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The Topicals: Taking Care Of Your Skin From The Outside

The Topicals: Taking Care Of Your Skin From The Outside

 

Healthy Skin. What does it mean? What do you do? How do you do it? What’s the goal? 

Valid questions.

Skin health. Skincare. Caring for your skin. Caring about your skin. Keeping your skin healthy. Like everything else  in the world of wellness - it really doesn’t need to be confusing. Blame the skincare companies for that. BIG SKINCARE.

Anyways, let’s start with the basics. The vaunted “skincare routine”. Topical care. The one that takes some of you 45 minutes each night - and you’re still not happy with their results.

Here’s a little secret. Big Skincare doesn’t want you to be happy. If your skin was healthy by doing less, they’d sell less. Conspiracies abound. Products create problems that other products can solve, and the cycle continues. They’ll sell a product that dries the skin out, suggest one that then hydrates it, and so on and so forth. It’s really quite brilliant to be honest.

Many of you are happy to talk yourselves into a $400 bill at Sephora all in the name of “self-care sunday”. Not us. We don’t have time for the bullshit. Give us a product that does exactly what it says it will, and exactly what we expect it to - fast.

Like always, we stick to the basics.

 

3 Steps To Maintaining Healthy Skin

 

Wash it.

Cleanse. Wash. Clean. Scrub. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. Just do it. Daily.

You wash everything else don’t you?

Regular skin cleansing is essential to maintaining healthy skin. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, but half of us simply never took a minute to think about it.

Washing removes build-up. Of what? Dirt. Excess oil. Sweat. Bacteria. Other unwanted debris. Throughout the day your skin is exposed to all of these. Air pollution alone should be cause for concern. By the end of the day, your skin is quite literally covered in any number of impurities. Please, for the love of your face, remove them. If you don’t - nothing else really matters.

Any build-up on top of your skin is bad. Very bad. It creates a blockage. It blocks proper oil production. It blocks proper sweat production. It blocks proper skin cell turnover. The dead skin cells just sit there. All of this allows bacteria to thrive. That bacteria eventually penetrates the skin through the hair follicle and causes inflammation.

Seriously. Start washing your face. Choose a proper face wash - gentle is always better.  Wash twice a day! No more, no less. A good rule of thumb is wash it when it's the dirtiest. Advanced stuff right there.

Always in the morning. Start fresh. The dreaded build-up over the course of the night is real. 

Get your face wet - in the shower, over the sink, whatever. Wash with your cleanser for like 30 seconds, then wash it off.

Try not to stand under the hot shower for too long. Your skin doesn't like that.

If you work out before you start your day - you'll want to add in a half measure of just rinsing your face with warm water out of bed. Then properly cleansing post-workout. Especially if you sweat. Any build-up blocks sweat and just creates a whole mess of problems.

Then cleanse before bed. The build-up over the course of the day is the worst. Wash this off. If you work out at night and wash your face right after the work-out, feel free to skip the pre-bed full cleanse and mix in a quick rinse.

Done. Now what?

 

Moisturize.

Moisturizer. Lotion. Gel. Cream. Gel-cream. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. Use it. Daily.

Proper moisturization helps to repair, replenish and reinforce what your skin needs on a daily basis.

What does your skin need?

You’ll recall your skin’s role as a protective barrier. The castle walls. It keeps important chemicals, nutrients and vitamins in our body, and prevents harmful elements from entering it.

Keep it intact. Keep it functioning. Keep it protected.

The basic structure of this barrier can be thought of like the bricks and mortar you’d use to build those castle walls.

The bricks are flat, dead skin cells. We call them corneocytes.

The mortar is a mixture of fats - cholesterol, fatty acids, and another called ceramides. Skin Identical Ingredients known as Stratum Corneum Lipids. It’s this mixture that keeps your skin healthy, clear and resilient. It keeps the barrier intact.

If that barrier is compromised, your skin will show it. Inflammation, redness, breakouts, excess oil, a lack of oil, cracking, rashes, bumps - you name it - all due to a compromised barrier.

