Friday, May 4, 2012

clearing clogged pores: salicylic acid toner!

A crucial ingredient in this regime is the salicylic acid toner (and masque, but that's for another post). Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid. It encourages the shedding of dead skin cells within the follicles, keeping them clear of debris that might cause sebum to clog. Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous gland within each hair follicle. It sort of slides out of each pore onto the skin, keeping it moisturized and healthy. It can easily become trapped with the pore, though, if there's some stuff going on (dead skin accumulation, pollutants, etc.), and can become riddled with bacteria, causing breakouts. If it can't find a way out, it will become an enlarged ugly cyst. If it gets big enough, it will rupture and push bacteria ridden yuckiness into the surrounding area underneath the skin. Salicylic acid helps keep the pore free and open, minimizing the clogged sebum horror.

Ain't that nice?


Salicylic acid used to be derived from willow (salix) bark back in the day, which is where it got its name. Aspirin masks have become popular home remedies for acne, as aspirin is also derived from willow. However, it's a different chemical compound and won't work for severely clogged skin. So it's best to just buy the salicylic acid powder, which is VERY reasonably priced.
Salicylic acid powder from makingcosmetics.com. This is 5 bucks for the smallest one, which will last years.

Different people can tolerate different concentrations of acid on their skin. My skin is pretty sensitive, so my daily toner is about 3-4% salicylic acid. This is slightly more acidic than the natural acid mantle that is always present on your face. Salicylic acid is, obviously, quite acidic on its own. You'll have to add a pH elevator in order to get a safe pH. I use a few drops of a naturally-derived pH balancer called Triethanolamine. It took me awhile to come to peace with the use of something with such a chemically-sounding name, but it's all natural, so I'm dealing with it.
Triethanolamine from makingcosmetics.com; 3.10 for the small one, which will last centuries.

Ingredients:


  • hot water (hydrosol or distilled water)
  • rubbing alcohol (to dissolve the salicylic acid)
  • salicylic acid powder
  • Triethanolamine (the pH elevator)

I UNDERSTAND that you might not want to use alcohol on your face. We've been programmed to think it's bad and it can be bad. But in this case, it is necessary to dissolve the salicylic acid, and for me, it has had no adverse affects. I keep my skin moisturized with hemp oil (more about that later) and it's all good so far.

Here's the recipe!


To make 2 ounces of toner:

2 ounces equals 12 teaspoons. I have to figure it out this way to get the percentages right!

In a glass bowl, mix together

  • 1/2 teaspoon of salicylic acid powder (don't use crushed aspirin; it's not the same thing)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of alcohol

Stir until the SA powder dissolves. If the powder doesn't dissolve completely, add another 1/4 teaspoon of alcohol at a time until it does. Make sure you stir it WELL after each addition. Sometimes that's all it takes to make it dissolve.

To raise the temperature of the alcohol/SA mixture, nest the bowl in a bigger bowl with hot tap water in it. Let it sit for a few minutes.

Add about 11 teaspoons of hot water to your blend. Stir until the SA dissolves.
Add two drops of Triethanolamine at a time until the pH is between 3.5 and 4.5. Voila!

That should do it.

How to use: 

Wet a cotton ball with the toner and apply to a clean, slightly damp face. You can put moisturizer on right afterwards (without necessarily waiting for it to dry). I use this in the am and pm every day!


All right?




Hydrosol from Wild Root Botanicals on Etsy!
You can purchase a starter kit with everything you need for your regimen at Miri Botanicals

Visit Miri Textiles!

91 comments:

  1. I've always had problems with soap; and shaving makes my skin red. Shouldn't be so much of a problem but my face hair grows so much vigorously than my head hair, what's left of it.

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  2. Try soapless, man! You'll never go back!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your recipe! It's great to know that I can formulate my own BHA toner so easily and inexpensively! The commercially available ones are so expensive and have fragrances and other irritating ingredients.

    I would like to share that after reading this post I got to wondering if salicylic acid would dissolve in either aloe or strawberries which naturally contain small amount of SA. It dissolved in the aloe somewhat, but not completely. However, when I extracted the juice from a couple strawberries the SA powder completely dissolved! When I added distilled water to it there were some fine particles floating around. So, I decided to pour the solution through a few layers of cheesecloth and the result was a beautiful clear liquid!

