Updated: Apr 14
I’m a skincare freak. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a fickle face for as long as I can remember. In my desire to cure the curse of adult acne, I’ve turned to every remedy in the book. In treating hormonal breakouts to painful cysts and pesky blackheads, I’ve popped, scrubbed, and concealed it all. Pharmaceuticals and prescription topicals would work for a while, but ultimately prove to be a flimsy Band-Aid that wouldn’t stick. Then, I’d be right back where I started: defeated, with my self worth low enough to do the limbo.
Finally, it all came to head when, during a long stint of travel, my face erupted into painful clusters of inflamed, unsightly whiteheads that would not quit. I realized I needed to swap my punishing skincare routine for a more nourishing approach, and 9 months later, my sensitive skin has never been happier — or more clear.
I have combination skin, meaning my skin is not oily or dry, but both. Yes, my face is all at once a varied landscape of shiny hills and dry, flaky valleys. Therefore, I’m careful to not expose my skin to anything that will irritate, stress, or dry it out. Contrary to popular belief, when we punish our skin by drying it out with foaming cleansers or harsh acne-fighting products, we’re actually telling our oil (sebum) glands to work overtime for the purpose of re-moisturizing and re-balancing the skin. Wash your skin with soap in the morning, and you’ll be blotting by breakfast.
Start instead by splashing your face with lukewarm water in the morning. Then turn your faucet as cold as it goes, and do the same. This will not only wake you up and reduce any puffiness and inflammation, but also tighten your pores, increase circulation, and prevent breakouts for glowing skin all day. Remember that using hot water will strip your skin of its natural oils, just like soap.
Before applying my makeup, I moisturize with H.W. Apothecary Rejuvenation Oil. I use 2-4 drops on my fingertips, applying this little bit across my whole face, massaging it in. I adore this healing potion of rose, frankincense, jojoba oils, made by Dr. Ashley Murphy using 660 roses. When I learned she developed this formula to heal her own adult acne, I was sold. Unlike other oils I’ve used, this one instantly soaks in, drenching my dry and not-so-dry spots alike for a dewy glow.
Before you leave your bathroom mirror, don’t forget your affirmations. Looking directly into your left eye, say “I have beautiful, clear, radiant skin,” at least three times. Change up the words as often as you like so that you’re always telling yourself exactly what you need to hear. I used to cry while doing this, because it felt so far from true. But now, I do it with a smirk on my face and a twinkle in my eye because, well, it works.
Throughout the Day
I’d be lying if I told you my clear skin has come without some audits to my diet and lifestyle. But it’s not all as bad as you’d think. For instance, I used to think I could never give up cheese. But now, I’ve found so much pleasure in tasty nut milks and cashew cheese, that I rarely crave dairy—a proven acne-causing culprit.
I’ve swapped my morning coffee for an ancient Ayurvedic liver-cleansing ritual of hot water with lemon. This boosts my hydration for the day and gets me in the habit of drinking as much water as I can all day long. I don’t keep track, because who has time for that? But I’ll tell you, my hot tip for drinking more water throughout the day is this: get yourself a cup with a straw. When I switched from a water bottle I had to unscrew to a lidded cup I could sip all day, it changed my life. Suddenly I was not only more hydrated, but more awaken and able to focus. All that, and a less shiny face!
Perhaps most effectively, these days I also steer clear of sugar in all forms, including fruit. But before I lose you, let me explain that I have found sugar to be my #1 acne trigger. As far as I can tell from my experience and the holistic healers I’ve consulted, sugar strains my liver and causes inflammation via an overproduction of hormones in my system, resulting in deep, ugly, painful zits. It happens like clockwork. For me, the less I indulge, the less I crave it, and that has made all the difference in the world for my skin.
Much like the morning, my evening skincare ritual has become shockingly simple. My face cleanser of choice: water. Yes, I remove my full on face of makeup each night before bed with a washcloth and some lukewarm water. The key is to use a clean, fresh washcloth every day by keeping a bunch of clean ones on hand. This way, you’re not reintroducing yesterday’s bacteria to your face every night just before bedtime. The washcloth also gently exfoliates dead skin cells that can otherwise clog pores.
Next, I apply another 2-4 drops of the Rejuvenation Oil. Its slightly warming, almost tingling sensation reminds me that it’s working its magic.
I finish by dabbing H.W. Apothecary’s Witches Flying Moisture Balm on the dry areas around my nose and eyes, then to my lips. This herb-green, organic salve of mugwort, wormwood, cedarwood, myrrh, beeswax, and vitamin E is not only a moisture remedy for my dry, itchy skin, but for pain and muscle spasms alike. It’s also an ideal herbal nightcap for your skin, offering intuitive, calming, and dream-inducing properties.
I like to think of this balm’s name as a nod to the origin of the witch’s broom—the handle of which would be used to apply psychotropic medicine to a witch’s nether regions, contributing to the alleged sensation (or hallucination) of flying on a broomstick. While the salve’s intended application may be left to interpretation, I like to think of it as a “choose your own adventure” scenario.
Last but not least, mind your bedtime. My journey to healing my hormones and my skin has taught me that the blue light from our screens can influence our ability to get to sleep and trigger the overproduction of hormones that cause acne! The beauty of limiting screen time at night is deeper sleep and an earlier bedtime, allowing you to get the full 8 hours your body needs to function at its highest and best.
Once or Twice a Week
My go-to ritual for clear, supple skin is a Blue Vervain facial steam. I call upon this remedy 1-2 times a week or whenever I feel a breakout coming on. Turns out, it’s fantastic for opening your pores and reducing inflammation.
How to do it:
Remove any makeup. Fill a pot with about 2 inches of water and heat to a simmer. Add a tablespoon of dried Blue Vervain and hover your face a safe distance above the pot. Drape a towel over your head to allow the steam to concentrate underneath.
I find a Blue Vervain facial steam will reduce the severity of an oncoming breakout or keep it from surfacing altogether! Breathe in the sweet grassy smell of the Vervain, and afterward, splash your face with cool water to close your pores.
Remember that if you are struggling with acne, you are not alone. Whichever road you take on your journey, I hope you will explore the science and magic of plant medicine like I did. Thank you to the Health Witch for encouraging me to stop punishing my skin, and start nourishing it.
Written and photographed by Nicole Christopher, The Travel Witch.