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:

Aloesin:

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.

Alpha-bisabolol:

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.

Arbutin:

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.

Glabridin:

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.

Hesperidin:

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.

Liquiritin:

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.

Procyanidin:

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.”

Silymarin:

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!

Sources:

Aloesin

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15526663

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5843359/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958188/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3795865/

*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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]. Image 2 credit: Jfgouzer [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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

Balanced Facial Moisture for Dry Skin

Balanced Facial Moisture for Dry Skin

Dry skin is no fun, whether its due to a change in weather or climate or due to other reasons such as genetically alipidic skin or chronic dehydration. It can feel constantly itchy, unevenly textured, appear prematurely aged, and feel tight to the point that you feel like your skin might tear from smiling (and for some severe cases, it can). Even washing dry skin with plain water can be painful–especially in the winter.

I’ll be honest with you–I never thought I’d experience dry skin. As someone who, for the majority of my life had oily, clogged, acneic skin, I used to actually envy people with dry skin. People with pores so tiny, they’d never show blackheads or sebaceous filaments. People who never had to carry around blotting papers, or worry about looking like a sweaty mess in a group photo or while giving a presentation. People who never had to worry about a big ole’ nasty zit popping up right before a special occasion.

Of course later on I learned a lot more about skin both on the surface (as an aesthetician and formulator) and below (as a health coach, herbalist, and functional nutrition practitioner) and realized that oily skin actually does have perks and isn’t a cause of acne. I also learned that dry skin doesn’t mean no acne, and it comes with a whole slew of other uncomfortable skin issues. So I began to appreciate my oily skin–especially when my acne cleared and I began to see that my skin was not showing signs of age as quickly as my dry skinned friends.

For years, my skin did really well with a minimalist regimen of just an oil cleanser, simple toner, and facial oil serum for my moisturizer. I used more saturated, expansive lipids in my winter blends, and less saturated, “drier” oils in my summer blends to adjust my skincare to my skin’s seasonal needs. If I felt like experimenting with new water-soluble ingredients, maybe I’d make a cream–but I never liked layering products on top of products in complicated skincare regimens. Maybe that’s because I believed the marketing hype I was sold years ago with the acne “systems” I used to buy–and even what I was taught at trade shows and manufacturers’ product education classes taught by professional skincare companies. Once I realized that my skin–and my wallet–didn’t like all those different products, I stripped my regimen WAY down. And until this fall, that was enough.

Until it wasn’t.

This past fall, I switched up my oil serum as usual, and made a really lovely blend that I loved using, but for some reason, it wasn’t enough. For the first time in my life, my skin felt dry all day long, to the point where it was uncomfortable. I made sure all my ingredients were fresh and hadn’t gone rancid. Yup, all fine. I made sure I hadn’t introduced something new or toxic into our household cleaning products or other personal care products. Check, all good.

I made sure I applied my oil serum while my skin still had water on it from the shower, or from my hydrosol toner, and still, I woke up feeling like my pillowcase was sandpaper on my skin. I started adding a layer of shea nilotica butter on top of the oil serum, thinking my skin needed an even MORE saturated lipid to keep in the moisture. Nope, no dice. I also started using a wellness tracking app to me sure I was getting enough sleep and drinking enough water for my weight. My skin still felt dry–even in the notoriously oily t-zone area.

What changed to make me all of the sudden have such dry skin?

I’ve gone through 40 other Northeastern/MidAtlantic US falls and winters. But in this 41st one, my skin has changed to the point where my normal seasonal oil blend tweaks were no longer enough. As I mentioned in my last post (which you can read HERE), the skin needs both water AND oil to be thoroughly moisturized at any time of year. The skin also does not get enough water from the water we drink, and I’m going to say this again, while oils help to seal hydration into the skin, they DO NOT HYDRATE the skin on their own.

So, I needed to mitigate this new dry skin situation by adding more water into my topical skincare regimen.

Here are 4 steps I took to achieve balanced moisture on my 41 year old skin this season:

1. I switched from cleansing with a cleansing oil to cleansing with raw honey. Honey is a powerful humectant, and it also is rich with natural sugars that nourish the skin’s microbiome, enzymes, and antioxidants. It cleanses effectively, and does a great job of hydrating–and contrary to what you might think because of its stickiness, it is very easy to remove with a warm, soft cloth.

