How Does Skincare Work?

How does skincare help us?

Skincare works by penetration. To simplify, we have 3 layers to our skin. 1st we have the epidermis, what is visible, 2nd the dermis, and lastly subcutaneous tissue(fat). The epidermis is the visible layer of skin. The dermis is what helps give our skin structure, and where collagen elastin resides. Hair follicles are also present in the dermis. This is when peels, micro needling, and laser therapy come in to play. The subcutaneous tissue what connects the dermis to your bones, and muscles, and protects the skeletal system.  The only way to heal or alter your facial structure, is by seeing a surgeon for plastic surgery, as they are the only ones who can get down to our deepest skin layer. For a superficial quick way injectables also work, but they are temporary, unlike plastic surgery that is permanent. Skincare works based mainly on molecular size, and PH.  Below I have categorized which layer of skin, our routine parts help.


Cleanser: This step focuses on the epidermis. Think of it as a broom sweeping the floor. It gets rid of visual residue. Cleansers have a larger or medium sized molecular structure that gets rid of dirt and oil, so our other products have a better chance of penetration, instead of resting on top of our epidermis. Cleansers can have oil soluble ingredients making them able to treat dermal problems, such as comedones and pustules but most are water soluble and therefore only treat the epidermis.

Exfoliator: The type of exfoliant you use will depend on if you reach the dermis or not. Physical exfoliation (scrubs, microdermabrasion) removes dead skin from the epidermis. Chemical exfoliants remove dead skin from the top layer but can also penetrate to the dermis, for added skin benefits. The most common chemical exfoliant is salicylic acid.

Toner: Epidermis wins again. Toners are used to help get rid of any cleanser residue, left from cleansing our skin. They also rid our face of dirt and oil.  Toners unlike cleansers stay on the skin, allowing the ingredients to penetrate further down into 2 other layers of the epidermis called the stratum lucidum and the stratum granulosum.

Serum: This part of the routine is when skincare starts to immediately do its job. Serums are made with ingredients of the smallest molecular structure to be well absorbed into the skin. Typically, water based, and are created to treat a specific skin problem. Whether it be a hydrating or resurfacing serum that is acid based, its always the powerhouse of our skin routine because the molecular structure allows ingredients to reach the dermis. Retinol and Retinal are also in this category.

Moisturizer: Can be occlusive or permeable. Occlusive products sit on top of the outermost layer (epidermis) to trap in active ingredients, and water to keep our skin healthy, and hydrated; they do not penetrate the skin layers. Think old school when Vaseline was the hot product, or a product that’s made of wax like lip balm. On the other end, you have emollients which are permeable.  Think of creams, lotions, and gels. Being that this is typically the last step in a routine for most people this product will take the longest time to penetrate the skin.

SPF: Sun protection is meant to shield your skin from harmful UVA-UVB rays that cause cancer and skin aging. This should always be your last step of your skincare routine because it is the most important. Even during the colder/darker months, sun protection should be applied.