Monthly Archives: January 2016

Choreography: Serums + Masks + All the other “extras”

If you’ve read every post leading up to this one, congrats! I hope you find the perfect products for your skin and put together a routine that will give you great skin. We’re down to the last post, where I’ll cover all the “extras”, that aren’t really extras at all: serums, masks, and sunscreen.

All of the skincare products we’ve covered (cleanser, toner, etc.) should address your skin type. Serums, treatments, and masks should address your skin concerns-things like acne, discoloration, aging. Keep that in mind when purchasing products.

Multi Masking

Masks always seemed like a waste of money to me, like a cheap indulgence that you did when your girlfriends came over. I’m still skeptical of most of them, but I can see their benefit now. It’s all in the ingredients.

Most masks that you’ll find are going to contain more preservatives and colors than actual beneficial products. Just the other night, I used a mask on my husband and I that claimed to contain at least 80% natural products. After inspecting the ingredients label, I saw that there were over 30 ingredients in this mask. 30!!! And sure enough, when I researched each individual ingredient (The Punk Rock Esthetician is also a Huge Nerd), the majority of them were preservatives. Granted, half of the majority were naturally derived preservatives so they could keep their claim, but the fact remains that there were only a handful of beneficial ingredients.

So, do your homework, and when you find a mask you like + contains good ingredients, stock up. Here are the benefits of using (skin-type correct) masks:


A lot of people fail to see results from using masks because they’ve got multiple concerns, but are only using one mask. Try multi masking your face: if your t-zone is oily but your chin is dry and flaking, use an oil-balancing mask on your t-zone and a hydrating mask on your chin.

Sheet masks are wtf popular right now, and for good reason. It makes sense that you’d want to seal in all the goodness you’re slapping on your face. They’re especially beneficial for those with drier skin, and are a personal favorite of mine. Plus, it gives you around 20 minutes to just chill.


I hate the retailing aspect of any esthetician job. I can give product recommendations when asked (or when I’m writing it to a mostly anonymous audience, hence this blog), but I HATE trying to sell something to someone, especially if I know that there are better products out there for the same price. Serums are one of the few things I could comfortably “push” when I was retailing in school.

A serum is the closest thing to magic in a bottle. According to the Milady esthetics textbook, “serums are chemically formulated with smaller molecules that are able to penetrate further into the skin and thus are more effective.” These thin liquids are comprised of super concentrated vitamins, lipids, and antioxidants, so spend your money here and invest in a killer serum.


I’m gonna be really frank here…just f**kin wear your sunscreen. There is zero reason for me to list the benefits of sunscreen because we all know them by now. But, I will list why you need to wear it every damn day. Sun exposure leads to skin cancer, aging, hyperpigmentation, capillary damage, free radical damage, and collagen and elastin deterioration. The sun is always doing damage. Always. Even on cloudy days, even during the winter-actually, especially under the conditions. Basically, if the sun is existing, you need to protect yourself from it. So…every day.

I’ll eventually write a more in-depth post about the difference between UVA and UVB rays, important ingredients, etc. But for now, know this: every day, the last skincare step in your routine should be a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen. Or else, you could look like this:


Or this:


OR THIS!!!!!!!


So. Yeah. Wear your f**kin sunscreen, every damn day. You’ll look forever young and reduce your cancer risk.


Well there we have it, thus ends our Choreography series. I hope you got some good information + inspiration! Let me know in the comments what you’ve added to your skincare routine since reading the series, what your routine looks like, any questions + requests for product recommendations!


Choreography: It Rubs the Lotion on Its Skin


This is probably going to be the shortest post in the series, because moisturizers are fairly simple. Their simplicity shouldn’t downplay their importance, however. Even oily skin needs to moisturize. You mainly need to find a moisturizer that is the correct texture for your skin type, and contains the ingredients you need.

Why do you need moisturizer? Uhh, to moisturize, duh…actually, it does a bit more than that. It feeds your skin through the ingredients, balances the water-oil content (hence why even oily-skinned people need to moisturize), and treats things likes redness, aging, and drying. We know from Buffalo Bill’s obsession with lotioning the skin that well-moisturized, supple skin is achieved through repetitive hydration.

Here’s where things get personal: you’ll need to decide if you want one moisturizer for both day and night, therefore needing a separate sunscreen, or if you want two separate moisturizers, one for the morning that contains SPF and a thicker one sans SPF for night, eliminating the need for a separate sunscreen. When choosing your moisturizer(s), choose it/them based on your skin type (gel consistency and oil-free for oily skin, light lotion for normal skin, and heavier oil-infused lotion/cream for dry skin), and avoid ingredients that will irritate your skin, such as the drying alcohols, artificial/synthetic fragrances, and dyes/colorants. If you find a moisturizer that you like, but you aren’t sure if it’s “good”, note the ingredients that you don’t recognize and Google them. Good things to look for are humectants, aloe, vitamins A/E/C, and seaweed (assuming you don’t have a shellfish allergy).

