Holistic Beauty and "Aging Kinder" Interview with Skincare Therapist & Botanical Product Formulator Magdalena Tomczak
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been OBSESSED with doing everything in my power to prevent wrinkles and create glowing, beautiful skin.
In fact, I can very clearly remember buying wrinkle cream in grade eight! Yes, GRADE EIGHT!
I also remember the very first pimple to ever grace my face at the tender age of 10 and being absolutely horrified that I had it on "Picture Day."
I was vegetarian at the time so was mindful about buying cosmetics and skin care products that didn’t test on animals. “The Body Shop” was my go-to store for all things beauty and makeup. And I basically lived in their “Against Animal Testing” one-size-fits-all t-shirts all throughout high school.
Thankfully, I’ve always had “good skin.” Yes, I credit that in part to genetics. But mostly I’m thankful to that paranoid, insecure teenager for her daily cleansing, exfoliating, toning and moisturizing regimens.
Sadly, as I got older, my obsession with NOT getting older only worsened. I would literally vacation in Mexico every year so that I could hit up the local pharmacia and buy the heaviest-strength tube of prescription retinol I could find.
After all, retinol (or retin-A) had forever been touted as THE most effective topical treatment in existence for preventing wrinkles. Pretty much every skincare guru and expert recommended it as the ultimate anti-ager. And there didn’t really seem to be many studies saying it was UN-safe or toxic. Only one I found that said it **might** make you die faster. (Not that I’m downplaying it.) But retinol was essentially just vitamin A so if it were true, at least I’d die wrinkle-free so I continued using it.
Fast-forward to 2017 and reading Dr. Joseph Pizzorno’s “The Toxin Solution.” I won’t go into how this book changed my life (and skincare routine) because I already covered it in THIS BLOG POST.
But now it's 2019 and I'm 36. And sadly, my skin is starting to lose elasticity. So naturally, I sent out an SOS to the queen of holistic skincare— spa owner, skincare therapist and botanical product formulator behind “Woman Divine”— the lovely Magdalena Tomczak.
I originally met Magdalena at an Ottawa Veg Fest where we traded some of my JOTB granola for her rose sandalwood face oil and rose water mist. Yes, I definitely got the better end of that deal! BUT she successfully sucked me in like a tractor beam, wanting to buy ALL of her products so I guess she made the smarter deal after all. ;)
Fast-forward one year later to today... I finally got to experience one of Magdalena's highly-acclaimed, customized treatment facials which included an analysis of my skin, the application of many soothing oils and balms and the best part of all: a super-stimulating face massage that fired up muscles in my face I didn’t even know I had. I now fully understand why there is an eight month long waiting list for a facial with Magdalena.
Unfortunately we can’t all receive this indulgence and those of you who are using retinol might die before an opening is available anyway… But the good news is that Magdalena answered all of my questions on anti-aging in the most informative yet holistic way possible. And I’m sharing her knowledge on the blog so that you too, can keep wrinkles at bay AND remain true to your vegan hippie ways. And if you’re a fellow Canadian, you can also purchase her products. Unfortunately she does not ship to the States or internationally because she is a big believer in sourcing local plants for her skincare products (much like she believes in eating local foods.) But if you’re an Ottawa resident or living elsewhere in Canada, I highly recommend trying some of her botanical beauty products. Right now, my pregnant, dry, winter-parched face is loving the skin balm. And yes, Magdalena’s youthful skin which has never been touched by botox, fillers or harsh chemicals speaks for her formulas!
Here is our interview on “Anti-Aging the Holistic, Vegan Hippie Way.”
How often should we be exfoliating?
“This may seem like a straight forward question but it actually is a bit tricky to answer. A lot of skin problems stem from over-exfoliation and from the use of abrasive products. I see this all the time in my treatment room. Clients come in with red, irritated skin that feels and looks tight. After a short chat, I often learn that they exfoliate a lot and with harmful products. In these situations, it takes a while to rebuild proper skin micro flora and to improve skin health in general.
I would say that as far as exfoliation goes, less is more and the gentler the product, the better. Anything that has a sand-like texture is a “no no” in my books. People with extra sensitive skin should skip the exfoliation altogether. Most people do well with gentle exfoliation once per week.”
So what do you recommend we exfoliate with once per week? A scrub? Peel? Wash cloth? Some kind of device?!
“Since I practice holistic skincare, my take on what healthy, youthful skin is and how to get there is worlds apart from the common skincare industry approach! I must say that I don’t really like the term ‘anti-aging’ because to me, it implies that we will be working against our skin and against our body. It’s like fighting the process of life. Some colleagues in my holistic skincare circle use terms like ‘kind aging’, ‘healthy aging’ or ‘pro-aging’. I like these terms much better because they encourage us to embrace every stage of life. There is always psychology attached to terms used by the beauty industry … we want to be mindful of this.
The skincare industry promotes the use of many products which are very forceful on the skin. But skin is both resilient and very delicate at the same time. In holistic skincare, we choose to work with the wisdom of the skin. This means that we do not use anything which suppresses skin function or forces it into specific behaviours. Rather, we work with plant-based formulas based around oatmeal, nuts, medicinal herbs and sometimes fruit to gently help the skin with its renewal process.
So to answer your question, anything which strengthens skin integrity and health will encourage vitality and vibrance of the skin. Anything which is too abrasive like many scrubs, chemical peels or brushes in the long run contribute to premature aging. In fact, make sure that the cloth you choose for cleansing is very soft. Although harsh scrubbing is not beneficial to anyone, people with sensitive skin need to be particularly careful.”
