Healthy Skin Product Ranges

Micki Rose reviews her top products for sensitive skin, keeping an especial eye open for those which are totally gluten-free

Skincare ranges change and new ones arrive on my desk all the time, so I thought it about time to update my list of recommended suppliers. When looking for products to recommend for skin issues, my criteria are:

  • that they should be as non-toxic as possible;
  • contain no known allergens or skin irritants (as far as this is possible as we can react to anything!);
  • and be very rich in the right oils to hydrate and protect the skin barrier effectively.

Here are some of my choices and thoughts for you. And, if you know any others that work, do tell.

General Ranges
Green People Organic Base and No Scent range is still a great choice. The range includes Face, Hand & Body Lotion, Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower/Bath Gel, Lip Balm and Suncare products. These contain no toxins, perfumes or mineral oils, and trial sizes are available so you can try before you commit to larger sizes.

Another range I have found to be very non-toxic is Saaf Pure SkinCare. It is not specifically aimed at skin problem sufferers, but it fits my criteria and would be great as a general higher-end face and body range. The main reason I like it is that it is the first range I have cleared totally grain-free. This is important because some people can be topically sensitive to gluten and there is evidence to suggest that gluten may be at the heart of some people’s eczema and psoriasis. Either way, my view is that it is better to be safer than sorry and eliminate any potential cause.

This range (and others I mention) does contain essential oils, but as a clinical aromatherapist, I often use essential oils to calm skin so give it a go unless you know certain oils set you off. Check each label to be sure – all ingredients are on the site.

Woadworks Botanicals is new to me (I found it here on the SkinsMatter site) but looks good from the ingredients lists I have seen so far.

Mineral-Rich
Since we know minerals like zinc are beneficial for skin problems, I have been having a look at mineral-based products, some of which are not pure minerals whatever they say, so be warned. Products such as the Malki Dead Sea Sulphur range and Salcura are rich in natural minerals which can nourish the skin and help balance the pH, keeping infections at bay.

Salcura is a range I have used on occasion, but it does contain wheatgerm in a lot of the products so you need to watch out for that. The sprays, though, can be a god-send if your skin is too sore to touch. Incidentally the Topida spray I have found has worked well for patients with irritated vaginal and anal skin problems. (Whilst I’m on this subject, so many people assume itching in this region is thrush or fungal; I find invariably it is a dermatitis type reaction so an antihistamine cream or something like the Topida can really help – free tip there for you!!)

I have been testing the BareEscentuals Bare Minerals mineral make-up range too recently – again, truly gluten free in the main – and I find the powders give good coverage but are really light. They are pure minerals so fit my criteria.

Fats and Oils
Remember we mentioned the importance of getting the fatty acids right for the skin? I like anything that will add these topically. The Saaf range is extremely oil rich, but another good choice would be products containing Camellia oil. This oil is very high in oleic acid, an omega 9 fatty acid, and studies conducted in 2007, for example, albeit testing for its anti-wrinkle properties, showed it reduced trans-epidermal water loss and had no adverse reactions. Since water loss from the skin is our main aim in healthy skin, that’s a good result. Gentle Beauty does a Golden Skin Oil that is made from pure wild-grown camellias.

We mentioned the importance of antioxidants for the skin too. It might be a good idea to add some pure Vitamin E oil to your non-toxic base cream if it doesn’t contain any. Bear in mind the source of this is normally wheatgerm or soya so be aware if you are allergic to either of these.

If you need to make your creams or lotions richer, simply add some organic olive, camellia, sunflower or evening primrose oil, and use this in the bath too. Try Herbs of Grace for organic oils.

Another product we trialled recently for eczema is from Gentle Green. Our tester gave it a rave review, finding it soothing, but wanted a bigger pot, like we always do! The cream is very oil-rich again and contains traditional herbal remedies like chickweed and nettle to help the itching.