    This in really encouraging for those of us whose skin may be irritated by alcohol. However, I understand that strawberries have a very short shelf life and wonder if it would be best to add a preservative to this toner for use beyond a few days. I am very new to DIY cosmetics, and am not sure what to use, so maybe you or some of your readers can weigh in on some options.

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  4. Thank you so much for posting! I can't wait to hear how your toner works.

    Personally, I don't use any preservatives in my stuff. When I became bound and determined to cure my clogged pores once and for all, I pared everything down to the bare minimum. I keep everything in the fridge. Honestly, I haven't found it necessary to use preservatives in the toner mostly because I use it up fairly quickly. 2 ounces lasts a couple weeks or so. You might try a few drops of tea tree oil. Stay away from the vitamin oils as they are comedogenic. Sorry I can't be more help...

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  5. does this dry out the area at all? My clogs are wedged in so tight in my chin area and crease of my chin and in the corners of my mouth. The area is always flakey and dry even if I apply a little hemp oil. I was thought my best bet would be a sal acid treatment that was moisturizing as well. Ive tried Paulas Choice but honestly there are some scary ingredients in her stuff. Almond Oil for one is in her BHA;s...shame on her

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  6. Hi Alie! The s.a. toner may dry the skin out a little. I'd recommend starting with a low percentage of salicylic acid, which is what is given in this recipe. Moisturizing should be done with hemp oil. Believe me, I have tried everything. I'm so serious. This will help dissolve the clogs over the period of a few months. Be patient. The most important thing, though, is to create an environment on your face where no new clogs will form. This means no soap! And it means using something that will increase the linoleic acid content on your face. Clogs happen because your sebum has too much oleic acid in it and not enough linoleic acid. Topical application of hemp oil will fix this. Again, it will take a few months. Please keep me posted!

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  7. Ok I have scarring an need to wear foundation ! I was wondering what to use for removing the make up?

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    1. Hi Deborah! Thanks so much for posting. I remove makeup using the oil cleansing method. I use hemp oil because it helps get the fatty acids in your sebum back to a normal, non-clog prone state. It takes the makeup off in 2 or 3 minutes of massaging. Just remember to get all the oil off afterward. Use a warm washcloth to wipe it off. Repeat a few times until you feel confident. I usually only do it two or three times and the oil's off. I follow with a warm water rinse and then toner.

      Here's my post describing how to do it. This describes a thorough oil cleansing, which involves a 10 - 15 minute oil massage. You don't need to do it for that long, though, if you're just trying to remove makeup. Try it! It sounds crazy, but it really does work wonders.

      http://practicalbohemianbeauty.blogspot.com/2012/05/hemp-oil-and-oil-cleansing-method.html

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  8. Thanks for this formula! I actually just made it myself, and was wondering if you could tell me what the final product is supposed to look like. Mine is white, and it seems like there is some foamy/powder-y stuff that is not 100% dissolved. Is that correct? I used a 4 oz bottle so doubled everything you mentioned.

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    1. Hi Stephanie! So glad you're trying it. The powdery stuff you're seeing is the salicylic acid that has come out of saturation... or has not dissolved. This is a common occurrence. Adding more alcohol at this point won't help. Add a bit more alcohol to your process when you're making your next batch. The undissolved stuff will NOT hurt your skin. Just about every batch I've made has looked like that and it works wonders for me. Just shake it up before you use it. Please let me know how it works for you!!!

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  9. Hi! I'm wondering if anyone has thought of just adding a bit of the salicylic acid powder to a commercial brand toner to just make it a bit stronger than the usual 2%???

    Thanks for your input.

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    1. You can do that, but you have to be careful about making it too strong. Figure out your percentages first. Put your salicylic acid in glass cup and add your alcohol to dissolve. You want to do about 1:2 salicylic acid to alcohol (say, 1/4 teaspoon s.a. to 1/2 teaspoon alcohol). Then put that into your toner.

      I wouldn't do anything over 3 percent for a daily toner, though, especially when you're mixing it with a toner that probably already has some sort of exfoliant in it.

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  10. what kind of alcohol do you use and can I add my Thayers tonner as the liquid?

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    1. Hi Kylie! I use rubbing alcohol. Dissolve your SA in the rubbing alcohol first, and then add that to your toner. It should be fine.

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  11. thanks!! I have already been using the hemp oil and I love it! I am really looking forward to having nice skin again!

