In the same way we’re interested in what nutritionists eat (and wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole), we’re equally as fascinated by the skin rules estheticians follow. After all, they spend their days getting up close and personal with peoples’ pores and doling out skincare tips—but how much of their own advice do they follow themselves? Do they really religiously use the retinol they recommend so highly to their clients? To find out the truth, we went straight to the source and asked three top estheticians for the skincare rules they always follow, no matter what. Keep scrolling to see them all!
If you hear the word “peel” and cringe, it’s time for a reality check. L.A.-based esthetician Kerry Benjamin says she does a professional exfoliation—usually a medium-depth multi-acid peel—every month. “As we age, our cell renewal decreases by half,” she explains. “If you want to have fresh, healthy, vibrant-looking skin, you have to force the cells to turn over more frequently and reveal a healthy glow.” Think of it as a treat, rather than a treatment; Benjamin says any visible peeling is just a side effect, and the real peeling is happening on the cellular level.
Another rule estheticians live by? Daily SPF protection. “I always wear a broadband SPF 30 or 50 and layer it with an antioxidant for added protection,” Benjamin says. And be diligent when applying—UV rays can cause damage even on cloudy days, she says, and on sunnier days, you should reapply SPF every two to three hours for maximum protection. And don’t forget a hat!
When a pimple pops up or stress strikes, you might be tempted to pick at your face—don’t. “I follow this tip religiously because the truth of the matter is a blemish usually lasts five to seven days, but the red or dark scar from picking at the blemish can linger for weeks—or even months,” Dallas-based esthetician Renée Rouleau says. “As tempting as it can be, it’s not worth it to pick. Instead, I apply a spot treatment to help speed up the recovery time of a blemish.” Benjamin agrees, saying, “Cleanse, apply the correct active ingredients, and leave it alone and let it heal!”
(If you do find yourself in the wake of a picking frenzy, here’s how to remedy your skin.)
When it comes to cleansing your face, it’s not so much about how you do it, but rather that you do it at all—and do it smartly. “If I’m staying home for the evening, I clean my face right after dinner instead of waiting until right before bed,” Liza Wong, esthetician and founder of Elite Skin Care in San Mateo, California, says. “That way, I won’t be too tired to wash my face thoroughly and apply all the necessary skincare products.”
As for how to cleanse, it’s really a personal preference and depends on your skin type and lifestyle. For example, Benjamin swears by her Clarisonic (“People confuse this with an exfoliation device, but it’s not—it’s meant to cleanse your skin and does a much better job than just using your hands”), while Wong opts for micellar waters. “Micellar waters contain micelle, which are good for people who have sensitive skin and cannot tolerate regular tap water for cleansing,” she says. “The cleansing water maintains the right pH for the skin to keep the skin in optimal state.” (She swears by Valmont’s Eau Micellaire Precieuse Votre Visage ($140) as a perfect a.m. cleanser.)
There’s no use investing in expensive skincare products if you aren’t applying them in the right order. “Always apply serums first, before moisturizer, because serums are more targeted and have a higher concentration of active ingredients,” Wong says. “A serum is like a single vitamin, while a moisturizer is more like a multivitamin.” In general, you should always apply products from lightest to heaviest.
By now, you should know that moisturizing is key—and lack of it is often the reason for wrinkles, dullness, and, yes, even oiliness. Thus, estheticians are especially devout about moisturizing, in whatever way works best for their skin type. “I spray my face with hydrating mist a few times during the day to hydrate, soothe, and refresh the skin,” Wong says. But the moisturizing shouldn’t stop at your face—get your body involved too. “I always keep coconut or avocado oil in my shower and apply it while my skin is still wet to seal in the moisture, and then apply a moisturizer,” Benjamin says. “We tend to forget that our skin on our body can also show signs of aging, and keeping it properly moisturized will slow down the signs of aging.”
So you’ve got the cleansing, toning, and moisturizing thing down pat—now give yourself some room to experiment with more… untraditional means. “When your skin doesn’t have proper blood flow, it can result in sluggish, dull, and tired skin that lacks a glow,” Rouleau says. “To ensure my skin has good circulation, I hang my head upside down for three minutes per day. You can do this up against a wall or during a Downward Dog in yoga, or simply hanging your head over the side of your bed. You should notice that after three minutes, a slight redness will appear on the skin, and in the long run it can make a big difference in getting and keeping an inner glow, to appear ‘lit from within.’” Meanwhile, Benjamin says she shaves the back of her hands twice a week in the shower and then applies moisturizer and SPF to “exfoliate and prevent early signs of aging.” Whatever works!
Retinol—we hear the word constantly and by now all know it’s the main ingredient we should look for if we want clear, healthy skin. But do estheticians really swear by it as much as they make it seem? Quite simply, yes. “I can’t live without my line’s stable, time-released Advanced Resurfacing Serum ($84), which contains pure retinol,” Rouleau says. “With regular use, my pores appear smaller, brown spots have lessened, and my lines and wrinkles are truly softened. Hands down, it has improved the clarity and texture of my skin better than any other product I’ve ever used.” Benjamin also swears by retinol, saying, “I always use a retinol at night! It’s key for collagen production and cell turnover. It’s a must in every skincare regimen!”
Scroll below to shop Rouleau’s, Benjamin’s, and Wong’s skincare picks!