Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Thoughts on skincare

I’m not an expert on skincare, but here are my no bullshit allowed-thoughts…

Stop reading ingredients
I spent endless hours reading and studying on ingredients. Then spent endless hours worrying about the dangers of parabens, artificial colours, synthetic fragrances, Polyethylene Glycol, Phthalates, Diethanolamine, Triethanolamine, mineral oil, Silicone derived emollients, alcohol, sulfates, Propylene Glycol and so on and so on.
Then after all my hard work studying and finding products that contained none of the evils, I found my skin freaking out on me anyways because the natural, organic cold pressed extra virgin oils and ingredients added to it were quite harsh and irritating anyways.
Save yourself the worry and hard work that might be for nothing and only read ingredients to scan for things you know you’re allergic to.

Count the ingredients instead
You don’t need a bunch of fancy ingredients to get a working product. After all, you can make perfectly functioning skincare products just using some know-how and a handful of ingredients from your kitchen.
Even if your extra ingredients are “natural”, “organic” or what have you, any extra ingredients increase your risk of reacting to the product.

Read the label right
Avoid everything to do with anti aging. Period. Avoid everything to do with oily or acne prone skin. Period. Anti aging products will “plump up” the skin to conceal wrinkles which is done with more or less nasty ingredients and isn’t a nice process at all. You can almost tell it’s a bad thing from the “plumping up” description. Products for oily or acne prone skin will usually just be extremely drying for a quick fix. 
The simpler your products “promise”, the better. The less fancy adjectives added to the product, the more you should consider it.

The right number of products
  • You need a simple cleanser in the form that appeals to you: Cream, foam, gel or what have you.
  • A toner to remove the last traces of the cleanser and restore your skins pH.
  • A moisturiser for the face.
  • An eye cream since the facial moisturiser is almost always too heavy for the sensitive eye area and will irritate it.
  • One or two moisturisers for your body. If you have drier areas on your body, it’s a good idea to have one lighter and one heavier moisturiser.
  • A hand cream to keep in your purse.

Go kitchen witch
So what about facial masks and exfoliations and stuff?
This is where you go kitchen witch. There are a bunch of simple and good recipes found out there on the web using common ingredients you find in your kitchen cupboard. I’m partial to a simple raw honey mask myself. Kitchen witch treatments are perfectly functional and if you can eat it without any ill effects, chances are it will work for your skin too.  
OCM can be wonderful too. Although it mostly works for whiteheads and blackheads, it can still be nice for skin without those problems. I like using half argan and half hemp oil with a few drops of tea tree essential oil.

Test your products.
A moisturiser should be absorbed within a few minutes. If it takes longer, it’s too greasy and if your skin feels dry during the day, it’s too light. The feeling of skin being too greasy or dry is irritating and encourages unconscious picking or touching.
I once read a pretty weird tip and although I’ve never tried it myself, I will pass it on: Test your products on the sensitive skin on your… Errh... Butt… area. Yea, it does sound weird but it makes sense. That area is very sensitive and if you have any weird reaction to a product, you will know faster than if you use it on your face.

General tips
  • If you have a bad habit of picking (Like me) keep your nails short and manicured so it’s harder for you to get a “grip” and you have less dirt under your nails.
  • Exfoliate once a week, or less if your skin is sensitive. Yes, you do get a beautiful glow from exfoliating, but it's part of your skins natural and healthy defence to be protected by the dead skin.
  • Disinfect or clean the surfaces you touch a lot such as phones and keyboards.
  • I subscribe to the idea that night creams are bad. They’re heavy and built on the theory that skin can super-absorb during the night. What actually happens during your sleep is that your whole body rebuilds and cleanses itself. This is where you actually want your skin to breathe and not have your pores clogged up. Wash your skin before bed and swipe toner over, or simply swipe toner over to remove moisturiser traces and dirt from the day and sleep with a "naked" face.

Of course I don’t mean that you need to smear a thick layer of makeup on, but used the right way, it can help you feel a lot better. Don’t go for “colour” such as lipstick and eye shadow; go for products that perfect your skin: Foundation, concealer, highlighter and blusher. You want to look natural, like you’re not wearing any makeup, but have your imperfections covered.
Don’t forget to tone out towards your ears and down your neck to spread the “good” skin area.

The stuff you’ve all heard a million times
Prioritise your sleep, get fresh air and exercise, drink water, change your pillow case often, avoid excessive sunlight, have a hobby or something that makes you happy and relaxed, eat healthy etc etc. I don’t think I need to go in details here.