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  12. Hi Miri,
    Thanks for putting up your recipe (especially the store you can purchase the power!)
    Is it possible to make an alcohol-free version of this toner? Rubbing alcohol is too aggressive for my sensitive skin. I was thinking of adding the power into my ACV toner.

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    1. Hi Jan! I'll do some research on making this recipe alcohol free. I'll get back to you this afternoon!

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    2. Okay, it looks like s.a. is only soluble in alcohol and oil. I've read that it's slightly soluble in water, but I've never had any luck with that. I was afraid to use the alcohol at first, myself, because of my very sensitive skin, but I bit the bullet and used it anyway and it's been fine. I trust your judgement on your own skin, though.

      There is an emollient called "nature silk" that will dissolve the S.A. I can't vouch for its comedogenicity, though, so I really hesitate to recommend it. You could always dissolve some S.A. in your hemp oil and use that as a moisturizer instead of the straight hemp oil.

      Honestly, what I would do if I were you is just try the alcohol/s.a. with your acv toner. Mix up a teaspoon of alcohol with a half or quarter teaspoon of s.a. powder and add that to 2 ounces of acv. Try it for a couple of days. If it irritates you, then you may have to give up on the idea of S.A.

      Please let me know what you decide to you. I'm curious to hear how it all turns out!

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    3. Is there a reason NOT to dissolve the SA in hemp oil and use that as a moisturizer? I started OCM with castor oil and grapeseed oil in December. My skin felt great after cleansing, but then I started breaking out. I swapped out both oils for hemp oil a month ago, but I'm still breaking out and frankly, my skin has never looked worse. I'm afraid to use any moisturizer at this point! I tried washing with honey in between OCM washes, but that seemed to make things worse. I don't know what to do. I know my derm could prescribe antibiotics that would clear my skin up, but I've worked so hard to replace all my other toiletries with homemade, natural options that I hate to give up on my skin like this. But my face looks so awful right now I could cry!!

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    4. Don't give up! Please! It took four months to work for me, and I PROMISE YOU, it will work. Honestly, you've made the commitment already by switching over to all natural stuff. Keep with it, and it WILL pay off. Keep using the hemp oil. Honey is also fine, but between OCM washes I'd just stick to water only at this point, until you get things under control. If you suffer from clogged pores, then the hemp WILL cure it. Castor oil is not good for it.

      As far as the SA in hemp, yes, it will dissolve, and I see nothing at all wrong with doing it that way. We'll put it this way, it could help and it couldn't hurt.

      Believe me, I understand your frustration. I nearly gave up SO MANY TIMES during that four months, but it did eventually work. Just think about how long you've been using all those other products on your skin. It needs time to balance itself and get back to functioning normally.

      Keep writing here and I will be with you the entire time.

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    5. Thank you for the encouragement! I needed that. ;-) I just ordered a bag of SA. While I was shopping, I also ordered samples of the Ella Rose makeup you recommended. I seem to break out more when I've been wearing makeup, so hopefully a more skin-friendly blend will help.

      I love your blog. I am the kind of person who needs to know WHY something works before I try it. Thank you for all the great information you share! I am going to try your henna mask recipe the next time I color. My hair is a little darker than yours, but I have lots more gray. (I'd love for my hair to smell like cloves instead of the henna smell that seems to cling to it for weeks after, no matter how many times I wash it!)

      Thanks again! I am not going to give up!

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    6. I've been using SA and hemp for about two weeks now, and I think my skin is (slowly) getting better. A few new breakouts, but they're small whiteheads instead of giant, red, swollen cysts. I guess my skin is purging? The SA dissolved in alcohol, but when I added the water, the whole bottle turned into this crystallized stuff. Seems to work okay, but it looks really odd! It was a bit drying at first, so I went back to my alcohol-free witch hazel toner & dissolved the SA in hemp oil instead. Worked great! I just slather that on when I'm done the hemp OCM at night. Now I'm wondering if I could combine SA in some sort of moisturizing yogurt mask. Hmmm....

      I also switched to the Ella Rose makeup you recommended. The colors are a little funky for me (I have very pale, pink-toned skin), but the coverage is good and (best of all) it doesn't seem to make my face break out, so yay!

      Thanks for the great tips! (I didn't have any bladderwrack, but I did add clove powder to my last henna treatment. I don't know that the color turned out different, but it sure smelled better!

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    7. What was the ratio of SA to hemp oil?