How important is "cleansing" at night with a proper cleanser rather than just using one of those makeup removing wipes like so many of us tired, lazy ladies often do?
“I know that sometimes you feel so tired that you just want to go to bed but please, PLEASE always wash your face properly before sleep. Even if you don’t wear any makeup you still need to wash. Our skin collects pollution from the air and most importantly, our skin is an organ of elimination. This means that metabolic waste is eliminated by the skin and needs to be removed at the end of each day.
When we sleep at night, our skin goes through the processes of repair, regeneration and renewal. Cleaning your skin well before bed supports these essential processes. Makeup remover wipes are usually saturated with ingredients which are not desirable from the holistic skincare perspective. The ‘cleanser ingredient’ wipes which we find on the market may be useful in emergency situations like travel but in my opinion are not suitable for everyday use.”
What type of cleanser do you recommend for “kind aging?” Cream-based? Foaming? Oil-based?
“My suggestion for a night cleansing product is a gentle, organic and plant based cleansing milk or cleansing oil. These will respect the integrity of the skin and will effectively cleanse. The problem with foaming cleansers is that they are stripping and remove much more than dirt from your skin. What is very important to consider about cleansing is this: we want to remove pollution and that which our skin eliminates without disturbing the microbiome and without stripping the natural protective barrier which our skin produces. In my opinion, well-balanced cleansing oils or whole plant-based cleansing milks are the perfect medium for facial cleansing.”
What active ingredients should we look for in a good face cleanser?
“You want to look for organic, whole plant ingredients. If the product is made with whole plants rather than isolated compounds or ingredients created in the lab, every single ingredient is there to deliver results and to improve the health of your skin.”
What about hydration? Should we use a different moisturizer in the morning than at night?
“Yes, it’s a good idea. Our skin needs a different kind of support during the day than at night. When you consider our Canadian weather for example, along with proper nourishment, our skin needs tons of protection from the elements during the day. Since the night is all about regeneration, we want to use products which will support this process.”
I stopped using retinol a few years ago despite so many dermatologists promoting it for wrinkle prevention. Would love to know your thoughts on retinol and the comparable, more natural ingredients like peptides and alpha hydroxy acids. Give us the low-down on THE best (and natural) “kind aging” ingredients!
“As you can probably tell by now, none of those ingredients are part of my treatments or my products. I’m all about whole medicinal plants, not isolated compounds. Since the ingredients you have mentioned by my standards are aggressive and invasive, they do not fit into my holistic skincare philosophy. I believe that we can achieve great results and healthy glowing skin by using products formulated with whole plants and by incorporating face massage into our skincare. This will not only improve your skin health and prevent or smooth out wrinkles, it will improve your health in general. Everything that we put on our skin, we do to the rest of our body! I choose to use only that which adds vitality.”
I can attest to the power of your facials! My skin felt amazing afterward! What about eye creams? Are they crucial especially as we get older?
“If you are experiencing dehydration, fine lines or puffiness around your eyes, a well-formulated, plant-based eye product can be very helpful.”
Agreed! I'm also a big fan of vitamin C-infused products. And it’s natural. Yay or nay in your opinion?
“Remember when I talked about isolated compounds? I’m not a fan! Having said that, I love vitamin C and I love using herbs and oils which are high in vitamin C for healing the skin.”
Okay so let’s talk about things that I KNOW you love aka essential oils. Why do you gravitate towards them and what key ingredients are a must for your “kind aging” products?
“Essential oils are the most concentrated form of herbal medicine. I love working with genuine and organic essential oils because they offer incredible possibilities for improving skin health and function. Due to their molecular structure, essential oils can penetrate the tissues to the cellular level. When you can affect tissues at this level, skin miracles happen. I also love working with essential oils because of their multilayer effect. The same essential oil may be taking care of inflammation in your skin and at the same time, it will provide soothing relaxation for your nervous system. This is the beauty of working with healing plants and holistic skincare. Essential oils work in synergy with each other (and with lipid oils they are blended with) to create skincare formulas. Some of the oils that I like to work with to prevent wrinkles are palmarosa, fennel, frankincense, carrot seed and rose.”
Duly noted! Any final, need-to-know, holistic skincare tips for keeping wrinkles and fine lines at bay?
“Skincare starts from within and your skin is a reflection of the internal state of both your physical and emotional health. So it is very smart to start with a diet which is appropriate to your individual constitution. There never is one formula that fits all but we know that certain foods are an absolute detriment to our health and will cause premature aging and wrinkling of your skin. Sugar, processed foods, alcohol, soft drinks: they never add vitality and never make us younger. Fresh, pesticide-free veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains and good fats are a great base for a healthy diet and your skin will like it too. Good sleeping habits, exercise, spending time outdoors and designating time for self-care and relaxation will support you in healthy aging.
Choose your skin and body care products carefully and read labels. You want to choose clean, organic, plant-based products without carcinogenic and hormone disruptive ingredients. Less is more so choose fewer but better-quality products. Complicated skincare routines are a thing of the past. They were good for the skincare industry pockets but not for our skin. Simple does it! And if you are feeling vibrant and happy, a few wrinkles on your face won’t matter much.”
Well said! Thank you soooo much, Magdalena! After conducting this interview, I actually think I love YOU even more than I love your products! So final question, how much granola do I need to offer you in order to secure a facial appointment sooner than eight months? ;)
I kid, I kid. Seriously though, be sure to check out www.womandivine.ca for more info on Magdalena, her products and to read her very well-written and informative beauty blog!