My personal recommendations
  • I like the classic blue Nivea in the tin for the dry and damaged skin on my shins. My skin won’t tolerate it anywhere else, but it’s wonderful for the dry area.
  • I like Decubals original clinic cream for the rest of my body. I tried the facial line but can’t tolerate it. I doubt you can find it outside Scandinavia, but if you’re located here, take a look at your local pharmacy.
  • Some times I keep a kitchen witch spray in my fridge: Half green or white tea, half toner, a bit of lemon juice and a drop of honey. It has a refreshing yet calming effect on my skin. 


  1. Actually, anti-dandruff shampoos do address the issue at hand. It's just the instructions are not given clearly.

    Having dealt with dandruff for most of my life, and having had a horrid bout so extreme my hair was falling out, I can say that there are different levels of dandruff and many times, it's dry scalp.

    Dandruff hurts, your scalp is inflamed and the dandruff is hard, itchy and painful if it is a bad flare. Doctor prescribed drops will be needed to alleviate this. It was the worst thing I've ever had--the itching and pain, not to mention the handfuls of hair I lost. Good news. Hair grows back. Stress and diet affected me, but largely stress.

    Dandruff lies below the scalp. What many people don't realize is that you must let the product sit on your scalp for a minimum of 2 minutes to let it 'soak' in.

    Yeah--ever smelled that stuff??? Nizoral worked for a medium outbreak (NOT recommended for color treated hair). It was the least offensive odor and I needed to tie a scarf around my face. EWWWW

    Another fact: When the fungus that causes dandruff is healing your scalp will itch like mad! I spoke to a pharmacist about this as his son suffered from very bad dandruff, and he said that this is the medication in the shampoo working--he said it's hard to take, but usually by day 2-3 of using the shampoo that will stop.

    I now use Head and Shoulders and can't believe how happy my scalp is. It's zinc based and I will leave it on if I'm having a flare. I also choose a cool rinse as it's nice for my ouchy scalp if it's sore (because someone picks at the scabs! Hmmmmm)

    Not to cause an argument, but I've been researching this at length for years.

    I'm curious to know if anyone has tried moisturizers that fade sun spots? Over the years, my skin is getting a pigmenting called Melsasma, due to hormone changes. I've seen all these moisturizers claim to fade these spots, but my question is, how harsh are they? I'm so sensitive to products, I got a dermatologist prescribed cream, and it was so strong with bleach, it burned me within seconds of application, after I specifically told her I had skin sensitivities. Humph!

  2. I bow to your expertise! (And deleted the offending sentence)

  3. Oh! No no---I think you were right to cause people to be aware that not all dandruff shampoos deal with direct dandruff.

    Also, it's important to diagnose correctly. Many hair dressers say that people suffer from dry scalp, not dandruff. So, it's a good thing for people to be more aware of dandruff and it's root cause (pardon the pun!)

    In fact, many dandruff sufferers will have it on their forehead past their hair line and into their eyebrows (as I do) which for me, blends into eczema. I only get this when mega stressed and it's a pain--especially a patch of eczema over my left eyelid.

    Knowledge is what you are professing Lady Igor and that's exactly what I applaud. Know what you are doing/putting onto your body.

    Also, from someone with sensitive skin myself in a different manner, I urge people to look at ingredients only AFTER you've had a reaction. Then, you can log what ingredients might be the culprit. I found after several products, I was allergic to blue dyes. So, anything with blue dyes I can't use for fear of scratching myself into a bloody mess for my scalp and skin :)

  4. I actually have a similar list of no crap allowed when it comes to haircare, maybe I should write it down on the blog.
    Thank you for posting this! Having sensitive skin myself, sometimes it's really hard to decide where to start when it comes to skin products.

  5. Hi Igor,

    Thank you SO much for explaining the purpose of facial toner. I have only just started to learn about proper skin care and I found myself getting frustrated because it seems that every single beauty site seems to tell you to use toner to "shrink" your pores. I guess what I'm saying is that that specific reason to use facial toner never seemed logical to me, since I don't give a damn about the size of anyone's pores. Okay, well maybe I DO care a little, but it has more to do with pores being Photoshopped away, haha. It makes perfect sense that you should put something on your face to restore the pH. Perhaps I will try a toner sometime.
    I've also given up putting moisturizing cream on my face at night because I was so inspired by your post. My skin seems to be thanking me (and you) for it so far.

  6. Mandy, I am SO happy you found the post useful and that it helps your skin! I remember the feeling of frustrations with magazines and beauty sites for giving advice that made no sense to me or just plain didn’t work. If only I had known what I know now ten or twenty years ago, sigh!