The Classy Anarchist’s Top Ten List for Clear, Healthy Skin

Here I am! Post-shower, sans-makeup.

Here is my top ten list of things that have worked for me to help improve the quality and clarity in my skin! Friends are always asking me how to improve their skin; while I love helping each one of them individually, I thought a top ten list could help all of my friends and readers at the same time. My philosophy on beauty has always been that you need to work on the inside, and this will reflect on the outside. Who wants to pile on the makeup, when our skin underneath is in such poor shape?  These are just tips from my own experience (no expert here!), and are in no particular order.

1. Wash your face every night before sleep

This removes makeup, bacteria, and excess oil that builds up throughout your day.

2. Learn your skin type

You’ll save money buying products that don’t work for you, and learn what products do work for you, which helps prevent breakouts and flare ups. Often, skin analysis services are available free of charge at spas, and from other skin care experts.

3. Touch your face ONLY when you have clean hands!

If your hands are carrying bacteria, you will transfer it to your face.

4. When you dry your face, gently pat it dry (do not rub) with a CLEAN towel or cloth.

Change your towels and cloths weekly to make sure they aren’t harboring any unwanted bacteria.

5. Take a multivitamin, and an omega fatty acid oil supplement like krill, salmon, or sardine oil every day.

They don’t have to cost that much, and the pay off of adding these supplements to your diet is worth it! Even if you eat a well-rounded diet, a multivitamin can help make sure you get all the nutrients you need. Omega-fatty acids are shown to be great for healthy nails, hair, and skin. In the winter time I double up on the omegas, since my skin can be extremely dry and dehydrated. I tend to keep my eyes open for sales at GNC and natural health food stores. Avoid vitamins and supplements at the drug store; their absorption rate is pretty pitiful.

6. Include one exfoliation treatment and a mask into your weekly routine.

Get rid of those dead skin cells by exfoliating, and treat yourself to a deep cleansing clay mask. Another great type of mask is a papaya enzyme mask, which helps to brighten your complexion, and helps to dissolve dead skin cells. It also smells pretty damned amazing! The masks I use regularly are the Alba Deep Sea Facial Mask, and the Alba Papaya Enzyme Mask. It is extremely easy to make your own face masks – try organic honey, avocado, and blueberries!

7. Do not use body lotions or creams on your face.

Using lotions or creams that are designed for use on your body, and not specifically designed for the face can cause unnecessary breakouts, because of the higher oil content; the skin on the face is also a lot more sensitive than the rest of our body’s, and can tend to be of a different type. For example, my face is on the dehydrated side in the winter, and in the summer it is more balanced, so I don’t need to use as much essential oils when moisturizing. The skin on the rest of my body requires a very basic moisturizing routine that remains the same throughout the entire year, and breakouts on my body are even more rare than on my face. When choosing a moisturizer for your face, make sure it specifies it is a facial moisturizer.

8. Avoid products with certain alcohols that will excessively dry the skin (resulting in you trying to use even more of the product, and your skin drying up even more).

Not all alcohols are horrible for the skin. Alcohols that do nothing but dry out the skin and exacerbate skin problems include: SD Alcohol(also known as Alcohol Denat., or Denatured Alcohol), Isopropyl Alcohol, or Ethyl Alcohol. Alcohols that are fatty alcohols and are not harmful include Stearyl Alcohol, and Cetyl Alcohols. The majority of popular brands of toners (especially) in drug stores — brands like L’Oreal, Garnier, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear —  often contain the harmful types of alcohols to provide the consumer with a “tingling” sensation. This often makes us feel like the product is working, but if you’ve got any problems with dryness, inflammation, redness, or acne, this will most likely make it worse(as it did with me). Some of my friends are able to put pretty much any skin care product on their face, but if they were to switch to a more organic and holistic skin care routine, their skin would probably even more phenomenal.

The bottom line is – these products that contain SD Alcohol and other harmful alcohols strip the skin of its natural oils, and this results in eventual over-production of oils in oilier skin, or under-production in extremely dry skin. The goal of holistic skin care products is to nurture the skin’s natural balance, and to avoid extremely changes in the skin’s natural state. My skin’s dryness has reduced drastically since I began using alcohol-free toners, and toners that contain essential oils. At this point all I use as a “toner” is rose water and lavender water. They help refresh my skin, and they smell amazing too.

If you’d like to check out some toners that I recommend, try Avalon Organics’ Hydrating Toner, or Earth Science’s Aloe Vera Complexion Toner & Freshener. I have used both of these, and find them quite effective for balancing dry skin, and helping with blemishes.

9. Steam your face at least once every 2 weeks, with a towel over your head, hot water and essential oils (depending on your skin type) in a large bowl.

Not only does steaming your face help sweat out dirt and excess oil, it can also be extremely relaxing for the mind. Certain essential oils (like lavender and patchouli, for example) are proven to calm the skin and help with breakouts, but at the same time they are shown to be effective in reducing stress and calming the mind. It takes about ten minutes, and after steaming your pores are open – this is the perfect time for a face mask. If you are dealing with acne problems, steaming with tea tree oil (which has antibacterial properties) is very effective. Oils can be purchased for reasonable prices at health food stores, and since you only use 2-3 drops at most when steaming, they last for quite a long time!

10. For those who wear makeup, make sure you give your makeup brushes a clean (with either unscented soap, or makeup brush shampoo) once every two weeks.

