I know some of my readers have various health issues, like diabetes, lupus and other conditions, that require a certain standard of skin care be maintained in order to prevent or heal infections that can occur, and that need to be addressed, because if not, it can lead to infection, the results of which can range from uncomfortable and ugly to life-threatening.
Here's a link to an About.com article about skin problems associated with diabetes:
About.com Skincare and Diabetes
In seasons of extreme temperatures and climate change, like winter and summer, it's important to maintain skin care. It's important all year 'round, but the extremes of winter and summer have their own problems. I follow basically the same skincare and body care regimen all year. You may have your own methods of caring for your face and body and hair. This is just my chosen method. If you have your own methods, or something here doesn't work for you, please feel free to comment and add your .02. I really am interested in hearing how other people go about caring for their skin and hair.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is schedule some pampering time. A lot of people thinks this takes too much time, it costs too much, they can't get alone time, or because they're a man, they don't need it. You don't need a lot of time - an hour will do. It needn't be expensive - you can make some remedies from ingredients you have in your kitchen cupboard. If you need time to yourself, perhaps your husband, or partner, or a friend or relative can take your children or other person(s) you care for during the time you need to be alone to tend to your personal needs. If you're a man, and you're thinking, "I'm a manly man! I don't need pampering!," I beg to disagree. Everyone needs time to take care of themselves.
CLEANSING, FROM TOP TO TOE:
I have a ritual I call my Day of Beauty, which is more like an hour of cleaning myself top to toe. I try to do this on the same day of the week, usually a Sunday morning or afternoon, which is usually a quiet day with no appointments or errands to run. You can pick any day or time of day that works for you. The products I name here are only suggestions that work for me - you should use whatever products work for your skin type. Or you can make your own! I'll give you some recipes and list some resources that I have found to be helpful at the end of the article.
I start my cleansing ritual by brushing my teeth and washing my face. I wash my face with The Body Shop's Seaweed Purifying Facial Cleanser. While my face is still damp, I apply either The Body Shop's Seaweed Ionic Clay Mask or Blue Corn 3-in-1 Deep Cleansing Mask. Then I set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes and have a nice relaxing rest on the bed so the mask can dry.
I have oily/combination skin, but if your skin type is different, use whatever mask would be appropriate for your skin type. If you don't know your skin type, your best bet is to go to a store like The Body Shop, Sephora, Bath and Body Works, L'Occitane, Kiehl's or a cosmetics counter in a department store and get evaluated. Some websites like www.ulta.com and www.sephora.com provide a quiz that can determine your skin type.
If you have a dermatologist that you see, so much the better! He or she has probably evaluated your skin type and prescribed an appropriate cleansing and maintenance regimen for you. Be aware if you go to a shop, you will probably be pressured into buying something, but remember you can always walk away or say, "Let me think about it." All the stores mentioned, and cosmetic counters also have products for men. You can always ask for samples. Kiehl's is especially known for offering samples. When you shop on the Sephora website, you can get samples.
I have noticed some drugstores, like CVS, also have consultation counters, where you can ask a consultant questions about the products and which ones are suitable for you. If the drugstore is more your speed than department stores or specialty stores, this seems like it would be a good option.
One website that has a lot of useful information about skin care products, makeup, make up accessories and body care products, is Beautypedia, by Paula Begoun and the Cosmetics Cops. She has literally thousands of reviews of products on her website. You might be familiar with Paula from her books, "Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me" and "Blue Eyeshadow Should Still Be Illegal."
One thing about skin care regimens is that you have to stick to them. Once you find a regimen that agrees with you (calms breakouts, doesn't cause irritation or inflammation or dryness, makes your skin feel soft and look healthy), stick with it, and don't change products. In 2007, I found my current skin care regimen, with the help of a sales associate at The Body Shop and when I deviate from it, it shows.
Some time has passed since I wrote the paragraphs above, and it is now February, with the change of seasons from winter to spring coming upon us. Winter in the Northeastern U.S. has been pretty mild, but in other parts of the country, they're having it rough.
THE HAIR AND BODY
To continue: Once the mask has dried, and the timer goes off, I head for the shower. I grab my exfoliant (I use body scrubs from The Body Shop and I like to match the body scrub to the shower gel and the body butter I use, so I layer on the scents) and my shampoo and conditioner. I use The Body Shop's Guarana Berry Volumising Shampoo and Conditioner, or I use Tresemme's gentle cleansing shampoo or 24-Hour Body shampoo and conditioner. Sometimes instead of conditioner, to get rid of scalp irritation, which can happen in the dry winter weather or in the hot, humid summer weather, I use apple cider vinegar to rinse my hair. If you or someone in your home is allergic to apples, you can use white vinegar; it has the same effect. People might comment that you smell like salad dressing, but that's the price of beauty: It's better to smell like salad dressing than be shedding white snow everywhere. Leave it on for a while, and rinse thoroughly. Avoid the eyes and any open sores, since vinegar can sting.
If I'm using regular conditioner, I use it on the ends of my hair, and will massage my scalp and remove any tangles. Then I leave it on during the rest of my shower, rinsing it out last thing before I step out of the shower.
After I rinse off the face mask and shampoo and condition my hair, I turn off the shower and break out the body scrub. I scrub from the neck down to my toes, front and back, paying attention to any trouble spots, like elbows, knees, legs and back. To further assist with exfoliation, I use The Body Shop's Exfoliating Towel, which enables you to reach those difficult spots and get really clean. Then I turn the shower on again and rinse off. After that, I rinse out the conditioner. And then I feel SUPER CLEAN!!!
