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Back to Basics Beauty with Kate Conkey

Tuesday, 9 January 2007


We know that we should cleanse tone and moisturise every day.  But do you do it morning and evening?  And do you have to tone?  Are we actually wiping away our natural oils away by doing this skin-cleaning ritual?  Today Kate Conkey is taking a look at what is good for our skin and how to look after it correctly!

Back to Basics
Beauty begins with great skin.  Skin that glows and doesn't show any imbalance is simpler then you think!  So its time to get rid of what's in your bathroom this evening and to re establish an easier regime that not only you will love but also your skin will love and it will show!

Beauty consultants might recommend a facial treatment of cleanse, tone and moisturize, but dermatologists say that comfortable-for-you cleansing is key, and moisturizing may help some skin types.

What cleanser should you use for what skin and how do you use it correctly?  Should you cleanse at all?

Well, firstly, you absolutely must cleanse!  A good cleanser should be gentle, non-drying, irritating or leave a greasy film behind.  The best cleanser is water-soluble, meaning it is a cross between a cold cream and a shampoo.  It will not leave the face feeling dry nor will it leave any residue behind.  A non-fragranced cleanser is ideal, but can be more difficult to find in this perfume-obsessed world.  Cleanse both day and evening.  At night, we sweat and produce oil plus the skin collects dust and dead skin cells need to be removed.  Use tepid water to rinse.  For stubborn makeup or a more creamy cleanser, a gentle face cloth to cut through the excess is perfectly ok.
. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser - €8, nationwide pharmacies.
. Olay Foaming Face Wash Sensitive Skin. 
. MAC Crème Wash - €21.

To tone or not to tone?

The myth is that toner is a very important step in cleaning your skin and looking after it.  The fact is that you do not need to tone; it is more of a luxury for your skin, but definitely not a necessity.
If you have selected the proper cleanser, you do not need a toner to 'deep clean' or remove anything at all.  A toner is an un-necessary step; however, a good toner will have one or more of the following which are beneficial for the skin:

1. Water binding agents (glycerin, sodium PCA).
2.  Anti-oxidants (green tea, rosemary, ALA).
3.  Anti-irritants (allantoin, aloe). 

Alcohol is not needed.  For alcohol to be effective as a disinfectant, it needs to be present at 60% to 70%.  Most astringents are somewhere between 20% to 40%.  Even at this level, alcohol kills skin cells and destroys the intercellular matrix and protective outer barrier.  All in all, the skin is left unprotected and more prone to bacteria!
Source:  Archives of Dermatological Research, 1995, volume 287, issue 2, pg. 214-218.
. L'Occitaine Essential Water for the Face, €  ,
. Bobbi Brown Soothing Face Tonic,  € ,

What are the best moisturizers around for all age groups, from teens, 20s to 30s and 40 to 60s.?

Age should not determine skin type.  All age groups should use a daytime moisturizer with at least an SPF 15, protecting from both UVA and UVB rays.  Look for avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide.  Other ingredients to look for in moisturizers include anti-oxidants, anti-irritants, NMF (natural moisturizing factors, and water-binding agents.  The bottom line is to read the label!  There is no one formula that is the best, so do not let the cosmetics industry convince the general public that there is such a thing. 

Drier skin types will benefit from a more creamy style products with emollient ingredients such lipids, and NMFs.  Look for olive oil, shea butter, squalene, fatty acids, triglycerides, ECT.  There are many on the list which help keep the skin intact and moisture in.  Oilier and breakout prone are more safe with gel or serum style moisturizers.  Sometimes oily skin may not need a moisturizer at all.  All skin types should use the lightest moisturizer appropriate for their skin type and use it only where it feel dry.  Also, the kind of moisture needed might change from month-to-month, season-to-season.  Listen to your skin and do not be sucked in by cosmetic company marketing.

