No, you don’t just ~wash your face~ and ~slap on some moisturizer~.
Most people are so hung up on the products they use that they fail to realize that it’s the way those products are applied that makes the biggest difference. Not surprisingly, products work better when they are used correctly. It’s best not to get me started on the number of skincare routine videos I’ve watched on YouTube where people pull and stretch their skin like elastic bands and rub in moisturizer with so much elbow grease you’d think they were trying to remove a stain from a carpet! Before I even get into the specifics of this post, I wanted to address the following:
If you pull, smush, and stretch your skin, you’re compromising it by breaking down elastin. Elastin is a protein found in the skin and connective tissues — it allows internal organs like the lungs and bladder to recoil after expansion and the skin to “bounce back” after being pinched and pulled. To a point, that is. When elastin is destroyed, it is more or less impossible to rebuild. Actually, the only ingredient I can think of that has a positive impact on elastin is retinol, and even then, the effect is that it improves the shape of elastin (as elastin fibers bind/mesh together to form a supportive network, if you will), rather than directing its regeneration. Just some food for thought. Your skin is a good barrier, but it’s a delicate one, and it should be treated delicately. So no pulling, please! Collagen may be there to keep the skin supple, but it’s elastin that’s keeping it up and supported. If you want saggy skin, pull away. Also, if you apply your moisturizer like you’re polishing the floor with a rag, you’re just deteriorating your moisturizer. The more you rub something into the skin, the more you’re rubbing it away entirely. Think of when you apply a body lotion that’s a bit on the greasy side — the more you rub, the less greasy it gets, right? Wrong. It gets less greasy because you’re quite literally rubbing off the product. You’re not pushing it into the skin or enhancing its absorption by rubbing/massaging.
And now, onto the good stuff.
– I’m strongly against the use of cleansers in the shower only because if you’re like me, you take piping hot showers – as hot as you can handle. Third-degree-burn-causing hot. Bliss. As much as I love the hot cloth method of cleansing, the temperature of the water in the shower is more than likely too hot to be sticking your face under the stream. Water that’s too hot is not good for the skin. Ditto for water that’s too cold. Cleanse your face outside of the shower.
– All cleansers should be applied to DRY skin. If the instructions on your cleanser say to wet your hands, dampen your face, work the cleanser into a lather first, and then apply it to your face, what you’ve really done is cleaned your hands. Just get the cleanser on your face and get it moving. If you absolutely can’t stand the feeling of certain cleanser textures on dry skin (foaming gels feel particularly odd, I’ll admit), try soaking a face cloth in hot water, wringing out the excess, and holding the cloth over your face as a hot compress to soften the skin before going in with your cleanser. I do this often – it feels great.
– All cleansers that are not balm cleansers should be moved swiftly and rapidly across the skin. Your skin isn’t going to get any cleaner by pushing and rubbing a foaming gel cleanser into it. The purpose here is to cleanse your face – the cleanser is not providing anything extra. Rapid circular movements over the skin (so fast that you can’t even see your skin move beneath your fingers), and then rinse away, or remove with a hot cloth if you’re doing the hot cloth method with a lotion or creamy cleanser.
– Always use TWO cotton pads (pretend you’re a facialist!). Try to buy the nicest pads you can for the least amount of money. I quite like the Shiseido facial cotton squares, because I can use them with reckless abandon and not feel too bad about wasting them*. If you’re cheap/environmentally conscious (you choose), cut one pad in half. No biggie. Saturate both pads, or both halves, and start at the top of your forehead in the middle. Sweep the pads out from the center and towards your ears. Gradually move down your face using this motion each time, until you’ve covered it all. Do your neck in vertical lines, sweeping down, while tilting your head back. Flip the pads over and repeat. If you’ve never used your toners in this manner before, humour me and give it a try. It makes a big difference.
* Side note: sometimes I remove lotion cleansers like LUSH’s 9 to 5 with cotton pads. I also remove face masks with them on occasion.
FACIAL SPRAYS / MIST TONERS
– This might be a controversial one, but hear me out: I don’t believe in “freshening” up your skin by misting it with a spray-on toner, thermal water, or any liquid concoction whose primary ingredient is water. If you spray something (ANYTHING) over top of skincare products you’ve applied previously, you’re breaking them down. And if your products are being broken down, the money you spent on them is being wasted. Why would you willingly break down your skincare products by spraying stuff (facial mists often contain alcohol, cleansing plant extracts, essential oils, etc.) over them? This is of particular importance during the daytime when you have applied sun protection (and if you haven’t, naughty naughty!). If you pull something like the Caudalie Beauty Elixir out of your handbag and start spraying it on your face, you are deteriorating your sunscreen as well as your other skincare products. Sure, your skin may look dewy and you might feel revived/refreshed temporarily, but at what cost? A lot of people incorrectly use thermal water aerosols in the same manner – this is not good. But what if the sunscreen is waterproof, I hear you say? No. Brands cannot say that their sunscreens are water-PROOF or sweat-PROOF anymore – they have to say RESISTANT instead. But what does RESISTANT really mean? What measure is used to validate this particular word being used? It’s always better to be cynical where sun protection is considered, because at the end of the day, the thing that ages our skin the most is the sun. Remember going to the beach or outdoor pool in the summertime when we were kids? We got bathed in sunscreen. And the second we stepped out of the water, the sunscreen got reapplied. Our mothers made sure of it. And they knew what they were doing. Waterproof, my behind. If you get caught in a sunshower without your umbrella on a sunny afternoon, you don’t really think your sunscreen/skincare products made it through completely unscathed and are still performing at 100%, do you? Of course you don’t. If you need a pick-me-up, carry a refreshing body spray or a perfume roll-on with you… something citrusy/minty/effervescent. Ditch the facial sprays during the day. Use them during your skincare routine, as they are intended to be used.
