When you write about natural beauty for a living, you tend to be the go-to when your friends or family are dealing with some type of skin ailment (think massive pimple the night before a wedding, or post-make out beard rash). But there are times when my own skin freaks out, my arsenal of oils and lotions fail me, and I have to bring out the big guns. Dr. Sarah Villafranco, founder of Osmia Organics, is one such secret weapon.
First of all, she’s a former ER doctor, so she’s really seen it all. If I call her and start a sentence with, “This is kind of gross, but my skin is doing this thing…” it doesn’t phase her one bit.
Second—and more importantly—she knows pretty much all things when it comes to the topic of natural beauty. She started her line after taking a soap making class (the doctor in her became obsessed with the chemistry behind it, while the Colorado girl in her was excited to use natural ingredients) and has been growing it like crazy ever since.
“Green beauty is great because there are a handful of us who are using the most luxurious ingredients in the world,” she says. “And I don’t mean the most luxurious natural ingredients; I mean the best ones, period.”
And she has big goals. As Dr. Villafranco says of her mission with Osmia, “I’m out to change the course of evolution… but this also smells much better than working in ER!” (Did I mention that she’s got a sense of humor too?)
You don’t need to have her on your speed dial to have her in your corner; here are the 5 best skin care lessons I’ve learned from my many calls with this beauty guru:
1. Diet really does matter.
“It doesn’t mater what the paint job looks like if you don’t have a pristine engine,” Dr. Villafranco warned me. “If you’re not giving your body optimal fuel, it’s not fair to expect it to look or feel its best.”
Her recommendation: “As Michael Pollan says it, ‘Eat food, less of it, mostly plants,’” she says. “I don’t follow a specific diet, but an anti-inflammatory diet is where I point people,” she explains. “More plants than animals, less dairy, less sugar, and less gluten. But don’t obsess too much or you’ll add a whole other layer to your issues!” I cut out sugar and limited my dairy, alcohol, and wheat consumption, and it turns out she’s right: Since then, my skin’s never looked better.
2. Dermatitis is a real (and common) problem. You can’t cure it, but you can keep it under control.
“Dermatitis essentially means inflammation of the skin,” she explains. It tends to look like a cross between acne and eczema—in other words, it’s a lot of little red, itchy bumps that, in severe cases, can even scab and bleed. “It can be caused by any combination of things, from hormones to anxiety to the wrong skin care to fluoride toothpaste! This makes it impossible to get to the root of, which is why a lot of dermatologists will just prescribe steroid cream and/or oral antibiotics.”
Her recommendation: Don’t use the steroid cream, as it can actually make things worse! And, sadly, put down your beloved face oils for the time being. “If you put rich stuff on it, it tends to get worse,” she explains. She recommends using a gentle, balancing, mineral-rich cleanser like Osmia’s Black Clay Face Soap, and then following that up with a very light cream moisturizer like the brand’s Purely Simple Face Cream.
3. Adult acne is not a myth.
Think that by your thirties and forties you’ll be done with breakouts? Think again. “It’s not fair, but it’s real,” empathizes Dr. Villafranco. “For a long time, dermatologists have treated acne by stripping the skin with very astringent, drying products. Unfortunately, the skin just responds by creating more oil, so that won’t work.”
Her recommendation: “Let’s not use benzoyl peroxide and alcohol-based products,” she says, pointing to oils as a better option. Osmia’s spot treatment has developed a cult following because of its very high concentration of anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial essential oils, like lavender, lemon, and parsley. Plus, it has evening primrose oil to heal the skin. “Use it three to five times per day, only on blemishes, as the very last step in your routine,” she advises. “Instead of drying out your skin, it will diminish blemishes before they even come up.”
4. There’s a proper technique to applying your facial and body oils—and yes, you should be using them.
In the great oil versus lotion debate, Dr. Villafranco lands firmly on one side. “Body lotions are usually oil and water held together by an emulsifier, and many emulsifiers are environmentally unsound and even include carcinogenic ingredients,” she notes. And when it comes to cleaning up your beauty routine, it’s important, she warned me, to change the products that touch the largest surfaces of your skin first.
Her recommendation: “When you come out of the shower, don’t towel off at all. Put facial oil (yup, they make them for acne-prone skin too)—only one to two drops—on your wet face and do the same with organic body oil on the rest of your body. It essentially creates a lotion—remember, it’s now oil plus water—without the need for emulsifier, and soaks in much faster and more effectively.” I tried it once and was immediately converted.
5. Now, stop worrying so much.
“I think the real trick to all of it is to try not to be an extremist in any direction,” she says. “Am I here to tell you not to use Botox? Not really. It’s not one or the other. Use natural skin care too. In the end that’s still better for the world and for your own body.”
(Photos: Léa Doubdout / Osmia)