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Product Decision Fatigue?

It seems like there has been an explosion in skin care products. The skin care section of my Target has even been fanci-fied. TBH, I find it overwhelming... and I know what I’m looking for! So, in an effort to help, I’ll be starting a series of posts about skin care products. Essentially, a lazy girl’s guide to skin care.

Step 1: Face wash

Before we dive in, keep in mind that everyone's skin is different and what works well for your friend, the influencer you follow, or even your dermatologist, might not work well for you. And vice versa. 

Disclaimer: my skin is super sensitive and my willingness to sample literally ANYthing has led to many rashes…meaning I cannot tolerate several ingredients below and usually recommend a gentle, non-medicated cleanser. My go-to is Vanicream ($9 at target or on Amazon), and my splurge cleanser is SkinCeuticals gentle cleanser ($35)...

Okay, let's break down common active ingredients in facial cleansers.

Ceramides- emollients naturally found in the skin, good for retaining moisture when washing and moisturizing. 

Benzoyl Peroxide- an antibacterial agent often used to fight acne. Can work wonders, but also, cause hypersensitivity reactions. AND a non-skin side effect: It will bleach linens and clothing! So make sure you really wash it off, or if it is in a leave-in formula, that you are not wearing anything you care about. Or you will wind up with wonky pillow-cases, towels, and clothing collars. 

Salicylic acid- a beta-hydroxy acid, a chemical exfoliator that is more oil-loving, so is good for acne-prone skin. But beware! Salicylic acid can be VERY drying, making it less than ideal for older patients and making moisturizing even more important. 

Glycolic acid- an alpha-hydroxy acid, and like its beta counterpart, is also a chemical exfoliator. Because of this, some formulations can be used as an alternative to retinols in patients who can’t tolerate them and their drying effects. A bonus is that it’s safe in pregnancy (a time when we are very limited in treatment choices). 

Physical exfoliants- sooo I’m going to go ahead and say it, I’m not a huge fan of these. Whether you’re using apricot pits, sand, cleansing beads, a dirty washcloth, exfoliator brush or brillo pads, chances are it’s really not that great for your skin. Physical exfoliants can often cause tiny breaks in the skin, which increase the risk of infection by introducing bacteria into these mircroinjuries.  Chemical exfoliators like retinols (more on this later) or the above-mentioned AHAs/ BHAs are more effective and significantly less irritating. I also recommend ‘exfoliating’ once a week (if at all) and with a gentle scrub and clean washcloth/ brush. 






Patricia O'Connor, MD Board Certified Dermatologist

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