Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

The Realities of Being An Esthetician – Part II November 28, 2016

work-weekends

In April, 2014 I wrote a post called The Realities of Being An Esthetician.  A few days ago I received the following comment from a reader named Canales to the post:

I wish I read this before I took esthetics school!😦 the more and more I have regrets. I got a job straight out of school. First of all hourly pay was so cheap way less than minimum wage literally a slap in the face. Then I was blindsighted by comission off service they told me I would get a certain amount on my interview but when I started noticing my paychecks had no comission off service they said it was because I had to start bringing in over $600 in service first for it to kick in, which was impossible just starting out with one or two clients sometimes 3 a week. So I really depended on tips. Plus they made me the “body girl” since the other older estheticians didn’t want to break their backs so I never in the 5 months being there got to do a facial on an actual client. Even after talking to my classmates neither of them still to this day have found jobs yet. I quit that spa because it costed me more money to travel and pay a babysitter than to get paid. On top of that what irks me most is putting a lot of hard back breaking effort to please your clients and then you get those clients that don’t tip when you are really depending on it!!!! What a cheap disgrace. It definitley was not worth it for me and now I feel regrets because I have this student esthetics loan to pay off that will take me a few years to pay off and who knows if I will even be doing this further…..

Canales’ comment really stuck with me.  I actually couldn’t stop thinking about what she shared.  I reread my original post and found that I have a few more thoughts and ideas to share about what it is really like to be an esthetician.  I still stand by everything I wrote in the original post.  I wish I could say that the negative things I wrote about being an esthetician are no more, but unfortunately nothing has changed in the esthetics world since I wrote my first post on the subject.   If you haven’t read the original post I suggest reading it before reading this post since this new post is building on the information in the older post.

I’ll break this new post down into two sections:

  1. What to think about before you go to esthetics school: is it really for you?
  2. If you have finished esthetics school and are struggling to make a living I want to share some tips that might make things easier for you.

Things To Consider Before Signing Up For Esthetics School – Is It Right For You?

Before you take the plunge and go to esthetics school I want you to sit down and have a serious conversation with yourself.  Why do you really want to be an esthetician?  If you read the “About” section of my blog you’ll learn from my story that I obsessed with my own skin long before I decided to become an esthetician.  I already had a very personal interest in skincare before deciding to learn to become an esthetician.  Once I started esthetics school I realized that I was a huge exception among the students in the school with me in that I actually was super interested in skincare.  So many of the women I studied with became estheticians for, well, no real reason.  “It sounded interesting”, “I like to pop blackheads”, “school isn’t that expensive”.  I have a friend who decided to go to esthetics school because massage school was double the price.  She’s a great esthetician, but her path to esthetics wasn’t from a place of passion about skincare.  Of course, some of you may be thinking: if something interests me, even a little bit, how will I know if I really like it unless I try it or study it?  Very good point.  It is true that unless you learn more about a topic/career you’ll never know if it is the right fit for you or not.

If you are wondering if esthetics school is for you or what exactly an esthetician does I suggest doing the following before signing up:

  • Ask to spend a day or half a day at the esthetics you are thinking of attending.  If they don’t agree go find another school.  A good school will let you sit in on classes.  Ask the teachers and students any questions you may have about the studies.
  • Shadow an esthetician for a day.  If you don’t know one ask the school you are thinking of attending for the names and phone numbers of graduates.  Google or look up on Facebook local spas, call and ask to come visit.  While there are privacy issues when it comes to spa guests perhaps the spa will let you talk to one of their estheticians if they won’t let you shadow her.  Invite her out for coffee and ask her to tell you about her esthetics career.
  • Ask yourself – can you afford to work part-time and on weekends, at night?  If you have young children do you have a support system that allows you to work non-standard hours or will you need to pay for childcare?  If you’ll need a pay extra for childcare in order to work as an esthetician ask yourself if it is feasible to do so right now. Perhaps you can go to esthetics school when your children are older and can be left at home alone for longer periods of time.  You are going to enjoy your job a lot less if you are constantly worried about who is taking care of your kids and if they are ok.
  • Ask yourself – what interests me about skincare?  Why do I want to help people care for their skin?  Am I willing to do waxing all day long?  Are there services that I have no interest in doing that estheticians have to offer?   Are you really interested in skincare or does make-up or nails interest you more?  Perhaps going to nails school or taking a make-up course are better choices for you.
  • Ask yourself – how many job opportunities are there in the area I live in?  Can I legally work from home as an esthetician?  How far am I willing to commute in order to reach a job?
  • Ask yourself – do you need to take out a loan to pay for school?  How much will you need to make after school in order to live comfortably and pay back your loan without getting into debt?

