How To Get Amazing Skin
Have you been trying everything to get clear skin, and nothing seems to work?
Or, is your skin ok, but not great?
Here at The CLEAR SKIN Essentials I am going to show you how to fix your skincare routine, diet, and lifestyle to get clear, youthful, radiant, blemish-free skin.
Most people try to fix their skin problems all wrong. They’re endlessly trying and buying new skincare products hoping to miraculously transform their skin. But what if I told you you’d get far better results if you also worked on improving your diet, lifestyle, and health.
Don’t get me wrong, skincare is important, but it’s not the only thing that can transform your skin.
If you want a clear complexion, even skin tone, and a fresh radiant glow – these results come from the inside out. The healthier you are, the more it’s going to show in your skin.
There’s the saying, “You are what you eat”. There’s truth in that, especially because the health and appearance of your skin is connected to your nutrition.
The same goes with the connection between stress and your skin. How many times have you been stressed out only to wake up the next day with breakouts or dry patches all over your face?
What about hormones, and how your period and menstrual cycle affects your skin? Do you get cystic pimples every month around your period or when you ovulate?
And dark spots, enlarged pores, and pre-mature aging. Many of these issues are a result of lifestyle choices that are irritating your skin, dehydrating it, or damaging it.
Let’s walk through some of the changes and improvements you can make right now to your diet, skincare routine, and lifestyle, to get beautiful skin.
Most of these changes aren’t hard at all. And the longer your stick with them, the better your results.
Not only can you get rid of pimples, breakouts, acne, bumpy texture, uneven skin tone, old acne marks, enlarged pores, hyperpigmentation; but you can also make your skin appear more youthful, smooth, and perfected.
I’m going to share with you 12 things you can do right now to get better skin, plus key ingredients in your skincare that can be game changers in balancing and perfecting your skin.
1- Stop using harsh cleansers:
Washing your face is the foundation of your skincare routine. In all honesty, if you get this wrong, nothing else is going to work.
If you are using a cleanser that is too harsh for your skin, you run the risk of “over cleansing” your skin. This means you’re washing too much of your skin’s natural oils off, which can lead to dryness, and can even trigger your body to over produce oil to compensate for that dryness, causing oily, acne prone skin.
You don’t want dry skin; it can cause acne breakouts, dry patches, redness, irritated skin, and even fine lines and wrinkles.
You need a mild and gentle cleanser. Even if you have oily skin, you should never use anything that is strong or harsh.
How would you know if your cleanser is too harsh?
After cleansing, if your face feels tight or dry, your cleanser is probably too harsh. Also, if after washing your face, you must use a moisturizer or your face feels like it’s going to fall off; your cleanser is probably too strong for your skin.
You want to use a cleanser that removes dirt, debris, makeup, and buildup; but doesn’t dry out your skin while it cleanses it.
The key ingredient in cleansers that causes dryness and irritation is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This ingredient is a foaming agent that can be too stripping for your skin. It’s usually found in most soap and foaming cleansers, but it can even be found in some mainstream non-foaming cleansers (check the ingredients on your cleanser to make sure it’s not in there).
I would also avoid using cleansers with strong active ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, etc. There’s nothing wrong with these ingredients but using them twice a day in your cleanser is too aggressive for your skin. If you want to use exfoliating acids, better to use them in a serum, spot treatment, toner or mask; and use only when needed.
When shopping for a cleanser, I recommend selecting a mild cleanser. For oily skin types you’d want to get a liquid or gel cleanser that doesn’t foam. If it does, just make sure it doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate as the foaming agent, and keep an eye on how your skin is responding to the cleanser. Nowadays some companies are making foaming cleansers using milder surfactants, but even these can sometimes be too drying for oily skin.
For drier skin types, I would recommend oil cleansing, or using a balm, milk, or cream cleanser. If you find rich cleansers can cause blocked pores or breakouts, better to use an oil cleanser or milk cleanser instead of a balm or cream cleanser which can sometimes contain rich waxes or butter than can clog pores.
If your skin is normal, it’s not oily and it’s not dry; then you have a wider variety of cleansers to choose from. I would recommend choosing a cleanser that is compatible with the climate and environment you are living in. For example, if you have normal skin, but it’s the summer and quite humid, you might prefer using a liquid or gel cleanser. If it’s the dry winter, you might want to use an oil or milk cleanser instead.
Here’s a few recommendations of my favourite cleansers for different skin types:
- Honey cleansing
- Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser
- Living Libations Best Skin Ever (Frankincense)
- Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel
- Honey cleansing
- Living Libations Best Skin Ever (Seabuckthorn)
- Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel
- Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser
- One Love Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil
- Oil Cleansing with Grapeseed Oil or Safflower Oil
- Honey cleansing
- One Love Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil
- Oil Cleansing with Grapeseed Oil or Safflower Oil
- Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser
- Farmacy – Green Clean Cleansing Balm
- Mahalo – The Viel Cleansing Balm
- One Love Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil
- Oil Cleansing with Safflower Oil or Sunflower Oil
Once you stop using harsh cleansers, you’ll see that your skin will become more balanced, less sensitive or irritated, and you’ll have more even skin tone. If you have acne or breakouts, your skin will heal a lot faster, be less prone to scaring, and the frequency of breakouts can even decrease.
