ABCs of Skin Care: F is for Fragrance

What is the FIRST thing you do when you open up a bottle of milk?

YOU SMELL IT.

Why? Because our reptilian brain knows that if it smells unpleasant, it will probably make us sick. Our reptilian brain AKA the Ancient Brain is directly connected to our limbic system. That face we make when we smell rotting food is usually followed by an attempt to get it away from us NOW! Self preservation at its finest.

SMELL is vital to our survival. We certainly don’t have the superior sniffers of Mans Best Friend, or the notable nostrils of other big predators, but our basic beaks are still up to snuff (see what I did there?).

Wait…so what does this have to do with skin care? As it turns out, our brains prefer things that smell ~good~ and big business is quite aware of that. We spend more money on things that smell like freshly baked cookies, a field of lavender or a Christmas morning. Most people aren’t going to plunk down their hard earned cash for a body cream that smells like sweaty gym clothes.

Problem is, skin care ingredients in the raw don’t always smell delightful. Many herbal base ingredients smell like, well, dirt. I personally like the smell of dirt, but I AM an herbalist at heart 🙂 Other raw materials just have weird smells, and some are just blah.

So skin care companies add fragrance. Fragrance makes people whip out their wallets and say “Take My Money!” These profitable nose friendly scents may be in the form of essential oils, but they are usually synthetic.

These synthetic compounds are proprietary, and because we have laws here in the USA that essentially protect profits and not people, companies don’t have to divulge whats IN these proprietary “fragrances”. Shhh, its a secret…

From the National Eczema Association:

Almost 20% of the general population is sensitized to at least one allergen and fragrance is one of the most frequently cited substances causing reactions. Fragrance sensitivity is now seen in 1-4% of the general population, and 8-15% of people with contact dermatitis. According the the Dermatology Times, fragrances are most likely to cause allergic contact dermatitis. They account for 30-45% of reactions in cosmetic products.

OK, so we know that fragrance can be irritating to the skin. The concern really comes when we start exploring what these fragrances are truly made of.

A single fragrance can have thousands of individual chemicals. They may contain a cocktail of irritants, solvents, allergens, carcinogens, plasticizers, fixatives.. heck they could contain UFO goo and we wouldn’t know. They don’t have to disclose that info. Cuz ya know, $$$$.

“Gee, your hair smells terrific”

“OOh Herbal Essences” are an orgasmic I mean organic experience…

“Always feel Just Showered Fresh…”

UGH.

Fragrance is fleeting. Or at least it should be. But that doesn’t make money, and it certainly won’t “make your hair smell terrific” so Big Business needs to make the smell last and last… with phthalates.

Phthalates are chemicals used as plasticizers, solvents, fixatives etc. They are found in pretty much everything, including many fragrances. They make the smell LAST.

From the US Library of Medicine:

Phthalates are used in many consumer products, including:

  • Cosmetics and personal care products
  • Plastic and vinyl toys
  • Shower curtains
  • Miniblinds and wallpaper
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Raincoats
  • Food packaging and wraps 
  • Detergents
  • Adhesives
  • Plastic pipes
  • Medical equipment and devices (yes, in IV tubing that administers chemotherapy!!)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics

Oh and did I mention phthalates are endocrine disruptors and are carcinogens? Yeah, that. That’s a small problem. We can discuss that in another post.

To be clear, just because a product has “fragrance” or “parfum” doesn’t mean its toxic sludge. Many companies are now making phthalate free fragrance, or using natural fragrances. Its a great improvement!

However, if your skin care product smells like watermelon sangria, or tropical beaches, chances are it has synthetic fragrance. If you apply it in the morning and your significant other can smell it on you during a midnight tryst, it definitely has phthalates. If the smell disappears after an hour or so, its probably safe.

As a side note, if you are using plug ins, or room sprays, or fabric softener with “fresh burst technology”, you are saturating your home with questionable chemistry. Just saying.

Skip the fragrance, have happier skin and happier health.

If you need help finding effective skincare that’s fragrance free and/or phthalate free, come visit us at Viriditas Beautiful Skin Therapies in Providence RI. We would love to meet you!

Ooh and here;s a fragrance free kitten! Because CATS ❤

Dry Winter Skin? 13 Ways to Beat the Dry without Breaking the Bank

Snowflakes, skiing, hot chocolate, Netflix marathons…what’s not to like about winter? Well, maybe the dry, flaky, itchy skin…

Dry Skin doesn’t have enough oil. Oily skin has plenty of oil. Dehydrated skin however, doesn’t have enough water. This is why you can have very oily skin, but still feel quite dry in the winter: its dehydration.

