I’m gonna tell you what I do to keep my skin as healthy as possible. When you have hyper sensitive skin, it’s not at all easy. You can’t go around trying stuff all willy nilly. It involves quite a bit of (safe) experimentation, label reading, ingredient research and the occasional breakout to get to the good stuff. So yeah, I’m gonna make you work for it. I’ll also recommend a few brands that I trust, a caveat being that most of these will not be so called “natural” brands because often times, these are the ones that make me breakout since they usually use an exorbitant amount of citrus oils or it’s derivative citral as preservatives, something my skin can not at all tolerate.
1. Makeup Removal.
If like me when you do apply makeup you do the full monty, making sure you get all that crap off your face is paramount to keeping skin clear and healthy. We’ve all been told that we shouldn’t sleep in makeup. The reason for that is that skin, the largest organ in the body, does most of it’s regeneration while we sleep. If you’re just washing your face and applying face products before you go to bed, then you might actually be doing more incremental damage over time than you think, because if you’re only washing, there’s still makeup on your face. You may use makeup remover, however, that still doesn’t get everything off, and think about it, you apply creams and serums that are designed to sink through the epidermis, and that’s then taking all that leftover makeup with it.
The best thing to use to get all of your makeup off, is regular old oil. Yes, it gets every single bit of that makeup and dirt and whatever else there is on your skin, right off.
What I do every night is use either some olive or hazelnut oil. These oils are better than say coconut oil. Olive oil in particular, because unlike coconut oil where the molecular structure of the fatty acid chains are small enough to pass through the skin (once again taking stuff into the dermis that you don’t want it to), olive oils molecular structure is too large and so will sit on the skin until removed with a paper towel or some such.
After I’ve removed the olive oil with the paper towel, I then use a face wash to remove whatever the olive oil has missed (which is usually nothing) and I dry my face with a paper towel. Every time. Using a face cloth or towel just re-deposits germs onto the skin.
Scrubs should be an integral part of your routine. In the summer I use a daily scrub and in the winter that drops to about three times a week. Your scrub should be gentle but effective, beaded scrubs generally aren’t because all they really do is massage the skin. That will get circulation going, but they won’t remove dead skin which is one of the reasons that most beaded scrubs have brighteners added to them, to mask the fact that they aren’t really doing much. Scrubs are also important to helping with hyperpigmentation. Because they help to remove dead skin, they also help marks to fade faster. One of the most important thing that I learned about using a scrub, is to do an oil wash first with one of the oils I mentioned above. This will not only soften the skin, but provide some slip so that the scrubbing doesn’t tear the skin.
One of the most important parts of cleansing your skin though, has to be the water that you use. By that I mean, why are we using warm or hot water when we’re trying to keep our pores closed? The only time your should be using warm or hot water on your face is when you’re trying to open your pores in preparation for a mask. Room temperature or even slightly cold water is always best, contrary to popular belief, hot water doesn’t cleanse your skin, it actually damages and ages it, let’s leave it for clothes washing shall we?
As to the scrubs that currently use? There’s only one really, Michael Todd True Organics Charcoal scrub. I’ve yet to find something equally gentle and effective on my skin, and I’m much too lazy to make one of my own.
Now we come to the masks. I’m a huge fan of home made masks Two of my favourite are ones that I make myself. The first for less intense, when I just feel like I should use a mask cause my pores could use a bit of tightening, is a honey, lemon, oatmeal and oil scrub. I use raw, steel cut oats, raw honey and a mostly dry oils like sweet almond. I’ll use about a table spoon of oil with a healthy amount of honey to hold the mixture together. After I use a hot paper towel to open my pores, I’ll sit with it anywhere from fifteen minutes to thirty minutes.
The oatmeal will help to calm your skin and will draw toxins out of your pores, while the oils will work to soften your skin. Honey in combination with lemon juice is natural, gentle, sensitive skin safe dark spot fader.
When I need something a bit more heavy duty, I use a mixture of multani mitti, milk and a small amount of yellow sandalwood powder (colour is very important). I’m not really sure of the English name for multani mitti, I think it’s fullers mud but don’t quote me, a quick search should clear it up.
