Monday, July 20, 2009

Mission De-Monsterfy Skin: Eco-Style

No one told me that at the age of 25 I'd be inducted into the acne after school club. I had endured an undergrad, IBS riddled honours and a two year intensive, crazy-living in Montreal Masters without a single little red bump peep. In the spirit of oversharing, here is a quick picture of the culprit...there is way way more on the rest of my face... but truly only these tiny bumps were what I could endure to share so publicly. Dramatic? Yes.

Cue insane move across the country to desert, moisture sucking Okanagan-land and my newest acquaintance: Le Acne. I suppose this was also around the time that I finally weaned myself off of those crazy oxy-wipes... Hey less chemicals is supposed to be BETTER for your skin right? After checking out the scary chemicals I slathered all over my face twice a day (cleanser, toner, exfoliant, moisturizer) I vowed I would no longer be exposing myself or my precious skin to phtalates, parabins, formeldahyde... etc etc.

Over the past three years I have moved from Aveda (ack- not even a baby step) to finally cutting out all synthetic face-stuff from my daily regime. Where has that left me??? With a scary, monstrous, attack of the "trying to keep you in your teens!" acne. Here's a quick rundown of the products I've tried over the past three years (and trust me, I used them until the bottles were empty... I'm too broke to not... oh and it's pretty darn wasteful too...)

- Aveda (ok, we're not kidding anyone here on this one, so much synthetics this was kinda a lame half-a** joke on my part)
- Green Beaver: I've used the Grapefruit cleanser, the bamboo exfoliant (ack my poor, scraped skin!) and the acne foam. To no avail.
- Miessence: This was my desperate "I will pay anything!!!" moment in BC where my skin had eczema it hated me so much. Although beautiful, it came from Australia on a plane/ship (hello carbon footprint) and I couldn't recycle the bottle. Oh ya, and it cost a zillion dollars. And I still got acne.
- Druide: no dice
- Carrot Complexion soap from Birch Bark Soap: Although I ADORE Sherry's soaps (every single one so far!) this one didn't help my complexion at all. Other than to mock me with it's non-acne fighting. Didn't make it worse but didn't make it better- an ambiguous soap really. Despite this- check out her awesome soaps on Etsy- she even donates a portion to her proceeds to Kiva- very zen :)

Ok, maybe I've been approaching this whole endeavour from the wrong perspective. Perhaps I need to stop buying cleansers and just cut out chemicals completely. So many wonderful people use oil to "wash" their faces and are so completely happy with the outcome! Like Yoga Witch over at Greenspell (check out these posts for her fantastic advice and comments along her journey!). Alli over at Oceans Treasures also posted a link to a "as clean as you can get" face scrub recipe. Unfortunately, it would seem that the key acne fighting ingredient in these cleansers is... tea tree oil.

As we speak I have submitted my wrist/arm skin to a "in-denial" allergy swab test. Just in case I was hallucinating when my hands and face swelled up to crazy bloated hands the last time I washed my mat with two drops per 750ml water of tea tree oil. Just in case you know?

For the past three weeks I have been "washing" my face with the following concoction:
1/4 cup of sweet almond oil
3/4 cup of sugar
1 organic herbal lemon-rooibus tea packet (I didn't have any dry herbs... LOL)

annnnnd.... nothing. In fact, I think it's worse. I am on the verge my eco-friends... of putting on some sunglasses, a scarf, a hoodie and running across the street to the Sobeys and buying... gasp... clearasil face wipes. I know. It's bad. I've been dreaming about using them.

Last night, on our walk over to watch the new Harry Potter (eh, it was ok) I dashed into Planet Organic, marched myself over the beauty section and when I normally would have said "No thank you" to the "Can I help you?"... I gasped: "YES".

So now I am on day one of Ayu, a Canadian company who claims to take it's name from Ayurveda, Ayu meaning "life". The ingredients are ridiculously "clean", it was made in Canada and it's #1 plastic so can be recycled in HRM.

