Oil Cleansing with Coconut Oil

Hi friends — thanks for bearing with me through yesterday’s Debbie Downer post. The sun did end up coming out (both literally and metaphorically) and I’m in a much, much better mood today. In fact, my bad mood was pretty eradicated by around 8 PM last night. I’m about 83% positive it’s thanks to the combination with getting dinner with my good friend Reema, and the fact that I own a ukulele. Seriously, impossible to stay emo when strumming one of those things.

Heh. Also, I think generally any song by Alan Menken is pretty much a guaranteed mood killer (the song in the video above, for those who can’t watch, is from the movie Tangled.

Anyway, my mood lifted, I’m back to deliver on my promise to talk about my recent experiments with the oil cleansing method.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the term, oil cleansing is the idea that you can use oil — the kind you cook with — to clean your face. There’s a much more detailed explanation if you click the link above, but the general idea is that man-made cleansers actually strip our faces of ALL oils, even the good kinds. So then our skin overcompensates by producing MORE oil because it thinks our skin is dry, which leads to oily, or combination, complexions.

A little bit about my skin history: I’m actually extremely fortunate in that I’ve never really had to deal with “acne” as most people think of it. When I was in high school, my version of a breakout consisted of one, maybe two, pimples forming on my chin or nose. Of course, I had plenty of other issues to deal with in high school, but I know I’m lucky in that my skin was not one of them. Now that I’m an adult, my skin tends to stray to the drier side (especially in my cheeks) and it’s pretty much the same story — a stray pimple every once in a while, no big thang.

That said, it’s not like I’ve had magically perfect skin all my life either. “Acne” as we tend to think of it has never been a problem, but I’ve had issues of my own. I’ve always had a propensity for EXTREME redness in my cheeks. Seriously, like, most people’s cheeks get red when they’re exerting themselves, or maybe when it’s cold out, but my cheeks are ALWAYS red. When it’s cold, when it’s hot, when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m trying on an unflattering outfit in the dressing room… red, red, red. And, in addition to that, I often get small bumps on my cheeks as well. Sometimes they’re flesh-colored, sometimes they’re pink or red. They’re not whiteheads or pimples, and thus not “poppable” (heh, gross), but seem to exist purely for the sake of annoyance.

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This photo probably doesn’t provide the most accurate picture, but it is the only makeup-free closeup shot of my face I have in my entire Flickr photostream. You can see some of the redness and a few of the little bumps if you look closely (though you may not want to look TOO closely, ha!).

So in my ongoing quest to rid myself of my bumpy, red cheeks, I have pretty much tried ALL THE PRODUCTS. Seriously. Neutrogena, Biore, Ponds, Clearisil, Clean & Clear, BeautyMint, Clarisonic, Mary Kay, Fresh… and every single cleanser sample that I’ve received in my BirchBox over the past 6 months. Some certainly worked better than others, but none seemed to fully eradicate the problem. So last year when I started freaking out about skin cancer being a “young person’s cancer”, and went to the dermatologist, I finally had some light shed on the situation.

“Looks like you’ve got a touch of rosacea,” he said casually as he wrote out my bill.
“OHHHHHHHHHH,” said my brain. “Of course! Sense is made.” (We’ll ignore the part where I went on to look up rosacea on WebMD and it informed me that it’s a condition that affects people over the age of 30, lending further credence to the theory that I’m actually an old woman trapped in a 20-something body. Or just that I’m wise beyond my years. Pick one?)

So he crammed a dozen trial-sized tubes of, uh, rosacea cream? in my hands and told me I could leave my co-pay with the receptionist. Which I, in turn, dumped into a bathroom drawer went I got home and promptly forgot about.

Flash forward to about a week ago when my skin started TOTALLY FREAKING OUT (perhaps due in part to having experimented with yet another new cleansing product? Who knows?), and in a panic I started digging through my bathroom drawers in search of something that would help. I found the cream and started to use it in accordance with the directions — a thin layer on the affected areas twice a day.

Now. You’re probably wondering at this point what this entire digression has to do with oil cleansing, eh? Well, no to worry, we’ve arrived at the tie-in! See, the rosacea cream stuff (azelaic acid) helps with the blood vessels that run close to the skin, giving me the super red polka dotted look, but it is also SUPER drying. I’ve already mentioned that my skin tends to stray to the dry side anyway, so I wanted to find a cleansing method that wouldn’t exacerbate things. Pretty much every single cleanser I own seemed to make things worse, even when using moisturizer, so I decided to go back to the drawing board.

