Reckoning with Self-Care

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I used to have a bad relationship with self-care. In fact, I usually found myself operating in the extremes when it came to it. On one end of the spectrum I would use it as a tool to procrastinate or to give myself permission to eat something I probably shouldn’t (Ben, Jerry, good to see you.)

On the other, I would deprive myself of it completely, because I want to be a mover and a shaker in the world, and doesn’t that mean I need to do more, work harder, be better, and have more self-discipline? If I couldn’t do all that, I often did not believe I was worthy of self-care. Living in these extremes had predictably bad results-I would either sit around like a sloth all day eating ice cream, or I would crash, burn, and have a spectacular breakdown.

My thinking has changed since I developed my own definition of self-care. I knew self-care must be more than doing something basic like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Self-care can be physical, but it occurs on a deeper level or for a bigger purpose.

I define self-care as taking action to nourish one’s body, mind, and spirit. The specific action is up to you, based on what you need. If you are wondering how to know what you need, you are not alone. Figuring out your needs and satisfying them can be challenging in a world of plentiful stressors and distractions that make self-care seem less important.

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I think many of us can all too easily pick up our needs, cram them into a box, and place them neatly at the back of the line, behind the needs of our children, spouses, parents, friends, colleagues, clients…..the list goes on. You will always be the easiest thing to cut from your schedule. And this makes sense-it is easy to think you can take care of yourself “later” after you’ve finished taking care of everyone and everything else.

The problem with this thinking is threefold:

(1) Stretching yourself too thin and trying to meet everyone’s needs except your own will lower the quality of care you can give to others.

(2) Stretching yourself too thin may mean you don’t even know the type of self-care that would serve your needs.

(3) When self-care is the last thing on our list, it is often the thing for which we have the least amount of energy. Ever come home after a long day promising yourself a night to read a good book instead of staying up late answering work emails, then when you get home, you are too exhausted to do anything but listen to the television and stare at your phone? Yeah, me too.

So how do we fix this, so we can understand the kind of self-care we need and implement it regularly?

The first step is to examine the different types of self-care. Any number of these may be areas you want to work on. Catherine Beard of The Blissful Mind has an excellent article on this that inspired my post.

Mental Self-Care

Mental self-care is taking care of your brain. Whether that is by promoting neuro-plasticity by learning a new language, picking up knitting, or making a “Brain Dump” list to trap your thoughts on paper, anything that helps you stay mindful and grow counts.

Emotional Self-Care

We naturally develop coping skills to help us approach setbacks or challenges. But we can go a step further and consciously care for our emotional state by practicing universal human compassion (which includes compassion for yourself) and developing practices to process emotion. These practices may include scheduling alone time (I do this), journaling, talking with a friend, or listening to music that moves you.

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A mindfulness practice is an incredibly powerful way to regulate your emotions. Psychology Today calls mindfulness a state of active, open attention to the present, when we neutrally observe our thoughts and emotions, without judging them as being good or bad. It is calming and helps us not overreact or be controlled by our emotions.

Physical Self-Care

Invest in yourself by eating nutritious food, drinking water, meditating, exercising, reading, and sleeping. Each of these can build up our resistance to burnout. If we neglect our physical care we risk losing everything. Once our bodies break down it is hard to rebuild them.

Breathing is also underrated. Simple things like paying attention to inhaling and exhaling can quite literally strengthen your brain. Most of us breathe shallowly without realizing it, but our lungs are built to take in deep breaths of air to provide oxygen to all our organs, including the brain, which uses 20% of the body’s oxygen supply. According to Emotional Intelligence 2.0, this means that any time you do not take a full breath (a full breath makes your stomach stick out), you are not giving your body sufficient oxygen. You are sabotaging your brain and the rest of your organs, and why would you want to do that?

Spiritual Self-Care

Catherine Beard of The Blissful Mind says it best- “spiritual self-care involves taking care of your soul through activities or practices that provide a sense of purpose, direction, or meaning to your life.” I don’t know why we are all here, but I do know that we make our own meaning in life. For you, maybe that comes from creating new things, or helping other people by volunteering your time.