So, when I have/had large cystic acne this is what I used to to get rid of the pimples quickly. The mitti, while it can be mixed with water, is more effective when used with milk. Adding a very very small amount of sandalwood powder is what will make the pimples disappear, because sandalwood will suck the moisture out of the pimple, this is why it’s also important to use only a small amount because it will irritate the heck out of your face while you’re wearing it, you’ll want to scratch your face off.
So how this works is, since the sandalwood powder sucks moisture out of the pimple and thus the skin, the mixture of milk and mitti works to protect your skin so that only the pimples will be deprived of moisture. The mitti will close your pores, while the milk will add moisture and elasticity back into the skin. You just apply this to your face, and when it dries rinse. This is also just good for spot pimple removal if you don’t want to do the whole face.
If you’re too lazy to do that, here’s a good alternative from that I’ve used before, Biotique Myristica Spot Correcting Anti-Acne Face Pack
Serums are another thing that good for targeted skin care, depending on what your concerns are. Be they brightening, hydration or what have you. I have some of my favourites listed here. The one that I’m currently using is Michael Todd True Organics Knu Serum which is $150, however there are always Living Social and Groupon deals that bring the price down to something more manageable and usually below thirty dollars. Another is the Previse Nutrify Tonic (specific skin level or need, this link is the one I use) which is not a serum per se. but more of a targeted tonic, which helps with a host of things, among them dark spot fading. This will run you $48
Moisturisers are tricky. It’s hard to find one that works all year round. Right now I’m using the Previse Hydromilk which is a very balancing moisturiser even in the winter time, this is also $48. Of course, there’s the Fresh Lotus Youth preserve that I swear by, but right now the Previse is working for me and my sensitive skin. Cheaper alternatives that can be found at the drugstore, that’s also sensitive skin approved, would be any of the Aveeno Active Naturals/Positively Radiant collection.
6. Spot Faders.
This section is specifically to address hyperpigmentation issues that most brown women suffer from. One of the big things that I think a lot of brown girls don’t realise is that sun exposure actually makes hyperpigmentation spots worse, sunlight embeds them if you will. Because of that the strongest sun protection you can find is absolutely necessary. And I mean a separate sunscreen than a foundation with spf. Let me tell you a little something about spf in foundation. It doesn’t work. At all. You wanna know why? Well think about it, and anyone who’s taken a basic chemistry class can tell you this. When you take two separate compounds and put them together, you create a third completely new compound. Therefore, why would you expect to take a chemical or natural sunscreen, put it in another liquid or powder and expect it to retain it’s efficacy? It may have been spf 25 before it was added to your foundation, but by the time it’s gotten to you, it’s likely a 2 and thus of no use. Separate sunscreen folks, and really you don’t need above a 30, but make sure that you’re wearing something that protects from both UVA and UVB rays, Coola Classic Sun Screen with Spf30 is a good one for darker skin.
Baring that I have a few natural spot faders that I’ve used in the past. They’re Indian Ayurveda products that will fade dark spots but won’t lighten the skin, the first Biotique Dandelion Ageless Fade Serum can be purchased for between $8-$14, and is definitely my favourite. The rest come pretty close as well but are face washes, the prices for these fluctuate on Amazon a lot, and most of them ship from India so be sure to check where you seller is located.
I hope this post was helpful. The most important thing though is to vary you skin care routine. Find a few products that work for you, then rotate them in and out of your routine. For hyperpigmentation, avoid at all costs over exposure to sunlight and photo-sensitive products such as vitamin C and A or citrus laden skin care products. And for the love of god wear sunscreen! Especially if you’re brown or black, we still need sunscreen. Blacks in particular have the highest incidence of death by skin cancer because we’ve subscribed to the belief that we don’t need sunscreen because of our skin tones. Medical professionals have also subscribed to that belief, so they don’t check us for it. Don’t believe me? Check the link. So please be sure to ask for a skin cancer check when you get your yearly check-up.