Guide to Essential Skin Care
It is often said that “we are what we eat” and this is especially true of our skin - although not only what we eat but also what we apply to our skin. Often abused, our skin is the largest and most amazing organ in the human body, made up of very specific cells and tissues so that together they act as a boundary or barrier between "you" and "the world". The epidermis is on the outside facing the world and the dermis is on the inside facing you - complete with equipment like nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles and more. There is also a third layer and that is subcutaneous fat to help your body stay warm and to absorb shocks if for example you bang into something or fall down. The subcutaneous layer also helps hold your skin to all the tissues beneath it.
So our skin holds everything together but it also:
- protects our bodies
- helps keep our bodies at just the right temperature
- allows us to have the sense of touch
Obviously, being so important we need to take good care of our skin, remembering especially that many commercial skin products can contain toxic ingredients and chemicals that can be very harsh, while our food and other choices can also impact on skin care.
Skin Care Hints
- Damage can be caused to the skin (destroying collagen and elastin) by free radicals (unstable molecules in our body). Increasing our consumption of vitamins C and E will help reduce such damage. Although vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables, include plenty of leafy greens, nuts, olives and asparagus for vitamin E and add a generous dose of vitamin C supplement to your daily diet too.
- Zinc with anti-inflammatory and healing properties will keep any skin blemishes at bay. Seeds are a good source so include a tablespoon daily with your food.
- Do not sleep in a room that is too hot or too dry as your skin loses valuable moisture while becoming redder because of an increased blood flow. Whatever the weather, allow fresh air to come in through an open window for a cool temperature but if dry skin is a real problem for you, install a humidifier next to your bed. Our skin does its restoration work during the night so this makes the quality of air around us even more important.
- Look for a natural night cream for your face and choose one that includes peptides and anti-oxidants to restore moisture and nutrients to your skin, eliminating wrinkles while you sleep. Don’t forget to include a natural eye cream too.
- Fair skin is more prone to irritations resulting in deeper damage and earlier wrinkles because of a weaker moisture barrier than darker skin. Keep your skin well moisturized with a natural moisturizer and, while we all need some sunlight to top up our vitamin D levels, those with pale skin need less sun exposure than those with darker skin. You can safely stay in the sun (minus any sun block which should always be natural) until your skin starts to change to a light pink shade. The two hours either side of 12 noon are best for absorbing vitamin D. Expose as much of the skin area as possible. Avoid showering and soaping too soon before or after sun exposure as this can undo any good from the sunlight. if you are unable to get sufficient sunlight, you can top up with a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Lips dry out so easily as they have no melanin. The first sign of dehydration in the lips is flakiness, meaning there is insufficient fatty acids and omegas in your diet. Remedy this with a suitable supplement and protect your lips with a product such as natural lip balm (recipe in the special recipe section below).
- Always eat a healthy diet for optimum skin care and health, including plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit (in their raw state if possible), free range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef and sustainable, safe fish plus plenty of fresh, filtered water. The fresh fruitn, herbas and vegetables can improve the skin dramatically by increasing the objective markers of skin health – for example skin microcirculation which is responsible for circulating oxygen and nutrients to the skin and resulting in positive changes in the density, thickness and hydration of the skin.
- Exfoliating is a good way to get rid of dead skin cells, being careful not to over do it as you can end up stripping the skin. Papaya is an excellent ingredient to look out for because it exfoliates enzymatically rather than mechanically as a gritty scrub would do. If you notice any milia (those tiny white bumps on the skin) this is a sure sign that you could be over-exfoliating.
- Unfortunately, many commercial skin care products may be harming us irreparably because of their ingredients. Some of the worst additives include Dioxane and parabens. While mineral makeup contains fewer irritating fillers and preservatives than regular cosmetics, it can still contain allergens, so if you must use commercial skin products, then please look for products with as few ingredients as possible. Remember that shampoos, conditioners and hair colorants are also applied to our skin.
- The Skin Deep cosmetic safety database is compiled by a non profit organization called the Environmental Working Group. The site has safety information on all of types of skin products including skin care, baby products, eye care, nail care, hair care, oral care and fragrance so that you can be more informed.
- If you are not eating the right nutrients, your skin can suffer with dryness and negative changes in the skin structure. Unfortunately, during the ageing process, skin density and thickness will also decrease naturally.
