Natural Anti-Aging Skincare: No Chemicals Needed!
I'm all about natural skincare products, but until recently, I thought that when it came to fighting the signs of aging—the fine lines creeping in around my eyes and between my brows—I'd have to start incorporating not-so-natural remedies, like harsh exfoliants and overnight retinol creams. Beginning to worry about what route to take, I reached out to contributor, esthetician, Ayurvedic practitioner, author and co-owner of Pure+Simple Inc. Kristen Ma for her advice. And guess what? You don't need to incorporate chemicals to prevent wrinkles, age spots or sagging! Here's our Q&A with Kristen about natural anti-aging skincare.
Is it possible to effectively treat and prevent wrinkles and loss of skin firmness with non-toxic beauty products?
Definitely! Many natural and organic ingredients have powerful anti-aging properties that promote collagen and elasticity in the skin.
Which ingredients help retain collagen?
Vitamin C is excellent for collagen synthesis along with ingredients containing vitamin C. This includes plant ingredients, such as rose hip oil and seabuckthorn oil. This is why these two plants are used extensively in my Holistic Vanity Damage Care line, which is formulated to repair damaged skin by promoting collagen and cell turnover. I have also personally found them to be excellent for treating hyper pigmentation without retinols for these reasons.
Another important way to encourage and retain collagen is by increasing microcirculation in the skin. This is why deep exfoliation (such as microdermabrasion), light therapy (such as IPL and laser) as well as electro-therapy (used in many non-surgical face lift technologies) work. Blood flow and circulation boost collagen production and therefore firmness of the skin. While the mentioned treatments are intensive, we can also encourage healthy circulation in the skin with a daily face massage. I have an easy-to-follow Youtube video on how to do this effectively.
Which ingredients can help with pigmentation?
As I mentioned earlier, rose hip and seabuckthorn oils are excellent natural ingredients for fading hyper pigmentation. I have worked with these extensively and find them the best natural ingredients that do not use peeling for pigmented spots.
Green tea extract is also effective for hyperpigmention. It has performed well in trials for treating darkened spots and is good for overall anti-aging due to its antioxidant properties.
Which ingredients can help with skin texture?
Texture can be addressed in three ways:
First, exfoliation. Resurfacing can be done using natural methods such as fruit acid enzymes that digest dead skin cells or intensive treatments such as sea salt microdermabrasion. The latter is particularly good for pitted acne scars and enlarged pores.
Second, we can use skin hydration to improve texture. Skin with high water content has a dewier, smoother texture. For this, I recommend using a hydrating serum containing hyaluronic acid, collagen and/or sea algae. These ingredients help the skin retain water.
Third, applying oils can treat uneven texture. Oils provide protection that allows our skin the environment to regenerate properly. This is especially important during the winter months when our skin is assaulted by the harsh, winter weather. This is not only further damaging but it prevents our skin from being able to heal properly as well as dehydrates it. You can use a simply oil like jojoba or coconut, but I like using the aforementioned rose hip or seabuckthorn oils that have anti-aging vitamin C contents for multi-actioned benefits.
Retinol is often referred to as the only proven ingredient that actually helps your body produce new collagen. Is this true?
No. While I have heard that too, it always is perplexing as I have read published research papers outlining the collagen synthesizing effects of vitamin C, burdock, reservatrol and light therapy. Retinols wound the skin, prompting the body to remodel and generate collagen, but we can also do this in many other ways; be it through careful exfoliation/peeling, circulation-increasing topical ingredients or anti-aging professional treatments.
Is vitamin A/retinol safe, do you think?
I avoid retinol for the most part, but if someone really wants to use it, it can be used in a way that minimizes risks. I understand why people use retinols and think it's important not to be a purist. It all depends on the goals and expectations of the user. Retinols are an effective way to see results in a short amount of time. There are risks of long-term skin-damage, especially if not supported with sun protection and damage-repairing ingredients. Unfortunately, a more natural, gentle approach usually takes more times to see results. This is because we are working on supporting tissue health rather than using vitamin A, which speeds up cellular shedding. So, it can be a game of balance. I think retinols should only be used short-term and for focused, goal-oriented reasons rather than long-term anti-aging.
What other traditional anti-aging ingredients should be avoided?
I would avoid skin bleaches such as hydroquinone. While effective for lightening age spots, it is harsh on your skin as well as linked to being potentially carcinogenic and organ system toxic.