In a previous post, I covered the absolute basics of skin care: cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. If you missed that post, click here to catch up before reading ahead. In today’s post we’re going to go a little more in depth and talk about some optional skin care steps you can add to your routine. In particular, I’ll talk about oil cleansing, double cleansing, exfoliation, serums, and spot treatments.
Let’s go back to step one of a good skincare routine: cleansing. In the last post I talked about creamy and foaming cleansers, but there’s one more option I didn’t cover: oil. In the last few years, oil cleansing has been a hot topic in the western beauty community. Essentially, oil cleansing is supposed to use the chemical principle of “likes dissolve likes” to use plant oils to gently dissolve excess oil from your face, leaving behind just enough moisture to keep your face happy, unlike other cleansers whose goal is to straight up remove excess oil, not leaving anything behind.
If this sounds too good to be true, that’s because it kind of is. Oil cleansing is great for removing dirt and skin from your face, but doesn’t actually remove the oils from your face. See, plant oils and face oils aren’t very alike at all, so they don’t dissolve into each other. The primary “oil” on your face is actually called sebum, and it’s mostly composed of wax. This means that for someone whose face produces a lot of sebum, adding extra oils to the face might just clog pores more and leads to a skin care disaster. It also means that people with super dry skin may find oil cleansing to be a godsend, moisturizing their dehydrated skin. It comes down to experimenting and deciding what method works best for you.
This is what I personally do on a daily basis. For me, double cleansing is great because I wear a lot of stubborn makeup. I used to use makeup wipes, but most of them contain alcohol and didn’t remove everything I needed removed. I wear waterproof mascara and eyeliner, so I needed something gentle on the eyes that would actually remove everything. Once I discovered oil cleansing, I never looked back.
It’s similar to oil cleansing, but with some slight tweaks that make it perfect for a combination-skinned girl like me. Oil cleansers are primarily oil or wax based and are designed to be applied dry. They come in balm or liquid form and you just take some in your hands, warm it up, and apply the melty goodness all over your face. Once you’ve massaged it in, you just rinse it off with warm water. The ideal oil cleanser will have ingredients that make it emulsify when water is added, making it super easy to rinse off. Once you’ve rinsed off the oil cleanser, proceed to cleanse with your regular foaming or cream cleanser and finish your routine as normal!
My personal favorite oil cleanser to use is Clinique Take the Day Off Balm.
There are two kinds of exfoliation you can do. The one familiar to most people is physical exfoliation. This means using something rough and gritty to physically remove dead cells from the surface of the skin. This is great when it comes to your arms and legs, and can lead to really soft skin and a close shave! This is not so good when it comes to your face. The skin on your face is very delicate, and it’s easy to over-exfoliate when you use a physical exfoliant. A lot of exfoliating scrubs are incredibly bad for your skin; for example, the St. Ives Apricot Scrub is HELL for your face. The walnut shell in the scrub actually causes hundreds of micro-tears all over the surface of your skin, which makes it easy for bacteria to get into your pores. A lot of physical exfoliants have this problem, so you need to be careful. One of my favorite places to get light physical exfoliants is LUSH. A lot of their masks and cleansers have gentle exfoliants, like ground almonds. My favorite way to physically exfoliate is by using a konjac sponge with my cleansers. Konjac sponges are made from the inside of the konjac plant, and are a great way to incorporate some gentle exfoliation into your routine. You can get them pretty cheap at your local Marshalls/TJ Maxx or on Amazon.
The other kind of exfoliation is chemical exfoliation. Again, there are two ways to do this: with AHAs or BHAs. AHAs or alpha-hydroxy acids exfoliate by loosening dead skin cells and encouraging the turnover of skin cells. Lactic acid and glycolic acid are the most common AHAs found in skin care products. BHAs of beta-hydroxy acids are lipid soluble, meaning they can break down and remove sebum from your pores. The main BHA found in products is salicylic acid. Yep, the same salicylic acid you use to treat acne. It’s actually such a good acne treatment because it removes excess sebum that can block pores and cause pimples to form.
Exfoliation isn’t a crucial part of your routine, but you may want to try it if you’re struggling with acne, dull-looking skin, or just want to try something new! Be warned: it might irritate the crap out of your skin. Start with low concentrations of acids and low frequency; try maybe twice a week to start. If your skin gets irritate, acne gets worse, or you just don’t like how your skin feels, stop using exfoliants. Also, the increased cell turnover caused by AHAs will make you more sensitive to the sun, making SPF a crucial part of your routine.
Serums are a lightweight skin care product that contains high concentrations of antioxidants, peptides, or other important nutrients for your skin. Vitamin C serum is a common one you’ll find people using. Vitamin C can help eliminate hyper-pigmentation like acne scars and sunspots. It also has the additional effect of enhancing your protection from UVA rays. Vitamin E serums are also common, but I wouldn’t run out and buy a big bottle of it. There’s actually very little evidence to support the efficacy of Vitamin E when it comes to skin care. In face, it may make scarring worse! Another thing to watch out for is any serum that claims to have collagen in it. Collagen serums are a hoax and are not actually effective in any way. If you want to boost collagen production, stick to Vitamin C serums that can actually help boost skin’s collagen content.
Unless you are super duper lucky, you’ve probably gotten a pimple at some point in your life. People think they’re just a teenager problem, but I’m almost 22 and still dealing with face demons on a regular basis. When you do get a pimple, it feels like there’s not much you can do, but there is! Aside from keeping the area clean and NOT PICKING AT IT, you can also use a spot treatment. Spot treatments are generally anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, and they help bring pimples to head faster, letting the skin heal faster. What you should use depends on your skin type, but here are some examples: benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil (dilute), neem oil, clay masks, and sulfur.
The last one is my personal go-to. Sulfur tends to be gentler on the skin, and in my experience works faster than any of the other options. If you’re curious about sulfur, I can recommend the Alba Botanica Fast Fix for a Pimple, which has 6% sulfur to start with, then moving on to the De La Cruz 10% Sulfur Ointment if you need a little extra. Neither of these are smelly, so don’t let fear of rotten egg smell deter you! I also love clay masks for their pimple fighting power. I use the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay; super cheap and a tub will last you forever. Just make sure you’re mixing with raw apple cider vinegar for the full effects! If you want to combine sulfur and clay and want something a little gentler than Aztec Secret, try Queen Helene’s Mint Julep Masque. I swear by this stuff. My skin loves it, and sometimes I’ll even leave a thin layer on my problem spots overnight. Be warned: this does contain mint oil, which can irritate your skin. Always patch test masks before you put them all over your face!
That’s all for this post! Let me know what your favorite skin care products are in the comments below!
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