skincare routine: 3 posts

French Pharmacy Micellar Waters and Cleansers

I’ve been loyal to La Roche-Posay Toleriane and Johnson & Johnson Purpose cleansers for many years, but I still like to test new products to see if there is something better out there. After all, skin changes over time, and so do product formulas. When I was recently packing for a trip, I discovered that I had accumulated quite a few skincare samples and testing notes and I thought that I’d share them here. These products are among the most popular ones at the European pharmacies.

Since everyone has slightly different skincare goals, I might as well mention what I like in a cleanser. As I’ve described in My Skincare Route, for my first cleanse in the evening, I use an oil-based cleanser such as DHC Cleansing Oil. For the second cleanse, however, I turn to a gentle foaming cleanser that doesn’t dry out my skin. It should leave it soft, with a comfortable, soothing feel. I use micellar water to remove makeup, refresh my skin after I get home in the evening, or during travels, when I need to streamline my routine and skip the oil cleanser. Even if some of these products haven’t passed the goldstandard test for me, many came close.

Micellar waters, by the way, are not the same thing as toners. The names comes from micelles, tiny spheres* of cleansing compounds suspended in the aqueous solution. One part of a micelle is hydrophilic, with an affinity to water, while another  is lipophilic, ready absorb or dissolve in oil, and as the argument goes, with skin sebum and dirt. Each brand uses a slightly different formula for the surfactants that aggregate into the micelles, but the idea behind all of them is similar–a water-based cleanser that requires no rinsing.

*Actually, micelles can come in shapes other than spheres; it depends on the molecule shape of the surfactants that make them. Just a chemistry geek note.

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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 Brief Guide to Vitamin C Serums

When I shared my skincare routine, the most frequent questions you asked concerned vitamin C, so here is my short guide on how I use it, why I like it and what are some of my favorite Vitamin C products.

Out of all the ingredients that skincare companies advertise as miraculous, vitamin C (along with retin A and retinoids) has been shown in independent, clinical studies to have real benefits. It’s a potent antioxidant that prevents sun damage. It increases the production of collagen, even in adult skin. It brightens the skin and helps to lighten sun spots. It’s anti-inflammatory, which means that it’s a good ingredient for those who struggle with acne or rosacea.

This is all good news. The bad news is that Vitamin C is highly unstable. Because it’s such a potent antioxidant, it begins to bind to free radicals of oxygen even when it’s still in the bottle. Which means that it becomes potentially damaging to the skin! The sure way to tell is if your Vitamin C serum has changed color and turned yellow or orange, but many brands cheat and add botanical colorants. Then, there are formulations that use so little Vitamin C, it makes no difference. Or they use a type that doesn’t convert to the active form in the skin.

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