What to do when green isn’t working

Kahina Line Spring 2014 Low Res lightened and cropped
A recent article got us thinking about what happens when your green beauty products don’t seem to be working. You make the transition from dermatologist-recommended medications or from department store marquis brands to organic/natural products. You’re excited; you love the green beauty community and the new formulations you get to try. You read morning routines, you order samples, or buy from a store with a generous return policy, and you start testing. Eventually you find a bundle of products that work for you. But then. Then you experience a change for the worse. Of course, this does not happen for everyone. But we read about it enough that we want to address it here and provide some common complaints and how to address them. We absolutely think that it’s worth it to stick to a more organic/natural beauty routine, for a myriad of reasons, so we hope this helps you troubleshoot, get over your hump, and persevere.

I am breaking out (more) now that I’m using organic/natural products.
This has to be the most frequent issue we read about. Breakouts have so many causes. Let’s assume that you’re not suddenly experiencing heightened stress levels, or fluctuating hormonal levels, or a substantial change in diet. Let’s assume you’ve been evaluated by your primary care physician, with blood work, to confirm you’re perfectly healthy. Perhaps you were using benzoyl peroxide or a retinoid but you’ve stopped. And now you have more acne than you’ve ever had. Why and what to do?

1. It is fun to try new products, but your skin may not love the process as much as you do. The single most important thing when delving into green beauty is to pick a simple routine to start with and to stick with it for at least a month, but ideally more like three to four months. Our standard recommendation to anyone with acne-prone skin who is just trying Kahina is Facial CleanserToning MistArgan Oil, AM & PM, with a bi-weekly Antioxidant Mask. Save serums, targeted moisturizers, etc. for later. Incorporating them one at a time down the road will help you determine if the new product is the offender in new breakouts.

2. If you used benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids to treat acne, try incorporating their natural counterparts into your routine.

  • Tea tree oil is the typical swap for benzoyl peroxide, but it, just like benzoyl peroxide, can be irritating so go about testing carefully and be sure it is well-diluted in a carrier oil. Another promising option for killing acne-causing bacteria is a thyme hydrosol.
  • As for salicylic acid, you have some options. Salicylic acid is a member of the salicin family, so in the green beauty world, willow bark (white or black) is often the comparison, as it’s also in this family. Willow bark does provide anti-inflammatory benefits, which can help with redness and inflammation, hallmarks of acne. Willow bark is in both the Kahina Cleanser and our Toning Mist. To help clear pores, which salicylic acid also does, your best bet might be apple cider vinegar. Again, dilute this guy with water because he’s strong and the goal here is to avoid irritation at all costs. You can splash or swipe some apple cider vinegar + water over your face post-cleansing and pre-toning. The malic acid it contains can help clarify and decongest.
  • Regarding retinoids there are a lot of brands making comparable organic/natural products that are gentle. As mentioned in #1, however, as these are not single ingredients but rather formulations with lots of ingredients, we’d say it’s best to wait a few months before adding a new product in.
  • A word on vitamin C: vitamin C is a proven skincare champion, BUT it can be irritating and therefore exacerbate acne. Getting a stable form of it and in the right dosage for your particular skin can be difficult. We would not recommend experimenting with vitamin C products until you’ve achieved many months of clear skin, and we would not recommend looking to vitamin C products as breakout-fighting solutions. Everyone’s skin is different and good on you if vitamin C somehow cleared your acne, but in our opinion, it’s not worth using at first if you’re prone to breakouts or sensitivity.

3. If you’re experiencing clogged pores, check four things: your moisturizer, your makeup, your sunscreen, and how you exfoliate.

  • A big word of caution we’re constantly telling our customers is this: do not use more moisturizer (oil, lotion or cream) than you need. You probably need fewer drops of argan oil than you think you do. Feel free to layer our products if your skin is dry, but also feel free to use just argan oil, or just a lotion/cream if that’s all your skin needs to feel comfortable (not taut). Always apply an oil with a toning mist containing sodium hyaluronate – a humectant particle – to ensure you get a complete moisturizer (oil + water). This helps prevent flakiness which causes some people to overdose on oil, ignoring the water component of properly hydrated skin.
  • As for makeup and sunscreen, coconut oil can be a big offender in formulations (admittedly not everyone has a problem with coconut oil, but many do), as can excessive plant butters and waxes. Where possible, we suggest using mineral makeup (like Alima Pure) rather than creams or sticks. Look for sunscreens with simple ingredient lists. Zinc oxide is our favorite method of sun protection, as topical zinc can be soothing for acne.
  • Finally, are you exfoliating? How often? Aim for gentle exfoliation as often as your skin can take it. For some skin types, this could be every day via a washcloth or konjac sponge. For others, it might be once a week with our Antioxidant Mask. Can you use the Clarisonic? Absolutely, if you keep the brush clean – try soaking in hydrogen peroxide every few uses – and if your skin is not irritated at all afterwards; we wouldn’t recommend it for use during active breakouts. Your skin does a great job of shedding dead skin cells on its own, but some skin types shed more sluggishly than others, leaving dead skin cells on the surface where they can mix with sebum/excess oil and clog pores. If you do your part to exfoliate – gently without irritating – you can help your cause. The malic acid in ACV mentioned in #2 will help, but we also recommend recommend gentle physical exfoliation (washcloth, muslin, konjac, clarisonic, clay). Kahina Facial Cleanser contains papaya enzymes which are a super-gentle daily enzymatic exfoliant.

Examining these three areas and making improvements where possible should help resolve any bumps (pun intended!) along the road as you transition to organic/natural beauty products.

In part II, we’ll discuss two other common transition complaints.

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