April 12, 2010

The Case for a Proper Skin Care Regime

Before I start a facial, I ask my client if she knows how a facial works and why she is getting one. While the answers vary wildly (from “to get a glow” to “because my mother said so”) I rarely find anyone who knows what the logic behind a facial is. While it may indeed give you a good glow and your mother’s advice may be excellent, the actual function of your facial, for men and women, is to promote the health of your skin. Here is how it works:

The Science Behind the Relaxation

To understand a facial, you must first understand your skins own desquamation process, or to put it more simply, your skin’s ability to shed its dead cells. At your skin’s deepest layers, new cells are forming all the time and pushing their way to the top. People with healthy skin, what we call “good skin,” have a healthy desquamation process. That is, their skin sheds its dead cells quickly and turnover is efficient. Children, for example, have a desquamation process that takes just one week. As we age, this slows down, typically to 28 days, but by the time you are white haired and weak jointed, it can take up to 90 days!

How a Facial Works for You

A facial is a synthetic desquamation. Your facial begins with a thorough cleansing and progresses to a professional-grade exfoliation. Exfoliation sloughs off the dead skin, either physically (like micro beads, etc.) or chemically (this is typically what you will get with a professional-grade exfoliation). This is the actual function of the facial. The rest of the facial is in support of this main component. The massage afterwards promotes circulation, while the mask calms your skin down after the exfoliation and nicely tightens up your pores. Supplementing your skins own desquamation with a facial means your turnover process happens every 14 days. A substantial improvement.

Healthy Turnover = Healthy Skin

Ever notice how kids have flawless skin, no open pores, no pimples, no scars? Then puberty comes along and makes us all hideous. But pre puberty, cell turnover is so rapid that our skin does not have a chance to develop any problems. In adults, exfoliation becomes super important to prevent your pores from getting clogged, filling up and gaping wide open with sebum or dead skin. Regular exfoliation will keep your pores clean, meaning that they can tighten up and look smaller. Plus, that dull, uneven look becomes history!

Exfoliation and Acne

At the base of every shaft of hair sits a small p bacterium. In healthy skin and healthy hair the bacteria climbs up the hair shaft like a ladder, hits the oxygen in the air and dies (thus the “oxy” in so many acne creams like Noxzema or Oxy On The Spot). If your pore is blocked, then the bacteria gets trapped and an infection starts. You got it: Zit City! Regular exfoliation means that your pores are clear and bacteria can make its ascent unhindered.

Of course there are many reasons to pimples forming. When you wax your face, you remove the ladder, and so you will most probably break out. Or your skin is so dry that the bacteria cannot manage to climb the dry baby hair. This is why there are moisturisers for dry as well as for oily skin, because drying out your skin (and the tiny hair on it) is not very good for you.

Oily or Dehydrated Skin

I wanted to touch on a massive misconception. Often dehydrated skin is mistaken for oily skin. There is a difference. If your skin is moist and greasy and you have oily patches on your skin after some time, your skin is oily. If, however, your skin is oily on the surface but rough underneath, you most probably have dehydrated skin. This means that your skin, far from producing excess sebum, has lost its ability to hold on to any sebum at all in the first place. This leaves you with an oily surface of sebum with parched thirsty skin underneath. Visit a professional to find out which you have.

For the Boys

The reason men get away with a little less skin care is due to their shaving regime. You guessed it, that’s an exfoliation, albeit a brutal kind! You should not, therefore, shave on the day of your facial. However boys, your upper cheeks, forehead and especially your nose are getting ignored. And I have to say, nothing ages you more than big gaping pores on your nose. If you already have the beginnings of them and you are young enough, you can still clear them out and shrink them down to size. Get to your nearest skin technician ASAP! (That applies to the ladies too.)

Blackhead Strips are the Creation of the Devil

The least pleasant part of a facial is the blackhead removal. I can promise, though, that if you are very regular with your facials your blackheads, once removed, return as easily removable sebum (kind of a white paste, and while that may gross you out, you don’t have to see it and your skin technician will celebrate when you reach that stage). The logic here is that your exfoliation degrades the edges of your blackhead or white head and with steam they should be eased out of the pore that they are blocking. If they are not ready it means they need another exfoliation. I would say that by facial number three you are usually all clear. Once you are all cleaned out, post extraction solution is used to disinfect the pore, a massage encourages your skin to be supple and a masque and toner tighten every thing up again. Nice, clean, closed pore. You treat the cause, the symptom and provide after care.

Now let’s think of what those infernal strips do. They glue themselves to the tiny hairs on your nose and then you basically give yourself a nose wax. With each hair your blackhead or white head is ripped out with no preparation to the skin at all. Your pore is left gaping wide open, even if you did not have a blockage. Then each open pore is left untreated and rolling out the welcome mat for a bigger blackhead to form and for ones to form where they didn’t even exist before! Making you yearn for that next blackhead strip. Genius marketing!

Diagnostics and the Skin Technician

The final point to really take home (no pun intended!) is your at-home skin care regime. Do not treat a facial as your monthly rescue plan. Your skin technician will diagnose your skin issues within the first five minutes of touching your face and your skin care regime will get discussed. There are those who are just trying to sell their products (this is true of doctors too, though), but most will try and give you reasonable solutions to your needs. If you need the slightly more expensive stuff, then you just do. However, you and your skin technician have to work hand in hand to get the results you need. Like you and your personal trainer, scarfing down cake and running to the gym is going to get you nowhere. Working with your pro for hire is going to get you results . . . for everyone to see!