2. I changed up my hydrosols from rose and witch hazel which are both tightening/astringent to chamomile and geranium, which are less intense on drier, more sensitive skin. Instead of preserving it with alcohol, which can be drying, I switched my preservative to a low percentage of a lactofermented antimicrobial (I teach you how to do this correctly and safely, by the way, in my Create Your Skincare online courses).

3. I made a thick, rich, luxurious, humectant-rich cream. I chose my ingredients according to my Skin Sequencing® method (which I teach exclusively in Create Your Skincare Professional Edition), and instead of distilled water which is actually too alkaline for the skin, I used lower pH hydrosols, and humectant-rich aloe and one of my handmade glycerites. I also added nourishing oils and demulcent/mucilaginous herbal extracts, along with natural emulsifier and antimicrobials. The formula is simple but each ingredient was chosen for a specific purpose for my unique skin, because I didn’t want to overwhelm my already-freaking-out skin with an overly complicated formula. I apply this underneath my oil serum.

4. I sleep with a humidifier, and we also have hepafilters in the house. Humidifiers are a great way to counteract drying forced air heating systems and fireplace air’s effects on the skin. However, with humidifiers, you really have to be careful to clean them properly and change the filters often, as they can breed mold. Our hepafilters are to help clean the air of potential mold spores, and other irritant, drying particles.

These changes have restored my skin’s moisture and glow, and have made it look and feel as good as it does in the summer when there’s an abundance of humidity.

What if you don’t want to add a lotion or cream?

I know a lot of purist holistic aestheticians and skincare enthusiasts who don’t like to use creams or lotions, because they don’t want products with emulsifiers or preservatives. I strongly believe that there are safe, and even beneficial emulsifiers available these days–and new ones continue to enter the market. But I get that some people just don’t want to go there.

If that describes you, then you might be fine applying a tepid herbal compress of a demulcent/mucilaginous herb blend (marshmallow, hibiscus, elderflower, and oats are lovely), or apply a one-time use DIY mix of this blend with some fresh aloe vera gel as a hydrating serum under your oil. If you want to take the time to do that, and it’s giving you the results you want, then go for it! But if you’d like something that’s shelf stable that you don’t have to whip up every day, then it’s a great idea to learn how to make herbal creams and lotions safely.

Do you have dry skin?

What’s worked for you to help it stay hydrated, especially during the winter or if you live in a desert climate? Please share your best tips in the comments below!

Want to learn more about how to use herbs inside and out for gorgeous, glowing skin all year round?

Check out the Herbal Skincare Summit. You can now purchase anytime access to all 18 herbal skincare classes, get awesome bonuses, plus the exclusive Herbal Skincare Summit Companion e-Book!

Click HERE.

*Affiliate disclaimer.

**Althaea officinalis image by H. Zell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9008527

If Facial Oils Are So Great, Why is My Skin So Dry?

If Facial Oils Are So Great, Why is My Skin So Dry?

Facial oils are all the rage now in the world of holistic skincare and green beauty. They got their start as a traditional herbal remedy. Herbalists have been using gorgeous plant-based oils to nourish, soothe, and protect the skin either in blends of different fixed (AKA carrier) oils, pressed from nuts or seeds–or infused with the oil soluble therapeutic properties of herbs. They then expanded as exclusive boutique skincare products, handcrafted in small batches by artisans or herbalists, and sold in small spas, Etsy shops, and local health food stores. Now you can find facial oils just about everywhere, from drug stores to department stores, to cosmetic chain stores, to spas and wellness centers–and of course from a multitude of online suppliers. While facial oils offer a ton of skin benefits, they might not be enough to give you the moisture your skin needs–especially if you tend to run dry, or if the weather is harsh.

Why are facial oils so popular?

Facial oils make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. First, they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids–all nutrients the skin needs for a healthy barrier function and happy microbiome.

