I get a lot of questions about natural skincare, but I put off writing about it here because I still struggle with skin problems. It’s one of those topics that I feel like I can’t justify writing about until finding the secret answer that fixed my problems, and will obviously fix everyone else’s. Realistically though, everyone’s skin is vastly different, and what works for one person may not work for the next. Beyond that, most of my personal skin problems don’t come down to my topical skin care, it comes down to my hormone imbalances that I am constantly fighting with. That being said, I’m going to discuss various skin care techniques, and how simpler approaches can help heal your skin.
Keep in mind that natural skin care is not a once size fits all approach. Just as it took trial and error to find conventional products that fit your needs, it may take a while to find a natural approach that works for you. Since this is meant to be a comprehensive survey of skincare for various skin types and problems, it is highly unlikely that all of the things I recommend in this article will work for your skin–some of them might produce more breakouts. I always recommend spot testing new skincare ingredients/products.
- Acne is usually an internal problem–not an external one. Since this is primarily a post about how to care for the skin externally, I’ll try to not get too extensive about what can be done internally, but I have found most people get good results when cutting processed food, adding cod liver oil as a daily supplement, as well as consuming plenty of good fats in their diet, a good probiotic supplement like this one and/or this one, and ingesting collagen through something like bone broth. If none of these produce results, I’ve seen patterns of dairy, grains, soy, and/or nightshades to be culprits in persistent acne. I personally notice a huge difference in my acne when I am taking cod liver oil, both of the above probiotics, and consuming minimal processed food.
- Be gentle with acne spots. While the occasional blemish might be due to poor hygiene, a severely inflamed face is usually due to an internal problem, and therefore should not be attacked topically. By using extremely drying, bacteria killing methods to shrivel up acne spots, you will cause further irritation to the skin which will elicit both internal and external flare ups. Ouch!
- Most people who suffer from acne assume that they have oily skin, but a lot of acne sufferers suffer from dry skin as well. When the skin gets overly dry, the sebaceous glands will produce excessive amounts of oil to try and heal the skin and feed it needed fats. I’ve found that the easiest way to tell if you have oily or dry skin is to experiment with various oils in the form of oil cleansing and oil moisturizers (always spot testing a small patch first) to see which oils your skin responds well to. While I know some of you may be hesitant to use oils on your face, I encourage you to push yourself. Not everyone will get into oil cleansing or owning ten different moisturizers, but at least a small amount of topical oil is crucial to natural skin care. Oils are especially good moisturizers because they retain far more nutrients and fatty acids to feed the skin without needing to add synthetic compounds to petroleum derived moisturizers like the options in the isles of the drug store. Remember that all oils are very different, and they should not feel “oily” on the skin when you have found one that works for your skin type.
If your skin is oily, using the following oils help calm oil production by tricking the skin to produce less oil by using using topical oils that more closely resemble what is naturally there.
Commonly successful oils for oily skin include jojoba oil (this is probably the most popular among people with oily skin), hemp seed oil, caster oil (must be blended with another oil like jojoba), tamanu oil, grapeseed oil, and seabuckthorn oil.
If your skin is dry, using the following oils can help feed healthy fats to skin that is having a hard time feeding itself vital nutrients, which in turn allows the skin’s oil production to slow down.
Commonly successful oils for dry skin include avocado oil, rosehip oil, argan oil, tallow, and coconut oil (use this one with caution, it can cause breakouts for people with sensitive pores).
A note on cleansing: I only recommend cleansing at night. Morning is a time to splash your face with a bit of water and perhaps use some toner and moisturizer, but not deeply cleanse. Your skin spends the night repairing itself and balancing its acid mantle and oil layer in preparation for the next day, and it is best to avoid tampering with this as much as possible.
Oil Cleansing: This video is a useful resource on how to oil cleanse. Most oil cleansing blends will include a bit of caster oil, but I’ve found I don’t need it in mine. Avocado oil is a good base oil for dry skin oil cleansers, while jojoba oil is a good base for oily skin oil cleansers.
Honey: This article has great information on cleansing with honey. Honey was a long time favorite of mine before switching to oil cleansing. I find it works best as a gentle cleanser for people with highly sensitive skin. Manuka honey is highly popular for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, but many have success with regular raw honey.
Suds: Soap based cleansers are highly discouraged for people with dry skin, but can work well for oily skinned folks–especially those who do not respond well to oil cleansing or honey cleansing. Charcoal based bar soaps, african black soap, and DIY soaps like this one and this one are all popular facial cleansers in natural skin care circles. Always tone and moisturize after using a soap based cleanser to prevent your skin from over producing oil after stripping the oil mantle.
A note on exfoliating: I only recommend exfoliating once or twice a week and by gently rubbing the exfoliant (do not scrub or scour your poor face). Too much exfoliation or too harsh of an exfoliant can cause minor scarring to the face by scraping to new layers of skin before necessary.
Baking soda is a highly popular exfoliant due to its microabrasion abilities. Always use a toner after exfoliating with something with a high pH level like baking soda.
Salt and sugar scrubs are also common exfoliants, usually blended with some moisturizing oils.
One of the most popular toners in the natural world is a blend of raw Apple Cider Vinegar and water. ACV when diluted is a good acidic balancer for the skin and naturally fermented versions like Bragg’s offer vital probiotics to the skin for extra power. The smell wears off after drying, but is something to get used to when applying.
Witch hazel is a highly popular skin balancing toner.
Hydrosols like this one are extremely gentle and probably not balancing enough if you often use soap based cleansers or baking soda exfoliants, but are good options for oil cleansing or honey cleansing days, and as a morning facial mist.
A note on moisturizing: I recommend buying your first few moisturizers from someplace with a great return policy like Target or Whole Foods who will take any item back after opening within 7-30 days since those small bottles can add up $$$ and finding the right oils involves a lot of trial and error. Usually a few drops is all you need.
Popular moisturizers include oils like rosehip oil, argan oil, seabuckthorn oil, jojoba oil, hemp seed oil, and tamanu oil.
You can also buy blends from companies like here, here, and here. However, I prefer to use single ingredients as much as possible because it’s more cost effective and it is easier to know what my skin is responding well to.
If you suffer from rosacea, extremely dry skin, or inflamed skin, I recommend Green Pasture’s Beauty Balm with a cod liver oil base. It’s as stinky as it sounds, so I recommend putting it on when you have some alone time, but the cod liver oil delivers nutrients that I haven’t been able to match in a plant based oil.