How Do You Practice Self-Care AND Still Nurture Others?

How Do You Practice Self-Care AND Still Nurture Others?

How do you balance self-care while still being the everything to everyone? That seems to ask the age old question women (especially moms) get asked all the time. How do you give to others while still making your own needs are met?

What it really boils down to is the idea of finding balance. I remember being on a business retreat a couple of years ago, and the idea of finding balance when you’re a mom who also runs a business came up. What surprised me was how triggering the word “balance” was for so many of the women there. After a bit of discussion, the group consensus was one of two things. Either “balance means whatever you need it to mean to feel balanced,” or “balance doesn’t really exist.” 

I get asked about my own balancing act as a busy mom with busy kids and busy businesses all the time.

It can be a challenge to balance self-care!My answer usually has something to do with the fact that my own self-care is non-negotiable and I don’t feel the least bit guilt about it. I even wrote a chapter of Love Your Skin, Love Yourself about how self-care is not selfish. So how do I do it? How do I practice self-care without neglecting my kids or my responsibilities?

There are several strategies that work for me, and I am NOT one of those perfect Insta-moms who always has it all together all the time. But I do have part of it figured out, at least for me, and how I do it has become a major tenet in how I live my life, raise my kids, and share my mission. It’s a little bit old school and maybe a bit cliche, but it’s worked for me.

Teach others (your kids, your co-workers, even your spouse!) self-care WHILE you practice self-care.

Teaching is powerful aspect of both the Mother and Priestess Beauty Archetypes. Take my Beauty Archetype Quiz HERE if you haven’t already!

This whole idea all started for me years ago, when I was trying to lose a large amount of post-pregnancy pounds, clear up my skin for good, and also put the brakes on some chronic health issues that had begun to manifest. As I also wrote in Love Your Skin, Love Yourself (which I kind of call my “skin care self-help memoir”), I tried all the conventional diets, worked with a personal trainer, (and am sad to admit that I even tried diet pills) and did not get results.

It wasn’t until I decided to try a plant-based diet that incorporated things like food combining, eating light to heavy, cutting gluten, dairy, and sugar (gasp!), and adding fermented foods that I had my first big challenge with trying to nurture my family AND balance self-care.

I mean, I had a toddler and a kindergartener. And a husband (who happens to be a chef which means he is picky, but works crazy hours so he doesn’t actually do the cooking at home) to consider. Would I have to become a short-order cook and prepare everyone different meals? How could I make them all eat what I needed to eat to achieve my own personal health goals? 

I taught them how to shop for and prepare the foods that I needed to eat for my own goals, but that they also liked and were still balanced and healthy to suit the needs of growing children (and an overworked husband).

When I used teach self-care and healthy shopping at health food stores

Flashback to when I used to teach health food store tours!

Yes, they were young. But I took them shopping with me, and treated the experience like the health food store tours I used to give back in the day. I taught them where all the healthy stuff was and why it was healthy, also taught them why some of the other stuff was not a great idea. I let them help me make the shopping list, pick out their own produce, and put what they wanted in the cart (as long as it was on the list).

I had them help me prep veggies, soak grains, and make homemade sauerkraut and kombucha. As I watched shows on Food Network and poured through healthy cookbooks to get flavor inspiration, my kids watched with me and looked at the books with me. To this day, they still watch cooking shows before cartoons.

Was it always perfect? Heck no. Did it take longer than it would have taken me to do it myself? Heck yeah. But the early results were this:

  • Kids who rarely got sick (despite attending the slimy, microbial petri dishes known as preschool and kindergarten)
  • Kids who understand why certain foods are good for us and others are not
  • Kids who were able to make themselves small meals and snacks at a very young age, which took a ton of pressure off me.
  • My husband’s severe allergies improved to the point that he no longer needed to take allergy medicine
  • I lost 80 pounds and cleared up my skin

Fast forward nearly 10 years (yikes!), and here are the results we have today:

  • Organic chicken and kale curry salad

    Organic chicken and kale curry salad made by my then-11-year-old daughter. 100% her own recipe, made from scratch with no help from me.

    My kids both love to cook and are really good cooks (I post pix of their food often on my Instagram)–better cooks than I am, in fact! These days, I only need to prepare meals once or twice a week. The kids handle the rest both for themselves individually (breakfast, lunch, snacks) and for our family.

  • My kids are still ridiculously healthy. When they do get sick, it’s rarely nothing that can’t be handled with herbal teas and homemade chicken soup.
  • My kids could handle grocery shopping themselves if they needed to. They understand how to “shop the perimeter” and what to look for when choosing things like meats and eggs. They also understand how to read labels for things that we do buy packaged, so they know how to pick the ones that are the least processed.
  • My kids are also both honor students and elite classical ballet dancers who are strong and recover quickly from injuries.
  • My skin is still clear and vibrant looking (at nearly 42 years old), and my teenage daughter, who is predisposed to acne (thanks, genetics!) is able to manage it well when she listens to me about her topical routine.

Yes we still eat out from time to time (probably more often than we should–but it’s at places like Whole Foods or quality local restaurants rather than fast food). Yes we still have sweets from time to time and “break the rules.” 

