There's a reason why in-office skin treatments cost significantly more than what you'd typically pick up over the counter: Simply put, the ingredients that the pros use are a lot stronger than what you can get for at-home use. But! That doesn't mean you can't get comparable results playing cosmetic chemist in your bathroom—you just need to know what to look for. And if you're in search of a DIY facial that rivals a light, in-office chemical peel, Claire O'Bryan, NP, a cosmetic nurse practitioner at Skin Clique, an aesthetics concierge, sings the praises of the Micro Facial Kit from ZO Skin Health.
- Claire O'Bryan, NP, cosmetic nurse practitioner at Skin Clique.
"It's a whole kit that is supposed to mimic an in-office facial," says O'Bryan. "A lot of our nurse practitioners and physician assistants do this treatment every Sunday. We have a group text and will be like, 'Are you doing your enzymatic peel tonight?' It's a really great treatment, and you wake up the next day with your skin glowing."
The ZO Skin Health Micro Facial Kit ($165) is a five-piece exfoliating kit that includes a cleanser, skin polish, peel pads, an enzymatic peel mask, and three sheet masks.
Benefits of using the ZO Skin Health Micro Facial Kit
"This is different from in-office peels because it's not that deep, long downtime peel, but it will absolutely give you the glow of a nice facial by exfoliating," says O'Bryan. "Your skin cells are constantly turning over. The new, little baby cells start out at the bottom [layer of the skin], so you want to get the old dead cells off of the surface as much as you can so that the fresh skin can come up to the top."
Exfoliation helps to move this process along, and the Zo Skin Health Kit uses enzymes, ultra-fine magnesium crystals, and alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid) to do exactly that. "Those [ingredients] aid in exfoliation and help stimulate you to make your own collagen," a structural protein that keeps skin firm, says O'Byran.
Although O'Byan and her colleagues diligently use this mask every Sunday, she will also use it throughout the week as needed. "If I have something to do the next day, I'll use my enzymatic peel the night before," she says. It introduces a level of consistency to her routine, something that she says is the most important element of a good regimen.
"At home, you're limited to what you can do, so consistency is the biggest thing," says O'Bryan. "It's a very similar analogy to going to the dentist for a cleaning while still having to brush your teeth twice a day. You still need to do that consistent upkeep, but then every six months you're going to go to the dentist for your full-on treatment. And that's the way I view in-home treatments. They're very valuable, and are certainly something that everyone needs to be incorporating into their routine."
How to use the ZO Skin Health Micro Facial Kit
As with all skin-care treatments, you're going to want to start this process with a clean, freshly washed face. O'Bryan recommends doing this with the kit's Exfoliating Cleanser, which offers a one-two punch of chemical and physical exfoliation. It's got salicylic acid to melt the "glue" that holds dead skin cells to the surface of your skin, plus microbeads to gently slough them away.
"The kit comes with this extremely gentle magnesium crystal polish called Exfoliating Polish, and it's a super, super fine polish that helps get the dead skin off," says O'Bryan. Although magnesium is known for soothing sore muscles, this calming property also helps the skin, managing stress hormones that contribute to dryness. Having it in crystal form allows the formula to physically remove dead skin and debris while a bit of lactic acid amps up the exfoliation.
The next step is a toning pad that includes glycolic acid, an AHA, and salicylic acid, a BHA. AHAs are water-soluble acids that stimulate collagen production, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles while creating firmer skin. BHAs are oil-soluble, so they help de-grease your skin while removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores. When their powers are combined, they'll leave your complexion smooth and clear.
Next up is the Enzymatic Peel. It uses enzymes to gently digest dead skin cells, revealing soft, new skin underneath. This is similar to how AHAs work, but enzymes tend to be gentler. You can do a quick peel by letting the formula sit on your skin for 15 to 20 minutes, but you'll really get results when you leave it for one to three hours. Even better—if your skin can handle it, put the peel on and don't rinse it off. "I actually just have everyone sleep in it," says O'Bryan She advises her patients to apply it before bed and let it soak into the skin overnight without washing it off in the morning.
Once you're done with the peel, treat your skin with the refreshing sheet mask. "It's super soothing and it gives you a little bit of a cooling feeling," says O'Bryan. "The toning pad and the enzymatic peel for some people can have a little tingle so this mask just cools and soothes the skin. Then when you remove the mask, you just rub in the rest of the product." This mask is made with brightening arbutin, soothing green tea, and smoothing retinol. If you're applying this mask during the day, be sure to be extra vigilant about sunscreen because UV rays can deactivate retinol.
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