Ultimate Skin Guide : A Good Skincare Routine
Welcome to our Ultimate Skin Guide. Part 1.
Introduction to skin and a good skincare routine
Firstly, lets begin with understanding how our skin actually works.
Our skin is amazing, whether you are bright and young without a wrinkle in sight, someone who has struggled with acne, or an older person whose lines have shown they have lived, experiencing hot flushes of menopause our skin collectively is hard working every single day.
Our skin is the bodies largest organ; it is a living, breathing mechanism and it's working overtime for each and every one of us. Jere are just a few of the jobs our skin does during 24 hours.:
- Acting as a waterproof shield so that vital nutrients don't leak our of your body.
- Regulates your body temperature, by opening and closing blood vessles, and perspiring to allow sweat to evaporate and cool us down.
- Acting as a barrier between your insides and the many harmful toxins and microorganisms in the environment.
- Sweating out waste products including salt and ammonia/
- Helping protect you from sun damage by producing melanin.
- Synthesizing vitamin D for strong bones and healthy organs/
- Patching itself up against the various cuts, bruises, grazes and burns we get day to day.
- Giving us that little known thing known as the sense of touch.
The skin is complex, and it deserves respect. To understand how your skincare products work, it can help to have a basic understanding of what goes on beneath your skin.
This is the outmost part of the skin, and the bit you see. It is made up of keratinocytes (our skin cells) and its the part of you that keeps bacteria at bay. Its your first line of defense.
Your epidermis is constantly renewing and regenerating, with new cells made in the lowest layer, the basal cells, and travelling, over the course of approximately a month. Eventually becomes a layer of dead skin cells called keratinocytes that are constantly shedding in the stratum corneum. This process slows down as you get older. So making sure you're keeping your kin clean and exfoliated is important if you don't want your complexion to look dull and lifeless.
The bottom layers of the epidermis also produce melanin, which helps protect you from UV rays and gives your skin its colour. When you tan, your skin is actually producing more melanin in an attempt to shield you from the sun.
OVER THE COUNTER SKINCARE WILL ONLY EVER TREAT THE EPIDERMIS.
This thick layer of your skin contains blood vessels and nerves that give you your sense of touch. The connective tissues are made up of two proteins: collagen, which gives its skin its fullness and shape: and elastin, which gives skin its resilience and its ability to 'nap' back into shape. The cells that make these proteins are bathed in hyaluronic acid, a cellular lipid that holds water and gives your skin its bounce and texture.
When you are young, the dermis is full of collagen and elastin that it can bounce back into shape, but as we age, they break down faster than our cells can replace them, and this leads to wrinkles and dry skin.
The dermis also contains your hair follicles and oil glands, as well as the beginning of your pores, which push hair, sweat and oil to the surface.
This is a layer of fat and tissue lying between your skin and muscles. It protects your muscles from the beating your skin gets every day, and insulates and regulates your body temperature too.
The subcutaneous tissue layer tends to thin as we age, and when this happens our skin looks less smooth, and the underlying veins show through. It also results in cellulite in other areas of the body.
Nobody is asking you to go back to biology class, but if you understand the basics of how your skin works, you can start to understand the claims that is the skincare industry is making, what works and what is totally impossible, what it does for you and what you can do for it.
The difference between darker and lighter skin tones :
The obvious difference is the dispersion of melanin in darker skin tones. Darker skin has more melanocytes producing melanin, which as we have seen, is what gives your skin its colour.
The skin barrier of darker skin can be more prone to disruption through a process of trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) because of lower levels of ceramides in the stratum corneum. This means it can feel rough and dry. When choosing moisturizer's, those with darker skin, may find it helpful to use products that contain natural moisturising factors (NMF) or are labelled as a 'barrier repair' or 'ceramide' cream.
As melanin offers protection from UV rays, darker skins have a natural SPF of around 13.3 compared to white skin at 3.4 SPF. This does not mean that if you have darker skin you do not need to use an SPF - sun protection factor. You do.
Studies show that the stratum corneum is not thicker on darker skins, but its more compact. This is good news for the elasticity and tone of darker skin.
A darker skin tone is more prone to hypertropic or keloid scarring where excess collagen creates a raised scar.
Post Inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) can also be an issue in darker skins. The discolouration (caused by an increase in melanin) can occur during the wound healing process and remain after the skin has healed. When checking ingredients listed on products, look for the following to help combat this pigmentation:
- Vitamin C
- Kojic Acid
- Licorice extracts
- N-acetyl glucosamine
- Cysteamine cream
And I can't say enough - GET YOUR SPF ON!!