For me, healthy cooking was a big stressor, but it is also one of the most important aspects of self-care because without it, there’s no way anyone can look or feel their best.

As I learned to get healthy, I taught my kids. As I learned how to manage my time as an entrepreneur, I taught my kids. As I continued to go back to school for my various certifications, I demonstrated good study habits to my kids and invited them to do their homework with me the whole time. As I continue to fall in love with nature and using plants for skincare and to keep us healthy, I teach my kids what I’m learning, and I invite them to share their own experiences.

We cook together, we clean together, we do “homework” together, and sometimes we exercise together. And we make herbal skin care together.

Because I’ve taught as I’ve learned, many time-consuming parts of my life are now shared. This leaves me with time and energy to practice self-care meaningfully, while still nurturing my family AND giving them the skills and resilience to do the same as they mature.

And I encourage you to do the same, whether it’s with your own kids if you have them, or whatever that looks like for you–your staff, partner, extended family, anyone who you need to nurture in your life.

Do you need help improving your own skin care or self-care practices?

Teaching my daughter to practice self-care with handmade skin careI encourage you to take this opportunity to involve your kids–invite them into your learning process, so that as you learn to give your skin and body what it needs, so will they.

My online course, Create Your Skincare Personal Edition is an AWESOME opportunity to learn how to make all natural, herbal skincare together. It teaches how to choose the right ingredients for your skin whether you’re “of a certain age,” a young teen with acne, or anything in between. You’ll then use those ingredients to make cleansers, toners, exfoliants, masks, moisturizers, lip balms–anything you can imagine!

It’s the perfect way to combine nurturing, creativity, and teaching while working towards your own goal AND empowering your family to practice self-care.

How do you balance self-care and nurturing in your life?

Please share in the comments below!

*Photo credits: Balance photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash. Health food store tour photo by Barb Sherf. Photo of my daughter and I by Julia Lehman Photography.

4 Ways to Easily Get Your Holistic Skin Care Goals Back on Track!

4 Ways to Easily Get Your Holistic Skin Care Goals Back on Track!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the New Year lately–about resolutions and goal setting in particular. If you are anything like me, you made a LOT of goals at the beginning of the year. Let me guess–you had skin care goals, weight loss goals, financial goals, or something else along the lines of self improvement. Am I right? If you are like millions of other people, those goals aren’t quite accomplished yet. You might have even forgotten what you even wanted to do in the first place.

Let’s get your skin care goals back on track today!

Rachael Pontillo...your holistic skin care Yoda!I like to think of myself as your personal holistic skin care Yoda. It is my goal (and my absolute pleasure) to help you focus on something that I know matters to you….getting (and keeping) gorgeous skin for life!

You want a SIMPLE holistic skin care regimen that’s made up of products that WORK (without the expensive add ons that you really don’t need anyway), so you can find them easily in your medicine cabinet, and put them on quickly…I’m talking 5 mins or less. You want SAFE products that don’t contain toxic or even questionable ingredients.

You want to avoid that panic of “will these foods make me break out?” whenever you go out for lunch.

You want to wake up every day with clear, smooth skin and know that it will stay that way, because you’ve set your diet, skincare, and lifestyle up to make it so.

But then a few months pass, and you’ve fallen off the wagon.

I understand getting off track. It happens to the best of us! People are busy, and some details are easy to forget.

So today I’d like to offer you some advice for getting your holistic skin care goals back on track (so you don’t find yourself making the SAME resolutions come next January!):

1. Take inventory.

Skin care supplementsGo through your skin care products, makeup, and dietary supplements and THROW OUT anything that has expired or that you haven’t opened in 3 months or longer. Don’t replace them! Focus on keeping your supply of the stuff you actually USE replenished.

2. Give your lifestyle a reality check.

Take out a piece of paper (or open a new doc if you’re not a pen and paper kind of person), and write down a truthful account of a typical day in your life. How much sleep you are getting, how much water you are drinking, what you eat, what times of day you find yourself feeling stressed, how you currently manage that stress, how often you find time for exercise/movement–stuff like that. BE HONEST with yourself. Then pick ONE thing in your typical day to focus on improving for the rest of this week. Next week, add another one. And so on.

3. Ask yourself how you can make your daily holistic skin care regimen easier?

Was your skin care regimen too expensive? Were you using too many products? Were you getting tripped up with complicated healthy recipes? Were you trying to collect lots of spiritual swag (candles, stones, incense, a special cushion, New Age music, etc) before starting your daily meditation routine? What specifically were you finding too complicated or overwhelming in your regimen? Identify one aspect and simplify it. Use fewer, but more targeted skin care products. Download a guided meditation app. Make mealtime easier with a slow cooker or Instant Pot.

4. Get an accountability partner.

Get a skin care accountability partnerFind a friend, colleague, or family member who’s also interested in getting back on track with similar goals. Schedule brief check-in calls weekly to set ONE small, attainable goal for the week, and then report back next week to report your progress and set another goal.

Those are 4 actions you can take RIGHT NOW to get inspired and reinspired to start thinking about your style again.

