Dry Skin and the Soaps You Use

To prevent the spread of germs, many are washing their hands more frequently, leading to dry skin, especially during the winter months when the common cold is rampant and the air is harsh and arid. While nutrition plays a very important role in the quality of a person’s skin (coenzyme Q10, omega 3s, and drinking lots of water), it is also crucial to care for skin from the outside. Skin is, after all, the largest organ in the human body, and the outermost layers are primarily moisturized externally.

Why does washing my hands dry out my skin?

Hot water
Frequent contact with water, especially hot water, can strip skin of its natural oils.

Removal of glycerin
Thanks to the industrialization of soap production, glycerin is frequently removed from our modern soaps. Glycerin (also called glycerol when in its pure, chemical form) is the natural byproduct of the soap-making process. Combining fat (animal tallow or vegetable oils such as coconut, olive, or palm kernel) and an alkali (lye, sodium, ash) makes soap, which produces the moisturizer glycerin. Around the late 1800s, commercial soap-makers found that glycerin could be extracted from soap and re-sold for high profits, as it is used to make dynamite, medicines, and many cosmetic products. Since glycerin became such a high-demand product, it is stripped from most soap and thus leaves the modern consumer with hands stripped of moisture.

Antibacterial soaps
Antibacterial soaps have been found to dry skin, and, furthermore, don’t show any long-term benefit of truly fighting bacteria. In fact, frequent use of antibiotic soap begins to produce antibiotic resistance to bacteria and can strip the skin of its natural defenses.

Commercially made liquid soaps are frequently made with sulfates (commonly sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate) for their lather and foam producing properties. However, sulfates also dry out the skin. How well a soap lathers does not determine how well it cleanses, so there isn’t much added benefit of adding sulfates, except for the nice foaming action.

Thus, most soaps sold in modern convenience stores are extracted of natural moisturizers and instead filled with ingredients that dry our skin.

How can I prevent having dry skin from soap use and frequent hand-washing?
Since washing our hands regularly is said to be the best way to prevent the spread of germs, giving up hand washing is not an option. There are several things you can do, however, to prevent dry skin:

  • Use tepid water when washing. Hot water can further dry out skin. Many of us love hot showers, but this is another good reason to turn the shower temperature down, even if just a little.
  • Find soap that contains glycerin or make your own!
  • Avoid anti-bacterial soap.
  • Use soap that is sulfate-free. Sulfates are found in many household products such as body washes, hand soaps, shampoos, facial cleansers, and even toothpaste.

Originally posted 2013-01-04 22:18:00.

The manly and best way to shave:

The healthiest, manliest, and most ecologically friendly option for your face is probably not to shave at all, but for those of us who aren’t ready to commit to the Grizzly Adams look (or for those whose wives or girlfriends aren’t so fond of the idea), we need to find the manliest way to shave.  Personally, I’ve been in pursuit of the best way to shave for years.  Don’t make me toss in my man card, but I’ve found it difficult to shave without irritating my skin.  The good news is I’ve found a shaving method that won’t irritate my skin and is also ecologically friendly, affordable, and natural.  It revolves around a blade, a bowl, and a brush.  You won’t have to buy aerosol cans of petroleum-based shaving cream, plastic shavers that you keep throwing out, or overpriced multi-blade razors anymore.  Follow the simple instructions below for the best shave–it’s the way men were shaving for years before all the latest marketing schemes:

You’ll need: A double-edged safety razor – these are made of stainless steel, and you’ll never have to replace it.  You’ll only have to replace the single, incredibly sharp blade (and you can purchase a year or two supply for only $10); a shaving bowl or small bowl that fits a cake of round soap; a cake of round shaving soap, I recommend Mr. Beardsley’s Shaving Soap or some other natural soap; a shaving brush, and a pre-shave oil.

1) Take a hot shower and gently scrub your face.  The hot-steam is important for a good shave – it opens the pores and softens the beard.  A proper shave takes time.  If you don’t have time to take a shower, you don’t have time to shave!  The other alternative (though not as good) is to wash your face with hot-water and then let a hot towel rest on your face for several minutes.  

