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How to Take Care of Your Skin While Working 80+ Hour Weeks
Guest Post for @BowTiedBull
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, just a cartoon deer on the internet with a background in chemistry and a hyperfixation on skin. This is not medical advice.
The biggest misconception about skincare is that you need more than five minutes to take care of yourself properly.
Skincare isn’t some expensive habit reserved for the wealthy - it’s a practice of basic hygiene that we can leverage to slow down the aging process and improve your perceived competency.
In this piece we’ll discuss:
The basics of skincare
The best anti-aging solution you can implement right now
Leveling up from beginner to intermediate skincare
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The Basics of Skincare
At baseline, you should consider a routine including the following three steps:
You can read my full breakdown of a basic skin routine here, but basically, you’ll want to rid your face of the dirt and sweat that accumulates throughout the day and replenish your skin with lipids. The former is to keep your face clear by preventing inflammation and pimples, and the latter is to ensure you age well by keeping your skin barrier intact. I linked my favorite drugstore brand cleanser and moisturizer above - the formulas are clean and devoid of basically all irritants and potential endocrine disruptors. I use them myself!
If you’ve got dry skin, you can get away with rinsing in the morning and cleansing at night, but if you’re oily/acne-prone, I’d suggest you cleanse twice a day. If you’re dealing with pimples or blotchiness, you can also consider leveraging a https://amzn.to/3EuMgIs at night. Salicyclic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that will dissolve the gunk in your pores and allow it to be washed out.
Additionally, you should consider wearing facial SPF. I wear SPF on my face and hands daily as a preemptive strike against the cumulative damage of isolated UVA radiation over time. Sunlight consists of UVA and UVB rays, and we need both for vitamin D synthesis. Think UVA for aging and UVB for burning. When you’re sitting indoors, you’re getting entirely UVA through windows with none of the proposed protective benefits of broad-spectrum sunlight, including infrared. This will asymmetrically upregulate the aging process of your skin with particular focus on areas where it’s thinnest: the face, neck, and hands. This is my favorite mineral SPF - no benzene derivates for UV filters and SPF 30+ with broad-spectrum protection.
Retinol, The Best Anti-Aging Solution You Can Implement Right Now
If you’re strapped for time and over 25 years old, there is exactly one ingredient you need for anti-aging purposes: retinol. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that your body metabolizes into retinoic acid. When retinoic acid binds to your retinoid receptors, you essentially kickstart your body’s engine to upregulate cell turnover and stimulate collagen and elastin production (think “skin cell printer go brrrr”). After a few cell cycles, your skin will glow and your fine lines and wrinkles will be less noticeable. Since you’re too busy to deal with a complicated skin routine, retinol is easily the best way to improve your appearance as it takes two minutes to apply and works over night. Here’s how to use it safely:
Apply a pea-sized amount of retinol to your finger, dot all over your face, and gently rub in until absorbed
That’s literally it. Start with three times a week and work your way up to five as tolerated. You may experience some minor purging, irritation, and dryness, but in 3-6 months, your skin will glow. Eventually, you can upgrade to stronger retinoids, but over-the-counter retinol is an easy and affordable place to start.
Note: Do not mix retinoids with exfoliating acids, vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, or any other caustic agents. Retinoids are not suitable for those pregnant or nursing.
Leveling Up From Beginner Skincare
We discussed beginner skincare in the first section and barely intermediate skincare in the second. Leveling up from beginner skincare includes slightly more effort and significantly greater rewards. Some examples of this include:
Leveraging a gentle exfoliating acid like mandelic acid 3 nights per week. Due to its relatively large molecular size, mandelic acid is a gentle alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that works by dissolving the lipids holding the top layer of your skin together, allowing it to be sloughed off and for younger, brighter skin to shine through
Applying an exfoliating moisturizer like 12% lactic acid on your body after your evening shower a few nights per week to clear up hyperpigmentation and turn over old, dead skin
Using a vitamin C serum in the morning for free radical neutralization and antioxidant effects. Over time, topical vitamin C essentially works by downregulating excess melanin production to maintain an even skin tone and stimulating collagen production. The downside is that it’s a finicky molecule with low bioavailability. Thus, it is difficult and expensive to stabilize in solution. If you’re going to use this, I suggest using this in the morning between cleanser and moisturizer.
There’s plenty more too, but I’ll leave it there for now! For full problem-specific protocols, you can find them here:
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