I may be lucky with my genes but I’ve always had good skin.
When I was young I could play without a shirt in the sun all day long without burning, my body gradually tanning to a lovely golden brown, and its not because I’ve got any Latin, mediterranean blood in me. My wife has always referred to my skin as “dingy”, which is a bit unflattering, but I know what she means.
As I’ve grown more mature (I prefer not to use the term “older”) my skin has definitely become dryer and less elastic, particularly in the winter when I spend more time indoors and in central heating. It can become noticeably dry, almost flakey and at times itchy but not to the extent of being any kind of skin condition.
But what was I to do to stop this getting worse?
Several years ago I made the decision to switch from high street body washes and shower gels, which I knew contained all kinds of unpleasant chemicals, to natural soap. This was partly because I wanted to move away from synthetic additives and partly because I wanted to moisturise my skin effectively. Being male and not being one for elongated morning routines – my regime involved a quick shower, some deodorant and a splash of cologne – I wanted the easiest and quickest option available. Despite the warnings that soap could dry your skin, I followed my gut feeling that a product that contained natural plant oils, water and nothing else can’t be that bad for you and bought my first pure olive oil soap.
Yes, the pH of soap is high on the alkaline scale but this is far outweighed in my belief by the nourishment and moisturising effects of the plant oil. It wasn’t long before I noticed the effect on my skin, the dryness disappearing and everything feeling smoother, silkier and more supple.
The added bonus was that I could use the one bar of soap to wash my body, my hair (what little I have being a baldy) AND my face! “Soap on face?” I hear you say out loud in dismay….yes, soap on face!
The simple fact is that the natural oils in the soap cleanse, moisturise and condition and then wash away without depositing any nasty chemicals on me. My facial skin feels soft and radiant and wrinkles and fine lines are less defined and smoothed out. I have used soap (not to be confused with high street brands) for many years now and my face is smooth as a baby’s bottom.
I am particular in the soap I use though. After a lot of testing and research I have gradually whittled it down to only one or two specific types of soap, all Olive Oil based and all produced by artisan soap makers. You can feel the quality and the care that has gone into producing these soaps.
My current No1 favourite is made just outside Paris by Alepia. Although made in France they are skilfully formulated by a master Syrian soap maker, who fled Aleppo during the recent war, using ancient methods and simple ingredients. His “Aleppo” soaps which contain varying levels of Laurel Oil combined with organic first pressed Olive Oil are wonderful and have a distinctive aroma, produce a rich, exotic lather and are a delight to use.
They are the same soaps that have been traditionally used in Hamams over the centuries and feel like a piece of history in your hands, with their irregular hand cut form. They are economical to use too, each bar being 190g in weight (about twice the size of a normal bar of soap).
I’d recommend making the change to natural plant oil based soaps. It has proven the right thing for me and the added joy is that you can experiment by trying soaps from artisan soap makers throughout the UK and across the world to fine something that really does it for you.
Some of the brands I think are worth a try:
For your information, natural soap has been made across the world for thousands of years and its longevity suggests that it must have something going for it that we may have lost sight of in recent decades. Just a thought!