beauty

12 skincare questions you've definitely panic-googled, answered by a dermatologist.

The skincare world can be an absolute circus. It's confusing. Crowded. Noisy. And while you'd love to believe you've finally got your skincare routine down pat (omg, go you), deep down you know you don't have a clue if you're doing this thing right (OH).

Like, what exactly are AHAs? Is it bad to mix acids with retinol? What about the oils? Where do they go in your routine? CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE OILS.

Watch: Here's how to protect your skin from the sun the correct way. Post continues below.


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With new products, ingredients and trends popping up every other day, it's no wonder things are confusing. And that's why most people turn to Google to help figure things out.

But is Google always right? Probs not. 

Listen: Pat, rub or dab? How to actually apply your skincare. Post continues below.

That's why we've brought in an expert. We've asked skin expert Dr Imaan Joshi from Skin Essentials to smooth out some of your most common skincare questions.

Get your learning caps on and your notepad ready, friend. We're about to take you through a cute skincare lesson. 

1. What is the best skincare?

This is a very broad and subjective question, but we've all Googled it. Multiple times. Because that cause there are tons of different skincare brands out there, and we obviously want to use the ones that are going to give us the best results, yeah?

According to Dr Joshi, however - it all really comes down to your individual skin types and concerns.

"Like sunscreen, I do not think there is a 'best skincare line' without the qualifier 'for you'," said Dr Joshi.

Makes sense, no?

However, Dr Joshi goes on to say that there are some key ingredients and products in a skincare routine that you should make sure are good quality.

"For example, retinol, a vitamin A derivative or a vitamin C to go with your SPF in the morning," she said.

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So, if you're going to invest in a specific step, make it this one. 

Save on things like cleansers and moisturisers and look for quality targeted treatments that will help address specific skin concerns. Whether it be fine lines, dark spots, acne scars - all the ‘corrective’ kind of stuff. 

"Some ingredients are more finicky than others, but the rest is down to feel, cosmetic elegance and fragrance. I am picky about feel, so I like Aspect Dr, which is a solid Australian brand I offer in my clinic." 

"Other good brands are SkinCeuticals, and for the budget conscious, The Ordinary and CeraVe. Most of it is trial and error to find what works for you."

Image: Laser Aesthetics, SkinCeuticals, RY, Chemist Warehouse 

2. What is combination skin?

You're familiar with oily skin and dry skin, but what exactly is combination skin? And how can you tell if you've got it? While most people think they're either on the oily or dry camp, chances are you sit in the middle.

"Quite simply, it is skin that is not uniform in feel and texture across your face," said Dr Joshi. 

When it comes to the telltale signs of combination skin, Dr Joshi said, "Some areas - typically the forehead, chin and nose - tend to be oilier and produce more sebum than drier areas such as cheeks."

So, if you have an oily T-zone, but your cheeks are dry, you may have combination skin. Meaning? You'll need to find a balance between treating oily and dry areas. 

Confused about your skin type? Why not check out our article on how to find out which skin type you are. Go on.

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3. What do AHAs do for the skin?

You've been using products with the word 'AHAs' plastered on the front - but do you... do you actually know what they are? That's cool, that's cool - we're not all skincare scientists around here. 

"AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid, a family of acids that help gently exfoliate surface layers of the skin to reveal newer layer underneath that is softer, and more evenly toned," explains Dr Joshi.

"Common examples used in skincare include glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane) and lactic acid, which is also hydrating and gentler than most other AHAs."

And just btw - AHAs aren't just found in serums. As Dr Joshi points out, these ingredients can also be found in cleansers, exfoliants, as well as toners. 

So, always make sure you check the ingredients in a product before slapping it on - you don't want to unknowingly use it for every step and seriously mess with your skin, yeah?

Which leads us to...

4. What does glycolic acid do?

"Glycolic acid is an AHA and a humectant - i.e. it gently resurfaces the skin, leading to fresher, newer skin that is softer and more even, while gently hydrating the surface of the skin," explains Dr Joshi.

As we mentioned before, play safe by sticking to one AHA product up to three times a week. Don't get too crazy, because your skin will only end up raw and sensitive.

And obviously if you're using glycolic acid in your skincare routine, you must wear sun protection daily - like, MUST. These kinds of ingredients will make your skin super sensitive to the sun - so, don't risk it.

Image: Getty

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5. What does lactic acid do?

Oh, looksie over here! Another cute AHA! 

In case you haven't met yet, lactic acid is a little bit of an all-rounder that works wonders on all skin types. Please say hello. 

"It brightens, evens out skin and helps improve hydration, leading with regular use, to firmer appearing skin," said Dr Joshi.

Lactic acid is great for those with sensitive skin and gives skin a mild, more nourishing effect without the redness or stinging associated with other AHAs (lookin' at you, glycolic).

6. What does toner do for your face?

*Actually*, though. Pls confirm, Dr Joshi. 

What exactly does toner actually do? And should we bother using it in our skincare routine?

