image via Crunchy Betty

If you ask me, the beauty of the natural skincare movement is that you don’t have to drop tons of dough to find an effective routine. Not everyone is inclined toward DIY, and I get that, but I wanted to share a DIY product that’s so simple, so cheap, and so effective it kinda blew my mind—it’s a toner made from thyme steeped in witch hazel.

So here’s my story. A few months ago I rekindled my love affair with yoga—the kind that makes me sweat like nothing else. Though my mind, body, and spirit were feeling tiptop, I quickly broke out across my shoulders. It’s something I’ve come to expect when I work up a sweat routinely, but this was particularly bad. I instantly went into treatment mode, determined to have clear skin. I diligently cleansed morning and night (and immediately following yoga), and used a variety of natural acne products that were antiseptic and relied on salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid to turn over skin cells and unclog pores. It didn’t work. With summer approaching and sundresses on my mind, I began to panic.

Then I remembered thyme. We’ve talked about this ubiquitous herb and its acne fighting powers before. Remember the study Alexandra discussed that showed a tincture of thyme to be more powerful at treating the bacteria that causes acne than benzoyl peroxide? (As a little reminder, benzoyl peroxide is HORRIBLE for you.) I also remembered Ann’s Blemish Banish Oil, a DIY recipe that a reader submitted, and I was inspired. I did a little Googling, and found a simple thyme toner recipe that looked like it would do the trick.

Oh. My. God. After one use, I stopped getting new blemishes. After a week of use my skin was 95% clear. Two weeks in and I’m never looking back. I am still shocked by the simplicity and effectiveness of this toner. If you have trouble with breakouts, do not hesitate to try this. It’s gentle and it works. Here’s how I made it:

  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of dried organic thyme to a sterilized bottle or jar.
  • Pour 6 tablespoons of witch hazel on top (I used this alcohol-free witch hazel).
  • Shake up the mixture and allow the thyme to steep for 3 days.
  • The witch hazel will turn brown thanks to the thyme. That’s good!
  • Strain the thyme and store your toner in a cool, dark place for up to a month.

Pro tip: Go ahead and make two small batches at the same time. You can begin using one after a few days of steeping and allow the other to continue to steep until you run out of the first bottle. Now go fight some acne.

Have you had any luck with thyme? What’s your go-to treatment for breakouts?



One Love Organics' Brand New Day ScrubBefore I went all clean on my old beauty regime’s sorry arse, I hated multipurpose products (it likely has something to do with my innate need for rules and systems and a place for everything). A pot o’ color that I could put on my cheeks AND my lips? No, thank you. A dry powder that could be a daily cleanser or a mask? Someone’s just pulling a marketing trick on me.

Man, was I missing out.

Now that I’ve successfully converted my entire skincare system, I realize the glory, power and holy-grail-ness that comes with a product that can be used multiple ways. Dot a little pink lippy on the apples of my cheeks? Yes, please. Mix my cleanser with a little yogurt or honey to make a mask? Genius!

Such genius is exactly what’s been found in one of my favorite lil scrubs: The Brand New Day scrub from One Love Organics. You may remember the beauty orgasm I’ve gotten from this line before, but let me tell you why this guy deserves a spot on your to-try list.

Exfoliating has always been a bit of a touch-and-go thing for me. Do it too often (or use a Clarisonic) and exponentially increase the number of zits and amount of redness my face answers with. Avoid it for too long and risk dry flakes caking up my foundation and making me look like I’ve attempted a full face of stage makeup for a run to the grocery store. (Tell me you’ve all been through the same thing? Please?)

So, I’ve been hesitant about manual and chemical (fruit) exfoliants in any capacity. I’ve used and loved Arcona’s Brightening Gommage and found that an every other day usage didn’t irritate my skin. While I also love May Lindstrom’s The Clean Dirt, I abide by Rebecca’s tips for a sensitive-skinned gal, and I don’t use it daily.

Got the background and my trepidation around exfoliants? On to the review: When I opened the Brand New Day scrub, I was immediately in olfactory heaven—the pineapple enzymes make the scent totally intoxicating, and as I once told OLO founder Suzanne, I want to slather myself in it. What’s even better is that those same enzymes make for gentle and super effective exfoliation that’s sensitive enough for the most redness-prone of us.

The organic sweet pea flour that helps create the base of this scrub is also crazy gentle. It’s so gentle that I was initially worried I wouldn’t see a difference after I washed it off (when it makes this lovely, light, gentle foaming consistency that I’m in love with and satisfies my old, dirty self who still thinks anything foam=super clean=better skin). I was totally wrong: My face is brighter and smoother and BETTER after using this. My treatments and oils and moisturizers absorb more easily. My makeup goes on smoother.