Need more holistic skin care guidance and accountability?

If you want more personalized help on your style journey, I’m here for you!

In honor of getting back on track, I also have a special bonus for YOU. If you sign up for my Must Have Secrets for Gorgeous Skin e-course (10 really fun, easy-to-follow videos delivered via email), you’ll also get my bonus “DIY Skincare Gift Guide + Recipes.”. You also get access to our private student Facebook group where you can ask questions and get my feedback personally! You can get all that holistic skin care goodness for just $29.97 HERE.

Is this a bribe? Heck yes! Well…let’s call it a little positive reinforcement 🙂

Consider it a little shortcut to the clear, smooth, vibrant skin that will soon be yours! If this is still a goal for you, then there’s no better time than now, to get my professional help, right?

So if you want to wake up January 1st with one less “resolution” on your list, let’s do this now 🙂

*Supplement photo by Kayla Maurais on Unsplash

Teen Acne: 6 Ways to Help Your Teen Help Themselves

Teen Acne: 6 Ways to Help Your Teen Help Themselves

Back in 2013, when I wrote my first (and now bestselling) book, Love Your Skin, Love Yourself, I made a bold statement:

“I’ll be damned if I let acne or any other skin condition ravage or destroy my children’s beautiful skin and beautiful souls. Not gonna happen, not on my watch.”

Wow! Just rewriting those words brings it all back: the years I spent avoiding mirrors and windows, hiding in the back of a group photo, and plastering myself with makeup to cover the blackheads, white heads, and redness. It also brings back the feelings I had that because of my teen acne (and later on, adult acne), I didn’t get to have the great things in life that the girls with clear, glowing skin got to have. Things like the confidence to get up in front of people and speak my mind, have all the hottest guys fawning over me, stuff like that. But most importantly, I remember the paranoia–feeling that people were always staring at me, gossiping about how gross my skin was, thinking I was unclean.

Acne and other visible skin conditions REALLY take a toll on your mental, emotional, and spiritual health by affecting your self confidence, self-image, and feelings of self-worth.

I was dead serious when I wrote those words back in 2013.

The problem?

I didn’t HAVE a teenager back then. I do now. And thanks to genetics (my husband also struggled with teen acne), my daughter is prone to breakouts. You know what I noticed though? It’s not because of her diet, or lack of sleep, or a sedentary lifestyle. She eats more fruits and veggies than I do, is better with sleep than I was at her age, and also is a classical ballet dancer (trains about 20 hours a week). It’s also not because of a lack of high quality skin care products and treatments–I make her a simple, yet targeted organic skin care regimen.

So what is the issue?

In a nutshell, she’s a typical teenager. She doesn’t always listen to me and has her head in the clouds half the time. In the morning before school, she’s usually rushing to get out the door, and at night when I ask “did you do your skin care?” she absentmindedly answers “Mm hmm.” But when I go to kiss her goodnight, it’s clear that she hasn’t.

What I realized is that when my daughter does what she’s supposed to do for her skin with her topical regimen, remembers to drink enough water, and is good with other aspects of hygiene (changing pillow cases and towels, not touching her face, etc), her skin is pretty clear. But like with many things, she needs a little help with reminders and motivation.

Here are a few of my favorite strategies to help my daughter manage her teen acne:

1. The My Skin Buddy™ AKA “MSB”

My Skin Buddy

Get FREE shipping on the MSB with code RPBEAUTY!

Teens love technology. That’s no secret. So I figured, there must be a skin care gadget out there that would make my daughter want to use it on a daily basis. Enter the My Skin Buddy (get free shipping on the MSB with code RPBEAUTY at!). I found this at the International Congress of Esthetics and Spa a few years ago, and since then have noticed that many of my Create Your Skincare students who are aestheticians use and recommend it. This little gadget helps to deeply cleanse the skin without the danger of over-exfoliating or stripping the skin’s lipid barrier, like some of the other cleansing gadgets do. It also helps to support clear skin with the assistance of LED lights, and only takes a few minutes a day. My daughter likes this because she says it feels relaxing on her skin, and because it’s a gadget. She actually uses it almost every night, with the custom cleansing lotion and herbal toner I make her.

2. Fitness and wellness tracker apps

So much of having clear skin has to do with lifestyle factors like movement, sleep, and water. Luckily, there are many apps that track those things! Our favorite is the BellaBeat app, which you can use with or without their wearable wellness trackers to log things like water intake, meditation (it even comes with pre-recorded guided meditations), exercise, and menstrual cycle. If you purchase one of their products, you get additional tracking options. Apps like this gamify certain aspects of daily life that otherwise, might go unnoticed. It’s been hugely helpful for my daughter (and me too!).

2. Basic hygiene upgrade

Other than the “wash your face, brush your teeth, brush your hair” daily routine, there’s a lot that can be added to a teen’s hygiene routine to manage teen acne that might not seem immediately obvious. Pillow cases, sheets, wash cloths, and towels need to be changed regularly. Pathogenic bacteria, mold, and yeast can build up in linens, and exacerbate acne. Towels and washcloths should be changed daily, and if your teen has severe acne, so should pillowcases. If it’s not severe, 1 to 2 times a week is fine. Phone hygiene is also a must–cell phones accumulate high levels of microbes, most of which should NOT be on one’s face. Using ear buds or speaker/video options and sanitizing the phone often are a huge help.

