When I consider a clients' regimen, here are the some of the questions I consider:
1. What is your skin type? (This is the genetic blueprint of your skin - oily, dry, sensitive, acneic, or normal.)
2. What is your skin condition? (This is where it gets a little more complicated, but generally things like - dehydration, pregnancy or hormone changes, environmental factors, hyperpigmentation, sun exposure, smoking, pre-mature aging, loss of collagen/elastin, allergies, congestion, stress levels, acne scarring, etc)
3. What are your specific goals? (So what you have every one of the conditions listed above, you are obsessed only with this one line on your forehead. Treat that line first.)
4. What is your budget?
5. What is your routine like? (Here, I really factor in things like: are you getting five kids off to school in the morning, going to the gym, applying makeup, do you have time to mask? Are you up late partying and sleeping in your makeup - don't act like you haven't done it! For men, usually we are cutting the grease and keeping it simple, while hopefully encouraging them to use sunscreen at least.)
6. What are your personal convictions - beliefs about chemicals, parabens, natural products, organic ingredients? Do you like fragrance vs. essential oils? Foaming vs. cream based? Allergies, favorite ingredients, products you can't live without, etc. Knowing what you like can really inform your decision. If a product is great for you, but you don't like the smell, you will never use it!
So, the first part is really about understanding your skin. The second part is about understanding the product. Product knowledge is usually second nature for any Esthetician, as we spend most of our day concocting dreamy combinations of alpha-hydroxy acids and anti-oxidants. We are secretly just total chemistry nerds, but you didn't hear that from me.
It is also important to understand the difference between high-end well marketed products, and high-end PROFESSIONAL lines. A professional product line means they have one line of products that is available for retail, and another line that can only be purchased with an Esthetician's license and used in the treatment room. Why is this important? Because the Professional line is regulated by the government, and must subject their line to testing by the FDA. This means, they are required to report exactly what is in their product and in what percentage strength. Other 'high end' products are usually the same price point, but have no legal responsibility to claim what is really in their products. This means they are usually about 99% filler, with a single 1% active ingredient that their packaging is RAVING about on the front. Stick with a professional line, and you will be getting way more bang for your buck!
Some words of caution: with all the 'it' words and jargon that the marketing gurus at major companies have spoon-fed us, don't go thinking you know what some of these chemicals are capable of! Let me break it down for you - all of those brand name products from all of those different skincare lines? They are almost all owned by four companies: Estee Lauder, Proctor & Gamble, L'Oreal, and Johnson & Johnson. Most products are not that different from each other, but they have some heavy-hitter skills in their advertising divisions, so don't get lost in the marketing! While you are looking for the right regimen for your specific skin, steer clear of the quick fix/miracle promises, as they are usually empty and expensive. Choose wisely! There are some really fantastic products out there, ones that are just right for you!
A few ingredient clues:
Hyperpigmentation: Kojic Acid, Alphahydroxy Acids (Glycolic and Lactic are the most common), SPF (do NOT let hyper pigmented skin play with the sun's rays!) Emblica
Acne: I would steer you AWAY from Benzoyl Peroxide and stick with Tea Tree oil, Salicylic Acid, Sulpher, and then a mix of healing elements like lemon balm, colloidal oatmeal, and antiseptic or calming herbs like aloe, witch hazel, seaweed and kelp extract.
Pre-Maturely Aging or Dehydrated: Go for the major anti-oxidants Vitamins C, E, blueberry extract, acai berry extract, Co-enzyme Q-10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid
Talk to an Esthetician today, and stop wasting your money on product after product. A great Esthetician will sample you on the products they think you will love. Then once you have tried them, they will continue to make recommendations based on your feedback. Even if they can just help you to understand your skin in a better way, you will feel far more prepared to head down that skincare aisle!