Serums & Exfoliation- A Powerful Combo

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A Simple Guide

The top layer of the skin known as the epidermis (Greek ‘epi’, on top and ‘derma’, the skin) is one tough cookie. Thinner than paper but tougher than a rock, this multilayered impermeable and protective sheath protects us 24/7 from the harsh elements and maintains critical water balance. This is the most important function of our skin amongst many other vital functions. So don’t be fooled into thinking that everything you put on your skin gets absorbed, because it simply doesn’t.o.Believe or not, what gives the skin its ‘oomph’ is the uppermost crust or ‘horny layer’ (about 10-30 layers thick) which is made up of tightly bonded dead skin cells that hold everything in but keep the bad guys out. Excess dead skin cells flake off of our body daily by the thousands making way for fresher layers of cells that are being pushed upward about every 30 days (known as the cell cycle). This function helps to maintain skin vitality, smoothness and integrity. As we get older this process slows down and we are left an excess build-up of dead cells that makes our skin look dull, lifeless and dry.This makes penetration of active ingredients contained within topical preparations that much more difficult. Hence, the skin needs an extra push as we enter into the graceful phases of our life.So let’s get down to the basics so we can get the most out of our products.To maximize the efficacy of skincare products, one should understand a little bit about the actives within the products themselves and about the correct application technique that will result in fast and visible results. You can have a great product with proven efficacy, but if you are not maintaining a regular skin care regimen or applying the products incorrectly, the results will often be disappointing. Compliance is an important factor when a positive outcome is desired as is the application technique itself.So in this article, I will explore certain products, what they are, what they do on a physiological level, and power combo’s that can potentially deliver fast results and maximize product effectiveness.

It’s all about cumulative, optimal and additive benefits and this is what we are after.

Having said that, it’s best to read usage instructions on product labels as well and follow tips by the manufacturer since they might have developed certain product combo’s that work synergistically.

What is a topical skincare serum?

A topical skincare serum is designed specifically to deliver the active component of the product in its purest state, in very high concentrations, deep into the skin in order to produce maximum benefit. Therefore, when you use a serum, remember you will require a very small amount, since the actives are in high concentration and tiny amounts will achieve dramatic results. Every serum is unique and is designed with a very specific action in mind. You can have skin brightening serums, ones that will help reduce wrinkles, ones that can deliver nutrients, ones that will help the skin regain vitality and functionality. There are numerous serums available in the market, all with specific actions. The common factor is that all contain concentrated actives and a little goes a long away.
I will mention some self-care tips and advice that will hopefully prove to be helpful as you begin your journey towards achieving healthy skin when using products.

How to select the best OTC (over the counter) serum for you?

  • Identify your skin type (e.g. normal, oily, combination, dry, sensitive or hypersensitive).
  • Your age (with age our skin changes, so products formulated for a particular age group will demonstrate maximum efficacy).
  • Identify your skin problem (e.g. age spots, wrinkles, dullness, acne, rosacea, redness, dryness, environmentally stressed, hormone induced skin conditions, sun damage, puffy eyes, dark circles).
  • Read labels and make sure that the brand is free from harmful ingredients. The less the ingredients in your products the better it is for your skin. Your skin tends to become overloaded so it’s best to use one good brand at a time rather than piling on many products, this is toxic practice and should be avoided.
  • Select a serum which best suits your needs and apply a small amount to the affected area after cleansing and toning your skin.
  • Nighttime is for skin renewal and healing. So it’s best to keep your skin breathing without multiple layers of products. But I do suggest you use a night serum to allow maximum benefit. Serums are powerful elixirs and usually contain actives that might interact with sunlight.

If you desire faster more dramatic results, try combing exfoliation before applying the selected serum. This is a trade secret and one that will surprise you, since you will start noticing results in record time. If you are undergoing active treatment for a skin condition, please stick to your prescription products. If you have undergone minimally invasive or invasive skin procedures, please consult with your physician before using any OTC products.

What is exfoliation?

As the name suggests, exfoliation literally means removing layers of damaged or dead skin cells from the top layers of your skin using various methods. This is an age old practice that has been used for centuries to achieve polished evenly toned skin. Professional grade chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser-assisted resurfacing provide the most effective form of exfoliation and can only be performed by a licensed skin care professional. But how about some simple home based procedures that can really make your skin shine?
Using abrasive substances such as clay, sugar, pumice, loofah’s, scrubs, dry skin brushes, exfoliating bars and sponges and/or chemical based exfoliants can help in removing superficial dead cells, dirt, traces of make-up and surface impurities.

  • Identify your skin type (e.g. normal, oily, combination, dry, sensitive or hypersensitive).
  • Your age (with age our skin changes, so products formulated for a particular age group will demonstrate maximum efficacy).
  • Type of exfoliant you prefer- chemical or physical/mechanical.
  • Be sure it’s a reliable brand. I find that natural mechanical exfoliators like sugar crystals, finely ground nut seeds, ground oats work beautifully without exposing your skin to harsh chemicals.
  • The result you desire. For fast results, it’s best you select a combination of chemical and mechanical exfoliation.
  • Even though simple mechanical exfoliation is very safe, try and avoid exfoliation if you have overly sensitive skin.
  • Using your preferred exfoliating method, exfoliate gently 2 times per week and try not to over-exfoliate since this may cause irritation, redness and strip your skin of vital surface oils that can disrupt normal balance of the skin. Moderation is the key and you don’t want to end up with raw skin!
  • It’s best to start slow and see how your skin feels and reacts. For some, only once in two weeks will suffice, whereas for those with very dry flaky skin, two times per week might be more suitable. So see what makes your skin happiest and stick to it.
  • With increasing age, our skin becomes drier and cells take longer to regenerate leading to an excess accumulation of dead cells. Therefore it is essential to exfoliate as we age.
  • It’s important to exfoliate in winter time.
  • Always use a deep hydrating serum and cream post-exfoliation.
  • Remember, professional grade exfoliation works wonders but can only be performed by a skin care professional.

How can home-based exfoliation help?

  • Will naturally deep cleanse your skin and remove deeply embedded dirt, make-up and debris.
  • Will remove excess dead cells that are the cause of dull, dry and a lack luster complexion.
  • Will loosen keratin plugs which will help in reducing blackheads, whiteheads and is a good acne preventative measure.
  • Will reveal a fresh layer of skin that is more receptive to products.
  • Will brighten and smoothen skin- a skin polishing effect.
  • Slowly over time, will encourage the skin to produce new cells leading to a vibrant and healthy complexion.
  • Improve circulation due to the massaging action during the process itself. This will lead to a dewy glow.
  • Dead cells impede penetration of creams and serums. Through exfoliation, excess dead cell build-up is gently removed and your serum or cream will be able to penetrate deeply and produce optimal desired effects.
  • A serum-exfoliation combo will enhance the efficacy of your product and bring you that much closer to achieving the desired result.

Therefore, before using a topical serum, prep the skin by using a preferred method of exfoliation. The actives within the serum will penetrate deeply allowing you to maintain beautiful healthy skin with these simple at home measures.


As you can see from my notes, that even though a good product can help you maintain healthy skin, applying correct techniques and using power combo’s can make all the difference.


So try using these useful tips before applying that ‘all’ precious serum.

Read the labels, use products correctly and keep it simple.


In the end, it is those simple things in life that truly make all the difference, isn’t it?

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