Dr. Obagi’s Zo Skin Health Boot Camp — Results in Five Weeks
Earlier this year, I had the chance to get a skin consultation from renowned dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi during which I rattled off my various gripes: dry skin, a disconcerting number of breakouts when I’d been acne-free throughout my pubescent years and the decades thereafter, and hyperpigmentation or “dark spots” emerging as a result of these breakouts. After hearing my concerns and examining my skin, Dr. Obagi prescribed a personalized skincare regimen using products in his Zo Skin Health line.
But first, he gave me the scoop on why my skin was acting so petulant. As it turns out, I’d been overusing moisturizers and, as a result, had further dehydrated my skin. By overcompensating with moisturizers, I’d actually turned my skin into a sloth-like Lazy Pants. Or, here’s how Dr. Obagi explains it, in way more eloquent terms:
“When you have healthy skin, it naturally moisturizes itself from within. Moisturizers are primarily composed of oil, protein and water. Skin is primarily composed of oil, protein and water. When we apply a moisturizer to the surface of the skin, the message transmitted between the upper and lower skin layers is, “I have plenty of oil, protein and water up here. Don’t send any.” Eventually, the skin becomes dependent on the moisturizers, and it doesn’t produce what it needs, so the skin becomes chronically dry. This process, combined with the fact, that as we age, [we lose some of] our ability to naturally slough dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, prevents even the slightest amount of moisturizer to penetrate.”
Now, Dr. Obagi wasn’t suggesting that I cease using moisturizers altogether but, rather, that I accompany my moisturizing regimen with some products filled with antioxidants, retinol, and growth factors that would stimulate the skin to spring back into action. Dr. Obagi stressed incorporating retinol into my regimen, saying, “Retinol is a natural form of Vitamin A and will stimulate the retinoid receptor on the cell if used in a high enough concentration. This will provide the skin with the ability to slough off the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and facilitate collagen production.” He also reminded me that the antioxidants in the products he was suggesting would protect my skin from free radical damage, while the growth factors would replace any skin proteins lost due to stress, sun exposure, and the aging process itself.
Taking all these factors into consideration, then, Dr. Obagi formulated a special skin care regimen to address all of my concerns and get me back on track. The routine he designed was rather elaborate, the instructions extensive, and the product array incredibly broad, so I found myself printing out the directions so I could reference them as needed (hey, it was a lot to remember!).
Below, after the jump, you’ll find a run-down of the products chosen for me, information on what each is designed to do, and some photographs that document my experience with these products and the improvement I witnessed during my five-week-long trial.
Zo Skin Health Offects Hydrating Cleanser
The Zo Skin Health Offects Hydrating Cleanser ($45 at ZoSkinHealth.com) includes panthenol to moisturize the skin, penetrating the top layers and transforming into vitamin B5 as it moves deeper, adding moisture from the inside out. The cleaner does feel creamy without being too thick or balmy, and it lathers nicely without being foamy or sudsy. When you rinse off the cleanser, your skin won’t feel balmy but it also won’t feel overly dry. I loved this cleanser immediately — which surprised me since I typically find most cream cleansers unsatisfying in their ability to fully remove dirt and impurities.
Zo Skin Health Offects TE-Pads
After cleansing my skin in the morning, Dr. Obagi recommended I grab one of these round, medicated pads, which contain a 2% concentration of salicylic acid (the highest concentration allowed for over-the-counter skin care products), and smooth it over any problem areas where breakouts were emerging (in my case, I ran each pad over my chin, upper lip, and T-zone region). Normally, salicylic acid aggravates my sensitive skin, causing it to dry out or become inflamed, but the TE-Pads ($45 at ZoSkinHealth.com) pads were surprisingly gentle — thanks in large part to the soothing botanical extracts in the formula, among them Camellia Sinensis extract, amino acid-rich Artemisia Vulgaris extract, and plantain extract, which boasts antibacterial and antiseptic propertied. Here, I benefited from salicylic acid’s ability to slough off pore-clogging dead cells and to kill the bacteria that leads to acne — all without having to endure a painful, cherry-faced moment.
Zo Skin Health Ossential Daily Power Defense
After allowing the moist formula in the TE-pads to penetrate the desired areas, I followed up by applying this lightweight serum to my face. The Ossential Daily Power Defense ($175 at ZoSkinHealth.com) contains DNA repair enzymes that attach to your own DNA molecules to repair oxidative stress caused by UV exposure, as well as antioxidants that prevent future damage and retinol, which stimulates cellular activity, reduces collagen degradation, and encourages greater fibroblast activity, leading to enhanced collagen and elastin production. This product, then, boasts anti-aging benefits and it helps to even skin tone and boost radiance.
Zo Skin Health Ommerse Daily Renewal Creme
The Ommerse Daily Renewal Creme ($95 at ZoSkinHealth.com) hydrates the skin with coconut oil extract, soybean extract, and moisture-locking hyaluronic acid while guarding it with vitamin E, which protects your visage from free radical damage and conditions the skin; brightening vitamin C, which is also rich in antioxidants; vitamin A, which promotes collagen production; Photosomes that reduce skin discolorations and even out skin tone; Canadian willowherb and oat extract to soothe the skin; and Co-Enzyme Q10, which helps neutralize the free radicals that accelerate the emergence of visible aging signs like fine lines, wrinkles, and sun spots. Since the cream is packaged inside an air-tight container, its ingredients won’t lose their efficacy due to oxygen exposure. Instead, all you have to do is press on the top surface and the cream will emerge from the middle spout so that you can use as much as needed without compromising the rest of the cream in the jar.
