One of the many experiences unique to living in New York City is being approached by trendy men who just happen to randomly have a question for you about your spa-frequenting habits or hair-styling preferences. You can’t spot them because they’re never holding postcards, flyers, or anything of the like; they’re never wearing a uniform of any sort; and they rarely stand right in front of the spa or salon for which they work. They’re like… Retired ninjas. Or ninjas who failed ninja school so they’re doing this instead. They’ll initiate a conversation by asking me a question like, “are you interested in trying skin care product X at Spa Y for a fraction of the regular price?” And I respond with something like, “Can I EAT skin care product X?” That throws them off a bit because I doubt the sales script prepared them for a such a ridiculous question. But when it comes to skin care, that is always my number one concern. Do you know the brilliant SNL sketch to which the title of this post refers? Substitute “skin care product and a snack” for “floor wax and a dessert topping,” and you can consider that sketch a scene from my actual life. Or at the very least, an infomercial from my actual brain.
Most people make the mistake of considering skin to be a sort of protective sack that houses all of their organs. That word choice was gross. Apologies. The truth is that the skin, itself, is an organ. In fact, it is the biggest organ that we have. And it’s a pretty miraculous one at that. Since the skin is porous, it absorbs a large percentage of everything that we put on it. Don’t believe me? Try cutting a clove of garlic in half and rubbing it on the sole of your foot. You may be among the many people – like me – who end up tasting that garlic within seconds. If that’s too hippy-dippy for you, consider how transdermal medication works. Most common transdermal medications are nicotine patches and birth control patches. Each do their job as efficiently as if taking that medication by mouth.
Looking for the cold, hard facts? The American Journal of Public Health published a study that examined the skin’s absorption rates of chemicals found in tap water. Results revealed that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of total contaminant dosage.¹ If that study considers merely water that splashes on our skin as we wash, think what we must be absorbing when we actively rub a cocktail of carcinogens, chemicals, and irritants into our skin until fully absorbed… ON PURPOSE. And yes, most mainstream cosmetic products are, indeed, a cocktail of carcinogens, chemicals, and irritants. It doesn’t help that absorption rates for the skin on the face and scalp are 5-10 times higher than on other parts of the body,² which is why considering the ingredients in our cosmetics is crucial. If you’re curious to learn more about common cosmetic ingredients, from what they’re derived, and their overall toxicity rating, I highly suggest downloading the app: ChemicalMaze.
I, among many, believe that most modern chronic illnesses are a direct result of the body’s inability to adequately dispose of the constant input of toxins via cosmetics, environment, air, food, and water. The body disposes of toxins through six systems of elimination:
If these systems become overloaded, we are left with a toxic build-up that usually manifests itself via disease. In my own experience, that disease was predominantly severe acne. The skin, being the only one of these elimination systems we wear on the outsides of our bodies, is the only one that provides indications and clues of body toxicity that we can see with our eyes. Blatantly rubbing toxic ingredients on this organ of elimination sort of defeats the purpose of it being an elimination system in the first place, no?
How Do You Replace Commercial Cosmetics with Natural Alternatives?
It’s a journey. But I can be your natural beauty spirit guide on that journey for many, many posts to come. Today, let’s start with a simple substitute for facial cleanser. I’ve tried a TON of natural facial cleansers over the last few years. None have been as wonderful for me as what I’m about to share with you. Of course, we are all unique, perfect snowflakes, so keep in mind what works for me may not work as well for you. Nonetheless, I know of enough people who share my enthusiasm about this regimen to make me think we must be on to something here.
Are you read for this? Get a pencil. Here it is:
Raw honey and hemp seed oil.
O, wait. You probably didn’t need a pencil since THAT IS THE MOST SIMPLE THING YOU’VE PROBABLY EVER HEARD OF WASHING YOUR FACE WITH.
Let’s start with raw honey. Um… So, bees are the coolest ever. I’m actually obsessed with bees. Honey is, in fact, bee vomit. WAIT. Don’t be grossed out. A bee’s vomit is SO MUCH BETTER than a human’s vomit. Bees basically vomit liquid miracle gold. LMG. What makes LMG so miraculous?
Benefits of Raw Honey:
- Raw honey has been used by humans for 10,000 years, playing a vital role in health, healing, religious and cultural traditions.
- Raw honey gently removes dirt and impurities from the skin without stripping the skin of its natural oils. Mainstream cleansers often to strip the skin of its natural oil (sebum), which leads to the overproduction of sebum.
