I Tried A Skin Cleanse & It Was (Mostly) Glorious

My penchant for DIY skincare has been well-documented here on Bustle. Whether it’s a weird chia face mask or the world’s most terrifying nose strip, I am down like a clown who hangs out at Whole Foods, buying up all the oils and scaring all the children. So when I heard about the latest *~*-craze*~* in natural skincare — The Skin Cleanse — I flung myself on the opportunity like a terrified child at Whole Foods flinging herself on her mom because a clown is chasing her.

The premise behind skin cleansing is laid out in the book Skin Cleanse by Adina Grigore, founder of S. W. Basics. Spoiler alert: You don't have to drink a single $16 green juice! Grigore opens with the story of her own unhappy, hyper-irritated skin; things were so bad for her, dermally speaking, that one day she simply stopped using products altogether. Lo and behold, her skin felt amazing and the Skin Cleanse was born.

The book focuses a lot on full-body health, aka eating right — a much needed reminder that all the argan oil in the world won't make your skin perfect if you never eat a vegetable. I half-heartedly tried to eat more greens during The Cleanse, but I was definitely more focused on the DIY products. Join me on my journey, won’t you? I promise there will be no close-up photos of pores and not one use of the controversial word "toxin."

The Zero-Product Detox

The first rule of skin cleanse is that you must give up all your products for a set period of time. ALL OF THEM. (There’s a milder version of this detox — for cowards! I refused to even consider it.) This means you must survive for several days without shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, face lotion, nail polish remover, and your favorite vintage arsenic-based foundation. (Toothpaste is fine.) You simply use water to cleanse your skin, since water does, believe it or not, clean things. I went cold turkey for four days, which is admittedly extreme, and partially doable because I work from home and have pretty much forgotten how regular socialization works.

I have very dry skin, and worried that giving up all facial creams and oils would turn me into a cracked earthenware vessel. But I did like the idea of giving my entire body a break from absorbing stuff, especially after I took a cold hard look into my bathroom cabinet and realized that I use far more products than I’d like to admit. In order to stay hydrated, I amped up my water intake, and I also asked Grigore how I could stop being a reptile. Is my always-dry-skin genetic? Or can I be the master of my own dermal fate? She replied, “Yes, this is very genetic, but yes, you can help it with fat, both on your outsides and insides. Eat fat and spread it all over your body, all the time. Avocado, cocoa, olive, coconut. Mmm. Butter, too.”

I LIVED! And it was so freeing to completely eliminate all products. Getting ready in the morning took approximately two minutes. THIS LOW-MAINTENANCE ROUTINE MUST BE HOW MEN HAVE CONSOLIDATED MOST OF THE POWER IN THE WORLD! Sure, no one would have stopped me on the street to tell me I looked “heartstoppingly dewy,” but that would have been a terrible thing to hear from a stranger anyway. The worst part was the lack of sunscreen, a product I would never forgo permanently. The best part was my hair’s texture. By now, we all know dirty hair is the best, don't we?

Most importantly, the detox helped me realize that I am actually not chained to any products. I could technically hop on a plane and go to Europe tomorrow without packing a single 3 oz. toiletry and I’d survive. I wouldn’t be my most glamorous self, sure, but the world would not end. It’s weird how mentally enslaved we get to the idea of these creams and ointments — these things we think we have to use. Ugh, it kind of creeps me out if I think about it for too long.

The Week of All Natural Ingredients

Next up, I replaced all my products with totally natural versions for a solid week. Out with the body lotion, in with the shea butter! Out with the toner, in with the rosewater! You got me? I’ll be honest, I dropped a significant bit of cash on these ingredients, because I insisted on buying about ten gazillion different oils, but I went a little overboard since I knew I’d be writing about it. You, dear reader, can obviously do a beautifully effective skin cleanse with far fewer ingredients.

I found everything I needed in four places.

1. Mountain Rose Herbs: This is probably the best place on the internet to get high-quality ingredients for natural skincare recipes. They have it all: butters, oils, essential oils, clays, salts, herbs, waxes. I could drop hundreds of dollars here, easily.

2. My local Whole Foods: For less obscure oils, like grapeseed and avocado, as well as organic food ingredients like coconut milk and chickpeas, Whole Paycheck is your best bet. Yes, the price at the end of the checkout line will make you want to faint. And yes, I also walked out of there with an unnecessary houseplant. I drink the Kool-Aid, okay? I drink the Kool-Aid.

3. Teddie Organics: This is where I found my lovely rosewater, which is a randomly difficult ingredient to source. There are all sorts of fake or diluted versions of rosewater all around the web, but the Teddie Organic version is pure and affordable.

4. Shea Terra Organics: Here's where I found carrot seed oil, another one of those products that’s really hard to source (partially because it’s easy to confuse it with carrot seed essential oil or carrot-infused oil. Whew!).

Then I dove into product-making.

I made a batch of products each day, depending on what I felt like using. Making each batch of products took about 15 minutes max. The process was a little messy (see above photo), but you’re really just pouring things into bowls, stirring them, and then putting them on your face. I barely measured. It's kind of impossible to ruin DIY products — just make sure you don't add too much of the particularly strong ingredients, like cinnamon, lemon, and essential oils.

For an intense shower: Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body mask

Clockwise from top left: Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap, egg, beer, coconut milk, Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, cinnamon, green tea bags

I decided to start with a bang and whipped up four major recipes involving several major food groups. Yes, there was a moment when I was in the shower, coated from head to toe with green clay, when I thought, “Why don’t I just pay someone to do this for me?” And then I remembered that I’m not a millionaire, nor do I want a shower attendant.

