Healthy, beautiful skin is possible to achieve, but elusive to many. Despite the myriad of advertisements claiming that one cream or one product can give you the smooth, clear, wrinkle-free complexion that most people hope for, skin care is in fact a complex process grounded in real science and human physiology. Many factors contribute to our need for skin care products, so abstaining altogether from them is not healthy for our skin either. Healthy skin begins with a basic knowledge of your skin type, and how to keep it clean, nourished and protected throughout the year. It also requires a consideration of our overall diet and nutritional status.
There are four basic steps to successful skin care: cleansing, toning, moisturizing and special needs such as make-up. Our skin types are genetically determined, but can vary depending on the following factors:
environment, such as climate change or pollution
stress or anxiety
cosmetics and skin care products
illness or trauma
hormone levels, such as during puberty, pregnancy or menopause
degree and length of sun exposure
To determine your overall skin type, use this simple blot test. Press one ply of a dry tissue onto your face for ten seconds, then remove and examine the results. Balanced skin is damp with no traces of oil. Dry skin has no oil or moisture residue on the tissue. Oily skin has left oily and possibly dirt traces on the tissue. Combination skin has oily and dry marks on the tissue.
This skin type is characterized by:
dry, flaky patches and is easily chapped
feels tight across the forehead, cheeks and chin
itchy and easily irritated
can appear powdery or scaly
prone to fine lines and wrinkles
Dry skin is a result of decreased sebum production, the skin's indigenous oil, which is important in keeping the skin moist and lubricated. Consequently, this skin type has less of an oily barrier, allowing water to evaporate easily through the skin. This process can be worsened by detergents, heating or air conditioning, pollution, inadequate skin care, certain chemical ingredients in cosmetic products, overexposure to sun and wind and overuse of soaps and alcohol-based products.
Helping to 'restore' dry skin involves protecting the skin with creamy, oil-based products and avoiding harsh soaps, scrubs or products which contain alcohol. We recommend gentle, all natural products, specifically: oatmeal soap, floral toner once or twice per week, rich formulation moisturizer in avocado, calendula or jojoba and facial oil in geranium or avocado at night.
This skin type is characterized by:
acne spots and comedones (blackheads)
tendency to repel and run make-up
resistance to fine lines and wrinkles
Oily skin is the result of excessive secretions of sebum. It can be exacerbated by poor health, or a diet high in saturated fats and sugar. Emotional upset or stress can also trigger more sebum deposits on the skin. Oily skin is worsened by hormone level fluctuations, alcohol-based products and harsh soaps, both of which dry out the skin, thereby activating the oil glands to produce more sebum. Comedogenic ingredients, such as mineral oil and other ingredients which are derivatives of petroleum block pores and can lead to acne spots.
Regular cleansing aids in the removal of bacteria and waxy oils from the pores. Oily skin responds well to alcohol-free toner and a lightweight, natural moisturizer. Try to help 'normalize' oily skin and reduce significantly the frequency of acne break-outs and blackheads: A gentle exfoliant once per week, will help loosen and remove blackheads.
This skin type is rare, and is characterized by:
a creamy colour
few irregularities or blemishes
an even distribution of the skin's natural oil
dryness with age
Balanced skin is worsened by many of the same factors which can afflict other skin types.
Most people have combination skin, with oily areas focused around the forehead, nose, cheeks and chin. Other areas of the face can at the same time be very dry. Find products that are gentle and effective enough to treat combination skin, but if you have problems with acne, follow the recommendations for oily skin.
Sensitive skin is not a skin type, but rather a skin condition which has developed from a skin type. Anyone can develop sensitive skin, often due to hormonal changes caused by menopause or pregnancy. This condition can also develop from allergies to cosmetic ingredients, foods or environmental factors. Many ingredients made from animal products, petroleum or synthetics are known allergens for the skin.
The characteristics of this skin condition are:
blotchy, reddened skin
high cheek colour
itchy, easily irritated skin
chaps and burns easily
prone to break-outs and rashes
This condition is worsened by ordinary soap, synthetic, animal or petroleum-derived ingredients, astringents, harsh exfoliants or drying masks, extreme temperatures and climate changes. Use only mild, soothing formulations on sensitive skin. If an adverse reaction occurs to any product, such as a burning feeling, discontinue its use immediately.
Climate Change and Skin Care
Healthy skin is slightly acidic, due to the acid mantle which covers it. The acid mantle is a combination of sebum and perspiration designed to protect the skin from the environment. Each day we lose 850 ml of water through perspiration, so drinking water is helpful to replace this lost fluid. During the summer, water loss is more rapid, and humid conditions accelerate water loss through the skin as the body attempts to cool itself. As a result, sebum production increases, collecting on the skin and clogging pores. For many, this process results in breakouts, so regular cleansing with a mild soap is recommended.
A good skin care regimen during the summer months is the following:
Cleansing with a natural, vegetable soap such as chamomile & calendula or lavender.
Exfoliate with the dual action gentle exfoliant system.
Hydrate your skin with acne-prone toner or floral toner, depending on skin type.
Moisturize with sweet almond or grapeseed moisturizer, regular formulation.
Massage any face oil at night.
Keep lips protected and moisturized with sunblocker lip balm, lip gloss in natural crimson or lip colour palette in strawberry jam or brick red.
Cover up to reduce the amount of exposure to the sun with a wide brimmed hat, long and loose fitting clothing. Ninety percent of skin cancers are due to sun damage.
Skin is exposed to very dry environments during the winter months. Heated homes and offices, wind and extreme temperatures increase the amount of moisture lost through the skin. Dry, chapped and flaky skin and lips are not uncommon during this season and are symptoms of unprotected skin. During the winter months skin needs more protection and lubrication to inhibit moisture loss. In addition to regular cleansing and toning, moisturize the hands, face and neck during the day with a richer cream. At night, gently massage geranium or avocado face oil. Keep lips protected.
Any skin care discourse which does not include a discussion of nutrition is lacking a fundamental principle of healthy skin care. Good health and beauty are synonymous. For instance, a clogged and spotty complexion can be linked to a diet high in saturated fats and sugar. Sensitive skin may become worsened by poor digestion or inadequate absorption of nutrients. Dry flaky skin may reflect a diet low in fatty acids or vitamin E. Skin that does not heal quickly may be low in vitamins A, B6, C or zinc.
A healthy, varied diet helps the skin defend itself against infection, cell damage and premature aging. Increasing your daily intake of fresh, raw vegetables and fruit adds vitamins, antioxidants and water to your diet, all essential elements for healthy, glowing skin.
Beautiful, radiant skin is within everyone's reach. Knowledge of your skin type and how to care for your skin all year round, using all natural cosmetics, combined with a diet rich in fresh, wholesome foods will help you achieve the skin you have always wanted.