I have been blessed with good skin, and as a result, was always pretty lazy in taking care of it. It wasn’t until I reached my forties that I began to sit up and worry about what to do. I also had my first, and then a second, favorite moisturizer get discontinued and reformulated into supposedly healthier concoctions but with worsened performance. I was frustrated. And I was confused about anti-aging products. What did I need?
It was during this period of limbo that I blogged about my regimen of three items I was using at that point. If nothing else, I figured products should be few and natural.
Since then I dove into the wealth of dermatology info on the internet. What I discovered surprised me; it certainly didn’t align with my intuitive beliefs about what was good for our skin. I was fascinated though, and made a few changes to see how it would go. And frankly, I was astounded at how my skin (which I’d always thought perfectly fine) improved and how quickly. I could hardly stop touching it, it was so soft and silky. My complexion got even clearer, like I was wearing foundation.
I figured I’d be remiss not to share what I’d learned, since most of us only know what the natural-health and beauty industries say, or maybe social media, and not what science and experience say.
Say Goodbye to Essential oils (and many botanical ingredients)
Essential oils are irritating to the skin. A lot of people with sensitive skin will tell you that they can’t use “natural” products without a reaction and this is usually why. Many things that come from plants have the potential to bother the skin. This casts a shadow of suspicion on many natural products because they put essential oils and extracts in everything.
There are ingredients from nature that ARE good for skin (provided you don’t have an allergy to them). I will add a link below that has lists of natural ingredients that are both good and bad for skin. There are also a few natural lines that have “sensitive skin” products that will skip the essential oils and extra botanicals.
Say Hello to Mineral oil
Yes, now there’s another hard one to swallow. Mineral oil (and its cousin, mineral jelly or petrolatum), is toxic, synthetic, and clogs pores, doesn’t it?
Mineral oil (also called liquid paraffin) is a clear, odorless by-product from the distillation of crude oil, a product of the earth. It is highly-purified and has a long history of safe use in cosmetics. (Some folks even ingest it for laxative purposes. Just sayin.’) Turns out, human skin loves this stuff. It is emollient as well as occlusive– which means it seals in moisture. Cosmetic grade oil does not clog pores in and of itself. It is very hypoallergenic and gentle to skin. It is inert and shelf-stable, which means it does not go rancid like most plant-based oils.
A mineral oil/petrolatum-based moisturizer was a game-changer for me. Try it before you knock it. Some of the most sought-after moisturizers, such as La Mer and Embryolisse, have this base. (These aren’t necessarily my suggestions. More info in the next post.)
Say Goodbye to Soap (for body too)
Our skin acts as a barrier, a barrier that should not be (routinely) stripped, scrubbed, and disinfected. All real soaps, even the natural ones made with mild ingredients, are very alkaline and will strip natural oils and the acid mantle. Doing this on a daily basis will be less than ideal for anyone’s skin.
Say Hello to Soap-free cleansers
If you’re a typical shower-loving Westerner who washes once or more daily, try a gentler, soap-free cleanser. They’ve already figured out that soap is drying to skin and that’s why there’s a plethora of cleansers (rather than soap) for our faces. And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Say Goodbye to Fragrance
The dermatologists say this is usually the worst ingredient for skin, and it doesn’t matter if it’s natural or synthetic. Even if fragrances don’t bother you currently, using them regularly can cause you to eventually become sensitized.
Say Hello to Fragrance-free
Considering how important this is to healthy dermatology, it’s surprising how hard it is to find products that are truly fragrance-free. Look at this as a quick way to narrow down the enormous field of skincare products.
Say Goodbye to Exfoliation
This also was a new thought to me. Ever since I was a teen, I believed skin needed regular scrubbing to get rid of dead skin cells in order to be clear and acne-free. I had even adopted the use of baking soda for this purpose, assuming it was gentle and natural. No, not for skin! It is very alkalizing (see soap point above). And any mechanical exfoliating can be irritating.
Say Hello to Good Moisturizing
This is what made my skin glow, far more than exfoliating ever did: head to toe moisturizing, with a mineral oil-based moisturizer, after every instance of bathing.
A good moisturizer will have these three ingredients near the top of the list: water, emollients, and an occlusive. (Google for examples.) If one of these ingredients is missing, the moisturizer won’t do its job. Body butters and oils, which are missing water, will temporarily soften the skin, but not deeply moisturize it. Or a lot of “light” or natural moisturizers won’t have enough occlusive and the moisture will evaporate right out. Been there?
How many of your grandmothers used cold cream? Cold cream is an emulsion of water, mineral oil, and beeswax. And didn’t they have beautiful skin?
Say Goodbye to Multiple Products, and Long Lists of Ingredients
I was already a fan of having few facial products, but it never occurred to me that the ingredients in those products should be minimized too. Have you ever looked at the length of the ingredient lists on skincare products? Especially once they start adding “natural” substances. If one oil or extract is good, then ten must be better! But the fact is, the more things we put on our skin, the more likely our skin will find something to react to.
Say Hello to True Simplicity
You do not need a million skincare products: cleansers, toners, serums, eye creams, exfoliators, masks, waters, mists, day creams, night creams, anti-aging creams. . . what am I missing? Some people are just product junkies and love having all these bottles. But know that you’re not really helping your skin and you may even be abusing it. Think of how many substances you are exposing your skin to.
One derm said most of her patients fell into three categories: the product junkie (too much stuff on their skin), the gym rat (too much showering and soap), and the hippie-dippie (too much EO/plant extracts).
You only need three things for good skincare: a gentle cleanser, one good moisturizer…
And lastly, (not a surprise) Sunscreen.
I already had my Cotz, which I love, and blogged about here. Many say sun protection is where true anti-aging lies.
I will admit, this sounded too simple and too synthetic to me! I wasn’t drawn to the brands suggested. I had a hard time giving up that nature-loving vibe. But I decided to try it and was honestly wowed. If you are doubtful, I’d suggest you try it for maybe a week, and see what you think.
In my next post I’ll get more specific with products and routine.
Good and bad natural ingredients for skincare (scroll down for lists)
Video info on mineral oil: