Skinemies | 10 Enemies of the Skin
10 enemies of the skin
After putting together the SKINCARE MATCHMAKER QUIZ in order to help women figure navigate the confusing cosmetics aisle. I’m a big advocate for understanding the relationship between lifestyle and skin health.
While our beauty routines and challenges may differ, what we all have in common are what I call the Enemies of the Skin, or if you're into nicknames, skinemies. Look over the following list, and ask yourself which are your biggest skinemies.
SKINEMY NUMBER ONE: DIET
I know, I know. We all love ice cream and nachos. It's practically un-American to not indulge in high-sugar, refined carbohydrates, and rainbow-colored snacks. Just be aware that acne is linked to a high sugar, refined carb diet. Acne is brought on by inflammation, and salty, surgary foods trigger inflammation. Unbalanced skin tone, sagging, wrinkles, and rashes (oh my!) can be brought on or made worse by a lack of nutrition. Eating healthy fats (like EVOO, eggs, and avocados) and plenty of veggies and fruits helps skin-cell turnover. This increases collagen and even helps protect your skin from the sun.
In addition to environmental factors and topical triggers, junk food, dairy, polyunsaturated oils and highly processed foods can be to blame for skin flare ups. How often are you eating these types of foods? Once a day or at every meal? One study found that processed foods with added sugar make up 60 percent of the calories consumed in the United States! [BMJ Open 6 2016 by Euridice Martinez Steele et al ]
Bottom line: If your skin is out of whack, clean up your diet and see what happens.
SKINEMY NUMBER TWO: DEHYDRATION
Your skin is 60-70% water. Your body is between 55% and 60% water. Babies bodies are up to 78% water, and we know they have the best skin! [Water Properties ] Water helps flush toxins from our bodies, regulates our temperature, aids with digestion, lubricates joints, and helps deliver oxygen and nutrients all over the body. Ever go outside in the winter and notice your cheeks are all red? That's called windburn, and it's the result rapid dehydration. If rapid dehydration occurs just by walking outside in cold weather, think about how general dehydration can affect your skin over time.
Bottom line: Drink up, buttercup!
SKINEMY NUMBER THREE: LACK OF EXERCISE
My skin looks AMAZING after a hot yoga session. It allows me to sweat out my worries and my toxins leaving a youthful, rosy glow. What does exercise have to do with our skin? Exercise increases blood flow. Blood flow is what allows oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the body. Think of your veins as the roadways and exercise as the fuel that drives oxygen and nutrients to our skin cells. We are not meant to be sedentary creatures. If you work a desk job, get up every 30-60 minutes to stand up and walk around. Think you'll look like a crazy person? Who cares what Barbara in Accounting thinks. Better yet, team up with Barbara and take a lap together.
Bottom line: Sweat it out - walk, run, dance, jump, take a fitness class, ride a bike. It doesn't matter how you move, just move.
SKINEMY NUMBER FOUR: SMOKING
Smoking is not just bad news for the lungs; it also wreaks havoc on our skin. Smoking breaks down collagen, restricts blood flow, and destroys vitamins A and C. It can lead to wrinkles, ashen skin, and of course, emphysema and cancer. There's really no positive side to smoking, and at this point it doesn't even look cool. As my kids will tell you, only old people smoke.
Bottom line: Smoking is nasty. Get the help you need to quit and replace that addiction with a healthier one, like Cross Fit, running, knitting, or pretty much anything other than sucking on the 600 ingredients that make up a cigarette.
SKINMENY NUMBER FIVE: ENVIRONMENTAL & CHEMICAL POLLUTANTS
We are constantly exposed to pollutants both indoors and outdoors. In any given day, we will face all types of pollutants that can trigger allergies, eczema, and asthma. While outdoor pollution is a much bigger agenda to tackle, you can take steps to make your house more of a safe haven from pollution. Read these Healthy Living Home Guides from the Environmental Working Group to learn more about environmental hazards in the home. Household products like cleaners and laundry detergent often contain allergens and potential skin irritants.
Bottom line: If you are experiencing allergic reactions such as sneezing, watery eyes or eczema in your home, take a closer look at your household cleaning products. Also invest in a good HEPA air filter. It makes a big difference!
