I just love that feeling when you wake up and know you have a day at the spa ahead of you. You begin to imagine the massage, the facial, the steam room, the mud bath, the pool, some healthy food, and hopefully a glass or two of champagne with your best girlfriends. That was how I woke up this weekend – full of excitement and looking forward to relaxing. We spent 4 hours in a fantastic spa, surrounded by nature and the occasional peacock, enjoying being pampered and lazing by the pool. When it was time to make our way to dinner, we showered and commenced the inevitable skin care routine that would help us continue to look fabulous into the evening.
My first shock came when I realised I was the only one who had brought a full suite of skin care products. So naturally, I offered to share. I convinced one of my friends to try my hyaluronic acid serum – fantastic for plumping the skin – and then our Luxe Botanics Camu Brightening Serum – to help maintain that healthy spa glow. She happily applied them and then began to walk away. I called after her: “don’t you want any moisturiser?” She replied, almost laughing: “you want me to put on another layer?” I found myself staring back at my friend in disbelief – she wanted to go out without any moisturiser on?
In that moment I realised that even my friends, who hear me talk about skin care all day long, didn’t really know what to use or how to use it. This moment explains so clearly why I do what I do and why it makes me happy. I want women to become wellness conscious, not just with their health, but also with their skin. To that end, and inspired by the recent Sarita Coren article on Ayla beauty, I want to explain a few things I believe are key to good skin care:
Cleansing well is the first step to good, healthy skin. And I don’t mean over cleansing – there are many brands out there that will tell you that you must double cleanse, but honestly this is 90% marketing in the hopes you will need to buy more product sooner. The only reasons to cleanse twice are if your skin is horribly dirty (think playing in the mud) or if your cleanser isn’t working well for your skin. Most of the time you need a pre-cleanser along with a normal cleanser. This is because pre-cleansers have a different function to normal cleansers – generally they are used to gently remove makeup, oil and dirt from your skin while still preserving your skins natural barrier. Your normal cleanser is then used to cleanse deeper into the pores and provide a clean base to start your next step.
On a side note – many people advocate using a toner to rebalance/ balance your skin after cleansing. Personally, this is not something I have seen any benefit from. I honestly believe if you are using the right cleanser, which shouldn’t strip or dry out your skin or remove your natural barrier, then you shouldn’t need a toner.
This is my favourite part of my skin care routine for the simple reason that after I exfoliate, my skin feels like it did before teenage acne attacked me.
There are 2 major categories of exfoliants, each with a different use:
- Abrasive (the ones you can feel the scrub, think of jojoba beads, rice bran, etc)
- Enzyme (the ones that tingle – AHA (glycolic acid), BHA (Salicylic acid), other fruit/ plant based acids)
Abrasive exfoliants are used for superficial exfoliation – like when you need your skin to be super smooth for that date – and are more like a polish. If you have irritated or acne prone skin an abrasive is not recommended as it can inflame the skin even more, and generally people with acne tend to over exfoliate. However, a gentle abrasive is good for dry skin
Enzyme exfoliants are used for deeper exfoliation and these sometimes can take days before your skin will peel. They can be used for all skin types, as they are non-abrasive, but should still be used with caution until you know which type works for you. I’ve left a glycolic peel on too long before and ended up looking like a peeling lizard 3 days later. Not a sexy look.
If you have very sensitive skin you may skip exfoliation products all together and rather use a delicate sponge or facial brush, however if you are willing to try a product start with a gentle enzyme exfoliant.
Exfoliation is important because not only does exfoliation leave the skin feeling smooth and soft, but it also clears away dead skin and stimulates repair. So don’t skip it!
The most important step after cleansing is applying the right serum. This all depends on your age, skin type, time of day, what you plan to do that day, where you live, what time of year it is, etc. However, it’s important to target 2 key areas with your serums:
- Hydration (hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, caprylic/ capric triglycerides, natural oils)
- Protection (Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, green tea, retinol, resveratrol, ferulic acid)
You can alter the strength of these ingredients in your serums accordingly but investing in serums that cover these 2 key areas will do wonders for your skin. In varying strengths and combinations these will address everything from oily to dry, dull to uneven, ageing and wrinkles.
Hydration is the key step in keeping your skin balanced. However, this is also the step most of us get wrong. Either we over or under hydrate. And we forget that this needs to change based not only on the seasons or travel, but also day to day. I am especially guilty of this.
Throughout my years of acne I assumed that the more hydrated my skin was, the oilier it would be, so I used the lightest moisturisers I could find. When in fact, it was actually oilier because I was depriving my skin of vital hydration and it was desperately trying to compensate by over producing natural oils. You will also find this happening when you use stripping acne products such as those containing benzoyl peroxide (who honestly thought applying peroxide to your skin was healthy?). The “aha” moment came for me when I was in a dermatologists office, on yet another round of roaccutane, wondering why my skin wasn’t getting any better. We together figured out that I was using too little hydration to support my skin. Once I upgraded my serums and moisturisers my skin calmed down completely.
Conversely, when I have had IPL in the past I’ve been told to layer on the hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, vitamin C and heavy moisturisers to facilitate the healing. But every time I do this I end up with more closed comedones than I started with. I have learnt that the key is to intensely hydrate in the first 2-3 days – after that I need to take my skin back to a more moderate routine.
This last step cannot be missed! Sunscreen is your best friend and the soundest investment you will make in your skin. I’ve heard every excuse for people not using sunscreen – ranging from “I don’t like the texture” (so try a different brand) to “but I work inside all day” (First of all I hope you get to see some sunlight in your day, but even if you’re outside for less than 30 minutes sunscreen matters, and not just on sunny days). Sunscreen is the most cost effective way to preserve your youth and your skin health. I worked for years in melanoma clinical trials and it was severely depressing to see so many preventable cases of skin cancer.
Overall, remember that your skin has mood swings too – it can go from dry to oily and back to dry multiple times in the day depending on your environment (aircon, humidity, cold), stress levels, exercise levels, diet, and many other factors. The best thing you can do for your skin is analyse it every day and then decide what to apply. Take time to review your skin and learn what works best for you.
The Luxe Botanics Team