The Skin Care Puzzle

skin care puzzleMy job in life is to help people with their skin. Usually this means I’m helping them with a skin care problem. No matter where I am, at the spa or at the bar, I can’t stop until I’ve figured it out. Once someone’s given me a problem to solve, I start collecting information.

People are sometimes surprised at the number of questions I ask, and even what kind of information I’m looking for. But, like a detective, I am piecing together a puzzle. And everything you tell me is another piece of the puzzle. If I can gather enough pieces, I can see the whole picture.

So what kind of information do I need to figure out how your puzzle pieces fit together? I look at all kinds of details. I want to know what you’re currently using, from your cleanser to your prescriptions. Even oral prescriptions for conditions unrelated to the skin can affect how your skin behaves.

I especially need to know about what kind of exfoliants you’re using at home, and how often. Exfoliation is the puzzle piece that is often difficult to get just right. Not exfoliating often enough leads to dull skin, clogged pores, and flakiness. Exfoliating too often can lead to redness, irritation, and more flakiness.

I also want to know about your diet. What you eat or don’t eat can absolutely affect your skin. I’ve noticed that people on low-fat diets can be very dry. Your dairy intake can also affect your acne. If your stress levels lead you to eat lots of sweets, your skin ca be affected. Or you may simply eat fewer healthy foods, also affecting your skin.

Given this huge list of variables, it’s often hard to tell if a product is working well for you. If you are using an anti-acne regimen, but your stress levels are causing you to break out, you will still break out. We might be able to control them more, and diminish the frequency or the severity. Maybe your acne serum will work if it’s partnered with a different cleanser. It can be hit-or-miss to find just the right combo, but the more pieces of the puzzle we have, the faster we can put it together.

People look at skin care products as the end all, when in actuality, it’s only one piece of a very large puzzle. [Tweet this!] All the pieces must fit together to get you beautiful, glowing skin.

 

 

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The Kitchen Sponge Theory

My teacher in esthetics school made a huge impression on me. She had many sassy little sayings that have stuck with me. One of them was a way to correct us when we would erroneously ask if something would “open” or “close” a pore. She would always snap back: Pores don’t have doors. [Tweet this!]

It is true. They don’t open and shut. In a facial, when we open up your pores, what we actually mean is that we’re softening the skin. Toners don’t close your pores… they constrict them. Large pores aren’t open, they are visible.

I like to offer a slightly different theory with more explanation. Technically it seems like the pores have opened or closed. kitchen sponge theoryBut there is a distinction here that, if you understand it, you will automatically understand  how to treat other skin care problems.  I like to explain with what I call the Kitchen Sponge Theory.

Imagine that your skin is like a dish sponge. When that dish sponge is dry, it is hard. It doesn’t bend at all. It’d be easy to break. When you first run that sponge under water, the water rolls off. It doesn’t absorb. But if you hold the sponge under water, it starts to absorb it. The sponge softens. It becomes flexible. It bends easily. It absorbs more water.

This change is essentially what we mean when we say that pores open. We are actually making the surrounding tissue more pliable to remove blackheads easily. That sponge bends easily after it’s been run under water, just like steam, oils, and enzymes all soften the skin and the debris within the pore. The skin is more supple and allows me to extract clogs without causing damage. Products absorb better, allowing nutrients to penetrate deeper into the skin. In contrast, toners can constrict pores. They generally do this because the colder temperature constricts the skin and makes the pores less noticeable. (Hint: they’d go back to their original shape eventually.) There are other ways to make the pores appear smaller as well, such as regular exfoliation. Remember that you can change the appearance of your pores, but not the size!

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs. Who really cares if the pores open or if the skin softens? My first response is that the more we understand how the skin functions, the better we can treat it. If you understand the texture of the skin, you’ll understand why it clogs in the first place. Then you’ll understand why you have to go through a process if you want to properly pick (but don’t, because you should come see me for a facial). My next reason is that if you understand this, you won’t fall for tricky sales people who want to sell you ineffective products to “close your pores.” You read this blog. You know better now!

 

 

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The Law of Diminishing Skin Care Returns

My job is super fun. I get to spend the whole day talking and thinking about skin care and skin care products. I get to recommend skin care products that I like. I get free skin care products to try and judge (which is a great way to get judgy feelings out of my system, since I try hard not to judge people).