My other step on Mission: De-Monsterfy Skin, I have a facial booked. Now, before you judge me (I mean really, a facial??? LOL) I was totally talked into it (I am easily influenced at times, gotta catch me at the right moment, like when my face is a giant pimple) and was interested in the product: Eminence, an organic company. Supposedly this facial only includes the use of their organic line... so I will endure the stigma of actually getting something as frivolous as a facial. For the Mission DMS.

And if this allergy test works out I will be adding some tea tree fighting power to my night time routine.

I hope it's not just me that feels the "being green in the beauty department sucks" mode...

And on that note- Blessings and may acne disappear from the face of the planet. Forever. :)


  1. Have you tried the Putting Nothing On Your Face approach? I don't really "wash" my face -- mostly just splash it with water.

    And I find the more water I drink, the better, of course.


    Oh! And almond oil?! Way too heavy, I am guessing. It would totally get stuck in your pores.

    Isn't witch hazel supposed to be wonderful?

    But again, nothing works best for me.

    And water.

    Sorry. Preaching. :)

  2. hmmm. I was wondering about witch hazel.. .saw it at the superstore the other day and a little twinge of memory on skin stuff lit up. then I wimped out on buying the stuff.

    I've thought of try nothing on my face... but I think it would be like not washing my hair every day- the best idea but not one I could realistically manage. The result of an UBER clean childhood. :)

    I will look into witch hazel though, thanks for reminding me... and you never know- one day I may very well be ready for the "nothing" bliss chick approach :)

  3. let me know how your tea-tree oil allergy test works out. i bought a facial soap from a little tea leaf and soap shop in st. andrews NB. it's made by "earth mama essentials" in NB. as far as i can tell from the label, and from what the girl at the store says, the only ingredients are oils, lavender, tea tree oil, vitamin e, and chamomile. it comes in bar-form i'd be happy to cut off a chunk for you to try.

  4. I don't know much about skin care products but...would it be a safe bet that Aveda doesn't get its name from Ayurveda?

  5. Jen: so far no swelling on the tea tree oil test! I'm wondering if it was a combo of tea tree oil and rubber mat...
    I don't want to take your new soap though, especially if you have to go all the way to PEI to get it!

    Dr. Jay: actually Aveda does claim to base it's name from Ayurveda, even though it was bought by Estee Lauder...
    Ayurveda is discussed at length in their "training" manuals they leave out for customers to read.

  6. hey lisa - my new soap is quite a large chunk, and i can order via phone from the store in New Brunswick - and they'll ship to me via canada post. if your current cleaner doesn't go well for you, let me know and i'll bring you some of this stuff (radiance facial soap).

  7. awww- thanks Jen!! This morning I dabbed tea tree on TWO spots... we'll see how it goes. Hopefully I don't blow up into a balloon in front of my clients! lol

  8. I find the more I do to my face the worse it is. I used to use almond oil on my face after washing and it caused pimples.

    Here are some recipes from the book "Beauty By Nature" for acne-prone skin you might want to try:

    4 tbsps lemon juice
    4 tbsps plain yogurt

    Store in the fridge. Apply to face and neck and remove gently with natural cotton.

    1/4 cup distilled witch hazel
    20 drops lavendar essential oil

    apply to problem areas

    Foaming Cleanser (scrub, so only use once a week)

    1 tbsp baking soda
    1 tsp lemon juice (for combination skin) or yogurt (for dry skin) or apple cider vinegar (for only skin)

    Mask (apply just to problem areas and let dry)
    2 tbsp powdered rolled oats or clay
    2 tbsp lemon juice of apple cider vinegar

    mix into a paste

    I hope that helps!

    PS. I'm going to the astanga yoga class this Saturday.

  9. First of all, you look lovely in that picture (well, your skin!). Trust me.

    Secondly, I have been seriously thinking about posting on acne, too! I have probably had it WORSE in my twenties and the last few years than in my teens. How odd.

