skin essentials

Skin plant

Skin and body care is one of my favorite daily rituals I bring to my day.  I’ve had such a long journey with self love, learning to appreciate my skin and work with it gently.  I have sensitive and freckly skin that I spent the majority of my life hating, after a boy I liked in 7th grade told me freckles were ugly, and I should cover them up.  It’s sad that as young women, many of us are so impressionable and deeply self conscious that we accept and internalize this contempt for our natural bodies at such a tender age.  That moment stung me and buried itself deep for many years, coloring how I felt about myself, leading me to cover up my face with thick foundation, crisping my body in tanning booths and plastering it with chemical self tanners to give the appearance of more even skin.  Which of course, only made things worse and gave me a hollow feeling inside, believing that my real, unadulterated skin wasn’t pretty or good enough as it was.

On top of that, after both of my pregnancies I got severe hormonal acne for about a year postpartum.  If I hadn’t already hated my skin before, I definitely hated it now.  I went on hormonal birth control, I used Retin-A, I scrubbed it within an inch of its life with chemical and manual exfoliants, I took internal and topical antibiotics which saturated my life with a litany of side effects.  I squeezed and picked at the stubborn red marks and doused them with products.  Stubbornly and rightfully so, my acne remained until my hormones realigned.  It took a lot less time to heal the second time around due to me starting to get in touch with my body and actively working with it instead of against it.  Maybe I’ll do another post about that, but it’s too long to tell here.  Suffice to say, I wouldn’t have dreamed of going out of the house bare faced even a few years ago.  Now I embrace it.  My freckles, my lines, my dimples on my thighs, my stretch marks on my breasts- they are mine.  They tell my story.  My body is lived in, has created life, has danced and bent, carrying me and supporting me silently, without complaint, with love and acceptance no matter what abuse I (and others) hurled at it.  No matter how much I hated it and wished it was different.

Stef mitchell

image: @stef_mitchell

I finally got around to working really deeply with myself, understanding and releasing past trauma, realizing that all is change, all is one, and that it wasn’t fair to be self consumed with contempt for this vessel when I had so much else I wanted to give, to share, to be grateful for.  It all sounds a bit woo-woo, but it seriously was a huge turning point in my healing from my autoimmune disease and healing my toxic mental relationship with myself.  This article was so helpful to me.  I’ve linked it a few times before, but it’s worth re-sharing.  (for more on self-love, click HERE)

Your skin problems are the biggest gift.  They are a perfect, clear mirror, a message from your body of what’s going on internally.  Acne, rashes, dry patches, cysts…they all tell a story that something is off.  Listen, experiment, observe your habits objectively and without judgement to see what you discover.  Diet, alcohol, coffee, stress, exercise, hormones, lack of circulation, dehydration, negative thoughts towards yourself can all affect your skin in deep ways.  For my own skin, I’ve found what’s best is to gently work with it to boost circulation through manual stimulation + very simple, gentle products and focusing on greens, quality sleep, water, and whole plant foods.  STRESS is a huge factor for me too, so meditation and morning rituals are a must for me.

Non-toxic products are a must.  Our skin absorbs everything we put on it, it’s the same as eating food.  Be respectful and mindful of what you put on it.  Here’s some of my favorites that I rely on to bring my skin + body to balance.  (for makeup/beauty click HERE)


hydrosol mists:  hydrosols are the other side of essential oils.  When plant matter is distilled, essential oils are produced (very concentrated) and also water infused with the plant essence and water soluble constituents.  They are super gentle yet nourishing and hydrating, plus anti-inflammatory, healing, circulation boosting, soothing, astringent, anti-bacterial properties depending on the plant.  My favorite is this rose geranium one, which is naturally humectant and mildly astringent- great for balancing skin.  I spray it on a few times throughout the day for moisturizing and also after I was my face to restore balance.  It’s made in Washington and in glass.  Mountain Rose Herbs has high quality hydrosols too.

