30 years as an esthetician is a long time being immersed in the ever-changing world of skin care. As someone who is so dedicated to learning and growing (but not one to think I’ll ever know it all), I have picked up my fair share of skin care beliefs along the way. I’ve had to sift through a lot of nonsense, gimmicks and false claims and decide for myself what I trust is truthful, based on scientific research and common sense. Here are ten skin care rules that I swear by and live by—and I believe you should, too.
Note: These skin care rules are in no particular order.
My Ten Skin Care Rules
1. I never pick at cystic blemishes. (I do pick at some kinds, though.)
The truth is, for some type of blemishes, there is a time when it’s appropriate to pick or extract them, like when a whitehead is present and is “ripe” for doing so. However, deep “underground” painful blemishes like cysts are off limits and absolutely should never be picked at. The reason is that with cysts, the infection is not meant to come out through the surface of the skin, despite how much you can feel a painful lump underneath. Cysts will hang around for a while and be completely annoying but eventually, your body reabsorbs that infection and the bump will dissipate. Picking at a cyst that is never meant to come out through the surface will only lead to dark marks that linger for months and months, which is why it’s important to follow this skin care rule. As someone who had adult hormonal cystic acne all through my twenties and well into my thirties, I learned this the hard way. I convinced myself that my hands were licensed and I knew what I was doing. Instead, I would be left with a scabby bleeding mess and a bump still sitting underneath where Mother Nature wants it to be. Scars, scars and more scars. What a mess.
I eventually tamed this bad habit by following my own skin picking advice as well as letting this cystic acne spot treatment do the work. When I do get a regular blemish that does require some gentle skin picking intervention, I follow my own advice for how to get rid of a blemish fast. I also created this revolutionary Zit Care Kit that gives you all the right products and tools to make a blemish go away fast with the least amount of scarring.
2. I never cleanse my skin with an oil or oil-based balm.
The sole purpose of a cleanser is to clean the skin. Doing so allows your skincare products that follow (vitamin C, sunscreen, exfoliating acids and other important active ingredients) to work their best and make the most improvement in your skin. With the increasing popularity of using cleansers in a solid balm form or pure oil, many people aren’t aware that the oil is actually depositing a coating of oil on the face. This provides more of a moisturizing experience and that’s not the goal of a cleanser. Yes, for liquid foundation wearers, you DO need a cleanser with an emollient aspect so it can break down makeup, but that doesn’t mean you have to break this skincare rule. I believe an oil or balm is the wrong way to go about it. For makeup removal, I will only use a lightweight cleansing lotion like Vitamin-Infused Cleansing Emulsion. This takes off my makeup beautifully and creates a clean canvas for the rest of my routine. To understand more about how I feel about oils, read about these cleansing methods as well as why you might be using your face oil all wrong.
3. I avoid drinking out of straws and water bottles. (In my adult life, at least.)
If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know that the road to good skin is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all the small choices that you make day in and day out that really makes a difference. Everyone wants a quick fix and when it comes to skin, it’s just not that easy.
Lip lines are the most challenging to treat with topical skincare products, and even with dermal fillers. One big contributor to the breakdown of your skin’s elasticity is from constant movement such as talking and smiling. In an effort to create less of this activity, I avoid pursing my lips around a straw and water bottles with narrow openings. I drink water all day long (even though it’s the least efficient way to hydrate the skin) and I make a big effort to pour my water into a wide-mouthed glass. I certainly am not going to stop smiling, kissing and talking so those movements are here to stay, but if I can cut back on a movement that only leads to something that I am not particularly thrilled about, then why not? It is the small things that make a difference, and this skincare rule to avoid straws and water bottles is one I believe can be beneficial in the long run. Note: If I do have to drink out of a water bottle, I make an effort to keep my mouth still and not go into a pursing movement when I sip.
