I’m lucky that my skin is back on track after it threw a wobbly a couple of years ago. It was a bit of a learning curve getting it to this state though! There are some basic "rules" for looking after your skin. There’s a little too much for one post so I’ve split this post into two. The first post focusses on what I've been putting on my skin to get it looking good again, the second post will focus more on what I've been doing with my diet that's helped to improve my skin. I'm aware that some of my tips are contrary to what you may read elsewhere but they're based on my personal experience of what's worked for me (everyone has different experiences)!
- Keep your face clean: I have a couple of friends (who shall remain nameless!) who have admitted to me that they don’t bother removing their make-up before going to bed, or they only wash their face with plain water and I had to hide my despair! You need to make sure your face is free of dirt and make up if you really want to look after it. Plain water won’t remove the oils that build up on the skin throughout the day as oil and water don’t mix! You also want to give your skincare products the best chance of working so don’t make it tough for them by having to fight their way around any dirt and bacteria on your skin. Also avoid touching your skin, as this is another way bacteria and grime ends up on your face. Similarly if you work out, try to wash your face after doing so and always remember to use lukewarm water rather than hot water on your face to avoid drying it out too much
- Avoid harsh cleansers: this is a biggie for me! Many commercial (rinse off) cleansers are way too harsh and drying for the skin. This is often down to the harsh surfactants included in these products which are essentially detergents used to remove oils and dirt, and give products a foaming ability. You find them in most beauty / skincare products – shower gels, shampoos, handwashes, toothpastes but also some moisturising creams (including those recommended to treat common skin conditions!!). You may notice that when you use them your skin feels tight afterwards, especially if you have drier skin – note this is not a sign of a good cleanser! Unfortunately, some surfactants (especially when used in high concentrations) are a little too effective at cleansing, and they strip the skin of much needed oils and moisture, which can cause a disruption in the balance of your skin’s natural oil production. Among other issues, they also cause skin irritation. Many brands have cottoned onto the fact that people are becoming more savvy around the use of certain surfactants in beauty products and have released “sulphate-free or SLS free products”. However, I would be careful with these products too - the substitutes they use e.g. cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate to name a few, also have issues with them and as they’re newer, we just don’t know enough about them. Cocamidoproply betaine is also known as a skin irritant in high amounts and personally I have found it really drying. Both of these ingredients and similar ones are found in a whole range of beauty products, including very high end, so-called “natural” brands! Instead use gentle, non-irritating cleansers that won’t dry out the skin but instead help restore the skin’s balance. I’ve given up commercial cleansers altogether having never been able to find the right one and my skin is now happier with my own cleansing oil blend. It’s amazing the difference it makes: clean skin without that feeling of tightness you get after using harsh cleansers. In short, always read ingredients labels carefully even if you are buying from “natural” brands
- Use only gentle exfoliants: no matter what skin type you have this is really important. You shouldn’t exfoliate more than once a week (maybe twice at most). Exfoliating is an important part of any skincare routine particularly as skin ages, because cell turnover slows down, which in itself can cause clogged pores but also dull skin and flaky patches. Exfoliating removes the dead skin cells and impurities from the surface, revealing new skin underneath. I personally prefer to use soft peel/enzyme exfoliators over scrubs. Soft peels work by using natural AHA (fruit extracts or enzymes) which gently resurface the skin whereas scrubs, well, obviously they scrub them off! Which is fine in theory but I feel that they’re too harsh and can damage the skin if you’re too rough with them!
- Moisturise! obvious I know, but you may need to experiment with a lot of brands to find out what works for you. Choose the right texture and ingredients for your skin - drier skins can get away with richer, heavier creams that contain high oleic oils and even butters / beeswax, providing more emollient/occlusive properties. Combination / oilier skins skin need lighter textured creams or lotions that contain light / non-comedogenic oils (note, you don't need to use oil-free formulations but check which oils are used and where in the ingredients list they feature). If you have this skin type, you may find moisturisers with beeswax or butters (shea / cocoa) too heavy for your skin. I have a separate post about which oils are best for different skin types here
- UV protection: daily UV exposure is known to contribute to damage and ageing of the skin so ensure you're sufficiently protected. I'm probably the wrong person to give advice on this as my darker skin gives me a good level of protection and I love being in the sun on holiday (well protected with SPF of course) as we get so little of it here! It's difficult to give definitive guidance on sun exposure, particularly when many people are deficient in Vitamin D which you can improve with sun exposure). Sun exposure is dependent on so many variables (your personal skin type, where you are based, time of day, weather conditions). I would say that you don't have dark skin and are planning deliberate sun exposure (tanning) you need to ensure you wear a reliable SPF (over your moisturiser). I personally wouldn't be confident in any make up or regular face creams with SPF claims given that many sun creams don't offer the level of protection they claim and we rarely apply them as we're meant to. If you'd like credible information on sun protection I'd suggest looking here
- Check your make up: at the risk of sounding unpopular, the foundation / concealer you use to cover up your spots may be making things worse for you. Trust me, I’ve been there – desperately trying to hide spots with foundation and concealer, only to find myself getting more break outs! This is particularly true of heavier face make up (full coverage foundations and concealers) which form an occlusive layer on the skin, not allowing it to breathe. Couple this with using dirty make up brushes and it’s no wonder your skin breaks out. It took me time and courage to give up wearing foundation every day but as my skin started to improve and heal, I found it quite liberating being able to ditch the stuff and give myself a few extra minutes in bed instead of faffing around with a full face of make up! I still wear foundation for special occasions but most days I just use a bit of face powder / bronzing powder and that’s enough for me as a base. Remember to clean your make up brushes once a week to minimise the transfer of bacteria onto your skin - brushes are a breeding ground for bacteria!
Did you know that what we eat can make a real difference to our skin? Look out for the next post to find out more about diet and skin health!