Health Is Beauty

Great Skin Naturally: Oil Cleansing and How to Prevent Breakouts (video)


A makeup-free Starre Vartan today; clear skin thanks to oil cleansing and dietary changes.

Confession: from my mid-20s to mid-30s, I struggled with cystic acne around my mouth that embarrassed me when I went out and was painful to boot. For a week I could feel it coming, the pressure building a huge lump under my skin; finally it would burst through and be tender for days, then start healing, finally leaving a red mark that took months to fade. In a word, it sucked.

I tried all sorts of different cleansers and treatments, both holistic and conventional, and nothing was effective. Sometimes I would go a week or 10 days without a flare up, but they would always return. Finally, I looked at my diet, at the suggestion of a friend, Cara Joy, who specializes in alternative health. It was hard, but I removed gluten from what I ate for about 5 weeks—nothing (and I didn’t notice any difference with my digestion either). So that wasn’t it. I stopped drinking alcohol for over a month, but that wasn’t it either (and I didn’t even lose any weight, dammit!).

Next I tried dairy. I’ve been vegetarian for 20 years, but have always consumed small amounts of dairy; milk in my coffee, ice cream occasionally, yogurt regularly. That, apparently, was it. After 3 weeks, I noticed that no new acne was popping up (haha), and after 6 weeks I swore off dairy completely. In the almost-2-years since, I have had two breakouts, both when I tested my dairy-acne connection. One serving I can get away with, but as soon as I have more than a small amount of dairy on two days in a week, bam! Giant cystic acne makes its appearance.

I also have had a long-standing issue with a fairly oily t-zone and very dry chin and cheeks, so after I got rid of my acne, I started working on that issue. Last winter, again while visiting Cara, we both decided to try cleansing with straight-up coconut oil; for me, it was a revolution in face-washing. My skin felt fresh, clean and balanced; no tight-dry cheeks, no oily t-zone anymore! I experimented with olive oil and jojoba oil too, but keep working my way back to coconut; it just feels the best to me.  At night, I use the Kari Gran system (reviewed here) but in the morning I still use straight coconut oil, rubbed all over my face, and rinsed off with warm water. Sometimes I’ll drop some lavender essential oil on a steamy washcloth for some additional cleansing—and the lovely aroma! I finish with a bit of Kari Gran daily oil.

In addition to my own story, check out the suggestions in the (superfunny!) video below, from Brianne Rene, a holistic esthetician and founder of Nabele, an all-natural beauty line she created after her own battles with acne. It points out some obvious—but oft-overlooked—things that may be contributing to your breakouts.

Related on Eco-Chick: 

Moringa Oil is My New Favorite: Eco Chick Tested 

Camel’s Milk, the New African Skin Care Treatment: Eco Chick Tested

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.