April 9, 2014

Healthy Skin From Head To Toe: Part 1

Spring is finally here! And it took long enough... The warmer weather means shedding those clunky winter layers and letting your skin breathe! In this Healthy Skin series, I'll be talking about what you'll need in the coming months to protect your skin from head to toe. (This means a lot of sunscreen!)

First of all, you know that your body skin is not the same as the skin on your face. If you suffer from breakouts or have even slightly oily skin, most sunscreens just feel gross. The creams are either goopy or greasy and even the ones that say "oil-free" often don't feel so great.

The most important thing you need to know about sunscreen for the face is that for a long time manufacturers have thought consumers want to have moisturizer and sunscreen in one (since the sun has a slightly drying effect on certain skin types). This has caused way too many SPF moisturizers to be formulated as though everyone has super dry skin. Watch out for labels that talk too much about the cream having moisturizing qualities. What the skin really needs is water, not lubrication. 

The second thing to remember is sometimes the claim of "oil-free" can actually be a red flag.

Many base ingredients that are meant to replace oil are waxy substances that clog pores very badly.  Make sure your SPF brand is known for catering to sensitive skin and that the label says "non-comedogenic." Although "non-comedogenic" is an unregulated term, it's more likely that products from national brands will be formulated well enough to be able to back up that claim. If you like natural or organic brands, check in with a knowledgable Esthetician to make sure the ingredients are suitable for your skin type.

People email me all the time with ingredient lists, and what surprises them when I respond is that some ofthe most pore-clogging ingredients are natural, raw materials like cocoa butter and coconut oil. Both are known to be very pore-clogging. Shea Butter is another comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredient.

So what's the best SPF lotion for your face?

Be sure that you use an SPF15 or higher and that it's hydrating, as well as non-clogging, which is not an easy combination to find! Mark Lees sunscreen products are my favorite because they are the most comfortable and most hydrating sunscreen lotions I have ever come across. Other good brands are PCA Skin, Peter Thomas Roth, Murad, and CeraVe.

If your current lotion has never made you break out and you've been using it for more than six months, you're probably ok. (It can take about 2-6 months for a pore-clogging ingredient to cause a breakout.)  However, if your sunscreen doesn't make you break out within days of using it, that doesn't necessarily mean it's ok.

Keep in mind that the only type of sunscreen that will protect against premature aging and skin cancer should be labeled as "broad-spectrum." As of next year, rigorous testing will be required to win the right to put this claim on a label, so if a sunscreen is not formulated to be broad-spectrum, it will only protect against sunburn and will not be able to claim that it does anything to help fight fine lines and wrinkles or skin cancer.

I love the idea when it comes to antioxidants in sunscreens to give added protection, but I much prefer that my clients use an antioxidant serum applied separately beneath sunscreen. Why?  Practicality.

Even though it may seem practical to have an all-in-one product, I rather like the idea of being able to apply an broad-spectrum, multi-vitamin antioxidant serum at night, too. Yes, it's two products, but why apply SPF at night? If you have oily skin you can apply toner and serum after washing and let your skin moisturize itself, and if you have dry skin you need a nighttime lotion for extra hydration anyway.  Antioxidants need to penetrate the skin with special vehicles to aid penetration.  It's much better when these can get into the skin first... Then just apply sunscreen on top and you're golden!

Check out part 2 to learn how to apply your sunscreen in a way that provides maximum protection.