Dealing with pesky summer breakouts is one thing. But blackheads? That’s a whole other beast altogether.
So, how do you get rid of blackheads? Is it even possible? First, know thy enemy. Unlike pimples, which can be filled with pus and blood deep into (and under) the skin, blackheads are mostly dead skin cells and skin oil clogging pores on the surface. The longer they go unclogged, the more they oxidize and turn black. And the longer they sit, the more dead skin and oil can build up, making them larger and deeper.
But excessive or rough scrubbing (or squeezing) can make the problem worse. Here’s how to safely and effectively get rid of blackheads.
- Exfoliate: It’s a key skincare routine all year round and especially in the summer when oily skin abounds. If you’re out and about all slathered with sunscreen, too, that can make skin even more sensitive to blackheads. Using a fruit-acid-based skin exfoliant can be extremely helpful in preventing the dead skin cells from building up, making pores less likely to fill up. Exfoliate once or twice per week, or talk with your dermatologist.
- Salicylic acid: A popular topical acne medication, salicylic acid may also be helpful in treating and preventing blackheads. While this ingredient is common in many over-the-counter and conventional acne treatments, it’s generally safe for most skin types. Common side effects include redness and dryness. If you’re a regular natural skincare user, look for isolated salicylic acid as many of the products can contain some not so natural fillers and preservatives. Use as directed.
- Charcoal: Activated charcoal is gaining ground as a natural beauty superstar for its ability to help dry up and prevent breakouts. It may also help to pull impurities, like excess dead skin cells and oils, out of the skin, leading to fewer blackheads.
- Don’t overwash: Dead skin. Excess oil. Of course it’s natural to think that you should be washing the heck out of your face to get rid of those offenders. But don’t overdo it. Too much washing can make the skin work to replenish the oil and that can lead to, you guessed it, more blackheads. Wash only when necessary (at least morning and night, but after a workout, beach sesh, etc). Keep water temperature on the cool side and don’t scrub. Wash gently, but thoroughly.
- Sun protection: You might think a tan will help dry the blackheads out, but what really happens when you roast yourself is you create more dead skin, more quickly. That, of course, causes pores to clog and form blackheads. Use a non-comedogenic sunscreen (and one with all-natural ingredients) and your skin will thank you.
Check out our favorite product picks:
Sea Kelp and Charcoal soap
Cleansing Grains Normal/Oily
Dragon’s Blood Cleansing Gel
Argan & Yarrow Sunscreen Mineral Moisturizer
Ah, the mysteries of combination skin. You know how it goes; some spots on the face are sheer perfection while others are burdens beyond compare. Is there any way to turn combination skin into uniformly healthy, glowing skin?
First things first: what is combination skin?
Like many skin conditions, combination skin presents in numerous ways. It can be particularly present in the T-zone area, where oiliness or breakouts may be more common while other areas of the face aren’t. You may suffer from both breakouts and dryness on the face at the same time. There may be larger pore sizes on your nose compared with cheeks or jaw line. And yet another indicator of combo skin may be a bit further up on the scalp. Dandruff can (but not always) indicate combination skin issues.
Combination skin can be impacted by the environment (hot weather = oiliness), diet, and skincare products. But it’s most often caused by your genes. So before you go knocking on Grandma’s door to air your grievances, give your skin a little love and see if you can’t ease the combination skin woes on your own.
How to treat combination skin.
- Wash properly: For oily T-zone areas, adding a cleansing brush to your skin cleansing routine can help to decrease the oiliness, particularly when the weather is warmer. In cooler seasons, where your skin may be more prone to dryness, use an oil-based cleanser to help boost and retain moisture in the skin.
- Exfoliate: Skin that’s too dry or too oily can both benefit from exfoliation. Exfoilating removes dead skin cells, which helps to retain moisture. Use fruit-acid based peels or exfoliating grains to remove dead skin cells 1-3 times a week.
- Tone before moisturizing: Toners can help to reduce the appearance of pore size, and they can also help to address excess oil production – key for your too-oily T-zone. Using a toner that contains fruit acids or apple cider vinegar may help to reduce oiliness while prepping for moisturizing. And, yes, you should still moisturize even if you’re having excess oil issues! Retinol-based moisturizers or those containing alpha or beta hydroxy acids can provide skin the moisture it needs to stay balanced while also helping to reduce the appearance of pores.
