“Our beauty is the unique light that shines within us. Caring for your skin simply allows that beauty to radiate more brightly and more fully.”
Although our skin reflects our overall health and wellness (including the health of both the body and the mind) it is also impacted by how we treat it; what products we use (if any) and what we allow ourselves to be exposed to.
So let’s dive in and unpack this issue of building skin health, starting with a look at the functions of the skin and the factors which work against healthy skin.
THE SKIN AND ITS FUNCTIONS
The skin performs many functions. Some of these are about keeping the good stuff in and some are about keeping the bad stuff out. The skin has an amazing ability to regulate and re-calibrate itself after a shock, such as an unusual level of water loss, exposure to chemicals, infection from bacteria and so on. However, our lifestyle today puts undue pressure on our bodies and as a result our bodies’ systems and functions can be stressed beyond their ability to cope.
In my own research I found that almost three quarters of women are concerned about the signs of ageing on their skin (and I think the other 25% were under twenty!), but 60% of them don’t use any products on their faces. Why? Because people are confused about what ingredients really work.
Over 60% of women would prefer using natural anti-ageing products but because of the confusion many simply grab a product from the supermarket shelves for convenience, not knowing and not questioning what these products are doing to their skin. Prior to embarking on the journey to toxin free products, I was one of those women; desperately searching for more anti-ageing claims on supermarket products and all the while seeing the health of my skin getting worse.
So, let’s look at some facts:
FACT #01 MANY SKINCARE INGREDIENTS USED TODAY HAVE BEEN LINKED TO SERIOUS DISEASE INCLUDING CANCER.
Despite widespread publicity about the potentially toxic nature of some ingredients in cosmetic and skincare products and a strong enduring trend towards buying natural/organic, many high profile products still contain ingredients which have been linked (sometimes strongly) to serious disease and disruption of bodily systems and functions.
The David Suzuki Foundation (www.davidsuzuki.org) reported that in a recent US research report one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Many of these products include ingredients which are used as plasticisers (to soften concrete), degreasers (to get grime off auto parts), and surfactants (to reduce surface tension in water, like in paint and inks). Not only is this of concern to our skin and our bodies, it is of great concern for the environment. This study also found that 80 per cent of cosmetic products used in Canada contained at least one of these toxic chemicals.
FACT #02 UP TO 80% OF WHAT WE PUT ON OUR SKIN ENDS UP IN OUR BLOODSTREAM.
There is conflicting evidence around precisely what percentage of a given chemical makes it all the way through to our bloodstream. We do know beyond a doubt however, that many chemicals do.
Consider this excerpt from The Huffington Post;
“We administer effective doses through the skin to our bloodstream…of a patch that prevents pregnancy…or a patch that keeps nicotine in our system without the side effects of smoking. While there may be some chemicals that are too large to enter our bloodstream, many are small enough to penetrate. In 2005, the Environmental Working Group published a combination of two studies that found toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. They screened for more than 400 chemicals, and an astounding 287 toxins were detected within the umbilical cord blood of these newborns. Of these 287 chemicals, 217 were neurotoxins, and 208 are known to damage growth development or cause birth defects.”
Skin is a highly complicated system designed to regulate our body heat, maintain nutrient & moisture levels and of course protect against external harms (bacteria, radiation etc). Many chemicals do not have the ability to penetrate the skin, but some clearly do, and these are absorbed into our bodies. The impact of these toxins can be immediate, and perhaps even worse may not be noticeable for some time.
FACT #03 NATURAL SKINCARE PRODUCTS TODAY ARE NOT ONLY IN HIGH DEMAND, THEY ARE ALSO WIDELY AVAILABLE, OFFERING A REAL ALTERNATIVE.
The organic cosmetics and toiletries market continues to grow at double digit growth and in 2019 was worth over $356mill in Australia alone.
“The natural skincare and make-up industry has significantly grown over the last five years,” says Amina Kitching of 'Safe Cosmetics Australia'.
“In studying the beauty industry, I have seen many advances, notably the growth of natural cosmetic ingredients that are grown here in Australia… [and] many new ‘natural’ cosmetic brands have evolved as a direct result of a competitive market provided by natural and organic ingredient suppliers.”
The ingredient list of a product should be the first port of call in assessing its safety and the extent to which it is natural (or organic).
