Skincare and skin treatments are two of the most popular sectors of the beauty market and are relied on for different reasons. We source these kinds of things to help our skin look better and act a certain way to boost our self-confidence and wellbeing. Skincare and professional treatments promise similar outcomes but work very differently, and there are a few things you should know if you are considering or using either of them.
What is skincare?
Skincare is a practice that aims to improve the condition and appearance of the skin. Skincare can involve the application of topical lotions, creams and cleansers but it can also refer to nutrition and avoidance of sun exposure.
Skincare is carried out at home and regularly, at the beginning of each day and in the evening in most cultures.
Anyone can use skincare and everybody should be using some kind of skincare because of its protective and hydrating layer it gives the skin.
Because of the immeasurable amount of information, targeted marketing and products we are exposed to, remembering these basic points about skincare starts to become a complex and impossible task. But it doesn’t have to be.
What does skincare do? Forget skincare ingredients, your concerns for using it in the first place and whether it may work for you or not. Remember this. Topical skincare helps to:
Protect the skin barrier
Help maintain skin moisture
Maintain skin health
Prep the skin for a treatment (I will explain more on this later on)
Because the skin barrier is protected and moisturised, this helps to prevent:
Skin cancer (if an SPF is part of your skincare)
Think of skincare as a prevention to your future skin problems and maintenance for your current skin health. An example of a simple skincare routine would be the following:
MORNING Cleanser, Moisturiser and SPF
NIGHT TIME Cleanser, Serum and Moisturiser
What skincare cannot do for you
Skincare will not work miracles, not in the way most of us expect it to. Unless it is a prescription-strength (and even then, long-term results are more or less unattainable) product, you will not get rid of those dark circles. Skincare will not stop your melasma, or fade pitted acne scarring or sun damage. Skincare is simply a barrier that nourishes and protects, nothing more. This is where skin treatments come in.
What are skin treatments?
When I talk about skin treatments, I am not referring to your relaxing, deluxe facials you would book in at a spa or beauty salon. I am talking about treatments that use advanced techniques including:
Microneedling and dermaroller
These aesthetic procedures are always (or should be) carried out by a professional, usually by an aesthetician. More aggressive treatments like deep chemical peels, strong, resurfacing lasers and injectable treatments are mostly carried out by doctors, dermatologists and nurses, depending where you are in the world. In comparison to skincare, they treat the skin at a much deeper level. The majority of these methods infuse certain ingredients and cause exfoliation to the upper layer(s) of the skin which encourages cellular turnover, stimulating collagen and elastin production.
When this action is repeated over a period of time with monthly intervals, the skin health should begin to increase and so the appearance of the following may start to improve:
Uneven skin texture
Uneven skin tone (like scarring and blemishes)
Hyperpigmentation (including sun damage)
Most of these treatments may also involve a few days of downtime including redness, skin dryness and flaking and sensitivity. The results from a skin treatment will most likely give a more prominent effect than skincare.
Skincare VS Skin treatments
Skincare and skin treatments work as a powerhouse alongside each other rather than against. In my personal opinion, skincare always comes first. It is essential to begin with homecare before having a professional treatment for a few reasons:
Skin treatments increases photosensitivity so the skin has to be protected to prevent sensitisation, worsening the condition and avoid developing pigmentation
The effects from a skin treatment will be short lived if you are not treating your skin frequently at home
It reduces the risk of reaction during treatment
It can help to reduce the downtime following a skin procedure
Skincare is like your daily tooth brushing, whereas skin treatments act are your routine hygiene and polish appointment.
Skincare is considerably cheaper and there is more of a variety and accessibility compared to skin treatments. However, each have their place and it is down to you whether you just want to use skincare, or have treatment too.
Can one work well without the other? It depends on the results you want to achieve and what parts of your skin truly bother you. There is only so much skincare can achieve if you have a problematic condition. If you have ‘normal’ or well-behaved skin, or if there is nothing you want to necessarily improve, then skincare on its own is a good option. Even with no concerns, you can still have any of the skin treatments to help give you a ‘boost.’ Skin treatments are necessary for anyone wishing to make an impactful difference to their skin, but this requires patience and commitment. Results are not guaranteed and this is another thing to consider.
Results & Expectations
These topics arise frequently in the clinic room. Expectations are complicated, immeasurable and difficult to define to the person sitting next to you. My expectations for the treatment outcome as an aesthetician, might look totally different to my client, even though we agree that they are the same.
Our expectations must be realistic and evaluated regularly. What are we trying to achieve? Avoid generalised statements like “perfect” or “clear” skin. Skin is not supposed to be perfect. We forget that it is an organ after all, the body’s largest, and has more important functions rather than just to look good. Expectations need to be specific. Is it the improvement of uneven skin tone, or dark circles, or skin texture that will help you feel better about your skin?
Once you handle your expectations, you need to prepare for the large spectrum of potential results. Achieving better skin health is a complex journey that is best handled with somebody that knows what they are talking about and has knowledge of the solutions available, which is why skin professionals (aestheticians, dermatologists, facialists, therapists) play a necessary role in the success of achieving good skin.
The fact of the matter is, there is no guarantee that the skin treatments or skincare you use will have any effect. In a clinical setting you will most likely sign something to acknowledge this. It is impossible and wrong to assume that any treatment or routine, no matter how strong or studied the outcome, will have the same effect on each individual. Every skin treatment carried out has the potential to worsen the condition or give no effect at all.
There isn’t a miracle treatment out there that will fix your skin woes in one sitting either. In most cases it takes several appointments over a year, maybe longer to achieve desired results. The ageing process is always happening meaning that to maintain the result you achieve; you must continue the practice regularly. Skin treatments will not halt this process, but can help to reduce the symptoms associated with ageing.
Skincare is a totally different matter which hosts its own kind of problems. It can take months, sometimes years to finally find the right product for you and when you finally do, after hunting through millions of skincare items available, our skin changes and we require different regimes. Our skin ages, our hormones fluctuate, our environment changes and so does our skin alongside all these changes.
Most of us are not educated to know the right ingredients and products to use for a skin, heck, there are people out there using still make-up wipes, exfoliating in the morning and not using sunscreen. We do too much, or do too little. Play a continuous guessing game of what might work and start the cycle of trying more stuff, when it doesn’t. We exfoliate too much, hydrate too little. Trends and counterculture show us the way, bombarding us with advertising and influencers of new skincare lines and techniques holding empty promises that provide very little meaning.
One day you may find yourself sitting there, wondering if it’s the Vitamin C or the hot cloth cleanser that isn’t working for you, and then suddenly you remember, it may just be out of your control anyway. Because so many other things play are a role in how our skin functions, including our gut health, genetics, environment, physical and mental health, stress and hormones. To rely on our skincare routine, or skin treatments is pointless if our diet sucks, if we don’t get enough sleep, and our hormones and chi are all over the place.
Start with skincare, if you’re not already. Begin with the basics, and don’t guess what kind of cleanser or treatment will be right for you – take advantage of the thousands of aestheticians that are in isolation right now offering virtual consultations. Dream of the skin treatments you will be able to try when your country’s lockdown has lifted. And don’t forget to wear a sunscreen in the meantime.