Acid Exfoliants: What You Need To Know

Exfoliating is essential in keeping any skin type looking it’s best! The reason is because an accumulation of dead skin cells contribute to buildup on the skin, causing it to look dull and become congested. By exfoliating regularly, you keep your skin in a constant state of rapid movement, encouraging cells to turn over at a faster rate and not allowing time for buildup to collect in the pores. Not only is it beneficial in helping the skin look more bright and youthful, but it can also help your moisturizer work better. Ever wondered why it seems like your moisturizer doesn’t do the trick anymore? It’s possible you could be continuously hydrating a thick layer of dead skin cells sitting on the surface, and this blocks the moisturizer from reaching healthy living tissue underneath. By removing that dead cell layer, it allows the skin to soak up what it needs.

How often you exfoliate is dependent on your skin type. Someone who is oily/acneic can take much more than someone who has mature/dry skin. If exfoliating is new in your routine, start slow by using it 1-2 days per week, and then you can increase each week. Gauge where the happy place is for your skin, so that you don’t become overly dry or irritated. Some people can only take exfoliating 1 day per week, while others need to exfoliate 3 times a day. Do what works for your skin – it will take some paying attention to at first.

It’s also important to note that over-exfoliating isn’t healthy either. Our skin is meant to serve as a protective barrier. The more we break down that barrier by over-stripping the skin with chemicals, the less efficient it’s able to perform and you put yourself at risk for being more vulnerable to pathogens.

There are many different types of exfoliation that work best for addressing specific skin concerns. In this blog I’m going to solely focus on chemical exfoliation, and the differences between each.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) – water soluble

[Note: the smaller the size, the more “work” ie. shedding, will be done]

Glycolic:

Smallest AHA molecule – can penetrate skin deep and do it’s work quickly

Source: sugar cane

Best for: decreasing oil production, stimulating collagen, reduces the depth of fine lines and wrinkles

Lactic Acid:

Source: milk, yogurt, fermented fruit

Best for: smoothes the skin and improves texture, antimicrobial, keeps skin hydrated

Malic Acid:

Source: apples, cherries, pears

Best for: hydration, increases oxygen supply to cells

Tartaric Acid:

Souce: grapes, berries, red wine

Best for: aging skin – contains powerful antioxidant properties!

Citric Acid:

Source: orange, tomato, lemon, lime

Best for: brightening dull skin, anti-aging, neutralizes free radicals

Mandelic Acid:

Source: almonds

Best for: age spots, discoloration

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) – lipid soluble

Salicylic Acid:

Source: white willow bark

Best for: oily, acne-prone skin – helps to unclog congestion

Note: if you’re allergic to Asprin, do NOT use this!

*If you’re working on discoloration or scarring, glycolic, lactic and salicylic are best due to their small molecular size and ability to shed fast!

 

Polyhydroxy Acids

Ok, this category is new in skincare and not used much yet, at least in the US. But of course, Korean skincare is one step ahead of the game and already using these.

PHA’s are ingredients such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid. They are chemically and functionally similar to glycol and lactic acids, except their molecular structure is large. This means it takes time for the acid to do it’s work of shedding skin, and is more preferably used on skin that’s main concern is aging or is too sensitive to use regular AHA’s/BHA’s. These are packed with antioxidants which make them a great anti-aging exfoliant.

Vitamin A

There are many derivatives out there – Tretinoin, Retin-A, Retinol, and Retinoids to name a few.

Vitamin A has a large molecular weight, so it takes much longer to do it’s shedding work, compared to the performance of AHA’s/BHA’s. Many clients I see with acne were put on a Vitamin A topical by a doctor and I rarely see results, because it’s primary function isn’t so much to shed quickly but to thicken the skin by increasing cell metabolism. Vitamin A is a great choice for agin/dry skin as it tends to be thin, but not so great for acne/oily skin. Acne-prone skin is typically thick, which creates a sound environment for dead cells, bacteria, and oil to collect. My goal in clinic and for home care is to essentially ‘thin out’ the skin by using AHA’s/BHA’s. These acids are more preferable since their only job is to break apart dead cells and slough them off.

