Looking your best starts with healthy, glowing skin so that makeup is used to enhance your natural beauty as opposed to camouflage discoloured or broken skin that has been damaged through an inadequate skin care regime. Makeup, no matter how skilfully applied, will never fully conceal problem skin, and so that's why for a smooth and flawless end result it is important to start with a clear, healthy complexion.
The Five Main Skin Types
There are 5 main skin types: normal, dry, oily, combination and sensitive.
Normal skin has good elasticity and muscle tone. It is smooth in texture and because there is adequate hydration, lines and wrinkles are basically non-existent. Good circulation provides lots of oxygen and nutrients to the skin so that overall complexion is clear and healthy. Pores are slightly visible. If you were to take a clean tissue and press it against your face upon waking, a normal skin type would deposit no trace of oil onto the tissue.
Dry skin is taut and lacks elasticity due to inadequate sebum (oil) production. Although not necessarily an issue when you are younger, dry skin is much more prone to fine lines and wrinkles as you age so it is extremely important to keep it well hydrated. Dry skin can become irritated by environmental factors (wind, cold, sun, etc.) and may be more sensitive than normal skin to the ingredients used in some commercial skin care products.
Oily skin is characterized by a thick, coarse and uneven texture, with pores quite often enlarged. Due to overactive sebaceous glands, you will often see a shiny film that feels waxy. Oily skin can easily become inflamed and acne can be an issue. The good news is that oily skin is not very prone to aging and wrinkling, so that if you can control the oil your skin will continue to look youthful as you age.
A key mistake that many people with oily skin make is over cleansing their skin. While it is only natural to want to remove the oily residue, stripping the surface skin of too much oil can cause the oil glands to work overtime trying to replace it. Instead, use a product formulated for oily skin and limit washing your face to 2-3 times per day. There are products on the market you can use to remove the shine from your skin without stripping too much oil - for example, Mary Kay Beauty Blotters are oil absorbing tissues you can use throughout the day to keep your makeup looking fresh.
Combination skin has patches of both normal/dry and oily skin. The oily part is typically in the T-zone, an area encompassing the forehead, down the centre of the nose and the chin. The cheeks and area around the eyes are more dry, making care of this skin type rather tricky. If the cheeks and eye area are not too dry (i.e. more or less normal skin type), a skin care product formulated for normal to oily skin will work well. However, when the cheeks and eye area are extremely dry, you need to address the dry and oily areas of your face separately, and according to the guidelines for each skin type.
Sensitive skin is generally very dry and feels tight. It becomes inflamed and irritated easily, developing reddish and scaly areas and can be itchy and tingly. It reacts more often than other skin types to skin care products, shaving, stress, etc. According to SkinCareGuide.ca, 56% of Canadian women have sensitive skin and 24% of those with sensitive skin report reactions to skin care products. Almost half of the women with sensitive skin also have dry skin. The site lists the following suggestions to help control symptoms:
- Diminish alcohol intake, spicy foods and caffeine
- Avoid excessive variations in temperature
- Use appropriate cleansers, moisturisers and cosmetics
- Wear a concealer (in a green shade) to mask redness
- Control and manage stress as much as possible
- Always wear UVA/UVB protection
Your personal skin care program should address your particular skin type. Using a poor quality product or the wrong product for your particular skin type can have a devastating effect on both your skin and your self esteem as years of cumulative skin damage leads to premature aging and other problems such as excessive dryness (dull, tired appearance) or excessive oiliness (adult acne).
The good news is that switching to a better quality product correctly formulated for your skin type will (in most cases) stop the premature aging process and produce an immediate improvement in skin colour, clarity and tone.
When choosing your skin care products, here are some important tips to keep in mind.
The Five Essential Steps of an Effective Skin Care Program
There are five essential steps to any skin care program: cleansing, exfoliating, toning, moisturizing and protecting.
Proper cleansing is essential for removing your old makeup as well as any pollution and other impurities from the environment that have settled on your skin.
Choose a skin cleanser that is formulated for your particular skin type. Using a product designed for oily skin on a dry face will strip your face of too much moisture and lead to premature wrinkling. Conversely, using a product designed for dry skin on an oily face can clog pores so that blemishes and related scarring could develop.
