Do You Suppress or Support Your Skin?

In 2006, before Brooklyn Herborium was Brooklyn Herborium, one of our founders, Holistic Aesthetician Emma Graves, formulated the Between You & The Moon Skin Care Line and gave it to hundreds of her clinical facial clients to test. In doing so, she had three main goals in mind. First, having been an environmentalist from childhood, she wanted to make the most ecologically-friendly company she possibly could. Second, she wanted to create a complete line of products that support the skin in functioning optimally over the long-term without using any artificial ingredients. And most importantly, she wanted to prove that the skin is more vibrant in the short-term and sustainably healthier in the long-term when we stop controlling the skin and simply allow it to function.

Now, in 2013, we are well on our way to proving her theories and deep into the process of improving how we do it. But, even with our astounding results, we still get asked “what’s wrong with conventional skin care?” A fair question. When it works, it’s fine…but is “under control” really the best your skin can be? Do you really want to live your life on the teeter-totter of getting your skin care “just right?”

Critical Analysis of Conventional Methods

Most of today’s conventional skin care products or medications do one or more of three things: control, suppress, or destroy (kill). While there are reasons for this, much of the time these methods are overkill (using a chainsaw when a letter-opener would do) and rarely, if ever, do they solve the underlying or initial “problem.”

  • Products that control the skin tell the body what to do. The provider has determined that the body is not working properly and it is the product’s job to boss it around. Even natural products that are intended to “balance” certain problems are really just using herbs and oils as a method of controlling the skin. For example: “drying out” things that are oily, “moisturizing” areas that are dry, etc. Controlled skin rarely looks healthy, just “under control” and it is hard to step back from that result because, when you do, things will go “out of control.”
  • Suppression is a method that is used when your prescriber is attempting to stop the body from having an immune system reaction, usually an inflammatory or histamine reaction. Suppression can save lives and is a valuable tool for us to have, but things that are suppressed can’t stay down forever. Before you purchase that OTC cortizone or start a steroid treatment, look into Red Skin Syndrome (until recently called “Topical Steroid Withdrawal”).


  • Antibiotics and antifungals are some of the most-used killers in skincare.  Though they may be effective for a time, the skin isn’t really defending itself, so if the product use is discontinued or the pathogenic microorganisms become resistant to the product, infection will return. They usually also destroy the structural integrity as well as the overall microbiome, leaving the body at a disadvantage when it comes to utilizing the skin as its defensive line in the future.

Other conventional products may simply “add” nutrients or cosmeceuticals, or “avoid” things that may be causing a reaction:

  • Products and supplements that add may give short term benefits and are especially useful to get quick results in order to keep up the healing and supporting functionality work, but are not sustainable unless other methods are being utilized to improve the skin’s function at the same time.

  • The avoid tactic is extremely useful when we know what the body is being reactionary to and it can be imperative to avoid these inflammatory substances during times of healing and when the body is in a high-needs state. During that time, steps need to be taken in order to improve the way that the body functions and lower the body’s level of need, so that future exposure doesn’t create the same response. Long-term avoidance can lead to deficiencies and further dysfunction and should be…ummm…avoided.

None of these tactics work completely in the long run, though many of them are useful in the early stages of healing. One of our goals is to decrease dependency on medications and products that control, suppress or destroy and make add/avoid unnecessary. 

What Does Supportive Skin Care Look Like? What about Holistic?

Supportive Skin Care could look a lot like Conventional Skin Care: gentle, well-made products that give the skin what it needs, when it needs it–no more, no less. Lovely creams and lotions that are formulated to either mimic or work with the skin. Supportive Skincare does not necessarily need to be all-natural or preservative-free. It can contain plant materials but does not necessarily need to. Supportive simply implies that it does not mess with the skin’s natural function. These days, however, products that don’t “do anything” are a rare find.

The products that we make at Brooklyn Herborium are far more than just supportive. Our Between You & The Moon Functional Skin Care Line is truly holistic in that we are able to connect the physiological workings of the body with the most beautifully-made plant preparations, encouraging the integration of the functional body, the emotional mind, and spirit energy: 

  • We understand how the skin works. These products are designed for Holistic Practitioners who have the specific goal of providing their clients with a lifetime of beautiful, healthy skin. We know that there are lots of ingredients that could provide instant gratification (and big sales) but choose the role of healer over the role of salesperson.

  • There is something about lovely rituals with visible results that appeal directly to our emotional selves. The aromatherapy that comes from whole plants that have been prepared properly for our intended use goes far beyond good smells. We start to connect those moments of lovely with the lessons we need to learn in order to live our best lives. Like divination methods, traditional children’s stories, or a good yoga class, each of the lessons that come along with using our products are universal.