Create Your SkincareSecond, the nutrients in facial oils are more bioavailable than in creams and lotions, or water-based serums. The skin is a semi-permeable barrier. It’s meant to keep certain things out, and allow certain things in. The skin’s barrier is comprised of a mixture of dead skin cells, and a lipid matrix (a combination of fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol). An article from the International Dermal Institute uses the analogy of bricks and mortar to describe the skin’s barrier system. The dead cells are the bricks and the lipids are the mortar.

This barrier is hydrophobic–which means it repels water, bit lipophilic (oil loving) which means it will attract other lipids. Therefore lipids and oil-soluble nutrients are more likely to absorb into the deeper layers of the skin, where they can nourish and protect the delicate cells below the surface. And it does this so easily, in a super-concentrated dose! Unlike water soluble nutrients or active ingredients which have to be synthesized into a lipophilic delivery system in order to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, facial oils are already naturally able to do that. No human involvement necessary.

The biggest reason facial oils are so popular now is that from a formulation perspective, they are easier to work with because they generally do not require a preservative. This makes people who buy based on “free from” claims (not that I’m recommending that–read THIS) happy, and requires less labor and resources from a formulation perspective. That doesn’t mean that oils don’t require special handling–some of the are very fragile and can oxidize and degrade quickly–but they don’t support microbial growth (though contamination from improper storage, usage, and handling are possible).

Do facial oils work for everyone?

The short answer is yes…but.

The but has to do with the fact that there are several variables that if, and how well an oil will work for someone. Factors include the overall level of skin hydration, compatibility of the essential fatty acids in the oil with the lipid matrix of the person using it, level of saturated fats in the oil; whether the oil has been processed, stored, and used correctly, etc.

To answer this question, let’s focus on the “but” that has to do with the overall level of skin hydration. To be fully moisturized, and to be able to take in nutrients, the skin has to be hydrated. While it is important to drink lots of water and eat hydrating foods throughout the day, the water (and nutrients) that we consume internally first nourish and hydrate the internal vital organs. By the time they reach the skin, there’s only about 10% left. This is why it is important to hydrate the skin on the outside with water-containing ingredients (but not water itself–check out my interview on The Healthy Me to learn why).

Why your facial oil might not work

Oils do not hydrate the skin on their own. While they definitely help seal in existing moisture, they cannot bring water into the skin because they do not contain water or any other aqueous substance.

Read more about that HERE.

There are different dry skin types–alipidic skin, or “oil dry” skin is a lack of oils or slow sebum production, in which case, a facial oil might be the solution, in addition to more healthy fats in the diet. However, the biggest reason for dry skin is dehydration.

If you are relying on your facial oil to hydrate your skin–especially if it’s dry, and especially if it’s cold out or you have dry interior air–I hate to tell you this, but you’ll likely find yourself disappointed. If you are relying on an anhydrous (not water-containing) skincare regimen consisting of oils, butters, balms, and salves, you also might find yourself disappointed.

I often see well intended skincare advice on blogs and social media recommending that if your facial oil absorbs too quickly, or “dries” too quickly, that all you need to do is use a heavier, thicker, more saturated oil. I still recommend that you do that–because if your skin is soaking up your oils to the point where you feel like you have to use a ton to feel moisturized, then you clearly need different oils in your blend. There are THOUSANDS of oils, and billions of people–there is no perfect oil or perfect blend that is right for everyone. But even the most carefully selected facial oil blend will not provide complete skin moisture, because the skin also needs hydration–from water or a water containing ingredient.

In my next post, I will give you suggestions on how to provide your skin with BALANCED moisture, with both water and oil–whether you’re a purist or you like a big, elaborate regimen. I’ll also share what happened when my OWN skin freaked out at the beginning of this season, and what I had to do to calm it down.

In terms of facial oils, I can tell you that the first thing you need to do is choose the right ones for your unique skin type. I teach you to do that FREE in my online mini-course, Boutique Skincare Basics.

Click HERE to sign up for that!

*Dry skin photo by Ser Amantio di Nicolao – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64831139

The Secret to Making DIY Skincare that Actually Works!

The Secret to Making DIY Skincare that Actually Works!

If you’re into DIY skincare, or skincare in general, I’m guessing that at some point you’ve heard these pieces of advice:

  • “You should use skincare that’s for your skin type.”
  • “Only use skincare with ingredients you can also eat.”
  • “You don’t need anything fancy for your skin. Crushed up aspirin, lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar, crushed up Vitamin C, and baking soda are all you need.”

