Sunday, March 15, 2015

MARCH Reader Questions

I've been getting more questions lately and if you have any you want me to look at, feel free to drop them in the comments. Some of the most frequently asked are compiled together.

What is an essence and how should I use it?

Essences are being introduced into the American market and like BB creams before them, seem to be influenced from Asia. When purchasing products I think it is important to look at ingredients and see how products work with your skin rather than buying simply into labels like toners, essences, serums. Some serums are thick enough to work as moisturizers, some toning lotions are actually fluid lotions, you'll find a lot of overlap with the definition.

Essences are meant to be used after toning and before serums. The classic cleansers were primarily soap based which damaged skin's acid mantle so acidic toners were necessary to restore the balance while conveniently sloughing off dead skin cells to allow serums to better penetrate. Essences would figure into priming the skin for serums. Now there are good cleansers that are not soap based so a lot of toners already do the job of essences especially green facial mists that are concentrated in botanicals (look for products whose first ingredient is not water).

A lot of essences in Asia are actually a lot like serums in that they're light, fluid creamy products. As to actual benefit, a well formulated product can always benefit skin but whether it's a toner, essence or serum will not matter as much as the individual product's ingredients and what it is meant to do.

How often should I exfoliate my skin?

As often as it's good for your skin. Everybody's skin is different, I'm not telling you anything new here. So you shouldn't exfoliate your skin based on a set formula but rather adjust as you see fit. One of the things I think a lot of people often overlook is they don't realize when they exfoliate. Exfoliation isn't just a chemical peel or abrasive scrub, you exfoliate a little with every cleanse (citrus oils, enzymes and acids often do this task), most non-hydrating masks carry some sort of exfoliation whether chemical based or physical, your Vitamin C and Retinol treatments exfoliate skin, etc.

If you're seeing clogged pores, dull complexion then go for some gentle exfoliation. Those who wear heavier products like make-up, thick moisturizers and chalky sunscreens may find they need to exfoliate more frequently. On the other hand if your skin is frail, easily reddens and feels really sensitive to the touch it's a sign you've went a little overboard.

One of the precautions I want to share is not to go overboard. This isn't only because of potential irritation. Scientifically, our cells will reach a hayflick limit which is the number of times a cell will divide until it stops. This is because each division shortens the cell DNA's telomeres. It's really difficult to actually identify when this is reached but you might notice some people who really advocate daily Retinols and exfoliating acids have really beautiful and smooth yet thin and crepey skin that kind of looks strained the moment they move a facial muscle. When skin reaches that point, there really aren't many viable treatment options.

What is double cleansing and when/why should I do it?

I had no idea cleansing was going to be such a heavily discussed topic. Firstly, cleansing is super important. When someone tells me they don't 'believe' in cleansing or simply don't cleanse, in my mind I'm already silently panicking before they go on to tell me about their skin troubles. In fact, a lot of times when patients say they don't cleanse or aren't doing it properly then tell me they have very very irritable, weak or compromised skin, I always tell them to get on a recommended cleanser and follow-up if the issue persists. That's how important cleansing is for skin health.

You might be reading this and thinking "but I don't really cleanse or I just use an oil and my skin is fine" - more power to you! But I'm going to burst your bubble and let you know that the expensive serums you use are essentially useless as they're most likely sitting on your skin since you haven't cleared the way for them to properly be absorbed into your skin.

Caroline Hirons explains this in more detail and I recommend reading her post.

Essentially: mornings, cleanse with something light. Evenings make-up remover to remove make-up/oil/sunscreen, follow with a proper cleanser to get to work on your skin after you've removed all that stuff off the surface of your skin.

Need recommendations, have questions? Drop them in the comments.