- Wear a mask: Not to hide your beautiful face, of course. But to treat it. Clay masks or those with activated charcoal are excellent at drying out oily areas, and can restore glow to all of your face, no matter whether it’s too dry or too oily. Use a mask once a week.
- Treat your scalp: For excessively dry and flaky scalp related to combination skin, use a shampoo with tea tree oil, and be sure to really massage the scalp to help remove the dead skin. You can also apply a few drops of tea tree essential oil or black seed oil to your shampoo to help relieve dryness and itching. Your scalp may also benefit from a deep conditioning coconut oil treatment you can leave on for a few hours or overnight.
Coconut Milk Cleanser
Black Seed Oil
Lavender-Licorice Complexion Toner
Chamomile & Blue Cornflower Toner
Reading beauty product labels is fun, isn’t it? At best, you can rejoice if your label is filled with recognizable and good-for-you ingredients free from harmful synthetics. On the other hand, you can also boost your Words With Friends arsenal with all the complicated letter arrangements of synthetic chemicals. But there’s something to be said for keeping simple (both in ingredients and in Scrabble!). Enter: Neem, the ancient Ayurvedic skincare wonder ingredient.
If you’ve never heard of neem before, you’re not alone. This beauty multitasker has been flying under the radar for far too long. At least, here in the U.S. In countries like India, neem is a regular old superstar loved for its many powerful benefits for skin, hair, and even oral hygiene.
So, what is neem oil?
A tree member of the mahogany family, neem is also known as Indian lilac. It grows throughout India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and in the southern region of Iran, where it’s used for more than just glowing skin – it repels mosquitoes, keeps bugs out of pantries, and was even rumored to be used against malaria and leprosy (though we recommend seeking professional medical help immediately should you find yourself with symptoms of either).
Neem has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for ages, primarily for treating chronic skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, which can be notoriously persistent and irritating. But it’s also treasured for daily skin care maintenance and protection from environmental damage.
Neem oil is pressed from the leaves of the neem tree and contains high levels of antioxidants apt at fighting free radical damage. Carotenoids found in neem may protect against premature ageing of the skin, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
It’s also an excellent source of fatty acids as well as vitamin E – a known skin powerhouse nutrient. Both boost skin’s elasticity and overall health.
Neem may also help reduce or prevent acne breakouts and lessen healing time as well. Because neem oil is a potent antibacterial agent, it can reduce the presence of acne-causing bacteria. The fatty acids in neem also help to improve the healing process and reduce redness and scarring.
Regular use of neem in skin care (and hair care!) can leave the face (and scalp) smoother and younger looking.
Want to give neem a try? Check out our neem skin and haircare faves:
Calendula and Neem Bar Soap
Neem and Bay Leaf Shampoo
When we think of that summer sun blazing down on us, we think of protecting our skin. But what about our hair? If summer sun protection for your hair isn’t on your radar yet, it should be.
The sun is an equal opportunity scorcher. It does what it does and it’s up to you to protect your body – including your hair – lest you pay the price: dry, brittle, damaged hair. And if your hair is already a victim of abuse (frequent coloring, flat or curling irons, etc), it’s especially at risk of sun damage.
Minimize the sun damage to your hair with these tips:
- Trim it: Of course you probably want long flowing hair for summer, but already damaged ends can look way worse after a long, hot summer. Keep your hair trimmed to minimize the damage.
- Avoid excess heat: Likewise, relying too much on hair dryers and irons can, well, dry your hair out. Getting in the sun is like a second round of blow drying, so opt for air-drying in the warmer months.
- Nourish your hair: Just like you need to eat right for your skin, your hair loves the same attention. Lots of healthy fats, foods rich in biotin, and of course, copious amounts of water help to keep hair healthy and shiny.
- Swim smart: If you dive into the pool as soon as Memorial Day rolls around, you’re going to want to invest in a good swim cap. As unflattering as they may look, they do protect your hair from the chlorine (or salt) damage.