I totally get it. These pieces of advice make a LOT of sense. If you are struggling to find all natural skincare products that are safe for your skin, or have been dabbling in DIY skincare recipes online, you might have tried one or more of these approaches. And you probably didn’t get the results you wanted. And then you probably blamed yourself or your skin. Am I right?

It’s easy to think there must be something wrong with YOU. Why is it so easy for eveyone else to get clear, vibrant skin? What are YOU doing wrong? What’s wrong with YOUR skin?

Nothing. No, I mean it. You aren’t doing anything wrong. There isn’t anything WRONG with you or your skin, and there actually are some truths in (some of) that advice. The only problem is that that advice only works for SOME people but it doesn’t work for EVERYONE (and some of it–like that last one–is just downright dangerous). If it did, then everyone would have clear, youthful, glowing, perfect skin and there would be no need for a multibillion dollar skincare industry. This is the key difference.

Not all DIY skincare advice is GOOD advice.

Truth time. People in the skincare industry (myself included…I’ll admit it) have very strong opinions that their way is the best way (if not the only way). And while I would love nothing more than to tell you that there’s one magical path to skincare success, it’s just not true. There are many ways, and there are pros and cons to each.

If you are anything like my awesome Create Your Skincare students, you’ve likely already had some DIY skincare successes…and quite a few not-so-great attempts (notice I did not say “failure” because I don’t believe in failures–just learning opportunities!).

Researching DIY skincare recipesYou might find yourself on the other end having done a lot of work in researching DIY skincare recipes online, but not getting any of the results promised by the beauty or wellness blogger or Instagram influencer who posted them. You know why? Because most of those recipes were created by that person in their own efforts to help their own skin situation. Most of the time, the people who created them don’t know much about the skin, skincare formulation, or skincare ingredients. They just happened to find a remedy or recipe elsewhere, tweaked it a little bit to make it their own, and then published it online. That’s all well and good, but that really won’t help YOUR skin.

You deserve better than generic DIY skincare recipes.

My people (that’s you) tend to do better when they do things a different way. You love how rewarding it feels to create amazing things from scratch, and you love the idea of taking your skin into your own hands. You’re also ready to ditch the glitzy, glossy cosmetic campaigns that try to convince you that if you buy V,W,X,Y,Z products–personally used (meaning, endorsed) by Celebrity Turned Woo Woo Wellness Guru, THEN you’ll have the skin of your dreams. Nope, you’re smarter than that. You also probably know the importance of understanding your skin–what it loves, what it reacts to, how it changes from season to season. And finally, you love nature and know that it’s medicine–plants, stones…heck, even dirt–and want to use that power in your products. I get it, because that’s me too!

Why does this work for people like us? Because instead of following the status quo, and doing what everyone else does to get skin results, we focus on learning the hows and the whys behind it, and how it relates to our own skin. And then we take matters into our own hands.

The secret to making DIY skincare that really works is that you have to set yourself up from the start to succeed with the right prep, the right ingredients for your skin, and the right technique. And I’m gonna teach you how. For free.

That’s why I created my Boutique Skincare Basics course.

Rachael Pontillo making skincareI’m so tired of awesome people like you getting brandwashed and greenwashed by the skincare industry. I’m tired of you having to read blog post after blog post to try to find a DIY skincare recipe that doesn’t contain coconut oil and won’t burn the heck out of your skin (I know you know what I’m talking about). I’m tired of amazing people like you diligently using those products, or following those recipes, LITERALLY getting burned by them, and then feeling like a loser because of it.

Boutique Skincare Basics is a free online course for people who just want to make simple, all natural skincare products with ingredients they know will work for their skin. That’s all. I know it sounds like a tall order, but it’s really not! If you’d like to finally learn how to make gorgeous products that are customized to your skin, and not have to waste hours of your time searching for recipes and ingredients online, this would be a good place to start.

Listen, you can keep doing things the way you’ve been taught but I doubt much will change because you’ll never be the type of person those ways will work for. And trust me, you are in good company, because I can’t do it either.

