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Distance Learning: Products 101

In my post "Missing Me," I discuss categorizing your stash of products so that you can use them more efficiently, but it has occurred to me that you may not know which of your products goes where. Categorizing products can be a little tricky, especially when they have multiple functions. Let's look at the products and ingredients needed for a good basic skincare regimen, so you can get your products out of the cabinet or drawer and onto your face, neck, chest, and maybe even your hands.



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The first step in any good skincare routine is cleansing. I know many of you are using a basic cleanser that your dermatologist probably recommended like CeraVe or Cetaphil, but you are selling your skincare routine short by not capitalizing on this opportunity to get active ingredients a little more face time (pun intended). Many professional cleansers contain exfoliating or brightening properties. Others contain oil control or hydrating ingredients. Regardless of the need you are trying to have met, the key is to read the directions because your cleanser truly will make a difference if used properly. If you wear eye makeup, you should begin by removing it with a product specifically formulated for that task. I love Eminence Organic Skincare Herbal Eye Makeup Remover. Once your eye makeup is removed, you can begin cleansing. Most of you would assume that a cleanser gets foamed up in the hands, massaged into the skin, then rinsed off, but there's more to it than that. Just like washing your hands, there is a proper way to wash your face. If you have a foaming cleanser, and provided you massage it over your face for at least 20 seconds avoiding the eye area, the above directions are fairly accurate. If you have a creamy cleanser, the process may look a bit different. For instance, I use Jan Marini Bioglycolic Face Cleanser, and it is applied with dry hands to a dry face and massaged in avoiding the eyes. Once it's on my skin, I go pour some coffee or wake my kids up before rinsing it off in the shower. By the time I get in the shower, I am feeling a good stingle (sic). That means it’s working! Each cleanser will come with its own set of instructions, and if you follow them, your cleanser will serve you well.


Toners are the next step. I have a love/hate relationship with toners. I love the clean feeling they provide, but I hate the harsh ingredients used in many of them. Your toner should not be made up of drying alcohol or witch hazel. I would actually prefer my patients not use toner at all if they aren't willing to invest in a professional brand with high quality ingredients meant for their specific needs. The biggest culprits are my acne patients. They truly think they are doing the right thing when they use their astringents, but harsh ingredients cause over-drying. When oily skin is overly dried out, it causes the skin to produce more oil because healthy skin cells need lubrication to function properly. Balancing oil and moisture are key in controlling acne, and the right toner should make that task easier, not harder. Using a toner with retinol, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid in appropriate percentages like ZO Skin Health Inc. Oil Control Pads Acne Treatment would be a much better choice. Check out my post "Acne is a 4-Letter Word" for more on this subject. One of the other groups that tend to misuse toners are those with dry skin. I used to be in this group. People with dehydrated skin tend to somehow associate the dry tight feeling they are experiencing with cleanliness. Healthy skin can, and should, still feel soft and supple after cleansing and toning. One more time for the folks in the back, healthy skin should feel soft and supple! There are hydrating toners that will still give that clean feeling without drying you out. A personal favorite is ZO Skin Health Inc. Calming Toner.


Exfoliants are often thought of as scrubs, but any products that speed up your skin's own keratinization process (the sloughing of dead cells) fall into this category. Fruit enzymes like pumpkin, papaya, and pineapple are some examples of exfoliants that are not in scrub form. I am particularly fond of fruit acids as they tend to cause less damage to the skin's surface since they are non-abrasive. If you like a scrub, ZO Skin Health Inc. Exfoliating Polish is a true workhorse. You might even need to mix it with your cleanser because it has so much grit. Eminence Organic Skincare Yam and Pumpkin Enzyme Peel 5% is gentle enough for home use, but effective enough to produce a beautiful glow. Enzymatic exfoliants are a better option for anyone with thinning skin or rosacea. Since you may also have mild exfoliating properties in other products throughout your regimen, dedicated exfoliants might only need to be used 2-3 times a week.


