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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 05 2018

10 Primal Skin Care Ideas

By Worker Bee
47 Comments

Morning, everyone. Hope you all enjoyed a happy and safe holiday. I’m turning over the reins to one of our Worker Bees today as I spend some time on a book project (more to come on that). I know many of you have asked about natural skin care ideas in the comment board, and we’ve got some great suggestions today. I hope you’ll welcome our Worker Bee to the fold (she just joined us recently) and offer up your own ideas below. (And for those who may have missed it, I shared several of my own favorites last spring.) Have a good end to the week. 

Spend any amount of time perusing the shelves at your local supermarket or beauty supply store and you may notice that all the skin care products have something in common: a long ingredient list. I’m afraid to say most commercially-packaged bottles, jars, and tubes contain potentially harmful ingredients in the form of preservatives, stabilizers, artificial colors, and/or added fragrances, which could have negative long-term health effects when absorbed through the skin.

Thankfully, there are plenty of all-natural skin care options out there that not only provide better results, but usually cost a fraction of what you’d pay for the store-bought version. Here are 10 skin care solutions backed up by research (and self-experiment).

1. Scrub With Sea Salt

Sea salt is one of the best all-natural exfoliators, and chances are it’s already hiding in your kitchen cabinet. While most of the time we can let nature take its course, now and then we might exfoliate as a means to remove layers of dead skin cells when our skin is itchy and flaky or to encourage skin cell turnover for a fresher appearance. Sea salt is also full of nutrients found in sea water—and in our bodies—including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Combine sea salt with raw honey or coconut oil and gently rub it into your skin. Just be sure to check the texture of the salt before you use it on your face: the salt should be smooth, with no rough edges. You want it to gently remove that layer of dead skin cells, not rub your skin raw.

2. Heal Skin With Raw Honey

Raw honey is widely recognized for its antimicrobial properties, and has long been used as a natural treatment for wounds and burns. This sweet, golden nectar contains a variety of proteins, amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals, which all work in tandem to speed the healing process. After cleaning skin, apply a layer of honey directly onto scars, cuts, and burns. Make sure to choose raw, unprocessed honey, as the commercial honey you’ll find in most grocery stores is highly processed and lacking in nutrients.

3. Moisturize With Avocado Oil

Pure avocado oil is a great stand-in for commercial creams and lotions, which are usually loaded with questionable ingredients you can barely pronounce. There’s no secret as to what you’re getting in a bottle of avocado oil: pure, fatty goodness. It’s packed with good-for-your-skin nutrients, like carotenoids, healthy fat, and vitamins A, D and E. Together, these nutrients can boost collagen production, fade age spots, calm inflammation, and treat sunburns. Pour a few drops in your hand and work it into clean, dry skin. (By the way, it’s part of Mark’s personal daily routine.)

4. Clean Skin With Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a potent anti-fungal solution that’s especially helpful for acne prevention. To make it, producers ferment cider so the sugars turn into alcohol, and ferment it again so the alcohol turns into acetic acid. It’s this acetic acid—as well as the lactic acid, citric acid, and succinic acid—that makes apple cider vinegar such an effective cleanser. Some studies have even shown that these acids can prevent acne-causing bacteria from growing. Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and use it as a facial toner morning and night.

5. Treat Acne With Tea Tree Oil

In a recent pilot study published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology, researchers found that a treatment of tea tree oil gel was more effective at improving mild to moderate acne than a face wash. You can a find pre-made tea tree oil cleanser or make your own by adding a few drops of pure tea tree essential oil to honey. In general, tea tree oil is well-tolerated, but it may cause peeling and dryness for some people.

6. Soothe Redness With Aloe Vera

For soothing sunburns, fighting inflammation, and tempering itchiness, look no further than the aloe vera. This tropical plant contains a host of good-for-you ingredients including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and enzymes. What’s more, aloe has been shown to have anti-microbial effects, making it the ideal all-natural therapy for healing skin. Look for aloe gel with at least 97.5 percent aloe (or keep your own collection of aloe plants in your home or garden).

7. Moisturize With Shea Butter

It’s no secret: Shea butter smooths dry skin like no other. This fatty substance—packed with stearic, palmitic, linoleic, and oleic acids, as well as vitamins E and A—has already been incorporated into commercial creams and lotions. Like most things, however, shea butter is best when used in its purest, rawest form, so seek out unrefined shea butter. It can be used as is or mixed with essential oils. Just keep in mind that those with tree nut allergies should avoid shea butter. An added bonus: a study in the American Journal of Life Sciences suggests that shea butter can also boost collagen production.