Our goal is to maintain this barrier. Fortify the castle walls.

Once the structure of the skin barrier is properly maintained, our concern is its function.

Skin barrier function is dependent on adequate hydration. Proper hydration maintains the skin’s plasticity and is crucial to the process of shedding dead skin cells - desquamation. BIG WORDS! In order to maintain hydration, the skin contains a number of elements referred to as Natural Moisturizing Factors. More Skin Identical Ingredients. These ones are highly efficient humectants that draw moisture from the atmosphere into the skin. The NMF are amino acids, derivatives of those amino acids, salts, sugars, lactic acid and urea - the end product of all broken down proteins.

Barrier intact. Barrier functioning. Now let’s reinforce it. How? By limiting “free radical” production. What are free radicals? Unstable, highly reactive molecules created by the body to neutralize pathogens. The problem is, environmental factors - such as radiation from the sun, pollution, smoke and other chemicals - trigger the production of more of them than our body needs. So they start attacking healthy cells.

Great! How do we fight them? Antioxidants. Antioxidants limit their damage and help your body recover.

Barrier Intact. Barrier Functioning. Barrier Protected. All due to using a proper moisturizer.

Choosing a proper moisturizer is key. So pick one ticks all 3 boxes. One that addresses the needs of your skin at a fundamental level. One to keep the barrier intact, keep it functioning, and keep it protected. Ignore all the noise. With that, you’ve got all your bases covered. No need to worry about anything else. Once that barrier is optimized, the little issues and flare ups you’ve become accustomed to start to dwindle.

Around here we like multi-functional products. One product that does the job of many. Ingredients to look for: Look for a lotion that includes a fatty concentrate of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. The mortar.

Look for a lotion that includes Natural Moisturizing factors. Some of these include  hyaluronic acid, urea, and amino acids. Ingredients that mimic NMF are equally effective. Some of these include polyglutamic acid and glycerin.

Look for a lotion with some antioxidants. Some of these include vitamin E, squalane, and resveratrol.

You're probably wondering when you should moisturize? Well, other than when it feels dry, the best option is right after you've washed it. Your freshly clean skin - free of build up - allows your moisturizer’s helpful ingredients to penetrate much more effectively. Access granted. And after washing your skin is still damp. Those Natural Moisturizing Factors draw water from the atmosphere - so damp skin gives them more to draw from. Brilliant.

 

Sun Protection.

Sunscreen. Sunblock. Sun Lotion. Sun Care. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. Just use it. Daily.

Protecting yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays is absolutely essential to maintaining good skin health. UV exposure is a powerful attack on the skin and its effects cannot be understated.

Unprotected exposure causes much more damage than just a sunburn. UV rays penetrate deep into the skin, permanently damaging the skin cells. It can trigger genetic defects - cancerous mutations. These rays also cause eye damage. Cataracts. Eyelid cancer. The majority of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers are due to sun exposure. Skin cancer is the most preventative form of cancer there is. The damage done by UV exposure is cumulative. Your body can repair some of the damage done to the DNA, but not all of it. The unrepaired damage builds up over time and triggers the mutations that can lead to malignant tumors.

Understanding the basics about UV radiation and how it damages your skin is an important first step for safeguarding yourself against sun damage, premature aging, and of course, skin cancer.

What is UV radiation? A part of the natural energy produced by the sun. It’s a light. A short wavelength, electromagnetic, invisible light. There are 2 types:

Ultraviolet A (UVA): Shorter wavelength rays. Associated with skin aging. Ultraviolet B (UVB): Longer wavelength ray. Associated with skin burning. UVA and UVB differ in how they affect the skin. But both do real harm.

UVB affects the outermost layer of skin. It is UVB that causes tanning, burning, and blistering. The intensity of UVB rays fluctuates. They are strongest during the late morning to afternoon period, during spring and summer, closer to the equator, and when reflected off snow or water. UVB rays can be filtered. They can not penetrate glass or cloud cover. UVB rays are associated with the SPF (Sun Protection Factor)  label on your suncare products. SPF tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin while using that particular product. Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 filters out approximately 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.

