This is another epic guest post from my amazing (and funny, and smart, and talented) skin care correspondent, Svea. And good news! She’s started her own blog, so check it out here.
Many of you guys have been asking about gentle face cleansing alternatives lately, so I just decided to write an article about it. Here it is:
You probably know that most commercial cleansers contain surfactants or emulsifiers - which is pretty much the same from a chemical point of view. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), soap and even sugar tensides (a common ingredient in many organic cleansers) strip the natural lipid layer from the skin’s surface and destroy its protective barrier. In other words, they are simply too harsh for sensitive skin types like acne skin.
I think that‘s the reason why you are looking for a safe and effective natural way to wash your face! The good news is that there are lots of home remedies you can try! It’s fun to do your own “spa treatment,” especially one that is beneficial! Not only are many of the natural “cleansers“ mentioned below quite inexpensive compared to most store bought stuff, they are also environmentally friendly, even after they go down the drain (apart from the cotton pads, of course …)
However, none of these natural face wash methods will make your skin feel as “squeaky“ clean as those surfactant-rich cleansing foams, creams and gels from your local supermarket. And that‘s a positive point! If your skin feels squeaky, your cleanser is probably too “strong” for you. Many people think their skin is not clean enough after washing it the natural way – but it is! I swear!
Acne or no acne, switching to a gentle, natural cleansing routine means switching to something that it is NOT provoking inflammations and something that will NOT leave your face feeling tight, dry or looking flaky. You want something gentle for your skin, something that keeps it hydrated and minimizes the amount of moisturizer you need to use.
A gentle cleansing routine won‘t cure your acne, eczema or other skin problems like a magic potion, but you can improve your skin‘s condition a lot by NOT slashing any more chemicals on it every single day. Treat your skin as gently as you can and never rub, pull or tug your skin!
Above all you really don’t want to over-wash your face! It could be making your skin worse. Once or twice a day is enough. To avoid intolerances or even allergic reactions, always make a patch test on the inside of your arm before you apply stuff to your face – even if it‘s mild and natural stuff!
Okay, I hear you guys! I‘ll stop preaching and come to the point! These are the single cleansing methods:
So you want your own individual look? Try a full body clay mask!
Clay draws toxins from the skin and can calm inflammations. You cannot only use it as a face mask, but also as a daily face wash. There are different types of clay: red, green or white clay, ghassoul (also called rhassoul) or healing earth. You can mix clay with water or other funny stuff like aloe vera gel, organic floral waters, organic full fat yogurt, kefir or buttermilk. It‘s simple, just like cooking. Get creative! However, please remember not to add too many different ingredients all at once! Try only one thing at a time to find out how your skin reacts to it. Apply the mixture to your face, leave it on for just a few minutes, then rinse. Don‘t let it dry!!!
This cleansing method works especially well for oily or combination skins, however depending on which color of clay you use, all skin types can benefit.
ghassoul / rhassoul (moroccan lava clay), green clay, bentonite clay, kaolin clay or Fuller’s
white clay, red clay
dull, tired, or devitalized skin:
If your skin tends to be dry, add a few drops of oil. To enhance antibacterial properties, try to add a drop of lavender, tee tree or laurel oil, a teaspoon of manuka honey or a splash of apple cider vinegar.
You can use clay as a mask for body and hair as well! Ghassoul is a fab hair wash alternative: applied as a mask, it strips the hair of chemical build up and other residues, absorbs oiliness almost like a sponge, makes your hair shine and adds volume! Don‘t massage it too much into your hair to avoid split ends.
Don‘t try clay if you are allergic to nickel. Clay may contain traces of it.
2. Orris Root Powder
Orris root = Iris germanica, Iris florentina, Iris pallida
Orris root powder is really moisturizing, very gentle on the skin and smells just like violets! Mix with water (or yogurt, aloe vera, floral waters, … ) and apply in the same way as the clay mixtures.
You can use it as a tooth powder as well! It might be a good alternative for those, who struggle with a severe intolerance or allergy to fluoride, SLS or mint oil (in the past, it has indeed been used as a toothpaste).
