Towards the age of 40, when I transitioned from agronomy to cosmetics, it had never occurred to me that 10 latching onto popular products on the market - I wished to understand whether routine recommendations in cosmetics and nutrition have been scientifically proven and what really does help rather than harm us. My in-depth research took two directions. The first was in the field of nutrition, where I examined components that would strengthen the skin and its resilience. The second dealt with cosmetics, where I chose to deal with nature-based cosmetics, devoid of non-natural preservative and fragrant substances. I also examined the topic of skin rejuvenation and peeling substances. After several years of working in nature-based cosmetics, where most of my clients defined themselves as vegetarian/vegan, I could immediately identify the skin of women who never or seldom consume animal-derived products. Their skin looks wrinkled and loose - in relation to their age group - in addition to often being very sensitive and inflamed. Another phenomenon that I noticed was the severe outburst of acne in all age groups. Furthermore, it was often accompanied (sometimes only several years later) by health issues, the most prominent ones being hypoactivity of the thyroid gland, irregular menstruation and irritable bowel syndrome. I had no doubt that something was amiss in the vegan nutrition of my clients, or at least in the way that they were complying with it. Possibly, there are many people who comply perfectly by a daily consumption of sprouted lentils, a variety of vegetables, complex carbohydrates, high-quality vegetable fats, tofu, seitan, seaweed and mushrooms. They may also rigorously take the necessary food supplements. Their meticulous nutrition and supplements are then manifest by their family’s long-term well-being and health. However, much to my regret, I’ve rarely met such people. Most of my clients have admitted that they don’t regularly consume the required amount of food and supplements. This is, of course, a worldwide problem, also prevalent among omnivores. However, in the case of the latter, their body receives the necessary minimum through a portion of chicken or meat, eggs and milk products, since these foods are highly absorbent in our body, as well as being rich with high concentrations of all the basic food groups. According to their skin condition, I could also tell whether people were consuming high quantities of sugar in comparison to those whose consumption is balanced, even if not particularly meticulous. I have no doubt that in terms of one’s skin and health, it’s more advisable to eat in a balanced manner than to consume “clean and humane” food, which is nevertheless poor in the four basic food groups, and which challenges the body in its ability to absorb part of the vitamins. Personally, I’d prefer to find a real substitute for animal-based products, which would contain full protein, cholesterol (important and not harmful, as was thought for half a century to be the case), vitamin A, vitamin D, B12 and iron that are efficiently absorbed, as well as full omega 3. However, no such substitute has yet been produced, and most people who switch to near-veganism cannot maintain their health without various highly-expensive food supplements, which are not always available or sufficient. Many professionals - from doctors to cosmeticians and alternative therapists -instruct their clients to remove milk products from their nutrition in order to treat acne issues or any other health issue from which they suffer. I admit that as a short-term solution it often leads to improvement, and I suppose this is a direct result of shifting to nutrition which is rich in vegetables, fruit and nuts, as well as consuming less sugar. Most milk products nowadays contain sugar (ice-cream, puddings, corn-flakes, sweetened coffee and cakes). Hence - reducing their intake is immediately beneficial. However, there are many milk products which have undergone fermentation, such as cheeses and yoghurts without added sugar, and yet - people don’t distinguish between these and the formerly mentioned food containing sugar. Those who cannot eat meat, fish and poultry should be very careful before they remove milk products and eggs from their menu, since these contribute greatly in terms of the available food groups. In the second area which I’ve examined, my insights might induce certain discomfort. I’m sorry to say that many of the popular routine facial are harmful and damaging to clients’ skin from a young age on. (These treatments, which include peeling*, puncturing and strong vacuum suction, have no scientific basis. They result in facial skin with dark spots, compounded with its deteriorated quality in comparison to the skin of our grandmothers, who never underwent facial treatment (relating to those who didn’t live under the scorching sun). The only studies that encourage such processes are based on the temporary results which show improvement in all measures of skin cell rejuvenation, collagen and blood flow to the area. There is nothing more logical than the skin renewing itself after injury - it is a system intended to keep it intact. Skin looks pinkish and tight after being damaged. However, this is merely a temporary reaction and no research has examined its long-term effects. I do not assume that the long-term effects will indeed be examined, since the topic is far too complex. All we can do is stick to the available knowledge that exists regarding the skin, to understand that the moment the skin barrier’s external layers are damaged, it loses moisture more easily, it’s more exposed to damage by the sun rays, and it’s more penetrable to germs. Moreover, there’s a greater chance that by frequently renewing the skin prematurely (it naturally renews itself once a month), it will become wrinkled more rapidly in the future. *I do not include under the category of ‘peeling’ the treatment of deep peeling conducted by plastic surgeons in order to smooth wrinkles and eradicate scars.
Ophra Dan is the author of “Treating Your Skin Wisely”, translated from Hebrew by Dorit Renov