Brand Spotlight: Live Botanical (and some thoughts about “natural” skincare)

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I thought that today’s Mini Moon Challenge prompt required a bit of a longer post, and I wanted to talk about something I’ve noticed over the years in the beauty community: the science-vs.-nature false dichotomy. And this was an ideal place to discuss it because the prompt of “a full routine” not only brings up something I’ve talk about for years — the idea of a minimum acceptable routine — but also gives me a chance to highlight a brand that I think represents a balance between the ideas of “natural” products and “science-based” products.

I’ve written in the past about my previous insistence of “all-natural” products and how I no longer subscribe to that requirement, but anyone who reads this blog knows that I am still dedicated to the idea that botanicals can work with more recent compounds to make a truly holistic routine. And this isn’t just in my personal thoughts about herbalism and medicine, but also extends to beauty products. But so many of the brands that offer botanically-based products also perpetuate some of the most pernicious anti-science myths that plague the community, and so many of the brands that base their identity in scientific backing work to distance themselves from the botanical beauty concept to differentiate themselves from those myths. It becomes a kind of zero-sum game where you’re either nature or science, as though mankind doesn’t exist as a part of the global ecosystem.

The idea that science is at odds with nature, or vice versa, is artificial, since 1.) human beings are also a part of nature and the idea that nature is something you have to return to is based in the idea that man is “better” than nature, and 2.) all scientific progress at its core came from observations about nature, and was synthesized from or to replace specific natural products. So where are the brands that recognize this?

Enter Live Botanical. While this is not the only brand that manages to blend science and botanicals, it is the one that I’m most excited about right now. Not only are the products made with both botanical wisdom and scientific knowledge, but she also doesn’t engage in marketing based on myths. While her products happen to be paraben-free, she doesn’t market that loudly and doesn’t try to act like her products are somehow “safer” or “non-toxic” compared to others. What she does emphasize is how she sources ingredients, specifically how far they have to travel to get to her. Where she finds the most value in sourcing products from botanicals is in the fact that she can grow many of herself and distill extracts and hydrosols, or else source ingredients from close to her home, rather than focusing on “exotic” ingredients that not only travel great distances, but might also contribute to the othering of historically marginalized and oppressed cultures.

On each bottle, rather than stating the percentage of “natural” ingredients or claims about the safety of the products, she states the percentage of the product that is “regionally sourced,” as a way to think about the true meaning of sustainability when consuming beauty products. But these botanically-led products also contain ingredients with strong scientific backings like niacinamide, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, tremella mushroom extract, and more. She tests the pH of her cleanser and makes sure it is in an acid-mantle-friendly range. And she uses a clearly-stated preservative system that includes both ingredients as well as packaging. Plus, she acknowledges indigenous wisdom and donates to organizations that promote social justice.

But what about the products? Well, I’m a hair’s breadth from the classic three-step routine with her products. While my actual routine varies widely based on the weather, season, and my mood (or mental state), lately, they have been firmly based around these four products. In the morning, I cleanse with her cleansing gel, apply vitamin C if I feel like it, and then use the Radiance Elixir and Ambient Moisture Liquid. In the evening, I double cleanse with her cleansing oil and gel and then use an acid serum. From there, it’s the same Radiance Elixir and Ambient Moisture Liquid, plus a balm if I’m feeling extra dry, or an oil if I’m not. And on days or nights when I just can’t do anything more, I can always cleanse with her cleansing gel and apply a couple pumps of Ambient Moisture Liquid.

I love that I have been able to try minis of all her products. I’ve already rebought full-sized bottles of the cleansing oil, Radiance Elixir, and Ambient Moisture Liquid, but I’m trying to decide if I want to go back to my old cleanser to use up my current stock before repurchasing the cleansing gel. I probably won’t and will simply gift my unopened bottle of my previous favorite to a friend or family member because I seriously love the cleansing gel. My skin is extremely picky about water-based cleansers and this is literally only the second one that hasn’t eventually caused my skin or wonky eye to freak out. And this has the benefit of being made by a company of less dubious morality than my previous favorite.

So that’s my rant about natural beauty and how I base my routine largely around products from Live Botanical. I highly recommend you check them out. And if you have, please let me know what your favorite product is!

