A few readers have asked about products and D.I.Y.s that will help with acne situations. I struggle to answer these questions simply because acne is a symptom of a larger internal imbalance. Based on my research and reading more holistic approaches to managing acne and blemishes, this is a two part problem: there’s the stuff you put on the outside that can either soothe or aggravate acne, but the more important part is dealing with the underlying causes which are diet and stress levels because they affect hormones, on which this post will focus. In part II, I’ll provide topical oils and products that can help clear up the skin. It’s a long one, so grab a beverage and settle in.
I have been rather lucky; I’ve never dealt with serious acne, even as a teenager. I did deal with a moderate case of cystic acne about two years ago in my late twenties. My attempt in this post is to pool my research and to share what worked for me, which I learned from holistic approaches.
Most skin care products formulated to eliminate acne can worsen the condition, due to the drying ingredients. The skin is slightly acidic and most mass-produced products mess with the pH balance or completely strip skin of its natural oils, sending the skin into panic mode. While what we put on our skin is very important to combat environmental damage and to retain moisture, topical products are only a fraction of the cause of most acne cases.
Most dermatologists and Western doctors do not treat the skin as an integrated system and will prescribe detrimental drugs like peeling agents, Accutane or, for women, birth control pills to “fix” hormonal issues, while completely ignoring the underlying cause(s). With this method of treatment, blemishes on the facial skin are managed temporarily, but the food allergy or the high-stress lifestyle only continues to fester in the body in other ways. More pollution has been added to the body from these serious, disruptive medications or chemicals that may bring another set of side effects into the picture. Now, we have a toxin masking one symptom, only to push the sickness to cause harm in another part of the body.
Yes, you are what you eat, and it will show up on your skin. Many naturopaths and Ayurvedic practitioners will say that acne begins in the gut. The overproduction of sebum and bacteria is just the effect of acne. Because our skin is a sensory organ, it is constantly processing what comes in and out and is the best way to tell if someone is healthy at first glance. You’ve seen it: the person that has naturally glowing, dewy skin…that’s a reflection of a healthy internal ecosystem. When we ingest toxins or foods which are difficult for our bodies to digest, this shows up on our skin because what happens in our gastrointestinal system directly affects our hormones. The profound relationship between the food we eat and hormone balance is just now being understood. The resulting inflammation, toxicity, etc. is the root of the problem.
I was surprised to discover that acne is very much a U.S. problem because of the prevalence of processed foods in the average American diet. The rest of the world doesn’t consume it in the large amounts that the typical American does. There are hundreds of studies that show relief of participants’ acne conditions when placed on a low-glycemic diet (no grains, sugars, processed foods, etc.). This is because our bodies are more efficient at digesting complex carbs. Many scholars are starting to believe that it has more to do with one’s environment than their genetics. Although, some will tolerate dairy and grains, or even if they have trouble processing, it may show up as another ailment like weight gain or IBS, rather than blemishes.
The other main acne trigger is our emotional well-being.
During the last six months of grad school, I dealt with cystic acne, those pimples that form underneath the skin and stay there for a solid week or so. There’s nothing you can do except wait it out 🙁 It was the pits. This horrible bout of adult acne happened because I was constantly stressed, neglected my body, and ate poorly. After graduation, I got back into a routine of eating and exercise/yoga and I haven’t had a cystic pimple since. However, I did have some serious scars from those suckers. I researched natural ways to fade scars and hyper-pigmentation and found out about rosehip seed oil, which I’ll talk about in part II.
The condition of the skin reflects what’s going on inside our bodies. Any imbalance, or lack of self-care will show up on your face in a few days. I still experience normal hormonal breakouts that coincide with my cycle, but I only get one or two spots around the jawline, and they are manageable and go away within a couple days.
What to Do?
1. Check your hormones:
Identifying any hormone imbalances can clue you and your doctor in on not only why you’re experiencing adult acne, but other issues. If you have insurance, ask your doctor to check for imbalances during routine blood work to identify or rule out any serious issues, like a thyroid problem.
If your tests come back “normal” and you still feel “off”, then definitely listen to your gut and look into seeing an alternative medicine practitioner, like an acupuncturist. Most major cities offer sliding scale practices, so those of us without this coverage can still seek the benefits without going broke. If you’re in L.A., try this wonderful place!
