How to achieve flawless skin

Our skin acts as a barrier to keep us healthy, so in return, it’s our job to look after our skin. If you’re on a quest for clear, glowy skin, then you’re in the right place because I will try to help you to take the right steps to achieve just that! Pssst I will also give you product recommendations, so read on!

The Structure of our skin

Diagram showing the structure of the skin
Source: Cancer Research UK/ Wikimedia Commons

Before I delve in, let’s have a look at the structure of the skin as that will help us to understand things better. As shown in the diagram, the innermost, or deepest layer of the skin is primarily composed of adipose tissue which, in basic terms is fat, and this layer is called the hypodermis. Next up is the dermis which consists of oil glands, sweat glands, hair follicles, blood vessels, collagen and elastin. The outermost layer of the skin is called the epidermis and this part acts as a barrier against pathogens, UV rays, free radicals and toxic chemicals, and also regulates our water levels through transepidermal water loss. Another important feature of the epidermis as far as skincare is concerned are the melanocytes which are cells that produce melanin (a dark pigment) which is responsible for our skin tone, and when it starts overproducing melanin, we get hyperpigmentation.

Though all layers of our skin are important, today I will mainly focus on the epidermis because that’s the main barrier, which, if maintained well prevents breakouts, delays the onset of signs of ageing and prevents hyperpigmentation. Also, if you’re new to skincare, it’s much easier to start by using products that target the epidermis as you will see a gradual improvement in your skin’s health before you delve into a more complex and elaborated skincare regimen.

Determine your skin type

The first step towards clear, healthy skin is to determine our skin type. There are four main skin types and you can look for the following features to determine which category you fall in:

Normal skin – this normally refers to healthy skin where sebum and moisture levels are well balanced (other than the T-zone which may be slightly oily). Normal skin usually has:
– Fine pores
– Good blood circulation
– No or only a few minor blemishes
Dry skin – the main feature of dry skin is that it produces less sebum than normal skin, as a result of which it lacks the moisture retaining and protective barrier forming lipids. Dry skin occurs at varying levels of severity and is caused by a lack of natural moisturising factors including urea, amino acids and lactic acid that help to bind water. The first level of dry skin is identified as skin which is drier than normal, which makes it prone to dullness, and the skin’s elasticity is also low. Very dry skin is usually referred to skin that has flakiness and tightness and can also feel itchy. Extremely dry skin is mostly found in the elderly or those with specific skin conditions and that involves roughness, chapping, scaling and severe itchiness.
Oily skin – Though a nuisance, oily skinned people are very lucky in terms of preserving their youth (I envy you!). The main feature of oily skin is excessive sebum production. Oily skin can usually be identified by:
– Enlarged pores
– Shiny surface
– Thicker pale skin where blood vessels may not be visible
Oily skin is prone to comedones (black and white heads) and acne.
Comination skin – Is basically when the skin on the cheeks are substantially different from that of the T-zone. Usually, the T-zone over produces sebum whilst the cheeks don’t produce enough, making them drier.

If the above seems too complicated, then a simple test is to wash your face with cleanser and then towel dry it; if your skin feels dry and tight after 2 minutes, you have dry skin, if you feel like you can skip your moisturiser, you most likely have oily skin.

Our skincare should aim to normalise our skin, so dry skins will need an added dose of moisture whilst oily skins will need to combat sebum production.

The correct order of layering our skincare products

Basic skincare routine

There are so many different types of skincare products out there that which products we should apply, and the order in which we apply them can become very confusing. The basic skincare routine, regardless of age should include a cleanser, toner, moisturiser and sunscreen, in that order. Obviously, skip the sunscreen at night.

1) Cleansers will help to remove the build-up of dirt, oil and dead skin cells which will in effect prevent pores from getting clogged which can lead to breakouts. It is recommended that we use a gentle cleanser to clean our faces from sweat and sebum build up in the morning, and to use a slightly stronger formula to take off makeup and dirt at night. Each skin type will require a different type of cleanser:

Normal skin – Any type of cleanser
Dry skin (you need a gentle cleanser which removes impurities without drying out your skin) – cream cleanser, gel cleanser, milk cleanser, micellar water
Oily and combination skin (you need a cleanser which is able to remove the EXCESS oil the skin produces, but remember, the formula still needs to be gentle) – gel cleanser, foam cleanser, oil cleanser, clay cleanser, powder cleanser, bar cleanser, cleansing mitts and sponges

When you wash your face, make sure you’re gentle (don’t rub your face as that promotes wrinkle formation) and that you really work the cleanser into your skin in small circular motions.