Perhaps after thinking about what I’ve written above you’ll realize that being an esthetician isn’t right for you.  Or maybe you’ve read everything I wrote and you still know that being an esthetician is the right choice for you.  Keep reading to hear some ideas about how to make working as ethetician successful for you.

You’re An Esthetician – Now What?

Firstly, if you are looking for a little career inspiration I suggest reading Lydia Sarfati’s book Success at Your Fingertips.  Pay attention to the section in which she writes about how she started her career and how hard she worked.  Her book is a great resource, and she’s an inspiration to all estheticians in my opinion.

If you don’t want to give up on your dream of being an esthetician but are finding it hard to find work or have a job that just isn’t doing it for you I would suggest the following:

  • What can you do that no one else at your job can do?  How can you make yourself indispensable?   Can you afford to learn another skill such as nails?  Dermaplaning? Eyelash extensions?
  • Ask your clients, your friends, your family about which services they would like to try but don’t know where to go to do so.  Look around YouTube and on popular websites to see which skincare trends they are talking about.  Is there something new in the skincare world that you can learn that no one else around you is doing yet?
  • If you can’t afford to pay for more classes I suggest going on YouTube and teaching yourself some new massage techniques via the videos there.  Perhaps something like a meridian massage or gua sha?   Look for new handheld skincare devices that aren’t expensive but feel great on the skin.
  • Think of ways to set yourself apart from every other esthetician at your job.  Find a way to stand out at work – come in early, stay late (if you can).  Offer to pitch in with something that isn’t in your job description so that your boss sees how much you want to work and succeed.  Be a team player.  Be positive.  People are attracted to positive people.
  • Can you rent a room in a hair salon or nail studio?  Many people will welcome the idea that they can take care of all their beauty needs in one spot.  Just be aware that if you rent a room you’ll have many more expenses than working in a spa.  You’ll also be in charge of marketing yourself which is always a challenge.
  • Find another part-time job.  Finding another part-time job doesn’t mean you are giving up on your dream of being an esthetician.  It means you are being realistic. I’m a big fan of Marie Forleo, and she does a great job in this video of explaining why it’s ok to get a day job while still pursuing your dream career.  I suggest listening to Marie Forleo, Gabby Bernstein, and Elizabeth Gilbert for inspiration and support about pursuing your dreams.  Let me be clear – none of these women are going to talk about esthetics.  Instead they can help you sort through emotions, conflicts, and business dilemmas.  Maybe you could get another part-time job at a store that sells skincare products?  That way you can sell from a real place of knowledge and even perhaps promote the services you can offer customers at your other job.
  • Can you find another source of income that involves skincare but isn’t doing facials? Perhaps you really like to write – is there a local paper that will pay you to write about skincare issues?  If you are good at sales – can you sell a skincare line from home?
  • Are you social media savvy?  We have all heard about those people who become overnight sensations because of one photo of Instagram or who make a living from Snapchat.  Ok – those people are really an exception, but if you are tuned in to what is going on on social media or technology in general is there a way to make some money off your skincare knowledge?  Look to other industries and how they have been successful in social media.  Can any of that be applied to the esthetics field if you tweek it a bit?
  • Can you legally work from home?  Could you set-up a side business at home doing brows and waxing for example.  I am mentioning brows and waxing on purpose because it costs little to buy the supplies for these services, but the payoff can be big if you can build a loyal clientele.  Start with friends and family and offer them a discount.  I used to wax my sister’s brows while she lay on my sofa.  Just saying.
  • Ask for advice from estheticians who have been in the business longer than you.  One of my esthetics “mentors” was about 8 years younger than me, but she had been in the business much longer than me and could offer tips and support.  But remember – no matter how much help you may get from others in the end your success falls to you.  What are you willing to do in order to make it as an esthetician?

