When I had acne, I used to think that results and tough love went hand in hand – harsh peels, foaming face washes….anything that stung. I thought that if it hurt, it worked. I could not have been more wrong. Not only does this approach create blotchy, sensitive skin, but it also created signs of aging. Gasp! Yes, all skin damage creates free radicals – those pesky molecules that wreak havoc on our skin tissue and creates even more skin damage. This is why sun burning leads to sun damage as well as why those of us who over peel and over wash show fine lines, dehydration and a rough texture far more quickly than those who are gentle and supportive to our skin.
But what does being gentle mean? Not washing your skin? No. Never exfoliating? Definitely not. It just means being kind to your delicate complexion and respecting the barrier function of your skins tissue. Here are some easy tips on how to harness your gentle side and prevent premature signs of skin aging.
Avoid drying ingredients: Even natural ingredients can be astringent. Only use drying hydrosols, essential oils and herbs on occasion or when necessary – like disinfecting a blemish. Using pure tea tree daily on your skin is too harsh unless trying to kill infection as dryness reaps irritation. Opt for something gentler like lavender for a daily antiseptic. Ultra sensitive skin should avoid all natural purifying essences such as pure peppermint or pure rosemary. Instead, use products which do not contain strong essences and are diluted in water/ hydrolat or vegetable oil.
Stay away from irritants: Never use products which over stimulate or irritate. Avoiding allergens is fundamental. The more stress your skin is put under, the less healthy it becomes and encourages more inflammation leading to free radical creation. This is like our holistic body: if we eat foods which we have sensitivities to, it will tax our overall immune system, cause inflammation and damage in the long run.
Stop over exfoliating + over washing: Over peeling and over cleansing disturbs the acid mantle of the skin, leaving it depleted and vulnerable. This causes irritation and leaves the skin open to skin infection, irritation etc. And when exfoliating and cleansing, use a gentle product which respects the delicacy of your skin – sensitive skin types should stick with exfoliating agents such as jojoba wax beads and ditch high percentage peels or hard, jagged kernel shells.
Avoid chemical ingredients: Using chemical dyes, perfumes and detergents aggravate and damage our skin. One common ingredient to avoid in skincare is sodium laurel sulfate – a harsh detergent that is often used as a degreaser for industrial equipment. Another ingredient to avoid is petroleum (also known as petrolatum or paraffidium liquidium or mineral oil). This petro-chemical clogs pores – remember, clogged, dehydrated skin is more sensitive and prone to irritation.
Gentle touch: Be gentle when touching your own skin. Don’t handle your skin roughly or rub abrasively. Love your skin and be gentle. When receiving extractions, make sure that your esthetician is also gentle. They should never try to force comedones out, and only extract what leaves pores easily. This will decrease damage form inflammation as well as prevent acute scars.