Get the answers to your most asked questions about natural non-toxic beauty and skincare.
This week in a follow-up to this summer’s Healthy Homemade series we are focusing once again on natural, healthy, toxin-free skincare. You had questions, and Skintervention Guide author Liz Wolfe has come through with the answers! She’s here to share her thoughts on switching to a natural skincare routine and why it's imperative to care for and nourish our outsides along with our insides.
Q: How do I know which oils are right for my skin and my particular concerns?
Here’s what I’ve found: there are a few main oils that people absolutely swear by that keep popping up, again and again, in the discussion about oil-based skincare. These main oils are coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, jojoba oil, and beef tallow (not technically an oil, but an animal fat). Interestingly, while these are the most popular oils, any one of them may work fabulously for one person, but not so fabulously for another!
For example: some people swear by coconut oil for oil cleansing and moisturizing. It makes their skin soft, calm and happy! But the next person finds coconut oil makes their skin quite the opposite – unhappy, and sometimes even itchy. This is because each and every one of us is unique in what we can and cannot tolerate. Coconut happens to be a salicylate, and some people with skin problems actually cannot tolerate salicylates or their derivatives. Make sense? Some people find olive oil to be a perfect consistency for nourishing the skin, but others find it far too heavy. People with sensitive skin usually do well with jojoba oil, and those with more hearty skin may find it too light.
The most skin-friendly oil, and the one that tends to work for everyone, seems to be tallow, and when folks are frustrated with not having found the right oil for them, I generally point them in that direction. People are wary of it sometimes, perhaps because it’s animal-derived or perhaps because of the smell, but I haven’t heard a single person say that they don’t like it once they’ve used a good tallow balm. Point is: the oil that works for you won’t be the oil that works for the next person. Spot test, experiment, and don’t despair! If these “top four” don’t work for you, there are lots of others to try: hazelnut, almond, sesame, sunflower, emu…find a good source of organic oil and have fun learning what your skin likes most. When you find the right oil, it will improve your skin’s texture and brightness and make your skin feel smooth, supple and calm.
Q: How long will it take my skin and hair to adjust to a new routine?
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer, because again, it varies from person to person. For me, switching to “No ‘Poo” took a 2-week adjustment period. Switching to the Oil Cleansing Method may have taken just about a week to see changes starting to happen. If your skin reacts horribly to a new routine or oil, it’s really up to you to decide whether this is a “detox” reaction or a reaction of intolerance. Extreme inflammation is usually an intolerance reaction. Small blemishes that surface and go away quickly – like bubbles coming up from under-water – are probably a detox reaction. There are many people who experience no period of adjustment at all!
If you’re unsure, as with the oils I described before, you may just need to try a different one to find what works best for your skin. This IS a process of trial-and-error, just like it is with conventional products. For some people who had lovely skin before and make a switch to a more natural routine, they can expect the adjustment to be quick. For those who have very problematic skin – as I did – it can be a very long process of gradually stepping down topical medications and gradually changing how you cleanse and care for your skin (or scalp, or nails, etc). Spot test, spot test, spot test! I truly think that gradual change is better than ripping off the band-aid when it comes to skincare changes. We each have to remember that our unique experiences, what we’re dealing with, what we used previously, and what our goals are factor in to the process of change.
Q: What top conventional beauty products should I consider switching to homemade natural alternatives, and why?
You might be surprised that my top switch isn’t shampoo or facewash. It’s hand sanitizer! I suppose it’s not a beauty product, but I just cringe when I see people using it on a daily basis (for those who are habitual about it) because most hand sanitizers use triclosan, which is a harsh anti-bacterial that may create resistant bacterial strains. I use a probiotic hand sanitizer from Protection in Probiotics (formerly Probiotics in Progress). Even an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is better than one with triclosan! From there, if you’re a daily makeup-wearer, I think it’s smart to switch to more natural, eco-conscious, junk-free brands. I like Caren Minerals and 100 Percent pure, personally, but there are many great brands out there. The stuff sits on your skin all day – make it GOOD stuff! Then, I think switching from conventional nail polish is important. Scotch Naturals and Acquarella have good alternative polishes. When I switched, several toenails that I thought were permanently just plain ugly and ridged became smooth and normal again. I was shocked! After that, I think switching to a natural hair dye, like Henna, is important for us chronic hair-colorers. Then comes the hair and face washes.
Q: How important is diet when it comes to skin and hair health, and are there any specific foods I should avoid or include to improve my results?
Vital. A nutrient-dense diet free of potentially irritating foods is absolutely vital. Food helps determine hormone function, the body’s state of inflammation, and the nutrients available for building healthy cells. Zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin A, collagen and gelatin are all critical skin-saving nutrients. But what many of us aren’t taught is that good digestive function is equally important! If you can’t absorb and utilize the nutrients you’re taking in, they can’t benefit your skin. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to digestive dysfunction, which is part of the reason stress can wreak havoc on your skin!
In my opinion, it’s important to focus on meats from healthy, properly-raised animals, including organ meats; to make use of homemade broths made from marrow bones; to eat healthy fats like ghee, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, tallow and lard; and to choose carbohydrates from roots and tubers. Though many folks in the ancestral/traditional foods community eat properly-prepared grains and beans, if skin problems are present, I think it’s time to pull those items out for a period of time to assess whether there’s a hidden intolerance there. The same goes for raw milk. For many people, raw milk is an incredibly healing food. I fully support raw milk, and drink it myself sometimes (we are even raising Alpine dairy goats)! But, for some people, even raw milk – milk proteins of any kind – can cause problems. That doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to tolerate beans, milk, or properly prepared grains, but for a period of time, it’s worth discovering whether they’re causing issues. These are more common intolerances than intolerances to meat products or starches, although there are individuals with intolerances to fructose and certain starches. The whole process of healing the skin is one of profound self-discovery!
Don’t forget to check out all the DIY beauty recipes in the Healthy Homemade Series:
Liz Wolfe is certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, the author of the “Skintervention Guide”, upcoming book “Modern Cave Girl”, her personal blog CaveGirlEats and half of the dynamic duo behind the Balanced Bites Podcast.
Liz has taken her professional experience and research and compiled it into a guide that anyone can use to adopt a more natural beauty routine and resolve their skin problems and I have a copy of her Skintervention Guide to giveaway to one lucky reader. Thanks Liz!
UPDATE: THE GIVEAWAY HAS BEEN EXTENDED FOR AN EXTRA WEEK - NOW ENDS 9/18!
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED: The winner is April. Congrats April, I hope you enjoy the guide!
Entering is easy:
1. Just leave a comment saying that you want to be entered and share your main skincare concern if you’d like. That’s it!
Giveaway starts on 9/4/2013 and will run until 9/18/2013 at 11:59 pm PST.
- To enter leave a comment. Open to US residents only.
- One winner with a valid entry will be selected at random. I will email the winner and they will have up to 3 days to claim their prize or another winner will be selected.
- The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
- NO PURCHASE NECESSARY, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED
Sylvie Shirazi is the recipe developer and food photographer behind Gourmande in the Kitchen. For the last 10 years she's been making eating more healthfully easy and accessible with gluten-free, grain-free, paleo and vegan recipes that are free from processed ingredients.