8. Remove Makeup With Jojoba Oil

Swap out commercial makeup removers—which usually contain harsh chemicals—with a healthier option: jojoba oil. You can even use jojoba oil to wipe away eye makeup. It’s not only safe to use on sensitive skin, including the eye area, but it’s moisturizing. Apply jojoba oil to a cloth or cotton ball and use it to gently clean off makeup and bacteria.

9. Shave With Coconut Oil

Commercial shaving lotions and creams often fall short on their promise to protect the skin from irritation and razor burn. A very link layer of coconut oil can deliver on both fronts—plus, it smells amazing! Thanks to its low molecular weight and ability to bond to proteins, coconut oil can sink deeper into the skin than other oils. Scoop a small amount into the palm of your hand to warm it up and apply directly onto the area to be shaved. I’d recommend washing your hands with soap and water before picking up the razor, however, since coconut oil will leave your hands slippery.

10. Protect Skin With Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon oil, like other citrus oils, has powerful antioxidant properties (and a fresh, energizing scent). One natural compound in lemon essential oil in particular has been shown to be capable of protecting skin against the aging effects of free radical damage. Lemon essential oil can even fade scars and age spots. Safely dilute for everyday use by mixing a few drops of lemon essential oil with a simple “base” like jojoba or avocado oil and massage into your skin.

Here are ten ideas to try. What would you add? Share your recommendations in the comments below, and thanks for reading.

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47 thoughts on “10 Primal Skin Care Ideas”

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  1. Some great tips here! Have tried many as I have most of this stuff in my kitchen and/or my bathroom. Never thought of shaving with coconut oil which is odd since I use it for just about everything else! Gonna try the honey one too. As an aside, I slathered shea butter on my growing belly and hips every night when I was pregnant and did not have a single stretch mark. Not sure if that’s what did it but it certainly didn’t hurt!

    1. I agree, absolutely love these tips. I use coconut oil for cooking and on my body. I use natural beauty products daily and will incorporate these to my regimen.

  2. One note about lemon essential oil – it can cause sun sensitivity, so DON”T use it before going out in the sun.

    1. Beth, so glad you said this. I was horrified when I saw that “tip.”

      NO citrus essential oil-or any essential oil for that matter-should every be applied ‘neat’ to the skin. They should be well diluted in a carrier oil first.

      FYI-the following citrus oils are not phototoxic.

      These citrus essential oils do not cause phototoxic reactions and can be used safely in products for the skin:

      Mandarin (Green) Essential Oil Citrus reticulata
      Steam-distilled Lime Essential Oil Citrus aurantifolia
      Orange (Sweet) Essential Oil Citrus sinensis

      1. So glad to see this comment! I love lemon essential oil for many purposes, but I would only use it on my skin, properly diluted, at night.

  3. Excellent ideas! I use many of them. Other ideas/add-ons that are tried and tested:

    Moisturizer: any natural oil such as jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, hemp oil, etc.
    I personally find coconut oil too sticky/residuey as a moisturizer. I have never tried shea butter so will do that.

    Toothpaste: baking soda with peppermint oil and (optional) sea salt – extremely effective; ditch those commercial toothpastes!!

    Shampoo: rye flour
    This is the best switch I ever made. Commercial shampoos strip your hair completely of all oil, hence overproduction and ‘greasiness’ occuring. Rye flour is pH balanced, full of nutrients, and cleanses wonderfully. You don’t even need conditioner after but if you do want something, ACV rinse is great.

    Soap: Hands down Dr. Bronner’s castille soap. Very popular and recommended for good reason.

      1. It was certainly a bit of a learning curve. I mix about 2 tablespoons of rye flour with water to create a very runny paste and then rub that all around my scalp. Now the hardest part is the rinsing out. It takes quite a long time and can tend to get all over your shower. What I discovered works best and with the least mess is actually turning off the shower head and sort of laying down in the tub and using the water spout to get it out. And also keep in mind it is essentially impossible to get all the flakes out so you will inevitably be brushing some out of your hair afterwards. But honestly, even with the bit of mess it creates, it’s so worth it. It leaves my hair soft, shiny, and NOT stripped of oils. Therefore, I can stretch washing to 5-7 days.