Enter: Oil Cleansing.

So the principals of oil cleansing are very simple. You pick your oil and massage it into your face dry for a minute. Then, cover your face with a hot washcloth, let the steam do its thing, and wipe off. Easy as (coconut) pie!

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Most guides I found online recommend a combination of castor oil and an additional oil, like olive, sunflower, or almond. But of course, I wanted to be a rebel, and I was also too lazy to go out and buy castor oil, and I had literally JUST ordered a new jar of extra virgin coconut oil off Amazon (to use as moisturizer). So I’ve been using that instead. Fair warning, I have read some stuff about coconut oil being pore clogging. Though I’ve also read it has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, so I’m not really sure how it can be both? But either way, all I know is that in the past week of using it, I haven’t seen any blackheads or new pimples pop up.

So my consensus after a week of doing this? I might just be a convert. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to traditional cleaners (let’s be honest, I’m a product whore) but I can attest that my skin gets clean AND it feels softer than it has in YEARS. And whether it’s due to the rosacea medication, the coconut oil, or perhaps a bit of both, the bumps on my cheeks are almost non-existent already. And while my cheeks are still quite pink, I am noticing a distinct reduction of the redness. Hooray!

If you don’t believe that washing your face with oil can actually clean your skin, I challenge you to try it out just once. You can do it the traditional way, with the castor/olive oil combo, or you can give coconut oil a try. The oil is a seriously fantastic makeup remover, and honestly, it feels luxurious to massage your face for a minute every night and follow it up with a nice steam. After I dry my face (and note, it doesn’t feel greasy at all, but it doesn’t feel tight and squeaky clean like you might used to either — though that should be a good thing!) I apply the azelaic acid to my cheeks, and follow it up with another small dab of coconut oil (to moisturize).

Have you ever tried oil cleansing? Would you try it? If you’re against the idea, I’d love to know what skincare products you do swear by! 🙂

Skin Care

Happy Vampire Diaries Day Thursday, everyone! I hope that you’re making it through the week relatively unscathed. I’m continuing to fight off a cold that I REFUSE to give into. Here’s hoping that the 10 gallons of Airborne-infused water I’ve been consuming doesn’t affect next week’s weigh-in, haha.

So given that I recently spent time detailing how eating poorly wrecks my face, I thought it might be interesting to talk about skin care. I would say something about how I’ve received questions on my skin care routine from readers to make this seems slightly less self-indulgent, but while make-up questions have indeed been issued (for which I’m flattered!), face wash-related ones have not. Regardless, it’s my blog and I can write what I want to, so here we are. 😉

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As I did mention in the other post, I actually have been pretty lucky when it comes to my skin. Growing up, I never had to deal with really terrible acne, just a pimple or two that would pop up here and there. Nowadays I mostly deal with small bumps and redness issues and my skincare routine is pretty low-key. That said, I am a total sucker when it comes to beauty products (seriously, I have to give all the kiosks in the mall a wide berth, because if they suck me in I know I’m going home with an ion hair straightener or nail buffing kit), so I’m constantly trying new things (cleansers! serums! scrubs! lotions!) and reevaluating out what I like using best. So here’s what I like best for now!

To preface this, I should probably state that I have fairly normal skin (slightly oily t-zone, slightly dry cheeks) that strays to the sensitive side.

Face wash: Fresh Soy Face Cleanser. This cleanser was recommended to me by a salesperson at Sephora, and I am in love with it. It’s pretty expensive ($38 for a full sized bottle, or $15 for a small) but I can’t help it. I’m addicted. And considering I use it twice a day on my precious, precious face (haahahahaha), I think it’s worth it. It’s a gel-type cleanser that does lather slightly, but is super gentle. It has a vague cucumber scent, so while it’s not mentholated or anything, it does have a slight cooling sensation. I also love it because it’s a pretty fantastic make-up remover on its own. I do have a separate eye makeup remover for the rare occasion I get all fancied up, but most days I don’t use anything else to take off my makeup.

Exfoliator: Clarisonic Mia. I purchased the Clarisonic Mia after reading about it in a magazine and getting totally swept up in the hype. It’s a significant purchase (they run about $100+) but it is a machine, after all. I use it about once a week/when I remember to exfoliate (I should probably be utilizing it more often, but oh well) and my skin always feels so soft and refreshed. The Fresh face wash works really well with it, which is another reason why I like it so much. I distinctly remember making a baby’s bottom comparison right after the first time I used the Mia. Smooooooooooooth.

Moisturizer: Fresh Soy Face Cream. During the winter, I moisturize after washing my face both in the morning and at night. During the summer, I tend to only moisturize at night (if at all) since my face gets greasier much more easily. Right now I use the cream that Fresh makes, but I’m not as obsessed with it as I am with the cleanser. I don’t love the smell (refreshing as a cleanser but cloying as a lotion), and while it doesn’t cause me to breakout or anything, I just feel like it’s not the best value. I use it right now because I’ve gotten mini bottles of it when I buy the cleanser. I’d be happy to take your moisturizer recommendations!

Eye cream: Mary Kay Indulge Soothing Eye Gel. I’ve been to a few Mary Kay parties (even hosted one!) over the past year, and I always have so much fun primping and feeling girly. Of course, I always have so much regret after I realize I’ve purchased even more beauty products that I probably don’t need. I was glad to have discovered this one though! I don’t use it as regularly as I probably should, but this eye gel is awesome. I dab it on before bed sometimes and it soothes and relaxes, or dab it on in the morning to help de-puff my sleep-deprived eyes. They say that for even more cooling benefits you can keep it in the refrigerator, but I know if I did that I would never use it (also, I would probably inadvertently eat it.)

So there you have it! The four little products that help keep my face, uh, clean. And stuff. I’m super interested in this stuff, so I’d to hear all about your favorite tried-and-true products, too!

What does your skin care routine entail?

The Effects of Not Eating Well

You probably hear it all time: you are what you eat. The saying implies that if you eat healthy, you’ll feel healthy; if you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap. I am here to back up that claim 100%.

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At this point you are all probably aware of my love for the, er, crappier side of the food spectrum. French fries are my weakness. Mozzarella sticks will never not be delicious. Nachos will always have a special place in my heart. Sure, over time I’ve learned to genuinely enjoy — even crave — salads, kale, yogurt, quinoa, and brussels sprouts (especially brussels sprouts!) but I know that if given a choice, I will always want the “bad” stuff.

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I should point out that yes, I know there are ways to rework and recreate recipes for junkier foods that makes them healthier. In fact, in order to literally have my cake and eat it too, I try to do this a lot. But underneath the semi-satisfaction that baked onion rings coated with bran flakes may give you, there is always the underlying desire to gorge myself on a Bloomin’ Onion. Them’s the facts.

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In order to arm myself in the battle against these constant cravings, I have to remind myself of the aforementioned adage: you are what you eat. And when I eat poorly for extended periods of time, I suffer the physical, mental, and emotional ramifications of that. Par example:

1. My skin goes the way of the Rockies.

I was pretty blessed as a teenager. Whereas my older siblings battled acne and breakouts through puberty and beyond, my adolescence was barely tarnished with a single zit. Now that I’m an adult (HA!), however, my skin gets seriously messed up when my diet is out of whack. I breakout in varying levels of severity, my skin takes on a greasy quality, and simply loses it’s lustre. Not cute.

2. Despite feeling more tired than usual, I am unable to sleep soundly.

I’m already a fairly restless sleeper — the kind who tosses and turns and goes from side to stomach to the other side throughout the night (I’ve woken up with my feet on my pillow and head at the bottom of the bed on more than one occasion). So what happens when I mess with my already delicate sleep cycle by fueling my body improperly? I become an even, uh, restless…er sleeper. Which makes me cranky and irritable upon waking, ultimately leading to me craving more crappy food. It’s a vicious cycle, I’m telling you.

3. Acid reflux rears its ugly head.

In college, during the worst of my binge eating issues, I had fairly severe issues with acid reflux. The stomach acid that crept back up into my esophagus due to my poor digestion (due to poor quality food… you may be sensing a pattern here, haha) while I slept was doing a number on me. It even started to affect my singing voice at one point, causing my voice teacher to send me to the campus doctor for a prescription to counteract the issue. Nowadays, I can always tell when a bout of acid reflux it hitting me, and it usually comes after a particular weak moment. When my eating is clean, however, I rarely have issues with it.

4. It can (and probably should) go without saying, but my digestive system gets its ass whooped.

I won’t go into detail here, but I’m pretty sure you guys get my drift.

