"By using the autumn months to rejuvenate and repair your skin you are giving it the best chance to look glowing and healthy as we move into the festive season and the colder winter weather", says the skincare expert Debbie Thomas. Here are her top tips...
Is there a perfect season for skin? Summer's harsh UV rays aggressively break down collagen and stimulate splotchy pigmentation and winter's icy-cold winds strip the skin's surface, drying and aggravating it. Autumn's mild weather is certainly more forgiving and, as such, it is the perfect time to repair some of that summer sun damage. At the same time, it makes your skin strong and healthy so it can protect itself against the upcoming cold weather and the turning on of central heating. My clients always look to me to guide them through the minefield of modern skincare, whether that be in-clinic treatments or products, whatever the weather. There are a lot of options available and working out exactly what you need is always easier with the help of an expert who can fully assess your skin. Here I break down some of the most popular choices and explain what each one means for you and your skin.
I often get asked if professional exfoliation will thin or damage skin. The answer is, if done correctly, no; they do the opposite.
Regular mild peels and microdermabrasion freshen up the surface of the skin, smoothing and de-congesting it. If you have mild pigmentation, congestion, slightly uneven texture or even some very fine dehydration lines (the first signs of photo-ageing), then a course of peels or microdermabrasion sessions will help to reduce these. The treatments will also stimulate the skin's circulation and boost your collagen.
Professional Peels come in various formulations and strengths. I have a varied selection from mild to medium peels, so I can always choose the best peel type and intensity for every client's skin. I would expect any good skin clinic to do the same.
Milder peels include enzyme peels that often contain papaya or pumpkin enzymes, which "eat" the very top layer of dead keratinised skin cells, instantly revealing fresher glowing skin underneath. These rarely leave any redness after treatment and are suitable for most skin types.
Mild to medium alpha and beta-hydroxy acid peels, which originally come from fruits, plants, trees and nuts, are the most common peels used and work a little bit deeper, although they still mainly focus on the upper dead layers of the skin. Once applied, they rapidly change the acidity levels (pH) of the skin, which then causes the "glue" between the skin cells to break down, releasing the skin flakes so that they fall away. These peels can cause some minor to moderate redness and may make your skin dry for a few days after the treatment, so plan for this.
Strong peels like TCA or phenol are not something I'm personally fond of. They are very intense and although they can give quite dramatic improvements, they also have higher risks. I have seen many clients over the years who have developed hyper-sensitive skin and others who have ended up with very stubborn pigmentation issues caused by the inflammation created during the post-peel recovery period. These peels will always cause redness and pretty intense peeling, sometimes for several weeks – remember Samantha in Sex and the City! If you opt for these stronger chemical peels, then always go to someone who is experienced at performing them and never have them if you have dark skin.
Professional microdermabrasion is performed using a machine. Some use scratchy little pads that glide/spin over the skin, buffing away dead skin cells. Others are "hoover-like" and blast tiny sand-like crystals at the skin at the same time as sucking the dislodged dead skin cells and grime away. My favourite, and a favourite with my clients, is hydra-dermabrasion, which pushes a jet of cleansing serum into the pores through a vacuum vortex tip that is slightly rough. This not only sloughs away dead skin but also deep cleanses the pores and hydrates the skin leaving it feeling immediately plump. All forms of microdermabrasion are adjustable so they can be made milder or stronger depending on your skin.
It is important to remember with any skin exfoliation treatment not to overdo it or you can impair the skin's barrier function, which can cause further problems.
LASERS AND LIGHTS
Anyone over the age of 35 should start considering light-based treatments like laser and IPL. These are the next level of skin repair and rejuvenation treatments. Not only do I see clients' skin improving with these treatments initially but also longer term. Over the years we are able to maintain the skin's health and really slow down the deterioration we associate with ageing, while maintaining a very natural look.
There are many types of lasers and lights that all work in different ways and have different effects on the skin and its appendages (hair, veins, pigmentation, collagen etc). I have invested in multiple different laser technologies in my clinic so I can really target specific concerns, as well as consistently addressing skin health for all skin colours and types.
Light technology can be used in many ways, but I opt for long-term skin maintenance rather than aggressive treatments. This approach gives good gradual results that can be topped up without too much irritation or "down time". This means that the treatments are safer and there is less chance of redness, peeling or worse after treatment. Light treatments can be used to improve the overall look and feel of your skin as well as to tackle problems like acne, rosacea and other inflammatory skin conditions and to smooth, firm and brighten, reduce redness and brown spots and tidy up unwanted hair growth. With so many light options now available it is good to do your own research, but you will get the best advice from a professional who has seen and assessed your skin.
I am a fan of lasers specifically as each laser type is targeted and predictable but, unless you have access to several different types of laser, you can be limited in what or who you can treat. This is why some clinics opt for Intense Pulsed Light (IPL). IPL is not a laser but can work within the skin in a very similar way to lasers. IPLs have interchangeable filters, which manipulate the light allowing it to focus on different aspects of the skin. My only concern with IPL is that it is slightly more unpredictable than lasers as it is not as precise so, unless you have a very experienced practitioner, I do find that the risk of side effects is higher, even though lasers are considered more powerful.
Generally, IPL is very risky for darker skins so only go to a practitioner that is very experienced at treating these skin types. Some lasers (mainly ND:Yag based lasers such as the Fotona SP Dynamis) are pretty safe for darker skins but they still need a skilled and experienced practitioner operating them.
Photo Dynamic Therapy (aka red or blue light therapy or LED therapy) uses tiny LED lights that produce a very specific wavelength of light that triggers photo-chemical reactions in the skin. These are completely different to lasers and IPLs; they are nowhere near as powerful but, with regular use, can really help with general skin boosting. The best bit is it is totally painless and, depending on the light colour or wavelength, we can either target and reduce acne bacteria or stimulate healing, which calms and strengthens the skin while stimulating new collagen production (a huge plus after sun exposure that damages collagen).