Your Skin Barrier: No Trespassing!

Your skin barrier is important and there is a vitality to care for it as it affects the appearance of your skin and health overall. There are alternative products to the mainstream brands for your skin as a whole that are beneficial and won’t destroy or damage the skin barrier.

Conditioned Marketing

Does our skin really need 5+ products to achieve great skin? Cleanser, toner, serums, sheet mask, charcoal mask, moisturizer, face mist…all marketed as ‘essential’ for beautiful skin.

There are plenty of cosmetics companies that are seemingly more interested in marketing to boost their sales than resolving your skin issues. If an ingredient has produced popularity among consumers, other cosmetic companies now want to find a different approach to market their product to compete, which include claims that their product contains more of the popularized ingredient or offers treatment of more target areas than the competitor without listing the risks, actual study results or efficacy of the product/ingredient. Who doesn’t want great skin? We all do, however we also have the ability to fall into the seductive web of consumerism and marketing tactics.

Recently, the use of AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) in skincare products became highly popular as it marketed to offer smoothing fine lines/wrinkles, skin brightening and unblocking pores to produce more youthful skin like celebrities. AHAs are essentially skin peelers and is used as an exfoliant designed to remove the outer layer of one’s skin or the skin barrier. This now popular ingredient can cause burning, blisters, irritation and chemical burns. Practically every brand that has a skincare line offers at least one product (typically a serum) that contains AHA with ranges in pricing, AHA concentration and pH balances which determine the extent of exfoliation.

As consumers, we are conditioned through marketing to think that the more expensive a product is in relation to skin, body and hair care, the more it works. In relation to skin products for the face, we are also conditioned to believe that if the peel burns, it’s doing its job…suck it up and let it burn. In addition to the side effects of AHAs, this ingredient, along with other chemicals, are extremely damaging to skin and although most products will advise of the burning sensation, the product is technically doing its job but it is literally burning the top layer of the skin that protects against fungi and bacteria. Other products such as moisturizers and serums are typically put on after this peel however those same moisturizers and serums also have an assortment of chemicals in them and those same chemicals are now able to penetrate even deeper into your pores, making it more feasible for the skin to become highly irritated, prone to rashes and more burning and most of all: damaged.

Glossier’s advertisements for their skin care products promise dewy and smooth skin to facilitate a better makeup application. The company also claims that they are producing the “new essentials: easy-to-use basics that form the backbone to your unique beauty routine”; these new essentials being an array of skincare products that are marketed as “essential” to achieve the dewy and smooth skin promised. Each skin type (Oily, Dry and Normal) has its own 3-step skincare routine which includes the Milky Jelly Cleanser, a lip balm and a moisturizer geared toward the particular skin type. I typically have dry skin so I chose the Dry skin package to research. There are a total of 13 reviews on the brand’s website and all 13 reviews for the product routine system were 5 stars with satiated comments of their skin’s smoothness, glow and moisture. It all sounds great, almost as if it’s the economical cure for dry skin! However, I am halted as I scroll past the key ingredients of the Milky Jelly Cleanser which include Rose Water and Comfrey Root Extract and come upon the Full Ingredients List button. The slightly cautious buyer could be swayed to purchase by the Key Ingredients already listed next to the product alone as the 5 key ingredients have enticing treatment definitions alongside them such as “Aquaxyl Refills skin’s water reserves and improves its barrier to prevent dehydration” and “Comfrey Root Extract Contains allantoin, which heals dry, stressed skin.” The full ingredients include an assembly of parabens, irritants, dyes and nickel to name a few.

Products may or may not prove to help skin issues such as eczema for example however, marketing claims are allowed to imply that their company’s product does help skin issues. Companies are not allowed to say that a product cures something however they can market it by saying the product is “for eczema-prone skin”. Testing is not even required prior to launching a cosmetic product such as a facial cleanser or body wash that is marketed for a particular target like eczema-prone skin and these companies can still market it as an improvement to eczema symptoms. The cosmetics industry has such an easy entry because there are no requirements to test products or ingredients (like pharmaceuticals are required to do), the products are not required to be FDA approved unless an ingredient that needs approval is being added and the products can be marketed in whatever strategy that companies want as long as the advertisement doesn’t claim that it can cure something.

Everyone’s skin is not the same and will not react the same to any particular product; two people may have eczema and use the same product, one’s eczema could be irritated by a product with chemicals and irritants, the other may not. The question is why risk it? Whether a person has eczema, dry skin, oily, combination or normal… there are alternative skincare products with absolutely no chemicals and offer more benefits than risks and have scientific studies to support it.

