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
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.
—Current hometown: New Prague, MN
—Product name that I made up: BB oil (Blemish Banish)
- 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?
Oh the teenage years. The crushes. The battle with authority, limitations, and often—our own skin.
If you were anything like me between the ages of twelve and sixteen you struggled with oily skin and rude relentless breakouts. You also used harsh chemicals that promised to cure your acne but really just stripped your skin of its natural protective barrier, increased oiliness, and added inflammation and redness to the mix. Maybe you dashed into the bathroom between each class period to swab your face with extra concealer and powder, the poisonous kind. Add to that Molotov cocktail the frequent reapplication of lipstick in the uber-90s shades of coffee bean and rum raisin, which most assuredly fell under the frightening category of lipsticks that Alexandra wrote about last week. I shudder to think of the toxic load I carried around in my young, developing body. My hormones settled down, but I think often about my adolescent journey and wish I knew what I know now—that natural skincare has the gentle healing power I was seeking all that time.
The world is different than it was during my so-called life as a teen in the 90s. We have information at our fingertips, but it can be overwhelming to filter through it all and find real answers. This is why I jumped at the chance to share young Alexis’ question with you. Wise beyond her years, she knows that harsh products have caused even more damage to her delicate skin. She wants to go natural, but she’s a little overwhelmed with where to start.
Here is Alexis’ note…
I normally wouldn’t do this, and if you are too busy it’s no problem, but I’m looking for some help on creating a new skin care regimen with some natural, healthy products. I’m fifteen years old with the deadly combination of oily, acne-prone, and ultra sensitive skin, so finding products that work without hurting my skin is nearly impossible. I also am lost when it comes to natural skin care, as I’m a total newbie. I recently had a super-strange unidentifiable skin problem in the form of red, bumpy dry patches, (not unlike eczema, but definitely different), on my cheeks and other places. This led to my I Think My Skin Products Are Killing Me epiphany, so I decided it was time to switch up my generic brand skin care routine and try something that would actually stop hurting my skin (and maybe actually help it too!). I luckily came across your blog and have been perusing it for some time, but am starting to feel overwhelmed about finding new products. If you have any tips, particular helpful articles, or product recommendations, it would be so massively appreciated.
P.S. Also, pricing on products is no issue, as at this point I really just need something that works!
Let’s help Alexis find some simple, clean options that will get her through these tough years and allow her to establish a great self-care practice at an early age.
Remember when Siobhan lamented that we hadn’t covered the ARCONA line yet? And how, as clean-beauty bloggers, we need to jump on that train? Well, here it is: the first in a series of reviews about the products I’m now going to refer to as amaze-balls.
I was introduced to the line by a fellow beauty blogger when I was looking for an anti-aging serum for my highly reactive, acne-prone skin. I’d tried other night serums that promised to refresh and renew, but most of the time, I woke up with a red, itchy face or a blemish the size of small island in some weird place (eyelid, anyone?).
Upon her rec, I ordered ARCONA’s Gentle Solution, the sensitive skin version of its nighttime treatment. I was in love with the product’s packaging immediately – the silver bottle looks pretty classy in my medicine cabinet. But to really put it to the test, I had to actually put it on my face.
After one night, I was hooked. Three small blemishes I’d seen forming on my forehead the night before had completely disappeared the morning after my first Gentle Solution application. It hydrated my skin with no need for additional moisturizer. I looked fresh-faced even though it was one of those mornings when my body would’ve thanked me for a few more ZZZZZs.
Over time, my love hasn’t waned. It’s the one and only product I’ve ever used that I don’t think I’ll ever turn my back on because I can see it work every other day (you’re only supposed to use it every other night to give your skin a break – I also like that philosophy). It smells like a candied berry, soaks in quickly and honestly leaves my skin better looking than any other product I’ve tried. And, you know how some anti-aging serums/creams (especially dirty ones, mind you) bleach your towels if you accidentally wipe any excess product on them? Not this baby. I think my towels might be softer after meeting the Gentle Solution.
Other home runs from ARCONA:
- Booster Defense Serum: After trying for months to calm my skin and repair some damage from acne scars, adding this morning skin booster changed my skin’s texture and helped prevent breakouts.
- Cranberry Firming Gel: A really lovely, lightweight but incredibly moisturizing day and nighttime gel. It’s like a tall drink of water for my skin, especially in the winter. Bonus: Lemon and cranberry extracts help clear up breakouts.
- Raspberry Clarifying Bar: I never, ever, never, ever thought I’d buy a bar of cleanser with which to wash my face. But this one, man, this one is amazing. Smells lovely, is really concentrated so it takes off makeup like a pro AND it uses fruit enzymes to unclog skin and reduce inflammation and redness. Score.
Are there any other ARCONA products we should know about or try? Anyone else having the same love affair with the line that we are?