Skincare: 15 posts

Top Favorite Japanese PA++++ Sunscreens

“Apart from genes and healthy lifestyle, nothing will make as much difference in the way your skin looks as sun protection.” These words come from my mom’s dermatologist in Kyiv, a woman in her late seventies who had the most beautiful skin I’d seen. It had all the natural signs of age, but it was smooth, even toned and glowed like the inside of a seashell. At the time sun worship was a religion, so her advice seemed outlandish. Nevertheless, so impressed was I that I decided to follow it.

My mom’s friend would have loved visiting Japan, where the skincare wisdom is based on daily sun protection. Parasols on a sunny day outnumber umbrellas on a rainy afternoon. Unlike in the US or Europe, where a tube of sunscreen comes out only for seaside vacations, women (and men) use sun protection every day. Which means that the expectations from the skincare brands are high. Not only are the sunscreens more cosmetically elegant, with finishes that make skin look healthy and smooth, but they also offer excellent protection against UV radiation.

For the past few years, I’ve been spending more time in Japan, so it’s been fascinating to learn of new products and try many different cosmetics. My favorite Asian sunscreens still remain the ones formulated for the Japanese market. They tend to have soft, matte finishes and wonderful, light textures. Many products contain alcohol, since it not only makes for an easier formulation, but also because it gives a cooling effect on a sweltering Japanese summer day. I avoid it. My combination skin is prone to dehydration, and I avoid anything with alcohol. The only exception on my list is Shiseido SENKA Mineral Water UV Essence, because the alcohol in that formula doesn’t bother me.

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Deciem NIOD CAIS : The Copper Peptide Review

I woke up one day to discover that all beauty bloggers slathered blue liquid on their faces and spoke in a string of acronyms. What did NIOD stand for? Or CAIS, for that matter? Five days and 45 euros later I was to find out for myself. NIOD is one of the brands of Deciem, the same company that makes my favorite skincare, The Ordinary. CAIS is Copper Amino Isolate Serum. I selected the 1% concentration.

The online praises for CAIS reached a fever pitch by the time I had learned of it. It was supposed to activate body functions, although the collective wisdom couldn’t figure out which ones. It was to produce results on the fifth day, although NIOD said that the serum “departs from the traditional thinking of addressing visible aspects of skin aging individually and instead forms a foundation to respect skin health.” As you can see, much remained mysterious about this blue potion before I got my hands on it, but it sounded tantalizing enough to take the plunge. Moreover, I had such faith in Deciem that I was willing to overlook their befuddling descriptions.

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Skincare Tips for Travel

The concept that underpins my travel skincare has a clever and original name. It’s called a Giant Ziploc Bag. It looks as glamorous as a giant Ziploc bag can look. I gaze with envy at the cute travel cases real mavens sport (one of which is my mom), but I remain loyal to my method, because for all of the advances of the beauty industry it hasn’t created a travel case that satisfies all of my needs while not taking up half of suitcase. A Ziploc bag may lose out on charm, but it can’t be rivaled on practicality.

For me the goal of packing for a trip is to ensure that away from home I can find the same comforts. The insouciant advice of beauty magazines to pack the essentials and buy the rest at your destination is fine if you stay at luxury hotels in NYC. I’d love for one of those editors to end up in the Ukrainian countryside, or worse, Paris on a Sunday evening, and try to find a store where a toothbrush can be procured, to say nothing of more involved toiletries. When I speak of comforts, though, I don’t even need a soft bed and functioning plumbing. Those I can do without. What I can’t do without is my sunscreen and a rosewater spray. For all of my idiosyncratic ways, I’m an easy traveler. I just love taking care of my skin. Suffice it to say, if you’re a minimalist and happy just with soap and water, then this post is not for you.

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The Ordinary Summer Skincare Routine

Since I’ve shared my general skincare principles, many of you asked me to describe in more detail my summer routine. In many ways, even as someone who dislikes hot weather and burns easily, I find that taking care of my skin in the summer is far simpler than in the cold, dry months.

Why is that? First of all, any of the exfoliating treatments that you might indulge in during the winter have to be put on hold. When I talk of exfoliation, I mean only chemical exfoliation with acids like lactic acid, AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHA (beta-hydroxy acids). Retinoids and retinols have a different function other than exfoliation, but they are also included in the group of skin sensitizing ingredients. The risk of sun damage is too great to use such products on a regular basis in the summer, even at night. The same applies to any aggressive brightening treatments. I find that most people overdo the exfoliation anyway, with the result being sensitized, easily reddened skin, so it’s a good item to scale back in the summer.

The same applies to using too many layers of products. If in the winter I might layer a couple of different serums and top my moisturizer with a drop of oil, all such products go in the fridge for the summer to bide their time till colder months. I pare down my routine to the essentials.

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A Guide to Skincare Layering

If you were to read beauty magazines, you’d be forgiven for thinking that layering skincare is a skill beyond the ken of mere mortals. One is expected to have a working  knowledge of organic chemistry, active ingredients and the latest in Asian skincare discoveries. Failing that, one should simply follow the magazines’ recommendations and splurge for the editor’s favorites.

In reality, layering skincare is fairly simple. All of us do it to an extent when we start with a toner and finish with a moisturizer. It always helps to know what Vitamin C does to one’s skin or how to use AHA as part of a routine, but layering doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Nor does it have to take up a big chunk of your morning.

The other day I timed how long it took me to finish my skincare in the morning, and I discovered that it was around 5 minutes. So, I thought that it might be a good idea to describe what I do in more detail, demystifying the layering process. Whatever skincare products you use, you can tailor your routine to your skin type and your goals.

From Light to Heavy

The main principle of skincare layering is to start from products with the lightest texture and build up to the heaviest. The idea is to ensure that all layers absorb properly without diluting each other. Toner goes on first, if you’re using it. Wait for it to be absorbed, which should take a minute and then move onto the serum, moisturizing lotion or moisturizing cream. It’s a good idea to wait a little before moving onto another product, 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.

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