There’s so much information out there in the world about your skin care routine and what’s best to use for your skin. Especially with each buzzy new product that pops up and boasts amazing results. I have no doubt that the second I start mentioning AHA and ABA and hyaluronic acid and micellar waters and apple cider vinegar, you’re going to start to get overwhelmed. Which is understandable because what the heck is all that stuff? This post aims to clear up the mystery behind establishing a skin care routine that’s perfect for you and your skin. By the end of this you’ll finally understand what products you need and what to look for when shopping.
Establishing a Skin Care Routine
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably used a skin care product before. But it’s less likely that you’ve established a skin care routine that’s the perfect fit for your skin and lifestyle. It’s a difficult task after all. I’m a skin care lover and even I haven’t accomplished it! But this routine is important, because it can bring balance to your skin and help clear up some of the issues that have been bothering you for years.
With the right products, you can find solutions instead of making things worse. That’s why I wrote this post. To help point out some of the pitfalls of different products and why you’d even want to use them in the first place. It’s a lot of information, but I hope you find it helpful!
Important Concepts to Keep in Mind when Choosing Products
Honestly, I think we could all stand to know more about our skin and the biology of it. If we’re going to pick and choose potentially dangerous products to slather all over our skin every day, we should at least understand what our skin is and how it’s put together so we don’t unknowingly harm it in the process. Of course, that’s a biology lesson for another day. Right here and now, it’s most important to understand the epidermis.
Our Body’s Protection
The epidermis is the outer later of the skin. When combined with the bottom-layer dermis, they form the 4-5 layers that comprise your skin. When it comes to skin care, most products target the epidermis. Melanin (skin pigment) is located in the epidermis. Pores too. Most of our skin concerns happen in the epidermis so this is what we’re targeting with all of those skin care products. But another important aspect located in the epidermis is your skin’s acid mantle.
What was that about Acid?
Our acid mantle plays a key part in our skin’s bio-chemistry. Which is a fancy way of saying that this acid mantle plays an important part in keeping our skin balanced and happy. Formed by an oily film on the surface of our skin, it acts as a barrier to bacteria and keeps junky stuff from penetrating our skin. This keeps us safe from disease and infection.
This acid mantle is what balances our skin’s pH, which sits between 4.5 and 6.2, making it acidic. Most contaminants are alkaline in nature (meaning their pH is higher than 7) so our skin being more acidic helps neutralize the threat. Why does this matter when it comes to skin care? Well most cleansers are alkaline, meaning they strip the skin of it’s acid mantle which allows bacteria to attack your skin. This is important to keep in mind when choosing products for your skin because you want whatever you choose to balance out the pH of your skin by the time you’re done with your routine.
Your Daily Skin Care Routine
These are the main steps you should have in any skin care routine. Some only occur at night, others the morning. But as long as you have each of these categories covered, you should have all you need for an effective skin care routine.
This is the product you use to clean off all the dirt and grime of every day life (especially your makeup). You want it to be effective at removing any dirt and makeup while not stripping your skin of the acid mantle we talked about above. In a perfect world, we could get away with only using water. But if you really want to get your make up off you’ll probably need something a little more effective (which typically means alkaline). Just be sure to balance out your skin’s pH before you’re done your routine if you choose something more on the alkaline side. I’d recommend you look into carrier oils for cleansing as they break through make up wonderfully and are typically on the more acidic side and won’t throw off your skin’s balance.
This product is an important follow up to any cleanser to help balance your pH out. It can also be an effective treatment for your skin and help calm any skin issues you may have. Look for calming (and acidic) ingredients like rose water, witch hazel, aloe and apple cider vinegar to bring the pH of your skin back down to a level that will protect your epidermis. If you choose to skip this step, be sure to choose an acidic moisturizer to help balance your skin. I recommend keeping it in your routine though because with the right ingredients you can treat a lot of skin problems during this step in your routine. I personally swear by my witch hazel toner for my acne prone skin.
This is where the heavy duty treatment comes in for whatever problems your skin has. Your treatment serum is where the highly effective ingredients live and really get to work on your skin. These serums are typically used at night which allows the product to have a good 8 hours to sink into your skin and get to work. You can choose any type of serum you think your skin needs from anti-aging, brightening, anti-acne or moisturizing. A word of warning for these serums, make sure they work together. There are certain serums that are reactive to each other when used at the same time. They also can cause sensitivity to the sun or other reactions. So be sure to read up on your chosen treatments and use them carefully.
This step is important, no matter what skin type you have. Moisture is so important to help keep your skin cells happy and with so many different types of moisturizers out there on the market, you have a lot to choose from that should work with your skin. This is also another product that can balance the pH of your skin, so after using a harsh cleanser that pushes things out of wack, it’s important to bring back some balance with your toner and moisturizer. It also can contain the next very important step of your routine.
