An image with the words: cleanse toner peel scrub mask hydrator serum booster moisturizer oil balm repeated.

The Control Cycle

An image with the words: cleanse toner peel scrub mask hydrator serum booster moisturizer oil balm repeated.

When did modern skin care move away from supporting the skin to becoming a constant battle to manage its every process and keep it under control? It wasn’t like one day we woke up and our skin was no longer able to purge metabolic waste, shed old cells, or create its own Natural Moisturizing Factor. (Yes, that’s the actual scientific name for the secretions that come out of our pores to moisturize the skin.) 

Slowly, over time, modern society started adding more and more steps to the list of personal care products that we use as well as the frequency of application–perhaps due our growing distrust of the body being able to do these things for itself–or perhaps causing that very distrust.

Battling the skin for control is not necessary and does not lead to true vibrancy, but maybe it is all you know.

Perhaps the only education that you have had about your skin has come from advertisers and big business. They are not bad people and they are usually very good at their job. Unfortunately for your skin, their job is not to tell you how to have beautiful skin, but to sell you as many of their products as possible. See the difference?

The Controlling Skin Care Regimen

How often have you heard that for good skin, you need to keep it “under control” and be consistent? This generally means “cleanse, tone, moisturize every morning and night!” That rather regimented and controlling regimen can lead to reliance on those products. Here’s my translation of what is really going on:

Cleansing: Stripping the barrier, removing its natural defenses, twice a day.

Toning and/or Serum: Telling the skin what to do, regardless of what the skin naturally wants to do. 

Moisturizing: Attempting to repair damage that the first two steps are often contributing to and soothe the skin.

Often, natural or “holistic” products and brands try to emulate this cycle using natural products or even raw ingredients: (Pro Tip: Even natural ingredients can create havoc for the skin if used incorrectly. We don’t recommend you do this.)

For example:

  • “Cleansing” with an oil/witch hazel/castile soap/honey, morning and night.

  • Using a hydrosol/apple cider vinegar/witch hazel like a toner (or “hydrator”)—each morning and night after cleansing.

  • “Moisturizing” with an oil/hyaluronic acid/aloe after cleansing and toning, morning and night (Brooklyn Herborium regulars may already know that individually, these ingredients do not make a complete moisturizer but that’s another article)

These raw ingredients can have their place in a formulated product, but not individually as skin care.

And much of the time it “works” to the extent that it keeps the skin under control for a period of time. But can the skin truly thrive and be its most glorious in this controlling, damaging cycle? Is it good for the skin to constantly and consistently be at the mercy of products that tear it down, attempt to make it do something unnatural (through force or suppression), or deny it the opportunity to naturally rebuild and protect itself?

Breaking Free from the Control Cycle

For many, breaking free from the control cycle is as simple as changing the timing of specific rituals in your skin care routine. The Supportive Skin Care Regimen (outlined below) is your best guide to how to do this. It is also helpful to make the switch in conjunction with a Functional Facial or an Integrative Therapy for Barrier Repair–particularly if you have been using an oil without emulsifying it with some type of water as part of your skin care routine for any amount of time.

If you have been using seriously controlling (drug-like) products to keep your skin “under control” and you suddenly stop, what was suppressed will go “out of control.” This is natural, of course. If you want to move to a supportive regimen, you will need to take it slow and wean yourself from controlling products (with your doctor’s guidance if it is a prescription) over a period of time, while nourishing your body in other ways. We have a few articles about this on our resources page and all of our Holistic Skin Care Specialists/Aestheticians are well versed in helping you with this.

The Supportive Skin Care Regimen

The Supportive Skin Care Regimen is designed to give the skin what it needs, when it needs it and then allows the skin to do for itself what it naturally needs to do in order to be healthy. Being the Earth-science geek that I am, I equate the timing of the rituals to the timing of natural phenomena that we can look up into the sky and recognize.

A photo of hands cupping water on a black background

AM Regimen (Sun Cycle, Daily Regimen)

In the morning we flush our skin with water. There are centuries-old accounts of a morning beauty ritual of women going down to the well or the river and cupping fresh water in their hands to wash their faces with. Or pressing a warm, damp towel over their forehead and eyes and pressing down the face and onto the neck. Seems right, right? Water flushes out water-based toxins, such as the metabolic wastes that our bodies naturally produce in the night and release through our skin. Any other type of cleansing would be too harsh for morning: Daily exfoliation would make the skin too thin and leave it susceptible to more environmental damage. Morning Oil cleansing would pull out too much oil and leave the skin open to malicious microbes and barrier damage. A daily cleaning with soap is harsh and unnecessary—especially when you just spent the night with your soft clean face on your soft clean pillow.

That doesn’t mean you always have to use only water—but it does mean that morning cleansing should be water-based almost all of the time (leaving a tiny, tiny bit of leeway for special occasions, of course). We love Facial Bathing and Herbal Compressions with Inner Strength Tea or one of our Stress Bump Teas. We also make a unique product called Dew Drops that you can add to a basin of water for Facial Bathing or with your compression towel. But just plain, pure water is completely acceptable as well.