You’ll continue to spend lots of time and money, try a bunch of products and recipes that don’t work, that give you results that are just meh, or worse–that actually injure your skin. But, seriously, who wants that? Not when you can learn exactly what ingredients to choose for your unique skin and whip up two simple, versatile, and EFFECTIVE products in your own kitchen, that will FINALLY give you the results you want.

Click HERE to take my free DIY skincare class, Boutique Skincare Basics.

Trust me! Your skin will thank you. And by the way, from 11/19/18-11/21/18, I’m doing a Boutique Skincare Basics 3-Day challenge in my free Handmade Skincare Enthusiasts group on Facebook. Click here to join that group!

3 Quick, Natural, and Safe Overnight Pimple Remedies

3 Quick, Natural, and Safe Overnight Pimple Remedies

Don’t you just hate it when you have an event coming up and a big old zit pops on the most obvious part of your face? Today’s guest post from Emma Hanson shares with you three quick ways to kick that unwelcome visitor out. I particularly like these three remedies, because I’ll be honest with you–many of the “get rid of the zit quick” remedies (and DIY skincare remedies in general) I see online may do more harm than good because even though they are using natural ingredients, they aren’t ingredients that are necessarily appropriate for topical application (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and aspirin, are some of the most common offenders). The overnight pimple remedies listed below are safe for topical application, but keep in mind that they are intended for short-term spot treatment, and should not be considered as part of a daily regimen. Enjoy!

Sudden breakouts are such a common issue for women (and men too) of all ages. A pimple can pop due to a number of factors which we often aren’t aware of. 

Fret not! Here are 3 simple overnight pimple remedies that really work.

Even if the pimple doesn’t disappear, completely it surely will reduce in size and look less inflamed. 

1. Aloe vera icing

aloe vera gelYou might have heard about icing the pimple, which definitely helps to calm down the redness and may help reduce the size on its own. If you want to double the effectiveness, try frozen aloe vera. Aloe has the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are add serious therapeutic action to the coldness of the ice. It also packs serious skin nutrition, and pimple fighting properties such as Vitamins A, C, and E, minerals such as copper and zinc, enzymes, and bioavailable salicylic acid (which is a famous solution to acne).

To make your aloe vera ice, simply add aloe vera gel (learn how to safely extract the gel from the plant HERE) to your ice cube tray and then ice your pimple down for up 2 or 3 minutes with it twice a day everyday, leading up to the big event.

2. Tea tree oil and clay spot treatment

This tried and tested treatment is one you won’t commonly see on the DIY blogs (which is why I happen to love it!). Take a teaspoon of bentonite clay and add diluted tea tree oil to it (Rachael’s note: I recommend castor oil or aloe vera gel with about a 3% concentration of tea tree oil) for this particular blend). Add enough to make a paste out of it and apply the solution to the affected area only. Let it dry and then remove it with warm water. You’ll be shocked at how fast this remedy will dry out the blemish and reduce it in size.

Tea tree oil and bentonite clay both have the ability to draw out impurities, and kill the bacteria. For these reasons, this spot treatment is a powerful overnight pimple remedy.

3. Toothpaste magic

The toothpaste spot treatment is nothing new, but it is important to understand that conventional toothpastes on the market contain ingredients that you typically wouldn’t want to put on your skin, even for a spot treatment (like sodium laureth sulfate and artificial flavors). However, you can use a natural, earth-based toothpaste. These are particularly effective because most brands contain ingredients like baking soda, Himalayan or sea salt, bentonite clay, charcoal, and other earthy goodies that are known for their drawing, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Avoid other gel-based and colored toothpastes, because they can cause irritation to the skin.

Apply the toothpaste on affected areas only before going to bed and leave it on for a night. Wash your face in the morning and see the pimple almost vanished. 

Again, these are all meant to be used as short-term or overnight pimple remedies.

They are simple, yet very strong, and using them in too large of an area on the face, too often, or for too long, can cause more harm than good. If you’re looking to create safe, natural, simple skincare products that you can use every day, check out my free skincare class, Boutique Skincare Basics. Thanks to Emma for this contribution!