Faith In Science

The benefits and risks of skincare products are relied upon the cosmetic company itself or dermatologists and seemingly outweigh the interest in scientists such as epidemiologists, microbiologists and skin investigators.

What is your skin barrier and why is it important not to damage it? The skin barrier is the outer layer of your skin and its functionality protects the skin from external threats such as UV rays, infectious agents, chemicals and allergens. If the skin barrier is broken, it allows those same threats to penetrate to the abyss of your pores and potentially enter your bloodstream which affects your overall health as well. Many autoimmune diseases are associated with a damaged or impaired skin barrier.

Most mainstream skin cleansing products change the functionality of our skin barrier such as facial cleansers and soaps as they are designed to remove all fungi, bacteria from the skin barrier by ways of burning (through chemical peels) or simply washing it all away. This process makes the skin entirely vulnerable to all fungi and bacteria in the environment to land on skin as opposed to removing the bad bacteria/fungi and letting the good remain which fight off the bad bacteria/fungi.

Why such distrust in actual scientists such as epidemiologists, microbiologists and skin investigators who conduct actual studies and put so much faith in dermatologists, facialists or the cosmetic company’s marketing strategy? Have you ever seen an advertisement for a cream or serum that states ‘studies have shown…’? The reality is usually that ‘study’ consists of most likely having 10 people who work for the company try the product and compiling the reviews from them which births the advertisements that state ‘9 out of 10 women said they noticed considerably smoother skin’.

Dermatologists are there at your service to help treat the skin conditions you have and many will prescribe you a topical treatment laced with chemicals or antibiotics. If one doesn’t work, they will likely prescribe you another and another. Extensive exposure to antibiotics and chemicals causes damage to your skin barrier especially at standardized doses that are likely not tailored to your unique skin. Not all dermatologists are prescription-writing freaks or the enemy, however it would be wise to take your time to find one that really cares for your skin issues and wants to resolve them in the safest way possible instead of supplying a quick fix or prescription without knowing the adverse effects of use.

Most ingredients in skin/body products are to preserve shelf life and prevent mold rather than offering much benefit to your skin. The value of preservatives and parabens (such as fragrances) outweigh skin benefits other than the results that most enthusiasts desire: smoothness, youthfulness and mattifying or dewy effect. If we take another look at AHAs, a study performed by Eric T. Parker, an Astrochemist at NASA and Suparatchai Vorarat, found that AHAs used in dermatologic and cosmetic products are usually synthetically produced from sugarcane (glycolic acid), sour milk (lactic acid), and fruits (citric acid and malic acid). One study determined that topical application of 10% GA (glycolic acid) for 12 weeks increased the sensitivity of the skin to UV light and enhanced the formation of sunburn cells. Chemicals in skincare products have similar risks since the chemicals are able to penetrate deep into pores.

Natural Products

An alternative to using chemicals on the skin are natural ingredients and products with studies to support their benefits

Parabens and some chemicals in cosmetics products are synthetic and prevent bacteria that improves the skin’s barrier functionality; I certainly wouldn’t prefer ingredients such as those as part of my facial and body routines.. Upon further research, it seems that natural and organic products and ingredients are the better alternative route to achieve healthy skin and an improved skin appearance. Natural ingredients are derived from the earth and do not contain any synthetic chemicals, parabens, pathogens or preservatives and have far less risks than cosmetics that contain the above. Natural oils and herbs used as cosmetics have equal or more benefits as products with chemicals.

There is probably not a person on earth that hasn’t had at least one battle with acne and our main objective is to eradicate the pimple or cluster of acne on our face and body. If a person sees a dermatologist for acne issues, usually one can expect to receive a prescription for an antibiotic, however if acne persists and an acne-related skin condition is identified (as many people deal with), more antibiotics could be prescribed. However, as antibiotics are prescribed to treat, the microbes located on our skin barrier develops resistance to them and ultimately being unable to solve the condition or soothe the symptoms without causing irritation or prolonged symptoms. It is estimated that one in four acne patients harbors strains resistant to tetracycline, erythromycin, and clindamycin according to a study performed by F Espersen, part of the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Rigshospitalet. The pathogens on our skin develop resistance against the antibiotics that dermatologists prescribe and claim will treat the problem we’re having, essential oils are at least without these semi-synthetic properties and prove to be effective, non-toxic and more tolerable.

A comparative study between benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil in relation to mild and moderate acne to reduce acne lesions found that tea tree oil reduced the acne lesions faster and were better tolerated than benzoyl peroxide. The management of the acne between the two had equal efficacy however the tea tree oil proved to be more effective in improving the number of raised pimples in both inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions and was found to be more effective than benzoyl peroxide. Additionally, the concluding evidence of other studies shows that there is definitely potential for the use of tea tree oil as an additional/alternative treatment to standard wound treatments. Rose, Manuka and Clove oils also displayed noteworthy activity against bacteria linked to acne and are recommended in the aroma-therapeutic literature for the treatment of acne.

