Why Wash and Repeat?
Washing my face is a step that I shamefully admit I skipped for years. After those good ole middle school years were behind me, I never did have oily skin that made washing regularly a necessity, so surely that played a role in my eschewing this step. But also, as I became more attuned to what foods and products my mouth and skin eat respectively, I started to find a startling thing: the less I did, the better and healthier my skin appeared. There is more to it than just putting down the products, though, so let’s discuss.
The first notable mention is that I was using the wrong products. I was washing my face with a soap based wash, which stripped my skin of its natural oils, as well using astringent toners that provided nothing in the way of restoration and rejuvenation. These products were made with non-organic, synthesized active ingredients, synthetic fragrance, coloring agents, petrolatums that provide moisture barriers, siloxanes that smooth and soften, parabens, etc. The list really goes on and on, as does the effects of these chemicals on the body long term, with many of these products being carcinogenic and hormone disrupting. But beyond the long term effects, these products were also burdening my skin with the task of continually righting and balancing itself, and as a result my skin just looked lack luster, dull, and even irritated at times.
The second half of this journey, then, came later when I began to make my own personal care products at home. I was finally caring for my skin on a regular basis again, but this time I was using products I could literally eat. Rosemary Gladstar, the fairy godmother of contemporary Western Herbalism, calls it “Emergency food”, because if in crisis you could literally eat it. It’s that pure.
And you know what? My skin loved it. It loved being washed. It drank up the moisture and nutrition I was giving it. Instead of being pissed, it was soothed. Eureka!
So let’s return to the first step of our routine- the wash. It was something I didn’t do for years. I skipped it. Even when I returned to a routine of some sort with natural products, I often skipped this step. I wasn’t terribly oily. I don’t wear foundation. Why go beyond a little water and a washcloth in the shower? Well, I was alarmed to learn that sometimes even one wash isn’t enough and why.
Even when we use natural skincare, these products do build up. There will always be some residual product that doesn’t get absorbed and digested by the skin. It sits there on top of the dermis where the products oxidize. This layer of product keeps any new product you introduce to the top of the skin from absorbing, as its being blocked by the old. Its really the same principle as why we need exfoliation: when dead skin cells sit on top of the skin, it prevents products from penetrating. If you consider all that you might put on top of your skincare products (think sunscreen and makeup), its sort of horrifying to think that you’re not starting with a fresh palate everyday.
Washing your skin, then, is actually a critical step in caring for the skin, and that’s why I (as well as my very favorite esthetician, Melanie Marshall at Lonesome Valley Spa in Cashiers, North Carolina) recommend that you wash your face not just once, but twice. Just ensure that the wash you are using is made with ingredients that actually support the skin. Washing grains are my personal favorite way to wash, as its avoiding foaming agents and ingredients that strip the skin all together. Instead, washing grains clean through the mineral clay’s abilities to bind and draw, and the exfoliant and nourishing prowess of powered rice and oats. The formula I created and honed over the years for Wild Taproot contains several types of mineral clays and the grains I use include a powdered thick cut oat and a wild-harvested Canadian wild black rice. I also added the brightening and softening power of lemon peel and goat’s milk, and the soothing anti-inflammatory action of flower powders, namely lavender and calendula, which release even more of their aroma once the washing grains are mixed with water.
Before I begin, I remove any make up with a clean, organic almond oil and cloth. Then I like to use a fair spoonful of grains for each wash and mix them with water either in the palm of my hand, or in a small bowl. You want the consistency of the grains and water to form a sort of slip. Have you ever seen or heard of potter’s slip? This is the clay and water mixture that they use to make corrections, fill in cracks, and glue elements of their pieces together. I show you in a photo above what that consistency will look like. You then press this mixture into your skin, and gently roll your palms over the skin. You may choose to also buff the skin with the wet grains, but please do not add weight to your hand as you do. Be gentle with your skin.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.