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Confused About Skincare?
Serums, moisturizers, oily, dry combination skin, oh, my! Here, a master esthetician shares her secrets.
The good news: In the world of skincare, there are more choices than ever.
The bad news: In the world of skincare, there are more choices than ever.
And it all adds up to one thing: Confusion.
There are breakthroughs for breakouts…wrinkle creams for weather-beaten skin…cleansers, moisturizers, toners, and serums for hydrating, exfoliating, protecting and preserving.
And so it begins. Purchasing items that are too greasy; too drying. Creams that irritate. Serums that sting. What in the $%^&* world are we supposed to do?
On a recent trip out west to visit a friend, I treated myself to a facial. I not only received a fabulous facial, but the icing on the cake was a tutorial of sorts from the uber-knowledgeable esthetician, Michelle Macomber. (If you are ever in the San Diego area and craving a facial, you must visit her. And say hi for me!)
I always have a zillion questions about skincare - it can be so confusing, especially after menopause when your skin takes on a whole different persona. Since then, I’ve been struggling with how to bring everything into harmony.
If you’re like me, you probably have the same or similar questions and concerns. And so, with help from Michelle, whose business card reads, “Skincare educator”, (after all, in her former life she was a middle school teacher), here you go:
SK: What steps should we take every day with our skin? What’s the correct order of things?
MM: Not all of us can follow a 10-step skincare routine. You need to plan for something you know you can manage. Generally, I recommend cleansing, treating, moisturizing, and protecting. In the morning, cleanse first; then apply a Vitamin C serum, then a moisturizer and finally, a sunscreen. In the evening, the serum should be a retinol.
SK: Wait - stop right there. That’s one thing I was always so confused about. Why Vitamin C only in the morning, and retinol only at night?
MM: It’s because the benefits of a Vitamin C product are triggered into working by (even the tiniest) exposure to sunlight, and retinol can be irritating if your skin is exposed to sunlight. Using retinol at night gives your skin a chance to recover.
SK: Is a toner a “must?”
MM: No, it’s totally optional. It can help enhance a treatment plan and make your overall skincare experience more effective. But if you’re trying to simplify your routine, toner is always the first place to cut.
SK: I’ve heard the term “double-cleansing” but am not sure what that means. What I think it means (and what I’ve personally experienced) is that sometimes cleansing with just one product, or just rinsing once, does not adequately remove everything. So, if you’re going to double-cleanse, is there a rule? For instance, should the “second cleanse” be something much weaker than the first, so you don’t get irritated?
MM: Typically, it’s done just in the evening to remove product buildup of makeup or sunscreen (The easiest strategy is to cleanse with the same product twice.) If you want to use two different cleansers, the first should be the heavier one (like an oil cleanser), and the second, a foaming cleanser. I like PCA Cleansing Oil followed by Yonka Gel Nettoyant.
SK: What’s the biggest mistake women make with their skincare?
MM: It’s not exfoliating enough. In fact, most people are under-exfoliating, because they’re afraid of irritating their skin - and a lot of exfoliating products will do that. Your skin should not be red after exfoliating; rather it should feel smoother and have a glowing appearance. Selecting the right exfoliator can require a lot of trial and error. My current fave is Alpha Peel by Yonka.
SK: Once we pass through menopause, our skin changes, and so do our skincare needs. For instance, I used to have very oily skin, and now it’s dry.
MM: Your skin is still oily. Here’s what a lot of people don’t realize: Skin type is based on pore size. Your dry skin is your skin’s condition, not it’s type. If your skin is experiencing more bouts of dehydration, then you need to use products containing healthy oils. For example, PCA Collagen Hydrator contains olive oil, and sweet almond oil. These oils mimic human sebum and trigger your skin to secrete the right amount of oil to maintain a healthy state.
Don’t be afraid to switch products if one isn’t working for you. How it feels on your skin is very important - and very personal. No two people have identical skin - not even identical twins! Pay attention to how a product feels; if it doesn’t feel good, tweak your routine. Much of the process is trial and error.
SK: With all the products on the market, how do you possibly know what to buy?
MM: Remember…there are no miracles in a bottle…the product isn’t necessarily better because you bought it at a doctor’s office or the price is high. Nothing - absolutely nothing - should cost more than $200 a bottle. $30-$40 is about the normal price for a cleanser; $50-$70 for a moisturizer; $75-$125 for a serum. If it is $200-plus a bottle, it is artificial product inflation!
SK: Please share one thing in your personal routine that you find super effective.
MM: Once a month I apply a thin layer of retinol, like Skinceuticals Retinol 1% over my face and neck. After penetrating for 10 minutes, I add a very hydrating moisturizer. This gives my skin a deeper exfoliation.
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If you’re confused about sunscreen - mineral sunscreen vs. chemical sunscreen - this article will shed light on the facts.
Michelle says that just about everyone should be using a quality Vitamin C serum. The reason you shouldn’t skimp on this one: Vitamin C is finicky, and if not formulated and packaged correctly, it will be ineffective. It degrades when exposed to heat, sunlight, or a high pH (this can happen during transit and in storage). Her pick: Yonka Serum C20.
A “trade secret” is Differin Gel Retinol. It’s equally as good as the spa brands and can be a great alternative for people whose skin can tolerate retinol well.
To fill holes where she “didn’t see excellent products that had quality performance,” Michelle has developed her own line, called Surface Esthetics. The line includes a neck serum that tightens the neck, a hyaluronic acid serum with all-day staying power to prevent dehydration, and a scar remediation product, among others. I’ll post info once the products are ready for order, with a special discount code for readers of thePause.
One More Thing…
thePause is an Amazon Affiliate, which means I receive a small amount from qualifying purchases. (But I never recommend products I don’t personally believe in. Honest.)
Have a question for Michelle? Leave it in the comments!