Interview with Stephanie Gerold

Stephanie Gerold, the owner and creator of Gaia Bean Skin Parlor which originated in Sandusky, OH, is a one-woman working machine making home-made natural soaps and skincare products. She wholeheartedly cares for the environment and the health of every customer’s skin. See below as we discuss the benefits and healing of natural products:

Gaia Bean Skin Parlor products consist of homemade soaps, massage oils and after-shower oils derived from reputable and natural oils and products available to the public.

What inspired you to start this company?

“When I bought my house on my son’s 1st birthday was when I really started getting into it as far as buying essential oils [and] learning about everything. I started doing my research, I had little notecards and I would write down every essential oil and what they were good for and I started making little concoctions and things for the people around me. I made a face serum for myself, I made one for my daughter and her age group of friends, so I just started experimenting doing different little things and gathering jars and things that I knew one day that I wanted to sell the things that I made. When we say one day it’s like always one day. I work a lot, I work almost 50 hours a week and have a family so it’s always an excuse: I work a lot, cleaning, running errands or even wanting to relax a little bit.

We came into quarantine, I started seeing in my community a lot of small businesses pop up. My brother’s fiancé has a lot of the same interests as I do: gardening, plants, natural skincare and I logged on Facebook one day and I had an invite to like her shop, she came up with the shop. It really inspired me to see someone so close to me do that and it made me feel like ‘Well what the hell am I waiting on? You can do it, Why can’t I?’ When you see somebody close to you be able to do something, it makes it a lot more graspable. I didn’t want to do the same thing she was doing, so I decided to go in the soap direction and start off with the soaps so I just kind of threw it out there like hey guys I can make these soaps, what do you guys think? And it was overwhelming how many people wanted to buy natural soaps. Every moment I was not sleeping or at my job, I was making soaps.”

Stephanie’s insight on palm oil

“Something else that I’ve finding a lot about and that is important to me recently is palm, not using palm oil. It’s a really common ingredient in everything we use, our shampoo, laundry detergent, our soap because it’s cheap and it makes good soap but it’s horrible for the environment. It causes deforestation, the orangutans are becoming endangered because they have nowhere to live. Before I felt like there was no way to have sustainable palm, even the ones that say they’re sustainable, they’re still having to cut down new area to regrow. You can get companies to reply to you on Twitter. What I was reading with Dr. Bronner’s is that they have their own farming area, they have this place in Gahanna, they actually do a ton of wonderful things, as far as what they do for their employees, the fair wages that they pay them. There’s no orangutans in Gahanna, all of the things that there are issues for in growing palm, they are very aware and cautious. You won me over, Dr. Bronner.”

What are your thoughts on chemicals in body and skin care products?

“For me personally, I try to stay away from that stuff but I think there’s some stuff that are hard to replace with natural things. I think that we are not really raised in a society to be earth conscious, when the pharmacy and doctors became really big, we came away from ‘Grandma had all the natural cures’ to now you can cure this in a little pill all the way to dermatology…I guess if you don’t care about it and you just want a quick fix, my Mom just doesn’t care about that stuff and she’ll get mad at me when I say you shouldn’t use that. I don’t like to be judgmental, I still have a lot of people close to me that don’t get into the natural stuff and they’re like ‘Whatever, I don’t care I just want what’s gonna work’. It’s your body, so do you.

I have a close friend where she does have really bad acne, she uses my face bar which helps a lot but she also takes a prescription, I guess that would be like fighting from the inside out. I still get breakouts and I can just treat mine with soap and witch-hazel but if I was predisposed to always having huge breakouts, you do want to fight it from the inside out, [but] I would probably go with what I’m eating and drinking and putting in my body. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t have those options, especially when you don’t make a lot of money. It’s not that it always has to cost a lot to eat clean or healthy but sometimes it does. It’s a lot of different factors, no I don’t think it’s the best choice for us but I’m not one of those people that because I make natural skincare that I’m going to shove it in anyone’s face or say you’re a bad person, just do what’s best for you. If I can influence someone to want to try something, great! If not, it’s your body its your skin. I just like to gently educate the people around me that are interested, if they’re not interested then you’re not interested and I won’t talk to you about it. I don’t like to be forceful with it, it’s more of like if you’re interested, you come to me and I’ll get you together.”

