Wonder why you haven’t got amazing skin yet?
Have you tried it all in the quest for beautiful skin?
Most of us start out with what Mum taught us, then go on to explore products targeted at us during our teenage years, which are usually more about pop culture and marketing than true skin health.
Fast forward a few years and you’re talking to friends, some of whom have started selling skincare through a direct marketing company.
Now not only are we trying to gain beautiful skin, we are feeling pressured to ‘support the girls’ in their efforts to make a little extra money.
After outlaying a fair amount at the face-mask-party… the results are, well…
So we turn to bloggers, instagram feeds pumped out by stylish marketers, and we await the ‘best of’ lists in the glossies.
How come, then, everyone who seeks it does not have beautiful skin?
The answer is really easy, if you’ll bear with me.
Imagine we took this same approach to medicine. First, we only use what mum used. Then, we go on recommendations from friends. And as we aged and suffered more illnesses, we only took the advice of bloggers, magazines and direct marketers. You’d be okay, so long as you never got a serious illness.
This is a great analogy for skin, because skin, (we forget!) is an organ of the human body.
It’s not the same as nail polish – it’s not sitting on the outside doing nothing. The skincare you choose interacts with the ecosystem that is your very body.
There is an entire education required to recommend skincare, and it’s nothing to do with catalogues and ‘best of’ lists.
This education lasts a long, long time.
The foundation is a 2 year course here in Australia, just to perform facials in a professional setting. Many go on to complete a Bachelor of Health Science in Clinical Dermal Therapy, some do a degree in Dermatology, others go on to become nurses, even doctors are involved in the skin health profession in a big way.
Don’t worry though, I’m not the telling-off kind of facialist, because we all do the best we can to find the solutions we need.
But I’m here to tell you that the good news is, there are people who know more.
We understand things like inflammatory reponses, grades of acne, fitzpatrick skin types, glogau photo damage scales, cosmetic chemistry.
The journey to beautiful skin is filled with words like langerhans cells, pendulous melanocytes, glyco-amino-glycan bundles, nanometers, and many more words rooted in a scientific edcucation in skin, which starts with a beauty therapy diploma and never ends.
To discover the path to your best skin, you need to make friends with an amazing, committed, passionate skin therapist. Someone who dedicated their entire career to rebuilding skins and through it, rebuilding lives.
We start at the very beginning with your genetics. These are not life sentences, they are pre-dispositions towards making different substances, or not making them. They are a starting grid over which every other product and lifestyle choice is laid.
They tell us how you will likely respond to things, and which skincare ingredients are most likely to help you. While there are tests which can report on your DNA, I’m not a big fan of them. I think for most people they are unnecessary and your experienced facialist is already able to identify genetic pre-dispositions just by asking a few questions and observing your hair, skin and eye colour and knowing your ethnicity. For those seeking the holy grail of skin health as they age, you may benefit from a DNA test early on to ensure you’re investing in the right ingredient groups over others, however we would always recommend that you cover all major ingredient groups as insurance anyway.
Genetics aside, we move to the major condition of your skin today.
Once upon a time people sought to discover their skin type. As someone who was initially trained in this method, I would like to say that this is a load of nonsense and mostly a technique to point a consumer towards the skin care line labelled for that ‘type’. It makes it much easier to sell you a skincare line if you’ve been told you are ‘XYZ’ and ‘here is the skincare for that type’.
You don’t have a skin type. There is literally no scientific test which can tell you your skin type. There is no globally agreed set of rules which say ‘when you have x level of secretion of oil, you have oily skin’.
How that skin is functioning at any given time can be influenced by many things, and our goal is to bring all elements into consideration and influence your skin to behave better.
What you DO have is a primary skin condition. This refers to how your skin is today, in general, and how it is likely to be at anytime your health takes a dive, or stress comes into your life.
These primary conditions are not seen in all skins, and most people are just ‘normal’.
So why don’t most people have amazing skin?
It begins with the fact we live in an environment full of industrial chemicals and the hallmarks of human progress: air pollution, air conditioning, topically applied products to make us smell nice, and cover our faces in costuming (makeup, which I love by the way.)
Short of retreating to the forests, we need to acknowledge our skins are under constant assault from a man-made world. We have invented this world full of cars and cities, at a faster rate than we have evolved our skins to cope with it.
Evolution takes hundreds of thousands of years. It’s possible that white people would eventually evolve their skins to survive in the desert climate of Australia, and that city-dwellilng people would evolve to survive the effects of exhaust fumes on their skins, but we can’t wait for evolution – we will be dead. In fact evolution of this kind would probably simply involve white-skinned people dying of skin cancer and natural selection changing the average colour of people who live here back to the skintone of the original inhabitants, the Koori people.