3. Gua sha

gua sha

Some of my rose quartz, jade, and marble gua sha, acupressure, and facial massage tools.

Gua sha is an ancient practice that comes from Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda which uses a small gemstone (traditionally jade) or metal (copper) tool for massage that helps to support healthy lymphatic circulation. Gua sha was multiple skin benefits, and while it shouldn’t be used directly on pustular acne, there are many different protocols that can be done at home to support the skin and improve the appearance of teen acne. It’s especially helpful to help relieve congested/clogged pores and improve the appearance of acne scars. It’s also a gadget–though not an electronic one–and gua sha tools now come in a wide variety of shapes, cut from many beautifully colored stones. Gua sha can be overdone though (like anything else), so I recommend taking your teen to an acupuncturist or holistic aesthetician trained specifically in this modality to learn the right at-home technique.

4. Teen acne facials

If you’re a parent of a teen, you surely know that they are often more likely to listen to pretty much anyone else before they listen to you. Facials have been great for my daughter, not just because of the facial itself, but because she’ll actually have a conversation with the aesthetician and listens to what she says. It doesn’t matter that I’m an aesthetician myself–to her, I’m mom. Just make sure you find an aesthetician who vibes with your teen and also who is a good fit for your own philosophy towards skin care.

5. Focus on quality from the start

I’ll be blunt–most of the products marketed to teens are absolute crap. And most of the influencers they follow on social media are also peddling crap. But the teens (and sometimes the parents too) don’t have the ability to understand that, and it can be really hard to see past the marketing and hype. Explain to your teen how it works. Explain that influencers are paid to push products, and that their reviews are more often based on money than actual results. Explain that everyone’s skin and lifestyles are different, and that works for a rich celebrity or influencer who gets products for free is not necessarily what’s going to work for your teen. Explain that for many things in life, you get what you pay for, Skin care is one of those things.

6. Get your teen skin care help from someone who’s not you!

Must Have Secrets for Gorgeous SkinI can help! As someone who’s survived teen acne and also who’s a licensed aesthetician who makes skin care products, I’ve got street cred with the teens (tip: use the word “legit” when you describe me to your teen…works every time with mine!).

I’ve got a great video skin care course called Must Have Secrets for Gorgeous Skin that teaches exactly what strategies I used to clear up my acne and keep it gone. It’s a great companion to my book, Love Your Skin, Love Yourself, and both come with bonus DIY skin care recipes.

  • Get Must-Have Secrets for Gorgeous Skin + bonus recipes for just $29.97 HERE.

  • Get Love Your Skin, Love Yourself + different bonus recipes HERE.

Ultimately, it’s up to your teen to manage their acne.

You can buy them all the products and tools. You can give them reminders. You can buy them healthy food and supplements. You can take them to the spa. But they also need to learn that if they want something in life, they need to actually put all those tools and advice into action. Sometimes as a parent, we need to let things get worse before so they can get better. We also have to be OK with the fact that it’s not always going to be perfect (it’s usually NOT going to be perfect).

How do you help your kids manage their teen acne?

Please share your tips in the comments below!

*This post contains affiliate links

How to Indulge in a Chocolate Spa Day at Home

How to Indulge in a Chocolate Spa Day at Home

One of the biggest skincare myths of all time is that chocolate causes breakouts. Luckily, that myth has been busted many times! The truth is that not only does chocolate itself NOT cause breakouts (the culprits are actually the milk, sugar, and processed ingredients IN commercial chocolate), but it’s also extremely beneficial for the skin and uplifting to the mood. High quality organic chocolate (70% cacao or higher) is packed full of skin-healthy nutrition including essential fatty acids, vitamins like Vitamin C, minerals like magnesium, and flavonoid antioxidants. For nourished, resilient skin, I recommend incorporating chocolate into your diet AND topical skincare regimen. The great news is that you treat yourself to a decadent chocolate spa experience right into your own home! It’s a perfect theme for your next Love Your Skin Date.

I wholeheartedly recommend scheduling what I call “Love Your Skin Date” into your schedule at least once a month.

I feel so strongly about this that it’s actually part of my curriculum in my Create Your Skincare online courses. These are essentially self-care days where you unplug, send the kids to Grandma’s or out with friends (if they’re older), and devote the day to your own enjoyment–whatever that means for you. For me, I like to geek out with my crystals, read,  drink coffee, watch romantic comedies from the ’80s and ’90s, give myself a long bath and organic skin care treatment, and eat yummy treats. Sometimes I take myself out, but more often than not, I stay in.

As I wrote in my book, Love Your Skin, Love Yourself, self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It is not selfish, and it is nothing to feel guilty for wanting or needing. I hear so many stories these days where women (moms in particular) feel like they need to go to a hotel room just for a day or night of undisturbed peace and quiet. And look–if that’s something that is accessible and enjoyable to you, then go for it. But if it’s not, then take out your calendar and block out an entire day within the next 30 days for yourself. Do it right now. Don’t worry, I’ll be right here when you get back.

