There is no escaping the fact that skin is an external organ, what we physically put or don’t put on it also contributes to the way our skin looks and feels. If you look around you, you will find that every person’s skin looks very different in appearance and texture. We also know that there are different skin types which account for differences in oiliness, dryness and other skin attributes.
We are all busy with our daily lives and a common complaint I hear is that ‘I don’t have so much time to spend on my skin’. But your skin care routine should not into your busy schedule or be so enormously time-consuming that only a dedicated few can devote time towards it. All it requires is 20 minutes of your time, 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the evening. If you are really pushed for time you can even reduce it to 5 minutes in the morning and 15 at bedtime. This is what I call the AM PM plan for beautiful, naturally glowing skin.
Begin your skin cleansing routine every morning by cleansing your skin well.
Cleansing is necessary for skin of every type. What really differs, if at all, could be the kind of cleanser you use. As a general rule, soaps are best avoided for cleansing facial skin. A soap-free face wash is ideal for this purpose.
If you have oily to normal skin, it is best to use a mild, non-perfumed, medicated cleanser like Cetaphil cleanser, Neutrogena deep cleanser, etc. There is no particular advantage to be gained from foaming cleansers, because the lathering ingredient is simply added for cosmetic effect and does not mean better cleansing. Those with very oily skin can also use a cleanser containing salicylic acid about 3-4 times a week, (Saslic, Speelac, Neutrogena for oily skin) and a regular cleanser the rest of the week. I would, however, recommend these only for short periods (a month or so) and preferably under a dermatologist’s supervision.
If you have dry skin, the same kind of cleanser will work for you, but a more creamy cleanser may also be used. Today, most commercial cleansers come in a creamy format and can be used by those with dry skin.
If you have sensitive skin, again, the cleansers mentioned above will work just fine, but it is important to remember to avoid irritants like perfume.
Application: The process of cleansing is as important, if not more, than the type of cleanser you use.
- Splash lukewarm water or room temperature water on your face.
- Place a small quantity of cleanser in the centre of your palm.
- Start applying the cleanser in circular motions on your face, starting at the throat and moving upwards to the forehead.
- Take an additional amount and apply it on the centre of your forehead and nose.
- Wash off with tap water, allowing the water to run down your face.
- Pat your face dry with a soft cotton face towel.
Toning is actually a subset of cleansing. The word itself is a misnomer, as nothing is really ‘toned’ in the process. What the product does instead, is cleanse the pores more thoroughly, with a mild exothermic effect. I recommend toning only if you have oily skin or if you have an oily T-zone, and you should apply the toner only to that area. Again, I must emphasize that your skin type is not static. We all shift between skin types depending on the season or time of month. So, in summer even someone with dry to normal skin might have an oily T-zone that necessitates the use of a toner. It should also be used whenever heavy make-up is used on the skin by people of all skin types – normal, oily or dry.
Application: Always use a gentle alcohol-free toner. After you have cleansed your face, pour some toner on a piece of soft cotton and run it all over your face or over the T-zone, as the need may be. Splash water on your face and gently pat your face dry with a soft face towel.
The third step in your AM routine is protection. This is done by the application of sunscreen. I have deliberately omitted the moisturizing step because, in tropical climes, moisturizing during the day is not necessary for most skin types except the very dry ones. In colder climates or in winter, a similar moisturizing step may be followed as will be described in the PM routine. People with dry skin problems, who use anti-acne applications or have dermatitis, need to use a moisturizer regularly, as advocated by the dermatologist.
There are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding the whole issue of sunscreens and their usage. I’m going to try and simplify this for you.
Most commercial sunscreens care chemical agents which have the ability to screen out the ultraviolet rays which damage the skin. A chemical sunscreen does not provide a physical barrier. There are substances that do this as well, and they are usually referred to as sun blocks. Sun blocks are not cosmetically elegant and are not preferred, except in situations of intense exposure, like in the case of a sportsman out in the field.
Chemical sunscreens contain different compounds that block UV-A and UV-b rays. It is important that the sunscreen you pick contains both compounds. The UV-b level can be assessed by the SPF factor. It is important to look for an SPF factor of 15 or above, as this provides you with 92 per cent protection from sunburn for three and a half hours of exposure. After 15SPF, the numbers only increase protection incrementally. I would recommend a sunscreen with an SPF between 20 and 30 for most people, as a rule of thumb.
Certain compounds like cinnamates, salicylates, oxybenzone, avobenzone and mexoryl SX provide good UV-A protection. So, look for any one of these ingredients when you buy a sunscreen to ensure that you are getting UV-A protection as well.
It is always better to use a pure sunscreen rather than a combination with foundation or any other anti-aging cream. Sunscreens can be lotions, creams or gels. My personal recommendation is a lotion for all skin types. Check for words like ‘double protection’, ‘dual protection’ or ‘broad spectrum’ which indicate the coverage for both UV-A and UV-b rays. In addition, look at the SPF factor and at least one of the anti-UV-A compounds mentioned above. Whether you use make-up or a moisturizer, make sure you use sunscreen as a base under your foundation. In fact, it is best to use make-up with a mild SPF.
Application: As with cleansing, the technique of applying sunscreen is more important than the kind of sunscreen you use.
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you leave the house, for genuine protection.
- Apply liberally, covering your face, neck, arms and ears.
- The sun is at its strongest between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. so it is important to re-apply the sunscreen every 3 hours, when you are outdoors.
- Windshields of cars do not filter sun rays, so apply sunscreen even while traveling by car.
- While swimming, even if you are using a water-resistant sunscreen, do re-apply the sunscreen every hour.
- Your skin might look and feel oily after you have applied sunscreen, so it’s fine to use a pressed powder over the sunscreen. It is doubly beneficial if the powder also contains an SPF factor