Home care products: Necessity, luxury or marketing ploy? Written By: Dr Marisa Heyns MBChB (UCT), MSc Aesthetic Medicine and Therapeutics
This question, I am sure, you ask yourself each time you visit your skin clinic, or retail store when you are confronted with isles and isles of the skincare products. It is a question I get from most of my clients visiting Nerina Wilkinson & Associates. Is it important to invest in home care products? How can I optimise my skincare routine without breaking the bank? There are so many products; which ones do I choose? Or, is this just a sneaky selling scheme for extra therapist commission?
In this blog, I will try and simplify skincare routines for you. But before we chat product names, let’s delve into this beautiful organ called our skin.
Skin barrier physiology, pH
The skin is a beautifully engineered organ made up of 3 main layers ( epidermis, dermis and hypodermis). The epidermis is the main defence barrier consisting of densely packed cells called keratinocytes and layered in between a mortar-like space made up of fatty like substances ( lipids and ceramides) as well as hyaluronic acid molecules. The main aim of this armour-like defence structure is to keep things in ( moisture) and prevent things to come in(foreign material) from the outside. The second layer of our amazing skin is the dermis. This is the structural support system consisting of collagen, elastin and more hyaluronic acid – all aiming to keep the skin strong, smooth and plump. It also holds and supports all our skin appendages ( hair follicles and oil glands, sweat glands, blood and lymph vessels) And then the hypodermis is the fibro-fatty layer that holds onto the structures underneath the skin.
So why am I sharing this with you? As we age – the maintenance processes of our skins start to slow down. That perfect impenetrable epidermal barrier gets broken down by ongoing sun damage and other external and internal stressors. The regeneration and maintenance processes become unable to keep up with fixing these ongoing damages. This leads to drying out of the skin, and loss of the vital moisture within the skin. It also leads to pigmentation. Meantime in the dermis, we are losing collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid faster than we are able to replace them. This leads to collapse and thinning out of the structural compartments leaving our skins looking like dried up prunes! It is true: ageing is not for sissies. This process carries on 24/7, hence the need to attend to this sad state of affairs on a daily basis.
A Simple Routine
We are all busy people, but to take aside 10 minutes in the morning and at night to tend to your skincare routine should not be difficult. See this time as your personal skin pamper time.
We clean our faces not to have it feeling squeaky clean. So please put away that Dove soap bar before the aesthetic police find you and arrest you for skin negligence. Soaps are incredibly harsh on our skin because it strips us from all the essential oils we need to keep our epidermis moisturised and protected. We also do not wash our faces to kill bacteria. Unless you are using an anti-bacterial medical grade soap for medical reasons. The only reason we cleanse is to optimise the skin surface. This means to make sure the skin is not too oily or dry and the skin pH is at an optimal level of 4.8 to 5.2.
If we have oily skins we need something that can gently remove excess oil but still leave enough for the skin to function properly. Cleansers for oily skin generally take the form of a gel or foaming cleanser. Dry and sensitive skins, on the other hand, need to be bathed in moisture to repair a cracked and damaged skin barrier and hence the need for a milky creamy cleanser.
And the need for a toner? The majority of active topical ingredients require a pH balanced skin in order to penetrate optimally. What is the pH of water? Between 6.5 and 7.8. This is much higher than the skin surface. On average it takes the skin about 2 hours to normalises its own pH – and for that, we do not have time to waste. So just do it: use a toner preferably one that does not contain any alcohol. Your very expensive gold drop serum will thank you.
Treatment serums and actives
Consider this stage of your home care routine as your daily mini skin clinic treatment. Depending on your skin needs, one of our skilled professionals will guide you as to the correct active ingredients to use to rejuvenate your skin. Active treatments generally come in the form of tiny bottles of concentrated magic and one only needs to apply a small amount enough to penetrate into the skin. These ingredients may aim to stimulate new and faster cell turnover (fruit acids or retinol) or it can be lipids, growth factors or hyaluronic acids to repair a damaged barrier or rehydrate the epidermis. It can also be ingredients that actively fight conditions such as pigmentation or acne and hair loss. This part of your routine will maintain the results you aim to achieve with your clinic treatments ( laser, micro-needling, chemical peels etc.)
Depending on your specific skin needs, you may require added moisture to seal in the goodness, and further protect that skin barrier. For those lazy ones, some products combine their actives and moisturisers to make your application routine even easier.
But trust me on the sunscreen
Look, I know we are in the midst of an economic crisis, and cash flow is low. But if you want to do your skin a favour, and you can only afford one product: please choose sunscreen. We live in a beautiful sunny country. #iamstaying. But the beauty of your skin, unfortunately, suffers under the harsh effects of the sun. For those of you blessed with Mediterranean olive and darker skin tones – do not for one moment think you are safe from sun damage. Everyone needs sun protection. To make matters worse, you are also not protected indoors. The artificial lights in our buildings and the scary invisible infrared rays are just as toxic to our skin cells.
And of course, there is the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to sunscreen. My advice: stick to a broad spectrum( UVA, UVB, Visible light and Infra-red protection), very high SPF( 50+) sunscreen that consists of chemical, physical and biological filters( antioxidants). In my opinion, the top range sunscreens tend to be safer because they undergo rigorous testing in order to comply to the international standards of sunscreen laws ( the laws that limit the amount of harmful chemicals we put on our skin). At the end of the day ask yourself – what would you pick? Irreversible DNA destruction from harsh UV and infrared radiation causing skin cancer, or exposure to controlled substances that prevent skin cancer and ageing. I choose the latter.
Organic vs non-organic products – (snake poison is also organic)
I am going to leave this for you to ponder. Our skin is a cleverly organised system of cells working around the clock to protect, support, and maintain the functioning of the skin. All of this to keep us looking flawless, radiant, youthful and wrinkle-free! FYI – a well-functioning skin is ALWAYS a good-looking skin. Cells generally need nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, minerals and cell activators such as growth factors, stem cells or plant extracts to stimulate its functioning. So you might fall short if you are sticking to only organic coconut, olive oil and tea tree oil. It may make the skin surface feel soft and supple – but for the life of your skin – it’s not cell nutrition. So choose your products wisely when it comes to perfumes and toxic additives, but don’t be foolish and throw the essential vitamin, minerals and active extracts away because it doesn’t say organic.
Home care products are not an option, it is a necessity. If you are willing to spend anything on your skin when it comes to skin treatments, you are going to have to spend it on the products you use at home to maintain those results. Ageing, pigmentation, acne and hair loss does not happen once a month, or three times a year when you come and visit us for treatment. It happens every second of the day.
And so my rant on home care products has come to an end. It really takes 10 minutes twice a day to look after the skin that does so much for you, every second of the day.
Feel free to come and visit us at Nerina Wilkinson & Associates to advise you on the amazing array of products we have to offer you.