Slough It Off

Exfoliators

Regular dental cleanings. Oil changes every 3,000 miles. Monitoring my bank accounts and credit card statements for fraud. These are a few of the things I do consistently to keep my body, my car and my financial life in good shape. Are they fun or exciting? Nope. But they are part of what I do to keep my life running as smoothly as possible. I figure that if I can stay on top of the routine stuff, I’ll be much better equipped to handle the inevitable unexpected challenges that will be thrown my way. I’m a big proponent of having your shit together so you can better weather life’s storms.

If you want your skin to have its shit together, you have to consistently take care of it, as I discussed in The Basics https://allisonbarberamakeup.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/shes-so-basic/. I said then that I would elaborate on exfoliation, since it’s a key player in good skincare. And I never make a promise I can’t keep.

Exfoliation is the removal of the oldest dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin. When those dead skin cells are left on the skin, they can make skin feel rough, cause makeup to cake and prevent skincare products from absorbing properly. If buy good quality moisturizers or serums but don’t exfoliate, you are wasting money. That’s real talk. I don’t sugarcoat things on this blog, my friend.  Products can’t penetrate the layers of the skin like they need to if they are being blocked by dead skin cells. Also, unexfoliated skin often looks dull and makes it harder to blend makeup. Makeup looks considerably better on regularly exfoliated skin–that’s a fact. Unless exfoliation is contraindicated for you–which I will get to–you should be doing it 2-3 times a week.

There are two types of exfoliation–physical (or mechanical) or chemical (or enzyme). Depending on your skin type and preferences, one type may be better for you.

Physical exfoliation involves using an abrasive product or tool to manually remove the dead skin cells off that top layer of skin. You apply product, rub it in, then rinse off (or use the tool as directed) to shed the dead skin cells. Physical exfoliants include microfiber cloths, scrubs made with sugar, salt crystals or other granules, microdermabrasion and tools like the Clarisonic. Microbead exfoliants were popular for several years but have been banned because the beads pass through sewage treatments without being filtered out. There are some scrubs that contain crushed apricot kernels or almond shells, but I recommend avoiding using those on the face, next, chest and hands as they can cause microtears on the delicate skin of those areas. (I’m looking at you, St. Ives Apricot Scrub). Repeated microtears make the skin’s texture rougher and uneven looking. It’s fine to use a more abrasive scrub like that on the rest of the body where the skin is thicker, so don’t go throwing all of your products away. Physical exfoliation may sound harsh, but it’s not when done correctly. However, any type of rubbing the skin–even in a gentle way–can be irritating to truly sensitive skin. If that’s what you have, chemical exfoliation might be a better choice.

Chemical exfoliants break down the “glue” that binds dead skin cells to the outermost layer of the skin. Once that glue is dissolved, the dead skin cells fall off. I consider chemical exfoliants to be the passive exfoliant because typically you apply them to the skin, wait for a specified amount of time, then rinse off. Chemical exfoliants usually contain some type of acid or combination of acids (like alpha hydoxy, beta, lactic, glycolic and malic acids) or fruit enzymes (papaya and pineapple are two of the most effective). As mentioned above, chemical exfoliants are generally a better choice for sensitive skin (just do a patch test first). They are also better for acneic skin because rubbing or massaging the skin can spread oils from acne, causing more breakouts.

Oh, you want me to shut up and give you my pro recommendations? I see how it is. I’ll do it, not because I am a pushover but because I want to help you get your skin in better shape.

For physical exfoliants, I recommend Dermalogica Skin Prep Scrub http://www.dermalogica.com/skin-prep-scrub/10,default,pd.html?cgid=exfoliants&start=5&cgid=exfoliants

For chemical exfoliants, I like Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant http://www.dermalogica.com/gentle-cream-exfoliant/9,default,pd.html?cgid=exfoliants&start=3&cgid=exfoliants. It’s technically a mask but it is an exfoliating mask, so it still counts.

For the indecisive types, I recommend Kate Somerville ExfoliKate. It is a scrub that contains fruit enzymes so you can use it as a physical or chemical exfoliant. http://www.sephora.com/exfolikate-gentle-exfoliating-treatment-P232925?skuId=1201763&icid2=search_search_p232925_image

There are some contraindications to exfoliation, so take note.