hydrosol rose

quartz gua sha tools:  This is an ancient Chinese technique of scraping a tool across your skin to release stagnation, tightness, get blood and lymph moving again.  The results are amazing when practiced consistently.  For me, this has reduced monthly breakouts and sped the healing of the ones I do happen to get- check out THIS video for technique.  Also, I carry a lot of tension in my jaw from bruxism (teeth grinding- that virgo rising #controlfreak life) and TMJ and this releases so much of that!  I focus on my jaw area and under my eyes (gently).  Gua sha is also amazing for muscle soreness and pain from workouts or general stiffness, and can help with sinus congestion.  Like cupping, it brings circulation, fresh blood and life to areas that need it, enabling healing to speed.  I try to do this daily in the morning.  I bought my set at a gem fair, but I linked a similar set from Amazon which comes with three useful shapes, and there’s also a bunch on Etsy.

beauty golden elixir gua sha

dry brushing: similar to gua sha, dry brushing brings circulation and aids lymph flow in the body and is convenient and quick for doing on large areas.  It’s said to help with spider veins, cellulite, skin tone and texture, and dry skin.  I do it after a workout and/or before hopping in the shower.  This one is similar to the one I use- natural and stiff fibers.  Read more about it HERE.

dry brushing

oils:  On my face I love to use CocoKind golden elixir oil, which is super nourishing and good for all skin types, plus you can use it on hair and body too.  Rich in omegas and vitamins A + E, my skin loves this one.  I much prefer oils over lotions/creams, which I find heavy and congesting on my skin.  I use it in combo with the gua sha tool.

shea butter:  I love butters for body, I find they are so moisturizing and absorb best for me, plus they give a beautiful sheen.  I really dislike lotions, I always have- something about the sticky/tacky texture and the pilling if you rub too much.  Shea butter is a beautiful and non toxic, one ingredient option that people in west Africa have been using for centuries.  Naturally anti-inflammatory and packed with nutrients and fatty acids, shea is my all time favorite, but I also love sweet smelling cocoa butter.  I’ve been enjoying the Sun Potion one that comes in a glass jar, but Mountain Rose Herbs has a high quality one that you can buy in bulk quantities for much cheaper, although in plastic.

sunscreen:  I really love this one from Copper Moon, an amazing woman run company, and if you’re in the Sacramento area you can buy it in bulk at Refill Madness.  It doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin, it’s moisturizing without being oily, and it’s made here in California.  I’ve heard that this sunscreen from Living Libations is amazing too and has super clean and skin boosting ingredients plus non nano zinc.

lavender essential oil:  I use this nightly on the bottoms of my feet for relaxation and signaling to my body that it’s bedtime.  It’s super calming for the nervous system and helps me to wind down after the day.  I’ve been using a locally made one from Araceli Farms, but the Veriditas brand is amazing too.  Make sure you are using therapeutic grade essential oil and doing your research, as these are so strong.

lavender essential oil night skin feet

fresh aloe vera:  such a cheap, nontoxic, and effective product to have in your arsenal.  Buy yourself an aloe vera plant and pot it (or if you don’t have space, you can buy aloe leaves at most health stores).  Harvest a leaf and cut it open, rub it over your skin until it gets dry, then scrape it to release more gel, and repeat until it’s used up.  This makes skin GLOW.  Anti inflammatory, healing, nourishing and hydrating.

olive oil soap:  I strongly prefer an olive oil based bar soap for gently cleansing my body skin without stripping it.  Make sure it’s palm oil free, this one is cheap, lasts forever, and is readily available at many places.

olive oil soap

face wash:  My favorite cleanser of all time is this Acure one, it’s so gentle and effective.  It comes in plastic, though, so I keep buying new cleansers in glass but I haven’t settled on one I love.  I really dislike the one I’m using now, so I won’t mention it.  But once it’s used up I’m going to try this one.  Oil cleansing alone just doesn’t work for me in the summer, although I use it to take off my mascara.  Since I almost never wear foundation anymore, I don’t have to use much cleanser, which is amazing.

5 thoughts on “skin essentials

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I love reading your blog as it’s inspiring. I have vitiligo and hope one day gain complete health too and confidence with my body.

  2. Thank you for your tips!Another post about how you got in touch with your body and how you started working with it would be great! Also do you have tips for dry skin?
    You are awesome, xx

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