Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Now is a Great Time to Renew Your Skincare Routine

We're in it! The new year. Our fluctuating Bay Area temperatures combined with holiday travel and lots of office time spent with heaters blazing can leave skin crying for attention. As the weather goes crazy (sunny, freezing, foggy, freezing, rainy, sunny? How do we keep up?) it's a great time to check in and review your skincare routine. Today I'll be talking a bit about the skincare step I see most often neglected and also most frequently overdone: Exfoliation.

Like I said, some of us may overdo it and some of us don't exfoliate at all. We all need modest exfoliation to dislodge dead skin cells, remove impurities and help the skin refresh and renew. But too much can not only sensitize the skin, it can also cause what we call "topical addiction." When the skin doesn't have to metabolize and renew by itself, it becomes lazy and reliant on over-use of product. It's a vicious cycle, and best avoided for the long-term health and beauty of your skin.

So how often is often enough? Once to twice a week at the most! No exfoliant is "gentle enough for every day." If your exfoliating product is as gentle as its marketing hype says then it isn't giving you any benefit. And if it is giving your skin cells a good dislodging then more than twice a week is too much.

Start your exfoliation routine with a gentle cleanser without acids (glycolic, salicylic, other AHAs), without granules (such as bits of apricot kernel shell and synthetic "beads"), and finally without synthetic colors, scents, or surfactants. We use 302 around here and we couldn't be more pleased. On opposite ends of the spectrum we have 302 Acne Cleanser ($26.10), a gentle but effective product for breakout-prone skin, and the 302 Sensitive Rx (also $26.10), also gentle enough for even the most sensitive/sensitized skin. We also carry products for oily and combination skins, as well as the more nebulous and highly coveted skin of the "normal" variety.

If you've been following along you get now that everyone with skin should add an exfoliating step to their skincare routine no more than twice a week. If you are using a gentle cleanser like the ones mentioned above, simply add a quarter teaspoon of plain baking soda to it and apply with a circular motion for two minutes. Effective, easy, non-toxic and dead cheap at roughly 3 cents per treatment.

Other effective and gentle exfoliants you may try at home are a weekly or twice-weekly yogurt mask (around $4.). Yogurt has lactic acid, which gently exfoliates as it moisturizes. Always use unsweetened, high-quality yogurt: low-fat for oily skin or full-fat for drier skin types, and add a touch of rice- or oat bran for extra gentle deep cleanse.

Lately my favorite exfoliant is our own Sweet Honey Weekly Mask ($22) from k23 Skincare. Its rich, raw honey base is intensely hydrating and anti-bacterial. Fig extract lends anti-oxidants for healthy aging, and papaya enzyme dissolves dead skin cells gently and effectively. Jojoba meal adds just the right kick for the rosy glow of healthy circulation. Add essential oils for balance and healing and you have the perfect weekly treat for your face.

For some of you, exfoliation will mean using your trusty rotating brush. I have one and I love it but I don't go crazy with it and neither should you. Definitely do not use the stuff that came with it. Invest in some quality skincare products (without synthetic scents, colors, and unnecessary fillers) and your skin will thank you for it.

What about acids? There is a time and a place for acid exfoliation, and unless your skin is quite aged and very hardy (and I am not addressing my 30-something clients here), that time and place is within the context of your monthly professional skincare treatment. More often than not, Apotheca skincare therapists will choose enzyme exfoliation in our professional treatments, since the majority of our clients fall in the 20 to 45-year-old range. If you do opt for acid products they should never constitute a daily part of your skincare regimen.

As with all things, under-doing is usually better than overdoing it. Treat your skin kindly and you will be rewarded with a glowing and healthy complexion, no matter what insanity the Bay Area weather may throw your way.

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