A guide to your first skin-cleanse with Dr. Elsa Jungman

by Team ELSI April 10, 2020

Dr. Elsa at her home sheltering in San Francisco. #makeupfree

Protecting your Skin’s Longevity Capital

Many of us are spending more time than ever in our homes - this unprecedented change in routine has led to increased awareness of how we spend our time and our relationships with ourselves. Our writer, Lori sat down with our founder, Dr. Elsa Jungman (Ph.D. in skin pharmacology) to understand how to start a skin-cleanse during this time, what to look out for when rebuilding your routine, and why focusing on skin health overall is key to the longevity of your skin.


Lori: How do you think what we’re currently experiencing is affecting our skin?

(Dr. Elsa) The amount of uncertainty we’re all facing as a result of this pandemic leads to inevitable stress. We know from experts that stress contributes to skin irritation and sensitivity. When we stress it messes with our hormone levels and has an impact on our skin’s ability to protect us from the outside world.

Beyond mental health - if your home is dry or humid, that could also have a huge impact on your skin, because suddenly you’re spending all this extra time there. We tend to forget that our environment (pollution, AC, heat, etc) has a huge impact on our skin. If you notice that your skin is tight or irritated it’s important to start there - notice what’s changed in your environment.

Lori: For those of us looking to give our skin a break while we’re home - where do you recommend we begin?

(Dr. Elsa) It starts with recognizing that your skin isn’t sensitive, it’s smart - when you feel like your skin is out of balance it probably is trying to communicate that.

To discover what could be the trigger, try eliminating all products for 48 hours for your face (except all hygiene products and routine recommended by CDC or by your doctor). If you’re wearing makeup during the week, you can do this on a weekend. Pause using all of your products (with the exception of anything prescribed by a doctor), starting with makeup. That eliminates the need to do a harsh cleansing routine at night. I personally do this every weekend and it’s a huge relief. Once you start to eliminate certain products, you’ll start to be able to tell which ones you actually need.

Lori: Is two days enough time to be able to tell what to eliminate?

(Dr. Elsa) If you’re feeling up for it, try cutting products out for two weeks. It’s slightly easier to do now, since many of us are at home. Your skin cells take 2 weeks to regenerate, so this allows you to really notice what’s impacting your skin.

The exception to this would be sunscreen, since you’ll need that for sun protection. If you do eliminate sunscreen as well, avoid going out.

Lori: Let’s talk about doing a cleanse of the products we have on our shelves - how do you recommend eliminating products based on their ingredients?

(Dr. Elsa) Pay attention to products that have harsh ingredients versus ingredients that are more respectful of your skin biology. It depends on your skin profile, but if you’re like me and have dry and reactive skin, skip all the products (cleansers, masks, etc) with ingredients that trigger redness and irritation. So that would be anything that has alcohol, fragrances, preservatives and essential oils. Focus on products that are less processed - like an oil moisturizer that is 1, 2, or 3 ingredients (like our ELSI Let’s Start Over Serum) to keep things simple.

Image Source: Pinterest

The key is to avoid multiplying the amount of ingredients you put on your skin and try to use them same base and system of ingredients that work for you and cascade that into different products. 

Lori: Is there anything else we need to keep in mind during the cleanse?

(Dr. Elsa) Yes! I’d recommend keeping track of your hormones in addition to product ingredients. I’m currently doing an experiment using a cycle tracker app, Clue and it’s asking me questions about my skin and hair. My skin is drier at the start of my menstruation cycle, so it’s important to pay attention to how that factors into your routine as well. Use a diary or an app to collect that information, and use it to track any triggers (hormones, product, food, alcohol, environment, etc.).

- On creating rituals in your routine -

Lori: Walk us through your ideal routine when reincorporating products after a cleanse. 

(Dr. Elsa)

AM Routine

I’d recommend not cleansing your face when you wake up (unless a doctor has told you differently). You don’t need to clean your face in the morning because it is naturally self-regenerating. Any soap is abrasive for your skin, so it’s best to leave it as is in the morning. And when you shower, be mindful of how much hot water hits your face as well.

When I’m out of the shower, I like to take a few minutes to do a facial yoga exercise that we have developed at ELSI, which helps tone and tighten and boost skin glow, while applying my moisturizer ( our Let's Start Over Serum).  It also helps me start the day relaxed and rejuvenated. Follow that with applying sunscreen and any light makeup desired. I’d recommend moving away from any waterproof products (mascara, eye-liner, etc) because they’re harder to remove.

PM Routine

For the evening, find a cleanser that is gentle for your face and works for your skin type. I have friends who use micellar water or cleansing lotion, but I personally use a gentle oil cleanser with no essential oils that we are currently developing in the lab.

If your skin feels good after cleansing, you don’t need to add another moisturizer, you can just go to bed. I don’t believe in heavy night time routines. If your skin feels a little dry post cleansing, you can add a bit of moisturizer.

Lori: How do you know when to incorporate something like Vitamin C or Retinol?

(Dr. Elsa) It’s important to identify your biggest skin goals and find a treatment that will help you achieve that goal at low levels to start. If you want to prevent wrinkles or homogenize your complexion, Retinol and Vitamin C have good track records. We know they help with "anti-aging" (I personally hate this word as aging is beautiful and a privilege). If you’re using Retinol, I would apply it at night after cleansing, because it’s known to not be stable with sun exposure.

Make sure you go step by step  - start with small amounts and if your skin feels ok you can build from there. And remember, it’s not just about the active ingredient you’re adding but all the other ingredients in the formula that can have an impact on the efficacy of the product and a possible negative impact on your skin. Make sure you’re educating yourself on all the ingredients!

Lori: Beyond skincare products, while we spend more time at home, what foods or rituals should we be incorporating for healthy skin?

(Dr. Elsa) Try to stay away from alcohol and junk food. I know it is really hard at this time, even for me - but do the best you can. We actually have an entire blog post on food for your skin health.

I also recommend as much self care as you can. I’m doing daily online yoga classes and have found that inversions are helping with blood flow and clarity in my facial complexion. I also like to take a few minutes to do a facial yoga exercise that we have developed at ELSI, which helps tone and tighten and boost skin glow, while applying my moisturizer, our Super Moisturizing Serum.

- On skin health - 

Lori: Why is it important that we think about skin health overall, similar to the way we think about physical health?

(Dr. Elsa) Just like you don’t want to wait to be sick to care for your body, you don’t want to wait for your skin to be harmed to care for it. When your skin is healthy, that’s the best time to protect it.

The way I look at it is, your skin has longevity capital - the more you aggress it over time, the more that will lead to premature aging. I think aging is beautiful, but we all want to age gracefully ideally.

This starts with being careful of sun exposure and being careful of the products you're using on your skin. Once you establish a daily practice, it doesn’t take much time. I don’t spend more than 5 minutes getting ready in the morning. I’m not doing a 10 step routine, I’m maybe doing 2 or 3. I don’t believe we need to spend hours putting things on our skin to reach optimal skin health.

Lori: What's the best advice you've ever given or received about improving your relationship with your skin?

(Dr. Elsa) It’s less about advice and more about the knowledge I’ve gained on the microbiome - I had no idea how important the microorganisms living on our skin were for its overall health and learning about that completely changed my routine and my life. It has directly informed my approach to building ELSI and I love passing on that knowledge to our current and future customers. The more knowledge we have the more empowered we can feel in caring for our skin and ultimately, our whole selves. 


Interested in a personalized Skin Consult with Dr. Elsa? Book yours now.



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