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Posted on September 12, 2019

Genuinely Natural Skincare 101

How do I start a skincare routine? What is my skin type? What are the best skincare products for my skin type?

If you’ve been asking yourself these questions, you’re in luck! In this post, you’ll get to know your skin better, understand how to maximize your skincare routine, and discover the right skin-vestments for you to achieve consistently healthier-looking, glowing skin.

Understanding your skin
The way your skin looks is a mix of both nature and nurture: while the kind of skin you’re born with has a lot to do with why you’ve got an oily T-zone or why you break out with certain products, fear not! Genes are only part of the skin equation. Your skin reflects your diet, your sleeping habits (or lack thereof), the products you use, your mood and your lifestyle.

But first, let’s start with your skin type. There are five main types: oily, combination, dry, delicate or normal.

Take a few minutes to examine your bare skin in front of a mirror. Using clean hands, gently feel your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin.

Do you have slippery, shiny skin, enlarged pores and occasional blackheads? Then you may fall under the oily skin type. If only some parts of your face are slippery while others are dry, you may have combination skin.

Pay attention to your skin right after washing. If your skin feels rough and a bit flaky, looks dull, and feels tight after washing, you may have dry skin. If it feels especially warm, stinging or tingly even if you use a mild soap, you may have delicate skin.

If your skin feels usually comfortable, soft and smooth, whether before or after washing, you may have normal skin.

Natural superfoods for your skin type
Since your skin absorbs much of what you apply on it, your skin can benefit from the right nutrient-rich skin superfoods, in the same way that your body benefits from a balanced, healthy diet.

Oily and combination skin
Skin naturally produces sebum which keeps the skin soft and helps act as a protective barrier against bacteria and other intruders. When the sebaceous glands are overactive, however, you end up with oily skin. Ingredients that dissolve sebum or contain oil-controlling ingredients work best with these skin types. Examples of these are elemi, which helps balance sebum and reduce skin redness, and citrus essential oil, which helps reduce oil and has astringent properties.

Dry skin
Less productive sebaceous glands means less oil, leading to drier skin. As we age, skin also tends to produce less sebum, which is why most anti-aging and dry skin products have more moisturizing ingredients, vitamins and minerals to make up for the drop in skin’s natural oils and nutrients. Moringa (or malunggay), for example is a skin superfood which delivers vitamins A, C, and E to the skin. Plant collagen is another popular ingredient which helps replenish skin's depleted collagen.

Delicate skin
Some people’s skin tends to be aggravated by harsh ingredients such as fragrances and alcohol, which may lead to tightness, redness, rashes, or even breakouts. Products with milder ingredients suit this skin type best. Delicate skin can benefit from free radical-fighting ingredients such as tomato, which can help strengthen delicate skin against environmental damage. Chamomile extract is also an excellent skin soother, which can help calm itchiness and irritation.

Remember, your skin type isn’t a constant, exclusive thing—factors like your menstrual cycle, hormones, medication or diet changes may shift your skin from normal to oily and pimple prone within a few weeks or even days. Or you may have dry, delicate skin on your cheeks while dealing with an oily T-zone. The key here is to pay attention to your skin daily and understand what it needs.

Daily skincare routine basics
You may have heard of ten- or twelve- step Korean routines, with precise wait times and application techniques, but it’s always best to begin with the essentials before attempting more complicated regimens.

When building up an everyday skincare habit, the simpler it is, the easier it is to commit to!

There really are only three main steps: cleanse, tone and moisturize. For specific skin concerns, such as acne, blemishes or fine lines, a few extra steps can be taken.

Step 1: Cleanse
Our skin takes quite a beating every day with pollution, dirt, makeup and excess oil. So the first step, naturally, is to take it all off.

Like dissolves like, even with skincare. And because makeup is often oil-based, it’s good to pre-cleanse first with an oil-based solid cleansing balm or liquid cleansing oil. Spread it over your face, let it sit for half a minute or so, then lather off the remaining dirt, residue and oil with a facial wash that suits your skin type (oily, dry, normal or delicate). Purify your pores by alternating a gentle facial scrub with your favorite daily facial wash 2-3x a week. You can also opt for a weekly 5-minute face mask to really detox and deep cleanse.

