It’s important to cleanse morning and night, and you should aim to completely remove makeup and residue without over-stripping the skin. I personally tend to prefer creamy cleansers, and sometimes I just use plain oil to remove makeup and cleanse. I prefer that feeling over foam cleansers for my sensitive skin, which is prone to dryness. Even though I’m acne-prone, I don’t find that creamy or oil-based cleansers make me break out, provided that I avoid scary ingredients.
In addition to avoiding pore-clogging ingredients like mineral oil, it’s good for all skin types to avoid facial washes that contain harsh detergents such as SLS and other mega-sudsing agents. These will only strip the oil off of oily skin and cause it to produce even more oil, and on dry skin they’ll wreak havoc too.
My favorite cleanser is PSF’s Green Tea Cleansing Milk. This cleanser is gentle and moisturizing, but effective at removing makeup and gunk, and it doesn’t clog my pores. (I used to use Burt’s Bees Orange Facial Cleanser, until I discovered that it was a) clogging my Clarisonic bristles, and b) probably full of unnatural crap now that Burt’s Bees totally sold out to some corporate bigwigs!)
If you can’t stand to live without a foaming cleanser, then I like(d) MyChelle’s Cranberry Cleanser — that is, before they reformulated! I have no idea how close this new stuff is to their previous cranberry cleanser, but a cursory glance at the key ingredients tells me they look close. I also am OK with Juice Beauty’s Cleansing Gel and PSF’s Papaya Cleansing Gel.
Regular exfoliation can do wonders for most skin types, although those with specific conditions like rosacea or psoriasis may need to hold off. (There’s a school that says you shouldn’t exfoliate at all, because it harms the skin’s acid mantle — but I find that my skin responds best to regular, gentle exfoliation. To each their own.)
There are two basic exfoliation methods: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation relies on some, well, physical particles to do the scrubbing, while chemical exfoliation makes use of acidic ingredients to encourage the skin to shed its layers quicker. Personally, I think a certain combination of the two is ideal, so long as you don’t overdo it on either end.
I strongly discourage over-use of any kind of exfoliants, though. Lots of people online are into acid peels or microsurfacing, both of which I think are kind of scary. Removing too MUCH of the epidermis can leave really vulnerable skin exposed, and that new skin is usually more photosensitive and can be damaged quite easily. I also just worry about the long-term effects of chemical peels. I’m warming up to the idea of gentler, tried-and-true products like Retin-A, but you won’t catch me putting a 20% solution of anything exfoliating on my skin.
No matter your skin type, don’t use scrubs on your face that are too abrasive or contain scrubbing agents with jagged surfaces, such as any that contain powdered walnut shell, peach/apricot kernel, or corn meal. The grains in these are too rough, and are usually sharp, which means they can irritate or tear the skin and cause broken capillaries. Many companies have scrubs that use tiny beads of jojoba wax to exfoliate – these are sufficiently gentle, but often to the point where I don’t feel that they really work at all. Some other companies use rice bran, ground almonds, or even tiny alum crystals to formulate their scrubs. These are much more effective, but they can still be irritating if you’re too aggressive. So do be gentle when using any kind of scrub.
And for all facial exfoliation, be careful around or avoid entirely the thin delicate skin around your eyes — it’s very easy to break capillaries there, and stretch it out making it more wrinkle-prone down the line.
My favorite physical exfoliators are (were! MyChelle reformulated!) MyChelle Fruit Enzyme Scrub, Best Bath Store Dead Sea Scrub, and Naturderm EpidermxII. The gentlest used to be the MyChelle, which had round jojoba wax beads, and the scratchiest is EpidermxII, which has tiny alum crystals. The old MyChelle also has a small percentage of chemical exfoliants, so if you leave it on for a bit, you may get that chemical tingle that lets you know the fruit acids are working to help exfoliate your skin even further. I honestly love all of these scrubs. I’m still going to give the new MyChelle a try once I can get ahold of a sample.
Yet another fave is Dr. Hauschka’s Cleansing Cream — this is basically almonds ground incredibly finely with a few other emollients as a base, and it’s expensive but quite nice. However, it’s pretty easy to recereate Dr. Hauschka’s scrub, or to make your own homemade scrub. I’ve made my own moisturizing gentle scrub by combining VERY finely ground almonds (a coffee bean grinder set on high works nicely) with olive oil, glycerin and kaolin clay, plus essential oils to benefit my skin. (This is great, because you can adjust the oils depending on your skin’s needs.) A nice homemade gentler scrub can also be made using rice bran instead of almonds.