Finding Balance

I had an epiphany this past week, and it’s forced me to slow down and clear my head. I wanted to share this more personal experience here, as I’m sure many of you over-achievers can relate!

Since I became a licensed esthetician, I have been going non-stop. My goal with work is of course success on several levels. I want to change people’s lives for the better, to be a positive influence, to instill confidence in those that need it, to be comfortable monetarily, to be the most educated and up-to-date with technology and skincare industry advances, and to eventually create my own brand someday. With all of this in mind, I have been pushing myself to network more, to refine my skills, to use any extra time I have to research new information and learn as much as I can. There’s always more I can do and know in this field because it’s constantly changing. Since I got back from my trip to Thailand in February, I really haven’t spent any time doing ‘nothing.’ I know it sounds silly, but I’m seeing how important it is to relax from time to time. Whenever I do have downtime, I spend it on my computer researching, reading, writing, social media, blogging etc. If I don’t, I feel guilty in the pit of my stomach, that I’m wasting precious time. What I’m beginning to realize is that’s not true at all. Balance is key in life folks, and if you don’t mix up the hustle with some chill time, you’ll lose your mind. Literally.

My dad has always been a big influence on me and my work ethic. He started with little and has helped build a very successful business and grinding for years to make it happen. I admire that so much that I have taken on that very same go-getter personality. This weekend though, I felt like my body hit a wall. The momentum of endless energy I had seemed to dissipate into complete exhaustion. When I would try to think of an event, place or person, I could feel my brain rushing to create the connections and gather information but I couldn’t recall all the details, only a single image of what I was thinking of. And then poof, it was gone. Like those neural pathways were short-circuited and my mind went blank. The frustration to follow left me feeling immensely dizzy, flushed and nauseous. I would need to take a few minutes to close my eyes and try to center myself. It was terrifying feeling out of control and not being able to make sense of what was happening to me.

On Sunday I hung out with my best friend who witnessed this glitch happen mid-conversation several times throughout the day. We went to a spa (much needed) and as I laid down on the warm, damp floor of the quiet steam room, I began to cry. I started thinking about all the things I’m so grateful for and how easy it is to take those things for granted when everything seems to be moving along smoothly. At any moment, you could lose it all. I thought about my family, my amazing boyfriend, my friends, my cute dog, my great job, and of course, my health. What am I without those things that love me and keep me going? And more importantly, what am I without my health? I wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of those without it.

The next morning my doctor called me to check in, and matching the very same words my boyfriend told me, he said “If it’s one thing I know about Rochelle, it’s that her brain is always ON. When was the last time you turned off your phone or computer and just spent time alone reading, exercising or doing absolutely nothing?” I told him I couldn’t remember. This alone made me realize I haven’t turned off my brain in months, and it’s taking a toll on my body which is trying to tell me to slow.. the.. hell down. To breathe deeper. Laugh longer. Drink more water. Think less, listen more. Allow myself to truly relax and be okay with disconnecting for a while. I forgot these things, but they’re so vital to mental, physical and spiritual health! I encourage everyone to take a moment of pause in this crazy life, to remember what you’re grateful for and to always listen to that little voice inside your head that knows what’s best. Balance is key.

Layering in The Right Order

Applying skincare products in the correct sequence is super important! It ensures you’ll get the most benefit from each one. For instance, if you put a serum on after applying moisturizer, the serum won’t get absorbed as deeply as it should. Time is also something to consider. Think about it: benzoyl peroxide, for example, has a 1 to 3 hour “working time.” So anything else you put on after, like a moisturizer, may interfere with the efficacy of the medicated product.

I’ve broken it all down for you here. The easiest way to remember this is to apply your products first from the thinnest viscosity to thickest! I’ve also included advice I give to my clients on the types of products to look for and how to apply them correctly.