- Cover up in direct sun: A hat is going to provide some protection from the sun, but for long hair, not so much unless you tuck it into your hat or wrap it in a scarf.
- Condition, condition, condition! As in turn the water off, get out of the shower for half an hour and THEN rinse the conditioner out. You can also include a deep conditioning hair mask once a week or every other week to boost hydration and keep your locks looking healthy.
- Reduce washes: You’re probably washing your hair too much already. But in summer? You can cut the washing way down. In fact, you can simply just condition your hair a few times a week and wash it only once or twice a week. Unless you have a specific scalp condition that requires frequent washing, a good conditioning should be all your hair needs during the hot days of summer.
Check out our favorite deep conditioners for hair:
Coconut Calendula Conditioner
Maca Tonic Hair Crème
Olive Black Seed Conditioning Cream
Are you a label reader? We hope you are – whether it’s your food or your skincare, ingredients matter. If understanding what they are make you feel like you need a science degree (or two), you’re not alone. A lot of even simple ingredients come with fancy sounding names, like hydrosol. What is this ingredient, and why is it in your (and our!) skincare products? It’s not as fancy as it sounds, actually.
A hydrosol is a botanical water usually made with flowers, but any botanical will work, like leaves, fruits, barks, or other plant material. Unlike essential oils – the pure, concentrated essence of a botanicals — hydrosols are mostly water.
These dilutes typically contain less than one percent (usually 0.01 – 0.04 percent) of the essential oil. A plant that contains more water naturally will be less concentrated than a denser ingredient.
Essential oils, if you’re not familiar, are extracted from a plant through various means. These highly concentrated oils are extremely potent (thus the reason they come via such small bottles). A little goes a long, long way. Not only are they usually fabulous to smell, but they’re most often recommended to be diluted via a carrier oil. While hydrosols aren’t oils, they are by definition, already diluted.
You can compare hydrosol to a diluted herbal tea. But even though a cup of ginger tea is less potent than a whole ginger root, it’s still got much of the root’s potent benefits, which is why hydrosols are often found in skincare instead of just plain water. It’s like a naturally enhanced water that is both hydrating and medicinal, delivering a boost of plant nutrients, be they anti-inflammatory effects, toning properties, wound-healing, calming, or rejuvenating aspects. You’ve got this perfectly useful water that’s going to do great things for your skin.
Because hydrosols are less concentrated than pure essential oils, they’re also less likely to irritate the skin or cause allergic reactions when used in a product or on its own.
If you’re a fan of essential oil fragrances, you’ll still pick up notes of the botanical in a hydrosol, but it will be less potent, and may have a greener or grassier scent more like the botanical would smell in your garden.
While hydrosols are often used in skincare products, they can be used on their own as a skin toner or as an aromatherapy spray. Still — be sure to read the label on your hydrosols to make sure it’s a clean and natural product.
Is summer your favorite time of the year? The warm weather, longer days, and pool or beach time almost makes every day feel like a vacation even when you’re working during the week (almost!). But with the warm weather comes an unwelcome visitor: summer breakouts.
If you’re prone to breakouts when you’ve got that sweaty layer on you and think there’s nothing much to do about it, we’ve got some good (and bad) news for you.
Okay, first the bad news: you’re probably going to breakout this summer, especially if you have sensitive skin to begin with. Whether it’s the sweating, the layers of sunscreen (yes, we mean layers!), or irritation from chlorinated pools (or less than clean oceans), zits will probably happen. But your best defense is a good offensive strategy. Even though there’s no guarantee to keep them away, you may at least, keep summer breakouts manageable. Here’s how.
- SPF: I know I just said sunscreen can make you breakout, and it can if it’s heavy, greasy, or loaded with synthetic chemicals that can irritate skin. But protection from the sun also means less irritated, and thus less sensitive, skin. Use a light SPF moisturizer especially around the T-zone region where breakouts can be more common in the heat.
- Reduce exfoliation: Well-exfoliated skin tans more evenly, but it can also make your skin more sensitive, particularly if it’s sensitive to begin with. And, it can also cause your skin to produce more oil, increasing the risk of breakouts. So, if you’re exfoliating twice a week, cut down to once a week or once every ten days or go even longer if you can.