Also, the cheapest and simplest method of exfoliation is just a good old-fashioned washcloth — gentle but still gets the job done. I personally use baby washcloths that are sold in packs of 12, and that are made of a gentle microfiber terry cloth that’s less abrasive and quicker-drying than normal washcloths. The rule of thumb with a washcloth is just to make sure it’s hung so it can dry well, to avoid getting mildew or bacteria. I also only use them for one washing each since I have so many.
I never used to believe in toning, but then I learned about pH a bit more and decided it was worth it to start. I currently use PSF’s R&R Toning Mist, or Juice Beauty’s Hydrating Mist, and I used to use MyChelle’s Fruit Enzyme Mist before they reformulated. Still waiting to see what they changed before I repurchase, but that stuff was so lovely before — it smelled like vanilla and pineapple.
MOISTURIZE!!! This is the one thing that I think a lot of people, especially younger people with oilier skin, skip over. Moisturizing is important, as it will help balance out your skin’s own cycle so it’s not inclined to overproduce oil to make up for harsh stripping products you use, and it will help even out your skin tone and texture and prevent wrinkles in the future.
All skin types should avoid moisturizers that contain petrochemicals and/or dimethicone, in my not at all humble opinion. Very dry skins should favor formulas containing shea butter, cocoa butter, mango seed butter or any other “butter” oil — these are thicker and more emollient for older/drier skin. All skins will benefit from a small glycerin content.
I used to claim that it was best to moisturize day and night, though you don’t necessarily need two separate formulas — but I’ve since changed my tune a bit, after learning more about the philosophies of brands like Dr. Hauschka. They scientists claim that using a night cream trains your skin out of knowing how to produce its own moisture, and it also seals your pores up when they should be able to excrete toxins. I’ve been experimenting with foregoing night creams but I’m not sure what my final call is on this one. I recommend experimenting and seeing what your skin likes best. (Right now I hold off on moisturizing at night, but I do mix a bit of moisturizer in with my nighttime Retin-A treatment.)
Brands like Hauschka also have a theory that applying oilier products, like their Normalizing Day Oil, will actually train skin to produce less oil since it already thinks it has enough, whereas applying less emollient products, such as their very light Moisturizing Day Cream, sends the signal to the skin that it needs to produce more oil on its own. This is an interesting theory, and I’m not quite sure how I feel — I’ve been experimenting with different products and methods for moisturizing, and I’ve found that my skin is happy when I apply straight oils over traditional creams/lotions, whether or not I’m in an oily season. (Like most folks, I get oilier in the summer and drier in the winter.) Regardless, I think it’s important to moisturize in some form at any age, at least once per day, and it’s important to stress that oily skins needn’t shy away from oil and moisturiziation in general.
Hydrating the eye area in particular is important, but some skin types can develop milia (tiny hard white bumps around the eye area) from creams that are too emollient for their skin. Some form of extra hydration around the delicate eye area is important, regardless of where you fall on the night cream spectrum, as there are no oil glands right around the eyes to moisturize that skin naturally. I do an eye cream both morning and night, but night alone is enough for most people. I’m just obsessive since it’s the only area where I’m starting to get wrinkles!
Personally, I’m a fan of richer eye creams, and I’m currently using 100% Pure’s Caffeine Coffee Bean Eye Cream (which I reviewed here). I’ve also used Best Bath Store’s Intensive Undereye Treatment in the past, and am currently using Osea Eyes & Lips.
The number-one skincare tip ever: MAKE SURE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY! At least on your face, if you don’t want to get wrinkles and age spots, let alone skin cancer. I recommend a good physical sunblock with an SPF of over 20. It can be hard to find one that doesn’t make your skin feel greasy; however, Devita Solar Protection Creme 30 is the best I’ve ever found, and I reviewed it fully here. It uses micronized zinc oxide, but the base is much less sticky or greasy than most physical sunblocks. And the zinc itself is totally transparent, so you don’t get the whitish cast that can occur with some physical sunscreen formulations. I don’t find it to cause breakouts, and it’s fairly light but you can add oils or other moisturizers to make it more emollient for drier skins. (I apply a few drops of a homemade facial oil blend, and layer my Devita on top of that.)
Another good physical sunscreen option is Burnout, which you can read all about here. I find the kids’ version to be a bit whiter, thicker, and drier-looking than Devita, but when I blend the two together it works out nicely. I use Devita for everyday stuff and Burnout when I’ll be in truly sunny weather.