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  13. I have been using Jojoba oil after reading that the oil extracted from jojoba seeds is very similar to human sebum... This is the first time ever using oil on my face (I mix in a little tea tree oil) and so far so good. I'm just curious if you know why hemp may be better then jojoba? Also, do you know where I can purchase Triethanolamine? Thanks for your post! I am attending school to be an esthetician in a few months (leaning more towards the holistic side of things obviously)and love reading up on this kind of stuff!

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    1. Hi Dru! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

      Jojoba oil is high in oleic acid, which is going to exacerbate the problem of an overproduction of oleic and an underproduction of linoleic acid in your sebum. Hemp is the highest in linoleic acid of all the known oils.

      You can purchase Triethanolamine from makingcosmetics.com.

      Let me know how you do with all this!

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    2. Great to know!! Your site is amazing, thanks so much!

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    3. Great post!

      I've tried the oil cleansing method with 0 success. I also used jojoba oil and it made my skin absolutely freak out, I've gone back to a soap-free gentle cleanser, but I'd love to find an oil that works for my super clog-prone skin.

      Also, when your SA doesn't fully dissolve, how do you reduce spreading that white powdery excess around your face? Happens to me *all* the time. Thanks!

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    4. Hey M! Thanks for visiting. Definitely stop using jojoba. It's much high in oleic acid for our type of problem skin. Try the hemp. It WILL take several months for you to notice a difference, but DON'T GIVE UP!!!! In my opinion, it is the ONLY thing that will heal your skin naturally.

      When the SA doesn't dissolve, it's still okay to spread the toner on your face. There's no negative impact to the skin. Next time you make it, try adding a bit more alcohol to the mix. After the water is added, there's nothing you can do. PLEASE keep us posted on your progress!

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  14. Me again :) I just gave the toner a shot, and the first batch had a lot of undissolved SA foam floating around the top. since I bought such a big bag of it I just tossed it out and tried it again. I really shook the alcohol and the SA and even added another 1/4 teaspoon alcohol. I have two white SA balls floating around now that look to be all the SA I had originally added. Should I let it sit and then shake it? The final product smelled pretty alcohol-y so I did throw in a couple drops of tea tree. I'm no chemist so would that have caused my issue? Thanks for your help!

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  15. Hi Dru! I was wondering where you'd gotten off to! Yes, that is a common problem with the SA. A lot of people have asked me about it and i've had the same problem myself. I haven't been able to find an answer, really. The consensus is that there is not enough alcohol in the mix. So add a tiny bit more alcohol next time and see how it works. Unfortunately there's not a lot you can do about it after the water is added. I have found, as have others, that SA being like that does not have a negative effect on the skin. Just about every batch I make is like that, and I could NOT be happier with the results from this toner (in combination with the rest of the regime). And I have very sensitive skin, remember. I believe that it's very okay to use the toner like that.

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  16. You're right :) I just finished up my first little bottle of it and it's been pretty amazing. Using the SA toner, with the hemp oil as well as some of the complexion bars from chagrin valley when I feel like I really need to get some gunk off my face has been showing some definite improvements! I fell in love with your honey/salicylic acid mask. I added some of my favorite clay mask (http://www.notthesame.net/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=16) - I love that stuff! half a tsp of yogurt and 2 drops of tea tree and it has been my miracle mask!! Positively life altering :) Can't thank you enough!

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  18. I am going to give this and the hemp oil a try. I am 29 and have had bad acne since my 20s started. I have tried it all too, and most of it made my acne worse and/or irritated my skin to the point that after only a few uses it took weeks to repair the damage. I am allergic to a lot of things in over the counter products and have moved to try more natural things like baking soda for an exfoliator and tea tree oil. I have to wear foundation 5 days a week but I will give the water only thing a go on the weekends when I am usually not going out and thus skip the make up. I already use mineral foundation that I found on Etsy from Willow Tree Minerals but I have yet to find a cleaner that works for me. Nothing seems to help my skin clear up, and by nothing I mean not even things my doctor prescribed. It is horrible! I have low self esteem issues and the acne just makes that ten times worse. I hope this will help. I have good patience when trying something new so I will stick to it for a few months like you say and see where it gets me. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Meagan! Thank you so much for visiting. I totally understand the self-esteem issues you're talking about. All I can say is, "me, too." Totally. A couple things: baking soda is very very alkaline, and is not good for your face. Do you have oily skin? dry skin? clogged pores?

