Natural Skincare Explained. A Q&A with a Leading Expert & Owner of Fig & Flower Natural Beauty.
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In my continued quest to help understand some of the causes behind, and the treatment of dry and sensitive skin, I've been turned on to the concept of organic and natural skincare as an alternative, or at the very least, incorporating into my current skincare routine. Enter Fig & Flower Natural Beauty.
On one particularly blah Tuesday afternoon, after having my favorite hot chocolate (refusing to be a grown up) at San Francisco Coffee, I walked around the corner to a cute makeup boutique (yummy). Due to the day's aforementioned blahness, I figured the best way to remedy this was to surround myself with none other than skincare & makeup. It's what does it for me. Looking around what may be one of the cutest makeup boutiques I've ever been in, it dawned on me ... I need to learn more about organic and natural skincare/makeup. You see, that is what Fig & Flower is - all natural skincare & makeup. Feeling enlightened, I immediately purchased (arm not twisted at all) a green tea hydrogel mask and sought out the owner of this haven-on-earth for her take on dry, sensitive skin.
Below is a Q&A I had with Sara Lamond, owner & founder of Fig & Flower Natural Beauty. She is very insightful and her suggestions I have taken to heart. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
1. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION REGARDING THE CAUSES OF DRY SKIN AS IT RELATES TO NON-ORGANIC MAKEUP & SKINCARE VS. ORGANIC?
Sara: Let me start by saying that there are many causes of dry skin, unfortunately. Skin conditions are often a result of internal inflammation or autoimmune dysfunction, but can also be attributed to simple environmental factors like not drinking enough water, or weather changes.
With chronic, unexplained dry skin, it’s likely an inflammation issue. The good news is we usually don’t have to pinpoint the cause of the inflammation with absolute certainty, unless there’s a specific allergic reaction taking place. When our bodies are functioning like they should, our system detoxes itself and manages our inflammation. But in today’s society where chemicals and environmental stressors like pollution are so pervasive, our bodies have a hard time reducing inflammation as fast as we are exposing it to more irritants. We just have to reduce the amount of irritants we expose our system to so it has a chance to function properly.
There’s a common misconception among consumers that because a cosmetic product is available for sale means that the product has undergone some baseline evaluation for its safety. In fact, the beauty industry in the U.S. is almost entirely unregulated. Ingredients don’t need to be tested for their long-term effects on our health, nor the likelihood that those ingredients will cause an allergic reaction.
By using natural products without chemical additives, you’re reducing your exposure to potentially irritating (not to mentioned unsafe) ingredients. Botanically derived products are generally gentler and well accepted by our skin. This doesn’t mean every product will work for every person. But overall, natural is less irritating, and causes less inflammation in our bodies, which gives it the space to work optimally.
2. WHAT CHEMICALS IN NON-ORGANIC SKINCARE & MAKEUP SHOULD THOSE WITH THIS SKIN TYPE AVOID?
Sara: I’d say the top ingredients to look for and avoid are:
1. Sulfates (look for ingredients ending in lauryl sulfate or laureth sulfate): Sulfates are detergents that create lather and emulsification.
2. Fragrances: Synthetic fragrances are among the most chemically laden additives in traditional products, being comprised on multiple ingredients, none of which are listed on an ingredient list. Suffice it to say, synthetic fragrance should be avoided for the health risks they pose and the likelihood of causing irritation.
3. Prescription Retinoids (Retin-A, Renova, Refissa): Retinoids are ingredients derived from Vitamin A, a naturally occurring ingredient. But the prescription options are extremely concentrated, and often cause severe reactions for dry, sensitive skin. Retinoids are great ingredients for anti-aging, but using a natural option is much gentler on the skin.
4. Alcohol (look for simple alcohol like methanol, ethanol, propanol and denatured alcohol): While simple alcohol is extremely drying, fatty alcohols like Cetyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol can actually add moisture. Always do a patch test, though, as even fatty alcohols can irritate some skin types.
3. What are the benefits of organic skincare & makeup for dry skin?
Sara: Natural products are made up of all skin-loving ingredients. Botanical oils, butters, and natural waxes make up the majority of clean products. These ingredients are breathable for acne prone skin (unlike mineral oil or paraffin wax) but are ultra-hydrating and gentle. Natural ingredients also have trace minerals and vitamins which mean each ingredient adds value. You end up with a more potent, effective product without needless fillers or preservatives required by chemical laden products. And because the products tend to be richer, a little goes a long way!
4. IS THERE AN ORGANIC SUNSCREEN YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?
Sara: Absolutely! Natural sunscreens tend to be fairly different than chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens cause a reaction in order to be effective. Firstly, that means you have to wait 20 minutes for them to be effective. But it also means you’re inviting chemical reactions onto your skin and into your bloodstream.
