Your Top 5 Skincare Questions Answered

Cosmetics Cop, Paula Begoun answers the most common skincare concerns you ever had.

Question 1: Are natural ingredients better for my skin?

Answer: Well, let’s just say no, not necessarily. An abundance of research suggests that while there are a lot of fabulous natural ingredients for your skin, some of them might irritate and damage the skin, not leading to promising results. On the other hand, there are a lot of lab-engineered ingredients that are brilliant for your skin and work far better than its natural counterparts. However, more often than not these ‘unnatural’ ingredients get downplayed, and are accused of damaging the skin when just the opposite is true! Simply put, natural doesn’t automatically mean better, and similarly synthetic doesn’t mean bad.

It’s important to keep in mind that the definition of natural is more often than not completely bogus. All plants and minerals are required to be processed, cleaned, and sterilized once they have been extracted. They must also be preserved before they can be infused into a formula. Whether or not that ingredient is still natural after all that processing is wishful thinking more than reality. Secondly, plants aren’t inherently very stable (recall how long a head of lettuce lasts in your refrigerator). The quality of plant extract also varies depending on weather conditions, harvesting, and the effects of processing.

In the world of skincare, science and research speaks for itself. Holistic skincare involves a smart balance between natural and lab-engineered ingredients.

Question 2: Why must I avoid fragrance in skincare if I don’t experience irritated skin?

Answer: Research suggests that daily use of products containing fragrance of any kind (whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or come from essential oils) causes a chronic sensitizing reaction on our skin. This reaction, in turn, can lead to an array of problems including disruption of the skin’s barrier, worsening dryness, increase in redness, depleting vital substances in the skin’s surface, etc.

While this may sound unbelievable, it certainly is true. The reason why people fail to accept the adverse impacts of fragrance is because they don’t overtly experience any irritation on the surface of the skin. Even though you may not ‘feel’ it, the insidious damage is taking place in the lower layers of skin nevertheless. This damage could lead to skin ailments such as collagen destruction, barrier breakdown, redness, dehydration, wrinkles, along with impeding the skin’s ability to heal.

Decades of research has proven that you don’t need to see or feel the effects of irritation for your skin to be suffering. No one necessarily ‘feels’ pollution or sun damage, do they? (Except sun-burn, maybe). Let’s just say your skin is very good at keeping skin deterioration a secret. Thereby, fragrance-free is the way to go!

Question 3: When should I start using anti-ageing products?

Answer: You’re never too young to start using anti-ageing products, you just need to think differently about what fighting skin-ageing really means. Another lens to look at it from is the same way you view your diet. Regardless of your age, eating a healthy diet is essential to keep your body fit and healthy. The same is true for your skin! Quenching your skin’s thirst by maximizing hydration and saving it from starvation through application of nutrient-rich products, is the overarching lifetime skincare strategy you need to swear by.

A significant area of research called ‘Exposome factors and their impact on disease and ageing’ advocates the same skincare mantra. Exposomes are the source of everything in the environment (mostly sun and pollution), and the unhealthy lifestyle choices we make from the time we are born until the end of life, which can be blamed for our health problems and the cause of ageing.

Drawing on this theory, from the time you are born, exposome factors begin creating pathways to promote disease (acne, rosacea, psoriasis, dry skin) and cause premature ageing. Thereby, the sooner you start protecting your skin from external stressors that irritate and inflame your skin, the more your skin will have to thank you for later in life.

In short, thoughtful anti-ageing skincare needs to begin at birth. The sooner you get to it, the more likely your skin will reflect the desired results by slowing down the signs of premature ageing.

Question 4: How do I get rid of dark circles?

Answer: Dark circles are often caused due to several factors, of which addressing each one can help alleviate the concern. It’s important to know that while some amount of dark circles can be helped with the use of the right skincare products, dark circles resulting due to more complex reasons can’t be tackled as well as we’d like. So don’t be damned if multiple products haven’t worked out for you, as well as you’d hoped.

