4 Basic Skin Care Needs

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Jun 13, 2004
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4 Basic Skin Care Needs

From Elizabeth Waverly

The right (& wrong) ways to cleanse, moisturize & exfoliate your skin

You probably learned in school that your skin is your body's largest organ. What you probably weren't taught is how to properly care for your skin. The truth is no matter your age or skin type, the minute you start taking care of your skin -- keeping it clean, nourished & pampered -- it will respond in gratitude & you will reap the benefits. Here I show you tips on how to properly care for your skin, from the right way to wash your face, to the best moisturizers & UV protection.

Before we start with the proper daily 4-step skincare routine, you'll need to know your skin type. How you care for your skin is utterly dependent on the type of skin you have: oily, normal/combination, dry, sensitive or sun- damaged. Check out this article to determine what skin type you are.

The Basic 4-Step Skincare Regimen

Step 1: Cleansing Simple is key here. You need to find a good cleanser that your skin responds well to, and stick with it. (I list the best cleansers for skin types in this article ). Avoid soap at all costs. According to Rona Berg, in her book, 'Beauty,'a French cosmetics executive once told her 'soap should only ever touch your skin from the neck down.' Most cleansers contain oil, water & surfactants. The oil dissolves oil on your face, surfactants dissolve dirt & makeup & the water washes it all away. The secret is finding the right mix of oil. Too much on your skin will clog pores, while too little will dry it out. This is why you need to know your skin type.

Most women need only clean their faces at night. In the morning, a splash of lukewarm water is all you need. However, if you apply moisturizer at night, you will need to cleanse in the morning, too. Never wash your face with hot or cold water (both hot & cold water causes broken capillaries) & never go to bed with makeup on, you run the risk of clogging your pores.

Here's the best way to wash your face: Use warm water to loosen dirt & clogged pores. Use a dime-sized bit of cleanser & gently apply it in a circular motion, then rinse with cool water. Cool water tends to tighten the pores. You'll also want to take off your makeup with a proper makeup remover.

Step 2: Exfoliate 'The most important thing you can do for bright, glowing skin is gentle daily exfoliation,' Katie Rodan, clinical assistant professor at Stanford University, said in Allure's April 2005 issue. 'Not weekly, daily. Do it in the shower every morning, a routine like brushing your teeth.'

Every 3 weeks, skin cells are replenished, meaning new skin cells make their way up from the lowest level of the epidermis. The secret to exfoliating is to make way for new skin cells by getting rid of dead skin cells. Removing dead skin cells helps give your skin a youthful, fresh appearance not only because new skin cells are fresh & plump, but because getting rid of the dead skin allows your skin to absorb moisturizer more readily. Exfoliation is the step most people skip in their daily skincare routine. But trust me, if you start properly exfoliating your skin, you will notice an almost immediate difference.

So how much should you exfoliate? If you have oily or combination skin, you'll need to exfoliate 4 or 5 times a week, after you cleanse. If you have dry skin or sensitive skin, it's recommended that you exfoliate once or twice a week. You'll actually need to exfoliate more in summer & any hot months because sweat acts like glue & will cause your dead skin cells to stick together and coat your skin. Many women with mature or sun-damaged skin (a sure sign: wrinkles) have turned to different types of hydroxies which act as deep exfoliants. According to Berg, one of the reasons men's skin looks more youthful than women's is because men tend to exfoliate daily when they shave.

Should you use a toner? Some people swear by toners, but many beauty experts do not. Toners are meant to remove all remaining traces of oil, makeup & dirt, but a good cleanser should do this. So go ahead, skip it & save money. Turns out only copy machines really need toner.

Step 3: Moisturize A basic law of beauty is that everyone, no matter her skin type, should moisturize. Even if your skin is oily, it will benefit from moisturizers. (The only exception is those with acne). Why? Moisturizers attract moisture & draw it into the skin. They also seal in moisture (Berg calls this the 'Saran Wrap effect') & plump skin cells. So how much should you moisturize? Your skin will tell you. When your skin is tight, it's crying out for moisture. Be careful not to overmoisturize -- this can cause pore-clogging. For the skinny on great moisturizers for your skin type, check out this article.

Are eye creams necessary? Well maybe. Some beauty experts strongly recommend eye creams. Why? The skin around the eye contains no fatty tissue and is therefore very thin & susceptible to wrinkles. Special eye creams are formulated to 'thicken' this area & keep it sturdy. Yet others claim your daily lotion works around the eyes just as well.

Step 4: Apply sunscreen The #1 cause of wrinkles is sun damage, so it's important to use sunscreen from your early years on even in winter & on cloudy days. A great trick is to purchase 2 moisturizers: one for nighttime & one for daytime that includes UV protection. Don't use moisturizers with sunscreen at night, the ingredients are not meant to be used 27/7 & can aggravate the skin. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it contains 1 of 3 ingredients as an 'active ingredient': titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or Parsol 1789 (avobenzene).


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