If you don’t clean your brushes, bacteria will build up, and cause breakouts. Especially if you apply makeup to multiple people with the same brushes, you want to try and make sure you aren’t transferring bacteria from one person’s face to another! I use Sephora’s Purifying Brush Shampoo, which is available in a travel size. You only need to use a small amount, and it makes a big difference in how long your brushes last, and the minimizing of breakouts.

There you have it! Everything I recommend to ensure your skin looks and feels its best. The only additional tip I can suggest is to eat a healthy and balanced diet.

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Beauty from within..

I’ve been requested to give my two cents about beauty from the inside, and what we can do to make our skin(as well as the rest of our body) look and feel great naturally. These are only my opinions; they are based on my own experience experimenting with a bunch of different products.

On top of the supplements I am going to talk about, I also exercise on a regular basis (cardio 4-5 times a week, and weights usually 2-3 times a week), and eat a primarily vegetarian diet, with the occasional seafood product (I’m a Newfoundlander, can ya blame me!?).  I also, for the most part, avoid fast food, and when I do indulge it is usually either Subway (they have a veggie patty! — yeah I know, super thrilling), Thai Express (their stir fried veggies with tofu and steamed rice is delicious), or if I’m feeling more “junky”, I’ll hit up Harvey’s and have a veggie burger and fries. Healthy eating has always been a part of my life, so I find it pretty easy to stay on that path.

What you won’t here from me: that certain foods are completely off limits (I love a good poutine with mushroom gravy, or a vegetarian pizza), nor will you hear me mention calories, or weights. I don’t count calories, and haven’t for years, because portion control is much more important. Moderation is key, especially when consuming simple carbohydrates, or greasy fast food. If we completely deny ourselves these foods, the majority of us will eventually find ourselves digging into a lot more food than we had initially planned. So please, enjoy that milkshake, or that burger. Just don’t eat ten of them!

I approach beauty from a very holistic perspective. What I put into my body will not only affect how I feel, but it will also affect my body’s physical appearance. In order to maintain healthy skin, I feel it is important to cultivate a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

I take a multivitamin everyday, as well as an omega-3 fatty acid supplement(mine is a combination of anchovy, sardine, and salmon oils); on top of this I also take a vitamin c plus vitamin d at night. The brand I buy is Sisu, which can be picked up at your local health food store. I avoid vitamins and supplements that are sold at drug stores, for the most part. Yes, they are cheaper, but they also contain more fillers and have a lower absorbency rate than higher quality vitamins and supplements. I have used Sisu products for years, and if I go a few days without taking them, I definitely notice a difference.

I take these vitamin supplements because even though I eat as balanced a diet as possible, and I try to eat all of my daily requirements; it is these vitamin supplements that ensure I do reach my daily requirement.

I tend to stock up on vitamins when they go on sale, but you can also purchase quality vitamins and supplements at Vitacost, a site I have mentioned and have reviewed in prior blog posts. If you are on a budget (and who isn’t), I’d recommend checking these guys out. About 2 months ago my local health food store had a sale on Sisu multivitamins, so I decided to take advantage of that.

As for omega-3 fatty acids, this product is known to help the growth of healthy hair, nails and skin, and on top of that provide your body with essential healthy fat that has been shown to promote a healthy weight and appetite. For more information on Omega-3 supplements and what kind of fish/source of omega-3 that is best to consume, check out Dr Mercola’s article here, and here. If you have dry skin, especially in the winter, I cannot stress enough the benefits of taking an omega-3 supplement. It saves me a lot of money on expensive products, and when apply coconut oils and other oils doesn’t do the trick, omega-3 supplements usually do.

While it is one thing to eat well, and be active regularly, it is another thing to actually feel good about your body, and embrace your body at any size. Without accepting our bodies, we will never  truly be happy or acknowledge our hard work.

For many of those who know me, you know I have been in recovery from an eating disorder since my earlier 20s. Years of therapy, re-learning how to eat with the help of a dietician, and the embracing of my female body is what has gotten me to where I am today. My path is by no means perfect, but today I can say I will never go back to such a self-destructive lifestyle.

For those interested, there are several books that have helped me in my journey, but three of them stick out as particularly helpful. First, is Clarissa Pinkola-Estés’ Women Who Run with the Wolves, and also Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. Another, book, which is more specific to eating disorders and disordered eating, is called Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita A. Johnson.

The Beauty Myth targets the cosmetic and beauty industries, and suggests they are patriarchy’s last ditch attempt at controlling women and pitting them against one another. While I believe that beauty, makeup, and skin care can be tons of fun, it can easily get out of hand if we are constantly focusing on external remedies for our internal torments. This book encourages women to question the status quo, and shows the historical damage that we have seen as a result of this myth of the ideal woman.

Women Who Run with the Wolves was my first book given to me by my therapist when I had first entered recovery. This book focuses more on the revival of the female archetype, and the strength that is found in all that is feminine. The author uses folk tales from different cultures to show the once revered female spirit, and how women can bring this movement back. It is not about patriarchy or matriarchy, it is about loving ourselves for who we are.

Eating in the Light of the Moon also uses folk tales to explain how our perception of the feminine has changed for the worse over time. She wants women to re-discover our femininity and the value inherent within it. With chapters about intuition, addiction, sexuality, and nourishment, she is successfully able to revive one’s spirit and lead us onto the path of recovery.

These books have influenced me very much, and I have started reading them again recently. Beauty first comes from loving ourselves from within, and this then translates into external beauty. Makeup is just a fun way to better bring out our natural beauty, and express how great we feel inside!

So, it appears as though I have written a lot more than planned. I still have more to write; I will be focusing on the spiritual aspects of beauty in my next entry in this series. Stay tuned, lovelies!