But what makes this scrub a powerhouse is the fact that it’s one of those multi-use products I was referring to earlier. Mix it with a little water for a scrub. Switch up the water for yogurt or honey and you’ve got a light mask that brightens and leaves a glow when you wash it off. Oh, and it still foams and exfoliates when you remove the mask. (Maybe you can tell that that’s my favorite part, after the scent.)

Basically, this is an all-around home run of a product. Lovely scent, lovely ingredients, lovely effects. Bonuses: I can use it every day without fear of redness or blemish increases and it travels well (Powder! Cardboard container!).

I’m sure loads of you have tried and loved this baby, so tell us why. Oh, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting BND or OLO yet, you should plan a trip back to our site tomorrow for a little deal… (wink, nudge).

Confession: When I was a sophomore in high school, I spent an entire day working in the summer sun at a dance team car wash fundraiser sans sunscreen on my décolletage—and I’ve spent the years since then regretting it.

My skin blistered and flaked (kids! Sunblock is your friend!) and peeled and made me wish topical painkillers were more like medicinal marijuana in their effectiveness. When it finally, finally healed, I was left with sunspots and skin that looks older than my real mid-20s age.

Flash forward to this spring when, in addition to my semi-wrinkly-ness, I started getting regular breakouts on my chest. Now, while these weren’t cystic-acne like, they were clusters of little (very painful) whiteheads that nothing could curb. I mean, these guys responded to nothing and no one. I tried not to squeeze, but the whiteheads were ruining my summer dress wearing ability, and encroaching on the swimsuit (and unmentionables) wearing I’d planned for my honeymoon!

So I picked. And I squeezed. And I poked and prodded. And, I was left with angry red marks that spread (reactive, thin skin, anyone?) like ripples in a pond. Gross.

I was annoyed and frustrated and giving up. Then I got a lovely little package from Osmia Organics at my doorstep. Inside was a kind note from the brand’s founder and a bottle of OO’s Facial Calibration Serum.

At first, I didn’t try it. I was scared. My face had just started to become balanced with my ARCONA regime and I didn’t want to introduce a new product in the few weeks before my wedding.

But I was itching to break open the yummy blend of oils (acai, rosemary, black seed, kukui, oh my!). So, I tried it on the acne that had become my nemesis: my decolletage. I followed the instructions dutifully, misting on a hydrosol and pressing the herbaceous-smelling serum into my still-damp chest each morning and night.

Lo and behold, after only a few weeks, a change occurred. My sun-crinkled skin began to look its age. My whiteheads stopped popping up (and when they did rear their heads, they disappeared in a day or two). My sunspots faded.

The Facial Calibration Serum is now a must-have in my morning and night skincare routine. I’ve been using it for more than two months and the results are better than I expected. Plus, adding it into my routine has become a calming ritual because I know I’m repairing my skin.

At $50 for .5 ounces, it may seem like a splurge. But I only use HALF A PUMP for my WHOLE decolletage. Add to that that the founder, Sara Villafranco is incredible, funny, sweet and sarcastic (plus, she posts the BEST photos on Instagram—follow her now, if you don’t already) and you know you’ve got the whole package. I’m hooked.

I’ve also heard amazing things about her spot treatment and her Detox Exfoliating Mask, so those may need to be next on my list! Have you tried any of the Osmia line?

Ingredients: caprylic/capric triglyceride (fractionated coconut oil), olive squalane, aleurites molaccana (kukui) oil, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) oil*, macadamia integrifolia (macadamia nut) oil*, rosa rubiginosa (rosehips) seed oil*, vitus vinifera (grapeseed) oil*, wildcrafted butyrospermum parkii (shea) oil, schisandra sphenanthera (schisandra fruit) CO2, euterpe oleracea (acai) oil, nigella sativa (black seed) oil*, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) CO2 extract*, GMO-free vitamin E oil, and a proprietary blend of organic and wild-harvested essential oils


DIY Beauty: Ann’s Blemish Banish Oil

Remember when we told you that thyme is a more effective acne treatment than benzoyl peroxide?

So why is it that we hardly ever see thyme used as an ingredient? Granted, it is present in one of our favorites, Osmia Organics Spot Treatment (love this gem!), but what if you need something more? Something that you could smear liberally across your shoulders if your yoga sweats were so intense it caused the dreaded bacne (ew, that word!).

One of our lovely readers couldn’t find her ideal acne-fighting product either, so she made her own! Check out this fun DIY and let us know what you think. If you’re still looking for answers after this, don’t forget about our Best of NMDL post on Natural Adult-Acne Cures.