You might even notice that your skin is less dry or dehydrated, and you might not need a moisturizer any more. Or, the moisturizer you were using prior becomes too rich for your skin. Make sure as your skin adjusts to the new cleanser, that you adjust the rest of your skincare routine accordingly.
2- Go dairy-free
If you are dealing with any kind of acne breakouts, my strongest recommendation is taking a break from all dairy products.
For so many people with acne, this one change in their diet yields the most results.
I would go as far to say that taking dairy products out of your diet will get you much better results getting rid of acne, than any acne skincare product would.
There’s a strong connection between dairy products and acne.
These days, most dermatologists would agree with this.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that have wasted years and so much money on all sorts of acne treatments that never worked. Then one day they did an experiment giving up dairy, and within just a few weeks their skin cleared up.
I recommend doing an experiment for 30 days going dairy-free for acne, and see what happens.
And, you’ve got to do it 100% in order to get results. Not 60% dairy-free, not 99% dairy-free, but 100% dairy-free. This is really important because even the tiniest bit of dairy can sabotage your results.
You’ve got to be committed. And you must do it perfectly.
Going dairy-free for clear skin means NO:
- ice cream
- cream cheese
- whipped cream
- dairy kefir
- cottage cheese
- sour cream
And make sure to read the ingredients on food packing because dairy product has a way of creeping into salad dressings, sauces, protein powders, supplements, desserts, snacks, dips, and even breads and crackers.
If you have pimples, pustules, cystic acne, closed comedones, congested pores, blackheads, whiteheads, dermatitis, tiny bumps or rough skin texture – going dairy-free can help clear it up.
And why would dairy cause so many skin problems?
There’s a number of reasons – it could be due to a food allergy or sensitivity to dairy, the naturally occurring hormones in milk products could be adversely affecting your hormones, or the high carbohydrate load in some milk products could be making your blood sugar levels swing. There also could be residues of hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics in milk products, which is never good for your health.
One way or another, if you have acne, breakouts, or skin congestion it’s worth taking a break from all dairy products for at least one month to see how your skin responds.
If you notice improvements in your skin within the first 30 days, best to continue being dairy-free until your skin completely clears up (which can take a few months). Later on, when your skin has been healthy and clear for a while (I recommend 6 months), you can slowly experiment with eating some dairy products again to see how your skin responds. Sometimes it’s only one type of dairy product causing the skin problem, other times it can be all dairy products causing the issues.
3- Stay away from sugar
One of the best things you can do with your diet for great skin is reducing all sugar.
Sugar causes your blood sugar to spike, which leads to inflammation in the body. When your body is inflamed, it can’t heal or repair itself efficiently. If your body can’t heal or repair properly, it’s going to show in your skin (dullness, redness, irritation, textured skin, and delayed wound healing).
Chronic inflammation also leads to loss of collagen and elastin. Losing collagen and elastin is a natural process as we get older, but you don’t want to speed that up. If you speed up the loss of collagen and elastin, you’ll start getting enlarged pores, lines, wrinkles, creppy and sagging skin much sooner than you want.
If you want your skin to be healthy, glowing, smooth, plumped, supple, radiant, and youthful – decrease the sugar in your diet. I recommend eliminating all processed and refined sugars like candy, desserts, and sugary drinks.
If you want next-level results, I would also swap high carb foods like breads, pasta, and refined grains and flours for foods that are rich in healthy proteins and fats (avocados, nuts/seeds, eggs, meats, fish, coconut, whole grains, beans/legumes).
Reducing sugars in your diet will improve the appearance of your skin. It’s not only great for anti-aging, but if you have a chronic inflammatory skin condition like eczema, rosacea, dermatitis, or acne – this will be your secret weapon in getting rid of the redness, irritation, and dryness.
4- Eat green leafy vegetables in all your meals
Green leafy vegetables are not only a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but they’re also anti-inflammatory too.
As I mentioned in this article, inflammation is the source of most skin issues and accelerated aging of the skin. Whatever you can do to reduce the inflammation in your body, the better your skin will be.
Green leafy vegetables are incredibly anti-inflammatory.
When consumed in abundance and regularly, you can really see a difference in your skin. The standout benefits of consuming a lot of green leafy vegetables is how much healthier your skin and complexion will look. Your colouring will be healthier, you’ll have less redness and irritation, and if you have acne breakouts, they will heal a lot faster.
If you want a healthy glow - eat more green leafy vegetables.
I recommend eating a minimum of one large green salad a day. If you can also have fresh green vegetable juice, green smoothies, and/or steamed vegetables, that would be great as well. Try to include green leafy vegetables in most of your meal (if not all). The more green leafy vegetables you eat, the better.
Variety is important too. Don’t be limited to just lettuce and spinach. Try having kale, collards, bok choy, watercress, arugula, celery, micro greens, fresh herbs, and sprouts.
