Saturday, November 30, 2013

CaveLife: Paleo Skin-Care (Faces)

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22* (just kidding, I'm not... But my skin sometimes does, and not in a good way).

Thankfully, I'm slowly learning how to combat my skin issues. Emphasis on slowly.

When I first joined my local CrossFit gym, I already ate pretty clean, and had eliminated sugar and many processed foods. But a few weeks in, when they started a paleo nutrition challenge, I made the conscious decision not to participate. And when I did start eliminating grains, I started with bread and pasta but held on to occasional fried food for another 4 months. I didn't fully eliminate dairy until 3 months after that and I'm still in a love-hate relationship with Diet Coke. I'm just not one to drink all the kool-aid all at once.

That attitude applies to my skin-care, too. I have long-abandoned harsh and harmful acne treatments (figuring that if it isn't safe for pregnant women, it's probably not really safe for anybody). And when I started eliminating all processed food and unnecessary chemicals from my diet, it seemed natural to start eliminating potentially dangerous chemicals from my beauty routine. But experimentalist that I am, I just couldn't (and still can't) jump into the hippy-skin-care aisle with both feet. I need to make one change at a time, and determine if it works for me before changing something else (that's just good science!).

And on top of that, I love my Mary Kay tinted moisturizer and waterproof mascara. L.O.V.E. And I am a huge fan of the MK mineral bronzing powder and mineral highlighting powder. That quartet is pretty-much all I wear. So it's going to take something über-fantastic to get me to change - and besides, they're made of minerals (right?!).

But I have made significant changes in other areas of my skin-care. Right around Christmas (last year) I started to break-out more than usual, way more than usual, actually. And I was both shocked and disturbed. First, because my skin had been amazing ever since I had eliminated dairy. And second, because the break-out was more painful than any I had experienced (including high school).

I went straight to the cloud and amassed as much (conflicting) information on acne and natural skin-care as I could find. I read rave reviews for The Body Shop's Seaweed Ionic Clay Mask and had a jar shipped to the house (I love you Amazon!). Although I'm not quite clear on the physics of the clay's "negatively charged ions," I will say that using the mask twice-a-week reduced my healing-time and overall improved my skin texture. And it smells great, too!

Through my research, I also stumbled upon (full disclosure: it wasn't my first time visiting CaveGirlEats. I had briefly perused the site when I started this blog and searched the internet for all permutations of "paleo" and "cavegirl," to avoid infringing on anyone's copyright).

It turns out my new best friend Liz (not really, but I wish!) had suffered a similar predicament. Through trial-and-error she healed her skin and eliminated break-outs through proper nutrition, supplementation, and  oil cleansing. I thought I'd give it a try.

I started by taking two capsules of butter oil and fermented cod liver oil with my fish oil in the morning.  It is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins, many of which promote skin-health. The capsules did help, and reduced my break-outs considerably. At the same time I started experimenting with oil cleansing, but abandoned the efforts after a week.

Then, in the summer, started to moisturize my face (and skin) with coconut oil. I used a tiny dab in the morning (before my makeup) and evening (before bed). I found it to be moisturizing and soothing, and it didn't cause any breakouts. At first (more on that later).

In the mean time, Liz from CaveGirlEats published her Skintervention Guide e-book. I downloaded a copy and worked my way though it. I started following (more of) her recommendations, with great results.
Don't you want to have her skin?
I already drink a Citrus Kombucha every week to give myself a probiotic boost. So to better heal my digestion and (hopefully) gain full use of the nutrients in my diet, I started drinking a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted in a cup of warm water every morning. Then a few weeks later, I started drinking Bone Broth in the evenings before bed. I was amazed that such simple steps helped stave off the usual mini-break-out I suffer when I eat potato chips or french fries (the first step is admitting you have a problem..).

Finally, in early August - fully convinced of Liz's genius - I re-kindled my relationship with oil cleansing. Only this time, I resolved to take my time and do the full cleanse and toner method (recommended in the e-book) at least every other day, instead of the speedy alternative version she describes on her blog.

The results were... terrible (are you shocked that I'd admit that?) and I quit (again) after two weeks. I expected to break-out a little more in the beginning, as my skin adjusted to the new routine. But when that little bit turned into a lot during the second week, I cried uncle.

I rely on my cuteness to counteract my meanness at work. It allows me to get a ton accomplished without alienating people (too much). But it's a fine line. I cannot let fresh-faced (innovative!) become young-looking (immature...), or I will lose my credibility. With the way my skin looked, I was inching ever closer to you-remind-me-of-my-teenage-daughter territory. And on top of that, acne is gross and it hurts, and it makes me feel self-conscious. And none of that = happy CaveGirl.

So. I went back to my normal face wash and called my friend to order an aggressive (and expensive!) acne treatment line from Rodan + Fields (desperate times call for desperate measures). I also bleached my pillow case, brewed up a fresh batch of bone broth, grabbed an extra bottle of apple cider vinegar, and started chugging ginger lemon tonic. I was on a mission. I did get myself back to some level of normal, but it took almost a month.
I'm still not sure which part of the oil cleanse mixture caused such a strong reaction. I've always had sensitive skin (hence my desire for soothing, natural skin-care), and I have a bizarre list of food allergies (most of which cause an adverse skin reaction), so it really could be any number of things. But I'm not willing to suffer the potential consequences of systematically working through the ingredients to determine the culprit (not even for the sake of science). That mystery will remain a mystery...

Despite all that, I wasn't ready to give up my quest for a more-natural skin-care routine. And I needed a moisturizer to supplement my super-expensive (but crazy effective) face wash. For some reason, the coconut oil wasn't doing the trick anymore. After a little research I realized my problem. It has a really high comedogenic rating, meaning it's known to clog pores and cause acne. The hippy-skin-care blogs didn't mention that part!

I re-doubled my research to find a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, low in chemicals, and if-at-all-possible chock-full of skin healthy vitamins. That's when I found this article from Weston A. Price and some anecdotal evidence from paleo and mommy bloggers. I figured it was worth a try and ordered a 2 oz jar of Primal Care Skin Balm.
Cute right? And it came with a hand-written note. 

This stuff is amazing! It smells a little game-y but that goes away after a few seconds. And even if it didn't it would be worth it. I had to do some extra research and learn some new words (sebum, anyone?) to understand how it works. Turns out: the tallow is similar to our natural body oil and helps tame the over-active bits. I found a little dab morning and night to be soothing and light enough to wear under normal make-up. After six weeks, I'm still using it daily with no breakouts to speak of!

I'm so happy with the results, and the night-and-day difference from this time last year, that I'm going to stick with what I'm doing. I admit my routine doesn't count as paleo skin-care, because the R+F is definitely not all natural. But I really tried.

And I feel strongly that the bone broth, ginger-lemon tonic, and fermented cod liver oil are responsible for a much greater proportion of my success than the topical treatments. I leave the R+F at home when I travel for work, and I have yet to suffer a relapse (even when I lose control of my diet and alcohol consumption at social events). That indicates to me that my many months of effort have healed my skin from the inside. And I'm pretty satisfied with that!

What about you? What natural skin-care treatments have you tried?

*Note: Yes, I know this is a moldy pop culture reference. But this post was almost a year in the making. Good science takes as long as it takes... 

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