– Thermal spring water. Some love it, some hate it. I happen to love it. “BUT IT’S JUST WATER IN A CAN!” No. No it’s not. You don’t understand. Thermal waters often contain trace elements (exact quantities are not listed on the ingredients list, as this would be impossible to ascertain) that somehow do magical things to the skin. If you’re a user and lover of thermal water, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of junk in tap water, despite how well it’s filtered nowadays, and thermal water is nice to have to make everything feel pure and clean. It’s great pre- and post-cleanse, and also as a skin-softener right before products that contain a lot of water-binding ingredients to really lock in the hydration. Like the title of this post suggests, it’s all about how you use these things. Don’t spray thermal water on your face during the day (see notes above), especially if you have dehydrated skin. Water sprayed onto the skin binds water already in skin, and yanks it right out where it just evaporates away. The skin is constantly losing water to the environment through trans-epidermal water loss anyway – there’s no need to help this process along.
– My final note on spray toners: once you spray them on, please just leave them alone to dry. For the love of God. It only takes 30 seconds. I don’t know why people are so eager to go in right away and start rubbing and pressing and patting them in… all this does is transfer half of the product from your face to your hands, which wastes it. Makes no sense. *scratches head*
SERUMS / OILS / MOISTURIZERS
– It’s no secret that I’m a Clarins fanatic. You need to go to their website and watch their application technique videos. If you’re used to manipulating your skin like you’re kneading bread dough, the video demonstrations may seem wishy-washy at first, but please just trust me!
– Another controversial idea: warming products between the hands before applying them to the face. Some people say nay. I say yay – unequivocally yay. No matter what skincare products you apply, they all feel cold when they touch your face, correct? Cleansing lotions – cold. Toners – cold. Moisturizers – cold. If you’ve ever had someone else apply lotion to your skin, you probably thought to yourself “oh, my god, that’s cold”. You can’t prepare your skin to accept a cold product. That’s where the idea of warming comes in.
– Extract the product from its vessel (be it a moisturizer from a jar, a serum from an airless pump, or an oil from a pipette dropper) into the palm of your hand. Cold, right? Press your hands together, sealing the product between them, and create gentle friction until it warms to the temperature of the skin. The warmth from your hands will aid in the process. At this point, both hands should be covered in product, from the base of your palms up to your fingertips. Touch your hands to your face without pressing down (follow the movements from the Clarins videos), so as to transfer the product, and then move down to your neck. Once your face and neck have product on them, press the whole length of your hands to the center of your face, on either side of your nose, using gentle and even pressure. Remove hands and then repeat the pressing motion, gradually moving out towards your ears. This action facilitates the movement of lymph. Use the same gentle pressure by cupping your hands to the sides of your neck. The warmed product is readily accepted by your warm skin. We can use drinking water as an analogy here: when you drink ice cold water it absorbs slower through the body than warm water, as it causes blood vessels surrounding the stomach to shrink. We also have to expend energy to increase the temperature of the cold water to that of our bodies, which actually results in some water loss! I also have a sneaking suspicion that friction (while warming the product) lyses out actives to some degree, allowing the skin to take them up faster. In short, warm your products!
– If my routine consists of a serum, an oil, and a moisturizer (this isn’t always the case – sometimes I will forgo one or two of these things, depending on the condition of my skin and what I feel it requires), I will apply them in the following order: serum – moisturizer – oil. Generally speaking, it’s best to apply products with the thinnest textures first and work your way up. By applying products that contain oils and heavy emollients before a finer-textured product, you create a barrier that prevents the fine-textured product from absorbing efficiently. I know a lot of people use an oil after their serum and before their moisturizer – if this is what you do and it works for you, don’t stop on my account… but let me explain why I don’t do it that way: oils are a coating — coating implies the exterior (in the case of skincare, the very last thing you would apply if you weren’t applying sunscreen). If you apply oil before moisturizer, the oil hinders penetration of the moisturizer, which just leaves the moisturizer feeling greasy and gross on the surface of your skin. If you apply moisturizer first, the moisturizer will eventually find its way into the skin, because the last thing that would have been put on before it would be serum, essence, or something else with a fine texture. That leaves the oil as the last thing to absorb – it remains as a protective sealant, providing continued comfort for the skin. Hopefully that all made sense. Now, if you apply oil after serum, and you belong to the camp of people who massage skincare products into their faces, consider this: non-emulsifying cleansing oils and cleansing balms. If you massage a cleansing oil over a face full of skincare products, sunscreen, and makeup, what’s going to happen? Everything is going to start breaking down, of course. If you massage a facial oil over your face after you just applied a serum or two, what do you think is going to happen!? Give it some thought.
Any questions, you know where to find me. 😉