    Right now, I'm doing the "nothing" approach - just water, but I find I have to moisturize in the mornings with a homemade lotion (a new version I need to post) and if I wear foundation in the daytime, I use cooked oatmeal and honey to get it off.

    But more on that later. My skin, for the most part, is looking good and feeling mostly okay (it's been dry). But I still have that breakout under my jaw and it is BAD. Oh, I could say so much but I'll save most for a future post, but I was talking about it with my sister, and she gave me a revelation about it. To be brief, she and I are firm believers in mind-body-spirit connections, and that often physical ailments are a result of emotional turmoil. For me, pimples seem to correlate to times in my life when I feel ashamed of myself (i.e. when things aren't working out the way I think they should be, and my self-esteem plummets).

    Again, I'll save most of this for later, but let's just say that throughout the rest of that day, I had one revelation after another... It was definitely an eye-opener.

    However, I doubt that is your issue. Perhaps stress?

    Anyway, on another note, I feel for you with the tea tree and if it helps, I used to use it on my breakout and it made it WORSE - I realized I was having a reaction to it. I'm fine, as long as it is diluted, but using it neat was a disaster. Lavender essential oil is anti-bacterial, too, though, if you want to try that.

    I am struggling with green beauty, too. I BELIEVE in it. I BELIEVE that we should leave our bodies alone a little bit, and not over cleanse and over moisturize. is a major adjustment for our bodies to take, and sometimes it takes a long time to find what works for us. I'm STILL working out the kinks. But I'm determined to either find a homemade product, or an earth-friendly commercial brand.

    We will prevail! Keep us posted!

  10. Grace: thank you so much for the recipes! I will be trying them for sure :) Also- I emailed Cathy, I AM BOOKED for ashtanga on Sat!

    Greenspell: thank you :) Sigh, you know what- i think stress and/or emotional stuff might be in play here... It's just weird how my body used to react through digestive means more so than skin. You're right though. I need to sleep more and drink more water and play some serious guitar. maybe even some piano.
    hmmm- perhaps I should look into tea tree- it makes me a little nervous. I have a funny feeling that even though i didn't react on my arm, that maybe placing it on my pimple isn't the best idea ever... no crazy swelling yet though!
    I can't wait to read about your latest beauty episode! You are right- we WILL prevail!!!

  11. Aww, poor you.

    I KNOW EXACTLY how you feel.

    I also had a random attack of severe acne when I was 23 and lasted almost two years. My skin has finally calmed down, and actually now looks pretty amazing.

    I tried LOADS of different things, but I'll tell you what I suspect made the biggest difference:

    -Cut out dairy and soy (especially if your acne is mostly on your cheeks, jaw, annd neck, it implies a dietary contribution)
    -Take a multivitamin with a high vitamin A quotient
    -Be gentle! (and don't use sugar on your face anymore)Wash your face with your hands twice a day with something MILD (I like Desert Essences Tea tree face wash), and if you feel like you need some extra cleansing, do a face mask with WHITE clay (green may be too harsh)...Vogel is a good brand

    Also recognize that you may be going through a "healing crisis". I don't think it's a coincidence that your skin is at it's worst just as you are cleaning up your diet and cosmetics. That's exactly what happened to me too when I got serious about getting off chemicals (stopped taking birth control, stopped using commercial facewash & Bezoyl Peroxide on my face). I think you are detoxing!

    I know how painful it is, but just accept that your body knows what it's doing, and it's only temporary. Have patience and faith!

    If you want more info (I'm full of it!), feel free to email!

    Take care & good luck, beautiful yogi!


  12. I just want to let you know... my Dad (yes my Dad knows a lot about beauty products) told me yearsssss ago, the best thing for your skin was some orange juice and orange peel for a cleanser.

    I used to use that all the time, but I found it got a little sticky at times and a bit messy. Try using it, maybe It'll work for you.

    Oddly enough, now I use Body Shops Orange Peel Daily Cleanser. (I know there are some PEGS and 'eth' words on it, but it really does work.

