Updated 12/29/21. I’ve been an esthetician for over 30 years. That’s a long time to be immersed in the ever-changing world of skincare. As someone who is dedicated to learning and growing (but not one to think I’ll ever know it all), I’ve had to sift through a lot of nonsense, gimmicks, and false claims to find what I trust, based on scientific research, experience, and common sense. Here are 10 skincare rules I swear by–and I believe you should, too.
Note: These skincare rules are in no particular order.
My Top 10 Skincare Rules
1`. I Never Pick at Cystic Blemishes (I Do Pick at Other Kinds, Though)
For some blemishes, there is a time when it’s appropriate to pick or extract them. For example, when a whitehead is present and is “ripe” for doing so. However, deep “underground” blemishes, like cysts, are off-limits. Here’s why—with cysts, the infection is not meant to come out through the surface of the skin. Eventually, the body will reabsorb the infection and the bump will go away. If you pick at a cyst, it will only lead to dark marks that can linger for months and months. Trust me, as someone who experienced adult hormonal acne for years, I learned this the hard way.
Make sure you understand the life cycle of a blemish and when is an appropriate time to pick or extract it and when is not. If you struggle with skin picking, learn how I followed my own advice to kick this bad habit. As with anything in life, it’s important to work with, and not against, Mother Nature!
2. I Avoid Using Heavy, Oil-Based Balms That Leave a Residue on My Skin
The sole purpose of a cleanser is to, well, cleanse the skin. Doing so allows the skincare products that follow to work most efficiently and make the best improvement in your skin possible. With the increasing popularity of cleansing balms and oils, many people aren’t aware that they’re actually depositing an oily residue on the skin. Sure, this provides moisture, but that’s simply not the goal of a cleanser. Oils, like those that make up traditional cleansing balms, are made up of large molecules. You don’t want to layer a small molecule on top of a large one. Doing so would inhibit the small molecule from penetrating through to the skin. Toner and serum are generally made up of small molecules…see the problem?
I prefer using cleansing lotions since they don’t deposit oil. Plus, they rinse off well. (Oils aren’t water-soluble, meaning traditional cleansing balms are difficult to rinse off.) If you want to use a cleansing oil or balm, though, you can. Just look for one that emulsifies, or rinses off the skin well, so there’s not a thick residue left behind. You can also use a gentle, foaming cleanser afterward to cut through any potential residue.
3. I Avoid Drinking Out of Straws
The road to good skin is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the small choices that you make day in and day out that really make a difference. Everyone wants a quick fix, but when it comes to skin, it’s just not that easy. Take lip lines, for example. These are challenging to address once they’ve already appeared, so it’s better to prevent them if possible.
A big contributor to the breakdown of skin elasticity is constant movement (such as talking and smiling). In an effort to decrease this activity, I avoid pursing my lips around a straw. I also avoid drinking out of water bottles with narrow openings. Instead, I drink water out of a wide-mouthed glass. I’m certainly not going to stop smiling, talking, or kissing, so this is a small way to make a big improvement over time.
4. I Never Leave My Skin Bare For More Than 60 Seconds After Cleansing
Skin cells are like fish in that they need water to live. Without it, the skin is compromised, which is never ideal in the quest for plump, dewy, and bouncy-looking skin. Since I wash my face twice a day every day (that’s 730 times a year!), I never run the risk of dehydrating my skin by making this one cleansing mistake.
After washing the face and patting it dry with a towel, the bare skin is vulnerable to dehydration due to Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL). You have a 60-second window before moisture evaporation will occur, which is why I immediately follow up with an alcohol-free toner to deliver water to thirsty skin cells. Then, I follow up with a serum and moisturizer to lock the hydration in. I call this skincare rule the “Golden Minute Rule,” and it’s one of the easiest ways to improve your skin. (By the way, there is a difference between dry and dehydrated skin and you need to know what it is.)
5. I No Longer Neglect The Skin on My Neck and Chest
In the early years of my skincare career, there just wasn’t as much awareness of how to care for the skin on the neck and chest (décolleté), so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. This has certainly changed, as many companies have added décolleté creams to their collections (including mine). However, I still don’t hear very many skincare professionals promoting the importance of caring for this area. Over time, I’ve become increasingly aware that the neck and chest are an extension of your face. When neglected, the signs of aging will catch up with you. That’s why caring for the skin on my neck and chest is one of my top skincare rules.
One of the challenges with the neck area is that the skin is generally thinner than that on the face, so it will show more wrinkles. In addition, the skin on the neck doesn’t have the bone structure to give it support, so it will sag more easily. As for the chest, this is a prime location for sunburns in younger years. Since this skin is also thinner in this area, sun damage will show through easily. (Red chests, anyone? Yep. Mine too.)
How I Care For The Skin on My Neck and Chest
- I apply sunscreen to my neck every single day. I also apply it separately from my face; in other words, I never apply SPF to my face and put whatever is leftover on my neck! If you’ve fallen into that habit, it’s one you want to change immediately. There simply isn’t enough left to give this area proper sun protection. If my chest is exposed, I’ll also do a separate application in this area as well.
- I use a facial scrub on my neck twice a week. I apply it in upward circular motions to exfoliate and smooth texture. Exfoliating acids can be a little fickle on the neck and sometimes cause my skin to appear red, so I stick to scrubs for this area. Plus, I actually think scrubs give a better result for making skin look smoother. At least for my neck, it does. I’ll do this at night and immediately follow up with the Intensive Firming Neck Creme. It’s formulated with peptides to help support the structure of the skin and give it a firming effect. Regular moisturizers may not give the neck exactly what it needs.