5- Decrease coffee
We all love coffee, but unfortunately for some of you, coffee could be causing acne, excessively oily skin, dry skin patches, dehydrated skin, sallow complexion, dark circles under the eyes, or bumpy skin texture.
If you are dealing with any of these issues, I recommend taking a break from coffee for at least one month to see if it can help your skin.
The problem with coffee is three-fold:
1- It’s very acidic, which exasperates inflammation. As we’ve already talked about, the root cause of most skin issues is inflammation. You don’t want to be consuming something every day, or a few times a day that could be making inflammation worse.
2- Coffee is also a diuretic, which can dehydrate your body, and decrease the amount of nutrients getting to your cells. Your skin cells need nutrients to thrive. Imagine cutting that off and what that would do to your skin? On top of that, if your skin already leans towards being dry or dehydrated, consuming diuretics regularly can dry your skin out even more.
3- Coffee is also a stimulant. For some of you sensitive to stimulants, this can over-stimulate your adrenal glands and even trigger over-production of sebum in the skin. If you drink a lot of coffee and your skin is excessively oily, getting worse as the day goes on; the culprit could be coffee.
If any of this rings true to you, I recommend taking a break from coffee for at least a month to see how it affects your skin. The best would be to eliminate coffee and caffeine completely (that means taking a break from tea, chocolate, caffeinated energy drinks as well).
I know it’s not easy to give up coffee. If so, you can try substituting it with green tea. Even though green tea has caffeine, it isn’t acidic like coffee and has a lot of antioxidants that can actually be beneficial to your skin. I would recommend swapping the coffee with plain green tea, and as you get used to drinking tea instead of coffee, slowly reduce the tea as well.
6 – Limit alcohol
With all beauty and skincare advice out there, the one thing that no one talks about is how alcohol affects your skin.
I know everyone likes to party, but talk about a way of accelerating the aging of your skin.
Alcohol is very inflammatory and adversely affects your skin like sugar. But I would say it’s even worse because of how dehydrating it is, and how it damages your liver and internal organs.
What gets damaged on the inside, will start showing on the outside.
Of course, having a glass of wine once in a while, or going on a big night out isn’t a big deal. But, if you’re drinking every day, it will start catching up with you, and start affecting your skin.
If you like to drink and you’re dealing with acne, roseasea, eczema, psoriasis, enlarged pores/orange peel skin, redness, broken capillaries, dry flakey skin, a lot of wrinkles, dark circles under your eyes, or creppy skin – chances are it’s connected to the alcohol you are drinking.
If this rings true to you, do a 30 day experiment where you take a break from drinking alcohol and see what happens. Take a before and after photo so you can really compare the difference and see your results.
There’s not a single person I’ve ever met that hasn’t noticed an improvement in their skin from taking a break from alcohol. Plus, you’ll see that your mood will be better, you’ll sleep better, and have more energy and motivation to do things. You’ll feel much healthier, and it will show.
If you have a hard time picturing what life would be like without your favourite drink, just remember it doesn’t mean you have to stop going out and doing things. You can still go to parties and bars, just don’t drink alcohol. And if you like having a drink at the end of the day to unwind, how about having a hot bath or some sort of self care ritual instead?
The more things you do to take care of yourself, the better you’ll feel. Once you get that going, it’s becomes quite natural and exciting to continue.
7- Start exercising
One of the best things you can do for your skin is doing regular exercise that gets your heart rate up and sweating.
If you want to get rid of blackheads, clogged pores, congested skin, pimples, and acne; start exercising every day.
Sweating cleans out your pores from the inside out.
Exercise stimulates your lymphatic system and helps your body efficiently remove waste and toxins.
Not only will you have clearer skin, but you’ll have a health glow too.
Everyone looks better when they exercise regularly.
You might be wondering if you can sit in a hot sauna or steam room, and get the same skin-beautifying results you’d get from exercise? The answer is no. There’s no short cuts! You need to move your body, stimulate blood circulation, raise your body temperature, and sweat all at the same time to get the full benefits. Exercise engages your full body, and nothing beats the glow exercise gives.
I know it’s not always easy to get started, especially if you’re out of shape or it’s been a long time since you’ve done any exercise or physical activity. But every effort counts, and you would be surprised just how fast your body can bounce back into shape, and build strength and endurance.
I’ll be honest, the first 3-5 days following a new exercise routine can be brutal, but once you get past the first week, you’ll be craving it and the high it gives.
8- Balancing Stress
Do you notice changes in your skin when you’re going through a stressful time? Does stress cause breakouts, dry patches, or skin eruptions that makes you even more stressed?
If so, it’s really important to find ways to manage stress. Being in a constant state of worry, overwhelm, or anxiety takes its toll on your body and skin.
You can’t necessarily eliminate or avoid stress completely. But, you can learn to manage life’s challenges better so that they don’t adversely affect your health and wellbeing.
What I like to do when I feel overwhelmed or really stressed out is get back to basics. Make sure your foundation is strong. This means taking care of the every day details that support your wellbeing and daily life. For example, making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating properly, exercising, spending quality time with friends or loved ones, doing activities outdoors, keeping your living environment clean and orderly, etc.
