I was going to write on a different topic this month but when I received Marsha’s question in the Ask Carrie column, I realized that given we’re all now in the peak of the summer outdoor season, perhaps it might be a better service to you fine Kalon Women Magazine readers, to address instead EVERYTHING you MUST know to properly care for your skin – from head to toe.
We all know I’ve written on this subject before but never before in such a complete, Compendium-esque way.
Buckle up and bear with me… here we go!
You’ve probably heard me say it before but this is a crucial point to hammer home: Your skin is a very complex organ. Comprised of basically 3 layers, and millions upon millions of cells, the skin makes up approx. 5-6+% of a person’s body weight, weighing in at around 7 lbs. More if you’re larger. It covers approximately 20 sq ft. when stretched out flat and contains thousands upon thousands of MILES of capillaries. (roughly 60,000 miles worth!)
Your skin sheds anywhere from 35,000 to 50,000 skin cells per HOUR. That’s an estimated sloughing of 1 MILLION cells per DAY. The outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, renews itself approximately every 28 days, and serves as the body’s second bowel, third lung and third kidney; absorbing molecularly from one degree to another what’s applied to it.
Keeping this in mind is very important when selecting skin care and beauty products!
Yes, some things CAN and DO penetrate through the skin and enter the body—but not EVERYTHING does. If everything DID, we’d all drown in our bath tubs while bathing. Yes, it’s important to use as few chemicals as possible in our skin care and beauty products but by design, the skin protects us from most. It’s an amazing organ; protecting, cleansing, breathing and assisting in myriad ways throughout the course of our lives. It should be much more respected and appreciated by us than it is.
Think about it for a moment: our skin provides us with recognizable shape and form, the joy of the sense of touch, warmth and cool, keeps our organs from floppin’ out when we walk down the street, provides evidence of our singular identity through fingerprints and announces to the world the overall state of our health and age and ancestry before we even utter a word. Pretty remarkable for an ORGAN, huh?
As Midlife women, our skin care and beauty products should be free of alcohols, artificial fragrances and colors, petroleum and mineral oils, lanolin, talc and other various and sorted chemicals. No easy task, but once you learn how to read labels, the noxious ingredients become easier to recognize and avoid!
Here’s the title of a book that will help you begin to do so. You can find it on Amazon: ‘Milady’s Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary’ by M. Varinia Michalun and Joseph C. Dinardo. Get it, keep it handy and when shopping for your skin care and makeup products, don’t be without it!
If you’ve paid attention to my past articles at all, you’ll know my stance: much of having healthy, radiant skin is an inside job. There are things that can be done daily-both internally and externally- to care for the skin and keep it healthy, firm and beautiful.
–Simply put, good skin starts with good skin care and nutrition basics.
Topically, the name of the game is: thorough, yet gentle cleansing – regular exfoliation – toning- and moisturizing – both day and night.
Cleansing the skin regularly is extremely important, but just washing the face with water alone isn’t enough. Water -when used alone- actually chaps the skin, leaving it rough and prone to damage. Cleansing -when done properly- removes surface dirt, environmental pollutants and impurities. It’s not a step that can be ignored.
I recommend a mild cleansing first thing in the morning and a much more thorough cleansing before bed. DAILY.
Professional Aestheticians advise that cleansing be performed using upward, circular motions in order to maximize deep cleansing of the facial pores. Facial pores lie at an upward-slanting angle within the skin. Because of this, cleansing should always be done using upward, circular motions so that the cleansing product can work its way deep into the facial pores and gently lift out grime, pollutants and oily buildup.
How to tell which cleansing product is right for you – and which skin type you have?
Oily Skin is prone to heavy shine and has a thick texture with large, obvious pores. Oily Skin is also prone to acneic breakouts and blemish formation. Yes, Menopausal/Midlife women CAN develop acne but it’s hormonally driven and shouldn’t be treated with the harsh/drying products geared for younger acne prone skin! You can easily over treat and burn the thinner, more sensitive skin of Midlife, so proceed with caution!
Combination Skin is skin that develops oil production and clogged pores in the T-zone area: the forehead, nose and chin but remains dry and tight/irritated on the cheeks.
Dry Skin can feel tight, appears flaky and dehydrated and has minimal visible pores. It tends to be sensitive as it’s vulnerable, parched and unprotected by sufficient sebum. The acid mantle is almost always disturbed with dry skin. Menopause exacerbates dry skin.
Sensitive Skin is skin that’s fine and/or thin in texture, easily irritated or made allergic, feels tight and dry, and has visible broken capillaries visible right under the surface of the skin. Menopause can worsen allergies and skin sensitivity.
Maturing Skin is just that– skin that is showing the visible signs of the aging process: loss of elasticity, firmness and brightness. It needs to be handled very gently and specialty products like serums, AHAs/BHAs and Glycolics are a must!
After cleansing comes the all-important task of exfoliation. This step is exceedingly important in order to have skin that’s radiant, supple and beautiful.
