Caring for your skin
People can spend a fortune on skincare. Many do. But good skincare need not cost a fortune (in money or in time).
A number of the more common reasons for skin problems can be linked to familiar habits and routines. In addition to the obvious (what we put on our skin) factors like home and work environments can also have a significant bearing on skin health. More often than not we don’t associate these ‘environmental’ factors with our skin’s health.
The message we want to give you is about getting the basics of skincare right. In our experience, if you can get the basics right then many skin problems will disappear. Basic skin care routines that address the causes, rather than the symptoms, of skin problems are the key to minimising, and in many cases avoiding, skincare problems.
If you’ve recognised the telltale signs of stressed skin, don’t despair. Once you’ve decided (and commenced) to do something about it, your skin will begin to improve. The downside is that just as it took time for your skin to become stressed it also takes time to heal. There are no magic bullets.
So, what then are the basics of caring for your skin? Here are a few of the basics we think you should consider (and some of the reasons why):
Choose a cleanser that closely matches the acidity of your skin. A pH around 5.5 to 6 is ideal.
Skin is naturally acidic. Alkaline cleansers (like soaps) damage skin. The alkalinity reacts with and removes the acidic oils that make up the skins protection layer.
A carefully matched cleanser doesn’t damage skin and therefore breaks the usual daily cycle of damage and recovery. This helps skin to heal itself.
Soap is not good for skin. It doesn’t matter whether it’s commercially manufactured, something ‘handmade from organic materials’ or contains glycerine, olive oil etc. The chemistry involved in making soaps means that all soaps are strongly alkaline.
- Choose a cleanser with a mild cleansing action (masses of foam can indicate the opposite).
- We’ve been trained into thinking that foaming action equals proof that the cleanser is working (just think of most shampoo advertisements).
- Gentle cleansers still foam, however really mild ones don’t have a strong foaming action.
- Some people insist if their skin or hair doesn’t feel ‘squeaky clean’ they haven’t washed properly. The truth is that anything squeaky clean (except your dishes) has been ‘overwashed’. Overwashing stresses skin.
- Have short showers (& save on hot water bills in the process).
- While long, hot showers feel very luxurious, over exposure to water will dry skin out. Aim to keep showers to around 3 to 4 minutes.
- Have showers that are warm (tepid) rather than hot.
- Hot showers (just like hot water in the kitchen sink) removes oil and dirt very efficiently. While that’s fine if washing dishes, hot showers can cause stress to the skin by overheating it and remove natural skin oils.
- Dry off gently after showering, and apply a moisturiser to slightly damp skin.
- Vigorous drying helps remove all moisture from skin, which is not ideal. Gently drying off, then applying a moisturiser contributes to retention of moisture and helps the skin to feel supple and smooth.
- Circe contain high levels of moisturising ingredients so you may not need to use supplementary moisturisers.
- Drink enough water
While there is plenty of conflicting advice on how many glasses of water to drink, and whether or not tea and coffee ‘count’, there are several things important to note.
Even if you don’t appear to be sweating or doing anything strenuous, an average person will lose upwards of 400ml of water through their skin each day.
If you work, live or travel in dry (eg airconditioned or heated) environments, then moisture loss is greater.
In our experience a good test of whether or not you are drinking enough water is to look at the colour of your urine. If you drink too little, your urine will decrease in volume and become more yellow in appearance. So our rule is the ‘Golden Rule’. If the colour is golden, drink more water. Just make sure to spread it out during the day – all at once or late at night can create different problems!
Wash your clothes with plenty of water.
If your washing machine is overloaded (with detergent or clothes) then removal of all traces of residual detergent can be difficult.
Clothing impregnated with residual detergents can be a less obvious, but important source of skin irritation. The significance is the clothing tends to be in prolonged contact with skin so potential irritants stay in contact with skin for longer.
- Eat sensibly.
- It’s a cliché but ‘You are what you eat’ has some truth to it.
- While we don’t subscribe to any particular eating philosophies, an adequate and balanced nutritional intake contributes to overall health.
- Sometimes food sensitivities can appear as dry, upset skin.
- Make less use of central heating.
- Central heating allows us (potentially) to stay warm all the time. This comfort comes at a cost and it’s not just the monthly bills!
Heating air (just like cooling air with refrigerated air conditioners) reduces the relative humidity of air. Dry air attempts to get moisture from any available source. If you put a bowl of fruit into a heated room the fruit will commence to lose moisture. Your skin gives up moisture in the same way and can become dry and vulnerable.
Try using clothing to keep warm instead. There may be come initial discomfort however as your body becomes better at adjusting to changing temperatures you’ll become more comfortable and less dependent upon central heating to maintain a comfort zone.
If you can’t get away from heating consider using a quality moisturiser and look at placing some shallow bowls of water nearby. The evaporation from the bowls will help add humidity to the air.
Turn off (or turn down) heating overnight. Be cool at night!
Central heating, electric blankets and doonas can easily create an environment in which the body overheats.
While the overheating may not be immediately obvious, the symptoms often are. Some of these include disturbed sleep, sweating, dry eyes in the morning and feeling tired during the day.
As most of the body is covered in bed, the face and neck become important elements of the body’s temperature control mechanisms. For this reason, sweat gland activity can be quite pronounced on face and scalp.