I admit, I was! I was addicted to skincare! I put a lot of effort into my morning and my night routine. I felt my skin would fall off if I didn’t. So I was using a day cream, a night cream, another special product for my eyes, sunscreen, cleansing lotions, facial scrubs and masks: I needed to know what these things felt and smelled like, and whether they would make any difference. Then I had a severe breakout and developed eczema. Those products effectively made a difference!
Why? I was caring for my skin with so much love! I tried EVERYTHING, tried to change routine, products, but still NOTHING changed. Instead my skin was getting worse and worse and – above all – hyper-sensitive. Then I went on holiday and I simply couldn’t be bothered to keep up my routine. One morning while brushing my teeth, it struck me that after three weeks of this benign neglect, my skin looked simply awesome!
That‘s how I made friends with the opposite concept – “less is more“!
I‘m no doctor or expert, but I gathered a lot of information about skincare over the last few years. I had to! After breaking out, I consulted the internet, books, made my own experiences. I had to learn most of those things the hard way. I was always on the run, searching for something better. But did you know that you might be doing more harm then good by exposing your skin to an overabundant amount of unnecessary toxins? Let me share my “knowledge“ with you!
1) Never Irritate Your Skin!
Rough peelings, hot water, ultra-harsh surfactants, daily extra-treatments, face masks, squeezing and picking – even the robustest skin type won‘t tolerate that for ever!
In my opinion, especially mechanical and chemical exfoliators can be pretty dangerous. The abrasive particles transport bacteria all over your skin, while acids burn and irritate it. If you exfoliate your face more often than once a week, you might aggravate your skin condition instead of improving it! As a reaction, your skin will increase cell production and become even thicker and flakier on the long run. Your skin simply tries to protect itself!
In addition, NEVER buy a product claiming itself to be “stimulating”, “activating”, “revitalizing” or to enhance “blood circulation”. These products often contain ingredients and chemicals that effectively DO stimulate your skin, which means: overproduction of sebum and skin cells! You want to avoid that!
As far as most anti-aging creams are concerned, the melodious advertising promise is the only thing that really “works”. On the contrary, certain ingredients in those moisturizers can even damage your skin! Anti-aging creams often contain substances that cause a slight inflammation. Your skin will just swell up a little bit so that your skin looks tighter for some hour. But don‘t forget: it is essentially your individual genetical disposition which determines how many wrinkles you will get as you get older. EVERYONE is getting older! You simply cannot outsmart your genes – but you can improve your look a lot by leading a healthy lifestyle!
That‘s why – instead of starting from the age of 13 to slather irritating anti-acne, anti-aging or anti-whatever products onto your face – I personally think it’s a much cleverer idea to address the problem holistically: try to exercise on a regular basis, eat a nutrient-dense whole foods diet including lots of omega 3 fatty acids, eat only few carbohydrates and get enough sleep! Did I sound like your mum? Give it a try!
2) More is Less
I think we all agree that beautiful skin is a radiant, velvety glowing and clear skin. Nonetheless, many people – like me a few years ago – do not follow a skincare regimen that is in a real balance with their individual skin type. Like me, they are fighting the problem they have with all possible weapons. Instead of strengthening their fragile skin, they dry it out or overload it. The result: pimples, hypersensitivity, general congestion, blisters or flaky skin. As a response, more and more topicals are applied, in the hope to find the one that will soothe away all redness and itchiness and combat spots or wrinkles for ever. But there isn‘t. So the eternal search goes on an on, while the skin gets worse and worse.
Many skin problems come from too much care instead of neglecting it. So-called film building agents create a pleasant layer on your skin and make it feel soft and supple – at first. But on the long run your skin will slow down its own production of moisture and sebum due to the constant external supply. After a while, your skin will start to look brittle and stressed, as long as it doesn‘t get some extra attention. In this case, the only remedy is a radical withdrawal of external skin care – at least for a while.
A few years ago I was pretty good at aggravating my own skin condition! I was treating my face just like my stomach at my own birthday party. Many of us are spreading layer after layer of toners, gels, serums, fluids, cremes and oils all over our faces and wonder why two hours after our morning cleansing routine our skin already looks that greasy! Or why our complexion seems to have forgotten how to glow on its own.
Just keep in mind that everything we put on our faces should sink in easily and give our skin exactly what it needs. Not more, not less. Our skin does not need 125 different oils and 598 different anti-aging ingredients, nor witchcraft or wizardry. It does not need any perfumes, preservatives, emulsifiers or thick layers of mineral oil. It will most probably only get an addicted cream-junkie!
A simple vegetable oil in a good quality, an all-purpose cream, a lotion or a balm (according to your taste) should be more than enough. Some of you won’t even need any external care at all. Keep it as simple as you can! We don‘t have to moisturize twice a day, once a day should be sufficient. And in late summer we don‘t have to prepare ourselves for a cold front that will presumably be approaching from the Northwest in February!
3) Observe Your Skin CAREFULLY
I think many people still get pimples, just because they are fighting too hard “against” their pimples instead of caring “for” their individual skin type. Observe carefully whether fruit acids, lots of alcohol or other “stimulating” agents are really THAT good for your skin!
Apart from that, you can‘t care less, whether those silly rabbit-ear-test-lists (I‘m speaking about ZeroZits and similar lists) blame natural fats and oils to be comedogenic or not. Try it out yourself! In these lists coconut oil is simply coconut oil. There is no difference between “cold pressed” and “virgin”, “refined” and “hydrogenated” or “organic” and “conventional” farming. So how can you know for sure that it will make you break out?
