Toners, Cleansers, and Moisturizers, Oh My!
If you've ever wondered what exactly toner does or why you need to use a moisturizer
, you're not the only one. Trying to figure out what products to use for your skin type or condition can be confusing. Here's a guide to common skin care products and what they do.
- Cleansers: Cleansers remove dirt, oil, makeup, and bacteria. They usually lather, but some cleansers are milky and don't lather. They clean just as well, though. Remember that residue from cleansers can leave some darker skin looking dull. To avoid this, use a toner after washing your face to remove every last trace of cleanser.
- Moisturizers: Moisturizers help the water that's in your skin stay put. They also help the water that's in the inner layer of your skin reach the outer layer of skin.
- Refiners: Refiners are used after washing your face. They provide a light, moisturizing effect.
- Scrubs: Also called exfoliants or abrasive scrubs, these products contain gritty materials like ground almonds or oatmeal. They help your old skin cells fall away faster and make your skin look brighter and smoother. They're usually used after washing your face and should only be used once a week or so. If you have sensitive or dry skin, scrubs may be too harsh to use on your face.
- Soaps and Moisturizing Soaps. There are many types of soaps. Deodorant soaps decrease the amount of bacteria that cause odors. They are okay to use on your body, but they may be too harsh to use on your face. Another kind of soap is a "beauty bar." These are usually less drying and won't irritate sensitive skin as much as a deodorant soap. Moisturizing soaps contain added ingredients that help your skin hang on to the moisture that's in it.
- Toners: Toners, also called astringents, are used after washing your face. They remove extra oil and every last trace of your cleanser. They're good for oily skin, but can sometimes be too drying for dry or sensitive skin.
Now that you know what all of these products do, the next step is to try them out. Most likely, you'll have to try a few before you find the ones that work for you and your skin. back to top
Caring for Your Skin Type
To make your face look its best, you have to know what's best for it. Here's the scoop on different facial skin types and how to care for them. back to top
Combination skin is actually the most common skin type. It means that part of your face is oily and part is dry or normal. The oily part is usually your forehead and nose, which is called your T-zone
. The dry or normal part is usually your cheeks. Your pores
may be big in some areas and very small in others. By the way, you can't change the size of your pores. Pore size is genetic.
How to Care for Combination Skin
- Wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser or a gentle, moisturizing soap.
- Use toner on the oily areas only. The normal and dry areas don't need it.
- Apply a facial moisturizer to the dry areas as needed. Ask your dermatologist or another adult or friend to recommend a good moisturizer. If the oily parts of your face need a moisturizer, use one that's oil-free and made for combination skin. back to top
Dry skin is mostly caused by underactive sebaceous glands
. These are the glands on your face and other body parts that produce oil. Dry air, too much sun, and cold weather can also cause dry skin or make it worse. Dry skin is more fragile than other skin types and can be easily irritated. It has small, almost invisible pores. People with dry skin often have dry hair, and may tend to have less acne
. But those with dry skin are more prone to wrinkles and skin irritation (you can't have everything!).
How to Care for Dry Skin
- Wash your face twice a day with a gentle, moisturizing cleanser. Look for one that says "soap-free" or is made for dry skin.
- Skip toner because it may dry your skin even more.
- Use a good moisturizer. Ask your dermatologist or your mom for the name of one they like.
- Look for cosmetics that are hypoallergenic or made for sensitive skin. They will keep your skin from drying out even more. back to top
Did you know that not very many people have normal skin? Also called balanced skin, this skin type isn't oily or dry. It's usually smooth and the pores are small or invisible. Normal skin can become dry and may get lines and wrinkles earlier than normal. That means real wrinkles show up in the late thirties or early forties.
How to Care for Normal Skin
- Wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser or soap, one that is gentle on your skin. Deodorant soaps are not mild. Many products will say "mild" or "gentle" on the label. You can also look for products made for sensitive skin. They are usually mild.
- Normal skin doesn't need toner. If you'd like to use one anyway, choose one that's alcohol-free so you won't dry out your skin.
- Follow up with a moisturizer on the parts of your face that feel dry or tight. back to top
The bad news about oily skin is that it tends to break out. The good news is that this skin type gets fewer wrinkles. Oily skin is caused when the sebaceous glands
in your face make too much oil. People with oily skin usually have large pores
(pores you can see easily), and shiny noses and foreheads. They tend to get zits, blackheads
, and whiteheads
, but not everyone with oily skin breaks out. They may have oily hair, too.
How to Care for Oily Skin
Did you know that over-washing oily skin can cause it to produce more oil? back to top
- Wash your face twice a day with a mild soap or a cleanser for oily skin. You can try a cleanser made for acne-prone skin, but many of them are too harsh and may make the problem worse.
