Besides cooking and cheffing, one of my great loves is skin care.
I love skin care. Spa days. Beauty parties. Personalized routines. Sign me up!
But as someone with sensitive skin (read: I break out easily), I don’t just put anything on my body. I tend to be choosy, similar to how I decide on what foods to eat. After all, our skin is our largest organ and needs to be loved and nurtured to maintain its vitality.
You probably know that our skin is always changing. It’s regenerating, healing, protecting itself from seasons and natural elements, aging and if you are a woman, reflecting your cycles, keeping you in tune with your body. This last fact is commonly resented, but it certainly can be positive provided you stay curious and interested in what your body is telling you via your skin.
Curiosity, interest and a non-judgemental relationship with your skin is indeed your ally and your best bet for maintaining (and discovering) healthy, gorgeous, glowing skin. If you find yourself frustrated with your skin, perhaps try cultivating curiosity for it. What might your skin be trying to tell you? What is happening in your body, reflecting on your body?
I recently purchased some flax seeds to add to meals. I ground them in my coffee grinder and added a tablespoon here, a tablespoon there, and within a couple of weeks my face and back had broken out worse than I ever remember. Rats!
I was absolutely frustrated and annoyed, but tried to remain curious about how this could have happened. I did a little Internet research (but not too much, it can make me crazy!) and read several times that flax causes many women to break out due to its very high phytoestrogen count. Since flax was the only change in my diet, I trusted it was the culprit and stopped eating it immediately (note that sometimes you will have a few or several changes in your diet or lifestyle and it’s difficult to narrow down what is the root of your breakout. When this happens, use your intuition and make the changes your trust you need to make, be it one or a few). Three days later I noticed it was also in my fish oil capsules so I stopped taking those, as well.
At this point, my skin would have likely healed itself as I continued flax-free but in an attempt to provide it extra love and nurturing, I decided to update my skin care routine for at least three weeks (many say skin cells turnover every 21 days) and at least enjoy the process of my skin clearing. After a bit of reading an amazing resource, Empowered Sustenance, I decided on a new healing routine to help my skin glow.
So without further adieu, here is a skin care routine to heal and make you glow:
Before you shower:
DRY BRUSH: If you love soft skin, dry brush, dry brush, dry brush! Dry brushing is an ancient practice of exfoliation and aided blood circulation (and many claim it prevents cellulite) that is easy to do and feels incredible. Simply stand in your shower (undressed, before you turn on the water) and brush your body with a natural bristle brush (I purchased mine from Whole Foods) in circular movements turning towards your heart for a few minutes. Brush everywhere except your face, breasts and private areas. The first few times you dry brush, your body may be in high alert because you are doing something new . This is normal, so be gentle with yourself and only brush for as long as you like. As you slough off dead skin, you can think about the energy flowing in your body, rejuvenating and grounding you. Try dry brushing for a week and see if you like it. I resisted this practice for several months and my dry brush hung unused before I made it a daily pleasure. Now, if I don’t dry brush, I miss it.
While You Shower:
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR & WITCH HAZEL TONER: I don’t like using toners. They feel heavy and sticky on my face but I have read over and over the wonderful benefits of ACV and witch hazel as acne treatments so I use a toner made of 1/3 Apple Cider Vinegar and 2/3 Witch Hazel (alcohol-free) and store it in a blue glass spray bottle that I leave in the shower. When I start my shower, I spray me face, avoiding my eyes. I leave this toner on while I wash my hair and then I rinse it off. Easy. I get the benefits of a toner but don’t have to commit, so I’m happy. Special note: ACV has a strong smell. I don’t like it. If you use it as a toner, the smell fades as it dries, but if you workout and sweat with it on, you will likely smell it again. More power to you if it doesn’t bother you, but I find using it in the shower and rinsing it off good enough.
NEEM SOAP: If you are broken out, try using a soap containing neem to cleanse your face and any areas with break-outs. I found this bar at Whole Foods and like it. Neem will help your skin heal form acne, prevent scaring and help your skin glow. Yes! There are many ways to add neem to your beauty routine, but I find neem as bar soap really easy. I use neem soap in the morning (after a workout and before a honey mask and moisturizing) and at night (before cleansing with coconut oil and moisturizing).
HONEY MASK: In the mornings, after I cleanse with neem soap, I pat dry my face and fingertips with a towel (while I am still in the shower) and apply a honey mask (1 cup of raw honey, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg). I use enough honey mask to cover my face (about a tablespoon) and like dry brushing, massage my face in circular motions to aid in its circulation, helping my skin to glow. I leave the honey mask on as long as I like, usually while I condition my hair or shave or cleanse my body. Honey and cinnamon are natural antifungals, and nutmeg is a gentle exfoliate. This mask tastes amazing, but don’t eat it. As a general rule, if you store it in your bathroom, it’s not food.
After You Shower & Before Bed:
SHEA MOISTURE COCONUT & HIBISCUS SPOT CORRECTING MOISTURIZER: Almost every drugstore product makes me break out or dries my skin up like the desert, but this face cream doesn’t and it’s filled with nourishing ingredients like jojoba oil, songiyi mushroom, aloe, mango and Vitamin E. It also helps brighten any age spots or scares you may have. It smells so good and helps my skin glow. I purchased mine from Target. I apply this in the morning, before any makeup and at night, after cleansing with neem soup and coconut oil.
COCONUT OIL CLEANSING: Oil cleansing is one of the most loving and nurturing things you can do for your skin. It does not make your skin oily, but rather balances your own skin’s oil production, moisturizes and heals acne all at once. It removes makeup and coconut oil, in particular, acts as an antifungal. I like to oil cleanse with coconut oil at night after I first cleanse with neem soap, but you may want to try castor oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, almond oil or apricot oil (and skip neem soap altogether, if you prefer). Experiment with a few and use the one that you like best. To oil cleanse, wash your hands with soap and apply about a teaspoon of oil to your dry face and massage in circles, the same way you would apply a honey mask. Even though you might want to rush through oil cleansing (like I have in the past), it yis an opportunity to slow down, breath, and be present in your body. Try to enjoy it, you will likely start to look forward to this evening ritual. To finish oil cleansing, wet a clean washcloth (microfiber is great, but any washcloth will do), and gently wipe oil off of your face. You can then rinse out your washcloth with some soap, and aim to replace it 1-2 times each week with a laundered cloth.
And there you have it!
If these are new practices for you, it may feel like a lot (depending on what your current skin care routine is), but speaking as a beauty minimalist, it really does not take long at all and it’s so good for your skin, especially if you have acne, inflammation or just need a new way to naturally help your skin feel and look its best.
I tried this routine, and stopped eating flax, and my skin cleared and revitalized within just days. Within a week, I wondered how I went so long without this routine, and weeks later, I am still practicing it. I use it as a way to be mindful and present within my body and find it to be an act of self love and nurture.
Try this routine out for a few weeks while taking a good look at your lifestyle and diet and see if it helps your skin’s vitality and glow return. It might be your new routine, too!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!