And: if you suspect that your skin gets worse because it‘s simply overloaded – leave it in peace for at least two days or avoid to moisturize in the evenings! You might experience a huge difference in your skin‘s texture and appearance! Believe me!
Gain your own perspective and make your own judgments! Always.
4) Know What‘s in Your Skincare Products
Above all, don‘t believe in every swirling advertising slogan! Learn to research ingredients actively (make friends with Google!) and investigate if they could be good for your skin, simply useless, or even toxic.
Many anti-aging ingredients (vitamin C or Q10, for example) are almost completely ineffective! These ingredients oxidize as soon as they come into contact with air. That‘s why you won‘t want to buy a vitamin-C- or Q10-moisturizer in a pot for instance! Apart from that, your body itself produces plenty of coenzyme Q10.
Another popular ingredient is collagen. Collagen molecules are simply too large to be able to sink into the deeper layers of your skin. Like almost every other cosmetic ingredient. Thankfully. In the end, you‘ll never know if these substances would do more harm than good!
On the other hand, lactic acid and urea might be quite useful, especially if you have a generally congested skin. Lactic acid and urea allow a free flow of sebum – but only if your moisturizer does not contain too many film building agents! Glycerin, silicone, mineral oil and so on can block your pores instead. So – if you are struggling with blackheads, try a lightweight face lotion containing lactic acid (but no paraffin, glycerin or silicone). As an alternative, look out for a high quality organic and cold pressed oil that is rich in linoleic acid (hemp oil, grape seed oil, rosehip oil, evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, …). There are a few studies that confirm that linoleic acid is an effective anti-comedogenic agent.
If you have blemished skin, try to find out if it‘s really hormonal acne or if your skin is simply overloaded and irritated. Treating it gently and with anti-inflammatory ingredients (calendula or licorice extract, zinc oxide, vitamin e, allantoin or panthenol) is generally a good idea.
You see, anyone who learned to read INCI-(ingredients)-lists and made friends with Google can choose skincare products in a much more intelligent way! And anyone who wants to buy a lightweight moisturizer, can calculate how much of those wonderful, precious anti-aging oils are still in it, seen that it contains almost only water!
5) NO Aggressive, Frequent Cleansing
Don‘t maltreat your skin! A harsh and too frequent cleansing routine will ruin your natural acid mantle and will destroy your skin‘s natural defense against an unhealthy overgrowth of bacteria and yeast.
If your face feels tight and needs further moisturizing after cleansing, change your cleansing routine! An optimal cleansing method should always be that mild that you don‘t have to use any kind of serum or cream afterwards. Try out natural cleansing alternatives: an organic (or handmade) cleansing milk, clay or honey. The aim should always be “clean, but fluffy.”
Leave all commercial products praising themselves to be “deep cleansing” on the shelf! – “Normal” cleansing is just enough to get dirt and makeup off your face. Be careful with microfiber towels, the-oil-cleansing-method, soap or facial oil massages. Try these routines only very, very carefully, with a cautious eye on how your skin reacts to them.
Last but not least, you have to understand what the term “cream” really means: a cream is a stabilized mixture of water and oil (which are normally immiscible). It‘s possible to do it in a mechanical way: Put water and oil in a bottle and shake it! This way, you‘ll only be able to create a short-term emulsion. In some modern moisturizers liposomes do a similar trick. Other products contain “natural” (lecithin) or synthetical emulsifiers (i.e. PEG-esters or anything labelled “ethyl-”, “ceteareth-”, “cethyl-”, “stearyl-”).
Synthetical emulsifiers can worsen acne, eczema or other skin problems by causing some kind of a disruption to the skin’s barrier by emulsifying sebum and intercellular lipids. As a result the skin gets dryer and dryer, whereas its natural acid mantle will be destroyed more and more. Bacteria can penetrate easily and irritate your skin.
If your skin often feels sweaty and greasy and you find that your moisturizer just “lies” on top of your face – check if it contains cetyl- or cetearyl alcohol or other synthetic emulsifiers (learn to read INCI-lists!). Test a cream, serum or fluid containing only lecithin instead. Lecithin is naturally occurring in egg yolks. There are also a few plant oils, which are naturally rich in lecithin such as avocado, grape seed or wheat germ oil. Even sensitive skin should get along with it!
A short summary:
– Always keep your fingers away from your face!
– Moisturizing once or twice a day is more than enough!
– There are no overnight miracles!
– Switching routines and topicals too often will probably make your skin freak out even more!
– Smoking aggravates your skin no matter which incredible moisturizer you are using!
– We all are aging in any case, and there is NO miracle anti-aging cure!
– After a few hours photoshop every one of us is ready to be printed on top of a glossy magazine!
– Avoiding sugar is key!
– Reduce the consumption of non-fermented and pasteurized dairy products.
– Meatless or not, try to avoid to eat hormonal meat.
– Eat plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.
– And: Vegetables are always an optimum choice!
– Get enough sleep!
– Go and play outside! Every day! Fresh air is good for you!
And these are my own favorites:
– Use a surfactant-free cleanser (I like clay+yoghurt or honey)!
– Try to moisturize without emulsifiers. I‘m using natural oils including rosehip and coconut oil.
– The only emulsifier I found to be acceptable is lecithin.
– No mineral oil, no silicones, no glycerin, no cetyl- (or ceteraryl-) alcohol!
– No fruit acids, no scrubs!
There are more important things than a pimple on your cheek or wrinkles around your eyes.
So are you a skincare-messie? Or have you ever been? What is your skincare experience?
© images by Svea