      Do try the water only method, followed by the toner and a few drops of hemp oil. The hemp oil is really the key here. Once you get your skin cleared up, you could go on for the rest of your life using only hemp oil, and you'd have clear, healthy skin. Tell us more about your skin!

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    2. I have rather oily skin, but it can get dry too. It is also really sensitive. The strangest things make me break out in a scaly rash around my mouth. It as uncomfortable, itches, and can cause puffiness until it clear up. I can even use a product for months then all of a sudden react to it. I have to be very careful. I started the baking soda after reading something else in my extensive internet search for answers and natural options a few years ago. It actually seemed to help some, I noticed less really dark black heads on my nose. Now they are more like a light brown and easier to cover up with make up.

      I get cystic acne around my nose and mouth, along the sides of my nose on my cheeks, and along my jaw line. I have a very painful one right now just below my left ear. Sometimes I will get cystic acne on my cheeks, on my temples, or between my eyebrows. I also have REALLY clogged pores in general. If I use a magnifying mirror just about every pore looks like it is clogged. I get white heads but mostly they are brown colored black heads, or deeper acne that is not the painful cystic but also not a white head or a black head.

      I have stopped all the other things I was using (baking soda and tea tree oil based cleanser) except for the tea tree oil. I am still using that while I am waiting for the toner ingredients to come in the mail. It seems to help a little for now but I will end that too once I can use the toner. I bought the hemp oil this weekend and started with a deep cleansing Saturday night. I used it last night since I wore makeup and I will use it tonight again because of wearing make up for work.

      I was a little concerned that last night I noticed a possible reaction but I am not sure. I will give it a few more days to see. I used it as a moisturizer under my make up on Sunday and it may be that my skin freaked out a bit to the change. Or that my skin was reacting the the tea tree oil and hemp oil combined on my face. I did not use it this morning under my make up since I thought yesterday in felt almost too oily under my make up. I might try it tomorrow and use the tiniest bit.

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    3. O Meagan. Girl, that sounds like a challenge for sure. I'm so sorry you're having to deal with all of this. So, your skin goes from dry to oily and you have lots of clogs. Okay. Your issue may NOT be that the sebum is too dry, like mine. The baking soda is probably exacerbating the problem because it neutralizes the acid mantle on your face, creating an environment where clogs and infections are more likely to occur.

      I think the hemp oil will help you, especially if you can narrow your products WAY down. Hemp oil and the salicylic acid toner only, in conjunction with water only cleansing. If you're only using two things (hemp and SA), it's way easier to tell what's causing your problems. Make sure you check the pH on your toner before you use it. I'd say to give it a few months. It took four months for my skin to clear up. Please keep us posted. BTW, the Tea Tree is a good thing.

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    4. Meagan, one more thing: Try mixing the foundation powder with a few drops of hemp oil. It will go on like a magical liquid foundation (!!!) and will be beneficial to your skin.

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    5. It is rough yes. I have never had a good answer about what is causing the acne. Nor have I had good results without either having an allergic reaction, having my acne get far worse, having my skin flake like phyllo dough and feel raw, or having the acne clear then come back even if I am still using the product that helped. I never leave the house without makeup because of it. I would like one day to not feel like I have to put on makeup just to run to the store.

      I have stopped the baking soda and I will give it some time before evaluating if it is working or not. I am hoping the SA will come in the mail this week so I can start the toner. I forgot to get ph strips but maybe I can pick them up at a hardware store or some place you can get water testing kits. I also used less of the hemp oil as a moisturizer this morning and it was much better than this weekend so I will be using that from now on in the morning.

      The tea tree oil does help to shorten the length that the cystic acne is large, inflamed, and painful. I have been using that for a number of years now. My search for more natural remedies also lead me to changing to foundation with less ingredients. I have been trying to use a limited number of things on my skin, with a limited number of ingredients. Less because of the acne and more because of I never know what will cause an allergic reaction. I have even used a product for six months to a year and all of a sudden I develop an allergy. The last time it happened it took me three weeks to realize it was the soap I had been using for a year, that particular event is what lead me to look for natural options.

      I still use drugstore brand cosmetics for eye shadow but foundation and concealer are mineral, and I am looking into a mineral blush since I am using drugstore brand for that too at the moment. Took me a while to find foundation that did not make me want to scratch my face all day long. No lasting allergic reaction, but some of them made my face itch like crazy!