So here we are in the modern world, with all it’s benefits and challenges. We are applying a myriad of cosmetics to ourselves and wondering why – why! – we aren’t glowing like a magazine model.
The good news is that side by side with these advances in technology we have advances which tell us about the skins responses to them, and the invention of high tech skincare to protect against the world we made, and the places many of us migrated to.
Navigating which of these to apply is about first identifying a professional with a sound education in skin science, as well as general science. We understand the material world through science and it must be respected and referenced as our greatest power in seeking skin health.
Your facialist will consult with you about your genetics, lifestyle, diet and emotional states. What you are using on the skin is so important to disclose, as it is basically a chemistry equation in live action. Empowered with all this information we create a skincare routine that not only acknowledges the base starting point of genetics, but takes into account the type of environment you personally experience each day.
Your skin will become healthier when we remove the inappropriate skincare from it, and apply the right mix of chemistry to it.
Everyday I speak to people who are using ‘chemical free’ skincare.
Darling, there is no such thing, and it’s an insult to your intelligence when a company claims this.
Water is a chemical.
Oxygen is a chemical.
Potassium. A chemical.
Magnesium. A chemical.
Nobody likes to hear about chemicals on their skin these days. We are terrifed of the word ‘chemical’. This is indicative of the fear based marketing of ‘natural’ skincare companies.
While they will tell us ‘everyone knows what we mean when we say chemical-free’ I disagree. Many people I meet actually believe that there is ‘natural’ and ‘chemical’ and that merely by claiming ‘no chemicals’ a product is good.
As someone who was deeply ingrained in the organic skincare movement in NZ overe 15 years ago, I can tell you that most of the ingredients claimed to be helpful in ‘natural’ skincare will in fact give you photo damage over time.
The very worst culprits are the essential oils plonked into base blends of oil and water, and claiming to treat everything from eczema to wrinkles. Jesus wept.
If you are living in a high UV climate such as Australia, god help your skin if you apply essential oils. The majority of them are toxic under UV exposure and worse than that, are sitting in place of something else – the better skincare you could have chosen.
We need to expect a higher standard of truthful language so consumers can understand what is being said.
Our skincare is full of chemicals, as is your blood and the air you’re breathing right now.
These are chemicals chosen for their health-giving effects on the skin, and they will not hurt you.
We understand chemistry at a skincare level, though we are not chemists and acknowledge they know so much more than us.
We would not deign to formulate our own skincare because we are nowhere near as educated as those who do. If I did create my own range, I would be employing a qualified cosmetic formulator with experience, and essentially anything I created would only be a replica of something which already exists.
Nutrition is a topic which is often overlooked in skincare clinics. If you’re having a course of facials, or even one facial, we hope that you are open to some discussion about your diet. Because you are literally made from the foods you put in your mouth, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk at least a little about what you eat.
Common issues with skin come from a lack of healthy fats, or a genetic inability to translate these healthy fats into the hormones we use to make skin anti-inflammatories.
We also see common issues as a resut of zinc deficiency. It’s common for those with stretchmarks, or acne that doesn’t heal well to benefit from taking a little zinc, but it’s important to know if you actually need it first.
Zinc tests are easily done, by dropping a little substance on the tongue and seeing if it tastes bitter or not. Please don’t think about taking zinc unless you know if you actually need it. Throwing out the mineral balance of your body unnecessarily can leave you with other problems. Don’t fire in the dark.
I’m not a fan of taking supplements unless we know that you need them.
If I believe a client needs to take a particular vitamin, I will refer them to their GP or clinical dietician for tests and then let them recommend the right supplement.
GPs can, for example, find out if your iron or B vitamins are less than ideal. If they are, prescription vitamin tablets are much less expensive than the ones you’ll find on the shelves in health food stores. Prescription Vitamin B tablets can be as little as $7, compared to up to $40 for a bottle in the chemists self-serve section.
If you are lacking in iron, there are easily absorbed iron supplements and formulations like Floradix easily available at your local chemist.
A word on nutrient supplements and the claims they can make…
In Australia we have a governing body called the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA for short. They are in charge of ensuring that nobody makes groundless therapeutic claims.
They cover prescription drugs, sunscreens, medical devices, class 4 and above lasers, cosmetic injectables and to some extent, nutrient supplements.
To be able to make a claim about a supplement, companies are supposed to be able to back up this claim with proof. However this rarely happens, and it’s up to the companies themselves to say they have this proof, without the TGA necessarily ever asking to see it.
