The 7 habits of highly effective skin care

Melisse Gelula skin care tipsLinda Wells, the editor of Allure, wrote Confessions of a Beauty Editor. Jean Godfrey-June wrote about her unlikely rise to the top of the moisturizer section of the masthead at Lucky in Free Gift with Purchase. Alexia is making me write this skin care tell-all.

Throughout my tenure at the now-shuttered Luxury SpaFinder Magazine, where I wrote a section called “Beauty and Brains,” I tested hundreds of products, spa treatments, and the patience of many a beauty marketing person by demanding studies, proof, and ingredient source information. I wrote for thinking women who wanted to know their retinoids from rip-off ingredients, and I revealed in print when things couldn’t possibly do what they claimed and asked why a cream or a facial cost more than $300. Hey, I still do!

What follows are the skin-care tips and tricks I’ve learned from being a science-minded beauty editor, almost all of which I practice myself. They’re in logical order of my own skin-care routine. They might not work for you, skin being that often fickle thing, but I really hope they do.


Melisse Gelula of WellandGoodNYC.com

Melisse Gelula, the Christiane Amanpour of Skin Care

1. No soap; facial cleansers. I use a milky lactic-acid cleanser in the morning and a clarifying one at night (because I have combination skin). Both are free of the waxes and junk you’ll find in Cetaphil, which I plan to lambast soon. The goal is not a dry tight feeling when you wash; it’s the opposite. Sometimes I do like a Parisian woman and just splash my face with cold water in the morning. At night I’ll often use a 2-in-one cleanser with exfoliating enzymes in it for the exponential benefits of clearing my pores and sloughing off dead skin gently.

2. Use high-quality facial oils. I’ve waxed poetic on this before, so I won’t again. But if you’re afraid of applying oils on your face, don’t be. Your skin will drink them up like water in a desert. I’ve seen plumper, firmer, heartier skin and a dewier complexion that’s legitimately healthy.

3. Exfoliate! Slough off your dead skin cells, and do it often. By boosting the rate at which your cells turnover naturally (about a 28 day process, which slows with age), you reveal new smooth cells beneath, even out your skin tone, help pores stay clear, and stimulate collagen. Newly revealed cells reflect light better and can better absorb your pricey skin-care products. Follow?

4. Peels or scrubs? I use both chemical exfoliants (gentle AHAs, lactic acid, and fruit enzymes that break the glue that bonds cells together) and physical exfoliants (the scrubs) just on my T-zone. There’s nothing else that can shrink my pore size and get rid of blackheads (well, the visible part) in 10 minutes. Exfoliants are great prevent-and-treat products for acne (particularly chemical exfoliants) and anti-aging. Who’s skin doesn’t fall into one of these camps?

5. Illuminate now. I love tinted moisturizer with light reflecting particles. The early 20th-century film stars put Vaseline on the camera lens. Mica, a mineral added to moisturizers, particularly the tinted ones with sunscreen, create the same luminizing glow. About 99 percent of the time I get a complement on my skin, I’ve either very recently had a facial or I’m wearing a tinted moisturizer with light reflecting particles.

Eye cream that works

Skin-care factoid: Lack of oil glands means eyes will show your age first

6. Sunscreen isn’t just for the sun. Women come up with every excuse under the sun NOT to wear the one beauty product that can prevent nearly all skin-care woes—dark spots, fine lines, lack of firmness, you name it. I wear sunscreen about 360 days a year. It’s the number one anti-aging product and it prevents skin cancer, so why wouldn’t I? I typically wear sunscreens and moisturizers with zinc and Mexoryl because they catch the broadest range of UV rays.

7. Two cents on eye cream. I’m still looking for an awesome eye cream that can do something for my dark under-eye circles (aka the visible hemoglobin that shows through the really thin skin around the eyes). Vitamin K, arnica, and circulation stimulators like caffeine are supposed to do the trick, but so far I’ve found that lymphatic drainage during a facial is the only thing that works better than concealer. I just wish it lasted longer than a few days. —Melisse Gelula

Got a question for me about these tips or your skin? Use the Comments section, below!