FACT #04 SKINCARE PRODUCTS LABELLED NATURAL OR ORGANIC ARE HIGHLY REGULATED AND OFFER REAL PROTECTION AGAINST HARMFUL CHEMICALS.
Until recent days using the claim ‘natural’ was largely unregulated. While there were multiple organic certification bodies (seven in Australia and many more globally), there was a real lack of options for truly natural brands to demonstrate they were different/better than other brands which may use a lesser claim such as ‘made with natural ingredients’. If your skincare products claim to be natural but you are unsure about an ingredient, become your own scientist. Start by looking at the Environmental Working Group’s website, ‘Skin Deep’, to check out the toxicity profile of the ingredients in your skincare.
The other general rule is if an ingredient looks more like a chemistry class than a biology class the product may not be so natural after all.
There’s no need to compromise anymore. There is so much choice. It just takes a little time to do some research to find what’s best for you.
HELP OR HARM?
I started researching natural skincare and ingredients myself and in doing so was exposed to the ugliest of truths — the lies the beauty industry perpetuates and the great harm many synthetic ingredients are doing to our skin, our bodies and our planet. In addition I discovered lots of scientific evidence around natural ingredients and their ability to build skin health, prevent premature ageing and even to reverse signs of ageing.
My goal was to create a range of skincare products that married the appeal of the high-end skincare brands (i.e. luxurious and aspirational) with the benefits of 100% natural.
I also wanted to play with the big end of town, not to be what I fondly called “just another musty old brand in the back of a health food shop”.
The philosophy? Luxurious enough for me to want to use and to tell people about. 100% free of synthetic ingredients, transparent and truthful, really effective and kind to the planet (minimal packaging).
My passion though was to see women freed from a life of bondage to the beauty industry and the unhelpful messages from the media.
The constant whisper in our ears...
“you’re not good enough the way you are” ...
“you’re ugly” ...
“you don’t fit in” …
It still makes me mad! The big vision for what was to become ‘Rubifresh skincare’ was to create a new language of beauty; a language built on self-worth not insecurity. By creating a line of skincare products which genuinely build the health of the skin and help the skin’s ability to maintain its own youthfulness we could then start to love the skin we’re in, stop obsessing about how perfect (or not) our faces are and focus on more important things.
I started to share that vision and people caught the passion because the philosophy connects deeply and the products really work. So, let’s take a deep dive into the basics of caring for your skin naturally and explore why this is a far more effective beauty strategy than cosmetic procedures, heavy makeup or expensive mainstream brands.
SKIN CARE MYTHS
MYTH #1 EXFOLIATING IS GOOD… ISN’T IT?
Yes, very good. It removes dead skin cells, helping maintain a youthful glow. However, vigorous or frequent scrubbing is not! Research was done using adhesive tape to test the removal of skin cells. It was shown to progressively increase the permeability of the skin, leaving it prone to breakouts and bacterial infection. So ditch the scraping and be gentle!
MYTH #2! IT’S OK IF I'M TOO TIRED TO TAKE OFF MY MAKEUP!
Makeup prevents the skin from breathing and our skin does most of its renewal during the night-time hours when our bodies are in ‘power saving’ mode. If our skin is not allowed to repair and renew properly overnight it is more susceptible to signs of ageing and will be weaker at defending itself against pollutants, speeding up the ageing cycle. If our skin is prevented from freely renewing, the oils and bacteria remain in our pores and potentially clog them further. Conjunctivitis is also a common infection caused by failing to remove eye makeup at night. This can have serious side effects, including blindness if untreated.
MYTH #3 CHEAP SKINCARE IS JUST AS GOOD… I THINK?
Most cheap skincare products (and many not so cheap!) contain penetration enhancers, fillers, petroleum derivatives, chemically derived fragrances & preservatives. Many of these substances have been scientifically linked to cancer, hormone disruption and other serious conditions. According to various research studies up to 80% of what we put on our skin ends up in our bloodstream, increasing the toxic load our bodies are trying to battle. Honestly, do yourself a favour and spend the extra small amount to buy good quality, natural skincare. Your skin will be so much healthier, clearer, and trouble free… you will never go back!
MYTH #4 I CAN GET AWAY WITH USING NOTHING… CAN I?