  1. Waxing. On its journey to eliminate hair, waxing also removes the dead skin cells from that outermost layer of skin. If you exfoliate prior to waxing, you are exposing the equivalent of a fresh layer of skin, which is more sensitive. Using hot wax on that area can cause burns. If you exfoliate right after a wax, you will likely cause irritation to that sensitive layer. I recommend doing any exfoliation 48-72 hours before waxing or 48 hours after to avoid burns, irritation and redness.
  2. Retinoids. Products containing retinoids naturally exfoliate the skin. As a regular prescription Retinol user, I do not exfoliate my face. Doing so can cause irritation and redness.
  3. Accutane*. This anti-acne prescription makes the skin thinner so exfoliation can be especially irritating.
  4. Double Exfoliation. I don’t know if this is technically a contraindication, but I’m including it here. Don’t use a physical exfoliant followed by a chemical exfoliant or vice versa to get extra exfoliated. It’s not going to make your skin glow or feel softer any quicker and is likely to have the opposite effect. There is no “get rich quick” equivalent in skincare. Exfoliation works best when it’s done consistently but with enough time in between exfoliation treatments to prevent irritation.

I hope that I’ve convinced you that exfoliation should be an integral part of your skincare routine. It really makes a huge difference in the look and feel of skin, and it is not especially time consuming or expensive. Any dermatologist, esthetician or makeup artist would agree with me on this. So listen to us, okay?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

*Accutane now only exists in generic versions, but this is the name most familiar to people.

 

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She’s So Basic

Which one of these scenarios do you think is realistic?

  1. Your college roommate loses 20 pounds and 8 inches off her waist in one week by working out and eliminating gluten.
  2. A former coworker opens a new business on a Monday and is millionaire by Friday.
  3. Your funny neighbor does three open mic nights and has an HBO comedy special by month’s end.
  4. Your sister, who sporadically uses moisturizer and sometimes washes her face, takes 5 minutes to apply her makeup and has the dewy look Jennifer Lawrence had at the Oscars.

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight will admit that it takes a lot of time, discipline and effort. Entrepreneurs understand that you are lucky to turn a profit after a year in business, never mind a week. And if you’ve ever known an aspiring comedian or seen interviews with someone who made it big, you realize it’s often a decade before they have a solid career. I think most people would agree there are no overnight successes in these areas.

But when it comes to beauty, many people expect results quickly and with little effort. In a world of celebrities who don’t disclose their actually beauty routines and Instagrammers who use filters and editing to achieve perfection, it’s not surprising that many people think it doesn’t take much to look flawless.

There is going to be a follow up to this post to help you understand what goes into red carpet makeup, the photos you see in magazines and all kinds of advertisements. But for now, I want to talk about what non-celebrities can do to get good skin.

If you want your makeup to look great, you have to start with The Basics. Amazing in-person makeup always starts with good skin. There is no way around this. A picture, as we all know, can be edited into perfection but I think most of the readers of this blog want skin and makeup that looks good during actual human interactions.

Unless you are someone who is genetically blessed with soft, even-toned skin and no undereye issues (aka the unicorns of the beauty world) you are going to have to put some effort in. I want you to re-read that sentence and let it sink in. If you are not willing to put some time and effort into your skincare routine, this is not the post for you. But before you leave, please know that your makeup will never look its best if you don’t take care of your skin. Okay, bye!

For those of you who know it takes work to get results in life, this is for you. It doesn’t even take that much time out of your day, so you can drop that excuse. Here is the bare minimum of what you need to do to keep your skin in good shape.

