One fine Saturday morning, I was incredibly excited for a Pro Biotic facial (which I purchased from Gilt). I was so looking forward to someone caressing my face, performing extractions to improve the texture of my skin, thoroughly clean, relax and rejuvenate with some facial massage. The facial looked appealing and perfect for my skin.
As I walked in, the place looked peaceful, clean and welcoming. I was led to the room and asked to fill a basic form with skin background, conditions and concerns. This was followed up with a brief conversation about my skin concerns, to which I promptly responded I needed to resolve some underlying build up congestion which has not surfaced at all. Also gave a full history of why it happened and how I was able to resolve to a degree. Then I had couple of obvious hormonal spots on my chin and jaw, along with some usual white heads and blackheads around nose area.
Anyway the facial commenced, and my first yellow flag was she didn’t go beyond my face, no neck, shoulder or chest. I let it pass and on the face all felt ok until the point we hit extractions. I have high pain tolerance however these extractions were most painful in my life! The tool used and technique sucked and left my skin bruised and traumatized for a couple of days.
Some red flags I should have picked up on: she was poking and prodding on the same area, she was also poking and prodding in areas which weren’t ready, she went close to milia (big no-no, given she isn’t a dermatologist). She continued with the facial, with mask, light massage, high frequency, blue and red light and exclaimed voilà! She suggested to take my time as I get up and get dressed. I tipped her (not sure why?!?!!!) and left the place wanting to see my skin in proper day light. I was horrified, the first pic I took as I sat in the car. With daylight brightness (clear sunny day), it tones down the redness in the pic.
I immediately noticed my skin is bruised, bumpy, traumatized, red, severely irritated, and didn’t want to even touch my face. The bumps were areas or spots where I had no active surface spots (pustules), these were under the skin congestion spots (nodules) that she had a field day with. From the ruthless extractions, my skin felt warm. I felt like my inner radiator was lit, like hot flushes (not a good feeling). Fast forward to Day 3 after the facial, and I had started to possibly notice scarring (from brutal extractions) and extremely dehydrated skin. Anyway so fast forward to how I treated. Mantra was simple yet methodical, and identified ingredients my skin needed to be fed.
As a part of this post, the focus here should be ingredients that soothe, heal and nourish the skin, not so much the specific product used. Having said that, I will include the specific products I used, but I recommend focus on ingredients and dig through your stash.
Mantra: Soothe, Calm, Heal, Repair, Nourish, Replenish, Resurfacing
Day 1 (post facial) – As soon as I reached home, I gently cleansed my face with cleansing milk because I wanted to get rid of the products she applied on me. Generously spritzed zinc spray (La Roche Posay Serozinc) to soothe my irritated skin. Followed by that I placed a cool hydrating sheet mask and rested for a bit. With this my skin temperature was under control and didn’t feel the hot flush. Post mask, again zinc mist, hydrating serum and basic Jojoba Oil. The same evening, I followed the exact same routine.
Step 1 – Soothe, Calm, Hydrate – Calm the skin from that trauma
By this point, I knew my skin’s barrier was compromised, vulnerable and not resilient. So aim of the game was soothe, calm and hydrate while gently building a resilient barrier again.
Ingredients Focus: Hydration – Hyaluronic Acid, Zinc, Aloe Vera, Calendula, Chamomile, Turmeric (best anti inflammatory), Fermented Essence to pat in, and High Frequency.
I continued with some high frequency at home every couple of days to help heal the skin. Slowed down on massaging the skin because it would instantly go red and not stand the lightest pressure either. My skincare routine for next few days included:
- Cleanse – Milk Cleansers and Gentle Emulsifying Balms (because I didn’t want to use washcloths)
- Masks – Raw or Manuka Honey based (Mahalo Petal Mask, AveSeena Beauty Active Mask, Amala Beauty Brightening Mask, Leah Lani Mermaid Mask, The Body Shop Ethiopian Honey Mask)
- Tone – Fermented Essences (Whamisa, Missha FTE Mist, SKII), Zinc Spray (La Roche Posay Serozinc)
- Serum – Hydration serums (Hyaluronic Acid, along with Humectants such as Glycerin, Vitamin E, Sodium Hyaluronate – salt of Hyaluronic acid with smaller molecular size allowing deeper penetrability, Yeast extracts).
