When I had acne, I used to think that results and tough love went hand in hand: harsh peels, foaming face washes – anything that stung. I thought that if it hurt, it worked. I could not have been more wrong. Not only did this approach create blotchy, sensitive skin, but it also created signs of aging. Gasp! Yes, all skin damage creates free radicals: those pesky molecules that wreak havoc on our skin tissues and create even more skin damage. This is why sunburn leads to sun damage, as well as why those of us who over-peel and over-wash show fine lines, dehydration, and a rough texture far more quickly than those who are gentle and supportive to our skin.
But what does being gentle mean? Not washing your skin? No. Never exfoliating? Definitely not. It just means being kind to your delicate complexion and respecting the barrier function of your skin’s tissue. Here are some easy tips on how to harness your gentle side and prevent premature signs of skin aging.
Avoid drying ingredients: Even natural ingredients can be astringent. Only use drying hydrosols, essential oils and herbs on occasion or when necessary: for example, when you are disinfecting a blemish. Using pure Tea Tree Oil daily on your skin is too harsh unless you are trying to kill infection. Dryness reaps irritation. Opt for something gentler like Lavender for a daily antiseptic. Ultra sensitive skin types should avoid all natural purifying essences such as pure Peppermint or pure Rosemary. Instead, use products that do not contain strong essences and are diluted in water/hydrolat or vegetable oil.
Stay away from irritants: Never use products which over-stimulate or irritate the skin. Avoiding allergens is fundamental. The more stress your skin is put under, the less healthy it becomes and encourages inflammation, leading to free radical creation. This is like our holistic body: if we eat foods to which we have sensitivities, it will tax our overall immune system and cause inflammation and damage in the long run.
Stop over-exfoliating and over-washing: Over-peeling and over-cleansing disturb the acid mantle of the skin, leaving it depleted and vulnerable. This causes irritation and leaves the skin open to skin infection, irritation, and so on. And when you are exfoliating and cleansing your skin, use a gentle product which respects the delicacy of your skin. Sensitive skin types should stick with exfoliating agents such as jojoba wax beads and ditch high percentage peels or hard, jagged kernel shells.
Avoid chemical ingredients: Using chemical dyes, perfumes, and detergents aggravate and damage our skin. One common ingredient to avoid in skincare is Sodium Laurel Sulfate, a harsh detergent that is often used as a degreaser for industrial equipment. Another ingredient to avoid is Petroleum (also known as Petrolatum or Paraffidium Liquidium or Mineral Oil). This petro-chemical clogs pores. Remember, clogged, dehydrated skin is more sensitive and prone to irritation.
Gentle touch: Be gentle when touching your own skin. Don’t handle your skin roughly or rub abrasively. Love your skin and be gentle! When you are receiving extractions, make sure that your esthetician is also gentle. They should never try to force comedones out, and only extract what leaves pores easily. This will decrease the possibility of skin damage or inflammation while also preventing acute scars.
Kristen Ma is the co-owner of Pure + Simple Inc., a group of Holistic Spas with its own line of Natural Skincare and Mineral Make-up. She is an Ayurvedic Practitioner who has studied in Canada, the United States and India. She is also a Certified Esthetician with over ten years of practical experience, having worked in Canada as well as Australia. Most recently, Kristen has authored “Beauty: Pure + Simple” which was published by Mc Arthur and Company. Kristen has written on the subject of Holistic Beauty for Vitality Magazine, Blink and Jasmine. She is also a regular contributor to B Magazine, Tonic and Sweat Equity Magazine.