2) Gently rub a pre-shave oil onto your face.  There are oils made specially for shaving, but you can also use pure almond oil (adding a little bit of tea tree oil creates a nice blend).  The oil moistens the beard and skin and allows the razor to slide gently over your face. (This step is optional.  I personally prefer shaving without a pre-shave oil.)

3) Splash hot water on your face, then use a shave brush and a little bit of hot water to lather up the soap in your shave bowl.  Apply the lather to your face in circular motions.

4) There are several things to keep in mind when you start to use your razor.  First of all, shave very gently, letting the weight of the razor do most of the work.  The goal is not to remove the beard in one stroke, but to reduce your beard with several passes of the blade (since there’s only one blade, it won’t irritate your skin).  Secondly, it’s vital that you pay very careful attention to the various directions your beard grows on your face and neck and to shave with the grain.  After most of your beard is removed and you still want a closer shave, you can experiment with gently passing the razor across the direction of your beard.  Finally, use your razor at the lowest angle possible.  This is usually about 30 degrees.  Find this angle by placing the shaver perpendicularly on your skin, then slowly lower it until it will shave your beard.  

5) Continually rinse your razor with hot water while shaving.  If your skin starts to get cool, you can place a warm wash cloth on your skin for a few seconds to help re-open your pores.

6) Reminder: TAKE YOUR TIME.  You will get faster with practice.  

7) After finished shaving, rinse your face with cold water.  You can use an astringent if desired, as well as a natural lotion/oil to re-moisturize your skin. 

A few extra tips: Store your shave brush on its side or bristle down to keep water from damaging the bristles or handle.  Coat your razor blade with your pre-shave oil after each shave to prevent oxidation and to keep the blade sharper longer.  I use tea tree oil, which is also antibacterial.  

This routine has worked wonders for me, and it’s a lot more affordable than using all the latest shaving gadgets.  Relax, reflect, and enjoy the process.  The integrity, moisture, and health of your skin is also highly dependent on your diet.  Be sure to eat plenty of vegetables, berries, and omega-3’s daily.  Happy shaving!

Originally posted 2012-12-08 06:05:00.

Sun Exposure and Healthy Skin

Sunscreen-SPF-What-it-means-protectionWe absolutely depend on sunshine for health! When exposed to the sun, our skin produces a plentiful amount of a potent form of Vitamin D, which has hundreds of different roles in the body (including protecting against skin cancer). The dilemma: sun exposure can also damage the skin and eventually lead to skin cancer. Fortunately, when we live in God’s creation the way he intended us to, our skin is healthy enough to endure plentiful amounts of sunshine. Compared to unhealthy skin, healthy skin can absorb more sun rays without incurring damage, and skin is healthy when we eat a Creation-based diet and get enough sunshine! Nearly all fruits and vegetables provide some type of photoprotection for the skin. Regular consumption of healthy foods especially berries, tea, and dark chocolate infuse the body’s cells with polyphenols, flavanols, anthocyanins, and antioxidants that protect the skin against UV rays. Regular consumption is key!

It takes months of maintaining healthy eating habits to improve the skin’s health.The carotenoid family is especially effective at absorbing UV rays and providing anti-oxidant benefits. This includes pigments like beta-carotene, Lycopene, and astaxanthin. Of the carotenoids, Astaxanthin, which is found in salmon and krill (responsible for their red/pink color) is the most powerful. If you don’t eat much salmon or krill oil, astaxanthin can also be found in supplement form. Studies have found that those who regularly consume astaxanthin can stay in the sun longer without getting sun burned. Astaxanthin also has other benefits, such as increased athletic endurance and reduction of inflammation.

Having enough healthy fats in the diet, especially saturated fats and omega-3s, is also important for the skin. Fats are one of the primary building blocks of skin-cell membranes. Be sure to consume fatty fish like salmon or take krill/fish oil pills to meet your daily omega-3 requirement. Good sources of saturated fats include organic butter, organic whole milk, and coconut oil.

