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Naturally Glowing Skin 101, Part 2: Skin Care Basics

| 3/8/2011 10:44:24 AM

S.PowellSarah Powell, an herbalist, medical anthropologist and proprietor of the natural bath & body business, Lilith’s Apothecary. Find her shop at and her blog at for more natural body care tips and recipes.  

Naturally healthy skin need not be a daunting, complex task. It can be a delightful ritual using natural ingredients found in your own home. The important first step is to simplify your routine. We will address the five most important skin care steps in this post.

If it’s one thing we do here in the U.S., at least, it’s to over-complicate our skincare routine. We have such diversity of skin care products available to us, and so many compelling advertising campaigns, that it is difficult for individuals to discern what they need and what they do not need. Fortunately, most of the most beneficial skin care products can be made by you in your own home. The Herb Companion has numerous, excellent do-it-yourself skincare recipes in their archives and there are endless examples on the web, including my own blog.

Skincare shouldn’t be a chore. It should be enjoyable and even contemplative. This is ‘time out’ from the regular, frantic nature of many of our lives, and at long last—some peace and quiet in the restroom—can be a special time in our day to take part in humankind's age-old beautifying treatments. Why not make your own home spa rituals? Start with your basic skin care routine and extend into the delightful realm of facial masks and steams, which we will get to later.

For the moment, put aside the lip plumpers and neck serums. With all the products out there, what are the most critical choices to make?
1.Cleanser: Washes away dirt, make-up, pollutants
2. Toner (or astringent): Removes residual cleanser, oil, returns skin to its natural pH, temporarily refines pores
3. Moisturizer: Replenishes the skin, keeps skin supple and soft, and minimizes wear.
4. Exfoliant: Smoothes the complexion and revitalizes skin; can be a gentle facial scrub OR Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and/or Beta Hydroxy Acid (ABA) creams.  AHA’s and BHA’s are micro-exfoliants that are natural botanical acids.
5. Sunscreen: Find one that works for you and your skin type. Wear to prevent sun damage, particularly in the summer months.

Simply put, cleansing is the first and most critical step. If your skin is dry, you need to cleanse once. If it is oily, you need to cleanse twice. Don’t cleanse more than twice a day, however, in order to avoid stripping the skin and adversely causing excess oil production to compensate. Use a mild, natural cleanser that suites your skin type.  Most of us know to cleanse before bed because we may wear make-up or have exercised during the day, but it is notable that cleansing is especially important to do before bedtime because your body excretes toxins through your skin while you sleep. If you do not cleanse, you risk clogged pores and break-outs, no matter what your skin type. It is worth noting that if you wear make-up, you should really cleanse your skin two times during your evening ritual. The first wash removes the make-up. The second wash removes excess sebum, dead skin, and deep cleanses pores. Always wash with tepid (not hot!) water so you prevent drying out the skin. 

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