may know these by other names. Alpha hydroxy acids are usually formed by sugars of one type or another such as Glycolic acid (sugar cane), Lactic Acid (milk), and Malic Acid (apples) among others. These acids dissolve the protein bonds of the skin cells so that they can be removed more easily. Beta Hydroxy acids dissolve both protein and fatty bonds. The main Beta Hydroxy acid is Salicylic Acid. It’s ability to dissolve skin oils explains why it is often found in acne products. These acids can be used in stronger concentrations by professionals for a quick acting exfoliation, often called a peel. In the amounts found in most over the counter products, they work on a gradual basis, but consistent use provides excellent results.
Mechanical exfoliation includes scrubs, exfoliating sponges, brushes, and even your regular washcloth. Microdermabrasion is a professional method of exfoliation. These methods use force to remove dead cells.
Two chemicals to look for when searching for products to keep skin looking youthful and clear are retinols and Vitamin C. Retinols are derived from Vitamin A and help speed up the turnover of skin cells so that fresh new cells are always coming to the top. Vitamin C is an antioxidant. The environment can cause oxidative damage to the skin which results in dark spots, wrinkles, sagging and other things we’d all rather avoid! In one study, dark spots alone caused raters to judge a person to be 20 years older than their chronological age. These two hard working ingredients minimize the appearance of this damage.
Sunscreen is a step we sometimes skip if we’re not planning a trip to the beach or other extended outdoor activity, but that’s a bad idea. Environmental factors like the sun account for more than 90% of the appearance of aging. For all their bad qualities, dead skin cells do provide valuable services for your skin’s well-being. The flat, dull cells provide a sort of sun protection and so it is especially important to use sun protection after exfoliation or when using a product containing any Vitamin A derivative.
So, what should your daily routine look like? Nobody’s got time for a bazillion steps!
- Cleanse: if you thoroughly removed makeup and other pollutants the night before, this might just be a fast swipe.
- Vitamin C serum: Protects from the environment and helps to repair skin.
- Sunscreen: I like a physical block like zinc or titanium dioxide.
- Cleanse: This is the time to do your best to take off the day! Please don’t go to bed with makeup on no matter how tired you might be!
- Rentinol: A good retinol cream is great at night. No worries about sun sensitivity and since skin naturally repairs and corrects during sleep, this treatment can enhance the process. Find one that suits your skin type. The ingredient is good for all skin types but choose a base with more or less oil content depending whether your skin is dry or prone to break out.
That’s it! Here is a link to a list of products that I have used and enjoyed for myself and my clients. They are not affiliate links or sponsored in any way. I just provide them to help you find effective, reasonably priced products in a world where the sky can be the limit!
Let me know in the comments if you have questions or have suggestions you would like to add!