My skincare routine part one: Winter

_MG_3796used.JPG

When caring for my skin, I try to keep things as simple as possible. Partly because I believe overdoing it creates a bad circle where the added stress of trying to perfect your skin leads to more outbreaks which leads to more stress and so on, but honestly also because even though I love learning about skincare I’m a bit lazy when it comes down to it.

My routine is ever changing depending on the season, my mood, what new interesting products I find etcetera. At the moment the air where I live is thin and dry because of the cold winter winds, so I use extra moisture and try to liven up my skin with an exfoliating face mask every now and then. My best tip to get a good cleanse and glow in the winter is the sauna. Opening the pores and spending some time in a humid environment does wonders, for both the skin and your mind.

At home however, this is my routine right now:

I have to get up at 5am to go to work every morning, so I keep the to do’s at a minimum. I rinse my face with cold water and spray on a hyaluronic acid mist (by Evolve). I use Egyptian Magic cream for my lips and under my eyes if I feel like my skin is extra dry. That’s it.

After work I wash my face with an olive oil and sea salt soap that has been one of my favourite products since I first found it a few years ago. It lasts forever and costs close to nothing. For my body I like this blackcurrant shower gel, it smells fresh and is environmentally friendly. The bottles can be refilled where I buy them so I don’t have to keep buying more plastic which is also a plus. I’m still in the search of a satisfying body moisturiser so for now I just use coconut oil when needed. On my face and neck I use a hyaluronic acid serum (also by Evolve), then do the same Egyptian Magic routine as in the morning. At night if my skin feels dry I might spray on a bit more mist but otherwise I do nothing until the next morning.

Other than the every-day routine above I use a silk pillowcase when I sleep and it feels so much softer and kinder on my skin than a regular cotton pillowcase. I also use this face mask maybe twice a month, a body scrub once a week, take a multivitamin supplement for general wellbeing, including skin and hair, as well as try to drink enough water.

I should maybe mention that I never use any makeup on my skin. I never have because I’ve never known how to, and because of that I’m completely used to and fine with my skin not being perfect all the time. I rarely have outbreaks and if I do they disappear within a couple of days, but a little redness doesn’t bother me. As long as my skin feels good and healthy, I’m happy.

In a few weeks I’ll be going from winter to summer but since the switch isn’t for that long I’ll keep the routine mostly the same, just leave out the hyaluronic serum in favour of the mist, and add an aloe vera moisturiser for days I’ve been in the sun. Plus of course an spf 50 sunscreen.

Plant oils – the do’s and don’ts

_MG_5113used

There are both fragrant and non-fragrant plant oils used in skincare. Fragrant plant oils (not to be confused with fragrant or synthetic oils), more commonly known as essential oils, shouldn’t be applied onto our skin. The word ’essential’ in essential oil actually refers to the distillation of plant essence (from the root, flower, bark or leaf of a plant), meaning it isn’t in any way essential for our skin but rather a highly concentrated liquid with aroma compounds derived from a plant.

In skincare, essential oils can occur hidden as a ’fragrance’ or ‘natural fragrance’ on the ingredient list, used to make a product smell better. In small amounts used as a fragrant essential oils are safer, but can if not visibly still damage your skin long term. Essential oils used on their own can among other things cause allergic reactions, irritation and sun damage to your skin. In other words, fragrant plant oils don’t do anything to improve the wellbeing of our skin.

The term essential oil in modern skincare is often confused with non-fragrant plant oils. Non-fragrant plant oils are also derived from plants, but contrary to the essential oils (fragrant plant oils) they contain fatty acids and can be worked into your skincare routine to safely keep your skin well hydrated. Non-fragrant plant oils are good antioxidants, but work best when combined with other moisturisers.

Some common examples of fragrant plant oils or essential oils are: lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, rose, lemon, jasmine, grapefruit.

Here’s some oils you should look for instead: coconut, olive, rosehip, jojoba, grape seed, argan.

I will let you know my most used oils as well as my full skincare routine in the next post.

Acids in skincare

_MG_6293

I’ve only recently started paying attention to acids in skincare. My skincare routine is simple, I use few products with simple ingredients, and rarely look for ingredients with specific qualities. A few months ago I was looking for a light moisturiser for the summer, and came across one with Hyaluronic Acid. I quickly looked up what it was and decided to get it. It ended up being the only moisturiser I used all summer and now that summer is over and we’re moving towards dryer times skin-wise, I thought I’d look into hyaluronic acids as well as other acids used in skincare, to know what products to use and why.