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The second step is to start thinking about self-care as we think about medicine. I started to see it this way when I noticed how good I felt holistically when I made the time for true self-care. An hour of self-care positively impacted my entire week. When I skipped self-care, I noticed it in my feelings (irritable, anxious), thoughts (negative, not productive), actions (regrettable), and in my body (pain).

Self-care really is a form of medicine for our souls and it keeps our mind, heart, and thoughts in order. Take it daily, weekly, or as needed.

I hope this post helps you up your self-care game. Leave me a comment if you enjoyed it.!

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The older I become the more I realize that unfortunately, aging is not something that just happens to other people. I’m in my early thirties, and while I do still get carded sometimes, my sunscreen-free childhood in Florida is catching up to me.

That’s why I created an oil cleanser with fiercely powerful age-defying properties that I use almost every day to lighten sun spots, tighten skin, encourage collagen production, and provide moisture. It’s simple to make and a little goes a long way. Read on to learn how to make yours:

What I Use and Why:

Four-ounce spray bottle: these bottles are durable, easy to grasp in one hand, and they are darkly tinted to protect the oil inside from light. You don’t need to use a spray bottle though. Any glass bottle or small jar with a lid will do.

Jojoba oil: some oils are very concentrated, like sage and frankincense oil, and you should not apply them directly to your skin. Instead, you should mix small amounts of them with a carrier oil like jojoba oil. Jojoba is gentle on skin and dilutes sage and frankincense oil, so you still get the benefit of using them. It is also full of Vitamins E and A, and omega-6 fatty acids. Jojoba oil is also a humectant, which means it helps your skin retain moisture.

Pumpkin seed oil: this oil smells like a latte and feels like a warm balm on your face. It is high in zinc, selenium, iron, and Vitamins E, A, and K. This combination helps heal damaged and inflamed skin, and Vitamin K is a rare, anti-aging superstar. Pumpkin seed oil is safe to apply to the skin without dilution, but it works really well with jojoba oil.

“Roasted Pumpkin Seeds” by jaxzin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sage oil: sage oil contains antioxidants that fight free radicals (molecules that damage tissue and cause aging), regulates oil production, and promotes daily skin cell regeneration. It can help minimize and prevent wrinkles, and it is antibacterial. Sage oil should be used with a carrier oil, like jojoba oil.

Frankincense oil: this wonderful, fragrant oil helps skin retain its elasticity, reducing and preventing wrinkles. It minimizes the appearance of sunspots and scars, and it even shrinks pores. It soothes irritated skin, and it has a calming smell that may help you sleep. Frankincense is best used with jojoba oil.

Lavender oil: this oil smells so good I’ve started wearing it as a perfume. It is great for your face too. It is gentle, mixes well with other oils, kills bacteria, helps skin heal, and evens out skin tone. I add it to every oil mixture I make.


  1. Fill nearly half of the bottle with jojoba oil. This is your carrier oil that dilutes other, more concentrated oils.
  2. Fill the other half of the bottle with pumpkin seed oil, but not all the way to the top. Leave a half-inch space between the oil and the top of the bottle.
  3. Add 3 drops of sage oil to the mixture.
  4. Add 3 drops of frankincense oil to the mixture.
  5. Add 5-7 drops of lavender oil to the mixture.
  6. Close the bottle and shake it vigorously.
  7. When you are ready to use it, pour a quarter-sized amount onto a washcloth and apply it to your face. You can add more oil if you need to.
  8. Run the washcloth under hot water, squeeze out excess water, and drape it over your face. When it cools, wipe the oil off of your face.
  9. Use your favorite moisturizer. You can let it blend with the oil left on your face, or wipe the oil off completely (I recommend wiping it off completely if you plan to apply a serum before your moisturizer. Removing the oil makes it easier for the serum to penetrate the skin).
  10. Enjoy your fresh face!

How to Get Rid of Acne Scars

It can be difficult to look in the mirror when you have acne scars. Whether you have pitted scars, red splotches, or craters, they can be all you see when you look at yourself.

