I want to share with you all what I've learned about natural skincare and a few of my favorite products, because after 28 years, I finally have great skin. I never thought it was possible for me to be a person with "great skin", and that breakouts were just something uncontrollable I had to live with, an unfortunate part of my particular constitution. Nothing is ever that simple, I'm afraid.
Allow me to tell you a little tale.
I've had bad skin since adolescence. Not terrible, but it wasn't great. Pimples, fairly oily. Over the last few years as I headed into my late twenties, I was alarmed that not only was my skin not improving like everyone promised it would as I got older, but it was actually getting WORSE! This was coinciding with many of my other health issues including random hair loss, a bazillion food allergies and sensitivities, eczema, etc. I knew there was a link, but I couldn't figure it out for the life of me. Dermatologists gave me prescription creams full of weird chemicals. My doctor told me I was crazy and that I was fine and healthy (I wasn't). My gynecologist suggested switching birth controls to "regulate my hormones". I kept throwing expensive bottles and treatments at it, to no avail. I have more points racked up at Sephora than I care to ever admit. Finding and buying new products was one of my favorite pastimes, but nothing ever really did the trick until I changed my diet and uncovered the root cause.
It's important to remember that whenever we have any kind of a symptom- a rash, a hive, a pimple, random hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, insomnia, missed periods, any kind of dis-ease, the list goes on- it's not just a random occurrence. There is always a reason for it. Our body is literally communicating with us through the external symptom that something is amiss, and that our internal homeostasis is off. Herein lies the entire problem with our western medical model: when we have a symptom, we take a medicine for it, which is essentially just a bandaid. It does not address the issue of- where did this symptom come from in the first place, and why did it arise? Symptoms denote a dysfunction of some kind, and they are communicating great wisdom with us if we can only stop and listen.
My life changed when I started learning about functional medicine and therapeutic nutrition, and in particular, Leaky Gut and Candida. I thought I was eating such a healthy diet- tons of gluten free whole grains and legumes, raw vegan protein powders, hardly any animal protein, and giant smoothie bowls in the morning full of antioxidant-rich fruit, topped with granola and raw honey. Yum, right? Not when you have Candida, which is an overgrowth of a beneficial yeast common with antibiotic usage and digestive issues. This is the sad irony of antibiotic treatment for acne: it will also kill off your good digestive flora, and thus keep you stuck in a terrible cycle of needing antibiotics to keep your skin clear, which worsens your health and only increases dysbiosis. My body and it's health issues were going crazy from all of the sugar, and so was my skin. My hormones were also totally out of wack, and that came back into balance when I got off birth control and addressed my serious adrenal fatigue. A lot of things can contribute to bad skin, and addressing these is the ultimate key to clearing up your skin. I was shocked that not ONE of my western doctors mentioned Candida or dysbiosis as the root cause for my acne.
The products I am sharing below are some of my favorite, all-natural brands and remedies. Just like food, I try to avoid synthetic ingredients and harsh chemicals. A few of these brands are small, local companies- instead of perusing the aisles at the drug store, maybe stop into a little boutique in your neighborhood and try out a small brand instead. These people are generally the most passionate about their products, strict about their ingredients because they truly care about making the best product, and most importantly we are supporting our communities rather than a giant corporation.
These skin products have made an enormous difference in my life, but I truly had to deal with the root issue. I would encourage working with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath to identify what your root causes might be, but I would highly suggest that anyone dealing with acne or eczema adopt a low-sugar diet and look into Candida as a contributing factor to their skin health.
DR. OHIRRAS PROBIOTIC KAMPUKU FACE WASH //
This bar of soap is cheap, lasts forever, and is made of all-natural ingredients and even probiotics! It really works to balance combination skin without being over-drying or sticky. Dr. Ohirra's is one of my favorite probiotic brands, using fermented wildcrafted herbs & vegetables. I love this soap.
BEN SHEN SERUM NO. 2 //
A perfect example of a small company that you should support: My dear friend Desiree is the founder and Alchemist of Benshen, and she creates the most beautiful, nourishing oils for all different kinds of skin. The best thing I ever did for my skin was to stop being afraid of oils! The right kind of oils actually balance the skin by regulating out internal oil production. I have oily skin and using non-comedogenic oils like sweet almond and essential oils has made my skin so much less oily. I love her products- check out her website or chat with her to choose the right blend for your skin goals.
ISUN CLARIFYING SERUM //
Another one of my favorite small brands, ISUN uses wildcrafted herbs specific for oily or acne-prone skin. This specific formula is a light water & essential oil emulsion and includes herbs like neem, olive leaf, sage, galangal root, green tea, licorice and lavender. It also has potent antimicrobial essential oils (my favorite!) including manuka, lemon myrtyle, tea tree, bitter orange and clove bud. I swear by this product.
ANDALOU 2% SALYCYLIC ACID //
My best friend is an esthetician, and she advised me a long time ago that a formulation of at least 2% salicylic acid is the best way to clear up difficult pimples- and ingrown hairs, as well! I use this as a spot treatment and it works wonders.
BRAGG'S RAW UNFILTERED APPLE CIDER VINEGAR //
In a small bottle, combine 1 part raw apple cider vinegar with 1 part filtered water. ACV is an extremely medicinal beverage to begin with, full of live probiotics (see my recipe for The Morning Drink), but I love it as a facial toner. It is great for balancing oily skin and clearing up acne, as it has powerful antimicrobial and antiviral properties. It is quite acidic when applied topically, so always dilute with some water and add more if your skin is drying out. Follow with a nice scented herbal oil like BenShen or you will go to bed smelling like salad dressing. You can find this brand at almost any health food store.
AZTEC SECRET INDIAN HEALING CLAY //
Once a week or if my skin is breaking out, I mix up a little face mask of Aztec Clay, apple cider vinegar, 2 activated charcoal capsules and essential oils. Calcium bentonite clay draws out deep impurities and carries a magnetic charge, so be sure not to use metal spoons or bowls when mixing.
SIMPLY DIVINE CRYSTAL DEODORANT //
I try to steer clear of heavy metals like aluminum, so I choose to use natural deodorants. This Crystal Deodorant spray is totally hippie-dippy, and I love it. It works pretty well for a regular day, and has plenty of beautiful therapeutic essential oils as well as encouraging lymphatic drainage, which is essential for proper detoxification.
LAVILLIN DEODORANT //
If it's hot or I'm working out, this is my go-to deodorant to make sure I don't smell. Most natural deodorants suck and don't do anything except make you smell even weirder. This one works, and it's not full of garbage! I prefer the roll-on kind.