UVA also causes tanning, burning, and blistering. UVA rays are slightly less intense than UVB, but penetrate the skin much deeper. Exposure causes cellular damage to the innermost layer of your skin’s top layer. In order to protect itself from further damage - your skin darkens. It tans. Tanning is a defense mechanism of your skin. Unfortunately “a healthy tan” is simply not a real thing. Tanned skin is damaged skin. We know, the truth hurts. Over time, your skin becomes less resilient. This results in premature aging. It results in wrinkles. Sun spots. Blemishes. And of course, skin cancer. UVA rays are everywhere. They account for 95% of all UV rays reaching the earth. They maintain the same strength during all daylight hours. UVA rays, unlike UVB, cannot be filtered. They can penetrate windows and cloud cover. UVA is connected to the “Broad-Spectrum Protection” label on your suncare products.

Now for some good news.

The sun is nice! It’s warm, its bright, it is literally the source of life on earth. Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation from the sun’s rays is what causes your skin to create vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential to good bone health. The sun improves your mood. It maintains your circadian rhythm and improves your sleep. It reduces stress. It strengthens your immune system.

But, everything in moderation. You’re still encouraged to get some sun. It’s just a matter of how much you get, and how you go about getting it. So, how do we moderate the sun? That’s where sunscreen comes in. What does sunscreen do? Easy. It screens the sun. It blocks it. How?

There are 2 types of sunscreen:

Chemical Sunscreens - Organic filters. Before we start, let’s get a few things out of the way.  Firstly, a gentle reminder that there is nothing wrong with chemicals. Everything is a chemical. Water, H20, is a chemical. Second, when it comes to sunscreen filters, we view ‘organic’ through a lens in a chemistry lab, not on the farm. Organic filters are carbon containing compounds.

Chemical sunscreens with organic filters work by absorbing radiation and converting it into a tiny amount of heat. The ingredients common in chemical sunscreens include oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene. These ingredients are especially effective in filtering and absorbing UVA radiation - broad spectrum protection. They then must be paired with UVB filters such as homosalate and octisalate to offer SPF (Sun Protection Factor). Chemical sunscreens tend to go on clear and feel weightless as they are fully absorbed by skin. However, certainly formulations can be quite oily. Chemical sunscreens are also more irritating to people with sensitive skin.

Physical Sunscreens - Inorganic Filters. Inorganic filters are mineral containing compounds. These are sometimes referred to as mineral sunscreens. Their function is twofold. They reflect and scatter the UV rays in order to protect your skin, as well as act as semiconductors to absorb the light and convert it into a tiny amount of heat. Multi-taskers. The ingredients common in physical sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Physical sunscreens tend to leave a white cast, and are thicker but less greasy. Physical sunscreens are typically used in children and baby formulations, sensitive skin formulations, and facial formulations. They are generally less irritating and easier on the skin.

Great. So how do I decide?

Easy. Choose the one you'll use. Trial and error. Find one that doesn't bother you, or bothers you the least and use it. Religiously. If your skin isn’t terribly sensitive, opt for a chemical sunscreen. If you’re prone to breakouts or irritation, opt for a physical sunscreen. For our money, a combination product is the safest bet. It will have close to the look and feel of a full chemical blocker, but less irritating. It will be close to as good for sensitive skin as fully mineral filters, but leave far less of a white cast. Always choose a product with the broad spectrum label.

 

Sources

 

Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5172479

Skin Anti-Aging Strategies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/

The Role of Skin Care as an Integral Component in the Management of Acne Vulgaris. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997205/

The impact of skin care products on skin chemistry and microbiome dynamics. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31189482/

Evidence-Based Skin Care: A Systematic Literature Review and the Development of a Basic Skin Care Algorithm. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26165590/

Antioxidants In Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514576/

Daily Skincare in 3 Simple Steps. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/daily-skin-care-in-3-simple-steps

Don’t Fall For These Skin Myths. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/dont-fall-for-these-skin-myths

5 Tips For Healthy Skin. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/skin-care/art-20048237