These details are really important. If your foundation isn’t strong, any difficultly that comes your way can really knock you over.
So, the next time you’re in a stressful situation, try prioritizing having a healthy foundation. You might be surprised just how much easier it is to handle life’s chaos and uncertainty when your foundation is strong and in order.
9- Beauty sleep on your back
Here’s something no one talks about, that is until it’s too late.
Sleeping with your face pressed against a pillow night after night, year after year, decade after decade, will eventually catch up to you causing lines and wrinkles.
Back sleepers are lucky. They’re preserving the youthfulness of their skin while they sleep.
Side sleepers and stomach sleepers aren’t. You’re not doing your skin any favours having your face smushed up against a pillow all night.
If you’re a side/stomach sleeper, and have a favourite side you sleep on, you might notice you have more wrinkles on that side of your face. Or, your jaw line might not be symmetrical due to the pressure of always sleeping on one side of your face. Some dentists and dermatologists can tell a side-sleeper immediately just by the irregular shape of their jaw and face (scary, I know!)
To convert from being a side or stomach sleeper to a back sleeper isn’t always easy (I know, because I’ve tried). But, many would say it’s worth the effort.
If you are young, in your teens, 20s, or 30s, and you’re reading this, you might be wondering what the big deal is. You sleep on your stomach and face every night, and have no issues. You love sleeping on your stomach and wouldn’t give it up for the world. But talk to someone in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond who are dealing with deep indents on their face every morning from their pillow. These lines don’t fade in just minutes, it can sometimes take hours to get rid of.
As we get older, our collagen and elastin decreases, our skin becomes less supple and loses volume. It doesn’t bounce back like it used to. Small things make wrinkles worse.
If you’re interested in keeping wrinkles at bay, and willing to make improvements, I strongly recommend training yourself to sleep on your back. Not only will this help preventing lines forming on your face and chest, but if you sleep on your back with a little incline, you can also prevent under eye puffiness and water retention in your face.
When people refer to “beauty sleep” I don’t think it’s only about getting enough sleep. But also, getting the right kind of sleep. Sleeping the right way.
And why not take your anti-aging routine that extra mile?
If you’re curious or intrigued about what a different sleeping position could do for your skin and face, give it a go.
Nowadays there’s special back sleeping pillows to help you with the transition, making back sleeping much easier. And if it doesn’t work out for you, there’s even special side sleeping pillows that support your head and neck but prevent the side of your face from pressing again the pillow.
10- Don’t sunbathe
I come from Montreal, Canada, so I know what long cold winters feel like. When spring and summer come along, those first few warm days are glorious, and there’s nothing like the warmth of the sun after a long cold winter.
But, sunbathing just isn’t very good for your skin, especially with how strong the sun and UV rays are these days, environmental pollution, and the degradation of the ozone layer.
I know that Vitamin D is really important, and there’s a lot of benefits to having some sun exposure including elevating your mood and hormone health.
But, there’s no health benefits to tanning and lying out in the sun for extended periods of time. All that’s going to do is cause wrinkles, lines, sun spots, and dry out your skin.
You might not see the effects now, but wait until you reach your 40s and 50s when the sun damage really starts catching up with you. At that point, there’s not a whole lot you can do to reverse it.
I’ve met plenty of sun worshippers who started seeing their skin rapidly age and discolour as early as their 20s and 30s.
You don’t want leather skin.
You don’t want dark spots all over your face and body.
You don’t want to one day feel regret. That’s the worst.
Instead, from this moment forward, take care of your skin. Cherish it. The more effort you put in, the more you will reap the rewards later.
Great skin is part genetics, and part lifestyle. And the number one ager is the sun.
So, if you like the beach, doing outdoor sports, gardening, or just spending time outside; do your outdoor activities in the early morning or at the end of the day when the sun isn’t as strong. Try to stay in the shade. Wear protective clothing and sunscreen. Every effort counts.
11- Get the right sun protection from mineral sunscreen
Using sunscreen will help protect your skin from the sun, and help ward of premature aging, sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage. But, you’ve got to select the right sunscreen that offers broad spectrum sun protection against UVA and UVB rays.
You’d think all sunscreens offers the same protection, but they don’t. And there’s no point slathering sunscreen on your skin every day if it’s not fully protecting your skin.
There’s two types of sunscreens available, chemical and physical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens are also known as mineral sunscreens.
Personally, I much prefer a physical/mineral sunscreen made with non-nano zinc oxide.
Zinc oxide protects your skin against UVA and UVB rays. Not all chemical UV filters do (a lot of chemical sunscreens only protect your skin from UVB rays, so your skin won’t burn, but the UVA rays are still getting through, which can age and damage your skin).
Chemical filters in sunscreens can also be irritating. If you’ve ever developed a rash or hives after applying sunscreen, it’s probably an allergy to the chemical UV filters.
Plus, chemical filters have been getting a bad reputation these days. There’s studies showing that they can be hormone disruptors. And sunscreen is something you’re using every day, maybe a few times a day. You don’t want to be using something on a regular basis that can mess up your hormones.
