Myth #1: Cleansing is the MOST important part of caring for your skin
What? No way! Your skin is an incredibly delicate ecosystem – it has a proper pH, it has a protective acid mantle, and it is covered in beneficial bacteria that support the skin’s health. Cleansing – more than any other step in your skincare ritual – has the power to send this delicate balance into total disarray.
Soaps totally strip the acid mantle and mess up the skin’s pH, forcing the skin to create more sebum to protect itself, which leads to oiler skin, which leads to more frustration and harsher products, which leads to even more oilier skin – it is a downward spiral. It also kills beneficial bacteria, which helps bad bacteria proliferate! I NEVER let soap touch my face – I cleanse with oils, herbal powders and mousses. And skin that is overly dry because of over-cleansing loses elasticity and barrier function, which leads to more rapid aging – eek!
And cleansing just at night is plenty, especially if the skin is really sensitive or traumatized. The more you cleanse, the more the skin is going to have to put all its energy into unnecessary rebalancing INSTEAD of focusing on truly healing cells and repairing collagen.
Lastly, don’t buy into that BS that cleansing is a “key way to deliver actives.” I don’t care how expensive your cleanser is or what it has in it – it’s not going to be on your face long enough for it to matter. The BEST way to deliver actives is to use skincare that stays on your skin for a long time (like serums and masks), and that has a thoughtful delivery system in place to make sure that your skin is actually capable of absorbing the actives, instead of them sitting on the skin uselessly and/or getting rinsed off.
The opposite of this myth is true – I think nourishing/moisturizing is way more important than cleansing for ALL skintypes from acne-prone to mature and from oily to dry. I also think that sometimes NOT CLEANSING AT ALL can be the best thing to rebalance and calm skin.
My favorite way to cleanse hands down is oil cleansing (Try Vert Pur or Beurre Céleste) – but I only do it every other day. When I’m not oil cleansing, I use a super gentle soap-free cleanser (try Miel Noir or Cleansing Flours) – just once a day, in the evening. If you wear lots of makeup, then try an emulsifying oil cleanser or a soap-free gel cleanser (try Sundrops).
Myth #2: It doesn’t matter what order you apply skincare products
Well, sometimes maybe no, but sometimes yes. The order that you apply products can change the way they work and feel – that’s huge! Here’s some basic rules:
- Toners go on right after cleansing – their purpose it to help rebalance the skin’s pH after cleansing. If you’re using a intelligently formulated gentle cleanser, then they’re basically pointless, unless they’re delivering actives of some kind.
- Serums can go on before or after or mixed with facial oils – it depends on what their function is. If you have an exfoliating serum, put it on before anything else and let it sink in for a while. Most exfoliating actives (enzymes, AHAs, BHAs) need a pretty acidic environment for maximum efficacy. What they don’t need is other skincare creating a barrier to the skin or messing with the pH. However, if your skin is too sensitive for a particular exfoliating product try applying it after a facial oil or mixed with a facial oil and see if your skin doesn’t tolerate it better.
- Moisturizing serums should go before oils, because the oil will create a nice barrier and keep all that precious moisture in the skin. You can also mix moisturizing serums with oils to get almost the same effect, but a lighter feel and better absorption. So if your skin is very dry, layer them, but if your skin is on the oily side, mix. (try Healing Dew)
- Water based serums or gels applied after oil really help the oil soak in nicely, so that’s a good option for people who struggle with oils being too greasy. If you apply a water based serum or gel AFTER a facial oil, it will help the oil and all the nutrients in the oil absorb better into the skin, especially if it has specific ingredients that enhance absorption like liposomes or MSM. It will also create the least heavy and most dewy texture out of all the particular combinations.
- Absorbing fluids are specially designed to be applied after a facial oil. They are designed to help the oil soak in and change the texture of the oil from greasy to dewy. They also deliver powerful actives like a serum would, while helping the nutrients in both the fluid and the oil be absorbed as deeply as possible into the skin for maximal healing. A good bet for those who like a really weightless no-product feel. (try Nutrient Synergist)
- Spot treatments should be applied immediately after cleansing, and allowed to sink in for as long as possible before the remaining products are applied. After the ritual is complete, apply one last layer of spot treatment as the very last product you use – this is the most effective method. More info in this post. (try Zen Physic)
- Exfoliants should not be mixed or applied at the same ritual unless they’re super gentle. If you have one product with retinol and another with salicylic acid then the two together will cause irritation. Salicylic acid (BHA) with fruit/food acids like lactic or malic acid or any other AHAs is ok, provided both are in small concentrations. Overall, it is best not to mix though. Retinol, enzymes, BHAs and AHAs should all be used alone, not concurrently. (try Harvest Illuminé or Equilibrium)
- Oils can be applied before or after serums – see above. If you are applying an oil and a balm or an oil and a cream, or whatever combination of heavy, very nourishing products, it is best to combine them all BEFORE applying and then only apply a thin layer of the mixture to avoid overwhelming skin and creating congestion. Unless the skin is extremely dry and undernourished, in which case the proper order is: serum, oil, cream, balm.
Myth #3: Facial oils are only for dry skin.
Actually, the best way to handle oily skin is to STOP trying to dry it out and use a facial oil instead! What we tend to do if our skin is too oily, is to keep trying to scrub and strip the oil away, which sends the message, more and more strongly, to the skin that it needs to make MORE oil – to the skin oil equals protection and defense. If you keep stripping, it keeps pumping. Whoa – that sounded so dirty. Yikes!
BUT, if you apply the RIGHT oil to your skin (a nice lightweight high linoleic oil like Clear Resolution) then the skin is eventually going to calm down and balance, especially if you add some balancing essential oils like geranium. Keep in mind, this won’t be an immediate overnight thing so your patience and faith are appreciated. BUT, with using a facial oil correctly, I have found this is hands down the best way to get the skin back to balance. Trust me, you will NOT win the fight against your skin – its better to give in and coddle it instead of fight it with harsh formulations.
If your skin is very dry, you would think applying oils would help, no? Sometimes, facial oils are NOT the right product for dry skin! Or they are only partially the solution – the skin is also lacking hydric moisture, not just lipid moisture. Also, if the skin is dry, we need to be looking for very specific lipidic moisture – oils and butters that help with supporting barrier function and preventing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). So if the skin is dry, I would encourage cleansing ONLY with a lotion or milk cleanser once daily, adding a powerful hydrating serum (avoid hyaluronic acid as an ingredient though – it tends to draw water FROM your skin) and apply a barrier function supporting balm/butter over the serum (or a very nourishing oil blend). If the balm/oil at 100% concentration is too intense, then mix the balm with the serum and apply this mixture. (try Clean Canvas, Salvation and Ceremony)
Have you busted any skincare myths through your own personal skincare experimentations? Let me know in the comments!