When it comes to dull, lacklustre skin or skin that is problem-prone (ie. prone to blemishes, blackheads and acne), I've read and learnt that many skin clinics would recommend procedures like microdermabrasion or peeling of the horny layer of the skin. But microdermabrasion can be painful and if not done properly by a certified dermatologist, it could even damage the skin. For me, I believe that procedures like this need follow-up treatments and they're not very cheap. Worst still, if not done properly or your skin condition not properly diagnosed, the damage can scar you for life. To repair a damage would cost you so much more.
To many skincare brands, there might be a safer method, one that brings lesser risks in the form of mild acids formulated in their skincare products. I've tried many of them but these that I'm sharing with you are those that declare an x amount of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) which usually comprise of Glycolic acid as an ingredient in their products.
Bear in mind that products that contain these exfoliating acids may not be suitable for all skin types especially those who have sensitive skin that easily reddens, flake or itch. They could however be used as a weekly treatment depending on skin condition.
I got these through the years of battling skin that thickens rapidly and constantly in need of proper exfoliation.
Night moisturiser - Vichy Laboratoires Normaderm Nuit
The Vichy Laboratoires Normaderm Nuit is in its old packaging. They have a new look now. I got this from 2 lovely friends who are working in Singapore. You are not able to get this here. I got 2 of it because both had bought for me around the same time :)
This is apparently safe and suitable for those with sensitive skin, as stated on their packaging. It contains Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid among its list of ingredients. Glycolic acid, a form of AHA is said to be the safest form of exfoliating ingredient if used regularly.
Salicylic acid on the other hand is a form of beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and is usually used to help decongest acne/blemish-prone skin. It is supposed to help exfoliate the horny layer of the skin more effectively to prevent congestion. I've used products with salicylic acid before but I find that this ingredient can also make skin dehydrated especially when it is used on the entire face instead of just the problematic area with acne/blemish.
This product is to be used only at night to combat the problems and provide you a naturally mild exfoliation as you sleep. I used it for a good one week and every day, I wake up with fresh-looking skin that looks soft and dewy. However, after that one week, I find that the product doesn't work as well as it does the first week. I just couldn't point a finger to what was wrong with it and I stopped using it entirely. I just felt that yes, while it helps exfoliate, my skin also felt congested during the day under my normal day moisturiser.
Once in awhile I'd pick this up as a one night treatment and I'm totally ok. I just cannot use it repeatedly for more than 3 nights. I began to think that my skin may be rejecting its silicone properties. So there goes a great skincare product with ingredients that are supposed to work except that the presence of 2 types of silicone may have turned my skin off. Perhaps.
Night moisturiser - Ole Henriksen Invigorating Night Gel
Funny how its packaging is also green, similar to Vichy, eh? Similar to the first, it is also targeted for those with oily skin that's prone to congestion. As it is an exfoliating product, it also claims to be able to help make the appearance of fine lines, pigmentation and breakouts vanish.
Unlike the first product, this one does not contain salicylic acid. Instead, it has lactic acid which is also an effective ingredient to combat problematic skin. I think lactic acid is even a better option, as once informed by a skin specialist. Apart from the 2 types of acids contained in this jar, it also has a host of other beneficial ingredients like sugar cane, sugar maple, orange fruit, lemon and licorice extracts that are known to provide safe exfoliation, nourish the skin and make skin appear bright.
The product also says to hydrate skin as the AHAs are suspended in purified algae extract and vitamins C & E.
I love this product. It provides my skin the right amount of exfoliation and I was able to use it every night with visible results. I finished up one jar and replenished it with another once I was done with the last jar. I like that the jar makes it so easy to swipe clean the remaining balance of the product and the jar is made of glass, preserving the product well.
The only thing about it is that if you have broken skin say from an acne that had just erupt, applying this on the skin can sting, although only for a little while. The healing benefit from it is just so worth that sting as skin looks calm the next day. But, as any exfoliating products, this one can also make skin feel dry after awhile. I started feeling that way after about 4-5 months of use. So, what I did was to use it as a serum (which is also fine) underneath a hydrating cream and it works just fabulous.