Dry skin:
– Pai skincare Camellia and Rose Hydrating Cleanser £30 ($50) 100 ml + cloth
– Avène Gentle Milk Cleanser £11.50 ($20) 200 ml
– Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser £8.88 ($9.52) 236 ml
– Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm £24 125 ml ($29.50 112 ml)

Oily and Combination skin:
– Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser £14 ($16) 177 ml
– Avène Mousse Cleansing Foam £12.49 ($20) 150 ml
– Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser £8.35 (236 ml) OR Cetaphil Pro Oil Removing Foam Wash $13.79 227 ml
– Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm £24 125 ml ($29.50 112 ml)

2) Toners are perhaps the most skipped skincare product because people still don’t understand their function. Well, I would certainly NOT recommend skipping toners because they help to remove excess dirt, oil and makeup that cleansers are unable to remove, and also balance the pH of the skin. As with cleansers, each skin type requires a different type of toner:

Normal skin – assess your skin to determine the best type of toner. If large pores are an issue, opt for those that shrink them. If you need a boost of hydration, go for moisturising and hydrating toners
Dry skin
– choose hydrating toners that have humectant properties which help bind moisture to the skin, which in effect improves the efficiency of your moisturiser. If you have sensitive or very dry skin, look for ingredients such as aloe vera which will reduce inflammation and soothe the skin and avoid toners with alcohol as they will dry up your already dry skin
Oily and combination skin
– choose balancing and exfoliating toners which will remove excess oils and shrink pores. Look for ingredients such as salicylic acid or BHA which penetrate deep into your pores to exfoliate them (in simple terms, they take out all the gunk from your pores to help get rid of and/ or prevent blemishes, acne and oil production)

Dry skin:
– Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner £34 ($44) 250 ml
– Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner £17 ($16) 250 ml
– Pixi Glow Tonic £18 ($29) 250 ml

Oily and Combination skin:
– Sukin Oil Balancing Clarifying Facial Toner £9.99 ($12.71) 125 ml
– Dr Hauschka Clarifying Toner £25.50 ($29) 100 ml
– Origins Zero Oil Pore Purifying Toner £17.50 ($23) 150 ml

3) Moisturisers should form the core of your skincare routine. You should not skip this step regardless of your skin type because moisturisers form a protective layer over the epidermis to prevent transepidermal water loss which dehydrates the skin. You may be thinking, why can I not skip it if I have oily skin? Well, if you over dry your skin, you brain starts to believe that it needs to compensate and starts to produce even more oil which will in effect make things worse. This can be prevented by moisturising. The general rule when it comes to moisturisers is that dry skin needs a slightly thicker formula or one with hyaluronic acid, whilst oily skins require lighter formulas.

Note: You may have found night creams to be thicker in consistency than day creams. That’s because we lose most moisture at night. You don’t have to use night creams at night but just make sure the formula is thicker than your day cream.

Dry skin:
– Embryolisse lait-
crème concentré (my favourite!) £20 ($28.49) 75 ml 
– Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Deep Moisture Balm £24.50 ($30) 50 ml
– Avène Hydrance Optimale Riche Hydrating Cream £10.87($32) 40 ml

Oily and Combination skin:
– GlamGlow Volcasmic Matte Glow Moisturiser £39 ($49) 40 ml
– Clinique Dramatically Different+ £31 ($28) 125 ml
– Kiehl’s Ultra Oil Free Gel Cream £24.50 ($30) 50 ml

4) Sunscreen is the most IMPORTANT step of your skin care routine because it helps to protect your skin against harmful UV rays which is the leading cause of premature aging, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. People say that the sun protection factor is dependent on the climate but I feel that regardless of whether you’re in Florida or England, use SPF50 because it’s better to be safe than sorry!