Finally, ask yourself what is your bottom line.  How long can you give your new esthetics career a go before you have to throw in the towel because you just can’t afford to live like this anymore?  Set a timetable for yourself and check in once a month to see how things are going.

Above all – though I want you to realistic about what it means to work as an esthetician I also want you to be kind to yourself.  If you have that esthetics job but can’t make ends meet and need to do something else – don’t beat yourself up about it.  Keep yourself in the loop about what is new in the skincare world even if you are no longer working as an esthetician.  You never know when that next opportunity will find you.

Please comment below with your experiences as an esthetician.  I love to hear back from my readers.

Further Reading:

 

esthetician-affirmations

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For My Fellow Estheticians and For Aspiring Estheticians: Resources and Inspiration July 31, 2013

Spa day cake

No matter what industry you are in you know how important it is to keep improving and learning.  Everyone experiences burn out sometimes and needs inspiration in order to keep doing their best.  I’ve been thinking about these themes lately are they pertain to being an esthetician and thought I would share some articles, a book, and a website recommendation with my readers.  I know that quite a few estheticians read my blog (which makes me very happy) and aspiring estheticians as well.  Even if you aren’t an esthetician I hope that you’ll find this post helpful as well.

Book Recommendation

I just completed reading Lydia Sarfati’s book Success at Your Fingertips: How to Succeed in the Skin Care Business and am so happy that I got a chance to read this book!  Sarfati is the founder and president of the skincare line Repechage and an experienced esthetics professional.  She started her career as an esthetician and now owns Repechage and spas; she is also a spa industry consultant.  This book shares  invaluable experience, expertise, and advice for all estheticians – from those just beginning their career to those who have been treating skin for a long time.  Sarfati outlines how to start your own successful business, how to hire and manage employees (as a spa employee myself I thought this chapter was great since so many spas mismanage their employees), how to achieve retail goals, how to market yourself and your spa, and lastly how to balance your work life with your personal life.  This book did a great job at touching on all the important issues that estheticians have to deal with while being very readable and relatable.  If you are thinking of starting your own spa business this book is a must read, and even if you work for someone else at the moment you’ll find valuable tips in this book about how to succeed as an esthetician.  Even if you don’t work in the esthetics field I think her advice can be very helpful.  The chapter about managing employees can certainly help all bosses, no matter what profession they are in.  Highly recommended!

Though this book has nothing to do with skincare lately I’ve been reminded how important our words are and which words we choose to use (or not to use in a lot of cases).  Those thoughts made me reread an old favorite called Togue Fu! .  Knowing how to communicate with our clients (and our managers and our coworkers) correctly makes us much better estheticians.  As a matter of fact, without good communications skills it doesn’t matter how much skincare knowledge we have as estheticians we just won’t succeed.  So if you feel like you need some help in the communication department I definitely recommend reading this book.

Recommended Blog 

If you are thinking about becoming an esthetician or have just finished esthetics school it can be hard to find real-life information about your chosen field.  Looking for a job, especially when you still don’t have experience, can seem overwhelming at times.  Recently I discovered the blog My Life as an Esthetician which provides readers with very valuable information about being an esthetician such as resume advice and possible career paths   once you have your license.  It is well worth checking out.

