Skincare 101: Medical Aesthetician Tips to Building a Simple Skin Ritual
Building a skincare ritual is the key to maintaining healthy skin, but if you’ve never had a skincare ritual or want to change yours up, it can get pretty confusing. Between all of the product recommendations you hear about, all of the different brands and aisles to walk through at CVS, Target, or Sephora, it can be difficult to determine which products are right for you and your skin. We turned to medical aesthetician Kim Chang for some advice on building a solid skincare routine.
- A basic skincare routine only requires three steps: cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF.
- A medical aesthetician verified fact: none of it matters if you don’t protect your skin with an SPF every single day.
- Skin is extremely individualized, so the type of products you include in your routine are going to be unique. But, universally, sunscreen and vitamin C should be used in the morning, and cleanser, exfoliants, and retinoids should be used at night
What makes up a simple skincare ritual?
According to licensed medical aesthetician Kim Chang, the basic, core simple skincare ritual consists of only three steps and products: cleanser, moisturizer, and an SPF. While there are thousands of other products out there that are targeted for different skin types and concerns, it doesn’t necessarily belong in every single person’s skincare routine.
It’s important to keep in mind that the three step skincare routine is a “back to the basics” ritual. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s skincare ritual needs to only consist of these three steps, but for those who are just gaining an interest in taking care of their skin, this three step routine is the best place to start. Chang refers to it as a “get the job done” routine; simple, yet effective.
Chang recommends starting off your ritual in the morning with a cleanser, then following up with sunscreen. As a medical aesthetician, she recommends using a lotion-like sunscreen that doubles as a moisturizer. If you have skin that’s on the more oily side, you may be able to or want to opt for a sunscreen that is a more gel-silicone texture to keep your skin from getting too shiny throughout the day. Some of my favorite sunscreens are:
- EltaMD Tinted Sunscreen SPF 46 ($30.88)
- Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 40 ($36.00)
- Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 36 ($15.00)
There is some debate over whether a tinted sunscreen is better than a non-tinted sunscreen. According to a Harvard Health study, visible light has also been shown to affect the skin in similar ways that UVA and UVB rays do. In their studies they have found visible light causing issues such as excess skin pigmentation, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or dark spots.
While these effects may seem more cosmetic, these are still extremely common skin concerns that people try to reverse with various products and treatments. As with anything in health, it’s always easier to prevent than it is to treat, so try opting for a tinted sunscreen for added protection! It’s also a great alternative to foundation or concealer, so you can wear less makeup and protect your skin simultaneously.
You may have heard of the term double cleansing recently, as it has grown in popularity over the past year with the rise of the skincare community on social media. Double cleansing simply means cleansing your skin twice. The first cleanse is to remove the majority of makeup and sunscreen, and usually is in the form of an oil, balm, or micellar water. Then, your second cleanse is your typical face wash to remove the remaining dirt and oil that the first cleanse didn’t get.
Medical aestheticians recommend double cleansing every day as a part of your nighttime ritual. While you may not wear makeup every day, you are hopefully wearing sunscreen everyday which is a reason to double cleanse. After patting your face dry, Chang recommends finishing off with a lightweight moisturizer. Again, depending on your skin type you can opt for a thinner more gel-like moisturizer if your skin is oily, or a thicker overnight cream for those with dry skin.
How to customize your routine
Skincare is such a personalized thing, and it’s so easy to lose sight of that when your entire social media feed is skincare “experts” telling you what and what not to use. Your face and your skin is unique, so your routine needs to be unique as well. If you’re really lost and have no idea what you need to target with your ritual, always talk to your dermatologist. While talking to friends and family or watching videos may be helpful, your dermatologist gets to see your skin first-hand, and knows your personal health history and can help guide you in the right direction.
They’re also professionals! I know, I know, I’ve been there too, whenever I saw a friend of mine with perfect skin I’d ask what products they used and copied their entire routine only to see no progress on my own skin. Talking to my dermatologist was the best thing I did, and I saw the fastest and most effective results.
Medical aestheticians recommend analyzing your skin and picking out one concern that you want to target at a time. The biggest mistake people make is trying to target multiple things at once and using too harsh or too many products on their skin, and they end up with a damaged moisture barrier. Once you damage your skin’s natural barrier, nothing else can be fixed until you repair that barrier.
Common Skin Concerns
The two most common concerns regarding skin are acne and texture. For starters, acne affects 90% of the population, and although it can be extremely discouraging, remember that there is hope, and it can get better. Skin texture is also a huge concern, it’s one of the things I target with my own routine. But skin texture is normal, everyone’s skin has texture, and it will be emphasized whenever you put something on top of it.
With that being said, if you have unusual texture or struggle with whiteheads and blackheads, adding an exfoliant into your routine is the most important thing. Chemical exfoliants are far superior to physical exfoliants; scrubs are way too abrasive on the skin and leave behind micro tears on the skin that allow for bacteria to enter, resulting in an increase of breakouts. Physical exfoliants give temporary satisfaction without a long-term resolution, whereas chemical exfoliants are more focused on the long-term health and appearance of your skin.
There are several different chemical exfoliants, and each is better for different skin types or skin concerns. Two of my personal favorites are lactic and glycolic acids, which are known as alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs. These are more mild and gentle exfoliants that help to break up the dead skin on the surface, leaving you with smoother and brighter looking skin. Lactic acid is a great option for those with dryer skin because it has hydrating properties, preventing it from excessively drying your skin out.
If you have more severe or persistent acne, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) may be a better option because they penetrate a bit deeper and are overall stronger. Exfoliants like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are two of the most effective and inexpensive BHA options. Some great products containing these ingredients are:
*This wash also comes in a 10% option, but the 4% is the universally effective percentage
Another popular ingredient to add into a custom ritual is vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that aids in the anti-aging process, and helps to protect against pollution damage. It’s typically formulated in a serum, but there are face washes and moisturizers that contain vitamin C as well. L-ascorbic acid (the active ingredient in vitamin C) is extremely unstable and can lose effectiveness over time with exposure to light and air. Therefore, there are certain vitamin C products that are more effective than others because they use a combination of other acids, tinted glass, and air-tight seals to prevent the destabilization of the active ingredient.
When should I use my products?
Sunscreen is something that should be worn every day and is effective only if applied in the morning. Although rainy, cloudy days may seem like they pose no risk of sun damage, UV rays are powerful and can penetrate through almost anything. Vitamin C is most effective when used in the mornings as well, and is also shown to increase the efficacy of sunscreen. Exfoliating acids and tretinoin should be saved for the nighttime skincare ritual, allowing them to work overnight while your skin is repairing itself. These acids can also increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so it’s important to not use them during the day.
It’s important to remember that skincare should be tailored to your personal needs, and each step should have a specific purpose that you want to target with your skin. Using excess products that are unnecessary is a waste of time and money, and you risk clogging your pores and damaging your skin’s barrier. If you are lost and don’t know where to begin, start with the basic 3 step routine, and talk to your dermatologist or medical aesthetician to customize a ritual for you and your skin’s needs.
Written by Jordan Hammaren