A picture of the Moisture Duo Set, which is Nourish and Replenish Oil and a Mineral Mist

Following the water bath, we recommend Moisturizing.  This is not because we need to return moisture that has been removed by cleansing and toning, but as a way to nourish the skin. Our products give it gentle guidance in the form of plant wisdom, plus appropriate minerals to help our bodies translate the messages from the plants, and to aid in the protection of our barrier from the harsh world we live in. This can be done with an all-in-one product such as our LOMAH Lotion, Edith Rose Cream, or any well-made moisturizer (with the understanding that any product that contains both oil and water must have emulsifiers and preservatives) or with our Moisture Duo, which keeps the oil and water separate until you emulsify them in the palm of your own hand.

PM Regimen (Sun Cycle, Daily Regimen)

At the end of the day, rituals need to focus on cleansing. We recognize that any one type of cleansing used every day can start to wear on the skin in one direction. To remedy this, we recommend getting to know what your skin needs and rotating between cleansing methods. If you want to go au-natural, oil cleanse a few nights a week and grain cleanse with Sow Your Wild Oats or Integrity Biome a few nights a week. Leave a night to give your skin a break and/or a night for a clay mask or a special occasion mask. If you want to use the same emulsified cleanser every night, be sure that it is gentle and balanced—and allow for breaks when possible. Both LOMAH and Vita-C Nightly Cleanser fit the bill.

For daily skin care, we highly suggest staying away from anything that does something FOR the skin. This is why we don’t moisturize in the evening. At night, the body completes its natural metabolic processes and does the work of keeping itself young and vibrant. It is pre-programed and it doesn’t matter how much you spent on that serum or moisturizer–the skin is smarter than any technology.  What it makes is more natural and a better fit for you than any ingredient.

Integrity Biome Mask shown both dry in the jar and mixed in a bowl with a spoon resting over it.

Personal Note from Emma: Whenever I think about, “Let your body do the work” I remember the wise words of my mother when my oldest son was a toddler: “If you do everything for him, he won’t do it for himself.” I’m not sure if she was talking about my child or my husband, but in either case she makes a good point—if you continually and constantly put oil on your skin, your skin will get the message that there is “plenty of oil up there” and will  stop producing as much of its own oils. This response may have been good for some time when your skin was over-producing because you had been washing with harsh soaps, but after a while (as little as 4 months or as long as 2 years) the skin starts to feel dry and parched—like you need, need, need more oil. It is important to recognize this as a symptom of a dysfunctional reliance which can result in a serious oil/water imbalance in the skin.

If you need another reason not to moisturize at night, note that the skin is involved in the entire body’s process of renewal all night long, creating and releasing metabolic waste. It is essential that we do not block this process of elimination by either drying out the skin–so that everything is “toned”–or by using an occlusive layer to “lock it in.” It’s not that what you have learned is “wrong” per say…it is just a very commercial, controlling, and over-kill way of managing something that the body does naturally.

But what about feeling dry before bed? 

Look at feeling dry as a message to your epidermis to start producing more of its own, lovely oils. Spray 5-6 pumps of Mineral Mist on your face for some plant wisdom and minerals (great for the skin and the mind) and assure yourself that in a short time your skin will start producing its own perfect moisturizer again.

Maybe I should just avoid skin care all together! 

You could. Lots of people don’t use much of anything on their face and do just fine. You might just miss a whole lot of enjoyment if you opt out of skin care all together. From my experience, due to the harsh realities of both our current lifestyles and the beauty expectations we have for ourselves, it behooves us to take time for self-care with really lovely products that benefit and support the skin rather than control it.

Other Products Fit into Other Regimens (Moon Cycle for Weekly and Monthly, Earth Cycle for Seasonally)

There may be a place for stronger products that “do something”–but in our opinion, these are not for use every day. Some products are best used weekly, some monthly, some seasonally and some never at all! That is up for you to contemplate and decide.

Do you have a beautiful product that you LOVE that makes you feel so special and beautiful when you use it?  GREAT! Use it for special occasions. Don’t over do it; you may take the magic away. When that intense short-term romance is getting to be a bit of a downer; know you can create healthy boundaries. Start with your skin care and maybe it will spill over into other areas of your life!

Supportive Skin Care Requires Trust

When your body is able to trust you to give it what it needs when it needs it, no more no less, you can trust your body to take care of you by functioning well. But building trust takes time. If it’s a simple case of over-cleansing or over-moisturizing, you will probably feel better right away and the “sometimes oily/sometimes dry/combination skin” dance will reset itself in 3-4 weeks.  

If you have seriously been keeping things under control for a long time and suddenly let go, everything may very well go out of control. Start by moving yourself from the Controlling Regimen to a Supportive Regimen and then slowly wean off your high-potency products, replacing them with our beautifully-made Brooklyn Herborium/Between You & The Moon Products –first the advanced line to help you make the transition…and finally to the Functional Skin Care Line.

It’s not glamorous. It doesn’t provide instant gratification. It takes more thought and effort than pressing “buy now,” having it arrive within 2 days and then slathering it on both morning and night. But it is worth it. You are so very worth it.

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.

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