Step 2: Tone
Toning removes deep-seated dirt, makeup or cleanser residue that may have been left behind after washing. Because facial cleansers sometimes have a higher (more basic) pH, a more acidic toner helps restore your skin to its normal pH, which is somewhere around 4-4.5. Choose a toner which suits your skin type: oily, drydelicate or normal. When you tone, you also prepare your skin to receive the nutrients and moisture from your next step—moisturization.

Step 3: Moisturize
Because you wash away some of the skin’s natural moisture during cleansing, you need to put it back with a moisturizer. Natural moisturizers also deliver vitamins and minerals your skin needs to keep looking healthy and glowing.

During daytime, a day moisturizer helps create a smooth base so your makeup stays on longer, and at night, a nutrient- and collagen-rich night moisturizer or night cream can help your skin recover as it naturally repairs itself throughout the night while you sleep.

Special Concern: Pimples and Acne
Treatment with products infused with antibacterial actives such as tea tree oil (which is tough enough to deal with pimples but gentle enough to do so without stinging or overly drying) is needed to effectively dry off pimples and prevent new ones from popping up.

Often, cleansing and toning with the same active can work in synergy with targeted spot care to zap those zits.

Special Concern: Late Nights
Skin can and will show evidence of a late night of partying, cramming for an exam or overtime at work. When these occur, free radicals attack the skin and cause skin to look tired and dull, and feel rough and dry. Fortunately, there are serums or oils especially formulated with potent actives that deliver nutrients and free radical-fighting antioxidants to your skin overnight, so you can wake up the next morning with fresh and revived skin.

Where does this fit in your routine? The rule of thumb is to start with products with a thinner consistency, working toward a thicker consistency: so, toner first, then serum, then moisturizer or cream.

Special Concern: Spots, Sunburn, Redness, etc.
If you’re on a desert island and can only have one product in your skincare arsenal, you can’t go wrong with sunflower oil. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of skincare: It’s got high linoleic acid content which has antibacterial properties and helps even out skin tone. It’s rich in Omega 6 which helps calm skin down. And it’s got lots of antioxidant Vitamin E which also helps soften skin.

Natural vs. synthetic: what’s the difference?
In the quest to find the best skincare products, you just need to find “what works”—right? Well, yes, if you’re just after short-term skin appearance. But if you want to keep your skin—and body—genuinely healthy in the long run, you’ll have to go deeper.

Not all ingredients are safe for your skin when you use them regularly. Here are the top 3 red flags you should watch out for on product labels:

  1. Sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES). These are harsh synthetic surfactants that you can find in many facial washes and cleansers. While they do the job of creating lather and cleaning your skin, they also strip away too much of your skin’s protective sebum, weakening your skin’s barrier function.

  2. Parabens. These are a family of preservatives, including methylparaben, butylparaben and so on. They prolong the shelf life of products, but also disrupt your endocrine system by mimicking hormones like estrogen, which can potentially increase cancer risk.

  3. Mineral oil, silicones and dimethicones. This family of chemicals create the smooth feel of skin after you apply moisturizer on your skin. Unfortunately, they often sit on top of skin like plastic, blocking nutrients and moisture from entering, leading to drier, unhealthy-looking skin.

Natural products instead make use of gentler, plant-based surfactants that don’t overstrip skin of sebum, nontoxic anise or corn-derived preservatives, and plant-derived oils and emollients which not only moisturize but also deliver essential nutrients to your skin.

You ask: Can I go cold turkey from a synthetic skincare routine and switch to natural? What about the purging period that I often hear about?

The answer: Some people can make the shift to natural skincare with no issues, but some people do experience initial breakouts, or suddenly oily or dry skin for a few weeks to a few months. The good news is, it’s often temporary as skin adjusts from taking in harmful chemicals to getting used to gentler, natural ingredients. In the long term, your skin (and body, overall) will thank you for making the more sustainable, healthy switch.

So there you go: a good skincare routine, done daily, consistently, can go a long way. It’s unique for every person, but all you need to do is begin with the basics of cleansing, toning, and moisturization, and add and customize according to your skin type and what your skin needs. Feed your skin with the right superfoods daily and let your skin glow with the health that comes only from nature.

This post was posted in All Things Natural! Magazine