Whatever you decide, I also would recommend the book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Claudia Welch. She describes the symbiotic functions of hormones and writes about how stress, food and synthetic medication and hormones wreak havoc on the hormones of modern women. She also offers solutions rooted in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Western medicine. My mind was blown after reading this and is must-read for every woman.
2. Exercise your lymphatic system
The lymphatic system does not have a pump, like the cardiovascular, so the system can be sluggish and not working to purge toxins and junk out as efficiently as possible. If you are sedentary, so is your lymphatic system.
– Exercise – take a vigorous Vinyasa flow class
– Drink water – this will help flush out nasties
– Dry brush – the nodes sit just underneath the skin, and the long, exfoliating strokes encourage blood flow to the area.
3. Clue in to your skin
From the lovely athletic line and my former employer (yay!) Lorna Jane blog, the location of the breakout can clue you in on whats going on internally. For example, cystic acne is more hormonal and stress related. While topical solutions may help temporarily, there’s probably an imbalance of some sort happening.
Chin and jaw line: Hormonal, especially when the spots go down the neck.
Forehead: Bowel congestion and constipation.
Between the eyes: Liver
Cheeks: Various causes, including genetic
Back: General toxicity and candida
Whiteheads on the face: Can be digestive
Large cysts on the face (without heads): Indicates a hormonal imbalance
4. Eliminate known acne-causing foods
While some people say that detoxing is a great idea to get rid of acne, I’m not a fan because this is not a sustainable solution. Yes, your acne may subside, but you then have no idea which foods were triggering the blemishes.
Instead, there’s so much literature that supports eating a low-glycemic or dairy-free diet. Grains and dairy can cause inflammation and therefore trigger bacteria, which shows up on your skin.
– Try cutting out grains for a week. If that doesn’t help, try cutting out all dairy.
I’ll post part two next week, filled with blemish and scar-reducing products and DIYs that have worked for me.
It just kills me when I have to spend money on gas, laundry, or deodorant. And while I did find an effective natural deodorant, Soapwalla, (read about this and the danger of most deos here) it’s $14 bucks a pop and I’ve been trying to balance my beauty splurges by committing to D.I.Y. one beauty product for each expensive product I buy.
I ran out of my trusty Soapwalla and after a few days bare-pitting it and some gentle encouragement from my dear fiancee to perhaps set a higher standard of personal hygiene for myself, I finally broke down and gave homemade deodorant a shot, not really expecting it to be all that effective.
I put this formula to the test with a hike and a few yoga classes and holy kerschmolies, it works! And not in a funny Portlandia way. Really.
Also, this is SO cheap to make and smells like coconut-orange frosting. So here are the tools you need to get into the homemade deodorant game:
1 tbsp Shea butter
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1-2 tbsp baking soda
2-3 drops tea tree oil
5-10 drops of essential oils of your choice (I used 3 drops peppermint and 5 drops bergamot)
1 sanitized small glass jar that you’ll use to store the deodorant
1. Add Shea butter to glass jar and heat until softened (I microwaved for 20 seconds – feel free to use a double boiler; I was too lazy to do this when I made it)
2. Add all ingredients except for essential oils and stir, making sure the powder and baking soda are mixed thoroughly. Add more baking soda, if desired (I prefer a thicker paste consistency)
3. Gradually stir in essential oils to achieve the desired strength of scent
Your homemade deo is now ready to keep your pits company! The tea tree oil and coconut oil act as natural preservatives but make sure to use within 2 weeks so the deodorant stays fresh and effective.
I have so many wonderful products on my bathroom shelves that I want to feature and give adequate attention to each brand. To do this, I’m launching The Clean Hits segment! I will feature products from brands that absolutely WOW me to spread the wealth and I couldn’t think of a better brand to kick off this segment than Alima Pure.
THE BRAND: ALIMA PURE
I really can not sing enough praises about this line of mineral makeup. In addition to creating beautiful shades of makeup that are high quality and affordable, Alima Pure also takes meaningful steps to operate as a truly eco-minded and sustainable company. In addition to providing certified natural cosmetics (natural by high Euro standards, yay!), they are also:
- A certified B-corp
- A member of 1% for the Planet,
- A carbon-neutral business
Alima Pure encompasses the health, beauty, social and environmental philosophies
that I’d like to see in all truly natural beauty lines.