I vividly remember a time when I only looked at myself in the mirror if I was at home, hunched over my makeup mirror, with an acne treatment in hand. I would visually scour every inch of my skin, memorizing the landscape. Any other time I came near a mirror I would focus my eyes on something else, such as the color of my shirt, or my hands as I washed them. I couldn’t bear to look at my face, which was a mix of active acne and dark red scars.

While some acne scars are permanent, they can almost always be improved. The appropriate treatment depends on the type of scars. Here’s what has worked for me:

Red Scars

Thanks to my mother, I found the ClearZit Masque from Tamahra’s Secret, a skincare boutique in Orlando, Florida. It is the number one treatment I recommend for people with red scarring! It lightens scars fast. Like, really fast. Manuka and tea tree oils give it antibacterial and antiseptic powers, and zinc oxide lightens pigmentation and heals active acne. It is pricey, but worth every cent if you can work it into your budget. You don’t need to use much to see results; you can lather your entire face or spot treat, depending on your preference.

Lavender oil is a great companion for this masque. It soothes skin, reduces redness, and mixes easily with the masque. You can also make it more moisturizing by adding a few drops of jojoba oil or mixing it with Shea butter.

Pitted and Cratered Scars

Pitted and cratered scars are caused by inflammatory acne that doesn’t heal properly. The skin contains enzymes that regulate collagen production, and collagen helps acne wounds heal. If the skin doesn’t produce enough collagen as it heals, it results in a dip in the skin, creating a pitted or cratered scar.

Chemical exfoliation using alpha-hydroxy acids is effective in smoothing indentations in the skin and promoting collagen production after the fact. Collagen stimulates tissue growth, which can fill in the indentations in the skin. It is unlikely they will be filled in completely, but the indentations will become less noticeable with regular treatment. These 15% Glycolic Acid Treatment Pads are my favorite treatment. Not only do they stimulate collagen, but they kill acne bacteria. (Use them sparingly-they burn like fire until your skin gets used to the treatment.)

Regular exfoliation encourages cell turnover, which can also help minimize the appearance of scars, but it should not be used in combination with chemical exfoliation. For best results, alternate between regular and chemical exfoliation every couple of days, and use plenty of moisturizers.

Raised Scars

Just as skin can heal with too little collagen production, it can also heal with too much collagen production, resulting in a raised scar. Dermabrasion, a skin resurfacing procedure, is a great way to deal with raised scars, but it should only be performed by a medical professional.

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Dermabrasion uses a diamond wheel or a wire brush to abrase the outer and middle layers of the skin. Skin usually grows back smoother, which minimizes scars or texture issues.

Your skin will feel tender after the procedure, and you might have a mild breakout (this is just congestion deeper in the skin surfacing). Be sure to use a rich moisturizer afterward, and your skin will glow.

That’s it for now! Leave a comment if you found this post helpful!

Intentional Living

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Do you ever feel like you are flying through your life, but nothing really happens? Like all the moments you want to be your moments turn into jam-packed slots of time that belong to other people? And when you look back on your life, you wonder why the hell you gave them all away? Or do you project your moments into the future, telling yourself you will take that trip or start that business when you have more money and time, someday?

I do both. To combat this, I constantly remind myself of (1) the cost of inaction and (2) that most people looking back on their lives regret what they did not do, rather than what they did do. This is why intentional living is a critical part of living a fulfilling life. This page is a place for sharing thoughts on living intentionally, the obstacles that get in the way, and how to remove or avoid them. Stay tuned for future posts and in the meantime, I’d love it if you could leave me a comment sharing your thoughts on the subject!

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About five years ago, I spent a great deal of time commuting between cities for work, school, and love. One night, around midnight, I had just gotten home and found myself standing before my bathroom sink with an overflowing beach bag (yes, a beach bag) of skincare products, overwhelmed and unsure how to start treating my skin. I was tired, stressed, and vehemently wishing I could teleport through a shower, skincare, and into my bed.

I had a face full of makeup, sunscreen, and sweat. Since I couldn’t teleport, I settled for scrubbing my face with a makeup-removing wipe, and ignoring the pimples on my chin I went to sleep, feeling grimy and restless.