Well…that’s all I’ve got for this one. And remember…

It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again!



Choreography-Why Exfoliating is So F**kin Important


Exfoliating your skin is one of the absolute best things you can do. Your products won’t do shit if they can’t penetrate (heh…heh heh…) the layer of dead skin cells. Skin cells turn over every 28 days or so, and proper exfoliation can help assist the process. Exfoliation also helps your skin appear younger and softer. It also helps stimulate collagen production and improves circulation, and provides the deep cleansing needed for oily or acne-prone skin.

I cannot stress how important it is to find and utilize the correct exfoliant for your skin type, and that’s speaking as someone who avoided exfoliating like the sun for the longest time. I honestly thought it was making my skin drier and that I needed that layer of dead skin for hydration. I can’t make this up yall…I was really, REALLY uneducated about skin before going to school for it.

There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical exfoliation is the term used for scrubs, cleansing brushes such as the Clairsonic, scrubby gloves, etc. A mechanical exfoliant contains physically abrasive ingredients to scrub off the skin. Chemical exfoliation sounds scary as hell, but I promise it’s not. I actually prefer chemical to mechanical in this instance. Chemical exfoliants utilize ingredients that literally eat away at the dead skin. That sounds so appetizing, I know. I prefer these exfoliants because they tend to be more gentle on the skin.

The problem with mechanical exfoliation is that most people just aren’t gentle enough to use them. They use a considerable amount of force when applying these scrubby products to their face, which leads to inflammation and irritation. Not only that, most mechanical exfoliants utilize overly abrasive ingredients to do the scrubbing, such as apricot seeds, walnut shells, etc. These ingredients have ragged edges that tear at your skin. And if you have active pimples, a mechanical exfoliant will cause the pimples to burst and spread bacteria to the healthy skin. Luckily, plastic microbeads are being removed, but look at how much damage they’ve already done. It’s absolutely imperative to find an exfoliant that works.

Untitled drawing (3).jpg

You should be exfoliating twice per week, unless you’re using an exfoliant specifically designed to be used every day. Many chemical exfoliants are gentle enough for daily use. It’s pretty simple how they work-there are lipids that act like glue and hold dead skin cells together; the acids in a chemical exfoliant breaks down those lipids, and some even work deep into pores to remove sebum. AHAs and BHAs fall into this category. Then you have your enzyme peels, which digest only the dead cells on the surface. These are much gentler than AHAs.


The one benefit to keeping your dead skin is it acts as a natural sunscreen. When you remove that natural layer, you need to replace it. This is another reason why it is absofuckinlutely important to apply sunscreen daily, especially after exfoliating.

I find that all of this is much easier to understand using tables, so here, have some tables:Untitled drawing.jpg

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Milady Fundamentals Esthetics textbook

The Little Book of Skin Care, Charlotte Cho

The Best Skin of Your Life, Paula Begoun)

Choreography-Watch Your Tone


(So sorry for the cheesy title…I just had to.)

Toner may seem like the most boring step in your skincare routine, next to sunscreen. And I’m sure you’ve all had an astringent experience, probably during your teenage years, where the burn meant it was working. That is absolutely NOT what a toner should feel like.

A toner is meant to help repair your skin’s protective barrier. A weak barrier is the cause of dry skin, among other things. Several factors contribute to weakening your barrier: sun damage, environmental damage, and cleansing are just a few. They’ll also help prep your skin to receive your moisturizing products. Obviously you wouldn’t want a harsh, stinging astringent on your face, knowing that it’s supposed to repair and rebuild. Below is a little chart briefly covering the three categories of toners and their benefit:

Toner Chart

(A word about alcohols in skincare: I’ll be doing a whole post on this next month. What you need to know now is that not all cosmetic alcohols are created equal. Some are very drying and damaging and should be avoided at all costs; others are actually hydrating and beneficial. Do your own research if you don’t want to wait for my post.)

If you’re overall happy with your skincare products, but aren’t loving your skin just yet, try adding in a toner/freshener. According to Paula Begoun, “daily use will give your skin what it needs to function in a younger, healthier way.” My fantastic spa educator at Aveda was the first to educate me on the importance and potency of a great toner; one of the first things she said, when teaching us about giving product recommendations, was that she always recommended a toner to her clients. She often reminded us that toner is the missing link in most skincare regimens.


