Cosmetics have come a long way from the days in which they were first created, when the Egyptians blended healing unguents and potions from the finest herbs and oils. Today, Americans spend close to $3 billion annually on cosmetics for the face and body. The natural cosmetics industry has gained a great deal of ground in the last decade, as people look toward a more safe, gentle, and ecological approach to skin and body care. Most natural cosmetic companies spend advertising dollars on educating the consumer rather than promoting an image, because they believe the consumer wants to take more responsibility for her/his personal welfare.
The trend of modern beauty is now encompassing the whole person, rather than simply ‘looking good’. The natural cosmetic industry has helped to balance this concept of beauty, bringing inner health and beauty to the surface. In a sense, we are renewing the ancient Egyptian approach to cosmetics, both a healing and beautifying treatment. The Egyptian embalmers used some of the best ingredients for preserving, rejuvenating and celebrating the skin: resins and oils that are used in some of the best natural cosmetics available today.
Most people begin to pay more attention to their skin when the effects of aging are first noticed, generally between the ages of twenty and thirty. By the beginning of the next century there will be approximately 32 million Americans over the age of 65. With increasing life spans, there is a natural increase in skin care and a healthy life-style.
The skin is the body’s largest organ, and next to the brain, the most important. It measures approximately 20 square feet and weighs between 7 and 9 pounds, twice as much as the brain. It requires one third of the body’s circulatory blood for healthy functioning. The skin is often referred to as the third kidney because of its eliminative role. Skin excretes up to two pounds of waste daily, moving more toxins than all the eliminative organs combined.
The skin’s main release of toxins is through perspiration. This function assists in regulating body temperature and PH balance. It also is a way to burn a few calories, approximately 500 per day. When perspiration is inhibited, the kidneys pick up the responsibility for eliminating the waste, and the body risks being subjected to a toxic state. Blemishes are one result of the skin attempting to eliminate the toxic accumulations in the blood.
In addition to its most important eliminative function, the skin performs six other basic functions.
1. It is a protective barrier from heat, cold, bacteria and other environmental stresses.
2. It regulates the body temperature, maintaining its inside temperature despite wide variations on the outside of the skin.
3. It breathes to a small extent, exhaling carbon dioxide and eliminating unwanted gases.
4. It absorbs substances, passing them through the tissues.
5. It has its own hydration system which keeps it soft and supple, and lubricates itself by discharging the sebaceous fluids through perspiration.
6. It contains a complex networking of nerve endings that allow us sensation and enable us to react to heat, cold, pain and pleasure.
The skin is made up of three main layers: epidermis, dermis, and subcutis. Each of these layers support the other and has its own particular function. All of these layers are made up of cells in varying degrees of life potency. Of the some hundred trillion cells in the body, we shed up to five billion a day! Not only does the environment play a major role in optimum skin integrity, but the functions of the various systems involved also plays a key role in skin health. Both the blood and lymph systems must be taken into account as well, for a healthy skin is a well nourished skin, and the nourishment essentially comes from these two systems.
Biological programming, our heredity, is probably the most influential factor in determining our skin type. It has been medically demonstrated that the balance of male and female hormones affects the production of the sebaceous glands. More sebum is stimulated by male hormones, meaning, according to medical research, that men have a greater tendency toward oily skin. Skin on the scalp, face, back and chest contains more oil glands than skin on the arms and legs.
The activity of the sebaceous glands does decrease as we age, gradually changing an oily complexion to a drier skin. This process is speeded up by medical complications, some medications, or certain skin treatments. A woman who has recently had a hysterectomy, a menopausal woman, or a person undergoing chemotherapy will most often experience a change in skin type.
It is probable that a person will experience many skin conditions in a lifetime, since the skin is a constant reflection of our age and inner well-being. One’s skin condition varies on a daily basis depending on temperature, humidity, travel factors (airplane air is drying to the skin, different water sources interact differently with the skin), exercise, and outdoor exposure.
The skin can be divided into four basic types: sensitive, underactive, active and overactive.
