There was some discussion on Twitter today about skin care, which is a topic of ABIDING INTEREST to me. It always has been - since I was a middle schooler and gave myself my first serious breakout trying to replicate the insanely gorgeous skin of my gym teacher, using seventeen layers of whatever moisturizer I found in the cabinet.
God only knows what it was: my mother does not do skincare - she refers to all my products, collectively and disdainfully, as Your Emollients and uses alcohol straight on her face, despite my screams of horror. Like most (all?) daughters, I went t'other way.
When I was in my 20s I thought I had rosacea. You know why? Because I didn't understand my skin, I bought into any and all claims of all products (while claiming to disbelieve them all, of course). I thought you needed a Skin Care Regime with Products. I used glycolic products, retinol products, salicylic acid products. I gave myself a red raw face and thought it was my natural one.
There are folks who can use anything - crisco and lysol if they want and every treatment product that comes along - and thrive. I am not one of them.
I started out writing an email for the interested but really, I can go ON and ON about this. Blog post makes more sense.
This is most likely useful for people with sensitive and dry/normalish-to-dry/normalish-to-oily skin with some breakouts. Acne is a completely different kettle of fish and one I have been lucky enough to not have to cope with. People with extremely oily skin I know nothing of your woes, please to forgive me for not including you.
Know thy face.
The great and life changing discovery I made a few years ago is that my oily skin was in fact DRY, with superficial oiliness as a response to being DRY and then getting dried out with all my OILY SKIN treatments. Which are DRYING.
I went for a facial and she looked down at one point and said - you know, I always think of you as oily but your skin is sucking in everything I throw at it. From talking to people I have formed a theory that most - not all, there is definitely oily skin out there, the lucky unwrinkling sods - slightly oily people are probably not actually oily. We have a culturally imposed desire to be squeaky clean, but skin is NOT and we dry the shit out of our faces in pursuit of a manufactured idea of what natural feels like.
I had to get used to/develop a tolerance for a slight amount of surface resistance from moisturizer but eventually that stopped happening and I break out way less, have way fewer reactions to things since I started doing less. Oil keeps us supple and protects us from irritants.
If you are mysteriously oily and sensitive (which NO ONE makes products to address) I suggest washing your face, putting on a fairly thick layer of moisturizer and going to fold laundry for 15 minutes. If when you look in the mirror you have more or less absorbed everything you are probably not oily in truth.
Lesson: Check your assumptions
The first rule of skin care is STOP THAT. No, seriously. Lay off with the treatments and scrubs and twice daily whatevers. The more prone to irritation you are, the less you should do. Hands off. Stop. Nein! Skin care companies are trying to sell you things and the more troublesome your skin is the more they can sell you. It's a perpetuating sales cycle.
My dermatologist laughs at me for only liking hippy products, but I stopped breaking out regularly (the hormonal breakouts are a separate beast) when I stopped putting shit on my face every five minutes. I stopped getting red and irritated when I stopped using three kinds of chemical exfoliant a day.
Lots of people (including my dermatologist) think the first rule is wear sunblock. I loathe sunblock - they all make me break out if I wear them for a couple of days in a row and they feel like plastic on my skin - and don't wear it daily, only when I'm out in the sun. I wear a hat and don't get a lot of sun anyway. I cannot advise you to follow my lead on this. But if you're having unexplained breakouts maybe try a different one.
The second rule of skin care is - know what you're putting on your face. Vitamin C is awesome, salycilic acid is awesome, glycolic acid is great, Vitamin A/retinol also, etc, etc. But if you're using all of them...you are possibly - probably - frying your skin.
Bias: I loathe drugstore skin care products because I have never found a line that didn't make me irritated and red in 6 weeks to 6 months. I've not tried most of the departments store products because I went hippy style when I started throwing money at this. If you have something that works for you, ignore me.
What works for me is cleanse (I use soap with rhassoul mud in it, so it ex-foliates as I wash. Which I do in the shower. Because I am lazy), anti aging treatment, a spray of quasi-toner (quasi in the sense that is has no alcohol in it), moisturizer. If I'm wearing makeup I use an oil cleanser and a warm washcloth to remove it at night, otherwise I wash my face in the morning only. Because I am lazy and also, it seems to work pretty well.
Occasionally I do a more intensive ex-foliation and a deep cleanse or anti aging treatment. But not on a regular schedule - I go by what my face looks and feels like.
