When it comes to my vanity-driven obsessions, a clear face ranks pretty high (below only eternal youth—I’m waiting for Richard Branson to figure out a way to make Cocoon a reality, once he’s mastered space travel). After all, I could be wearing those impossible-to-get Everlane sweats to a sound bath with The Big Quiet and still feel like crap if I had a pimple on my chin.
So when my skin—which, after some tumultuous teenage years, had been blessedly clear for the majority of my twenties—suddenly erupted upon moving back to New York City this fall, I didn’t just panic; I had a full-blown meltdown. I played around with my product roster, cut out already-scarce sugar from my diet, and even switched up my detergent in the hopes that it was merely a little bit of irritation and not some pubescent-esque flare-up.
But nothing vanquished the persistent whiteheads that kept springing up on my cheek like an endless game of whack-a-mole. That’s when I called Rachel Winard.
As the founder of Soapwalla, the farm-sourced, hand-crafted vegan beauty brand, the Brooklynite has long provided results-driven, chemical-free products (from body oils to deodorants) to beauty insiders. But in December Soapwalla launched its Tailor-made Skincare program: For $350 you get a bespoke, one-of-a-kind skincare program determined by Winard herself—products included. I figured if she couldn’t handle my irritated skin, no one could.
The process began with a seriously detailed questionnaire (she even asks about where your bike helmet sits on your forehead) followed by a phone call (you can also visit her in-person) where I tried my best not to cover-up my more embarrassing habits. “I try to wash my face every day…. I occasionally forget to bring my gloves with me…. It’s possible that I spend too much time stressing out and too little time sleeping.”
Instead of passing any judgment, however, Winard offered up real-time advice; by the time I hung up the phone, I had a to-do list (take an Epsom salt bath three times a week, eat more towards my dosha with warmer foods, and wear those damned gloves every day). “This should be a guilt-free project that you and I are undertaking,” she explained to me, adding, “Whatever you can do is perfect, because it’s more than you were doing.” I felt better already—and that was before my customized products even arrived.
Which they did, two weeks later—a cleanser, two toners, a moisturizer, a body oil, bath salts, and an exfoliant—along with detailed instructions on how and when to use them. The results were immediate: A pimple that sprouted the day before I started my Soapwalla custom regimen just…disappeared, without the help of harsh creams. A week later, despite temperatures that fluctuated between below-freezing and springlike, my skin was freakout-free.
Of course, not everyone can justify the splurge—but for beauty mysteries, skin emergencies, or product junkies who have blown entire paychecks on shopping sprees without the clear skin to show for it, it’s totally worth it.
But even if you’re not ready to commit to your own beauty reading, there are lessons I learned from Winard that apply to everyone.
Here are 4 surprising ways you can upgrade your beauty routine, no one-on-one consult necessary.
1. Be boring for once and stick to a routine
Whatever your regimen is, you really want to try and stick with it. (As a person who has never lived in an apartment for more than two years, I understand how hard this may be.) “We as humans thrive on routine, and our skin does as well,” says Winard. Not only do natural ingredients need a bit of time for you to really see a change, but it’s also important to allow your skin to settle down as much as possible. Plus, having something set means that you have one less thing to worry about—which is a pretty nice bonus. “I feel that way about eating, exercise, sleep…routines are incredibly important.” So maybe we should call it Netflix and chill—and then put on your moisturizer before falling asleep?
2. Wash your face less (yes, seriously)
“Unless you’re doing something insane while you’re sleeping, you really don’t need to get in there and use a high-powered cleanser in the morning,” says Winard. (Cue a chorus of Handel’s Messiah.) “We have a skin mantle that’s a protective barrier on your skin, and you don’t want to disrupt that by over-cleaning.” In most cases, a toning mist in the a.m. is all you need before applying the rest of your products.
3. Marie Kondo your products
As much fun as it is to have a vanity filled with bottles, tubes, and sprays, you really only need a few key items. “It’s so easy to bombard our skin, because we feel like we need an under-eye cream in the morning, and then another at night,” says Winard (guilty as charged), adding, “That’s just a tiny example, but paring that down can be really freeing—not only on your pocketbook, but also your skin health.”
4. Think holistically—and show yourself some love
If you’ve got skin problems, there’s usually something more going on than just the fact that you have “bad skin.” Yes, even things that might seem totally unrelated, like an intense boss who’s driving you crazy. “There’s an interplay between everything that happens,” notes Winard. Three big things she says to always think about: What you’re eating, how stressed you’re feeling, and how much sleep you’re getting. “That’s something we can all work on—myself included,” she says.” Improving any (or all three!) of these categories might have surprising results.