Ask HH: The “Ain’t Nobody Asked You”/Fall Edition.

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.

Ask HH 2

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.

Sun Potion

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 reishiTocos (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

29 responses to Ask HH: The “Ain’t Nobody Asked You”/Fall Edition.

  1. Kate

    Ugh – THANK YOU for the new inanity feature. I absolutely adore green beauty (for several reasons, including the fact that it typically means I have more faith that the brand is being kinder to the environment and its employees and that these brands generally all love bunnies) but this type of nonsense only hurts it. My personal bugaboo is when a brand – or a review – starts touting that a certain product is chemical-free. I feel like – along with the EO sitch and the toxin claims – the “chemical-free” claim is the other main argument I see detractors use against green beauty. And the argument wouldn’t hold water if the claim didn’t exist – so let’s just get rid of it and focus on all the awesome that comes with the green territory instead!

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Yes! The “chemical free” thing drives me crazy, as does a focus on toxins in conventional products. It’s all just so counter-productive! Anyway, I’m so pleased you like the feature! I’ll try to keep it going 🙂 xx

      • Kate

        It’s just as amazing as all your other features. 🙂

        I seriously need to explore the Sun Potion line now – I’m so intrigued!

  2. Emily

    What a wonderful post! I’m new to your blog but just wanted to say how much I am enjoying it – your writing is so engaging and I appreciate how much deeper you go than other bloggers into the nitty-gritty of how these products work. Making the switch to green beauty has definitely been a gradual process for me and I must admit that I still feel a little nervous about essential oils. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on lavender oil and whether products containing it are suitable for using on sensitive skin. I’ve heard so many contradicting opinions on it’s potential to be a major irritant and I’m not quite sure what to believe! Would love to know your views!

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Oh you are so sweet! Thank you so much for reading and I’m so pleased you enjoy the blog! Now. On to your question! So here is the thing about essential oils: I am a huge fan and I think they can have a fabulous benefit to the skin, but they do also carry a risk of irritation. If you think about it, it makes sense: these are active ingredients and actives are by their very nature more likely to be irritants. Retinol, Vitamin C, exfoliating acids, even some peptides – they can all cause irritation. Mineral oil on the other hand is inert and inactive, so it’s totally unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. It also doesn’t do diddly squat for your skin, but there you are 🙂 I guess what in trying to say is that you certainly shouldn’t fear EOs, but you should be thoughtful about using them. As for lavender EO, I personally love it and it’s a component in a few of my favorite products. I would say there is nothing inherently dangerous about it and it can provide significant benefits, with two caveats. First, like with citrus oils, don’t use it if you are expecting significant sun exposure. Better safe than sorry, I say. And second, listen to your skin. Think you’re allergic to lavender? Then avoid it like the plague. But if you’re not, then carry on: you should be perfectly safe. Hope that helps 🙂

  3. mary ann

    Hi
    This post came at the perfect time I live in Brooklyn NY and I too have been having skin issues as well my skin has been flaky dehydrated and sensitive but also still oily and congested at the same time I was trying to weed out what could be causing it . THis article is very helpful

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Oh I’m so pleased! And if you are suffering from both dehydration and congestion, the Odacite might be a good option: the lotion is light, but the boosters make it more active. It does have shea in it, so if you’re prone to congestion from it that’s something to keep in mind. X

  4. Prakasha

    You’ve been one of my favorite, trusted, go-to green beauty bloggers for some time, and Stop the Inanity has just put you firmly at the top of my list. You made me laugh and nod and think of all the people with whom I want to share it. Beautifully, intelligently written. Thank you. (And thanks for reminding me I need more Honey Mud!)

  5. Great post, and such a good topic to cover. My balanced to dry skin get so weird, spring and autumn. Only having 3 windows that open, and those without screens (and in a bathroom, no less!), means we have some type of cooling or heating on almost all the time here in Middle TN. It sucks. There is a very brief time when the cool weather arrives, and the a.c. goes off….and my scalp starts producing more oil than I need, while my skin goes, “wtf, don’t you dare keep putting lotion over face oils, are you mad?!” So I tweak and adjust until that cool night when the heating kicks on and my skin yells at me again, “You know I need moisture…I’m dyiiiiiiing.” 😐 And thank you for the review of the supplements. I’m so interested in things we can take to aid seasonal transitions. My grandmother used to talk about how her own grandma would make different teas to drink for this kind of thing. Sadly, I didn’t press her for details and she is now long gone. Excellent and to the point advice on balancing out the cray-cray with common sense. Balanced skin and balanced thinking! Hurrah!

  6. Kelly

    I’m so glad you mention Paula. She had me scared after reading a review from her on a tata Harper product, she even said extracts were harmful to skin. I went and looked at Paula choice products and they contain extracts and phenoxyethaol. Her skin line isn’t exactly pure. Paula really sounds like she knows what she’s talking about and can see how she’s convincing people that EO’s are bad. Like you said go by research.

