We’ve all been there: You find a new skin-care product that you looove, immediately go home to try it out but find yourself a few minutes later screaming in straight horror because your skin has reacted to the one thing that you swore was going to make you feel and look like Meghan Markle on her wedding day.
While your skin may not have reacted the way you’ve hoped, this incident is an all-too-familiar thing for people who have sensitive skin. Most products that are on the shelves can irritate, flare up, or simply dry the eff out of their skin and make them question what is even a skin-care routine if theirs just includes water and a mild cleanser. Even though this would frustrate most people, for Holly McWhorter, the co-founder of PLANT Apothecary, she decided to take things into her own hands by creating a whole line of plant-based products that will actually make you feel like you just became the Duchess of Sussex.
So to help us understand how to manage sensitive skin in a world where the beauty and skin-care industry is just booming, we connected with McWhorter to find out what she does for her skin, what products she uses, and what’s the one thing she decided to add to her diet that completely changed her skin.
The Skin Issues With Holly McWorter
Holly, you’ve struggled with sensitive skin for quite some time. When did you notice that your skin was more sensitive than normal and what best practices did you begin to do to help manage it?
I started getting eczema on my face when I was fourteen. My mom took me to a dermatologist who prescribed a hydrocortisone cream that worked, and I used that for a number of years—through college. After college, I started noticing that it was mostly products with strong fragrances that made the eczema flare up, so I started using Cetaphil—which kept it at bay. It wasn’t until later, in my late 20s, that I started wondering exactly what was in Cetaphil and whether it was as safe as it seemed, and at that point, I started researching all-natural skincare.
What has your history with acne been like? Are there any products you use to help you get rid of them?
I don’t actually have acne issues, except I tend to get tiny bumps on my forehead in the summer—caused by sweat and dirt clogging my pores. I clear that up by using a gentle toner (our RE: FRESH) daily, and a clay mask (either our MATCHA or NOT A SPOT) or exfoliator once a week or so.
Did your own skin issues inspire you to create the PLANT Apothecary Line?
Yes, definitely. I knew that most artificial fragrances irritated my skin, and in the process of doing research into the alternatives, I learned about the toxicity of the most commonly used synthetic preservatives. That led to me learning to formulate my own products made entirely of natural ingredients that were gentle enough for insanely sensitive skin like mine, and PLANT Apothecary came out of the urge to combine those natural, organic, gentle products with the kind of design-oriented, straight-forward, minimal packaging design style that Bjarke and I like.
Having acne along with sensitive skin can be a huge buzzkill. What are some tips would you suggest for someone to do (and not to do) when it comes to managing their sensitive acne-prone skin.
Don’t buy into the myth that in order to have clear skin, you have to dry it out. That’s simply not true, and constantly stripping skin of its natural oils can encourage your oil glands to go into overdrive by producing extra oil. And when that oil gathers dirt, it can easily lead to clogged pores and acne. A better approach would be to cleanse with a gentle, non-drying, non-irritating product (like our RICE & CLEAN Gentle Cleanser), then moisturize with a very light, non-comedogenic moisturizer (like our SUPERFACIAL for oily and acne-prone skin).
Are there products one shouldn’t or should use when they know they have this skin combination?
I recommend staying away from benzoyl peroxide, which is effective for fighting acne in general but can often irritate sensitive skin. Stick to gentle, plant-based products that are formulated for sensitive skin but that also are suitable for acne-prone skin.
What does your daily skin-care routine look like?
I wash with our LATHER, CLEANSE, REPEAT Organic Lathering Oil Cleanser, tone with our RE: FRESH, then moisturize with our SUPERFACIAL Organic Oil Moisturizer for Normal, Dry, Combination and Mature Skin.
Has your diet changed at all to help with your skin? Was there anything else you’d noticed that you did to help clear your skin?
One of the most important things for keeping skin clear is getting enough fiber and drinking enough water. Your skin is part of your body’s waste disposal system and it gets clogged and irritated if it’s overloaded in that capacity. So you want to help it out by keeping things moving, so to speak, through your system.
What were some things you wish you knew then that you know now when it comes to your skin?
I wish I’d known at age fourteen that hydrocortisone will eventually thin your skin out to a dangerous level, and that it’s usually combined with some toxic preservatives. Fortunately, I never had to use it frequently enough that any of that became a problem for me—but it still would have been nice to know those things sooner rather than later. But that said, better late than never!
Feature image via PLANT Apothcary/Graphic via Madison Terry