The Beauty Regime

Top: My skincare stash, lots of unlabeled bottles with homemade crap in them. Bottom: Detox! (Note: Kusmi Tea is extremely overrated, the Detox tea smells like burnt cannabis)

Hello! I hope your new year is off to a banging start. I've been undergoing a strict detox and purging regiment, keeping away from all sorts of nasty food and from the computer. The holiday season hasn't been kind to my skin or my hips and now I'm sort of wishing that I had been eating more cleanly. It didn't help that I stocked up on a whole ton of Crémant, Prosecco and Cava during a recent wine sale and went a tad nuts with a bottle of Tanqueray and a box of lemons. It also didn't help that within a span of one month, I had two turkey dinners, a blueberry pie, multiple pumpkin pies, a bazillion chocolate truffles ('La Maison du Chocolat', oh mah gawd), a ton of processed meat courtesy of Olympic Provisions, and a whole vat of mashed potatoes (almost all in one sitting, I kid you not).

The unfortunate excess however, causes me to get really, really OCD about my skin this time of year, especially since meat and alcohol (yum!) inevitably causes severe acne for me. Couple that with a tendency to develop severe eczema in the winter months, I have been stumbling around looking like a pockmarked meth-addict. In that vein, I've been inspired to post something about my skincare regime due to a myriad of reasons - first by Alexandra's post about winter skincare, then noticing how much the holiday season has taken a toll on my skin, and finally, receiving emails from a reader asking about my homemade oil cleanser and In Fiore skincare.

I enjoy a mostly holistic approach to skincare, meaning I try to use a bare minimum of "natural" and "organic" products. The quotation marks just indicate that those terms are subjective I guess because is anything these days truly "natural" and "organic"? I think good diet and lifestyle practices does much more for good skin than the most expensive facial serum. However, as I have been told time and time again by my husband, this notion is just insulting to a lot of people who genetically have bad skin. So as a disclaimer, I just wanted to share what works for me, and give you an insight into how I approach skin and body care and list some of my favorite products. I generally have okay skin which gets terribly dry in the winter and the occasional breakouts and red splotches from self-induced pimple mutilation. I also have allergies to a whole slew of things (hops, synthetic fragrance, SLS, etc., etc.) that often result in hives so I steer clear of a lot of brand name skincare.

I'm a huge fan of In Fiore, a small label from San Francisco. I first discovered Julie Elliott's line when I was looking for an oil balm to help with my eczema. I apologize in advance that her products are really hard to find if you are outside the US, but if you know of another brand that is similar, I would love to hear about it. The New York Times printed a really good article last year about "modern apothecaries" and Julie's label came up as being one of the pioneers (the article also makes a good point about why I find Aesop products quite overrated). The Japanese, purveyors and consumers of fine skincare also seem to enjoy her products immensely. Evan Healy, another skincare brand carried in Whole Foods and other natural stores used to be my go to, but recently, I think her formulation has changed and it no longer works out for my skin - her milk cleanser was a favorite but it now causes me to break out along the jawline. That being said, natural skincare is mostly trial and error - formulations change, companies get bought out by Colgate-Palmolive or L'Oreal, and they tend to use a lot of essential oils and cold-pressed carrier oils that may not work for everyone. In Fiore tends to be very expensive initially but I find that they last me quite a while and nothing else I have used in the past has ever even come close keeping my skin in top condition.

I also use a lot of my own homemade concoctions, the main one being an oil cleanser that is a cross between Tatcha's Oil Cleanser and In Fiore's Treate. I've been using rice bran oil in lieu of sweet almond oil for the past year and the results are pretty good. I use a mixture of rice bran oil and camellia oils (sinensis because it's slightly cheaper, and a bit of japonica for the luxury) along with some Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), tea tree oil, vitamin E and glycerin which act as preservatives. Rice bran oil is much less of an allergen than sweet almond oil and if it's good enough for old-timey Japanese women, it's good enough for me. I also make my own daily moisturizer using a variation of the oil cleanser while adding in a very Asian mix of red panax ginseng and red marine algae. I've included the recipe for the oil cleanser at the bottom of this post, but the moisturizer is still under a somewhat trial basis. The three main things I use from In Fiore is a brightening serum ('Lucense'), an eye cream ('Vis Clair') and a very, very potent face balm ('Fleur Vibrante') - all of which I can't seem to replicate at home because of the herbal and floral infusion and because I don't want to stock up on so many essential oil extractions.

The main problem I find with organic/holistic skincare is the lack of good makeup and sun protection products. I usually stock up on free samples of lipstick or eye makeup whenever I can and I have a tube of Koh Gen Do foundation that's been rotting in my drawer for a couple of years now. In general, the RMS Beauty 'Un' Cover works fine for me as both a concealer and light foundation - just dab under the eyes, around the nose and on blemish spots. RMS is the namesake of Rose-Marie Swift, the makeup artist for the likes of Miranda Kerr and Gisele Bundchen. A few of her products come highly recommended, especially her 'Living Luminizer' which I must say is an awesome highlighter to minimize dark circles and to make your cheekbones more prominent (and if you're a flat-faced Asian like me, make your nose a tad sharper).

I haven't found a natural SPF moisturizer that rivals the soft, almost translucent look that Cle De Peau's Gentle Protective Emulsion gives, so I'm sticking to that in the mean time while I figure out a suitable replacement. Cle De Peau is definitely not holistic by any means, it comes fully chemical laden but a girl cannot resist a barely-there SPF product. It's strange how I avoid feeding my dog commercial pet food because of propylene glycol (antifreeze, yikes!), yet I'm slathering that crap all over my face. Below is a list of the products I use and how I go about using them.