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1. Cleanse

Removing dirt and oil buildup from the day is an important step for anyone and everyone! Ladies: if you like using makeup wipes, use one first and then do a double cleanse. I always recommend double cleansing when wearing makeup, or when you’re excessively oily. Washing with tepid water in the sink with your hands or in the shower is ideal. If you prefer to use a washcloth to cleanse, make sure to use a clean one every time. It’s also important to be using the correct cleanser for your specific skin type! You don’t want something too stripping if you’re dry. I advise using a cleanser that’s only job is to clean your skin really well, and help control oil if that’s an issue. Opt for something non-medicated.

2. Exfoliate

Alright, we have many choices when it comes to this. Of course I have my own opinion on what’s best and so I’ll explain.

There’s mechanical exfoliation – this includes scrubs, Clairisonics, microdermabrasion. These work by abrasiveness, and more often than not, we’re more aggressive than we need to be. If your scrub has large granules, use it on your body instead and opt for something with granules that has the consistency of sugar. The key to using mechanical exfoliation is to use them very gently. If you don’t, over time collagen and elastin will breakdown and that can lead to wrinkles.

Then there’s chemical exfoliation. What more do I need to say – this is obviously the winner. Reason is, because it’s such a clean way of removing dead cells without the consequence of mechanical exfoliators. The way acids work is they just break apart the peptides that hold skin cells together and get them to shed. Make sure to let the acid completely dry, or set, before going on to the next step if you’re using an acid that stays on overnight. There are many types of acids such as glycolic, which is from sugar cane. Lactic, from milk. Salicylic, from willow bark, and mandelic from almonds. There’s many others too!

Exfoliation is such an important step to having healthy skin! It removes dead cell buildup on the surface, which in turn speeds up new cell turnover. Removing that dead cell layer before applying any products is crucial in allowing active products to go deeper into the skin and work more effectively.

3. Tone

I tend to skip this step because my feeling is this: if your cleanser is doing it’s job well, there won’t be any left over residue on the skin and it’ll be pH balanced… so, no need for a toner. However, some people love them and they’re certainly not doing any harm so if you like to add this step, go for it! Also, skip this step if the exfoliator you use has to stay on the skin, like acid pads for example. In that case you’ll want to use a toner before exfoliating.

4. Medicated Treatment

Medicated products, like benzoyl peroxide, need to be applied as closely to the skin as possible. That’s because it’s job is to kill bacteria and dry up oil, so you need it right at the source. A lot of people love to do spot treatments when they start breaking out but don’t realize that products like these are very strong, and applying them in such a concentrated area will likely burn the skin and can cause a ring of hyperpigmentation or scarring. I advise applying a super light thin coat all over the skin, that way it’s blended. Always use a small amount, apply to the forehead first, and then go from the perimeter of your face to the inside, avoiding the eye, nose and mouth corners from burning. The skin is thickest on the outer areas and thinnest towards the middle of your face. Another medicated product could be Retin-A, which you would apply in the same manner.

4. Serum

These are nutrient-dense, ultra concentrated, and meant to be “active” on the skin. Serums are always tailored to your main skin concern. Someone who is working on hyperpigmentation may be using a lightening serum, as opposed to someone with acne may use one with acids. These are great for anti-aging and hydrating benefits!

5. Eye Cream

If you love using eye creams, this is when you’d apply.

6. Moisturize

Apply this last, as it tends to be the thickest of them all and helps to lock in hydration! I think of moisturizer in the same way as how we use chapstick. The more you apply it, the more your skin needs it to feel balanced. Use common sense here – if you’re oily, your skin is already producing enough hydration. If you feel dry, apply it. If you don’t then skip it.

7. Sunscreen

Look for mineral sunscreens which contain zinc and/or titanium. These will give you maximum protection, are great for sensitive skin types and you won’t have to reapply as often.

 

This is a general guideline, and of course, not every skin type needs all of these steps! We can get sucked into thinking we need to have excessive routines and expensive products to get our skin to where we want it to be. Let me just say, expensive products do not necessitate higher value to something less expensive. And do we really need to over-complicate our lives with having 20 extra steps to do in the morning before work? I say no way! Just keep it simple and know what works for you.