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      I have conflicting feelings about Paula. Like I said, she deserves respect, but her opinion is not gospel and now that she has her own line, she certainly has an agenda. Also, her views don’t line up with those of the green beauty community (eg she has no big issue with parabens). Really, there is no firm consensus on anything skin-related (just look at the physical vs chemical exfoliant debate), so Paula needs to chill 😉 Anyway, she hasn’t written her own reviews in ages, it’s her staff, so these aren’t even Paula’s opinions.

  7. Alyse

    I think it’s so important that those of us who love green beauty take care to promote it in the right way. Walking around spouting nonsense and sh*t-talking conventional skincare isn’t going to win people over. It’s so much more important to be non-judgmental and help people learn to love green beauty because the products WORK. Thanks for your rant, it needs to be said and it needs to be said often.

  8. Amy Elaine

    When I first started following your skin-based escapades, I was living in Tampa, Florida. High humidity (moisture!), low pollution (no toxins!), and no seasonal changes (consistency!). With your guidance, I found a skin care regime that worked wonders for my hormonal skin. Well, I’ve since moved back to LA. Dry (moisture?), polluted (clean air?), and winds up the wazoo (consistency?). My once pristine skin is now breaking out and dry.

    The Honey Mud is en route to me now… But I think that I need some serum and balm help to keep the elements and dryness at bay. Do you have any recommendations?? (For context, I’m currently using the JR cleanser in the morning and the TNB exfoliating at night (to be swapped for Honey Mud);OLO Vit C serum + JR moisturizer in the mornings and Kypris serums + TNB balancing face oil at night.)

    Thank you so much! You’ve always been super responsive and helpful, and I really appreciate it! (Seriously though. You sent me an email once about masks, and it was a Godsend!) xx Amy

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Oh yay! So glad the mask email was helpful! 🙂 Yeah, environmental changes are a bugger on the skin! You might want to try the Odacite boosters: the good thing about them is that they are customizable, so you can add more or less as needed. I also think the Jao Creme is a great option for hydration/protection. You need something to shield your face from the wind and dryness, but since you are breaking out, I think a balm might be too heavy? I also love the In Fiore cream, but it’s quite expensive, so worth trying Jao first. I think your serum game is on point (heh), so wouldn’t change anything there. You can always add something in if you feel like your skin needs it. You could try a mix of Mo+P for hydration, Ma+N for occlusion, Ca+C if you have sensitivity and Bl+C for breakout control). Since you’re in LA, you have options in terms of brick and mortar spaces where you can go and play with products. Try the Strange Invisible boutique. You could do well with La Bella Figura (I think the Healing Mask could work really well for you and maybe Aria for nighttime), but it’s nice to be able to test the products. Make sure you don’t skip facial sprays and use something that helps with hydration. Have your tried Yuli Cocoon elixir? It’s good for sensitivity. And Metamorphic elixir is also great and really hydrating. Basically, look for brands that have humectant ingredients in their sprays (LBF, TNB, Demamiel, OLO Vit D are all good bets). Hope this helps – let me know if you have any more questions 🙂 x

      • Amy Elaine

        Ah! This is so helpful! I’ve already starting looking into the Odacite boosters!! Do you prefer the Yuli to the May Lindstrom toner mist? (You suggested the La Bella Figura Healing Mask in your email! It’s sold out on Detox Market right now .. So Imma gonna have to go to the brand site. I would love to give it a try!)

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        The LBF mask is the bomb.com! And I’d say the Yuli mists are probably my favorite, but not by a wide margin. The May spray is a delight to use, but I think some of the other ones are more active – like TNB, LBF and Demamiel. X

  9. Christina

    Thank you for writing this article! It shows that green beauty people are rational, logical and can use scientific literature to back up his/her opinion! I have had similar experience posting on another green beauty’s blogger about the ridiculous blood cleansing and body purifying effects of lemon water ( whatever that means ^_^) She and one of her blog reader use Dr. Oz, some fashion and fitness magazines as sources to justify. Mind-boggling ?!

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Haha, yeah – I’m big on sources! I was an editor on the Law Review in law school, so my attitude is very much “proper sources or GTFO”. I am also really bothered by the anti-science bend of a lot of conversation involving green beauty, especially because its unnecessary. As I said, the best brands are rigorous about their science. And hell, it’s entirely possible to embrace the more woo-woo aspects of green beauty (I do), while remaining rational. Thank you so much for your comment, by the way. It actually wasn’t easy finding proper sources (googling “benefits of essential oils” doesn’t exactly bring up a treasure trove of unbiased opinion), so it’s nice to know people appreciate it 🙂 x

  10. Amy Elaine

    Apropos of nothing, but I was recently gifted a number of items from a line called Evan Healy (available at Whole Foods, if memory serves me correct), and I can’t find ANYTHING about the line online – no reviews, no nothing. I thought I’d check with you to see if you’ve heard tell or if you’ve ever used the line before. The line uses a number of (green, locally sourced) ingredients with which I am not readily familiar. Thank youuu!! 🙂 xo

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