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A reader’s email: on diet, product rec’s and the dreaded backne.

August 01, 2012

The cacao flower. Just cause I made up a cocoa fact in this post.

So. This is a real email I received last week from a reader/fan. I love getting these types of emails, and this one was particularly good. And long!

I asked Susannah if I could share it with everyone because a) I think it’s a lovely email and b) because she addresses many of the concerns that we’ve all gone through in this route to natural beauty that truly, truly works for us. Her response? “Rad!” A lady after my own heart, this one.

Her words are in black, mine are in turquoise. Yes, it’s long, and totally, totally worth it. Also, I want your 2 cents! Leave a comment with your own advice and experiences!

Dear Jessica,

Much to my pleasure, I recently discovered your blog and skincare line. I have been browsing the blog over the last week and I just read your ebook after subscribing to your newsletter. [Yay! This makes me smile. I have some new resources coming up, too!] I just have one bone to pick with you about the argument you make for natural cosmetics: chemicals are in everything, you know. Kidding! I kid. [Ha! you actually had me there for a sec.] Seriously, your ebook totally sealed the deal for me and I just had to connect with you! So much of what you write about completely resonates with me. I’ve learned new things from you and you’ve also validated a lot of my changing perspective on the beauty industry. Thank you thank you! [You’re more than welcome…actually, thank YOU for saying that! It makes all this writing worth while to know there are a few people listening, and actually getting something out of it. Ah, validation!]

I have always been pretty health conscious and completely obsessed with skincare, but until this last year I was pretty ignorant about the cosmetics industry. I even thought I was doing more for my skin than most women by using cosmetic lines that were supposedly natural or organic. [I know…we’re all lied to so often, and despite our best intentions we still fall into that trap. That’s why reading ingredients lists is SO important, even when we are conscious consumers in every way.] Since educating myself about the harmful chemicals that pervade the industry, I have been on a mission to overhaul my skincare routine, with a strong slant toward DIY. [Bravo and, if I may say so, sweet!]  I’m shocked by how much misinformation is out there and how few people are actually talking about this issue! [I know, right? I’m still shocked when

when someone close to me is like “look! This shampoo is natural, there’s a kiwi picture on it!” and I’m like “really? ughh….”] That’s why I have been gobbling up your blog. I really like the way you write, too. [ Gee, thanks!] I could gush on; clearly I’m a fan. [I think I’m becoming a big fan of you, too!]  By the way, I heard about Stark Skincare from one of the discussions on the NMDL blog. You linked to a great post on manuka honey – my new favorite ingredient! I’ve been “treating” my husband and dog with it, or to it, too. They humor me. [What good sports! Willing victims test subjects are always a good thing to have on hand when you want to try out some kitchen alchemy!]

Your products sound so lovely! I am really interested in the gf cleanse balm, but worry about how compatible it is with my skin. Here’s the thing, I’m one of those unfortunate people who clogs up like crazy in response to coconut oil and cocoa seed butter. I’ve tried using both as single oil moisturizers. Virgin organic coconut oil made my face erupt. Maybe it was a purging process that would have come to an end, but I couldn’t hang around to find out. Whitehead central! [ I’m glad you were using the virgin organic kind.The refined stuff might as well be Vaseline. However, if that was your reaction, then I’m afraid the GF balm might have a similar effect. Darn, I really hate saying that. BUT you are right on the money by suspecting that the whiteheads were part of the purging process, as your skin adjusts to the amount of sebum it needs to produce and creates comedones, or whiteheads. Redness would indicate inflammation and irritation, whiteheads are an unpleasant but good sign.] Raw organic cocoa butter even gave me zits on my legs, bum, and other weird places. What?! Oh hell no! [Well, zits could be a problem. Was it rash-like? I will have to check my facts, but I know that Shea butter is actually related to latex, and so people with latex sensitivities also have Shea sensitivities. I’m wondering if cocoa is similar or if I just made that up. I’ll have to look into that for you.] So I’ve been sticking to good old jojoba and other oils that are low on the comedogenic chart. [Good choice! I approve.] The gf balm sounds so dreamy, though. [It really is! 🙂 ] Do you have any thoughts on whether these oils, when diluted by other ingredients, would be more pore-friendly? [Well, for most the GF is very pore-friendly, but allergies or sensitivities, if that’s what you’re experiencing, could be a particular issue for you. Of all the GF’s that have left my door, I know of only one instance that someone had a breakout, and she was suffering from sensitivities to all kinds of ingredients before that. So, it’s not common but certainly not impossible. Check our return policy…it’s pretty well risk-free if you want to give it a whirl! However, it does sound like all our other products are a great fit for you!]

