When walking down any personal care aisle, the options are endless: scrubbing cleansers, pore-reducing, anti-aging… Trying to read the ingredients list is even more overwhelming since you need to be well-versed in chemistry to have any idea of what’s listed. Why do we need things like parabens and sodium laureth sulfate in our facial care regimen?
On average, adults use nine body care products every day, resulting in exposure to 126 unique chemical ingredients. By using these products, one in every 13 women and one in every 23 men are exposed to possible carcinogens each day. Most of these chemicals are stabilizers and preservatives that are put into these products for the sole reason of increasing the shelf life to three to six years.
The skin is an organ, the largest organ that you have—what you put onto your skin is what you are feeding it. Like your body, it too needs to be fed high-quality nutrients to work properly, and this is a great reason to only choose products that you would be willing to eat. While the skin provides a barrier and some protection between your inner body and the outside environment, you do absorb things through the skin. Rather than visualizing the skin as a protective barrier, it is better to think of the skin as semi-permeable, absorbing much of what it comes in contact with. All day long, your skin is taking in what you are “feeding” it.[2,3] Knowing that the best food choices for our body are fresh, high-quality foods, we must recognize that this should be the same for our skin.
Truly natural products contain fewer preservatives and milder ones at that. By choosing products with fewer preservatives, we can reason that the ingredients are probably fresher and more nutritious. Nevertheless, be aware of labeling—many products listed as “natural” or “organic” still contain harsh ingredients. Always read the ingredients list and favor products that seem to have more simple items in them.
Or, alternatively, make your own! There are many recipes for homemade facial cleansers, and the process can be enjoyable in its simplicity. Besides being fun, there are many benefits, such as being able to choose exactly what you want for your skin, knowing what you are putting onto (or feeding) your skin, and getting peace of mind regarding the freshness of the ingredients.
Because the skin is delicate, it requires an equally delicate cleansing process. Soaps, even specifically marked facial soaps, can be harsh, stripping the natural oils from the skin and making it vulnerable to over-drying. Washing your face with water and finishing with a nourishing oil will usually cleanse the skin just as effectively. On a similar note, most makeup and dirt can be removed via oil on a cloth or cotton pad, a skin-friendly means as effective as any chemical cleanser. Powdered grains and herbs also make great cleansers. Chickpea, oat, and almond flours are wonderful scrubs for the skin when mixed with a small amount of water.
If you really feel that you need the sudsy effect to feel clean, using saponin-containing herbs such as soapwort or yucca[4-7] will create a small amount of foam. Making these herbs into tea and filling the mixture into a foaming pump bottle will give you the bubble effect, leaving the skin clean without stripping it of its natural oils. If you must use soap, an organic castile or African Black soap are good options.
Skin care can be challenging, complex, and even frustrating. There is no “one size fits all” and the path to better skin is a personal journey. See how your skin reacts to being fed real food and natural ingredients. You may like it!