Glowing skin in simple terms requires regular exfoliation, a healthy skin barrier and adequate hydration. In terms of products there are a few steps I would recommend for every skin type:
1. Choose a balancing cleanser
I think most skin types work better with oil, cream, or non-foaming gel cleansers, which work by dissolving sebum/makeup etc from the skin without disrupting the natural lipid barrier of the skin. If you disrupt the lipid barrier, this can throw the skin out of balance, causing it to dry out, which can in turn cause oilier skin to over-produce oil to compensate, making congested skin worse.
2. Add a hydrating serum
To ensure adequate hydration throughout the epidermis, it’s best to include humectant ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin in your serum step. These types of ingredients are known as humectants, and they work by drawing water molecules to them, which in turn hydrates and plumps the skin. Serums can penetrate the skin further than creams, so it’s best to layer humectants in your serum so they can work to plump below the skin surface.
3. Exfoliate regularly
Regular removal of dead, dull cells from the surface of the skin is important to achieve that glow. I usually recommend chemical exfoliants over physical, as they are less abrasive and easier to create an even result. The most common chemical exfoliants on the market are AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAa (beta-hydroxy acids), and the less common but just as note-worthy PHAs (poly-hydroxy acids). These all work by dissolving the keratin that binds the outer dead cells, removing them from the surface of the skin to reveal the healthier, brighter skin cells underneath. This in turn stimulates cell renewal in the deepest layer of the epidermis, which brings longer-term results such as a reduction in fine lines and uneven skin tone.
Which acid to go for is dependant on your skin type. For oily or congested skin, salicylic acid (a BHA) is the best option as this is oil-soluble so can penetrate right into the pore to remove any build-up of dead skin cells inside it, which can lead to blackheads and blemishes.
For combination and normal skin types, glycolic acid is often the best route. It has the smallest molecular size of all the acids which means it can penetrate the skin furthest & fastest, giving the quickest results, but also more potential to be drying and sensitizing, so it is not the best choice for dry or more reactive skin types.
For drier or sensitive skin types, you can opt for a PHA such as gluconolactone, which works in the same way as the others, but has a much larger molecular size, and in itself has hydrating properties, so should not cause any dryness/sensitivity often associated with AHA/BHAs.
4. Support the skin barrier with a facial oil
Our skin barrier is our first defence against UV, pollution and infection, and it’s vital for healthy skin functioning.
If the skin is dry, tiny cracks can form between the skin cells, which results in a damaged barrier (and dull-looking skin). This leads to increased TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss), meaning more water evaporates from the skin’s surface, which in turn leads to skin becoming more dehydrated.
Oils have a barrier-supporting effects by creating a lipid layer across the skin, sealing any cracks caused by dryness and preventing excess water being lost through the skin barrier, and allowing the skin underneath to repair itself.
Different oils are best for different skin types - e.g. squalane and jojoba are great for combo/oily skin types due to being close in structure to the skin’s natural sebum and therefore non-comedogenic. Rosehip is a favourite for drier skin types, but there are many others which also work well for normal-dry skin types.
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