Non-nano zinc oxide on the other hand is known to be quite safe, soothing and balancing for the skin. It’s actually quite beneficial for acne breakouts, helping to reduce inflammation and oil control.
Sunscreens formulated for babies are always mineral sunscreens made with non-nano zinc oxide. If it’s gentle enough for a baby, and protects a baby’s fragile skin – it’s good enough for me!
Along with choosing a mineral sunscreen, there’s a few more details you need to know.
There’s two ingredients used in mineral sunscreens, zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
Zinc oxide offer broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, titanium dioxide doesn’t! It only offers UVB protection. This is a VERY IMPORTANT detail.
There’s nothing wrong with titanium dioxide in a sunscreen, but it must also have zinc oxide in the formula as well to offer full broad spectrum protection. Having both ingredients in your sunscreen will ensure you are getting full UVA and UVB protection.
If the sunscreen only has titanium dioxide, I wouldn’t use it. You’re not fully protecting your skin from the sun. What’s the point?
If the sunscreen only has zinc oxide, you can use it. It’ll give you broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays.
If the sunscreen has both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, you can also use it. It too will give you UVA and UVB protection. Personally I prefer using a sunscreen that has a higher % of zinc oxide than titanium dioxide, but that’s just a personal choice.
If you have melasma or hyperpigmentation, I would recommend using a zinc oxide sunscreen that has at least 15% zinc oxide, or even 20% or higher. Based on personal experience, I find I get superior protection from sunscreens with high amounts of zinc oxide, especially if you’re dealing with pigmentation issues that are very sensitive or triggered by sun exposure.
Also, there’s two sizes of zinc – nano and non-nano zinc. Go with non-nano zinc. This is safer for you. The non-nano zinc oxide is a larger molecule, so it sits on the surface of your skin. The nano zinc is nano in size (super small molecule) and can penetrate the skin, which can be unsafe.
And lastly, make sure to get a sunscreen that doesn’t have synthetic fragrance. Synthetic fragrance isn’t good for your skin. It’s an irritant. And, it’s especially bad for your skin when exposed to the sun. There’s no place for synthetic fragrance in sunscreen, avoid it.
My favourite sunscreen for the face: Suntegrity 5in1 Tinted Natural Face Moisturizing Sunscreen, SPF 30
My favourite sunscreen for the body: Raw Elements Face + Body SPF 30
12- Only use one active ingredient at a time
Active ingredients are becoming more and more popular in skincare.
I think active ingredients are great, and when you choose the right one for your skin needs, you can get amazing results.
If you’re unsure what active ingredients are, they’re ingredients that can target and treat your skin issues.
Examples of active ingredients include glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, retinols, retinoids, retinal, hyaluronic acid, konjic acid, exfoliating enzymes, vitamin c, peptides, CoQ10, etc.
These active ingredients are the power house ingredient in your skin care products that can treat and transform your skin.
If you’re looking for something to brighten, exfoliate, clarify, hydrate, sooth, smooth, or firm your skin – there’s an active ingredient that can help you (more on how to choose the right active ingredients for your skin type below).
But, the big issue I see is overuse of actives. It’s not always intentional, it just happens because too many of your skin care products contain actives. Sometimes you’re using too many actives all at once and it irritates your skin, or, you’re using one active in too many products making it too strong of a dose for your skin.
I see this a lot with acne sufferers who use cleansers, toners, creams, and spots treatments all containing salicylic acid. If each product has salicylic acid, and you’re using all of them at once, and twice a day – that’s a lot of salicylic acid! Especially because something like salicylic acid can be very drying. Better just to use it in your spot treatment, just on pimples and blackheads, and not in your cleanser, toner, face cream. That’s overkill, and you’re not going to get the therapeutic and clarifying benefits from salicylic acid, but instead you’re going to irritate and dry out your skin, causing more breakouts and issues.
Another example is over doing anti-aging and resurfacing products. I see a lot of people starting a retinol or retinoid product at the same time they’re using exfoliating acids (like glycolic or lactic acid), exfoliating enzymes, or scrubs. And within a week or two, they’re skin is red, raw, and cracked. They might be using the actives at the opposite times of the day, or alternating them – but still, it’s too many strong ingredients all at once. Especially in the beginning when you are first introducing a new active or product into your skincare routine.
Active ingredients are strong.
Even though they say some active ingredients are gentler than others (like lactic acid for example), it’s still an active ingredient, and it’s still doing something to your skin.
Whenever you start using a new product containing active ingredients, I wouldn’t use any other active ingredients in your skincare routine at the same time until you are 100% sure your skin is responding well to the product and ingredients.
If you’re getting any dryness, sensitivity, redness, or irritation – that’s a sign either the product is too strong, or your skin needs time to acclimate, and you’re better off using smaller amounts, or less frequently until your skin balances out and adjusts.
There’s no race.
If you truly want to see how an active ingredient performs and if it benefits your skin, and is truly working – go slow in the beginning. Use it on it’s own, so you can really allow the active ingredients to do its work, and get results.
Strong ingredients and products don’t always mean they’re better.