- Tone instead: A good toner is like a more mild exfoliant and can help to unclog pores, detoxify, and soothe irritated skin. Plus, it can keep your skin cool (especially a spray toner), which means less sweating and less the skin is prone to breakouts.
- Go natural: Yes, summertime is filled with more fun events and parties you likely want to look good for, but makeup, particularly foundation, powders, and blushes, can make your skin extremely irritated. Makeup can clog your pores causing breakouts, and in the heat of summer bacteria is also more likely to spread between makeup and brushes, so be sure to clean yours often.
- Wash your face regularly: While overwashing the skin can lead to breakouts similar to overexfoliating (removing the healthy oils), in summer, it can reduce the breakout risk. Not only do you want to get rid of the oil and sweat, but there’s also the environmental grime, pollen, etc, you’re exposed to by being outside more often. You’ll feel it – the urge to wash your face isn’t just the body wanting to cool off, it’s a legit reaction to wanting to be cleaned. All the more reason to reduce your makeup for the season, and carry a good toner and SPF moisturizer in your bag because you’re going to need them.
- Stay hydrated: This is an easy one for most of us during the summer, but it’s worth repeating. Well-hydrated skin is healthy skin, so make sure you’re getting your eight glasses in every day.
- Moisturizing masks: If your skin is mostly cooperative you can help to keep the momentum going by doing a deeply hydrating moisture mask, whether it’s a store-bought one or a mashed avocado and banana face mask. Adding moisture to the skin keeps it from overproducing it on its own, and that’s going to make it less likely to breakout. But if you’re battling a flare-up, don’t do a mask. Spot treat, relax, and do your best to enjoy the weather regardless.
Check out our favorites for summer skin:
Argan & Yarrow Mineral Sunscreen
Coconut Milk Safflower Cleanser
Lavender Licorice Toner
If your sun protection regimen makes you look (and feel) like you’re bundling up for an Icelandic winter while wearing spackle on your face instead of a day of beach volleyball, you’re not alone. There’s no shame is warding off fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and the C word. But summer is meant to be FUN if nothing else – light, easy, and most definitely sunny. Covering up every inch of skin sure takes the pleasure out of long, lazy beach days. Add to that the expense of sun protection (on-trend hats and sunglasses aren’t cheap, and neither is great sunscreen), and you can forget the short shorts and those summer vacay plans. But what if you could have that sun-kissed summer glow while staying protected? Can you tan while using sun protection?
The short answer is: Yes.
While sunscreen, especially the natural kind that reflects the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them, is designed to minimize the damage to your skin, you can still rock a pretty decent tan while being protected from burning, which is where the real damage occurs – not just increasing the aging process, but also the cancer risk.
One of the best benefits of sunscreen is that it allows you to spend more time in the sun than you could without it, which means you’ll tan without the burn-peel-then-tan method of the 1970s and ‘80s. Look for a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects you from both the “burning” rays (UVB) and UVA rays (although there’s no standardized protection rating for those yet). This will help you stay in the sun longer while reducing the burning. Stack your skincare layers with an SPF moisturizer as well, and pay special attention to delicate skin around the eyes (especially those eyelids).
Skin exfoliation is also helpful in achieving your tanning goals. By removing the dead skin cells, your “fresh” skin will not only tan more quickly and evenly, but it will last longer, too. Exfoliating can be done with products like scrubs or cleansing grains, or with fruit acid-based products, which are generally used on the face.
But even though wearing sunscreen allows for more time in the sun, don’t overdo it. Gradual exposure to the sun reduces the risk of sunburn and helps the body boost its own melanin production to help prevent burning in the future (meaning you can stay in the sun longer each time you go out). And no matter how long you’re going out for, be sure to protect your skin every single time.
Is there any word more dangerous than “natural”? It means so much and technically so little at the same time. Especially when it comes to our beauty products.
Just because there’s no federally mandated regulation for the word “natural” doesn’t mean it isn’t a useful term. In some cases it can be the distinguishing factor between a completely artificial and potentially harmful product, and one that’s, well, not.