OK now that your first Love Your Skin Date is on the calendar, here’s a simple recipe for your at-home chocolate spa day:

Whipped Chocolate Mousse Body Butter

This recipe is a take on one of the base formulae I give in my free Boutique Skincare Basics class. It doesn’t need a preservative since it doesn’t contain any water–just be sure it doesn’t come into contact with water or steam to avoid contamination!


  • 30g cocoa butter
  • 66g jojoba oil
  • 1g  Vitamin E oil
  • 1g organic raw cacao powder
  • 2g essential oils or CO2 extracts (I like a blend of chocolate/cacao CO2 extract from Nature’s Gift and Phytoscents Vanilla from Formulator Sample Shop)–this is approximately 40 drops total

You will also need:

  • Double boiler setup and stove or heating element
  • Scale and prep bowls/small containers
  • Whisk
  • Single hand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Mixing bowl with ice water (for the cooling phase)
  • Container for product—2 oz/60 g dark glass jar is best with plastic spatula


  1. Melt butters in your simmering double boiler
  2. Turn off the heat and whisk in the oils until your consistency is uniform
  3. Place your double boiler insert into your bowl of cool water to quickly cool the mixture, stirring consistently.
  4. As it starts to solidify, fold in your antioxidant and essential oils
  5. Once your mixture reaches room temperature, whip your mixture until it gets a lighter, airier texture, using your milk frother or hand mixer (on low setting)—but don’t overdo it or it will cause the butter to solidify more than you might want! The texture should be like chocolate mousse.
  6. Use your spatula to spoon into jar (making sure your mixture doesn’t come into contact with any water)
  7. Close and tighten lid

Makes approximately 100 g of product. Store in a cool, dry place away from heat, light, and moisture.

If your skin is on the drier side, or if the weather is cold and dry, you may be able to use this as a facial moisturizer as well. If your skin is on the oilier side, it’s probably best to use this as a body moisturizer.

Here are some delicious chocolate-based recipes to add to your chocolate spa-themed Love Your Skin Date:

chocolate mousseHolistically Haute Hot Chocolate. This sugar and dairy-free hot chocolate recipe will warm your senses and your body. It’s super simple to make, and easy to modify.

Holistically Haute Chocolate Mousse. Chocolate mousse is hands down my favorite dessert. Not only does it remind me of Paris (where it’s “mousse au chocolate”), but it’s actually one of the healthier dessert choices out there because it’s so rich, you don’t need much to feel satisfied. This recipe can be made dairy-free, and contains no added sugar.

Holistically Haute Apothecary Lip Balm. To make this basic lip balm recipe chocolatey, all you need to do is change out the essential oil recommendation. Again, I recommend a blend of chocolate CO2 extract and Phytoscents Vanilla.


What’s your favorite chocolate-based skincare product or chocolate spa treatment?

Please share in the comments below!

*Cacao butter photo by Will Power via Flickr

10 Skin Brightening Herbs That Actually Work (and Are Safe)

10 Skin Brightening Herbs That Actually Work (and Are Safe)

If you’ve ever tried a skin brightening skin care product or home remedy to improve the appearance of melasma, dark circles, or other forms of hyperpigmentation and got no results, you are NOT alone. The truth is that a LOT of people are struggling with this. In fact, the majority of the emails and Facebook inquiries I get are from people who ask what skin brightening herbs they can use to lighten dark spots.

To put things into perspective, hyperpigmentation in general is the second most common skin complaint in the United States (acne is the first). Roughly 6 million Americans struggle with some form of hyperpigmentation (whether it is melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, chloasma, sun damage, etc); the majority of them being women. While hyperpigmentation can affect all skin tones, they are more common in Fitzpatrick III and higher (medium to darker tones than light).

Conventional hyperpigmentation treatments may have limited efficacy, but have safety concerns.

MelasmaHydroquinone, retinoids, and corticosteroids are still the “gold standard” topical medication for hyperpigmentation both in conventional OTC products and prescription topicals. As I stated in this article (which is one of the most-read articles on this blog of all time, AND on a daily basis), while these drugs may appear to alleviate symptoms during use, they present very real risks to long-term skin and overall health.

Many more holistically-minded dermatologists and aestheticians have begun to recommend more natural ingredients such as kojic acid, and other specific phytochemicals like ellagic acid, and alpha arbutin. While these are shown to be safer than the pharmaceutical options, there is still a risk of long-term skin damage from applying highly concentrated doses of isolated phytochemicals to an area. The skin’s receptors can be overwhelmed and eventually shut down, which could then, in defense, produce a melanin reaction, which defeats the purpose of using them in the first place.

The safer, but still effective approach, is to use skin brightening herbs in a properly formulated, balanced skin care regimen.

As I mention in this article, though certain components of plants may show more benefit than others, those “others” may in fact be important nutrients which serve co-factors for the vitamin or phytochemical desired in the formulation. As my friend and colleague, Dr. Trevor Cates teaches in the Herbal Skincare SummitA lot of the time, we think if we see a little benefit in one thing, more is better. So we isolate it and boost it up–but then we’re missing the more balanced benefits that nature allows for us by using the whole plant.” 