This is due to, among other things, the sheer number of supplements available and the workload it would entail for the TGA to police it. It would be barely possible.
Unless someone makes a complaint about a supplement and it’s claims, the companies selling them will get away with claiming just about anything.
So we are left with a market for supplements which is supposed to be regulated, but isn’t really.
For this reason, we prefer to work with whole, normal food, unless we know for sure that something is necessary. Most people benefit from the inclusion of better food in their diet, and this is a longer term solution to skin health, as it educates us in how to include healthy habits long term.
There is one whole food which I strongly stand behind, and believe every single facial client can benefit from: essential fatty acids Omega 3, 6 and 9 in seed oils.
These can come from flaxseeds, linseeds, chia seeds, blackcurrant oil and other sources.
I don’t stand behind the use of fish oils because the meta-data analysis shows clearly that there is little or no benefit to using them. Many of the claims made about fish oils have been hard to demonstrate in clinical trials, and the removal of fish en masse from the sea is not something I can support.
I say this as the granddaughter of a pioneer of my country’s fishing industry. My family made their mark in our country as commercial fishermen and are well known as fishing pioneers.
When you have been on a boat and seen the fish being dragged in, you know that this is unsustainable.
My own grandfather bought some of the first trawlers to NZ in the 1960s to grow his commercial fishing boat fleet, and the first thing he did was remove the equipment that dragged against the ocean floor, believing it to be so harmful to the ocean he wasn’t prepared to operate it in NZ waters. Today he says we need to slow down our mass fishing. He believes we have gone too far. I agree with him.
When there are plant sources of essential fats, and the metadata says fish oil is not as good as we have heard all these years, it makes no sense to recommend it.
Fish oil comes in capsules of gelatin, a product which you do not need to eat.
Here are some of the plant oil brands I recommend you try:
Melrose Organics Safllower Oil, under $20 in Australian stores.
Ceres Organics Safflower Oil, under $20 in NZ stores.
Waihi Bush Flaxseed Oil, from $20-$50 in Australian & NZ stores.
And my all time favourite, Bestow Beauty Plus Oil $64.95, made from NZ flaxseed, linseed, safflower and blackcurrant oils. Certainly more expensive but the ultimate blend to turn skin health around in a short period of time.
You should see a result in your skin within 2 weeks of taking any of these oils daily in your diet.
They provide your skin with the healthy fats needed to manufacture adrenal hormones. Well supplied with these, you will have enough left over to make the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that negate and control skin inflammation.
The benefits of adding Bestow Oil to your diet is largely to do with lowering inflammation.
Inflammation attacks the glues binding your skin together, and lets water simply float off into the atmosphere. It breaks down the integrity of the skin and makes you more susceptible to getting sensitive, as things penetrate too quickly and set off nerve endings in a warning system to the body that something is penetrating too quickly.
Even things which are healthy for the body, can set of this response due to the speed at which they’re penetrating and how abnormal this is for a healthy skin.
You see skin keeps things out. As far as your nervous system – the skins warning system – is concerned, letting something come in quickly is as bad as applying the wrong thing.
It sets off further inflammation as your skin tries to flush the area with extra immune factors via blood, in order to try to neutralise the perceived threat.
So we end up in a cycle of inflammation akin to a smouldering grassfire. It may not turn into a full fledged bushfire, but it could do at the slightest provocation.
This is the skin many clients in Melbourne who come to me for facials are living with.
The skin can look pink, dry and have multiple sensitivities.
Misdiagnosed, this skin suffers the most of any skin condition. By attempting to ‘nourish’ it with heavy creams, or ‘natural’ products full of botanicals in varying and inconsistent quantities, these dehydated, sensitive skins become angry, red and sore.
What is needed is a restoration of the skins binding agents, largely derived from essential fats and B vitamins. But it has to happen in a way that the skin can tolerate, from within first, because as we see above, working purely from the outside in can set off further inflammatory responses and cause further harm, even when the skincare used is ideal for the condition in the long run.
Rather than push such skins through this painful phase, and telling clients to ‘just wait and it will get better’ we can achieve the desired improvements in skin health with dietary adjustments and basic skincare to remove aggressors.
After a few weeks and some initial improvement, we can move into a more active phase of treatment and skincare. But why rush it, when it can be really uncomfortable to go that way?
I prefer to rebuild slowly, without taking your skin through hell to get there. The end result is the same, and it takes the same amount of time overall to reach the end goal of healthy skin.
…to be continued.
Natasha Bloomfield Smits