Whatever skin you have, keeping it soft and hydrated in the cold weather months doesn’t need to come with a big price tag. Here are some basic skin treats you can do yourself at home:

Externally:
1) Indulge yourself in a lush bath of warm water and a can of full-fat coconut milk! The natural fat helps to gently soften and hydrate dry itchy winter skin. Keep it to about 20 minutes though, more than that and your warm soak may have a reverse effect. Caution! The tub will be slippery!
2) Any bath or shower ritual will be enhanced with a little dry brushing beforehand. Simply take a stiff bristled body brush, and brush your skin in upward motions toward your heart. Not only is this a great way to exfoliate dead, dry skin, it also moves lymph, which reduces swelling, puffiness, and supports overall health. Start on your feet and move upward, continuing until the skin is slightly pink.
3) Follow up that dry brushing with a little self-massage! Raid your kitchen for some sesame or sunflower oil. Let it all soak in before ( yes, before) you hop in the shower. Use a gentle cleanser, and try washing just the “stinky parts”. (Applying oil to the skin after a shower is lovely, however the oils will soak into the fibers of your clothing and towels, turning rancid over time.) Follow up with your favorite lotion. Try to avoid lotion with fragrance, as it’s a common irritant, frequently causing dryness and itching. Dry winter skin doesn’t need more of that!
4) For your face, indulge in a weekly mask of full fat yogurt, mashed banana, avocado or honey. A classic “honey pat” helps to gently exfoliate and hydrate. Simply take 1-2 teaspoons of liquid honey, and with your fingers, “pat” it all over your face. After a few minutes of patting it will become runny, then you can leave it to continue working for 10-15 minutes if desired. Rinse well and follow-up with your favorite moisturizer.
5) Be sure to moisturize BOTH your face and body! If the body skin is dry, your face definitely will be too. Don’t skip one or the other, they are all part of the same organ. Treat your skin well❤️
6) A few items I would NOT recommend: olive oil. As delicious and healthy as it is to eat, studies have shown that it damages the barrier of the skin over time: makes the skin dry and chapped.
7) Also, contrary to popular media, coconut oil is NOT the best choice for people with acne-prone skin.  I know, I specialize in Acne…sunflower oil is a much better choice, it contains a high proportion of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid which studies have shown is deficient in acne and eczema prone skin. Coconut oil is fine for non-acne prone skin, but it doesn’t contain enough fatty acids for winter weather. It will absorb and disappear. Dry skin needs more. Shea, mango or cocoa butter is thicker and heavier, and rather inexpensive to obtain. Just warm it a little in your hands and apply. Again, not for acne!
8) Invest in a small bottle of organic pomegranate oil. A drop or two added to your regular moisturizer can give you the winterizing boost your skin needs. Again, sunflower or jojoba oils are good choices for acne -prone skin.

Internally:
9) Increase your intake of healthy fats: avocado, walnuts, grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, olive oil. These foods are required for healthy cellular membranes, and no matter how much lotion you put on the outside, if the inside is oil dry, you just can’t moisturize enough.
10) Drink enough water!! Healthy skin has a balance of oil and water, so someone who is very oily can often feel very dry in the winter: they are dehydrated! Drink up! A cup of hot tea both hydrates, and takes out the chill.

Environmental:
11) Use a humidifier. Dry, hot air from heating units will pull moisture right out of your skin by osmosis, so boost the relative humidity, and don’t blast the heat.
12) Wear a scarf and gloves! Keep your skin protected from the elements and reduce moisture loss by keeping it covered when you go outside.
13) Wear natural fibers like cotton, wool, bamboo and silk. These fabrics help prevent moisture loss, and preserve heat.

What are your go-to tips for keeping dry winter skin happy? Please share in the comments!

Want to know more? Sign up for our newsletter, and follow us on Facebook!

10 Tips to Help You Stop Wasting Your Skin Care Products!

The average woman spends $15,000 on beauty products in her lifetime according to In Style. Some sources peg that number at $2000 per year.

Maybe those numbers aren’t in your budget, but chances are, you have put a few dollars here and there toward your looks. Make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck by following these product usage guidelines.

As a licensed Esthetician, my general mantra to clients is “move the product, not your face!”  In other words, you should be applying enough product, whether its cleanser, serum, moisturizer or sunscreen, so that it can be spread across the desired surface without pulling or tugging on the skin.

How much product exactly, well that depends on the product, your skin, and the purpose.

Prepping your skin properly has a huge effect as well. Trying to apply moisturizer to skin that still has leftover makeup on it (and lots of ladies do this!) won’t cut it. Literally: makeup is designed to sit on the surface, by nature it is a little bit occlusive. Think BB cream. Cleanse your skin well! Moisturizer, no matter how much you apply, won’t fully penetrate dirty skin. WASTE!

Soap, when mixed with water is usually quite alkaline, and alkalinity disrupts the barrier function of skin. Your skins’ job is to keep bad stuff (think bacteria and environmental toxins) out, and moisture in. An alkaline skin will desperately absorb more product to repair that barrier! WASTE! Use a gentle cleanser instead of soap. Over cleansing and over exfoliating will do that too. Cleanse no more than 2x day, and reach for a gentle scrub no more than 2-3x per week. Using a scrub 1x per week in the winter months is plenty. Your esthetician can help you choose the perfect cleanser or exfoliant.
soap
How much skin care product to use? Keep in mind that when applying product to your face, you should include the face, front and back of the neck, and dĂ©colletĂ© all the way to the bra line. These areas will age!  Most women (and men!) forget to address these spots, and wind up wearing high cut shirts and scarves as they get older. Now that’s a waste. Why spend money on good skin care, and not put it on all of your skin? WASTE!

