All About Skin

Exfoliation and its benefits: a top facialist’s point of view

We couldn’t be more thrilled that Julia March (featured in the Allure Beauty Directory as one of the top facialists in the country) is a recurring resident in our San Francisco treatment room…because it is otherwise nearly impossible to get a treatment with her. After her last visit to San Francisco, Dara asked her to share a few trends she noticed among our clients.

Trend #1: we all might need to be exfoliating our faces a little bit more.

Read on to find out why we should exfoliate our skin, how often to exfoliate, and how to do it if you also use a retinoid (one of our most frequently asked questions, due to the popularity of our Sea Retinal!). 

Dara: We were so happy to have you as our resident facialist in May! Did you notice any particular trends in the treatment room during your stay with us?

JULIA MARCH: Yes — working with these beautiful clients here in SF, I noticed that they have a wonderful array of products and love their skincare regimens, but most of those regimens did not include something that would gently exfoliate their skin. That was probably my most surprising finding.

I’d usually recommend something like Luzern’s Hydra-Enzyme Masque because it works so beautifully to dissolve dead skin cells in a gentle way (even if there can sometimes be a tingling sensation!). It prepares the skin for the absorption of ingredients, giving you better results from potent products while also giving a brightness to the skin. I like the effect of gentle exfoliating products like this in combination with ingredients like retinoids and antioxidants like Vitamin C.


Dara: Everyone is different…but are there some general guidelines that you tend to stick to when advising clients on the best way to work exfoliation into their routines?

JULIA: It is very true that everyone is different, and everyone has different skin types and skin conditions that they’re dealing with. All of my facial treatments are very individualized because of this. So the best approach is to have a consultation with a professional (rather than taking the recommendation of a friend whose skin might be different from yours) who can take your skin condition and other situations into consideration.

It always depends on skin conditions as well as climate and seasonality, too. But generally, most people can use an enzyme based product at least once a week to improve the penetration of ingredients and increase the brightness of the complexion.


Dara: What if they’re using retinoids at night?

JULIA: For those who use retinol or retinaldehyde, especially those with a dry skin type, I’d suggest not using an exfoliating product as often as someone who might have thicker skin or a balanced to oily skin type. You might use an exfoliating product once a week, while someone with oilier skin would use it three times a week.

Generally speaking, retinol and retinaldehyde are much gentler than retinoic acid (the prescription form) and they’re also usually combined in a formula with moisturizing ingredients, like shea butter or oils, which make them more forgiving with the skin’s surface. For those using retinol and retinaldehyde, gentle exfoliation can help bring more brightness to the skin, so I recommend it on a weekly basis.


Dara: What were the top two skincare concerns that you heard about from your clients in SF?

JULIA: The two concerns I heard about most, by far, were dullness and dehydration.

Where dullness is concerned, this takes me back to the need for exfoliation — it’s something that people tend not to think of, especially if they’re using retinoids, but it really helps bring a beautiful brightness to the skin.

Dehydration can usually be addressed most quickly with hyaluronic acid serums, or toners and mists with humectants, which bring the skin more plumpness and vibrancy. You can lock it in with oils, especially if you have a dry skin type; most of the time this type of skin needs more oil.


Dara: You were the person who first introduced me to Luzern in 2002, and it’s still one of my favorites. (And it's not just me: Luzern is one of those brands that people always come back to.) What is your desert island product from this lineup?

JULIA: Definitely the Hydra-Enzyme Masque. This has been the favorite product of my clients during so many years of my practice in New York. Everyone loves this mask, from the most sensitive person to acne-prone clients. It’s so versatile: you can use it once a week for someone who’s more sensitive, or overnight three times a week for someone with an oily skin type.

It makes the skin smooth, brings out brightness, and even soothes irritation; when you have a buildup of dead skin cells, the skin doesn’t look as good and it heals more slowly. When you remove them, the skin can absorb moisture better; it prepares the ground for all of your beautiful serums and moisturizers to really benefit your skin’s health so that it’s beautiful, glowing, and healthy.


About Julia:

Julia March has been featured in the Allure Beauty Directory as one of the top facialists in America, named Allure’s “Best of the Best,” and named “Best Facialist in New York” by New York Magazine; in our view, she deserves all of these accolades and then some. She is one of the best facialists we've ever met, which is why we frequently consult her for tips, training materials for our Ayla Guides, and suggestions for additions to our shop (she’s the one who first connected us to our good friends at Luzern and MyHavtorn). 

Want to experience some of Julia’s magic yourself?

Email to get on the waiting list for a facial with Julia the next time she visits San Francisco: you’ll enjoy a soothing blur of heavenly treatments that will leave you looking better than ever — and feeling as though you just saw one of the best energy workers in the business. (Rightly so, because you did.)

And if you’re not local, you can book a virtual consultation with her to benefit from her pro tips; she always has great ones. Learn more and book with Julia here.

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