Getting Skin Deep
The benefits of taking care of your skin go way beyond beauty. We often forget that our skin is the body's largest organ, and is the barrier between our inner selves and the external world. Think of it as the barrier that protects, and then imagine how much it must be taking on in that role. Your skin is your boundary, and that is something to treat sacredly and with care.
We know that regimens, routines, and choosing the right products can feel overwhelming. While it may be tempting to stock up on everything in the market, less can actually be more when it comes to skincare.
To demystify the skincare journey, we are unpacking the basic skincare categories with expert advice from our friends in the field so you can make the right decisions for you. Once you find the right steps to protect and nourish your skin, you may find that your routine has taken on a form of self-care and an act of self-love.
The first step in any basic skincare routine should be your cleanser. The job of a cleanser is pretty self explanatory - to cleanse your skin. Cleansers help clear build up of pollutants, bacteria, oil, dirt, and makeup off your face. This step can be repeated morning and/or night.
However simple its basic function is, there are many different types of cleansers and ways that they work with your skin, so it is important that you find one that is suitable for your skin type. Common cleansers are oil-based, foamy soap, and milky/cream-based.
Oil cleansers are great for a thorough cleanse that won't leave your skin feeling dried out. If your skin tends to be on the drier side, you may want to try an oil-based cleanser. However, as a general rule, oil-based cleansers are compatible for all skin types and known to leave the skin feeling supple and soft.
While your cleanser does not need to foam to work properly, many people do prefer the sensation of a foamy cleanser. These types of cleansers also work to thoroughly cleanse the skin and are compatible with combination or oily skin.
Cream-based, milky cleansers are silky, light, and gentle, while still removing impurities. These may not be the best option if you are removing heavy (or waterproof) make up, but they are a wonderful option for a cleanser that also doubles as a moisturizing agent for your skin. Milky cleansers work well on sensitive skin types as well as dry and normal skin types.
Toners are a wonderful tool to top off your cleanser step and prepare your skin for its next step. How it accomplishes this is interesting and complex.
Toner is best applied directly after cleansing to remove any last traces of impurities that can get stuck deep in your pores even after using your cleanser. Unlike cleanser, toner isn’t meant to be washed off your face after you apply it. Instead, it stays on the skin for absorption.
[Toner] is my holy grail product from the line! Adding an essence into your routine preps the skin for any product that follows, allowing for maximum absorption of active ingredients. I formulated our holi (water) essence with a high molecular weight hyaluronic acid to give a bouncy effect which is noticeable in the mirror. The texture provides a barrier and makes the most gorgeous, hydrated, dewy skin.
Jena Covello, Founder of Agent Nateur
Toner works with the skin to balance pH levels and prepare it for moisturizer and/or serum. Your pH level measures how acidic or alkaline your skin is, from a scale of 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline). A pH level of 7 is neutral, but healthy skin hovers around 5.1 - 5.5, being slightly acidic. If the levels are too off-balance, an environment is created where harmful bacteria to thrive. Having slightly acidic pH levels puts the skin in an advantageous state to resist harmful bacterias. Toner helps to recalibrate this pH and calm the skin, especially after cleansing, which can often throw off the balance by making the skin more alkaline.
Exfoliators are designed to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, and are classified as chemical or physical. This is often an intimidating step to incorporate into your routine, but can drastically improve the health and appearance of your skin. Exfoliating gives the skin a chance to renew and replenish itself for a clearer and brighter complexion.
A gentle exfoliator–manual or chemical– is a game-changer. Exfoliating a few times a week not only gets rid of dead skin cells, but also stimulates lymphatic drainage and blood flow. Goodbye, toxins and debris. Hello, glowy radiant skin!
Dr. Mia Reddy, Creative Director and Founder of Dehiya Beauty
A physical exfoliator involves a physical or mechanical tool, which can be as simple as a facial cloth, a sponge, or The Class favorite: a mihakka tool. Exfoliating beyond just the skin on your face can have incredible full-body benefits, like lymphatic drainage and blood flow that Dr. Mia Reddy mentioned. One of our favorite ways to physically exfoliate the body is with a body brush.
Chemical exfoliators (like salicylic acid or glycolic acid) are products that have chemically active ingredients in them. These ingredients work to break or dissolve bonds between dead skin cells, loosening them and effectively shedding them off the surface of the skin to reveal more radiant and vibrant skin.
Because exfoliation is a bit more intensive, it is generally recommended to utilize 1-3 times a week. “Exfoliating is an important part of the routine, however, it's just as important not to over-exfoliate.” Shares Dr. Mia Reddy. “Exfoliating twice a week keeps skin looking fresh and ready to receive treatments and moisturizers. My favorite part? Since it's only a couple of times per week, I make it a ritual by taking it slow and keeping it gentle and intentional.”
Some of our favorites
Facial serums are lightweight, highly concentrated products with active ingredients in them. Serum absorbs quickly into your skin, and should be applied after cleansing, toning and/or exfoliating. Serums are often packed with powerful ingredients that target different skin concerns or goals, which is why we always encourage people to take a close look at the ingredient list. We love a serum with Vitamin C or collagen in it to pack in maximum benefits.
For me, moisturizers and creams are for restoring and protecting the skin and for hydration, while serums are targeted towards a more specific skin function.
The other point of difference is that serums soak deeply into the skin, working on many layers, while often creams and moisturizers might work at the surface. Plant Milk Serum is oil-free, and its calming, nourishing benefits are easily absorbed into the skin.
Tammy Fender, Esthetician and Holistic Skincare Expert
Serums are trusted to give your skin a smoother, firmer texture, as well as improve moisture levels. Because serums are potent products, they tend to be a little pricier, but a little goes a long way. While serums and moisturizers can enhance one another's performances, we don't recommend mixing the products and applying them at the same time. Serums do their best work when they are applied to the skin's surface unobstructed, so the ingredients are able to effectively penetrate the skin and deliver nutrients. Then, moisturizer locks it all in.
Some of our favorites
Moisturizers are thicker formulas that create a physical barrier, locking in hydration. In addition, they can help enhance the function of your outermost layer of skin by retaining moisture, therefore preventing the skin from drying out.
“Moisturizer is your essential step after your serums or toners to lock active ingredients into your skin while nourishing to maintain your skin’s most optimal resilience and vitality,” shares beauty industry expert (and skincare enthusiast) Blythe Bruwer. “For those with extra dry skin, look for a moisturizer that is oil based, while those with oily skin can use water-based. No matter what you choose, it’s truly the one step you cannot skip!”
Moisturizing is best thought of as a last step that really holds all of the work of the prior few steps all together. If this is the last step of your morning routine, here is your reminder that you are never fully dressed without your SPF.