5. So much for that manicure.

Another, slightly less noticeable, effect that abandoning a clean(ish) diet has on me has to do with my nails. They come brittle and break very easily when I’m off the wagon. I generally tend to keep them painted most of the time, but when they’re naked I do notice that I get those little white lines on them upon occasion as well — a sign of lacking nutrition.

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So there you have it! Just more proof that, aside from the whole weight loss jank that I’m always trying to do here, there are many, many reasons to eat well. Of course, this in no way means I endorse completely cutting out junk food indulgences completely. Emotional health too, remember? I just need to continue to work on using the word “indulgence” as it was originally intended, hehe.

What effects of not eating well plague you?

Winterization

Don’t let the outrageously mild weather and distinct lack of snow fool you.

Christmas has come and gone, I’ve busted open my under-bed storage bins full of sweaters (closet space is quite the commodity in my room), and our gas bill is already climbing its way to “astronomical”: Winter is here.

I actually really like winter. It does, after all, contain my favorite holiday, promotes public hot chocolate consumption, and has snow! I’m sure that the rest of the metropolitan DC area would disagree with me, but I actually really love snow. I don’t love how people around here DRIVE in it (yet another reason I am thankful to have taken driver’s ed. in Canada… in February) but I love snow. It’s pretty, it’s fun, and unlike when I lived in Ottawa, it actually causes school and work closures here. Win!

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From my visit to Ottawa last February.

Unfortunately, this season has its downside as well. It would probably sound better if I said I struggled with something legitimate like seasonal affective disorder or… hypothermia… or something… but my biggest issue with the winter months instead lies in the horrible, itchy, flaky disaster that is my hands and feet come December. My skin gets so dry that not only does it peel uncontrollably, but I develop small, itchy red bumps all over my palms and soles. You’re welcome for that image.

In the past, I’ve suffered in nonstop whining silence because I was too lazy to do anything about it. This year, I’m trying to stop scratching myself into oblivion and actually combat the dryness in what a way that will hopefully preserve both my skin and my sanity. I’m still experimenting with what works best though, so I need your input! This is what I’m planning to do so far, deduced from both personal experience and, y’know, Google:

Moisturize.

When it’s this dry out, regular moisturizer is simply not enough. Even I know this. What I have recently learned, however, is that even special dry-skin lotion is not enough. I never really knew what people used Vaseline for other than keeping hair dye from staining your forehead, but apparently it can be used as a skin moisturizer. It seems to be the only thing that is marginally working for me right now, although a little birdie told me on Twitter that I should check out something called Aquaphor. I’m also trying to do that wearing-socks-after-moisturizing-thing, but it’s kind of annoying. Still, the lesser of two evils when the first evil is hand-agony.

Wash my hands, um, differently?

Apparently, according to some article I read online that I’m sure is totally accurate and written by someone with credentials and stuff, we wash our hands more often in the wintertime. Something about being more scared of germs than usual or something, I don’t know. As it turns out, all that constant hand-washing is very drying for our skin. In order to help circumvent further peeling and awfulness for my hands, I’ve nixed my antibacterial soap (which I hear I’m not really supposed to use anyway) for a bar of handmade lavender soap that my mom gave me for Christmas! Apparently I’m supposed to use warm, rather than hot, water to combat the dryness as well. The more you know…!

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Exfoliate.

I am a notoriously terrible exfoliator. Aside from haphazardly using my loofah in the shower, my exfoliation efforts are pretty lax. I’m really trying to make an effort to slough off all that gross dry skin this year though, so I’m going to embrace the economical solution of… the homemade sugar scrub! I just combine sugar and coconut oil (or you could use almond, or olive, or vegetable oil if you wanted to be even thriftier) to make a sort of paste, then rub-a-dub-dub it into my skin. I adjust the sugar-to-oil ratio higher for hand/foot use versus leg/body use. I’ve also read about using salt instead, but that doesn’t make sense to me. I feel like that would only serve to sap the moisture out of your skin, right? Anyway, I can say with certainty as someone who spends $38 on her face wash (I really should be more ashamed of that, shouldn’t I?), that this homemade concoction really is wonderful. And helps justify the aforementioned face wash, heh.

I’m hoping that making these things part of my routine will help save me from this horrible, ugly, itchy death. I’m also hoping that I can actually make these things part of my routine. Feel free to chime in with any other tips or tricks you might have up your sleeves!

Do you suffer from similar wintertime maladies? What are your self-winterization techniques?