What I needed that night was a solid skincare routine to fall back on. Something foundational, that I could fancy up if I wanted, that would address my skin concerns, help me relax, but not take too long.

You’ve probably had these nights too. Here’s a simple routine you can tailor as needed:


A thorough cleanse starts with castor oil. It is high in ricinoleic acid, which helps prevent moisture loss in the outer layers of skin, and it removes makeup like a dream. If you are wearing a lot of products, you may want to double cleanse. Start by taking a quarter-sized dollop in the palm of your hand. Add jojoba oil until the mixture is as thin or thick as you like it. Smear it onto your cheeks and work it into the skin, spreading it all over your face. If you are wearing eye makeup, rub some into your brow and eyelids. Drape a hot, wet washcloth over your face and massage your skin with it as it cools. (This is an exquisite feeling I look forward to all day. Once you try it, you will too).

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Use the washcloth to wipe the oil off your eyelids and the planes of your face. Now you are ready for a second cleanse with jojoba oil. You can spice it up a little by adding a few drops of lavender or manuka oil, but it’s not necessary. Rub the oil into your skin and rinse out your washcloth. Heat up the washcloth again and repeat the process until your face feels clean. If you have any eye makeup leftover, dip a Q-tip into castor oil and gently remove it.


Now it’s time to treat any issues you may be having, as well as take preventive measures.

Dry Skin

SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator is a phenomenal way to restore dry skin. It contains five forms of hyaluronic acid, which is a lubricating substance our bodies produce naturally. One hyaluronic acid molecule can hold a thousand times its weight in water and will rehydrate your skin quickly when applied topically.

Here’s a neat trick-splash your face with water and apply HA5 on top of the water. The serum will absorb the water and disappear into your skin, which will feel softer and plumper almost immediately. You can use HA5 to treat individual dry patches or your entire face and neck.


Taking care of your skin today will make future-you very grateful. Nourishing your skin with antioxidants like Vitamin C and E helps your body defend itself from free radicals that cause cell damage. Leven Rose makes a lovely, Organic Vitamin E Serum that combines argan, jojoba, almond, and avocado oils, which blends easily with Zum Under Eye Butter. This is a balm full of vitamins and fatty acids that penetrates the skin and stays on all night.


If you have active acne, I recommend applying Zit-O, followed by the damn near magic ClearZit Masque to the affected area. I have been using these incredible Tamahra’s Secret products since 2007. Packed with wound healing nutrients, this combination will disinfect and spot-treat acne, soothe irritated skin, and help lighten acne scars. Apply the masque at the end of your routine, on top of any moisturizer, serum, or other treatment you use.

Give this quick and easy nighttime routine a try and get your beauty sleep!

Revolving Acne

You may be familiar with what I call revolving acne: it’s a state of being when the red marks on your face left by the last round of pustules have faded after weeks of healing, and your skin is completely clear for four or five precious, magical days. It’s the first time in a while you’ve not had at least one pimple on your face. With each passing day, you wonder if you’ve reached the point where you start growing out of acne, finally, just as everyone’s promised you. Then you feel it. The budding pimple, burrowed under your skin. Again.

It is a dreadful feeling, knowing that the acne cycle is beginning again when it feels like there is nothing you can do to stop it. Sometimes the cause of a breakout is beyond our direct control, like when hormones are out of balance. Other times the cause is more tangible, such as nutritionless food, or using products that clog pores.

How to Treat Revolving Acne

We have options for combatting revolving acne, the most powerful being our daily skincare routine. Here are my top four daily and weekly tips:


You rest your face on your pillowcase for six to nine hours a night, every night. Pillowcases collect oil, bacteria, pet dander, sweat, hair products, and makeup. We press all that into our face and neck every time we lay down. Gross–right? This can easily clog our pores and cause breakouts.

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The solution? Try replacing your pillowcase with a clean one every 1 to 3 days. You may want to purchase extras if you want to have a clean pillow every night without having to do laundry. I suggest these soft, cozy pillowcases -they are so gentle on the skin it’s like sleeping on velvet. Soft towels or t-shirts work too.


