When I was planning to write this post, I pretty much knew what I would include: cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturise. Simple enough, right? Besides, thats pretty much what we’ve all done, in one way or the other, since forever. It was shaping up to be a straight-forward post, until the scientist in me paused to ask: why?
Why do we do the things we do?
Why do we use the products we use?
What is the evidence for why and how we take care of our skin?
Trying to navigate the world or skin care, or “cosmeceuticals,” is like wading through an ever deepening pond, with very little hope of reaching the bottom- walk through any cosmetics isle, and you will understand what I mean. There is a wealth of information online, from lay people, social media, and so on, regarding which products to use and why. One can end up either:
a. disillusioned by advice coming from ten thousand different directions
b. being a product junkie and using an arsenal of products (zero judgement- I have been there!)
All that said, I went on a quest to find out how much of our skin care practices are validated and evidence-based. In contrast to the overwhelming trial-and-error advice which is so easily available, there is a relative scarcity of studies looking specifically at common skin practices; as well as the validated building blocks of a skin care routine.
So after browsing through a few articles and books in the fields of cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery, I managed to sum up the whats and the whys of a generic, basic skin care routine. Now bear in mind- there is no “generic” skin, because everybody has a different skin type, and some have medical dermatological conditions- all of which require individualised attention. Nevertheless, here we go!
Your skin is on the frontline. It is exposed to environmental pollutants; in addition, you sweat, and some of us apply makeup on a regular basis. The persistence of debri on your skin can allow bacteria to grow and cause infection and inflammation on the skin surface. So, cleansing removes all of the above, and allows an ideal surface for whatever additional products will be applied thereafter.
Your skin is constantly regenerating, and as this happens, the skin cells on the uppermost layer are shed onto the skin surface. Exfoliation removes this layer, so that whatever you’re applying on your skin, is actually able to penetrate to the deeper skin layer.
The point of adding moisture to your skin is to make sure that it remains a tight barrier, and to reduce the amount of water which is lost through the skin, scientifically known as trans-epidermal water loss.
Unbeknownst to many, sun protection is a major part of maintaining a healthy skin. Contrary to popular belief, sun screen is not just for beach days or lazy days in the sun- whether you are fair or dark skinned. This is because sun-damage, caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays- happens slowly over time, from day-today exposure. How does UV damage the skin? Well, my friends, this is a topic for a soon-coming day. For now, suffice it to say that sunscreen should be an integral part of everybody’s skin routine.
You’ll notice that the use of toners and masks is not included in today’s post. This is because these are, for want of a better word, controversial in the world of dermatology. Controversial or not, they are part of many of our skin care routines, so best believe we will chat about them in future posts.
I will leave it here for now. Now behind each of the above steps, lies a wealth of information. Being the nerd that I am, I have researched every step in detail so that I can bring you a Science Of Skincare (SOS) series. Yep, we are in for an amazing ride in the following few weeks. I will be putting up individual posts about cleansing, exfoliation, moisturising and sun protection- the why, as well as which products to use (including herbal remedies).
In the mean time, I would love to hear about the different skin regimens out there. Comment and let me know: why do you do what you do?
Peace and Lovely Things,
PS: I don’t want to burden this page by including all my references which I consult. Feel free to contact me should you want to know which references I use.