The Long-Term Cost of Short-Term Beauty
Throughout my 35+ years in the beauty industry, I’ve found myself on both sides of the debate around the benefits and risks of popular skincare ingredients. I’m not referring to the growing list of forbidden chemicals in clean beauty; this goes much deeper than clean washing. It’s about the possibility that some of the “gold standard” skincare ingredients for short-term beauty benefits may have a long-term cost when it comes to skin aging.
Skin, like every organ in the body, is affected by inflammatory stress. Stress is everywhere and is a necessary component of growth and development. Stress triggers responses in skin that upregulate repair processes, resulting in firmer, smoother looking skin … to an extent.
Have you heard of “inflammaging”? You may be seeing this term pop up more often as it relates to longevity and beauty. Inflammaging is the result of chronic, low-grade inflammation that occurs naturally as a result of the aging process. While inflammation is a necessary response to injury or infection, skincare ingredients that work by triggering low-grade inflammation have the potential to disrupt skin’s moisture barrier and accelerate or exacerbate inflammaging. Over time, this leads to dullness and loss of firmness, the exact opposite of the wonderful short-term benefits you seek from your skincare regimen.
What would happen if your skincare and selfcare routines were all about supporting your skin’s and your body’s resilience to inflammatory stress? How would your skin respond in the short run if you laid off the harsh stuff for a while?
Skintermittent Fasting: Beyond Skin Cycling
Thank you, Dr. Whitney Bowe, for alerting more people to the benefits of decreasing their exposure to pro-inflammatory skincare ingredients via your practice of skin cycling. In many ways we’re on the same page although I believe many people will find a four-day cycle of different ingredients on different days somewhat challenging in terms of the power of habit. And many more have already discovered that they may not need the more irritating chemical exfoliants and retinoids at all. That’s certainly been the case for me as I’ve modified my skincare routine to fit my anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
During the height of the covid pandemic mask mandates wreaked havoc with our skin. The term “maskne” became part of skincare lexicon and our skin became dull and sensitive. Leading dermatologists suggested taking a break from the stronger acids, bleaches and retinoids due to the possibility of greater irritation and the breakdown of skin’s moisture barrier under the occlusion of a mask. And, of course, some of us exacerbated our skin concerns as we adopted other unhealthy habits such as stress eating.
During the pandemic, I conducted a number of webinars with wellness professionals about managing the various sources of inflammatory stress as the foundation of “integrative beauty.” The outcomes were rewarding, although not surprising: people started discovering firsthand that skin radiance is ultimately the reflection of overall wellbeing. Just as intermittent fasting and low-glycemic foods support an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, we saw the benefits of “skintermittent fasting” and avoidance of pro-inflammatory ingredients for restoring the appearance of clear, resilient, glowing skin. It’s the ultimate inside / outside approach to beauty and radiant wellbeing.
Making Skintermittent Fasting Work for Your Skin
When it comes to treating skin concerns, there is no one-size-fits all. There are even versions of DNA testing created to provide a deeper level of insight into what ingredients may be best for you based on your genetic code. However, there is a universal truth in skincare that applies to everybody, no matter what is happening inside your body, on your skin and in the environment around you and it’s this: supporting your skin’s resilience to inflammatory stress is the foundation for skin wellness and longevity.
Try this routine for month and see what happens:
Wash your face with a barrier friendly cleanser.
I like to use Solvasa’s kaolin-clay cleansing mask in the morning. The benefits of clay are numerous; it dries quickly onto skin, drawing impurities from pores and lifting away dead skin cells without irritating surfactants or harsh exfoliants. The drying time also allows other beneficial ingredients like adaptogens and post-biotic lysates support skin’s natural microbiome.
At night I use Solvasa’s adaptogen-rich cleansing butter. The indulgent solid-oil cleanser gently removes even the most stubborn makeup without leaving skin feeling greasy.
Hydrate and Nurture
Many have discovered the benefits of a jade roller or gua sha stone followed by a treatment serum or moisturizer. The gua sha treatment is a great way to support your skin’s natural restorative capabilities without irritating chemicals because, when done properly, it can breakup lymphatic congestion and help support skin’s microcirculation. Beverly Hills aesthetic surgeon, Dr. Ritu Chopra, created Solvasa’s signature crystal lymphatic massage to elevate gua sha to a comprehensive treatment for skin’s resilience. The 3-minute treatment involves using the vibrating crystal energy wand along with DeStressance serum to provide the layered benefits of lymphatic drainage, microcirculation, muscle tension relief, soothing hydration, anti-oxidant adaptogens and skin-nurturing peptides and plant-based nutrients.
Get a Little Help from Your Gut
The eyes may be the windows to your soul, but your skin really tells the story about your overall wellbeing. We’re now developing a deep appreciation of how the invisible world we call the microbiome that lives on every surface of our being that is exposed to the external environment affects overall health and wellbeing. Even though it’s not visible to us, our intestinal tract is an exposed surface just like our skin. Supporting the diversity of the healthy bacteria of our microbiome is one of the major cornerstones of radiant wellbeing that manifests as beautiful healthy-looking skin.
Many of the industrialized products we use harm the microbiome by killing off or starving the healthy bacteria that live symbiotically to protect us. When it comes to our gut, diversity of unprocessed plants that we eat can help support diversity of the healthy microbes. When it comes to skincare, it’s important to avoid killing off the healthy bacteria through overuse of bleaches for acne or pigmentation, surfactants for cleansing, or acids for cell turnover. In other words, feed and protect the bacteria that protect you and your skin.
Keep it Simple
Nature is miraculous. The complex mechanisms that support our health and wellbeing have evolved in synergy with our environment. As modern science continues to identify bio-hacks to enhance the length and quality of our life, we’re also at risk of creating unintended adverse events. So when it comes to day to day skincare, supporting the skin’s healthy, natural processes is the key to a brighter complexion. And sometimes that means taking a break to let nature work for you. That’s what Skintermittent Fasting is all about.