  13. I have been struggling with acne all my adult life (I am now in my thirties). And for as long as I can remember, I was on a form of 'the pill' that balanced my hormonal imbalances which were according to my doctors the reason for my acne. When on the pill, I have hardly any breakouts, when off the pill, my face looks horrid, really horrid.
    Nothing helps, and I have been on an off on an ayurvedic diet, no more dairy products, no nightshades, hardly any animal products, but it does not help. It also doesn't help that recently I started straying from my diet, because I was very stressed and found comfort in an occasional chocolate cake or a white bread bun with ham chees and mayo. Most of the time I eat vegetarian and follow the rules of my ayurveda diet, but still.
    Anyway, I find that for serious acne, there is no product, no even in the non-organic range. But I will of course try all the recommendations here on this comments section. I've really got nothing to lose at this point.
    thanks for writing about this

  14. I have tried just about everything too...and so far NOTHING has worked not even NOTHING!

    So I continue my battle and will share my comments so that maybe we will all find solace in some concoction that is not clearasil! :)

  15. I'm a bit late catching up on this post, but if and when you come down for the great soap exchange for Alli, I just made a new facial soap with tea tree and peppermint eo's in it, which you're more than welcome to try. It also has green clay which is fabulous for drawing oils from the skin. A witch hazel toner is great (I use that a few times a week) and I make a super-scrubby mask once or twice a week with green clay and powdered pumice (I know it sounds insanely harsh, but it's super finely ground and feels really amazing). I've discovered that exfoliating, although it sounds counter-intuitive, has helped my skin a lot. Sorry the carrot soap didn't work for you - it's specifically designed for more mature or dry skin, so maybe the tea tree bar will be better. :)

  16. Sherrie: ya, the carrot soap wasn't bad, it felt nice and smelled wonderful, it just didn't do much for my acne. My mom LOVES her carrot soap though, and Chara at LoveMe Boutique also swears by it :)
    I was actually looking at your etsy online shop and was thinking about the clay soap- I look forward to hopefully seeing you next Saturday! :)

  17. i'm with christine claire reed, i haven't used any kind of fash wash since i was a teenager and realized that "acne face wash" didn't seem to help all that much. i just stick my face straight under the water in the shower for a min.

  18. I use the eminence brand you mentioned. The product are a bit pricey, but they are wonderful. I use the Citrus Exfoliating Wash every morning, follow up with the Sugar Plum Whip moisturizer after I get out of the shower. 2x a week I use the 8 Greens Phyto mask. I keep that on for 20 minutes, and it really brings the blood to the surface. I also use tea tree oil on my breakouts, and when they start clearing up, I use a dab of Combat Balm on them.

    My friend is an estetician so I get these amazing facials for almost free. I love eminence!

  19. i've had that problem. i STILL have acne. but here is what has worked best for me thus far:

    - to dry up pimples *a sulfur-based liquid or ointment *a damp cotton ball with 2-3 drops of pure tea tree oil as a toner all over my face, just once daily or less as it can be drying and irritating

    - cut junk food. go veg.

    - the oil cleansing method or OCM, google it

    - hormonal birth control :/

    - if you eat tofu/soy products, make sure you are eating only moderate amounts. for a time i ate EVERYTHING soy-based and i had the worst acne EVER. i am not allergic. but too much soy has phytoestrogens which mimic human estrogen and it messed up my endocrine system and my skin.

    haven't tried witch hazel.

    oh, i also use tea tree oil in the shower! i use a damp sponge - rub neutral soap on it, 6 drops of tea tree oil, and rub it all over my body :)

    tons of luck to you!!!

  20. Love the posts and recipes here...BUT, does anyone know of any products like the ones mentioned that are made in the US? I live in South Carolina, which is sadly not as progressive as a lot of other places, and affordable organics/naturals- especially in the skin care realm- are few and far between and I'd hate to have something shipped all the way from Canada!



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