Since you always need to apply sunscreen (not to mention that the retinol in these products makes skin ultra sensitive to sunlight), I finished off my morning routine with a lightweight sunscreen: Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50. Theoretically, to stay 100% true to the Zo Skin Health plan made for me, I should’ve been using the Zo Skin Health Oclipse Suncscreen + Primer SPF 30 but, since I didn’t have it handy, I chose the Kiehl’s sunscreen as an alternative.
Zo Skin Health Offects Hydrating Cleanser
Before going to bed, I washed away the day (so to speak) with the Zo Skin Health Offects Hydrating Cream Cleanser, using my Clarisonic Mia (as I did in the morning).
Zo Skin Health Radical Night Repair Plus
Two times a week, I applied a pea-sized amount of the Ossential Radical Night Repair Plus ($325 at ZoSkinHealth.com) to my cleansed face. This gel-serum hybrid is incredibly potent, containing 1% concentrated retinol (10 times the average amount in non-prescription skincare products), which of course has proven anti-aging benefits. But what’s really genius here is the delivery system Obagi formulated: the retinol is encapsulated within time-release microspheres so that your skin doesn’t receive just one shocking, jarring dose of potentially irritating retinol but, instead, it receives doses of retinol continuously, with the concentration of vitamin A increasing in small increments. The formula also includes Crithmum Martinum extract, derived from a seacoast plant, which helps protect the skin from free radicals and Skinasensyl, a peptide that makes skin less irritable and less vulnerable to adverse reactions.
Zo Skin Health Ossential Growth Factor Serum
On the nights when I wasn’t using the Radical Repair Plus, I followed my cleansing routine with an application of this delicious, nutty-smelling serum. The clear Growth Factor Serum ($195 at ZoSkinHealth.com) again includes retinol, this time accompanied by two lipopeptides meant to stimulate collagen production and other growth factors designed to encourage cell renewal (among them vitamin C, a vitamin B-complex, and folic acid). Together, these helped to make skin look smoother, younger, and more even in terms of overall tone.
Zo Skin Health Ommerse Overnight Recovery Creme
Again, on days when I wasn’t using the Radical Night Repair Plus (which stands on its own and needs no follow-up moisturizers or serums), I applied the Growth Factor Serum and then finished off my routine by smoothing on this rich evening cream. The Zo Skin Health Ommerse Overnight Recovery Creme ($95 at ZoSkinHealth.com) soothes and hydrates the skin with redness-reducing Canadian Willowherb extract, softening shea butter, and humectant squalane, while encapsulated vitamin A is time-released via a liposome delivery system for added anti-aging benefits.
Quite the skin care plan, right? But did it deliver the desired results? Well, ladies, the answer is a resounding YES!
To illustrate my progress, allow me to show you some photos that illustrate my progress.
Below, you’ll find a shot of me taken on May 21st, the day before I started my skin care regimen. Try not to be scared since I’m wearing absolutely no makeup, no tinted moisturizer, nada. As you can see, I have some red spots on my chin and around the mouth area — acne scars from a recent breakout. Also, you’ll notice my skin looks rather dull and lifeless. And, while I hate admitting this, the skin around my eyes is losing some of its elasticity (le sigh!).
On my first day, I immediately fell head over heels with the Hydrating Cleanser. The TE-Pads were also a welcome surprise — unlike pads soaked in alcohol, they felt gentle and non-abrasive. The Daily Renewal Creme initially felt a bit too thick, but this sensation only lasted a few minutes. Once the cream was absorbed, my skin didn’t feel greasy or oily, but I also didn’t need to re-moisturize at all throughout the day so that it did, in fact, deliver a day’s worth of moisture. On the second day, I noticed that I felt a slight burning, followed by a tingling sensation around the cheekbones and the mouth area when I applied the Ommerse Daily Renewal Cream. I panicked for a minute, but, fortunately, the tingling and burning only lasted a few seconds and any initial redness faded rather rapidly (within about a half hour). By Day 3, my skin had grown somewhat accustomed to the morning routine, and I detected an overall decline in sensitivity.
The Radical Night Repair Plus was perhaps the most abrasive product, but it was in no way intolerable. In fact, my skin became more and more tolerant of this product with continued use. I did, of course, notice a bit of flaking around the nostrils, but I had been forewarned that this would happen as a result of the sloughing process. The flaking wasn’t severe at all and it, too, decreased with time.
Here, check out what my skin looks like on May 27th, just five days after commencing the routine. As you can see, the spots on my chin are starting to fade and my skin looks smoother overall.
Now, observe my progress by June 3rd. That reddish spot in between my eyebrows, right at the middle of my forehead, is almost completely gone, as are the spots on my chin. Also, you might notice my skin is starting to look more firm – especially the skin around the eye area.
This photo, taken on June 6th, illustrated the progress more clearly:
Now, check out how much better my skin looks two weeks later, on June 25th. The hyperpigmentation issue has been subdued, my breakouts are under control (save for a stray pimple here and there, which the TE-Pads quickly zapped away), my skin tone is remarkably more even, and my complexion appears more luminous.
Amazing, right? Thank you, Dr. Obagi!