Everyday skincare products:
1. Homemade Oil Cleanser (about $12 for 4oz.) ~ see below for recipe*
3. Organic Immortelle Hydrosol from Hood River Lavender Farm with added Witch Hazel ($18) 
7. In Fiore 'Fleur Vibrante' ($58)
8. Homemade Face Cream (about $12 for 2oz.)
11. May Lindstrom 'The Problem Solver' ($90)
12. RMS Beauty ''Un' Cover in 22' ($18)
13. Benefit Cosmetics Brow Zings in Dark ($30)
14. In Fiore Veloutee Lip Balm ($58)
15. Moon Valley Lip Treat ($2.99)

Morning skincare regime:
Oil cleanser, followed by Immortelle Hydrosol, In Fiore Fleur Vibrante, In Fiore Vis Clair eye cream and lip balm. If I'm at working from home (which is most days), I add some homemade face cream, spray a bit more Immortelle Hydrosol over the top and call it a day. If I'm leaving the house, then I use either the Cle de Peau Beaute Gentle Protective Emulsion (for winter) or Josie Maran's  SPF 40 cream (for summer) as a moisturizer. I apply a bit of Brow Zing, cover some blemishes with the 'Un' Cover and I'm good to go.

Night skincare regime:
Oil cleanser and rinse, followed by Immortelle Hydrosol and either In Fiore Lucense or a few drops of Camellia Japonica (Tsubaki) oil. Finished with In Fiore Vis Clair and some In Fiore Fleur Vibrante if my skin is extra dry.

Extra skincare regime:
I do scrubs twice a month with  May Lindstrom's 'The Clean Dirt' and mask once a week with her 'The Problem Solver'. I cannot speak more highly of those two products if you're trying to get rid of acne and tighten up pores. I also use a homemade hydrating mask made of 1 tablespoon each of oat flour (you can make your own by grinding up some old-fashioned oats), honey and goat milk yogurt with a few drops of Vitamin E. Leave on for 15 minutes and then rinse off with cool water.

For body care, I tend to keep things really low key - I use a homemade brown sugar scrub once a week (made with 2 parts brown sugar, 1 part rice bran oil, 1 part oat flour and a few drops of essential oil). I use J.R. Liggett's Shampoo Bar most days, along with John Masters' Organics Rosemary and Peppermint detangler, and I buy olive oil soap in bulk. I used to wash my hair every day (sometimes twice a day!) but I think it was causing some sort of thinning, so now I use a very simple homemade dry shampoo made of corn starch, kaolin clay and slippery elm powder and wash my hair every two days or so. I do believe in dry brushing your skin at least every other day to keep off dead skin cells and help new ones regenerate. My body cream is whipped shea butter that I mix with rice bran oil and argan oil. I also use argan oil on the ends of my hair or Yarok's 'Feed Your Roots' Mousse when I'm heat styling (which is exactly four times a year). Every once in a while, when I'm feeling saucy, I dab on some MCMC Hunter but otherwise, fragrance free is the way I roll.

More importantly, I think diet plays a vital role in keeping my skin in a somewhat decent condition - this includes drinking lots of warm water with lemon and ginger (I love Pukka Herbs Three Ginger Tea with added cracked, dried ginger), drinking lots of green/detox tea and supplementing with fish oil, Vitamin C and a Vitamin B-Complex supplement every day. Also, a good green food and probiotics blend (I use Vibrant Health 'Green Vibrance') shaken with coconut water or Odwalla Superfoods juice is wonderful for those days when you're just not getting enough vegetables in your diet or when you're travelling. I love meat, carbs and cheese more than the next testosterone-driven bloke, but the threat of cystic acne and heart failure is making me pare down on those things for the next couple of months while my body gets the cleanse it needs (alcohol is pretty hard to give up though, so everything in moderation, eh?). In the meantime, I'm going to be having tons of the aforementioned tea and getting lots of walks, reading and work done.

As an aside, Renee from Anaïse was generous enough to offer me a percentage-off coupon to her store during my wedding, and I finally got around to picking up the Olio Lusso Crema by Rodin since I had heard great reviews about it helping with dry patches. I've been using that somewhat religiously over the past week and I'm a little sad (and at the same time, quite elated since this cream costs $80!) to report that the combination of macadamia and jasmine scent is a little off-putting to me - it smells like sweaty clothing and mothballs. In Fiore uses a lot of jasmine too, but it never gets as heady as this. My two main gripes about Rodin however, are: 1. the complete ingredient list to all the products is terribly difficult to find and 2. all good aromatherapists/naturopaths/purists will tell you to 'always store your oils in a dark bottle'. I think a huge part of the Rodin hype is that she had easy access to the fashion and beauty market, being a former model and a style editor. I'll confess that I'm an elitist, but I have been using jojoba oil, calendula and argan oil for ages, and it just seems that if your only experience has been with skincare brands that are sold in departmental stores, then Rodin may seem like a tremendously exclusive experience. Either way, I just wanted to thank Renee again for giving me a chance to try out Rodin's cult, and if you haven't already visited her store, please do! It offers a drool-worthy selection of finely curated lifestyle pieces.

-----------------------------------------
* See the recipe here.