for nearly fifteen years, I have been writing about fashion and beauty. I helped women and men make sense of the latest products while declaring some shimmery nail polish an absolute must-have. I witnessed exciting moments when fashion and beauty trends were born as they crystallized in the electric air backstage of fashion shows, during glitzy, glamorous, celebrity-studded events, or in the hectic rush of a fashion shoot. And I am guilty of heralding fashion fads that were forgotten the week after the magazine hit the newsstands. I have interviewed, reviewed, analyzed, and criticized.
Anything but Normal
Normal skin does not exist anymore. Cosmetic companies invented “combination-oily, combination dry, and “dehydrated oily” skin types that require complex regimens and dozens of bottles to make skin look healthy and normal. However, a slight dryness and shiny T-zone are perfectly normal, no matter how hard the industry tries to convince us that we need to address these issues.
We are so obsessed with all the new lotions and potions that promise to make our skin appear healthy that we don’t try to make it truly healthy. We are so eager to make these magic concoctions work that we do not ask ourselves whether this chemical cocktail is actually making our skin younger or any healthier. Healthy skin isn’t a quick fix, says Susan West Kurz, a holistic skincare expert and the president of Dr. Hauschka Skin Care. “If you apply a cortisone cream, the blemish will go away, but the problem still exists within the system.” To support the normal functioning of your skin and naturally maintain its youthful looks, you need to first know how skin works.
Keeping Skin Moist
For most people, proper skincare starts with adequate hydration. But as shocking as it sounds, healthy skin doesn’t really need any additional moisture. Our skin is perfectly able to keep itself hydrated. Its surface is kept soft and moist by sebum and a natural moisturizing factor (NMF)
Sebum, a clear waxy substance made of lipids, acts as a natural emollient and barrier. It helps protect and waterproof hair and skin and keeps them from becoming dry and cracked. It can also inhibit the growth of microorganisms on the skin. Sebum, which in Latin means fat or tallow, is made of wax esters, triglycerides, fatty acids, and squalene. The amount of sebum we produce varies from season to season and can be predetermined genetically, but in fact, the amount of sebum needed to keep skin moist and healthy is very small. People who are “blessed” with oily skin think their skin is dripping oil, but they produce only 2 grams of sebum a year!
Skin Eats, Too!
Advocates of synthetic skincare insist that our skin is virtually watertight. Many say skin can be scrubbed, steamed, and washed, and nothing penetrates it deep enough to cause any damage. At the same time, many conventional cosmetics claim they deliver collagen, vitamins, and minerals to feed our skin. So do cosmetics really get under our skin?
In fact, beauty is skin deep. Human skin is a powerful absorption organ that seems to be constantly hungry for anything that touches its surface. Just like a curious toddler, our skin grabs every available molecule, every single drop of water, every lick of makeup, and every whiff of fragrance and takes it to its cellular “mouth” to taste, chew on, and, most likely, ingest.