Organic certification is difficult for personal care products for many reasons. Because they often contain a lot of water (which is not organic), the volume of organic ingredients can be overshadowed by the presence of water. Other ingredients, like baking soda, salt, zinc oxide aren’t sourced from living things (i.e. plants) making them ineligible for organic certification.
Enter the word “natural” which has often come to mean what isn’t in a product as much as it means what is in there. The absence of synthetic chemicals, not necessarily the presence of organic ingredients, is one of the more common reasons you’ll see “natural” on your fave beauty products. And it’s worthwhile to take a peek at the label—especially when it comes to these three beauty products.
“Natural” beauty products can often contain a lot of truly natural ingredients–we’re talking emollient oils and butters straight from plants like shea butter, cacao butter, jojoba, almond, sunflower, or apricot oils. And speaking of oils, a product that gets its fragrance from essential oils instead of synthetic fragrance isn’t just good for your health–you’ll immediately smell the difference. And chances are, you’ll love the smell of nature at its finest.
Of course, it’s the health reasons that make making the switch so significant. Are you ready to go natural?
The Top 3 Beauty Products You Need to Make Sure are Completely Natural
- Deodorant – If you’re still a die-hard antiperspirant and deodorant person, consider this your intervention. Conventional deodorants have been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. They contain endocrine disrupting chemicals that can throw off your body’s hormonal system, leading to mood swings, weight gain, and reproductive issues, as well as the C word. Your underarms contain sweat glands (duh) and they can absorb and retain these chemicals to damaging effect, particularly if you shave your pits and then apply the chemicals soon after. Do your bod a favor and make the switch to a natural deodorant ASAP.
- Hair Care – Whether it’s shampoo and conditioner, styling products, or hair coloring, we give our tresses a beat down, regularly. Not only do synthetic chemical products strip our hair of natural oils, leading to more dryness, frizz, and breakage, but it can also leach harmful toxins into our bodies, particularly if they come in contact with our scalp (which they do). From the formaldehyde in straightening products to the phthalates and parabens in shampoos, you put your health at risk every time you use a conventional hair care product. There’s a reason pregnant women are advised not to color treat, relax, or perm their hair—these chemicals go straight to our reproductive system and our babies. Fortunately, there are many effective natural hair care products that can get the job done without the risk.
- Skin Crèmes – Whether it’s your favorite under eye treatment, moisturizing face cream, or the super rich stuff you lather into your elbows and knees, skin crème can be loaded with petroleum byproducts and ingredients damaging to the skin and the planet. Considering you likely use a skin crème daily, the quality of the ingredients is a serious issue. Add to that your sunscreen, which may include chemicals that cause skin irritation and inflammation, and you’re setting your skin up for disaster. You know, but no pressure! The good news is that there are so many brands (ahem) making lux, rich, and super amazing skin crème products that will make you never want to look at conventional skincare again.
Looking to make the switch now?
Natural hair care
Ginko and pumpkin crème
Seaweed and algae moisturizer
Birthdays should come only once a year (at the most!). But celebrating Earth Day only once a year seems a little, well, illogical. After all, it’s our home—would we only clean our house once a year? Or be thankful that we have a roof over our head only annually? Of course not. Most of us love nothing more than locking the door, queueing up the Netflix, popping up that organic popcorn, DIYing a killer face mask, and celebrating the little pleasures that take place inside our home. So why let Earth Day happen only as often as our (dreaded) birthdays?
Fortunately, we can easily make every day Earth Day—from recycling like a fiend, eating organic and local food, using a fuel-efficient vehicle, and in our body care products. Yes, our skincare. Our shampoo and conditioner—even (and especially!) our deodorant.
If that last one seems a little strange, let’s dive a little deeper into why your beauty care choices matter for the planet.
First and foremost, ingredients matter. If you’re still using synthetic chemical-based personal care products—you’re putting your health at risk. There are countless studies linking common chemical ingredients in personal care products to health issues as mild as rashes and allergies to life-threatening cancer risks. You can’t exactly be a beacon of good for the planet if your own health isn’t optimal. But there’s another issue: many of these synthetic chemicals are produced in labs with limited resources that have toxic effects on the planet (looking at you, petroleum byproducts). Other ingredients that wind up in our waterways can be harmful to marine life, including our vital coral reefs.