NB: I am not a medical professional or a licensed herbalist. None of this is intended to be taken as medical advice. Please consult your own treatment professionals for advice. No brand relationships or PR gifts to disclose. For more information about collaborating with me, see my contact and collaboration information.

Beauty Review: The TEA.L Ceremony Set

NB: I was sent the TEA.L Ceremony Set free of charge by TEA.L, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Also, TEA.L is currently offering an automatic 30% off from now until Christmas, with no code needed!

When I was a kid, my mother introduced me to afternoon tea, which we would have every afternoon when I came home from kindergarten. It was at that point that I developed a lifelong love of tea. Later on, I also developed a love of fantasy books, particularly those with dragons, so when my mother was looking for a gift for me at one point, she ended up buying me a tin of Dragonwell tea. This was my first experience with tea outside of British-style black tea with milk and sugar, and has remained a tea that is close to my heart (hence why I always have some on hand, as I mentioned in my Marie Antoinette video).

All of this is a convoluted way of explaining why, when I heard that a skincare brand was infusing their products with Dragonwell tea, I knew it might be meant to be. I first heard about the brand on Marco’s Instagram at Steap’d, and when I commented on his post, the brand reached out and offered to send me something to try. They ended up sending me their full set.

TEA.L is a skin care company whose star ingredient is Dragonwell green tea infused into the oils they use in their naturally-led products. A quick note about “green” or “clean” products: I no longer specifically seek out “natural” products, as I explain here, but I appreciate the brand’s transparency about why they choose the ingredients they do, particularly when they admit that the “paraben-free” hype is probably just marketing. And, as someone who has had a reaction to “natural” fragrance, I’m glad that they list their essential oils rather than using “fragrance” as a hide-all ingredient.

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The TEA.L Ceremony Set includes three products: the Green Tea + Guayusa Face Care, the Green Tea + Rooibos Body Care, and the Green Tea + Yerba Mate Eye Care. I started testing the Body Care and Eye Care on 11/2, and then added the Face Care a week later, just to make sure I didn’t have any reaction. At the time I’m writing this review, I’ve been using the Eye Care for four weeks and the Face Care for three weeks, morning and night. You can find my current skin care routine here; I apply the eye cream after hydrating serum but before oil, and I apply the cream after oil. I introduced each face product in complete isolation for one week at least, and I waited until after my period to make sure any breakouts were hormone-related.

Let’s start with the body cream. I only recently discovered I even like rooibos to drink after years of thinking I hated it, so I was worried I’d hate the scent of this, since Marco said it smells exactly like rooibos. And he’s not wrong, but it’s delicious. It’s a deep, earthy scent with that light bright woodiness that I get from good rooibos. My husband thinks it smells like shou puerh, but he also has the worst sense of smell. The one thing it doesn’t smell like is perfume, so I feel like I can use this even when I’m using other fragrance without it clashing. I mostly used it on my dry, dark elbows, and noticed that they got smoother, less itchy, and lighter colored.

Okay, now eyes. So first of all, I don’t use eye cream. It’s not some philosophical thing; I just don’t use it. But I tried really, really hard, and I did use my eye cream all but maybe one or two days of my testing for this. The eye cream has a rich texture, but it feels light on the skin, doesn’t irritate my eyes, and it absorbs very nicely. Also, despite being silicone-free, it spreads amazingly and I have to use an extremely small amount for both eyes — like the size of a grain of rice. It smells like cucumbers to me, which is odd given that it has no synthetic fragrance, but I like it. My absolute only complaint is that the formula does thicken in the pump head and will sometimes clog, but that’s going to happen with any cream with a high percentage of natural butters.

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Finally, the face cream. I loved the texture of the face cream. It was somehow buttery, yet light, and it almost had a sort of water-drop feeling on the skin. I used half a pump for daytime before sunscreen and a full pump at night before applying my face balm. I haven’t really used a cream regularly for a while, so I was fully prepared to feel kind of meh about it, but, honestly, I love it. Of the three products, this is the one I’m going to repurchase when I run out. I love the scent (I usually hate geranium and ylang-ylang, but the earthiness of the infused botanicals seem to ground it in a way I like). I love the texture. I love the effect on my skin. And I started using another product, the Deciem Photography Fluid, with it by adding a drop or two to my morning half-pump, and my skin looks truly stunning. Check out my Anji Bai Cha tasting video for it in action — it actually makes your skin look better under fluorescent lights.

