Julia’s Transition to Clean

“Your forehead looks like the Appalachian Mountains!” was the moment that did it for me. I was 15, standing in a driveway in the blazing Texas heat, and my brother’s friend was pointing and laughing at the oil and acne on my forehead. Like most teenagers, I struggled for years with blemishes of all kinds – cystic acne, whiteheads, blackheads, contact dermatitis… who knows what else. At the time, I hadn’t done much except pop each contender with focused satisfaction until my skin was angry and red, hoping that it would be gone when I woke up. But that day, the embarrassment finally hit me, and I started trying to “fix” my skin. Looking back, I had no clue what I was doing. I would go into the drug store and hunt for keywords on packaging that seemed to fit my problems (without looking at the ingredients), take it home, and use only a third of it. I was constantly disappointed in the results. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to the dermatologist, so I was on my own with the little money I made from my after-school job. Over the next few years I tried everything I could afford, the strongest and most expensive being the Proactiv line, but nothing ever truly worked. 

Fast forward 8 years, and I discovered that my skin improved when I ate quality organic food. I became vegetarian. I stopped buying heavily fragranced body washes and started using only castile soap (still at it, Dr. Bronners!). I was getting into herbalism – after growing up in the country, my connection to the Earth was always at the forefront of everything I do – and I felt better than I ever felt. However, my face and I were still in a constant battle. I was living in Brooklyn at the time, and the grime of the city and subway wasn’t doing me any favors. I found myself in a sustained, vicious cycle with physical exfoliants to combat ever-building texture and blackheads along with sudsy “Oil-control” face washes to tone down my overly greasy complexion.

Then one day, I was browsing on my computer and came across the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). My first thought was “yeah, right.” Most of us with oily skin have this same reaction when we hear about the OCM for the first time. However, the more I read and researched, the more sense it made. Oil breaks down oil. Constantly stripping your face of its natural oils (say, with conventional soap) causes your skin to generate more sebum (your skin’s natural oil). When you use oil to remove dirt, makeup, and sebum, it naturally picks it up, and you simply wipe the grime away with a very hot, damp towel, leaving your skin clean with its natural barriers intact. In the morning, all you do is use a new hot damp towel to wipe your face – no oil, no soap, nothing.

In hopeful excitement, I rushed to my grocery store and purchased the recommended oils – organic castor, jojoba, and safflower oil. I mixed them together, put them into a reusable bottle, and tried it. I couldn’t believe how clean and smooth my skin felt afterwards… without soap. The next morning, my skin looked less oily than usual, and “washing” my face was effortless. I was hooked.

6 months later, the OCM uncovered something unexpected: I have combination skin, not oily skin. Once my pH balanced out, my true skin profile emerged, and the possibilities for skincare opened up. Cream cleansers, hydrating masks, and moisture-locking balms found their way into my routine. I was no longer fighting my skin, I was nurturing it, and I became obsessed with making my own skincare products. 

I eventually moved back to Texas, and started hunting down small skincare brands and sustainable makers that met the high standards of what I was willing to put on my face. I dabbled with the idea of starting my own skincare line, and purchased tons of new products as part of my R&D. I was making my own masks, mixing up oils, melting down butters, and researching wildcrafters and small shops who used the knowledge behind plant-based skincare and medicine to whip up high performance products.

I sent samples to friends and family to test out and provide feedback, and ultimately, I found that so many of them had different skin needs. My tiny apartment apothecary (and a full time job) couldn’t sustain the unique formulations required to treat them all. What I could do, however, was give recommendations from the hundreds of clean products I had tested over the years and point them in the direction of brands I knew were tried and true. In my years of research, I had fallen in love with so many clean products that I couldn’t even bring myself to replace them with my own formulations. Those love affairs never ended – you can find many of these brands in our inventory today.

MADEWITH is a battle cry for that cycle of turmoil and triumph we all look for in our skincare journey. Having someone to trust and go to for advice on one of the most personal things in our lives – our skin – is invaluable and precious, and we make it our business to only pass along products we truly believe are right for you. MADEWITH is building a new cycle of trust. One where a healthier planet supports the growth of clean ingredients used to formulate incredible products by brands we believe in. In this new cycle, our skin wins.

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