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29 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. May 18th, 2010 at 11:35 am

    How often should I exfoliate? I use a FRESH sugar exfoliant about once a week. should i be doing more or less.

    also, i try to use an spf moisturizer everyday but they make me break out. every single daily cream i try. I do want to protect myself on a daily basis, but i don’t want acne as a result! i am not sure which is the lesser of two evils…

  2. Well+Good
    May 18th, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Which Fresh exfoliant is it? Once a week at least is my general rule. As for sunscreen, I’d want to know what you’re using exactly. But look at the active ingredients on the drug facts portion of the label. If it doesn’t say zinc or titanium dioxide, I’d say switch to one that does. These ingredients block rather than chemically convert UV rays, the latter process can cause pimples in a lot of people. Also, zinc’s an anti-inflammatory, which is good for finicky skin, and why it’s the number one ingredient in…diaper-rash cream!

  3. May 18th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Melisse – love and completely agree with the 7 habits. Thanks for sending out such quality education. Debra

  4. May 18th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I also wholeheartedly agree with your habits. Thanks for sharing some good sound advice in a world filled with a bunch of beauty bologna!

  5. May 18th, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for this, interesting read and especially agree about oil being so amazing. I’ve shared this on my blog today (www.iheartnaturalbeauty.blogspot.com).
    I take it you’re not concerned about potential carcinogens in sun protection? Many folk say it’s really bad for skin and I notice you advocate titanium dioxide which some say is controversial. I would love to not worry anymore about potentially harmful ingredients but I read so much propaganda that I do worry.

  6. Well+Good
    May 18th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I hear you, Iona! The topic of sunscreen requires a week worth of posts… I advocate sun protection because skin cancer stats are huge; it’s the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. One in five Americans will get it; 2.5 million new cases this year alone.

    That said, the sunscreen filters or ingredients that give me concern are the chemical filters, not the mineral ones. The way chemical filters work by absorbing and converting UV light energy in your skin seems riskier to me than an inert mineral that reflects light on the skin’s surface. Many smart natural-learning beauty-industry people I know say chemical filters will be considered potential carcinogens in time. We’ll cover it on Well+Good when we know more!

  7. May 18th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Which 2-in-one cleanser with exfoliating enzymes do you suggest?

  8. May 18th, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    What do you think about the clarisonic? Many claim that it improves their complexion.

  9. Well+Good
    May 18th, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    The Susan Ciminelli Deep Cleanse with papaya and lactic acid is fab, Cole! Tracie Martyn’s Amla Purifying Cleanser is close, but not as active, I find. I just got the new Jurlique Fruit Enzyme Exfoliator with pumpkin enzymes, which I’m looking forward to trying. I’ll let you know what I think… If you find another one you want my two-cents on, I’m happy to dish.

  10. Well+Good
    May 18th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I was converted by the Clarisonic! I thought, Why do I need help washing my face? when it was sent to me for a story in 2007. But then my skin started to look clear and smooth, like it does after a facial. I think it’s likely exfoliating skin as it oscillates (300+ times per second), and is particularly good for people looking to improve the tone and texture of their skin, or who wear a lot of makeup or sunscreen. The topography of the skin (the hills and vales of skin cells) means your cleanser and your 20 seconds at the sink can’t get at all the grime.

  11. May 20th, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Thanks Melisse!

  12. May 21st, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Well done, thx for the great article. With some of the things you recommend (daily lactic acid, frequent exfoliation, etc) it becomes imperative to wear sunscreen as the skin is more vulnerable. Remember to re-apply sunscreen throughout the day if your skin is oily, humid weather sets in, or if you sweat/exercise. Zinc is my preferred ingredient in sunscreens as it is helpful for those of us with sensitive skin.

  13. May 21st, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    thanks for all the tips – I’m saving up for the Clarisonic, I must have this!!

  14. May 21st, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks, Melisse. By the way, what do you think of the Body Deli products? I recently read about them, but haven’t tried any yet.

  15. May 24th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Can someone recommend a good cleanser with lactic acid? ( i am using cetaphil and seeing that its not the best from this article!)
    Are there products you recommend that arent so expensive?

