The more I learn about skin care, the more I favour keeping everything as simple as possible. High-tech anti-aging serums and nanoparticle skin rejuvenating creams? No thanks. In my view, you can’t beat a skin care regime specifically designed to promote the body’s natural mechanisms for self-care.
Here are my top seven tips for a beautiful, glowing complexion.
- Protect against sun damage
- Drink water throughout the day
- Cleanse with cleansing milk
- Do NOT use a toner after cleansing
- Keep it simple
- Use a face cream with more oil than water or, better still, a facial oil
1 Protect against sun damage
These days, we’re all too aware of the damaging effects of overdoing the sunshine. Is it too late to do something about it if you’ve been a sun worshipper most of your life? Not at all.
Sunlight is a great provider of vitamin D, which we need for good bone health and a correctly functioning immune system. So getting some sun is no bad thing. Just take it in small doses and be sensible.
- Don’t stay out in the sun too long
- Avoid the middle of the day
- Take advantage of shade
- Choose your sun block carefully (see below)
Choosing a sun block
Choose a sun block that uses mineral reflectors, such as titanium dioxide, rather than one that uses chemical agents. There’s a bewildering array of sun creams and lotions on the market. Many are full of chemicals. Can using them day after day for hours on end actually be good for your body? I don’t know about you, but the fewer chemicals I can put on my skin, the better.
2 Drink water throughout the day
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Skin appreciates a good top of up H20 in all weathers, all seasons, at all times of day. Then again, so do countless other parts of the body, from your digestive system to your brain cells.
If you’ve never been much of a water drinker, it will take a bit to effort to get into the habit. But it’s well worth it. My skin is certainly a lot smoother and plumper when it’s well hydrated. Aim for six to eight glasses a day.
3 Cleanse with cleansing milk
Cleansing milk is an essential part of my skincare routine. Water alone isn’t enough and foaming cleansers can strip out the skin’s natural oils. Cleansing milk is an oil-in-water emulsion. It draws out grease and impurities like a magnet without damaging the skin’s natural protective barrier.
Choose a PH-balanced cleansing milk with AHAs, such as lactic acid. This loosens the ‘glue’ around dead skin cells and stimulates regeneration. It’s also a good idea to exfoliate once or twice a week using a warm, damp face cloth.
4 Do NOT use a toner after cleansing
Surprised? I was too, when I first discovered this. But it makes sense when you look at the science. The outermost layer of your skin contains mixture of free amino acids, lactic acid, urea and salts that biologists call natural moisturising factors (NMFs).
NMFs are hydroscopic: they love water and drink it in at every opportunity. Trouble is, they don’t know when to stop. They’ll guzzle away until they get so diluted they can’t hold onto what they’ve got. Next thing you know, they’re giving water out to the atmosphere through evaporation. So instead of soft and supple, skin, you can end up with skin that’s dry and flaky.
The main culprits here are toners, spritzers, water-based gels or any other ‘light moisturizers’ that contain more water than oil. So do your skin a favour and dump these potential ‘de-moisturizers’.
The same goes for any products containing humectants, usually glycerine, which attract moisture. This may be a good thing in a humid environment, but not so good in a dry environment such as a centrally heated building or outside on a dry sunny day. At times like these, when humectants can’t find enough moisture in the atmosphere, they draw it from your skin and give it away through evaporation.
5 Keep it simple
The labels on some skincare products read like a mad chemist’s shopping list. Of course, by law, every ingredient must be tested and passed as safe. But what of the combined effects of all these chemicals? Can we know for sure we’re not compromising or threatening our long-term health by continually putting man-made chemicals in our bodies?
Choose your skincare products as much for what’s not
in them as for what is. Look for products that contain:
- No parabens (widely used as a preservative)
- No mineral oil (which has no nutritional value and can clog pores)
- No synthetic perfumes or colours (a potential source of irritation or allergic reaction)
- No alcohol (which dries the skin and needs to be countered by other ingredients, such as castor oil or lanolin)
6 Get plenty of antioxidants
Free radical damage occurs at a molecular level and is believed to be a key factor in the development of wrinkles. The best defence is to make sure your body gets a regular and plentiful supply of antioxidants. A diet with lots of fruits and vegetables does the trick. Aim for a plate of food that is colourful – almost anything green, red, orange or yellow is packed with antioxidants. Dark, purple fruits such as blueberries, blackberries and prunes are even richer sources.
Many skin care products contain ingredients with antioxidant properties, such as vitamin A – which may be listed as retinol – vitamin E and rosemary extract.
7 Use a face cream with more oil than water or, better still, a facial oil.
Skin is remarkable. But without proper care, it simply won’t perform as well as nature intended. The skin’s outermost layer skin is made up of flattened (keratinized) cells. These cells are entirely different from the deeper skin layers. Their purpose is to protect and preserve; they are our first line of defence.
Skin with a dull, dry, lifeless appearance is out of balance. It no longer has the necessary composition of oils and water to do the job it was designed to do. Sebum is the body’s natural moisturizer. But as we age, our body produces less and less sebum. This can lead to dry, flaky skin and the so-called visible signs of aging.
To restore the balance, we need to condition the skin with carefully chosen oils rich in essential fatty acids. Most commercial skin creams contain far more water than oil. Far from moisturising your skin, with repeated use, these creams can actually make things worse.
If you do prefer to use a cream, make sure it contains more oil than water. (Most don’t, so check the label carefully.) Better still switch to a facial oil, which will balance the skin by restoring the skin’s natural protective barrier.
To sum up
In a perfect world, your skin would look after itself and we’d all have a naturally beautiful, glowing complexion. But life isn’t like that. So why not take these seven steps to help keep your skin looking and feeling wonderful?