- Be careful not to over-wash your skin. It may produce even more oil if you do.
- Toners are good for oily skin because they help remove excess oil and traces of cleanser. Witch hazel works well as a toner (you can find it at the drugstore) for oily skin. Again, be careful about over-drying your skin. If a toner irritates your skin, stop using it.
- Most of the time this skin type doesn't need moisturizer. But if you do use one, choose an oil-free formula.
- Look for water-based makeup, instead of oil-based formulas. It's less likely to clog pores and will keep your face from getting too oily.
- Learn more about caring for acne-prone skin.
Sensitive skin is very delicate. It gets red and irritated very easily, often reacting to ingredients in cosmetics and skin care products and to the sun. Sensitive skin can be oily, dry, or combination skin.
How to Care for Sensitive Skin
How to Wash Your Face
- Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser made for sensitive skin.
- Skip the toner. It's likely to upset your skin. If you must use a toner, look for an alcohol-free one or one made for sensitive skin.
- Apply moisturizer if you need it.
- Use products that are hypoallergenic. They're made with ingredients that are less likely to bother your skin and cause a reaction.
- Use fragrance-free products when you can. Fragrances are the biggest cause of skin reactions.
- Some ingredients upset sensitive skin. Check out Ingredients to Avoid to learn more.
- Any product that causes irritation, such as redness, scaling, or peeling, can leave dark spots on some darker skins. So be careful when using products like acne medications, and check with your dermatologist before using any new skin treatments. You can use a bleaching cream to help fade dark spots. back to top
Get Great Skin All Over: Body Skin Care
- Wash your face twice a day with a gentle soap or cleanser.
- Be sure to rinse well and always use lukewarm water. Hot water is too harsh on skin.
- Never scrub. Instead, gently massage cleanser or a mild soap into your skin using your fingers or a soft washcloth.
- Be careful with scrubs. Lots of dermatologists don't recommend facial scrubs because they are too harsh for most skin types. If you do use them, limit them to once a week, and use one made especially for the face. back to top
Caring for the skin on your body is much simpler than caring for the skin on your face. It's usually not as sensitive and it has fewer sebaceous glands
. That means fewer problems like pimples. Here are the basic guidelines for caring for the skin you're in:
Tips for Healthy Skin
- Wash your body once a day using warm water (not hot).
- Use a deodorant soap under your arms and on your feet. Use a milder soap on the rest of your body.
- If your soap is too drying, it will make your skin itch and feel tight. Use it only under your arms, on your feet, and in your genital area. It may also help to look for a moisturizing soap.
- About once a week, exfoliate your skin. This helps the dead skin cells fall away faster and your skin look brighter and feel smoother. You can use a soapy washcloth or an exfoliating scrub.
- Follow your shower with a moisturizing body lotion. Apply it when your skin is still a little wet and pat dry instead of wiping down. That way, you lock some of the moisture in your skin.
- If you have very dry skin that's itchy and uncomfortable, use Vaseline® instead of lotion. Put the Vaseline on when your skin is still a bit wet and pat dry. It may also help to take shorter showers and skip baths. Long soaks can make dry skin worse.
- When darker skin gets dry, it sometimes looks gray or "ashy." To avoid this, use a mild soap and apply a rich lotion or Vaseline to wet skin to seal in moisture. Rich lotions are usually thicker, and they may say "cream" on the label. If the air in your house in dry, think about getting a humidifier, which can help put moisture back in the air. back to top
- Drink at least 8 big glasses of water a day. Water helps hydrate your body and keeps your skin looking fresh.
- Don't smoke or hang out with people who do. Not only does smoke (and second-hand smoke ) damage your lungs, it makes your skin dingy and dull.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Your skin needs the right vitamins and nutrients to look and feel its best.
- Be careful when getting any kind of skin-peeling procedure or even an aggressive facial. These can cause scarring and discoloration in darker skin.
- Get some sleep. Sleep is really important for great-looking skin.
- Move it. Regular exercise like inline skating, basketball, soccer, or even a game of tag with your friends is a great way to keep your skin looking healthy.
- Block the sun. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 when you're going to be outside for any amount of time. You need to be smart about the sun to keep your skin healthy and happy.
- Skin that is darker is less likely to get lines and wrinkles. That's because it has more melanin and, therefore, more natural protection from the sun. But darker skin still needs sun protection, so wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 when going outside.
- Never go to bed with makeup on. It can clog your pores and lead to breakouts.
- Don't pick at darker skin, because it can leave dark spots that take a while to fade away. Picking can also cause keloid scars. back to top