It may sound scary to put acid on your skin, and if used wrong or in immoderate amounts some acids might be harmful to your skin. Used correctly, in proper amounts and combined with the right ingredients acids are not only safe to use, they are also very beneficial. A few rules of thumb when using acids is never to mix different types of acids as they often work at different pH levels and mixing them might cause irritation to your skin. Also, you shouldn’t leave out other products in favour of acids from your skincare routine. Some acids are best used as a supplement, maybe every second day. Since most acids work as exfoliants, excessive use might cause irritation and thinning of skin.

There are a few main types of acids most commonly used in skincare.

AHA or alpha hydroxy acids: Examples of AHA acids are lactic, glycolic, malic, tartaric, mandelic and citric acid. AHA acids exfoliate the skin by removing the “blockage” on the surface of the skin so that dead skin can shed more naturally.

Salicylic acid/BHA or beta hydroxy acid: BHA is oil soluble which is why it penetrates the skin and exfoliates deeper in the pores of the skin. BHA is also said to have calming properties and is good for acne or blemish prone skin. For more specific effects or use check with a dermatologist.

Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid exists naturally in our skin and lessens with age and sun exposure. It is a hydratant, meaning it moisturises our skin as well as defends the skin against moisture loss. Hyaluronic acid is safe to use every day, as it doesn’t exfoliate the skin.

L-ascorbic acid or vitamin C: It’s an antioxidant that calms our skin as well as protects it from pollution. Vitamin C is also safe to use more regularly.

Amino acids: They’re a part of proteins, which our skin needs to rebuild itself. Amino acids are water binding and thus moisturising, as well as antioxidants that might have calming effects on your skin.

Retinoic acid: Used mostly by professionals for anti-aging treatments, as it’s an even more deeply exfoliating acid than BHA, and has to be used in controlled amounts. 

Fatty acids: Examples of fatty acids are oleic, palmitic and linoleic acid. They strengthen the skin’s surface against moisture loss and prevent dirt from entering your skin.

Since a lot of these acids are exfoliant (AHA, BHA, retinol), they’re best used at night and you should always use spf (sunscreen) when using these acids in your skincare routine, even during the winter months, to protect from sun damage. When using exfoliating acids, the pH level in the product is important, too high and you might damage your skin by peeling off too much. A good rule is to buy products from trusted companies, always do a patch test (if it stings too much it’s too strong) and don’t use concentrated acids at home. 

I also always try to think that we shouldn’t try to magically heal our skin or change it, but rather accept our natural look with wrinkles and imperfections. A lot of the time these imperfections might disappear with some time and patience.

The products I’ve used are:

Evolve Hyaluronic Serum 200 – it’s quite expensive but available in a smaller size for a lower price. It feels nice on my skin but I haven’t used it long enough to really say if it makes a difference, maybe in the winter it’ll be more noticeable, when my skin is a lot dryer. I have noticed that it seems to dry out the thin skin underneath my eyes a bit, so I avoid putting it there.

Evolve Daily Defence Moisture Mist – is maybe my favourite product at the moment. In the summer it was my saviour, spraying the cool mist in the heat of the European summer was so nice. It moisturised enough so I didn’t need to use any other moisturiser all summer. Now I use it every morning but already have to use some other moisture as well as the air is getting dryer.

I found this Madara Brightening AHA Peel Mask and plan to get it as my first AHA product. Since I have pretty clear skin I won’t use it more that once a week and I’m curious to see if it’ll have a visible effect.

My hair routine, part one

_MG_9264

As I mentioned in my first post, my way down this natural skincare path really started with my hair. I’m still no pro and my hair is far from perfect, but comparing what it was like five years ago to what it’s like today, let’s just say you’d understand my appreciation for natural products if you’d see the before and after.

My hair is very light coloured and wavy or curly (depending on the length), a hair type that is hard to take care of since both curly and blonde hair tend to get dry very easily. I’ve always had trouble growing my hair out, it’s been fragile, extremely dry and thin. I stopped going to the hairdresser probably around 7 years ago because they always cut my hair short, most likely knowing that for my hair type at the time it just looked better. Of course all I ever wanted was long, healthy hair.

When I was in Australia I kind of stumbled upon a set of organic shampoo and conditioner and started using it. Leaving all the chemicals and alcohols off my hair and scalp while at the same time putting my hair up less, being out in the sun more and mainly eating vegetables made a huge difference. Around the same time I also gradually stopped drinking alcohol which I think only could’ve had a positive effect on the well-being of my hair and skin.