According to Dr Joshi, toning is the step between cleansing and using serums or moisturisers. But apparently the jury is still out on just how necessary it is to use a toner in your skincare routine. 

"These days cleansers are much milder than soaps and face washes back in the old days, when toners was used to remove soap film and leave skin feeler cleaner," explains Dr Joshi.

"This is not really the case anymore, so it is debatable whether a toner is de rigueur. Unless it forms part of your self-care routine, especially at night - in which case, depending on its ingredients, it may add gentle moisture in between cleansing and serums."

7. What does hyaluronic acid do?

You've seen it everywhere, but what exactly is hyaluronic acid? What does it do, and is it a type of exfoliator because it has the word ‘acid’ in the name?

All good questions, folks. Gold star for you.

"Hyaluronic acid is a substance we naturally produce in our bodies especially connective tissue, that declines with age," explains Dr Joshi. "It is a humectant - it attracts water and retains moisture - many times its own weight."

Fun fact: One gram of hyaluronic acid is able to hold up to six litres of water. 

Dr Joshi said the decline of HA as we age, leads to loss of volume, hydration and plumpness, giving rise to fine lines and wrinkles.

That's where hyaluronic acid in skincare comes in. It's great for any skin type as any skin type can be dehydrated - yep, even oily skin!

And just btw, hyaluronic acid isn’t exfoliating in the way that AHAs and BHAs are. It pretty much does the exact opposite, delivering tonnes of hydration to plump and hydrate the skin.

8. What is vitamin C?

Ahh vitamin C. It's seriously one of the most underrated ingredients, IMHO. Not only does it brighten your skin, soothe inflammation and improve uneven skin texture, but it also helps to prevent fine lines and wrinkles.

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"Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, and it mops up free radicals on the skin due to UV exposure. Used under your SPF, it allows your SPF to work better than on its own. It also brightens and evens out uneven pigmentation and complexion," said Dr Joshi.

Just keep in mind that there are LOTS of different forms of vitamin C that can be found in all different kinds of citrusy-themed products (you'll find it in cleansers, serums, creams - you name it!). So, if you're just starting out, opt for a milder form  - especially if you have sensitive or blemish-prone skin.

Also, keep an eye on that expiration date.

"It is a highly unstable ingredient and goes off easily, so choose one that is packaged well to give you the effect that you want," adds Dr Joshi.

9. How do you get rid of acne?

Acne is a fickle concern. You can try *literally* everything you can to clear your skin (new skincare products, monitoring your triggers), but see little to know progress. 

Sigh.

However, it's important to understand that there's no one cause of acne - it's different for everyone and can relate to many different skin concerns. 

Image: Getty

Dr Joshi said instead of constantly jumping on different treatments to find 'The One' that will clear your skin, see a professional and work out what's actually going on with your skin. 

"By seeing a doctor with an interest in this, getting a correct diagnosis and a correct treatment plan and sticking to it," said Dr Joshi. 

"Skin takes time and skin problems take, on average, three months for results to become apparent. Patience is key."

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10. What's the best way to dermaplane?

Dermaplaning. Have you tried it? In case you haven't heard of it, dermaplaning is basically a fancy term for using a razor to remove peach fuzz and for mild exfoliation. It makes your skin smooth and your makeup look 500 times better.

We've discussed it a whole heap of times on the You Beauty podcast, but the people. They still have questions. Namely, the best way to do it.

First of all, you'll need to purchase a special razor especially for the process.

"Cleanse skin; apply a moisturising agent that allows glide, such as a gel or face oil, and always glide gently in the direction of hair growth," suggests Dr Joshi.

"Start off in an area where it is less noticeable if you make a mistake or cut yourself (e.g. the angle of the jaw) before doing more prominent areas."

If you want to learn more about shaving your face, check out Leigh Campbell's dermaplaning guide.

11. What's the best way to build a skincare routine?

This is a tricky one, because everyone has different skin, y'know?

"I'd always recommend a skincare that is age appropriate, season appropriate and personalised to you, because no one has your skin," said Dr Joshi. 

We'd recommend starting with the basics and incorporating targeted serums and treatments to help tackle any individual skin concerns.

"If you do not have any major issues, and are simply looking for prevention, SPF is a must from a very young age. In your 20s, consider adding in a retinoid. In your 30s, you may want to target that a bit more, and consider seeing a doctor to help personalise skincare to you before the problems begin to pile on."

"As a rule though, less is more. You do not need a 10 step routine to have great skin - unless it makes you happy and is part of your self- care. Keep it super simple."

If you're looking for more tips, here's how to build a skincare routine.

12. What's the best order to apply your products?

Keep it simple, people. "Cleanse; serums; moisturise at night. In the morning, cleanse if needed; serums; SPF and then makeup if used," said Dr Joshi.

If you want a more in-depth guide on how to apply your skincare products, check out our article on what order your skincare should go.

Do you have any skincare questions you'd like answered? Go on, tell us! Share with us in the comment section below.

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Feature image: Getty/Mamamia