Key Steps to Beautiful Skin …
Over the years, people have asked me what I do to get such “great skin” or gush about how young I look. Babyface, baby skin, etc., these are all comments that make me smile and feel relieved that I started taking my skin super seriously a few years back.
I was lucky enough to never really have acne, even in puberty. I’d get the occasional zit, but the main reason was, and I believe to this day – I never wore makeup. I used chapstick, and that was it. I washed my face once a day, and life was good. Sometimes I’d get zits, and use Stridex, which would dry me out and then, no zits for a good while. I did find that standard face soap (backthen, drugstores weren’t as pimped out with beauty products as they are now) would dry me out too much so I found a soapless cleanswer (Cetaphil) and used that for a while.
Then in college, I started getting occasional acne. The Cetaphil kept up for a few years, and then I found my brother’s apricot scrub in the shower one day during summer break, and got curious. I didn’t like or keep using the scrub, but it made me think about my face and how to care for it.
Fast forward to my first jobs out of college, and my unabrow, occasional zits, occasional dry lips. I wanted to take better care of my appearance, so I started exploring and playing with products. In 2004, at 24, I started hitting my stride, realizing that regular facials made my skin look amazing, didn’t cost much, and that there was a lot I could for myself at home to get great results that made people literally stop and tell me my skin was beautiful.
So let’s get to it … the nitty gritty.
A daily regimen (outlined at the bottom) is KEY. If you don’t do it, you’ll chronically break out, scar, and feel like there’s no end in sight. Being consistent gives you the same results as with anything else. Compare this to whitening your teeth and improving their health. If you brush once a day, and don’t floss, you’ll have problems the older you get. If you change your regimen, brushing twice a day and flossing AT NIGHT, you’ll get whiter, healthier teeth and gums, less cavities, less bad breath, and a smile that impresses people.
The same goes for your skin. Your teeth and face are the first thing people see. The skin on your face is the first thing people see. Take care of it, and people will notice it. If it glows, people will enjoy looking at you, engaging with you, chatting with you, and laughing with you. If you’re shy and embarrassed about your acne, and hide your face, people will associate this behavior with you. Your confidence increases when your skin and your teeth are where you want them – so, take care of them, and the rest will follow.
Facials are important. It doesn’t matter if you do it yourself or at a salon, just get it done right. One facial a month is optimal. One every other month is the bare minimum. I am talking a full out facial that takes you at least an hour to complete. All the steps to a home version are outlined below. Salon versions include steam and “extractions” which basically means zit popping.
If you use a salon, pay attention to their products – not all are created equal. Some salons make their own, but that doesn’t mean theirs are going to get you results. Some use fancier lines, and the same truth applies. So you may have to try a few salons until you feel you’ve found the one you’d like to trust with your face for the long term. The same goes for doing it at home – you may have to test products, throw them away, and test again, until you hit your stride with the products and methods that work for you.
For optimal presentation, shape your brows, remove the unabrow, wax temples/sideburns, cheeks, and remove the upper lip. For basic presentation, bleach your upper lip hair, clean up around your brows (ie, remove the unabrow). The more hair you have, the more you’ll have to do. Sad, but true. It’s okay to ride with the extra visible hair through age 18, because you’re still considered a “youth” but after that, cleanup makes you seem more polished, grown up, and attractive.
Extra hair around your eyes can make your expressions look less defined, make you look moodier than you are, or just washed out. Definition in your brows makes your expressions pop and become easier to read – your happy expressions are more electric and engaging, your subtle changes of mood more interesting and easily visible than before. The easier you are to read, the easier you are to get along with. Which, in the end, makes you seem/look more attractive.
WATCH THOSE FINGERS
Dirty skin is something we all have. No one exists in a bubble. We’re surrounded by keyboards, steering wheels, door knobs, elevator buttons, and bathroom stalls. Germs are all around us and the more we touch things, the more risk we have of spreading them to our persons.
We can’t escape that but there’s no need to be careless. Hence generic “wash your hands” procedure – if you touch something public and you don’t know where it’s been, think about where you put your hands next. Ie, touching your keyboard when you know you’ve tracked gazillions of germs to it in the past 3 months, then touching your cheek frequently as you sit typing, is likely to spread dirt and germs to the same face you’d like to shine. You can’t wash your hands every time you touch your keyboard or cell phone, but you can avoid moving those germs from the object to your face.