And I actually remembered to take before and after photos! This is before starting testing on the left and after on the right (because I’m not a monster). I took the photos in the morning before putting anything on my face, or even washing it, so these are “I woke up like this” photos. So I obviously didn’t get the lighting exactly the same between them (in fact, I did try editing the “before” picture a bit to get the exposure a bit more similar), but two things immediately jumped out at me. One, my skin looks just generally evener, less red, and glowier in the after photo. And the second is that I actually notice that the crinkles at the corners of my eyes are noticeably less, well, noticeable in the after photo. Now, I’m not trying to stop the aging process, but perhaps these products are helping my skin be healthier and more elastic, which isn’t a bad thing. Of course, it’s possible that simply applying a separate eye cream is what’s doing it. But still. Color me impressed.

So those are my thoughts about the TEA.L products. I was actually really impressed, and at least one product is going to make it into my daily routine for good, which is high praise, given how much I’ve pared down my routine in recent years. Definitely check them out if you’re looking for a new cream.

Brand Spotlight: Jordan Samuel Skin

So I’m doing something a bit different today, but I wanted to talk about a brand I’ve really been liking these days. Usually when I think about a brand I like, it’s mostly about the products, and since I have virtually no actual brand loyalty, that changes as often as my routine. But lately, I’ve settled into a kind of set routine, where I love all the products I’m currently using, and I don’t feel any need to explore for the time being. And two of those products (one of the two brands that boast two items in my routine from the same brand) come from Jordan Samuel Skin.

Jordan Samuel Skin is the labor of love of founder Jordan Pacitti, a former corps de ballet dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Now, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, though its various incarnations, you may remember that I returned to ballet at age 30 after not dancing since the age of 7. I’ve always loved ballet and part of me wonders what could have been if I’d had a more supportive teacher when I was a child. So of course, I was immediately drawn to the aesthetic of a brand developed by a ballet dancer for the challenges that a dancer faces. Incidentally, the issues of late nights, lots of makeup, and sweating under stage lights also apply to actors! I also found Jordan’s YouTube videos “Jordan Samuels Skin Talks” and found his personality engaging and fun. He just seems like such a nice guy (and he has cats, so how could that be bad?).

So I splurged and bought myself a bottle of his Etoile facial oil, a blend of luxurious plant oils with a price tag that is actually less than a lot of the blended facial oils on the market. He also doesn’t put any fragrance or essential oils in his products, which my finicky skin appreciates. From the time you receive your package, you feel the care that goes into each order. No, Jordan doesn’t personally write the note in each package, but the printed handwriting suggests a level of intimacy, like a friend just sent you a gift. The packaging is understated and elegant. The whole experience is highly Instagram-able, which I imagine is part of his strategy.

Oh, and he does social media so well. While I don’t flatter myself that Jordan himself responds to every YouTube comment and Instagram message, every comment and message does get a response. When I tag the brand on Instagram, I get a comment or a response (if it’s a Story). I even got a completely-unrelated compliment on my hair after tagging the brand in a Story! And they’re highly receptive to questions about products on Instagram messages. I feel a connection. They’re social media game is on point, which is so important, particularly when other brands can either feel disconnected or unwilling to engage constructively.

But what about the products? Well, I’ve tried two products from Jordan Samuel — the aforementioned Etoile Facial Oil, and his Hydrate Serum — and I love them both. They’re kind of like your favorite pair of ballet tights — a good pair should be almost unnoticeable, but they give your legs a smooth line and subtly lifted look to help you see your muscles work. In the same way, both of these products are go-to for one simple reason: my skin looks better when I use them than when I don’t.

The Etoile Facial Oil is a blend of plant oils with a balanced fatty acid profile. It’s a beautiful amber color from the natural unrefined oils, and it has no scent. It goes on with a noticeable slip, and I find it a bit oily for daytime use, most of the time, but it’s lovely at night. I pat on 5-7 drops every night after my hydrating steps and before my final cream layer, and I find I wake up with a refreshed glow. When the weather is warmer, I can even use Etoile as my final nighttime step. When it’s very cold outside, I’ll use 3 drops of Etoile in the morning to supplement my daytime routine, or as a protective layer before exercising outside in the cold. There’s also a version with retinol, which I’m going to try once I’ve figured this whole conception/pregnancy thing out and don’t feel conflicted about retinol.