  1. Cleanse Your Sins. You absolutely have to remove your makeup and cleanse your skin every night. Sleeping in makeup–or even just the dirt, oil and other junk that makes its way onto your face every day–is a great way to cause breakouts. And sleeping with eye makeup on can contribute to undereye puffiness and cause eye infections. If you are not using an oil cleanser, I recommend using an oil makeup remover, like Dermalogica PreCleanse, first. Then use your cleanser. In my opinion, nothing breaks down makeup like oil. You can also save a step and do what I do–use an oil cleanser. My favorite is NUDE Perfect Cleanse Nourishing Cleansing Oil. Unless you have very oily skin, cleansing once a day before you go to bed is enough. Total Time Needed: 5 minutes.
  2. Be A Softie. Your skin needs moisture. Dry skin peeps often inherently understand this, but if your skin is oily or normal, that doesn’t mean you can skip this step. When oily skin is stripped of its oils (which can happen during cleansing, especially if you are using an oil-free cleanser), that sends a message to the skin to produce more oil, thus making the skin even more shiny. If you have oily skin, use an oil-free moisturizer like Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture with SPF 35 to make sure that you nourish that epidermis. That’s a great moisturizer for combination skin as well. Dry skin benefits from a thicker formula like Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre, and normal skin does well with a moisturizer like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream. In terms of makeup, a dewy look will never work on un-moisturized skin, nor will a matte look, as the foundation will cling to dry patches and not apply evenly. Apply moisturizer once a day and you can check it off your To Do list. Total Time Needed: 30 seconds. 
  3. Protect Ya Neck.  And your face. If your moisturizer does not contain SPF, you must must must apply it separately. Skin cancer is real–take it seriously. And in terms of beauty, nothing ages a face faster than sun exposure. UVA and UVB rays break down collagen, which is what keeps skin smooth and firm. When collagen diminishes, skin sags and fine lines and wrinkles form. The sun also causes hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation (that’s light spots and dark spots). Uneven skintone is just as aging as fine lines, so keep that in mind while you’re people watching at the beach. I live in an area of the country where we have seasons, so the sun is merely an acquaintance during the winter. Even so, I use a moisturizer with at least an SPF 15 to guard my skin during the three hours of daily sunlight we get in January. Come springtime (oh, joyous springtime) I bump it up to an SPF 35. In the summer, I sometimes use a separate sunscreen with SPF 30 (SPF 50 if I’m going to the beach). I currently use Aveeno Protect + Hydrate which absorbs nicely and does not cause me to breakout. Total Time Needed: 30 seconds. 
  4. Slough It Off. Skin cells die. It’s a fact of life. But unless you remove them from your skin, they hang around like that last party guest who just doesn’t get it. And when they hang around, they absorb your moisturizer, which is meant for your living skin cells (so rude!). They also grab onto makeup, causing it to be uneven. Dead skin cells give an overall dull look to your skin, which does you no favors whether you are barefaced or wearing makeup. Luckily, there is a super easy solution–exfoliation. This really deserves its own post, so I’ll put that on the list. Until then, please get yourself an exfoliant and use it twice a week. Kate Somerville ExfoliKate is bomb, as is Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant (that one is a mask but does the same thing). Disclaimer: If you use prescription retinol or any other product that is contraindicated with exfoliation, skip this step. Retinol exfoliates on its own so you’re not messing anything up by omitting this. Total Time Needed: Anywhere from 3-15 minutes, depending on the type of exfoliant you use. An enzyme exfoliant usually needs to sit on the skin for a bit to work, but the only active work you have to do is apply it and rinse it off.
  5. Oil Based. Unless you have truly acneic skin, you will benefit from using a face oil. The exact oil you use is going to depend on your skin type and needs, but I believe that like soulmates, there is one out there for everyone.* Check out this post for more info on face oils: https://allisonbarberamakeup.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/how-about-an-oil-change/   Total Time Needed: 1 minute.
  6. Treat Yo Self. I’m going to heavily generalize here and call everything that is not mentioned above a skin treatment. The treatments you use are to address your individual skin concerns. That could be rosacea, fine lines, dull skin, pigmentation, etc. I suggest finding a product that addresses that concern and use it consistently. Vitamin C is a great choice for someone who doesn’t have a specific concern but wants their skin to look its best. Total Time Needed: Varies by treatment. 
  7. Cut the Crap. Even if you do all of the things I mentioned, your skin will never look its best if you smoke, regularly overindulge in adult beverages, skimp on sleep or eat unhealthy foods. You may not want to hear that, but I speak the truth. Total Time Needed: N/A. This isn’t so much a time thing as an effort and lifestyle thing. 
  8. Pay Attention. Often times, the things not working as they should inside your body will show up on your skin. The skin is an organ that can outwardly show there is a problem on the inside. A breakout, for example, can indicate a hormonal issue or a food allergy. So if you notice changes, get your ass to a doctor. Skincare can address what I consider surface-level issues (i.e. dryness, dullness, some types of breakouts) but a systemic issue can not be resolved with salicylic acid or a good moisturizer. Total Time Needed: N/A. This is my way of sneaking in some information I wanted to relay.

