Journey to Natural Skincare

Smiling young woman portraitI started using natural “DIY” products in my house about 6 months ago. I posted about it as well. My journey has been wonderful and I have learned so much since my initial post. But the most challenging thing for myself, by far in this journey, was moving to natural skincare.

I have been writing about supplements for lupus lately, and although this post is about skincare, it also has information about flaxseed oil as a supplement to aid in skincare.

My skin

Before I was about 21 (when my lupus symptoms were at full blast, and I was diagnosed) I never had to do much for my skin. I used a common drugstore brand astringent to wipe my face after washing it in the sink or shower. That was it. Nothing else, but when my lupus had been really bad, and I started taking medications my skin changed (or it was just age – nobody can say for sure!). I developed cystic acne – mostly on my chin.1 If you are unfamiliar with what that is – basically it starts as a hard cyst lump under the skin. It is painful (which is usually how I know it is coming because I feel it on the inside first), and then swells up and sometimes can become so red, irritated and swollen it appears that I could have actually been punched or injured in the location. Sometimes it comes to a head (those are the ones that actually hurt less), but sometimes it’s all under the skin and never surfaces. The cysts always appear in the same locations of my chin every time they come and they leave a mark that takes months to go away.  They are nearly impossible to cover with makeup. The skin can become broken, not because it surfaces, but due to cleansing and treatment that dries the skin and then it peels off and causes a superficial scab or scarring.

When I was in my twenties I started using Proactiv and it worked wonderfully. However, as you know it’s active ingredient is benzoyl peroxide, among other chemicals in the products. I stuck with that product for over 10 years. It did work for me. However, I wanted to try to change my beauty products to natural alternatives. I did some reading and mostly just jumped in. In retrospect, I should have eased in I think, but it was a learning experience.

Getting off chemical products

MC910216969I literally just decided one day to stop using Proactiv and start with a honey wash, an apple cider vinegar wipe, then moisturize with coconut oil. Well, the first month was really great. I loved how my skin felt using honey, and I was far less oily than using Proactiv. But that’s when the problems began.

My cystic acne became out of control, and not only that but I had developed small hard lumps on my forehead (not a usual problem area for me). I did more research and learned that the small hard lumps were probably related to clogged pores, and I knew that the honey wasn’t going to work (or the coconut oil) due to the increased cystic acne. I tried a lot of other combination DIY washes, astringents, and moisturizers for months.

What I learned about (my) skin

I started back up on Proactiv for a month or so, but saw no results either with that. My cystic acne was worse than ever. Whatever I had triggered was in full flare! I decided that if Proactiv wasn’t working, I was going to find the method of natural skincare for me. It killed me to pick that product back up and use it, but I was in pain and desperate. I also researched internal things that could be aggravating the acne as well since it didn’t seem to matter what type of skin care I was using.  I was relieved when I finally did find something that seems to be working. (see below).

I looked at the comedogenic rating of oils for skincare, as well as the skin benefits of each oil. I checked out this site (and yes I am aware this is for their products, however, it applies to these items regardless of the product)

I combined this with a few things I learned in all the combinations of natural things I tried… my skin liked more alkaline treatments. I noticed a response the more alkaline the treatment was that I used (less oil, better complexion and some of the acne would ease), and I needed a combination approach of slightly alkaline wash, with a astringent wipe and a oil moisturizer. I had tried skipping an astringent with no success.

Where I ended up

MP900321099I am using a combination I created myself:

Face wash: Powder of ¼ c of baking soda (I use Bob’s Mill organic. It’s finer than Arm & Hammer), 1 tbsp nutmeg, 1 tbsp cinnamon, with 6-10 drops of Calendula oil, 2 drops of lavender oil, and one thin slice of lemon squeezed into the mix.

Astringent: 3-4 drops of tea tree oil, 2 drops of lavender oil, 6-8 drops of calendula oil, a thin slice of lemon squeezed into the mix, then distilled water to double the liquid in my container.

Moisturizer: Hemp seed oil.

I take a pinch of the powder in my hand, wet my finger, make it into a paste and scrub my face with this. Prior to that I use a cotton ball with hemp seed oil to remove makeup from my face, along with a wet microfiber cloth. After rinsing the paste off, I follow up with a cotton ball soaked in the astringent, and then dabs of hemp seed oil that I blend all over my face.

Not only do I follow this method twice a day, but I also take 1000 mg of flaxseed oil a day now.

How did I end up at this method?

I am going to go through the knowledge of each item briefly so you understand how I got here.

Baking Soda

cinnamonBaking soda is used in many DIY natural skincare methods. Many people are very afraid of it as well, and it does seem harsh at first glance. But if you think about this – and in my case – I was treating my skin with benzoyl peroxide. So baking soda doesn’t seem so bad. Baking soda would NOT be the answer for everyone, but with certain types of skin I do believe it is the only thing that might help.

