Exfoliation is often the trickiest part of a skincare routine to really get right. You need to exfoliate at least a little to help aid your skin’s natural desquamation process, but too much will leave your skin raw and compromised. Finding that middle ground grows even more complicated when you realize that there’s no one size fits all solution—that the wide variety of skin types and tolerances require different exfoliation practices.
As with all things skincare, I recommend a bit of experimentation and carefully examining your skin’s response to find what works best for you. However, with the handy reference guide below, I hope I can take some of the guesswork out of finding your perfect exfoliant. A few tips to bear in mind:
Change it up with the season. Your skin responds to seasonal and environmental shifts, so a product that works well for you in the summer may not be your best bet in the winter.
Be mindful of combining acids with physical exfoliation. If you’re using a washcloth when you cleanse, you probably don’t need to include an acid in your routine every single day.
Don’t feel beholden to marketing statements or trends. If a product says twice daily, that doesn’t mean you need to use it that often. You can use it once daily, or just a couple times a week. Likewise, just because a friend or influencer else can use a high percentage acid morning, noon, and night doesn’t mean that’s the right choice for you. Skin is diverse and personal!
Consider different formulas. You don’t always need to use an acid toner—it could be a leave-on hydrating mask or wash-off clay mask. Trying a new application method can make a world of difference.
Go easy. Many people may notice red, bumpy skin after introducing exfoliants and think they need to exfoliate even moreto deal with this “congestion.” In reality, you’d need to exfoliate less. The reaction you’re seeing is your skin overreacting to stimuli or bacteria from having its protective barrier stripped away. Ease up on exfoliation and give your skin a chance to recover.
I’m only covering the most common skincare acids below. These are found in more products and, generally speaking, have more well-researched benefits. There are other acids out there—tartaric, malic, mandelic, citric, phytic, and others in the alphahydroxy acid family, as well as polyhydroxy acids—which I can hopefully discuss further soon!
You know me, I’m all about the “less, but better” lifestyle. Likewise, putting together an effective skincare regimen doesn’t need to be a complicated affair. Whether you use two products or twelve, the most important consideration is making sure that your routine fits your needs and your lifestyle. Consistency is the key to results; the best skincare routine is one that you can stick to, so choose one that works for you!
At its most basic, a solid skincare routine only requires 3 steps for AM or PM. Start off with a gentle, non-foaming cleanser. This could be a balm, oil, milk, gel, or cream—whatever texture you prefer, as long as it’s appropriate for your skin type. In the morning, follow up with an antioxidant serum and some sun protection. Antioxidants help protect your skin from free radicals and oxidative damage throughout the day, while SPF shields you from cancer-causing and photo-aging UV rays. A well-formulated, unscented SPF also works around the eye area, protecting that delicate skin from the number one cause of signs of aging—the sun. I firmly believe that regular use of a good sunscreen is the single best thing you can do for your skin long-term.
A decent nighttime routine starts the same way, with your non-foaming cleanser of choice. Next, layer a water-based serum to hydrate skin and an oil-based product to seal in moisture. Your oil product could be a facial oil, a cream, or any other formula that suits your skin’s moisture needs. I would also sub in a retinol product (like my Etoile with Retinol Treatment Oil) however frequently your skin tolerates it—for some that may mean once a week, and for others it could be five times a week. As always, experiment to find the pace that works best for your individual needs.
On top of these basics, you can pepper in other products as you see fit. This will likely include weekly exfoliation, and may also feature masks, toners, mists, and targeted treatments to address any specific concerns you may have (including anything ranging from acne to sun spots). Think of these products as the icing on the cake—not the foundation of your routine, but quality embellishment that can elevate the whole experience.
What’s your go-to skincare routine like? Pared-down, or maximalist? Let me know in the comments below!
Happy Thanksgiving! I have so much to be thankful for this year, and I thought today would be an opportune moment to discuss gratitude journaling. Over a decade ago, I began keeping a gratitude journal to check in to take stock of my blessings—everything from my cats to my career, my husband to my home—and set intentions for things I’d be grateful to achieve in the future. I became much more aware of the bounties I enjoy and more perceptive of the positive changes that happen every day. Making even just a short, 5-item list at the end of the day has had such a profound effect on my life, my business and my relationships.
Sometimes it can be hard to wrack your brain for things that make you happy. In these rough patches, being able to identify small joys has been incredibly helpful to me. Since skin is our external nervous system, the feelings of calm and wellness also translated to healthy, irritation-free skin. When you feel better, you look better!
The holidays are also a good time to remember to practice self-care in the form of setting boundaries. This time of year carries lots of social and familial obligations that can be incredibly taxing on all of us, and on introverts in particular. If being around family and parties makes you feel good, that’s great! But there are many people who feel drained and discontented by the social demands of the holidays. Even spending time with people you love and care for can be stressful in large groups. We’re constantly told that this time of year is about gatherings, and I want you all to know that it’s okay if that doesn’t appeal to you. Your need for alone time is valid in any season. Take some time to yourself if you need it.
You should feel free to do whatever recharges your batteries, whether that’s time with loved ones or time alone. Don’t overexert yourself doing things that make you miserable. That stress is bad for your well-being and, as I’ve said before, manifests in your skin. Take care of yourself in whatever form that may take, and have a happy, healthy holiday season!