Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Clean Skincare Routine

I've had a pretty dedicated skin routine since I started using anti-wrinkle night cream and daily sunscreen at the age of 12 (what, I was a neurotic kid).  I've always loved taking care of my skin, not only to appease my raging vanity but also because it's a nice little way to check out from the world and do something very basic and self-nurturing every day.

During my teenage save-the-world phase (which involved lots of dirty hair and Thai pants), I was pretty rigid (and self-righteous) about using only "natural" beauty products.  (Scare quotes=now understanding that lots of seemingly clean products are just as toxic as drugstore stuff, just with uglier labeling.  Just because Whole Foods sells it doesn't mean it's not toxic as hell.)  In my early twenties, driven by a very tight budget and frustration with supposedly green products that just didn't work, I went back to my drugstore brands and found a decent regimen I liked and stuck with for a few years.  But then I kept catching snippets here and there about the problems with synthetic chemicals used in beauty products and at some point it clicked (even though I'd heard it a million times before) that everything I put on my skin makes its way fairly quickly into my bloodstream, and eventually I started scouting around again for clean products.  This time, with access to the beautiful beautiful internet, I was better able to research products that were actually non-toxic (or relatively so) and that worked just as well or better than synthetic brands.  No More Dirty LooksSkin Deep and Makeup Alley helped me figure out what to try and I've been able to find a routine I genuinely enjoy using that does what I need it to do (mostly prevent acne and dry skin).

Note: I'm not an anti-chemical crusader.  I just figured since someday I want to have a baby with only two arms and I already have some hormone imbalances going on, it might be wise to move in the direction of putting fewer synthetics in my body on the daily.  I'm pretty enthusiastic about how these products work and recommend them even to those lovelies who could give two sh*ts about synthetics in their beauty routines.

Face Wash: Raw Honey

I've been using raw honey as a face wash since January 2013.  I used to suffer through the winter with horribly dry, flaky skin.  Switching from a traditional cleanser to honey made a huge, almost immediate difference.  It doesn't strip my skin at all but it seems to clean it pretty thoroughly.  Reportedly, its antibacterial properties help prevent and heal acne and its mild graininess provides some gentle exfoliation (some people add a bit of baking soda to their honey for more exfoliation.  I tried that once and it turned me into a hot, scratched up mess).  I use it every night before bed by swiping it on dry skin and rubbing it in for 30 seconds or so, then letting it sit on my face while I brush my teeth before rinsing it off with warm water.  It doesn't leave my skin squeaky clean, but that's exactly what I want--I cherish those precious skin oils!  If I'm especially grimy, I might mix in a drop of liquid Dr. Bronner's and work the lot into a wet face like a traditional foaming cleanser.  It doesn't remove makeup; for that, I use whatever face oil I have on hand--coconut or argan--before cleansing with the honey.  Lots of people will tell you you need to use fancy pants Manuka honey.  I haven't used it because a) I don't want to drop a lot of cash on something that stays on my face for only 2 minutes and b) I'm happy with my TJ's $6 raw honey.  Either way, it's a pretty nurturing but effective way to take care of the cleaning part.

Sunscreen and Day Moisturizer: Suntegrity

Hot damn do I love Suntegrity.  I've used a lot of facial moisturizer/sunscreen combos and Suntegrity cleans the clock of those other brands.  It's a moisturizer and primer with SPF 30 and I LOVE IT SO SO SO MUCH--I'm on my fifth bottle and haven't been even mildly tempted to look at any other sunscreen.  I'm somewhat prone to clogged pores and I haven't gotten a single breakout from using this (word on the street is the zinc it contains might actually help prevent breakouts?  I dunno.).  It sinks in beautifully and is perfectly moisturizing but non-greasy and even though it is zinc oxide based, it doesn't leave my skin with a white cast.  It's a little 'spensive, but in my opinion, a good sunscreen that I actually want to use even on cloudy days is worth it.  It's also got the EWG seal of approval, coming at as their top moisturizer with SPF for the last three consecutive years.

Night Moisturizer Brick House: Argan Oil

Prior to trying argan oil, I was freaked out by the idea of slapping oil directly on my face; a brief fling a few years ago with the oil cleansing method left me with an acne party that took several weeks to clear up.  Then a few years ago argan oil hit it big on the beauty product publicity circuit as the magical cure-all for skin and I bought it hard.  I love the stuff.  Part of what helped me take the leap from "don't let oil anywhere near my face" to a hefty nightly slathering of the stuff for the past 18 months was that everything they say about argan oil is true.  My breakouts have dramatically lessened and when I do get a little zit friend, argan seems to help it heal faster than it otherwise would.  As far as anti-aging, I'm 27 so I have no idea.  It feels good, though, and does it job of keeping me moisturized and balanced, so I'm happy.  Oh, and while there are lots of super expensive argan oils out there, I've been pretty happy with this stuff.  It's insanely reasonable and it gets the job done (note: I also love this as an addition to a hair mask, but that's a post for another time).

Night Moisturizer Runner Up: Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil

In hopes of finding something that did a little more work (i.e. gave me the ever elusive fairy princess skin), I strayed from the argan and have been using this product nightly for about four months (I'm still on my first bottle).  While I like it, I don't know if I'll repurchase, as I haven't noticed any major results beyond basic moisturizing.  It doesn't break me out and it doesn't leave me dry, but I was hoping it would help with turnover and brighten my skin up a bit due to the higher concentration of retinols. I like it okay and am happy enough finishing this bottle; I'll just be on the hunt for something with a little more zing once this guy's empty.