- It’s antimicrobial and anti-viral. The National Institutes of Health published research proving that the application of raw honey to an infected wound can reduce redness and swelling. Raw honey can even reduce the overall time needed to heal from a bacterial infection, making it comparable to antibiotics.³ Raw honey is also anti-fungal and is known to aid in fungal infections such as candida.
- When mixed with water, raw honey releases a natural peroxide that aids in bacterial skin issues such as acne. It also contains gluconic acid, a mild alpha hydroxy acid that brightens the complexion, evens out skin tone, and lightens scars, age spots, and sun discolorations.
- Raw honey has a pH level of 4.5, which falls within the skin’s natural pH range. Many commercial products end up changing the pH of our skin, which makes our natural skin barrier much more easily penetrable by the bacteria and pollution we encounter during the day.
- It is so gentle and nourishing, it is perfect for sensitive skin, mature skin, dull skin, and aids in those struggling with acne, enlarged pores, rosacea, eczema, hyperpigmentation.
- It must be RAW. Unfiltered and unprocessed works, too. “Natural” means absolutely nothing. Raw honey is a completely different substance than processed honey. Once heated, honey loses all its natural vitamins, enzymes, probiotics, phytonutrients, and pH level. Go for only raw honey!
Now, what about hemp seed oil? The ever-wise Fran, of High On Clear Skin, introduced me to the miracle that is hemp seed oil. Just be sure it’s raw, unrefined, cold-pressed, and keep it refrigerated!
Benefits of Hemp Seed Oil:
- Hemp seed oil has a comedogenic rating of 0, which means there is no chance of it clogging your pores. This may sound counter-intuitive because we’ve been conditioned as a society to believe that oil is evil internally and externally, but that is a dangerous myth. Healthy oils are essential to having healthy skin and healthy bodies.
- Hemp seed oil actually helps to balance out excess oil in the skin. The sebaceous glands in our skin normally produce sebum with linoleic acid. However, when linoleic acid is not available to the skin, the glands resort to using oleic acid, which is thicker than healthy sebum. It is then easier for this thicker sebum to become stuck in the skin and form blackheads and whiteheads. Synchronously, hemp seed oil happens to contain a perfect ratio of EFAs, as well as being a whopping 57% linoleic acid, which aids our bodies in producing healthy sebum and balancing out our oil production.
- It is anti-inflammatory and reduces redness. This fascinates me as an artist because the color of hemp seed oil is beautifully bright green, and green sits perfectly opposite of red on the color wheel. :)
- The EFAs in hemp seed oil help maintain epidermal lipids, the skin’s water barrier, elasticity and softness.
- The EFAs in hemp seed oil also contain anti-oxidants which protect the skin from free radicals, thereby having an anti-aging effect.
How to Use Raw Honey and Hemp Seed Oil:
1. First, remove make-up. If you’re not wearing make-up, skip to step 2. Pour a coin-sized amount of hemp seed oil into your palm. Massage it onto your dry skin. Wipe oil and make-up away with a dry cloth or tissue.
2. Pour a small coin-sized amount of hemp seed oil into your palm. Massage into your dry skin.
3. Massage an equal amount of raw honey into your skin, on top of the hemp seed oil.
4. Wash off with warm water (not hot!). I wash using my hands only when I didn’t wear make-up that day. I use a washcloth gently on days that I did wear make-up to be sure I remove all of it.
What About Ready-Made Products That I DO Buy?
Most of the time, my cosmetic products are one-man-shows, like those listed above. And obviously, when I say “man,” I mean, “ingredient.” However, I also recognize the magic in combining simple, natural ingredients, and being left with a truly outstanding elixir housing a variety of benefits. For such times, I either turn into a magical cosmetic shaman and whip up my own concoctions, or I visit the online shop: Living Earth Beauty. Alicia, the lovely creator of Living Earth Beauty, happens to only stock products that abide by my creed:
Put on your skin only that which you can eat.
All of the companies featured on Living Earth Beauty use only organic, raw, edibly-safe ingredients in their products, and the results are remarkable. I plan on doing future posts on some of these products, as they have greatly aided me in my quest for holistically healing my skin and my self esteem over the years. But for now, I leave you with the superhero duo: Raw Honey and Hemp Seed Oil. Your face will be… uh… crime-free in no time?
1. Brown et al. The role of skin absorption as a route of exposure for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water. Am J Public Health. 1984 May; 74(5): 479–484.
2. Hotchkiss, S. 1994. How thin is your skin?: Skin seemed like such a good way of keeping the outside world at bay until toxicologists started to worry about the harmful chemicals that breach the barrier. New Scientist.