Each season brings it’s own challenges for your skin. This time of year, Portlanders are transitioning out of an exceptionally long summer—which brought with it a lot of oxidative stress to our skin cells from UV radiation, sunscreens, dehydration, air conditioning, more smog than we are accustomed to, and an increased intake of margaritas on sun-drenched patios. Thanks to all that fun in the sun, your skin may look and feel tired, stressed, inflamed, congested, or uneven.
To make matters worse, fall is on the horizon—and with it comes different set of skin challenges. Here in the Northwest, we can usually expect the air to turn the kind of crisp cool that inspires us to turn up the heat. Our skin gets the double whammy of being dehydrated from summer and then exposed to drying heaters and forced air. Yikes! So what can we do to lessen the stresses on our skin and help it look and feel healthy, balanced, vibrant, and prevent pre-maturely aging ourselves?
1. Stop aggressively cleansing
“This is the number one way people mess with the balance of their skin. Over cleansing and exfoliating disrupts the natural balance of your acid mantle— a protective layer supplied by a combination of water and oil that your skin produces—which is your immune system’s first line of defense. Unless you work in a coal mine you do not need to be power washing your skin! If your skin feels squeaky clean, tight, and in need of moisturizer immediately after washing, you’re doing too much. Stick to gentle plant milk cleansers or cleansing oils to gently emulsify residue and flush the pores without stripping the acid mantle. For those suffering from acne, stop scrubbing—give this a try even though it sounds counterintuitive. Your skin will heal much more quickly and be far less irritated if you can get away from punishing cleansers.”
2. Give your skin extra protection and support
“Because skin is designed to take care of itself with a protective layer of oil and water, it makes sense that mimicking that process is the best way to take care of it. I am a huge fan of layering pure plant hydrosols that balance the pH of the acid mantle with light nutritive oil serums to strengthen the skin’s defenses and resiliency with antioxidants. People who produce a robust amount of oil may not need more moisture support than that while someone who doesn’t produce much oil will benefit from anchoring that oil and water with a richer, plant-based moisturizer. An extra layer of protection between your skin and the environment can dramatically reduce the accumulation of environmental stress that speeds up aging.”
3. Listen to your skin
“In my opinion, 98% of the chronic imbalances and irritation you see in your skin are coming from inside, not from what you are doing or not doing on the surface. Whether you are experiencing acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, or any other symptom of redness and irritation, these are all different expressions of heat looking for a way out. We are all unique, so it can take some detective work to figure out what the root causes are. The variables can include food sensitivity, over-use of antibiotics, prolonged stress, toxic exposure, hormonal imbalance, and more. So be curious about it and seek out the support of a Naturopath or Doctor of Chinese Medicine who is specially trained in healing the inflammatory response.”
4. Feed your face!
“The food you put in your body is very literally transformed into the cells that make up your body and skin. Whole, organic plant foods help push toxins and waste out of your cells and provide the nutrition for them to be their best. Just as our digestive system is confused and irritated with junk foods, so is our skin disrupted and under-nourished with over-processed junk products. We absorb as much as 80% of the ingredients we apply to our skin. The average American woman is putting over 200 carcinogenic chemicals into her blood stream before breakfast between all the hair, body, make-up, and fragrance products! Be a conscious consumer, and look for products with few ingredients that have recognizable names. When in doubt, shop at the health food store. If you have had a product in your bathroom for 5 years and it hasn’t gone bad, throw it out. Even microbes aren’t interested in it—that can’t be good.”
5. Get a facial!
“The world of skin care is so huge and overwhelming. You may spend a lot of time and money on products that are not appropriate for your skin. I personally try to give my clients a general prescription that they can take with them so they are less likely to get suckered by products with marketing claims that may disrupt the health of their skin. A facial with the change of the seasons is an awesome way to make sure you are staying on track.”