Learn more about the most common steps in a skincare regimen. For those unfamiliar with what each product actually does, this may help you orientate yourselves.
Skin-Type is the tendency of your skin to produce a lot of, or very little, natural facial oil (lipids). One of the most basic steps is to be certain of your own skin-type before you try to select skincare products. If you are unsure of your skin-type, read our guide - How To Assess Your Skin-Type.
Cleansers remove dirt you have come in contact with; pollution, dead skin cells, the excess oils that your face produces and, if you're wearing it, makeup. Cleansing doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it is the foundation of any good skincare regimen. This makes it important so be sure you're getting it right:
- The first issue is balance, you want to remove enough natural oil and dirt to reveal a fresh complexion - without removing too much oil. Generally a good cleanser will rinse off without residue, and won’t leave your face feeling dry, tight, stinging or itchy. Learn to “listen” to your skin to find your own balance.
- The first defensive layer on your skin’s surface is sebum secreted by your pores (hair follicles) which is called the acid mantle. Its pH is usually within the range 4-5.5 (slightly acidic).
- Old-fashioned soaps are very alkaline (base) and therefore harsh (they can have a pH of 10).
- Sulfates (like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)) are very common, but are harsh surfactants and tend to over-strip the oil from your skin. This destroys the acid mantle, leaving your skin temporarily open to irritation, inflammation and microbial infection (bacteria and viruses).
- There are cleansers for all skin-types. Cleansers for oily skin are designed to remove dirt and excess oil. Cleansers for dry skin are designed to cleanse effectively without over-stripping natural oil, and in extreme cases may even leave a protective layer behind to seal in moisture.
- As a rough guide, foaming gels are usually better for oilier skin and lotion cleansers are usually better for drier skin.
- Most people should cleanse twice a day, with tepid or cool water, though extreme skin-types may need to adjust that to suit.
- It is usually advisable to follow cleansing with the next step of your regimen, while your face is still damp to lock in essential hydration!
Your skin has a specific process for automatically shedding dead skin cells (called desquamation) but often it is beneficial to plan extra exfoliation. The facts;
- The benefits of regular exfoliation can be quite extensive; increased cell turnover rate, improved barrier function, a fresher complexion, visibly reduced lines, reduced pigmentation and improved penetration of performance ingredients in your skincare. Not bad right?
- There is anecdotal evidence that regular exfoliation allows makeup to be applied more evenly
- The basic types of exfoliation are: physical exfoliators involving rough textures; chemical exfoliators involving acidic substances; and enzyme exfoliators involving specific enzymes that dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells. Dermatologists sometimes use very strong chemicals for deeper exfoliation called chemical peels.
- Physical exfoliators - we prefer “round” particles in physical exfoliators as the sharp edges of ingredients such as ground shells or nuts in some physical exfoliators can cause microscopic "scratches", compromising your barrier function and potentially causing inflammation.
- Chemical exfoliators - are generally Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs - which are water-soluble) or Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA or Salicylic Acid - which is oil-soluble and good at clearing excess sebum from clogged pores). Note that sensitivity to acids is quite common, but usually reduces with use as your skin becomes accustomed. If your sensitivity does not reduce or increases with time you should seek a different form of exfoliator.
- Enzyme exfoliators - proteolytic enzymes that dissolve the protein bonds between dead skin cells; mimicking the natural desquamation process
- Usually you want to limit exfoliation to 1, 2 or, at the most, 3 times a week, or you risk over-stripping your skin - leaving it struggling to catch up. Again learn to “listen” to your skin.
- Don't forget, exfoliation is removing dead skin cells. Dead skin cells act as miniature shields to protect your skin from UV radiation. Exfoliation should always be accompanied with daily use of sunscreen to make up for the reduced natural protection.
Masques are vehicles for the occasional infusion of beneficial ingredients in to your skin. Masques adopt a wide range of strategies: from detoxification, pore purification, hydration and nourishment, to soothing and aromatherapy treatments. Despite the wide range of goals there are some common principles;
- The application of masques is most effective immediately after exfoliating because skin penetration will be enhanced. Usually masques are applied in a thick layer, left on for 10 - 20 minutes, then rinsed off. Masques applied by specialists may be rubbed off in a process called “gommage”. Some companies make paper “masks” which are peeled off after they dry
- Masques for normal to oily skin are often based on natural clays that absorb excess oil, exfoliate and purify pores. They tend to dry as they work, and usually become very tight when they do
- Masques for dry skin are usually gel based and do not dry. They tend to have humectant ingredients - which re-hydrate your skin, or emollient ingredients - which moisturize and repair the natural barrier function
- Effective masques take the opportunity to introduce large amounts of beneficial ingredients to your skin - making them more effective than normal skin-conditioning or moisturizing treatments. Look for ingredients which have benefited your skin in the past for the most effective results
- Stress is an important trigger for the release of free radicals in your skin and a common cause of inflammation. Take the time needed for the masque to do its work as a mandatory stress-free period
Toners are very often misunderstood.
