My skin has been my constant obsession for the past 10 years.
I think the whole saga begins with my mother, as most sagas do, and her vast knowledge of and need for intense moisturizers. As a teen she was always trying to slather some cream or another on my face while I wriggled and protested, brainwashed by the drugstore aisles of OIL-FREE and NON-COMEDOGENIC. I didn’t trust that what worked for her always-clear skin would ever be appropriate for my pale, acneic mess.
It took me years of drying out my already dry skin with the wrong products, stripping my skin down to flakes and redness before I started hearing rumors of the benefits of using products with oils. My mother would practically bathe in oil daily and somehow I never made the connection that she could be on to something. (We all rebel in different ways.)
My first foray into oil-based products was finally using my mother’s favorite face lotion, Weleda Calendula Baby Cream. Yes, it is made for the butts of the innocent, but my mother astutely noted that the ingredients were extremely similar to the line’s face creams, just a bit heavier in texture, and the tube was much cheaper.
Riding off the high of that first success, I dove face first into the oil-cleansing trend. The promise of concocting my own mixtures of face cleansers and moisturizer on the cheap excited the little miserly alchemist that lives inside me. I ended up spending way more than I wanted to at Whole Foods, convinced I was the next Linda Rodin, and when I laid down in bed that night slathered in tamanu oil, my boyfriend kissed me and then recoiled.
He said I smelled horrible and slept on the other side of the bed as I pouted alone with my smelly face. I kept up with the cleansing bit of the process and my skin actually did improve.
But after I finished the little vial of my DIY oil and ran out of wash cloths, I got lazy and moved on to a fancy but traditional face cleanser that my friend was using. Within two months my face was festering with zits. I tried to chock it up to “the change in weather” or whatever, but I realized that I had been on somewhat of the right track with the oil cleansing.
I recently discovered the wisdom of British skincare guru, Caroline Hirons, a cultish authority in the skincare world. Her blog is chock-full of super advice and I trust her implicitly because she tells it like it is and her skin looks bonkers amazing. Caroline is a staunch believer in the power of cleansing balms. They are sort of like a solid version of cleansing oil, inititally pioneered by the expensive Eve Lom cleanser. They require the hot cloth method of removal and Caroline insists on the magic of DOUBLE CLEANSING.
Newsflash: Your face is dirty. You cannot wake up in the morning and splash water on your face like some Olay commercial and think that the skin on your face is actually clean.
Have you ever stumbled into your kitchen in the morning, hung over, and tried to rinse a dirty dish with just cold water? As your grumpy roommate will tell you, it let doesn’t work. You face gets dirty just by being a face. You sweat, there is dust in the air, bacteria on your pillow and your sleep partner probably has worse hygiene methods than your own (except if he is my hyper clean weirdo boyfriend.)
Wash your face in the morning with a normal non-foaming cleanser. I believe the need for that squeaky-clean feeling is propaganda to make your face shittier so that you buy more anti-aging/acne/dryness products. Use a milk, gel or cream cleanser without sulfates and be gentle! I am using up the last of my overpriced (but lovely!) cleanser Clark’s Botanical’s Soothing Herbal Face Wash. It is creamy and removes eye make-up like a dream without residue. After this go through the rest of your usual routine and face the world with a clean slate.
At night the double cleanse is very important. Break out your cleansing balm. Right now I am using the famed Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm. It is reasonably priced, comes in a huge purple pot and lasts forever. A lot of cleansing balms have fun fragrances, essential oils, Shea butter, or mineral oil in them, which can make those products inappropriate for those of us with the tendency to be a host to red demon zits.
Once you have a little scoop of balm on your finger, spread across your whole face, and massage it in thoroughly. Use this as an opportunity to give your face a lymphatic massage and increase blood flow and oxygen the skin. There are 43 muscles in the face and they do a lot of work for you scowling on the subway or faking a smile at work. Massage your cheeks, the top of your orbital bone (your eyebrows) and rub outwards from your chin to your earlobes.
After about two minutes of skin and muscle massage, move on to the removal process. Take a clean muslin or terry washcloth and soak it in very warm running water. Press the cloth on your each part of your face (chin, cheeks, nose, forehead) until it cools to steam.
Then rinse and wipe, rinse and wipe until you have removed all the balm. To keep bacteria as far away from my face as possible, I use a new washcloth EVERY DAY. Let your cloth dry over night and then chuck it in the hamper. To keep my cleansing habit cheap, I buy towels at the discount store for $5 and cut them into washcloth size pieces. I can usually get more than 20 washcloths out of one towel. This makes them almost disposable, but feel free to be green and reuse (after laundering!).
Even if you believe you have removed all the grime from your face, you must take the cream/gel/milk cleanser from the morning and wash your face again normally. Your face is now open to receiving any positive ingredients from this cleanser and it ensures that your face is totally purified without the sad, tight feeling. My skin is still on its way to recovery and I’m dealing with hyperpigmentation left over from the alien zit invasion to my face, but double cleansing is giving my skin a fighting chance.
Do you want to hear the rest of my skin care regimen? Have you tried double cleansing? Are you team muslin or team washcloth? What other milky or balm cleansers should I try when mine runs out?
Follow my skin’s progression through indulgent selfies on my Instagram @piabergman