I still haven’t even gone close to my hair with a pair of scissors, I guess I got so excited to see it grow and become healthy that I didn’t want to risk ruining it. Now that I’ve found a good routine with good products that seem to be working for my hair type and my lifestyle, I’ve decided it’s finally time to put some extra effort into my routine and see how healthy my hair could really get.

At the moment my hair is long, about halfway down my back, with a whole lot of split ends and still some dryness especially in the winter. I’ll return back to this topic in a few months with part two, and then later next spring with part three. Is it really worth our time and effort to try to keep up hair health and appearance? Or is hair something that is mostly genetic, either you have great, thick, luscious hair or you just have to live with what you’ve got and maybe keep it shorter to keep it looking good?

My hair routine right now:

I brush my hair every day, I try to use my bamboo comb as it’s a bit more gentle, but more often than not I use one of those plastic non-tangle brushes. It works quite well and doesn’t pull at my hair too much.

I wash my hair with shampoo maybe once a week, sometimes less. Honestly, it depends on how lazy I am since it always feels like a huge task. I’ve been using the same shampoo for a while now but I’m trying a different one starting this week, I always feel like I need to use a lot of products to moisturise my hair after washing and that’s not good. I’m giving shampoo soap-bars another go (I’ve tried a few before but they’ve never really worked for me), they’re cheap and usually the ingredients are more fuss-free than those of regular, bottled shampoos.

After washing I use a deep care clay conditioner, I like it because even though it’s quite expensive it’s lasted me almost a year so far and it actually works. It moisturises my hair without leaving it feeling oily.

Once my hair dries or if it ever feels like it needs some extra moisture, I use oil drops. The one I use right now works quite well and is completely natural. It’s a bit expensive considering coconut oil works almost as well. Sometimes it’s nice to luxe it up a bit though, since my haircare routine is so minimal.

I have to have my hair tied up at work every day, so I use a soft, stretchy hair tie that doesn’t pull at my hair, and I try to let my hair down after work.

Lastly, I use a silk pillowcase when I sleep. It’s supposed to minimise friction and thus prevent frizzy hair and split ends (and it’s said to be better for your skin than a regular cotton pillowcase as well). Whether this is true or not, I think the softness of the silk has at least made me sleep better.

I’ll try to make some changes, or maybe rather add some steps, to this routine from now on. First thing I’ll do is give myself a cut, maybe taking about 1-2cm off the ends once a month. I’ll also look up some good DIY hair masks that I can do twice a month and I’ll try the trick of sleeping with my hair braided. If you have some good hair tips, please share!

It’s also important to make an effort to be healthy on the inside, stress less, eat well and exercise. Your outside matches your inside and if your hair or skin isn’t healthy it might be because of a lack of vitamins or minerals, too much stress, hormone imbalance etc.

Here are links to my bamboo comb, conditioner and oil drops.

Remember to always read the label on a product, and keep in mind what products you try and what effect they have on your skin. Every product doesn’t work for everyone, and in natural products there might be ingredients that aren’t suitable for you. Stop using a product if any irritation appears. Also keep in mind all the experiences and opinions on this blog are my own, you make what you want of them.

Natural vs non-natural and some basic chemicals to avoid

_MG_6599

Let’s start with the basics, what does natural, organic etc. mean in a skincare product?

– A natural product is a product that includes any ingredient of plant, mineral, marine- or animal origin. Meaning a natural product isn’t necessarily vegan, cruelty free or organic.

– An organic product is a product that contains a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. This isn’t enough to get an organic seal like the BIO or ECOCERT certificates.

– Vegan/not tested on animals/cruelty free are also labels that you should look for on products, natural and organic doesn’t mean animal friendly.

The first thing you should remember is that all companies, even “conscious” companies label their products for marketing purposes. Just looking for the words “natural” or “organic” on a label isn’t enough. What’s important to do as you take your first steps towards a more conscious skincare routine, is to turn the package around and read the fine print. How high is the percentage of natural or organic ingredients in the product, and is the product vegan and cruelty free?

Once you’ve checked that the product really is natural it is usually safe to use, keeping in mind that allergic reactions can occur from plant-, or mineral based ingredients as well. If you have allergies (and maybe even if you don’t) it’s never a bad idea to try the product on a small part of your skin first to make sure it’s okay fo you to use. Some natural ingredients (for example essentials oils) can cause skin irritation because of the high concentration levels, which is why natural products should come from a company you trust to ensure controlled amounts of each ingredient.

A natural product is often free from preservatives, which is great for our bodies but means the product shouldn’t be used past the use by-date, and should be kept in a dark and cool place (like our food!). They should also preferably come in either glass containers (preferably dark) or toxic-free plastic such as PET and BPA free plastic. Avoid PVC plastics and remember to recycle your containers no matter the material.

