SKIN SERIES | A Skincare Cleanse
Let's be real. The idea of a skincare cleanse is horrifying for most of us. We have placed so much reliance on our personal care routine that even when it seems like it's not working, it's better than doing nothing. Except maybe it's not? Sometimes our products are part of the problem. I won't go so far as to say they are a root cause, but they can definitely facilitate breakouts. How? Well there are a number of mechanisms.
One that is often overlooked is the sheer amount of product you are applying at any one time. Your skin can only absorb so much. And when we really, really want a product to work, we tend to err on the side of more is better. It's not. So ease up. If you've been using three pumps, try two, and then one. See how your skin feels. I used to be a huge offender in this area and would always be dealing with a number of pesky little whiteheads. A few weeks after I eased up on the amount of product I was applying, the whiteheads disappeared. The goal is for skin to feel comfortable, a magical land that exists somewhere between dry and weighed down by product.
But that's not really a reason for a skincare cleanse. And that's why you are reading this post. If your skin is red, inflamed, irritated, and the breakouts just. won't. stop. it's time to release your death grip on your skincare routine. It's going to be hard, BUT remember you only have to do this until your skin has calmed down. Then you can slowly introduce your products back one at a time to see if any of them are directly contributing to your skin nightmare. Will a skincare cleanse "cure" your acne? Probably not. Remember that acne is often the result of something wonky on the inside. But while you're addressing that, it's crucial that you take a look at your topical routine. And that's just what you are doing with a skincare cleanse.
So let's get started. Step one, stop everything that you are doing. Step two, breathe. Step three, introduce a new, minimal skincare routine. Step four, smile. So what does this new routine look like? In the morning, I recommend using a comfy wash cloth and some water to wake up your skin. This will provide some gentle exfoliation, but feel free to ditch the wash cloth if you feel like it's contributing to the irritation. This is a cleanse remember. Follow with a simple moisturizer like this or this. (If you are going to be spending a lot of time in the sun, then follow your moisturizer with a sunscreen, like this, but if you aren't then skip the sunscreen to give your skin even more breathing room.) At night, wash your face with a gentle cleanser like this, the fewer ingredients, the better. Follow with your a.m. moisturizer.
If you can limit your makeup during the cleanse, do it. If you can't (I get it), use something like jojoba oil to remove your makeup before you cleanse at night.
When your skin feels calmer, you can slowly introduce your products back so you have a better idea of what's working and what's working against you. Better yet, start a new routine that has your skin's best interests in mind. This is where I'm going to shake things up. As someone who has suffered from acne for as long as I can remember, I have always gravitated towards the products designed to fight breakouts. But as I've said before, waging a topical war alone is a losing battle. So rather than using benzoyl peroxide spot treatments and useless oil-free moisturizers, why not get strategic with your skincare and actually feed your skin the nutrients that it craves. Think in terms of overall skin health, rather than just putting out fires. See how that changes everything?
A strong skincare routine (for any skin type really) involves an antioxidant serum (like this, this, or this) and sunscreen during the day, and a gentle cleanser and exfoliating serum (like this, this, or this) at night. The amount of moisture that you add is up to you. But try not to overdo it (see paragraph two of this post). The morning cleanse with a wash cloth is still great in this routine because it helps to get rid of the skin cells you loosened the night before. I also really like using a stronger exfoliating mask (like this or this) in place of my exfoliating night serum once a week, but that's up to you and your skin. After a few weeks, you can introduce a retinol in place of your exfoliating serum a few nights per week too if your skin tolerates retinol.
I know what you are thinking - why can't I just drop everything and start in on your ideal skincare routine without doing this ridiculous cleanse? You definitely can, BUT before you press the "purchase" button, I want to make sure that you aren't just viewing this as another opportunity to buy a bunch of new products that you just *know* will fix everything overnight. The ideal skincare routine is the long game, the sustainable diet of skincare. It's not meant to be a quick fix, lose 10 lbs in a week kind of thing. This is something that is going to make your skin feel so good that you never want to stray (save a few products here and there). If you can't wrap your head around the idea of not switching up your products all the time, the cleanse is for you. Over-reliance on our topical skincare routine is disempowering. It allows our products too much control over our mood and feelings of self-worth.
Now go forth and cleanse!
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