We’re in the midst of a beauty renaissance, don’t you think? Perhaps you’ve already heard of taking care of your skin as wellness or — if you’re into the latest lingo — self-care. You already know the drill on some methods: Eat right, drink a lot of water, wear SPF. Others might leave you scratching your head. We dug deeper into the latest skincare fads with pros who set the record straight.
Jade-rolling and Gua Sha
What they are: Jade face rollers and gua sha massage tools are made of jade or quartz and are said to do everything from sculpting, toning, boosting circulation, minimizing fine lines, and improving elasticity. The benefits have less to do about the stone itself and more about the massaging technique.
Do they work?: There aren’t any clinical studies that prove the skincare benefits of jade rollers and gua sha tools, but “both the jade roller and gua sha are age-tested tools in Chinese culture that provide benefits to overall skin health,” says Sarah Akram, a celebrity esthetician. “The main benefits of using these tools include lymphatic drainage (the fluid that pools under your skin) to reduce puffiness, assist with product absorption, and increase circulation for a radiant glow,” she adds.
You may see a better effect depending on which tool you choose: The main differences between the jade rollers and gua sha are the shape and usage of the tools. The jade roller has a handle to gently roll across your skin and the other is a flat, handheld tool. “Using a gua sha tool takes a little more time and effort than using the roller,” says Akram. “I typically recommend rollers mostly because they’re more convenient to use,” she says. However, the unique shape of the gua sha tool is designed to contour your face (as opposed to the wide rolling pin shade of the jade roller), so you’re able to apply more pressure and a deeper massage, which can be more effective in seeing results.
If you’re still not convinced, at the very least either technique relaxes your facial muscles, slows down your breathing, and encourages mindfulness. The natural coolness of the stones may have “mild anti-inflammatory effects,” says Hadley King, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. Pop your tools in the fridge before using them with your favorite face oils to boost their soothing powers. “It’s great for the mornings if you wake up with puffy or swollen eyes. I like to apply a serum or eye cream and gently roll as the swelling decreases,” says Akram.
A 10-step (or more) skincare routine
What it is: A hallmark of Korean beauty, the famous 10-step skincare routine involves an oil cleanser, foam/cream cleanser, toner, essence, emulsion, serum, sheet mask, eye cream, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Depending on your skin type, there might be some tweaks to include exfoliants or a sleeping mask for nighttime.
Does it work?: The short answer: Yes. But are there skincare routines that are less time-consuming, yet just as functional? Absolutely.
Most busy people might be intimidated by the length of time it would take to do their daily skincare routine with 10+ steps, but you shouldn’t see it as a chore. “See it as a ‘me-time’ that you deserve and add the routine into your daily life. It’s more of a lifestyle,” says Elisa Lee, founder of @sokobeauty and Dot Dot Skin. “We are so busy nowadays and we often forget to treat ourselves. Having a lengthy skincare routine can be seen as therapeutic,” she says. If a long skincare routine adds stress to your lifestyle then it’s probably not for you. If you do it, indulge in each step as if it were a mini facial in the comfort of your own home. Gently massage your face as you apply a moisturizer; breathe in deeply as you pat on your serum. The ritualistic practice of it is as therapeutic as it is effective.
It’s flexible in the exact number of steps and it’s more about having the right products and layering in them in the correct order to achieve glowy, clear skin.
Sure, an excellent morning skincare routine could also simply consist of “washing your face, applying an antioxidant product, a moisturizer and an SPF,” suggests King. And for nighttime: “a great routine can include washing your face, applying a retinoid and applying a moisturizer,” she says.
Ultimately, “it’s not so much a focus on exactly how many steps you take. Having a multiple-step routine is about layering the products in the correct order and allowing each one to absorb into your skin and work its magic,” says Lee. Of course, every routine should be tailored to your skin type and whether that means two or 12 products, there’s no harm either way.
What it is: Coconut oil (yes, the same kind you can find in the grocery store) is a highly saturated oil rich in medium-chain fatty acids that is made by extracting the oil from raw coconuts. At room temperature, it can come in solid form, but when heated it will soften or melt.
Whether you’re using coconut oil for your skincare or dental hygiene, King recommends unrefined coconut oil for the best results. “The high temperatures used in the manufacturing process for refined coconut oil remove many of the oil’s antioxidants, such as polyphenols,” she advises. “So, if you don’t mind the coconut scent (which is neutralized by the refining process), I would recommend using unrefined coconut oil so that you get the benefit of these antioxidants.”
Coconut oil is a comedogenic substance, meaning that it can clog pores and cause breakouts so those with oily or acne-prone skin types will want to steer clear.