The Hydrate Serum is just that: a fairly basic hydrating serum. It has hyaluronic acid and glycerin, some soothing plant extracts, a touch of stable vitamin C (not enough to replace a dedicated antioxidant serum), and a peptide for skin health. It has no fragrance ingredients, but it does have a light powdery-natural scent from the plant extracts. It’s a thin gel that goes on very juicy onto the skin, and absorbs without stickiness. My skin drinks this up, morning and night, and looks plump and refreshed. Again, I feel like I have a glow with this serum that I don’t notice with other, supposedly similar, products. I’m about 3/4 of the way through my first bottle and I’m definitely springing for the 4-oz. bottle when I need a refill. I like to slather. I use about a pearl-sized amount in the morning before cream and sunscreen, and a slightly larger amount in the evening before facial oil and cream.

So I’ve definitely been enjoying these two products. Given that I’ve spent the last several months paring down my routine, keeping two things from the same brand is high praise. I hope you’ll check it out. I get nothing out of it, other than appreciating that a brand I like is doing well!

NB: This is not a sponsored post.

Why I No Longer Seek out “Natural” Beauty Products

In November of 2015, about sixteen months ago, my morning routine was featured on the (apparently now-defunct) natural beauty blog “No More Dirty Looks.” At the time, I was using a heavily-DIY, all-natural routine, focusing on avoiding chemicals like parabens. Since then, I’ve obviously changed my tune and started using more man-made (and woman-made!) ingredients and products and stopped avoiding ingredients like parabens in favor of science-based ingredients. So I thought I’d use this post to talk a little bit about why I made the switch and why I no longer think it’s necessary to avoid the so-called “toxic” chemicals in our beauty products.

First, a little bit about my own personal story. I found natural/organic beauty through the organic and traditional foods movement. Several years ago, I decided to drastically overhaul how I ate in order to see if it would help my frequent migraine headaches. The good news is that it did! The bad news is that it meant making from scratch pretty much every scrap of food that went into my body. That’s a daunting task, and I did it with the help of food bloggers in the “real food” movement. And while I was busy putting only minimally-processed, organic food into my body, I started reading about how we also get exposed to “toxic chemicals” through the personal care products we use. Around the same time, I had a massive breakout of hives over my entire body for 36 hours. I tracked down the possible culprits and decided that the artificial fragrance had caused my reaction. So I started switching to an all-natural regimen of personal care.

At my crunchiest, I used homemade soap, apple cider vinegar, and organic oils to care for my face, body, and hair. I used crystal deodorant. I ate up articles by bloggers claiming to have found a scientific basis for avoiding parabens, phthalates, sulfates, fragrances, and a whole host of other ingredients. When I couldn’t use something made myself, I found the simplest, least-preserved brand at the organic market that I could. I even washed my hair with mud for a while. And I kept this up for years.

Finally, I realized that highly-alkaline soaps were not doing my skin or hair any favors. I think the first step was admitting that washing my hair with soap left it paradoxically greasy and dry. My hairdresser would refuse to touch my hair until he’d washed it with salon shampoo. And I was breaking out. I went from being a teenager and early-20-something with enviable skin to a spotty 30-something.

In a fit of pique, I became so frustrated with how my skin reacted to everything that I just stopped using anything at all but plain water on my face. That was when I started noticing that my skin was actually dry. I started doing different research, looking up hydrating skin, and eventually found the Skincare Addiction and Asian Beauty subreddits. There, I learned that I had probably dehydrated my skin from years of using alkaline cleansing products and only oils to moisturize. And a light bulb went on.

But in order to fully break away from my crunchy leanings, I had to convince myself that these chemicals I’d been avoiding for years were actually safe. Once I finally did, I felt embarrassed because the preponderance of scientific evidence is in favor of the safety of approved cosmetics ingredients, and I have a scientific background myself. Refusing to trust these researchers is akin to refusing to trust the science that claims vaccines are safe and necessary or that human-driven climate change is a major factor in our environment. If I trusted the science in one place, I needed to learn to trust the science in this place.

