Let's get the truth out right from the jump. There are some factors about your skin (and your health in general) that you really can't control. Genetics and lifestyle over time play a huge role in your overall health and ultimately your skin. As your largest organ, your skin can tell you a lot about what you're doing right and, more importantly, what you're doing wrong.
The reality is we're all human and even with consistency over time, we all have our good days and not so good days. If you have acne or very sensitive skin or another condition that flares up from time to time... chances are you're always going to have some degree of that BUT the good news is you CAN learn to anticipate it and minimize how it manifests over time IF you pay attention and make the right changes along the way. I learned this over years of trial and error.
In this post I'll share the routine that changed everything for me and everything else I know... so far!
Keep in mind I'm not a dermatologist or an esthetician or a doctor. This is all based on my experience with my own skin and the countless people I have consulted and shared knowledge with along the way.
Most likely, there's something in this post you don't already know and a bunch of things you do. There's A LOT of information in this post so...
Let's get to it!
If It Ain't Broke...
clave. is all about keeping things simple and doing what works consistently over time. When I went chemical free almost 10 years ago, I was so tired of trying product after product and seeing the initial amazing results fade over time. I was so frustrated that I didn't understand the reactions I was getting from my body and my skin and that there was so much conflicting information out there (AND IT WAS ALWAYS CHANGING!). This frustration pushed me to not just eliminate harmful chemicals, but eliminate steps and ingredients (natural or not) where they didn't need to be. That's when I really started to see my skin and overall health improve and continue to do so over time. Fast forward 10 years and my routine hasn't changed much. As they say... if it ain't broke... I don't fix it!
Where Do I Start?!
Listen, I know. This is the part where all your baggage and frustration about your skin-tuation starts to reveal itself. Don't get triggered. Breathe.
Much like listening to a friend in need, your skin can and is telling you everything you need to know to get things on track. You just have to... listen. It's sometimes a slow process and a commitment you may not have been able or willing to make until now, but trust me it is well worth it and you'll never have to look back.
Master the Basics
I'm about to say some stuff you probably already know... but mastering the basics is just that, mastery. When you get the basic elements of anything down, there is nothing you can't accomplish or adjust for. Your skin is no different.
Over the years I have reduced my skincare routine to only the necessary steps and mastered each of those to the point where I can tell very easily where I need to adjust from time to time. You know what's even better than that? You can do it, too! Except you don't have to start from scratch like I did!
Here's my recommended skincare routine. I always suggest starting with this as a base and adjusting accordingly over time depending on how your skin responds.
- Rinse with cool water
- Use a gentle cleanser. If removing make-up, use a separate remover in addition to your main cleanser (double cleanse method)
- Optional: Apply a gentle toner (only for oily/acne-prone skin)
- Optional: Apply rose water mist
- Apply 3-10 drops of clave. jarabe oil. Massage gently in upward motion over face, neck, and chest.
- Let it soak in
- Before doing your usual routine (morning or evening), use a facial brush with a natural bristle (I use the Bass bamboo Facial Brush) with your usual cleanser in the shower to gently exfoliate your face, neck, and chest using small circular motions. Be sure to give extra focus to problem areas or areas with facial hair if applicable. Avoid brushing the eye area.
- Follow the rest of your evening routine, adding 2-3 extra drops of clave. jarabe oil than usual if needed.
Brush Use Note 2: It is not recommended to use any exfoliating products with or in addition to the facial brush in order to avoid excessive exfoliation and irritation.
Cool Water Rinse
This may sound really inconsequential, but the temperature of the water you use to rinse and cleanse your face matters. Hot water is great to help aid relaxation overall, but it can dry out the skin by stripping your natural oils (remember your skin barrier from that other post?) and potentially cause irritation, which is the opposite of what we want.
The first thing I do when I wake up is rinse my face with cool water. This helps tighten the skin, retract your pores, and stimulate blood flow eliminating puffiness and irritation overall. If I'm using a cleanser afterwards, slightly more lukewarm water tends to be best to help loosen up dirt and/or make-up, but speaking of cleansing...
No matter what type of skin you have (or think you have) you need a good cleanser that works well for you consistently. Don't interpret "good" with expensive or even worse, aggressive. I love a good luxury anything just as much as anyone else, but I need it to work... FOREVER ever! This is a step in my routine that I like to really keep as minimal as possible. Like I mentioned in my post The Oil-Free Myth, your natural skin barrier is delicate and doesn't appreciate overly aggressive cleansing (without proper compensation at the VERY least). So... I don't do my skin like that.
What do I use? Soap. I use the same soap I use on my body on my face.
I'm serious... just a nice, gentle, unscented, vegetable based, castile soap you can get pretty inexpensively almost anywhere these days. That's it!
Here's why. I rarely have a situation where I need an aggressive detergent to remove the day from my face. Unless you have motor oil and paint all over your face, you really don't need anything super aggressive to remove dirt and make-up from your face.