Cleansers formulated for dry skin gently cleanse without over stripping the natural oils from your face, which can leave skin dull, flaky and more vulnerable to fine lines and premature wrinkles. Cleansers for normal skin contain an appropriate balance of oil and moisture to maintain the natural balance of the skin. Combination cleansers help control excess oil in the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin) as they hydrate the drier cheeks and outer edges of the face. Cleansers for oily skin help control surface oiliness and remove oily buildup within the pores.
When using cleanser products, keep them away from the sensitive eye area. Work the cleanser using gentle circular motions that begin in the centre of your face and move towards the edges. Rinse with warm (never hot) water and use a face cloth to ensure all traces of the cleanser are removed from your skin.
As a general rule, creme or milk cleaners are best for dry skin and foaming gel, mousse or lotion cleaners are more appropriate for oily skin.
The purpose of regular exfoliating is to remove dead skin cells that can leave your complexion dull, lifeless and looking tired in appearance.
Most people can gently exfoliate on a daily basis, and perform a more intense exfoliation one or twice per week. However, if you have rosacea or other serious skin issues such as psoriasis or eczema you should not exfoliate on a regular basis.
Some skin care products, such as Mary Kay's TimeWise brand, are formulated to gently exfoliate on a daily basis without overstressing or damaging the skin. Tiny "microbeads" gently remove dead skin cells so that your complexion remains bright and continues to radiate a vibrant, healthy glow. A more complete exfoliation is then performed on a weekly basis through Mary Kay's 2 step home microdermabrasion program to further improve the skin texture, minimize the appearance of fine lines and refine and shrink skin pores.
Toning is an essential part of any good skin care program often missed by those individuals who do not understand its importance. The toning process resets the PH balance of your skin to its proper level so that your face will not get too oily or too dry as it tries to compensate for whichever direction your PH level is out of its natural balance.
Toning also helps tighten the pores of your skin after they have been opened and cleaned during the cleansing process. It helps remove leftover traces of makeup, environmental debris and cleanser, and prepares the skin for serums and moisturizers.
Some cleanser products (like Mary Kay's TimeWise brand) both clean and tone the skin. However, for many skin care programs the toning process is separate. As a general rule, "toners" are used for normal to dry or dehydrated skin, whereas "astringents" are used for normal to oily skin. Alcohol-free toners are available for dry or sensitive skin.
Using a quality moisturizer formulated for your skin type will add the correct amount of hydration to your skin without clogging pores and causing unsightly blemishes. Proper hydration is particularly essential for drier skin types in order to prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
Moisturizer helps even out the porosity (ability to hold moisture) of your skin, which helps foundation, primer or concealer go on more smoothly.
Day cremes are generally lighter in texture than night cremes. Their purpose is to prevent moisture loss, protect from the sun and create a base for makeup.
Night cremes are richer than day cremes and usually contain more active ingredients to promote cell renewal.
In addition to hydration, a good quality moisturizer will contain sunscreen to protect the skin from the sun's damaging UV rays. It will also form a protective barrier against environmental pollution.
A good quality foundation will further lock in moisture and form an additional protective barrier against environmental impurities without clogging pores. It will not protect from sun damage, so if your moisturizer does not contain sunscreen, sunscreen should be applied overtop moisturizer and prior to foundation. (Just be careful that the sunscreen you choose does not clog your pores, otherwise blackheads or blemishes may develop. In the long run, it's probably better to pay a little more for a good quality moisturizer containing sunscreen with non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) properties.)
Foundation is therefore an essential part of an effective skin care program, and in fact Mary Kay classifies foundation as part of their skin care line as opposed to their "colour" collection. However, please note that in order to reap these protective benefits, your foundation must be of the liquid type. Powders do not provide the same level of protection. For more information on the different types of foundation available, refer to the section on Foundation.
There are several different types of masks, which vary in the types of benefits they provide.
Clay or paste masks are used for deep cleansing. As the mask dries it hardens on the skin, removing dead surface cells, increasing circulation and temporarily diminishing pore size. Clay or paste masks are best for normal and oily skin.
Cremes or soft masks don't harden on the skin, and thus are used to nourish and hydrate, as well as temporarily soften superficial lines. Richer than clay masks, they are generally more suited for alipic skin and mature skin.
Gel masks are hydrating and refreshing, and very calming and soothing to sensitive skin. Benefits vary, depending on ingredients.
Peel off masks are also hydrating, but may be too stimulating for sensitive skin. Peel off masks dry on the skin and thus exfoliate dead surface cells.