Of course, there are bloggers with science backgrounds doing the good work of trying to counter the scare-mongering people who perpetuate this fear of “chemicals.” And that really helped. But I also did my own looking around. And even now, when I find myself falling into old habits of worrying about a skin care ingredient, I do a search and try to limit myself to scientific publications. And since I know a little bit about scientific publication, I try to look up the journals these things are published in, to ensure I’m getting good sources.

But that’s not to say I’ve completely abandoned everything I gained from being an organic beauty aficionado. I still use natural oils on my face. I still DIY my own products, when I can’t find a commercial product that I like. And I still am wary of fragrance in skin care. I’m still aware of my ingredients, but I know that I could have a problem from any ingredient, not just the ones with unfamiliar chemical names.

And that’s the real crux of why I no longer consider myself a natural skin care person. I’ve found some natural ingredients that cause me much worse problems than any scary-sounding chemical ever has. As an example, I’m going to go back to that story about breaking out in hives. I noticed that the initial reaction happened in the exact pattern that I use when putting soap on my body. I looked at the bar of soap I was using and, sure enough, “fragrance” was one of the ingredients. Now, I’m friends with the lady who makes the soap, so I shot her a quick email. She verified that, yes, she used artificial sandalwood fragrance because of cost and environmental concerns with sandalwood oil. Well, I thought to myself, that must be the problem!

There was a jasmine perfume she sold that I loved, so when I was done “detoxing,” I added that back in first, to make sure it didn’t cause a problem. And it didn’t. Oh well, I thought, the jasmine fragrance oil and the sandalwood fragrance oil must have different constituents. But then, I started making my own soaps and she shared her fragrance supplier’s website with me. Well, knowing that the sandalwood fragrance made me react and the jasmine didn’t, I figured I could go to the data sheets for each fragrance and look at what different components they had.

And they had exactly the same fragrant compounds in them. From a chemical standpoint, there wasn’t a difference. So if I had reacted to one, why didn’t I react to another?

Then, I went back to the soap ingredient list and looked again. One of the essential oils was cinnamon essential oil. Now, cinnamon is intensely irritating and has to be used carefully. I had actually had a less-severe skin reaction to a product with cinnamon in it after my hives situation. So after all that, after years of being chemically-avoidant, it was probably a natural essential oil that had caused my reaction.

So the lesson here is that anything can cause a reaction, be it natural or synthesized. Be aware of your personal care products, but know that approved chemicals became approved through a lengthy research process, and distrusting that research may not leave you with the best products to work with.

Lotions and Potions

The cold air has hit us finally. The combination of cold, dry air outside and heated, dry air inside can wreak havoc on even the most resilient of complexions. I’m “blessed” have rather oily skin that does not get dry easily, but even I have noticed the effects of skin dehydration. And, as my beauty sources often remind me, oily skin does not equal hydrated skin. As such, I’ve found myself enjoying a few lovely moisturizing, conditioning, and hydrating boosts the last week or so.