Nature has a way of providing us with what we need, and for protecting us by making sure nutrients are offered in a way that aren’t too overpowering, but still have the ability to get where they need to go in the body so they can do their jobs.

While scientific literature is quick to point out that there have been few clinical trials that evaluated the treatment of hyperpigmentation with natural ingredients (not to oversimplify the matter, but DUH. There is far more research on pharmaceutical treatments because they are where the most profit is, AND they have greater safety risks which warrant this type of testing than natural remedies do), research has shown that several phytochemicals did show efficacy as de-pigmenting agents.

Melanin lossThe conventional approach would be to treat these phytochemicals as pharmaceuticals, by isolating them from the plant and concentrating them into extracts or active ingredients. These would then be formulated with preservatives and stabilizers to prevent degradation, and packed into a delivery system to be able to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin where melanocytes (melanin-producing pigment cells) live. This raises the cost of the ingredient, and also creates an ingredient that could be too strong for skin that is already inflamed and immune-compromised.

The more holistic approach I’m offering you today, is to use products that are made with skin brightening herbs and oils that naturally contain these studied phytochemicals. This way you are still getting the benefit of the “science based active ingredient” (that’s the term the “professional” skin care companies usually throw around). However, now get them in a dose that is safe for daily use, and with the support of the plant’s OTHER many therapeutic properties which help that active component absorb and perform optimally. This presents less risk of inflammation, less risk of interference with the skin’s natural functions (herbs support structure and function, not hinder or alter), and less risk of sensitization from overwhelmed receptors. While these compounds are noted to “inhibit” certain functions having to do with melanogenesis, in the whole plant form, they do so without risk of melanocytotoxicity (damage to the cells themselves). That is not the case with isolated or synthesized actives that inhibit or suppress these functions.

Here are 10 phytochemicals science has shown to help with hyperpigmentation, and the skin brightening herbs and foods that contain them:


Found in the leaves of the aloe vera plant (Aloe barbadensis miller is the preferred species), this compound has shown to act as a tyrosinase inhibitor. Fun fact: Tyrosinase is the enzyme that oxidizes the amino acid, tyrosine. This action is what triggers the melanocytes to produce melanin pigment (AKA melanogenesis). Aloesin is also known to prevent melanin overproduction in the presence of the sun’s UV rays. It works synergistically with arbutin.


German chamomileThis aromatic compound is found in the essential oil (steam distilled from the aerial parts) of German chamomile (AKA “blue” chamomile). It is also found in the essential oil from the bark of the Candeia tree (Eremanthus erythropappus), the Peakel (Smyrniopsis aucheri), the leaves of the Pogostemon Speciosus Benth, and the leaves of Salvia runcinata (a sage native to South Africa). It is effective on brightening hyperpigmentation caused by excessive sun exposure by inhibiting MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone)-induced melanogenesis. Alpha-bisabolol is also one of the terpenes present in cannabis.


This is one of the more commonly isolated skin brightening herb compounds (also seen as alpha-arbutin and deoxyarbutin) in some of the safer hyperpigmentation treatments on the market. However, it is found naturally occurring in bearberry, California buckeye, pear, cranberry, and blueberry. This one is mostly effective for sun-induced hyperpigmentation (sun spots), and works by inhibiting both tyrosinase and DHICA polymerase (which is an intermediate in the biosynthesis of melanin)

Azelaic acid:

This compound is found in Rockcress (Arabidopsis), wheat, rye, and barley. It works to prevent defensive melanin responses by inhibiting mitochondrial oxidoreductase, DNA synthesis, and tyrosinase.

Ellagic acid:

Mixed berriesThis polyphenol antioxidant is one of the easiest to find in common fresh fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, guava, pomegranate, beefsteak fungus, and pecans. It is also one of the components of green tea, which has been studied along with catechins for improving the appearance of sun damaged and hyperpigmented skin.


Found in licorice root, this isoflavonoid acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor for dark spots caused by UVB-induced sun damage, and also has been shown to disperse built-up in melasma.


Also known as Vitamin P, this phytonutrient is widely available in fresh fruits and vegetables, and is the most active bioflavonoid antioxidant in citrus fruits. It is a tyrosinase inhibitor that facilitates the formation of Vitamin C;  an important antioxidant which is protective of the melanocytes, and also must be present for collagen and elastin production. Other fruits that contain hesperidin are grapefruits, plums, bilberries, and apricots. You can also find it in green and yellow peppers, broccoli, and buckwheat.


One of the main active constituents of licorice root, liquiritin also has been shown to disperse melanin in cases of melasma similar to glabridin. One 2009 study found that liquiritin was more effective in visible depigmentation and melanin dispersement than the standard prescription and OTC dosages of hydroquinone.


Not to be confused with proanthocyanidins, there are both A and B-type procyanidins which have shown to improve melasma with their strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also tyrosinase inhibitors and scavengers of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other free radicals. The most prominent food source of A-type procyanidins are found in cranberries, while plums, avocados, cinnamon, and peanuts also contain them. B-type procyanidins differ due to their content of catechins and epicatechins, and can be found in “blueberries, blackberries, marion berries, choke berries, grape seeds, apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, kiwi, mango, dates, bananas, Indian pumpkin, sorghum, barley, black-eyed peas, black beans, walnuts, and cashews.”


milk thistleMilk thistle (AKA silybum) seeds are the main source of silymarin. It is also abundant in wild artichokes, turmeric, coriander seeds and leaves (cilantro); and trace amounts can be found in dark-skinned grapes, beet greens, black cohosh, peanuts, brewer’s yeast and most berries. Silymarin is mainly known for its liver protective benefits, but directly benefit melasma and other forms of hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosine from hydroxylating into L-DOPA along the thyroid hormone pathways.

There are other phytochemicals that found in skin brightening herbs, fruits, and vegetables, which you can find in some of the sources below. Please note that I’ve used the cosmetic term “skin brightening” instead of “skin lightening” or “skin whitening.” These are medical claims and terminology that suggests that the ingredients alter the structure or function of the body, which are drug/health claims.

Care for hyperpigmentation inside out and outside in.

After reading through the above (and information sourced below), you will notice that in some cases, several of these compounds can be found in the same fruits and vegetables and that some of them work together. I always recommend to my Create Your Skincare students that they choose multitasking ingredients that share common constituents across multiple categories whenever possible.

It’s also very important to note that while melanin production, function, and dysfunction absolutely are influenced by the sun and what happens to the skin topically, the cells themselves depend on the right nourishment from within to form and function the right way. Melanin production is also closely tied to liver function and thyroid function (as noted above, and also discussed in my bestselling book, Love Your Skin, Love Yourself). So if you struggle with hyperpigmentation, I recommend adding a wide variety of the fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes mentioned above to your diet, in addition to finding ways to incorporate them into your topical skincare regimen.

To learn how to create and customize all natural herbal skin care products for yourself or for your clients, check out my Create Your Skincare online courses, and start with a free class today!



*The content in this article is for educational purposes only, is not intended to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or disorder; and is not a substitute for medical advice or care. Please consult with your own licensed healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or regimen, and for advice on your own individual condition.

**Image 1 credit: Elord from Wikidocs [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]. Image 2 credit: Jfgouzer [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]. Image 3 credit: blumenbiene Echte Kamille (Matricaria chamomilla) via photopin (license) . Image 4 credit: William Felker on Unsplash. Image 5 credit Orfeu de SantaTeresa on Unsplash

How to Use Your Skincare Business to Help the Planet (and Its Inhabitants!)

How to Use Your Skincare Business to Help the Planet (and Its Inhabitants!)

One of the things I love the most about my work is helping budding skincare entrepreneurs start, or grow their own herbal skincare business. For me, working hard to build someone else’s dream just didn’t fit with who I am. I have not one, but two successful skincare businesses now, and there is nothing more I love than to teach other “unemployable” people what I know. I do that in my Create Your Skincare Professional Edition online course.

What’s been the most inspiring to me is how so many of my students have used the businesses they build in CYS Pro to make an impact locally and globally. They consistently find ways to support causes that are near and dear to them, and make purchasing decisions with the safety and dignity of humans, plants, and animals in mind.

I’ve also begun to realize how personally, I have always felt drawn to support businesses that were community-oriented (I am that person who shops at the co-op that sources much of their produce and meat locally, even though it is more expensive than the supermarkets), or that give back to a larger, global cause.

My own skincare philosophy (which I use personally and teach in Create Your Skincare)  is all about quality herbal skincare ingredients, small batches, customization wherever possible, and NOT mass production. I developed this because unfortunately, mass production always negatively affects quality, freshness, and the overall energetics of the products. While I do advocate for and teach safe natural preservation methods, I also prefer to that products are as fresh and close to harvest as possible–which definitely means smaller batches. But even before I shifted to this mentality (which resulted from years of frustration with greenwashing and the fact that it’s still OK in the United States to use toxic chemicals in products we use daily), I chose to purchase from companies with a cause.

Your skincare business absolutely needs to support your family and livelihood.

But it’s also important that while you are building your skincare business and setting up a legacy for your family, you do so with the understanding that all of our actions as humans affect all other beings on the planet. We might not realize it, but the purchasing and marketing decisions we make affect animals, plants, people, water, air, soil, and other aspects of life on Earth.

Herbal skincare is always better for the environment than skincare made from synthetic ingredients which require the use of non-renewable natural resources (such as petroleum), and a great deal of power to manufacture them. However, there’s also an ugly side to the herbal industry. Due to the growth of both the herbal skincare AND herbal/dietary supplement industries, many of our precious medicinal plants are now at risk, or endangered. This is something I learned about for the first time a few years ago, when Rosemary Gladstar introduced me to United Plant Savers at the MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. I’ve been a member ever since, and I consistently check their journal and website for updates.

Rachael Pontillo and Rosemary Gladstar

Me with the legendary Rosemary Gladstar

There are three ways you can use your skincare business to contribute to medicinal plant conservation, and protect the plants so that they are available for future generations.

