My journey to clear skin included years of twists and turns before I finally got to the root cause and healed my skin for good. I learned through education and personal experimentation that problem skin — acne, eczema, rosacea, sensitivity — is a reflection of what’s happening inside our bodies, specifically what’s happening in our gut.
What we eat, how we handle stress, how much alcohol we drink, how much we sleep, our life experience with prescription drugs (especially antibiotics), all of these things affect not just the health of our internal landscape but also our skin. What’s happening inside our bodies is reflected on the outside, and when we have skin, that can become a disastrous feedback loop.
For me personally, it went like this: get zits –> pick them and make them worse –> be upset and stressed about my skin –> eat garbage food because I feel bad about myself –> try to dry out my skin with harsh topicals –> try to cover it up with cheap makeup –> get more zits –>repeat.
No one was there to tell me that my attempts at resolving pubescent acne with a barrage of antibiotics and creams that dried me out to the point of painful peeling wasn’t going to work. No one was there to tell me that the harsh cleansers and apricot scrubs I was using were just making my skin worse. I tried everything, and when I finally healed my gut, 20 years of acne disappeared completely — in just two weeks!
What’s Next After Clear Skin?
Today, almost 2 years after I discovered my “miracle” acne cure (not a miracle at all!), I’ve had the freedom to experiment with all manner of topical skin care. I say “freedom,” because when my skin was terrible, all the topical products I purchased were “acne” products. I didn’t dare choose something for normal skin, for fear that it would make my face greasy or exacerbate my already inflamed, bumpy cheeks. The last thing I needed was more clogged pores.
And while my skin has never returned to the “flesh-toned-brail-look” I was sporting for so long, it’s ranged in clarity, shine, and glow over the course of the last two years. As I said up top, personal experimentation has been a part of this journey from the beginning, and even though I’ve achieved my goals as far as ridding the acne for good, one problem is always replaced by another, right?
Scars, Pockmarks, and Sun Damage, Oh My!
Most people have a little gap of happiness between puberty and aging, where they enjoy the blessing of young, clear, beautiful skin. But for people like me who get adult acne, that gap shrinks to nothing. Now, at age 33 (which is NOT old!), I’m contending with scarring and sun damage — and still, the occasional zit (SINGULAR!!! — major victory).
As a lifetime athlete, I’ve spent years outside playing softball, beach volleyball, running, hiking, and now climbing. As a kid I was absolutely terrible about wearing sunscreen, and as a young adult, I tanned regularly (mostly outside, but sometimes in the beds too — I actually thought it might help with the acne!). And as a result, I have some dark spots and acne scars that became much more noticeable once the acne was gone. I’ve used a number of natural products to try and fade the spots. And while some of them have helped a bit (especially the Botanic Organic products I’ve used), what’s made the biggest difference in evening out my skin tone, refining the surface of my face, and achieving that “natural glow” we hear about in the commercials wasn’t in my medicine cabinet at all.
It was in the kitchen!
Vibrantly Healthy Skin
They say that you should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth. My skin regimen right now really drives that point home. I found a way to take my clear skin to the next level, and now it’s even softer than it was before, my pores even smaller.
So what am I using?
My morning routine includes a spoon and a jar.
Can you guess what’s in the jar?
That’s right, before I get in the shower in the morning, I scoop a dime-sized dollop of raw honey onto the pads of my fingers and massage it into my dry face. I focus on areas that might feel a little rougher, the areas that need extra exfoliating, and especially any active zit that might be lingering. This usually takes about a minute. Then I turn on the shower, and while washing up, I avoid getting my face wet. This allows the steam from the shower to really penetrate my skin and let all the goodness from the raw honey really sink in. At the end of the shower, I gently rinse.
I’d cleansed with raw honey in the past with great results, but this new “dry application + steam” has really taken it to the next level.
When I get out of the shower, I do a quick spray with this toner and then this oil, both of which are great for healing damaged skin. (If you haven’t seen my reviews of Botanic Organic products, here’s the first one and here’s the second one. Both were written before I started this new routine.)