Emma HansonAbout the author:

Emma Hanson is a mother of two, a skincare freak and an avid reader. She loves trying out new products and treatments for healthy and glowing skin. She shares her knowledge and experience by writing regularly on her blog. She is one of the co-founders of http://www.clearawayacne.com/.

Have you tried any of these overnight pimple remedies?

Or do you have one of your own that always works for you? Please share in the comments below!

*Aloe vera gel image by ER and Jenny via Flickr. Toothpaste image from Amazon.

**This post contains affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking on a link in this post may result in me earning a small commission (at no extra cost to you). These commissions help me continue to bring you top quality free holistic skincare resources and educational events like this. I appreciate your support!

Expensive Skincare Ingredients: Why So Pricey, and Are They Worth It?

Expensive Skincare Ingredients: Why So Pricey, and Are They Worth It?

“You get what you pay for.” We hear that about so many things in life, don’t we? Cars, clothing, food, and of course skincare. While I believe that this is true for many things (like organic, whole foods for sure), but is it the truth for the other things? Are luxury priced cars really safer and longer lasting? Are designer clothes really better quality than clothes from discount stores? Are premium priced skincare products really better than products sold at drug stores or made at home? For these last things, my answer is a definite MAYBE. The reason for that is because pricing is not always based on cost or quality of raw ingredients. Often pricing is based on marketing–how the brand is positioned, how and who it is advertised to, packaging, how it’s sold, whether there is a celebrity or influencer endorsement, etc. Because of this, it is common for sub-par products to be dressed up and sold as luxury. But there are still the cases where quality does win out and is genuinely responsible for a high price tag. In skincare particularly, high prices of some luxury or professional skincare products are due to fact that they are made with rare, expensive skincare ingredients.

Expensive skincare ingredientsI recently had the opportunity to contribute my knowledge of expensive skincare ingredients to an article that was published on Insider.

In this article, 7 Ingredients in Your Skincare Products That Are Making Them So Expensive, I, along with other skincare experts, talked about the reasons why ingredients such as rose essential oil, jasmine essential oil, arginine, and gold are expensive to source, and what overall benefits they bring to the skincare party.

Click HERE to read about those!

In addition to the expensive skincare ingredients listed in the article, I wanted to share four others that might be hiking up the price of your skincare products, and whether they are worth it:

1. Hyaluronic acid

I consider hyaluronic acid to be the “mother of all humectants,” since it can hold 1000 times its weight in water, and therefore (in theory) can deliver extreme hydration to the skin. It also contains antioxidant benefits. It is expensive for two reasons. First–production. Top quality HA is produced from rooster combs. There are lower quality versions, less potent out there that are used in cosmetics that are either made from sugar beets, are synthesized, or bacteria-fermented. On the retail side though, the price typically would imply the animal-sourced HA. The bigger reason for the high price though, is that it is VERY difficult to formulate with as it is known to deactivate the effects of some of the other ingredients in the formula, and is extremely difficult to preserve.

2. Argan oil

Argan tree fruitsArgan oil is extremely rare because the Argania Spinosa trees that produce the fruit from which it is produced only grow in a specific part of Morocco, between Marrakesh and Essaouira, by Berber women’s cooperatives. The process to produce the oil is extremely time consuming and labor intensive, and it takes the fruit of 8 argan trees to produce a single liter of the oil. Another factor that drives up the cost of argan is that it is very susceptible to damage from exposure to heat and light, and is also prone to rancidity. It must be stored properly, but even so, has a shelf life of only about a year, unless other stabilizing and antioxidant ingredients are added. However, many women will say the price and the effort are worth it. It is incredibly beneficial for helping to support skin elasticity and maintain skin hydration, is also known to help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as scarring. It is also known to help aid in sun protection and help the skin recover from sun damage, though it is not a substitute for sunscreen.

3. Prickly pear seed oil

Prickly pear seed oil (Opuntia ficus indica) has quickly gained favor among natural skincare enthusiasts for its gentle astringent (tightening) properties, high mineral content, and high antioxidant content (it contains more Vitamin E than other carrier oils) which help to neutralize free radical damage and protect delicate skin cells from oxidative and environmental damage. It is also known to help soothe and improve the appearance of acne-prone skin, and balance oil production. While prickly pears themselves aren’t uncommon (they grow abundantly in Mexico and the southwestern US but have have also migrated elsewhere in the US and overseas), the high price comes from the fact that the oil is cold pressed from the tiny seeds, and we can’t ignore the fact that the cactus’ spines make the process slower!

