Non-Toxic Beauty Products Pt. 1: African Black Soap and Witch Hazel

Full disclosure and disclaimer, I have no dermatological training but am speaking from my experience and from research I have done!

This is just part 1 of a few posts I will be doing about non-toxic beauty products. Today’s subject: Acne.

Acne is a sensitive subject for many. While there are some people who go most or all of their life without so much as a few small pimples, there are also others who battle severe  cases of acne. Most basically, a pimple is a clogged skin pore. Acne can be caused by the bacteria, P. acnes; but its occurrence is associated with many many different factors; hormones, diet, hygiene, stress, comedogenic products, genetics, etc. Acne can appear in different patterns, locations, severities, and sizes. A common struggle for females in their late teens through their 20’s is hormonal acne; usually appearing on the chin and jaw line and also appearing in the T-zone. Look, I have never had terrible/severe acne, nor has it ever been a constant occurrence, but I’ve certainly faced a few frustrating outbreaks over the years, whether from birth control, or stress, or a bad beauty product. Most recently, I had probably my longest and worst battle with acne. I would get pimples that felt sore under the skin and then would get very red and large as they came to a head, these were accompanied by many other small whiteheads and blackheads. Once they went away, they left scarring/discoloration. The breakouts would wax and wane with the hormones of my cycle but never fully go away. I couldn’t figure it out; my diet hadn’t changed, I used non-comedogenic products, I washed my face twice daily, what gives? This continued for over 3 months; each large blemish leaving me more and more discouraged that my face was ever going to be blemish free, as I had been just 4 months ago.

My first look into the cause over the past few months was my diet; which proved to be super frustrating to me, because overall my diet is generally pretty good. Is it coffee? Beer? Meat? Acne even had me questioning if fruit was bad for me because high glycemic fruits increases your blood sugar and effects your hormones and can be correlated with acne. But even without fruit, new breakouts would arise. I also looked into what vitamins or supplements were good for acne; many people suggested Evening Primrose Oil and an Omega 3-6-9 supplement. I continued to take a probiotic as I have for the past 9 months. I drink over 100 ounces of water day. Nothing changed.

I tried acne creams, astringents, essential oils, herbal remedies, everything.

So I started to do some more research; looking into the toxicity of different ingredients in skin care products. I also did a search for reviews of my current skin care line from the brand Simple. My jaw nearly fell to the floor as I read reviews from people having the exact same problem as me from using the exact same products. My first reaction was a bit of anger towards myself for never thinking to look into these products that were touted non-toxic, harsh-chemical free, and safe for sensitive skin. “Harsh-Chemical Free” is a very sneaky term; because while the skin care products were free of harsh chemicals, there were still in fact comprised of mostly chemicals. I couldn’t believe it. How could I have not suspected ill effects from the skin care products I was using? I also discovered that skin care products with coconut can be bad for the face, especially if you’re acne prone (I also had a Pacifica face lotion with coconut in it). *palm to face*

An interesting factoid I learned is that oils themselves are different levels of non/comedogenic. Skin care ingredients are rated on a comedogenic scale of 0-5 (least to most). Coconut oil is 4/5, meaning it is highly comedogenic and likely to clog your pores, so while coconut oil is great for your hair and even the skin on other parts of your body, it is NOT meant for the face, especially of the blemish prone.

While continuing to research, I stumbled upon a few articles about African black soap, a naturally detoxifying and clarifying soap. The articles discussed how the soap healed their acne (I also read reviews of people claiming it fixed psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, and other skin ailments). I figured I had nothing to lose in trying something new; I swapped the Simple face wash for SheaMoisture African Black Soap. I also ditched the Simple Micellar water and decided to solely use my Thayer’s Witch Hazel, and I got rid of the Simple protective moisturizer and began to use a well reviewed non-toxic, non-comedogenic, non-irritant moisturizer by Farmacy. Its insane that after just 48 hours of not using the Simple products, my acne began to subside. Over three weeks have now passed and I can’t believe that my skin is almost back to what it was just 4 or 5 months ago, if not slightly better. The acne itself is almost all gone, and the scarring is even fading. I have since thrown away all of the Simple products. Do know that in the first week of using African black soap there was a small “purging,” as I have seen it called; an increase in small whiteheads as the stuff from your pores is being drawn out. These do subside fairly quickly. The other superstar in my skin care routine is my bottle of Thayer’s Witch Hazel, which I use twice daily following cleansing. The blend of witch hazel, rose water, aloe vera, cucumber, citric acid and grapefruit extract is naturally soothing, cleansing and toning.

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A few take aways for you:

  1. If you are battling stubborn acne and have had little to no success with anything else, I suggest you look into reviews about what you’re currently using and also look into the toxicity of the products. Do remember to take things with a grain of salt as sometimes what works for others might not work for you; that being said if something is clearly not working for you it may be time to move on to something else. If you’ve never tried African Black Soap, trust me; It is worth a try. I suggest the African Black Soap bar soap by SheaMoisture (its only 3.99 at Target).
  2. Ditch your chemical based toner for Thayer’s Witch Hazel (also available at Target, Whole foods, or Ulta.) Your skin will thank you!
  3. Do your research on comedogenic oils and products. The only truly non-comedogenic oils are argan oil, shea butter, hemp seed oil, mango butter, and safflower oil; so if a product you’re using has an ingredient with a comedogenic rating of more than 2 there is a good chance it could cause pore clogging.
  4. Be consistent. As I said above, the African Black soap caused a super brief increase in white heads, but that was from clearing of clogged pores.
  5. Do not try the Simple brand  skin care products if your have ever used them. If you do use them and have had not ill effects, thats great! I do not however suggest or endorse trying or using them if you have never used them before.

 

And again, I have no dermatological training, so please know that this information comes to you from my own research and my own experience.

This is to be continued with a post about the different non toxic beauty and skin care products I use. Ill also discuss the relationship between price and non-toxic beauty. Check back soon!

–Megan.

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