Third rule of skincare is do as little as possible to get to the point you like. This is not unlike the First Rule. It bears repeating. It's an ORGAN, your skin. Would you reflexively rub your liver with jojoba beads and a mild acid twice a day?
NOTE: If you're allergic/sensitive to something find out ALL the names for it and check your ingredients.
This is a great resource for irritant information.
The Fourth rule of skincare is that the first thing you do after exercise is splash cool water on your face, the salt and sweat is going to make your skin irritated and blackheady. Some kinds of irritation are well served by an ice pack after exercise, or by running a wet ice cube over your face for a minute after you've washed it and before you moisturize (kind of a pain, but interesting) (I ignore this rule all the time and every once in a while it bites me in the ass. It's good practice though)
Things I like:
www.zerozits.com She's extremely passionate, but her products were great and she's not wrong about cosmetic companies. I still use her biologic refining mask when I need a deep cleanse and I have for ...15 years? It's good shit, but her complete system proved to be more complicated than I could keep up with (the icing totally works but man, it got old. And cold). Her home glycolic treatments were great too, if you like messing around with that stuff (I say 'were' because I am still working though old stock and have not ordered in probably 5 years) (Do as I say not as I do: 5 years is a LONG time to keep a mask or treatment product. Not recommended).
I'm a big fan of Dr. Haushcka's philosophy and I've used the cleansing paste and toner very happily. In the end their moisturizers are a little rich for me, but I recommend a sample kit if you are on the dry side of dry. They talk a lot about preserving the acid mantle of your skin, which is, I think, the same thing I had to learn above: Stripping your face is bad for it, so get used to a little feeling of oil on the surface. You adjust quickly, but also, I think your skin just starts feeling suppler and less tacky in a few weeks as it finds some zen.
I LOVE the sensitive skin Rhythmic Conditioner (I call it the Box o' Money), which is a few drops of some magic voodoo liquid that will make your skin calm and happy and pretty. I liked the Intensive Treatment 3, which one uses for a month to make your sensitive skin less angry with life, but not enough to buy it again. I keep the Box o' Money on hand and use it as needed.
My skin-saving Holy Grail turned out to be Daybreak Lavendar Farm in Ohio. Until I decided I needed to add some anti aging things 6 months ago, they were my sole source of skin care for 2 years next month, which is a lifetime record for skin care product loyalty.
Fill out the questionaire here and then pick and choose from the recommendations. I used a combination of the Calmez Vous for ruddy skin and the Fit Face system for about a year and after that found that my skin looked pretty great - and remarkably reduced in blackheads - with just the two soaps (you use them together), a spritz of the greentea&rose toner/prep and a light spray of moisture (in the summer. In the winter I use emu oil straight). Which is so easy even my lazy ass can keep up with it.
I like their serums and things for more intense moisture, but didn't notice much effect on fine lines. For me Daybreak is best for straight daily skin care.
I am beginning to cautiously reembrace made-in-the-lab technology as my skin ages.
My first budget experiment with anti-aging was with the Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect which is actually pretty great. I could see a difference for sure and keep it on hand.
Presently I am having a love affair with Perricone Cold Plasma which is NOT budget at all but I love with all my heart. It doesn't make me break out and I swear its doing amazing things to my face in terms of skin clarity and firmness.
The Fifth rule of skin care is add ONE (1) product at a time and give it a week or two. Especially treatment products, which are more likely to cause irritation. If you start 3 at a time how are you supposed to know what combination of things is messing your face up?
Wash your face gently. Moisturize it gently. In beginning maybe only once a day. Almost anything will take a month to show serious change, so be a bit patient. Small breakouts are not uncommon during transitions (big ones are another matter) - it takes 6 weeks to make a pimple, so the ones you have in development already might need to heal.
Stay hydrated, eat your veggies, avoid mineral makeup and heavy foundations, especially if you're prone to blackheads. If you like eye cream, go for it. I can never remember to use it, so I've stopped buying it. And THAT's the Sixth Rule Of Skincare. Know Thyself. If you love 26 steps, buy into whatever system or program you find effective. But if you KNOW you'll not keep it up, find a simple cleanser/moisturizer that makes you happy and embrace it. There are people who use old fashioned cold cream and a warm wet washcloth and have great skin - I'd totally try that if I were looking for a really simple routine and didn't have products I liked already.
There is no one true path. But be nice to your face, give it some time and hydration and don't believe the hype. And exfoliate. I INSIST.