How To Accidentally Transition To Clean(er) Beauty


I never thought I'd see the day, but last fall I started hating all my beauty products. Seriously, all of them—without exception. I hated my standbys that made it through stories and seasons with me; I hated my custom-made, blood-infused cream that costs $1400; I hated everything new delivered to my attention at Glossier HQ. Everything sucked and smelled like marketing and threatened to break me out and give me a rash. It was truly a dark time.

My general product fatigue—and my growing distrust of ingredient lists I couldn't easily parse—drove me somewhere I never thought I'd find myself: the world of natural and organic beauty. I say never because all the detox-driven, "no-nasties" lingo is really for the birds. As you probably already know, natural claims can pass unregulated by any actual agency. So the same way marketing makes the industry go 'round, scare tactics might make the natural enclave within it grow. Maybe you're skeptical. That's OK, I'm skeptical too. But in a moment of desperation, I was drawn to the clean beauty community's focus on ingredients I recognized and routines that felt right. And guess what? I found some products I really, really liked. I'm as shocked as anybody.

So here I am, all of a sudden a "natural beauty lover." Or at least a natural-leaning beauty lover because it's hard to be a beauty editor and not try a little of everything. One disclaimer I feel compelled to share: The following list is a bit cost-prohibitive. And for that, I'm sorry. But I'll say this—the past few months were just my first foray into this brave new world that happens to be pretty expensive at the moment. I'm compelled to say that this is the wave of the future for a lot of companies in terms of formulating products. All of which is to say, they're going to get more and more affordable as the market opens up. For now, follow the ingredients to your price point. And tell me what you're using in the comments.

Cleanser: Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Miracle Cleanser

My relationship with the Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Miracle Cleanser isn't just a rebound from what I was using before–it's the love-at-first sight kind of thing that makes you forget every other boyfriend you've ever had. I knew from the first time I messaged the creamy formula into my skin that this was for me—just on feel. But the real results come after you rinse. No redness. Like, I'm talking no redness—from the rosacea on my cheeks, to cystic zits that pop up around my eyebrows. It's not the most natural or most organic product on this list, but it's free of a whole hell of a lot: parabens, mineral oils, silicones, sulphates, propylene glycol, phthalates, GMO, PEGs, and that's not all. Also, they sell it at Shen Beauty, which tells me it's pretty darn good.

Toner: Susanne Kaufmann's Tonic Clarifying

Toner isn't something that's ever permanently worked its way into my routine. I've dabbled in rosewater after cleansing, but that's sort of a weak excuse for a balancing step. Turns out, all I needed was plant alcohols like the ones in Susanne Kaufmann's Tonic Clarifying. Her emphasis on the worts (master wort, rib wort, St. John's wort...) do wonders for skin texture, resulting in a complexion that's calm, cool, and collected.

Oil: True Botanicals Clear Oil

For moisturizing, I highly recommend you reach for an oil instead of a cream. In fact, I haven't used a traditional moisturizer since mid-November, and my skin is the happiest it's been in a year. I apologize if I am beginning to sound like a broken record on this, but True Botanicals Clear Oil is my no. 1. It's one of those kind of confusing balancing oils that I was afraid to use for a while, but don't be scared. Here's all you need to know: It's an oil, so yes it's going to moisturize you really well. But it's also antibacterial (killing acne germs before they start) and anti-inflammatory (reducing the appearance of acne once it's already happening). Of course, if acne isn't your problem, the Renew Oil is also wonderful. Guys, I really love this brand. So much.

Serums: Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique & Drunk Elephant C-Firma

Jane Larkworthy was right—the Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique collection of serums (that's Intensive Repair, Barrier Restore, and Soothing B3) really can't be beat. They're a 1-2-3 punch targetting inflammation and its side effects (that's acne, aging, and various types of dermatitis). Instead of treating just one thing, the best way to describe the results is to say 'perfectly soothed and dewy skin.' Meant to be used as a system, I've taken to mixing together at least two of them at any given time: Intensive Repair and Soothing B3 when I'm breaking out, adding in Barrier Restore when I'm healing.

In the morning, I sporadically add Drunk Elephant's most popular C-Firma Day Serum under oil and SPF. Sure, it smells like hot dog water, but I see no better improvement to skin tone and clarity than when I'm using it. Suffer for your art.

Spot Treatment: Amanda Lacey Miracle Tonic

I almost screwed this one up. It is not, as I assumed, an all-over exfoliating toner. Don't do that unless you have Teflon skin. Instead, dip a Q-tip in the beautiful glass jar and swipe selectively on parts of your face that could use a little encouragement. For me, that's a few hormonal acne spots and some stubborn scar tissue near my eyebrow sprouts. After one use, I was pleasantly surprised that everything seemed calmer and less inflated. And with the Q-tip dip trick, this thing is going to last me forever.

SPF: Susanne Kaufmann Sun Cream Cell Protection

We've been over this. Susanne Kaufmann slays the game. Read more here.

Weekly Add-Ons: The Beauty Chef Probiotic Skin Refiner & May Lindstrom The Honey Mud

Important advice for up-and-coming beauty lovers: Don't over exfoliate and don't over-mask. You can have too much of a good thing, and it's tempting to try and fix finnicky skin with more products. Resist the urge and pull back for a moment. I've limited myself to a once-per-week at-home facial that's only two steps—an exfoliating toner and a deeply cleansing plus hydrating mask. Step 1 is The Beauty Chef's Probiotic Skin Refiner, which is made from the runoff from their probiotic supplement powder that's a cult favorite. That's pretty cool in my opinion. Step 2 is an oldie but a goodie: May Lindstrom's The Honey Mud. A rare mud mask that doesn't suck the living soul out of your dermis while you were just trying to tend to a few stubborn clogged pores. I don't know how May formulates the best of the best every time, but she does and I'd trust her with my life.

Shampoo & Conditioner: Sans Ceuticals Nourishing Line

Turns out, finding a natural-leaning shampoo and conditioner pair is tough. Both Ilona Hamer and Kate Jones recommended this New Zealand-based line to me and I'm really digging it. The shampoo is just what it needs to be—a shampoo, nothing more, nothing less. But the Nourishing Hair Hydratant Ultra melts into hair unlike most other conditioners that just sit on top. It feels like a shame to wash it out (sometimes I don't), but when you do, it leaves hair moisturized but not gummy.

A Magic Hair Styling Cocktail: Reverie Ever Oil + Milk

The lovely people at Whittemore House Salon tipped me off to this mixture—I'd been using Milk as a lightweight hydrator on ends for years. But add Ever Oil to it and it feels like you're feeding your hair continuously from shower to shower. The oil adds a little grit to Milk, a gel-serum that can feel weak in the face of thicker, coarser hair.

Body: Tammy Fender Très Rose Body Oil

Boy do I love a luxurious body oil. It makes me feel like a queen—and it's also more worth it because I can't remember the last time I finished one. With Tammy's version, the pump is everything. But the light scent is nice in that it's not overwhelming. And the hydration is serious. Never moisturize your body with anything but oil. If I leave you with one thing after all of this, let it be that.

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by Tom Newton.

More of Emily's favorite things, including her whole fall beauty routine, can be found over here.