Recommended Reading

Skin Inc. has published a number of interesting articles lately on how to maintain and manage your client base:

Recommended Resource

I’m a little late to the game with recommending the following website/forum, Skin Care Professionals, but I’m very glad I finally found it.  I follow a few esthetician groups on Linked In and find them very helpful as a way to connect and learn from my fellow estheticians and this website provides another way to connect with your fellow estheticians.  Once your membership with the site is approved you can post and respond to questions in the forum section. Many times as esthetician we work solo or only with a few other estheticians so having a way to “talk” with other estheticians can be invaluable and career enriching.  I always tell people that one of the reasons I love being an esthetician is that estheticians, for the most part, are friendly and helpful to one another, always willing to dispense tips and advice to one another.

I hope this post has both inspired and helped my fellow estheticians and all other readers as well.  Wishing everyone lots of career success and happiness!

My Related Posts:

Image from pinterest.com

 

The Benefits of Facial Massage January 31, 2013

Almost two years ago I wrote a post about how facial exercises are a waste of your time but a facial massage is very beneficial for your skin.  In this post thought I would expand on why facial massages are so helpful for your skin and your overall wellbeing.  Last year I even had a client who would just come to me for facial massages, not a full facial.  She was originally from Europe and explained to me that this was not an unusual treatment, just having a facial massage, in Europe.  I could definitely understand her thinking.  I believe that a facial without some sort of massage is not really a facial.  That is how strongly I believe in the benefits of facial massage.

According to the Skin Inc. article by Lydia Sarfati, Facial Massage: Experience the Benefits, there are quite a few ways that facial massage helps clients:

When performed correctly, massage can provide clients with a wealth of benefits for their health and skin. Specifically, facial massage:

  • Stimulates circulation;
  • Detoxifies;
  • Stimulates sebaceous production;
  • Relaxes the nerves;
  • Releases toxins trapped between the tissues and muscles;
  • Oxygenates skin tissues;
  • Provides physiological and psychological benefits;
  • Aids in the extraction process;
  • Hydrates by bringing nutrients to the surface layer of the skin;
  • Increases lymphatic flow; and
  • Eases muscle tension.

Almost every skin condition can benefit from a facial massage.  Your esthetician just needs to know what type of massage to perform on each client according to what is going on with their skin.  In another Skin Inc. article, this one by Danae Markland entitled Facial Massage: More Than Relaxation, different types of massages for varying skin conditions are explained:

Massage can greatly benefit acne, rosacea and other inflamed skin conditions. Acne is a wound to the skin, and increasing blood flow encourages the healing process. Many skin care professionals are taught to avoid massage with acne clients because of the risk of cross-contamination and overstimulation. Although this is a valid concern and many traditional massage techniques are not appropriate for acne sufferers, light manipulation for a short period of time increases blood flow, which brings oxygen to the skin, killing the anaerobic bacteria responsible for breakouts and providing significant improvement. Similar to acne, rosacea and other sensitive skin conditions involve chronic inflammation, which also benefits greatly from the enhanced circulation associated with massage. When dealing with acne and other inflamed conditions, limit massage time to no more than 10 minutes.

There is no denying that massage of any kind improves the appearance of the skin for a short period of time after a treatment. This instant improvement is again due to an increase in blood flow and, ultimately, an increase in cellular oxygenation. As with many aspects of the skin, circulation decreases with age, leading to a dull appearance. Massage improves circulation, leading to a more youthful complexion. Clients who smoke and those who engage in air travel regularly also benefit from enhanced circulation, because smoking and air travel limit the amount of oxygen obtained by the cells, leading to lifeless complexions.

YouTube is a great way to see different types of facial massage since each esthetician eventually develops her own facial massage technique.  In my opinion there isn’t a “right” way to perform a facial massage.  As long as it feels good than your on the right track to relaxation and healthy skin.

Image from massage-ce-solutions.com

 

The Peptide Puzzle: Hype or a Real Breakthrough? November 28, 2011

If you are someone who is interested in anti-aging advances you’ve probably been hearing about peptides for quite some time.  Since being added to skincare products peptides have been touted as a true anti-aging breakthrough and as an ingredient that will revitalize and rejuvenate the skin.  Yet the question remains – are peptides truly an anti-aging breakthrough or is this just a lot of marketing hype?

