I went to my high school’s senior prom as a Sophomore without getting my eyebrows done and barely wearing a drop of makeup. THAT’s how oblivious I was about what was happening on my face. I was lucky, I dodged all the teenage bullets of acne and inflammation, even through college. Skin was glowing, melanin was popping. Life was good. When I was junior at Howard University I did a brief stint as a Beauty Consultant at Clinique- you know, the glorified sales associates in the white lab coats. I got to learn a lot about their products and recommend skin care to clients. Although Clinique’s barely pigmented makeup selection left MUCH to be desired, the skin care products were good and I learned about my skin type. I had combination dry skin where I was very dry around the mouth and chin area, and pretty much regular everywhere else. I started using Clinique’s 3 step which consisted of a cleanser, toner, and daily moisturizer all formulated for your specific skin type. For the first time, at the age of 21 I finally had a facial skin care routine. It worked fine, but I never had problem prone skin, so upkeep for my face and neck was minimal and didn’t require much attention.
Then I turned 30.
Now, I’m not here to make 30 sound scary or ominous, but my skin went off the rails. I started to get pimples every month like clockwork. Around my hairline, near my eyebrows sometimes even on my cheeks. Little hairs were sprouting up out of nowhere on my neck and my chin, LAWD! It was disrespectful. I started to get scarring from left over blemishes and ingrown hairs every now and then. I started to wish that I had dealt with teenage acne instead. At least then I would have cried into my proactive, then my skin would make a miraculous recovery like Gwen Stefani, and I would emerge better than ever. But now? NOW! When I was 30 and trying to be fine as I’d ever been? I was in crisis mode.
It took me until I was in dire straits to learn more about good habits and routines that can help keep your skin bright, clear and lifted. Yes, yes, Black don’t crack, we age fine as wine, yada yada… but let’s keep it funky for a second: we’ve all seen it crack. Most of the time we’re looking at celebrities and public figures, admiring how their beauty has sustained over the years, but if you don’t think Halle Berry, Nia Long, and Taraji Henson have a million dollar skin routine you’ve played yourself. So today, I want to share with you the five things I’ve started doing to renew my facial routine.
Wash your face
This sounds like something I shouldn’t have to say, but think about everything our face is exposed to throughout the day. Dirt, pollution, sweat, bacteria, shedding skin, and I haven’t even gotten to our everyday makeup. When I was in my 20’s I’d come home after the club, face full of makeup and pass out in the bed. That was a bad practice then and it’s unacceptable now. Be disciplined and wash your face, morning and night ladies! Find a face wash you love and stick with it for at least a month to see if it continues to give you positive results. And, no, makeup wipes are NOT a substitute for washing your face!
I’ve learned is that there are a bunch of ways to exfoliate your skin. There’s scrubs that can be used daily, exfoliating masks that are to be used a couple of time a week, exfoliating tools like the Clarisonic and others that are similar, and more intensive processes like microdermabrasion. Exfoliation helps rid your skin of dead cells that accumulate throughout the day and week that can lead to clogged pores, blackheads, dull complexion, uneven skin tone, and just generally looking blah. Basically, failure to exfoliate regularly can be the source of several skin problems, and it could be as simple giving your face a little scrub. You should research this, however, because each person is different. I recently started using the Silicone Sonic Facial Cleansing device (pictured above) and have seen noticeable results after the first week.
When is the last time you worried about using sunscreen? When you went to the beach, or maybe on vacation? For Black women especially, sunscreen is only something we worry about when we’re going to be in the sun for long periods of time, or we’re traveling somewhere hot and want to make sure we don’t burn. This is doing the bare minimum! Have you ever read a recipe where the cooking instructions say “just don’t burn it”? NO! The goal here is not to simply avoid being burned, it’s to protect our skin from damaging sun rays daily. My aesthetician told me that I should be using a broad spectrum sunscreen DAILY, whether is rain, shine, snow, or overcast. If you're wondering, yes, she's also black. It serves as a preventive measure against developing fine lines and wrinkles, and hyper-pigmentation, which almost all elderly people have because of sun exposure over the years. I just started using Burt's Bees Firming Day Lotion with SPF 30 (pictured below) to keep my recent acne scarring from getting darker while exposed to the sun. Unfortunately I waited until I had an issue, but you don't have to. Start protecting your skin, NOW!
Once we get into the nitty gritty of skin care, we start hearing about things like toners and retinol. What IS this stuff? Toners are great for keeping the PH of your skin nice and balanced. It also wipes clean all of the oil, dirt, little particles, and any leftover makeup that stays on your skin after washing. This is huge in the fight against acne, especially in oily skin. The toner also prepares your face for other anti-aging treatments like retinol. I know this sounds like something only used by 40-somethings, but it can be preventive as well. Retinol is the over-the-counter term for retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A. This is a more intensive treatment used for unclogging pores, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, skin brightening and evening skin tone. There are several different types of retinoid treatments, some much stronger than others. You should absolutely do your research or consult a dermatologist or beauty consultant before using.
Limit external stressors
Finally, as if genetics and nature aren’t enough, there are countless external stressors that effect our skin daily. Fortunately YOU are the key ingredient in defending yourself and your gorgeous face against them. What you eat and drink plays a key role in how your skin ages (or doesn't) over time. Drinking lots of water is always a good idea, and eating foods rich in vitamins and nutrients also helps. Take it easy on the smoking and drinking. That stuff can dry you out and place stress on your body as it overworks to rid itself of toxins. Just like emotional stress or sickness, the effects of those habits show up in your skin. Even though sweat can clog your pores, it won’t as long as your cleaning your face well, and working out brings blood to the surface (red cheeks, anyone?), keeping up that youthful glow. Finally, SLEEP is your friend! Your body recharges and regenerates at night, including your skin cells. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing.
If this doesn't inspire you to step up your facial routine then that's cool too. But if it has, I'd love to know what changes you've made recently and how it's been working out. If there any products you guys swear by, leave them in the comments below!