A Good Skincare routine
Our skin is the biggest organ in our body, it deserves some attention.
But this does not mean we all need to be scientists. Getting into a few good habits with a daily routine and you will soon see results and benefits of doing so.
A routine is the foundation of everything. Make it a habit, every morning and evening for 2-3 minutes, or longer if you have the time. We all have a couple of minutes each day for our skin.... no excuses!!
It is easy to see how your skincare can become overwhelming. We are sold so many products these days - there is something for everyone - but if you have say more than two serums, which do you use first? Do you use both? And when? The confusion creeps in and for most, they then do not bother or apply products incorrectly. A recipe for disaster.
Some Basics to follow :
- You will need to invest in some soft flannels or wash cloths
- There is NO mineral oil in my routine; companies use mineral oil for two reasons 1. It is not likely to cause an allergic reaction and 2. It is cheap
- There is no foaming, products that foam are full of nasties including Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a foaming agent.
- I do not recommend you use face wipes, unless you have no access to water
- All stages are suitable for all skin types, unless stated
Top Tips for great skin
Obviously everyone is different, but in general, these are basics if you're wondering where to start.
- CLEANSE YOUR SKIN EVERY NIGHT WITHOUT FAIL - Cleanliness is next to godliness. Double cleanse if you are wearing make-up or sunscreen, or both which applies to most of us.
- MAKE TIME - A little tip for those who say they do not have time; either take your makeup off as soon as you get home or take your makeup off before you take your bra off
- CLEANSE YOUR SKIN EVERY MORNING - It obviously does not have to be as intense as the night time cleanse, but a quick warm flannel and milk/balm/gel cleanser would not go a miss to get rid of the overnight shedding. I know some brands say you don't have to cleanse your skin in the morning.... that's ok they are wrong.... trust me
- WASH YOUR FACE PROPERLY - A clean canvas makes everything better. There is no point spending your hard earned cash on expensive serums if you are using wipes or winging it when it comes to cleansing.
- DO NOT SMOKE - That's really the beginning and end of it.
- GET SOME SUNSHINE - The term 'everything in moderation' really applies here. I work indoors all day, I don't get a lot of sun but I still use an SPF. I do not use skincare containing sunscreen, I apply it separately to my skin between moisturiser and foundation or primer. SPF is too active an ingredient and can interfere with other anti ageing ingredients, making all of your expensive moisturiser's potentially redundant.
Yes, obviously too much sun is damaging to the skin, but so is too more chlorine. And too much pollution. So get out there and get some sunshine when you can, or when the sun appears!
IF YOU WOULD SPEND MORE ON A BAG THAN YOUR FACE, YOU ARE READING THE WRONG GUIDE.
- USE A HIGH SPF - (30+) and encourage others, including children to use it. You will save them a lot of time trying to repair sun damage in later years.
- USE GOOD QUALITY SKINCARE - I'm not talking about creams that cost the earth or more than your monthly food budget, but I highly recommend you step away from the cheap budget pack of wipes and moisturisers in the chemist or supermarket and step it up a gear if you are serious about natural, healthy skin with long term results.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP - When you are not getting enough sleep and sufficient rest; it shows on your face.
- INCLUDE YOUR BREASTS - Your neck and décolleté which is a fancy French term for your upper chest and shoulder area, are part of your facial skincare too!
- TRY TO EAT WELL - I'm not being a killjoy, gut health is linked to a healthy skin complexion and function.
- DRINK ENOUGH WATER - This is important not only for the normal functionality of your skin, but for your general health too. If your urine is dark and you suffer from alot of headaches, you would do well to up your H2O levels
- TRY TO AVOID STRESS - I know it is much easier said than done, but do whatever you need to do to keep your stress levels low.
The main part of the morning routine is to prep your skin for the day.
Taking care of your skin in the morning is no different to having a shower before you put fresh underwear on.
So many people often ask me if they need to cleanse their skin with an actual cleansing facial product in the morning.... YES YES YESSSSS!
The morning glow you wake up too is a combination of sweat and excess oil..... wash your face with a cleanser, not just warm water always.
I have never put my face under the shower. The water is too hot for your face. You also have the surfactants from your shower gels, shampoos running all over your face. Stand with your back to the shower and have your chin raised.
Cleanse your face once you get out of the shower, never first.