WHY I LOVE IT:
I was originally drawn to Alima when I found out how many foundation shades they have (over 60!) and under $25! I ordered a few samples of the Satin Matte Foundation to color match my skin (at $1.75/piece, you can order quite a few). They also have a custom sample package if you use their Foundation Selector tool.
If you are beginning to transition to clean makeup, this is such a great line to start with. My biggest challenge was replacing my holy-grail status Lorac wet/dry powder that took me forever to find as most conventional lines didn’t offer a lot of undertone options in their deeper shades. I was once turned away from the Clinique counter because the ding-dong counter girl couldn’t find a shade that matched my skin -not that I’m traumatized, or anything….*smashes ALL the Clinique bottles*
If you are overwhelmed or need direction (about makeup, probably not on life), one of their makeup artists will recommend shades for you. They also send samples with orders of full-size products.
Their eyeshadows, blushes, and bronzers are also amazing! Can you tell I’m smitten?
Satin Matte Foundation – Buildable coverage with smooth finish that never creases. I use Warm 4 and Beige 4, depending on whether I’ve been outside – I’ll sometimes even blend the two.
Eyeshadows – Alima’s eyeshadows have a cult following within the green beauty community. They offer beautiful shades that range from slight shimmers to deeply-pigmented bold options.
My most frequently used shades are Chai – a shimmering rose gold that is wonderful for an everyday subtle glow and Orchid, a gorgeous, soft fuschia that is stunning on brown eyes (hurry – it’s a limited edition color!)
Bronzer – I use Trinidad, the darkest bronzing shade offered. It’s great way to prolong the summer tan on deeper-toned skin. I also use it for a contour effect (which I’m still perfecting). While it’s a bit too light for me, I’ve heard rave reviews about Belieze, suited for light/medium skin tones.
Navy Eyeliner – Included as a surprise sample in a past order, the subtle hint of color convinced me to stray from my black eyeliner rut. This stays-put and doesn’t smudge! I love applying this shade as a bold cat eye, paired with a bright pink lip.
Have you tried Alima’s products? Anything to add to these picks? Comment below!
Apple cider vinegar is a beauty and health wonder juice that I believe to be straight from Mother Earth’s bosom. Thanks, girl. Its benefits have been touted by both the naturopath community and supermodels. I will try anything in the middle of that Venn diagram (if you haven’t read Miranda Kerr’s Top Shelf, enhance your quality of life and do it now!).
When I get in the habit of drinking ACV for an energy boost (described, below), I swear my skin looks brighter and I feel less congested when I wake up. It has worked wonders for my hair. It detoxifies, closes the cuticle, which softens and adds shine. Raw, fermented ACV (a.k.a with the mother, like Braggs) is simply apple juice sugar that has tuned into vinegar. It is rich in enzymes, minerals, specifically potassium, which alkalizes, and balances and prevents inflammation in many parts of the body. ACV acts as an antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, which is why it’s great for everything from boosting immunity to curing candida.
The acidity of apple cider vinegar actually balances your skin and hair’s natural pH levels.
D.I.Y. toner: use this ratio to start – 1 part ACV to 4 parts water. Those with sensitive skin will stick to this ratio. If you want to power up, use a 1:3 ratio. Acne, skin irritation are treated with this solution and has been said to fade acne scars.
I use this D.I.Y. to balance my scalp, remove product build-up and increase shine:
Mix 1 part ACV with 2-3 parts water in a spray bottle. After shampooing or co-washing, apply to wet hair and let it sit for 3-5 minutes then rinse out. I prefer not to use conditioner on the days I use this ACV rinse since I’m trying to let my hair “breathe’ for a day or so. It does smell, but it will fade away. Hair will feel bouncy and light, once dry.
Morning energy boost: Dilute a tablespoon of ACV with 8 oz of water and drink on an empty stomach.
Immunity boost: Add a tablespoon of ACV to a cup of hot water with lemon and honey.