New Pimples: Where do they come from?

When skin cells and sebum collect and bond deep in a pore, there’s a good chance this will contribute to some trouble in the future. When skin doesn’t shed the way nature intended, the follicle becomes clogged. Skin may grow over the opening of the pore, trapping congestion. The over production of oil creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to thrive. As bacteria proliferate, the pore gets irritated and this triggers inflammation. Ta-da, a pimple is born.

This process takes a while to happen, though. If you wake up with a new pimple and think it’s from those greasy fries you ate last night, think again. It takes about 30 days for a new zit to actually form!

Here’s some other things to consider:

  • Not washing or exfoliating regularly will contribute to your pimple population. Keep the skin extra clean by washing whenever you feel oily, after sweating, or after wearing makeup all day. Double cleansing is always recommended. Exfoliate to boost skin cell turnover and wipe away the dead cells contributing to build up.
  • In contrary to the above, don’t over-do it with exfoliating. This can create inflammation and actually contribute to more problems. Everyone’s skin is different, so know your skin’s limit when it comes to this. Generally, people who have oily skin can take more exfoliating than dry skin types.
  •  Stress triggers cortisol production, and cortisol triggers more oil production. Do what you can with what you have to destress 🙂
  • Pay attention to the products you’re using – here’s a list of ingredients to be on the lookout for! Comedogenic Ingredients List
  • You could be low on zinc. There’s been many studies of the link between zinc and acne inflammation. Zinc is a trace mineral that is vital in regulating cell turnover, immune function, lessening inflammation, decreasing oil production, and delivering vitamin A to the skin. 15-30 mg per day is ideal. I also recommend to my clients to take a vitamin A supplement!

How to Avoid Dry Skin and Breakouts During Travel

Traveling somewhere new is always exciting! That is, once you get there. The whole part in between with security checks, hauling heavy bags, airplane food, and recycled air… not so much. It’s very common to breakout once you arrive at your destination. I’ve got some tips on how you can keep your skin looking and feeling it’s best!

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How Flying Affects the Skin

In-flight air quality is extremely dry. In low humidity, moisture gets pulled from the deeper layers of skin, causing it to become extra dehydrated. People who have naturally dry skin (like me!) will be able to see and feel this dryness in their complexion. The skin may look a bit leathery and fine lines will stand out more. If you tend to have oily or combination skin, you might experience even more oiliness. This is because the skin is trying to compensate for the moisture being lost, and sebaceous glands go into overdrive. Sebum is a perfect environment for propionibacterium acnes (the bacteria that causes acne) to flourish. With a spike in oil production, dead cells building up on the surface, a lack of sleep, the stress of traveling and hopping time zones, it makes sense as to why so many of us breakout. Here’s what you can do!

 

Pre-Departure

  • Exfoliate more. Removing dead cells off the surface prevents them from stacking up and allows topical products to get absorbed deeper. Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Pads are my favorite acid exfoliation. If you like scrubs, opt for one with a sugar-like consistency. SkinCeuticals Micro Exfoliating Scrub is the best!
  • Lather on the moisturizer. Use what’s best for your specific skin type! After a good exfoliation, your moisturizer should work even better.
  • Go makeup-less. If you can, having a bare face will decrease buildup and make it easier for you to take care of your skin while flying.
  • Bring a hydrating mask. Do this the night before, and during the flight if you’re able to. It will make a huge difference! Dermalogica’s Colloidal Base Mask is my favorite gel mask and is great for any skin type.
  • Get in your antioxidants. Flying exposes us to free radical damage. Load up on vitamin A and/or C, and this will help keep skin clear and vibrant.
  • Bring your usual products – traveling is not the right time to try out your new Sephora samples!

 

During

  • If it’s a longer flight, remove your makeup in between and keep the skin clean.
  • Apply a thick moisturizer or hydrating mask
  • Spritz with a moisturizing mist. Dermalogica’s Antioxidant Hydramist works great. I also recommend Rose Water Mist by Heritage Store.
  • Load up on water, and skip alcohol/caffeine.
  • Avoid excess salt and sugar

 

Upon Arrival

  • Wash off the airplane grime and get to EXFOLIATING! Removing the accumulation of dead cell buildup will leave skin feeling refreshed.
  • Opt for a moisturizing mask to push hydration back into the cells. If you still feel oily that night, apply a clay mask to pull out excess oil, then moisturize.
  • Use your usual products in the same routine you do at home, and remember to apply sunscreen!

Eye Cream: Necessary or Not?

There are certain skincare items that mostly everyone can agree is a necessity: a cleanser, a moisturizer, and if you’re really good, sunscreen. But eye cream… is it worth the extra cost? I get asked about this all the time! My answer is, don’t waste your money on an eye cream that promises to do something extra amazing that any other moisturizer can’t do.

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The tissue around the eyes is very thin and delicate. We blink about 10,000 times per day, so it’s a very active area of the face. Every expression we make slowly creeps it’s way into permanent fine lines and wrinkles. If you don’t take care of your skin, it’s going to age faster, that’s a fact. And around your eyes will age even faster being that it’s so fragile. The best way to preserve the skin is through hydration – topically and internally. (Not to mention SPF, but that’s a whole other story). Your favorite moisturizer with all good things like hyaluronic acid, peptides, or antioxidants will do the same job on the rest of your face as they do around the skin of your eyes. If you want something great for low cost, try just plain old Aquaphor, buy it for $3 at CVS and use it at night time. The point is – keep the area moisturized and this will help prevent signs of aging.

Companies love marketing eye creams because we’re told to believe we need them to stay looking young. But, I like to keep skincare simple and effective in the least steps possible. Many big brands will come out with a moisturizer and a matching eye cream. The only difference is the eye cream has one differing ingredient, tiny packaging, and is marked up 20% in cost. There is no difference big enough that makes it worth buying.

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Brennan Kilbane, the assistant editor at Into The Gloss says it best [and he’s funny]:

“They’re just effin little moisturizers—and almost every benefit that’s promised ends up being a marketing gimmick. (Dark circles are hereditary, no matter how much rare plankton sperm you press into them.) Undereye moisturizer is necessary but you can use literally anything else”

Hormonal Breakouts 101

On top of the moodiness, cramps, random “fat kid” cravings and bloating to follow, it’s a common occurrence to also wake up with some brand new breakouts, especially around the jawline or chin (aka, the perioral region). Lucky us, ladies!

Menstrual acne affects roughly 63% of women every month according to a study published in the Archives of Dermatology. These flare ups develop about 7-10 days before a period, and then subside once bleeding starts. Curious as to why this happens? Let me explain.

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Most cycles are about 28 days and each day, hormones slightly shift. The beginning of the cycle is highest in estrogen, and the last half is highest in progesterone. Towards the end of the cycle, both hormones fall to their lowest points and stimulate bleeding. Testosterone, the male hormone we carry in small amounts, remains at a constant level all month. A peak in progesterone combined with testosterone stimulates sebaceous glands to produce more sebum than usual. Sebum is another word for oil – it gives skin its lubrication and also serves as a food source for P. acnes, the bacteria that causes pimples.  When progesterone rises, this causes the skin to swell and pores become compressed shut. Debris, dead cell build up and oil accumulation in the follicle contribute to an overgrowth of P. acnes and cause inflammation. Thus, a new zit.

While we can’t control the flux in hormones, we can be one step ahead of oil production. If you struggle with this, I suggest increasing your use of medicated products (benzoyl peroxide, acids) about 7-10 days before your period. This will help keep oil accumulation at bay. Avoid touching your face, wipe down your phone with alcohol wipes often, cut back on smoking, drink lots of water and wash right after sweating. If you feel oily mid-day, feel free to wash again. Taking an anti-inflammatory or antioxidant supplement can help a lot too!