If your skin is acne-prone, consider eliminating makeup from your daily routine. At the very least, opt for a mineral foundation if you can’t go without it. If your acne is recurring, don’t use a primer. Primer is an alluring, sexy skin magician that makes our skin look luminous because it creates a smooth base for makeup, fills in pores, dips, wrinkles, and pits, and reflects light. It can make acne scars vanish, but it almost guarantees you will get more acne.

This is because of its high silicone content. Silicone is a polymer made up of siloxane. It’s a common ingredient in makeup because it makes skin silky and watertight. Silicone is also a common ingredient in lubricants, sealants, electrical insulation, and rubber. It drys out skin, disrupts cell renewal and skin absorption, and traps dirt, sweat, and oil in the skin’s pores. In other words, it causes acne! Wearing silicone-based primer is like applying hairspray to your face. Nothing good will come of it, and you will have a hell of a time getting it off. You don’t want to be as unhappy as this lady, do you?


Exfoliation is the way, the truth, and the light. Do it religiously, and your skin will glow. Exfoliation is the process of removing the dead skin from your body. It can be done physically or chemically. Scrubbing your skin with something gritty, like sugar, or washing it with textured washcloths, an example of physical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation involves applying a chemical that dissolves dead skin such as a retinoid. There are prescription-strength retinoids, like Tazarotene, that also promote collagen production, but you can also find skincare products with retinol at the drugstore or online.


Drinking two to three liters of water a day is a gamechanger in fighting revolving acne. You can multiply its benefits by drinking tea. Some teas can even help minimize hormonal imbalances. Hormonal imbalance is a common culprit behind revolving acne. For example, some hormones, like androgens, increase the body’s oil production. An excess of androgens pushes the body’s oil production into overdrive, causing acne. Spearmint has been shown to reduce the level of acne-causing androgens in the body. Drinking spearmint tea regularly can clear up the skin as the body’s hormone levels even out.*

I hope you find this helpful!

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*I am not a doctor or professional nutritionist. These statements are based on my own experimentation and research and should not be considered medical advice. Please always consult a medical professional when deciding which home remedies to try.

Non-Oil Cleansers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, or link to any products or services from this website.

The oil cleansing system is binary; you are either on it or off it. Oil dissolves oil, and when you use it consistently to cleanse your skin it will regulate your body’s oil production and moisture level, reducing the risk of breakouts. If you use other face washes between oil cleansings that strip the skin of moisture, you risk disrupting that balance and causing your body’s oil production to go into overdrive. There’s no better way to get a breakout.

Oil cleansing doesn’t exfoliate the skin, however, and everybody enjoys a good scrub. I’ve experimented with ways to mix up my routine with naturally exfoliating non-oil cleansers, without losing the benefits of oil cleansing. Here are my top three favorites:

  1. Zum Charcoal Sugar Scrub

If you want to cleanse and exfoliate your skin at the same time, look no further than Zum Charcoal Sugar Scrub. This surprisingly soft scrub combines detoxifying charcoal with large grains of sugar that break down as you rub it in. Bonus-it won’t sting an open acne wound. If you are cleansing in your sink, put a towel down first to avoid a mess. Take a pinch (or two) into your palm, add a splash of water, and rub your face with wet hands until the scrub turns from black to gray. Then drape a hot, wet washcloth over your face and wipe it off. Now your skin is primed for treatment, such as a Vitamin C serum or moisturizer. Using this cleanser is my favorite part of my nighttime routine.

2. Rose Cleansing Scrub

Rose” by az1172 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Another treat for your skin I recommend is Mountain Rose Herb’s Rose Cleansing Scrub. I received this as a gift recently, and it packs a nutritional punch. It is made of clay, dandelion root powder, marshmallow root powder (I didn’t know this existed!), lemon peel powder, rosehip powder, frankincense, and rose. It’s a wonderful scrub when mixed with water, but it also doubles as a face mask. Mountain Rose Herbs suggests mixing it with honey, green tea, or yogurt instead of water and keeping it on until it dries.

3. Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

Last but never least, is Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. I’ll never forget the first time I used it and as promised, felt my skin pulsate. This clay is POWERFUL. Clay has been used to purify skin for thousands of years. This green bentonite clay comes from the depths of Death Valley, California, and contains almost every mineral that exists on earth. Mix it with apple cider vinegar, spread it on your face, and let it sit for 15 minutes. The wet clay will seep down into every tiny crevice and pore in your face. When it dries and contracts, it will pull out pus, blackheads, oil, and dirt. As it tightens, listen to your heartbeat. You will feel the blood pound in your face while the clay does its job suctioning out your skin. The secret behind the superpower is that the minerals in the clay give it a negative electron charge. Congestion in the skin has a positive electron charge. These opposites attract, and when they come into contact, they adhere to each other.

This clay is an easy way to remove toxins from your skin. Fifteen minutes is all it takes. I like to meditate while I wait for it to dry and focus on my heartbeat and breath.

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Clay and vinegar last for ages when kept in a dry, dark space. These have been in my bathroom cabinet for two years.

To remove, take a hot, wet washcloth and wipe your face until it is clean. The dried clay exfoliates the skin as it is removed. Redness is normal and usually fades by the next day, in my experience. The best thing about this clay is it will remove congestion in your skin and pull up pimples so they can be popped. The worst thing? You look like a green gremlin when it’s on. Or a green goddess!

I highly recommend all of the above for cleansing without oil. Leave me a comment letting me know your favorite way to exfoliate!

Winter Skin

I grew up in sunny, warm, Florida. I rarely needed to use a moisturizer. In fact, I’m not sure I even owned one. However, now that I live in Jack Frost’s neck of the woods, my skin dries, cracks, and flakes in the winter. By January, it’s like sand in a desert. Even my best oil moisturizers cannot keep up, so I was delighted to discover Weleda’s Skin Food two years ago, courtesy of YouTube.

I decided to give it a try. I was initially put off (it has the viscosity of engine oil and molasses), but I quickly fell in love with it when winter hit. It is thick, nourishing, and breaks down into a smooth, buttery cream you’ll love.

This cream is easily mixed with oil, if you want to adjust its thickness and heaviness. A few drops of jojoba oil will thin it out. If heavy creams cause you breakouts, you might want to mix in a dime-sized amount of jojoba oil instead.

If you enjoy the cream’s natural heaviness but find it too sticky, try mixing in Pumpkin or Pomegranate Seed Oil. Pumpkin seed oil offers your skin essential fatty acids, as well as vitamin E, and zinc, which help heal damaged skin. Pomegranate seed oil feels like a warm balm when applied to the face. It is largely made up of punicic acid, which reduces inflammation and helps skin maintain moisture and repair itself. Pomegranate seed oil pulls double duty by also helping to prevent sun damage and promoting the production of collagen.

I apply Skin Food every day with a few drops of jojoba oil underneath my mineral sunscreen. In the worst of winter, I also wear it at night with Pumpkin Seed Oil. It keeps my face hydrated and I cannot recommend it enough to those with dry skin. If you give it a try, leave me a comment and let me know how it goes!

My Acne Story

She raised her eyebrows for emphasis and said “it will go away when you are older. Just stop focusing on it. Besides, you shouldn’t base your self-worth on your face.”

If you are interpreting this as a smug remark, then I have conveyed it correctly. My dermatologist-who looked like she just walked out of a magazine–dropped this gem after telling me she would not prescribe me Accutane (again). Accutane, the heavy-duty drug also known as Isotretinoin, is the last-ditch hope for those with untreatable acne. More powerful than antbiotics, it decreases the body’s oil production and for about 80% of patients, it clears their acne completely, often for the rest of their lives.*

I started getting pimples at age thirteen. By seventeen, my cheeks, chin, and jaw were barely visible under the swollen, angry cysts that covered my face. Antibiotics helped a little, but they always stopped working. After five years, I was ready to take the scortched earth approach to getting rid of my acne. Accutane was the obvious choice, as my skin was only getting worse.

I couldn’t help but gesture at her face and say “that’s easy for you to say. I don’t base my self-worth on my face, but I don’t like walking around with it either.” Once people saw my acne, they did not see me anymore. No amount of “not focusing on it” was going to make me feel any better about it. I was seventeen, in the best shape of my life, and I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror.