I guess it’s a little bit like your nutrition. You may have good genetics, staying slim and active without worrying too much about your diet and exercise. You may think that you are young, so skincare is not necessary right now. However, poor choices will eventually catch up with you. We are exposed to pollutants all our lives and our skin structure naturally changes as we age. From our early 20’s it starts to lose its moisture, plumpness, glow, skin-tone and micro-structure. These are all very good reasons to start making good choices early and taking time to care for your skin.
BUILDING SKIN HEALTH
01. THE IMPORTANCE OF pH
The skin’s natural pH is slightly acidic, forming an ‘acid mantle’ which allows the survival of good bacteria on the surface of the skin, protecting it from any disease-causing nasties. Many soaps and cleansers are strongly alkaline, not only causing dehydration of the skin but also stripping away the acidic protection and opening the skin up to nasties which can cause irritation and damage. Always choose skincare products that are pH balanced to maintain this protection.
02. FREE TO BREATHE
One of the functions of the skin is the excretion of toxins, so poor skincare routines can clog the skin and reduce its ability to do this well. Keeping our skin clean and healthy assists this process and the best way to do this is to regularly cleanse (preferably using a double cleansing system). Double cleansing involves first cleansing with oil (yes oil!) as it provides the deepest clean, removes makeup and helps balance the skin’s own oil production. This is then followed by a lighter gel cleanse to remove any residue and rebalance the skin’s pH. Whatever you choose to cleanse with ensure it is not a foaming product as nothing completely natural will foam.
03. EXFOLIATE TO REJUVENATE
The skin naturally regenerates itself to maintain a fresh, healthy outer surface and bright complexion. When we are young the skin renews itself every 2–4 weeks, shedding dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. As we age this process slows, so that in our 40’s and 50’s it can take up to 60 days.
So our skin needs some help and exfoliating using a gentle scrub is how we remove these dead skin cells, allowing the body’s own anti-ageing process to do its work. Beware of harsh granules and too much scrubbing as it can open the skin up to infection. Use a gentle (preferably natural) scrub every 2–3 days and ensure you keep well away from micro-beads which are present in a lot of scrubs, as they clog our oceans and impact the environment.
04. PACKING THE GOOD STUFF IN
Today there are some really effective, well-researched natural active ingredients that can nourish, moisturise, hydrate, smooth, lighten the skin and so much more. We know through scientific evidence that many of the chemicals we have traditionally used on our skin can cause serious harm — many of them have now been associated with various forms of skin irritation, hormone disruption or cancer.
Most natural ingredients which have been approved for use in skincare will not only avoid these potential risks but will nourish your skin and help it to build its own anti-ageing defences. Look for natural products which contain some good oils (such as avocado, macadamia, camellia, jojoba etc) and active ingredients.
05. KEEPING THE GOOD STUFF IN
While gels and serums are important for penetration of active ingredients, cream-based products (lotions, creams, moisturisers) are important for keeping the good stuff in. A cream will form a barrier to prevent moisture loss and along with this will help the skin perform its other function of controlling the loss of salts, hormones and other precious nutrients. Choose a natural moisturiser with the consistency/richness that is right for your skin. Some prefer a richer texture, others a lighter consistency. The right choice for your skin might also vary at different times of the year.
06. AVOID THE NASTIES
Many chemical or synthetic cosmetic ingredients are now well documented for their association and risk of skin irritation and damage and various cancers. We can no longer ignore such evidence especially when it is not necessarily the most effective route to youthfulness and skin health anyway.
Testimonials spontaneously received from our customers demonstrate a wide variety of skin benefits almost immediately. Some of these include better skin tone, more even skin colour, absence of dryness, reduced fine lines, and the elimination of signs of eczema and other skin irritations. There is proof! Natural is better for your skin, better for your overall health and better for the planet.
BUT WHAT’S THE REAL SECRET TO AGEING?
OK, we can’t really escape without answering this little gem, so let’s start by unpacking what causes premature ageing of the skin.
I always think the best analogy is the decaying of an apple. We’ve all seen what happens to the apple we forgot in the bottom of the fruit bowl. This process is not dissimilar to what happens to our skin as we age. Some of it we can delay, some is inevitable.