Here are a few toner recommendations from The Little Book of Skincare, as well as personal experience (italics indicate that these suggestions are pulled from the book, not personal experience):

  • Aveda Skin Firming Toner (one of Aveda’s better products)
  • Mario Badescu Rosewater Skin Freshener (I really don’t like that the ingredients list notes “fragrance” and dyes…however…they’re pretty low on the list, and I’ve noticed great results on my own skin)
  • RE:P Organic Cotton Treatment Toning Pad
  • Son & Park Beauty Water
  • Su:m37 Water-full Skin Refresher
  • Missha Time Revolution Clear Toner


There’s been quite a lot of talk lately about using apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a toner, and witch hazel has always been a popular natural answer. I’ve never used either of these as a toner, and I don’t know much about how they affect they skin. I know that some swear that ACV is a miracle toner and has made their face look like it’s been washed in the blood of Bathory’s virgins, and I know that Veronica Gorgeois (askanesthetician on YouTube) claims that she’s observed considerable skin damage in those who use it. This is something I plan on researching further, and will post about once I’m better educated on the subject!



Milady Fundamentals Esthetics textbook

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here, Paula Begoun

The Little Book of Skincare, Charlotte Cho)

Choreography: The Double-Cleansing Method


Why the hell would you cleanse your face twice? What’s the point of a cleanser if you have to cleanse before you cleanse? The idea was absolutely idiotic to me before becoming an esthiology student. Which is dumb…because I’d actually been pre-cleansing for quite some time.

A pre-cleanse consists of washing your face with either an oil or an oil-based cleanser, before cleansing with your regular…well…cleanser. (We are all going to be sick to death of the word “cleanser” by the time we’re done here.) The purpose of it is to break down any makeup and other oil-soluble substances before you cleanse. A regular cleanser probably won’t be able to thoroughly remove your makeup, so you’ll have a nice layer of old makeup just sitting on your skin. Yummy. A pre-cleanse can also add to the hydration factor.

Your actual cleanse will wash away what the oil broke down, remove any oily reside, and do all the other things your cleanser does. This double-cleanse method is best known because of the celebrated Korean skincare routine, but I first heard of it in school. We’re encouraged to double-cleanse our clients as a means of removing makeup, deep-cleansing, and stimulating the skin through massage.

For the last three years, I’ve been washing my face with coconut oil. It’s the only thing that fully removes my caked-on makeup without drying out my already VERY dry skin. And whenever I’d have a cleanser that I enjoyed/was testing out, I’d use it after cleansing with coconut oil. I didn’t know that I was actually practicing something recommended and beneficial; I just knew that it made sense to me. I needed to wash my face with the oil because it cleaned better and didn’t leave me feeling dry, and I needed the “real” cleanser to wash away everything the oil dredged up.

As I mentioned before, you can use an oil, or an oil-based cleanser. The important thing to remember when working with oils is that some are fantastic, and some are comedogenic, or pore-clogging. You’ll want to avoid those.



(A word about coconut oil: as you can see, it’s in the middle of the comedogenic rating scale. It’s considered to be fairly pore-clogging. Obviously it is NOT the best choice for everyone, especially if you’re already prone to clogged, congested skin. Just because I’ve been satisfied with the results doesn’t mean you will be. Use your best discretion with this one, and if you notice your skin looking clogged, stop using it. It’s not a cure-all like we’d all like to believe it is!)

Oil-Based Cleansers

I personally have never used an oil-based cleanser, only straight oil. I’d love to try some, but as it stands, the majority of oil-based cleansers haven’t quite made their way to the states yet. However, Charlotte Cho, esthetician and founder of Soko Glam, gives some suggestions in her book, The Little Book of Skin Care:

  • Banila Co. Clean It Zero Classic
  • Tony Moly Floria Brightening Cleansing Oil (I actually might splurge and purchase this one from the Soko Glam store)
  • Skinfood Brown Rice Oil Cleansing Tissue

“Real” (water-based) Cleansers

Here’s the thing about cleansers. They’re vital to your routine and the health of your skin…but you’re just going to rinse it off. It’s literally going down the drain seconds after it’s been rubbed onto your face. So, my personal philosophy on cleanser is this: make sure it contains beneficial ingredients, and is free of the harmful shit like drying alcohols, but keep it inexpensive. I cannot pay as much for a cleanser, that’s going to be washed right off my face, as I would for something that’s going to stay on my skin throughout the day.

This might not be the best philosophy for you, though. Maybe a higher-end cleanser is exactly what you need to get you going, or to let you know it’s working. Purchase something you’re actually going to use! The main thing here is using something that’s gentle.