I had high hopes for the all-natural shampoo and conditioner routine, but it just didn’t work with my hair. Like I said before, I loved how my hair looked during the product detox, but after coating it with beer and a raw egg and then letting it air-dry, well, this happened.

I want to be someone who uses completely natural hair recipes. I do! But I'm not sure I can commit just yet. Maybe once every other shower. I don't want to make any promises. But on a brighter note, I highly recommend using green clay everywhere. You will feel like a slightly uncomfortable hippie queen.

For a really glowing complexion: Facial cleanser, light facial oil

Left to right: grapeseed oil, flax oil, Mountain Rose Herbs pumpkin seed oil, Teddie Organics rosewater, Shea Terra Organics Egyptian Carrot Seed Oil, lemon. Bottles for storage available at Whole Foods.

I asked Grigore which recipe from the book she loved the best, and she replied, “My favorite, favorite, favorite recipe in the book is the Clarifying Rosewater Cleanser. I think my jaw actually dropped after I tried it and looked at my skin. Sometimes I feel like a magical witch doctor. Anyways, I think rosewater is so wonderful, but also carrot seed oil, which is super stinky, has instant results.”

I have to store both of these creations in the fridge, but oh my goodness, they’re so effective and lovely. I’m especially obsessed with the oil, which absorbs beautifully and can be applied from your head to the literal tip of your big toe.

For when you really just want a spa day pass: Hair protein treatment, face mask, body exfoliant

Clockwise from top left: papaya, molasses, chickpeas, lemon, Greek yogurt, sugar, turmeric

Looks like the makings of a delicious meal, right? LOOK AGAIN:

The molasses and yogurt mask strengthens your hair, the chickpeas are supposed to detox your face, and the papaya is basically a gentle at-home chemical peel. While I felt a little bit like a crazy person for putting such food-like products on my skin, the results were nice — especially the body exfoliant, which I can see myself using on the reg. It also makes a great base for rum cocktails, FYI.

And finally, the basics: Deodorant, toothpaste, body butter

Clockwise from top left: Mountain Rose Herbs shea butter, Mountain Rose Herbs cocoa butter, avocado oil, baking soda, coconut oil, Mountain Rose Herbs lemon essential oil, Aura Cacia peppermint essential oil, Aura Cacia rosemary essential oil, cornstarch

Making your own toothpaste really separates the DIY men from the boys, know what I mean?

This deodorant smells AMAZING. The coconut oil, paired with the lemon essential oil, make it smell like some sort of meringue pie. It’s super smooth, which I love, and decently effective, though you may want to apply it more than once a day (ah, the eternal trouble with natural deodorants). The toothpaste tastes freakishly good, and just between you and me, I've also been putting turmeric on my teeth, which is supposed to whiten them. But I only brush with this natural toothpaste every other day, because I don't want my non-hippy dentist to come after me with a drill.

The body butter is also incredible. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try shea butter, because it’s one of the most hydrating, nurturing things you can put on your skin. Unfortunately, high-quality shea butter smells odd, but the cocoa butter helps, as does adding a few drops of essential oil. Put this cream everywhere, forever and ever.

The Takeaway

Post-skin cleanse, I was a changed woman! Or more accurately, I felt like I'd returned back to my roots — back to being the girl who stocks up on every oil ever and doesn't fall prey to the lure of pre-mixed beauty products. Here are a few of the incredibly deep realizations I had whilst cleansing:

1. There is really no reason not to use all-natural moisturizers. I mean, come on, people. There are so many beautiful, luxurious oils and butters out there that are all unbelievably good for your body. Many of them are just as affordable as those watery drugstore lotions that don't actually help your chapped hands. I get that you may not want to your hair with green clay and condition it with beer, but there's no reason to fear cocoa butter, girl.

2. Find a couple of single ingredients that you really love. Obviously you're not going to want to whip up an entire full-body roster of DIY recipes every day. Because of this, I think it's important to have a couple of single ingredients that you know you can rely on. Mine are always changing, but right now, they include grapeseed oil (for face and body), green clay (for an intensely purifying mask), and rosewater (to soothe and hydrate). Believe me, I love using extra butters and oils and powders, but really, I could get by on just those three.

3. Eat well. Had to slip this one in there, even though I'm about to run out for pizza. Food is obviously a huge building block of any healthy skincare routine, and there's no point in being naive and denying it. When I was plotting this cleanse, I told Grigore that I was trying to cut out sugar, and she replied that I should focus on adding healthy foods to my diet instead of taking things away. Um, such a better way of looking at things.

4. Stop looking so closely at your skin. What this cleanse really taught me was what every foray into the natural world teaches me: There's no point in stressing out about this stuff. Life’s too short. It’s not worth it. Skin is weird — look at it under a magnifying glass and you'll see all sorts of imperfections. It's a barrier between us and the outside world, guys! So there's no point in striving for a plastic Barbie complexion — as Shakespeare says, that way madness lies. Our beauty routines should soothe us and comfort us and please us; they should work with our skin, not against it. They shouldn't be used as some weird diet-like tool designed to bring us to perfection. So slather yourself in concoctions that smell delicious and make you feel wonderful, and don't let yourself fret about the tiny bits of yourself that bug you. Easier said than done, I know, but rosewater and cocoa butter and coarse sugar and peppermint oil certainly help.

Photos: Tori Telfer