An aesthetician's guide to clear skin with Ayisha Riaz of Ayisthetics
By Deepali Kini, Kulfi Team Member
"No way her skin is that good IRL." That was my first reaction when I found Ayisha Riaz, or @Ayisthetics, on Instagram. But Ayisha is the exception to the facetune norm (I met her in person a few months ago, and yes, her skin is that good IRL). So imagine my surprise when I learned that she’s also had her share of struggles with acne. She’s now an aesthetician based out of New York City with a focus on skincare. I was itching to know every single detail of her skincare routine in the hope that something would appease my skin (and I can finally cease to scream ‘WHY WON'T YOU LOVE ME’ in the mirror 28 times a day).
So here is Ayisha’s beauty diary – An aesthetician’s guide to healthy skin.
Q1. Why is skincare important to you?
I am an aesthetician, but my background is in film. I went to film school and worked in print, tv & film. I became obsessed with skin while working on sets because the camera picks up EVERYTHING.
As a model and actor I became extremely insecure because I not only struggled with acne, but I would break out more after wearing makeup for long hours at a time and not having a proper skincare routine. Acne and anxiety lead to popping my own pimples and amplifying the issues.
I almost immediately found a derm provider. After seeing several, I realized that the health of my skin was continuously being compromised from their prescribed treatments like antibiotics and creams, which dried my skin out and broke me out more. My last derm actually referred me to an aesthetician and that’s when I learned that there is someone out there who specializes only in the health and beauty of the skin.
Eventually that evolved into me helping other actors and models with their skin, in more ways than just covering imperfections with makeup. I would research for countless hours about all of the best and latest ingredients in products, professional treatments, etc. and I was staying more behind the scenes. The gratification of knowing I helped someone was a new, unmatched feeling for me. I didn’t know that a career could be built off of skin health; I always thought you had to choose between a beautician or a dermatologist. I went back to college for cosmetic science and aesthetics, and a new flame was ignited!
photo credit: Ayisha Riaz
Q2. What is your routine like?
My routine is always all over the place because I’m always trying new products and new combinations to see what works best for me and my clients. I try to go through as much trial and error myself so my clients don’t have to. I LOVE discovering new products as well as seeing how well they incorporate into a routine. I test them on myself, my family, and my friends, and eventually add them to my clients’ routines once I have a thorough understanding.
I generally stick to a 7 step routine both day and night. I’ll add an exfoliant once or twice a week after cleansing at night.
1 - I use an oil cleanser at night, right now it's plain grape seed oil from Whole Foods.
2 - I then use the Skin Script Pomergranate Antioxidant Cleanser- which I love because it’s gentle. That’s all I really look for in a cleanser because it’s never on my face long enough to need more ingredients. I just want something that will clean my skin without it feeling tight.
3 - I then move on to a hydrating toner, I’m using this one by Paula’s Choice.
4 - My next step is an essence - I’m using Time Revolution by Missha.
5 - In the day I use an antioxidant serum by Cos RX and I use a retinol at night which is the PCA Skin Advanced Treatment Booster. My retinol is amazing because it keeps the texture of my skin smooth as a baby. Retinol works on breakouts and fine lines: both things I struggle with because my skin leans more on the dry side. You can see the difference in one night from using a good retinol! Although my retinol is for professional use only, I recommend this one from Paula’s Choice for beginners!
6 - Next comes my moisturizer, which is my favorite part of my routine! I love the feeling and look of juicy skin. I use the honey ceramide moisture cream by CosRX. A moisturizer packed with antioxidants and fatty acids keeps your skin healthy and assists in regeneration, whether it be from wearing makeup all day or from your active serums. It’s velvety smooth, thick, and creamy, and my skin drinks it up.
photo credit: Ayisha Riaz
Q3. If someone was just getting into skincare, what basic routine would you recommend to them?
