October 2004

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Natural Skin Care

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Natural Skin Care
Taking Care of Your Skin this Winter and Beyond

by Ingrid Gulliksen, WSGC Staff

Your skin: it’s your body’s largest organ and the largest organ exposed to the outside environment. Skin has seven cell layers and 640,000 sensory receptors; it protects us from negative outer influences and it reflects our inner influences. According to chemist and internationally recognized Ayurvedic skin care expert Pratima Raichur, your skin’s ultimate function is to act “as a physical indicator of the subtlest workings of mind and body.” Your skin is one way—but not the only way, Raichur emphasizes—in which your body reflects inner imbalances.

Most of us begin life as healthy babies with perfect skin that is delightfully soft, supple, smooth, bright, and blemish-free. This “baby soft skin” is the standard of perfection which we use to measure aging and life-changes. Although we can’t stop the calendar, we can, with a little time, effort, and discipline, take good care of our skin and maintain a lifelong healthy and youthful glow.

Basic skin care steps
Regular daily cleansing and moisturizing (hydrating) is a first, basic skin care step for both men and women. This simple routine is essential in protecting the skin from its constant exposure to the outer environment. Be sure to choose cleansing and moisturizing products that are appropriate for your particular skin type. If you’re unsure of your skin type, look up the information in a well-researched reference book such as Rona Berg’s Beauty: The New Basics, or consult an aesthetician or health care professional. In addition to the daily cleansing/moisturizing ritual, taking good care of our skin also includes regular exfolation of both face and body. And finally, regular application of a soothing, nourishing facial mask is a necessary bit of pampering that we all, men and women alike, need to do to take superb care of our skin. As with all skin care products, it’s important to make sure that you purchase exfoliating products and facial masks that are right for your individual skin type.

Choosing skin care products: caveat emptor
Because any substance that goes on your skin also goes into and through your skin and then into your bloodstream, it is vital to select skin care products carefully. Rona Berg, in her wonderful book Beauty: The New Basics, states that “Since the United States Food & Drug Administration spends only about 1% of its budget to monitor the entire beauty industry, the industry has remained largely ‘self-regulated.’ In other words, while in theory there are industry standards to uphold and truth-in-advertising rules to adhere to, in actual practice cosmetics manufacturers are free to say and do almost anything to sell their product. Barring certain prohibited color additives and the obviously forbidden ‘poisonous and putrid ingredients,’ only a few—10, actually—are explicitly prohibited for use in cosmetics. And unless a company makes a drug claim for its product (for example, that it will ‘cure, prevent or mitigate a disease’), just about any fancy verbal footwork will fly.” Whew! What are we consumers to do?

It’s all about homework
We can make sense of it all by doing our homework. First, we need to arm ourselves with a reliable reference book which lists ingredients found in skin care products and those ingredients’ effects. A good example is A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter. Then all we need to do is read the ingredients on the skin care product’s label, reference the ingredients, and decide whether or not to purchase the product. Incidentally, some labels have notoriously miniscule print so it might be a good idea to bring along a magnifying glass just in case! It is commonplace for some skin care products, even those using the word “natural” on their labels, to contain chemicals that are either suspected carcinogens or known carcinogens. In addition, many skin care products also contain chemical ingredients that are potential allergens and that may cause dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, dermatitis, skin eruptions and peeling, and numerous other reactions. However, it is not correct to assume that all chemicals found in skin care products are harmful. In her fabulous book Absolute Beauty, Pratima Raichur states that some chemical ingredients in skin care products are considered to be safe; a few examples are propylene glycol, glycerin, sorbitol, and butylene glycol. To be informed, discriminating consumers, it is important for us to look up the ingredients in our products and their effects before purchasing and using any skin care product.

Cold weather skin care: moisturize!
Autumn is upon us; the days are shorter and the nights chillier. Winter will be here before we know it. Our Wisconsin winters are notorious for their frequently ultra-dry air and bitterly cold wind. Overexposure to dry, cold wind is damaging to the skin, dehydrating it and putting pressure on the epidermis—the protective top layer of skin which is composed of dead cells. When the cold and pressure are extreme (think 50 below zero wind chill), the dead cells burst, leaving the living, young skin cells of the dermis layer exposed prematurely. As a result, these unprotected cells become inflamed, causing a tingling sensation on the skin.

Moisturizing the skin is always important, but during winter it is essential to be vigilant about keeping your skin well-hydrated. Try not to stay outdoors any more than absolutely necessary when the weather is bitterly cold and windy, and be sure to cover your face well. In warm weather we tend to shower often, not only to cleanse ourselves but also to feel cool and refreshed in the heat and humidity of summer. But in winter’s cold, extremely low-humidity weather it’s best to try to shower less frequently in order to avoid skin dryness. It’s also a good idea to hydrate your skin by massaging with oil—such as almond or jojoba—prior to taking a shower. An occasional steam bath is beneficial, but avoid saunas because they are dehydrating. Indoors, keep the temperature as low as you comfortably can, and use a humidifier or a bowl of water on your radiators to add moisture to the air. And before going out into the cold, make sure that your skin is well-hydrated from head to toe. Whether your preference is cream, lotion, or oil, take the time to apply moisturizer to both face and body each and every time you step out into the winter weather-your skin will thank you for it.

We’re here to help
The Health and Wellness Department is here to help you prepare for the cold months ahead. Our selection of skin care products will keep your skin clean, hydrated, healthy, and looking and feeling great. Skin care items on special for the entire month of October are: 5 oz. size Dr. Bronner’s soap: almond, unscented baby mild, eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint; .5 oz. size Aura Cacia essential oil: eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, orange, patchouli, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree, and ylang ylang; 23 oz. size Sunshine Spa herbal salt scrub: vanilla, lavender, peppermint rosemary, and tangerine; 16 oz. size Sunshine Spa brown sugar scrub: vanilla orange, and mango ginger; 6 oz. size Sunshine Spa herbal body butter: vanilla orange, cucumber melon, lavender, and mango.

Winter is just around the corner
Can’t you just hear the snow crunching under your boots? Fun-filled days of skiing, ice skating, and tobogganing will soon be here. So take good care of your skin, bundle up well, and get out there and enjoy yourself!