Tag Archives: skincare

Natural acne solutions

As I have mentioned before, about a year or two ago I made an effort to purge my cosmetics and skincare supplies of unhealthy chemicals, and I have been so pleased with the results.  Nowadays, it’s rare that I breakout so badly it requires intervention!

But my replacement creams, lotions and other ingredients were much more expensive.  And since all the ingredients listed on the label were recognizable and commercially available, I thought, why can’t I just make this myself?

Well.  Here’s why.  Emulsifying oil and water is HARD!  My attempts at homemade moisturizer ended up as nothing more than a huge mess in my kitchen.

Perhaps with more experimentation I could have gotten it right, but I wasn’t keen on wasting more ingredients.  Furthermore, in my research I discovered that homemade cosmetics still require nasty parabens if you want to keep them longer than a week unrefrigerated.

So I gave up on trying to create lotions and creams.  But, it is easy enough to make simple masks, scrubs and bath ingredients that effectively improve your complexion, while saving you money too!  There are several books available with basic recipes; one I like is called Ecobeauty by Lauren and Janice Cox.

Naturally managing breakouts

Nowadays, most people are aware that the healthiest food options are those that minimize processed, unpronounceable ingredients.  So why not adopt the same paradigm for our skin?  Shifting to natural and safe products has made a world of a difference in my complexion.  Growing up, we were always told in our beauty magazines that “natural doesn’t mean better.”  But I am starting to question that idea.

Speaking for myself, I have learned that this incessant need to “medicate” my “problem” skin was the culprit all along.  Approaching my skincare as nourishment and not treatment has led to great improvement, but I do occasionally need some intervention.  With a few basic ingredients, I am able to control breakouts with readily available ingredients, and without the harsh and irritating junk found in conventional cosmetics.

Salicylic acid is the active ingredient in most over-the-counter acne medications.  For many years, before being synthesized in laboratories, it was obtained from the bark of the white willow tree, and used primarily as an analgesic.  These days, you are probably more familiar with its commercial name aspirin.

Salicylic acid also causes our skin to shed dead layers and replace itself more quickly.  Though most drugstore acne treatments contain it, you can avoid the harmful inactive ingredients and apply a more concentrated form by crushing an uncoated aspirin pill, diluting in water and blotting on problem areas.

Acetylsalicylic acid, the synthesized version, is strongest, but there are natural options as well for a gentler treatment.  It is an allelochemical used by many plants in defense against pathogens.  As mentioned above, the bark of the white willow tree is a common source, and you can purchase it in powdered form and add it into any mask or scrub, or even mix in with your moisturizer, to help with problem skin.  You could also dilute it in water, green tea and/or witch hazel to make a gentle, calming toner.

Strawberries are another source of salicylic acid, and ground up into a paste you can make a healing mask for acne-prone skin.

Another important skincare ingredient is honey.  Honey is naturally antimicrobial and when applied to skin can help fight acne-causing bacteria. A lot of honey purchased at the store is processed beyond recognition, however, which reduces its beneficial properties — so seek out more natural brands.

With all that in mind, here are a few recipes for facial masks and scrubs that can help manage breakouts.  If you have attempted everything to no avail, I encourage you to give these a try!

Basic honey mask
This is a preventive antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory treatment.

1 part honey
2 parts lukewarm water
pinch cinnamon

Combine ingredients and make a paste.  Apply to face and leave on for 20 minutes.  Rinse with gentle soap and water.
Repeat daily for 1-2 weeks and then continue 1-3 times per week for general maintenance.


Add a few crushed strawberries or powdered willow bark to the above mixture to infuse acne-fighting salicylic acid.  Mix it all in a food processor or by hand.

Mermaid skin scrub

This is a recipe from the book Ecobeauty mentioned above.  Seaweed supposedly helps draw toxins and impurities away from the skin.  The pectin in the apple juice also softens, while the sugar is a gentle exfoliant. I also added some powdered willow bark during application.

