Updated: Oct 1
What is “wrong” with a daily skincare product you can pick up off the shelf in Boots, or Lloyds, or Superdrug, or…? Well, it’s not really about right or wrong, it’s about choice and preference, and what works for you.
So the first thing I consider is does the product do what I want it to do: does it moisturise adequately, does it help the elasticity of my skin, does it make my skin feel good, does it help my skin look healthy and vibrant? And if I don’t use it one day does my skin still look and feel good?
A good product will not only moisturise when you use it, but nourish your skin on a daily basis so that it is not short of important vitamins such as A, D and E. Just as you can go a day without taking your multivit and it won’t seriously deplete your health, so too you should be able to manage a day without your moisturiser. Your skin may feel a little tight straight after cleansing but it should then start to feel more comfortable. I’m not suggesting you won’t notice a difference without your moisturiser, but it shouldn’t set you back significantly. If you can’t go a day without it, then it is propping you up artificially without actually feeding your skin.
Of course as skin ages it performs differently. We stop producing the sebum that keeps it supple and we become more prone to developing fine lines and wrinkles. Nothing can prevent this from happening. BUT, the process can be slowed down if we choose daily skincare products that feed, support and repair.
I have two main problems, two main objections, to factory-produced skincare products that are widely available throughout all those well-known pharmacies. And also, for that matter, many that are available in places such as Holland and Barrett, and the like. (Read the labels!)
My first problem is that despite whatever is screaming at you on the front of the label about the product’s natural ingredients, essential oils, organic herbs etc etc, these “goodies” will generally only make up a very small amount of the finished product, sometimes as little as 1%. The rest will be ingredients such as bulking agents, preservatives, artificial perfumes, solvents, acrylics, stabilisers and other contents that ensure the product will be uniform in its consistency, appearance and smell, it will survive the machine production methods and have a long shelf life. The use of these ingredients also ensures a substantial profit margin for the manufacturers.
Why does this matter?
What we often overlook is that the skin is a living and breathing organ of the body. It is an organ that excretes, and it absorbs. Our body detoxes through our skin and our skin takes in substances that are applied to it. We know that a warm bath with magnesium-loaded bath salts will help our tired and aching muscles. We know that a nicotine transdermal patch will reduce our cravings if we are trying to give up smoking. "Transdermal" means "through the skin". The contraceptive patch releases synthetic oestrogen into our bloodstream through our skin in order to prevent pregnancy.
The skin is not an impermeable barrier like a plastic onesie or a wetsuit! Quite frankly I don’t want to be feeding my body – at whatever depth of penetration – with substances like phenoxyethanol ethylhexylglycerin, benzyl alcohol, propylene glycol (those are just a few preservatives), petrolatum, behentrimonium chloride, hydroxyethyl palmitamide, dimethicone, ethylparaben – in fact the list of acceptable chemicals seems endless so I won’t go on and on with it. All I’m trying to say is that these are not skin food, and in reality we don’t know what long term use of them may do to us. I react to a number of chemicals widely used in skin and hair products, I get blotches, puffy eyes, and my skin feels like it’s crawling. And if that’s what they do to my outside, what might they do to my inside?
There is another consideration when you think about all these chemical substances. Whatever doesn’t get absorbed into our body will get washed down the drain and access our water courses. The consequences of this do not bear thinking about. What are we doing to our wildlife, especially marine, with all these antimicrobials, synthetic chemicals, preservatives, plasticisers etc?
So my first problem is that I don’t want to be offering my body and the wider environment all these chemicals on a daily basis.
My second problem is a simple one. I want to use products that actually contain a good serving of nutrients. If the average skincare product is mostly chemicals and bulking agents then it is not packed full of nutrition.
All skincare products (other than body butters and heavy oily preparations) contain a fair proportion of water. This is normal and necessary. We are moisturising our skin. Moisture means water. We want a combination of water and oil, so that the water can penetrate, and the oil can carry its nutritious load for the skin to absorb. Then it will leave a light covering, which helps prevent the moisture level from evaporating and drying out. The water content may also carry nutrition depending on the ingredients.
For instance in New Leaf “Single Cream” I include aloe vera as an ingredient. This is water soluble, so it will access the skin via the water content of the cream.
The almond oil in the recipe is naturally full of vitamins A, D and E, so it is the oil that delivers these nutrients to the skin. Single Cream contains approximately 70% water (some of which is lavender water, which contains various nourishing components), approximately 20% almond oil and approximately 10% aloe vera.
In new Leaf “Double Cream”, one of the ingredients is Jojoba. Although jojoba is fluid it is considered to be a wax. It performs in the same way as sebum, so it is particularly good for skin which is more mature, or very dry and lacking in sebum. As well as vitamin E, jojoba contains various minerals such as silicon, chromium, copper and zinc – all necessary for a healthy skin.
Double Cream – as its name suggests - is richer than Single Cream. It contains approximately 70% water (some of which is rosewater, which – like lavender water - contains various nourishing components) and approximately 30% apricot kernel oil and jojoba. These are healthy helpings on your dinner plate!
I would be happy to consume food that contained aloe vera, almond oil, apricot kernel oil etc. The way I see it, if I’m not happy to eat it then I shouldn’t be happy to put it on my skin. And if I’m not happy to take it into my body, then I certainly won’t have a clear conscience about sending it out into the wider environment. So, as I said at the beginning, it’s about choice and preference, and what works for you. New Leaf works for me on every level.