One of the biggest benefits of switching to a whole-food and plant-strong diet is that your skin begins to effortlessly look a lot better. I’ve talked about clearing up my acne in the past, and how eating more of the lovely foods nature provides us (and less processed/packaged food) was one of the key components in finally ditching my on again off again struggle with acne. As I mentioned in my clear skin post, even though my complexion has greatly improved and my skin is clear most of the time, I still occasionally have a little flare-up. This is usually brought on by stress, lack of sleep, too many sweet treats (even healthier ones!), hormonal fluctuations, and even the change in seasons.
In the past week, I could tick off just about every box for acne triggers. At the risk of sounding like Roseanne Roseannadanna, during the last five days I had a particularly awful day at work, it was my monthly “lady time,” I was overcome with cravings and ate a few too many of these chocolate chip cookie bars, two out of our three cats have had to go to the vet, and I’m barely getting 5 hours of sleep a night (we’ve been sleep training my daughter – think lots of wake-ups and tons of crying – it’s basically torture for all of us). Also, the weather has been changing, which I am definitely NOT complaining about! For some reason, though, when the seasons change, my skin goes through this annoying transition period. It happens in the fall, when the temperature drops and the air becomes drier, and it happens in the spring as well, when it starts to get warmer. Fortunately, since it was so nice outside, I was able to take my daughter and go for several long walks this week. The physical activity definitely helped my stress levels and being out in the sunshine and fresh air always does wonders for my mood. The stress, sweets, and lack of sleep had already accumulated, however, and the result was an odd trio of little pink pimples on my cheek and two on my chin, just for good measure.
Now in the past, I would’ve gathered up every topical cream, mask, scrub, peel, and gel that I could find in the drugstore that promised fast results. I never gave a second thought to the chemicals I was layering on my skin, all I knew was that I must conquer the pimples, at any cost. The outcome would usually be really dry, scaly, peeling, red skin, with even more swollen blemishes. Well, as I’ve learned more about natural skin care and homemade remedies, I have a much gentler approach. I love using tea tree oil and honey to treat the odd blemish, and this combination is usually quite effective. For this particular breakout, though, I decided to spice things up a bit.
I’ve been dying to try a face mask with my new Ceylon Cinnamon. I’d been wanting to find some ever since I read about it on this great website for natural and holistic acne solutions. Happily, I found it at my favorite local health food store (on sale nonetheless!). Ceylon cinnamon is referred to as “true” or “real” cinnamon, and is native to Sri Lanka. The cinnamon that I’m accustomed to, as are most people in the U.S., is Cassia cinnamon. The major difference (besides flavor) between the two, is that Cassia cinnamon has much higher amounts of coumarin, a naturally occurring substance that has strong blood thinning characteristics, and can be hard on the liver if consumed in large amounts or regularly over a long period of time. For this reason, if you plan to use the cinnamon in tea, as I will describe below, I would recommend looking for Ceylon cinnamon. I was able to find it already ground, but you can also purchase the cinnamon in sticks, and grind it yourself. Ceylon cinnamon sticks are more papery and crumble easily compared to the hard bark-like Cassia sticks. I would describe Ceylon cinnamon as having a flavor like Red Hots or Jawbreakers candies. Both types of cinnamon have strong antiseptic and antibacterial properties, making them great for treating acne. Cinnamon also increases skins radiance by increasing blood flow to the skin. Either variety should work fine in the mask.
Another spice I’ve been wanting to incorporate into a blemish fighting DIY mask, is turmeric. This magic spice has long been revered in India for it’s impressive health and beauty enhancing properties. Turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory that has recently been gaining more recognition and popularity in the U.S. Ingesting turmeric benefits your digestion system, strengthens your immunity, and is a powerful liver detoxifier. Turmeric is being studied for its use in treating inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and high cholesterol. Applied topically, it can help reduce acne lesions, fade acne hyperpigmentation, brighten your complexion, and even fight wrinkles.
Ginger and nutmeg provide an extra boost of beautifying properties. Ginger is also a potent antiseptic and cleansing agent when used topically. It helps kill acne causing bacteria, tones skin, and can help reduce hypopigmentation (or white/lighter scars). Nutmeg is great for helping you achieve smooth, clear skin, as it helps to clear blackheads, and reduces acne scars and marks.
Cinnamon Ginger Turmeric Tea
In addition to applying these spices in a face mask, I encourage you to work from the inside out, and drink them down in a healing tea. Simply boil some water in a tea pot, grab a mug and add in a half teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, and a quarter teaspoon of ground ginger (alternatively, you could grate a teaspoon of fresh turmeric or ginger). Fill the mug with hot water and stir. Cover the mug and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes. Strain out the spices with a fine mesh strainer, and reheat if desired. It’s quite a pungent concoction, but not completely unappealing! I actually think I’m starting to like it. Add a teaspoon of honey, if you’d like. This tea is a great detoxifier, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, and drinking it regularly will have your skin glowing and clear in no time!
Honey and Four Spice Face Mask
I’ve used this mask just twice, and the breakout on my cheek and chin are almost gone. After the first use, my skin felt smoother, the pimples were less red, and my skin tone looked brighter. I have very fair skin, so I was a little worried it might stain my face yellow. Luckily it didn’t give me a jaundiced-looking complexion, and if anything it imparted a very faint golden glow. Imagine the effect of one application of Jergens gradual self tanning for fair skin (yup, I used to use this stuff), or an extremely extremely light dusting of bronzer. I liked it, but you may not even notice it at all. If you have sensitive skin or are concerned with it staining your skin, try doing a patch test somewhere undetectable. It is very important not to get this mask near your eye area, and be very careful not to get it into your eyes. Use no more than twice a week.
Honey* and Four Spice Face Mask
Makes 2 applications
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (use 1/4 tsp if you have very fair skin)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
heaping tablespoon of raw honey*
*Edit 1/5/2015 for a honey-free mask combine a teaspoon each of vegetable glycerin, pure aloe gel, and jojoba oil or use a tablespoon of mashed banana (oily skin) or mashed avocado (very dry skin)
Of course, in addition to the mask I’ve also been drinking the tea once a day, cutting back the sweets, and trying to eat a lot of green and orange veggies. I made my golden sunrise juice this morning, and added grapefruit, lime, and lemon, and it was fabulous. I know all those good skin vitamins are working their magic on my skin as we speak! For more tips on clear skin please see my post 10 Steps to Beat Acne the Whole Beauty Way. Sometimes life happens, and acne is going to pop up, no matter how healthy we strive to be. “It just goes to show ya… it’s always somethin’. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”
At least now you’ve got this tea and mask in your acne fighting arsenal 🙂
Edit 1/5/15 Notes:
As of last year, I no longer consume honey or use honey on my skin. Although I don’t really break out with inflamed acne these days (which is no doubt due to a largely unprocessed plant based diet, as well as a simple skin care routine – for more clear skin tips see this post), occasionally after a string of low quality sleep or stress, I get congested/bumpy skin on my forehead or a small bumps on my chin. The mask made with glycerin/aloe/jojoba combo works great to clear these up! I also find it makes any marking/scarring/pigmentation issues a lot less obvious. Make sure to use less turmeric if you have very pale skin, and use an old washcloth (turmeric stains) to gently scrub the mask completely off.