What does it mean to have good skin? Is good skin even real? How do I know what I need in my skincare routine? These are all common questions Kira Mosthof receives as a Licensed Esthetician. To preface this conversation, Kira would like to clarify that as an Esthetician, she does not believe in assigning moral value to our skin. Individuals with “bad skin” versus “good skin” do not exist.
This is why she's our go-to gal when it comes to skincare advice! You can find out more about Kira and follow her on Instagram here.
Here's what Kira wants us to know about skincare as a Licensed Esthetician:
The reason why I choose not to determine if an individual has skin that is good versus bad is that is an incredibly general statement. Additionally, the statement implies that if an individual has “bad” skin, they are doing something wrong or that the individual is in some way at fault. This is not necessarily always the case. The only way that I look at an individual’s skin is by assessing their overall skin health. I do that by assessing the overall oil balance to the skin, the level of hydration or dehydration to someone’s skin, the texture/tone of the skin, if the barrier is healthy, and if the skin is showing signs of impaired barrier. These are all determining factors of what indicates healthy, optimal skin function.Common Questions I Receive as a Licensed Esthetician:
What does the basis of a solid skincare routine look like? What do the steps look like?
Ideally, you will have the following steps in this exact order.
- Double Cleanse (first cleanse to remove surface level bacteria, second cleanse to target a specific area of concern). To keep it simple for my clients, I would say that you should prioritize your double cleanse at night to rinse away any excess dirt accumulated throughout the day. Morning double cleanses are generally not necessary, as you likely would have performed your double cleanse the night before. It is unlikely that you would have accumulated so much debris on your skin in your sleep that a morning double cleanse would be justified. If you enjoy the double cleanse, it is totally safe to double cleanse twice a day.
- Exfoliation (1-3 times a week depending on your level of sensitivity)
- Targeted Serum Treatment
- SPF (Day only)
The order in which you do apply your skincare routine is imperative for optimal product penetration. After you’ve adequately cleansed your skin, it is safe to exfoliate thereafter. Once you get to the part where you are applying your finishing products, your general rule of thumb can be to apply in order of thinnest in consistency to thickest in consistency. You want to apply your targeted serums before your moisturizers, as serums have much smaller molecular compounds. It is that small molecular compound that allows a serum to penetrate into the skin so that your skin cells can properly metabolize those key ingredients. After serums are fully applied, you will want to seal in those wonderful ingredients with a moisturizer. Moisturizers generally have molecular sizes that are larger than serums. This allows the serum to get sealed into the skin so that those tiny molecules are not able to escape the skin. This will also allow your skin to be on the receiving end of the most optimal result that your serum can provide.
Why is exfoliation important?
Exfoliation is the process of using chemical, physical, mechanical, or enzymatic exfoliation methods to accelerate the rate of cellular turnover in the skin. Cellular turnover is the process that takes place in the skin where dead skin cells are shed to reveal new, healthy skin cells. When exfoliation is not incorporated in the skincare routine, you will notice the skin tends to appear a bit lackluster. That lackluster appearance is a direct result of not using an exfoliant to slough away the dead skin cells to reveal the new skin cells that are generated. Additionally, if you are someone who is oily or prone to breakout activity, exfoliation is especially imperative. When you create an environment for dead skin cells to accumulate on the surface of the skin, you are also trapping excess oil and bacteria in the pores as well, as the pores are not able to breathe properly. When we allow the dead skin to trap excess oil and bacteria in the pore, it creates an ideal environment for clogged pores, eventually resulting in breakout activity. Exfoliation over time can also help reduce the appearance of discoloration in the skin and superficial fine lines as well.
Which types of exfoliation do you recommend?
For the home skincare routine, I recommend chemical exfoliation, a very finely milled physical exfoliant, or a combination of the two. I just advise that people proceed with caution as it pertains to physical exfoliants, as most over the counter exfoliants can be too abrasive on the skin. Exfoliants such as apricot scrub contain particles of apricot kernel, which can actually cause micro tears in the skin, leading to increased sensitivity. My favorite types of physical exfoliants are rice powder based exfoliants, as the rice particles are not only finely milled, but they will actually further break down with water. Rice powder based exfoliants are just abrasive enough to slough away surface level dead skin, leaving your complexion brighter without any irritation. Chemical exfoliants such as alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids will work on a deeper cellular level to increase the rate at which your skin cells turn over. Some commonly known AHA’s and BHA’s are glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and salicylic acid. As a professional, I notice my clients yield the best results at home when they pair a gentle physical exfoliant with some chemical exfoliation. Depending on your level of sensitivity, I only recommend exfoliation 1-3 times a week.
We hear people talk about ingredients to stay away from. What is the scoop on checking your ingredient list before purchasing a product?