But sometimes my job is disappointing. I feel hopeful when I look at a new product. I can’t wait to see my skin magically transformhave you stopped seeing a difference in your skin care products? when I apply it. And I feel frustrated when that skin care is just okay. I am disappointed. I want instant results too!

I’ve been trying a new skin care line for work. I want to tell me boss that’s it’s amazing and that we should buy it immediately. But even though I like many of the products, I was a little disappointed. Couldn’t my skin glow just a bit more? Couldn’t it look a bit better?

Then I realized that I am a victim of the Law of Diminishing Skin Care Returns. If you’ve ever studied economics, you’re familiar with the original law. Applied to skin care, it means that when you use lots of good product, you don’t notice as much when you add another good product. Essentially, if your skin is already in great shape, it becomes harder to get a dramatic result. [Tweet this!]

Let’s look at a real life example. If you are using a bar soap, and you change to a cleanser that is less stripping, you’ll automatically see an improvement in your skin. You’ll notice your hydration will improve and your texture will soften. If you add a well formulated moisturizer, you’ll see even more changes. Now add a serum, and maybe you’ll decrease breakouts or improve your glow. But every product you add will change your skin less and less. The better the condition of your skin, the less you’ll notice the improvements. If you change from one moisturizer with great ingredients to another with different great ingredients, you may not notice the difference. Does this mean your skin care isn’t working? No, it’s still working… you just can’t see as much a change because your skin already looks great.

It’s hard to gauge good skin care if your skin is already healthy and glowing. We become immune to the changes in the mirror, and we naturally focus on our flaws. It’s easy to see this small line or that brown spot when the rest of your skin is smooth and glowing. Take one giant step back from the mirror, cut yourself a break, and remember that if your skin already looks amazing… miracle products become harder and harder to find.

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How To Hydrate

It is still pretty chilly here in the Northeast, and I like to lean on my hydrating serums to transition to spring. Since serums have light weight textures, they are generally the best way to increase the water levels in the skin and a great way to bridge the seasonal gap for dry, dehydrated skin. Proper hydration can also help to plump up fine lines. Many times people mistake tiny fine lines as an anti-aging problem, when it is actually a hydration issue. Imagine a crumpled tissue that would be wrinkled even after trying to smooth it out and how those wrinkles disappear with a small drop of water. Well hydrated skin is also glowing skin, as those plump, healthy skin cells reflect light better.

Need a drink of water for your skin? Look for products with hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, or sodium hyaluronate, which are three names for roughly the same ingredient. [Tweet this!] This naturally occurring ingredient binds up to a thousand times its weight in water, locking in deep hydration, plumping fine lines, and restoring radiance. Get double the treatment by partnering hydrating ingredients with other actives, amping up results and saving you time and money.

 

Murad Skin Soothing Serum redness reducingGetting hydration with a boost of ingredients for redness reducing only makes your skin look amazing. This Murad Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum blends plenty of hyaluronic acid with anti-inflammatories such as chamomile, green tea, and arnica. Apply over a spritz of hydrating mist to get the most of the water binding properties of the hyaluronic. Add in some antioxidants like vitamin C and you have a great product to use under your daily SPF.

 

 

Reduce texture and get your glow going with a glycolic serum that also hydrates andPeter Thomas Roth 10% Hydrating Gel soothes. It may seem counterintuitive to hydrate and exfoliate at the same time, but glycolic can also bind water into the skin. Additionally, exfoliating away dead skin cells allows the good ingredients to penetrate to the living cells that can use them. The Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 10% Hydrating Gel features aloe to hydrate as well as vitamin A, C, and E to nourish and repair. Use at night under your moisturizer.

 

 

 

Eminence Stone Crop Serum Anything that hydrates and fights pigmentation gets my attention. Pigmentation control is one of my primary anti-aging concerns for me and my clients, since studies have shown that people with pigmentation are generally judged to be older than people with wrinkles. The Eminence Stone Crop Serum has stone crop extract to hydrate and bearberry extract to control pigmentation. Safe for morning or night, but don’t forget the sunscreen.

 

 

Every skin type needs more hydration. These are some of my favorite ways to get it. What serums do you love for hydration?

