I have come to accept my skin. It’s thin, easily offended and without fail, reminds me when I haven’t been getting enough sleep. Since my skin and I are stuck with each other, I have come to understand it, and know what makes it happy. When my skin is happy, I find myself in a good place.
So let’s talk about happy skin. The harsh truth is that we live in an environment that often works hard to make our skin downright unhappy. Pollution, sun damage, and stress all wreak havoc on the well-being of our skin. A good diet is essential, but great skincare is key. I have found that a clean beauty attitude is as integral to the health of our skin as a clean diet can be.
The first time I was introduced to the power of plant oils, I was awestruck with the experience. I was hopeful, but never expected my skin to respond so immediately. But like a garden after a good rainfall, my skin blossomed and I have not looked back.
Plant oils can be complex, and have unique characteristics to them, such as comedogenic properties — meaning how likely they are to clog our pores. They can also be categorized as either ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ oils, referring to how quickly they absorb into the skin. Face oils and serums, such as the ones we create at Audre Leigh, are designed based on the unique active qualities each oil brings to the skin. Our basic kitchen staples, like coconut and olive oil, which are skin-friendly and great for many skincare uses, are not always tolerated by many skin types, so before you slather on that organic olive oil you have in your cupboard, let’s talk a little about skin-friendly oils!
Plant oils come from a long list of fruit, flower, vegetable and grain seeds — cold-pressed is best, as is organic. Precious flower seed oils, such as Rosehip and Camellia (green tea) have a low chance of clogging pores, and are considered great skin regenerators — suitable for acne sufferers and well-tolerated by most. Argan, Borage and Jojoba are seen as the ‘holy grail’ of oils with their abilities to repair, moisturize and tone our skin.
Plant oils are chock full of vitamins and fatty acids, with omega 3, 6 and 9 being of particular interest, as they help heal and build strength in our skin cells. We often hear of antioxidant-rich foods, and the same can be applied to skincare. Think of face oils as a protective barrier to the pollution in our environment — from car exhaust, smoke, stress and sun damage, which all compromise the overall health of our skin. Keeping our skin happy isn’t always easy, and we are seeing a societal shift in focus on self-care as a result, with a renewed interest in ancient beauty rituals making a comeback. Ayurvedic beauty practices are also coming back into vogue, with the resurgence of such practices as Mukepaleham, where precious oils are deeply massaged into the skin allowing for the time needed to connect and build a relationship with our beauty regimen. On the flip side, commercial lotions filled with silicones, fragrances and preservatives — that have no skin benefits — are being called into question for weakening and deteriorating our facial skin cells over time. By contrast, clean and green beauty products are potent, plant-based, and cruelty-free, offering an alternative to traditional commercial based beauty products.
Ditching the age-old visions of beauty as ‘anti-aging’ while distancing ourselves from the days of botox and beauty-at-any-cost, we are seeing a cultural shift that embraces a balanced and age-positive outlook of what beauty is, and can be. Healthy skin has never been more relevant. And when we are healthy, happiness usually isn’t far behind.
When I was designing Audre Leigh’s Beauty Seed Oil, I wanted to develop a serum that would incorporate all the natural, plant-based qualities powerful enough to make my skin sing. To this day, my skin still feels like a wonderful, ongoing operetta. I believe in the power of plants, and the potency they offer. The ritual of massaging, touching and connecting with my skin and seeing the difference it makes is, for me, an act of self-care with unmistakable results and the first step towards actualizing my own happiness — a happiness I love seeing in my face.
- Shannon Cleary