The more you touch your face, the more oils and dirt you spread. Then they sit there incubating until you wash or wipe germs off. Since you’re not likely to wash your face during the course of the day, they have at least 9 hours to think about becoming a zit. If you don’t wash your face that night – hello, pimples! This of course only compounds the more you do it – if you wash your face irregularly, or don’t follow the recommended regimens below regularly, you could escape zits one day then embrace them the next, simply because your skin doesn’t have a regular skin care cycle.
SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
The number one rule about this is – practice makes perfect. Not everyone’s budgets are the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have great skin for less money. Shop around. Also, not every product is the same. Just because Madonna uses it does not mean it’s liquid gold. Just because the aesthetician at your salon swears by it does not meanit works.
The only way you will ever know something works for sure is if a) someone you know with skin exactly yours uses it and gets great results or b) you use it yourself. Since a) is rare, guess what you’ve gotta do?
Test test test … throw stuff out, test again. And don’t be afraid to return things. If something made you break out, gave you a rash, did absolutely nothing it was supposed to – the you paid money for a bum product. Take it back. Your reason to tell the store clerk: I had an allergic reaction. Or, I had a bad reaction. Whichever. Sephora has a great return policy – you can return things without the receipt. Of course, do this within reason. Too many visits or bottles that are half empty will make stores suspicious.
Some lines I use …
Natural, basic, not as expensive, their sports moisturizer is super light, and they have a sunscreen you can mix into your moisturizer that’s not greasy and won’t clog you up. Upper crust facial lines look down on Dermalogica, but for less money and good results, this is a reliable, serviceable line.
Hard to find in the US (easier online). More expensive, French, they have a great face wash for “sebum excess”- sebum is the natural oil/goo your face makes naturally in response to sweat and environment and to keep your face hydrated and fed. It gets stuck in a pore, backs up like a toilet, hardens, gets infected, becomes a zit. Joy!
Slightly above the Dermalogica price range, good masks in their line, everything is plant based, “natural.”
Oil of Olay
Their “regenerist” line is competing with top, upper crust lines. Now has one of the top “microdermabrasion” kits – you do it yourself at home and get results comparable to going in and paying $100+ at a spa or dermatologist’s office.
An article on brand comparison shopping for beauty/skin care products:
Let’s get to it! …
Every beauty “program” – mail order, like proactiv or Susan Lucci’s
line or Cindy Crawford’s line – follows this basic regimen. Any
product line, like L’Oreal or Nivea, etc., they all work off these
basic concepts to get great results with a regular regimen. You don’t
have to buyfrom one line and can mix and match what works best with
your skin. It may take some testing, and you might have to throw
something out becauseit doesn’t work that well for you, and switch to
STEP 1: Cleanse.
Wet your face, neck, and upper chest with warm – not hot or cold -
water. Wash once with your product, rince. Wash AGAIN with your
(Scrub thoroughly with a facial cleansing pad, ie, a wash cloth or
salon quality pad. These get best results. You can use your hands but
your hands don’t always get into the pores as well. But at the very
least, wash twice!)
Pat dry with towel.
STEP 2: Tone.
Spray toner liberally over face, neck, and upper chest. Spray toner on
cotton pad. Wipe down face, neck, and upper chest with pad. You’ll see
dirt on your pad, despite the fact you washed twice. :)
Balance toner – spray face with plain water or rinse face. Pat dry or
wipe down again with back side of cotton pad. Some dermatologists
believe toner is astringent and should be rinsed off this way to
balance your skin. Others argue the toner should be left as is. I
choose to spray water and wipe it off.
STEP 3: Base level skin care.
If you have acne, this is where you apply special serums, zit
application creams, etc, directly onto not only the zits themselves
but their immediate area. Rub in, allow to dry for a few seconds
before applying top coats to your skin.
STEP 4: Main level skin care.
This level is the most clogging of all levels, so use as LITTLE as
necessary to moisturize, etc.
Dab moisturizer into hand. Dab SPF sunscreen and any other special
products you like to use into your palm. (I use a exfoliating boosters
sometimes, to help slough off dead skin and absorb oil that collects
on my face).
