Rule 1: be consistent
When it comes to skincare, real change takes time – yet few of us are truly committed to a long and faithful relationship with the skincare products we use. We play around, try something new and drop old favorites in a constant search for ‘the one’. But playing the field with your face creams is not the secret to a great complexion. “Consistency is key – you have to find what works for you and stay with it,” says dermatologist Dr. Rose Ingleton. “So many women move on after a week – and they keep on moving from product to product. So how are you giving these products a chance to work? And how will you know which one will actually work for you?”
Skincare can be loosely divided into the instant and the long-term – and while a great face mask, peel or hydrating serum can quickly plump up, matte down or brighten your skin, any lasting change takes at least a month to see. Even those fast-acting skin heroes, such as hyaluronic acid and AHAs, also have a longer-term effect that, given time, works from within the skin for even better and lasting results. The fact is that skin takes at least 28 days to renew in your twenties (it’s almost double that and counting for 50-plus skin). So any intrinsic change from active ingredients affecting the new cells takes at least four weeks to be visible. “With retinol, you should start to see a change after around a month. But if you’re treating pigmentation, you need to stick with those products for at least eight weeks, at the very minimum,” says cosmetic formulator Dr. Colette Haydon. “With vitamin C, yes, you get that almost-instant brightening and antioxidant effect. However, if you want it to also treat your pigmentation and boost your collagen, that takes time. While we know that HA gives you instant skin hydration, the smaller, or lower-weight HA molecules also penetrate skin to work on the cell’s receptors – and that [process] can take up to two months to yield results. Then, of course, when you have seen the improvement, you need to maintain it.”
Rule 2: use what’s right for your skin
“It’s a problem I see all the time,” says aesthetician Shani Darden. “Women think their skin problem – breakout, rash, irritation – is hormonal, for instance, but it’s not. It’s because they are using the wrong product for their skin.” Clients prone to oily skin are particularly vulnerable because they want to use the latest cult face oil. “I tell them they can use it, just as long as they don’t mind also having the blocked pores that come with it,” says Darden. So make sure you use what is right for your skin – not what celebrities, influencers or your best friends are raving about.
For most of us, the issue is not the wrong product but the wrong texture for our skin type. “Retinol is an amazing ingredient and it works equally well for a young, oily and acne-prone skin as it does for an aging, dry skin,” explains Dr. Haydon. “For the more mature complexion, you can use it in an oil or a rich formulation, while [those with] oilier skin can choose a light, gel texture. Both get results.” So, although normal skin types will be less impacted by product texture, “it does have an effect on those with specific skin issues, such as oily, acne-prone, dry or sensitive skin,” adds dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. “The wrong formulation can throw your skin off balance, resulting in anything from blocked pores and irritation to extreme dryness.”
Rule 3: more is not more
If a quick mental stocktake of the regulars in your daily regimen include an enzyme cleanser, a skin scrub, daily peel pads plus a thrice-weekly retinol hit, it’s surprising there’s any skin left with this degree of exfoliation. Individually, these products are all great – just not all used at once – because skin really can have too much of a good thing. “I see this so much,” says Dr. Engelman, “it’s what I call women ‘going rogue’. They think that using more products will get them faster and better results. But, in reality, it causes more problems.
Overloading the skin with active or strong products can cause the skin to break out, become red, irritated and dry or flaky. It can be the same with some of the more popular skincare devices, too. Home micro-needling can be excellent (especially where the needle tips are made of the product that dissolves into the skin) but, done excessively, with in-clinic-level devices (using longer needles that penetrate deeper), and you do more harm than good. As Dr. Engelman advises, you should have your daily regimen of cleanser, toner, serum, eye and face creams and SPF – and restrict anything more active to once or twice a week. “You can have all your products and active ingredients to play with,” assures Dr. Haydon. “Just don’t play with them all at once.”
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