I’ve dabbled with different holistic skincare routines and products over the years and have experienced a little confusion (understatment) about what’s actually effective.
After chatting with my friend + Holistic Facial expert Gretchen Oppenheim, doing an email consultation with the impossible-to-book-in-with Skin Psychic Colette at Clarite Wellness, and taking vigorous notes from this mini masterclass with celebrated holistic skincare specialist Kristina Holey, I’m compiling my key takeaways for you here.
In a nutshell, the skin results we want start with understanding how the skin functions. One thing I didn’t truly understand until recently is that the microbiome of our skin needs to be healthy in order for our skin to be healthy. And more to the point, our skin health reflects not only the health of our gut/body, but also of our emotional well being: these two facts really do go hand in hand. (One more reason to start doing breathwork!) Also important: the vitamins we receive through our food go first to our organs, and the last place they travel to is our skin, hair and nails, which is why it does indeed matter to both feed our skin topically and influence our skin at a cellular level as well.
Here are some holistic skincare tips I wish I knew earlier, but glad I know now.
But first, the ideal order for an effective skin regime is as follows: 1. Cleanse 2. Tone/Mist 3. Feed Skin with a Serum. 4. Finish with a Cream/Lotion/Oil to moisturize. 5. Layer with sunscreen during the day. Adjust based on your skin type. Gretchen explains “The three first steps help to deliver ‘food’ deep into the dermis of the skin and work to provide things like antioxidants that repair, while the next layer of moisturizing works on the upper layers of the skin, the epidermis, to provide a protective moisture barrier layer.”
Voila, here are some great tips, and product recommendations from the holistic skincare experts I trust.
All of the holistic skincare experts I’ve researched recommend cleansing with a non stripping cream or oil.
For dry skin, Colette recommends Living Libations Seabuckthorn which is great as a cleansing oil but may not be enough moisture as a face oil. To cleanse, just apply the oil to dry skin, massage well with dry hands, then remove with a warm wrung out cloth. *Cool water is not effective for removing oil.
Like attracts like, so for oily or combo skin, a well formulated oil cleanser is a great choice. Gretchen recommend’s Laurel’s Oil Cleanser which deep cleans pores and includes black cumin seed oil and tamanu seed oil to balance the skin’s microbiome and reduce inflammation and redness from breakouts.
After cleansing, a toner is key. The idea of a toner is to reset the acid mantle in the skin, balance the pH, and also exfoliate, brighten and hydrate.
According to Colette: “Misting water or a hydrosol into the skin before applying serums or oils will trap water into the skin which will make it feel much more hydrated. While, yes, you could simply apply your cream and oils over dampened skin, using a toner really nourishes the skin and is a great way to increase the water levels, warding off dehydration.”
Colette recommends the Lotion P50 pigm by Biologique because it resets the PH, gently exfoliates, brightens and hydrates while allowing better penetration of the products that you’ll put on top.
A simple rose hydrosol from a health food store is great, such as Sola’s which smells like fresh roses. Colette recommends the Rose Glow Complexion mist from Living Libations which has added nourishing and repairing ingredients like helichrysum, rose otto, lavender and carrot seed extract. Gretchen recommends both Laurel’s Hydrating Elixir and Farm Rose Hydrosol. I have tried and love them all.
HOLISTIC SKINCARE HYDRATION
When it comes to hydration and feeding the skin with actual food, we get the best results if we mimic the function of healthy juicy skin. This means reaching the deeper layers, the outer junction, and the barrier layer at the surface.
Explains Colette, “For dry skin, we want a hydrating serum to work with the natural glycosaminoglycans and ceramides deep in the skin, a cream to mimic the natural lipid/water combo we have at the outer junction, and an oil or finishing serum to mimic the lipid layer that prevents water loss and protects the skin.”
The creme de la creme for dry skin as far as serums would be Serum Collagen Originelle by Biologique Recherche. This will ward off lines, firm, plump, hydrate and repair. I constantly see beautiful results with this serum.”
Gretchen recommends Laurel Skin’s Unburden Serum or Laurel’s Balance Serum depending on skin type. When used in conjunction with a hydrosol, both of these provide deep hydration as well as oil balancing, and anti-inflammatory protection for both oily and or acne prone skin types.
According to Colette, for dry skin “It’s best to use a cream/oil on top of the lotion to trap in the water.”
“For a cream, I recommend Living Libations Rose Glow Cream for a beautiful classic nourishing cream or Biologique Recherche Grand Millesime for a hydrating, brightening cream that is more lightweight and completely penetrates into the skin. Both are lovely! For a serum, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, and a water or gel based texture versus an oil.
