Confession time: I had a DIY period in my skincare journey. My mom used to do a lot of DIY masks. But she had a good excuse: it was Soviet Union and skincare products were not available. Her favorites included fresh sour cream mask (it probably delivered a tiny-tiny amount of lactic acid, while the acidity helped maintain the healthy skin surface pH - so better than nothing), fresh yeast mask (smelled yucky, but probably delivers some beta-glucans for moisturization - again, better than nothing). There were less safe ones, too, like a fresh strawberry mask (don’t do it, nothing is better!).
So I wasn’t alien to the idea of DIY skincare (I did even partake in the pampering activities with my mom, mostly for the fun of it). When I was in my early 20th, DIY powder clay masks were a thing in Ukraine. At least in the underground skincare circles I hang out it. The process worked like this. First, you buy a sachet of dry clay. You had a choice of different colors of clay, all claimed to be natural (not sure if it’s true) and having different impressive benefits for the skin (definitely not true). Then you mix a bit of the powder with warm water, and “spice it up” with stuff that should have been eaten. Like yogourt or egg yolk (yuck, I know). Or, even worse, with essential oils. Tea tree was my favorite. I am sorry, skin.
The good thing about DIY skincare is that it is tedious, so there is no way you can do it regularly. The fact that I was engaging in this activity no more frequently than once per month probably helped to control the damage. At least for some time. The masks obviously didn’t work to improve clarity and hydration of my skin, but I didn’t experience a reaction. My skin was still full of youthful resilience.
Hello! I am Maria from the WIMJ team. I’ll share my skincare journey with you. I grew up in Ukraine. I have an older sister, and my mom has always been interested in skincare, so I grew us watching these two beautiful women do DIY face masks. The thing is many skincare products were not available in Ukraine at that time, or they just couldn’t afford it. This is where my love for skincare comes from.
I also have a little bit of hate towards some skincare:). When I approached my teenage years, menthol-enriched anti- skin acne washes were, unfortunately, already in abundance. And an older friend told me that “blackheads appear because the skin is dirty”. So yeah, I was off to a great start in facing the hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence:).
Things got sad when I started college. Stress, alcohol, lack of sleep, and I’ve got hit with moderate hormonal acne. I was still using menthol washes, trying to “dry out” blemishes, and scrub away acne marks. I was very surprised when my friend told me she was using a moisturizer (if I remember correctly, it was Vichy Aqua Thermal). I thought creams were for old people in their thirties (I'm 32 today :) ).
The uppermost layer of the skin resembles a brick wall: already dead cells serve as bricks, and skin lipids together with moisture-loving compounds "glue" them together like mortar.
This “brick wall” is called stratum corneum and it is responsible for the skin’s barrier function. In other words, its purpose is not to let things into the deeper, living layers of the skin and the rest of our body. This also means that the products we apply to the skin are most likely to stay on the surface never making it through the “brick wall”. Some products can penetrate deeper though. In most cases, the penetration happens through the “mortar”: the lipids between the dead cell “bricks”. The route is long: our skin’s “brick wall” is 10-15 cell layers thick, and the larger the bricks are, the longer way the compounds need to travel around them through the lipid “mortar”. This route is also only accessible to lipophilic molecules (like retinol) and not water-soluble ones (like Vitamin C). Water soluble molecules can still fight their way through - but they need to penetrate the “bricks” themselves. Ingredients can penetrate deeper into the skin through hair follicles and pores: they can offer a "short cut" for reaching skin's dermis.
As skin ages, its look might be changing. But its ability to serve as an excellent barrier against environmental factors remains strong.
This is a skin science post of ultimate positivity: we don’t need to worry about aging of the upper most layer of our skin, the stratum corneum. Based on the studies conducted to date, it appears that the skin’s barrier function doesn’t age, or, at least, there tend to be no significant differences in the barrier function between people aged 20-25 and those who can boast with 30-40 more years of life experience.
While the composition of the stratum corneum change (younger people have more lipids, while older people’s skin has larger and flatter corneocytes, the non-living “bricks” that form the uppermost skin layer), the researchers have been not able to detect a difference in the epidermis’ ability to perform its main function (which is absolutely vital for our whole body)- as measured by trans-epidermal water loss and substance penetration through the stratum corneum.
Our bodies are made of chemicals, so is our skin. Plant extracts and DIY kitchen cabinet masks are made of complex chemical compounds, too.
In fact, their chemical composition is more complex than the man-made skincare ingredients. In other words, with a lab-produced ingredient, you are getting one pure well-known substance.
Plant extracts, on the other hand, can contain hundreds of different chemicals, with complex interactions between them.