Name: Ann

Current hometown: New Prague, MN

Product name that I made up: BB oil (Blemish Banish)

Ingredient list:

  • 7 1/2 tsp apricot kernel oil (can be substituted with meadowfoam or cherry kernel oil)
  • 3 tsp neem oil
  • 140 drops thyme extract (that’s 1/2 tsp+80 drops)
  • 40 drops tea tree oil
  • fragrant essential oil (optional)

Hint: If you really don’t want to stink like neem, feel free to replace it with tamanu or whatever other potent oil you like.

How I made it: I know most people measure oils in ounces or grams, but I’m too lazy to bother with the hassle and just converted it to everyday teaspoons instead. I sterilized everything with alcohol and poured the ingredients into an amber 2-oz bottle with a dropper attached. It’s best to shake really well before using because the oils still tend to separate a bit.

How it smelled, felt, worked: It smells like neem, which is very pungent and strong. Some people like the smell, but most are turned off by it. Loading up on essential oils could mask it somewhat, but if you can’t stand it, use something else. It feels like, well, oil. It works very verrry well, but I’m not going to claim this is a miracle product. You still have to watch your diet.

Why I will or won’t do this again: Since the results are good, I will make this again, probably tweaking ingredients around and adding something new. I hardly ever stick with original formulas, and this one is very basic.

Random tips: to really give acne the boot, I make two masks once or twice weekly: (1) Fuller’s earth clay, and (2) this Ayurveda inspired hydrating and purifying face mask. Fuller’s earth is the strongest of all clays and is super effective at pulling out all kinds of gunk, so it’s probably not the best choice for really sensitive or mature skin. The Ayurvedic mask uses pretty simple ingredients, but it packs a powerful punch. I first let the clay sit for half an hour, then wash it off and follow with the Ayurvedic one. Why I use them together—the clay pulls everything out and the second one puts nutrients in. It works.

P.S. This oil is not greasy, but in hot weather anything can happen. To keep the shine off I top it with Coastal Scents Silica spheres (a cheaper equivalent to RMS Un-Powder).

As a little safety precaution to our readers, please note that the recipe calls for thyme EXTRACT, not thyme essential oil, which is super sensitizing and should be only be used in highly diluted formulations. 140 drops of thyme essential oil would probably melt your skin.

Much of the time, my skin feels strong and resilient, in spite of my being a sensitive sort.  I credit good nutrition and exercise, along with a few amazing topical products.  I still get those hormonal breakouts though.  For a week or so each month, no matter what I do (or don’t do), I’ll get several pimples, one or two of which have lasting effects.  I really like a drop of lavender mixed with Fuller’s Earth clay as an overnight spot treatment.  It definitely works, but too many nights of that in a row is drying for my skin.  Plus, it would be nice to stroll around the house before bed without my husband saying, “Hey, Spotsy.”  I finally found something that I can use as often as necessary without getting dried out, and it meshes well with my regular routine.

Annmarie Gianni Skin Care is a very clean brand that aims to be earth, mind, and body conscious.  Everything (except travel sets and samples) is packaged in beautiful and functional violet glass.  The products I’m reviewing are gluten free and vegan, though the brand does use bee products.  Read on for my go-tos for hormonal breakouts, as well as two additional standout products.

Herbal Facial Oil for Oily and Acne Prone Skin:  I was honestly surprised at how well this works.  When my breakout week is at hand, I start applying this oil at night, only to my lower cheeks and jawline.  This isn’t something that should go all over my dry skin, but those with oilier skin could use it all over the face.  I’ve been through a few cycles with it now, so I’m convinced.  It prevents things from getting out of hand, to the point where I’m not doing any special cover-up routine the next morning.  Regardless of my cycle, if it looks like a blemish is coming, I use this as a spot treatment night or day.  If I squeeze a spot (go ahead, judge me), this oil applied afterward keeps things in control with anti-inflammatory action.  The herbal scent is acceptable, and though I’m not in love with it, for the performance I don’t need to be. ($34.95/15 ml)

Rosemary Toning Mist:  This antimicrobial and hormone balancing plant makes the perfect hydrosol to accompany the Herbal Facial Oil.  I only use it where I’m applying the oil.  It smells just like fresh rosemary. ($29.95/50 ml)

Neroli Toning Mist:  Annmarie really does make some superior quality hydrosols.  Neroli is soothing to skin, calming to the mind, and just plain awesome.  It’s in my regular rotation. ($27.95/50 ml)

Coconut Body Oil:  This glides on and absorbs wonderfully.  The scent is light and unique, designed to keep you heart centered and calm.  It has triggered my interest in other products scented with frankincense (the smell of coconut is present but subtle).  I’m quite picky about body oils, and this one is special. ($29.95/100 ml or $54.95/200 ml)

What have you tried from Annmarie Gianni?