Are You Over Exfoliating?

Exfoliating toners have been super big in the beauty community as of late and they seem to be something that everyone swears by for brighter, clearer - and just generally better - skin. For those of us who are regularly updated on our Bloglovin feed and Youtube beauty channels, it's very easy to get sucked up into the hype when a trend like this emerges. As it turns out, regular exfoliation is not something that works out for me. It really ruined my skin and it took a long time for me to fix the problems that over-exfoliation created, and I had to learn the hard way that we should always take a step back to evaluate "Is this trend really good for my skin?" before jumping on the bandwagon.  

When we exfoliate with physical scrubs or chemical exfoliants, we are taking dead skin cells off of the stratum corneum, which is the top layer of the epidermis. This layer is responsible for protecting the underlying skin tissue from any infection and physical stress. The stratum corneum contains a network of proteins that prevent the skin from becoming dehydrated by preventing evaporation, as well as give skin that sort of plump, bouncy texture when you touch it. Given the importance of the stratum corneum, we can conclude that maintaining a healthy stratum corneum is essential for healthy skin, and that a damaged stratum corneum will result in a myriad of skin problems. 

We've probably all heard that it takes 28 days for the skin to renew itself, which means that it takes 28 days for the dead skin cells in the stratum corneum to naturally shed off and be replaced by skin cells migrating up from the deeper layers of the epidermis. This is true for skin when you're in your 20's or younger. As we age, this renewal process slows down, and it may take 30, 40, 50, or more days. As a result, the stratum corneum becomes thicker. Fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear, the skin starts to lose its plumpness and becomes more dry. At this point, regular exfoliation can be beneficial to thin out the stratum corneum and push along the skin renewal process. For young skin, this isn't really necessary and can result in the stratum corneum becoming damaged if it becomes too thin.

Another thing to consider is that the thickness of the stratum corneum can vary between individuals for genetic reasons, such as ethnicity. The exfoliating toner fad emerged from the UK beauty blogger community, primarily bloggers who are Caucasian. A bit of research led me to find out that Asian skin, particuarly East Asian skin, has a much thinner stratum corneum than Caucasian skin. The stratum corneum in Asian skin is easily damaged, and Asian women take particular care to maintain a healthy stratum corneum in their extensive skincare routines. 

Now on to my own personal experience. Being Chinese and in the 20's category myself, at this point you can probably predict that exfoliating toners/pads everyday and exfoliating treatments twice a week turned out very badly for me. The picture shows some of the products I purchased during my "wow exfoliation is going to be the best thing in the world" phase. I'll definitely be passing them on to friends, because this exfoliating routine made my skin very, very irritated. I had a lot of redness on my face and was breaking out much more than usual. Many beauty bloggers swear by exfoliating to get rid of acne scars, but I think mine looked a lot worse both because my skin was so red and because my skin was probably dehydrated. 

Thankfully, I eventually figured out that regular exfoliation is not for me. I think I went through this exfoliation phase around January or February this year, and it has taken until now for my skin to become balanced again. I still do exfoliate but I've moved on to very gentle options such as the CURE Natural Aqua Peeling Gel (It causes the "waste" dead skin to ball up when you apply it so you can just wash it off. A really weird but effective product) or enzyme washing powders (which I will be talking about in a post very soon!), and I exfoliate much less frequently. 

If you are experiencing skin that is easily irritated and prone to breakouts, you may want to consider cutting down on the exfoliating and really focus on hydrating the skin. For me, the real secret to better skin is thorough makeup removal followed by a gentle cleanse and lots and lots and lots of hydration. 


July Favourites

This is actually the first monthly favourites post on the blog. I usually don't find the need to write a favourites post as I mention my favourites in various posts throughout the month, but this month I haven't been able to blog as much, so I decided to round up the best of beauty here. 