As for the why behind all my sunscreen blather: I think physical sunblocks are far better than chemical, and I’m not the only one. Chemical sunscreens are proven to not protect skin from wrinkles and cancer as well as physical sunscreens, and in one study chemical sunscreens were actually found to exacerbate melanoma and some other types of skin cancer, and possibly even CAUSE them. Many ingredients legal for use in sunscreens here have been banned in other countries.
Chemical sunscreens often irritate skin, and are recommended not to be used on babies or on broken skin. Plus, many chemical sunscreens are actually not photostable compounds, and therefore require weird additives to try and stabilize them in sunlight, on top of needing constant reapplication to keep you protected (not to mention the potential chemical reactions that are happening on your skin all the while…). Too much!
Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, have no significant proven negative effects thus far. They are proven to be more effective against cancer and wrinkles/skin damage, for the most part. Some people argue that they are less effective against UVA rays, but I’ve seen studies that show that zinc oxide is more effective than titanium against this end of the spectrum, so combining the two is generally a good way to go for good coverage. Also, the calculator that “officially” measures PPD (the SPF equivalent that also more accurately takes UVA rays into account) is from the same company that MANUFACTURES a leading chemical sunscreen, so that’s more than a little fishy to me. Furthermore, physical sunscreens used to be limited to annoyingly blush/opaque/greasy formulations, but micronized (sometimes called nanosized) particles have made that a thing of the past. So that’s the why.
If you do any sort of treatment for your skin, I’m big on using that sort of thing at night. (The exception being vitamin C serum, which I’ve read is best used during the day.) Many treatments are photosensitizing, which means they make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage. Acid peels and retinoids are particularly rough in this way, so they’re definitely best as nighttime-only treatments. And all acne spot treatments should be done at night. Make sure to wash off treatments in the AM before you proceed with the rest of your routine, and always use a good SPF but ESPECIALLY if undergoing some kind of skin-altering treatment like acids/retinoids.
If your skin is super-sensitive, I think laying off of treatments is often the best treatment you can provide. It can also be wise to hold off on really aggressive exfoliation, even when you’re just using a gentle washcloth. Certain essential oils can actually be irritants for sensitive skin, so avoiding products that are chock-full of EOs and actives is a good idea. Gentle, simple formulations, while boring, are going to be your skin’s best friend.
For just mild, run-of-the-mill sensitivity, which usually comes with random environmental flareups, it’s good to back off your normal treatments while you’re letting your skin recover. Retinoids and acids are particularly likely to worsen any flareup.
Because I’m still fairly young in the skincare spectrum (29, but watch me forget to update this), I don’t have a ton of specific wrinkle experience. However, this is an area I’m starting to be more and more careful with, since I’m beginning to notice fine lines around my eyes and mouth. There are many ingredients like copper peptides that I’ve seen people go nuts for on EDS. HOWEVER, I’ve also seen some truly scary results when people on EDS with not-so-damaged skin tried using copper peptides as a preventative anti-aging measure — it aged their skin prematurely! With that sort of thing in mind, I myself am less into these sort of “experimental” actives for wrinkles, and I prefer to stick with some good preventative tips plus a few interesting products I’ve discovered or heard about.
First of all, suncscreen (as mentioned copiously above) is the NUMBER ONE thing you can do to prevent wrinkles and age spots. But even with a good cream, protecting your face by wearing a hat is great, and protecting the eye area with dark, big sunglasses can also help a lot. In addition to blocking out the sun’s harmful rays, wearing stuff that shades your eyes will help to keep you from squinting, which will help — the act of wrinkling up your eyes like that will deepen your creases over time.
The same goes for forehead “worry” lines, and to a lesser extent, those nasolabial “smile” lines. But who wants to stop smiling, and who can possibly stop worrying 100%? I don’t worry too much about this, but I know some people believe in sleeping with a silk pillowcase to help reduce wrinklage at night, and some even use a product called “Frownies” to hold wrinkles taut overnight and help your skin “learn” not to move in certain ways. Personally, I can’t imagine taping something over my wrinkle spots every night, but who knows how I’ll feel once my aging starts to show more!
One thing I’ve found to be extremely helpful for eye-area wrinkles is using an eye cream that contains caffeine. It’s an odd phenomenon — when I use a caffeinated cream at night, the area under my eyes looks a bit puffy and bloated when I first wake up. I’m told that this is because the caffeine stimulates your blood vessels and gets things pumping more, which plumps up the area. But this effect never lasted too long, and it DID seem to help “fill in” the wrinkles so that even after the puff left, they were plumped-out and nicely moisturized. My fave caffeinated eye cream is 100% Pure’s.
