7 Days of Natural Skincare: Which Natural Products Will Actually Clear Up Acne

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After a weekend of boozy brunches, rosé all day, and late night pizza deliveries, how do you recover? A cleanse, of course. Our natural instinct is to combat the bloat, reflux, and fatigue that accompany a wild weekend with a simpler diet: juices, smoothies, soups, or a gentle-on-the-digestive-system Kitchari cleanse, if you’re feeling Ayurved-ish.

So how come our must-cleanse-now instincts don’t kick in when it comes to our skin?

In fact, if you’re anything like me, your bad skin day instincts might actually lead you in the opposite direction: stocking up on new skincare in search of a miracle product, slathering on too many masks, and exfoliating your skin into oblivion in the quest for perfect skin. But what irritated skin really needs is a detox. 

The week after my wedding, all hell broke loose on my face. Months of running-on-adrenaline planning resulted in a major crash that affected my sinuses and skin, and left me congested, clogged, and inflamed in every sense of the world. I developed those painful, deep-under-the-skin cysts that haven’t been a problem for me since college, and had a smattering of ready-to-explode whiteheads cramping my style. And even though I’d crafted the perfect pre-wedding skincare routine that served me well at the time, nothing seemed to be working. So I decided to cleanse.

For seven days, I narrowed my beauty routine down to just three natural products–and the progress pics are proof enough that a detox can be the most effective (and efficient) path to calm, clear skin. 

From Day 1 to Day 7

Here’s what I did, and how you can craft your own clear skin detox.

Clean Out Your Cabinet

...just for the week! I edited my product lineup down to just three natural essentials: manuka honey, tea tree oil toner, and coconut oil. The idea is to make sure the ingredients touching your skin are as natural and soothing as possible. One unexpected benefit? I guarantee this routine will save you money.

Use Manuka Honey in Place of Face Wash, Face Masks, and Spot Treatments 

It might sound weird to wash your face with honey, but trust me on this one. Manuka honey in particular (which is native to New Zealand and comes from bees that feed on manuka bushes) is incredible on the skin. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help fight and soothe nearly any skin condition, especially acne and fungal acne; it rebalances the healthy bacteria on your skin and prevents acne-causing bacteria from regenerating; and it actually absorbs moisture from the air and draws it into the skin, leaving you super-hydrated and glow-y. Each jar of manuka honey will have a Bio-Active Rating–look for one with a rating of 20 or more, guaranteeing that it’s powerful enough to tackle all your skin’s problems. I prefer Manuka Doctor 24+

How to:

As a face wash:
Moisten your skin with warm water, then smooth a quarter-sized dollop of manuka honey onto your fingers and massage over your skin. Don’t worry; it won’t feel sticky! Take your time, moving your fingers in a circular motion over your face and concentrating on irritated areas. The honey’s antibacterial properties only work while in contact with your skin, so be a little indulgent here. Wash off with warm water and pat dry.

As a mask:
If your skin is in need of a little extra TLC, you can use manuka honey as a mask. Either slather on a thick coat of honey on its own, or mix a dollop of manuka with a spoonful of French green clay and a spritz of rose water for a detoxifying/hydrating mixture. Let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing off.

As a spot treatment:
Emerging cyst or bulging whitehead got you down? Dab a dot of manuka on it. Leave it on as long as you like–but be warned, when manuka isn’t mixed with water, it’s pretty sticky. I don’t recommend sleeping with honey on your face, so leave this step for waking hours.

Use Tea Tree Oil Toner in Place of Toners, Mists, and Hydrosols

How to:
After cleansing and drying your skin, spritz it with a healthy helping of diluted tea tree oil. Tea tree is a powerful essential oil that can work wonders for the skin–but only if it’s diluted. Never apply straight-up tea tree to your face!

Tea tree oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties that dry up inflamed areas (pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, cysts), disinfect pores, and actually unblock the sebaceous glands. If you’re thinking, Wait! My skin is already really dry!, it’s totally OK. Tea tree strips your skin of excess oils, not moisture, so it’s still a must-have for all skin types. If you tend to be on the drier side, just make sure you follow up your tea tree toner with coconut oil or another equally hydrating serum, moisturizer, or oil.

Throughout the day, you can refresh your skin by spritzing this on top of your skincare and makeup.

I actually use this stuff every single day, regardless of if I’m “skin cleansing” or not–it’s that good. This week, I reached for my own ILLUUMinated Moon Water Magic Tea Tree Toner. I have a few of these left, but I’ll be mixing up another batch soon. Email me (theilluum@gmail.com) if you’d like to purchase! $10. Or, you can try your hand at DIY-ing by adding 3 - 5 drops of tea tree oil to four ounces of water.

Use Coconut Oil in Place of Moisturizer, Makeup Remover, and Face Oils

How to:

As a moisturizer:
After cleansing and toning, slather as much coconut oil as you like all over your face. It’s even safe for the delicate eye area. 

As a makeup remover:
Before cleansing, take a generous amount of coconut oil and warm it between your fingers before applying to your made-up face. Massage it into your skin, focusing on stubborn eye makeup and lipstick. Wipe everything off with an organic cotton face pad before cleansing with manuka honey. Repeat as needed.

When stocking up on coconut oil, opt for a version that’s organic and cold-pressed–that’s better for your skin than basic grocery store varieties. I’ve been loving this stuff from Coconut Religion. 

A few things to keep in mind while you’re detoxing:

  • If you can, avoid wearing makeup during your detox.
  • If your skin is dry and flaking or otherwise dying for exfoliation, you can use a natural sea sponge to slough off dead skin (learn more about sponges here).
  • This three-step routine can be used morning and night, and you can reapply the toner and coconut oil as often as you like.

As a skincare junkie, I’m of course going to add some of my favorite serums, masks, and oils back into the rotation now that my skin is back to normal–but this week of skin detoxing was a powerful reminder that Mother Nature is really the ultimate dermatologist. If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, now’s the time for a natural product detox.

Consider it a juice cleanse for your face.