. Laura Mercier Mega Moisture Cream and Moisture Cream SPF 15.
. *Natural and for dry skin* Dr. Haushka SPF 15 and SPF 20 €16.93 and €18.42.
. Olay Regenerist Lotion with UV protection SPF 15.
. Chanel Hydramax Serum (no SPF).

How do you apply the creams?  Up or downward movements?
You do not want to rub and stretch the skin.  There are arguments for both up and down; upwards to fight gravity and outward and downward to stimulate lymph.  As long as you use a light touch, concentrate on your face, and do not over-manipulate the skin, either could be correct.

Eye Cream
Should you use eye creams and does it go on before the moisturiser?  Where on your eye should you apply it??

Although the eye area is more prone to allergic reactions and often shows wrinkles before other areas of the face, it turns out those product formulations for eye creams do not really differ from face creams.  There is no evidence, research, or documentation validating the claim that eye creams have special formulations setting them apart from other facial moisturizers.  Just look at the ingredients and compare.  They are designed to sell more for cosmetic companies.

The only time you might want to use a different product around the eye is if the skin there happens to be different that the skin on the rest of the face.  For example, if your face is oily and does not require a moisturizer, but the eye is dehydrated, then any well-formulated, emollient moisturizer of any kind will work beautifully.  Of course, one with a sun block is important for the day time.
. SkinCeuticals C+E Ferulic, €108, available at Anu Therapie is a brilliant serum to wear on its own, to use under the eyes, or under moisturizer.  If you have the money, this is highly recommended.  It uses the purest form of vit c plus super-antioxidant Ferulic Acid.

Exfoliation?  Should you do it everyday?

The myth is that you should only exfoliate once a week, in fact, it depends on your skin tolerance.  Most skin types can exfoliate their skin three to four times a week if it is a AHA / BHA.  When you do exfoliate you should cleanse, exfoliate and then moisturize.

Exfoliate, yes.  It can be done both manually (scrubs, face cloth) and chemically (AHA and BHA).  Exfoliation assists in removing the dead skin cells on the surface or in the pore.  It makes room for the plumper, moisture-filled skin cells to come to the surface and allows moisturizers to more easily penetrate the skin. 
Best mechanical scrub is baking soda mixed with water soluble cleanser.  It does not scratch or damage the skin and it is inexpensive.  Chemically, AHAs (glycolic) exfoliate the surface and are best for dry, sun-damaged skin in a 5% to 10% concentration.  BHAs (salicylic acid) exfoliate the pore and are great for breakout prone skin to keep them from getting clogged.  A BHA product should contain 1%-2% of the active ingredient.  Both needs to be in a base with a pH of three to four in order to be effective.
Source: Cosmetic Dermatology, October 2001, pg. 15-18. 
Many, many products on the market do not have this kind of pH.

. Jan Marini Skin Research Bioglycolic Cream and Facial Lotion, €74,  Silk skin clinic in Dublin 01 6351686
. MAC Oil Control Lotion
. Neutrogena Clear Pore Treatment

Gently steam your face once a week for five to ten minutes as part of your deep-cleansing ritual.  Or should you?
Steaming face can be dangerous if not done correctly as it can break capillaries, but warming the skin is good to prep it for a mask.  According to Kate's valid source, 'no research supports the assertions of benefits attributed to the special muds, minerals, vitamins, or plant life these products contain.'  All in all, an emollient facial mask will feel soothing to someone with dry skin and an oil-absorbing mask will feel useful to someone with congested skin.  It is as simple as that.  Masks are an added bonus and not a necessity when it comes to basic skin care. The skin's need for anti-oxidant, moisture, and exfoliation are daily and come from daily skin care, not a mask. An inexpensive mask for oily skin is Milk of Magnesia, which is oil absorbing and slightly anti-bacterial (and so cheap)! 

For Further Information
.  "21st Century Beauty Bible" by Sarah Stacey & Josephine Fairley.
. "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me" & "Beauty Bible" by Paula Begoun.
Visit for some great beauty tips and a fantastic web site at makes their own range of skincare products based on their research.