Natural skincare is all about protecting your skin, once it is damaged there is very little you can do about it. There are 3 major areas of lifestyle that can damage the skin.
The first major cause of skin ageing is exposure to the sun: the older you are, the more ultraviolet light your skin will have been exposed to over the years. UV rays damage the collagen and elastin in skin which keep it smooth and supple. That’s why the skin on the hands, neck and face tend to age more quickly. This is why we need to wear sunscreen from an early age, at least factor 20.
Another major factor is smoking, this is because the toxins in smoke stop the skin from producing as much collagen. Plus smokers tend to get lines along the top lip (from sucking in) and crows feet from screwing up the eyes. The best thing is to stop smoking! A diet rich in antioxidants (coloured fruit and veg) plus essential fatty acids (eggs, dairy, whole grains, olive oil) will help repair the damage. Think Mediterranean!
The last cause of poor skin is dehydration, it leads to wrinkling. You need to keep up your liquid intake. If you pinch the back of your hand and the skin doesn’t return to normal immediately, you are dehydrated. Drinking more water is the best choice, but other liquids such as tea,coffee, fruit juices in dilute form count. Moisturising helps the skin retain what water it has, but this needn’t be expensive, a basic oil such as almond or olive will provide a good, natural, protective barrier.
So the 3 things you need to do first are:-
- Wear sunscreen and prevent unnecessary exposure
- Stop smoking and eat a Mediterranean style diet
- Drink more water and liquids to stay hydrated
What you eat can really affect the health of your skin and while it has been disproved that a high fat/sugar diet directly causes acne, there is an underlying trend which ultimately will affect your skin.
Recent studies show that high-glycemic foods such as refined grains (think white bread, rice, pasta) and processed sugars (cakes, biscuits, sugary cereals), which are the mainstays of a typical Western diet, can alter the hormone balance.
Here’s the problem: high-glycemic food such as french fries, breakfast cereal, white bread and fizzy drinks boost blood sugar too quickly–and the pancreas responds by making extra insulin to bring those sugar levels down. Insulin is thought to increase the production of androgens which in turn increase testosterone levels. The result is excess sebum production and bad skin, leading ultimately to acne. This is becoming more of a problem in older people as the effects of diet gradually alter hormone levels. Red meat and dairy similarly affect hormones. (To read more click here).
As well as cutting down on refined carbs, red meat and dairy there are some super foods which you really should eat!
- Omega 3-rich foods such as olive and flaxseed oils for cooking and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines).
- Avocados, dark green leafy veg, berries, orange-coloured veg or fruits, pineapple, tomatoes are all recommended for skin health. Their anti-oxidant nutrients protect against UV related oxidation, helping to prevent skin damage.
We would all like to believe that there are miracle products out there which can reverse the ageing process! However, we are better off trying to protect our skin and minimise damage. There are definitely products which will temporarily make our skin look better with light diffusing particles and silicones to disguise lines but they are just that- temporary! Plus so many products have all sorts of nasties in them that we could be doing more harm than good in the long run. So what should we choose?
Well, you could do worse than your own kitchen cupboard! I have put together some recipes using kitchen staple but tried and tested ingredients – here.
There are also plenty of “natural” products produced by people/companies who want to offer a more simple and non-chemical approach to beauty. I put “natural” in inverted commas because sometimes you will read the label of umpteen ingredients and think “really?”! However, some ingredients may appear chemical but in fact be totally natural, for example “aqua” is water, “hamamelis” is witch hazel.
The ingredients to avoid include:
1. Phthalates They mess with your hormones.
2. Formaldehyde Besides being an irritant, it’s a known carcinogen.
3. Parabens In their many forms (methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, or butylparaben), parabens have been linked to breast cancer. However, they do occur naturally (eg blueberries)
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate These foaming agents are found in soaps and shampoos and are skin irritants.
5. Toluene Toluene is toxic to the nervous system.
6. Fragrance There are no rules on what goes into “fragrance”. Avoid!
7. Triethanolamine Though used in many “gentle” products to balance PH levels, TEA has been known to cause allergic reactions, irritations and drying out of the hair and skin.
So if you want to buy products, what should you do? There are many, many products out there which advertise themselves as “natural” but there are no trade description rules on the word “natural”! Confusing!
To a certain extent it is trial and error, especially if you know you are allergic to a particular ingredient, just read the label! However, there are brands that have become popular through customer use- the best reviews are from satisfied users! The following web sites have reviewed products as they are too numerous to mention: naturalhealth.com, betternutrition.com, naturalbeautyshow.com.
Some of the big brands are realising that consumers want to buy products without chemicals and are bringing out new ranges. I particularly like the Nivea Pure and Natural range, which my teenage daughter can use without irritating her sensitive skin.
Another range which I’m a fan of for my daughter, is Amie. This range was created by a mother (Fiona Parkhouse, an ex-Estee lauder exec) who couldn’t find products suitable for her teenage daughter’s skin so she created her own. The award winning range can be used by anyone but is great as a skincare starting point for young people.
Good luck with your natural skincare and please share any of your own ideas.