I often get rather amazing, thoughtful and fairly deep-diving comments on my posts, both here and on Instagram. I figure that my other readers might be interested in reading my answers (and I need to be my ridiculously verbose self), so this feature is where I answer them. Ask your brilliant questions in comments and will do a regular digest with my answers. Of course, please keep in mind that I am not a dermatologist or an aesthetician, so my advice comes strictly from personal experience and obsessive research.
This edition of Ask HH is a little different from the usual format: rather than being based on specific reader questions, I wanted to write a few things that were inspired by those questions. I also want to dispel some myths surrounding green beauty in the special “Stop the Inanity” segment. Perhaps it might grow into its own feature, just as long as there are enough people making ridiculous claims about green beauty.
Seasonal transitions are one of the biggest culprits in causing negative changes in our skins and the change from summer to fall is, possibly, the worst one. Unless you happen to live somewhere warm and tropical, colder temperatures and drier air spell trouble for the skin. I thought I would share the routine that helped me transition into fall. This also helps to highlight one of the biggest culprits behind so many of the problems highlighted by my readers: the inability to listen to our own skin.
Awareness of one’s skin is crucially important if the goal is to have it look and feel its absolute best – just as bodily awareness is crucial for overall health and fitness. Unfortunately, most of us tend to lack this awareness, which can lead to congested, inflamed, dry or stressed skins. Even know-it-all beauty bloggers are not immune from skin-cluelessness. Recently, I have been having serious problems with my skin: it seemed unusually sensitive, dry and inflamed. The majority of my cleansers would sting upon application, so did every oil and serum I used and I would get small breakouts that were pretty clearly inflammation-related. I figured that my skin was having a reaction to some product – strange, since I haven’t been trying anything new, but not unheard of. It took about 2 weeks of discomfort for me to actually figure out that the culprit behind my skin woes was… October.
Because the weather in New York has been a bit wonky, I was slow to connect the seasonal changes – the drier air, the colder temperatures, the return of heating – to their effects on my face. Since going green, seasonal changes no longer bother me as much as they used to, but that is because I would always get on top of them and head off the skin disasters at the pass. Since finally realizing that my skin was going through a seasonal freakout, I have come up with the perfect transitional routine that has helped my skin calm down and regain its dewiness. Now, I can’t promise that the same routine will work for you, but I think it serves as a good guide to treating your skin with gentleness and care.
For cleanser, I switched almost exclusively to May Lindstrom’s Honey Mud. I will be doing a comprehensive review of this lush treat in my next and final Keep It Clean post, but it was the only cleanser I used that did not make my skin sting and leave it red and irritated. The layer of oil left behind by the Honey Mud, which ordinarily makes me reach for a second cleanser, added a welcome layer of hydration, cozy like a cashmere blanket. If you wear makeup, a good alternative to the Honey Mud is Josh Rosebrook’s new Herbal Infusion Oil. While it provides a deep cleansing action, the healing herbs infused into this gentle oil help soothe irritated skin and Josh’s counterintuitive, but clever waterless cleansing method can help prevent moisture loss.
When your skin is especially dry, it is especially important not to skip the toner mist and to use products that are both gentle and hydrating. My favorites have been May Lindstrom’s heavenly-smelling The Jasmine Garden and Yuli’s anti-aging and hydrating superstar Metamorphic Elixir – both feel gentle, cosseting and hydrating, exactly what my skin needs.
When my skin was at peak freakout, I turned to my favorite emergency treatment: La Bella Figura’s Bioactive Healing Mask (aka Healing Manuka Mask). Twenty minutes spent trying not to eat the mask off my face (seriously – it’s delicious, I’d eat it on toast in a pinch) leave my skin markedly softer, more refined and completely calmed.
As for moisturizers, the name of the game is gentle simplicity. With my skin feeling so reactive, I was wary of using multi-ingredient oils, yet single-ingredient products didn’t quite have the “oomph” I needed. Enter the Myhavtorn Facial Oil from Ayla Beauty. It has a short ingredient list (just 3 oils plus rosemary extract as a preservative), but each ingredient is perfect to address my skin’s needs. The star player in this serum is the healing and active sea buckthorn oil – one of my absolute favorite ingredients and one of the most healing oils around – and it’s further bolstered by the green beauty superstar argan and deeply nourishing avocado oils.
Finally, to complete my routine I turned to my favorite Odacite serum boosters: the uber-hydrating Mo+P and the sensitivity-banishing Ca+C (for more info on both, check out my Odacite post). I also got Odacite’s latest release – the Oleosomes Time Release Delivery Creme – and I am massively impressed. The light moisturizer was created as a delivery system for the serum boosters, amping hydration and providing extended release of active ingredients. I love its light texture and it really does help keep moisture in my skin: when using it overnight, I wake up with visibly more hydrated skin.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know about my mini-obsession with Sun Potion: a hippie-luxe line of medicinal herbs and superfoods. I often get asked about them and I thought I’d give a bit of a roundup of my favorite products that can help your skin (and nails) from the inside-out.
Since we are talking about skin awareness, I would be remiss not to mention that what we put into our bodies can have as much of an impact as the products we use on them. Sure, it’s an old saw, but in this instance it’s true. The market is getting increasingly crowded with products that promise to give you perfect skin while improving your stamina and mood and although there is no such thing as a magic pill or a miracle cure, some of these products are truly powerful and effective.
Sun Potion is a kind of quintessential Hermes Hippie brand: it’s frequently referred to as “high vibe” and its owners are pretty much exactly how you would imagine a Californian haute hippie. Yet their potent herbs are housed in beautiful, gilded violet glass jars and are backed with the highest level of research and technical expertise (I recall Scott speaking passionately about the technical details of shattering the chlorella cell walls to achieve optimal viability). I use most of their herbs and find that they can do wonders for my energy levels, immunity, mental clarity and overall wellbeing. But let’s get real: we’re here to talk about beauty.