Depending on where you live, orris root powder might be difficult to find. You can try to browse online shops selling herbs or ask in a pharmacy for it.
For those living in the States, you will find it by clicking here.
3. Chickpea Flour
If you have very oily skin, chickpea flour might be good for you! Mix with water, floral waters, yoghurt, … and apply in the same way as clay or orris root powder.
You can buy it in most Asian or health food stores!
4. Organic Full-Fat Yogurt, Curd, Kefir or Buttermilk
Yogurt, curd, kefir and buttermilk are the most natural surfactant-free alternatives to cleansing milk you can probably ever get your hands on! It‘s not just emulsified fat and water: Lactic acid harmonizes with your skin’s acidity, dissolves lipids and helps to remove dead skin cells.
If possible, use organic (non-pasteurized) milk products. Massage gently into your skin, avoid the eye area and leave on for a few minutes. Then rinse.
As a general rule of thumb, yoghurt and curd are a little more gentle to the skin than kefir and buttermilk. Especially buttermilk might be too strong for very sensitive skin types due to its high amount of lactic acid. For the same reason, it‘s a great exfoliator!
5. Cotton Pad and Oil
Apply just a few drops of oil (jojoba, olive, argan, almond, apricot kernel, evening primrose, …) on a moistened cotton pad and gently wipe across your face without rubbing. Splash with water afterwards.
If you aren‘t sure which oil could be great for your skin type, read the oils article first.
6. Mashed Fruit or Vegetables as a Cleanser or Face Mask
This is no recipe idea! Fact is that papaya pulp, mashed avocados, cucumbers, mangos or bananas are fantastic skin cleansers. Fresh fruit contains enzymes which will remove dead skin cells, clear pores and resolve excess oil. I think most recipes below are too complicated to become an every day solution, but you can still consider them as a mask or treatment every once in a while! Be careful though, not every skin type can deal with fruit acid. Make a patch test first!
A few ideas:
Oily skin / Combination skin:
- Cucumber juice works extremely well as a skin cleanser. Due to its cooling effect it helps to soothe and soften the skin. Apply some cucumber juice mixed with raw organic milk onto your face. Use a cotton pad!
- Papaya fruit is a rich source of nutrients such as carotenoids, vitamin C, B vitamins, enzymes and minerals. Papaya pulp also contains a variety of phytochemicals, including polyphenols: Massage your face very gently with a papaya slice or mix papaya pulp with raw organic honey or rose water and apply it as a face mask for 15-20 minutes.
- Lemon juice is a natural exfoliant, skin brightener and anti-infective, whereas the starch from (sweet) potatoes will absorb excess oil: Boil some sweet (or white) potatoes, mash them, let them cool down and add a few drops of lemon into the mixture. Squeeze a real lemon! Do not use any ready-bought lemon juice gunk! Apply, leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse off with water.
- Mix some lemon juice (from a real lemon) with raw organic (or manuka) honey and cinnamon. For some, it works extremely well to fade hyper-pigmentation marks. Leave on for half an hour, then rinse.
- Bananas are rich in vitamin A, B and E and a good source of iron, magnesium and potassium. A fresh mashed banana facial can be great for your skin!
- Mangos can have a nice effect on your skin as well. Mangos are rich in vitamin-A and rich in antioxidants. Use in the same way as papaya!
- Packed with healthy fats and phytonutrients, avocados and olives offer remarkable benefits for dry skin: Mix avocado pulp with olive oil to make a paste. Rinse off after 20 minutes.
7. The Oil-Cleansing-Method
I‘m not a big fan of the oil-cleansing-method. For me it wasn’t great, to say the least. The first time I tried this method, I ended up with cystic acne. It was too harsh on my skin because of rubbing too much, because of using the wrong or too much oil and because of the very hot water. That‘s why I don’t think it‘s suitable for sensitive or inflamed acne skin, so please be careful!