This is a MUST for your daily routine. Usually you’d apply it in the morning to protect you through the day out in the world. I don’t care if you live in the cloudiest area ever, daily SPF is a must to protect from sun damage. If you want to have nice skin when you’re 80, you need to pay attention to this now because UV rays are the source of a lot of damage that results in aging of your skin. SPF is the perfect preventative measure. If you keep your skin protected now, you’ll need less anti-aging products to reverse the damage to your skin later.
Also when choosing a daily SPF, look for a physical sunscreen (sometimes called “scattering”) as opposed to a chemical one (also known as “absorbing”). Chemical sunscreens, which are often spray sunscreen, contain nano-particles that absorb readily into your skin and spread through your entire body. While we can’t understand exactly what these particles do to your body chemically, I’d rather be safe than sorry and avoid these sunscreens. I’m always wary of anything that takes chemicals created in a lab somewhere and spreads them through my entire body incredibly fast through the use of nano-particles. As always, I’ll leave the decision whether to use them up to you, especially now that you have some information about it and can make an informed decision.
What Order Should you Apply In?
When applying your skin care products, always be sure to apply water soluble products before oil based products. This allows them to absorb fully while the oil comes through at the end and seals all of that moisture into your skin. This shouldn’t be too hard to manage if you follow the order above as most cleansers and toners are water soluble while treatment serums and moisturizers are oil based.
Your Monthly Skin Care Routine
These product categories are perfect for monthly or even bi-weekly treatments. They’re better for maintaining skin health over time and not necessary to perform every single day. Use them whenever you feel your skin could use the boost.
The aim of this step is to buff away any dead skin cells and resurface your skin to bring back your glow. You can accomplish this a number of different ways, but one popular way is through the use of exfoliants. You can use either physical or chemical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants include ingredients like sugar, brown sugar, oats, etc. Really anything that has a texture and buffs away at the surface of your skin. You need to be careful with physical exfoliants though because depending on the ingredients they use, they can cause tiny tears on the surface of your skin from being too rough.
For me, I typically choose chemical exfoliants to avoid that very problem. This includes a number of naturally derived acids that can resurface your skin. I recommend you research which would be best for your skin type (I list a number of them below in the ingredients section) and how to best use them in exfoliation.
Everyone loves a good mask! They can be perfect whenever you need a little self care. Especially because they give your skin a concentrated treatment for whatever issue you’re looking to fix. They can accomplish nearly anything from brightening, to clarifying and moisturizing your skin. What’s even better is that you can create them from any number of natural ingredients like clays, fruits and vegetables, oils, etc. This is a really fun category to experiment with and find the ingredients your skin loves. While other parts of your skin care routine should probably stay consistent to see results, masks are one place to have a little fun. Try multiple masks at once! Make a mask that also doubles as a snack (avocado anyone?). There are so many awesome natural ingredients out there practically begging to be made into a mask and spread on your face. Have fun with it!
Important Ingredients to Look For
These are some of the awesome naturally derived ingredients to look for in your skin care products. They boast an array of benefits, so look for the ingredients you think your skin will love. I’ll keep this list updated as I discover more and more natural ingredients.
Honey is a super-powered ingredient to use for skin care. It’s naturally antibacterial which helps with acne and full of antioxidants which helps with free radicals and anti-aging. It’s also moisturizing so no matter what you use it for, it’s not going to leave your skin stripped of moisture. Honey is crazy versatile, so be sure to use it in your next recipe!
Also known as “flower waters,” hydrosols are the leftovers of distilling plants for essential oils. This results in a liquid much less concentrated but with the same fragrances and some of the healing properties. This is perfect for flowers like rose which are incredibly expensive in essential oil form. These are also fairly easy to make on your own. I recommend Little Green Dot if you want some recipes. Militza has so many awesome hydrosol suggestions. Two of my favorites to use are witch hazel (for my acne prone skin) and rosewater (because it’s just so luxurious).
Essential oils are the pure essence of different plants and fruits. Amazingly, all of the impressive benefits of those plants are distilled down into the small bottle of oil. Essential oils are the perfect choice for super powering any skin care recipe with awesome qualities. I use them in nearly every recipe I make for nearly every skin issue I have.
Carrier oils are the fatty oils that are perfect to use with essential oils to dilute their power. They’re named carrier oils for the way they carry the essential oils onto the skin. Carrier oils are made through cold-pressing or maceration of a specific plant that results in a fatty oil. These oils are often incredibly moisturizing and provide their own awesome skin benefits. Be sure to pay attention to the comedegenic rating of the oil if you’re going to use it on your skin (especially your face). We don’t want any clogged pores!