Now that I’m 30, I can dole out pearls of wisdom, telling tales of my youth to anyone who will listen, and no one will bat an eye. Like the 90-something year old dude who lives in my neighborhood and crosses the street whenever and where ever he pleases, people just kinda let him do his thing. He’s earned the right to make you late to yoga.
I’ve done my own hair for about 23 of my years on this Earth and I’ve got epic tales of trauma suffered by my hair: knots, awkward layers, bangs, heat, chemicals, and that one time I thought it would be great to let my friend in beauty school give me peek-a-boo highlights to be edgy. Yup, my hair fell out. I’ve earned these pearls of wisdom through trial & error, burns, sweat and tears. My hair and I are finally buddies, and have been for the past 4 years. Readers, why don’t you sit on Mia’s virtual knee while I give you a few tips I’ve learned along the way…
The Five Curly Hair Commandments
1. Get your hair cut by a stylist that specializes in curly hair
If you follow one thing on this list, please, for the love of the Battlestar Galactica Gods, DO THIS! Getting your curls properly shaped will make styling so much easier, minimizing the amount of time you need to spend on your hair.
Ask questions about their process before they take the shears to your hair. If a stylist wants to cut your hair while it’s wet, or god forbid, straighten it, then cut it, save your money and walk out of that salon; they don’t know what they’re doing.
A curly stylist who is good at their craft will know how to layer your hair, cutting each single curl to lay nicely while also factoring in shrinkage. Yes, you’ll have to pay upwards of $100-$150, but it is so worth it.
Finding a good curly hair stylist means researching and asking around. My stylist is certified in the Deva Cut technique, and you can find a certified stylist in your area. If you think you’ve found the one, look for before and after pictures of their clients. A reputable stylist should have an online portfolio or be able to direct you to pictures of their past work on social media. See someone in your coffee shop with great curls? Ask her where she gets her hair done! It’s not weird 🙂
2. Comb/detangle only while in the shower
Hair should be soaking wet and have conditioner applied to minimize breakage. NEVER attempt to comb or detangle outside of the shower unless your hair is more wavy than curly. Always use a wide-tooth comb or pick, never a brush. Set your part while detangling in the shower to minimize any fiddling you have to do to style, once outside of the shower. Once out of the shower, immediately apply styling products to soaking wet hair. Now, hands off until it’s dry. This is the secret to minimizing frizz and getting hair to air dry in perfect corkscrew coils.
3. Do not use products containing synthetic silicones
If you’ve read my post about 10 ingredients to avoid, you know how gross silicones are. But for those with tangles that rival a drunk branch party in the Amazon, this one is still the most tempting commandments to break. Yes, silicone-laden products feel great when applied in the shower and you can whisk your comb through hair. When I do sin and use a silicone product, my hair might look good for one day, but for the next three my curls are limp and weighed down (not in a good way). My hair also feels dry because strands are coated with the plastic-y stuff, preventing moisture from getting in. I then have to use a clarifying shampoo, which dries out my strands, creating a vicious cycle. DON”T BE FOOLED by this witchcraft in a bottle.
If it’s slip you’re looking for, try my conditioning go-tos: Kinky Curly Knot Today, Rahua, or Rare El’ements
4. Use shampoo/clarify periodically (with sulfate-free, natural, clean and gentle products, of course)
You are probably inundated with bloggers/websites preaching the gospel of shirking shampoo for the rest of time. I tried it, but guys…there is such a thing as too much shea butter. I know, I know: blasphemy. Yes, I still co-wash, but no longer swear off shampoo.
Even natural products can build up, especially when using super moisturizing products with rich butters and oils usually incorporated into formulas for curly hair. When my hair is not responding to anything, I know it’s because it needs a deep cleaning. I shampoo with either Rahua, Acure or Rare Elements then spray my ACV solution from roots to ends, let it sit for about 3-5 minutes, then rinse out. While there are great D.I.Y. shampoos out there, just be careful using these if you have colored hair as ingredients like baking soda can dull color.
