skin care

THE SKIN YOU ARE IN

Skin is amazing. It is our largest organ, covering about 18–22 square feet of the average-size adult. Our skin literally holds us together and provides a barrier between our insides and the outside world. It’s the first line of defense against pollutants, illness, and disease, making the health of your skin a priority for overall health.

While it does protect us, skin also absorbs what it’s exposed to into the bloodstream—like some of the toxic ingredients in skin-care products. That’s why healthy skin is so essential for looking and feeling great. The outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, is continually replacing itself with cells from the layer beneath it. This process is one of the key elements to keeping skin looking youthful. As we age, the renewal process slows, but it
doesn’t stop. We can help it along.

For example, exfoliating daily with a good cleanser can enhance cell turnover and help maintain our skin’s youthfulness. Unfortunately, in our sometimes crazy-busy lives, we often put daily skin matters at the bottom of our to-do lists. However, small steps each day can have a profound effect on keeping pores clear and restoring vitality to tired skin.

Proper care can keep our skin healthier longer and slow the skin-damaging
effects of the aging process. When we scan the beauty aisle in search of products to help our skin, we may come across lots of lotions claiming to be the latest miracle in a jar. These products are often loaded with chemicals that may actually cause the skin to age faster or exacerbate the problems they claim to fix. Magazine ads, featuring
celebrities who never seem to age, urge us to run out and buy whatever cream promises to take 20 years off our skin—just like it did for the (photoshopped) spokesperson! I’ve built my career on the fact that natural products can keep skin looking amazing, and even I occasionally get tempted to buy into the outlandish sales pitch. But I do know that these products and images aren’t what they seem. This is just a reminder of how persistent and powerful these misleading messages can be.

I’m not claiming that a natural skin-care routine (or any skin-care routine, for that matter) can stop time—and nor would I want it to. Our laugh lines and wrinkles are signs of experience and part of the natural and inevitable process of aging. I love sharing what I know with my clients and helping them set realistic goals to find a routine that works for them. It’s my hope that the advice and recipes in this book will empower you with the natural tips and tricks estheticians use, allowing you to create products and habits that garner the results you’re seeking.

SKIN TYPES

Our skin can be a mirror for what’s going on inside our bodies and can also reflect what it’s exposed to in our environment. I’ve found that most of my clients have accurately assessed their skin type, and you likely have as well. While I find most self-assessments to be fairly accurate, I do have to remind people that skin type isn’t a permanent marriage.

It can change as we age or even over the course of a few months. Some women have dry skin for most of their lives, and then start to get a few oily patches here and there. Or some may relocate, and their new environments leave once-oily skin feeling parched. Being open to the fact that skin type can shift can help you adapt if changes occur.

Sometimes the skin can seem as unpredictable as life itself. Nevertheless, knowing your current skin type will help you create DIY products that will work best for you.

NORMAL SKIN

Normal skin is neither overly dry nor overly oily. Women with normal skin still deal with environmental concerns (like sun protection and air pollution), the occasional breakout, or normal aging. Even “normal” skin has issues that need attention. However, I often see people with normal skin reaching for products that are not appropriate for their needs. If you have a few blemishes, you don’t need to switch to an entire acne-fighting regimen. You can simply spot treat the blemishes until they disappear.

I always encourage women to use products with active ingredients only if they need it; for example, when I see women in their twenties with beautiful, youthful skin applying a high-powered anti-wrinkle cream, I explain that they don’t need these ingredients just yet. It’s kind of like taking antibiotics when you’re not sick. Not only won’t the antibiotics work, but it’s also possible to build a resistance to them. Skin can work the same way, so if we’re using strong ingredients too soon, they may be less effective when we actually need them. With normal skin, the best strategy is to maintain healthy habits to preserve skin’s youthfulness by protecting it from damage, spot-treating problem areas, and restoring luster as needed.

DRY SKIN

Dry skin can exhibit slight scaliness, flakes, tightness, or be ashy, red, or rough. Dryness can result when the skin is lacking fluids (dehydration) or oils (moisture). You need a balance of both fluid and oil to have properly hydrated skin. There are many factors that contribute to dry skin—from constant exposure to low humidity, air conditioning, and heating in office buildings and homes to chemicals in skin-care products.

Given that we’re all exposed to some of these drying elements, there are steps everyone can take to help protect the skin from these agents, such as washing your face with lukewarm water (as opposed to hot), eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids (like flaxseed and nuts), and limiting dehydrating foods (like caffeine and alcohol).

Some skin-care products that aim to treat dry skin are filled with dehydrating chemicals or lack necessary ingredients for transdermal penetration (a substance’s ability to get into your skin). This means that even though some women are regularly applying moisturizers in the morning and evening, they still experience dryness because the product they are using simply sits on top of the skin or is packed with moisture-robbing chemicals. If you battle with dry skin, switching to products with ingredients that will neither impart, nor rob, your skin
of fluids and oils can provide you with relief from dry skin.