After I step out of the shower, I comb through my hair and clean out my ears. I'm very careful about cleaning my ears after every shower. It keeps wax from building up and impairing your hearing. One of my doctors commented once that my ears were the cleanest he had ever seen.
AFTER THE SHOWER
I towel dry in my room, and apply body butter from my neck down to my feet. Then I lay down and wait for the body butter to soak in, and to air dry before I get dressed. Depending on how much time I have, that's about 10 minutes or possibly longer. Then, feeling nice and relaxed and very mellow, I finish the rest of my toilette, applying deodorant and fragrance, if appropriate, and then I get dressed.
A WORD ON INTIMATE CARE
For care of one's intimate parts, it's best to use a non-soap, gentle cleanser, preferably Cetaphil (the regular formulation, not the formulation for oily/normal skin). The skin on the genitalia and perineum is particularly delicate and easily scarred and irritated, so keep the area clean using gentle cleanser and a gentle cloth. Keep the area clean and dry once you're out of the shower. Air drying is best. I know about this because I used to be a safe-sex educator and read about this kind of thing. It's another method to avoid the spread of infection (STI's, HIV), because infection can enter the body through tiny cuts in the membranes of the genitals. This is why you should urinate and clean off before and after sexual activity and always use condoms, dental dams, and other barrier methods to limit the spread of infection. It will also limit urinary tract infections.
Baking Soda Face Scrub
There are some natural remedies you can use, with which some of you may already be familiar, to keep your skin soft and smooth. One thing I like to do is give my face a scrub with baking soda. I keep a plastic Tupperware shaker bottle in the bathroom for this purpose. When I'm in the shower, after I wash my face, I pour some baking soda into my hand, maybe about two tablespoons, and work it into a paste, and scrub it on my face, then rinse. It works wonders for healing pimples and sores, and dry skin patches. Follow up with toner and the moisturizer of your choice. I do it in the shower, because I find the baking soda a bit messy, but you can do it over the sink, too.
Oatmeal Honey Face Mask
You can use plain instant oatmeal for this, or just regular oatmeal. Take about a 1/2 cup of plain uncooked oatmeal, and 3 tablespoons of honey, work it into a paste and apply to your face. Leave on for 15 minutes and rinse off. This is good for dry skin. Thanks to The Budget Fashionista, Kathryn Finney, for that tip, which can be found in her book, How to Be a Budget Fashionista, in Chapter 8, "Beauty 101," along with other home remedies.
Oatmeal, Baking Soda and Lavender Bath Soak
My friend Diane uses this to soothe her skin when it gets dry. Use two cups of plain uncooked oatmeal, 16 oz. of baking soda and 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil in your bath water, stir well so the ingredients meld and dissolve, and take a nice, relaxing soak.
Olive Oil Deep-Conditioning for the Hair
One thing I used to do for my mom (and myself!) was a deep-conditioning treatment for the hair with olive oil. Take about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, depending on the length of your hair (I like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but that's just a personal preference), pour it into a microwaveable ramekin or dish, and heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave. Remove the container from the microwave when it's done, and then put in a towel to cover your head and heat it for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until it's warm. Pour the olive oil gently over your head (I recommend having a friend do this for you, it's much nicer to have someone else do it), and massage the oil through your scalp, to the ends of your hair. Detangle any tangles you may have, and pay attention to any dry, scratchy patches. When your entire scalp and all your hair has been coated with olive oil, wrap your head in the warm towel and keep it on for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, wash your hair, rinse thoroughly, and allow it to air dry.
I'm a big fan of air-drying. I do not like blow-dryers at all. I own one, but I think the last time I used it was 2010. And even then I was afraid I'd blow a fuse and set fire to the bathroom. My hairdresser understands this, and always gives me a cut that's easy to maintain with a minimum of fuss.
There is a wonderful, comprehensive book called Beauty: The New Basics, by Rona Berg, which covers skincare, makeup, beauty tools and accessories, haircare, body care, products, and the spa experience. You can find lots of information there. She also wrote another book called Fast Beauty: 1,000 Quick Fixes, which covers every beauty emergency you can think of, with plenty of solutions when you're in a jam. She has a website, which is ronaberg.com.
I've also found Beautypedia to be incredibly helpful when researching products. This is Paula Begoun and the Cosmetic Cops' (her research team) website. You can find thousands of product reviews and recommendations. There is an emphasis on pushing Begoun's own Paula's Choice line of products, but you are free to peruse at your leisure. She also has a BlogTalkRadio show where you can sign up to get updates when the shows are on, and you can download podcasts. As mentioned previously, Paula Begoun also has several books to her credit, including Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me and Blue Eyeshadow Should Still Be Illegal and The Beauty Bible.
As mentioned, I found How to Be a Budget Fashionista by Kathryn Finney to be helpful as well, especially when it comes to being beautiful on a budget. The Budget Fashionista is also a helpful website, but so huge that you can literally spend hours looking up articles on that site. However, it is worth your time. They cover every aspect of fashion, style and beauty - trends in fashion and makeup, how to get the look for less, and where to find the bargains. They also update information about sample sales of designer and high-end goods.
I also recently became aware of Kimberly Heitzman's work via Paula Begoun's BlogTalkRadio show. She specializes in makeup and skincare for people with specialized skin conditions, that require concealment and treatment. It's good to know the information is there if you need it: kimcosmetics.com.