  16. Well+Good
    May 24th, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Sonia, Melisse here: You’ve given me a great story idea! In the meantime, let me say that chemicals are way cheaper to create than organically farmed ingredients are to grow—and certify, and get year-round—so the price point does tend to be higher. Expect to pay at least $12 for plant-based cleansers. A new one I’m trying right now from Hope Gillerman, one of Well+Good’s advertisers, is $19. It’s definitely on the clarifying and deep cleansing end of the spectrum, and it foams thanks to the pump that aerates the formula as its dispensed (rather than using chemical foamers, like sodium laurel sulfate): http://www.etsy.com/listing/44464072/grapefruit-face-wash-and-washing-mitt-46

  17. May 26th, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Thanks for an informative article. I’d like to add my personal/professional bias as I write about how to have healthy, radiant, young looking skin. Professional skin care is superior to DIY and worth the time/effort/money. Everyone’s skin is different and we should not be diagnosing our own issues. A medical aesthetician can customize your skin care regimen.
    I wonder why you do not mention Vitamin A (really the best way to exfoliate) and daily use of an anti-oxidant, e.g., Vitamin C.
    I appreciate this opportunity to explain how to “step it up!”
    Ageless Elaine

  18. June 24th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Another question about the Clarisonic, Melisse. I already know from your post that you love it, but there are some competing products out there – Tip Essentials, Pretika, Nutra Sonic. Since your site is all about good value, could you compare these for us, or tell us why the Clarisonic is the must have??


  19. Well+Good
    June 24th, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Robyn,
    Melisse is in Scotland for a week, testing vegan haggis recipes :)
    She’s our skin care guru and I’m sure she’ll have a response as soon as she’s back online in NYC. Thanks for your patience.

  20. July 14th, 2010 at 10:38 am

    What’s your take on Olay ?

  21. July 20th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks, Melisse, for such a great article. I am glad I subscribed both on Facebook and to the daily email!! My question: I use Mario Badescu enzyme cleanser and my clarisonic every other day (I am afraid of hurting my skin, it’s quite sensitive). As far as sunblock, my excuse is that i have not found a moisturizer with sunblock that doesn’t make my face resemble the BP oil leak. My skin is sensitive but gets extremely shiny. Not dewy, but disgustingly shiny. Any advice?

  22. January 5th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Which tinted moisturizer with light reflecting particles should I use?

    Which chemical exfoliant should I use?

  23. Well+Good
    January 18th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Lilli – I hope you saw this article on tinted moisturizers! We list four that you might like: http://bit.ly/eowyzp

  24. February 4th, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    A refreshing contrast to all the fluff articles about health/beauty. Wonderful information. I am going to track back on your articles as I appreciate the thoughtful and clear, scientific approach.

  25. April 7th, 2011 at 11:50 am

    As a professional Dermal Therapist, I am deeply concerned by some of these tips. In particular, the tip “Exfoliate, and do it often.” “.. and do it often??” Why on earth would you advise people to continually disrupt the skins barrier defense system AND rob the skin of it’s immune cells? So many of my new clients have terrible skin conditions, all caused by over exfoliating. I give skin care tips each day at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Pur-Skin-Vitamin-Powered-Skin-Therapy/125997257419399

  26. July 20th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    […] with a very soft spot for rosehip. -Exfoliate? Another check – oats do a fine job of it. Read the other four steps here. And tell us, how many of them do you do already? (Image credit Well and […]

  27. January 30th, 2013 at 6:32 am

    […]   More Reading 3 great apps that motivate you to workout Surprising celebrities who meditate 7 habits of highly effective skin care   FILED UNDER: Good Advice TAGS: Dr. Jim Nicolai, health tips, wellness […]

  28. March 26th, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Melissa, try Eminence Organics eye products. I use the Biodynamic Bearberry Eye Cream and the Neroli Age-Corrective Eye Serum for a one-two punch. As a Health Spa Director, I’ve had access to all of them and this is the one I use and recommend for everyone.

  29. Erin
    July 6th, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Keep your skin moisturized and hydrated. Also get enough rest and sleep.

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