With non-natural products, meaning products containing man-made chemicals there are a few rules of thumb that are easy enough to follow.

First, there isn’t a lot of actual research on the harmful effects of these said chemicals, and in small amounts most of them probably wouldn’t be particularly bad, but since we use skin- and haircare products daily the amounts become quite large over time. A lot of the chemicals have also had proven direct effects such as skin irritation.

As well as most likely being harmful for us in long time use non-natural products also have a negative effect on our environment. Both the making of these chemicals as well as when we let them out into the environment affects our planet in a negative way.

An easy thing to do to start choosing better products is looking for products made in the EU or Australia, where the regulations for the use of chemicals is more strict than for example in the US. Looking for “free of”-tags on a product is also good, because even though the product still contains chemicals, the most harmful ones (at least the ones that are said to be the most harmful) are usually not there.

Below is a list of the most common harmful chemicals (and some non-chemicals) in skincare, what they’re used for and what their assumed negative effect is. 

Aluminium: used for example as an anti-perspirant, has been linked to breast cancer and skin irritation

Baking soda: used as an anti-perspirant, can cause skin irritation

Benzoyl peroxide: used for acne treatment, dries out the skin

BHA: used as an exfoliant, can cause allergies

DEA, MEA, TEA: used as emulsifier and fragrance, assumed carcinogen

Dioxins: environmental pollutants, used for example in cotton farming, assumed carcinogen, ends up in tampons (this is why we should use organic tampons or menstrual cups)

Fragrances: used to make a product smell better (often to cover up chemical smells), there are many different fragrances, many are assumed carcinogens or toxins

Imidazolidinyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin: used as preservatives, break down to formaldehyde which can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, assumed carcinogen

Isopropyl Alcohol: used for quickly drying products, assumed carcinogen

Palm oil: not harmful for humans but should be avoided for the negative effects the harvest has on the environment

Parabens, phthalates: used as preservatives, assumed carcinogens

Petrochemicals: used as fragrance, preservatives or to water down a product, assumed carcinogens

Phenoxyethanol: used in organic skincare as preservative, can cause skin irritation

Polyethylene glycol: used for dissolving oil, takes the protective oils off the skin and hair and leaves them more vulnerable to toxins

Quaternium-15: used as a preservative, assumed carcinogen

Sulfates (SLS, SLES): used as foaming agents, assumed carcinogens, can cause irritation to skin and eyes, harmful to the environment, often tested on animals

Synthetic dyes: used to change the colour of a product, assumed carcinogens

Talc: used to absorb moisture, assumed carcinogen, can cause skin irritation

Triclosan: used as a preservative, assumed carcinogen

 

Remember to always read the ingredients on a product, and keep in mind what products you try and what effect they have on your skin. Every product doesn’t work for everyone, and even in natural products there might be ingredients that aren’t suitable for you. Stop using a product if any irritation appears. Also keep in mind all the experiences and opinions on this blog are my own, you make what you want of them.

Starting Natural Bliss

_MG_4423

The idea for starting this blog came from two things: my interest in natural skincare (also including haircare and beauty to some extent) and my curiosity in learning more about a natural way of life – for our own sake and the planet’s. I also feel that with this interest and curiosity I might hopefully inspire other people to take a step toward a more conscious lifestyle by simplifying things. Basically, I’ll do all the research and all you have to do is take whatever you want out of what I find out.

My own way down a more natural path started a few years ago, maybe three, when I was living in Australia for a year. I guess it might’ve been because it was my first time not living at home anymore, I started paying attention to the quality of the products I used. It started with food, checking what vegetables were in season, what had been locally grown and what pre-packaged foods contained. The less additives the better. After food came skincare products, I started looking at the list of ingredients there too.

At first, and sometimes even now, it was really confusing. All these words and names that mean nothing until you actually put time on researching them. How are you as a regular consumer supposed to know what’s good and what’s bad and why you should avoid certain things?

I started with only buying organic, since it seemed like an easy way to go. The first thing I noticed was a change in my hair, I’ve always had thin, dry hair that’s never really grown much. It started getting longer, thicker and felt more healthy. From that my interest started growing and I’ve been trying and learning things as much as I can since then.

Now I want to learn more and share what I learn with other people, so you could either see that big, almost chocking change I saw in my hair (and later my skin as well), or at least do yourself a favour by not putting any more (or at least less) chemicals in your own body and the environment.

Let’s see where this takes us!