Baking soda helps as an exfoliator, removing dead skin cells and opening pores to eliminate bad environmental toxins. For someone who develops cysts and blockages, it’s important to have something that can buff those cells away and keep the surface clog free.

It’s important to remember our skin has a natural pH of 4-7 (everyone is different that is why it is important to figure your skin out).2 I determined through my experimentation (and looking up the pH levels of everything I was putting on my skin) I was definitely more in the 5-7 range (you could always get pH strips and test yourself if you wanted).  Baking soda is 8.3 pH. 3 Knowing this, I wanted to add something a bit more acidic down the line (or as part of the wash) to balance it out a bit.

In my reading, the use of nutmeg and cinnamon for exfoliation as well as for acne is highly used. There are not a lot of scientific articles with this information for me to source; they are mostly personal accounts. But that doesn’t make them less accurate when you are in the realm of experimentation. Again, after punishing my skin for years with scientific chemicals, surely nutmeg and cinnamon are an improvement.

Astringent Mix

Lemons in White BowlLemon juice has a pH of 2, so as the main component of the astringent this helps balance that higher Baking Soda pH. Tea tree oil, as well as calendula oil, and lavender have been shown to also improve skin conditions, specific to types of acne. I developed the quantity in each based on my experience with each of these oils individually on my skin. I had tried them all (except calendula) previously. I ended up with the most calendula based on some information I read from Dr. Andrew Weil. If you don’t know who he is, you should find out. I learned about Dr. Andrew Weil when I was in my twenties in college. He has become even more well-known today. Here is his article about acne.

In that same article Dr. Weil recommends flaxseed oils, as well as some other supplements to help assist with skincare. I looked into the recommendations, and unfortunately the only thing I could take (due to medication interactions) was flaxseed oil.

Tea tree oil and its uses can be read about here

But basically what I learned is that this oil is similar to that of a benzoyl peroxide product in terms of its effects on acne and skin. This is what I wanted – the same effect, but with a safer product

Lavender oil is also great for antibacterial properties, important in acne treatment, as well as calming.

Read more about lavender here –

Flaxseed oil

I wrote about omega 3, and fish oil awhile back, and flaxseed oil is also beneficial in the same ways as fish oil. It’s an omega 3 oil. Want to learn more:

But in my case I chose this because it’s safe to take with my lupus medications, and it could possible help with some of my symptoms as well. Although I didn’t anticipate in the dosage I was taking that it would do much more than what I wanted for my skin.

I suspected a slight hormonal imbalance was also fueling the acne, as it did seem to worsen based on hormonal changes in my body each month.  Flaxseed oil is shown to possibly help with slight hormonal imbalances in the body, and I was hoping that by with the right regimen for my skin, as well as the addition of this supplement that over time I would balance out and clear my skin.

It is important to note here that when using a hormonal balancing supplement, it’s important to choose something that is mild enough to not interfere with something like a birth control pill, but enough that it will help with your symptoms. With certain birth control pills, skin problems should improve, but it is not always the case with every person.

Moisturizer – Hemp seed oil

I was shocked to see that hempseed oil is a 0 on the comedogenic scale. Although coconut oil is great for other bath products (and I do use it in my body wash just fine), it is a 4 and pore clogging. So for someone with a problem on their face, it’s not good. Once again, this is a personal choice, and many people use coconut oil on their face with no problems. It’s all about your own body.

Hemp seed oil has amazing benefits for not only keeping your pores from being clogged after use, but for keeping skin looking young and smooth. It’s very light, absorbs quickly and has a pleasant smell. It is not thick in any way and doesn’t look greasy after application. I also use it in my lip balm I make. It doesn’t leave me feeling greasy. It is also great because it can be used in makeup removal. It has a dual purpose. I use Nutella’s hemp seed oil, which I purchase at my local grocery store. I get the organic of course (I am not even sure if there is another one but I am always sure to purchase the organic if affordable and provided with the option).

Although not a medical source this information is accurate and good:


Within 2 weeks of this regimen and regular supplement use my skin was clearing. In actuality it was about 2 days that I started to notice a slight change, but a total clearing occurred over 2-4 weeks.

I do anticipate having some cystic problems again, and seasonal acne changes, as this is nature and how we live. But I do feel that the combination of what I have determined for myself is helping control some of the breakouts.

Overall, you need to know your skin, experiment and figure it out for yourself. It is important to remember, what is your skin pH, what products will keep you in that range, and what works for your body.

Down the road posts… Natural Beauty Products (including my own recipe for awesome mascara), natural soaps, natural cleaning and household products.