A Nutritionist's Approach to Skincare
In total, the skin accounts for about 16 percent of a person's total body weight. If you were to tear off and spread out the average adult's skin, it would cover approximately 22 square feet (SOURCE).
I started caring about my 22 square feet of skin in junior high. It's a common tale for most preteens, I realize, but the start for me was a bit more unique than the typical pre-adolescent acne or dry skin — I had keratosis pilaris all over my arms. Also known as "chicken skin," this awful skin quandary had every dermatologist telling me it "just runs in families sometimes" and "there's nothing you can do or take to fix it." Finally one doctor gave me an awful-smelling lotion, but it just left me feeling greasy...and still bumpy.
Years later, after my nose had been in a holistic nutrition text book for a while, I finally found ways to lessen its severity through diet and a few little tips care of the Weston A. Price Foundation:
- It's a classic symptom of vitamin A deficiency — so I began taking fermented cod liver oil regularly.
- Applying evening primrose oil topically can bring great relief.
- I needed to avoid applying anything to my skin that contained sodium lauryl sulfate.
That last one was a doozy for me as I soon realized that SO MANY PRODUCTS contain sulfates. They typically act as the emulsifying agent in cleansers, responsible for that lovely foaminess we all come to crave and expect. Essentially all the soaps, shampoos and bubble baths I grew up on contained it. Time for a complete overhaul!
THE SAFETY (ISSUES)
Three 'fun' facts about the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA):
- The FDA has only prohibited a mere eleven ingredients in skincare products (SOURCE), whereas the European Union has banned over 1,000!
- The FDA has not changed their regulations on skincare products since 1938 (SOURCE).
- The FDA says descriptions such as “hypoallergenic” or “natural” can “mean anything or nothing at all,” and while they did once try to establish an official definition for the term “natural,” this initiative was overturned in court (FDA 1998, SOURCE).
I'm not wholeheartedly anti-FDA...but I certainly don't buy into the whole "FDA-approved" lingo since they clearly could be doing a bit more due diligence.
I wish the word "natural" carried more clout — I really do. But it's sadly become a vapid and empty seven letters that still manage to draw buyers in. These are the ingredients in the face scrub I worshipped and used throughout my preteen/teenage years. It touted itself as 'natural' product, but my arch-rival sodium lauryl sulfate is listed as the fifth ingredient:
Water, Juglans Mandschurica Shell Powder, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Zea Mays Kernel Meal, Cetyl Alcohol, Linoleamide DEA, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG 100 Stearate, Lanolin Oil, Prunus Armeniaca Kernel Oil, Sambucus Nigra Flower Extract, Primula Veris Extract, Helianthus Annuus Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Extract, Ceteareth 20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)
I'm sure most of those other scary-looking ingredient words and chemicals are predominantly harmless, but until I get my Ph.D in Chemical Engineering in order to know for sure (read: never happening), I'd like to keep my skincare routine as simple and safe as possible.
Currently, my facial skincare routine consists of refreshing and moisturizing in the morning, followed by cleansing, massaging, toning and moisturizing in the evening. I exfoliate and experiment with various masks (usually clay) once or twice a week depending on what my skin is up to.
Luxe de Mer
Luxe de Mer is a local Santa Barbara brand for me (but lucky for YOU, they have an online shop (hooray!). When I began researching for this post, the plan wasn't to highlight one product over the other, let alone a smaller, local brand. But lo and behold, that's what I'm about to do!
I've dabbled in so many different brands of skincare products, never sticking with one for too long. I always ended up craving something simpler, yet still vibrantly effective. I wanted plant-based ingredients that I could identify and pronounce. I wanted gentle, yet strong. I'm also a sucker for a good price point. (And I like pretty labels.) Luxe de Mer embodied all of this for me. Local was merely a bonus!
Cleansing with oil is a concept that scares a lot of people — it can sound counterintuitive if you're dealing with oily skin prone to breakouts. According to The Oil Cleansing Method, “The basic concept of [oil cleansing] is that the oil used to massage your skin will dissolve the oil that has hardened with impurities and found itself stuck in your pores."
Even Acne.org believes in oil cleansing:
“Fact: Oil dissolves oil. The best way to dissolve a non-polar solvent like sebum/oil, is by using another non-polar solvent similar in composition: Other oils. By using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit that heal, protect and nourish your skin. When done properly and consistently, [oil cleansing] can clear the skin from issues like oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, blackheads, whiteheads and other problems caused by mild to moderate acne — while leaving your skin healthy, balanced and properly moisturized.”