For my people out there that do a full face of make-up often or daily (I love seeing a good beat!), you probably will need a little more than just soap to get your day off. If that's the case, you're probably already familiar with double cleansing. If not, it's exactly what it sounds like - cleansing two times in a row, sometimes with the same product or two different ones. The key here is choosing the right products so you don't completely eliminate your natural skin barrier in the process of removing your smokey eye.
In this case I would recommend using an oil based cleanser and/or a make-up wipe that works for you followed by the gentle soap. I personally love The MakeUp Eraser cloth which removes ALL your make-up with a reusable/washable cloth and just water. No extra cleanser required! This double cleansing process helps to gently remove your make-up and then also wash away any product residue with the soap. Now you have a clean slate.
How often should I cleanse? That's a great question. Of course, it depends on your skin! I always recommend starting by doing your full skin routine morning and night. This works well for most people, but of course there are exceptions. For oily and combination skin it can be hard to see consistent results when the routine is reduced to once a day. Dry skin is a little less so, but you still don't want to skip nourishing your skin when it needs it. The best thing to do is start at the most, pay attention to how your skin reacts and adjust accordingly.
Most people don't need it. There, I said it.
I can't tell you how many times I've had someone see incredible results quickly just by removing a toner from their current routine. I know it comes in the "system" you bought. I know they say it'll reduce the visibility of your pores. I KNOW you think you need it. But the truth is a lot of combination and dry skin, in my experience, is caused by toning incorrectly or unnecessarily.
Unless your skin is acne-prone (think cystic and hormonal acne NOT your occasional stress or "I forgot to take my make-up off two days ago" pimple), your skin may not benefit as much as you think from a toner. Toners are formulated to be somewhat drying as they are mostly intended to help balance oil production and control break outs. And guess what? They mostly contain alcohol... which as we all know from that ONE time we had too many mimosas at brunch (ok maybe it was a few times... don't even act like it was just me), is a really great way to dehydrate yourself and your skin.
If you DO have chronically oily or acne-prone skin, your skin will absolutely benefit from a properly applied toner. A really critical tip here is that you don't have to apply your toner on your entire face. Usually if you focus on the areas that tend to be oily or acne-prone, that will work well without drying out the rest of your face that doesn't need it.
What do I recommend? The most basic and powerful toner I know; Witch Hazel. It's been around for centuries. There are a lot of varieties out there and they all work well. This is what I always recommend to oily and acne-prone skinned folks. It is very gentle but it is pure and potent and gets the job done. Consistently. Seeing a pattern here?
What's Good with the Rose Water?
Anyone that knows me knows I love rose water. I hit my face with 20 sprays every day... AT LEAST. If I'm feeling dry or hot... Rose water. If I happen to go into the bathroom at home... I come out sprayed up half the time. On the rare occasion I wear make-up, I use it as a setting spray. Basically, I use it A LOT. I love it because it helps hydrate my skin and I love how it helps distribute my jarabe oil. I am a BIG fan.
Why do I really use it? Rose water has been used for centuries (yes, you read that right) as a natural, gentle toner that helps restore the skin's natural pH (your skin is supposed to be a little acidic by the way), deliver anti-oxidants and act as a natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It also locks in moisture and is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and helps stimulate cell regeneration and collagen production. Do I need to keep going? No? Ok.
The best part about rose water is it is relatively inexpensive and gentle enough to use on all skin types. I always recommend this step no matter what. It really makes a difference. Trust me. I use the Heritage Store brand rose water. As far as I'm concerned it is the only brand out there that only has the high quality ingredients you absolutely need without any fluff or chemicals or... alcohol that will dry you out.
So, you're cleansed and toned (if you actually need it, be honest with yourself) and your skin is covered in beautifully fragrant droplets of rose water. This is where the magic happens. These are the perfect conditions to seal moisture into your skin and not only replenish your natural skin barrier but ENHANCE it with nourishing ingredients.
[ clave. jarabe oil has entered the chat ]
The only moisturizer I use is jarabe oil and it has been that way for almost 10 years.
In all my years of trial and error, this was the combination I found created consistent results for my skin. This was the only process that didn't leave my skin thirsty for more, slimy, or slick. It was perfect every time. Even to this day.
But what if you need MORE?! What if your skin DRINKS the recommended 3-10 drops of oil?! What if your skin is really EXTRA dry in the winter or in the cold?
Simple. Use more oil, use it more often, or layer on another thicker moisturizer you love over it that works for your skin (what I use - jarabe butter - is coming soon!). Once you seal in moisture with oil, it will boost and enhance anything else you put on top. Believe that.
Personally, I like to spray some rose water again on top once I finish massaging my oil into my skin (act surprised real quick - this is how I get almost 20 pumps in a day). It helps seal the oil in even more and I love the refreshing feeling of the water droplets on my face.
Do I dry my face after? Nope. I let the droplets and oil air dry and soak in.
The oil and the rose water do take a little time to soak in, but nothing worth doing in life is fast, right?
Here's the other game-changer in my routine.