- I use retinol on my neck and chest. Other than sunscreen, you just can’t get much better than this for truly creating a smoother look when used consistently for long periods of time.
- I get occasional chemical peels on my chest. This is an effort to fade brown spots. Read more about how I repair sun damage on my neck and chest.
6. I Always Wear Makeup During the Day (and I Consider it a Form of Skincare)
Up until the age of 26, I spent my whole life living in the North. I lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts, respectively. At 26 years old, when I was seven years into my career as an esthetician, I moved to the South. I initially moved to Dallas, and then I moved to Austin, which is where I live now.
One thing that I noticed soon after moving to Texas was how much better the quality of skin was for Southern women compared to Northern women. Southern women who were 65 and beyond, had generally smoother texture and less visible signs of aging. Why would this be? I mean, the Texas sun is strong and there are way more opportunities to spend time outside since we don’t get the snow that traps us indoors. In theory, Southern women should show more sun damage, right? Well, I figured it out. It’s because many Southern women wear makeup every single day and have been for years. It’s called “putting your face on.” In doing so, these makeup wearers had an unknown advantage dating back to the 1950s when they first started using Max Factor’s pancake makeup. The ingredient in pancake makeup and most makeup used today is titanium dioxide. This is the same ingredient commonly used in sunscreen. How lucky to have been essentially wearing sunscreen long before there was even knowledge about daily UV exposure being the #1 cause of premature wrinkling of the skin!
I make it a point to always wear some sort of liquid or powder foundation. It’s a skincare rule I swear by, as it offers a little extra sun protection on top of sunscreen. Read more about how makeup can be good for your skin. Then, check out the best foundations for oily skin (they won’t clog your pores, I promise).
7. I Limit Exfoliation to No More Than 5 Days a Week
It’s a fact that hydration is the key to healthy skin. If you’re exfoliating too often (or too aggressively), it can damage your skin’s protective barrier. This allows moisture to escape, which causes the skin to look dull and dry and even causes redness and irritation. Trust me when I say that overusing exfoliating products is making your skin worse. I see it all the time. Sure, I love a good exfoliating acid peel, facial scrub, and exfoliating serum as much as the next person, but I give my skin a break in between using them. In fact, I only use an exfoliant no more than five times a week–sometimes less depending on how my skin feels, but I certainly don’t do more.
The Renée Rouleau Products I Use to Exfoliate My Skin
- Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum 1-2 nights a week.
- Advanced Resurfacing Serum 2-3 nights a week. It’s not technically an exfoliating product but it does stimulate cell turnover from the inside out with a stable form of retinol.
- Triple Berry Smoothing Peel 1 night a week and always followed by the Rapid Response Detox Masque.
- Mint Buffing Beads 1 night a week on my face, and 2 nights a week on my neck to make sure dull cells are being lifted off.
8. I Never Get a Sunburn or Suntan Even Though I Spend Plenty of Time Outdoors
This is one of my most important skincare rules of them all. Even though I live in Austin and do a lot of running, hiking, and biking, I make it a point to never get a tan or burn. I’m super diligent about reapplying sunscreen. Depending on what I’ll be doing, I’ll sometimes even wear sun-protective clothing to block out UV rays. For me, I would much rather age gracefully than have to resort to potentially extreme measures to undo what was SO preventable in the first place. Since UV light (even daylight that comes through clouds in the winter) is the skin’s greatest enemy, sunscreen application and reapplication are key.
Keep in mind it is NEVER too late to start practicing good skincare habits. It is well known that your body is continually working on your behalf to repair itself from everything that we are exposed to in day-to-day life. Particularly in the case of wearing sunscreen, if you stop sending a signal of damage to your cells with UV light, it can attempt to rebuild and repair itself. The human body is incredible that way. Just like when smokers stop smoking, their lungs will immediately start to repair.
9. I Never Go Without Using 3 Skincare Products
Without a doubt, the three most well-researched skincare products that really deliver on their promises are these:
- Sunscreen (the Renée Rouleau Weightless Protection SPF 30 to be specific)
- A stable retinol serum
- A stable vitamin C serum that uses both water and oil-soluble forms (like the Renée Rouleau Vitamin C&E Serum)
There will always be new, trendy ingredients that hit the scene, but the above are tried and true. If you really want to guarantee you’re using products that work, these are it. As for retinol, if you haven’t started using it in your routine and you’re over the age of 30, get on that NOW! You will thank me! Read my beginner’s guide to using retinol.
10. I Practice Self-Acceptance
As I’m now in my 50s, I’m definitely noticing changes in my skin–particularly ones I don’t particularly like. Since I’m the face of my company and the spokesperson for my brand, people will inevitably judge my product line based on how my own skin looks. This can put some pressure on me to have so-called “perfect skin.” However, I insist that I keep a good, healthy balance of continuing to pursue treatments that can improve my skin, but not go so far as to do things that make me look unnatural. I don’t put all of my focus on my looks and book a dermatologist appointment every time a wrinkle shows up. Instead, I do things for myself that bring me pure joy and confidence. Whether it’s riding my Triumph motorcycle, setting a fitness goal, or challenging myself to new experiences like I did when I moved to Austin! I try to embrace all that life has to offer and the fuel this gives me on the inside is what brings me confidence on the outside. Through this skincare rule, I have learned to love the skin I’m in.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this post and learned a few things that you can add to your own set of skincare rules. Next, here’s the age you should start using anti-aging products.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”