4. I never leave my skin bare for longer than 60 seconds after cleansing.
Skin cells are like fish and need water to live. Without it, your skin’s health is compromised which is never ideal in the quest for plump, dewy and bouncy looking skin. Since I wash my face twice every day, that’s 730 times a year that I risk the chance of dehydrating my skin during the cleansing process if I don’t do it just right.
After washing the face and patting dry with a towel, your bare skin is most vulnerable to dehydration through a process called “osmosis”. You have a 60-second window before moisture evaporation will occur. I immediately apply an alcohol-free toner (these days I’m loving Moisture Infusion Toner) to deliver water to thirsty cells and then follow it with a serum and moisturizer.
Doing so ensures my skin never gets an opportunity to have that tight, dry feeling which means dehydration didn’t occur. Follow this skincare rule and do your skin a big favor by working your post-cleansing routine fast. (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 skin care career, there just wasn’t 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. While this is less so now as many companies have added neck and décolleté creams to their collections (including mine), I still don’t hear many skin care professionals promoting the importance of this area or this skincare rule. I became increasingly aware that the neck and chest is an extension of your face and when neglected, it will catch up with you. At age 48, I am certainly seeing it in my own skin.
One of the challenges with the neck area has to do with the fact that the skin is generally thinner on the neck than 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 hang and sag more easily. For example, those with high cheekbones on their face will generally have less sagging jowls because the cheekbones hold up the skin and offer support. It’s why I consider cheekbones one of three genetic facial features that will make you look younger longer. (Read the other two genetic traits here.)
As for the chest, this is a prime location for many sunburns in the younger years and since this skin is also thin, a lot of capillary damage done from sunburns and tans will show through easily. (Red chests, anyone? Yep. Mine too.)
How I treat my neck and chest:
I treat my neck as its own area and apply sunscreen separately.
None of this…apply sunscreen to the face and whatever is left over, carry it down to the neck…business! By the time you get to your neck, there just isn’t much left to give it the protection it needs. If you’ve fallen into that habit, it’s one you want to change immediately. I’ll also apply it to the chest if this area is exposed. (Daily Protection SPF 30 is what I use. If you’re wanting a sunscreen that is lightweight, won’t block the pores and doesn’t feel greasy or sticky, this is the one you need.)
I use a facial scrub twice a week on the neck in upward circular motions to exfoliate and smooth the texture.
Exfoliating acids can be a little fickle on the neck and sometimes cause me redness 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 with Intensive Firming Neck Creme. The key with a neck and décolleté creams is they must use skin care ingredients known as peptides to help support the structure of the skin and give a firming effect. A regular moisturizer may not give the neck exactly what it needs.
I use a skin care product with the ingredient retinol on my neck and chest.
I mean, 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. (More on retinol later.)
I get occasional chemical peels on my chest to fade brown spots.
Read more about how I repair sun damage on my neck and chest.
6. During daylight hours, I always have face makeup on. I consider it a form of skin care.
Up until the age of 26, I spent my whole life living in the North. (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.) At age 26, and seven years into my career as an esthetician, I moved to the South and have lived here ever since. (Dallas and now Austin, Texas.)
One thing that I noticed soon after moving to Texas is how much better the quality of the skin was for Southern women than Northern women. In women ages 65 and beyond, where the signs of aging will be quite noticeable, their texture was so much smoother and their skin looked considerably younger for their age. Why would this be? I mean, the Texas the 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 even used today, is titanium dioxide which is 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 saw it firsthand so I made it a point to always wear some sort of liquid makeup or mineral powder foundation every day—no matter what. It’s a skincare rule I swear by. I’m not using a lot of it because I don’t want it to clog my pores or break me out but I’ve always got something on—and you really should, too. (I’m a skin type #2.) Read what makeup is best for your skin type.
One final thought I’ll share about some of the Dallas clients I used to see back in the late 90s who were ages 65+. Imagine my surprise when some of these women would go into the bathroom after their facial and put on a full face of makeup. I would soon learn that some Southern women would go to bed after their husband and wake up before he does so he would never see her without her makeup. It’s a thing, y’all! I would like to think this tradition is becoming less and less and I believe it is.