- Sheet Mask – Soothing, Calming and Hydrating essence sheet mask (SKII, Whamisa, A by Bom, Blossom Jeju, Dr Jart+, Bonvivant)
- Moisturisers (for day) – Barrier repair formulations (Priori Barrier Repair Complex, Skinmedica & Dermalogica)
- Balm (for evening) – Linoleic acid rich oils, Amazonian butters like Uccuba, Murumuru to improve skin’s elasticity and resilience. Along with essential oils like German Chamomile (soothing), Turmeric (anti inflammatory) (Mahalo Balm, HHW Marakata Balm). You have to ensure that your skin can withstand the essential oils given it is compromised and sensitive.
By this point, sensitivity, irritation all minimized and I can continue re-building skin’s barrier with little more than a Hydration serum. Below pic is clicked exactly a week later. You can tell, surface and texture is not the best, it felt tight, scars starting to show, and a long road to recovery.
Step 2 – Replenish, Heal – Address the dehydration and surface dryness. ReBuild skin’s barrier again.
At this point, while irritation has subsided, it continued to feel tight, flat/pale, and overall an unhealthy appearance.
Ingredients Focus: Still a strong hydration focus with Hyaluronic acid with Humectants however, now I incorporate Antioxidants such as Green Tea, Resveratrol, Vitamin E, Squalene, Coenzyme Q-10, Caffeine.
I slowed down on high frequency this week, and started light massage to get the blood cells moving and keep the lymph drainage going. We don’t want stagnation which would have slowed down the recovery path. While most of the routine remained same, the new additions were around light massage, gentle exfoliation and patting in a number of layers of essence:
- Cleanse – Milk Cleanser, Angels on Bare Skin (my version which is finer in texture, also contains Goat Milk powder, No lavender and very gentle on skin)
- Exfoliation – Fruit Enzymes (Basics on Enzymes) Skin was ready for mild exfoliation, not aggressive with physical or strong acid (Skin Juice Facial in a Jar – combination of AHA and enzymes, PCA Revitalizing Mask – papaya enzyme, Rejuvi Exfoliating Mask – papaya enzyme, Dr Lewinns Reversaderm).
- Tone – 7 Skin Method involves patting in the essence 7 times, but you can determine how your skin is absorbing it. Can be limited to 2-3-4-5 times as well. It immediately addressed the skin’s tightness, surface dryness and lackluster appearance. Skin was bouncy like water bed. This can be layered in with hydration and antioxidant serums and while skin was damp, I applied an oil or balm (Whamisa, Blithe, Missha FTE Mist, SKII).
- Serum – Hydration (Jordan Samuel Hydrate, MD Sun Hydration, Twelve Beauty, Sukin Facial Recovery Serum, Auspect Vitamin B Serum)
- Sheet Mask
- Oil or Balm while skin is still moist from mask
Dehydration and surface dryness were dealt with by this week with really good results. The 7 Skin method from Korea, immediately plumps the skin and sealing with a balm captures all goodness (creating a hydrolipid layer on skin). To check the hydration levels, I would pinch my skin to check how quickly it bounces back, or try not applying any products immediately after cleansing or shower. If it felt tight and craved product I knew the condition persisted. The skin was ready to take on more, so I introduced actives.
Step 3 – Repair, Resurface Address the spots that came to surface, and Introduce Acids.
For the spots that surfaced, I extracted only if they were ready or left them alone. I wrapped my fingers around Intrinsics Silken Wipes and gently pushed them out after steaming my face. The main thing was not cause my skin any more trauma. Its not the end of the bloody world, if someone sees me with a spot or two!
Now here is the key of how I introduced the actives, because we all know, the easiest way to compromise skin’s barrier is over exfoliation. But also important to build an acid mantle again.
Introducing acids and retinol was a well thought out, methodical strategy which involved the molecular size of acid (penetrability in skin) along with ph level (how gentle or aggressive it would be) which would determine if it would irritate my skin or gently treat it. I included the actives through varying stage such as acid toners, masks, serums or treatment creams.
Acid Progression Meter – Detailed post on Basics of AHA’s
Poly Hydroxy Acids – Least irritating (Zelens PHA Pads – uses Lactobionic PHA)
AHA (in order of smallest or largest molecule – determining penetrability in the skin)
- Mandelic – Colleen Rothschild Radiance Serum, Naruko Dermalane Mandelic Acid Sheet Masks and 20% Radiance Serum
- Citric – No Standalone Product, as a part of Acid Combination
- Tartaric – No Standalone Product, as a part of Acid Combination
- Malic – No Standalone Product, as a part of Acid Combination
- Lactic – Kate Somerville Clinic to go, Bravura London Lactic Acid Peel
- Glycolic – Alpha H Liquid Gold (operates at ph of 2.5)
BHA (Salicylic Acid) – to avoid further congestion (Bravura London Salicylic Acid)
Acid Combination (contains a balanced formulations of all AHAs) – Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads, Biologique Recherche P50, DermaDoctor Kakadu C Intensive Vitamin C Peel Pads with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin E (+ boost of antioxidants).
