So I asked a dermatologist to explain the basics
By Coby Renkin • 26 October
What are the basics of skincare? Where and how do I start? Can somebody please tell me what the hell to do before I spend my entire life savings on a bunch of products that probably don’t work together or even target my skin concerns? Help!
I would say it’s really important because consistency with any skincare active is key. Our skin replenishes every 28 days, so the benefits of most routines would only manifest in about 28 to 56 days.
Consistency and everyday use is very important to get the result that we want without overwhelming our skin barrier.
With the right cleanser.
For most people, it’s where they don’t invest because they think ‘It’s a cleanser, it’s going to wash off anyway’. But because we experience so many pollutants in a day, a cleanser is very important and my tip would be to start with a gentle cleanser. Something that’s rich in ceramides – essentially a cleanser that’s not going to strip off your natural barrier (your acid mantle).
We don’t want to use a harsh cleanser because that can upset the balance. A gentle cleanser that hydrates the skin but removes a bit of that sweat, pollutants, sunscreen and makeup. How you cleanse your face really preps your skin for proper delivery of any active ingredients if you were to use any.
My other tip is most of us only need a cleanse at night. Wake up in the morning, save your money on a cleanser, just splash a bit of water on and start your routine.
One thing I always say is if you’re starting out, just introduce one or two items at a time. Let your skin adapt and don’t overwhelm its barrier.
A sunscreen. We know that 90 per cent of aging is environmental and the sun, so I’d have to say the non-negotiable would be a sunscreen, a broad-based one, preferably with zinc.
The other one I would say is non-negotiable is niacinamide, a vitamin B3. The reason I love B3 is it’s a multitasker, it helps with pigment, it rejuvenates your skin, it’s an anti-inflammatory, it’s an antioxidant.
With everyday life, with cell turnover, with energy production, you produce these abnormal molecules called free radicals and they are scavengers. They destroy DNA, they attach to things, they oxidise your cells, they make you age and they can make you prone to damage and skin cancers – vitamin B3 is the perfect neutraliser.
If you’ve got oily skin it’s also good because it regulates sebum production, it also moisturises your skin very well if you’ve got dry skin because it can create something called your natural moisturising factors. It’s quite a good all-rounder and nobody seems to really get irritated, most people can tolerate a vitamin B.
Actives basically are cosmeceuticals, which straddle that space between a drug that’s prescribed versus just an emollient moisturiser, so it can actually change the biology in your skin. They do more than just hydrating your skin barrier.
An active would be a B3, a vitamin C, and a vitamin A (retinol). A newer kid on the block is bakuchiol, which seems to work on the retinol pathway without any of the retinol dermatitis or irritation. In summary, an active is a molecule or ingredient that can actually change the biology of your skin cells.
The issue with actives is that people can just say that things contain actives, but the real magic in cosmetic formulation is how you get those actives through the different layers of the skin. So what you combine it with is almost more important than the percentage of the active ingredients.
If you’ve got access to cosmeceutical technology that can actually improve your skin, then you should make avail of it.
If products are formulated well, they should work synergistically well together. I think if you’ve got no issues with your skin then maybe stick to one brand, follow the steps of that brand.
Once you start mixing different brands, that’s when you don’t know if they’re compounding the inflammation or cancelling each other out. If you haven’t got problematic skin then stick to one brand because they would have done that molecular level testing to make sure they don’t cancel out each other.
I think consumers run into trouble because they mix and match different brands of actives. But the best thing you can do, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin, is you need to see a dermatologist who can recommend which actives, in what mediums, and in what chronology.
If you stick with the broad-based principle of using sunscreen, a gentle cleanser, a vitamin A at night and a vitamin B and C in the day – they’re the kind of key actives you want to try to incorporate in your day.
Serum in itself is just a lightweight skincare product, it’s like saying oil. Serums can be vitamin A serum, vitamin B serum, hyaluronic serum, it’s just talking to the way the product is conjugated into a really lightweight formula that penetrates a lot quicker into your skin.
My routine would be to cleanse your face, pat dry – your skin should still be slightly damp – and that’s when you put your first serum on. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then put something heavier on like a moisturiser or an oil. Always pat that moisturiser as opposed to rubbing it in. People tend to rush all the steps but it matters to wait 30 seconds in between each step, stagger it a bit or else it becomes one big stew.
Our skin is our largest organ and we don’t respect it enough and we think we can just make up our own routine. I always say you don’t experiment with other parts of our bodies, why do you experiment with your skin?
Obviously, I’m biased and I know how complex it is, but I think, enjoy the TikTok videos and stuff but really get a professional dermatologist who can properly advise you on what to do for your skin at that moment. Your skin constantly changes and you want proper advice.
Enjoy the TikTok videos but see a dermatologist when you actually want skincare used to its fullest.
People are not doing enough to really capitalise on our wellness for our skin health, gut health is very connected to the skin. It has implications to a lot of skin conditions but also from an anti-aging perspective. So an anti-inflammatory diet, sleeping more, not overwhelming yourself with too much protein a day, protein cycling, intermittent fasting, can all be a part of healthy skin.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve got cystic acne or hormonal acne, abstaining from everything is not going to fix your skin, you still need a bit of my help, but it does matter.
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