OILY SKIN

Oily skin is not necessarily oily all the time; it often makes its presence well known around midday with shiny patches on the nose, forehead, or chin. People with oily skin might experience frequent breakouts due to an excess of sebum (an oily secretion produced by the sebaceous glands) that mixes with dead skin cells and causes a plugin in the pores. Bacteria that can live on your skin thrive in the excess oil in your pores. Keeping congested pores clean is a top priority to help the skin function properly and reduce oil production.

We’ve all heard cosmetic companies touting the importance of using oil-free products, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: oil on oil actually stops the skin’s overproduction of oil. However, when it comes to your skin, not all oils
are created equal. You want to use oils that are non-comedogenic (meaning they don’t clog pores) and will help your skin balance and maintain normal oil flow.

Jojoba oil

(which is actually a wax that closely resembles your skin’s sebum) is a perfect example—it can be used to help rebalance the skin, assist with oil regulation, and keep the pores clear. I recommend steering clear of oil-free products, which seem like the perfect fix for an oily complexion, but they can instead dry out your skin and lead to increased oil production. This might sound a bit crazy, but putting the right oil on your oily skin will actually reduce the overall oil and balance out your skin, and oily skin still needs moisture.

So instead, look for products that rebalance oil production and keep pores clean. Here’s a bit of good news: oily skin tends to age more slowly than dry skin.

COMBINATION

Combination skin can be dry on the cheeks and oilier in the “T” zone (the forehead, nose, and chin), presenting challenges that are common in both skin types. Women with combination skin are often unsure how to care for their complexion, as it can be unclear which products will best suit them. There are several approaches for combination skin. You can use a serum (a skin-care product targeted to a specific issue) only on the area where the skin is having an issue.

You don’t need to treat all your skin with the same active ingredients. Or you can work on cleaning and unclogging your pores. Oftentimes, women will develop combination skin with weather changes, or through hormonal changes. By deep cleaning your pores, balancing your pH, and proper oil and hydration balance, some women find this the effective solution to restoring a unified skin type. Other women will always have a bit of excessive dryness in one area or excessive oil in the T-zone; for them, the deep cleaning will help along with a spot
treating the problem area with different products.

A facial oil

such as jojoba oil, can moisturize dry areas while bringing balance to oily zones. This makes it the perfect choice for both oily and dry skin. Choose an oil that also has skin-loving ingredients, like carrot oil (which is high in vitamin A) and rosehip oil (which is high in vitamin C).

Additionally, using a pH-balancing toner, like the Tea and Vinegar Detox Toner (here), can keep dead
skin cells turning over and prevent clogged pores. DAILY DAMAGE From car exhaust fumes to cold viruses, our skin is constantly being challenged.

Taking care of our skin and reducing the exposure burden is crucial if we want to stay as healthy as possible. Knowing the different sources of damage is an important first step in protecting our skin so that our skin, in turn, can protect us.

CHEMICALS IN SKIN-CARE PRODUCTS

The average American slathers on or lathers up with eight personal-care products every day. Just this seemingly harmless combination of deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and lotions exposes us to about 138 chemicals daily.
That is a huge burden for the skin and body to absorb. The thought of changing your entire routine and letting go of all your favorite products can leave a person paralyzed. Although it is a great idea to switch chemical-laden products with natural-ingredient counterparts, there is no need to feel that you have to switch
everything. Start slowly and do what is easy and feels right for you. Even a small
reduction will lessen the load.

Rather than aiming for perfection, and driving yourself crazy, it’s fine to take steps to reduce some of the chemical exposure. I always discuss deal breakers with my clients. What products can’t they live without? We make two piles of their everyday products. One pile is “can live without,” and the other is the “have to have” pile. When we go through this process, it’s surprising to my clients how many products they can actually live without! Then, I offer swaps for the “have to have” pile, like the ones you’ll find in the DIY recipes in this
book.

The pile of toxic “have to have” shrinks quickly. This can happen for you, too, when you begin to make changes in the products you use daily. Start with the ones you have the most exposure to (for example, those you soak in or apply all over your body, as opposed to a product you’ll wash off or one that covers little surface area). Then consider the alternatives and try them out.

POOR NUTRITION

What we put into our bodies can certainly affect our skin, so we want to take steps to avoid foods that are going to put a burden on our organs. Foods and beverages such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and white flour can be dehydrating and have negative effects on the skin, as well as highly processed foods, fast food, and not having enough variety in your diet to supply the needed nutrients for glowing healthy skin and hair. Try adding dark leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables as well as flaxseed, chia seeds, nuts, seeds, herbal teas, and whole
grains to your diet. Eating as close to the source is one of the best healthy skin diets.

That said, life is just too short to skip what I call vitamin J (aka “vitamin junk”—those little items that bring us happiness, but aren’t necessarily loaded with nutrients). When it comes to vitamin J, it’s not just about the food; it’s whatever we know isn’t healthy for us but we choose to indulge in anyway. For me it is not the vitamin J that concerns me, it is making sure you are educated so you are consciously choosing your poisons, not letting them choose you. Having said that, I like to live by what I call the 85/15 percent rule. Eighty-five percent of the time, I try to do what is best for my body and health. Fifteen percent of th time, I indulge in my version of vitamin J. You might find a 90/10 or a 50/50 lifestyle works best for you.