  4. My go to exfoliating recipe is one part raw honey and one part granulated sugar. I found this recipe when I was looking for uses for my big bag of refined sugar I don’t use anymore.

  5. I would add that skincare starts on the inside. A primal diet is super helpful since it removes inflammatory foods. Adding collagen peptides on a daily basis has made a huge difference in my skin…it is firmer now (about to turn 52) than it was ten years ago. Love all of these ideas. Be really careful with tea tree…it’s effective but a little goes a long way. ACV is amazing too, but works best diluted at least 50/50 in my opinion. Can dilute with water, witchhazel or even rose water. And raw honey makes a wonderful mask too…every now and then I’ll rub some all over my face and let it sit for a bit before I get in the shower. Skin feels soft and fresh.

  6. Equal parts coconut oil and bicarbonate of soda works well as both deodorant and facial cleanser.
    I’ve been using this concoction as a deodorant for a few years, but for about a month in 2016 I was using normal deodorant instead (Nivea roll on). I would shower and use deodorant, but as soon as I started sweating I smelled really bad! Never happens with the homemade deodorant. I guess my body must have adapted to it somehow.

    1. While it does work great as a deodorant, be careful with this one if you have pit hair. After about 2 weeks of using homemade coconut oil and baking soda deodorant, it somehow bleached my pit hair to a BRIGHT ORANGE/RED color. My friends started calling me Bozo (named after the clown with bright red hair) for quite a while after.

  7. These all sound great, but I wonder what affect they have on plumbing, especially rye flour as a shampoo. And the oils…I put oils in the garbage not down the drain, don’t want to clog them.

    1. Interesting question Kathy, that’s something I truly haven’t thought of. Does anyone else have any knowledge or ideas here?

      1. I have heard that coconut oil is the worst if you have a septic tank as it hardens when it gets under 77F… I try to restrict all oils down the drain as much as possible since I have my own septic tank.

  8. This list mostly meets my skin care laws for myself and my children–if you can’t eat it, think twice before using it on your skin! Also, I try to aim for single or very few recognizable ingredients. I do use a soap made from only coconut oil that we obviously wouldn’t eat (though my toddler has tried it!), but it’s the only ingredient. I’ll also use essential oils sparingly as first aid for skin. A good follow-up article would be foods that nourish the skin from the inside.

  9. I use raw honey on my skin about about 3 times per week. The question I have…Is the raw honey on store shelves really raw? I get one from a local farmer that uses no heat what so ever and the honey is very thick. The price is high though, when I can’t afford it, I buy store buy raw honey in store and it’s just not the same. Very thick and running. What

    1. That could be the difference between raw filtered honey and raw non-filtered honey.

  10. CAUTION using coconut oil on the face, as it can be very drying and actually cause acne. I am sad to report that in an attempt to get away from Chapstick and other commercial lip balms, I made my own lip balm using coconut oil and bee’s wax. It was fine for several months….then all of a sudden I began to experience extreme dryness in my lips, redness and irritation. It turns out it was the coconut oil. In researching I found out that some people react badly to coconut oil on the skin. I am still looking for a natural lip balm.
    Other than that, I appreciate this list very much!

    1. Andrea,; you are so right about the coconut oil.
      Some people react negatively to it, yet others don’t.
      As far as lip balm, I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s “NAKED” organic balm for years. No toxic ingredients and super-moisturizing. Unfortunately I used petroleum jelly the majority of my life (I’m 59); hopefully my lips (and body) have forgotten that ….

    2. Weird as it sounds, I use a mixture of whipped tallow and raw honey on my lips. Can’t use coconut oil on my lips and hate the feel of wax.

    3. I can’t use coconut oil on my lips either. It just makes chapped lips worse. The one that works best for me is a give-away I get from my dental office. Unfortunately, it isn’t available commercially. I’ve checked the ingredients and coconut oil isn’t one of them, whereas most of the “better” lip balms do contain coconut oil.

    4. Ditto on the coconut oil, and I’d also watch out for Shea butter around your face and acne-prone areas. It’s so rich I get terrible breakouts.

  11. If ya want amazing skin, nourish your body with ancestral foods like liver, bone marrow, pastured eggs (including wild fish eggs), small bone-in, skin-on wild fish like sardines and such.

