The Ageing Skin

Skin sensitivity is not uncommon as one ages – but ageing folk sometimes experience a diminished sense of touch, i.e. feel less, we also tend to become hypersensitive to external stimuli; chemicals other environmental aggressors. In addition, the skin starts to thin as the epidermal barrier decreases, due to the ageing process and hormonal changes. And then there’s the collagen loss, sagging and wrinkles with which we crones also have to contend – but the compensation for such aggravation is supposed to be wisdom!

Not all things branded as ‘natural’ are necessarily suitable for everyone and one can’t blindly assume that what’s in the pot is exactly what is described on the label, because so many products are ‘green washed’ these days.

The skin is our largest organ, as well as being an important organ of elimination. It can therefore often provide us with clues about our internal state of health by reflecting disturbances, even subtle ones, at an external level. We’re exposed to so many chemical and environmental toxins on a daily basis that it’s not uncommon for people to express multiple chemical sensitivities.

Commercial aqueous cream

I have yet to come across a commercial aqueous cream that does not contain mineral oil. Mineral oil-containing products are cheap to produce, and they’re very stable with regard to shelf-life, which is why mineral oils seem to be in most skin and body care products, especially the less expensive ones (though some very expensive creams often list them as an ingredient too). While mineral oil products are effective barriers, they do not actively nourish the skin like vegetable oils can. This ingredient is of little or no concern to many people, but it is not usually acceptable to those who wish to ‘go green’ or use only plant-derived ingredients. (I have relatively strong personal opinions about the over-use of mineral oil in cosmetics, but that’s a topic for another forum!)

What causes skin sensitivity

In order to establish exactly what causes skin sensitivity, stop using all your current products, including aqueous cream. This external elimination process is similar to the elimination diets used to determine food sensitivities. If your skin won’t tolerate a few days of ‘cold turkey’ treatment, you can try using plain jojoba oil as a moisturising agent and see whether your skin reacts to this lovely liquid wax (which is similar to the skin’s natural sebum). Then start reintroducing other products, one at a time for a few days each, taking note of what happens. Make a mild bicarbonate of soda and filtered water solution to use as a fragrance-free toner, or to remove or reduce the jojoba oil effect if you find it too sticky or shiny. You don’t want to alter the skin’s natural acid mantle significantly, so add a few drops of cider vinegar to help balance the alkaline nature of this solution if needed.

Many excellent plant-based oils can be used for natural skin care, and a wonderful plant-based aqueous cream can be made from simple natural ingredients. A caveat, though – anyone with skin sensitivity needs to take care if using beeswax as an emulsifier when making creams or lotions, as it doesn’t always play nicely with sensitive skin (natural and yummy as it can be for other skin types).

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The Ageing Skin

Dr Sandi Nye
About The Author
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Dr, ND. She is a naturopath with a special interest in aromatic and integrative medicine, and is dual-registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA). She serves as editorial board member and/or consultant for various national and international publications, and is in private practice in Pinelands, Cape Town.