STAY THE F**K AWAY FROM BAR CLEANSERS! I absolutely cannot stress this one enough. I don’t care if your face is dripping oil, keep that bar shit away from it. ALL bar soaps have a pH that’s much too high for the facial skin; they all contain ingredients, which hold the shape of the bar, that are not good for the skin on your face. No matter what good products they may contain, they also HAVE to contain those shitty ones. So…stay away.

No matter your skin type and concerns, if a cleanser makes your skin feel unclean, switch to something stronger; if a cleanser makes your skin feel tight, dry, etc, find something more emollient and gentle.

I’ve only tried three cleansers in my 25-year lifetime that I’ve actually found helpful:

  1. Aveda All Sensitive Cleanser (I can recommend this one for all skin types)
  2. REN Clean Skincare Micropolishing Cleanser
  3. Image Skincare Vitamin C Cleanser

But here’s the thing. I could suggest a dozen different cleansers, and you might hate them all. Skincare is SO personal; it’s the one time you can justifiably be a Special Snowflake. Also, a cleanser that feels great on my Sahara skin might feel absolutely horrid on anyone with normal to oily skin. So, from here on out, take what you will from my personal recommendations., but don’t purchase it just because I said so (like I have that kind of power of anyone anyway).

Extra Resources and Recommendations

I plan on doing a book review series, but until then, let me keep pushing The Little Book of Skin Care on you. It really is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn more about skincare in a very friendly way. Even if you’re not wanting to adopt the Korean skincare routine, you should read through this book. This esthetician recommends this esthetician-authored book!

Paula Begoun’s book, The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here, has some great information in it-IF you can get past her own personal biases against things like plant oils. I don’t enjoy her or her writing style, but I do enjoy the information she presents. Chapter 5, How to Put Together the Perfect Skincare Routine, is really helpful and insightful.

Choreographing Your Routine + Why You Need One


I think one of the main reasons why people avoid taking better care of their skin is because putting together a routine can be so daunting. It sounds like work. Hard, boring work. Not to mention the fact that it’s often viewed as a means to an end (going makeup free), and if you don’t need the “end”, why would you go through the trouble? And with there being so many different kinds of products on the market, it’s a tough thing to navigate. I didn’t have any sort of routine established until I attended esthiology school, and learned how to put one together. So, let me save you 6 months of your time and $10,000, and help you put together a routine of your own. It should take about 5 posts, one for each step of a basic, bare minimum routine, now that we know our skin type.


Right now Korean skin care routines are having a major moment. There are around 10 steps (10!) in a Korean skin care regimen. The French are more simplistic, with just a few steps. Why mention these two? Because they are renowned for their gorgeous, glowing, healthy skin. I’m also using these two as a comparison to show that establishing the right routine for your skin is a balance between the number of products, and the products themselves. A routine will do you no good if you don’t use it.

Why You Need a Good, Established Routine

Great skin is a daily commitment, not an occasional action. Think of it as feeding: you wouldn’t let yourself go hungry until you needed to eat, or else. So why would you deprive your skin of something it needs daily, making it wait until “or else”?

Ideally, you’ll actually have a few different routines that make up your regimen: a morning routine that includes sunscreen (every damn day), a nighttime routine that will repair the damage from the day, and a twice-or-so-per-week routine that will target, treat, deep clean, etc. Keep in mind that the more concerns you have with your skin, the more products you’ll need. However, something is better than nothing, so work within your own parameters.

According to the Milady Standard esthetics textbook, a day routine consists of a cleanser, a toner, a serum or eye cream, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Your nighttime routine will look exactly the same, minus the sunscreen.

No matter your skin type, you need products that contain antioxidants, skin-identical and skin-repairing ingredients, and cell-communicating ingredients. In each individual post, I’ll go over what all this means in better detail. (This was something I recently learned from Paula Begoun’s book, The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here.)

Before becoming an esthetician and learning about why you need a daily routine, I was a very hands-off, low-maintenance sort of person when it came to my skin. I wouldn’t wash my face unless I was going to be putting on/taking off makeup that day, I thought masks were a waste of money, and I couldn’t make myself use more than two or three products max. I (very mistakenly) thought that I was helping my skin by keeping it product-free more often than not.

The Punk Rock Routine

I’m still building my routine. I don’t even have a separate nighttime routine established, partially because I’m too broke to buy products just to try; I have to be absolutely certain they’re going to the best thing for me before I buy them. I’m finding myself fusing together Korean and French skincare philosophies, in an effort to get my skin where I want it to be without overwhelming myself. Over the last 7 months, I’ve gotten much better about performing my routine at least once a day, and I’ve incorporated more products to achieve what I want.