Natural ingredients, on the other hand—whether that’s sustainably harvested shea butter, organic essential oils, or coconut-based soaps—come from renewable resources. If they’re sourced from organic producers, they contribute to healthier soil and pollinator habitats. They cause considerably less pollution (if any), and are much friendlier to our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams.
Also consider another key component of personal care products: packaging. While most conventional products come in plastic—a petroleum byproduct deeply linked to environmental damage—many natural personal care brands opt for more sustainable packaging such as glass. While there are issues with glass, too—mainly the weight in shipping, which uses more fossil fuels—there are pros not just for the planet, but for our health, too. And every bit helps move us toward a cleaner system overall. A box that uses recycled paper and soy-based inks is one less product using virgin paper and petroleum or coal-based inks.
Supporting natural body care product companies doesn’t always mean you’re supporting a small business, but if often does. Small businesses help to shift our economy toward local, U.S. made products, and many have environmental or social causes tied to their products, making them an even healthier choice for the planet and everyone on it.
Collagen is all the rage in the beauty world right now. This animal byproduct has been touted for its skin-boosting benefits. You can find collagen powder, pills, and the messier version—“bone broth”—rich in animal collagen, which is the gelatin produced from the connective tissues, bones, and hooves of livestock animals. But if downing bone juice isn’t your thing, you don’t have to worry about your skin suffering. There are plenty of animal-free collagen boosting foods and treatments out there. All you need is a healthy diet that includes these foods.
Why We Need Collagen
Our bodies naturally produce collagen—it’s what makes our skin look young and strong. But over time, we lose collagen, our skin starts to sag and wrinkle. Add to time environmental factors like excess sun exposure, pollution, and even smoking can deplete collagen. Our diet plays a role, too—refined sugars and carbs, too much alcohol, and processed food in general can take a toll on our collagen production.
But even though collagen supplements are incredibly popular right now, some doctors say the science isn’t conclusive about its benefits for skin. It may seem obvious, but just because you drink collagen doesn’t mean your body will produce more of it or assimilate it any more than eating a tomato makes you sprout one out of your elbow.
Fortunately, there are many vegetarian foods and supplements that can help your body boost its own collagen production naturally. Here are a few.
7 Vegetarian Collagen Boosters
- Silica – Perhaps the most important ingredient in collagen production is silica. It’s abundant in bananas, whole grains, carrots, and raisins. But the best plant source is horsetail (not from actual horses). Silica supplements are available in most health food stores and are relatively inexpensive, too.
- Vitamin C – We think of vitamin C as the cold and flu buster, but it’s also critical for collagen production in the body. It’s readily available in a diet rich in fruits and veggies—no supplements needed. But if you think you need a vitamin C boost, plenty of supplements are available. Note that vitamin C can be destroyed in the cooking process, so if you’re adding more C-rich fruits and veggies to your diet (bell peppers are an excellent choice as are kiwis), try eating them raw.
- Beta Carotene – Another fruit and veggie superstar, beta carotene is abundant in carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, and apricots. This vitamin is also important in collagen production – did Bugs Bunny or Popeye ever look sallow?
- Anthocyanins – Hard to pronounce but not hard to love, anthocyanins are the chemicals in deeply colored berries and cherries that help our bodies not only fight off free radicals that can damage the skin, but also to boost its collagen production.
- Copper – Bust out the chocolate covered almonds because this combo is rich in the mineral copper, which is critical for collagen production. Vitamin C aids in the uptake of copper (which is where the “C” comes from), so it’s no wonder both chemicals play a role in getting your glow on. Other foods high in copper include sunflower seeds, lentils, apricots, and asparagus.
- Soy – The versatile soybean may be controversial because of the ubiquity of genetically modified soybeans, but there’s no denying its heath benefits, specifically the presence of genistein, the isoflavone that increases collagen production. Genistein may also help to quash free radicals which can damage and age the skin.
- Proline – An amino acid essential to the collagen process, proline is found in a number of delicious plant foods including peanuts, watercress, chickpeas, beans, cabbage, asparagus, cucumber, and even chives.