Summer has always been a punishing time for my skin. For three blisteringly hot months of the year, the sun gives me ugly, dry skin. Running of my fingers on my legs and arms gives me a terrible white scratch, blotches of dry skin appear on elbows or toes. I get painful cracked heels.

There are many culprits to the problem: excessive heat and sun exposure, indulgent afternoons spent in an air-conditioned room, taking long and frequent baths, using harsh alcohol-based products to name a few.

Subscribing to the Clean Beauty Philosophy — using beauty and skincare projects that are both safe for people and safe for the planet — is hardly the first thing to come to mind in combating the problem.

But with the summer launch of local skincare brand For Keeps and skin that’s drying by the day, it’s something I had to try.

For Keeps proudly waves the clean beauty flag. It has with a lean line of biodegradable products that are responsibly sourced and responsibly packaged. Because they do not test on animals, For Keeps is considered cruelty-free. And because it does not use synthetic materials and don’t contain harmful chemicals like paraben, sulphate, paraffin, and phthalate, For Keeps can safely say it is 100% natural.

 

Courtesy: For Keeps

Courtesy: For Keeps

It launched with three variants that all smell so refreshingly delicious: The Cleanse and Protect line, which consists of a bodywash, a bar soap, and a hand sanitizer contains tea tree oil, peppermint and lemongrass for a gentle bite of antibacterial properties.

Arise, which consists of a bodywash and a bar soap, promises to energise and uplift as contains a citrusy blend of essential oils. Unwind, which is best used at night or during stressful days, contains lavender essential oils, which we know to be good destressors. It also comes with a bodywash and a bar soap.

All have a base of cold pressed coconut and olive oils, that For Keeps formulator and business partner Ana Niguidula says “is the healthier choice for the body. Cold pressed oils retain a lot of the nutrients and antioxidants we’re after, that benefit us, the earth, and the product’s quality. This way, we don’t need [to put] unnecessary preservatives [into the products].”

My skin’s story: I know it’s not all the weather’s fault as I only started religiously putting on lotions and oils in the last few years, when my dry skin started acting up. In my ’20s, I was as carefree (read: neglectful) with my skin as can be.

Day 1:

It’s the end of my work week and I’m more than happy to wash the day — the week! — away. Let me try the Unwind Bodywash.

I’m not a big fan of scents, especially during summer when they turn overwhelming and trigger migraines, but strangely, I enjoyed the lavender scent of Unwind. Could it be because it remained just a whiff?

I like that, unlike most body washes, this one is not thick.

An observation: It doesn’t lather as much.

In an email, Niguidula explained new users of clean beauty products should “expect a difference in thickness, in viscosity, in lather” as For Keeps has done away with pretty much everything we’re used to about soaps (the long-lasting smells for instance).

“You will notice that many products lather the same way, so we expect the same for a soap to work [this way] but this is not necessarily the case,” she continues.

I check on my skin, running a finger nail across my forearm and legs and there it goes: that fine white line of dryness. Suppose that’s expected. It’s just my first day!

Day 2:

Being on day off means running errands! The morning saw me drive for my mom as she went bank-hopping. By noon, the weather was angry at 35º Celsius and with a feel of 42. I needed a bath.

Because I went out and was exposed, I decided to use the Cleanse body wash, as it promises antibacterial properties thanks to the tea tree essential oils it contains.

 

Courtesy: For Keeps

Courtesy: For Keeps

And because it was so hot, I took a shower with cold water. What a winning combo! I should make more good decisions like this in life, I think.

Alas, I was sweating right after and felt extra sticky. I wonder if this is my skin, unconstricted by chemicals, freely releasing toxins?

I basked in my sweat for most of the afternoon and then took another quick shower in the early evening, still using Cleanse, and went straight to the air-conditioned room. I didn’t bother to check on my dry forearm, but was a tad disappointed to notice the scent didn’t stick.

Day 3

Went for an intense morning bike ride and took a shower after using Cleanse. Post-shower feels: My skin feels more supple, the dry patch on my elbow (from the planking I’ve been doing, mind) is no longer there. But my forearms and legs still had that dry white line after the finger-scratch test. 

The nice minty smell stays longer now, though it remains just a hint. I wonder if it has anything to do with consistent use? I mean, this is my third shower in a row using it, right?

Day 4:

The weather was just so punishing that I took a mid-day shower today. Let me try Arise! It’s the line that features the blend of citrusy essential oils.

My excitement was tapered with a not-so-nice first impression: from the spout came a short sliver of clear film. Hardened soap, perhaps? No biggie as it quickly dissolved into the wet loofa.

I guess this is the cold pressed oils that For Keeps is proud of? According to Niguidula, “cold pressed oils are definitely more costly to use for body care. It entails a longer process and maybe even less yield too.”

Because of their choice to use cold pressed oils, it takes For Keeps somewhere between 30-60 days to manufacture “what would just be hours for some soap manufacturers.”

 

Courtesy: For Keeps

Courtesy: For Keeps

I recalled what she said about cold-pressed oils being the “the healthier choice for the body” as I read the New York Times story on the current controversy involving essential oils. According to the story, experts recommend diluting essential oils and having them mixed with less reactive carrier oil like argan and coconut oil. Sounds like what For Keeps is doing.

Day 5:

Took a shower in the evening after my shift. That’s like a day-plus worth of summer grime on my body? My sweat feels extra sticky.

I used Unwind at night and I’m more than happy to report there were less dry scratches on my forearm and legs! I’m not a very tactile person but that evening, I found myself running my hand on my arms and legs as I read my book — I’ve never felt them so supple and soft.

“The skin, when not subjected with fragrances and chemicals that over-dry it or cause it allergies have a better chance of helping a product maintain the health and strength of a person’s skin,” Niguidula said.

Day 6:

I used Unwind at night again. The strips of hardened soap appeared again but no matter: the lavender smell in the shower is really, very mabango.

I wished for the scent to stay longer on my skin but I recalled what the New York Times article said about skincare products and essential oils: if a product with essential oils is too fragrant, it’s likely to irritate skin.

So instead of sulking, I indulged and pumped a couple of extras from the bottle. Quickly, my mind wandered: That’s a plastic bottle the soaps are coming from. Whatever happened to the biodegradable, kindness to planet promise?

According to Isa Cruz, marketing director and a brand partner at For Keeps, a refilling program is in the pipeline this year. “We know it is challenging to live a completely zero waste lifestyle and this is why we are studying and getting ready for a system and program that is achievable at the same time, sustainable,” she said.

Apart from the paper boxes that the soaps come in, the actual product are also completely biodegradable, meaning its suds won’t build up in the soil and neither is it harmful to the rivers and oceans it flows into.

In their facility, there are no wastes or by-product. “Slivers from the cuts go back into the soap-making so really, there are no wastes from the materials themselves. This is part of our effort to conserve both materials and energy,” Cruz continued.

Day 7:

I went out for a bike ride early in the morning and showered with Arise. There were strips of film again but I suppose this is really what you get with all-natural products. I mean, handcrafted things don’t come uniformally too, right?

I just know it doesn’t matter much when you’re feeling good and hey! No more dry scratches or patches!

My heels remain cracked, but I don’t think a simple switching of soaps can solve that problem anymore. — GMA News

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