7. I never exfoliate my skin daily. Instead, I limit exfoliation to no more than five days a week.
It’s a fact. Hydration = healthy skin and if you’re exfoliating too often (and certainly aggressively), this can be damaging your skin’s protective barrier and making moisture escape easily. This leads to the skin not looking moist and bouncy, but also contributes to internal inflammation that sets off a free radical response that causes serious damage to your cells. NOT GOOD. Trust me when I say, people are going crazy with overusing exfoliating products and making their skin worse, without even realizing it. I see it all the time. I love a good acid peel, facial scrub, and exfoliating serum just like the next person, but I give my skin a break a few nights a week and you really need to get into this habit of following this skincare rule, too.
I only use an exfoliant five times a week. Sometimes less depending on how my skin feels, but I certainly don’t do more.
What 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 a surface exfoliating product but it does stimulate cell turnover from inside out. It uses a stable form of retinol)
- Triple Berry Smoothing Peel (once a week and always followed by a mask. Usually Rapid Response Detox Masque). I can still get clogged pores and adult hormonal breakouts so this Rapid/Peel Duo is my favorite combo to use and always post-flight to reset my skin.
- Mint Buffing Beads (once a week on my face and twice a week on my neck to make sure dull cells are being lifted off.)
On nights when I’m not using an exfoliant or retinol, I’m using a skin serum like Skin Drink Concentrate or Firm + Repair Overnight Serum.
Look at these nine skin types and take this Skin Type Quiz to see which exfoliants and serums are best for you.
8. I will never get sunburn or a tan. (But I do spend plenty of time outdoors.)
Some people think that in order to keep the skin safe, you must hide indoors and only come out at night. Not true. It is just about being smart and reapplying. I live in Austin and do a lot of running, hiking and biking outdoors and I make it a point to never get a tan or burn.
When it comes to sunscreen, I don’t buy into comments like “I wore sunscreen but I still got a tan” or “No matter how much sunscreen I put on, I still get a tan.” I am fair and would be the first to burn and this just never happens to me. This is because I make this skincare rule my priority and am super diligent about reapplying sunscreen often. Depending on what I’ll be doing, sometimes wearing UV-protecting clothing to block out the rays is easier so I don’t have to mess with sunscreen at all. 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 protection should be a practice that you should learn to be good at.
Keep in mind it is NEVER too late to start good skin care habits. It is well known that your body is continually working on your behalf to heal and repair itself from all everything that we are exposed to in day to day life, even including the damage that happens from the oxygen we breathe (free radical damage). 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.
One final thought which I’m sure all of you can relate to. No one has ever said, “I wish I spent more time in the sun when I was younger.”
Read my sweat-proof sunscreen tricks.
9. I never go without using these three skin care products.
Without a doubt, the three most researched and proven skin care products that really deliver on their promise are these three:
- A stable vitamin C serum that uses both water and oil-soluble forms of vitamin C so you’re getting the most effective antioxidant protection for your cells. (I use Vitamin C&E Treatment every day under sunscreen.)
- A stable retinol serum (I use Advanced Resurfacing Serum at night.)
- Sunscreen (I use Daily Protection SPF 30.)
There will always be new, trendy ingredients that will hit the scene and get a lot of buzz but the above are so 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.
At age 48, I’m definitely noticing changes in my skin and ones that 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 the look of 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 derm appointment everytime a wrinkle shows up like I know many people do. Instead, I do things for myself that bring me pure joy and confidence. Whether it’s riding my Harley Davidson with my husband, setting a fitness goal (I just signed up for a half marathon) or challenging myself to new experiences like moving to Austin three years ago after reading this post. 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 add to your own skin care rules. If you need expert skin advice, you can schedule a virtual consultation with a licensed esthetician. We are here for you!
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.”