Dead skin cells can build up over time and trap sebum (the protective waxy substance the skin creates to protect itself), causing blackheads, whiteheads and pustules. This cellular debris can build up on the surface of the skin and stop moisturizers and other skin treatments from penetrating effectively or being of benefit.
Regularly exfoliation- especially of maturing skin- can make a world of Beauty difference! There are many differing schools of thought as to just how to go about the act of proper exfoliation. All forms of exfoliation carry slight risk: exfoliating scrubs buff dead skin free by using grinding agents such as nuts, sugar or cornmeal, or digesting acids such as AHA/BHA acids which have their base in fruit acids and/or milk enzymes and sugars. These agents can cause abrasion, possible burning and/or chafing, as well as possible capillary damage, if they’re used too aggressively. For this reason, it’s important to use exfoliating formulations that are designed to be effective- yet gentle.
For maximum results, it’s suggested that exfoliation take place after cleansing and before Toner application, on this regular schedule:
Oily/Combination Skin: 3 to 4 times per week depending upon degree of oiliness and number of breakouts occurring.
Sensitive Skin: no more than 2 times per week after cleansing and before applying Toner.
Dry/ Maturing Skin: no more than 3 times per week after cleansing and before Toner application, buffing gently.
For truly healthy skin, toner application should immediately follow cleansing, because a toner serves two purposes:
1) A toner removes the final traces of cleansing product from the skin and closes pores
2) It restores the skin’s proper pH balance– a very crucial step for healthy skin.
Also, toner should always be alcohol-free. For Midlife women, Witch Hazel is your very best friend! (Please see last month’s Kalon Magazine for an indepth report about Witch Hazel and its many skin and beauty benefits.)
And please note: alcohol is extremely dehydrating and damaging – especially to mature skin that’s already starting to dry out on its own due to hormone changes, the natural aging process, etc.
The next step for radiant skin is Moisturizer – but this is where it gets very, very tricky –and very, very confusing…
There are moisturizing treatments for: day, night, oily skin, mature skin, and sensitive skin. There are firming, lifting and smoothing creams; creams that replace collagen and elastin…it’s enough to send you screaming for the hills!
This is all you really need to know and understand:
Your skin faces major stressors during the day (pollution, cigarette smoking, poor dietary choices, makeup, etc.) and because of these stressors, it saves its major repair work for night.
Your daytime moisturizer is there to provide moisture, but also usually: sun protection. Day moisturizer serves to provide a barrier for the skin that keeps moisture in and pollution/ environmental stressors out. It also assists makeup applied over it to stay smooth on the skin’s surface. Your nighttime moisturizer is your heavy-hitter in the Game of Skin Health and should be a moisturizer that is dual purpose. Select a moisturizer for night that nourishes and/or evens skin tone through the use of vitamins/minerals, or AHA/BHAs or a small percentage of Glycolic acid. AND USE IT REGULARLY! Doing so will assist in achieving healthier/ more radiant skin- faster.
The skin of your body is thicker and more resilient but still requires special care. Always use a high-quality lotion after you bathe or shower, never use talc-containing body powders and be sure to gently exfoliate the skin of your body regularly when bathing or showering. (For a detailed explanation of how best to do this please refer to the Ask Carrie column in this month’s magazine.)
Now for some really important stuff. You MUST understand the following if healthy, radiant skin is your desire:
Diet is simply paramount, if you are to be beautiful, healthy and thriving – at any age. LIFESTYLE MATTERS!
We live in a time where our soil is depleted of nutrients- and pesticides are common. We live on fast food -or convenience foods- and drink caffeine and sugar-laden beverages instead of pure water. If we do take vitamins, more times than not, they are synthetic vitamins our bodies can’t utilize -and what little we do absorb- we quickly destroy by smoking and drinking alcohol. To make matters worse, poisons build up in our colon and our liver and our kidneys become taxed and cease to eliminate toxins efficiently. All these things work to take their toll on us, and age-related symptoms begin to appear en masse.
As far as I’m concerned, Beauty is approximately 80% internal: eating right and well – keeping the body well nourished, hydrated and exercised, getting enough rest, living and working productively, being at peace with yourself, your life – and making time to go within. Too, emotional toxicity will show up externally. Drop that baggage, forgive others and yourself and LET GO. LET GO and GLOW. There’s not a beauty product in the world-no matter how expensive- that will make up for failings in any of these areas.
Without balance and health, happiness and peace – we can’t look or feel – or BE our best. PERIOD!!!
Now, a couple months ago, I told you everything you needed to know about protecting your skin from accruing sun damage during these summer months. If you missed those articles, please review your archived issues of Kalon Women Magazine or write in with a question pertaining to sunscreen/sun care that you’d like me to address and I’ll be happy to do so.
In this world of Lowfat/No Fat, I’d like to leave you with these points too, cavalier and rebellious as they may sound:
In today’s world, FAT seems to be a word to be avoided at all costs. In actuality, the right fat- in the right amounts can be a powerful, potent beauty and health elixir. It’s crucial to understand not only the importance of the essential fatty acids -but the role each plays- especially in the area of Menopausal skin, hair and nail care.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are classified as the Omegas: Omega 3/6/and 9.
There are 2 types of Omega 3 fats: DHA (ethyl-docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid).
The Omega 6 EFA is thought to stem primarily from linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is then converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body. GLA is an important inflammation fighter and also has a role to play in the balancing of hormones and the maintenance of healthy skin-again, especially during Menopause.
These essential fatty acids are required by the body to function optimally. The body does not manufacture EFA’s on its own, consequently these all-important fats must be supplied by our diet.
The Omegas are actually present in the cellular membranes of every single cell of the human body- so it’s easy to see how important they are! Much of the changes seen in a woman’s skin as she ages are actually due to oxidative processes – the internal ‘rusting’ that takes place as the body becomes long on toxic overload and short on antioxidants and essential nutrients.
Also, it’s well documented that a natural ‘drying out’ process occurs in a woman’s body as she moves through the peri menopause and Menopause process. Fluctuating hormone levels have a role to play in this issue – and the essential fatty acids assist the body in the manufacture and distribution of crucial sex hormones, carrying molecular messages between the cells and serving to provide prostaglandin balance.
Prostaglandins are hormone-like in their nature and are understood to serve as messengers and regulators within the body cells and tissues.
So, just what the heck does all this scientific mumbo jumbo mean to Y-O-U?!
Simply put, this:
Peri menopause begins around the age of 35 in most women. During this time of hormonal shift, skin, hair and nails begin to suffer and other worrisome and bothersome symptoms set up shop. You may begin to experience ongoing -and worsening- dryness issues. Your skin might become sensitive – with itching and flaking occurring regularly where there was no problem before.
Chronic dry skin stems from 2 basic causes: deficiencies in key nutrients and ongoing, uncorrected hormone imbalances. The Essential Fatty Acids work to combat both these root causes by feeding the skin at a cellular level, allowing skin cells to nourish and rejuvenate themselves.
So how does one go about ensuring that they consume enough of the EFA’s to positively impact both skin AND hormone health? Good question!
Omegas 3 and 6 can be obtained from food sources and supplements.
Excellent sources of Omega 3s are:
Seafood/Flax seeds/raw nuts-especially walnuts/eggs and canola oil.
Excellent sources of Omega 6 are:
Borage Oil/Evening Primrose Oil- aka as: ‘the King’s Cure-all’, ( yet given its many uses for easing menstruation, hot flashes and other rather severe female-hormone- related issues, perhaps it should be known as the Queen’s Cure-all instead…) Sunflower, canola and safflower oils/eggs and soybeans.
Now that we’ve discussed why these EFAs are crucial to health and beauty-especially during Menopause- let’s look at the proper ratios:
Studies show a healthy balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is crucial.
The typical American diet has a ratio of 1:20 (Omega 3 to Omega 6), and it’s now thought this ratio should be closer to 5:1 or less.
Omega 6s are known to be possible inflammation-producers and as such need to be properly balanced with Omega 3’s which are shown to reduce inflammation within human tissues. When Omega 6 predominates in a diet, such as a diet rich in animal fats and corn derived products, skin and hormonal issues appear to be made worse.
Vaginal dryness, dry eye, joint pain and/or thinning hair, skin and brittle nails are all signs of EFA deficiency -in most cases- and should be discussed with your health care provider. Adding the right ‘Beauty Fats’ to your diet can -and will- make a world of difference – for your entire body. DO NOT FEAR FAT!
And I leave you with this: If beautiful, supple skin is what you want, then you must HYDRATE!
Hydrate with pure, filtered water and using this formula to make certain you’re getting the right amount for your body’s many and varied needs: Take your body weight and divide by 2. This number then becomes the number of ounces you need PER DAY to stay properly hydrated.
Case in point: 145/2= 72.5 ounces per day.
A moisturizer’s job is to trap moisture already present in the skin. If your skin is dehydrated, there’s not much there to trap eh?
Hydrate, exercise, pick your beauty products carefully and use them regularly, eat well and eat fat, balance your Midlife hormones with the help of your MD or ND, embrace happiness and peace as best you can, rest when it’s time and love and laugh often.
Ladies, this is pretty much all you really need to know to reach your skin care goals and be beautiful. Easy peasy.
I’m here if -and when- you need…Now get out there and shine!
© copyright 2017 Carrie E. Pierce all rights reserved.
Health and Beauty has been Carrie E. Pierce’s career focus for over 28 years. Throughout her career, Carrie has served as: Guest and Corporate Makeup Artist for numerous major, international cosmetic companies and as a Hollywood film, TV and special effects makeup artist. She’s provided skin care and makeup services for the fashion industry, as well as restorative make up procedures for burn and scar patients, cancer patients, domestic violence survivors and women suffering with self-esteem issues. Carrie is a licensed Aesthetician, Certified Color Analyst, Menopause Skin Care Specialist, Author, Public Speaker and served as co host of the syndicated radio show ‘Magnificent Menopause & Beyond©’. It’s her mission and her passion to help women be the best they can be – especially as they move through Midlife! Find out more www.MidlifeMystique.com