  1. Rosewater and Glycerin: This is a very simple mix from the Heritage Store. It’s just what it says it is: their rosewater mixed with vegetable glycerin. It comes in a 4-oz. spray bottle and I love it more than any other fancy face mists I’ve tried. I use it when I get out of the shower before putting on my sunscreen in the morning, I use it in the evenings if I feel like I need a moisture boost before applying face cream and oil, and I keep one in my purse and my desk to just spritz whenever I feel dry or low. The rosy scent is true and light and a perfect pick-me-up.
  2. Griffin Remedy Skin Food lotion: I’ve used Griffin Remedy’s lotion in the past, but never shelled out for their fancier tier of lotion. With the state of my neglected legs being what they are, I splurged this weekend, and I have to say I love it. I first thought I would get the unscented lotion, as Boyfriend has expressed some concern about dry skin, but I found the lotion itself has a distinctive smell, likely from the MSM or some of the oils. So I got one that is lightly scented with frankincense. Frankincense is supposed to have some lovely healing and regenerative properties as well as smelling divine (literally, ask the Magi). The formula is a bit lighter and moister feeling than the plain Griffin lotion as well.
  3. Sheet masks: I discovered sheet masks when the Western world started discovering Korean skin care. While I’ve found that a fully-layered, eight- or ten-step regimen is just too much for me to stick to, I’ve kept my sheet masks around. Some of the old herbals I have list recipes similar to sheet masks and the practice of soaking muslin or silk strips in a healing solution and using that to beautify the skin has been around for ages. It is fortunate that I live in a day and age where I get the masks pre-soaked and in a little packet. I especially love them for travel because the cooling sensation of the mask calms my skin and sinuses after flying. My absolute favorite to date is the Sephora collection Rose Mask because of its lovely light scent, but I’ve recently ordered some more all-natural hydrating masks from 100% Pure and I’m excited to try them. As far as luxury items go, a $6-10 mask once a week is relatively benign and adds so much to my skin care routine. That said, if I’m in a pinch, I can soak a compressed sheet mask tablet in some alcohol-free toner (I like Thayer’s) and lay that on for a hydration boost.
  4. Hand cream: I had never been one of those people who used a lot of hand cream. I actually hate the feeling of having cream on the palms of my hands. But transitioning from a more hands-on job to a desk job has left me with less worry about slippery grips and more worry about the state of my hands and nails. Plus, a colleague once told me that he doesn’t look at women’s faces any more to determine how old they are, but can always tell from their hands. So I keep a tube at my desk. Right now, I have Andalou’s Path of Light cream in lavender, but I got a little tube of Human + Kind hand, foot, and elbow cream for Christmas and I plan to switch. Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a hand cream I like that doesn’t have shea butter in it, so I have to be very careful not to touch my face too much when I’m using hand cream, but I like that the H+K cream is more lightly scented than the Andalou. I’m intrigued by the brand overall, though most of the products are not quite what I need.
  5. Salves and balms: While oils and butters and salves will not hydrate your skin (only water and water-binders do that), they serve an important purpose in the winter. They lock in the moisture and keep your skin nourished with fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A and E. While I’ve expounded in the past upon my love of rosehip oil, I thought I’d mention a new remedy I’ve found: Moon Valley Organics Herbal Heal. It’s a salve made from safflower, rosehip, and flax oil, with a bit of beeswax to thicken it up. Then, they also add all sorts of lovely healing herbal extracts, and propolis tincture for extra healing power. I’ve been using it occasionally as an eye balm, and it was a skin-saver when I was plagued with raw, chafed skin around my nose from my cold, but sometimes, when it feels very dry, I will slather my whole face in it after piling on my hydrating ingredients to keep all that moisture in close to my skin where it can do the most good.

I love a good walk in the bracing winter air, and I love to come home and curl up in the warmth of my house. With these lotions and potions, I find that these enjoyable winter practices don’t wreak quite so much damage on my skin, and keep my feeling beautiful and moisturized all winter. What are some of your winter skin tips?

On Healing, Slowly

I’ve finally hit the tail end of this nasty cold. I no longer sound like a consumptive Victorian lady, for the most part. I do still have to walk around with my face swaddled in a scarf to avoid letting the cold air into contact with my delicate lungs. But I am also back at work. Boyfriend and I took a nice long walk yesterday in the sunshine to make sure I could handle my walk from the train station. I have to say that, while it was lovely to get out of the house and be active, I did feel it.

That’s the problem with being sick. It’s not just about getting better: it’s also about getting back to where you were. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been to my aerials class. It’s been almost a week since I’ve gotten regular exercise. If I hadn’t had to take my medication with food, I’d barely have been eating. As it is, I feel like yesterday was the first day where my appetite was approximately normal.

And that will return, slowly. It likely helps to have this episode at the new year, as I have no temptation to diet or restrict myself with food because I’m in a place where I know I need to be eating more, not less, right now. For now, I’m focusing on feeling normal and good. I did another pampering skin care ritual last night, along with a lovely hot bath, scented with lavender bath salts. I decided to increase the luxury by slathering my face with True Nature Botanicals face oil while I bathed, letting the oil and steam soften my face. After I emerged from the tub, I massaged a generous amount of frankincense-scented lotion into my body. Then, I exfoliated my face with a bit of rice and oat flour, washed my face, toned, and put on a sheet mask. This infused me with a bit of much-needed moisture. Duly moisturized, I patted in the serum, added face cream and topped off with a bit of a massage with my rosehip seed oil. It was lovely. The final touch was to spritz my hair with rosewater and glycerin, apply a bit of a lovely new scented hair oil I got recently, and braid for bed.

While it’s a bit fussy for every night, it certainly put me in the right frame of mind to rest before returning to my daily routines this week.

