Face up to it
Have you ever looked in your bathroom cabinet for a moisturiser, only to find an assortment of bottles and tubes that have rarely been used, and worse, when you do try them they cause a rash or an outbreak of acne?
The message from skincare professionals is simple: stop overloading your skin.
Beauty therapists say there are basic rules that apply to a good skincare regimen, no matter how many new ingredients or technologies come and go.
Global brand director for Eve Lom, Ludevine Blin, says the three most important skincare rules are to cleanse, exfoliate, and be disciplined and consistent. Blin also advises women not to use too many products.
'You are confusing your skin,' she says. 'Invest in lymphatic drainage massage ... perfect to clear and unblock dull complexions.'
Bernadette Fava, regional training manager with Aromatherapy Associates, advises women to establish their regimen sooner rather than later, but make sure it's the right one.
'Start a skincare programme as early as possible, but keep it simple - and ensure you always use products specific to your skin type,' says Fava.
It is also important to visit beauty therapists to discover your skin type so you can use the most appropriate products, she says.
And no matter how tired you are, never go to bed with make-up on, as this is a sure way to dehydrate the skin and can lead to further problems, such as a breakout of acne or blocked pores, adds Fava.
She also advises women to avoid drinking distilled water because your skin needs the minerals. 'Your body consists of 70 per cent water,' Fava says. 'So give it what it deserves and you will notice a difference in the softness and plumpness of your skin.'
Helena Rubinstein training manager Janice Lo advises women to use sunscreens that protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays. She also suggests facial massages.
'The motion of the massage helps promote blood circulation and the moisturiser or any other skincare product can be absorbed more easily,' says Lo.
Fava advises women to use a vegetable oil-based moisturiser in the evening to allow the skin to regenerate, a hydrating serum during the day, followed by a moisturiser to suit your skin type, and either a sun block or mineral SPF powder.
She advises against exfoliating every day. It is 'excessive and unsafe' to do so, she says. 'Use a mask and a skin booster one to two times per week. Less is more in skincare; just ensure you are using good quality and specific products for your skin type.'
Lo, however, advises women with blocked pores or dull skin to use a scrub and hydration mask daily. 'But for those with a normal skin texture, applying both once or twice a week is enough.'
However, it's not just what you put on your skin that forms part of your regimen. 'Drink plenty of water,' Fava says. 'It is imperative to rehydrate the body with the correct amount of water.'
Lo adds that drinking a lot of water helps remove impurities in the body and carries oxygen to the skin.
Beautiful Skin Centre senior therapist Justine Jane Grier advises women to seek professional advice if they don't know how to treat a skin problem. 'Cleanse, tone and moisturise with sun block. If you are trying to combat a specific skin concern, use an appropriate treatment cream or serum recommended by your aesthetician or dermatologist,' says Grier.
What are the things we should avoid?
Blin says to never use a harsh astringent if you have skin problems because your skin will produce more sebum and breakouts will increase.
And never smother your skin with heavy moisturisers, Blin adds.
'Let your skin breathe,' she says. 'It's a living organ with the ability to regenerate and replenish itself. Therefore, there's no need to add intensive treatments or heavy moisturisers, especially at night.'
Fava advises against squeezing pimples. 'If you have a breakout, visit a professional to help remove impurities,' she says. 'Home squeezing always ends in tears and is sure to cause scarring.'
And try to avoid the sun. 'No one is exempt from damage caused by the sun and, as you grow older, it will manifest itself in the form of skin discolouration, deep lines and wrinkles, and loss of elasticity,' Fava says.
'Make sun block a non-negotiable part of your regime. Don't smoke and stay away from smoke-filled environments.
'If you do not have enough clean air, the skin looks dull and dehydrated. It can even take on a slightly grey tinge due to the toxins being pumped through the lungs to the surface of the skin.'
If you're going on holidays, don't fly wearing make-up, she says.
'Cabin air is recycled and dehydrates the skin,' Fava says. 'A good idea is to remove your make-up on the plane with facial wipes and then pop a repairing nourishing facial mask on for the duration of the flight.'
Just before you land, do another quick cleanse and apply a hydrating serum before doing your make-up.
Lo says to never put your face under a tanning bed and avoid cleansing while having a shower because the water is usually too hot for your face.
Blin advises women over the age of 40 to use daily products that contain rose for anti-ageing, cocoa butter and sesame oil to keep skin moisturised, and lactic acid for cell renewal.
Fava's favourite ingredients for women over 40 are those that work to boost the natural functions of the skin, such as sodium hyaluronate (vegetable pulp), which helps to retain natural moisture and plump the skin. Also, vitamin C can assist with the production of collagen and elastin, she says.
'Vegetable oils feed the skin and restore the lipid loss that results from the ageing process. Use any products that include evening primrose oil and omega fatty acids,' Fava says.
Lo advises adding anti-ageing serums - especially around the eyes - to help combat wrinkles, brown spots and sagging skin.
Fava says women with sensitive skin are often confused as to whether to use more products or fewer. She says it is important to find out why your skin is sensitive 'and create a lifestyle plan to include diet, exercise and a skincare regimen to suit the individual needs'. But 'never use abrasive, harsh cleansers or toners with alcohol'.
Also, sensitive skin usually reacts well to anti-inflammatory products such as evening primrose oil, Fava says.
Grier says women should take care of their eyes from the age of 20. 'Use eye cream,' she says. Exfoliate twice a week and use a mask once a week if you can.'
Facials should be enjoyed every three weeks, 'with steam and extractions for deep cleansing, and use vitamins A, C and E'.
Grier also advises women to reduce stress and get six to eight hours of sleep - something we may all need after the holiday season and on the cusp of the Lunar New Year.