By Olivia Cartwright
The buzzwords that we all strive to achieve with our skin are usually words like glowing, youthful, plump etc. It is rare to hear that someone seeks strong or robust skin. That is exactly what I am now striving to achieve. After years of being a self-confessed product junkie, I am now unable to use the hoards of products I own as I have done so much damage to the barrier of my skin and if you struggle with over-sensitised, red or irritated skin, you may have done the same.
Skincare has been an ever-growing interest of mine from a young age but I think the problem is often that we seek to cure and not to prevent. As a smoker during my university days, I have spent the latter years trying to undo the damage that I initially inflicted. The trouble is that the motivation always seems to come after the issue has developed and not before. The dedication I had to reverse my skin’s condition simply wasn’t there when my skin was in a healthy state. This provides a small level of desperation and that coupled with the expanse of information on the internet leaves you with a 12-step nighttime routine and a cocktail of abrasive chemicals applied daily.
I am not saying that you should not do your research, quite the opposite actually. The internet is an amazing resource at our fingertips that can provide you with a great skin education but it also can be confusing, misleading and often designed to drive sales. This was crucial in my own skin’s demise, The more I read, the more I thought I needed. From retinol, to acids to high strength vitamin C and peels, I used it all and now I am paying the price. This combination of abrasive and stripping products broke down my skin’s natural ceramides and I developed Perioral Dermatitis. This is a horrible and uncomfortable condition that is becoming increasingly common in women of all ages and is often developed through the overuse of products and treatments such as microneedling, exfoliants, acids, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, lasers, the list goes on.
We underestimate how integral our skin's natural lipid barrier is to the health and appearance of our skin. First and foremost, is it the only layer of the skin that we can actually see and it’s responsible for keeping the good things in and the bad things out. As your first defense, it is your protection against the elements, pollution and UV rays and so when the strength of that surface is impaired, the health of the skin is compromised. Sensitivity and inflammation is really a good indicator of any damage, as is persistent dryness and flaking.
Using too many products and combining too many harsh ingredients simultaneously is counterproductive and is certain to lead you to this outcome. There are so many contradictory opinions but I think a good rule of thumb is that simple is best and prevention rather than cure is key. Strengthening my skin barrier is my focus and I use a few clean products to restore, support and hydrate it. I am slowly learning to treat my skin with kindness and not frustration and I try to remember that overloading it will not serve me. You will get much better results when you aim to nourish and protect your skin than if you are constantly stripping and impairing it.
We have created such “a more is more” society and we all want instantaneous results. I believe that will never be the case in any aspect of your health and wellbeing. Patience and consistency is the best thing you can do for your overall health. There is still space for these products in your life if you want them but I do think the term ‘everything in moderation’ applies. If you want to use a retinol or an acid then great, but take it slow and use it sparingly. Don’t make my same mistakes. Atoning for those lifestyle choices down the line is much harder than you think.