My attempts to heal my acne in the next ten years ran the gamut. I applied benzol peroxide, salicylic acid, and aloe. I drank green tea exclusively for three months. I tried all the brushes, pore cleaning strips, toners, and clay masks I could get my hands on, and refused to eat cheese and refined sugar for seven years. I hustled my dermatologist for antibiotics. When those did not work, I consulted a Chinese medicine woman. She sold me a dried herb and fruit powder to mix in water. That might have worked, but I couldn’t choke down enough to find out.

After nearly ten years of ever-increasing doses of antibiotics, I did some long overdue doctor-shopping and found a dermatologist who prescribed me Accutane. Expecting a fight, I brought to the appointment pictures of myself (the few that existed) from over the years to demonstrate my acne’s development, a report I had written about the various risks and benefits of Accutane and why it was in my best interest, and my mother, who is very persuasive. I didn’t need any of that; he took one look at my face and the next thing I knew I had a prescription.

I can share my experience on Accutane in a separate post, but suffice it to say, it worked. It was absolutely worth the six months I spent shedding my skin like a snake and losing my hair as my oil glands shut down. It bought me three years of clear skin before the acne came back. When it came back, my (new) dermatologist suggested I try an androgen suppessor, which has been helpful, but requires continual use. Oils and chemical exfoliators are now critical touchstones of my skincare routine. My acne story is still ongoing, but each chapter is becoming better than the last.

*Just a note: I am not a medical professional. This is not medical advice or a medical endorsement of Accutane.

Oil and Acne is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, or link to any products or services from this website.

Oil and acne. Cause and effect?

Not necessarily. Oil, as it relates to skincare, exists on a spectrum. Pizza oil dripping on your chin? Wash your face, stat. Pumpkin seed oil? Rub it in.

I have written about the oil cleansing method before. It’s still my favorite way of cleaning my face. For those unfamiliar, oil cleansing comes down to three truths: (1) oil can dissolve oil, (2) some oils clog our pores and cause acne, and (3) some oils have superpowers and dissolve the oil that clogs our pores.

Oils that dissolve the oil (aka sebum) that clogs our pores are the key to unlocking clear skin. These oils have low comedogenic ratings (usually between 1 and 2) and are often antibacterial. My favorite is manuka oil, which is 20x more effective than tea tree oil in killing P. acnes bacteria. Manuka oil is derived from Manuka trees, which grow wild in New Zealand. It smells deliciously nutty-I would love to have it in a latte-and it mixes well with hemp seed oil, which is, hands down, the best oil moisturizer I have ever found. (A note about hemp seed oil–tread carefully. It saturates washcloths and it will never fully wash out. If the oil builds up in the cloth, it can catch fire in the dryer, and yes, I am speaking from personal experience.)

I replaced hemp seed oil with pumpkin seed oil in my skincare routine after a second incident with the dryer. Like hemp seed oil, it has a high concentration of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid my skin loves. Adding three drops of manuka oil to a silver dollar-sized amount of pumpkin seed oil makes it the perfect cleanser for me. I rub it into my skin and remove it with a hot, wet washcloth.

Oils high in linoleic acid are thin and lightweight, making them a great choice for those with acne-prone skin, like me. However, your skin may be better suited for oils high in oleic acids, such as almond oil, or olive oil. This is especially true if your skin is dry and cracking, as mine is in the winter. Oils high in oleic acid are thick, heavy, and moisturizing. Skincare Lab offers an excellent breakdown of the differences in these acids and how they may impact the skin.

If you are hesitant to try these oils, consider using jojoba oil instead. It is a liquid wax that is unlikely to clog pores, regardless of your skin type. It is universally gentle and you can likely find it at your grocery store. Jojoba mixes particularly well with a few drops of lavender oil, which can sooth redness and irritation and kill bacteria. Regardless of what oils you use, rub them deep into your skin, take a moment to enjoy the fragrance, and wipe your face with a hot, wet washcloth. Your skin will be primed for any additional product you wish to apply, or good to go!