Saturday, April 21, 2012

Clean Freak

Here's something a little different than what I normally write about, but bear with me; I think some of you might like it (some of you, I'm sure, will be appalled lol).

Let me start out by saying that I don't have good skin. If I could change one thing about my body, it wouldn't be the extra weight or the shape of my body or whatever, it would be to have healthy skin - cuz while I know I could change the rest if I committed to it, I have no clue how to fix my skin most of the time.

I have dry skin. I know this now, and I wish I'd known it when I was a teenager desperate to fix my acned skin, and reading all the literature for acned teens about cleansing, removing the oil, etc. I know now that what my poor skin wanted most was probably a little moisture.

As a young adult, I've achieved slightly better skin with gentle cleansers and lots of moisturizer, but nobody in their right mind would call my skin healthy looking. I have redness, blotchiness, dark spots, little pimples, and, most recently, big hormonal cystic PAINFUL pimples that HURT and never quite healed before my cycle came around and they flared again. Not good.

About a month ago, I was rereading some old blog posts and stumbled across this post from one of my favorite blogs. I dismissed this post the first time because it sounded complicated ("...We tried the OCM, running back and forth between the computer and the sink, to make sure we were doing it just right...") and also because she was using it in conjunction with an Olay ProX, and I knew from some other bloggers that they were pricey, and I just wasn't interested in spending that much money.

But when the cystic zits set in several months ago, I was at my wit's end. My old skincare routine wasn't doing a thing (plus I was developing dry itchy patches which were driving me nuts), and - a little more desperate than usual - I figured I could give anything a try. It couldn't get much worse, lol!

So I went back and did my research.

Now, some disclaimers: I am not "crunchy", all-natural, or back to nature AT ALL. I'm not afraid of chemicals, I buy reusable cups whether they have BPA in them or not, and I only use natural products when they work as well or better than the synthetic ones. Not saying I'm right, just that this is the way I work.

I'm also not claiming that this is the end-all, magical solution for all skin. I'm more putting this out there as something that helped (not completely fixed) my own skin, and you might find it interesting, too.

I've been using the Oil Cleansing Method for about a month now, and I'm pleased enough that I won't be buying any more skincare products (except maybe some Burt's Bees Acne treatment or some lavender essential oil... and, to be honest, that ProX or a cheaper version is looking pretty interesting, now, too!). Dewy, vibrant, completely zit-free skin? No, not yet. Clearer skin? Definitely. Happier skin? Yup. Do I have hope that someday I'll get the kinks worked out and this will lead to less issues? Oh, yes! :)

So, here's what the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) is, as I understand it:

The premise: Your skin naturally produces and needs oil. Stripping away this oil removes dead skin and impurities, but also strips away the oil that your skin needs to be healthy. It also stimulated your skin to produce even more oil, leading to oil overload. Vicious cycle. Bad.

The solution: Since "like dissolves like" (did you know this? I didn't) what we should actually be doing is dissolving the oil on our faces with... drumroll please... oil.

This runs so contrary to what the skincare industry preaches, I'm gonna pause for a moment and let you contemplate.

Okay, enough. Back to the post.

I would dismiss this out of hand as a delusional crunchy fantasy, except that so many people who were at first incredulous or disbelieving had great success with it. Plus, you know, we've already established that my face couldn't actually get much worse.

I started out here, at the seemingly "official" oil cleansing method website. I immediately understood why it seemed so confusing, but I dutifully mixed up my own batch of 10% castor oil/90% EVOO and tried it exactly the way it describes.

And it WORKED. The next day I had a few tiny pimples, but the cystic zits had already started to heal up and disappeared within a few days. More redness than usual, which I know now was due to too much steaming/drying, but once I got the hang of it that disappeared too.

After a few days, I got more confident and googled around to see if I could get any more "tips." I found Crunchy Betty's post on the subject and liked it, and I also found this website. Both gave contradictory advice (one says not to rub after steaming, the other says to rub the oil away, etc) and this was actually more helpful to me, because it gave me "permission" to deviate away from the "rules" and see what worked for my own skin. More on that in a bit.

First, something that surprisingly many people seem to be concerned about: cost! I didn't even consider this, actually, when I began - I've always felt that skincare products are expensive, and we always have olive oil around the house. However, when I decided that I wanted to continue doing this long-term (and also when I wanted to switch oils - again, more on this in a bit), I decided to do the research.

Organic extra-virgin olive oil can be had for $8.99/16 oz. Almond oil (what I'm using now) can be had for $5.61/8 oz. Organic avocado oil (what I'd like to try) can be had for $7.50/16 oz. I'm guesstimating I use about 2 TSP each time I wash my face, maybe a little less, and there are roughly 47 TSP in 8 oz, so even using the most expensive oil (almond) I figure it costs me about 23 cents to wash my face. When I consider that I used to use not one but 3 products every day, each costing over $5 (each bottle lasted about 1.5-2 months), I'm still coming out on top by at least a few cents.

Of course, when I consider that none of those 3 products were actually working, the value seems to go up considerably. :)

After using a 90/10 mix of olive/castor oils for most of the month, I couldn't take the chemically smell and rough feel of the castor oil any more and decided to try 100% almond oil, as I've read such great things about it - it can help eliminate dark undereye circles, make your lashes grow thicker, and, of course, do great things for your skin! Luckily my sister had some on hand so she let me borrow it. I'm much more pleased with this oil than with the castor/olive oil. I'd still like to try avocado oil, sometime - when I do, I'll be sure to update you!

Okay, so after a lot of experimentation, here's what I do:

I don't wash my face in the morning. I never have, except for a small two week period when I was trying a new product and they "strongly recommended" washing in the morning and evening. During those two weeks, my skin looked chapped. My skin just doesn't need that much cleansing, which works out great for me, because many people using the OCM recommend only cleansing at night and only rinsing your skin (using only water) in the morning.

At night, before I go to bed, I clean my face one of two ways - I think of them as "have time" and "no time" methods lol.

If I have some time, I turn the water in my sink on hot and let it get good and steamy while I tie my hair back with a headband. This isn't necessary, as you can apply almond oil to the hair, as well, but I have really fine, somewhat greasy hair, and I'm not ready to go that far lol. Once the water is hot, I pour a little bit of oil into a squeeze bottle (much like an old diner-style ketchup bottle) and set it under the running water until the bottle is hot. I find that heating the oil really helps open my pores and lets the oil penetrate instead of just sitting on my face. I imagine you could also zap it in the microwave for a few seconds, but there seems to be some controversy about whether or not microwaving oil zaps the healing properties out of it (I would still try it, lol, except the microwave is downstairs and I'm lazy :)).

Once the bottle and the oil inside is really warm, I run my hands under the hot water for a few seconds to heat them up, dry them thoroughly, and spread oil across my face and down my jawline. I massage the oil into my skin, and I often reapply a bit more oil if my skin starts to look dry.

Once the oil is all applied and massaged in, I like to give it a bit of time to work. Ideally this is the time when I run a hot bath, grab a good book, and let the steam continue to work on my face while I unwind... but more often this is the time when I run downstairs to feed or water my chickens, lay out an outfit for the next day, tidy my room, etc. :)

When I'm ready to take the oil off my face, I run the water hot again, run a washcloth under until it's completely soaked, and wring it out quickly. I place the damp cloth on my face just until it cools slightly (less than 30 seconds), and wipe away the oil on my face once (others recommend repeating this steaming step several times, but that's just too drying for my skin). I do one last swipe to catch any areas that didn't get proper attention the first time - under my jaw, my nose, etc - and pat my skin dry.

That's it!

If I don't have much time, I repeat the above steps, but I leave the water running after I wring out my washcloth, and after I quickly massage the oil into my skin, I hang over the sink for a bit (not more than 30 seconds) and let the steam help the oil penetrate. Then I simply steam and wipe away just as I do when I have more time.

This is not the perfect skincare method (is there a perfect skincare method?). Or perhaps it is, and I just haven't figured some parts out, lol? Anyway... here are some things I'm still wondering:

What do you do in the middle of the day when your face needs a refresher and water alone won't cut it? What about when you're working out and sweaty, at the pool (and your face is reacting to the chlorine), applied sunscreen, etc? Do you bring a small thing of oil with you and just do a quickie version? Do you just wait until that evening (ick!)?  Can you exfoliate? (seems to be some controvery about this). What about travel? I'm going on a trip next month and I'm not really looking forward to packing a container of oil in my luggage - how do you transport it?

But I have to admit, these questions are less important to me than having happy skin the majority of the time. :)

I hope at least one of you is inspired to give it a shot, and if you do, I'd love to hear your feedback! Let me know what routine you settle on, what works/doesn't work for you, and how your skin likes it!

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