The 21st Century Herbalist

DIY Skin Care Month: Step 1 – Cleanse

It’s week 2 of DIY Skin Care Month and today I’m talking cleansing.  It’s the first step in any good skincare regime (cleanse, tone, moisturize).  At first it can sound so basic — my face is dirty, I will wash it — but it gets a little more complicated than that.  What if you also need to remove makeup? What if you have acne, or dry skin or oily skin or just went for a run and there’s sweat pouring down your face?? Synthetics, chemicals, naturals, organics…whew, it can get exhausting.  How do you sort through it all and come up with a solution that meets your skin’s needs?  You ask The 21st Century Herbalist on HelloGiggles, of course!

Before we get to the specific cleansing tips and the recipe that I have for you, let’s start with the basics.  These are tried and true methods for cleansing the skin and getting the greatest benefit with the least amount of damage, regardless of skin type.

1. I said it last week and I’ll say it again…hydrate.  Any dermatologist, doctor or grandmother will tell you, water is the key to a healthy complexion.  In order for skin to remain healthy and resilient, it needs to be properly hydrated from the inside out, so make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day.  Remember that caffeine can actually dehydrate you, so limit your coffee and tea intake and opt for pure water or naturally decaffeinated teas.

2. Don’t over wash your face.  We’ve all thought “if once is good, twice is better” at some point during our lives, but you must resist the urge to over-clean!  Those with oily skin are the worst offenders when it comes to over washing, especially teenagers.  I was certainly guilty of it when I was younger, slathering on the Noxema twice a day…sometimes three times a day if my face looked particularly shiny after school.  I didn’t realize that I was actually making the problem worse.  So, the rule goes, only use a cleanser (even the natural varieties listed below) once a day.  It’s best to wash your face at night so you can remove any makeup or environmental impurities from your day.  If you washed your face at night and you feel that you MUST wash again in the morning, try using only water or use a mild cleanser like honey.

3. Never scrub and only some of us can exfoliate.  As a teenager I was determined to use my washcloth to scrub the acne and oil off of my face!  I know better now and luckily I have very oily, and therefore, very forgiving skin (it’s the only benefit of oily skin).  No matter what type of skin you have, always be gentle with it.  Don’t use a wash cloth to scrub at your face. If you want to use a wash cloth, make sure it is very wet, then gently move it over your face using small circular motions.  This is plenty of exfoliation and you don’t need to (nor should you) use an exfoliating mask or scrub after using a wash cloth.  If you have dry or sensitive skin, then I suggest you don’t exfoliate at all.  Also, if are sunburned, windburned or have acne, don’t exfoliate.  Treat acne like an open wound because it is, you must be gentle with it and help it heal.  After washing your face, gently pat your face dry with a soft towel…don’t rub it dry.  Pat, pat, pat.

Those are the basics for a healthy completion, but we’ve still got to get our faces clean!  As some of my fellow Gigglers have already talked about in other articles or the item of the day, it’s important to find a cleanser that works for you.  Remember, it’s not always about price, if you buy a $70 face cleanser made for oily skin and you have dry skin, no matter how much you want it to, it will never work well.  You’ve got to use the cleanser that’s right for your skin type.  (If you’re unsure of your skin type, you can review last week’s article for descriptions.)

That being said, there are good cleansers that you can make yourself using natural, and if you prefer, organic ingredients.  Below is a great universal cleanser that works for all skin types.  If you need to remove eye makeup, use olive oil or any of the DIY lotions from lotion making month.  Smooth the oil or lotion over the area that you want to remove makeup from, then use the Cleansing Grains below.

Cleansing Grains

  • 1 cup cosmetic white clay, also known as kaolin clay*
  • 1/2 cup ground oats
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp ground dried lavender*
  • 1 tbsp ground dried rose petals*
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • Several vitamin E capsules

*can be purchased whole from Mountain Rose Herbs.

All of the “ground” ingredients should be very finely ground using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.  Mix all of the ingredients together, except the vitamin E capsule.  Store the mix in a mason jar, in your bathroom.  To use sprinkle about 1 tbsp, or a palm full of mix into your hand.  Pierce a vitamin E capsule into the mixture.  Mix a small amount of water with the grains in your hand until it forms a paste.  Massage onto your face using gentle, circular motions.  Rinse your face with warm water and pat dry.

Honey can also be used in this recipe, especially if you have dry skin.  As you may recall from my honey article, I keep a jar of honey in my bathroom and use it as a face cleanser, so I always add a bit to this recipe when I can.

Ingredients to Avoid
Now that you have a great DIY cleanser, why would you want to use anything else?!  Because it’s fun to shop for new products of course!  If the product whore in you can’t be tamed and you must buy something, then use the “Ingredients to Avoid” list below to help you find the perfect cleanser.  This list is by no means complete, but it is a good start and lists some of the top offenders based solely on skin type*.

*I often avoid many of these products and others because I’m concerned about the overall health affects they can have and I always stick with pure, natural ingredients whenever I can.  I know that for many people unnatural ingredients aren’t a concern (and that’s okay), but I wanted you to know that these ingredients are only listed because they are particularly damaging to the skin.

Dry Skin and Sensitive Skin – any product that says “exfoliating”, sulfates (sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureate sulfate, ammonium laurel sulfate), Isopropyl alcohol, salicylic acid (often found in acne fighting products) or willow bark, ethylparaben, probylparaben, methylparaben, benezylparaben, butylparaben, AHA acids

Normal Skin – sodium laureate sulfate, ethylparaben, probylparaben, methylparaben, benezylparaben, butylparaben

Oily Skin and Combination Skin – sulfates (sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureate sulfate, ammonium laurel sulfate), Isopropyl alcohol, ethylparaben, probylparaben, methylparaben, benezylparaben, butylparaben

Thanks for stopping by this week and if you’ve found a great cleanser for your skin type, let me know in the comments!

Next Week: DIY Skin Care Month – Step 2: Tone

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