Let’s Learn About A Guide to Natural Skin Care Products

In today’s world of eco-conscious living, being good to the environment is a high priority, whether you’re buying light bulbs or a cream for dry skin andwrinkles. And cosmetics companies take advantage of that by offering natural skin care products with ingredients that are touted as being better for your skinand environmentally friendly.

“Natural skin care is more of a marketing term than a scientific one,” says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, a dermatologist and professor of dermatology at St. Louis University and president of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation.

Related: 10 Foods for Healthier Skin

 

“Products that have botanical ingredients that come from plants or nature — think honey or beeswax — tend to be labeled as natural,”’ says Dr. Glaser. They may or may not have the same ingredients that other products do. And you can find them everywhere, from drugstores to department store makeup counters to boutiques and even at dermatologists’ and plastic surgeons’ offices. In fact, so-called natural skin care products are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to tell whether they’re any better for you than other products.

“‘Natural’ really doesn’t tell you anything,” Glaser says. “It’s a way of marketing [a product] to make you feel good about its use when people are trying to be green and think environmentally.”

In some cases, natural skin care products may be the way to go, but not always. “Poison ivy is natural, but that doesn’t mean you want to rub it against your skin,” Glaser says.

The Benefits of Natural Skin Care Products

There are some ingredients in natural products that are soothing and calming to the skin, even if your skin is sensitive. Glaser notes the benefits of these ingredients:

  • Soy. Products that contain soy can soothe the skin while fading dark discolorations.
  • Feverfew. This herb can calm irritated, dry skin that’s prone toeczema.
  • Antioxidants. Vitamins C and E have real benefits for the skin. They scavenge for free radicals, which damage cell DNA, leading to wrinkles and skin aging. Unfortunately, many over-the-counter products don’t have a high enough concentration of antioxidants for them to be effective. But you can buy products such as CE Ferulic (which contains vitamins C and E) and Revaléskin (made from coffeeBerry extract) from a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon, Glazer says.

Natural Skin Care Concerns

Sometimes natural skin care products aren’t the best choice when you’re shopping for a moisturizer for dry skin or a cream to treat your wrinkles, Glaser says. Among the drawbacks are:

  • Sensitive skin irritation. Your skin type should dictate the type of products you can use, Glaser says. Someone with rosacea or sensitive skin — and about half of all women think they have sensitive skin — can be irritated by alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid, which are natural ingredients.
  • Allergic reaction. Allergens in natural skin care products can cause problems for some people.
  • Breakouts. Someone who’s acne-prone may not be able to tolerate natural lotions that contain oils because they may clog pores and lead to breakouts.
  • High cost. You can find expensive traditional and natural skin care products, but in general, natural skin care products tend to be a bit more costly. An oil-free traditional face cleanser is about $5 for 5.5 ounces, while a natural cleanser that contains bark, chamomile, rosemary, and echinacea costs about $9 for 6 ounces at the drugstore.

What to Look For in Natural Skin Care Products

The key to choosing natural skin care products is to choose wisely. When you’re shopping for skin care and you’re considering natural products, keep these things in mind:

  • The fewer ingredients, the better. When you’re buying any type of skin care product, including natural products, look for one with few ingredients, Glaser says. Natural skin care products tend to have extra ingredients added to them, but the more that’s in it, the more likely it is to cause irritation or an allergic reaction, she says.
  • Big brands tend to be better. Big companies such as Neutrogena, Dove, Oil of Olay, Aveeno, Cetaphil, and others test their products before putting them out on the market, so they’re unlikely to cause skin problems, notes Glaser.
  • Try retinol or retinoids. Retinol, sold over the counter in various products, and retinoids, which are available by prescription as tretinoin (Vesanoid) and tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), are derivatives of vitamin A that help reduce wrinkles. They’re natural products that really work, Glaser says.

The bottom line is that you should choose products that work for your skin, gives you results, and have the feel and fragrance that you enjoy.

It’s a matter of trial and error, says Glaser “Part of the challenge is to find ingredients that work for you.”

Steps to Use a Skin Exfoliant

Our skin is constantly renewing itself, growing new skin cells to replace the surface skin cells that grow old, die, and fall, or slough, off. Every minute of every day, between 30,000 and 40,000 dead skin cells flake away.

Factors like age and dry skin can mean that dead skin cells don’t fall away as easily as they should. When these cells build up, they can make the complexion look rough and pasty and can also contribute to the clogged pores that lead to adult acne. The regular yet careful use of a skin exfoliant can help slough off dead skin cells and uncover fresh, more youthful skin.

There are two main types of skin exfoliants: mechanical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants. Both are commonly available, and both have pros and cons regarding their use and the types of skin conditions for which they are most appropriate.