In general, ingredients that can potentially cause harm to the skin are simple alcohols and heavily fragranced products. Again, this is an incredibly broad red flag list. It is not necessarily that simple alcohols or fragrance are harmful, however, it is the dosage that can be more harmful. In essence, you want the key ingredients in any skincare product, especially serums, to be closer to the top of the list. The closer an ingredient is to the top of the ingredient list, the more concentrated it is with that particular ingredient. I typically find that with products that are cheapened in quality, you will notice fragrances and alcohols will be closer to the top of the ingredient list. In small doses, having a tiny bit of fragrance at the bottom of an ingredient list will do no harm. Similarly to alcohols, in higher quality products, simple alcohols will be listed closer to the bottom of an ingredient list, as alcohol can assist in delivering a specific ingredient deeper into the skin. At the end of the day, if fragrance or alcohols are found closer to the bottom of the ingredient list, your skin will likely be okay. It just is not ideal to have a higher concentration of those ingredients present on the skin.
Clean beauty is also generally “scammy” in nature. Ingredients like preservatives can get a bad reputation. I promise you that as an esthetician, you WANT preservatives in your skincare. If a skincare product is free of preservatives, it has an incredibly small shelf life. We are talking such a short shelf life that you would be lucky to get through a few uses before the product goes bad. Preservatives protect the integrity of your skincare products by preventing the growth of bacteria that will ultimately be harmful to your skin. Conversely, products marketed as “natural” or “organic” make it sound as if any chemical put on the skin is damaging. Let me blow your mind. WATER is a chemical. It’s best to take terms such as “clean” “organic” or “natural” with a grain of salt. Not all chemicals are bad for the skin. Not all plant based ingredients are helpful to the skin.
Is a stronger percentage always better?
Absolutely not. Thanks to wonderful resources on the internet such as Instagram and TikTok, I’ve noticed a trend of people becoming increasingly more obsessed with higher percentages of active ingredients. Certain skincare ingredients are actually only meant to be used at a certain percentage. For example, Niacinamide, is a B3 vitamin that can be used to target a multitude of different concerns. It actually is not recommended to exceed a 5% Niacinamide formulation. The reason is that when used at a higher percentage, Niacinamide is not able to properly penetrate into the skin and will just remain on the surface of the skin, leading to irritation. I will see a client who believes they have an allergic reaction to Niacinamide when in reality, they were just using a dose that was far too high for the skin to tolerate. This oftentimes occurs with other ingredients such as vitamin C and AHA’s as well. In the esthetic practice, this obsession with higher percentages of active ingredients is leading clients to come panicking to their estheticians leaving them wondering where they went wrong. Over time, this over use of actives will break down your skin’s barrier defense known as the acid mantle. When the acid mantle breaks down, it leads to the skin becoming red, inflamed, dried out, and prone to severe breakout activity, as the skin is not able to fight off irritants and bacteria as easily. Leave TikTok and instagram to provide you with entertainment and consult a licensed professional regarding your own skin instead.
How often should I get a facial?
Generally, every 4 to 6 weeks. At the beginning of your facial, your esthetician will analyze your skin in session. We perform your skin analysis by asking you questions regarding your current home routine, evaluating the texture of your skin, and looking at your skin under a magnifying lamp where we analyze certain characteristics of your skin such as breakout activity, evenness to the skin tone, pore size, level of hydration, and oil balance. Based on this assessment, we will make recommendations for both your home regimen and what we can do for you in the treatment room. It is important to understand that facials alone will not change your skin. It is a comprehensive approach of progressive facial treatments combined with a properly tailored skincare routine that will give you the best results.
DIY face masks at home. Skip or Keep?
Skip. As we mentioned before, your skincare needs preservatives. When you go home and cocktail your own facial mask with ingredients such as honey, avocados, bananas, etc. this can actually throw off your skin’s microbiome. The microbiome is the terminology used to describe the state of good versus bad bacteria in the skin. The natural sugars present in ingredients such as honey and fruits can actually feed the bad bacteria in your skin, causing an overgrowth, which can potentially lead to an increase in oiliness or breakout activity in the skin. If you enjoy masking as a form of self-care, ask your esthetician for a good recommendation instead.
Do I still need SPF even if my skin does not burn? Which type of SPF should I be using?
Yes, every single person needs SPF. If you have skin, you need to wear SPF consistently every single day. Even if you are someone who just tans, a tan is still a form sun damage. In skincare, we have two types of SPF. We have chemical SPF and physical SPF (commonly known as mineral SPF). While physical SPFs are incredibly trendy at the moment, both chemical and physical are safe for the skin.
What you are truly looking for in an SPF is one that states it is a broad spectrum SPF. Broad spectrum means that your sunscreen will protect you from from both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for burning our skin. UVA rays penetrate much deeper into the skin. UVA rays are also responsible for breaking down our collagen, which can accelerate the rate at which our skin ages. Most importantly, UVA rays are often responsible for causing skin cancer.
Ensuring that your sunscreen is protecting you from UVA rays is imperative, as UVA rays will incite the type of damage that is not as visible as a sunburn. An ideal daily SPF will start at a baseline of around SPF 30 to SPF 50. With the usage of wearing a broad spectrum SPF 30-50 while also reapplying every 2 hours, your skin will be well protected from damage. SPF should always be worn both indoors and outdoors. The reason why it is recommended to wear SPF indoors is that UV rays can also penetrate through windows.
Pictured: Licensed Esthetician, Kira