- There are those who don't advocate the use of toners because they “dry out your skin” but that's not necessarily so
- Traditionally, because soaps are alkaline (base), toners were used to re-balance the pH of your skin
- Most of them were alcohol-based, or contained alcohol solvents and astringents
- Modern toners are quite different and are primarily an opportunity to introduce beneficial ingredients in a vehicle that includes lots of water
- Water is hardly ever listed as a performance ingredient, but in practice it is one of the most beneficial ingredients in many skincare products. Dehydrated skin suffers from a very wide variety of dysfunctions
- As with masques, modern toners adopt a wide range of strategies and success depends on knowing and “listening” to your skin
Serums are vehicles for intense penetration of performance ingredients - to deeper layers of your skin than other treatments (like moisturizers) can reach;
- Usually the ingredients in serums are much more concentrated than in moisturizers or other products. This is one of the reasons why serums are generally more expensive than traditional skincare treatments
- Sometimes the performance ingredients are included in Liposomes (encapsulated with lipid bilayers to “mimic” substances naturally found in your body), or other specialized delivery systems
- This is usually done to enhance penetration to the deeper layers of your skin, and to reduce the possibility of irritation or sensitisation, to the high-power contents, through time-released delivery
- Because serums are built for penetration, they should be applied to clean skin after cleansing and toning, so that emollients, like ceramides, lipids or oils, do not “block” their path
- Usually serums are water-based, and because they do not contain oils they can be used on any skin-type (there are exceptions to this rule)
- But because serums are highly targeted (designed for specific skin issues and concerns), you should look for serums which suit your specific goals
- Generally the different types of serums are for: skin maintenance - for those starting long-term planning; skin nourishment - for undernourished skin; skin issues - like dryness or overproduction of oil; frequently blocked pores or sensitivity; pigmentation - usually from unprotected UV exposure, lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity
- We encourage you to research the concerns that you have with your own skin, before selecting a serum
- Note that, as serums seek to interact with the deeper layers of skin, visible effects may only appear after a period of time (usually from a matter of days up to a number of weeks)
The skin around your eyes is much thinner and more fragile than the rest of your face and requires specific care. It is also hugely reactive to your sleep patterns. The important points;
- Normal moisturizers should not be used on the eye area as they can cause milia (bumps), caused by trapped skin cells around the eyes. Therefore you should apply eye treatments before moisturizers
- Milia can also be caused by eye makeup left on overnight, or even incomplete eye makeup removal
- Apply eye treatments with your pinky or ring finger as they are the weakest fingers and will be more gentle on the skin around your eyes
- Eye treatments come in creme and gel forms. Eye cremes are richer and are for dry skin, they usually target lines and wrinkles found in more mature skin. Gels are not so rich and are usually associated with reduction of puffiness and dark circles
- Accelerated aging, puffiness and dark circles may be signs of fatigue and inadequate rest. So while eye treatments can offer relief of these symptoms, your body may be telling you that you are not sleeping enough. Ignoring what your body tells you for one night feels like freedom, ignoring it for years or decades will have visible effects on your skin
Moisturizers are probably the most familiar skincare products there are. Generally they keep skin soft, supple and comfortable.
- But do you know what they really do?
- If you think about it, ancient man didn’t moisturize. But he also didn’t cleanse or move through sudden climate shifts like air-conditioning, central heating, chlorinated water, plane cabins and saunas
- We mention this simply to illustrate the fact that moisturizers are designed to supplement the natural protection your skin provides. Over-moisturizing can unbalance your skin as much as under-moisturizing can
- The most important functions of moisturizer are to help your skin maintain its natural barrier function and to stop your skin becoming dehydrated
- Dehydrated skin, with a compromised barrier function, thickens and is sensitive, cracked or flaky and becomes unable to normalize it’s own moisture levels making it highly intolerant to environmental irritants or sensitizers
- Moisturizers help us achieve balance with heavy emollients (fatty ingredients for dry skin) and light-weight humectants (water-binding ingredients to help maintain hydration)
- Like finding the right pair of jeans, success may require a level of trial and error
Up to 90% of extrinsic skin aging (external aging - not controlled by genetic and hereditary factors) is caused by UV exposure. This fact alone makes it advisable for everyone to use sunscreen on a daily basis. What is important:
- Understand the very real damage that UV rays can cause!
- For us the most important factor in a sunscreen is comfort; you need to love your sunscreen or you just won’t use it every day
- If you wear makeup often, you will need your sunscreen to work well under makeup too
- SPF30 protects you from 97% of UVB rays. For normal / urban UV exposure, we find this to be adequate
- Modern sunscreens are all broad-spectrum, meaning that they protect you from both UVA and UVB radiation. If you come across sunscreen which does not say it is broad-spectrum you are not advised to use it
- There are chemical and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and physical sunscreens use particles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays away from your body
- Yes, UV rays can penetrate glass, so being indoors does not preclude the use of sunscreen
Finding products that suit your skin perfectly is largely a matter of testing a few different ones. But understanding the basics, knowing what to avoid and what to look for, and learning to “listen” to your skin are the first steps of designing any reliable and effective skincare regimen for yourself.
LOOKING FOR MORE ADVICE?
Our Formulation Philosophy
Our Glossary of Ingredients
What Do Antioxidants Do?
How is Inflammation Related to Aging?
How to Assess your Skin-Type
How to Compile a Dry Skin Regimen
How to Compile an Oily Skin Regimen
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