If, after all, you are still longing to try it, grab your favorite oil and apply some of it on your dry face in a circular motion. Use your fingertips. To avoid irritation, massage your skin in the most gentle way possible – or not at all, especially in the most inflamed areas. Massaging with oil can be very stressful for your skin and might spread acne bacteria all over your face. Just let the oil soak for about 20-30 minutes. Excess sebum will be removed anyhow and even some impurities might pop out. You don‘t even have to use olive and castor oil as described in most online articles. Castor oil might remove too much natural sebum from your skin, so your skin might produce even more sebum to protect itself. Try jojoba, hemp or grape seed oil, if you have oily skin. For dry skin, macadamia, canola or olive oil should work fine. Then, instead of using a very hot wet cloth to remove the excess oil, use a warm one pressing it gently on your face without rubbing. Repeat a few times. Don‘t use microfiber cloths, but only soft muslin or cotton cloths.
8. Baking Soda
Dilute a pinch of baking soda in A LOT OF water and splash your face with it. Rinse thoroughly with clean water afterwards. Don‘t use too much baking soda and never let the baking-soda-water dry on your skin! The granules are kind of abrasive when dry.
By the way, the naturally occurring chemical compound sodium bicarbonate (baking soda = NaHCO3 = sodium, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen) can clean anything from your face to your pans and pots to your whole household. Give it a try!
9. Raw Organic Honey
Raw organic honey is an extremely mild cleanser with antibacterial and moisturizing benefits! Simply apply, leave on for a few minutes up to half an hour, rinse. Be careful with your hair!
Tracy blogged about manuka honey some time ago. Here are the links:
10. Self-Made All-in-One Cleansing Milk, Moisturizer and Body Lotion
Making your own natural skin care is a fabulous way to take care of yourself, save money and have fun all at the same time. Moreover, you can avoid harmful chemicals and other substances your skin might be reacting to and still have the advantages of a creamy and moisturizing product!
All you need is a good oil, some water and a little bit of liquid lecithin. Lecithin is an emulsifier which is naturally occurring in egg yolks and oils (avocado oil contains a lot of it) and is really kind to the skin. Even my own crazy skin gets along with it, although it easily freaks out with any other emulsifier. You can buy it in some online shops, for example,
- 0.7 oz (20 ml) organic floral water (use it as it is!) or aloe vera gel (use it as it is!) or mineral water (boiled and cooled down) or distilled water (if you find boiling water is too much work!)
- ca. 1 scoop liquid lecithin (you don‘t have to be too precise with this)
- 0.35 oz (10 ml) cold-pressed organic oil (jojoba, grape seed, apricot kernel … ) or an oil mix
You can vary the amount of oil according to your skin type: 20% – 40% work quite well.
Sterilize a 1oz (30ml) glass bottle and any other type of equipment you might need (measuring utensils, spoons etc.). If you don‘t want to sterilize them with alcohol, boil them in a pot of water for at least half an hour and let them dry properly. Pour the ingredients into the bottle, put on the lid, shake, and it‘s done! If the oil and water components should separate after a while, just shake the flask all over again to re-mix. If that does not help, add another few drops of lecithin. You can also add a drop of your favorite essential oil, such as lavender, manuka, chamomile, neroli, jasmine and so on.
Prepare only very small amounts, store in the fridge and use within two weeks (otherwise you‘ll have to use alcohol or preservatives).
If you suffer from very dry patches you could try to add a pinch/drop of ectoin, allantoin, d- panthenol or lactic acid (online-shop/pharmacy).
Many people take the 3 steps of cleansing, toning and moisturizing as a rule to be set in stone. In my opinion the benefits of “toning“ as it is generally – and commercially - understood are questionable, but here are some very gentle alternatives for those who like to have another refreshing kick right after cleansing!
Yes, water! I‘m not kidding! Chlorine or limescale are a common cause of itchy, red, dry and flaky skin. So if your tap water happens to be very limy, try to use mineral, filtered (or at least boiled) water to splash your face. This might make a huge difference for some people!
And, of course, water is a very natural and genuine toner! Guaranteed without perfume, essential oils and other unnecessary accessories.
12. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is an excellent choice, if you want to tone and hydrate your skin at the same time. Add one or two drops of oil to it to keep the moisture inside your skin! Aloe vera speeds the healing process and acts as an anti inflammatory to calm down your skin. It is also a must have home first aid remedy: apply to burns, slow healing wounds, grazes, bites and stings!
However, aloe vera products available in health food stores are not always equal in quality. Be sure that the aloe vera gel you purchase is organic and certified by the International Aloe Science Council (IASC). This label guarantees that your aloe vera gel is naturally rich in active polysaccharides and free from all kinds of skin-irritating stuff like pesticides and so on.
Nevertheless, make a patch test first, if you have never tried aloe vera before! Some people are allergic to it.
13. Organic Herbal Distillates / Floral Waters
Organic floral waters, also called hydrosols, are very kind on the skin (at least if you are not allergic to a specific flower or plant) and help to regenerate the skin‘s natural acid mantle after cleansing. There are lots of different choices: rose water, hamamelis water, orange blossom water, lavender water, chamomile water, thyme water, sandalwood water …
Floral waters are traditionally used in Ayurveda for toning the skin. Produced at high temperatures, they are somewhat acidic (with a pH between 5-6) and tend to inhibit bacterial growth. They are not however sterile, but a fresh product, just like food, and should be kept refrigerated. Always buy floral waters in a spray bottle (because of the same reason). Spray liberally over face and body after cleansing as a toner or throughout the day to refresh and hydrate your skin.
However, be careful to choose the right type of floral water! Many hydrosols on the market are just water with a small amount of essential oils added and are some kind of a cheat! Make sure to choose a floral water made from a distillation as this extraction method retains the properties of the plant. Have a look at the Latin (or INCI) name. True floral waters will be listed as one ingredient, e.g. ‘rosa damascena distillate‘ or ‘rosa damascena water‘ for example (rose water). Water and essential oil blends are listed as two separate ingredients (e.g. aqua, rosa damascena oil). Never use floral waters containing alcohol, as they will dry out your skin.
14. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a natural disinfectant with antibacterial properties. However, raw, natural, unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar has some kind of “sediment,” called the “mother”, in it. Don’t be scared – that strange substance is good stuff and contains all the skin benefits! Go for it!
Apple cider vinegar should always be diluted with some water so that it is much gentler on the skin! You can use it straight as a spot treatment though. To use it as a toner, mix one part apple cider vinegar with 8-10 parts (mineral) water and apply it on a cotton pad.
Natural Face Washes and Makeup
Personally, I do not wear a lot of makeup. Just a few dips of concealer (usually a mineral concealer) and some mascara every once in a while when I want to get all dolled up, but not on an everyday basis.
To get makeup off, the cotton-pad-and-oil method works really well. It‘s simple, but effective! Manuka honey mixed with oil (equal parts) is another great cleansing option, especially if you want to remove makeup. Even a yoghurt-clay-mix might do the trick, but you should leave it on as a mask for at least 10 minutes before washing it off. Ghassoul has an enormous cleansing strength and works almost like a sponge absorbing oil, dirt and bacteria at the same time.
Tracy did a nice video about how to remove makeup the natural way:
You see, there are many great options out there if you want to cleanse your skin using all natural ingredients!
So, in the end, which cleansing method is the best one? The truth is there is no single, perfect cleansing method. It is a case of trial and error to find the right method that really suits you. On the other hand, confusing as it is, you should never experiment too many different ways to cleanse your face at the same time! I know it‘s tempting! I know! We all are impatient and want to see immediate results. I‘m not different. However, your skin needs time to adapt and does not like to be confronted with too many different substances - even natural ones – at frequent intervals. So please don‘t overload it!
That‘s all. I hope that helps! Take care, lovelies!
What does your typical face-wash-ritual look like? Have you ever tried one of the above mentioned methods? Please let us know what your experiences have been so far! Let‘s talk about any kind of face-cleansing-stuff you are using, chemicals or natural stuff, and how you get along with it!