Natural sunscreens create a physical barrier between your skin and harmful rays. Because natural sunscreens are a physical barrier, many of them leave a slightly detectable white cast. This means it’s working, which is a good thing, but I like to warn newbies up front. We’ve found the “creme de la crème” of natural sunscreens that don’t leave too much of a white cast, if at all. For body, I love Suntegrity Skincare. It has a divine tropical orange scent that makes me start dreaming of a beach anytime I put it on. For face moisturizer, the Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream is a lightweight, breathable option with SPF 30. It also comes in a tinted option, which is nearly completely sheer but avoids the white cast issue altogether.
5. WHAT ARE THE BEST CLEANSERS, TONERS, & MOISTURIZERS TO USE FOR THOSE WITH DRY SKIN?
Sara: Oil Cleansing is a great option for people with dry skin. Arguably, it cleanses more efficiently and effectively without stripping any natural oils away from the skin. One Love Organics Vitamin B Cleanser is our most popular oil cleanser and gets rave reviews from all skin types. If using an oil cleanser feels too unfamiliar, I recommend a cream cleanser or a foaming cleanser with very little foam, like Acure Seriously Soothing Creme Cleanser or Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser
For toners, stick to a hydrosol (flower water) instead of anything with witch hazel or alcohol, which tend to be more astringent. Also, consider using a toner in the morning instead of cleansing. Cleansing once a day at night works great for drier skin types, but you should wipe your face down with a toner in the morning to gentle remove sweat and debris from you pillow.
Dry skin types are pretty lucky, in that we can layer on products and reap the benefits of multiple skin loving products without it feeling too heavy. I like to start with a botanical oil like Apoterra’s Rose Serum with CoQ10. Rosehip has natural vitamin A, which is anti-aging while CoQ10 helps our skin retain moisture. Follow up your oil with a nourishing cream to lock in all the amazing benefits of the oil. Your cream should be used lightly during the day. If you’re feeling greasy you’re using too much.
6. IS THERE A PARTICULAR REGIMEN YOU WOULD SUGGEST FOR THOSE WITH DRY SKIN VS. OTHER SKIN TYPES?
Sara: The basics of skin care maintenance is the same no matter your skin type. Cleanse twice a day, moisturize twice a day and exfoliate 1-3 times a week. These are the absolute non-negotiables. But the products you’d use change with the type of skin you have. For instance, as I said earlier, dry skin types can replace their morning cleanse with toner and may use a heavier cream than someone with acne prone skin.
I’d dare say exfoliating is more important for dry skin, but it’s a step I see a lot of people skipping because it causes irritation. But without sloughing away the layer of dead skin that builds up for drier types, our moisturizer just sits on the skin and doesn’t get to where it needs to go. It may mean a little trial and error to find what exfoliant works for you, but it’s essential for our other skin care to work properly. There are physical exfoliants (scrubs) or ‘chemical’ exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs). Although chemical exfoliants cause a chemical reaction, there are super effective natural AHAs and BHAs which will be much gentler for drier skin. Look for products with willow bark extract or citrus fruit enzymes for natural chemical exfoliants.
7. I SEE THAT YOUR JOURNEY INTO THE ORGANIC & CLEAN WELLNESS STARTED IN 2010. WHAT WAS YOUR SKIN LIKE PRIOR VS NOW?
Sara: My skin is SO DIFFERENT. I used to have reactive, sensitive, dry skin. When I switched over to using natural products, the dryness improved immediately. I really saw a shift when I started exfoliating regularly, which I didn’t use to do because my skin was so sensitive and reactive. But natural exfoliants didn’t aggravate my skin, so reintroducing exfoliation has been a game changer for me.
Surprisingly, my skin is also less reactive than it used to be. This relates back to what I was saying about minimizing our exposure to ingredients that cause our bodies inflammation. I eat better these days (more organic, more non-GMO, and I’m a vegetarian), I use natural cleaning products in my house and natural products on my skin. My body responds less reactively because it’s not overwhelmed oxidative stress and chemical overload. Now I can try new products and get facials without being worried my face is going to be hot, red and inflamed the rest of the day!
Knowledge is power. And I'm feeling pretty powerful right now. Learning from one of the foremost industry leaders in this sector has no doubt upped my game in how I, and others, who suffer from dry and sensitive skin, can devise a game plan to keep it at bay. Keep in mind that not just us dry types can benefit from a natural skincare regimen, but all skin types - in general, the less chemicals the better.
Please let me know if you try any of these suggestions. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!