Skincare Basics

If you’re like me, then taking care of your skin is a priority.  Our skin is our largest organ and is responsible for so many different functions including:

  • guarding our body from damaging sunlight and other environmental factors
  • expelling antibacterial substances that prevent infection
  • manufacturing vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones
  • keeping our brain in touch with the outside world through our thousands of nerves

For these reasons and so many others, it’s important to take care of our skin which includes checking for irregular moles, spots and scars which your dermatologist can help identify the severity of.

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Today I am talking about the few simple things I do to keep both the skin on my body and my face in its best shape and form.  There are obviously a huge amount of products and brands out there to discover.  I’ve learned that everyone’s skin is so different so it’s important to do your research, figure out what your biggest concerns are and then use products that target those concerns.  That being said, there are simple things that EVERYONE can do to make sure that your skin is performing and looking its best.  To start, m lets go through some of the basics:

Moisturize:  I admittedly am really bad at this especially when it comes to moisturizing my body.  When I get out of the shower I just want to put on clothes and get on with my day/night.  So, knowing that I get lazy, I’ve started to use an oil based moisturizer that I keep right in the shower and use while my skin is still damp.  This accomplishes a few things:

  • oil based moisturizers often do a better job at penetrating the different layers of your skin providing a high level of moisturization.  I’ll do this before bed and my skin is still soft in the morning.
  • moisturizing while your skin is still damp helps to “trap” the water right into your skin
  • many oils come in natural forms – coconut, avocado, almond – so you are literally feeding your skin while avoiding the use of harsh chemicals and additives

SPF:  On the topic of moisturizing, SPF is a must.  I use an SPF 30 or more on my face every day and not just on sunny days.  SPF protects our skin from harmful UV rays and they can still be around even on the cloudiest of days.   If you don’t already, start using an SPF of at least 30 every day to protect your skin.  You can read more about why sun protection is so important on the post I wrote a few months back.

Water:  I don’t need to tell you that drinking enough water is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective things that you can do for your body inside and out.  There will be debate on how much water is the right amount and that will vary on factors like your weight, your level of physical activity and overall well being.  I personally strive for at least 2L a day if not more on the days when I am working out.  Why is water so important for you?

  • regulates your body temperature
  • keeps the tissues in your body moist (avoid dry eyes, dry mouth etc)
  • protects the spinal cord, and acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints
  • enables your body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation
  • aids with digestion and helps digest soluble fiber
  • helps prevent bladder infections and urinary tract stones

I can tell right away by looking at my skin and how I’m feeling on the inside if I need to drink more water.  One of the greatest tips I received, which I practise to this day, is to start your morning (before you do anything else) by drinking at lest 500ml-1L of water.  Think of it like a shower for your organs and a kick start for your digestive system.  I leave a full glass of water on the counter before going to bed so it’s the first thing I see when I get up.  It has made a HUGE difference in both my internal system and my skin.  If plain water bores you, try jazzing it up by adding lemon, cucumber, mint or even fruit to give it a little flavour and color.

Vitamin C:  now we’re getting into a few specifics.  Ever since hitting my mid-thirties I’ve noticed a shift in the brightness of my skin and one night of not sleeping well leaves me looking dull and tired.  Enter Vitamin C.  We all know it as the supplement to take to prevent getting a cold or the flu, but it also has incredible benefits for your skin.  Vitamin C for your skin, is an antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals, and because of its antioxidant properties, Vitamin C aids in your skin’s natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells.  So what does that mean?  By regularly using Vitamin C in your skincare regime you can:

  • help offset daily aggressors like UV damage and exposure to air pollution
  • keep signs of premature aging at bay
  • protect skin from precancerous changes caused by UV exposure
  • promote the skin to heal itself by accelerating the production of collagen and elastin
  • inhibit your skin’s melanin production, which is what causes skin discolouration like dark spots and hyper-pigmentation
  • brighten and fade brown spots without altering normal skin pigmentation

Vitamin C can be applied as a cream or serum right on to the skin.  I’ve been using it in a serum form for the last few years.  What you want to look for are the words “ascorbic acid” (also known as L-ascorbic acid), which is the most stable and effective form of Vitamin C in skin care.

Retinol:  This was one thing a recent skincare consultant told me I should absolutely add to my regiment as I get older.  Retinoids (the umbrella term for retinol products) are powerful enough to improve skin texture, pigmentation, and tone.  Often, people think that retinol works like “exfoliating” your skin but in fact, retinoids work at a much deeper level by affecting gene expression and causing enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing, and an evening of pigmentation.  It’s definitely not an instant difference once you start using a retinol cream or serum.  It takes an average of 12 weeks for retinoic acid to produce noticeable changes in the skin. Although safe to use during the day, I save this one for my night skin routine.

Hyaluronic Acid:  Don’t get scared by the word acid.  Hyaluronic Acid or HA, is naturally produced by your body and acts as a magnet for moisture.  It helps your cells retain as much moisture as possible so your skin looks and feels hydrated, plump and healthy.  Just a single gram of Hyaluronic Acid can hold up to six litres of water. Imagine being able to infuse that much water into your skin?  As we age, the amount of HA our bodies produce drops.  Applied topically and regularly it can help to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles and help fight dry skin. A fun fact I recently discovered, facial fillers are actually made up of HA so you are in fact just injecting what your body already produces naturally right back into your skin.

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Like I said, there are so many different products, variations, combinations and types of skincare ingredients that are available out there for you to use and discover.  I would recommend starting with the basics and then talking to experts in the field to understand what your specific concerns may be and how to target them.  For example, I know that mine are signs of aging and hyper-pigmentation so I actually do and use all of the above mentioned things.   There’s also no need to go over-board in spending and the number of products you use. Talk to your friends, family, co-workers and of course the experts to get recommendations and before you know it, you’ll find yourself with an arsenal of products you love that work uniquely for you.

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