What it is: It’s a cosmetic treatment done by a dermatologist or medical esthetician that uses a sharp blade to gently exfoliate the surface of the skin and remove fine hairs from your face (aka that peach fuzz). The goal is to get silky smooth skin without damaging it or needing to use harsh exfoliators.
Does it work?: Yes, and King says “it’s safe as long it’s done by a professional” — aka please don’t try this at home. “They’ll use a sterile blade and clean technique, and it should not be performed on skin that is broken or irritated,” she adds.
It’s a relatively straightforward concept and procedure. Side effects, King adds, can include mild redness after treatment. Some people may also develop whiteheads within a day or two after the treatment. If you have inflamed acne, you should avoid dermaplaning since it would create nicks in elevated skin.
It could be safer than shaving and unlike simply shaving off your peach fuzz, dermaplaning also removes dead, dull skin.
Blue light therapy
What is it?: LED blue light therapy, which is approved by the FDA, uses a spectrum of light that’s clinically proven to be effective in killing acne-causing bacteria. The blue light spectrum shuts down bacteria’s metabolism and kills them.
Does it work?: It works best on mild or moderate acne, as opposed to cystic acne.
The American Academy of Dermatology says blue light therapies “show great promise in treating acne,” with many people experiencing a significant improvement after several sessions. A study on people with mild to moderate acne who were treated with blue light therapy twice a week for five weeks reported that lesions were reduced by 64 percent. But, if you have blackheads, whiteheads, acne cysts, or nodules, blue light therapy won’t be effective — it works best on your standard, run-of-the-mill red pimple.
As an in-office treatment, your doctor will provide goggles to protect the eyes while you sit under a blue light for the duration of the treatment. Each session hovers around $50-$100. You can also try at-home devices like a blue light face mask. Though they offer lower intensity than an in-office treatment, you can use them more frequently (the usual recommendation is once a day) and their portability lets you do it wherever you want.
However, even people with mild or moderate acne might not see any long-term effects and in cases of severe acne, you’re better off with a different method. For some people, blue light therapy can even be harmful. Last year, Neutrogena recalled their popular line of blue light masks, saying that for those with underlying eye conditions or those taking medications that enhance eye sensitivity, there could be a “theoretical risk of eye injury.” Adverse reactions to those without these issues can also include dry skin and redness.
What it is: You’ve all heard the advice of letting your skin “breathe” from time to time. Skin fasting is the process of forgoing your skincare routine to let your skin reset and find its natural happy place.
Does it work?: Yes, but only if you’re experiencing irritation or a bad reaction to one of your products, especially the ones with active ingredients like retinol or acids. ”Disrupting your routine (if it’s working) may be more trouble than it’s worth and could cause an imbalance of your skin,” says Akram.
If your skincare routine is working for you, then there’s no need for a fast.
“Skin fasting is a great way to find out if you’re over-moisturizing or stripping the skin by over-exfoliating. If you have a weak or damaged skin barrier and struggling with sensitivity or breakouts, skin fasting can help eliminate irritants and promote healing,” she says. However, a skin “fast” doesn’t necessarily mean a complete cold turkey. “You don’t want to skip out on cleansing, moisturizing and applying SPF,” she says. “If you skip these steps, oil, dirt and other impurities could build-up, leading to acne and uneven skin texture. Plus, exposing your skin to the sun without protection can lead to hyperpigmentation, fine lines and even skin cancer.”
If you think you may be overloading your skin with products and are unsure which is working, you can complete a skin fast by removing products from your routine gradually until you feel like your skin feels and looks back to “normal.”
What it is: Cannabidiol is a compound extracted from both cannabis and the hemp plant. CBD does not contain THC (the psychoactive component found in marijuana), so it won’t make you feel high. In the beauty industry, you see it in more and more products with claims that range from fighting off acne to giving your skin a glow.
Does it work?: Maybe. Though CBD products are outside of the FDA’s purview (personal care products even containing CBD are unregulated as long as they’re not affecting the structure of your body or skin), there’s evidence that it can be an effective treatment for chronic pain and studies show that CBD possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects as it targets your endocannabinoid system (whose main role is to maintain homeostasis). And we all know skin that isn’t stressed out is happy skin.
“One of the most promising potential roles for cannabinoid in skincare in dermatology is for the treatment of itch,” says King. One study showed CBD cream completely eliminated itchy skin in eight of 21 patients with uremic pruritus (itchy skin as a result of kidney disease). Another showed that a cream that stimulates the activation of cannabinoid receptors was able to reduce itch by 86.4 percent.
There’s not enough research yet to back up all the potential benefits of CBD, so we still have a lot to learn. Meanwhile, there isn’t a downside to incorporating CBD products in your routine, so if it makes you feel good, go for it. If you’re breastfeeding, the FDA advises against it.
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With additional reporting by Christa Lee.