Several of my friends who follow either this blog, or my obsessive-compulsive interest in this topic, have asked me about skin care practices, so I thought I'd share my general advice on the topic here.
First, I don't think we all necessarily need to be using a plethora of products. And I don't think we need to use a cleanser on our face every day, unless we wear makeup every day. On days when I don't wear makeup, I just use a hot, very damp washcloth to wash the day off of my face. When I do use a cleanser, I am using Amazon Organics Facial Cleanser which I love, it's very gentle, but removes eye makeup efficiently. I never use a toner, and I use either a light moisturizer (I'm using Avalon Organics Daily Moisturizer... yes, it's lavender and no, I don't love that, but it's better than synthetic fragrance,) or EvanHealy's Rosehip Serum. Although, I find that as the summer begins to finally freaking show up, I'm using that one less, as it's a heavier moisturizer. Too much of that makes me break out so I use it sparingly. For spot breakouts, I use EvanHealy's Blemish Treatment roll-on. That thing is a freaking miracle. I woke up with a big, nasty zit the other day, and used it (which really belongs to Maddie....shhhh! don't tell her!) and it was gone within 24 hours.
I've been trying to figure out the right combination of ingredients for a Vitamin C serum for myself, but haven't yet. It's still too sticky, but I'm working on it. More on that later, in a separate page.
Now, I have very cooperative skin. I don't know how much of that is genetics, how much of it is that I take care of my skin like it is my only hope, or how much is just luck. But I do think that in terms of keeping your skin healthy and happy, less is probably more. I think we do a lot of damage to our skin, without realizing it, when we use many of the widely available products, because they tend to have phthalates, harsh cleansers, fragrances, and other nastiness in them. (And don't even get me started on baby wipes! But for SURE, keep them off of your face! And your babies, in a perfect world.) So, my theory is that even if you have problem skin, if you stop using harsh cleansers and start letting your skin repair itself, it's a good start.
If you're adventurous, you could try this method: http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/ I haven't tried it yet.
And if you have acne, here is a website that seems to be helpful: http://www.acne.org/ I have NO idea what's in their products, though. But acne, especially cystic acne, is a medical condition that may not really have anything to do with my crazy theories. Same with rosacea, ( http://www.rosacea.org/patients/faq.php ) and some discoloration. (I have some melasma on my face which drives me crazy, but I'm not willing to use lighteners with hydroquinone. If I find anything else that works, I'll let you know. I may try lemon juice or baking soda....) SO: I am by no means trying to replace medical advice here. (Remember? Art degree?) My obsession is with products and ingredients, it has had very little crossover into biology. What little crossover there has been seems to indicate that for most people, in MY opinion, less is more.
As far as sunscreens go, I have heard that a brand called Burnout is the holy grail. It's rated very low on the risk scale by SkinDeep's database, but it's expensive. I just bought two tubes of it and it was $35. Plus, I had to get it online, and it comes only in a cream. I love the spray sunscreens, but they aren't great for the lungs, airborne particulates; not good. For my face, I'm using Bare Minerals which I don't love either because it's a powder and the airborne particulates issue. But as far as risk and effectiveness goes, it rates well, and I just make sure not to breathe in while I'm applying it to my face. Plus, it seems to be a fairly heavy powder, so it doesn't really fly around much. I'm going to Florida with my fam in a couple of weeks, I'll let you know how well the Burnout works. I've heard great things about it from fair-skinned people.
The thing you want to see in a sunscreen is Titanium Dioxide, or Zinc Oxide.However, you should check with SkinDeep's database, because a lot of sunscreens have these good ingredients, but use them in nano form, which is bad, IMHO. See this report: http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=671 Here is safecosmetcs' 2011 guide for sunscreens: http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/ (I haven't read this yet.)
I am finding that answering Jojo's questions about how "clean" I am in this house is an ongoing thing. For example, I have waved the white flag on hair products. Despite several weeks of trying, I have not found a product whose ingredients meet my standards and work well. Frankly, I just want decent hair back. Some of you may not know this, but once you've been bald, your hair takes on a whole new level of importance. It becomes a symbol of a lot of things: your survival, your battle, your journey back to the "new normal", etc. So, I'm going to roll the dice, but carefully. I'm using Phyto Organics shampoo and conditioner, and they don't have SLS, but they have parabens. (I know. I chose the lesser of two evils. If that makes me a sellout, so be it, but I'm a sellout with clean hair.) As far as styling products goes, they're filthy, but since they mostly sit on the hair shaft, and there's no blood supply there, I think they're probably not particularly harmful. I just wash my hands after application.
I have switched to using vinegar for spraying down countertops and other kitchen cleaning, and maybe will try to clean my bathroom with it today to see if it gets the tub clean. I'll let you know. As soon as we run out of laundry detergent, I'm trying a new laundry soap from Mrs. Meyer (I think?) that's a lot cleaner in terms of ingredients, and water pollution. Again, I'll let you know how it works. I'm also going to start using vinegar as a fabric softener. I have misgivings about it, but I've heard good things.I have noticed that since I've been using only products (as much as possible) that don't contain synthetic fragrances, I can almost smell the phthalates! When I use a product that has harsher chemicals or fragrance in it, it smells very chemical to me. Even products that I used to use a lot and never noticed the smell before.
Something else I learned about products from my friend Randall at Jane Iredale (name drop!) is that about 70% of the contents of any product is listed in the first four ingredients. The rest comprises about 30%. So, the lower down on the label you see a nasty, the lower the percentage of content. (Ingredients are always listed in the order of greatest concentration to lowest concentration.)
I've added a page (see sidebar) about companies that have excellent standards for the ingredients they use in their products, I hope it's helpful. If you know of a company I've missed, please email me and tell me a little bit about them, and I'll look them up & add them to the list!
Next time maybe I'll tackle baby wipes...