Skin Care Basics

Skin care is a multi-billion dollar industry with many products and gadgets for consumers to choose from. With so many options, it can be tough to decipher which products or highly-touted ingredients will deliver on their promises. A question which I am asked quite frequently is, "What type of skin care products do you use?".  It is my assumption this question is posed to me for a couple reasons- One reason may be,  I have been somewhat gifted when it comes to good skin genes; the women in my family all have beautiful skin, but this is not to say that I am without skin-related problems. I have gone through periods of experiencing blemishes, irritation and now my least favorite skin issue, the initial signs of aging. The second reason some may inquire about my skin care regimen is my background in esthetics and having many years of experience in the beauty industry. Given my background, I have experimented with several different product lines and studied a variety of product ingredients. In no way am I claiming to be an expert in the field of skin care or ingredient chemistry but I know enough to recognize a beneficial product and a product which is a waste of money.

On the subject of skin care products, not all are created equal. However, good products do not have to break the bank, and in our current economy, this is something we can all appreciate. Having used an assortment of products and treatments ranging from drugstore variety, to day spa and doctor's office options, and even trying my own homemade remedies. I can confidently say, I've had my fair share of experience with a number of wonderful and not so wonderful product lines. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a product line that excels at everything. Most product lines have their strengths and weaknesses. But there is more to healthy looking skin than just slapping some products on and hoping for the best.

To get below the surface of a skin deep issue, we must posses some understanding of our dermal covering. Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is related to a branch of our excretory system, called the integumentary system. As a part of the integumentary system, our skin's primary job is to act as a protective barrier. If one desires a beautiful and healthy appearing complexion, understanding our skin's vital role is the first step. The types of foods and liquids we nourish our bodies with will directly effect all areas of our body and most certainly will have a correlating effect in the health of our skin. It's for this reason we should be mindful of what goes into our body and cautious in choosing products to put onto our skin.

Hormones are another key player in predicting complexion. Hormones initiate the onset of puberty and partly determine whether one will have acneic, occasional breakouts or clear skin. These chemical messengers are produced by the endocrine system. As we age, the declination of key hormones trigger the aging process, thus creating some outward signs of aging. This is not to say we have no control over our hormones or how they effect our skin. Being conscious of our nutritional choices can help stabilize some hormonal fluctuations.  Keeping in mind our dietary decisions are the building blocks to creating healthy cells, which in turn leads to a healthier body, ideally leading to youthful and healthy reflection in our skin. Furthermore, hormone and key nutrient supplementation may aid in stabilizing some imbalances, which in turn, may have corresponding beneficial effects on our dermis.

Read a post by Suzanne Somers relating to her experience with hormone imbalances

What we have covered so far, healthy nutritional choices and hormone balancing (if needed), may have a positive reflection in our skin. In addition to hormone imbalances and poor nutrition, there are other contributing factors which may effect skin's health.  Those factors include, bacterial infections, stress, food allergies, and improper makeup choice and application. However, even when stated factors are addressed, we must care for our skin externally. This is where credible product choice, and more specifically, choosing quality ingredients become imperative. Choosing the right products for your skin needs and type can make a world of difference. I will cover products recommendations in another post, but for the sake of this particular post, lets cover a few basic key ingredients.

Before we move onto a few essential skin care ingredient recommendations, I want to share some suggestions which are important in maintaining the best complexion possible.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your face-Harmful bacteria from fingers and underneath fingernails can be transferred to your skin causing potential breakouts.
  • Touch your face a little as possible throughout the day, for the same reason above.
  • Don't pick at your blemishes.
  • If you cannot resist picking-ALWAYS start with clean skin and wrap tissue or clean cloth, around your finger tips. This will create a protective covering from your fingernails which may cause trauma to the skin and/or introduce and spread bacteria onto your skin.
  • Never go to bed without washing your face-This should be a part of your nightly ritual just like brushing your teeth.
  • Drink at least 2-3 liters of water a day.
  • Eat fresh organic fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Get adequate sleep; at least 7 to 8 hours a night.
  • Exercise or do something active every day.
  • Use caution when choosing which products you put on your skin-A good rule of thumb is; if you wouldn't put it in your mouth, it may not be too great for your skin (obvious exceptions here). Try to stay away from products which contain a long list of harmful chemical additives. The shorter the ingredient list, the better!
My advice when dealing with most skin care related issues is to remain closest to nature. Some natural ingredients such as essential oils may have therapeutic effects on the skin. Although, studies have shown that some essential oils may be potentially damage cells,  as they have shown to be cytotoxic (causing cell death) or may cause photosensitivity (skin reactivity caused by exposure to light/sun). The essential oils that may cause such reactions mostly fall under the citrus and menthol groups and lavender. Please use caution when using essential oils and natural remedies.  If you notice any signs of irritation or inflammation, discontinue use immediately.

