6 Things I Wish I knew Before my Skincare Journey
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6 Things I Wish I knew Before my Skincare Journey

By Safina Ali
05/06/2023 | Read time: 5m

So today I thought I’d do a slightly different type of post and talk about the things I wish I knew when I was new to skincare. The internet is just teeming with information about skin, and when you’re new to skincare it can be really overwhelming, and even contradictory in certain instances. Hopefully you’ll learn something new, and it’ll save you all the trial and error that I went through!

SPF is the one most important skincare product you can spend your money on

Have you ever seen that image of that lorry driver floating about the web, where half of his face had been exposed to the sun in the driver’s side window for 28 years, and the other half hadn’t? You can really see how much the side exposed to the sun has leathered and wrinkled over the years. Images like that really illustrate how damaging the sun can actually be! But because the change is slow and the benefits of sunscreen aren’t immediately apparent, we often take it for granted.

Sunscreen protects your skin from UVA rays, known to cause premature aging and skin cancer, and also from UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburn. It’s that image I described above that caused me to become a little bit more militant with SPF.

Unfortunately, part of the reason I avoided most western chemical sunscreens was that I would always get a skin reaction to them! I also didn’t think I needed them when it was cloudy, but I was so wrong. What’s more is that the mineral sunscreens weren’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing on my olive skin. If you’re like me and encounter the same problems, then keep reading!

As I just mentioned, there are two types of sunscreen available on the market: Chemical and Mineral.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate, that work by absorbing UV radiation and converting it into heat, which is then released from the skin. Chemical sunscreens are often transparent and have a lightweight texture that blends well into the skin.

These sunscreens can be more water-resistant, making them suitable for activities like swimming, but they do come with a slight risk of irritation or allergic reaction, especially in those with sensitive skin.

Some of my favourite chemical sunscreen’s include the ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel. I just how cosmetically elegant it is, blending in so well and keeping you hydrated all day long. And it’s alcohol free!

Mineral Sunscreens

These are also known as physical or inorganic sunscreens, and use mineral compounds like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These minerals work by sitting on top of the skin and forming a physical barrier that reflects and scatters UV radiation away from the skin. They are less likely to cause skin irritation, but they are the sunscreens usually associated with leaving a white cast on the skin.

If you’d like to try a mineral sunscreen, I’d recommend the AXIS-Y Complete No-Stress Physical Sunscreen Formulated with mineral filters and mugwort, it’s perfectly targeted towards sensitive skin!

So which one is best? Well normally I’d recommend mineral sunscreen for sensitive skin, but honestly, if you’re going for Korean sunscreens, then either choice is fine! Korean sunscreens tend to make use of different UV filters than their Western counterparts and I’ve never found any sunscreen I’ve tried from Korea to be irritating – and I’ve tried a lot!

It’s important, when choosing a sunscreen to look at one that offers broad-spectrum protection.

Remember, any skin exposed to the sun is at risk of UV damage. So make sure when you apply sunscreen, you remember to apply it to your neck, hands, arms and any other part of your body exposed to the sun! Oh, and make sure you’re reapplying every 2 hours!

Barrier care is just as important as your actives

Yes, I’ve made that mistake. The mistake in thinking the fastest route to clear chok-chok skin was through using as many actives as possible and neglecting my boring barrier care. It didn’t take me long to realise that was a recipe for disaster.

Your skin barrier is composed of lipids, which include ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. These lipids form a protective matrix between the skin cells, helping to prevent water loss and maintain hydration. The barrier is also made up of Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMFs), a mixture of substances, including amino acids, urea, lactic acid, and sugars, that help retain moisture in the skin and regulate hydration.

Damage to the barrier due to UV rays, harsh products and over-exfoliation will lead to issues such as dryness and sensitivity. Think of your skin barrier as a brick and mortar wall. Without the reinforcement, you pave the way for allergens to get through, and for hydration to be lost. With an intact barrier however, your skin is less permeable to irritants, and its ability to retain moisture means that you’re plumped up and less prone to dryness.

ILLIYOON Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream is one of the best selling creams in Korea. It has a lovely thick texture full of little capsules that house a bunch of ceramides to nourish skin!

Stronger products do not always mean better results

A few years ago, a Western skincare brand really changed the skincare journey in the west by offering simplified ingredients in simplified packaging at competitive prices. What people loved about this brand was how easy they made skincare, by separating out ingredients so that people could better understand their function and then personalise their skincare routine to their own needs.

This brand offered products at high concentrations previously only offered by luxury brands. It became trendy because these concentrations worked. But it’s important to remember that generally, as an active becomes more concentrated, though it may be slightly more effective, it can also become more irritating. And using these ingredients regularly will have you stuck in a cycle where you’re using an active, then rushing to fix your skin barrier. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race!

If you find that harsh AHAs/BHAs don’t work for you, I recommend using something more gentle like The SOME BY MI AHA.BHA.PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner, which brightens skin while still being gentle enough for daily use!

No matter what the internet tells you, perfect skin doesn’t exist

Real skin has texture. Pores. Areas of hyperpigmentation. Dryness. Don’t be fooled by pictures and videos you see online. Often people will still wear makeup light enough to make it look like bare skin but it isn’t. We live in an age where it’s extremely easy to doctor photos with filters and other technology.

What’s more, is that there are so many technologies and products available that help boost the appearance of skin that a person may or may not tell you! Procedures like microneedling, hydrafacials and even skin boosting products like Profhilo injections are all commonplace, especially among celebrities and influencers. Remember this next time you see someone with ‘perfect’ skin.

Just because an ingredient is popular or trendy, doesn’t mean you need to use it

Some people can’t tolerate niacinamide. Others can’t tolerate hyaluronic acid, and ferments aren’t fungal – acne safe. And that’s okay! If something doesn’t work for you, it’s ok not to use it, and plenty of alternatives exist. And the path to glowing flawless skin isn’t to overload on as much ingredients as possible, but to first and foremost work on your hydration and skin barrier, and then add a couple of actives that work well with your skin type.

I’m someone who can’t really tolerate vitamin C very well, but I always want to make sure I have anti-oxidants in my routine to help against UV damage. One of my favourite products is the MARY & MAY Blackberry Complex serum, which uses a 20% Blackberry complex instead of vitamin C.

Remember, skincare is a journey, not a destination

You might get to that point in your skincare journey where you feel like you’ve done it. You’ve cracked the formula for flawless glowing skin. It’s such a great feeling, but you might realise after a couple months or years, your skin isn’t maintaining that same glow. And that’s okay! Skincare is a journey. Our skin isn’t stagnant. We age, we suffer from water loss depending on the season, and as we get older, loss of collagen and increasing skin laxity due to the natural ageing process. Our skincare needs will change throughout the years – we just have to learn to embrace it and enjoy your skincare journey!

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