 

 

 

 

See a product here that you think would work for you? I earn a commission and you help to support this blog if you use the affiliate links provided. But your trust is important to me, and I’d never recommend something that I haven’t used or didn’t like. Read my disclaimer.

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Thinking Out of the Box

woman jumping out of skin care boxSkin care companies have put you in a box for years, and I’m here to break you free.

People often confuse skin types with skin concerns. Skin types only indicate how much oil you produce. It’s a sliding scale with very oily skin on one side and extremely dry skin on the other. The center of the scale is balanced skin, or skin that produces just enough oil to be moisturized on its own. Many things can affect your oil production, like seasonal changes, hormonal changes, and medications. Make sure to flex your routine to match what’s actually going on with your skin.

Skin concerns are the specific things you want to change about your skin, like acne, pigmentation, or fine lines. Many people will tell me that their skin type is sensitive, but this is actually more of a concern. No matter what your skin type, you can absolutely treat whatever concern you have in a way that works for you.

Oily skin types generally want to stick with lighter textures. Oil free lotions can be helpful in the summer, but in the winter, be careful of not getting enough moisture. I find lots of oily skin types overestimate their oiliness and get a little dried out in the cooler months. Look for a lotion that is still lightweight but has some botanical oils in it, like jojoba, sunflower, or argan oils. Treat your concerns with serums. Most serums are lightweight enough to not create any more oiliness on the skin, and you can get them to treat any concern you have.

Balanced skin types have the most options of all the skin types, but you are also the ones that need to pay the most attention to external factors. You may find that having a few options for your routine allows you more flexibility. In general, you want to stick with medium weight textures. You may like layering a few serums to help address your concerns and keeping your moisturizer lighter. In cooler months, you may like a bit of a heavier moisturizer. If you’re prone to break outs, keep the moisturizer light and layer the serums to get the right amount of hydration.

Dry skin types can’t get enough moisture. You love a creamy, buttery texture. I’m a dry skin type, and in the winter, creams just can’t be rich enough. But dry skin types need to watch out for going overboard. Creams that are too heavy can lay on the surface of the skin, not only clogging the pores but also preventing moisture from penetrating the deeper layers of the skin. Dry skin types want to embrace layers, maybe using a hydrating serum before a deeper moisturizer. Your skin has more opportunity to absorb many light layers than one super thick layer.

I generally recommend that you pick a cleanser and moisturizer for your skin type and looking for a serum to address your concerns. All skin types can benefit from using a hydrating serum, even just as needed, to help build in additional moisture that is easy for the skin to absorb.

Do you treat for its type, or your concerns?

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Time Crunch

Everyone is pressed for time these days. Not many of us have lots of free time to spend on a skin care routine, myself included. But, no one wants to look like they spent no time on themselves… so how do you get your best skin in just a few minutes a day? Here are some of my favorite skin care tips to help busy people get their glow … fast! [Tweet this!]

  • Consolidate your steps. I love to use shower time to exfoliate, either with a quick glycolic acid cleanser a few times a week, or by once a week using an exfoliating mask with fruit enzymes or glycolic acid while I condition my hair.
  • Pick products that have multiple benefits. Vitamin C is a great ingredient with multiple benefits (anti-oxidant protection, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging). Pick a moisturizer with a sunscreen in the morning; or, in the summer, just use a sunscreen. Retinol can be used to address acne, wrinkles, and pigmentation and should be used at night.
  • Focus on one skin care concern to address at a time. What bothers you most? Is it frequent breakouts? Hydration? Anti-aging? If you can’t find a product to address all of your concerns (a tall order sometimes!), find a serum that addresses your first concern, and use it at night.
  • Skip unnecessary steps. There are very few benefits to a toner, in my opinion, so I skip this step when I’m rushed or in a hurry. Or, I put my toner in a spray bottle and spritz it on right out of the shower, before I moisturize.

I can honestly say that I rarely spend more than five minutes on my skin care routine. Most of my speed comes from just knowing what I’m going to put on and having it available to grab quickly. The rest comes from careful product selection beforehand. I know what my concerns are, and I’ve found product that meets as many of my concerns as possible.

What tips do you do to take the best care of your skin in as little time as possible?

 

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