Exfoliating is a big part of maintaining your skin (everywhere, not just your face). The purpose of regular exfoliation is clearing away dead skin and any build-up that may be on your skin which in turn unclogs your pores.
Pores that aren't blocked by dead skin and product residue don't just look "smaller," they also are much more functional and less susceptible to white heads, black heads, acne, and other breakouts or skin conditions like hyper pigmentation, etc..
In other words, it lets your skin breathe and do what it's naturally meant to do. This reveals more even skin tone with improved blood circulation, cell regeneration, collagen production, and lymphatic drainage (FYI your lymphatic system is the natural system your body uses to flush toxins out - when your eyes are puffy... that's what it's trying to do, but failing. I will do another post about lymphatic drainage, I promise!).
The result? Glowing, radiant, smooth, balanced, and firmed skin!
All this from getting rid of dead skin? That's it?! That's really... it.
So, how should I exfoliate? I love that question!
My favorite way to exfoliate, consistently, is using a facial brush. There are many varieties out there, but I like the sustainable bamboo with natural bristles from Bass Brushes. It is durable, eco-friendly, and really gets the job done. I am very gentle with it (I'm not gentle-handed in general). The bristles do all the work with little to no pressure at all. It takes a little getting used to, but it is the best way I found to stimulate and maintain my skin.
How often should I do it? Another great question!
I recommend exfoliating once a week to start. Some people see results with no irritation doing it every day, but for a lot of us that is WAY too much. Start weekly and adjust accordingly. I know it's difficult to limit it when you see how amazing your skin looks afterwards, but trust me it won't be worth the redness and irritation when you overdo it. Take your time to learn your skin! Increase it slowly and see at what frequency of use your skin responds best.
One final note here: PLEASE please please PLEASE don't use a facial brush with or before or after ANOTHER exfoliating product. That's like scrubbing your skin and then scrubbing it again with something else. You will only be causing yourself a lot of potential redness, irritation, and really imbalanced skin that will desperately need time to recover. It's easy to get carried away. Try to contain yourself!
Consistency is key / la clave.
As with any routine, consistency is absolutely KEY (or la clave. )! The more consistent you are, the easier it will be for you to notice what is and isn't working.
Below I've detailed some common issues and recommended adjustments to my baseline routine. If I missed your specific skin-tuation, hit up the comments and I'll update the post to include it!
My skin is feeling dry (more than usual)
- Are you using a toner (other than rose water)? If so, eliminate it completely for a week and see how your skin responds. If you genuinely had oily skin before and it comes back, try applying the toner only to the places there you need it AND making sure to use the gentlest toner you can find with as little alcohol as possible. Witch hazel is always my recommendation to start. You can also try using it only once a day.
- If you're not using a toner or you're still dry after eliminating it, I recommend skipping your cleanser in the morning. Keep the rest of the morning routine the same, just eliminate the cleanser. As long as you cleanse properly at night you shouldn't need the cleanser in the morning. Don't skip the jarabe oil though! And you know I never skip rose water...
- If you've tried the above and your skin is still too dry, try using a more gentle cleanser and/or using more oil. I use 10-12 drops of jarabe oil per application. Find the amount that works for you! You might just need more and that's ok!
My skin is feeling oily (more than usual)
- Are you using a toner (other than rose water)? If not, I would recommend adding this to your routine. Witch hazel works well and is super gentle on all skin types. Remember you can limit application to the areas that need it rather than applying it to your entire face. You can try it once or twice a day to see which frequency works best. Most times just that adjustment will do the trick!
- Are you cleansing and toning twice a day? I've found that for my oily and acne-prone skin-tuations it is best to do the full routine both morning and evening to keep oil production balanced and under control.
- If you are doing the full routine morning and night and you're still oily... Make sure you are properly cleansing and exfoliating. If you are skimping on the cleanser or facial brushing when your skin needs it, you can have dead skin that is blocking your pores which can lead to over-production of oil. I would recommend exfoliating with a brush and your usual cleanser 2-3 times a week to help eliminate this issue.
My skin is feeling different than usual...
Our skin, just like anything else, needs time to adjust and that's normal.
Some people "purge" when they change their skincare routine, which entails uncharacteristic breakouts or texture on the skin, while some people don't purge at all.
Be patient and keep things consistent.
If you notice redness or irritation that doesn't start to clear up pretty quickly, discontinue the routine and try it step by step to see where your skin is not adjusting well.
Sometimes it's the cleanser. Sometimes it's the toner. Sometimes it's just that you needed a few days or a week or two to get used to a new routine and all of a sudden your skin looks AMAZING! It can and will happen.
We're all different and only you can know what your skin really needs, but you have to listen first. Test out the steps one at a time if you have to and see what works!
If you have questions or need a little more detail on your specific skin-tuation that wasn't covered in this post, leave a comment below and we'll help!
P.S. I know I didn't say in this post you should drink more water... but you didn't think I'd forget, right? I'm not going to get into eating your vegetables in this post but... drinking water makes a big difference!