5. If you color your curls, you MUST stop using heat
I made the decision to get highlights in May at my wonderful organic salon, The Local, in North Hollywood. They use an organic color system (in this case, organic meaning not as harsh as traditional formulas and ammonia-free) which swayed me to switch things up. When I had virgin hair, I could get away with using a curling iron to perk up lazy curls around my face sometimes 2-3 times per week and even straighten my hair about once or twice a month. But with this decision, I knew I would have to stop using any heat. I’m so happy with my color and with weekly deep conditioning, my curls remain soft and healthy. I know this would not be the case if I were up to my old habits. Again, the technique for applying color to curly hair is completely different from straight, so make sure to find a colorist that has experience working with curls.
Do you have a commandment to add to the list? Leave a comment; I love learning tips from other curlies!
This mask brightens and soothes, blah blah blah…
Let’s get to the real reason I like it so much: I adore feeling like a kid playing with my food and then smearing it on my face. It’s also great fun to look like an oompa loompa for 15-20 minutes of your day. It can really challenge your beliefs. It’s also great fun to startle your s.o./roomie/family once you’ve applied bright orange goop to your head. Just sorta slowly peek at them from around a door sill with orange face, Milford-man style, and wait for them to notice. It’s great fun.
But seriously. As a natural anti-inflammatory, turmeric is a great topical solution for minimizing puffiness and soothing skin. Honey is a humentant with powerful moisturizing properties and the lactic acid in the yogurt softens and sloughs-off dull skin. I’ve never experienced any staining from the turmeric but those with lighter skin may want to do a patch test, first. My skin always feels rejuvenated after applying this mask.
What you’ll need:
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tbsp honey (raw honey is best)
1 tsp turmeric
Mix all ingredients and slather on your face. Leave on for 15-20 minutes then rinse with lukewarm water. I like to use muslin cloth when I rinse for a little extra exfoliation.
I prefer a natural, glowy look on the weekdays. And simplicity. Unless zig-zag liner becomes a trend featured on Into the Gloss, bold eyeliner is not happening at 7:30 am on a Tuesday.
Here are my five Summer must-haves that deliver a warm, polished glow to my skin.
Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation in Warm 4 – Most mornings, I apply a thin veil to even out tone, but when I am going for a more dramatic look, I can build the base for a more “done up” look.
Alima Pure bronzer in Trinidad – this shade is great for my already medium tan skin. It evens out areas on my cheeks and gives me the “oh-yeah-I-totally-did-physical-activity-outdoors-this-weekend” glow.
Ecobrow Defining Wax in Penelope – I rarely leave the house without my brows done. It’s the feature that makes me feel “together”. The Ecobrow founder named the shades after gorgeous actresses. Yes, Penelope, as in Penelope Cruz. Speaking of, you guys should watch “Twice Born” on Netflix instant play.
RMS Uncover-up in 33 – The perfect concealer. It delivers great coverage while delivering moisture. I dab this under my eyes. It has a dewy finish, but if I want a matte look, I’ll finish with Alima’s Satin Matte Foundation
RMS Living Luminizer – If you haven’t tried this, you must. I was skeptical because I thought it would bring back nightmares of glitter gel sold at the mall, circa 1996. Wrong, so wrong. It’s a sheer moisturizing balm. A small dab delivers a subtle sheen that is so gorgeous. I dab on my browbones, cheekbones and on my cupid’s bow to enhance my glow. There are many days I use only this on my face and feel brightened. It also lasts forever! Still on the fence? Perhaps Giselle and Miranda will make you a believer.
Lips – my DIY lip balm recipe (coming soon!)
My hair has been wrecked the last week or so.
On many every weekday morning, at 7:30 am, I have the mind of a root canal patient awakening from anesthesia and see no value in doing my hair so I throw it up in a bun. At 10:30 am, when I get a good look at myself in bathroom mirror at the office, I remember why doing my hair is good for my emotional well being and my career.
Then at 7:30 am the next day, I’ve forgotten everything I learned in the bathroom mirror the previous day and throw that mess in a bun. Then I went to the beach all day and thought it would be cool to just let my hair go, like an exotic mermaid, only to return home with a tangled mess.
So anyway, the point of this post is to show off the miracle results of nature’s beauty cream that is available to humans via my hair. Humor me.
The cure for my once beach-attacked/neglected strands? An overnight treatment with a batch of my DIY deep conditioner, this time, with extra coconut oil. There’s no situation that a smidgen of coconut oil can’t solve or at least improve.