    This always cracks me up when “experts” talk about better skin and better teeth and they keep going after the seemingly “intuitive” narrative. If you want good smelling skin and fresh breath, sure, keep pouring topicals their way… if you want really want healthy skin and healthy teeth, eat an ancestral, traditional diet.

    But don’t stop there… get your deep, restorative sleep… make sure you move more… improve methylation… do those sprints… lift those heaving things… avoid those dangers… hmmm, is this sounding familiar.

  12. Thanks for sharing. Here are some of the great tips and many people have tried these stuff in their homes. The primal skin care is a great kit which is used for skin care.

  13. One warning:

    If you cannot eat it, don’t put it on your skin! I use shea butter and almond oil, but of the above list cannot use coconut, avocado or aloe on my skin, because I cannot eat them without reacting to them negatively. (NOT an allergy).

    And one addition:

    Probiotics. I make kefir myself at home from organic raw milk of aboriginal Finnish cows and use it for skin care too. 40-60 microbes, 300 billion in 100 ml of kefir! I slather it on my skin and add to bathwater.

  14. Recently had a coffee scrub, followed by oat & honey body mask. (I live in Ethiopia). They’re a step ahead in terms of the “put what you eat on your body” traditions!

  15. Thanks for the tips! Please remember if you have dogs in the house, tea tree oil is highly toxic to them in any form!!!

  16. There aren’t many things I can put on my face without creating problems for myself. My skin doesn’t like most commercial products and “rewards” me by breaking out in patchy rashes. I usually stick with pure jojoba oil. It’s inexpensive, non-greasy, and doesn’t clog the pores the way most oils do. It can be used as a cleanser as well as a moisturizer.

  17. Great article! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve been trying to incorporate more self-care into my life. I recently started an abyanga practice on the weekends – mindfully rubbing your entire body with sesame or coconut oil, then stepping into the shower and rinsing off. It’s a nice way to appreciate and thank my body for all it does. I’m curious what other primal ‘spa’ or ‘self-care’ rituals people do? i.e. sugar/honey facial scrub weekly? Daily? What do people do for manicures/pedicures? My feet and hands are starting to show ageing signs and I’d like to care for them primally but not sure what to do.

  18. I’m surprised nobody mentioned lanolin. It’s what sheep produce to protect them from the elements. Best stuff for dry cracked feet. And it’s edible

  19. Love these! I mostly use food on my skin: oils, honey, yoghurt, avocado.

    That said, for me the biggest impact comes from eating primal, nutrient-dense foods (including plenty of fat and veggies) and minimizing sugar and coffee (though my DIY eye oil IS infused with coffee:).

  20. My daily routine is washing with lemon juice in the morning then moisturizing with butter. In the evening I use ACV and cod liver oil. I try to find the time for a facial mask once a week and alternate between egg whites and gelatin. My oldest daughter uses Tea tree and Apple cider vinegar for acne and removes make up with coconut oil.

  21. I like almond oil too, it’s great for cleansing your face with a hot (warm) then cold cloth. If you have an irritated scalp a bicarbonate paste exfoliates it nicely, you could add a few drops of lavender or rosemary oil, just make sure you wash it out thoroughly.

    I agree that a good diet goes along way to having great skin and hair. I found I stopped getting keratosis pilaris once I started eating primally.

  22. Bentonite clay is a good one for hair and skin too. Have tried a couple recipes using it as a mud wash for hair. Now I’ve gotten lazy and just use Morrocco Method, which is also working well.

    1. I use bentonite clay combined with baking soda and coconut flour as my facial exfoliant. Smells so nice, and the clay closes my pores!

  23. Be cautious of the lemon essential oil recommendation. It burned/bleached my skin even though I only used a few drops and used a carrier oil. I was in a lot of pain and my skin was extremely red and blotchy with white spots. It was bizarre and I havent touched it since!

    1. I thought it was odd that the amount of carrier oil was not specified. A few drops in a small bottle vs. a palm full of carrier oil? Also would be very cautious about the quality of the essential oil. Sorry to hear you had such a bad reaction!

  24. Love this article, thanks for the tips. Looking forward to trying the sea salt scrub
    Also, Is the avocado oil ok to moisturize your face with?

    Thanks,
    Nicole

    1. Nicole, I use it every day on my face. If it feels too heavy for you (or your pores), jojoba oil is a good alternative.