Significant structural changes occur in our skin as we age, causing the classic signs of ageing we are all familiar with — lines, sagging, dullness, dehydration, uneven tone and so on. The important point to note is that structural changes start to occur in our mid-twenties. This makes it vitally important to start incorporating good skin care habits and lifestyle choices when we are young.
This is called intrinsic ageing and is inevitable. Along with this the skin’s water-holding capacity decreases (especially after menopause) causing skin to dry out. Cell turnover slows significantly causing the loss of what we’d call our ‘youthful glow’. Good habits involving diet, exercise, stress, sleep and other self-care regimes help delay this process, but this kind of ageing is also an inevitability. We should embrace that!
Exposure to the sun’s UV radiation causes damage throughout our lives and it starts to catch up with us in our later years. Photo-ageing is an accumulation of years of sun damage, causing wrinkles, age spots, hyper-pigmentation and loss of elasticity. We can prevent much of this with good skincare and sun protection choices.
And finally, ageing can be associated with our lifestyle choices including exposure to pollutants, chronic stress, diet, and habits such as drinking and smoking. These all have an effect on skin health and ageing, speeding up the natural ageing process and increasing the speed and severity of skin damage.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND AGEING
Besides the structural changes that occur in our skin as we age, premature ageing can be caused by some nasty little molecules called free radicals. Free radicals like to cause lots of damage.
(they sound cool, but they’re not!) are themselves the result of cellular damage, being left over bits with incomplete chemical structures. They like to continue the path of destruction, finding other atoms to complete their own structure, and in doing so cause damage to other molecules. In effect, they are healthy cells turned bad as a result of trauma and the more trauma we have in our bodies the faster our skin ages. This is why it is so important to limit the production of free radicals in our bodies and prevent them from damaging healthy cells. Free radicals particularly enjoy attacking collagen fibres (the plumping fibres in our skin) and try to complete their own chemical structure at the expense of healthy collagen fibres. If this process continues the collagen becomes dysfunctional and loses its elasticity.
Free radical activity can cause excessive sagging, lifeless/dull skin, uneven skin-tone, blemishes, pigmentation and wrinkles.
The enormous toxic load on our bodies today increases the production of free radicals within the body. Factors such as sun exposure, pollution, smoking, stress, exposure to chemicals and poor diet can all contribute to excessive free radical production.
What we apply to our skin also has an enormous effect on the formation of free radicals as chemical cleaning products, personal care and skincare products all increase the toxic load on our bodies. One way to help fight this damage is to choose natural skincare products and especially those with high concentrations of antioxidant ingredients.
THE BEST KEPT ANTI-AGEING SECRET
Antioxidants are nature’s super-heroes.
Their job is to protect skin cells from oxidative stress (i.e. the work of the free radicals which go rampaging around your body causing all kinds of chaos including cell damage).
To counteract this mayhem we can top up our antioxidants which actually reverse damage and help new cells to grow. What this means for our skin is that antioxidants can reverse the signs of ageing! In practical terms, if you apply products containing high-antioxidant ingredients your skin is encouraged to become firmer with fewer wrinkles, inflammation and scarring and your immune system will be on fire, in a good way.
By applying products with a good dose of antioxidants and supplementing them with healthy, antioxidant-rich foods you’ll really start to notice the difference in your skin and your overall health. It is important however to ensure there’s a variety of these beauties as different body systems use different types of antioxidants. As each antioxidant impacts the body differently, combining them will attack those rebellious free radicals from all angles, working together to fight the signs of ageing.
In a world full of toxins this kind of external help is necessary to give your skin a healthy, natural glow and reverse premature wrinkles and fine lines. Imagine — skin so healthy, you never worry about signs of ageing again!
THINGS YOU CAN DO NOW
1. Ditch the toxins – switch to natural skincare.
2. Don’t go all cheap on your skincare products.
3. Ditch old products – they’re dead!
4. Take your makeup off daily and get down and deep with double cleansing.
5. Add extra nourishment/actives, especially antioxidants.
6. Read the label – ditch anything you don’t understand.
7. Exfoliate to renew your glow, but not too hard and not too often.
8. Keep all the good stuff in with a natural moisturiser that’s right for your skin.
Written by Tristan Fahey
Owner/Founder of Rubifresh Skincare & Wellness