Retinol – Introduced to my skin when it appeared my skin was comfortable using Lactic acid and ready to progress to Glycolic acid. I needed to ensure I was not experiencing any surface dryness before I incorporated Retinol in the mix. Started with 0.15% which was gentle enough (Skin+Pharmacy Retinol with Hyaluronic Acid Wipes) and progressed to 0.5% (Skinmedica Retinol Complex).
- Cleanse, Double cleanse only if I’m wearing full face of makeup with sunscreen.
- Exfoliation – Enzyme exfoliation with steam, Chemical+Physical exfoliation (detailed post on products).
- Mask – Four to five times a week, sounds crazy but has significantly helped my skin bounce back. Started including stronger clay masks but added couple of drops of oil so the skin doesn’t dry and reverse all the hard work.
- Acid Treatments – starting with 2 times a week and based on how skin responded, I increased to 3-4 times a week
- Hydrating or Soothing Toning Mist
- Serums – Exfoliation Serums (good balance of AHA’s and BHA with some moisturizing ingredients aid in resurfacing the skin to reveal fresher, brighter, even toned skin). Resurfacing Treatments are concentrated forms of AHA’s and Retinol to resurface and revitalise the skin. Used strictly as a treatment, once or twice a week (SkinBetter AlphaRet Overnight Treatment, Cosmedix Define, Kate Somerville RetAsphere Micro peel). Retinol Serums (separate post – DrDG Ferulic+Retinol, PTR Retinol Fusion, Colleen Rothschild Retinol Complex, La Roche Posay Redermic R).
- Sheet Mask (optional)
- Oil or Balm
By thoughtfully and carefully introducing actives in the skincare routine, my skin showed significant signs of improvement in terms of texture, tone and overall brightness. The surface dryness was completely gone by creating and maintaining a strong hydrolipid layer on skin (applying an oil or balm while skin is damp from essence)
Step 4 (ongoing) – Repair, Resurface (Addressing Scarring)
Yes, her poorly skilled technique of extractions has left me with scars. As I slowly incorporate stronger acids (DrDG, Alpha H, Neostrata, Naruko Dermalane) and gradually build tolerance for stronger actives again, my skin will slowly but surely bounce back. I know this last step will take weeks before I see visible improvement in tone of the skin. Will continue with more sheet masks as well, exfoliating masks as skin regeneration is crucial.
While most of my routine has bounced back to it’s usual self with strong resurfacing actives (including AHA and Retinol – Alpha H Beauty Sleep Power Peel), I’ve had more focus on Pigmentation Serums which have high concentrations of Niacinamide (Vitamin B3). It’s the powerhouse ingredient. Absolutely fabulous for spots, red blotchiness, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. Other ‘natural’ ingredients to look out for are: Licorice, Arbutin (natural derivative of hydroquinone derived from plants, including Bearberry, Blueberry, and Cranberry), and Kojic Acid (Manyo Factory Galactomyces Niacin Treatment, Auspect Skincare Vita B Serum).
Other very important aspects which have been crucial in this recovery are:
- Massage, getting my skin moving, improving the blood circulation is important for lymph drainage and skin to heal. Several videos on YouTube on how to massage either by hands or jade tool or roller for Gua Sha. The underlying point is get the blood circulation moving (avoid stagnation) and flush toxins from skin.
- Always and Always be guided by your skin, it speaks to you and you need to listen, understand and adapt. If its reacting and going red, you’re not doing something right, it feels tight – you’re dehydrated and possibly surface dry, over producing oil – you’re stripping it off good healthy fatty oils, breaking out in certain spots – either to do with your diet, gut health or overall health. This list could go on and on, but it is very important to understand why your skin is reacting in the way it is.
- Your Insides Reflect Outside – What you put in your mouth and how you digest it has HUGE impact on your skin. Having the right balance of enzymes, acidity/alkalinity and fluids is utterly the baseline of solid skin health. I’m not telling anyone to quit dairy, or go gluten free for your skin….let your skin tell you how its coping with your habits.
- Supplements, in addition to my usual Vitamin D and Fish Oils, I added Hyaluronic Acid supplements on Lady Hirons suggestion and it has worked for me. Not saying this is for everyone but check with your doctor. Get regular blood work done. Again this reflects on the point above.
Well this is it for now, by no means am I aiming for perfection but I would like to get to a place where I find it comfortable again to step out without makeup.