SKINEMY NUMBER SIX: FRAGRANCE
Here's the thing about fragrance. Fragrance (or parfum) as an ingredient is, at best, a synthesized blend of lovely scents and, at worse, a means to camouflage all kinds of chemicals in a product. Companies aren't required to disclose what's in fragrance because they are made up of hundreds of chemicals. It's just not practical to list all of that text on a 2 ounce cosmetics bottle. Fragrance is a HUGE allergy trigger for people, and it's not just perfume. Fragrance is used to mask unpleasant smells in products or add a scent to something that would otherwise smell blah.
Bottom line: If you get eczema or rashes, take a look at your candles, air fresheners, perfumes, and body washes. Is smelling like cake batter worth it if your skin is red with patches and itching like crazy??
SKINEMY NUMBER SEVEN: ESSENTIAL OILS
Oh, how I love essential oils. They are like fragrance's hippie cousin who eats nothing but organic foods and smells like jasmine. But as much as I love essential oils for their amazing plant properties, earthy scents, and overall organic appeal, they can be extremely irritating to the skin. Respect the power of essential oils. They are extremely concentrated, which is why they have those cute little droppers instead of a big ol' hole to pour out. Never put undiluted essential oils on your skin. Essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil (like jojoba oil, avocado oil, camellia oil, etc). Never ingest essential oils (even when diluted). If you are using natural or even certified organic skincare products and getting rashes, check the ingredients for essential oils. One or two or all of them may be the problem.
Bottom line: Understand that essential oils are concentrated and therefore strong. They are meant to be diluted with water or a carrier oil. Also note that essential oils, like fragrance, can be skin irritants and allergy triggers.
SKINEMY NUMBER EIGHT: THE SUN
We all know to wear sunscreen. The funny thing is we lather our faces in SPF 50 and then sit in an office all day, go home and eat dinner, and watch TV. Other than spending hours at the soccer field on the weekends and the very rare trip to the beach, most of us don't seem to be getting much sun. This may be why so many Americans are Vitamin D deficient. We need Vitamin D for cell growth, healthy bones, immune health, and brain health. Vitamin D is not in many foods (notice milk and cereals are fortified with Vitamin D), so we have to get it from the sun or supplements. Some Vitamin D researchers suggest 5-30 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen at least twice a week will provide enough Vitamin D.
Bottom line: Be sensible about sun exposure. Yes, sunscreen is important to prevent skin cancer and wrinkles, so definitely keep wearing it if you're going to be outside for more than 30 minutes or you’re prone to sunburn. But it's also important to get outside and enjoy nature and get that healthy dose of Vitamin D! Sensible sunlight helps ward off depression, too.
SKINEMY NUMBER NINE: STRESS
Stress is practically an epidemic these days, and it's pretty understandable. It's also unavoidable. On any given day we are faced with many little life stressors like traffic, an annoying co-worker, a no-show client, your husband leaving his socks on the floor, and big life stressors like illness, layoffs, break ups, addictions and mental illness. Stress will show up in your body in the form of illness and in your skin in the form of acne, rosacea, and eczema. You cannot avoid stress, but you can control how you react to it. Don't run from your stress or bury it - address your stress. Allow yourself to feel it and release it. This simple act of mindfulness will do wonders for your mind and your body.
Bottom line: Take time for yourself to do things you love or to just do nothing! We are addicted to productivity. It's ok to have no agenda sometimes. And if you really want to help your stress levels drop, meditate for at least 5 minutes daily, 10 minutes if you can swing it.
SKINEMY NUMBER TEN: TOPICAL IRRITANTS
Anything has the potential of being irritating to our skin. This goes for both synthetic and natural ingredients. That's why it's important to know what substances irritate YOUR skin because it may be fine for someone else. There are, however, some ingredients that are bigger offenders than others. For example, the preservatives Propylene Gylcol and Methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone are top triggers for contact dermatitis as well as the natural ingredients Limolene and Linalool (both found in essential oils). Check out my article on the top 26 allergens in personal care products for more information.
Bottom line: Topical irritants are pretty common in skincare and not always easy to figure out because our skincare products typically contain dozens of ingredients. Check your labels on products that touch any areas of your skin that appear red or itchy and look for possible irritants. Choose skincare brands that have fewer ingredients to make it easier to determine skin irritants.
While battling the Enemies of the Skin may not be as fun as buying a beautiful organic skincare kit, I think it's empowering. There is a lot we can do to set ourselves up for skincare success. We so often change brands hoping to find that miracle product when we really need to start by changing our lifestyle.
Please remember, I am not a doctor! If you're experiencing skin problems that are just not getting better, go see a dermatologist. For more info on the medical side of skin health, check out this informative website of famed NYC dermatologist, Bobby Buka, MD.