There are a lot of natural clays that can be used in skin care, more specifically masks. They do an amazing job pulling toxins out of your skin and help give concentrated attention to different issues. Especially when you blend them with other liquids like essential oils and hydrosols. There’s a clay for every skin type so be sure to take a look to find the perfect recipe for your skin.
Known as a physical (scattering) sunscreen, zinc oxide sits on the surface of your skin to keep you protected from the sun’s rays. It’s a popular choice for natural sunscreen as provides a number of awesome benefits to your skin while also providing broad-spectrum sun protection.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
AHAs are naturally occurring acids derived from the sugars in particular plants or fruits. These acids can include Glycolic, Citric, Lactic, Malic and Tartaric. Effective for skin care, these acids break up the “glue” that holds together skin cells which allows dead skin cells to be released from the surface of the skin and fresher skin to resurface. It can also help partner skin care ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin for more effect. When used correctly, these acids can smooth the surface of the skin, attract moisture to the skin, even texture and complexion of the skin and even reverse some UV damage.
Each of the different acids listed above come from different sources and have varying results based on that. One super popular AHA in natural skin care is apple cider vinegar. This one is a favorite of mine and I use it for so many different aspects of my routine. If you think AHAs are something you need in your skin care, I’d recommend looking into each type to find your perfect fit!
Also as a warning, these acids can be harsh in high concentrations. Pay attention to your skin as you use them and take note of any reactions. If you have any irritation, stop using them immediately. You can reintroduce at lower concentrations but be careful. Also the use of these acids makes your skin extra sensitive to the sun! So be sure to only use them at night to help them absorb as you sleep away from the sun and wear extra SPF protection if you adopt them into your routine.
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins. When it comes to our skin and aging, one important part is collagen. It makes up 75% of our skin but, as we age, our production of collagen decreases. Amino acid peptides are here to help with that problem though. By communicating with our skin’s fibroblasts, these peptides encourage our skin to produce more collagen and make your skin more firm and show less signs of aging! Most amino acid peptides are non-irritating and non-drying which makes them perfect for your anti-aging needs.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
While AHAs are water soluble, BHAs are oil soluble. This makes them better at penetrating pores. So if you have oily skin and frequent acne, then products with BHA will be a better fit for you. However not all BHAs are natural. So be sure to check the source of these acids in the product you want to use.
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. It does wonders in aiding cell repair and stoping free radicals. When applied topically it can reduce fine lines and wrinkles while aiding the development of collagen. In it’s L-ascorbic acid form, it can also have a skin lightening effect that can help with spots of discoloration.
This is a powerful humectant that draws moisture into the skin. So it’s perfect for dry skin. Especially dry skin that’s damaged and has a compromised lipid barrier. This acid can help heal the skin and minimize skin peeling, helping your skin retain the moisture it needs.
Also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid, niacinamide is another anti-aging skin care ingredient. Some of the benefits include the visible improvement of the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines, dullness, and a weakened skin surface.
Important Habits to Develop for Skin Health
Now that you have your skin care routine on the road to perfection, I have to mention a few habits I think anyone who wants good skin should adopt. These are so important in establishing better practices to keep your skin in tip top shape and without them, not even the best products in the world could save your skin.
- Clean your makeup brushes regularly (at least once a month). This one is self explanatory I hope. You can’t apply your makeup with dirty brushes every single day and expect your skin to not get upset.
- Change your sheets (especially your pillow case). When you sleep on the same pillow case night after night, you’re introducing all kind of bacteria to your face. This is especially important if you have acne along your jaw line and on your cheek.
- Disinfect your phone (at least once a month if not every other week). Anyone who loves to talk on the phone is introducing all sorts of bacteria to their face every time they lift it up to their ear.
- Stop touching your face. I hope this one is as self-explanatory as I think it is. Picking at your skin is not going to make any of the spots go away quicker.
- Take off your make up daily. If you do nothing else in your skin care routine, please be sure to take all of your make up off every single night. Your skin will thank you.
- Drink more water and eat more real foods. I’m not asking you to be perfect. Just incorporate some more water and foods that come from the earth into your diet. Every step you can take towards more real foods, the more nutrients you’re supplying your skin which will only make it glow more and more.
- Get more sleep. I’m not trying to make you guys feel guilty. Nor am I expecting perfection. But if you can start normalizing your sleep routine and get as close to the daily recommendation as possible, your skin will thank you.
This was certainly a long one, but I hope it was helpful in explaining all of the products and ingredients that go into an effective skin care routine. It’s going to take some experimenting to discover the best solutions for your skin type, but so long as you cover the main categories of products and keep your skin’s pH balanced, you can’t go wrong. If you have any questions or need some help with any of this content, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
- Vivoderm – Skin pH, Acid Mantle and What They Mean for Your Skincare
- Vivoderm – Acids in Skincare Ingredients and How They Affect You
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