And too much, too fast, and too many products all at once, is a guaranteed disaster. You don’t want to be wasting your time having to fix your mistakes and treating irritated skin from overdoing skincare products (because that’s the worst).
If you want great skin, and you want your skincare routine to work for you - choose one active ingredient, and use it for at least one month before adding in any other active ingredients. That means, if your serum or toner has active ingredients – your cleanser and moisturizer shouldn’t. The products that don’t have actives should be gentle and mild, supporting the rest of your skincare routine and not competing against it.
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of not overdoing strong skincare and active ingredients, let’s talk about which key ingredients can benefit your skin type.
Key skincare ingredients for your skin type:
Glycolic acid for textured, dull, and bumpy skin
Glycolic acid is an AHA (alpha hydroxyl acid). It’s an exfoliating acid.
It has a large molecule, so it works on the surface of your skin, breaking up and dissolving the build up of dirt, debris, oil, sebum, and dead skin cells.
If you have bumpy skin, the build up on the surface of your skin could be clogging or suffocating your pores, causing those tiny raised bumps to form.
If you have dull or textured skin, that’s probably because the newer skin underneath the dead skin cells isn’t coming to the surface fast enough, and needs helps shedding the dead skin cells, so your bright newer skin can come through.
Glycolic acid is really good at targeting surface and texture issues. It can also help get rid of post inflammatory pigmentation and marks from acne breakouts as well.
But, glycolic acid is strong.
I find it best used on normal, oily, and combination skin types – especially skin types that can handle stronger active ingredients.
If you have dry or sensitive skin, I would recommend lactic acid instead. It’s much gentler (more on lactic acid below).
Also, glycolic acid works great at fading PID acne marks and scars, but is too strong when you have inflamed active acne or pimples (it’ll irritate your pimples more). If you have acne prone skin, you can use glycolic acid products on your acne scars and marks, but take a break from it when you have breakouts or pimples.
My favourite glycolic acid product is from Drunk Elephant. It’s the T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum. It’s actually a mixture of tartaric, lactic, citric and glycolic acid. It works amazing at keeping your skin smooth, clear, and bright. If you deal with small bumps on your forehead, this can help get rid of it pretty quickly.
Lactic acid for dry skin
Lactic acid is another exfoliating acid, and an AHA.
Like glycolic acid, lactic acid works to dissolve the build up of dead skin cells, dirt, debris, and sebum off the surface of your skin.
But, lactic acid is gentler, and it’s a humectant as well.
Being a humectant, this means it draws water to your skin, helping to hydrate your skin. If you have dry skin, or even sensitive skin, you need this (most skin types, including oily skin needs extra hydration).
Dry skin also needs exfoliation. You need to get rid of the build up, flakes, and dead skin cells off the surface of your skin. Not only because you don’t want you skin peeling and flaking, but that build up is acting as a barrier preventing your skin from absorbing moisture. Exfoliation is dually important for eliminating surface dryness and hydrating the skin.
But, dry skin is always quite fragile and sensitive. So you have to be careful how you exfoliate your skin and what you use.
For very dry sensitive skin, lactic acid is the gentlest. I wouldn’t use harsh physical exfoliants or scrubs. And no glycolic acid. It’s better to use a serum or mask containing lactic acid.
One of my favourite lactic acid products is Oskia Renaissance Mask. This mask is amazing. It makes your skin smooth, plumped, hydrated, and baby soft. It’s perfect for all skin types, but especially dry skin types.
If you prefer using a serum, or don’t want to invest in an expensive lactic acid product, try The Ordinary lactic acid serum, it comes in two strengths, 5% and 10%. I would start with the 5%, only use a few drops at night, and start with using it every other night or every 2 nights, and increase the frequency if needed.
And remember one important thing – if you use any exfoliating product, always use sun protection. Exfoliation makes your skin more photosensitive. Plus, every time you remove dead skin cells, you are exposing newer, more fragile skin to the elements. Make sure to protect it and take care of it
Salicylic Acid for blackheads
Salicylic acid is another exfoliating acid, but it is a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid).
Salicylic acid acts a little differently than AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, mandelic acid, etc). Instead of working on breaking up the buildup on the surface of your skin, it penetrates deeper into your pores, unclogging the gluey substance that clogs your pores causing pimples, clogged pores, and blackheads.
This is why a lot of people love using salicylic acid for treating and preventing breakouts and acne. But, if you’ve ever been a salicylic acid user, you know it can be quite drying, and even irritating for your skin.
It’s one of those ingredients that a little goes a long way. I recommend being very strategic where you apply it, and how much.
As I said, salicylic acid can be very drying and irritating, and it works the best for unclogging pores and blackheads, and preventing future acne breakouts. To get the full benefit from salicylic acid without throwing your skin off balance, I recommend just applying it where you need it. Best to use it as a spot treatment on pimples, or on your t-zone where you are prone to getting clogged pores, blackheads, and enlarged pores.
I also recommend using a serum or toner containing salicylic acid as your spot treatment, and not using cleansers containing salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is too strong to be using all over your face, especially in a cleanser that you use twice a day. Also, salicylic acid works the best when it’s left on your skin. A cleanser with salicylic acid is quickly rinsed off once it’s applied, so it’s not really doing very much.
