Tips for non-toxic skin care to fight acne


By Abigail Preiszig


With a surplus of skin care brands and products to choose from, finding the right regimen may be intimidating – especially if you are seeking out brands that do not contain harmful or potentially harmful ingredients. 

As a place to start, Kait Turshen, founder and owner of SLFMKR at the Van Aken District in Shaker Heights, which specializes in non-toxic or “clean” skin care and beauty products, recommends tips and products to help manage and minimize acne breakouts. 

“At SLFMKR, we believe in bio-individual recommendations based on the likely cause of acne and/or breakouts, as well as a person’s skin type and current product regimen,” Turshen says. “In general, there are two key factors that cause acne and breakouts.”

The first factor is acne caused by hormonal shifts, she notes. And while these kinds of breakouts are caused internally, there are many products and approaches to managing hormonal acne from a topical standpoint. 

The second factor that typically causes breakouts is when a clogged pore is infiltrated by bacteria, as pimples are essentially mini infections on the skin. Pores can be clogged by oil, dead skin or dirt and debris, she adds. 

Despite the different root causes, Turshen suggests five tips to reduce the opportunity for bacteria to “meet a clogged pore and turn into acne.” 

Step 1: A basic four-step regimen consisting of cleanser, toner, serum and moisturizer. 

For acne-fighting cleansers, Turshen suggests the Herbivore Aquarius BHA + Blue Tansy Clarity Cleanser. BHA is a beta hydroxy acid that helps dissolve clogged pores while blue tansy is anti-inflammatory. She also suggests the OSEA Ocean Cleansing Mudd, which helps draw impurities out from pores.

For toner, the Ursa Major 4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic is “a great multitasker with a dose of witch hazel and BHA, both of which are great acne fighting ingredients,” Turshen says. 

For a serum, she suggests using the Odacité Clarifying Serum: Salicylic + Hyaluronic Acid two to three times a week as a chemical exfoliant. It is “not over drying because it is formulated with hyaluronic acid,” Turshen notes. 

For moisturizer, the OSEA Blemish Balm with Plant Based Salicylic Acid can be “great” for acne-prone skin. “Its formulation of five different types of seaweed paired with salicylic acid helps to both prevent and clear acne,” she says.

One Love Organics Botanical A Facial Cleanser and Botanical B Enzyme Cleansing Oil are a “great duo” for double cleansing, says Kait Turshen, founder and owner of SLFMKR. Photos / Meg Holiday

Step 2: Double cleansing in the evening if wearing SPF and/or makeup. 

“(It) is exactly how it sounds – cleansing your face twice,” Turshen says. “The first cleanse helps to remove the layer of makeup and/or SPF while the second cleanse is able to focus on actually cleansing your skin and helping to remove any impurities from your pores.”

Just this step can make a huge difference in reducing breakouts, she says. 

“I have worked with so many clients to implement this simple practice and seen incredible improvement as this small, extra step of an additional cleanse truly helps to further cleanse and therefore reduce the opportunities for clogged pores to develop,” Turshen says. 

Step 3: Exfoliate two to three times per week.

Exfoliation can be done with a physical or chemical exfoliant. A physical exfoliant, such as a face scrub, helps to “physically slough off any dead skin cell buildup, which can clog pores if not addressed,” she notes. Alternatively, a chemical exfoliant, typically an acid or enzyme applied topically, helps to gently dissolve any buildup. 

Step 4: Avoid over treating your skin. 

“More is not more when it comes to skin care,” Turshen warns. 

Over treating the skin through too much physical exfoliation or a high frequency of active, potent ingredients can cause a deterioration of the skin’s microbiome and barrier – the layer of skin that keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out, she explains. 

“If this layer is compromised, you will be more prone to acne and breakouts as you will not have the level of protection you should have if it were intact and healthy,” she says.

Step 5: Avoid touching your skin with unclean hands.

“Most people do not realize they are even doing this, but if you are touching your face with hands that have been touching door handles, cellphones, etc., and there is a clogged pore, any bacteria on your fingertips puts you at risk for developing acne when you are touching your face,” Turshen says. 

OSEA Ocean Cleansing Milk. 

SLFMKR offers more than 60 non-toxic products, meaning they do not contain harmful or potentially harmful ingredient, but can include synthetic ingredients. 

“It is important to note that many synthetic ingredients are completely non-toxic and help improve things such as the efficacy, shelf life and more for a product,” Turshen says. “As long as they are clean synthetics, they are not bad.”

With an emphasis on “bio-individual recommendations,” SLFMKR accounts for a customer’s budget, skin type, current product regimen and skin care concerns and goals when recommending products, she adds.

“Skin care is not a ‘cut and paste’ approach at SLFMKR as skin type does play a notable role in products we would recommend,” Turshen says. “For example, we would recommend a gel-based cleanser for more oily-prone skin, and an oil or milky cleanser for those with dry skin.”

And, if you are not sure where to start, she suggests trying the OSEA Blemish Solutions set to test several acne-fighting products. 

Always see a dermatologist if acne is cystic, painful or not helped with over-the-counter-treatment, if you suspect your acne is fungal in nature, or if a medical professional or esthetician has classified your acne as Grade 3 or Grade 4, she says. 

“Or, if you have any doubt and feel helpless, never hesitate to call a dermatologist,” Turshen says.  

Leave a Reply