Currently, I’m using up the products I received at Aveda. I like them but I’m objective. I know that there are some better products out there. And besides, you should change up your routine from time to time, like when the seasons cause changes in your skin, you aren’t getting the results you want, you get bored with your products and therefore aren’t using any, etc. You should listen to your skin and change accordingly. My skin is wtf dry, dehydrated, and mature. Here’s what my routine looks like currently, and has looked like since October:

  1. Oil and water pre-cleanse using coconut oil (removes makeup, provides a hydrating layer before using cleanser)
  2. Aveda All Sensitive Cleanser (I do love this cleanser. Think Cetaphil, but actually beneficial.)
  3. Aveda Liquid Exfoliant (another Aveda product I love, gentle enough to use daily, effective enough to see results)
  4. Mario Badescu Rosewater Toner (super gentle, smells great, hydrating; however, I don’t love all of the ingredients, like the dyes and added fragrances)
  5. Aveda Balancing Infusion (absolute holy grail product. I cannot live without this blend of hydrating oils)
  6. Aveda Energizing Eye Cream (I don’t see any difference using this product, besides adding hydration. As soon as I use up the sample that I have, I’ll be replacing it.)
  7. Aveda All Sensitive Moisturizer (I feel like Aveda moisturizers kind of just sit on the surface on your skin. However, it’s hard for me to find a moisturizer that I LOVE.)
  8. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, SPF 70 (I like how this one feels on my skin, and the fact that it has a lower smell. However, I have noticed that adds to the overall discoloration of my skin, so I’ll be trying something else once I’ve finished this bottle.)

What does your routine look like? What are you looking forward to learning more about? Let me know in the comments!


The Punk Rock Esthetician

(Image source:;

Go Type Yourself


One of the key factors to healthy, glowing skin is using products designed for your skin type. You’ll see no results (or worse, adverse results) if you treat your skin as something it’s not. By educating yourself on your type, you can save a lot of money and potential disasters of the facial variety.

How are skin types determined?

Skin types are based on how much oil is produced in the follicles from the sebaceous glands; it’s the amount of lipids found between cells. Types can change due to stress, environment, hormonal changes, etc. They are your skin’s condition (dry, oily, sensitive), whereas things like acne and pigmentation are issues. Your skincare should treat your skin type, and your treatments should target your issues.



Let’s start with the skin everyone wants: normal. It’s neither oily nor dry, it appears to be smooth and clear, is generally blemish with few discolorations…sounds like perfection, right? It has a good oil-water balance. The lucky bastards with normal skin only need to focus on maintenance and preventative care.


Oily skin is, I feel, the most misunderstood type. People hear “oily” and immediately think “bad”. Actually, oily skin has a major advantage over other skin types-it ages at a much slower rate due to the high oil content moisturizing the skin. It is, however, prone to blemishes, and requires more cleansing, exfoliation, and balance. Skin stripped of its natural oil will produce even more oil to rehydrate itself, so proper moisturization is important.


Dry skin is different from dehydrated skin, and it’s very important to know the difference between the two so you can give your skin what it needs. Dehydrated skin lacks water, obviously. All skin types can be dehydrated in addition to whatever else they are. So, I’m going to consider dehydration to be an issue rather than a type, and will save my discussion on it for another post.

Dry skin does not produce enough oil, and has a damaged acid mantle and barrier function. It needs extra care because it lacks the normal, natural protection. Sensitivity is also a concern with dry skin. It may look dull or lackluster, and wrinkles and lines may develop more easily. To take care of dry skin, there needs to be a huge focus on stimulating the oil production as well as protecting the surface.


It’s pretty obvious what combination skin is. It can be both dry and oily, or tend to be more one than the other; prone to blackheads and larger pores. Combination skin needs to be balanced and it requires more care than normal skin because of this. The dry areas will need to be treated as dry, the oily as oily, etc.


Sensitive skin deserves its own post, which it will get (around February!).

What’s your type?

There are four steps to finding your skin type:

  1. Wash your face and GENTLY pat dry.
  2. Leave your face alone for a few hours. No makeup, no additional skin care products.
  3. Using blotting paper (tissue paper works well), dab on one area of the face at a time.
  4. Observe which areas leave an oily residue on the paper, if any. The nose and forehead are naturally a little more oily than other parts of the face.

What should I be using?

As a general rule, lotions and creams work best for dry skin, gels and liquids for oily, and liquids, lotions, and serums for combination (but remember to treat each area individually!). ALL skin types should avoid products that contain dyes and synthetic fragrance.

(Sources: Image found via Pinterest; Milady Standard esthiology textbook.)