What Are Peptides and What Do They Claim To Do?

Simply put – a peptide is a chain of amino acids that form a protein.  Peptides have numerous applications when it comes to our health and wellbeing, but when it comes to skincare peptides are said to repair and regenerate the skin and to help rebuild collagen.  But before you go out and purchase a product with peptides in it (these products are usually very expensive) there are a few things to keep in mind:

Peptides are biologically active compounds that closely resemble proteins—both are chains of amino acids. The difference? Peptide chains include fewer amino acids. Generally, a chain with more than 50 amino acids is a protein while those with fewer is a peptide. However, there are exceptions. Peptides are classified according to their length. Therefore, you’ll often encounter terms such as dipeptides—two amino acids; tripeptides—three; tetrapeptides- four; pentapeptides—five; and so on. Although there are probably thousands of naturally occurring peptides, to date, only several hundred have been characterized.1

Peptides play an array of important roles in the body, depending on the type. They may reduce inflammation, enhance antioxidant defense mechanisms, regulate bodily functions and even offer analgesic properties. In cosmeceuticals, three types of peptides are used, including:

  • Signal peptides that encourage fibroblasts to increase production of collagen while decreasing the breakdown of existing collagen;
  • Neurotransmitter peptides that limit muscle contraction and, thus, are said to mimic the effects of botulinum toxin; and
  • Carrier peptides that stabilize and deliver trace elements necessary for wound-healing and enzymatic processes.

Given that signs of skin aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, are caused by a breakdown of collagen and elastin—the proteins that give skin strength and elasticity, as well as slow cellular turnover—the abilities of these peptides seem the perfect match for skin care formulations. However, not only are peptides expensive to utilize, in their natural state they also have shortcomings that significantly limit their potential in skin care applications. These shortcomings include the following.

  • Peptides have a large molecular size and are hydropholic (water-liking), so they are unable to penetrate the lipopholic (fat-liking) stratum corneum layer of the epidermis.2 Despite this, peptides are generally unstable in water-based formulations. The presence of water breaks down the peptide bond, rendering it inactive.3
  • Should peptides be absorbed, the abundant presence of enzymes found in the skin can also break down peptide bonds.4

Fortunately, peptides are easily modified to improve their characteristics relative to use in skin care formulations. Chemists have found creative ways to overcome their limitations, such as attaching a fatty acid component to improve absorption into the skin, specific activity and economic feasibility.

Source:Peptides: Ready for Primetime?  by Ahmed Abdullah, MD in SkinInc.

Do Peptides Really Work in Skincare Products?

Here are some more consumer tips to keep in mind before purchasing a product with peptides in it:

Although chemists have found ways to optimize peptides for use in topical skin care formulations, they still face hurdles before they can generate the results anticipated by the consumers who buy them. Assuming the peptide has been modified to improve its stability in skin care formulations, through chemistry, the use of appropriate product packaging and its ability to penetrate the skin, it’s still essential that the product feature an effective delivery system to reach the target area where collagen synthesis, wound-healing and other activities may occur. Only when the peptide is absorbed by the skin and delivered to the targeted area in a stable form will it stand the potential of generating results.1

Formulators are certainly rising to this challenge. Sophisticated new delivery systems are regularly being developed, and the onus is on skin care professionals to stay on top of these new developments to ensure the products they are recommending stand a strong chance of truly providing their marketed benefits.

Another challenge: To be effective, peptides must be utilized in appropriate concentrations. Unfortunately, ingredient concentrations within a formulation are rarely disclosed on the label. Given the generally high cost of peptides, some manufacturers use them in concentrations below those utilized in scientific research or recommended by the peptide manufacturer. This is a marketing trick that allows the company to tout the use of a certain peptide and charge a lower price for the product. However, the formulation is nearly certain to be ineffective. Because of this, it is important to request and obtain backup research for product claims from manufacturers.