To tackle dark circles, one must pin-point the root cause of the problem. The primary factors that can cause or worsen dark circles include:

1. Any amount of sun exposure (even one minute in a day) increases the production of melanin, the brown pigment in the skin. Increasing the production of melanin around the eyes either creates dark circles or makes them worse.

2. Exposure to pollution has also been shown to increase dark circles and skin discolorations, in general.

3. Prominent veins near the surface of the skin, under the eye, can cause the area to look dark due to the thinness of the skin in that region.

4. Allergies and the consequent rubbing of your eyes not only causes the skin around the eye to eventually sag from repeated pulling and stretching out, but can also lead to a dark, ashy appearance under the eye.

5. Genetics might predispose you to have a deeper skin tone around or under the eye area.

6. Natural shadows can occur as a result of deep-set eyes or can be caused by the skin under the eyes that begin to sag.

7. Built-up dead skin around the eye that doesn’t shed naturally, leaves a thicker layer resulting in a dehydrated, dull appearance that can appear dark or ashy.

Well, here are the SOLUTIONS, which you must focus on for the same:

1. Every morning apply a moisturiser or eye cream, along with a sunscreen of SPF 30 or more, to prevent the dark circles from getting worse. For the eye area, the best sun protecting ingredients are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

2. It’s also very helpful to use an anti-oxidant concentrated serum under your sunscreen, to curb pollution damage.

3. Use an AHA or BHA leave-on exfoliant just around the eye area, but not near the lash line or the eyelid. Gentle exfoliation can make a world of a difference overnight, leading to smoothness and radiance of the under-eye area, making it look brighter and less ashy.

4. Apply an emollient eye cream or moisturiser around the eyes at night, to keep skin super hydrated and supple. The product must also contain skin-restoring ingredients and should be loaded with anti-oxidants to protect from environmental damage, help strengthen the surface of the skin, and to shore up the support layers below.

5. Apply a brightening ingredient such as azelaic acid, twice daily, to see if your dark circles benefit from this fading mechanism.

6. All said and done, skincare does have its limitations. This is where makeup does the trick! Concealer is coming to your rescue. Try one that has a luminous finish to deliver a light-reflective effect that helps offset the dark circles.

7. Consider using an antihistamine. Allergies can be a major cause of dark circles and puffy eyes, but most people don’t even realize that they suffer from an allergy. Research indicates that more than 50% of the world’s population has allergies that affect the sinuses. This directly affects swelling and potential darkening in the eye area. If this is the case, consult your doctor about allergy medication options.

8. Wear UV-rated sunglasses to increase protection for the delicate skin around the eye. Make sure they extend past the lower eye area and preferably have wide side-pieces to block UV light from seeping in.

Question 5: Can facial massage help my skin?

Answer: Absolutely not. If anything, facial massage can accelerate skin ageing, especially sagging. A cardinal rule- never massage, pull, or tug at the skin. If you see or feel your skin move, whether up or down, sideways, or in a circular motion, you are ageing your skin faster and setting the stage for it to sag much sooner than it would have otherwise. This is a physiological fact, since the movement of skin in any direction stretches the delicate elastin fibers that give skin its bounce. Over time, the elastin fibers in the skin work exactly like a rubber band—they stretch out, stop going back to their original shape, and eventually break, resulting in sagging!

There is no benefit to be gained by massaging facial skin; as it doesn’t help firm or contour the skin, or allow the ingredients to penetrate better. Also, it doesn’t help facial lymph drainage either. The notion that massaging skin using rollers can somehow help with lymph drainage is a myth, as the face doesn’t have lymphatic problems due to lack of presence of lymph nodes. Even if it could somehow help with lymph drainage, the benefit would at best be temporary, and the risk of causing the skin to prematurely sag from the pulling and stretching isn’t worth the trade-off.

Moreover, massaging the skin can over-stimulate circulation, worsening issues such as rosacea, and causing surface capillaries to break. Moreover, ingredients don’t require additional assistance to absorb into the skin. The molecular size of the ingredient, or the formula delivery system, ensures natural seeping in of the ingredients. The ingredients are formulated such, that they know exactly where to go and how to get there. While some are required to seep into the skin, others remain on the surface itself.

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