Below is a list essential oils which may be helpful for combination skin:

  • Burdock root-Natural astringent that regulates oil and sweat glands
  • Cedarwood-Mild astringent which helps balance oil production
  • Frankinscense-Antiseptic, astringent and tonic to the skin
  • Myrrh-Antiseptic with skin soothing properties
As stated above, essential oils and natural remedies may not be for everyone and should not be used by those whom are categorized within the sensitive and acneic skin groups. If you choose to use essential oils, they can be added to a clay or clarifying mask, or to a steam treatment. Never apply pure essential oils directly to skin, use a carrier oil such as jojoba, coconut or argan oil. Keep in mind, a drop of essential oil or two will go a long way and in most facial applications, one drop is sufficient. For some, essential oils can cause irritation, I find the best usage to be in applications where the oil will not remain on the skin for an extended period of time (ex: included in facial masks or added to a carrier oil to be applied for facial massage).

Exfoliation is another key component to add to all skin care regimens. Blemishes, fine lines and wrinkles can be exacerbated by an over-productive or sluggish skin cells lining the sweat gland, therefore, exfoliation is crucial. Acneic skin types should use less abrasive forms of exfoliation techniques, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic, lactic acids and retinoid cream or gel.

A few options for exfoliation: 
  • Benzoyl Peroxide-Best for teens who have stubborn acne. Should be avoided if you have sensitive skin. Can be extremely drying and not recommended for most adult acne beyond occasional spot treatments.
  • Alpha/Beta Hydroxy Acids (ex: salicylic/lactic/glycolic acid)-Best for cell turnover for acneic or aging skin. Avoid glycolic acid if you have sensitive skin.
  • Tretinoin (Rx strength Vitamin A or alternatively, Retinol- a non-prescription and less aggressive retinoid).- Cell turnover accelerant. Can be used for acneic or aging skin.  Improves pore clarity. Boosts skin thickness and elasticity.
  • Mechanical Exfoliants-Manual exfoliation of skin cells. Examples include: Microdermabrasion, microfiber clothes or brushes, scrubs, adhesive strips and my personal favorite: The Clarisonic Oscillating Brush.
A few anti-aging essential oil remedies:
  • Rose-Slows the breakdown of collagen
  • Hellchrysum-Contains anti-oxident properties which can assist in tissues regeneration and healing. Great for psoriasis and eczema suffers
  • Sandalwood-Can be useful in skin regeneration 
  • Frankincense-Anti-inflammitory properties and soothing capabilities 
A few anti-aging key active ingredients:
  • Anti-oxidants-High-potency vitamins such as C and E, Coenzyme Q10 or Ferulic Acid-Protect cells from free-radical damage. Encourage collagen production.
  • Peptides-Small proteins which stimulate and increase new cell growth. Promotes healing. Alleviates redness.
  • Alpha-hydroxy Acids-(ex: lactic, malic, tartaric and glycolic acids)-Assist with age-related sluggish cell turnover. Smoothes and exfoliants skin.
  • Hyaluronic Acid-Provides intense hydration. Has the ability to hold 1000 times its own weight in water. Improves elasticity. 

To conclude, caring for our skin should be an enjoyable part of loving ourselves. It's not a perfect science and certainly is not a one size fits all. Each person varies in their internal and external requirements for optimal skin health. Experimentation is recommended each of us to find our individual regimen. If you are anything like me, that regimen may change as you age, or even by the seasons. All the above advised ingredients can be purchased at relatively low costs. I will leave you with one last piece of advice, be sure the active ingredients are closest to the top of the list. It would be a shame to find that one paid top dollar for an active ingredient which fell toward the bottom of the ingredient list, therefore, rendering it relatively ineffective.

There is still so much for me to share and much of the above information can be expanded upon. This entry is just a brief summary of some of the product and care recommendations that I would love to share with you. I will write more in upcoming blogs. As always, wishing you love, beauty and health!

 Cather, JC; MacKnet, MR; Menter, MA (2000). "Hyperpigmented macules and streakProceedings (Baylor University Medical Center) 13 (4): 405–6.
"Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells" Prashar A, Locke IC, Evans CS
Grassman, J; Elstner, E F (1973). "Essential Oils". In Caballero, Benjamin; Trugo, Luiz C; Finglas, Paul M. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (2nd ed.). Academic 


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