Flannels get your skin clean. They are more substantial than wipes or muslin cloths, and far more effective at removing dirt and grime.
Buy 8 flannels for your skin only, use one a day (you will need the 8th as a spare on wash day) Machine wash your flannels so they get a through clean, but avoid using fabric softer, as traces can end up on your skin.
Any non foaming cleanser is fine - milk, balm. gel as long as it does not turn your face into a foamy bath then carry on. Yes you can use the same cleanser in the morning as well as the evening. Always use a clean flannel.
Rather than harsh scrubs, acids are about taking off layers of dead skin cells and depending on the type of acid, stimulates the skin too. Your skins surface is naturally acidic, and acid toners love your skin's pH. They have the effect of blowing a trumpet in your ear - your skin is forced into action.
Most brands make exfoliating / acid products that you use as the traditional toner stage. To call them a toner is to do them great justice - these are the toners of the 21st century.
There are so many acid toners, I will expand on this throughout the guide; who should use what, when and how etc.
Whether a hydrating mist or a bottle of tonic always use. Any spray should have glycerin or hyaluronic acid amongst its ingredients, but something like a good quality rose water is also fine.
Using a traditional toner is fine as long as its main focus is to hydrate or balance.
Do not apply your eye product last. No matter how carefully you apply your serums and moisturisers, you will always get some in the eye area and then your eye product will not be able to absorb where you want it too.
Apply eye care products to the orbital area before serum, moisturiser and SPF
APPLYING YOUR EYE PRODUCT LAST IS LIKE WEARING YOUR KNICKERS OVER YOUR TROUSERS
SERUM / OILS
This step is what I am asked about the most. I use a mixture of oils and serums daily within my skincare routine.
Serums - especially water based ones, go on first. Next a couple of drops of facial oil (if you are using one) topped off with your moisturiser.
Choose your moisturiser according to your skin type, not skin condition. Your moisturiser is your coat of protection. People spend far too long choosing their moisturiser and far too little tine taking care of their skin beforehand. Applying an expensive moisturiser after using a cheap wet wipe and missing out other components is a total waste of time.
Avoid mattifying products - skin is not designed to be 'matte'
YOUR SKIN HAS PLENTY OF TIME TO BE MATTE WHEN YOU ARE DEAD
If your skin is excessively oily, just go for a light hyaluronic acid serum, which helps to lock in moisture and also oil free moisturisers
Your skin 'sleeps' during the day
NO your skin does not sleep during the day.
You use different products at night because you do not need to use an SPF (or thicker protecting moisturiser) which means you use lighter textures and more effective formulations - serums/oils/retinoids etc to target and treat skin issues
AM : PROTECT
PM : TREAT AND REPAIR
Your skin is your biggest organ. Replace the word 'skin' in this sentence with the word 'heart' 'brain' 'lungs' 'kidney' or 'liver' and see how long you would be alive for.
Your skin sleeps during the day?
Well that's me dead then...
Do not listen to myths
I always recommend using a walnut size amount of a separate SPF. A moisturiser with added SPF will not benefit the skin as much as using two separate products will.
Do not skip the moisturiser when using a SPF
Think of clothes as your moisturiser and underneath your raincoat (spf)
You should always use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA rays, these damage your skins elasticity, and UVB rays which can cause skin damage and alter the structure of cells, potentially leading to skin cancer. I always recommend a SPF 30 or higher and use it 365 days a year.
I am often told "I only wear SPF in the summer or on holiday" Why only then, as miserable as the British weather is the sun rises daily. Whether thunderstorm, rain, hailstones, strong winds, during spring, summer, winter, autumn the sun rises daily and skin MUST be protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays every single day of the year.
If you have oily skin you do not need to use moisturisers.
The biggest mistake people with oily/combination skin make is by stripping the skins natural moisture to the point it "squeaks" and then not apply anything else to the skin.
For the oilier skin types -
Cleanse your face with a good non foaming cleanser (oil, crea, milk or gel - no mineral oil , no bubbles and no cleansing balm)
Exfoliate with an acidic toner
Apply a light serum to target specific skin conditions (ageing, pigmentation, scarring and dehydration) if that is a concern.
Apply either a hyaluronic serum, a moisturiser, or even a facial oil designed for your skin type. Oil on oil works by balancing your own skins production.
Cleansing is by far the most important part of your skincare routine.
SPF should always be the last product you apply to your skin.
In Part 2 we will discuss;