Sensitive skin is delicate, generally light in color and tone, and when treated correctly, reflects a porcelain glow and fineness. It is almost always dry skin. It is easily irritated and should be treated with very mild, non detergent products. Both fragrances and preservatives can cause reactions and such products should first be patch tested on a less sensitive part of the body.
Sensitive skin is generally a thin textured skin, making capillaries, or blood vessels more visible. Because the blood supply is generally closer to the surface of the skin, it is more prone to irritations or allergies. In some cases, the tiny blood vessels, being so close to the surface, are damaged by environmental stresses. They rupture, creating a condition called cuperose, which most often occurs over the cheeks and across the nose. Alcohol consumption, spicy foods, and increased blood flow through exercise and even blushing, can contribute to cuperose problems.
This skin type can react unfavorably to many synthetic chemicals in skin care products. In addition, environmental stresses such as excessive heat and cold, wind, and exposure to ultraviolet light increase the aging process by damaging delicate tissues.
Underactive skin is found most commonly on a fair skin that easily burns in the sun. It is often sensitive with a somewhat delicate texture, poor elasticity, and generally lacks tone and suppleness. It does not commonly break out in blemishes or acne, but has an all over taut feeling, sometimes showing signs of flaking or peeling. Flakiness is a sign of dehydration. Sebum production is somewhat sparse or impaired, resulting in moisture loss which increases the tendency toward wrinkling and fine lines, particularly around the mouth and eyes.
I like to refer to dry or underactive skin as a need for stimulation of the various layers. The treatment of dry skin necessitates increasing the blood circulation which is a primary factor in plumping and regenerating skin tissue. The easiest way to accomplish this yourself, without electronic equipment, is through massage.
Since water comprises about 70% of the constituents of the skin, it is understandable that the skin serves as a sort of reservoir for the rest of the body. It is widely confirmed that a relative humidity of 60-65% helps to maintain the skins natural moisture content. A lower relative humidity draws moisture from the skin into the environment, and a higher relative humidity forces moisture into the skin. Hydrate the skin with a rich moisturizer both morning and night, using a moisture replenishing toner spray between times.
Active skin is most often seen in glamour magazines models who are pre-adolescent. Truly, it is not the most common skin type, and is found mainly in young and/or health oriented individuals. Active skin shows a normal function of the body’s organs and systems, a good balance of oil and moisture, a general sign of good health, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It most often has a firm, supple and smooth appearance.
Most people have a combination skin type, recognized by an oilier T zone (forehead, nose and chin) with a drier look around the cheek, jaw and hairline. It is really two different types of skin, and should be treated accordingly. The aim is to moisturize the dry areas and stabilize the more oily areas.
Overactive skin is often a strong hereditary trait. The most commonly identifiable characteristic is an all over shiny look from the oil secretions which are heaviest in the T zone. A thick skin texture with large pores, particularly around the nose area, are signs of overactive skin. Because of the pronounced sebaceous activity, this skin type will appear smoother and more plump than Underactive skin. This excessive oil production will keep a face looking more youthful much longer than a dry skin type.
Bacteria from one’s fingertips and the environment at large tend to breed in the oily film which contains toxic wastes from the body. Although oily skin is prone to developing acne in younger persons, other factors beside oily skin are also responsible. Stress, improper cleansing, poor diet, hormonal imbalance, heredity and nervous habits contribute to skin eruptions. Acne is a chronic inflammation of the sebaceous gland and hair follicle, and most types can be treated with proper home care. Bacteria within the hair follicle multiply approximately every half hour. It is important to treat acne appropriately by following the strictest hygiene practices.
Once you have an understanding of your own skin type and its individual needs, shopping for skin care products is a quicker, easier and more enjoyable venture. When trying a new line it is a good idea to purchase trial sizes first. Give your skin at least three weeks to determine the benefits of the product. Remember, it takes three to four weeks to develop a new layer of skin. Products generally have directions for use. Follow these directions accordingly.