Luxe de Mer's Deep Cleansing Oil Face Wash has five ingredients, all of which I definitely want on my face: Organic Sweet Almond Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Castor Oil, Vitamin E T-50 (as a nutrient-rich and truly natural preservative), Organic Peppermint Oil.
From Luxe de Mer's product site:
We choose cold pressed oils so as to retain all the nutrients. When applied to your skin, you can think of it as a vitamin, filled with bountiful nutrients that every body needs. All our carrier oils and ingredients are organic with exception of Pure Cane Sugar and Dead Sea Salt.
And they have a line dedicated solely to...
Their Face & Body Wash for Him is created using all organic vegetable oils that gently clean the skin without any added dyes, chemicals or fragrances that most men's face and body cleansers contain. It is high in antiseptic and disinfectant properties, AND it's a 2-for-1 cleanser! — perfect for the most manly of men. My husband's been using it this month and he smells so delightful I just want to kiss every inch of his face.
And no offense to the gentlemen, but how many of you ladies know a guy who deals with tough, cracking skin? There's really nothing sexy about dry skin. I highly recommend the Santa Barbara Surf Scrub — a little sea salt will do them good!
ESSENTIAL OILS & DIY PRODUCTS
My favorite essential oils for skincare are lavender and frankincense — used together they become quite the facial powerhouse!
Applying Frankincense oil topically may help smooth the appearance of healthy-looking skin, and is excellent to use with a carrier oil for facial massage. Frankincense has a visual tightening effect on the skin I notice immediately. I currently use Young Living essential oils and have been nothing short of impressed by their quality and integrity.
Lavender is super soothing and nourishing on the skin, as it is often used for burn treatment. It can be mixed and added to most any other skincare product (think cleansing oils, shampoos, etc.). I've had such fun mixing and matching recipes for my face that typically include castor oil, argan oil, maracuja oil, or jojoba oil...because then I get to put a few drops of plant essential oils in to increase their effectiveness one-hundred-fold. The smells are intoxicating in the best ways.
I have a small collection of glass spray bottles, eye droppers, and roller ball containers. Some contain just one carrier oil and a few drops of essential oils for easy application. One of the spray bottles contains witch hazel, water, frankincense oil, lemon oil, lavender oil, copaiba oil and tea tree oil — a great spritzing toner and refresher for the skin in the morning. There is truly no limit once you start playing around with your own blends. Not all essential oils are created equally though, and many should not be applied neat to your skin (without a carrier oil). Do your research, and email me if you have any questions! I'm happy to point you in the right direction and am full of essential oil resources.
For a more mainstream brand that's grab-and-go in stores worldwide, I've always had a special place in my heart for Origins. Before adjusting my skin over to a more natural, oils-based skincare regimen, I cycled through many of Origins' products and felt they were very effective, nourishing to my skin, and predominantly plant-based. Origins' Plantscription™ SPF 25 Anti-Aging Cream is formulated without the use of parabens, sulfates or phthalates. I also adore their Make A Difference™ Plus+ Rejuvenating treatment lotion, which is really more of a pre-moisturizing treatment lotion that prepares the skin for any treatments to follow. It's fortified with Rose of Jericho, plus a special Lychee and Watermelon complex. I treat it like a toner that removes the last traces of dirt and grime, yet never dries my skin.
Washcloths, Tools, etc.:
- Bamboosa washcloths are 80% viscose from natural bamboo and 20% terrycloth, giving them a fabulously soft side, plus unique fast drying capabilities.
- Organic cotton muslin face cloths are also quick-drying, with a tinge of gentle exfoliation.
- Organic cotton balls for toner application or quick, disposable makeup removal.
- Natural sea sponges for exfoliation and cleansing, seen in some of the photos in this post.
The lymphatic system has fascinated me as of late. It is essentially a waste management system within our bodies that should go undetected if all is well, but can wreak havoc on just about every other bodily system if something goes awry.
"The reality is that you have twice as much lymph fluid in your body as blood. The lymph continuously bathes each cell and drains away the detritus in a circulatory system powered only by your breathing and movement. If the movement of the lymph stopped entirely you would die in a matter of hours" (SOURCE). [Insert 'face screaming in fear' Emoji here.]
The point being that you have a plethora of lymph nodes in your face alone, and unless you're doing crazy facial expression exercises every day, they lymph probably needs a little massage help in order to be properly moved around and drained. When I've removed the majority of my makeup, I use one of my favorite face oils to further clean my skin and pores while massaging my lymphatic system.
The Think Dirty® app is the easiest way to learn about the potentially toxic ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products.
The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep® site/app currently contains information on 8,921 personal care product ingredients, culled from ingredient labels on products and from the scientific and industry literature on personal care products.