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Help! I’ve got all these skincare products and I’m not sure when to use them and in what order?

Dr Martin Wade, Consultant Dermatologist at London Real Skin discusses what skin care products you should be using and when you should be using them.

What skincare do you recommend that people should be using?

The skincare I recommend patients use depends on a person’s skin type and whether or not they have any underlying medical dermatological conditions.  There is no one skincare regime that will suit everyone.  Most importantly a skincare regime needs to be one that is suited to the person’s habits and lifestyle.

I do however recommend that everyone wears a sunscreen to protect their skin from the sun and UV radiation (UVA and UVB).  If we are talking about what products work best for maintaining skin health, improving the appearance of skin or impart an anti-ageing function to the skin then after sunscreen the three main ingredients I recommend are a retinoid or retinol, topical vitamin C and an alpha hydroxy acid, such as glycolic acid.  These are clinically proven to help repair or maintain the structure of the skin.

Why should they be using these products?

A clinically proven treatment regime will be more effective than using skincare products that have no clinical benefit. While many skincare products that are marketed smell good, or have a nice feel to them when you apply them to the skin, most products available in the market provide no benefit to the function of the skin at all.

What products should we be using in the morning?

The morning skincare routine is all about keeping the skin clean and protected.  Washing the face to remove any surface grime is important. This is to remove any dirt or impurities and allow the skin to look fresh.  Depending on your skin type there are a number of alternatives.  A daily glycolic acid wash can help chemically exfoliate the skin, while a gentle cleanser which is pH balanced can also be effective in cleaning the skin. Personally I use no product to clean my skin in the morning apart from warm water.

If the skin is dry then a moisturiser containing a hyaluronic acid can be applied to the skin next. The application of the hyaluronic acid helps attract moisture to the epidermis or top layer of the skin thus improving the barrier function of the skin and helping to protect it from the elements.  A leave-on glycolic acid product is clinically proven to increase the water content of the dermis or lower layer of the skin as well as increasing the amount of Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) which helps support the structure of the skin. There are a number of good products in the market that contain both hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid.

Finally I recommend that all patients apply a sunscreen which will protect the skin from the harmful UV rays from the sun and is important as even a few minutes of sun exposure on the face will cause minor damage to the skin which over time has a cumulative effect.  Most sunscreens are in a moisturising base and so many people won’t actually need a moisturiser, their sunscreen will be sufficient. Make-up can be applied on top of the sunblock. I particularly like mineral based make-up that provides another level of UV protection. A sunscreen or sunblock should be used every day on the face, even if it is overcast or grey outside. It is the single most important thing you can do to improve your skin.

What products shall we be using in the evening?

The aim of nigh-time skincare is to restore and nourish. Cleansing the skin is important in the evening to wash off make up, sunscreen and any dirt or grime from the day’s exposure to the elements.

Topical vitamin C is an excellent next step after cleansing which helps improve skin texture and tone, helps to even out pigmentation, provides antioxidants to the skin and increases collagen production.  Vitamin C products often come as a single agent preparation and this is due to the fact that different forms of vitamin C can oxidise or are rendered inert or ineffective it mixed with other products.

Once this has had time to be absorbed to penetrate the skin a prescription strength retinoid, tretinoin cream, can be used one to 3 nights per week.  This product is only available on prescription from a Dermatologist. This is the most effective anti-ageing cream known to repair photodamage.  A retinol is a weaker version of a retinoid which does not require a prescription and as such can be bought at pharmacies and department stores and is formulated in many night creams.  This can be used on a nightly basis if tolerated.

Are there any differences in skin care regimes in different seasons such as winter or summer?

In summer we need to pay more attention at protecting our skin from the sun and so reapplication of the sunscreen during the day may be required.  In winter our skin tends to become drier due to lower environmental humidity, cold winds and central heating.  More moisturising products may need to be used in the winter to combat this.  If more moisturising products are used in the summer than they can sometimes occlude the pores and cause acne.

You may need to change the frequency of use of your products as the seasons change. In summer you may find that you use your retinoid less frequently as it does make the skin sensitive to the sun.

Do we need to change a skincare regime for different ages, or for men and women?

As we age our skin does tend to become drier and usually needs more moisturising products.  Also common conditions such as acne are less common as we age so potentially less attention needs to be placed to using oil free or non-comedogenic products.  With age usually come’s a cumulative sun exposure and so the signs of photodamage are more obvious in older skin and so more attention is required to maintain the function and structure of the skin.  Our collagen levels in the skin and hydration levels also decrease with age.  Men often prefer simpler skincare routines and this needs to be taken into account when formulating a skincare regime although we do see this changing.

You haven’t mentioned toners or other products are seen mentioned.  Why don’t you recommend these products?

If the skin has been properly cleansed then the application of a toner is of no benefit.  Rather than a toner I would prefer someone to use a serum with an active ingredient such as vitamin C or an alpha hydroxy acid.  There is a limit to how many preparations can be placed on the skin at any one time and so my preference is that people go with the clinically proven options.

If you would like to find out what skin care regime would suit your skin, what products contain clinically proven active ingredients, and what order to apply your skincare, then consider booking an appointment with a Dermatologist who specialises in skin care.

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