      BTW, I know I need to scale back on the items I am using so that I can know what causes a reaction (if something does) but the tee tree oil... should I continue to use that on cystic acne? Or should I stick to your routine at first to see if that helps then add it back in if/when I need to?

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    6. Meagan, I think the tea tree is fine. I'd probably add it to the hemp oil. Just a very small, small amount though. You have the absolute right idea about going all natural and reducing the number of ingredients that you put on your skin. With the hemp and SA, you are down to the basics. I'd be very surprised if you continued to have trouble with just those things. O I hope it works for you!!! PLEASE keep us informed as to your progress!

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    7. Hi Meagan!
      Have you thought of trying out a gluten and dairy free diet? It has saved my face (and many others´), mine after 25 years of acne... Everybody´s cause for acne is different, but this is a very common cause.

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  19. I hope it works too!!!! I will certainly keep you posted.

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  20. Wow! That is all I can say about this regiment/solution. I've been using it for a few weeks now (I'm sure it's only going to get better!) and all I can say is thank you. After years of searching for a solution for my specific skin type, this has finally been the only regiment/solutions that has worked BEYOND what I expected. I've always done the basics (changing pillow cases, avoiding touching, etc), but nothing has given me these kind of results. Just amazing!

    Is it the toner, the hemp oil, the warm water/towel wash? I can speculate it's a combination of a lot of things, but I can't honestly say I know. I do however know this is working wonders for my skin!

    I have medium-oily skin that tends to be on the sensitive side. I was originally plagued with surface white-heads and then it progressed to uncomfortably swollen "cystic" acne. The combination was incredibly depressing. Other products would really dry my skin out and, as far I could tell, only made things worse. I've tried off-the-shelf cleansers (harshest and the "for sensitive skin"). I've tried Benzoyl Peroxide regiments, P-zinc, etc. Moisturizing helped, but even the slightest application sometimes left me with that "greasy" look. I even tried the caveman approach (my skin balanced out from past abuse, so it got better. But it didn't quite get me to healthy looking skin).

    This regiment has not only completely cleared my cystic acne (MUCH faster or quicker than I think anyone could have expected) but it has slowly given me such healthy looking skin. It's amazing it has worked so well at this time because I am under a LOT of stress and have not been sleeping anywhere near as much as I should be. I can only imagine how well my skin will be healing after I finish all this work. My skin is starting to blend and after moisturizing (few drops here and there) with the hemp oil, it somehow doesn't look greasy or shiny. It literally just balances out within minutes of the application. I can see the change from when I originally started the regiment. I've read hundreds of blogs, forums, etc, and this has been the simplest and most effective solution yet.

    So once again thank you, you have literally changed my life! For the rest of you, don't be afraid to try it. It'll take some time but it is worth it! Just follow everything step-by-step and it should work if you have my kind of skin type (perhaps others as well).

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    1. I can't express to you how happy this post makes me. Thank you so much, Ed. I'm SOOOOO pleased that it worked for you. Would you mind if I use this in my shop so people will know that the regimen actually works?

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    2. Absolutely no problem! I actually started the regimen with raw ingredients from different sources and I finally ordered them from you in order to make a "travel" pack. The package contents (bottles and such) make it much more convenient than what I was working with.

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    3. Ed, I've tried to email you. Did you get my messages? I'm wondering how the hemp oil with SA worked out and what your recipe was!

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  21. On a different but related topic, I had a couple of thoughts that perhaps any of you can entertain.

    Should the hemp oil used for the regiment be refrigerated? (What's the shelf-life without refrigeration?) I'm currently refrigerating my "bulk" bottle and I have a small amount in a glass container with a dropper top.

    I was curious about the Salicylic acid to Alcohol ratio (solubility) after noticing some undissolved parts when I made a few batches, so I ran some calculations (I'm not a chemist, but as an engineer I understand the process). Bear with me here:

    1 Teaspoon = 15 mL

    Salicylic acid (2-Hydroxybenzoic acid):
    Density = 1.442 g/mL
    Molar mass = 138.121 g/mol
    Solubility in 2-propanol = 2.003 mol/L

    Isopropyl Alcohol (Propan-2-ol):
    Density = 0.786 g/mL

    (2.003 mol/L)(138.121 g/mol) = 276.656 g/L
    (15 ml)(276.656 g/L) = 4.149 g
    (4.149 g)/(1.443 g/mL) = 2.875 mL

    Which gives us about 3 mL of Salicylic acid per 15 mL of alcohol. Roughly 1/5 to 1/4 teaspoon of Salicylic acid to 1 teaspoon of alcohol.