  • It is essential that the Herbal Crafters who prepare and package each of these products by hand have apprenticed with our team to not only learn the production of the product from start to completion, but also to maintain a positive flow of energy when working with the materials. We recognize that the lovingkindness that we show to the plants, each other, the space we work out of, and the finished product resonates with the receiver through each of their skin cells and beyond–out to the greater world.

As Holistic methods become more and more popular, it is important to realize that the term is changing. It is being used to mean natural or organic. It is being used to mean D.IY. It is being used to mean made with plants or using specific types of massage…or crystals….or reiki. It can mean any and all of these things, but it doesn’t automatically mean “supportive.” It is possible (and popular) to use herbs,  natural products and massage modalities in a controlling way too.

If you are deeply invested in control methods but want to move towards more supportive methods, Brooklyn Herborium’s Holistic Skin Care Specialists and Holistic Aestheticians are able to recognize a dependance on the Control Cycle, Suppression, Active Ingredients, or Hyper-exfoliation and are well prepared to help you navigate your journey.

A Blast from the Past

Force, Balance, Suppress, Kill, and Their “Little Brothers” Avoid and Add

Emma’s Rant On Control Methods from her “The Pimple Whisperer” Blog 2008

Control tactics make promises, and promises make money. When we look to popular sources of “information” from advertisers and the media–as well as well-meaning family and friends who are simply repeating what has been promised to them–we are usually given one or more of these control methods.

We are told that we need to take control and to keep things “under control.” In fact, we are led to believe that not only can we control what the body is doing, but that we are obliged to control it. Having children was the only reminder I needed that control is not only unnecessary, but an impossible task that usually leads to rebellion. And yet so many clients come into my skin care services who are in a control struggle with their pores!

And when you can’t avoid it–such as in the case of both problematic autoimmune issues or even the body’s natural immune response that we think is somehow unnecessary–we SUPPRESS it. We use whatever means necessary to tell the body that it is wrong–to confuse its healing messages–to make it appear healthy again.  We quiet it down and tell it to shut up–we don’t want to hear it’s problems or how it’s trying to fix them.  And then we expect that it will simply give up and not continue to try to heal you. Do you really want your immune system to give up on you?

There is also a flip side to suppression, which is to force. I tend to think of all products that make the skin do something that it is not naturally doing on its own as a forceful product. Luckily we aren’t seeing a lot of forceful products in general use or at drugstores, spas, and beauty counters, but there are cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical topical preparations that are becoming more and more popular.

In other instances we are told we need to KILL the problem. This is particularly problematic if the “problem” is a part of you, isn’t it?  Remove layers of “old” skin and use wishful thinking to make it come back younger and healthier–despite the fact that it’s getting more sun exposure and you are on a cleanse that doesn’t give enough nutrients to rebuild properly? Destroy the external biome with broad-spectrum antibiotics without a single thought to rebuilding it? The gut needs you to replace the “good guys” or else the “bad guys” proliferate and take over–you skin has a mutually-beneficial biome as well.

If you cannot control what the body is doing, you are then made to believe that you need to AVOID whatever the “Outsider Problem” is. Avoidance is a great idea when it comes to things that are actively damaging the skin or creating distress in the body, but we can’t avoid all the things that we label as toxic. There are toxins all around us–our bodies create their own toxins!  We even call other people toxic! If we were to remove all traces of toxicity from our lives, we would not only be very fearful and lonely–we would also miss out on a lot of nourishment and lose our ability to tolerate things that are uncomfortable to us. The flip side of AVOID is ADD. Though it could be useful to “add” certain supplemental dietary aids while your body is healing, we don’t want to be dependent on them.
When we follow a path of control, avoidance, suppression, force and destruction, it is as though we are being led down a long dark path that we can’t find our way back from. The promised goal is just around the next corner or out of our reach and we get more and more drunk and confused and worn out. It starts with a feeling of unease (dis-ease?) but you don’t realize how deep you are into it until you are shackled to the wall.

Writing by Emma Graves

Emma, a certified herbalist & highly skilled aesthetician who has been working in natural skin care since 1998, originally developed the Between You and the Moon product line to serve her clients in finding a method of natural, holistic skin care that provided tangible results. A 4+ generation holistic practitioner, her love of skin care and holistic methods was chronicled in her early blog “The Pimple Whisperer,” some of which is still available on this website.

1 thought on “Do You Suppress or Support Your Skin?”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: