Skincare Basics

Skincare can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Sure, from a medical point of view, it definitely is, whether it is about skin cancer prevention and surveillance or anti-aging treatments. I trained for years in skin. I am board-certified in it. Everything I do and recommend for my patients in my office is about skincare on some level or another. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Most everyone is born with beautiful skin, so the key is to take care of it. Skincare is simple, but important. Let’s break it down.

Your skin is a smart organ, and it strives to keep itself in balance all day, every day, which isn’t an easy task. You can imagine that as an organ constantly exposed to the external world, it needs to maintain status quo despite being relentlessly bombarded by numerous environmental hazards, such as sun, pollution, bacteria, and viruses, just to name a few. Its biggest job is to help protect the rest of your internal organs and to signal the outside world that something may be going wrong on the inside. And let’s not forget the internal abuse to which the skin is exposed. For example, diet, tobacco, alcohol, medications, and the air we breathe can all damage your skin. Although skin does an incredible job taking care of itself and shielding your body from harm, keeping it in tip-top shape and making it look the best it can be require your daily care and attention.

The first step to effective skin care is cleansing everyday, twice a day, first thing in the morning and before you go to sleep. Cleansing rids the skin of makeup, dirt, grime, and any daily environmental exposures. It also preps the skin to receive and absorb the layering of topical treatments and nutrients effectively and efficiently. Plus the skin needs a break and needs to rest as it repairs itself. Although there are numerous kinds of facial cleansers and devices to use, the key is to just cleanse.

Secondly, your skin needs to be at its most optimally hydrated state it can be. If that requires applying a moisturizer before everything else, then do so. Even oily skin needs a drink of hydration after cleansing from time to time. In fact, if the skin is overly stripped of its natural oils, it will respond and compensate by secreting more oils later on throughout the day because it wants to keep a steady balance. Although toner isn’t an essential, moisturizer can be. The basic tenet about moisturizer is straightforward. If your skin feels dry after cleansing, use a plain moisturizer as your primary layer. If your skin feels well hydrated at baseline, use a moisturizer with SPF as your last step before makeup.

Then, this is where it gets a little tricky. And always remember that prescriptions go on first, followed by cosmeceutical or over-the-counter products. Generally speaking, the order in which topical products go on the face is to start with serums, then lotions, then creams, then ointments, and then a sunscreen, in that order. Makeup goes on last. I don’t usually recommend ointments for daytime use, but sometimes, it is necessary. Wait time for skin absorption between layers varies, but using the products and not waiting between layers is better than not using the treatments at all. Don’t skip or take short cuts. Be complaint. Your skin will thank you in the long run. I have always applied a lot of layers on my face, morning and night, to keep my skin healthy. Although simplifying a regimen is ideal, sometimes, it isn’t optimal, given the treatment goals or the maintenance needed. In the office, patients don’t often have to worry about their regimen because my staff will write down all the steps. And we recommend taking a photo of your products and the regimen so that when we see you in the office, a more accurate assessment can be made.

And now we come to how much of a particular product is enough. Generally speaking, a nickel size for cleanser, a dime size for moisturizer, and pea-size for “therapeutic” products are good guidelines. I find that many of my patients often use too much of a treatment product. Not only is it wasteful, but too much of it can potentially cause irritation and dryness. More is not necessarily better. If it has any active ingredients other than moisturizer or sunscreen, a pea-sized amount is plenty. If you are finding that this amount isn’t enough for the area you want to cover, then you need to moisturize and “prep your canvas” first.

Finally, the most important last layer is sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation have established that an SPF of 30 is optimal to protect your skin from the sun. However, to proactively prevent skin cancer and wrinkles, I recommend my patients use an SPF of 45-50, which is what I wear all year round, no matter the season. Sunscreen is essential in any anti-aging treatment. Think of it as protecting your investment.

So, that’s “Skincare Basics” in a large nutshell. When you’re in the office, let us know of your skincare concerns. The staff and I are happy to help you keep your skin happy, healthy, and glowing.

–Dr. H

Skincare Basics