Intensive Night Moisturizer: Evening Primrose Oil

I started taking this internally (two capsules per day) last spring in an effort to clear up my hormonal acne before our wedding (which worked beautifully and I've kept the habit up).  I don't know where I picked up  the idea of puncturing the capsules to use the oil as a facial moisturizer, but it's a favorite for when my skin is extra dry or I've just used an intensive exfoliating mask.  This tends to break me out if I use it multiple nights in a row, but as a once per week thing it gives me a nice boost and lets me wake up with soft, plump, glowing skin.

Exfoliating Mask: Arbonne Cellular Renewal Mask

Eep.  Yes, one of my very favorite skin care products requires participating in multilevel marketing.  But this mask is my holy grail.  It's ridiculously exfoliating and feels like what I imagine a baby chemical peel would feel like without the ensuing days of redness and peeling.  I was super reluctant to participate in Arbonne's MLM, but a friend of mine loaned me her Cellular Renewal Mask last winter when I was kvetching about how uncomfortably dry, tight and flaky my skin felt and I was an immediate goner.  One use took care of the peeling and got rid of the nasty skin build up that had been preventing my moisturizers from working.  I ordered one immediately and have been using it weekly since.  It's basically a facial in a bottle and beats the pants off of any other exfoliation method or mask I've ever used.  I used it before bed and leave it on for about 20-25 minutes (longer than recommended, but my skin isn't at all sensitive).  I follow with evening primrose oil or Tata Harper's Wild Plum Resurfacing Mask (below).  It leaves me pretty red initially but I wake up with glowy lovely skin the day after and notice a huge improvement in my skin after a few weeks of regular use (i.e. fewer breakouts, more smoothness).  I love this stuff and just bought my third pot of it.  Like some of my other favorites, it's a little expensive but I've found each pot to last about 6 months with weekly use.

Magical Mask: Tata Harper Wild Plum Resurfacing Mask (Limited Edition)

This one's a newbie--I just bought it last month after everybody would not shut up about how amazing it is.  I usually use it after the Arbonne Cellular Renewal Mask (above) and leave it on all night as an intensive treatment.  It's kind of amazing.  It's very gentle but seems to completely smooth out, refresh and plump up my skin making it look glowy like I just came off of a yoga retreat in Bali.  I've been using it once a week for the past month-ish and think I'll probably repurchase the regular version when I run out.

Serum: Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum (or, I can't believe I'm admitting I spent this much on some goo)

I was pretty happy with my simple honey+sunscreen+argan oil regime for quite awhile but felt like I wanted a little something more.  I spent a few months lazily looking for a serum to add to my routine and even tried a few samples, but nothing seemed to do much for me so I called off the search.  I use Tata's Aromatic Irritability Treatment as a perfume (olfactory heaven in a bottle) and ordered a refill in December.  With my order came samples for three of their facial serums.  I didn't expect much in just two uses (I usually give a new product a couple of months to decide whether or not I like it) but was immediately impressed by how well these mofos worked.  Granted, the one I liked the best is a leetle out of my price range, but I was pretty in love with this (very slightly) more reasonable one.  Guys, I've never even considered spending even half this amount on this type of skin care product, but for whatever reason (existential crisis?) I ended up forking it over and have been using this for the past month.  Can I say first that this bottle is kind of huge and I fully expect it to last me at least through late summer?  But also, it actually does stuff for my skin.  It brightens me up significantly and gives my skin a radiance it doesn't naturally have.  I'm hoping that over time it does some other voodoo skin stuff but I won't get into that.  Could I do without this serum?  Definitely.  Do I kind of love using it?  Um, yes I really love it a lot.  Do I believe it's more worth it than a lot of cheaper bunk serums that are basically liquid plastic?  Yah.  Whether or not anybody else thinks its worth it is up to them, but I'm happy with it and there's a good chance I'll repurchase. 

The Fix All: Kuumba Made Healing Salve

This is not the most glamorous or exciting thing in the world but I've been using this particular brand of salve for 8+ years and it does the job. I use it on cuts, burns, scars, cuticles, ingrown hairs, blemishes (both new ones and healing ones) and as a lip balm.  I also rub a bit into my hands before bed for some intensive healing/moisture and use it as an eye makeup remover as well as a night time eye cream.  It has all kinds of good hippie herby stuff in it and does seem to help things heal more quickly than other salves I've used.  I always have a pot of it by my bed and usually use it multiple times a day.  Kind of the modern version of petroleum jelly.

So that's it!  Do you use any of these products?  Any recs for other clean products to try?



  1. Thank you Kate! I clicked on your blog to see what you've been up to and among your other great posts found this one just as I am ready at the young age of 28 to transition out of clean and clear face wash. HA. I'm gonna start with the raw honey and suntegrity and see where that takes me... love your writing xo.

  2. Lis! Let me know how you like it! I was skeptical of the honey at first but it really is such a pleasure to use and makes my skin so much better. And the Suntegrity...well, it is perfect. Thank you for reading. xoxo