A Very Bold Update

A few weeks ago I posted about how I’ve stopped wearing makeup and washing my face. I thought I’d post a little update to let you all know some of the conclusions I’ve come to.

While I was surprised by how little I broke out while I was only rinsing with water, I did feel I lacked something in this routine, and missed the ritual of cleansing, as well as the feeling of clean skin. To that end, I have taken what I learned from my skin “cleanse” of sorts and redesigned my skin care routine to be as simple as possible, while addressing specific concerns.

I’ve realized that cream cleansers both don’t clean my skin well enough and leave a residue of emollients that lead to clogged pores. So I returned to an old favorite: Earth Science fragrance free clarifying wash. It’s a pH-balanced gel cleanser that removes surface dirt and oil without feeling like it’s stripping my skin. I’ve continued to not wear face or eye makeup, but if I do, I use a bit of grape seed oil to remove that before washing with the gel cleanser. Because it is pH balanced, I don’t need a toner. I merely splash my face with cold water after rinsing and pat dry.

I’ve decided to keep rose hip seed oil as my nighttime moisturizer. I apply 6-7 drops to cleansed skin and massage it in. This simple, two-step routine is almost as simple as my previous, no-cleanse routine. And I always wake up glowing with the rose hip oil. The oil also balances my skin so I don’t wake up feeling greasy.

Because of this, I still simply rinse with water in the mornings. Then, I apply a light moisturizer. I’ve found that Aubrey Organics Clarifying Therapy moisturizer has a little salicylic acid to help with breakouts, and linoleic acid to keep my skin happy. Because I only see daytime sun when I go out in the midday, I’ve started carrying my sunscreen with me to apply as needed instead of just once in the morning. I’ve also recently gotten a new sunscreen, 100% Pure Argan Oil facial moisturizer with SPF 30, to try because it is less scented than the Badger Balm rose sunscreen.

So far my skin has never looked better in the last few years than it has the last couple of weeks. I got one or two small spots during my period, but they went away quickly. I’ve felt confident enough to go without makeup still. By simplifying my skin care routine and forgoing makeup, I can now be ready to go in much less time as well, which makes my mornings more relaxed. All I need is a swipe of lipstick!

A Very Bold Experiment

Despite having a very simple beauty routine compared to some, I sometimes wonder why I struggle a bit with acne while Boyfriend enjoys largely clear skin, despite the fact that he does absolutely nothing for it. A few weeks ago, I decided to change things in a rather large way.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve gone without any face or eye makeup at all and I wash my face only with water and a clean washcloth in the evening and water only in the mornings. It’s a lovely simple routine and I don’t have to worry if I occasionally forget to wash up at night because I’m not wearing makeup to clog things.

Going without products has taught me about my skin. I’ve realized that I actually have patches of dry skin when I put nothing on my skin. To avoid this, I use five drops of rosehip seed oil patted into my skin at night and Badger Balm rose-scented sunscreen during the day. It sinks in and prevents dryness without giving me greasy skin and it smells lovely.

Other than that, I wear my red lipstick. And that’s it.

Obviously, when I act, I still have to wear some makeup. As one show is in tech right now, I’ve been experimenting with using grapeseed oil followed by my homemade soap to remove the makeup. I think because I only wear makeup for a few hours at a time instead of all day, it doesn’t irritate my skin as much.

Perhaps I shall stick to this, or perhaps I shall need more come summer when the heat makes me sweat, but for now, I’m enjoying my simple routine.

A New Endeavor

I hinted at a new craft project I’ve taken up in my last post, but I didn’t give any details. Well, here’s the big reveal:

AllSoaps

Last week, I made my first batch of cold-process soap!

I’ve been interested in soap-making for years now, but never took the plunge. At first, I wanted to make an unscented olive oil soap for a family member who had very sensitive skin. But as the years went on, I’ve realized that some of the best fats for soap-making are the local, traditional animal fats I can get from farmers around me. Of course, this appealed to my vintage sensibilities and I’ve spent some time researching both vintage soap recipes and modern soap research.

That, coupled with my new attempts at all-natural hair and skin care, let me to more actively look up what I would need to start making bars of homemade soap using lard and tallow. Eventually, maybe I can make a bar of soap that serves all my showerly needs, hair and skin alike!