Which brings us to He Shou Wu. Of all the Sun Potion herbs, it’s the one that seems to have the most nebulously-defined benefits and I only tried it because it came highly recommended by my friend Kerrilynn Pamer – one of the founders of Cap Beauty. I continued to use He Shou Wu mostly on autopilot, not seeing any dramatic changes. And then I noticed my nails. I have always had terrible nails: they are weak, bendy, splitty and generally awful and no amount of formaldehyde-laden nail strengtheners was able to make them any stronger. Yet there I was, about 6 months after starting to use He Shou Wu, with nails that were so much stronger and more resilient that I would have to cut them, lest they get too long. I am currently making clacking noises as I type because my nails are so long and they are showing no sign of weakness. Frankly, it’s kind of amazing.
Now, as you might have gathered from the previous paragraph, these herbs are not overnight miracles. To see lasting, positive changes you really have to commit and use them continuously for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, they are not cheap, but the jar should last you quite a long time (the He Shou Wu jar contains 50 servings, so that’s nearly 2 months with once daily use) and these herbs are very easy to incorporate into your daily routine. You can mix them into your tea, smoothies or even (gasp!) coffee or you can make a “tea” out of the herbs themselves. Not all of them taste particularly nice (Ashwaghanda, for example, is bitter tasting), but He Shou Wu has a pleasant, mild taste. I mix it with healing reishi, Tocos (which makes for an excellent alternative to conventional, chemical-filled creamer) and coconut butter or ghee for some healthy fat that also helps with absorption.
Aside from Sun Potion, some of my other favorites are the probiotic-filled Glow Inner Beauty Powder from the Beauty Chef and Moon Juice dusts. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t seen the same kind of miraculous results with these products, but I also haven’t used them for nearly as long or as consistently. They are, however, fun to use, taste delicious (try mixing Glow into plain yogurt for a gorgeously-purple, antioxidant and probiotic-packed treat) and other people absolutely swear by them, so I have recently committed to using them more consistently. I’ll keep you posted about the results.
Since my last topic inched toward the realm of the woo-woo, I wanted to take a moment for a little debunking session. There is a lot of nonsense being spouted in connection with green beauty, both by its detractors and proponents. Frankly, I think the latter is actually a lot more damaging. So in the interest of attempting to cut through the fog of disinformation at least a little, I am starting a new mini-feature: Stop the Inanity.
Any time a mainstream beauty site like, say, Into the Gloss publishes a review of a green beauty product, you can count on seeing a wave of posts debunking the scam that is green beauty. I’m not sure why people feel quite so compelled to knock green beauty down a peg. After all, no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head, forcing them to buy 20 jars of The Blue Cocoon, but there we have it: haters gonna hate. One of the main arguments against green beauty happens to be that it uses essential oils. Said EOs, the commenters rush to inform, are massive irritants, are photosensitizing and cause “cell death”. Ooooh! Scary.
Now, I will not deny that some essential oils can cause photosensitivity and that they are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than, say, mineral oil (because mineral oil is completely inactive and does nothing, but just “sit there”). However, I think the majority of those commenters are influenced by Paula Begoun and her view that essential oils are, basically, the devil. Now, Paula has been instrumental in creating consumer awareness and holding the beauty industry accountable and she deserves enormous respect, but her view on essential oils is simply not reflective of current research. So please, stop parroting one sided conventional wisdom. Test EO-heavy products before use to make sure you are not allergic to any ingredients, don’t wear citrus oil-heavy oils to the beach and don’t listen to scaremongers. Your face serum is not trying to kill you.
Of course, inanity and disinformation are not the exclusive domain of green beauty deniers. A few weeks ago a saw a post on the Instagram of a hugely successful green blogger that basically made my head explode. The post, a mini-review of a seemingly very nice clay mask, suggested that using it would help “absorb harmful toxins, heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals”. WHAT?!?!
I’m not sure I should I have to explain why this statement is insane, but here we go. 1) You cannot “absorb harmful toxins from the skin”. That’s not how skin works. Nor toxins, for that matter. The only way to “absorb harmful toxins from the skin” would be if a spitting cobra spat on you and you then used a sponge to wipe it off. If your body was filled with “harmful toxins” you would be incredibly ill. And you would not be rid of them by using a clay mask. 2) Heavy metal poisoning is a serious disease. If a person were suffering from it, heavy metals would need to be removed via a complicated medical treatment. Even if you subscribe to the Dr. Mercola-type view of medicine in general and heavy metal toxicity specifically, you would know that a list of treatments does not include clay masks. 3) What “dangerous chemicals”? Seriously, guys, I shouldn’t have to say this, but I love you and I want you to live long and healthy lives: if you happened to have accidentally taken a swig of Drano, please call the Poison Control Center immediately and please don’t put on a clay mask until after you come out of the ER.
Just to be clear, I looked at the mask’s manufacturer’s website and nowhere does its mention the above lunacy, so I presume they are entirely blameless here. Frankly, I just don’t understand why this kind of language is necessary. It is the reason why green beauty people are seen as credulous morons and loons. It also miseducates consumers and does them a tremendous disservice. Green beauty works and it works well – we do not need to pretend that it has magical powers. The green beauty community is full of brilliant, talented, passionate people. We can do better.
So there you have it. I did not want to finish this post on a sour note, so here I am, wishing you a Happy Fall! Take care of your skin, enjoy your cable knit sweaters and pumpkins and yellow leaves and get those balms ready: winter will be here before you know it!
Love, HH xx