International facialist to the stars and The Dorchester Spa’s resident facialist Adeela Crown on how to break your bad skincare habits and the products to help you.
The skincare landscape will change after we emerge from this world-altering pandemic. Lockdown forced a mind-set change and skincare habits have shifted. With trending hashtags being #selfcare #lockdownskin #homespa – the at-home DIY versions of beauty products, devices and tool use has continued to increase as the pandemic continued. This prolonged isolation has forced us to take skincare matters into our own hand, leading to some good – and some terribly bad – skincare habits. Let’s hold up the mirror to the bad skincare habits and how to rectify them.
How To Fix Bad Skincare Habits
1. Over-misuse of Actives
Our increased propensity for using actives like retinol or stronger retin-A for resurfacing, vitamin C, hydroquinone or kojic acid for lightening, or AHA/BHA/PHA acids for peeling, has ushered in a rise in misuse and inevitable side-effects.
The skin doesn’t enjoy being overloaded, on the other hand some problematic skincare issues like textural imperfections, pigmentation, melasma and acne scarring can only be addressed using specific active ingredients. Follow my plan below when delving into the tricky world of active ingredients.
- Start by booking a virtual consultation with your facialist/aesthetician to work out your at-home skincare game-plan.
- As a rule of thumb, don’t use more than two actives on your skin on any given day.
- Thirdly, don’t mix, blend or layer actives. For example, if using Vitamin C in the morning, use another active like a light Retinol or AHA at night. (Retinols or AHAs shouldn’t be used every night – skip days and swap them with hydrating serums & creams) Start slow with a low concentration retinol containing 0.25%-0.5% max.
- Most importantly, actives make the skin more vulnerable to the sun than usual, so always apply SPF – even if you spend most of your time indoors (more on that later).
- Once a fortnight try at-home microneedling – a resurfacing treatment that increases absorption and efficacy of your active ingredients. Usually associated with downtime which otherwise needed to be planned around your work, social, weekend commitments, you can now carry out without.
Swiss Clinic skin roller, £59. swissclinic.com
Having been stuck at home for so long, many of us aren’t eating or exercising the way we used to, and it’s safe to say most of us are feeling more anxious than usual. It’s no surprise that in many cases, this leads to breakouts – which we often try and fix by squeezing, which often leads to scarring.
Not all pores are created equally, so the first rule of facial extraction is to realise that not all pores should be squeezed. When you squeeze the skin and ‘burst’ the pimple, you’re creating a tear in the skin, which then needs to heal and can leave a scar. Avoid any deep or painful pimples, like cysts, completely. These tend to look red and lumpy with no visible head.
Steaming skin is also essential to soften the contents of pores. Do this by taking a shower, applying a warm compress, or simply hanging your face over a bowl of hot water. Next, wash your hands thoroughly. This helps prevent dirt and bacteria from being transferred back into your pores during extraction. While you can use your bare fingers, a better bet is to wrap them in tissue, wear gloves, or use two cotton buds (dipped in a skin-friendly disinfectant) to press.
I’m a huge advocate of blue light therapy for the treatment of spots and acne – this is because it targets one of the root causes of the problem, killing the bacteria that causes problem skin to develop. Invest in wearable LED masks. These sci-fi looking gadgets may be very Instagrammable but the diode technology has profound skin rejuvenating benefits. A blue light LED session of up to 30 mins 2-3 times a week will neutralise p.acnes bacteria and also rev-up your skin’s cellular engine to give you a healthy lasting glow. Home-use LED masks have become lightweight and are wearable, allowing you to multi-task whilst you work from your desk.
CurrentBody LED Light therapy Mask, £265. currentbody.com
3. Overlooking SPF & HEV
Many aren’t aware that electronic devices emit a blue light (HEV) light that can lead to elastin and collagen damage, pigment changes and ultimately photo ageing. Many of us are also working from home next to a window without wearing SPF – while glass may block the UVB wavelengths that cause burning, UVA light still gets through, which can damage skin and cause premature ageing.
To reduce HEV exposure to skin, when working from home connect headphones to answer calls so your phone isn’t near your face. Setting a nightly timer to automatically switch your device to night mode will disable blue light in favour of yellow light. It’ll benefit your skin and improve your sleep too.
Daily application of SPF doesn’t just shield your skin from photo-damage when you’re outdoors. A study conducted in 2015 showed that constant use of SPF30 over the course of a year also reversed the signs of photo ageing. So, if applying a sunscreen seems like yet another skincare step then start blending an edamame bean-sized amount with your daily moisturiser in the palm of your hand. It’ll seamlessly become a part of your daily routine.
New-age antioxidant boosters are serum-like topical skin supplements that can be blended to your nightly serum or moisturiser to strengthen your skin’s defence barrier against environmental stressors like pollution, infrared, HEV damage.
Murad City Skin Age Defence Broad Spectrum SPF 50 | PA++++, £60. murad.co.uk
REVIVE Defensif Environmental Antioxidant Booster, £135. harrods.com
4. Netflix Nights & Lack Of Sleep
Electronic screens emit broad-spectrum light, including HEV blue light. Night-time exposure to the blue light also disrupts the circadian rhythm, our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. Prolonged sleep deprivation causes a break in skin barrier function and mucus membranes.
Set an alarm the old-fashioned way at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime to remind yourself to switch off the TV and devices. Read a book. Brew a calming tea containing chamomile, rose, and fennel to soothe senses. Take a sleep supplement. Not to be confused with sleeping pills, sleep supplements normally contain herbal adaptogens with neuroprotective properties for restfulness, in capsule or powder form to take with your bedtime beverage.
ASMI Relax Tea (Chamomile, lemon balm, fennel, peppermint, rose petals) 75g, £13.50. asmi.store
MOON JUICE Dream Dust 42.5g/1.0 oz, £39. cultbeauty.co.uk
5. Comfort/Stress Eating & Sugar Leading to Glycation
Overconsumption of sugar can cause a skin deteriorating process called glycation – this results in loss of the skin’s elasticity, as well as free radical formation, oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which accelerate ageing.
Get more sleep to reduce body’s insulin sensitivity and glucose dependency. Look out for fructose found in juices, salad dressings and sauces as it causes more glycation than glucose. Stress less. Though there’s is no one size fits all when it comes to stress management – the secret really is about finding out what works for you and building it into your daily routine. This could be exercise, meditation, journaling, listening to music, yoga, talking to your friends, walking your dog, dancing around your bedroom – whatever brings you joy.
We should use this forced hiatus and the extra time suddenly available to us to practise a five minute nightly facial massage with your favourite oil or even a mask (for both hydration and sleep). Use a Gua Sha massage tool help drain and soften lines and furrows. The enhanced blood circulation will boost your immune system and increase lymph drainage. The happy side-effect is firmer skin and sculpted facial muscles.
P.S. I always tell my clients that if all of my clients practice a five-minute face massage at home 2-3 nights a week, they’d all have such positive skin benefits that I’d probably see 50% less clients!
VOTARY Intense Night Oil – Rosehip & Retinoid, £135. votary.co.uk
HAYO’U Gua Sha Massage tool, £38. net-a-porter.com