If you let author Adina Grigore tell it, the key to healthy, glowing skin is lying in your cupboard. That’s the promise of her new book Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin, which makes the case that better skin come from putting the right foods in, and on, your body.
For Grigore, getting skincare is an inside job. She solved her own complicated skin issues by dropping all store-bought products and cleaning up her diet and supplementing with simple ingredients she could find in her own kitchen. Here, Grigore, who also has a simple-ingredient skincare line called S.W. Basics of Brooklyn, shares her favorite natural skincare tips.
TIME: How often do you need to wash your face?
Adina Grigore: Much less often than you would think! Right now we believe we need to be washing our faces all the time—at the very least twice a day. But I would argue that you can wash your face with water twice a day, or once a day. I would go so far as to freak people out by saying you could go a few days without washing your face at all, and you’ll benefit from it. That’s usually when people run screaming, though.
T: How, exactly, do you wash your face with just water?
AG: Reject the TV-commercial water-splash method. Take your clean hands, cup water in them, get the water all over your face and actually rub your face with your hands up and down. You’re actually removing dirt from your face with the water and your hands. You know when you see little chipmunks or squirrels cleaning themselves? Or your cat? Kind of like that. Water actually works really well.
T: Do you only wash your face with water even if you’re wearing makeup?
AG: No, because I think a lot of us these days are using makeup that’s so intense that it’s meant to resist basically everything. I make a joke in the book that you could survive a war and your makeup would still look the same. With makeup—and this is particularly true for foundations, concealers, powders—for that you’re going to want something like an oil or a soap to really cut away the ingredients off of your skin.
T: Tell me about the concept of a skin cleanse. What does it mean?
AG: It’s a break from skincare products. You can add things to your skin cleanse. You can think about your food. You can think about your lifestyle. But to do a skin cleanse, all you actually have to think about is taking a break from your products. That can mean taking a break from some of them or all of them. That can mean that you really indulge in some DIY recipes or experiment with single ingredients from your kitchen. For some people it’s just not wearing makeup for a day.
T: Walk me through your own personal routine.
AG: It’s as hippie as it gets. I wash with water every day, usually twice a day. When I do a really, really hard workout or when I’m wearing makeup, that’s when I use a makeup remover to cleanse or a foaming, sudsy face wash. That’s probably once a week. I only wash with water in the shower, which everyone always thinks is crazy. I’ve survived, and I’m not stinky. But I do use a natural shampoo and conditioner because my hair’s really difficult.
Everything else is a luxurious treat. I’ll exfoliate maybe once every couple weeks. I’ll do a mask once a month. Sometimes I’ll grab an ingredient from my cabinet like honey and do a mask with it or wash my face with it. I’m so sensitive that I was only able to clear my skin by doing it this way.
T: So how do you not smell?
AG: Smell generally comes from what you do when you get out of the shower. Are you taking care of yourself? Are you healthy? It’s not about, “Oh, I didn’t use body wash, so I don’t smell nice.” That’s a myth.
T: Diet is something you talk about a lot in the book. Are there foods you eat that your skin just immediately loves?
AG: Yes. The more you simplify your diet, the better your skin does. When I was eating really complicated food—eating out a lot, ordering takeout—that’s when my skin was really struggling. The more you can cook at home or at least know where your food is coming from, that’s definitely a big improvement.
There are a couple foods people don’t really think about as much as they should, especially in relation to skin: fat, which is now starting to get a little more attention, thankfully, and fermented foods. They’re key staples for your diet and help you have healthy skin. The nice thing about your skin is this stuff is quick. You see it immediately. You eat one salad or one plateful of vegetables, and you’re like, that was awesome! But if you think of it as, “Oh my God, starting tomorrow I have to be a raw vegan or I’m doing everything wrong,” then you’re never going to feel good about it.
T: What’s the ideal thing to eat when you’re preparing for a big event?
AG: Number one, be very careful to not change anything drastically. Not a good time to go on a juice cleanse, not a good time to suddenly starve yourself. That’s what everyone tends to rush over to, and it’s the worst thing you can do to yourself. Any drastic shift that you make in your diet or lifestyle is going to result in at least a little bit of your skin and body being like, “What is going on?” You don’t want a breakout, and you don’t want to get stressed and cause even more of a breakout. So don’t do anything crazy.
Drink a ton of water, that’s by far the best and fastest thing you can do in feeling and looking better. I say in the book don’t get caught up in how much water, just drink more of it. Carry it around with you, make herbal teas, whatever you need to do to get uncaffeinated beverages into your body.
T: When you feel a zit starting to grow, what do you do?
AG: When you feel a breakout coming on, if it’s on the day of a big date, don’t do anything. Just leave it alone! But if you’re at home, or if it’s the weekend and you feel like you want to experiment a little bit, try single ingredients from your cabinet. Baking soda is great. Honey is really, really great. Sea salt is amazing. You can wet it and just dab the spot you’re breaking out on. Apple cider vinegar, too. These are all super strong, and you’ll feel them when you apply them on your skin, you’ll feel the tingle. But they’re really effective. Just be patient and gentle and don’t run for 50 different products, because that will just aggravate it more.
T: In the book you talk about conditioning your hair with beer.
AG: Mostly I just wanted people to drink some beer in the shower. No, I’m just kidding! Beer is really nice. It’s super conditioning. While you’re pouring it in your hair, it feels a little luxurious, which is counterintuitive to what you’d think pouring a can of beer in your hair is like. But the B vitamins and all the nutrients from the fermenting are really great, and it’ll add body to your hair, too.
T: So is drinking beer good for your skin?
AG: I knew that was coming. The problem is the same with beer and alcohol as it is with a lot of foods in our diet. A beer that has gone through crazy amounts of steps to get into that bottle, it’s not the same as if you were to brew some on your countertop. A small amount of it would be good for you if you want to start your own home brewing process.
T: Let’s talk about putting oil on your face, even if you’re breakout-prone?
AG: My theory is that fear of oil comes from back in the day when companies were using a lot of mineral oil. It’s really, really hard on the skin. Everyone started freaking out over the oil in this product. Beauty companies should have come out and said ‘It’s mineral oil, that’s the problem.’ Instead, they came out with products they called “oil-free.” But a lot of natural oils are actually super great for your skin. Jojoba oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, all of these are amazing.
T: Are there any kitchen products you should definitely not put on your face?
AG: It’s just important to go really slowly. Tiptoe into your kitchen, don’t charge in there and scrub your whole body with sea salt and wonder, “Why am I bright red?” I think the bigger fear in the kitchen is just diving in and going overboard, then freaking out when you have a reaction. This happens a lot with apple cider vinegar. People will buy a huge jar of it and then they’ll drench themselves in it and have reactions. Apple cider vinegar is a super-intense ingredient.
T: What else do you really want people to know about their skin?
AG: You don’t have to be super hardcore like I am to still make little changes that will make your skin feel way better. Even if you didn’t used to read ingredient lists and now you kind of look at them more, that’s already a huge change. We’re all beauty junkies. But it should feel fun and it should feel like everything you’re using is helping you and is good for you—not like, “Oh my God, I have to keep buying products and my skin’s a nightmare.” I’m trying to get us out of that zone.