Like all other active ingredients, I strongly recommend going slow when you first start using salicylic acid. It’s one of those ingredients that using too much will cause a lot more harm than good. I don’t recommend using it more than once a day, and in the beginning, best to start by using it every other day and work up frequency as your skin adjusts.
If you choose to use salicylic acid as an active ingredient to treat acne and clogged pores, I don’t recommend using other active ingredients in your skincare routine. Combining salicylic acid with benzoyl peroxide, retinols, essential oil acne products, or AHAs could result in severe irritation and burning of your skin.
Honey for acne prone skin
Honey is my favourite ingredient for acne. In fact, when I was dealing with terrible adult acne, what cleared up my skin was following a super clean diet, and washing my face with honey twice a day.
To get the full benefits from washing your face with honey, it’s important that you use smooth honey (no texture or granules in the honey which can tear your skin). And, it should be raw (not heated or pasteurized).
You want smooth, raw honey because it’s anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and it has live enzymes which help to exfoliate and remove the buildup off the surface of your skin and pores. Plus, honey is an excellent skin brightener, and can help fade acne marks and even out your skin tone.
Like lactic acid, honey has properties that make it a humectant as well, which means it draws water to your skin, helping to hydrate it.
The anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and astringent-like qualities of honey is what makes it so acne friendly.
You can use honey to wash you face twice a day, and it won’t strip, dry out, or irritate your skin, while at the same time, it will help heal acne breakouts and prevent future ones.
Most acne skin types can benefit from using honey as a cleanser, but if you have a bee allergy, don’t use honey!
Here’s a video demo and instructions on how to use honey to wash your face.
Aloe vera gel for acne scars
We all know how therapeutic aloe vera is for sun burns and skin irritation – but what if I told you it’s also great for fading acne scars, and making your skin soft and smooth, and can even firm your skin.
Aloe vera is so underrated.
But, you need to be using it correctly to get benefits.
This is where most people go wrong.
Whatever you do, don’t use the aloe vera gel sold in bottles or tubes. Even if it’s 100% aloe vera, and says it’s fresh, organic, or sold at a health food store.
You need to use fresh aloe vera gel directly from the aloe vera plant.
The fresh gel from the plant has the live enzymes you want for exfoliation and skin healing.
The stuff that is sold in bottle and tubes doesn’t have live enzymes. It’s kind of dead. It might have other benefits, but not the REAL benefits like the fresh gel has for healing your skin, treating acne scars, cell regeneration, and resurfacing.
I recommend buying a plant, cutting off a leave, then cutting off a small section of the leaf, and applying the gel to your clean skin (preferably at night). You can leave it on your skin overnight (as an overnight mask). You’ll notice the next day your skin will be baby solft, bright, smooth, firm. When used regularly, over time acne scars and marks will begin to fade.
If you can’t get a plant, but the fresh leaves are available at your local supermarket, you can always buy a leaf. No problem. As long as it’s coming from the plant and not a bottle, it’ll work!
Colloidal oatmeal for sensitive and irritated skin
Colloidal oatmeal is another underrated ingredient that has such amazing healing benefits for the skin.
This is one of the best ingredients for sensitive, red irritated, itchy, compromised skin.
If your skin aches, either from being irritated, super dry, from using too strong skin care product, or having a psoriasis or eczema flame up; try oatmeal topically to bring your skin back to balance.
Making a colloidal oatmeal mask is easy:
- Place 1 tablespoon colloidal oatmeal and 1-2 tablespoon of water in a bowl
- Mix well, making a paste
- Apply to clean damp skin
- Leave on for 10 minutes
- Rinse with lukewarm or cold water.
- If needed follow with a moisturizer.
Vitamin C for sun spots, brightening and speeding up acne healing
Got sun spots, dark patches, hyperpigmentation or marks left behind from acne? Try using a skincare product containing Vitamin C.
When used topically, Vitamin C is skin brightening, stimulates collagen, and helps speed up skin repair.
When it comes to fading hyperpigmentation, sun spots or melasma, I believe it’s a lot safer than using skin bleaching products or hydroquinone.
The most effective Vitamin C products are usually serums, but I’ve used a cleanser containing Vitamin C (Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel) and had great results fading hyperpigmentation and melasma. With this cleanser, the vitamin C is paired with exfoliating enzymes and MSM, making the combination quite powerful in brightening and fading dark patches and pigmentation.
There are many forms of Vitamin C available. L-ascorbic acid, which is a pure form of Vitamin C is widely used in skincare. It can be quite strong, and extremely fragile. Products made with L-ascorbic acid have a short shelf life, so you must use them up within 3-6 months after opening, or else they oxidize and go bad (and can harm your skin).
There’s also Vitamin C derivatives that show great promise in being as effective as pure L-ascorbic acid, plus more stable, and gentler on your skin.
Personally, my skin is quite sensitive to L-ascorbic acid. I much prefer using Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, which is an oil soluble Vitamin C derivative. Research has shown it has great promise to penetrate deeper into your skin, it’s a lot more stable, and gentle.