There are easy ways to keep the skin in a glowing healthy state. Drink a half-gallon of water a day. Eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, whole grains and fresh fruits. Steam or sauna your skin on a regular basis. Exercise moderately. Quit or reduce smoking, caffeine and alcohol consumption. Keep a positive attitude and a fulfilling life-style.
True beauty of course, is more than skin deep. It is also an expression of how we feel about ourselves. The results of cosmetic applications, for men as well as for women, is an extension of this full expression of our selves.
For many, make-up is a face of acceptance, a conformity to a greater-than-self image, a collective face, a cultural coloration. It is also a delightful way to play with and celebrate one's self image. The art of making up a face is as individualized as an art can be, each face a unique palate to adorn with color. A simple knowledge of color, one’s skin tone, and an understanding of one’s own facial composition are the skills required. One is either yellow toned (warm colors) or blue toned (cool colors). This is determined by looking at the skin and blood veins at the inside fold of the elbow.
A few tricks of the trade can sculpt a face with shades of color. To achieve a finished and soft coloration, a few good brushes are necessary. The three basic are a dusting brush for loose powder to absorb excess oil and to soften and smooth the skin tone; a blunt, tapered brush to accent the eyebrows or rim the eyes; and a lip brush to define the lips.
There are talc-less translucent powders and colors to match every mood or skin tone which can also shade or highlight the contours of the face. The same color can be used for the three most important highlighting areas. A single shade such as an amber, brick, or a soft coral tone will brighten the face and can be used on the eyelids, the > above the brow and along the cheek bone, and on the lips. One can layer color to increase the facial contour that the lighting and coloration create. Wash brushes regularly with a mild soap and warm water.
It is hard to know what product ingredients may or may not do for you without knowing what their action is. The more refined, processed, stabilized and neutralized a product is, generally the more it is in-active on the skin. Choose products with ingredients that are as close to food , to what you would want to eat, as possible. Many chemical sounding names are perfectly harmless, and may even be helpful to the skin. Manufacturers are beginning to unite around a True Label program to increase consumer awareness and provide the most accurate information possible in regard your choice in skin care products.
All of the chemicals that could possibly be used in manufacturing natural skin care products have been subjected to testing already, so there is little need to continually re-test such ingredients. We are in fact, getting closer to the new standard of tests through computer models.
The cruelty-free and eco-sound shopper is making a bigger impact on the colossal business of cosmetics. More people are choosing to buy personal care and household products that are animal and cruelty free and that contain environmentally sound ingredients. We can balance our skin and help balance our fragile eco-system responsibly.
|Animal Rights Actions You Can Take
1. Refuse to purchase products that have been manufactured and marketed by subjecting animals to toxicity tests.
2. Help educate others about unnecessary product safety tests for cosmetics. The Humane Society of the U.S. sells bumper stickers saying, “Do Something Beautiful-Buy Cruelty- Free Cosmetics“ for $.50. See address below.
3. Send your contribution to the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) to continue their efforts to eliminate unnecessary animal testing. Now that they have prompted cosmetic companies to develop alternatives, we must all work toward convincing them to implement these non-animal tests! Write to: HSUS 2100 L STREET NW, Washington DC 20037. (202) 452-1100.
4. Write to the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) urging it to increase financial support for the development and implementation of non-animal testing methods. Write to: CTFA 1110 VERMONT AVE., NW, SUITE 800, WASHINGTON DC 20005.
5. Write to the FDA, the regulatory agency which does NOT require animal tests to determine product safety of cosmetics. Urge the FDA not to accept data from the Classical LD 50 test. This would result in the industry’s adopting alternative testing methods. Write to: Food and Drug Administration, Cosmetics Division, 200 C Street SW, Washington DC 20024.
6. Send donations to the American fund for Alternatives to Animal Research, 175 W. 12th St. #16, New York, NY 10011-8275. This group of researchers and educators has contributed greatly to the Animal Rights movement.
7. People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a catalog of cruelty free products for personal, home and office use. It lists companies that do animal testing so that you can make wiser consumer choices. P.O. Box 42516, Washington DC 20015. (301)770 PETA.