For an oil, Colette recommends this local Rosehip Oil. It’s by far her best seller from clients from around the world and because there is no marketing or fancy packaging and it’s extremely inexpensive. Colette says, “The woman who makes it is so lovely and you really feel it in the product! She wild harvests the roships after the first frost in Northern BC, then uses her cold press machine from Germany that requires no solvents to extract, and adds carrot seed extract, rose otto and a few other nourishing ingredients for the best oil of all time.”
HOLISTIC SKINCARE MASKS
For extra hydration, a mask can be amazing to incorporate once or twice a week.
According to Colette, “For an extra hydrating boost, creme masque vernix used as an overnight mask is very lovely. Great for the winter season.”
Gretchen recommends the Tropical Mango Mask from Osmosis Beauty. It smells like fresh, juicy mango and is formulated with hydrating shea butter to calm, cool and hydrate skin. Perfect for all skin types from dry and aging to barrier compromised skin.
Sun damage is responsible for 99% of signs of visible ageing, according to Kristina Holey. Because UVA exposure degrades the collagen in the skin, sun really is the biggest cause of wrinkles, which is why sunscreen (above all else!) will delay the signs of ageing.
Holey recommends Zinc Oxide only sunscreen, at 17-20%. She personally uses this one by Badger. Interesting fact: Chemical based sunscreens degrade with sun exposure so you need to reapply every two hours, but with zinc oxide, it lasts longer.
Gretchen recommends Colore Sciene Sunforgettables SPF 50 powder screen (this is a mineral sunscreen formulated with zinc + titanium dioxide). For those who prefer a cream with zinc only formulation, she recommends Face Shield SPF 50.
According to Holey, retinol is the # 1 ingredient for repairing damaged skin.
She also says that these are the crucial ingredients to look for in products because they actually work to nourish the skin: Vitamin B3, niacinamide, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and of course, Retinol.
“When it comes to supporting ageing we use Retinoic Acid at Marie Veronique. It stimulates Collagen and makes more skin cells but it needs to be one that converts to Retinoic acids to do the deeper work.” In other words, it needs to be a stabilized retinol. Here’s a great guide to understanding retinol. And this is a Retinol Night Serum that Holey recommends.
She says Hyaluronic Acid is also a good ingredient as it helps with the moisture barrier/plumping effect, but you’ve got to make sure you’re using good formulation.
ADDRESSING SKIN CHALLENGES FROM A HOLISTIC SKINCARE PERSPECTIVE
While hormones are the easy blame for most conditions, according to Holey they’re blamed more than is warranted for issues like rosacea and adult acne.
Holey says the more important factor is our gut health which is why things like the Bean protocol have become so popular to help restore our gut health and reduce inflammation in the body, as well as get rid of excess bile, and help to restore our gut microbiome.
My key takeaway? We can spend a fortune on supplements but if we’re not absorbing our vitamins, it’s useless. So, we need to make sure we are as a first step in skin health. Other basics include getting enough sleep, avoiding stress (that’s easy), and assessing your emotions. Breathing exercises are a great way to get yourself out of the sympathetic mode and into the rest and digest so that your body, including your skin, can heal.
Often blamed on hormones, but experts say it’s actually connected with leaky gut more often than not. Holey recommends testing your stool, via asking your GP for a stool analysis to see if there’s pathogens or increased permeability (leaky gut) present. Sometimes the best results come from learning to eat for your body and are unique to the individual.
EXFOLIATION DOES MORE HARM THAN GOOD
All of these experts agree to avoid overdoing exfoliation because it causes breakdown of the barrier level of skin which can cause bigger problems long term. In other words, exfoliating isn’t actually really needed. This is the opposite of what I learned in my 20’s – WTF happened to microdermabrasion?? As Holey explains: “Good products go down to the layers where it’s needed, so instead of exfoliating, a nice thorough oil cleanse will ensure your skin is ready to absorb all the good stuff you’re putting on it.”
Voila, there you have it, tips for creating a holistic skin regime, with clean products recommended by three celebrated skincare experts.
HOLISTIC SKINCARE Consultations
Finally, whether you’re experiencing big skin challenges or not, a skin consultation can be life changing. Here’s how to get started.
- Book a phone consultation with Collette at Clarity Wellness. Book here.
- Book a free skin consultation with the team of experts at Marie Veronique. Book here.
- Book a holistic skincare consultation with Gretchen at Wildflower Beauty Bar. Book here.
More HOLISTIC SKINCARE Resources
- This great Gua Sha Tutorial so you can start doing gua sha at home.
- This list of Clean Beauty Products for glowy skin. Dew Dab is amazing!