Mechanical Skin Exfoliants

Mechanical exfoliants work by sanding off dead skin cells using mildly abrasive substances. These skin exfoliants typically are facial scrubs, creamy cleansers with tiny, rough particles. As you gently massage the exfoliant over the surface of your face and skin, the friction works to loosen the old skin cells.

Mechanical skin exfoliants are readily available in drugstores and easy to use. They are particularly good for people with oily skin or acne, as they remove skin cells and debris that clog pores, but only if you don’t scrub too hard as this can cause further irritation.

However, mechanical exfoliants can be harsh. When you use them, you’re literally sanding away the outer layer of your skin. Some contain particles so jagged and rough that they could actually cut the skin. Because of this, dermatologists recommend using a gentle motion when using a skin exfoliant, and skipping them altogether if you have sensitive skin.

Chemical Skin Exfoliants

A chemical skin exfoliant uses gentle acids to dissolve whatever bonds are preventing the outer layer of dead skin cells from falling off your face and body. There are two main types of chemical skin exfoliants, those that include an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and those that include a beta hydroxy acid (BHA):

  • Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from different foods, from fruits, such as apples and grapes, to milk. Some of the most common AHAs to look for on product labels are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, alpha-hydroxyoctanoic acid, and triple fruit acid. An alpha hydroxy acid is best for people with dry or thickened skin.
  • Beta hydroxy acids are the chemical cousins of alpha hydroxy acids, but are more oil-soluble and therefore better at exfoliating oily skin or acne-prone skin. The best known beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid. On product labels, look for salicylate, sodium salicylate, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, or tropic acid.

Alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid skin care products tend to be less harsh on the skin than mechanical exfoliants. They also help refresh the skin in ways a facial scrub can’t: They lower the skin’s pH level and help smooth small, shallow wrinkles, improving the look of skin that is dry or sun damaged.

Finding the right formulation for your skin involves some trial and error. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should choose alpha hydroxy acid-based chemical exfoliants with an alpha hydroxy acid concentration of 10 percent or less and a pH of 3.5 or more. Beta hydroxy acid-based exfoliants containing salicylic acid are effective at levels of 1.5 to 2 percent. Using stronger solutions can cause skin irritation.

Another caveat: These types of exfoliants increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun for as long as a week after each use. Before going out, always apply sunscreen — a skin-saving recommendation for everyone.

How and When to Use Exfoliants

You should not use an exfoliant every day. Your skin needs time to regenerate its topmost layer, which exfoliation strips away. People with dry skin should only exfoliate once or twice a week, while those with oily skin can exfoliate two to four times a week. Stop using an exfoliant if you find your skin becoming irritated or developing a rash. Remember to moisturize your skin after exfoliating, to soothe it and keep it from drying out.

Tips to Find the Right Skin Moisturizer

Feel overwhelmed when you want to buy skin moisturizer for your dry skin? That’s no surprise, as there are dozens to choose from at the drugstore and hundreds more at high-end cosmetics and department stores — creams, lotions, ointments, some with sunscreen, others with an exfoliant. Choices range from the basic $1.50 jar of petroleum jelly to a $500 five-ounce tub of designer skin moisturizer. And all the options in between can make your head spin.

While choosing the right skin moisturizer may seem confusing, it’s actually very simple if you follow a few guidelines, says dermatologist Monica Halem, MD, of ColumbiaDoctors Eastside in New York City. Dr. Halem’s first rule of thumb? Don’t spend too much money.

How a Skin Moisturizer Works

Cleansers and moisturizers are the most important skin products, particularly for softening dry skin. A skin moisturizer works by sealing moisture into the outer layer of the skin and by pulling moisture from the inner layers of skin to the outer layer.

Key ingredients that seal in moisture are petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, and dimethicone. Glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, urea, and vitamins help attract water into the outer layer of the skin.

Some skin moisturizers also contain an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which exfoliates dead skin, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. AHAs are a good choice if you have very dry skin.

Finding the Skin Moisturizer For You

It may take some trial and error, Halem says, so be patient. Follow these guidelines as you shop and, if you’re not getting the results you want, try a new one the next time:

  • Note the first five ingredients. Look for common active ingredients, such as lanolin, glycerin, or petrolatum, Dr. Fusco says. Glycerin is less likely than lanolin to cause an allergic reaction, she says. She also recommends picking a moisturizer that’s made by a reputable company.
  • Go for added sunscreen. Protecting your skin from harmful sun damage is one of the best things you can do to keep your skin looking young, so buy a moisturizer with a sun protection factor of at least 30. You’ll have to do some searching, but more companies are offering face and body moisturizers with sunscreen, Halem says.
  • Make it skin-type appropriate. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so it’s a good idea to use a different moisturizer on your face than you do on your body, Fusco says and recommends buying one that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores. Of course, choose one that’s right for your skin type. If you know you have sensitive skin, it’s always a good idea to look for a moisturizer labeled hypoallergenic. If you have oily skin, go with a light, oil-free moisturizer. If you have dry skin, get something richer. And if you have combination skin, go with a lighter moisturizer for your whole face and dot drier areas with a heavier cream, Fusco says. Keep in mind that you may need a lighter lotion in the summer, and a cream or ointment in the winter.
  • Consider using a moisturizer with retinol before bed. Retinol is vitamin A for your skin, Halem says. It works by increasing the speed at which your skin cells turn over. You can find it over the counter or by prescription, but use it carefully as it may cause a skin irritation, red skin, or dry skin.

Relief by Prescription

If your skin is very dry, consider a prescription moisturizer. Prescription moisturizers contain the AHA lactic acid, which softens the top layer of your skin and can do a better job if over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t working for you, Fusco says. AHAs such as lactic acid and glycolic acid can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Tell your doctor if you experience burning, irritation, red skin, itching, or a rash.

Another prescription option is a barrier cream, which contains humectants that hold on to moisture longer, Fusco says. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers, she adds.

When to Moisturize

Once you find the right product, moisturize every day and you’ll go a long way toward preventing dry skin and even camouflaging wrinkles. While a skin moisturizer can’t get rid of wrinkles — because wrinkles begin much deeper in the skin due to collagen loss — it can plump up the skin and minimize their appearance, Halem says.

Whichever moisturizer you choose, it will work better if you apply it to damp skin. Think about a sponge that’s dried out, Fusco says. If you put moisturizer on it, it won’t go anywhere. But if you soak the sponge in water and coat it with moisturizer, the sponge will absorb it. Your skin works the same way, happily lapping it up.

Know More About Kick Dry Skin to the Curb

Winters here and with it come the harsh winds of irritated skin. The routine of cold and dry outside and hot and dry inside is wreaking havoc on our preciousskin. So, what’s a girl to do? Thankfully, a lot according to Dr. Doris Day, MD, FAAD, New York dermatologist and author of Forget the Facelift (Avery Books) and Dr. Loretta Ciraldo Miami dermatologist and author of Six Weeks to Sensational Skin (Rodale) who share their winter-protecting secrets.

Be on a hot bath boycott.

In certain parts of the country, it’s chillingly cold. And it is precisely those cold temperatures that may lead many to a huge dry skin culprit:hot, long, baths. “Hot showers strip away your body’s natural oils,” says Dr. Day, leaving your skin dry and tight. Instead Dr. Day recommends taking not-so-hot showers, and then patting dry rubbing totally dry after so your body is a bit damp. “It’s about water retention,” says Dr. Day.

Still using summer products? Aint gonna cut it.

Using a rich cream instead of a lotion will make a huge difference in your skin,” says Dr Day, as lotions are thinner and not as emollient as their thicker cream counterparts. Instead, Dr. Day suggests switching out your light warm weather lotion for a richer, more penetrating cream.

Don’t worry about wrinkles.

“Women often see an exaggeration of wrinkles in the winter,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “because of skins dryness.” So if you look in the mirror and see more fine lines around your eyes and mouth, don’t add more stress to your sensitive skin by freaking out. It is most likely a temporary thing. Instead, defend yourself with a hydrating night cream and a good night’s sleep.

Soak in it.

“It’s important to put moisture back in your body,” says Dr. Ciraldo, and she means literally. Dr. Ciraldo recommends relaxing in a bathtub of tepid water until your fingertips are wrinkled, however long that takes “Your skin has a great capacity for holding water,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “it’s important to get re-hydrated.”

Read ingredients.

Because our skin loses lipids in the winter (the barrier that keeps water in) it’s important to use products that contain lipids, like the ever-popular Ceramides. Dr. Ciraldo also recommends looking for products with Stearic Acid (an animal fat) and Glyco-Lipids, that can also help in preventing moisture loss.

 Get oily.

This is a good time to get on the Flaxseed oil and Fish oil bandwagon. Besides, being high in good-for-you Omega-3’s, these oils help keep the skin supple. Fish oil and flax seed oil supplements can also help improve skin’s appearance and reduce the pain of stiff sore joints, caused by the winter cold and possible the increase of you staying indoors and couch surfing.

 Avoid Soap.

“Many soaps are drying, so it’s important to wash with a liquid non-soap cleanser,” says Dr. Ciraldo. In addition, Dr. Ciraldo suggests looking for cleansers or moisturizers that are possess botanicals, plant extracts like chamomile and lavender which are naturally body replenishing. Botanicals are often soothing as well; ideal for wind chapped or exposed skin.