A note on topical before/after sun care:

Suncreen can be beneficial, but it has to be the right kind and has to be reapplied regularly. Sunscreen can provide a false sense of security, resulting in burns or excessive sun, so use wisely. Here are the things to know: There is no such thing as a water-proof sunscreen. All sunscreens wear off as as a result of water and toweling, and must be reapplied regularly. Also, many sunscreens use harmful chemicals to absorb the sun’s rays. If you use sunscreen, be sure to only use sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as the sole active ingredient. Zinc oxide is a natural mineral that blocks all types of UV rays. Finally, there is little benefit in using a sunscreen beyond an SPF rating of 30. Anything beyond 30 SPF is primarily a marketing scheme. The sun protection beyond SPF 20-30 drops of exponentially.

Perhaps more important than sunscreen is applying the antioxdiants and phytochemicals listed above, topically. Studies on animals have found that when applied topically after UV exposure, green tea and astaxanthin reduce skin damage. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E also have positive effects on the skin. It is easy to make your own before/after sun ointment at home – simply make a 50/50 mix of almond oil and water and add green tea powder (green tea leaves ground in a coffee grinder), astaxanthin (cut open several astaxanthin capsules and insert contents in your oil/water mix), vitamin E, and Vitamin C then shake well before use! Word of caution, the astaxanthin does have a slight pigment to it, so let the ointment absorb into your skin before wearing clothing or touching anything you dont’ want died pink (you can also not add the astaxanthin, but it’s so potent for the skin that I would recommend adding it).

The bottom line is, don’t get burned. You can get more sun without getting burned by improving the health of your skin through proper nutrition and skin care.

Pubmed Sources:

Chocolate study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735513
Carotenoid study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18803658
Polyphenol study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22070679
Green tea study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21094124

Originally posted 2012-07-19 20:03:00.

DIY After-Sun Antioxidant Spray

After reading about the benefits of applying green tea and antioxidant vitamins to the skin after exposure to UV rays, I decided to devise my own aftersun (or anytime) antioxidant spray. I’ve been using my custom green tea/vitamin c/vitamin e blend for several months now and it works great!  Even though I rarely get burned, every once in a while I overdo it a bit and get pink.  When this happens, I always spray on liberal amounts of my antioxidant solution, and it provides quick recovery from my burn!  Of course, I spray it on whether I get sunburned or not, because I want to give my skin all the nutrition I can.

The reason I chose to use green tea and vitamins e and c in my solution is that they all provide researched benefits. Several studies, looking at both rat and human skin, found that after exposure to the sun or artificial UV rays, topically applied green tea reduces inflammation and can even reduce the incidence of skin cancer.  Green tea contains powerful polyphenols that protect green tea plants from UV damage and provide a number of benefits to humans as well.

Other plants use vitamin C and Vitamin E to protect their cells from UV damage.  One study using a vitamin C and Vitamin E solution found that when applied to the skin daily, it provided progressive protection from sunburn and UV damage.

With all these benefits, it’s surprising that there aren’t many antioxidant sprays out there.  Thankfully, it’s easy to make an antioxidant solution at home.

Here’s what you’ll need: an 8 oz spray bottle, vitamin C powder, green tea, water, and liquid vitamin E.


  • blendinggreenteaFirst brew an extra potent cup of green tea (with about 7 oz of water).  Use 4 tea bags of green tea or 8 grams of loose green tea. Steep in hot water for about four minutes, then drain.  You can also grind the green tea extremely finely with a coffee grinder, shake it with 7 oz of warm water and then filter the water with a french press.
  • Pour the green tea solution into your spray bottle.
  • Grind 4 grams of vitamin C into very fine powder using a coffee grinder (i’ve used both tablets and powder – powder works best), then add to the spray bottle.
  • Add a teaspoon of Liquid vitamin E to your spray bottle.
  • After all the ingredients are added, shake the spray bottle vigorously to mix
  • Use liberally every day, especially after exposure to the sunshine!