Sunscreen is VERY key in saving your skin because it helps you fight
discoloration (uneven tanning), pigmentation (your zits get darker
than the rest of your face), aging, wrinkles, spots, and skin cancer.
Rub together so it’s mixed evenly, and apply. I use a separate cream
after this beneath and around my eyes. (Helps with bags/shadows, etc.)
You don’t have to do this now but I do because I’m phobic about my
STEP 5: Repeat at night. You can choose to leave your face bare after
Step 3 so it can breathe overnight. If you have dry skin, do Step 4
but use the bare minimum (ie, a light serum instead of a cream
On top of the above being done 2x daily, you need to “resurface” your
whole face. The daily regimen handles your immediate surface skin
issues, but does not deal with underlying issues as intensely as
weekly treatments. Treatments done 1-3 times a week give you great
results fast, and can literally make you look like you just walked out
of a salon. It WILL make people notice.
The more treatments you do (balancing them with the state of your
skin) the better. When I say balance with the state of your skin, I
mean that if you are new to doing microdermabrasion you should not do
it 3 times a week starting out. If your skin is new to
facials/treatments you should take it slowly and build up based on how
your skin feels. Your skin will tell you how it likes or does not like
For example, your skin may be sensitive and break out after a first
treatment. You keep going with the regimen, give it a week, then try
again. Then you’ll see the real response. If it continues to react,
you’ll know that product is not good for you, and you can drop it and
try another one. If it reacts well, you can up it to 2x a week the
following week, and see how that goes.
Do all of this to the face, neck, and upper chest.
STEP 1: Cleanse.
Same old method, twice.
STEP 2: Exfoliate.
This can be a firmer facial scrub or “foaming cleanser” that
exfoliates and has beads in it. Take your time, massage it in gently.
You should be gentle when you do it, especially if you have open zits
or tender areas with inflammation.
I do NOT rely on “exfoliating cleansers” because cleansing and
exfoliating are two different things. Cleansing takes off the surface
dirt, and should be soapy and leave your skin feeling clean and fresh.
Exfoliators should have some physical object – bubbles, beads, grains
of apricot, whatever – that rubs across your skin, getting into the
pores. This will literally leave your face feeling SCRUBBED. It should
tingle a little. It should not necessarily feel soapy while you’re
doing it – it should feel moisturizing, gentle, and like it got into
all your nooks and crannies.
STEP 3: Rinse.
Rinse off thoroughly – and I mean thoroughly. Scrubs usually leave a
coating you want to really get off.
STEP 4: Mask.
Liberally massage your mask all over into all nooks and crannies,
being careful not to get it into your nose/eyes/hairline. If it dries
in your hairline it’s a pain to rinse out. :)
Note: The longer you leave a mask on, the better it is for your skin. This is, of course, unless the label of your product warns not to leave it on past a certain amount of time (so be careful with self microdermabrasion kits).
Also, a “mask” is not the same as an “enzyme peel.” For example, Phytomer has a natural, vegetable based exfoliating mask – I can leave it on for hours while cleaning my house, and when I rinse off, my face glows. If I did the same with a peel, my face would be red and blotchy, and even feel chemically burnt (aka, Nair burn). No good. Enzyme peels (glycolic peels, etc.) are meant to chemically interact with your skin at the cellular (versus the topical) level and can be stronger than standard products – they’re invasive versus superficial. So, be careful when leaving these on for long periods.
STEP 5: Rinse.
At this point, because the mask is generally dry and sticky, I tend to use a hot or warm washcloth to really get it off, then rinse and wipe down my face several times – again, theres a coating youre trying to get rid of.
STEP 6: Tone.
From here, continue on with the rest of the standard daily regimen.
Note: If you’re skin feels sensitive to the touch (ie, delicate) and even stings slightly after all these steps, that’s normal. To counter this, use a “redness reducing/soothing serum” – intended for people with sensitive skin who have frequent reactions to anything. This is perfect to use after a microdermabrasion session, removes redness, and calms any stinging.
Do the above 1-3 times a week and you’ll have babysoft skin that glows
and gets breakouts far less often. :)