The Benefits of Cleansing with Raw Honey
Raw honey is not only antimicrobial (protecting the skin from harmful invaders), it’s also a natural, gentle exfoliator. The stickiness removes dead cells on its own, but if you can find a jar with some sugar crystals in it, it will feel somewhat like a traditional exfoliator as well — just be gentle! We’ve trained ourselves to think that we have to SCRUB OUR SKIN OFF to get results. We do not! Trust me, throw your apricot scrub in the garbage (or use it on your feet only).
Raw honey is also chock-full of vitamins and minerals (B-complex, A, C, D, E, and K, minerals and trace elements: magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, calcium, chlorine, potassium, iodine, sodium, copper, and manganese) that penetrate the skin with that lovely steam bath you give yourself in the shower. Magnesium specifically is calming to any irritated spots you might have. You won’t believe how wonderful and supple your skin feels after just one session of this routine.
My evening routine includes a jar and a clean wash cloth.
It’s something different, but definitely something I’ve raved about on this blog. Any guesses on what’s in the jar?
Some of you might not be surprised at this, as coconut oil is a staple for all kinds of uses in the CWB household, but what you might not have heard me talk about before is Oil Cleansing. Oil Cleansing is more than just removing your eye make up with coconut oil (which works great, by the way). It’s actually capitalizing on the healing properties of the oil itself and allowing those elements to penetrate the skin.
In the case of coconut oil, those properties include antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties (from lauric acid), in addition to deep moisturizing without leaving the skin oily. The type of oil you use will change based on your goals and your skin type, and for me, coconut oil has been perfect. I’ve also done the same method using this Botanic Organic product with great results.
Those who still contend with a bit of acne might try adding a bit of castor oil (a natural astringent) to a lighter carrier oil like olive oil at a 1 to 2 ratio (1 part castor oil, 2 parts carrier oil). Carrier oils include coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil — anything natural and organic. Some users find that just plain coconut oil is too drying — yes, oil can be drying! — but for me it’s perfect. I encourage you to experiment to find what works best for you.
Why Does Oil Cleansing Work?
Oil cleansing is just about as unintuitive as juggling knives. How would rubbing oil all over your face clean it? And why on earth would you add to the pile if you already have oily skin? Doesn’t the dermatologist recommend oil-free moisturizers and harsh cleansers and topicals to dry everything out?
Forget everything your dermatologist ever told you (well, let’s be safe and say forget everything any of my many dermatologists ever told me. I won’t presume to know anything about your doctor).
Drying out acne-prone skin doesn’t work. It further irritates already inflamed skin and strips the natural oils, prompting your oil glands to overcompensate with more oil, thus creating a vicious cycle. Using the right oil(s) for your skin type — which is where the experimentation comes in — can yield amazing results, because you’re promoting balance in the skin, not wringing it dry and creating more irritation and sensitivity.
An important disclaimer: I can’t say this method helped me when I actually had bad acne, because I never tried oil cleansing back then. There are some seriously scathing reviews of this method on acne.org, none of which I’ve personally experienced — I just want to make you aware of the argument on the other side. My guess is that the majority of these folks have internal (gut) issues that have yet to be remedied, and a dramatic change on the outside without any dramatic changes on the inside yielded terrible results for them. I hate seeing people with nightmare skin stories. I feel for them, and I wish they would talk to a doctor that would ask the right questions instead of thinking you can heal your skin from the outside.
How to Oil Cleanse
- Massage a dime-size amount of oil into your face while soaking your clean wash cloth with hot (not scalding, but hot) water.
- Wring out the wash cloth and place over your face for a short steam bath.
- Leave the wash cloth on for about a minute or until the cloth cools and is no longer producing steam.
- Repeat if you want to (I usually don’t), and then use the wash cloth to gently remove the oil from your face.
- Use the wash cloth to remove any remaining eye make up
- Gently pat dry, leaving a very thin layer of oil on overnight to keep the moisture in
After doing this routine consistently for a couple of months, I can now say that not only is my skin clear, it’s also polished with a nice, even tone and small pores. It’s not perfect, but considering all I’ve been through, I’m basically in heaven with these results. I took these pictures this morning right after washing my face:
Just like with our bodies, there’s a difference between the absence of disease and vibrant health in our skin — nourished skin that glows and radiates health is an indicator of a nourished, healthy body, inside and out. What we put in our bodies and on our skin will make all the difference.
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