Hey everyone! Sorry for missing my skin care post on Wednesday! I just started a new job a couple of weeks ago and I’m still learning how to balance work, socializing, hobbies, and adult life in general. However, this actually puts me in a great position to rearrange my posting habits. Welcome to Skin Care Sundays! My Sunday posts will now always be about skin care, while my Wednesday posts will likely be about makeup, but could be about anything I feel like talking about!
Today I wanted to talk about how to protect yourself from skin nightmares on your skin care journey. I’ll be pointing out some of the harmful things you should avoid and why they’re not so great for your skin!
Baking soda is great for a lot of things. I love using it to clean. I love using it to bake. I love mixing it with vinegar and making a huge mess for no reason. Truly, I think it’s great for almost everything; EXCEPT for using on your face. If you remember waaaaay back to chemistry class, you hopefully remember something called the pH scale. The pH scale measures how basic or acidic something is. Your skin has something called an acid mantle, a thin, acidic film on the surface of the skin that keeps your skin at a pH that is inhospitable to most bacteria. Your acid mantle is somewhere between 4.5 and 6.2 on the pH scale. Baking soda, on the other hand, has a pH of about 9. Now, the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning something with a pH of 7 is 10x more acidic than something with a pH of 8. When your put it in that context, the difference between 4.5 and 9 on the pH scale is absolutely huge. When you use something that wildly different from your skin’s natural pH, you run the risk of disturbing your acid mantle and making your skin a breeding ground for bacteria, which then leads to acne. Baking soda is also pretty abrasive, and can damage your skin’s physical barrier and lead to severely dried out skin.
Lemon Juice & Vinegar
On the other end of the spectrum we have strong acids that people looooove to put in their DIY face masks and toners. Lemon juice and vinegar, generally speaking, don’t belong anywhere near your face. Remember the acid mantle of the skin we just talked about? Well, just because it’s acidic doesn’t mean you can just spread more acidic things all over your face and be ok. Strong acids can damage your skin just as badly as strong bases. Both lemon juice and vinegar are going to disrupt your acid mantle and likely damage your physical barrier and lead to dried out, acne prone skin. No one wants that. Additionally, lemon juice can make you more prone to sun burns due to the high citric acid content. Now, I know I’ve said that vitamin c is great for evening out skin tone, but you have to use a professionally formulated, pH balanced serum to spread it on your face; you can’t just rub half a lemon on a be ok. And even with pH balanced serums, vitamin c can still make you more prone to sunburns.
A quick aside about vinegar; I do actually use it on my face. I’ve already talked about my love for the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay mask, and how I use it religiously on Easter and Christmas once a week. It comes as a powder and I like to mix it with apple cider vinegar instead of using water. The difference here is that I’m using something acidic to balance out the basicity of the clay. The mix of the two results in a neutral pH which causes less damage to skin. A lot of people complain about this mask irritating their face, but usually this is because they’re mixing the clay with water and not mixing with vinegar. Remember: always keep pH in mind when you’re looking at new products. It could save your skin.
Should you be waiting between applying your skin care products? Well, that depends on what their pH is, usually. If you apply two things with different pHs one after the other, you might mix them into a pH that’s not great for your skin. Detergents (what makes soaps feel… well, soapy) can cause damage to the acid mantle of your skin. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s no way to avoid that. If I don’t use a foaming cleanser, I find that my skin becomes way too oily. But there are things that I do to diminish the harm caused by detergents. One of those things is using a low pH cleanser. My favorite is the CeraVe Foaming Cleanser. It has a pH of about 5.5, so it’s in a good range to avoid damage to the acid mantle. It also removes excess oil without drying out my skin and it’s super affordable. I also like to wait a minute between washing my face and applying anything else, just to make sure my skin’s pH balance is restored and that there’s nothing that’s going to react with my face wash and cause damage to my skin.
I also use some acid exfoliants that contain AHA and BHA. The biggest piece of advice I have for not damaging your skin with these is to slowly build up your usage of them. Start with once per week. Then twice. Then build it up as much as your want. I like to keep my usage at every other day for most acidic products. BHAs and AHAs are essentially ineffective if they have pH higher than 4, so you will have to use some pretty strong acids on your face. After I apply an AHA or BHA, I like to wait about 20 minutes for my skin to return to a normal pH before applying anything else. For this reason, I usually do my exfoliating at night, when I can have a nice leisurely routine and not be rushed as I try to get ready for work.
Other Things to Avoid
There are a few other things I try to avoid when picking out a product. One of the big ones is alcohol. Alcohol is great because it evaporates quickly, meaning your face doesn’t feel wet or sticky for very long when you apply a toner or serum. Alcohol is also awful because it evaporates quickly and takes a lot of your skin’s moisture with it. Not all alcohols are created equal though; remember that alcohol is a chemical classification and that there are hundreds of substances that fall under the alcohol umbrella. The alcohols I’m talking about are called “solvent alcohols” and those are the ones that carry away moisture as they evaporate. The most common one that shows up in skin care is isopropyl alcohol, and it’s very bad for your skin. There are some alcohols known as “emollient alcohols” that function as oil, but we can talk about those in another post. Generally speaking, as a beginner, I recommend you look for products that are alcohol free.
Essential oils can also be pretty irritating to your skin. I love the smell of orange and lavender, but those smells often mean that essential oils are being used, and that’s not a good sign. Both lavender and citrus oils can be incredibly irritating to the skin. This is why, though I love LUSH and their bath products, I’ve started avoiding their facial cleansers. They smell delicious, but contain a lot of irritating essential oils. In the same vein, “fragrance” is a word I never want to see in my ingredients list. “Fragrance” is code word for blend of irritating oils and alcohols that we don’t want to tell you about. It’s legal to use this word because of a company’s right to protect their “secret formulas” when it comes to fragrances. But since I don’t know what’s in it, I choose not to buy it and put it on my sensitive skin.
Peppermint oil and menthol are also pretty common ingredients in skin care stuff, but that I generally avoid. Both of these are pretty well known skin irritants, but they’re added to make you think that a product is working. That cooling sensation you get when you apply pepperminty or metholy products isn’t a sign of anything other than the heat receptors in your skin being tricked into thinking something cold is touching you. It’s the same reason spicy food makes you feel like your mouth is on fire. Heat receptors also respond to certain compounds that can “trick” them into thinking a temperature change has occurred when it actually hasn’t. And that’s what happened when your face feels cooled after using a minty mask; nothing happening to the surface of your skin, just your nerves being tricked. That being said… one product I love with all my heart does have menthol in it, so use it at your own risk. The Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque is incredible, but it’s full of menthol, so use it at your own risk. Personally, I’ve never had any issues with it and it’s helped clear up my skin like nobody’s business, but that’s just my experience. As with everything else, please make sure you patch test before you put anything all over your face.
That’s it for this post! Do you think I missed anything? Do you want me to talk about a specific topic next Skin Care Sunday? Let me know in the comments below!