........A Chicago area beauty blogger's foray into day-spas, med-spas, and countless beauty counters........

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Skincare 102: NightTime Products: Cleanser, Retinol, Eye Cream, Moisturizer

I thought I'd be able to write the sequel to Skincare 101 over the weekend, but friends from out of town and festivities prevailed. You know what else makes skin look fresh and healthy? Being happy...so I had to go out and play this weekend. I'm sure you understand. :)

You've already learned what you need to be looking for in a cleanser in my last post HERE. You have to cleanse at night just like in the morning to get rid of all the makeup, sweat, bacteria, and general yuck that you encounter every day, that way you'll have a clean surface ready to absorb any products you apply to your face so they'll work better for you. While you sleep, the body repairs damage and cells rejuvenate, so a clean canvas and products to help nature along are vital to healthy, youthful skin. I still can't say enough about the Clarisonic Facial Cleansing System, but that's not part of the "simple" steps you asked for!

After cleansing, you're just 3 simple steps from your pretty face hitting your comfy faux-down pillows: retinol, eye cream, moisturizer:

(after cleansing)

1) RETINOL is a derivative of vitamin A. As I mentioned in my last post, vitamin A is an antioxidant, but unlike most antioxidants that perform better during the day, this one is better for night because it assists in cell turnover which, as mentioned above, happens while you sleep. When applied topically, retinol helps reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, stimulates collagen production so skin has better elasticity, creates softer skin, increases cell stimulation and repair. Yep, vitamin A is GOOD stuff!

Vitamin A derivatives can be purchased over the counter and will be advertised as "retinol," but there is also a stronger prescription variation called tretinoin, or the brand name Retin-A. If you've never used a vitamin A derivative, you probably don't want to start with a prescription strength because it will irritate the skin. You'll most likely want to start with the lowest strength over the counter product, use up a bottle or two, then move up to the next highest percentage, and so on. If the lowest strength product irritates your skin, use it every other night instead of nightly until your skin adjusts.

Like most products, retinols don't work overnight! Cell turnover is a slow process with serums and lotions. You may not see results for 4-6 months, but that's ok, keep using it. Provided they don't irritate your skin, you're going to keep these "basic" products in your skincare regimen. You may use different strengths or brands, but you'll keep using them. They are meant to be your skincare staples! Apply this product all over your face (I suggest neck and chest too), not just in targeted areas.

Over the counter retinols come in strengths of .15% (lowest) up to 1.5% (highest). A lot of brands don't list the strength of the retinol in their products. Why this is, I don't know, but being an informed consumer, I don't buy products that don't list the strength because for all I know they're putting some miniscule amount in and it's not going to do anything to help me. Brands I know, like, trust, and HAVE been able to EASILY find the strength of the retinol include: TX Systems Afirm (.15%- .6%), SkinCeuticals Retinol (.5%- 1%), DERMAdoctor Poetry In Lotion (1.0%), Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM (1.5%), Topix Replenix Retinol Plus Smoothing Serum (.2%- 1%), and Philosophy Help Me (.15%).

In the unlikely event that you find that your skin simply can't tolerate even the lowest strength retinol every other day or two, then look for an over the counter product containing Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) such as glygolic acid or lactic acid instead. AHA products are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, but will not give you the same results as retinol. AHAs exfoliate the skin, whereas retinol helps cells to rejuvenate. AHAs can be used morning and/or night.

A note about retinols and AHAs: because they create continuous exfoliation and/or cell turnover, skin is more likely to burn. This makes daily sunscreen usage even more important.

2) EYE CREAM. Some people like an eye cream that does the same thing that treatment products do---retinols, antioxidants, peptides, etc. But since we're talking "basics" here, and not getting in to anything too complicated, I really just recommend a light moisturizing eye cream like the ones I talked about in my last post. 

3) You need MOISTURIZER even if your skin is oily. Moisture is about water, not oil, so to keep your skin healthy, you need to moisturize morning and night. If your skin is normal or dry, at night, you may want to use a cream rather than a lotion since it's a bit heavier, but if your skin is oily, stick to an oil-free lotion to moisturize both day and night. I could get into all the details about moisturizing ingredients and water-binding agents, hyaluraonic acid, glycerin, cocoa butter, jojoba, humectants, and so on, but really what you need to know is you want a cream that is formulated for the face, not the body. Yes, there are high priced moisturizers, but you don't need to spend a lot unless you want to. You can find great products right on the drugstore shelves, or moderately priced products at the beauty counter.

Some night creams that I like and that get great reviews are Neutrogena Ageless Essentials Continuous Hydration ($13), Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($23), Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief Cream ($34), Estee Lauder Hydrationist Maximum Moisture Cream ($38), Shiseido, Clarins HydraQuench Cream ($49).

Ok, you now have night BASICS and you're ready to curl up in your Egyptian Cotton sheets and catch some ZZZZZs while your products get to work!