Speaking of research, although some third-party studies do exist that demonstrate positive outcomes from the use of peptides in skin care, there remains the issue of consumer expectations. For example, acetyl hexapeptide-8 is incapable of delivering results similar to that of botulinum toxin injections. Yet, this mantra is still promoted by many consumers and even individuals within the industry when referring to this compound. Because of this, consumer expectations are often out of line with the true capabilities of some peptide products. To be clear, if peptides were indeed able to produce results that matched much of the hype, they would be classified as drugs and require U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for use. To that point, it’s often necessary to downplay much of the hype surrounding the use of these ingredients until a stronger base of unbiased research exists.

Source:Peptides: Ready for Primetime?  by Ahmed Abdullah, MD in SkinInc.

There are even more issues with peptides to keep in mind.  Here is what Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty has to say about peptides (pages 288-289):

 Much like growth factors, peptides are a bioengineered version of a natural element in the body.  (Some natural moisturizers contain plant peptides, derived from wheat or rice.  Along the same lines as kinetin, which has a plant growth factor, these may work as well as biotech versions.  Considering that we don’t know what will penetrate the skin anyway, why not?)  The idea of adding peptides to the skin is theoretically like sending in a surge of troops to carry out repair and regeneration.  In vitro tests have found that pentapeptide-4 does prompt fibroblasts to product more collagen in cell cultures.  (As usual, there is a serious lack of truly objective data since the companies that manufacture the peptide ingredients have funded most of the studies.)  And remember, a cell culture is a dish of cells and is far cry from your skin.

My bottom line:  Can peptides penetrate to the dermis to stimulate collagen production?  Without scientific studies that biopsy the skin, it’s difficult to assess whether they can and if they really work.  The inspiration behind these ingredients makes sense, and time will tell if some may be effective antiagers.  Because peptides happen to be effective humectants, a product containing them will successfully hold moisture in the skin.

They’re worth a try, especially since you’re assured of getting an excellent humectant and most include antioxidant components too.

On the other hand, Dr. Leslie Baumann lists peptides as one of the “most misleading skin care claims of 2009“:

The theory is that topically applying peptides can trick our skin cells into producing even more collagen. In reality, peptides don’t penetrate the skin — if they did, other peptides such as insulin would already be supplied by creams rather than injections. Products like StriVectin may make the skin feel smooth but they have not been shown to have long-term clinically-significant benefits.

The Beauty Brains has even more damning things to say about peptides (though keep in mind that The Beauty Brains post I am quoting from is from 2008)

Peptides have no function in skin care products.  They do not increase collagen or prevent DNA damage.  They are story ingredients that make people feel better about the products they are using.  There’s nothing bad about them in your skin product.  They just don’t provide much benefit.

Should You Buy a Skincare Product with Peptides In It? 

So who do you believe when it comes to the benefits of peptides in skincare products?  I’m on the fence about this one – I do think that peptides in skincare products could be great, just make sure you get the right product.  Remember these products are pricey.  There are two good sources for specific product information – one is FutureDerm and another is Paula Begoun’s Beautypedia.  I would check both of these sources before making any purchases.

Further Reading:  Here are some more resources for peptide information – both for and against their use in skincare products

 

Sensitive Skin – Causes and Treatments February 4, 2010

It isn’t uncommon for people to describe their skin as “sensitive” and “easily irritated”.  Actually all skin can become sensitive and irritated.  Perhaps our skin should come with a warning label:  “handle with care – easily damaged”.

Doctors believe that only about 2% of women have skin that can be diagnosed as “sensitive”.  Anyone else who believes they have a sensitive skin type is simply misdiagnosing themselves.  (Perhaps some people who claim to have sensitive skin think that by saying so they are bestowing a unique or special status on their skin as a way to make themselves feel different and special)   Further adding to the confusion over the term “sensitive skin” and what that truly means is the fact that products can be labeled “for sensitive skin” and “hypoallergenic” when there is absolutely no regulation over these terms.  As the FDA points out on its website:

There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term “hypoallergenic.” The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA.