How you apply product can make or break your beauty budget. Pumping a dollop of moisturizer on your fingertips, and trying to spread that over your target area will result in a lot of unnecessary pulling, tugging, and uneven application, not to mention more product. Skin care should be applied directly to clean damp hands, spread briefly over the palms, and press, press, press!  Press on the forehead, cheeks, chin, neck, décolleté, THEN spread. This ensures even distribution, and less waste. Start with damp hands please, or your hands will absorb it before your face. WASTE!

Cleanser: depending on how concentrated it is, usually a quarter sized amount will do. Spend some time actually cleansing the skin; give the product time to work. 1-2 minutes is good to shoot for.

Toner / hydrating mist: Today’s “toners” are not the alcohol laden dry-bombs of the 1980s and 90s. But you might want to check your product labels! Lots of popular brands are still using way too much drying alcohol. Its a cheap ingredient. Not all alcohol is bad, its used to keep ingredients dissolved and sometimes preserved. Cetearyl alcohol is actually moisturizing, but SD or “denatured” alcohol, especially if its one of the first 3 ingredients, not so much…

Many excellent product lines today have taken advantage of the “toning” step to incorporate serious hydrating ingredients like sodium lactate and hyaluronic acid to pre-saturate the skin.Think of the skin like a sponge: a wet sponge picks up more moisture faster than a dry sponge. Translation: you can use less product, and it will spread more easily. Use your hydrating mist / toner, and use less product! No WASTE!

Serum: is it a gel based serum, or a lipid (oil) base? A dime sized amount of a gel serum should do the trick. A lipid based serum however, usually only requires a few drops, spread quickly over the palms, and pressed gently onto the skin. Lipid serums are usually not intended to be “massaged”.

Eye cream: aim for a pea sized amount, applied only to the middle fingertips. Again, press between the fingertips first, then press around the eye area, then gently spread. Eye creams are super concentrated and often spendy, so don’t WASTE it! But do use enough to see the benefits. (Pun intended)

Moisturizer: generally go for a quarter sized amount, now applied to freshly cleansed, pre-hydrated skin, and press press press! Follow up with gently spreading all over the face, front and back of neck, and décolleté.

Sunscreen: usually the same as moisturizer, and apply to all the same areas. Some formulations differ based on the micron size of the active ingredients (I prefer zinc and titanium dioxide) so check the label for specific instructions.

What ever product you may have left on your palms, apply to the back of your hands! This area (along with eyes and neck) is one of the first to show age. It only takes a few moments, and you don’t want to WASTE the opportunity to protect your skin…

The most important thing you can do to avoid WASTE, is to see your friendly neighborhood esthetician, who is a licensed skin care professional! S/he can analyze your skin and condition, and make product recommendations that are best suited to your skin. There is no need to WASTE good money on bad or unsuitable skin care products.  What are you going to do with all that $$$$ you’ll save?

Did you enjoy this post? Get more like this by signing up for our newsletter, and liking us on Facebook! Even better, how about booking an appointment for your own facial here?

Let us know what you think in the comments 🙂

#smartskinrules'Move the product, not

8 Reasons Why You Need to Start Dry Brushing Your Skin Right Now

Instagram Post(1)

One of the best things you can incorporate into your health and beauty routine is dry brushing. Not only will the brushing gently exfoliate dull dry skin, allowing better penetration of moisturizer, it can also give your immune system a big boost.

When done properly (gentle upward strokes, towards the heart, focusing on inner parts of joints: where lymph glands are most concentrated) dry brushing goes way beyond beauty. The upward movement (always toward the heart) stimulates the flow of lymph. Our lymphatic system is like the body’s garbage removal highway, and is a major part of the immune system. Lymph carries away metabolic waste, bacteria, viruses, excess fluid and all kinds of other gunk the body doesn’t need anymore. Unlike the blood (heart), the lymph has no pump, and relies on muscle movement, gravity, and osmotic pressure (via deep breathing) to flow. Dry brushing can boost that flow!

Dry brushing also stimulates peripheral circulation (surface blood flow). Not only can this help speed healing of damaged tissue and improve scars, but it brings oxygen and nutrients resulting in glowing skin.

Feeling crappy and under the weather? Dry brush.

Do you have swollen ankles? Dry brush.

Heavy, tired feeling legs? Dry brush.

Over indulged at that party last night? Dry brush.

Dry itchy winter skin? Dry brush.

Puffy eyes? VERY GENTLY brush the sides of the neck and under the chin, all the way down to the collarbone.

Headache? Drink plenty of lemon water, have some magnesium and dry brush!

Have you ever tried dry brushing? Let us know in the comments. Sign up for our newsletter here, and follow us on Facebook for lots more helpful skin care tips.