One of my favorite mindfulness books is the great Sylvia Boorstein’s Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There. Yes, read that title one more time—the words are in the correct order–and intentionally mind-bending as the title invites readers to reframe the cliche lens through which they view productivity and self-worth. Staying busy is important to modern life and a feeling of fulfillment, but so are the rest periods in between. Just like your body needs time to decompress and heal after a strong workout, so does your mind from all the stimulation it receives 24/7. Meditation is the remedy prescribed by Boorstein for the “elaborate production[s]” we invent that ultimately “make life more difficult than it needs to be.”
Trying to simplify things but actually making them harder in the process is something we humans do very well. To “detox” our bodies, a function we execute automatically just by exhaling about 23,000 times per day, we buy fancy and expensive health foods or, better yet, equipment to make ourselves feel better by DIYing green juice monsters. To clear the mind, we turn on an App whose development required a slew of technological advances that centuries ago were channeled through being silent in nature.
And now turning to the other biggest organ of wellness scrutiny, the skin, well . . . we could spend a whole piece talking about what we do to our skin to make it more “natural.” The Koreans have over 20 steps to stripping down, and even those who kibosh that system likely have their own regimen to “fix” their broken T-zones and under-eye circles, elbows and heels and everything in between. I know I do, and until recently I had enough variations of the same products (cleansers, masks, serums—oh, the serums!) to try a new one every day—and thereby wreck daily havoc upon my face.
If you’re ready to break up with the bad boyfriend of excessive, unhelpful skin care in your life, congratulations! You’re recognizing a key fact about what you are as a human, or rather what you are not: namely, broken. The “imperfections” you scrutinize in the mirror are part of your unique genetic and environmental mixology, and most of the time they’re hardly noticeable by anyone but yourself. Being in our skin has the ironic effect of distancing us from it the most, since we examine ourselves with a closer eye than the people whose opinions we often care so much about.
The best way to test this theory also happens to be the most effective and truth-baring way to honestly get to know your skin and its needs—including how it feels when it’s at its best, not how Gwyneth Paltrow says it should feel. It’s by doing nothing. I don’t mean throwing out your entire skin care arsenal and replacing them with humble ingredients hiding their unicorn properties in your kitchen cabinet, or the ultimate DIY scrub/cream/mask that’s just three Pin-able steps away. It’s not taking a walk or drinking or signing up for the latest fitness trend that will cleanse your chakras and burn 500+ calories. It’s literally nothing, as it put nothing on your skin for a whole day (or longer).
The skin detox is one of many surprisingly intuitive lessons in Adina Grigore’s Skin Cleanse, a comprehensive book about natural skin care that includes just enough of a dermatology lesson to leave you awestruck at the miracle of your skin’s abilities, stories from her clients about major skincare woes that were not incurable as Western medicine made it appear, and feel-good DIY products that empower you to regain a connection to your body’s unique functionality. Grigore is the founder of PD-fave brand S.W. Basics, a line of products that seems contradictory because they’re so pure: most have fewer than five ingredients (the kind of which you could easily find in your kitchen), so, on the one hand, you’d question why you need someone to sell you them at all. But commerce being what it is, including the boost that great branding gives any product, these creams and cleansers and cure-alls are simply irresistible. I was frankly surprised when I saw recipes for products in the book that hewed so close to SWB’s signature items, like their Cream made of shea butter, coconut oil, and olive oil.
It also seemed slightly contradictory to me that Grigore would advocate for fewer products overall—how would she sell her own line?—but listen here: unlike some of the wellness detoxes on the market, it’s not described as a way to combat or purge some store of sludge inside you that needs to happen on the reg. Rather, the detox is a moment to reset, to not just do something (i.e., another microdermabrasion or mask) but sit there. Let your skin exist without cleanser, moisturizer, toner, sunblock, or makeup of any kind. Spend no money and no time and see what happens.
The idea came from Grigore herself, who for her whole life suffered from “sensitivities” like digestive issues, body rashes, itchy scalp, and mysterious breakouts. She tried everything in the book, went to every doctor she could, until one day she went cold turkey. The only products she used for personal care were toothpaste and deodorant, and magically all her symptoms went away. Embarking on this detox shouldn’t be a flippant endeavor, however, if you really want to benefit from it. Just like a dietary cleanse is meant to help identify potential irritants or allergies, you want to see what ingredients might be causing you to suffer in the first place (the removal of which causes relief, naturally). Here are her steps to success:
- Keep a journal of your products. Like a food journal, this will help you identify which products might be mysteriously wrecking havoc on parts of your body. For instance, did you ever think your shampoo could be behind your backne? It runs down your back, right? Note down not only what you use but the conditions around it, like if you were traveling, to also see if habits could be at play.
- Do a *harsh* makeup inventory. You’ve heard this before: old products are bad for you! Your high school eyeliner should be nowhere near your eyes! Wash your face before bed! Grigore is a realist and doesn’t scoff all makeup, but she does ask you to think most about foundation and other face products since they will be absorbed most into your body via the skin. Using natural oil (olive, sesame, coconut, grapeseed, avocado, or sunflower) as your makeup remover at night instead of industrial strength, one-swipe products will also ensure a cleaner “clean.”
- The detox: Grigore says “not one thing will have a greater impact” on long-term skin health than the removal o products. She offers a variety of “plans” to ease people in, and depending on their level of beauty-addiction. 1) Three days or more of incorporating natural products into an existing regime offers supplemental nourishment; 2) one day of eliminating all old products to alleviate skin ailments (all products used instead must be natural, from the DIY recipes); 3) three to fourteen days of elimination, washing your face and hair with only water. In this last one, she warns about dryness but explains how this indicates the body’s healing response.
I did a mini-detox this weekend, hoping to calm a bit of congestion and red-splotchiness I’ve been bothered by lately. My product routine is pretty minimal to begin with and all natural, so I consider my detox something in between levels 2 and 3 above. For two days, I eliminated the few swipes of makeup I don to make myself “feel good”: mascara, highlighter, cream blush, and some lip balm. With fluctuating weather, I was nervous about chapped lips; but moreover, I was nervous that without those few touches of definition my face would recede even more, my friends think me dowdier than my mental image of myself is, and that the irritation I experienced would flare up and make itself more known.
Of course, none of that happened. While I felt weird looking in the mirror before leaving in the morning to see a bare face, and weirder when I washed my face with just water at night and didn’t have a streak of mascara on my towel, nothing really changed about how I went about my day. No one shuddered at the sight of my un-made face, and I noticed even more how many fellow un-made faces there were around me. Maybe the expectations I had set up for my own skin were false; and maybe the women whose bare faces I thought nothing of, good or bad, harbored the same worries I did about pore size and forehead lines.
The detox may not have “solved” my minor skin irritation (if it even exists outside my own gaze), but it did help me shed a misconception about a need to look a certain way. We are in general very preoccupied with ourselves, and it’s helpful to be reminded of the fact that people care less about you than you think. That’s not meant to be defeatest; rather, it means that as long as you feel good in your skin, you’ll be pleasing the person who matters most: You!
Have you tried going on a true skin detox?
Related: How to Practice Skin Cycling
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photos: Pexels; SWBasics.com