The term “hypoallergenic” may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning.

Most people who define their skin as sensitive probably do so because once (or even twice) they had an allergic reaction to a topical skincare product; their skin to become red, irritated, and even itchy.  But for skin to truly be labeled sensitive it has to show an inability to tolerate most cosmetic, while otherwise being healthy.   If one truly has sensitive skin the use of cosmetics, or the wrong skincare products, will cause the skin to itch, burn, sting, and feel tight as opposed to causing redness and breakouts.  And once again this is very rare.

If you have ever experienced a reaction to a cosmetic or skincare product that caused you to breakout or turn red than you probably experienced a temporary allergic reaction to an ingredient in the product, perhaps the fragrance. In addition, skin can become temporarily sensitive or sensitized from a long list of things that include:

  • over cleaning and over scrubbing
  • using skincare products that are too strong or harsh
  • over exfoliating
  • receiving treatments that are too harsh treatments for your skin (such as a chemical peel)
  • irritating skincare ingredients in products
  • environmental pollutants or irritants
  • hot water
  • sun exposure 

When you overload your skin with products you break down the stratum corneum, the very top layer of the epidermis that acts as a protective covering for the skin, to the point of causing irritation.  This triggers the body’s immune response in order to heal the damage and inflammation will follow.  For example perhaps you use a glycolic cleanser and then a moisturizer with AHA every night.  All those acids are meant to remove dead skin cells from the stratum corneum so in essence you end up giving yourself a chemical peel every night.  If you skin is prone to irritation the continued combination of those products will remove too much of the barrier you need on the top of your skin.  Once too much of that protective cover is removed environmental irritants will start to further breakdown your stratum corneum, and the result is dry, red, flaky skin.  If the irritation continues over time the skin’s immune and healing response will be impaired.  Lastly, if you are prone to acne you can cause more breakouts if your skin becomes sensitized since more bacteria can cross the skin’s protective barrier once it is compromised.

Once you find that your skin has become sensitized it is important to figure out what triggered the irritation.  Sometimes this is very easy.  You started using a new product and almost immediately your skin became irritated, red, and itched and so it obvious what caused the irritation.  But other times it is much harder to figure out what caused the irritation.  In that case perhaps a more drastic course of action is needed.  In her book Simple Skin Beauty dermatologist Ellen Marmur suggests putting your skin on a “detox” plan in order to figure out what caused the irritation or allergic reaction in the first place.  She suggests stopping to use all products, all at once.  On the plan you are allowed to use sunscreen, a gentle cleanser, and a moisturizer that contains no acids, antioxidants, or retinoids for an entire month.  This allows your skin to regain its natural balance as it goes through a complete growth cycle (which takes 28 days).  After the month is over you can start adding back one product at a time, one per week,  into your routine so that if your skin reacts you will know what caused it.

If your skin has shown sensitivity in the past you might want to avoid heavily fragranced products and harsh exfoliants (like scrubs).  Look at the ingredients in your products in order to assess the amount of acids (AHA) and retinoids in them.  Don’t just trust labels on products.  As I already mentioned above the terms “for sensitive skin” and “hypoallergenic” that you see on cosmetic labels and skincare products are meaningless.  Perhaps you will want to limit yourself to one lotion, serum, or moisturizer with those added ingredients.  In order to boost your skin’s protective barrier it is important to use a good moisturizer and sunscreen.  For immediate relief from irritation you can temporarily use a OTC cortisone cream like Cortaid.

Lastly, it is important for everyone, even if you have never had an adverse reaction from cosmetics or skincare products, to excerise some caution when it comes to your skin.  All skin needs some TLC in order to look its best so remember to treat it gently.

Sources and Further Reading:

 

 

 
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