- Using natural products for the skin such as an essential oils formula or even making your own is very popular as more and more people are starting to thinking carefully before they put something on their skin. Essential natural oils are particularly good for the skin because they penetrate deep into the layers of skin and help moisturize from the inside out. When you use a skin care product, 60% of it will be absorbed so it’s best to choose a pure product that is safe, organic and natural with ingredients that are based on botanical plant extracts.
- Coconut oil works wonders as a moisturizer for all skin types and even more so if you have dry or ageing skin. It is the fat in the oil that helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles without any irritation. In addition, coconut oil can help to moisturize other skin conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and more. Coconut oil is a popular ingredient in some of the more expensive skin care products but has healing properties too. You can safely apply some of the oil to any scrapes, cuts and bruises where it forms a thin protective layer for any wound, keeping out dust, bacteria and other nasties while at the same time helping to repair damaged tissue.
Conditions that affect our skin
Acne is one such condition affecting a large proportion of teens in the western world and some adults too. Apart from following healthy lifestyles, spend at least 5 minutes twice a day gently cleaning your face, making sure to remove all make up. An occasional exfoliation is helpful. Many skin care products and cosmetics are full of toxins that can inflame an acne outbreak or preventing one from healing. Use pure, safe, natural skin care products that do not irritate and dry the skin. Essential oils are one of the most effective natural weapons against acne. After cleaning, apply your natural skin care products including moisturizer to a warm skin to increase absorption.
Cellulitecan be helped by improving our circulation to flush out all those toxins and unwanted fats. At the same time we need lots of regular exercise to help our lymphatic system – walking, swimming, cycling and just about any form of exercise is good. In addition, another method is to regularly massage the buttocks, legs and thigh areas of the body. You can use an essential oils product to massage and a body brush to aid circulation or try alternating hot and cold bursts of water. Diet plays an important role in cellulite prevention and/or treatment. Giving up all sugar, processed salt, dairy products, meat, sodas and alcohol and eating nothing but raw food for a week is a drastic step but see the difference.
Cracked Heels are caused when dry thick skin under the feet, particularly the heels, progresses to cracks and fissures causing discomfort. It is important to take care of the feet and follow a healthy lifestyle, for example staying hydrated and increasing circulation by exercising.
Eczema and dryness go hand in hand, making moisturizing the number 1 remedy when you have the recurring symptoms of eczema including itching, inflammation and thickening of the skin. When the skin sweats, valuable water and moisture is lost so establish a skin care routine to try and lock in moisture with a warm daily bath for a 15 to 20 minutes soak so that the skin's outer layer can absorb moisture while avoiding drying soaps and any scrubbing. The skin should be dried by gently patting with a towel to remove excess water. In place of soap, pour 2 cups of colloidal oatmeal into the lukewarm water or wrap the oatmeal in a handkerchief, place a rubber band around the top, wet it, wring it out and use as you would a normal wash cloth. After patting dry and while the skin is still damp, apply a moisturizer and preferably one that is more greasy than creamy. (Two recipes appear later in the recipe section of this guide.) Other home remedies include the use of water or milk. Cold, wet dressings can help soothe and relieve the itching associated with eczema. You can even use cold milk instead of water as this may be a lot more soothing. Put milk into a glass with ice cubes and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour the milk onto a gauze pad or thin piece of cotton and apply it to the irritated skin for 2 or 3 minutes. Resoak the cloth and reapply, continuing the process for about 10 minutes several times per day.
Moles are usually harmless - round or oval and no bigger than a pencil eraser. However, in rare cases moles can become cancerous. Melanomas are visible on the skin which makes a visual examination of your entire body a sensible thing to carry out every year or more often by standing before a full length mirror minus your clothes and carefully examining every part of your body and head, including the genitals. You might need a partner, close family member or friend to help or use a magnifying glass to do a really thorough job of it. Dermatologists have developed 5 definite pointers when checking so if you find any that do not fall under this criteria, you can then see your doctor or dermatologist for a check up and their opinion.
A stands for asymmetry – both halves of the mole should match.
B stands for border – this should be regular and either round or oval.
C stands for color – the color should be one color including lightening or darkening.
D stands for diameter – the diameter should be less than a ¼ inch (no bigger than a pencil eraser).
E stands for elevation – the mole should not be raised too much above the surface of the skin nor have an uneven surface.
You may still wish to remove moles for other reasons and this can be done safely and naturally.
