Let Your Ingredients List Be Your Guide

Choosing the right product is rarely easy for me because I want the BEST one at the most reasonable price I can find. And that means research; lots and lots of research.

One thing that can really take the guesswork out of the buying process is skipping the claims the product makes and looking at the cold hard facts: What’s in this stuff? When you start paying attention to the list of ingredients, you put yourself in the driver’s seat.

Here’s a great example: I’ve been researching skin care like a madwoman lately as I am utterly envious of makeup artist Lisa Eldridge’s skin. It is so gorgeous, and she uses a wide range of products to cater to every whim of her epidermis.

One product on her list (and the lists of many, many other women) is the Eve Lom cleanser. This mythical creature will run you between about $66 and $140. That’s about $20.50 per ounce at its cheapest. “Sounds like spreadable gold! Where can I purchase this fine product?!” you might ask.


Well, if you have a wooden cutting board at home, you might already be using the main ingredient to treat the wood that you use to cleanse your face: Mineral oil. That’s right. Mineral oil. Here’s the complete ingredient list for this cleanser:


I was utterly shocked by the lack of ingredients that are actually good at nourishing the skin. Save your money, and find an oil that works best with your skin type instead.


Acne Flareup: How I Dealt with my Angry, Clogged Pores

It happens to all of us. Your skin is doing fine with no major problems and then… Well, I won’t lie. I got lazy. One night, I went to bed without washing my face, which means I still had the remains of my regular foundation, etc on my face for the whole night. Combine that with the stress of looking for work in a foreign country, add a big dose of hormones, and voil-AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

I had not had acne this bad since I was a first-year high school teacher. Scratch that. It had not been that bad since before I broke up with my big ex (you know the type). And that was several years ago.

The first thing I did right was that I didn’t freak out. I knew my skin was getting hit from all sides, so it was not that shocking that it should react this way. I kept cleansing gently and moisturizing. I used an exfoliating masque with 5% glycolic acid as a spot treatment, and once they came to a head, I popped my zits wisely (see former article).

In addition I used (what sounded to me at first like) a weird and crazy “trick” that I heard about on HudaBeauty.com: Peel a very ripe banana (it needs to be a bit brown and spotty or at least have no green left to the peel). Rub the inside of the peel on current breakouts. I found that this was soothing to my breakouts (especially since I kept the peel in the fridge), and it helped my acne to come to a head. Once they developed heads, I used the acne.org technique to gently eliminate their contents from my pores. Then I soaked part of a cotton pad with my Holy Grail toner: Michael Todd True Organics Blue Green Algae Toner. It is gentle and moisturizing but with anti-bacterial/inflammation/acneic ingredients like witch hazel, tea tree, and black willow bark. While my spots where still sealing themselves back up after I squeezed them, I dabbed the toner-soaked cotton pad on the spots, and I swear that they healed so well! No repeat head formation or anything. They healed, I would say about twice as fast as normal and in a very healthy way.

The banana peel trick also helped calm another breakout after I squeezed it. It tightened the skin and helped it to close. Rubbing the peel on the red marks from past breakouts also really helped them to calm down/ reduce the redness.

Finally, I’ve drastically cut my caffeine and alcohol consumption to try and keep my skin hydrated. At night, I mix a small amount of my moisturizer with my serum and massage it into my skin until it has been well absorbed. The moisturizer helps with the absorption, and the antioxidants from my serum “feed” my skin the good stuff it needs to heal and repair itself.

Please don’t buy into the idea that oil is bad for your skin. It’s not. Balance is always key, but stripping your face of its natural oils and not using any products containing good oils makes your skin overcompensate with a large sebum production; then it seems like you break out no matter what, and over time, your skin becomes more and more sensitive and unable to find its natural balance.


Not sure why I didn’t publish this when I originally wrote it 1.5 to 2 years ago… One thing that I do very differently now, is that I put rose water (just pure, distilled rose water) onto my zit and try and get it to go down on its own without squeezing.

If I do squeeze it, I do it at night with clean hands. And afterward, I spritz it with thermal water like Avene and then apply rose water to the spot with a cotton pad.

This brings down inflammation quickly and may also help to discourage bacteria.

You Need More: The Popular Lie


This used to be my life. Ok, so maybe it’s a tiny bit of an exaggeration, but I remember having more shampoos, moisturizers, pore-cleansing strips, lip glosses and eye shadows than you could shake a stick at. Slowly, I’m coming out of my addiction to more.

I am currently enjoying the clearest, healthiest skin of my life, and just a few years ago, I would have been skeptical that the products I’m using now could do it. I bought into the idea that I needed a lot of different kinds of cosmetics to look my best.

I used to use nearly 50% more skincare products than I do now:

  • A morning cleanser
  • An evening cleanser
  • A moisturizer
  • A serum
  • An under eye cream
  • A facial scrub
  • A mask
  • A toner, sometimes two

Now I use

  • Makeup remover
  • Facial soap
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Rose water
  • Mineral water that sprays in a fine mist

Part of this change is that I live in France, and I don’t want to ship my products across the Atlantic just so my pores can look a little smaller. I’m working toward buying local and reducing the number of ingredients on each of the products I do use.

I loved my Michael Todd products, but the simple fact is that I didn’t need all of that. And my skin has a lot less redness and tendency to break out than it did before. It’s even less dry, as long as I don’t let myself get dehydrated by skipping the water and going for too much alcohol or caffeinated drinks.

All of these makeup brands are trying to push products like primer. Now that my skin is in good balance, I can spritz my face with the mineral water and/ or put on some aloe vera gel. While my face is recently hydrated and maybe a little damp, I’ll put on my foundation with a brush.

Unless I’m really, really dry on my nose, it works great. Honestly.

I think that one of the reasons my face was out of balance was that I was using products that dried it out or gave it too much oil/ moisture. However, I also think that skincare starts with self-care (i.e. getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, eating fruits and veggies, getting exercise, not stressing yourself out and just generally being kind to yourself, and washing your face with water that isn’t too hot, etc).

It’s hard to pinpoint, really. If you’re caring for yourself well, I think that you naturally gravitate toward products that will be better for your body and your skin because you’re listening to yourself.

For example, I used my Michael Todd moisturizer recently and experienced a lot of oil production and redness on my face. Now, there are some different reasons for this, but in the past, I think I just blamed it on my “bad skin” and thought it was normal because it was already a big improvement from how dry and red my skin was from using Dove soap on my face and products with lots of preservatives, fragrances, and other nasties from Lush (don’t get me started on how they pretend to be organic-ish and totally are not).


I’m currrently debating whether to repurchase just one Michael Todd product, their Honey and Oat cleanser. This thing gets all my makeup off (except eye makeup) without drying my skin, and I can just wash it off. My current cleanser takes off makeup, but I have to use cotton pads with it, which is wasteful, and then I have to wash my face after.

Hmm, I may start the hunt for some soft, reusable cloths for removing my makeup…

I am thankful that I’m (finally!) using more natural products and seeing such great results for my skin. I’ll do another post where I tell you exactly which products I’m using and what kinds of things to look out for if you don’t have that exact product in your area.

My hair is another story… Fingers crossed that I find a shampoo that doesn’t irritate my scalp, has natural ingredients, and doesn’t give me a greasy mop instead of a shiny mane!