I started out with a basic recipe mostly based on lard, but with just enough coconut oil to provide nice lather and cleansing power. I had meant to try using tallow, but the store was out of it. I also made a bar with mostly olive oil and just enough coconut to provide lather to put away to cure for holiday gifts for those whose sensibilities might be offended by animal-based soaps.

Both recipes went smoothly, and I’ve just cut up the second batch yesterday. My first batch was a small, 1-lb. batch that I poured into silicone muffin cups to mold. They make very cute soaps. But I wanted something more traditional for gifts so I poured the soaps into a square silicone pan and cut it into rectangular bars.

I’m very excited about my new hobby, and hopefully will be able to test my new soaps on myself and Boyfriend in the next few weeks. And then, I have lots of other recipes planned, from a luxurious facial care bar, to a bar using sheep tallow! I’ll report back here with each and every batch, though.

Lady Elizabeth and the Quest For the Holy Grail

A rather whimsical title because I’ve always been a reader of Arthurian lore. But instead of the miraculous cup, I refer instead to Holy Grail (or HG) beauty products. I do read some modern beauty publications to get ideas for my makeup, and occasionally, they will list their HG products. I have to say, I’ve never understood such an idea.

I mean, I spent a month wearing all my red lipsticks to decide what I wanted, and then bought a lipstick that I like a lot. But it’s not the ultimate red lipstick. It’s just the best I’ve found so far. I still have complaints. And I’m going to keep buying lipsticks, even red ones. In fact, I’ve already bought two red lipsticks and a couple of sheer red lip stains since then. So no mythical status.

And yet, recently, I discovered the meaning of the HG product. It was after a years-long journey that I discovered it, and I didn’t even know how much I needed this particular product until I found it. I almost bought it on a whim, which is ludicrous considering how expensive it was, but I consider it worth every penny and I will not hesitate to buy it again.

You see, I try not to wear a full face of makeup every day. But I do need sun protection every day, and since I prefer more natural, mineral-based sunscreen products, I like a tinted sunscreen moisturizer to avoid the white cast that mineral sunscreens leave. But I have rather oily skin, and I’ve found that every tinted sunscreen I’ve tried has left my face looking shiny/oily, even the oil-free one. I had resigned myself to using a bit of powder, even though that ruins the light feel of tinted moisturizer.

Enter True Nature Botanicals. On a whim, I typed “matte finish natural tinted sunscreen” into Google, and got a bunch of hits about their Pacific Everyday Sheer Coverage sunscreen. It’s an all-natural tinted moisturizer with SPF 20 and it supposedly dries to a matte-powder finish. Huh. Sounded interesting. The price was less interesting, but after checking out their return policy (30 days, for any reason, satisfaction guaranteed), I decided it was worth it to buy a bottle, use it for a bit, and if I had to return it, the cost of return shipping was probably reasonable for a sample of a luxe product.

And it does have good ingredients. Even though it’s not oil-free, the oils are high-linoleic oils, mostly, which I know work well with my skin. Some of the oils are oils I use by themselves, or oils I’ve looked at buying. Intriguing. I ordered a bottle of the “Light” tint, and it came a few days later.

I have to say, I’m kind of hooked. I need about 2-3 pumps to cover my face generously. It smooths on and then starts to dry to a truly matte finish. The only issue I’ve had is that if I sweat profusely, it will sometimes dry a bit patchy. But other than that, it’s weightless, natural, matte sunscreen that makes my skin look flawless, but without looking like I’m wearing makeup. I’ve definitely gone a couple of days with just this moisturizer and maybe a touch of lipstick.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that my skin is actually looking really good, even bare. I generally have pretty good skin, but it started breaking out around my chin a couple weeks ago and I had two giant pimples on my chin for an audition early last week. I got my tinted moisturizer that evening and started wearing it daily on Tuesday and I’ve noticed that the pimples have gone away a lot faster than usual and haven’t left a lot of lingering marks. Perhaps it’s my new attempt at oil cleansing, but I think the botanicals in this moisturizer couldn’t be hurting. At the very least, I know it’s not causing me to break out.

So that’s the story of my quest for my first Holy Grail product. I’d be interested to hear about any Holy Grail products you readers have found!

Disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money and have not been offered any incentive to write this review.