Individual Herbs
For hair, I have had quite a few patients recently use the Taylor-Jackson products for scalp psoriasis with great success. I investigated mahonia aquifolium, a traditional but strangely little-used remedy for skin problems, and was pleased to see the Taylor-Jackson range based on it. Mahonia has had some great study results, one of which I saw in the Journal of Dermatology that suggested over 80% of people had significant improvement in psoriasis symptoms with use. Taylor-Jackson do offer skin products with mahonia in too, but I have yet to investigate the ingredients – watch this space.

Licorice is renowned to heal skin and has a steroid-like effect minus the thinning skin associated with drug-based steroid creams. Try Artemis Herbs or Herba Naturelle from Nutricentre, though be careful what’s in the base cream to which they’ve added the licorice extract.

To make sure you get a good one, I would recommend you ask a local herbalist to make one for you, and the same goes for green tea extract. To find a local herbalist, call the National Institute of Medical Herbalists on 01392 426022 or use their online search at www.nimh.org.uk.

It might be a good idea to ask them to add the extract to a cream you know is suitable for your skin. I believe that’s how most of the smaller ‘artisan’ ranges start – you never know, you might discover your own mix and be able to sell it!

Other general ranges I quite like the look of but I haven’t had chance yet to investigate fully include Living Nature, Antipodes, John Masters and REN. These aren’t specialised skin condition ranges, but do contain useful herbal ingredients and are pretty non-toxic, which is my main concern. I have yet, too, to find a non-toxic probiotic skincare range but am still on the hunt. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to add a little probiotic powder to your chosen skin cream – not with essential oils, though, which would most likely kill it as they are powerfully antibacterial.

Be aware, of course, that any range can contain allergens so read labels carefully and if you’re not sure what an ingredient is, or is derived from (eg xanthan gum from corn, vitamin E from wheatgerm etc), ask! The more we are awkward and ask these things, the more we will get suppliers to produce what we need, the more they will sell and everyone’s happy!

Non-Toxic Cleaning
You can get the Ecover range in your local supermarket or health shop (although I’m still not entirely happy with the ingredients, especially in the handwash). Or, try Natural Collection who do a whole range of different ones including Method, which I rather like if only for the pretty packaging! Refer to my list of chemicals to avoid in my Skin Creams - a barrier to health? article.

Household Purification
For HEPA air filters and shower filters, try Wholistic Health Direct or Healthy House. My favourite HEPA vacuum is the Dyson DC25 and the cheapest as I go to print is via Amazon. You may find they are cheaper for the air filters too. The most affordable and, in my opinion, best water filtration company is Prosep. You can get excellent reverse osmosis systems (the FRO -4) and whole-house dechlorinators from them.

Organic Clothing, Towels and Bedding
Natural Collection has a great range or Google to find bargains.

If you itch like mad, especially in bed, or you suffer from groin-area itch, it might be a good idea to look at the SkinToSkin range of clothing for babies and adults. It is made from cotton impregnated with seaweed and silver, which together soothe itching and act as an antibacterial. How clever is that?

Supplements
Nutricentre is a great place to get much of what you need, including the Green People toiletries. Go for reliable food supplement ranges from Biocare, Nutrigold, Viridian and Solgar.

Tests
You can test anything you like really, but useful ones might include Oxidative Stress (to check your rate of free radical attack in the body and antioxidant need), Antioxidants (testing specific levels of the various types of antioxidants to counter free radical attack so you know what you need more of particularly) and Leaky Gut (to check how leaky the bowel wall is).

These can be done via Genova Diagnostics, but you will need to organise them through a nutritionist so contact me at www.purehealthclinic.co.uk or find a local one via BANT.

To date, I’m not aware of any way to test skin leakiness specifically, although I believe there is a method called TEWL-testing which is done as part of some skin evaluation systems. It may be worth asking your dermatologist about IOMA or SkinEvidence systems to see if they know of them.

If you wish to contact Micki you will find her at www.purehealthclinic.co.uk

April 2011

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