By Debra Jaliman, MD
“Good skin is in the details.” That’s what I always tell my patients before I start asking about their skin care routine. How you clean your face, when you apply moisturizer, the kind of sunscreen you use are all factors that impact your appearance and often your health.
Take skin cleansing, for instance. In my new book, Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist (St. Martin’s Press), which comes out this week, I go over the right way to cleanse your face. Hint: no matter what cleanser you use, your fingers are not enough. In my book, I recommend using disposable cotton squares to gently rub, not scour, the cleanser into the skin before rinsing with lukewarm water. Pay particular attention to the areas around the nostrils and lips, where dirt and makeup tend to accumulate. If you’ve always used your fingers, try using cotton rounds next time and let me know the result. And yes, you can use a washcloth to get the same exfoliating effect. The problem is, cleanliness is everything when it comes to skin care, and that applies to washcloths and towels. You’d have to use a clean washcloth every time, which is not practical for most people. Disposable cotton rounds are much easier.
If you really want to see a difference, invest in a skin cleansing machine. In my book, I recommend specific brands, but here I’ll just say this: there’s a reason why dermatologists sell the most expensive brand of sonic cleansing machines in their offices, and that’s because it’s the best. Just a couple of weeks using it and patients can really see a difference. Because it exfoliates the skin so effectively, skin looks better and moisturizers and serums penetrate deeper. But it does cost more than a hundred dollars, which not everybody can afford. Don’t despair, because the skin cleansing machines sold in most drugstores also do an effective job. You may not see the outstanding results you’d get with the expensive version, but you will definitely see an improvement.
Pay attention to your cleanser. Forget buying expensive cleansers, because they’re just a waste of money. Go to your drugstore for your cleansers, not the department store. There is such a range of good, inexpensive cleanser on drugstore shelves that everybody can find one for their skin type. I don’t like bar cleansers because they tend to be very drying, or heavily fragranced liquid cleansers, because they increase the chances of an allergic reaction. In general, when it comes to cleansers, gentle is better. People with oily skin can use exfoliating cleansers or, if their oily skin is sensitive, one with salicylic acid. Most of that salicylic acid is going to be washed down the drain, but it’s been my experience that it helps to remove surface oil.
Bottom line: Good basic cleansing can improve skin and give it a glow.