Antioxidants are found in many different plants and work to protect cells from damaging environmental effects. Think of antioxidants as little superheroes that swoop in to improve cell function against all odds. Sounds a little dramatic, I know, but they really are that amazing. They're even capable of helping cells stand up to UV damage. Since the sun's rays are the biggest cause of damage in aging skin, you don't want to skip this super important step. Antioxidants, barring very few exceptions, are the first step after cleansing and toning. Skin Better Science Alto Defenseis a powerhouse product that contains 19 intensive antioxidant ingredients and is, in my opinion, one of the best antioxidants on the market. If you have the ability to spend a bit more, SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum is amazing because not only are you getting a really intensive antioxidant, but you are also getting a superior human fibroblast growth factor. Personally, I am not a fan of the smell of this particular product, but many of my patients do not mind it at all and swear by this game-changing duo.


Treatment Products are next on the list. These are products that set out to accomplish a corrective goal. These are also the products that produce the most visible change. Products with ingredients like Retinol, Hydroquinone, Lactic acid, and glycolic acid are prime examples of treatment products. Often times, they are a thinner product known as serum, but can come in many other forms too. These products are usually part of your nighttime routine. Corrective products with high percentages of active ingredients will cause your skin to be extra sensitive to sun exposure. Because of this, it only makes sense to use the more aggressive products at night giving your epidermis a little recovery time. If you've never used a treatment product of this magnitude before, a comprehensive corrective cream like Skin Better Science Alpha Ret Overnight Cream is a great way to start. It has a significant number of actives that will improve overall tone and texture but is formulated with anti-inflammatory properties as well. This means there is no acclimation period or titration required. If you choose a different retinol-based product, you should know that you may experience some redness and/or peeling if you introduce too much too soon. Get the advice of your aesthetician before you begin any new treatment product to avoid an adverse response.


Moisturizers are a very important part of any skincare routine. We cleanse, tone, exfoliate, and treat to take away all the junk, but we must put back some nourishment so your skin cells can function at their best. Moisturizers range from an oil-free moisturizing gel like SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel to rich creams like Jan Marini Age Intervention Face Cream and everything in between. Some still have a little corrective ingredient in them, and some are strictly meant to give your skin a well-deserved drink. Take your skin type into consideration when choosing a formulation. If a patient comes in with acne, Eminence Organic Skincare Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer is my go-to product. Probiotics are anti-inflammatory which help to calm acne. It also contains tea tree essential oil which is naturally antimicrobial.Remember, your skin changes as you age, it changes with hormonal shifts, and with environmental influence, so too should your moisturizer.

Last, but never least, Sunscreen. This should be a non-negotiable everyday staple in your morning routine, and you should have a plan in place for reapplication throughout your day. If you are staying inside, or just going from building to car or vice versa, then you should choose a product that blocks harmful HEV rays emitted from device screens...yes, that's a thing! If you are going to be outdoors, swimming, or sweating, you should choose a sunscreen with physical blockers like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that is water resistant. Plan on reapplication every 2 hours, or if you are swimming or sweating, every 80 minutes. Check out the blog post "Quarantine Sunscreen" for more detailed product information.

If you are overwhelmed by so many products and steps, please remember that some of your products will accomplish the goals of several steps in one. Talk with your aesthetician and be candid about how many steps you think you can fit into your lifestyle. Ultimately, we want you to use these products, not get flustered and shove them into the darkest cabinet in your bathroom. If you need to, start with one product and add a new one every month or two until you’ve cultivated a doable regimen that will give you the results you want. As always, if you need personalized help or advice, I’m here for you! You can reach me here via chat or direct via email erin.cooper@bealsmd.com.


All of the products mentioned in my post can be purchased at Stephen P. Beals, MD, Skin and Laser Center. Follow the link: www.bealsmd.com to find the brand of your choice. To purchase products that don't allow online ordering, you can either stop by the office or if you are out of the area, order over the phone and we'll ship them out to you.

**Note: Products purchased from unauthorized third party websites may be counterfeit, expired, stolen, or tampered with. As professional medical skincare professionals, we are authorized retailers of the above cosmeceutical brands.

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