In relation to companies on social media that claim their products or natural, I noted that some pages only offer the basic essential oils for purchase: Tea Tree, Lavender and Eucalyptus, which can be purchased anywhere. Not all of the essential oils you can buy are pure and natural yet they can be advertised as such, which stresses the importance of education and quality. “You don’t even know if it’s a quality scented oil. You have to research is it Hexing free, is it chemicals, what the process of how it was distilled, how that oil was taken from the plant so you have to be careful with that and be knowledgeable.” Stephanie says.

Stephanie’s skin/body care routine

“I switch up daily because your skin gets used to things that you do all the time. I dry brush my skin, I have a body and face dry brush and that helps keep your blood circulating, there’s a lot of benefits from it. I get spider veins. Once a week [I dry brush my skin] because you don’t want to be too harsh on your skin, it’s also good before shaving. I alternate how I wash my body through the week. I’m a big fan of having baking soda in the shower, baking soda has alkaline, taking a baking soda bath takes a lot of toxins out of the skin. One day I would like to have some kind of deodorant in my business, an herbal mix.

I change up soaps I use during the week use Dr. Bronner’s once a week. For my face, after work is usually when I use my charcoal because I break out in the mask area at night, my morning consists between switching between my 8 roses [soap] which has become one of my new favorites and whatever I’m making with turmeric and grape seed oil on my face and castor oil for my lashes and eyebrows. Charcoal helped my son’s Nana’s eczema and she prefers over the oatmeal soap that I concocted for her. Oatmeal I make specifically for acne prone skin.”

Gaia Bean Skin Parlor’s best sellers and information about the new After Shower Skin Oil

“Charcoal soap and pink clay and charcoal [are the best sellers]. My Tumeric is pretty popular. My body oils, I sell those like crazy, they’re so lovely. I guide people based on their skin, if you already have very dry or sensitive skin, you don’t want to use the charcoal because that can be rough and pretty strong. The one that has the charcoal and pink clay is a bit more gentle. “

“I’ve used oil after the shower for years, I would mix up my own little blend and keep it in a jar and oil myself. When I started doing my soaps I started thinking about what are people’s routine in the shower? I have really dry skin, so the oils I found really help lock in that moisture. After the soap, I started with jojoba and sweet almond oil and I add just a little bit of distilled water at the bottom so that it doesn’t get clogged. I add a little piece of rose crystal as opposed to a little ball that some companies use because it centers around your heart chakra. They’re different scents.”

Interview with Nadine Artemis

Nadine Artemis is the creator and owner of Living Libations, a natural and organic company comprised of organic beauty balms, skin and body elixirs, healing oral care and perfume. Nadine is an author, beauty philosopher, aromacologist, and botanical muse. She opened North America’s first full concept aromatherapy store, Osmosis, in 1994. Since that day, Nadine has received glowing reviews for her formulations in the Hollywood Reporter, Flare, the New York Times, Vogue, and The National Post. See our interview below:

Chemicals tend to have more risks and cause damage as opposed to natural/organic products. What are your thoughts on chemicals in skin/body care products?

“Everything that is applied to the skin is absorbed in to the bloodstream, circulates to our cells and mingles with our mitochondria. The skin’s brilliant ability to absorb is a gift. When applying the right things, we can literally feed our immune system and skin cells. When it comes to skincare, I want every single ingredient to be natural, active and key. Every single ingredient matters; each drop must contain boundless, bioactive, botanical beauty. When nature provides such exquisite and effective botanicals that graciously attend to our beauty, why use anything artificial?”

Many consumers want a quick fix, especially with skin care, natural remedies take either the same amount of time or a little more to see beneficial results. What would your advice be to those quick-fix consumers?

“Beauty is not another regime of becoming. It is luxurious ease. The simplicity of a flower that rises to the sun, sepals smiling because she is the perfume she loves. Live on the blossoming, ever arriving. Free of path and destination. Life, beauty, tranquility and simplicity do not depend on time, nor do you.”

I personally love and use the Frankincense Best Skin Ever; what inspired you to create this multi-purpose product Best Skin Ever?

“It may seem strange, washing with oils. People think that oil will leave their skin feeling oily and less than clean, yet the exact opposite is experienced when washing with the right oils. Beauty glows with a balanced biome. Plants evolved alongside us, and their oils harmonize with our skin. The antimicrobial properties of essential oils combined with the gentle dirt-dissolving fatty oils lift away the daily accumulation of dirt, toxins, and makeup while healing, not harming, the skin’s surface.

Liquid pearls distilled from the tree of life, Frankincense Oil is an incredible cleansing agent for acne that also soothes redness. The particular compounds in Frankincense Essential Oil are especially suited to softening the appearance of scars and skin tone, nourishing dry skin, and calming skin imperfections. It was a natural fit to combine fortifying Frankincense with the ancient wisdom of oil cleansing.”

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