1/4 cup powdered kelp (I actually just ground up 2 pieces of nori in my food processor…)
1/4 cup granular sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup apple juice

Combine kelp and sugar in a bowl, then mix in the honey and the apple juice.  Apply to skin, gently scrubbing, and leave on for five minutes.

Stored in a clean jar, this mixture will keep about 2 weeks in the fridge.

I tried the mermaid scrub for the first time last night, and my skin is noticeably softer this morning!

If you are satisfied with your skincare routine, no need to change a good thing — but if you are tired of sub-par results or want to save some money, I encourage you to give homemade products a try!  I’ll continue to post more recipes I discover as I try them.



Natural and safe skincare

For the past year, my complexion has been it’s best in a LONG time.  What is my secret to clear skin?  I’ve stopped taking care of it.

Like most people, I long believed that the myriad products marketed to us were the solution to breakouts, redness, flaking, and other ailments .  I’ve come to realize now, however, that they are precisely the problem.  A surprising number of products contain harsh, irritating, and cheap ingredients that cause us to purchase even more harsh and irritating products to clear up the original problems.  We are stuck in this never-ending cycle that benefits cosmetic companies’ bottom lines but harms our health.  So I encourage you to break the cycle!

For me, it all began about a year ago.  I always had this persistent patch of acne in my t-zone.  Then one day a light bulb went off — perhaps, the redness and tingling I felt after applying my oil-free moisturizer was NOT normal.  I scoured the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database for skincare products that are known to be safe, and purged preservatives, artificial fragrance and nanoparticles from my cosmetic stash.

In the United States, there is little-to-no regulation on the ingredients that can be included in cosmetics products.  In July, members of the House introduced the first legislation that would empower the FDA to begin developing and enforcing guidelines for cosmetics safety.  Until passed, we can only rely on NGO oversight of the cosmetics industry.  EWG is staffed by scientists who review the scientific literature on ingredients in products.  They score the safety of each ingredient on a scale of 0-9, and cite the publications that they believe warrant that rating.

If you haven’t already, go ahead and enter a few of your products into the database.  When I first did, I was shocked.  So many of the ingredients were scored as unsafe.  And thus began my efforts to revamp my skincare routine.

For me, the results were astounding.  Not even two weeks after purging the unsafe products, my acne completely disappeared.  I still get a pimple or two every few months, but they are small and short-lived.  And I have NEVER again seen one of those awful cystic zits that had previously plagued my back and chin for as long as I can remember.

So what is my new skincare routine?

-I wash my face with gentle, diluted Dr. Bronners liquid castile soap (rose scent) — and not every day, just when it feels dirty (like after working out).  Every so often, I exfoliate with Boscia’s Smoothing Facial Polish.

-I use Badger SPF 30 as my daily AM moisturizer.  I originally bought this as a sunscreen but didn’t like how greasy it felt.  Not wanting to see it go to waste, I happily discovered it works great as a daily moisturizer (and is much more effective than chemical sunscreens, a topic for another day!). I was always told to exclusively use oil-free products but ultimately discovered that it is not, in fact, the oil that caused my breakouts.

-At night, I use the Boscia Recharging Night moisturizer.  Expensive, but when I use it, I swear I wake up with noticeably softer, smoother skin.

And that’s it!

As for makeup, I tossed all of my department store brands, which surprisingly were made with cheap and irritating ingredients in spite of the high price I was paying.  I now mostly use the physician’s formula organic wear line — yep, purchased at the drug store.  Organic Divas is another great resource for safe makeup products.  I will also note that I use the Aubrey Organics line of shampoos and conditioners, and Giovanni styling products.  I think banishing harsh ingredients from my hair care routine has helped clear up the blemishes on my back and shoulders.

As always, I must add a disclaimer — this is just my experience, and certainly not a scientific study.  Most companies will insist that the products they use are safe.  But I encourage you to check out EWG’s website, and challenge the conventional notion that effective skincare must be costly and involve an extensive list lotions, creams, cleansers, ointments, brighteners…the list goes on.  Remember that our skin is our bodies’ largest organ, it is self-regulating, and sometimes, simpler is better.  Adopting that attitude certainly worked for me!