Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Yoga of Acne; A Black Soap Story

For a while I totally gave up on sustainable face and beauty stuff. My face hated every single product I tried to introduce, giving the stink eye and producing dry skin and scary mountain acne (at late 20s!!) in retaliation. Last summer I just caved, got an 'organic' facial (haha, it wasn't really organic at all... silly marketing) and bought a crap load of expensive half-ass stuff. 

Even though I knew that my skin is the largest 'organ' on my body. That our skin absorbs and processes chemicals we place on it. Even if I knew that these companies were expending big carbon and spewing out toxic chemicals just so I could slather the parabens, DEA's and probably estrogen mimickers onto my face.

Then I ran out of body wash. Oh the homemade liquid soap out of soap bits lasted for a few weeks... but didn't I tell you? Well, who knew that just melting the soap wouldn't result in a forever liquid soap... nope- eventually it hardened back up and was a big hunk of non usefulness. Why I thought melting soap would forever change hard soap's molecular structure, I have no idea.

In any case, I sucked it up and went to visit Pur Alternatives, the local Natural Beauty and Health store with ridiculously strict guidelines. Just as a refresher to the interview, none of their products can have any synthetic ingredients, parabens, unidentifiable chemicals and need to be packaged in sustainable-recyclable packaging. They do all the work for me, which is a huge relief after spending hours perusing ingredient lists at the local 'health' food store. If you're in Halifax- a must visit! If not, they always have an online store :)

Chris suggested a Shea Terra Mint Marrakesh Black Soap body wash. He informed me that it's supposed to be fantastic for body.... blemishes.

Small story- did you know that practicing yoga and sweating a lot, even if you shower and are a clean person, can cause some unsightly non-face acne? I might be sweating out all the toxins, but they must hang out on my skin and make a small, blotchy red party. Its terrible and slightly embarrassing. I clean, really I do!

In any case, doubtful that it would actually work, I bought some. The smell is fabulous, I love minty refreshing soap smell. The packaging is in #1 plastic, not glass but still recyclable. After perusing their website I see black soap in bars... at a hefty price but still!

In any case, about two months later and I'm still going strong on how much I have left. Also, it appears to have worked! My unsightly red polkadot party has dwindled to a lonely event of one or two. Score ONE for Lisa, Zero for yog-acne.

About two weeks ago I ran out of facial cleanser. So back to Pur Alternatives I went. I was a little hesitant in trying out a random cleanser on my face, so Chris was kind enough to give me a small (in recyclable plastic) sample of Shea Terra's Anti-Acne black soap cleanser. Bonus: the actual product comes in a glass container, plastic minimal.

I'm not yet sure if it's the reason my breakouts have diminished, but it definitely isn't making them worse. It has quite the smell, which Chris informed me was due to the aloe ferox ingredient, but then it's only going on my face so whatever.

At this point I was extremely curious as to exactly why companies like Shea Terra make the claim that black soap is fantastic for your skin. What is black soap? Well- it's made traditionally in Africa from plantain ashes and supposedly no animal or chemicals. Although I found claims ranging from cures acne to every other random skin disorder, I haven't actually found links to those 'studies show' information. I've actually yet to find anything other than reported benefits from companies who sell the product or people reporting said benefits when reviewing a product (like me).

In any case, Shea Terra reportedly uses Fair Trade practices, works with NGO's and sources sustainably harvested ingredients... however I didn't see one third party certification on their site. I'm sorry if I've become a bit cynical of big companies.

So there you have it. The anti-acne face wash and body wash have been non-detrimental to my skin and 'possibly' been a damper on the acne party! Which is fantastic. I would encourage for those who don't have ridiculously persnickity skin to try to find local, hand made alternatives, such as local body and face bar soap. :)

But for other EcoYogi(ni)s having a rough go with random red visitors, Shea Terra is a nice alternative! Pur Alternatives has many other fab options- Haligonian peeps should check it out (down the cobblestone path next to the Split Crow off Duke Street).

(also, a bit of extra yoga news, I'm PUMPED to be attending a 'Hip Hop Yoga Class' with local yoga instructor Helen Fong tomorrow, 6:30pm at Sunrise Studio. Seriously, how cool is that? Although she assured me no actual dancing will be involved-which is good because I am a terrible dancer! Yoga Flow and hip hop yoga music will be happening. Fun!)

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com 


  1. I'm envious that your acne improves with treatment like this. Mine doesn't improve with any natural, chemical, or prescription product I have ever tried, and I have struggled with it my whole life. Mine is apparently due to a nasty hormone imbalance and nothing will keep it in check! Boo!

    I am more envious though, that you get to try hip hop yoga! Wow does that sound fun or what?? I can't wait to hear about it!

  2. I love trying new organic/green products! I will definitely be checking this company out!

  3. I'm quite interested in this post as greening my skin care routine is one of those slow going transitions. I've used Burts bees face wash and bars for years on it and then switched to local mineral make-up. BUT my moisturizer and night time acne products I put on haven't changed in about 12 years. Since my skin is changing even more as I'm hitting the late 20s, I've been thinking a lot about how to battle these last two hold outs.....but have been unsure. But great post.....when we get back to Oregon I'll have to check out some more options, as I'm pretty sure I'll have more access up there to greener options than down here!

  4. ahh so that's why my forehead has been breaking out! I couldn't figure it out... why I was getting these monster bumps just all of a sudden. I chalked it up to being hormones but now that I think about it, my forehead touches the mat quite often.

    I can completely relate to your frustration with sustainable cleansers and moisturizers as I have been dealing with the same issue. I've been using Alba Organics the Sea Minerals line and I'm no longer a fan of it.
    Did you ever try Aubrey Organics? A friend of mine loves them. I will definitely check out the links you posted. I am open at the point!

  5. Remember it's also about what you put in your body and hormonal fluctuations when the skin isn't clear :)

  6. Thanks for another great plug for the store, Lisa. I'm glad to hear the Black Soap Elixir seems to be making a difference.

  7. I tried Shea Terra's products a few years ago, but never these particular ones. I've always struggled with acne, so I might try these out.

  8. I gave up on natural face stuff for the same reason. Dang, did I pay the price for going natural. It took YEARS for the acne to clear.
    I use an Australian brand now, called Grown. It's amazing. And, from what I can tell, the real deal.

    Also, it's made where I live. That makes me happy.

  9. I tried their acne face wash (sheaterra black soap one) and already my skin is much clearer than it was a month ago. Not crystal clear, but definitely nicer! Thanks for letting us know about this store!!

  10. Hi there,
    I just thought maybe I could put my facebook page on here for anyone looking for all natural skin care, Pure Shea butter & African Black soap in Halifax Nova scotia
    From The Nut Shea Butters on facebook and Kijiji if you google you will find it. Thanks and best wishes.


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