If you do not fully remove your makeup and cleanse your face every night and you never use moisturizer with SPF (or moisturizer and a separate SPF), you should really lower your expectations for how your skin and therefore makeup will look. Consistently doing all of the steps I recommend doesn’t guarantee your skin will be in great shape, but it will give you a solid base. As you can see, none of these things take a huge amount of time but they do make an impact. Very few good things in life come with no effort and no time spent, and your skin is no different. (That one should be in fortune cookie.) But you can definitely do it. I have faith in you!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

*Not sure I actually believe that. My personal jury is still out on soulmates, but I stand behind that theory for face oils.

Happy New Year, Epidermis!

New Year, new you. Fresh start. Tabula rasa. Whatever you want to call it, the start of a new year inspires many people to embark on new beginnings in one or more areas in their life. Shouldn’t your skin get a new beginning too?

It can! There is an affordable way to uncover a fresh layer of skin, brighten your skin’s appearance and make it softer. It’s called exfoliation, which is the removal of dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin (the epidermis). I know you’ve probably heard of this before, but how often do you actually do it?

Let’s talk about the two types of exfoliation–mechanical, or physical exfoliation and chemical, or enzyme exfoliation. In mechanical exfoliation, dead skin cells are rubbed off with an abrasive product. It sounds harsh, but if you use an exfoliant (also called an exfoliator) that contains beads as opposed to apricot scrubs (which contain jagged pieces of nut shells and other ingredients) it won’t cause micro tears in your skin. Chemical exfoliants contain enzymes or alphahydroxy ingredients that break down the “glue” that keeps the dead skin cells holding onto the epidermis. With chemical exfoliants, the product does not need to be manipulated once it is on the skin. Think of it as the lazy lady’s exfoliant 🙂

On the extreme (and more expensive) end of mechanical exfoliation is microdermabrasion, which uses a machine to spray out a crystal or diamond tip exfoliant (the diamond tip is the newer and more gentle form of microderm). Then, a small vacuum suctions up the dead skin cells and exfoliant residue. The extreme and more expensive type of chemical exfoliation is the chemical peel, which uses stronger or more concentrated ingredients to loosen the dead skin cells. Both microderm and peels are done by estheticians or in a dermatologist’s office.

If you can’t or don’t want to go to a professional for microderm or a peel, you can still get great results at home. I think that exfoliation is essential for all skin types, and should be done once or twice each week. If you have dry and flaky skin, exfoliation will remove those dead skin cells that you can see and feel on the skin. It will make the skin feel softer and allow it to more easily accept moisturizer. Those with oily and acne-prone skin will benefit from exfoliation because it will remove surface oils from the skin, helping prevent breakouts. Dull skin, often a complaint of those who see their skin aging, will be brightened after exfoliation. It’s amazing what the removal of dead skin cells can do to your skin’s appearance! And for those who have sensitive skin, exfoliation should still be done, but a gentle chemical exfoliant is recommended, as the rubbing action needed for a mechanical exfoliant can be irritating on very sensitive skin.

Regardless of your skin type, regular exfoliation usually means you can get away with wearing less foundation. The reason is that removing the dead skin cells (and surface oils, if your skin is oily) makes the skin look healthier. And unless you are going for a full coverage look, why not let that healthy skin show through? I find that when my skin is clear, soft and bright, I don’t even want to wear much foundation. Most of the time, I wear and use foundation to fake glowing, even, healthy skin. You can get there with regular exfoliation, in combination with a good cleansing and moisturizing routine, so why not try it? (You may not want to skip any face makeup entirely, but a tinted moisturizer can give you some coverage and let your skin show through.)

And again, your skin will feel softer and will more easily accept skincare products, like moisturizer, night cream, and serums, if you exfoliate. Without the layer of dead skin cells on the surface, products can more easily penetrate the skin and do their job. You might find that you need less product on exfoliated skin for this reason.

It’s not too late to start a New Year’s resolution for your skin. So out with the old (dead skin cells) and in with the new (healthy, glowing skin)!

Have a beautiful day 🙂