After lots of trial and error, lots of listening to my body, and meeting two curly-haired Europeans who are very important to me, I've come up with a routine that works for me. Everyone is different but hopefully this will act as a guide for those seeking.
We've all seen those face wash commercials where the beautiful girl is suds-ing up her face and feels all silky smooth after she pats her skin dry, then applies brand-name moisturizer, all of which is supposed to help prevent acne - help dry out or clear up those dreaded little bumps and wipe away all the oil. But I learned a long time ago not to trust everything that comes on TV.
Sure, acne surfaces due to skin glands producing too much oil but why do they do this? The more you wash your face and strip your skin of it's natural oils, the more these glands will produce even more oil, clogging your pores. It's important to allow your natural oils to rule - not brand-name products.
First of all - if it's not organic or natural - meaning the ingredients in the product are free from added dyes, fragrances and synthetic materials - why on earth would you want to put that on your body?!?!!? You know your skin is porous and that anything you put on it will seep into your body, and therefore your muscles and every cell in your body, right? (remember all that "the hip bone's connected to the - thigh-bone" stuff?) Now I say this, but unfortunately the beauty industry is not regulated so what you think might be "natural" might not be at all. Ingredient-reading is the best solution. You probably also don't want to buy products that have been tested on animals - if it's NATURAL you shouldn't need to test it on innocent creatures! This link can provide some good resources for toxin-less information. http://www.ewg.org/
My two very special, intelligent, curly-haired European friends - who have never met, by the way - both exclaimed when they saw me washing my face with soap or soapy-type facial cleanser many moons ago, "Why do you wash your face with soap?! That's so bad for your skin!" Noticing their milky soft skin and being frightened to death by their reactions, I vowed to take all of their beauty tips from then on. They obviously were equipped with a wisdom much greater than I.
I'll start with the night-time routine first. You should wash the daily grime off your face by choosing a cleansing milk or cleansing lotion of some sort. Sudsy-type products or any kind of soap typically dry our your skin and you have to put on twice the amount of moisturizer to make up for it. The more you use dehydrating products, the more your skin searches to find oil to moisturize it (see intro paragraph). I use Aubrey's Vegecol with Aloe Facial Cleansing Lotion for sensitive skin. More about this on make-up removal, below.
You could finish it off with a toner to restore your pH level. There are two types of toners - one with astringent and one without. Astringents (of which witch hazel is a natural one) has drying properties so in the winter, I tend not to subject my face to such harshness but astringent-based toners are better for those with oily skin. When I do use them, my go-to is Ragged Robin Herbal Farm - either the Lavender Facial Toner with witchhazel for oily skin or just their Rosewater Toner for normal skin.
In the morning you should only splash warm water on your face. It's also not a bad idea to end with a splash of cold to close off the pores - which is also a great way to shock yourself awake in the morning. No soap. This took a while for me to get used to at first, because I was addicted to that tight crispy clean feeling. But now that I've been soap-free for over 10 years, I would NEVER go back, as I realize I was completely dehydrating my skin.
Mascara. I'm not going to spend much time in this post about makeup - I'm really no expert and since I don't wear it that often, I haven't tested out the ones that might be the healthiest on my skin but I do want to talk about the removal of eye-makeup. Out of anything that I put on, I tend to use Mascara the most. If I'm performing in a show, I want my eyes to pop a little more, so on goes the gooey black stuff. I use Dr. Hauschka Black Volume masacara. This retails for about $30. Why do I pay so much for Mascara, you ask? Have you ever gone to bed without removing the stuff and woke up in the morning to find it literally coming out of your sinuses? Back up to my previous point about not putting toxic products on or in your body. When you close your eyes at night with makeup on your eyes, you are just inviting those toxins to go directly into your bloodstream. Have fun hawking up a black phlegm ball in the morning. Hauschka products are unique in that you can't find 2 stores that sell Hauschka products within like 20 miles of each other. The store I buy it from also gives a $10 reward if you buy something during the month of your birth. Since I wear mascara so seldom, I literally go once a year on my birthday, buy the stuff and I'm good to go!
Make-up remover. The above-mentioned face-cleansing lotion is the only stuff I've found, that when applying with a cotton ball to closed eyes, does not irritate or sting my eyes. Every other product I've used, even if it says, "make-up remover" burns not only my eyes and makes me tear up, but my skin as well, leaving it raw and red. Find the product that works best for your skin, doesn't make you cry and leaves you feeling soft.
Facial moisturizer. Even when I "wash" with only water in the morning, I still apply a nice moisturizer. My winter go-to is Indian Meadow Herbals - Love your Face Cream - Made in Maine. This has lots of thick oils including coconut oil and I find that I really need it to keep hydrated in the cold months.
In the summer, I might use Aubrey's Vegecol with Aloe Moisturizer for sensitive skin. However, when going outside at all, whether it be for a run or even doing errands, you'll always want some kind of sun-protectant. For that I use a product by Badger: Damascus Rose with Lavender and Chamomile - Antioxidant Face Sunscreen - Broad spectrum spf 16.
Mask. Once a week or so if you feel like you need a deep moisturizer or if you simply want a deep clean, a mask might be necessary. Now I'm not talking those typical green or thick white masks you may have seen on commercials either - some of my "masks" literally fade right into your skin and you can't even tell anything is on your face! In fact, one "mask" I have you can actually wear all day, and cover it up with makeup and it just acts as a super-duper moisturizer, but you have to remove it before bed, or else it could clog your pores. Go to your local Health Food store and ask about masks and talk about your specific skin type.
Body. Again, for the entire body, if you use a product with too many drying chemicals, you'll be scratching your @$$ all day. My go-to is Nature's Gate Scent-free Moisturizing Lotion, or any Kiss My Face moisturizer will do. If you want to go Ayurvedic on us, try oil. Ayurvedic science recommends lightly scrubbing your skin with a loofah, massaging your entire body with some kind of natural oil (coconut or jojoba oils work fine - I always have almond oil on hand since the scent is so mild) and then taking a warm shower. Massaging with oil before allows the hot steamy water to beat into your skin more and prevents the oil from getting on any clothes or furniture afterwards.
Body Soap. Dr. Brommers Almond or Peppermint Soap. Sometimes you really do need soap to get rid of dirty bodies. However, unless you've been rolling around in the mud or as an athlete, sweat constantly every day, you really only need to clean the bits! If my arms and legs aren't dirty, and especially if I just scrubbed with my loofah, there's no need to strip your entire body of its natural oils every time either. Be careful where you put that Peppermint soap though...talk about a wake-up call!
Shampoo & Conditioner. I change up my shampoo and conditioner often so can't recommend anything that I've used consistently. Again, I tend to go towards natural products with few ingredients. The less ingredients in my products and food, the better.
There are just a few other tips I'd like to share for great-looking skin. Meditate. Light will pour out of you and others will wonder why you're glowing all the time. Cut out smoking - and drinking (too much). I have observed smokers and drinkers 10 - 20 - 30 years older than me and it's amazing how much their skin has deteriorated compared to non-smokers and drinkers of the same age. Eat plant-based foods, cutting out fat and excessive amounts of sugar. Why have your body work so hard to get rid of all the toxins in your body when it can just relax if you're eating healthy food? Finally, for more great tips, you might just want to check out all the advice that Kris Carr wrote in her recent post on Thriving with Cancer. Congrats, Kris!