There is no novelty in acids these days , every brand has come out with their own products with acids , it’s there in the form of cleansers, toners , serums, and moisturizers. Now you can choose these according to your skin type , your concerns , your brand preference or your blogger preference;) Whatever you decide , don’t get overzealous with them. It’s your skin, not a battlefield. You are not at war with your face.
I have made any mistakes myself in the past but I have learned my lesson , did more research on the ingredients over the years and finally I know what works for my skin. Despite having some amazing products in your routine if you are breaking out then it means you are not layering them well or not choosing the right products which go well together. I’ll talk about some of the common mistakes we all do –
The skin has a turnover of ~ 28 days or roughly 3 weeks which decreases as we age. What we often miss with exfoliation is the basic question why we need it? Exfoliation helps in removing the dead cells which we know and in turns increases the cell turnover as the by stimulating the stem cells present in the dermis and basal layer of the skin. Now the questions which should come in your mind is that – One how much skin do I want to remove ? Second If I’m exfoliating my skin on the daily basis than am I providing it enough nutrients to support it ? The usage of exfoliants depends on many factors – the thickness of your skin , sensitivity , ethnicity and your concerns. It’s great that you are removing the dead cells but give time to your skin to regenerate.
There is a great danger in having an immature layer of cells without the proper support of collagen and other essential nutrients. Such skin is more prone to infection and inflammation since you are removing the skin barrier far too quickly.
Signs of over exfoliation :
- tight , dry , stretched skin
- shiny velvety skin
- translucent, thin skin
- irritated angry looking skin , small breakouts often
Start slow with them , try with the 5% toner and then gradually move up. Even then ask yourself whether you need that much acid? The other thing what we don’t realise that every product we use these days has some exfoliant though they are not marketed as exfoliators like salicylic acid , retinol , retinal palmitate , AHA etc. Look for these in the ingredients list. So think of it do you need a cleanser , a toner, a serum and a moisturizer all in one routine to remove just the dead cells?
Not choosing the right acid
I always see an epic battle of chemical peels ( AHA- glycolic, citric, mandelic etc and BHA like salicylic acid) vs fruit enzymes peel amongst the green and nongreen community. Though I love natural products but in this case, I prefer chemical peels. My past experiences have shown me that there are few things with fruit enzymes which I can’t trust. One is pH and concentration, second just because it has exotic plants ingredients don’t think that it doesn’t have chemicals. Plants have more than 100 chemicals all of which we don’t even know. Now don’t give me this b@#$% that people of old generation were using this and were fine. Acne is not exclusive of this generation.They also had acne. Plants have furanocoumarins which are natural pesticides produced by plants to prevent them from insects and flies and this can be an irritant for many people. Like strawberries , a very good exfoliant but many people are allergic to it including my sister. I’m not asking you to stop using fruit enzymatic peels , I use them too but don’t use it every day and always do a patch test before applying any acid on your face. Remember –
- Don’t use an exfoliating mask and an exfoliating serum in one routine.
- Don’t use a physical scrub and exfoliating serum in one routine .
- If you have sensitive skin look for lactic acid and if you are oily and acne prone look for salicylic acid and glycolic acid and make sure that they are buffered and at right pH.
Layering the products wrong way with exfoliating serums
Ideally, exfoliating serums should go first after cleaning and toning. Wait for 15 min before layering any other product over it. Once you have removed dead skin , don’t overload it with too many essential oils or retinol or ascorbic acid. Too many essential oils can singe your skin when it’s fresh after exfoliation. Give your skin a break once a while from all the essential oils in the skin and use gentle anti-inflammatory rich oils like borage , chamomile or creams with no potential irritant.
Using a glycolic acid and retinol in the same routine is always a potential disaster. There are conflicting views on this and there are some products in the market with both glycolic and retinol in them like Kate Somerville micro peel which works but why? One even they don’t advocate using it daily, second they have encapsulated retinol which releases retinol slowly over the time. But using two creams , serums or whatever with one having a retinol and other glycolic may irritate your skin. Sometimes inflammations are not visible on the surface known as chronic inflammation but they eventually cause premature ageing. So avoid it and if you must then use two on alternate days. Now if you are using it and liking it then please continue to do so as the jury is still out on this but if you are breaking out frequently than you might need to simplify your routine.
Incorrect usage of vitamin C : It’s one of the essential ingredients for having a healthy skin along with retinol and peptides. It’s involved in one of the important steps during the production of collagen along with copper. After all, it’s important to support the new cells with collagen or ultimately your skin will thin out. Many people react with vitamin C including me so find a formulation which suits your skin. But using Vitamin C with exfoliant can further irritate your skin so use both but in different routine like one in the morning and other in the night. If Vitamin C in your formulation has L- ascorbic acid form than avoid its usage with Niacinamide since ascorbic acid reacts with the amide group of niacinamide to form hydrogen peroxide which causes oxidative stress which you are trying to avoid . But you can use other forms of vitamin c like Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate the oil soluble stable form. When it comes to using a retinol and vitamin C they work very well together. And lastly, copper peptides should be used carefully with vit c too . Give at least 10 min before layering them together.
How often should you use exfoliant ?
This is very debatable. Unless you have skin concerns like clogged pores or hyperpigmentation there is no need to use exfoliant daily. Use once if you are sensitive to thrice a week is good enough. I find a short intensive duration of gradual peel to be good enough for me which I have been doing with my BeautyRx gradual peel.
When not to use peels / exfoliants?
Avoid any exfoliant when skin is already angry. Your acne always try to tell you something is not right in your routine. Trust your body immunity, your skin immunity to fight it and contain it. Exfoliants are great at prevention stage. So if u see congestion or clogged pores use it or spot treat it but if you see a red angry acne coming up don’t inflame it further with acids. Once you start seeing the pus forming or scab which shows that your infection fighting interleukins and other immunological cells have contained the infection, then you can use acid to dry it up further and eventually it will fall off. If you have the habit of picking up the spots then use dots / patch available which contains salicylic acid. I don’t know how helpful they are since I haven’t used them but at least they will prevent you from picking it .
So you have made some mistakes so what now –
- Use a good hydrating serum , dehydrated skin further leads to skin breaks out but look out for silicones which may further clog the skin. Use aloe based serums with the simple ingredients list.
- If you get hormonal acne , avoid too much facial oil at least a week before you are set to get your periods and use exfoliating serum all over or as spot treatment where you see congestion.
- Use natural products containing chamomile, licorice and carrot oil which are incredibly calming and serums rich in MSM and DMAE. Use charcoal based cleansers which also helps.
- Avoid too many or too much essential oils.
- Use oils which are high in linolenic acid like hemp seed oil , rosehip, black cumin , tamanu ,pumpkin, grapeseed oil . Not all oils are equal or effective for acne prone skin.
- Take supplements: Zinc , B3 and fish oils and Vitamin D (which people forget, more on vitamin D later )
- Drink water like nobody’s business – yes it works
- Use zinc based sunscreens – I like Elta MD clear sunscreen with 5% niacinamide which works great for acne prone skin. Look for “clear” version, though.
- Lower down your stress level – easily said than done 😩😩
Acne is such a vast subject and there is no simple answers to this problem. This post has some debatable questions with the layering of products as there is no clear cut opinion on it. I have done my research and you may have done yours and you know your skin the best, it’s the biggest tool which can guide you. I hope this may help you in some way with your acne. Do let me know if you have any questions. I may not have all the answers but I’ll try to find it for you 😊
As always thank you for taking out time to read my post.