I recommend trying different Vitamin C products to see what works best for you. Most people start with L-ascorbic acid because of how widely available it is, and that there’s a little more research backing it up. Popular L-ascorbic acid serums are Drunk Elephant C-Firma and Marie Veronique C+E+Ferulic Serum.
If your skin is sensitive to Vitamin C products (like mine), I recommend Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil, as well as The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F. I’ve never had any issues of skin sensitivity with these two products as long as I just use 2-3 drops, and start with using it 2 or 3 times a week, and slowly build up the frequency.
I know that some Vitamin C products say to use it every day, but I think most people need to slowly build up to every day use, especially if a product contains more than 10-15% L-ascorbic acid or Vitamic C derivatives. And don’t worry, you’ll still get the skin brightening, firming, and repair benefits you would using it every day.
Glycerin for dry skin
If you are struggling with dry or dehydrated skin, make sure your moisturizer contains glycerin (also spelled glycerine).
Like hyaluronic acid, glycerin is a humectant that draws water to your skin. Its great for hydrating dehydrated skin, even the most parched, dry, flakey skin.
Personally, if I had to choose between a product containing hyaluronic acid vs glycerin, I would go with a product containing glycerin. Even though they’re both humectants and can be used to moisturize the skin, I find glycerin to be much more effective.
Maybe it’s because hyaluronic acid’s molecular size is known to be much larger than glycerin, making it sit on the surface of your skin as opposed to penetrating the skin.
Based on my own experiments, I’ve had much better results using glycerin, and in fact I use pure vegetable glycerin on my body when my skin gets really dry.
For my face, I find pure glycerin to be a little too rich, making me prone to breakouts (especially if I use it regularly). I much prefer using a moisturizer that contains glycerin (this dilutes it and doesn’t cause breakouts). I find moisturizers that list glycerin in the first 3-5 ingredients to be most effective (but even if it’s further down the list, it’s still good). A product that contains a good amount of glycerin, plus other humectants and nourishing ingredients can be super effective for balancing dry skin. Plus if you have maturing skin with lines and wrinkles, glycerin plumps your skin, smoothing lines and wrinkles.
Some of my favourite moisturizers that contain glycerine are Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream, Tata Harper Repairative Moiturizer, Josh Rosebrook Vital Balm Cream, and Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer.
Retinol for fine lines and wrinkles
Retinols, Retinoids, and Retinals are the big player in anti aging.
These Vitamin A derivatives are probably the most researched anti-aging skincare ingredients on the market having plenty of studies proving their effectiveness.
A few decades ago the only option we had was using prescription strength retinoids or retinoic acid, which can be very harsh and irritating, making them difficult to use and tolerate.
Luckily nowadays there’s a lot more over the counter options that come in different strengths and consistencies, making them much easier to access and use.
Retinols or retinoids can benefit your skin by improving collagen production, and speeding up cell turn over.
As we get older, collagen decreases which results in losing the firmness, suppleness and volume in your skin.
The cell turn over rate also starts slowing down as we age, which means it takes longer for new skin to come to the surface which can result in enlarged pores, blackhead, breakouts, dull skin, and prominent lines and wrinkles.
Retinols and retinoids work to stimulate your skin cells to work better, and faster, resulting in brighter, firmer, smoother, more radiant and youthful skin.
I was never a fan of prescription strength retinoids like Tretinoin (Retin A) because of how strong and irritating pure retinoic acid is. Plus, most of the prescription formulations contain a lot of low quality, pore clogging ingredients.
But now a days, so many skincare companies are coming out with over the counter Vitamin A skincare products which offers a lot more options, and products made with better ingredients.
If you are curious to try a retinoid or retinol for anti aging, I say go for it!
For best results, go slow, and start with a gentler formulation to get your skin acclimated.
It takes a good 6-12 months of using a retinol to start showing skin improvements and results, so you have to be patient, committed and consistent.
And even though over-the-counter retinol products aren’t as strong as prescription strength, they’re still powerful. So make sure you use sun protection every day, and in the beginning don’t use any other active ingredient in your skin care routine to avoid the ingredients clashing or irritating your skin.
If you are starting out using a retinoid product, I recommend using a product containing a gentler Vitamin A derivative like Granactive Retinoid (I recommend The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Serum 2% In Squalane), Retinal or Retinaldehyde, or Bakuchiol which is a natural alternative to retinol that isn’t irritating and delivers the same skin benefits (I really like Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum).
As your skin adapts, you can always increase the frequency, strength, or experiment with other stronger retinols. But with all active ingredients, consistency is key. I find it’s much better and more effective to use a gentler product more often, than using a super strong product you have to start and stop all the time because it’s too much for your skin.
If you’ve made it through this lengthy article, you are now equipped with more than enough information to get you started on your glowing skin journey.
This is SO exciting, and I am happy to be apart of it with you.
So please get started right now.
Take a before picture so you can track your progress.
Go get some healthy food (a salad or green juice would be nice), and set aside your favourite gentle skincare.
Have fun on this wonderful journey, and please keep me posted with your results.
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