I’m also wondering, as one clean user to another, if you can suggest a daily tinted moisturizer and a daily facial SPF. [Yes! Coola and 100% Pure. Also, Physician’s Formula Organics is easy to find and inexpensive, but there’s no SPF. Also, Vive San I hear is great.] nb: I edited out a part here where she talked about some bad experiences with some natural brands…hey, it happens but I don’t want to talk about it publicly for the sake of my colleagues. 🙂

Finally, while I’ve been rocking mostly bare skin [woot!]  with some help from RMS un-cover up, I would like to have a tinted moisturizer or something that will help even out my skin tone a bit. It helps me feel a little more polished in a professional setting, and self-confidence is half the battle!   So if you have discovered any holy grail products in your own search for a clean beauty regime, I would love to hear about them. [ I highly approve of RMS! Have you tried mineral powders? Alima Pure is amazing. Personally, I don’t like powders because I’m oily, and I don’t try to fight it. Why? Well, powders look hideous on me. They cake, they don’t blend at all, and they make me look like a corpse. Not hot. I’m also into having a little shine and glow….not sweaty mess, but like a well-hydrated, dewy sheen. It looks natural and healthy, and I hate all this matte business, as if we all need to have skin the texture of office paper. Anyhow, that’s just my personal preference! I’m a BIG fan of Vapour Organics, because I loooooooooove balm-y makeup, anything that is blendable and layerable works so much better for my oily skin and lack of makeup-application skills. Oh, and I have not tried them yet, but W3LL People make some great-looking prods, and the CEO used to work for NARS, so you know she’s up to something great. But yeah, having said all that, mineral powders often contain an SPF, offer good but light coverage and are really good for your skin….unless you’re too oily for them. 🙂 ]

One last question/comment. I just watched the video you emailed out about how diet affects skin. What a great video and I could not agree more! [Well, you’re very welcome and thanks for having signed up for my newsletters! Shouldn’t everyone? Yes, yes they should.] I’ve learned firsthand how the food I eat has a distinct affect on my skin. Apart from splurging a few times a week on something sugary or a bit of cheese, I have a seriously clean diet. I do green smoothies every morning with so much spinach you could call me Popeye, [ heart! ] and my meals are nearly all vegetables with a bit of protein here and there (usually chicken or eggs). I mostly gave up dairy, which was formerly a huge part of my diet, but occasionally I have ice cream, cheese, or butter (1-3x per week). Still eat some gluten here and there, but when I do it’s a slice of whole wheat toast or a very small serving of whole wheat pasta. I drink a cup or two of black coffee in the morning. I guess the one real naughty thing I consistently do is have a square of dark chocolate every day. [No way…some dark chocolate isn’t naughty at all! Great antioxidants in there. ] But seriously, I’m eating a ton of whole organic vegetables and fruits daily, plus other detoxifiers like lemon juice, green tea, manuka honey, etc. [This is such a perfect diet!!! Kudos to you, Susannah! Everyone: this woman is an example for us all!]  Despite it all, I struggle to achieve clear, acne-free back and shoulders. My face is consistently clear, as is my chest (use to break out there, too). With my clean diet and beauty routine (no dirty products at all!), I just can’t understand why I struggle with this. It is particularly frustrating in the summer when I want to bare my back and shoulders to the world. Help please! Does anything strike you as off in what I’ve described? Do I need to go even more strict with my diet? [Two thing comes to mind regarding your shoulder/backne…laundry detergent and shampoo/conditioner. Are these products clean as well? It sounds to me that you have sensitive skin and you could very well be reacting to either/or of these. I would try switching to natural, unscented detergent –or try Soap Nuts! They’re amazing- and go for some very mild, detergent-free shampoo and clean conditioner. I love Aubrey’s, personally.] 

Wow, l’m looking back over this super long email and laughing about how much I’ve gone on and on! Really, all I wanted to say is that I’m very inspired by your blog, business, and passion for clean skincare. [Thank you so, so, so much for having said this.] I’ve been ginning up the nerve to launch my own blog on the subject, [Yes! You should do it!!!] and I’m also drawn to the idea of working in the clean skincare industry. More people need to shake things up, rock that industry boat, ya know? [Completely. I’d really like to scare the crap out of the mainstream cosmetics industry. Muah ha ha ha!* evil laughter.] I’m so happy to know there are others like yourself out there. [The feeling is oh-so-very much mutual.]



So there we have it! Some Starky lovin’ I couldn’t help but share, some product rec’s and a backne mystery, that I would seriously doubt is diet related.

Has anybody here had similar issues? What has or hasn’t worked for you?

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