By Paige Barker
The world wide web is buzzing with listicles and DIY instructions to fast-track your beauty routine toward flawless, glowing skin in no time. The problem is that there is no short cut for healthy skin, and if there was one simple solution that worked for everyone, we wouldn’t need to read a million articles to get to the bottom of it. In actuality, a lot of the tips circulating on the internet will cause much more harm than good and are the result of short-term product testing without researching long-term effects. Your skin is an organ, and science is your friend.
Here are the bare bones of healthy skincare:
1. pH is important
Your skin has a pH of around 4.5-5 on the scale from 1-14, where 1 is acidic, 14 is alkaline, and 7 is neutral. For crying out loud, DO NOT USE BAKING SODA ON YOUR SKIN
, no matter what Buzzfeed
tells you. Baking soda has a pH of 9, and will disrupt and damage the skin barrier, which is your body’s natural mechanism for retaining the healthy stuff in your skin and keeping unhealthy stuff out. Using baking soda or anything with a similar pH might clear up your skin at first, like the blogs claim, because it’s hurting your skin and depriving it of moisture. You know how a sunburn can clear up your breakout? It’s the same concept–your acne might disappear at first, but only because you’re stripping your skin and causing deeper damage. Things may look clearer at first, but the damage to your skin barrier turn your face into a bacteria breeding ground.
Similarly, DO NOT USE VINEGAR* OR LEMON JUICE ON YOUR SKIN. Vinegar and lemon juice are on the acidic end of the pH scale, and can give you CHEMICAL BURNS. Don’t do it.
If you’re interested in a product, Google the pH and whether it is safe for the skin.
Side note- Apple Cider Vinegar
can be safely used in clay masks as a way to balance out the pH. Google it first, though.
2. Chemical exfoliators > physical exfoliators
It can feel really satisfying to slough off all of your dead skin with a sugar scrub or St. Ives Apricot Scrub, but it’s not as effective as it seems. Exfoliating scrubs with microbeads or any type of crystals, like sugar, can cause microscopic cuts all over the surface of your face, which will actually dry your skin out more and cause a huge increase in bacterial growth. There are more gentle and more effective physical exfoliators, but chemical exfoliators are where it’s at.
Chemical exfoliation works by breaking up the bonds between dead skin cells so they can be removed more gently and will lead to fresher, healthier skin. Stridex Maximum Strength Pads
are a popular choice because they’re cheap and they work really well, but there are lots of options out there. If you start using a chemical exfoliator, be sure to do your research because some may make your skin more sunlight-sensitive and you’ll need to start using sunscreen every day, regardless of your skin tone.
And with any chemical exfoliator, make sure to moisturize after 20-30 minutes! Which brings me to my next point…
3. Moisturizer is good for you, no matter what your skin type is
Proper moisture is a huge factor to a healthy complexion. Even oily skin needs moisturizer, and is in some cases due to over-production of oil due to dehydration, believe it or not.
4. Introduce new products one at a time and PATCH TEST
If you’re really motivated to revamp your skincare routine and buy 37 different creams and gels, pump the brakes and start with just one. Branching out to new products may reveal a whole bunch of fun allergies and sensitivities you never knew you had, so it’s crucial to only make one routine switch-up at a time so that if you do have a bad reaction, you’ll know the source. The best way to keep bad new breakouts at bay is to patch test your new product first–use it on one section of your skin once a day for 1-2 weeks before trying it out on your whole face. Once you introduce something new and it passes the patch test, wait another 1-2 weeks before you start your next new product.
5. Record your progress–good or bad
It might sound obnoxious, but keeping a journal or log of all of your tested products can teach you a lot about your skin. If you get the same weird breakout from 3 different products, check their ingredients and see what they have in common. It could be that you’re too sensitive to fatty alcohols or certain oils, for example.
is a really useful resource for breaking down the ingredient list in a product and see what, if anything, might cause irritation.
6. You are a special snowflake–what works for others may not work for you
There are a couple basic skin types, but everyone’s skin is different. If you do your research and find something that sounds great for you and your skin isn’t reacting well, don’t force it. Try it out for a bit and see if things start to turn around, but if you don’t see any improvements, toss it. Your best friend might wash their face twice a day and get great results, but your skin might be too sensitive to cleanse more than once. Do your homework, but pay attention to your skin as you go to figure out what’s working and what’s still missing.
7. Everything you could ever need to know can be found on /r/SkincareAddiction.
I’ve had problematic skin for 10+ years, but I never made a breakthrough until I found this page and became obsessed with finding the right routine. It’s a lot to take in at first, but it’s worth the effort. There are articles and product recommendations galore, as well as a friendly and knowledgeable community ready to answer all of your gross questions without flinching.
I came to /r/SkincareAddiction as a 22 year-old with adult acne and very dry skin who could sometimes be convinced to exfoliate and moisturize before passing out with all my makeup on. I stumbled across it late one night and found myself still there two hours later, clicking every pimply picture and reading other people’s skincare sagas and was immediately excited to start on my own. I posted tons of embarrassing questions and eagerly bought oils, toners, moisturizers and cleansers until I finally figured out what works for me. At first I was drawn to all of the more natural products and the Oil Cleansing Method, which work amazingly well for some people, but only made me break out more. I slowly started to isolate my skin irritants, and figured out which oils and chemicals were too rich for my skin and which ones were too drying. After almost 2 years of trial and error (yes, 2 years) I finally found a routine that made my skin look and feel healthier and more under control. I think my skin is more picky than a lot of peoples’, so don’t let my long journey discourage you. Almost everything makes me break out–I’ve even gotten into arguments with Sephora reps who didn’t believe me when I told them what ingredients give me trouble–so if I found my healthy routine, you can too. I can’t say I don’t sometimes still pass out with all my makeup on, but I’ve come a long way.
Be patient and be thorough, and be loving to your skin! It might take awhile to get your skin where you want it, but you’ll thank yourself later.