More than anything else, I think it’s really important to drink a ton of water. Water helps hydrate you and plump up your skin. Have you ever seen the transformation when a badly-thirsty plant gets watered? All its leaves perk back up from their sad droopy position, and their texture instantly becomes more firm and their color more vibrant. Think of your skin like a thirsty plant, and water it frequently to keep it in good condition!
And of course, moisturize the hell out of your skin. Drier skin wrinkles much more easily, and if you moisturize while skin is still damp, you can help lock in moisture and seal out those aging signs, at least somewhat.
Apart from these tips, I think wrinkling vs. not wrinkling is largely genetic. But who knows — maintaining a healthy lifestyle in other areas is almost always reflected in our skin, so it never hurts to exercise and eat veggies and enjoy life!
If you’re at all acne-prone, stay far away from moisturizers or any products with petrochemicals, dimethicone, and/or lanolin. These ingredients, especially petrochemicals, are often found in lotions/creams, some cleansers (especially creamier formulas), cold cream, foundation, and most drugstore facial powders, and almost all non-natural eye shadows and blushes.
Also avoid moisturizers that contain large amounts of shea butter, cocoa butter, or any other “butter” — while normally very healthy especially for very dry skin, these oils are often too occlusive for acne-prone skin and can clog pores and cause breakouts. (This is true of most oils that are solid or semi-solid at room temperature — i.e. anything that’s a “butter” rather than an oil.) Still, don’t let that stop you from moisturizing! There are plenty of acne-friendly moisturizers out there, whether you prefer oil-based or oil-free formulations. One is the German company Logona Kosmetik’s range, and there’s Dr. Hauschka’s Normalizing Day Oil, MyChelle’s Oil-Free Grapefruit Cream, etc… I’m not AS familiar with less emollient moisturizers, as my skin is dry even when it’s breakout prone, but it never hurts to ask the skincare folks at wherever you’re shopping.
Specific blemish-zapping products are tricky. Nothing out there really gets rid of acne — nutrition, mental health/stress, hormones, sleep, and hydration are bigger factors than most people consider, and bigger than most skincare products can reasonably take on. But outside of this, many topical spot-treatments are fairly ineffective and can be extremely rough and drying to the skin. Peolpe past their teens should probably not be using products containing benzoyl peroxide, the main ingredient in creams like Clearasil and Oxy, as it is severely drying (and is rumored to cause cancer in larger concentrations). Formulas with salicylic acid are slightly better, though they’re not always as effective and can still leave skin flaky and dry, and will photosensitize skin so sunblock is even more important. There are also some formulations that contain sulphur as the active ingredient. However, these can be hard to find, and I personally don’t love the smell they impart.
I’m not much of a believer in mask treatments, but I occasionally use a clay- and sulphur-based mask (PSF’s Acne Treatment Mud) as an overnight spot-treatment and it is gentle but still somewhat helpful. Many people use clay masks to help draw impurities out of pores. I myself don’t find them to be super-beneficial, so I prefer to just use a good BHA (salicylic acid) serum or toner every night, as well as my Retin-A.
Some homeopathic/aromatherapy companies, including Simplers, offer a blend of essential oils that can be applied directly to acne. These are the best kinds of spot treatment, in my opinion, but are not extremely effective for chronic or cystic acne -– again, better for drier, older, or more sensitive skin. Good oils to look for are lavender, tea tree, manuka, thyme, juniper, and SO many others, but that’s a start!
Another non-essential oil I’m recently turning on to is neem oil, but I think the fact that it can be a heavier oil is tricky as it can actually worsen breakouts by blocking pores if used too often. Look for small amounts of neem in acne-products that contain it (i.e. it should be far down the list of ingredients, at least halfway towards the end). Email me if you wish for me to help you concoct a personalized essential oil blend to help fight or clear up acne, or if you have good acne tips or products you’d like to share.
Avoiding acne triggers is the best bet for everyone — eat lots of fresh veggies, not too many fats and saturated fats, not too many processed foods or refined carbs/sugars, drink LOTS of water, avoid caffeine and excessive alcohol, don’t smoke, use chemical-free sunblock but get outside in the fresh air and sunshine sometimes, exercise, think positive, sleep, love yourself, keep your phones clean, and try not to touch your face with unwashed hands. These things all really do help. According to some studies, so does sex and general happiness in a relationship, but I don’t necessarily recommend recreational sex or otherwise ill-advised hookups as a mere skincare treatment. Use your judgment, of course! And last but not least, pay attention to specific foods that seem to make you break out — many people have low-level inflammation or allergy to certain foods that can trigger acne, so keeping an eye on your diet and your skin’s reaction to it can help. One specific trigger that upsets some people’s skin is dairy, and some others are wheat, soy, and nuts.