Psoriasis is a skin condition commonly appearing on knees, elbows, behind the ears and on the head. The skin becomes dry, red, rough and scaly in appearance and is extremely itchy.
Rosacea is a type of skin inflammation affecting the face so that there is often a permanent redness and flushing of the skin plus pimples and even visible red blood vessels that branch across your face. This skin disease normally appears in the 30s and 40s age group, particularly if you are fair skinned and of Irish or English descent.
Skin tags (acrochordons) are common skin growths and appear as bits of hanging skin on stalks usually on the neck, chest, under arms and around the eyelids. Skin Tags often appear where there is skin-on-skin contact - for example under the arms. They can become quite unsightly and a nuisance.
Stretch Marks (or stria) occur when the skin is constantly stretched during weight gain, resulting in red or purple lines and marks on the skin. These then develop into silver or white streaks on the body.
Warts are small cauliflower like bumps which can appear anywhere on the body. They are caused by the human papilloma virus which is highly contagious. There are many different treatments to remove warts such as freezing, salicylic acid and painful cryotherapy. Natural treatments are extremely successful as there is no pain or scarring.
Wrinkles are the thin, creased and sagging skin that is especially noticeable on the face, neck and hands. Wrinkles are an inevitable part of the way we age.
Recipe Section with natural home made remedies for safe skin care
Homemade lotion for eczema:
- ½ cup distilled water.
- ½ cup oil – almond, grapeseed or olive.
- 1 tablespoon lecithin.
- 6 to 8 drops geranium oil.
- Add some vitamin E oil as this is a good antioxidant.
Mix all these ingredients in a blender. You will have a thick creamy lotion which you can dilute with a little water if you want it thinner. Store in a container ready for daily use.
All-natural Vaseline-type jelly but minus any petroleum:
Place 1 oz. of beeswax in the top of a double boiler and heat slowly until it melts. Don’t put beeswax in the microwave or in a standard saucepan, as it is flammable when exposed to direct heat.
Remove the melted wax from heat and squeeze the oil from six x 400 IU vitamin E capsules into the wax. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties which nourish and protect your skin while acting as a natural preservative to prolong the shelf life of your jelly.
Stir in 1/2 cup of extra virgin or cold pressed sweet almond oil. Stir the ingredients constantly as the mixture cools and thickens.
While still slightly warm, scoop the jelly mixture into a dark glass jar and leave unsealed to cool completely.
Keep in a cool, dark place or in your refrigerator. Use it as you would use commercial petroleum jelly. These lotions are even more important to use if you are working or living in an air conditioned or heated workplace or home. Use twice a day and more often on the hands.
An anti-aging vitamin C serum:
When you first make the serum, use it for several days just to test whether it agrees with you skin and if all is well, gradually increase the concentration percentage as the days go by, so that your skin can slowly adapt to it. Always check how your skin reacts to the application. If the reaction causes discomfort such as itchiness or tingling, rinse the affected area.
For the serum you will need:
1 to 1.2 g of L-ascorbic acid (approximately ¼ teaspoon)
5 ml or 1 teaspoon glycerine (if you are concerned about using glycerine from animal sources, then look for glycerine that is made from vegetables which is a more expensive product).
5 ml or 1 teaspoon of water
Dissolve the L-ascorbic acid in the water and when fully dissolved, add in the glycerine. Mix everything together and put in a jar and seal tightly. Keep out of sunlight in a dry and cool place.
Once you have made the serum, start applying it only once per day and let your skin adjust initially with night time being the best time. If no skin problems arise, you are free to start using the serum twice a day, and maintain this rhythm of application as long as your skin feels comfortable.
Natural Lip Balm:
Mix 2 parts sweet almond oil or coconut oil to 1 part beeswax pearls plus a few drops of wheat germ Oil. Heat the sweet almond oil in a saucepan and add beeswax pearls. For a thin consistency, add less of the latter. For a thick consistency, add more. Allow to cool. You can add a few drops of essential oils such as comfrey, rosemary, or camphor oils to enhance the properties of your homemade lip balm.
While the lip balm is still warm enough, pour into lip balm jars or tubes. To add color, you can use natural colorants. If you are tempted to go into home production of natural lip balm, you can order kits online together with the jars and tubes needed.
Just a little care and consideration is all it takes to look after your skin so that it can look after you in return.