HARSH EXFOLIANTS

Scrubbing our skin can feel so satisfying; it’s like our minds know that our bodies are sloughing off dead cells and impurities to reveal a fresh, new state. Some exfoliators, though, can cause microdermabrasion (little tears that damage and age the skin). Avoid ingredients like apricot kernels and walnut hulls. No mattered how powdered they seem, they’ll still have jagged edges, which will scratch the skin. Unlike sugar or salt, which dissolve and get smaller, walnut shells and apricot kernels stay hard, as they do not dissolve in water. When I was a kid growing up in New York City, we used to scrape apricot pits on the sidewalk after we ate the fruit. (I don’t remember why we did this, but the memory is vivid!) Those kernels were so hard that they never seemed to grind down. The same is true when they scrape against the skin.

When looking for exfoliators, choose those with ingredients that are round (have no jagged edges), are dissolvable in water, and/or absorb dead skin cells. Gentle exfoliators that absorb dead cells are a wonderful alternative to the tougher scrubs. Goat milk and apple cider vinegar are two ingredients that help skin cells turn over without causing damage. If you love the feeling of scrubbing, salt and sugar can be great for your body. On the face, I like to use mild exfoliators, such as almond meal, quinoa flour, and ground sunflower seeds. Try the Quinoa Cleanser (here) or Detox Cleanser (here), which leave behind essential fatty acids in addition to buffing.

SUN EXPOSURE

There’s no shortage of scientific evidence about the role UV light plays in skin damage. Sunscreen seems like the obvious solution for protecting the skin from these damaging rays and preserving the youthfulness of your complexion. But sunscreen is one of the biggest toxic chemical culprits, which leaves very few options for proper sun protection. The good news is: there are more natural brands of sunscreen emerging. Beyond wearing sunscreen free of toxic chemicals, if I know I’m going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, I practice what I call sun avoidance.

I wear big sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection lenses along with a hat and long, thin layers to cover my arms and legs. Whenever possible, I seek out the shade. If I know that I have to be out for an extended period and I cannot avoid the sun, I will use whichever sunscreen I can find with the fewest toxic chemicals.

BACTERIA

Treating your skin gently (for example, not picking at your skin or using makeup brushes that haven’t been cleaned in a while) is important for keeping bacteria off your face. Picking and self-extraction of blackheads can traumatize the skin, causing capillaries to burst, or even cause scarring, in addition to allowing bacteria to enter or spread. Other ways we unknowingly expose our skin to bacteria and oils that can cause breakouts is through hair on our face (such as bangs) as well as our everyday items, like hats and cell phones, which get exposed to countless microorganisms, as well as skin oil. Making little changes, such as using headphones with your cell phone, regularly cleaning the surface of your phone, or seeing an esthetician instead of attempting self-extraction, can keep bacteria off your skin. If you’re prone to breakouts or oily skin, it is a good idea to change your pillowcase often, keep your hair off your face, and avoid scarves, hats, and headbands if you are developing blemishes under and around the areas they cover.

I have worked with professional football players who had a terrible time with acne at the helmet line. If you cannot get rid of the culprit (football players need those helmets!), make sure you clean your skin and the surface that touches your skin before and after using. Proper daily skincare and working with an esthetician will help maintain your skin and keep it (mostly) bad bacteria-free.

STRESS

The way our skin looks and feels is affected by everything from our sleep to our stress levels. While it can be impossible at times to walk away from stress and business (or our many commitments at work, home, and in the community), there are some simple techniques that can bring a sense of calm to the day. Breathe. It can help improve how we feel in stressful moments, which can have an impact on an entire day. I encourage my clients to start and finish their day with three deep breaths. I find this is something everyone can make time for, and
the couple of minutes it takes will help start and end your day in a more balanced, refreshed, and regrouped way.

While lying in bed, place your hand on your belly. As you breathe in, feel your belly expand, and when you breathe out, contract; repeat. Some people like to think of a word or phrase while they breathe, like inhaling joy and exhaling happiness. Beyond morning and night, people often do these breathing exercises midday to feel centered during those crazy stressful moments. Try it.

Aromatherapy can also ease tension. Scents like neroli (which helps with anxiety), rose (for cranky moods), and lavender (for all-over stress reduction) can have a huge impact on your disposition. Some of the recipes include
essential oils and hydrosols (flower water), providing aromatherapeutic benefits while you care for your skin. But aromatherapy can be as simple as dabbing a bit of essential oil onto a hanky, stashing it in your purse, and taking it out when you need to relax. When my girls were in school, I made them “study buddies.” These were little kits containing various essential oil blends for them to open up when they needed to de-stress during an exam.

These kits became so popular that everyone asked to use them—including the teachers. I have also used neroli
and rosewater spray on my children since they were little. Whenever one was in a cranky mood, I would spray a little rose hydrosol over her head; if one was feeling anxious, out came the neroli. Now even at 22 and 26, all I have to do is reach for the spray and their moods still shift.

Resources

wikipedia.org

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