Cleansing, protection from moisture loss, and a sunscreen are all there is to basic skin care. They are simple and inexpensive to carry out, and the benefits they bring when used regularly everyday cannot be measured in any amount of money.
There are three parts to any good external skin care regimen, regardless of your age or the type of skin you have:
Regular, thorough cleansing
Protection from moisture loss and external roughness
Protection from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
There are two camps when it comes to cleansing: the soap-and-water lovers and the soap-and-water haters. Both – within reason – are right.
Soap is an excellent cleanser. It removes grease and dirt from the skin’s surface easily (although it is usually not as effective at removing makeup as cream or lotion cleanser). Soap is capable of penetrating the skin’s outer protective layers, making the skin of women who tend towards dryness even drier. Surprisingly, it can also have just the opposite effect on skin that tends to be oily. On the other hand, soap does give a sense of cleanliness that most women feel they don’t get with cream and lotion cleansers.
Thanks to modern technology, there are now many pH-balanced soaps, foaming cleansers, and detergent bars that don’t disturb the pH of the skin, so that if you are a soap fancier, you can find one to suit you, without many of the disadvantages of the conventional type.
the cream or oil way
The many cream and lotion cleansers, oils, and cleansing milks available now are also good. Put a lotion or cream cleanser on with your hands as you would soap and then tissue it off, repeating the application until the tissue shows no sign of dirt on it. Then follow with toner or freshener, preferably one without alcohol in it, or simply rinse your face in cool water.
the double treatment
Because cleanliness is so important to lasting skin health and beauty, if you live in a city or a highly industrialized area where air pollution is a particular problem, the oil-and-water technique is the most effective means of all. Many of the cosmetic industry’s most expensive ranges are based on this method of cleansing. But you can put together your own system which is just as effective.
Choose a pure vegetable oil, such as cold-pressed sunflower oil, corn oil, or one of the more expensive hazelnut or apricot oils. Buy it in small quantities and keep it in a cool place, preferably in the refrigerator. Pour a tablespoonful of the oil into the palm of your hand and spread it on your face, rubbing it in well. (This is a good opportunity to give yourself a gentle massage to stimulate circulation while the oil is leaching up the makeup and grime on your skin.) Then, using pads of damp absorbent cotton-wool wiped over your face, remove the oil and with it much of the dirt on the skin.
You are ready now for the second stage. Wash your skin in warm water and use a pH-balanced-soap, detergent bar, or liquid detergent cleanser, adding plenty of water and rubbing gently with the tips of your fingers and the palms of your hands until the whole face is well covered. Now rinse thoroughly ten times in warm water and then splash with cool.
Whichever cleansing method you choose, follow it twice daily. This is the first step in the craft of skin care.
the water margin
There are literally hundreds of moisturizers on the market. Some are beautifully cool to the touch and scented, others somewhat greasy. For very dry skin, by far the most effective way of moisturizing is simply to prevent water in the skin from escaping into the air. This you can do by wearing one of the water-in-oil-type emulsions on your face every day, winter and summer.
Water-in-oil emulsions contain a great deal more fat than water, which means they are able to cover the skin with an impermeable film so that excessive water loss doesn’t occur. And they are good for both dry and oily skin. For, unlike so many products specifically designed for oily skin, they don’t spur the sebaceous glands to produce even more oil in the kind of vicious circle women with oily skin know so well.
Find a moisturizer that you like and wear it every day, applying it twice a day if you can, under makeup when you are wearing it, or just on its own when you don’t. This is the second part of the craft of skin care.
The third part of everyday skin care is simple: Your skin needs to be protected from the sun. Heavy exposure to the sun’s light at the age of eighteen will result in early wrinkling, between twenty-five and forty.
Sun protection products come in two forms – chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks. A few products contain both. The physical sunblock products literally create a physical barrier of fine, non-reactive minerals on the surface of your skin. They reflect excess UVA and UVB back into the atmosphere, instead of letting skin absorb it. Using them is like wearing a hat or a veil so the sun’s rays don’t penetrate at all.
Chemical sunscreen products – and most sun protection products fit into this category – are different. They do not reflect. They absorb UVB radiation in an attempt to neutralise it. They are rapidly used up in the formation of new chemical compounds which your skin then has to find ways of detoxifying from your system. We don’t know what the implications are of the absorption of all these chemicals for the skin, but we do know that sunscreen products often sensitize skin and this is why many people find that they can no longer use them. We also know that how much sunscreen protection you get from any product is highly individual, regardless of what protection factor is written on the label.
More chemical sunscreens these days have begun to target UVA radiation as well, but the ‘sun protection factor’ (SPF number) you read on a product’s label will have been calculated entirely by how much UVB radiation the chemicals it contains are able to absorb. The UV screening capacity of these products is rapidly used up by chemical reactions within the skin. While you may apply a sunscreen product frequently enough to stop burning, you can get little assurance that it will help prevent wrinkles.
To protect yourself from aging (as well as cancers), supply your skin with all it needs to function in the best of all possible ways. Limit your use of chemically-based sunscreens. Better still, throw them out. Go for a mineral-based sunblock or use one of the new mineral foundations every day. Based on agents like titanium oxide and zinc oxide, these products reflect the light instead of relying on chemicals to ‘absorb’ it. They are safe, inert and protective. Physical screens are commonly used by surfers, skiers, cricketers and tennis players. But choose your product carefully. Unless the mineral fragments have been milled to micro particles they can make you look a bit like Marcel Marceau.
You can, of course, fake your tan. Self-tanners are based on dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is a simple sugar involved in carbohydrate metabolism. The color that you get from using self-tanning products containing it depends on how your skin reacts to this chemical, so different people will get different results from the same product. Fake tan, of course, does not offer any protection from the sun.
Success with self-tanners depends on your skill in applying them. Here are the keys:
Exfoliate skin first using a body scrub or skin brush to prevent uneven color.
Moisturise your skin being careful to include the dry areas of knees, elbows and ankles. Remove excess moisturiser with a damp cloth or flannel to avoid uneven darkening.
Apply the product in thin layers. Use less layers where your skin is thicker since the color stays longer there.
Wash your hands thoroughly immediately after applying a product to avoid orange palms.
Wait to dress for 30 minutes after applying the product to avoid staining your clothes (or longer – read the instructions carefully).
Wait an hour or two after applying a product before showering – again, read the instructions carefully.
Reapply regularly to keep the color.
Many self-tanners come in a daily-use moisturiser, allowing you to apply little and often until you have the right color for you. The easiest of all to use are those that are slightly tinted so you can see where you have applied them. There are now also some very good self-tan products that you simply apply like makeup and wash off at the end of the day with soap and water. They key to getting it right with any of these products is finding the one that gives you the most natural color. Don’t trust what is says on the bottle, ask for samples if you can, and always try them out first – somewhere where the results can’t be seen, just in case you find that you have turned that dreaded orange tinge.