skincare: the basics

by evergreen&sweetpea

as a licensed aesthetician, I’ve heard and seen a lot of crazy things people do to their skin. I wanted to cover the basics of skin physiology and care because it’s really important to maintain health of the largest organ in/on your body! today I’ll try to keep things simple and as time goes on I’ll do more detailed posts about individual aspects of skin and products. if you’ve got any questions please let me know and I will cover them in future posts.

anything I say here is meant to be educational in a general way. any advice about skin care will not apply to everyone- you need to get to know your own skin and what works for you. please visit a licensed aesthetician regularly to keep your skin in the healthiest state it can be and to deal with any issues you have. always do your own research on products and treatments and stay educated on ingredients and what you put into/onto your body.


this is a diagram of the part of the skin visible to the naked eye- the epidermis. the very top layer (stratum corneum) is really all we see. the important thing about this picture is that it shows how skin cells grow and migrate. they are created at the bottom, the stratum basale, and over four to six weeks in healthy skin, flatten and die as they reach the top. during their journey they develop color and receive protein which hardens them so they are more protective. as we go about our day (and when we shower and wash ourselves) the dead cells on the top flake off on their own and the process repeats.

this matters because as the body ages, this process happens more and more slowly. the dead cells on the top don’t flake off on their own and the stratum  basale works much more slowly. the skin takes anywhere from six to eight weeks, or even more, to completely renew itself. this is why healing times increase with age and the skin can lose vitality.

in oily skin this process is also hampered. too much oil on the surface of the skin slicks down the cells so they can’t slough off. this gives the skin’s surface a rough texture and the oil and dead skin cells can block pores over time, causing congestion and papules. bacteria are naturally present on the surface of the skin because they feed on oils. when no oxygen reaches the inside of the pores, bacteria can thrive which is what causes infection and inflammation. this is the basis of acne.

exfoliation is using a physical or chemical substance to remove the dead cells from the top of the skin. it is very important to exfoliate at least once a week (but consult your aesthetician for your particular skin type). physical exfoliation sloughs the dead cells off, and chemical exfoliation dissolves the bonds that attach the cells to one another. both types get the job done with different advantages. many exfoliants have both a manual component and an acid.

the types of products I am referring to in this post are all consumer-friendly products with low percentages of acids, not the professional strength peels you would receive from a dermatologist or aesthetician.

types of acids:

glycolic– an alpha hydroxy acid that aids in reduction of wrinkles, scarring, and general texture issues. it is commonly used in brightening treatments because it’s great for hyperpigmentation. it is found in sugar cane.

lactic– found in sour milk products, this alpha hydroxy acid is probably the reason why milk baths were/are so popular to soften and beautify the skin. lactic acid not only exfoliates but is also a humectant, which means water binder, drawing water out of the air into the skin. it has the largest molecule which makes it a gentler option.

salicylic– this is a beta hydroxy acid and has the smallest molecule of all acids. it is small enough to fit inside pores and clean them out which is why it is used so often in treating acne and congestion. it also controls sebum production and is antibacterial an anti-inflammatory. it comes from the bark of the willow tree.

enzyme based exfoliants- these work in the same way as chemicals, dissolving the bonds between dead cells, but are much gentler and don’t go as deep as most acids.

exfoliating stimulates skin cell turnover and the production of collagen and elastin. in aging skin this can improve fine lines and wrinkles as well as textural issues and healing times. in oily skin it can balance out oil production and improve congestion and inflammation. if you have acne or any inflammation it is better to use an enzyme or chemical based peel rather than a scrub, since anything rough can accentuate inflammation.

CAUTION- look for scrubs with fine, smooth pieces in them like little beads or balls, rather than rough jagged pieces or kernels. a good example of a scrub that is not good at all for your skin is the popular st. ives apricot scrub- the pieces in this exfoliant are very jagged and can cause micro-tears in the skin, allowing bacteria to breach the skin’s barrier and causing redness, inflammation, scarring, and even hyperpigmentation in skin prone to it.
make sure that you do not exfoliate 24 hours before or after any waxing services and always let your aesthetician know what products you are using!

wear a sunscreen!! it is very important to wear SPF daily, whether you will be outside or not, but especially when you are exfoliating regularly in attempt to heal the skin, exposing it to UV light will cause even more damage when the skin is in a vulnerable state from exfoliation.