4. Retinaldehyde

Retinaldehyde–also known as retinal–is one of the Vitamin A derivatives that’s commonly used in professional skincare products as an alternative to less expensive forms of Vitamin A such as retinol palmitate or stronger forms like retinoic acid. It is a preferred ingredient because it is less inflammatory and gentler to the skin when applied topically, and has been studied for its benefits for skin issues such as acne, rosacea, and premature aging. What makes it expensive is that it is expensive to produce, and it is also difficult to keep stable once bottled. Its benefits are known to degrade quickly which makes formulation more laborious and expensive, and though more stable forms of the ingredient have been synthesized, all that has done is raise the cost on the ingredient itself.

Are people are more likely to buy products with expensive skincare ingredients?

This is a question that many of my Create Your Skincare Professional Edition students ponder, when deciding what ingredients to include in their formulations. In general, I think that yes, people across all markets are more inclined to buy products made with expensive skincare ingredients, even if the product itself doesn’t contain very much of it. Once an ingredient becomes famous for common skin complaints such as dark spots, scarring, fine lines, or wrinkles–it does seem like everyone wants to try it and will pay extra for it.

But do products made with these expensive skincare ingredients really work better?

It really depends on several factors. First, you have to consider what is the quality and purity of the ingredient? Is it the real deal? Has it been sourced, processed, and stored properly? How fresh is it? Is it the right species of the plant that’s known for the purported benefits?

If it’s been cut, diluted, or otherwise adulterated (which unfortunately does happen), it’s not going to provide as much benefit. It also depends on what else happens to be in the product–how much of this “star” ingredient is actually in it, and are there other ingredients present that might compete with it for absorption?

Lastly, it depends on the person. Not every ingredient works for every person, so unfortunately, many of the people who buy products with these star ingredients won’t receive the desired benefits, not because the ingredient or product doesn’t work–just because that person’s unique needs require something other than that ingredient. What’s great about plants is that many of them contain similar benefits, so we can often experience many of the same benefits of a rare and exotic plant by using a more common one that’s less scarce, easier to harvest/produce, and therefore, less money.

Often the price of a skincare product has nothing to do with the ingredients at all.

Typically when a commercial skincare product is designed, the formulator will pick one star ingredient, and focus the packaging, advertising, etc on that ingredient, but in truth, the product itself often contains a very low percentage of that ingredient. Sometimes that’s OK. In the instance of essential oils or other potent extracts or actives, too high a concentration is not necessary, and can even cause harm.

Honestly though, I don’t think a star ingredient is enough of a reason for someone to shell out a ton of money if the rest of the product doesn’t also deliver in quality. In these cases, pricing has more to do with packaging, positioning, how/to whom it’s sold, marketing, etc–an example would be how a mass produced product with a celebrity endorser vs a small indie brand. The big brand with the celebrity’s endorsement usually contains mostly water, synthetic emollients, then functional ingredients like emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives, and a very tiny amount of the star ingredient. It’s expensive because of the advertising campaign, packaging, etc.

On the flip side, an artisan or indie brand might make a product that contains no water at all, and high quality plant-based emollients with a very low concentration of functional ingredients like emulsifiers and stabilizers, but without the celebrity endorser and expensive ad campaign and simple packaging–and both products might cost the same.

So I encourage everyone to read labels and look for quality over quantity! And even consider making your own products so you control your costs, and your ingredients.

Do you want to learn how to make top quality natural skincare products or start a skincare business?

I can teach you that! In my Create Your Skincare Professional Edition course, I teach ingredient selection in terms of purity, quality, and efficacy extensively. I also teach you how to choose ingredients purposefully, so that they are smart choices for the person you’re making products for, as well as for the formulation as a whole. And I also teach you how to brand and market your product line based on your skincare business goals. Our next semester starts soon!

Click HERE to learn more, enroll, or schedule a call today.

*Image 1 credit Loyal Naturals, via Wikimedia Commons. Image 2 credit Aaron Patterson.

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