– La Roche-Posay Anthelios Shaka Fluid SPF50 £11 ($24.74) 50 ml
– Clinique Mineral Sunscreen Fluid for Face SPF50 £22 ($28.50) 30 ml

Once you have your basic skincare routine sorted, it’s time to take it a level higher and start adding serums and facial oils into your routine. The basic rule is that skincare should start with lighter products and the heaviest should be applied last. So once you’ve cleansed and toned your face, you apply your serum, moisturiser, and sunscreen during the day or facial oil at night.

Elaborated skincare routine – Day

1) Serums are great because unlike moisturisers, they are able to deliver a good amount of active ingredients which address skin concerns such as dullness, ageing and hyperpigmentation. I really believe that if you want to get the most out of your skincare routine, you must at least use a vitamin C serum as that not only helps your sunscreen to work better, but it brightens your complexion and protects your skin against hyperpigmentation and ageing.

Elaborated skincare routine – night

2) Facial oils seal in moisture, and are especially good to use at night because that’s when we lose most moisture from our face. They also help to protect the skin against harmful pollutants and give our skin an overall healthy glow. The most common facial oils are:
– Rosehip seed oil which is great for protecting against free radicals which lead to premature ageing, it helps to control sebum and also helps fight hyperpigmentation. This oil is perfect for oily skin and has been shown to combat acne. However, I use this at night myself even though I don’t have oily skin and I find that I wake up with soft and supple skin every morning without breaking out, so I believe that anyone can use it.
– Marula oil helps to heal the skin and can be used for both dry and oily skin.
– Argan oil is very moisturising and particularly useful during the winter months.

Generally, people with dry skin should choose oleic acid based oils whilst people with oily skin should opt for linoleic acid based oils. These oils differ in their structure and while oleic acid is naturally produced by our sebum, linoleic is not and the former penetrates deeper into the skin to lock in more moisture, whilst the latter helps regulate sebum production. If you’re new to this whole idea of using facial oils, I would recommend you purchase oils by Deciem (also known as The Ordinary) as they sell quality products at low prices, and don’t add any fragrances which can irritate the skin.

Other components that you can include in your skincare routine

There are endless skincare products and it is worth looking around to see if there are any other products we can use to help maintain our skin. There are three other common products which many people use regularly, and I think you should too!

First off there’s eye cream. The skin around our eye is thinner than the rest of our face so we need to make sure we use lighter products there, and eye creams are formulated to suit the eye area without irritating the skin. There are many variants of eye creams where some claim to de-puff our under eyes, others fight dark circles, and another common type are the ones that target wrinkles. I have personally never come across any eye creams that helped address my concerns but I use them nevertheless to moisturise the eye area.

Exfoliation is key for the maintenance of healthy skin. Exfoliation helps to unclog pores and remove flaky skin. People with oily skin should exfoliate two to three times a week, whilst people with dry skin should exfoliate once or twice a weak. There are two main types of exfoliators; physical and chemical. Physical exfoliators are ones that have tiny pieces material in facial scrubs which buff away the layer of dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliators use chemicals or enzymes to dissolve away dead skin cells. Both these exfoliators help to reveal bright skin beneath the surface of dead skin cells which also increases cell turnover to help increase collagen production. I won’t go into this in too much detail today, but as a general rule of thumb, start with something mild such as the Daily Microfoliant from Dermalogica (you can purchase the travel size version if you don’t want to splurge on the full size just yet) and slowly work your way up to the stronger exfoliators, and stop usage if irritation occurs.

Finally, there are face masks. Face masks are able to instantly brighten dull skin so are great for use before events (I’m sure you must’ve seen pre red carpet selfies of celebs wearing a face mask). Other face masks instantly hydrate the skin and some are excellent for absorbing oil (basically, there’s a face mask for everyone out there). There are various face masks from leave on masks to sheet masks to overnight masks to peel off masks to rinse off masks and I’ll do a whole post on face masks to give you a full low-down on them very soon.

You are what you eat

The subheading says it all, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT and regardless of how much you spend on skincare (both money and time), you’ll never achieve flawless skin if you don’t have a healthy diet which is loaded with fruit and veg and if you don’t drink at least 8 glasses of water a day!

Bye for now!
Xo Tasnima

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