Recommended products:

Sources: Vitamin C and Vitamin E Solution, Topical Application of Green Tea

Originally posted 2013-06-02 02:57:29.

Natural Product Review: Trader Joe's Nourish Facial Cleaner & Moisturizer

Trader Joe’s Nourish Facial Cleanser & Moisturizer: Pros
I knew I wanted a gentle, rich cleanser because it would be better for my oily skin, but I still wasn’t sure if the Trader Joe’s Nourish skin care line would do the trick. I thought maybe it would be too gentle, and I was skeptical at its claim to be an “exfoliant.” If a face wash exfoliates, doesn’t it need to have little chunks of something to rub the dead skin cells off? It’s turns out the answer is no. Harsh cleansers with chemicals or scrubbing gritty pieces are really too rough for facial skin; using cleansers that rely on grit to exfoliate is like taking sandpaper to your face! It kind of feels like you’re really getting the dirt out, but the truth is that a gentle, nourishing wash and a little patience will have a much healthier and more lasting effect.

A little patience? By that I mean that I’ve been using this cleanser and moisturizer set for over a year now, and my face has never been healthier. The longer I use it, the more I love it. I didn’t see much of a difference at first, but after 6-8 weeks of washing and moisturizing morning and night, I noticed a dramatic difference: clearer, brighter, tighter, and more balanced skin!
These products definitely work hand-in-hand—I’ve noticed the best results when using both Nourish products consistently. I’ve also found that it’s important to apply the antioxidant-rich moisturizer before applying any other creams or oils. After washing, your pores are open to soak up the benefits of the Nourish moisturizer, which, by the way, are plentiful. Both the face wash and the moisturizer contain nutrients your skin will love, such as coenzyme Q10, green tea, and vitamins A, D3, B5, E and K. The moisturizer has even more to absorb: aloe vera, chamomile, pomegranate, and coffee extract too! All this plus both are paraben-, sulfate-, petroleum-, and fragrance-free. Totaling in at about $12 makes TJ’s Nourish skin care line a win-win.

Trader Joe’s Nourish Facial Cleanser & Moisturizer: Cons
One small setback on this pair is that since it contains retinol (vitamin A), it could make your skin more sensitive to sun. This is because retinol encourages skin cell turnover, thus decreasing fine lines and improving skin texture, but the new skin it generates is delicate. Unlike many cosmetic products, TJ’s Nourish skin care line isn’t claiming to be “anti-aging” or “skin-renewing” and retinol is listed at the bottom of the ingredients list on the moisturizer, which is more highly absorbed than the cleanser. This tells me it’s not something to be very worried about; although, if it’s a concern to you, it could be used only in the evening or as a wintertime skin care routine.

Trader Joe’s Nourish Facial Cleanser & Moisturizer: Ingredients
Nourish All-in-One Facial Cleanser: Water (Aqua), Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Disodium PEG-12 Dimethicone Sulfosccinate, Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acids, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Phytonadione (Vitamin K), Alpha Lipoic Acid, Coenzyme Q-10, Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) Extract, Copper Peptides, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbic Acid.

Nourish Antioxidant Facial Moisturizer: Water (Aqua), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Ethylhexyl (Octyl) Palmitate, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Polysorbate-60, Cetearyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol (Preservative), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Fruit, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E Acetate), Xanthan Gum (Thickener), Tocopherol (Antioxidant), Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Solluble Collagen, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C Palmitate), Punica Grantatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sorbitan Stearate, Phytonadione (Vitamin K1), Menadione (Vitamin K3), Hydrolyzed Silk, DMAE (Dimethylamnoethanol), Copper PCA, Retinol (Vitamin A), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate), Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10), Thioctic Acid (a-Lipoic Acid), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), Polysorbate-20, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Phospholipids.

Originally posted 2013-03-20 00:53:00.