Understanding skincare products and how to use them is the first step in implementing an effective skincare regime. With the myriad of products on the market, it’s helpful to get the basics right first, and then venture to more targeted skincare solutions.
Cleansers are an essential part of a basic skincare routine. They wash off makeup, dirt and oil and leave the skin feeling clean, smooth and oil free. Your skin should be cleansed at least twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. There are cleansers for every skin type. If you’re prone to blocked pores, use gel formulations. For delicate skin, use milky products. Both gels and milky products usually can be washed off. For dry skin, use cream products, which generally can be wiped off. If using a cream cleanser, you probably will need to use toner afterwards.
Toners are a matter of personal taste. They can remove the traces of makeup, dirt and oil that your cleanser may have missed. Toners can help to reduce pore size and refine the skin but some people get the same effect from rinsing their face with cool water after cleansing. Most toners are available for both dry and oily skin, but a gentle toner with little or no alcohol is good for all skin types.
You should always moisturise morning and night. This will help to retain the skin’s natural moisture and provide a physical barrier against environmental pollutants. While you can use one product, it is advisable to use a richer moisturiser at night as the skin absorbs products more effectively while you sleep, undisturbed by environmental factors such as the sun and wind. During the day, it is essential to use a moisturiser with a sun protection factor. What type of moisturiser suits you is personal – it’s worth getting samples to try them out. A brand representative or salon therapist can help you establish if you have dry, normal, combination or oily skin. If skin is dry, you want humectants and ingredients such as plumping lipids. For sensitive skin, look for anti-inflammatories. For combination or oily skin, you also want anti-inflammatories as well as ingredients that prevent oil slicks from breaking out. There are also firming moisturisers to help with sagging tissues. Formulations vary from emulsions (water-based and better for oily skin) to dense creams (oil-based, better for dry skin).
A serum is a water-based product that readily delivers potent ingredients such as retinols and vitamins to the skin. While these ingredients are also available in creams and lotions, serums are more absorbable and can be layered under other products. They can penetrate the superficial layers of the skin, enabling the delivery of highly concentrated ingredients. Serums brighten the skin and help to improve the appearance of premature ageing. They can help smooth and refine dull, lacklustre skin, boost skin renewal and reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines and wrinkles. Used after cleansing and toning,and before moisturising, serums work best combined with a protectant.
A protectant is a moisturiser with a heavier molecular structure that creates a barrier on the skin’s surface so the active serum ingredients do not escape, reducing transepidermal water loss, or dehydration, as it seals in natural moisture. It also provides a physical barrier to outside pollutants. A serum and protectant routine will help skin to look its best without makeup.
Exfoliants and peels
When you exfoliate you remove dead surface cells that contribute to dryness and oil that can cause blocked pores and problems like acne. Exfoliating also stimulates circulation. Scrubs treat the surface of the skin and help unclog pores, while exfoliants remove surface cell debris and leave skin fresher and looking brighter. Regular peels keep skin looking refreshed. Light peels work to exfoliate and renew skin by removing dead cells and promoting new cell growth. Common types contain lactic acid – the acid found in sour milk – and glycolic acid found in plant extracts.</p><p>Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that occurs naturally in our bodies and helps stimulate the production of collagen and elastin in the dermal layer. It is also a humectant, which attracts water molecules in the skin to the surface, giving a plumper appearance. Different strengths of lactic peel can be applied as you acquire a tolerance to the acid, which encourages your skin to slough dead cells for a brighter, fresher appearance. A glycolic peel contains a higher potency of alpha hydroxy acid. It can cause some tingling and pinkness, especially in first-time users, but beauty therapists are adept at matching ingredient strength to your skin type. As well as promoting a brighter, fresher appearance it helps fade freckles and sun spots. Low-concentration lactic or glycolic peels are available as at-home treatments. While light peels will help the skin look refreshed and smoother, they can’t remove deeper lines and sun damage. For this a deeper peel is required, under clinical conditions.
Using a facial mask can soothe and nourish skin, oxygenate, improve the circulation, help clear up blemishes and even reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Tightening masks help firm and tone sagging skin, and moisturising masks add moisture to dehydrated skin. For oily or acne-prone skin, a purifying mask can deep-cleanse skin and absorb excess oil. The benefits of masks are often underestimated but they can give the complexion a real boost. Generally, they should be used weekly after exfoliating.