The first thing is to never purchase wild-harvested herbs.

Wild-harvested means that the plants have been taken from the wild, without regard for how much is left, what effect it has on other plants in that environment, or replanting. Instead, look for the terms “ethically harvested,” or “organically grown.” If you do find an herbal supplier that uses the term “wild-harvested,” ask what they mean by that.

Second, you can grow many of your own herbs for use in skincare yourself.

Whether your focus is on local, native herbs, or you like something a bit more exotic, it’s so easy to grow your own organic plants to use as ingredients in your herbal products. I started my herbal skincare garden with one of those 4×4 garden square kits, and just a few perennials in my backyard, and have added to it over the years. I use my herbs to make infusions, infused/macerated oils, facial steams, grind them up to use in masks, and also use them for compresses and poultices.

Third, you can donate a percentage of your sales to a non-profit organization whose mission is to conserve these precious plants.

One of my Create Your Skincare Professional Edition graduates, Kathy Ashley, of Sovereign Luxury Performance Skincare, donates a percentage of her sales to Rainforest Alliance.

Another important–but not often talked about–issue is human trafficking.

This is something that I’ve had awareness for years, because back in the day when I worked for The Body Shop, they donated a percentage of their proceeds to the Somaly Mam Foundation, which aims to eradicate slavery and empower its survivors. Tasha Hetke, of Native2Nature Skincare (read her Create Your Skincare Story HERE), who donates a percentage of sales to help end sex trafficking through two different non-profit organizations.

Human trafficking isn’t just about sex slavery. Victims of human trafficking are also used to harvest plants and mine minerals for various industries, often in highly unsafe conditions, and with no pay. We’ve recently had discussions both in my free Handmade Skincare Enthusiasts group and in our private student group last semester about slaves (often children) being used to mine minerals used in cosmetics. Is it possible to find ethical mica, and other minerals used for coloring skincare and color cosmetics? The good news is that when I did a little digging, three out of the four US-based suppliers I questioned responded that they either guarantee that their minerals are ethically mined, or use synthetic minerals.

You might be wondering why you’d want to use synthetic minerals in natural skincare products?

You may not know this about me, but I am a gemologist (it was my “pregnancy project” with my first baby). I don’t have a problem using synthetic minerals in cosmetics. We are not using them for therapeutic purposes, and the chemical composition is identical to the natural. When purchasing, you want the term “synthetic,” not “simulated or simulant.” The latter two are completely fake–made with plastics, cheap metals, etc.

A true synthetic uses a lab to basically mimic, but greatly speed up the process (heat, cooling, pressure, etc) and conditions necessary for naturally occurring elements to form minerals in the earth. The elements themselves are the same, and the minerals that come out of the process are the same. All that’s changed is the conditions and speed of growth, and amount of controls in place. I would much prefer this to questionably sourced micas or oxides. So if you want to use mica, iron oxides, and other minerals for your skincare products or color cosmetics, please do your homework and purchase either ethically sourced or synthetic minerals.

Finally, we must talk about Fair Trade.

Many of the precious oils, butters, teas, and other ingredients harvested and produced around the world come from small villages whose residents rely on their sales for their local economy. Many of these cooperatives (such as argan oil, from the Berber women in Morocco) are run by women. Unfortunately, these plants and the people who harvest and process them have been exploited by opportunistic large companies who don’t pay them fairly for their labor or the quality of their products, and overharvest their land. Fortunately there are many non-profit organizations that work to ensure safe labor practices, fair pay, and protect the people, plants and land.

It’s also important to buy authentic and indigenous when possible, because when larger companies produce knock off versions of indigenous products, not only are the products not authentic, but consumers don’t know the difference. So the only one who wins is the big corporation. The indigenous producers don’t get paid for their efforts, precious traditions are diluted, and the consumer gets a mediocre product. This is something Tammie Umbel spoke about at length about black soap in the Herbal Skincare Summit.

Here’s one way I’m giving back:

I did not have cash flow AT ALL when I started my first business. But what I did have was passion, ambition, and determination that I would do whatever I could to make this thing real, and make it something that helps people in a big way, supports my family, and also gives back. And I’ll be honest. I definitely could have reached my first six figures sooner if I’d had a little financial nudge along the way. I had the creativity, knowledge, and hustle–but not the cash. So my trial and error period was a bit longer.

Enter the Create Your Skincare Pro Scholarship CompetitionI decided to offer the Create Your Skincare Spring 2019 Scholarship Competition because I know that there are many other women who want to do amazing things with their skincare business too–but they just did not have the funds to cover tuition, ingredients, and supplies.

This Scholarship Competition is one way I can give back with a little nudge, and it’s also my hope that it activates the same passion, drive, and commitment within you, and inspires you to GO FOR IT, win or lose.

And by the way, there’s no way to lose with this Competition!

By entering, you’ll automatically win 10% off, if you’re not one of the winners of the 3 main prizes. That’s a $400 nudge! Create Your Skincare Professional Edition starts again soon! I hope you apply for one of our scholarships.

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