The Ole Henriksen Invigorating Night Gel can be bought in Sephora or you could even surf StrawberryNet website in case they have any specific promotions.
As my skin has somewhat healed and not that easily congested anymore, I've not been using this that frequently. But I really think that this is such a good product and reasonably priced too.
Serum: Priori Perfection Facial Gel
I got this when I tried out a facial service in a beauty centre in Bangsar. The centre sells Thalgo products but the therapist told me that my problematic skin would probably be more suited for Priori, a professional AHA product not very easily found here. Frankly, that was the first time I ever heard of this brand but I was willing to try anything that's supposedly good.
The product is unique in that it targets mature skin with acne problems. I mean, you would usually find anti-blemish products specifically targeted to the teens or the younger adults, so this is a little different. Thus, apart from helping to unclog pores and minimising breakouts (it has 1% salicylic acid) as it exfoliates skin, it is also supposed to moisturise and provide a boost in collagen to the skin.
Funny part was, I only used this twice a day as recommended for around 2 weeks and put it aside because I didn't see any positive results on my skin. In fact, I think this one made my skin congested which I believe is due to the collagen boosting ingredient which my skin doesn't need. Then again, the natural exfoliating action of sloughing off dead cells is seen as a healthy process and this in itself would result in skin's ability to better produce collagen naturally (as what I read in paulachoice.com). Therefore, I have no idea why this product makes my skin oilier and feels congested.
I haven't seen this product anywhere else but it is available via StrawberryNet. I've read many good reviews about this brand but I think as it may suit many others, it totally didn't do my skin any good.
Serum: MD Formulations Continuous Renewal Serum
I'm saving the best for last. Looking at this, I realised that when I said I don't think I have ever repurchased any serums after I finished up a bottle, I may have forgotten this. Since the year 2000, I believe I may have bought this over and over again about 5 times, perhaps? This is my go-to serum when my skin is in need of an SOS.
I discovered this product in my early years of work, trying out many brands and facial parlours. I stuck to a facial centre I was really comfortable with, who charged a reasonable price and didn't press me to sign up for a course or buy skincare products from her. My skin was really bad then as it needs intensive extractions every month that the owner of the place told me to try several of MD Formulations products which included its glycolic cleanser, this particular serum and its sunscreen. I was seeing improvements in my skin every time after my facial with her that I relented. My skin was so oily then that she advised me to use this serum as a standalone, sans moisturiser after it and my skin was transformed instantly.
I really like it for its lightweight consistency and no-nonsense packaging. It is also unscented and comes in a large size of 60ml which lasts around 6 months or more of twice daily use - 2 drops of its runny substance is enough to cover the entire face. When I used it back then, I didn't need to use a weekly scrub or purifying mask as it provides the exfoliation that's probably just right.
I stopped using it when my skin was better but whenever I start experiencing that dullness that other hydrating products cannot help, I would turn to this serum.
The product may not be suitable for a lot of people though especially if you have sensitive skin, as it contains about 12% glycolic acid compound of pH 3.8. You really have to try it to see if your skin reacts negatively to it.
The Continuous Renewal Serum can be found in Sephora but I usually get my stock from StrawberryNet.
These are other types of products that contain glycolic acid that I've tried as well, which I'd probably touch in another post.
When it comes to products like these, I believe that one shouldn't be too dependent on them. I think we should eat proper food to encourage cell turnover the natural way but sometimes, in this stressful environment where we work long hours, have shorter sleep and drinking lots of coffee to stay fresh, products like these can assist. You just have to be mindful of what you use on your skin and more often than not, try to stick to brands that are known for its R&D, ease of distribution and efficacy. Frequent exfoliation may make skin more sensitive to the sun and it is advised that you put on sunscreen to maintain healthy skin.
Then again, there is also that argument that AHAs play a role in improving skin texture and health by only removing the upper dead layer of the skin. Thus revealing a clean and fresh layer of skin allowing pores to breathe better, less congestion brought on by dead cells and allowing better collagen production. Whatever it is, moderation is key.
Have you tried any other products like these?