First up is yet another SPF favourite. I know I've already mentioned a few SPF loves recently, but as it is still summer, wearing SPF is extremely important so it can't hurt to mention another one. The Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion for Sensitive Skin and Babies is a completely physical sunscreen with a whooping 13.9% zinc oxide and 3.3% titanium dioxide to ensure protection against both UVB and UVA rays. I'm pretty picky with SPFs - or rather, my very sensitive skin is pretty picky with SPFs - but if this suncreen is gentle enough for babies 6 months and over, it's good enough for me. It's SPF 33, which is completely fine for city activities, but there is also a SPF 50 counterpart for those going on vacation. The product comes in an extremely liquid texture. Physical sunscreens can feel heavy and greasy on the skin due to the oil content needed to spread the mineral SPF actives evenly. I find that applying in 2-3 thin layers rather than one thick layer can help to spread the sufficient amount of sunscreen needed to provide the full SPF protection while minimizing greasiness and difficulties with blending. I find that applying this way, this product leaves a very smooth finish on the skin that isn't heavy at all. 

Another skincare favourite this month is the Biotherm Life Plankton Essence. I picked this up at a Biotherm counter in Shanghai, but I was told that it will be released worldwide soon. Apparently, "Life Plankton" is a micro-organism that live in the French Pyrenees hot springs, known as the "fountain of youth" due to its ability to sooth the wounds of Roman soldiers and preserve the youthfulness in women's skin. The product has a very watery consistency and I like to use it as a hydrating toner, but I think of it as kind of a toner-serum hybrid. It helps to hydrate the skin, increase cellular turnover in the skin to reveal brighter skin, and aid in the absorption of subsequent products. During the first week that I used this product, I didn't really see any effects. It felt comfortable on the skin, absorbed nicely, and had no obtrusive scent, but that was about it. After the first week though, I noticed that my skin started to feel incredibly smooth and had this healthy glow to it. As I've been staying in air conditioning pretty much 24/7, my skin has been dangerously on the verge of being dehydrated, but this product has been keeping my skin nicely plump and hydrated. The sales assistant at the Biotherm counter told me that after 28 days (the skin renews itself every 28 days), I would see significant improvement in acne scars and fine lines. Now I don't struggle with fine lines and other signs of aging, but I will keep you all updated on the acne scars front.

I got a Japanese perm (permanent waves) in June and it has seriously saved me so much time getting ready in the morning. I roll out of bed with hair that actually looks very nice, and my hair doesn't require any extra maintenance compared to its natural state. The one step that I have added to my hair care routine is a salt spray, and I went with the Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray. I went with the smaller 1.7oz size as it's super easy to carry around. I find that a surf spray really helps to enhance the curls in my hair. When I feel that my hair is getting a bit flat after a few days of unwash, I spray a bit of this through the ends of my hair, scrunch it up a few times, and I'm left with more texturized, defined curls. I've also tried spraying this on damp hair and scrunching my hair while it's drying, but I actually ended up with hair that was a bit too curly for my liking. I think those who don't have a perm but want a bit of a wave to their hair would benefit more from using a salt spray on damp hair and scrunching up/twisting the hair while it dries. 

As summer in China has been so incredibly hot and humid, my use of makeup has been limited to a very light BB cream, brow gel, and a nice lip colour. I've already mentioned the Innisfree Eco Flower Tint 3 Rose in my recent Innisfree haul post here, and my love for it is still going strong. It's a rosy lip stain that is very long wearing and can be patted in sheerly for a rosy tint, or layered on for a warm-toned red lip. There's also a peachy pink and an orange in the Eco Flower Tint range and I'm definitely thinking of picking those up. Another lip favourite is the Dior Addict Lip Glow, which comes in absolutely gorgeous pink packaging and is so easy to use. Just swipe it on like you would a lip balm and you're done. It's one of those tinted lip balm type deals, but the colour sort of varies for everyone. When I use it, I get a very rosy lip, but when my mum uses it, she gets more of a pink lip. It leaves a nice glossy finish and is incredibly moisturizing as a lip balm. I think the only complaint I have for this product is that it doesn't come in more colours. 

What were your July favourites?