26 February 2019

Minimalist (and therefore green) skin care

Sometimes when I wander into the library, the library fairies quietly show me what book I need. At least, it feels that way! This is one I grabbed on a whim and it appealed greatly to my sense of making do with less while becoming healthier and better off as a result.

This book has already saved me money and time and given me healthier skin (well, it's not any less healthy, and I do less to it). This blog post will do the same for you!

Minimalist, paleo skin care

The author of Beyond Soap is Sandy Skotnicki - and yes, she looks great. But more importantly, she's a dermatologist who got sick of seeing people with irritated skin because they use so many products! She advocates what she calls minimalist (or paleo) skin care - i.e. putting a lot less stuff on our skin. But she also knows we care about how we look and smell, so she's got plenty to say about what actually works.

Be honest: Most of it doesn't work anyway

The marketing and advertising experts have "educated" us about what really works to beautify us. But they are not objective. They utterly inundate us with "buy me" messages about so-called beauty products, complete with photos of stunning women who we, of course, will be transformed into!

You, too, can look like this.

But shall we all be honest with ourselves: they don't really work, do they? When you see a beautiful person, do you truly think it's got anything to do with her patronising an expensive beauty counter? And haven't you noticed that people who use expensive products actually look no better than the average person?

The healthiest skin, please

When we sever our gullibility and connection to the people who want to transfer money from our bank accounts to theirs with the help of suck-me-in marketing, what are we left with? Dr Skotnicki targets her advice to people with sensitive skin who get itchy rashes, etc., because tthat's her speciality. My family doesn't suffer from that, mostly. So here's my summary of what the non-sensitive skin person should do according to Dr S:

1. Stop washing yourself so damn much.
Human skin was never meant to be scrubbed and stripped once or twice every day with hot water and strong products. Dr S. calls that damaging your body's natural armour. We have natural barriers and microbes that keep our skin healthy, and which are destroyed by soap and hot water. To spare your skin this socially-accepted onslaught, have just short showers (or baths if you must), the cooler the better, at most once a day.

In addition, wash less of yourself. The only bits that need cleaning with soap daily (if that) are armpits, groin and feet. Say farewell to all-over lather.

I have taken to using an old-fashioned flannel (facecloth), the cotton type that lasts for years and years. I soap it once and scrub the bits that need it. Other parts of me, if I can be bothered, get a scrub with an unsoaped flannel. Friction does a great job. If I had visible dirt on my arms, for example, they'd get soaped too.

Our minimalist shower.

But what about your face? Wash it only at night, says Dr S. (more on why later). I give mine a good rub with a wrung-out wet flannel in the morning.

Dr S. actually recommends a non-soap cleansing bar like Dove instead of soap. I have no problem with soap, so I use gorgeous soap from Ria's Natural Health Soaps (Ria sells at our local market). Yes, $2.20 a bar is more than the supermarket, but I reckon that if you're not using much of something, you can have a much nicer version and still spend less overall.

2. Wash your face at night.
Believe it or not, there is good evidence that air pollution and the residue it leaves on your skin is more aging than the sun! So wash it off before you go to bed. Dr S. has a list of cleansers (scroll down her website to the facial cleansers section) she thinks work well, but remember that most of them are targeted at sensitive skin, and most aren't available in New Zealand. Cetaphil is, though.

I use the Ethique bliss bar and absolutely love it.

A soap-free bar from Frankie Apothecary.

When it comes to moisturiser, Dr S has some she recommends - including Cetaphil - on her product elimination diet website. I just use jojoba oil.

3.  Use sunscreen every day (on your face, at least).
If you're using anti-aging skin products but not sunscreen, you're going about it the wrong way. Sunscreen is your most important beauty product. The sun ages the skin, full stop (and Dr S. lives in Canada - never mind our New Zealand sun!).

I learnt that mineral sunscreens don't cut it when it comes to the UVA rays that cause aging, although they protect well against the UVB rays that cause visible burn. All the "natural" sunscreens are mineral sunscreens. They're okay on a day-to-day basis, but if you're gardening or walking or beaching it, your skin's only being protected from the aging rays if you use a high SPF sunscreen with chemical sunscreen agents in it.

This new knowledge threw me a bit. What to do? I bought some of this. I like it, and it has chemical sunscreens in it (not that their website makes that obvious), so I guess that's good enough! I always wear a hat in the sun, too.

4. Exercise and diet really do help.
There is great evidence that a healthy diet that's low in sugar and has plenty of vegetables is really good for your skin, as is exercise, which improves aging skin's structure. "... if you're looking for a low-cost, age-defying beauty regimen that actually works, try exercise," says Dr S.

5. What beauty products really work?
I like this section. Instead of some $120 cream from the Farmer's beauty counter, Dr S. looks at the published research on what really makes your skin look better. She has a few recommendations - vitamin C, B3, E, niacinimide, alpha-hydroxy acid - and I found them online at great prices by the company The Ordinary, sold in NZ via this website.

Perhaps it's time to get serious.

I don't use them, but I'm 46 now and I should probably start!

I really recommend reading her book for her technical advice on these specialized products. Lots of expensive products advertise ingredients like vitamin C, but it could be an unstable version that will be of little value.

Dr S. also has recommendations for teenage skin, and her command to stop using foaming cleansers is one that we obeyed in this household.

How green is this strategy?

You know I'm a greenie, so what does this book have to offer the likes of me? Her product suggestions are traditionally packaged and not particularly environmentally friendly. But I think it's important to appreciate a vital point here: using less of anything is very much a planet-friendly move! It also saves you time and money. Thanks, Dr S.

I've managed to instigate a mostly unpackaged version of the Beyond Soap approach, so my next blog post will be about what that involves. Prepare for photographs of unstylish bathrooms.

The thrill of breaking a habit

Many people will quietly freak out at the thought of ceasing their daily scented foaming all-over scrub in a long-steamy shower. I get that - we are creatures of habit, particularly when it comes to what we think of as hygiene. But I invite you to try it for a week. Giving things up is more liberating and elating than I, for one, could ever have imagined! Especially when you realise that you're no worse off - or better off - than you were before.
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