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You Look Moist: An Esthetician Who Occasionally Over-Exfoliates

Welcome to You Look Moist, a regular column wherein Man Repeller asks cool people with glowing visages how they achieved their supreme hydration (amongst other things). Today’s installment features Simedar Jackson, a writer, esthetician, and founder of Skin Folks–a New York City-based event series that aims to bridge the gap between the skincare industry and people of color.


How would you describe your skin?

I have very normal skin (i.e. not overly dry or oily) and rarely get breakouts. Sometimes I can be a bit sensitive to fragrance and, in general, poorly formulated products, but whenever I complain about having a bad skin day the person I’m with usually wants to beat me over the head with whatever they have in their hand.

How would you describe your skincare approach in general?

My approach to skincare is “do as I say, not as I do.” As an esthetician, I tend to go overboard with treatments and products because my skin can handle more and I would much rather experiment on myself than on someone else. I tell people to keep their exfoliation minimal and that less is more, but my own apartment is filled to the brim with new products and I’m frequently trying multiple within a week. I’m not immune to over-exfoliating either. It’s my favorite step BUT PROBABLY SHOULD NOT BE YOUR FAVORITE STEP!

What skincare products are integral to your routine for achieving your ideal, glowing, well-moisturized complexion, and how/when do you use each of them?

For ultimate glow, my two favorite products are facial oils and lactic acid. Contrary to what most people think, anyone can use facial oils. The important thing is understanding which oil is right for your skin type. When used correctly (meaning on top of your moisturizer), they really are an amazing way to lock in moisture and achieve a highlighted look sans makeup. My personal favorites are Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate and Glow Oil and Image Vital C Hydrating Face Oil. The YTTP oil includes prickly pear seed oil which is my absolute favorite oil. It’s great for all skin types and is essentially a powerhouse of vitamins and antioxidants that protect the skin, are anti-inflammatory, promote cell regeneration, and can reduce the appearance of under-eye darkness. It’s derived from a cactus and thus has some amazing water retention properties that your skin benefits from as well! The Vital C oil is a direct dose of vitamin C which is probably skincare’s favorite ingredient right now for good reason. It stimulates collagen, protects the skin from environmental stress, and will even out the skin tone by blocking the overproduction of melanin. This oil is lightweight but better suited to normal and dry skin types.

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Aside from oils I really am obsessed with lactic acid. Lactic acid is an exfoliating ingredient that works by loosening the glue that holds the uppermost skin cells together and encouraging them to slough off at a faster rate ultimately revealing younger, smoother skin. Similarly to Vitamin C, lactic acid suppresses melanin production and can be effective on hyperpigmentation, but at lower concentrations, will just give you an instant smack of brightness. Lactic acid is also the only exfoliating ingredient that stimulates the skin to create ceramides, which are natural moisturizing components of the skin barrier. One of my favorite lactic products is Sanitas Vitamin C Lactic Cleanser. It has a very small concentration of lactic acid but it’s still very effective. I use it a couple of times a week in the morning when I want to pump up my routine. Sometimes I’ll use it as a preliminary exfoliant when I’m giving myself a facial at home. I have also been trying out Farmacy Honeymoon Glow serum and I’m a fan. This product has some additional exfoliating ingredients in it, but I notice an overall smoothening and firming feel after one-time use.

Lastly, I can’t talk about products without badgering about sunscreen. If you aren’t using sunscreen every single day you are really doing your skin a disservice. Sun exposure is the #1 cause of aging which makes sunscreen your number one anti-aging ingredient. Also, if you’re suffering from literally any skin condition, sun exposure is probably exacerbating your problems. Wear sunscreen and reapply regularly.

What about makeup products?

I’ve found the more skincare I use, the lazier I get with makeup, so I’ve been keeping it minimal on the face with Nars Creamy Concealer in Amande and Tarte Shape Tape in Deep Sand. Usually, I’ll set it and blend using the Laura Mercier setting powder in Medium Deep. I’m still a sucker for highlighters and my two favorites are Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Candlelight and Danessa Myricks Enlight powder layered over her Dew Wet Balm in Clear. For eyes, I usually just do mascara (because I killed eyeliner) and will either reach for Lancôme Définicils or a pigmented mascara from Tom Ford for some fun.

What’s the cheapest product you use regularly and love?

Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen. Sunscreens tend to be the most affordable products in my routine and if I leave the house without wearing some, I feel naked. I know sunscreen isn’t really that sexy though, so another great product on the more affordable side is SkinRX Lab MadeCera Re-Turn Cream. It’s more of a gel-cream than a true cream and has a ton of anti-inflammatory, strengthening, and moisturizing ingredients. I use it literally every day because it leaves my skin feeling plump but never greasy and I’ve found that, with a touch of one of my oils on top, people are literally stopping me to ask about my skincare routine.

Is there anything you try to avoid, skin-care or makeup-wise?

Fragrances in products! Cosmetics laws are scanty and if a product has “fragrance” listed on the back, it can actually be 20 different ingredients that make up that fragrance that the manufacturer is not required to disclose. Fragrance is one of the leading causes of reactivity to products and can damage the skin’s protective barrier. I also am wary of essential oils because they can also be irritating depending on the type and how they were sourced.

Also, buying skincare from Amazon! We all love a deal but there’s a reason that product is a different price than the original and it’s not a great sale you happened to stumble upon. Skincare products sold on Amazon are oftentimes not coming from the original seller and therefore may be counterfeit or expired. You’ve only got one face so do right by it!

Any next-level tips, tricks, or services that you swear by to help you look “lit from within”?

Be consistent with your home care routine and find products that work for your skin type either via research or by getting a consultation from a licensed professional. Not everything is going to work for everybody and that’s because your lifestyle, diet, stress levels, etc. play a part in your skincare as much as your skin type and routine do. Beyond that, try to get professional treatments and facials when you can. I like to think of it like seeing your trainer regularly who takes you to the next level and then maintaining what you’ve worked on together on your own time.

What’s your go-to product or trick for fixing a skin disaster?

Whenever I’ve found that I’ve over-exfoliated, I apply hyaluronic serum and a thick moisturizer from La Mer at night. In general, people tend to try to exfoliate their problems away, but balance and nourishment and hydration are arguably more important than resurfacing when it comes to treating most skin disasters.

Do you do anything differently skincare-wise when you travel?

Not really. I lug a select group of skincare products with me and pray they don’t break in my suitcase because I honestly cannot live without my products. I’d say the only thing I do differently is load up on hydration right before I fly anywhere. Air-travel is dehydrating and the general stress of making your way to your destination can wreak havoc on the skin. If you’re super-plumped beforehand you can more easily offset some of these effects.

What’s something you wish your teenage self knew about taking care of your skin?

I wish I would have known to put down the St. Ives!!! I personally am not a fan of physical facial scrubs. While they aren’t as bad as the current skincare climate makes them out to be, I believe they should be used sparingly and only if you’re generally blemish-free and have (literally) thicker skin.

Photos provided by Simedar Jackson.

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