Cleansing & The Microbiome

"Finally one day, our conflict reached a crisis point, and Samir summoned an emergency meeting on the forbidden terrace, where he explained to me that if I kept dropping out for two days in a row to take part in the grownups' beauty treatments, and attended our terrace sessions with smelly, oily masks all over my face and hair, he was going to look for another games partner. Things could not go on as they were he said; I had to choose between play and beauty, because I surely could not do both.  I tried to reason with him, and repeated Aunt Habiba's skin theory, which he already knew so well.  A human being was connected to the world through his or her skin, I said, and how could someone with clogged pores feel the environment or be sensitive to its vibrations? Aunt Habiba was convinced that if men wore beauty masks instead of battle masks, the would would be a much better place" (Mernissi, Fatima Dreams of Trespass Tales of a Harem Girlhood (220).

Receiving flowers, breathing fruit, becoming trees--all in the space of a  good evening cleanse. 


Ladies bathing in a garden, 1750-1775 CE  Bharat, Punjab HIlls, Guler 

Cleansing skin well and even beautifully is a skill and a joy. There are those days when we all just want to get through it quickly. But good cleansing is a practice essential for beautiful and comfortable skin. And if you are using natural products, your routine can also mean a few minutes spent connecting with nature as expressed through the energetics of the ingredients. That alone is worth a lot. 

Taking adequate time and attention to cleanse maximizes the potential of your products and your overall skin care regimen. It takes just a little time to take note of how your skin feels and looks. But try, try, try to do  this without heavy negative judgement, without stress.  A bit of redness there, a usual or unusual breakout there, a trace of the years here, flakiness there? Did you adjust your diet for better or worse? Do you wear make up? Sun screen? These can be heavy and sticky (they are often meant to be long wearing), and even though one can be scrupulous about cleaning brushes, day old makeup burdens the pores. Maybe the weather is too hot, too cold, or too dry.  Pollution or the stresses of life in general (dehydration, irregular meals, the wrong food, too much sugar...and on and on)--all of these "events" can leave traces. Proper cleansing is part of a reset. To make the most of it, add in breath of fire before or after cleansing. Three minutes is optimal. If your skin is inflamed, sitala breath is a good choice.

Be sure to evaluate your skin very gently, and thank, don't kill the messenger. 10 years ago my skin was inflamed and I deemed it unsightly and unpresentable. The thought of leaving my apartment was painful. I learned that I had become gluten intolerant. I had for several years suffered migraines and fatigue that went as soon as the gluten did. They were annoying, but I had learned to live with them; it was the dramatic effect that gluten had on my skin that led me to investigate (yes, it was vanity that saved me). I think now about how irritated I was with my skin and that all along, it was just trying to get my attention. When I get break outs now, I quickly flip back the mental register--days & weeks, to try to determine what my skin might be reacting to. If your skin is prone to acne for whatever reason, there might not be one final solution, but awareness of diet, cleansing culture, and lifestyle goes a long way in effective management.  The truth is: most of us who want our skin to look its best have to commit to its care. For many years I had uncritically adopted an attitude that caring too much about my skin was frivolous. I believed that natural beauty meant you were simply lucky and did very little. I judged my own interest and attention to skincare as preciousness, a waste of time. It took me a long time to see skin as a portal to health and honor it as an interface of my inner and outer worlds.  How much better if this permeable boundary is treated with respect and considered a meeting place where beauty reflects a blessing beyond vanity. 

Your skin doesn't always have it easy

Skin needs to breathe, it needs to be respected. No matter what shape it is in, or how we might see it, skin does its best under the circumstances. It is a connection to the world, receiving signals from your environment, responding to continuing fluctuations beyond your control and protects--it even has its own endocrine system.  Skin helps eliminate what we don't need, and facilitates a physical experience for your spiritual self. So don't forget to identify areas where your skin is functioning  beautifully and looks healthy, whether the skin you are seeing is clear and smooth or shows an old wound that has left a scar. We still have to count the scar as healed from a wounded state and look on it with appreciation. Choose to always see your skin in its best light, being attentive to its needs.

The Double Cleanse...Again

In an earlier post I wrote about my double cleansing routine, which I like to do in the evening.  I like double cleansing because the oil melts away the makeup and the day's build up, without pulling the skin and prepares my skin for a deeper clean. I think of it as laundry and showering. Wearing fresh clothes and forgoing the shower isn't the same as fresh clothes after a nice shower, is it? Or wearing dirty clothes after a shower?! 

In the morning  I use a little hydrosol or I'll wear a bit of clay and yogurt cleanser and wash it off in the shower because I like the softness and the tone it gives me. 

Then there is the cleansing that goes on all day...drinking enough water.


It was almost Spring today. Another chance to connect with flowers and appreciate a healthy microbiome.


The Skin Mantle, the Acid Mantle, the Protective Mantle. The Support that is Your Microbiome

The skin mantle is the fine lipid layer made up of secretions of eccrine (sweat) glands, sebaceous (oil) glands and your skin's microflora. It keeps your skin comfortable, resilient, and protected. You never want your skin to feel too tight after washing. It's a sign that you've stripped the protective mantle. It will come back, but it takes time. So stripping the mantle shouldn't become a habit, otherwise your skin never gets a chance to move beyond crisis mode.  

I love prebiotic and probiotic care for the skin because it supports the acid mantle.  Beyond that there are a few things to keep in mind.  Be soft. Use your fingers and apply gentle pressure. Be careful not to tug and/or use harsh agents to dry or wipe the skin--such as tissues. Pat the skin rather than dragging it. So many cotton rounds I've come across actually have enmeshed in their fibers little tiny thorns--stiff, sharp fibers that scratch the face on a sweep. Avoid these. 

Honoring the microbiome.

A beautiful skin microbiome is like a little garden that becomes more beautiful with care. Good soil has delicate microbiota at its surface that can help plants thrive. Working the soil gently with hand tools maintains the flora.  Heavy machinery works quickly to prepare the ground, but at a cost.  It destroys the soil's microbiome by burying the surface flora where they can no longer survive, impoverishing the quality of the soil and diminishing the health of the ecosystem that the flora could have supported. It takes a long time for the flora to develop again. This is the philosophy underlying no-till agriculture. Gentleness is everything.

Happy Cleansing!






1 comment

  • hello maneesha…this is kiki arevalo who used to live in lawrence kansas….i know your auntie prathiba and bache uncle very well, i also know your mum and dad and sister…i moved back to new jersey 25 years ago… patti gave me your web site info and i am very happy to see what you are doing….i love scents and aromatherapy, as i know pauli did and patti does…i pray you are all healthy and wish you well on your endeavor…peace and love to you…kiki

    kiki arevalo

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