Skin Care Notes


From Thirty Years of Practical and Professional Experience
Whenever a new aquaintence discovers I spent thirty years in the skincare business I am invariably asked for advise or a recommendation regarding products. I've written tons of promotional copy, brochures and teaching aids and was heavily involved in research and development, and so, though I am not a dermatologist or an esthetician, I am willing to speak up (as usual). I firmly believes that:
  • Hereditary factors play a strong role in skin’s appearance. If your mother had wrinkles, you probably will too. But having said that, she wasn’t as smart as you!
  • Everything in moderation: including sun, wine, supplements and the price you should pay for skincare products.
  • Nothing works as well as sleep and happy thoughts.
  • You can do a lot to improve the appearance of your skin, even if you can’t ‘change’ the structure or fire your mother.
  • We’re not getting older, we’re getting better!
The single most important thing you can do to give your skin the best possible appearance is EXFOLIATION. Skin reproduces every 30 days and as it expires and is sloughed off it accumulates on the skin’s surface and gives it a dry, dull appearance. This process slows as we age (what doesn’t!). Get rid of the dead cells on a regular basis and your skin will look fresher and YOUNGER. Scrubs that contain abrasive particles and cream, masks and lotions that feature mild acids (salicylic and alpha hydroxyl) or a fruit enzyme (like pineapple or papaya) are commonly used for exfoliation. I prefer the mild acid type as the product can be used continuously and is easy to manage. These mild acids will actually dislodge and / or dissolve the dead cells. I use a product from Aveda (Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant) as it’s convenient and as a tonic I can use it every day. I use it after I shower. I have thin skin but those with a thicker skin should boost the sloughing with an acid based peel or fine scrub weekly. And don’t forget the body. Use a loofa and a weekly body scrub. And on this note, avoid soap on the face as it dries out the skin and robs it of those important natural oils. Look for pH balanced cleansers for both face and body. I prefer a cream cleanser for the face and liquid pH balanced soap for body.
Choose products by the brand first and by ingredient second. European brands are required by law to include proven levels of active ingredients and cannot claim anything they cannot prove. Not so for North American brands, though those who sell in Europe must follow the EU requirements. Aveda is an example. And never buy a skincare product from a company who is primarily something else, like a colour cosmetics or fashion brand. What does MAC know about skincare?  And if an American company makes claims (reduces wrinkle by 10% in 30 days) they too must back up the claim with scientific testing…but…if they just say, “Helps with reducing the appearance of wrinkles”…then think twice. I also don’t like to buy from trendy companies like Philosophy…they are more concerned with the cutesy name and smell than the efficacy of the product.
I recommend European and Japanese Skincare companies like Sheisido, Clarins, Darphin, or Fresh (a wonderful American couple began the company and sold 50% to a French company…I admire their products and we made all of their colour products). I also like the doctor brands, like Dr. Murad and Dr. Perricone. They are expensive but have had to put really great ingredients into their products to maintain their integrity as skincare specialists. If you buy a light weight SPF day cream (8 to 15 is best) then you can be assured the product is nourishing and protective. I will say at this point I don’t believe in wearing a spy all the time. spf ingredients are proven skin irritants and continual use may sensitize the skin. Use when needed.
The type of oils and ingredients a company uses is important, but you can test the ‘quality’ of the oils by simply using it. No one uses petroleum based oils anymore (well, some old American companies but I’ve already told you not to buy them…older versions of Mary Kay are a good example) so it comes down to what texture do you like…and that’s why you want a sample. Go to the counter and tell them you want to sample some creams. They will provide some to take home or to try as you stand there. Push for a home sample. Only when you use it a few times will you know if you like the feel on your skin and if it leaves your skin looking clean, fresh, hydrated without an oily feel or look. I love nut oils, avocado, olive oil, jojoba etc.
The words ‘active ingredients’ describe the ingredients that actually do the work. For many years collagen was the only ingredient acknowledged to improve aging skin’s appearance. Then collagen was banned in the European Union in the 90s (it was derived from cow placebo) and skincare companies were forced to find substitutes. It took awhile, but ingredients like Retin-A, hylauronic acid, Vitamin C were proven to work well in reducing the appearance of lines and others for improving skin structure.
Do a little research on the internet…enter in ‘anti-aging ingredients’ and have a read. I recommend reading Paula Begoin’s book…Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me…see… . I don’t promote her products so much as her knowledge. Paula is a royal pain in the a---, and having made products for her, I am an authority, but I have tremendous respect for her ability to cut through the crap and get to the point. Read her research on active ingredients and aging skin and you’ll have a very good basic understanding of what is possible and what isn’t. She’s highly respected in the industry. Her products aren’t of the high quality that a known skin care brand’s would be as she is on a tight budget and though her products feature the right ingredients, perhaps she doesn’t use them in the right concentration for most effective results. They are good, basic products though.
Here I’m assuming we all have dry, aging skin…though there is a small percentage that have oily or very sensitive skin…read Paula’s info on these specialty types and the ingredients recommended. I strongly believe oily skin’s biggest enemy (or friend) is soap. The drying properties of soap cause the skin to produce more oils to compensate and it then becomes a viscous cycle of dryness and oiliness. No-drying washing, light oil-free protection, lots of sleep and a good diet go a long way to controlling an overly oily skin.
My personal views on acne skin come from working with companies like Proactiv and a number of dermatologist lines. Acne is a terrible mostly-hereditary affliction that can be somewhat controlled by skincare, but having had a niece and nephew with the same problem as their father I took them to a dermatologist for a program of Accutane medication. Within a month both were cured and have remained so for 1-2 years. Enough said.
And finally…if all else fails as you approach sixty, try Botox!
Enjoy…and let me know if you have any specific questions…I’m happy to help.