I would recommend starting with a double cleanse. Use an oil cleanser like DHC or just grapeseed oil like I use, and then follow it up with a gentle cleanser. I’d then incorporate a gentle chemical exfoliant to use 2-3 times a week. This can be in the form of a toner, enzyme mask, or a night serum. I like Farmacy honeymoon glow night serum. A moisturizer that makes your skin feel hydrated, not tight, after you apply it, like the one I use from CosRx. Hydration is SO important.
Healthy skin is only possible if you have a maintained moisture barrier, which is the mechanism that keeps nutrients locked in your skin instead of evaporating.
There are so many moisturizers formulated for specific needs, all including a hydrating base. One with an antioxidant is probably my ideal moisturizer, as I’ll receive anti-aging benefits as a bonus ;) And finally a good SPF - Sun exposure makes up for 80% of aging (fine lines and wrinkles). Skin cancer is also one of the most common cancers in the US affecting 1 in 5 Americans every year.
Q4. Has the pandemic affected your skin? How are you adapting?
Unfortunately, yes. I’ve been stressed for various reasons due to the pandemic and the biggest trigger for my acne personally happens to be stress. Aside from taking care of my skin, I have been taking care of my mental health by holistically nurturing myself. Self care is so important in times like this which consists of maintaining healthy habits like treating my skin with love, eating well, and finding ways to stay positive daily.
Product availability is another issue that I and some of my clients have been facing: our go-to products are flying off of the shelves, online and in drugstores. I also found that some consumers are going with less favorable alternatives because of their price-point or availability; but especially because of the lack of knowledge on what they specifically need for their skin. That’s why I created my instagram to sprinkle little tips and tricks to help consumers to take care of their skin as safely as they can at home.
Additionally, online shopping during this time has me questioning whether I want to splurge on a skincare product during this financial crisis. My product obsession is benefitting me at this time because now I’m presented with the chance to try everything in my drawer. I’m fortunate to have access to products of all price ranges, allowing me to present options to my clients as well.
Q5. What are your top three pieces of advice for people just starting to take care of their skin?
- Be gentle! over-exfoliating and misuse of products is the number one issue I see with my clients. Stick to a more hydrating, nourishing, and soothing routine and exfoliate (gently) only twice a week max. Leave the serious treatments to your aesthetician :)
- SPF: Every. Single. Day. – whether you work in an office, you’re quarantined in your home, or even on a cloudy day. We all know UV rays are dangerous. They have the ability to penetrate through glass and clouds, and even reflect off of water and snow. Without SPF you will age faster, develop sunspots, and worsen any post-acne pigmentation. Bonus points if you reapply every 2 hours.
- DO NOT POP YOUR PIMPLES. – This was the hardest rule for me to follow. But I promise, popping them will make them worse 100% of the time. You will end up with deeper and darker scars that take months longer to fade. You’ll also end up either pushing the bacteria deeper into your skin, causing cystic infection, or spreading the bacteria to other parts of your face, causing more breakouts. Be gentle ;)
Q6. We love your 'no make up' makeup look. How did you find your own aesthetic, and what products do you use to achieve the look?
I gravitated towards the “no makeup makeup look” because I was never really good at applying makeup. I also think I'm traumatized from the heavy stage makeup of my theatre days. Even today, whenever I apply a full face, I’m not 100% comfortable with the results. “Natural glam” and “everyday” makeup looks have always attracted my attention because I love that the focus is always skin. A smooth canvas is my favorite accessory. I feel the most confident when I receive compliments on my skin because it’s been a long journey and I’ve worked hard on it.
My makeup looks are skin focused, so for those I always make sure my skincare has been applied and has had time to soak in (at least 15 minutes). After that I go in with some key products that are focused on having that “inner glow”: I start with the Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow primer and then apply the Dior Backstage face and body foundation with a beauty blender. I love the Nars Liquid Blush in ‘Orgasm’ and then use the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Setting Powder. I like the Huda Beauty liquid lipstick in ‘Sugar Mama’ for my lips. I use Anastasia Beverly Hills for my brows and a coat of Milk Makeup’s Kush Mascara for my lashes.