    Now that's relatively close to the 1/3 ratio in the recipe but that might explain the undissolved Salicylic acid others may experience. Beyond that, I haven't had to time to reference the calculation of the Salicylic acid and Alcohol mixture with Water in order to obtain a 3.5-4.5 pH. (If anyone wants to take a stab at it be my guest because I'd like to know that last ratio!)

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    1. Goodness, you're smart! Love this!!! I'm going to take your advice and change the ratio of SA to alcohol in the recipe. Thank you so much for this! Ed, can you contact me at my email? blisslet@aol.com

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    2. O, and ABSOLUTELY refrigerate the hemp oil. It is highly volatile and goes rancid quickly (3-6 months at room temp). I keep mine in the freezer.

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    3. CORRECTION on calculations!!!

      I had a colleague (petroleum engineer/chemist) double check my calculations and he graciously reminded me that a Teaspoon = 5 mL and a Tablespoon = 15 mL. (we had a good laugh on this one)

      Therefore, my calculations are still correct... but for anyone that may have questioned the results, this still means it's roughly 3 mL to every 15 mL of Alcohol. And since 15 mL = 1 and a 1/2 Teaspoons (ironically) then the values are:

      "Roughly .5 Teaspoon of Salicylic acid to 1.5 Teaspoons of Alcohol"

      Which IS a 1 to 3 ratio (in Teaspoons)!!! But... Taking the density of alcohol into account (which I forgot to and I knew I wrote down the value for some reason) this works out to about 2 to 2.25 mL of Salicylic acid per 2 oz batch as described in the recipe. A little less than a half a Teaspoon.

      After explaining the mixture to him he also recommended when measuring out the power, to not "pack" the powder. This will result in much more powder being used than you may think you're measuring, so keep it "fluffed".

      TL;DR

      SOOOO, all in all for the sake of simplicity (yet being mathematically correct) when measuring the Salicylic powder you should add an "under-measured" 1/2 Teaspoon of powder to the 1 1/2 Teaspoon of Alcohol. Visually imagine taking a dime (coin) size amount off the top of the half Teaspoon of Salicylic powder. I went ahead and tried it and sure enough, no white residue!

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    5. I was trying to make the SA toner according to the directions and still got a lot of precipitate. In the initial step I had to add additional alcohol to dissolve the SA which eventually dissolved when the mix was warmed only to come out of solution again half way through adding the hot water. Frustrating. I did this multiple times!! Ed's original calculations are correct but I noticed some errors in Ed's comments above and later realized my own error that was the real cause of my mixing problems.

      Ed's calculations are based on pure isopropyl alcohol. Store bought "rubbing alcohol" is often a mix with water in either 50% or 70%. I bought 50% isopropyl. That was my mistake. If you buy a 99% bottle this isn't a problem. But using a 50% mix means you have to use twice as much to dissolve the SA.

      Ed incorrectly states that 15 mL = 1.5 teaspoons. 15 mL = 3 teaspoons. 3 mL of SA to 15 mL alcohol is a 1:5 ratio, not 1:3. It's actually 2.875 mL SA so the ratio is even a little less than 1:5. But all this is somewhat unimportant to the final product bc it's all theoretical calculations based on an arbitrary 15 mL of alcohol.

      ---> The important parts are using the correct amount of SA (slightly less than 1/2 tsp in the 2 oz solution) to get the percentage you want (3.5% SA) and then getting it to dissolve completely in the alcohol. **Undissolved SA means you don't have the % of SA in your toner that you want!

      Follow Beth's (Miri's) advice to add enough alcohol in the first step to dissolve all the SA. This is an important step if you want the correct percentage of SA in your toner.

      I hope this helps anyone having trouble dissolving their SA.

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  22. I am so excited to try this! However, I have a compromised immune system and have to watch what i put on my skin. How do I know if I am making a 2% only SA solution? I need to start there because I already know I tolerate 2% SA serum that I am currently using.

    Thanks to Ed (if you are checking this thread) or Beth for your thoughts!

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    1. Hey Mignon! Ed figured out that it's a scant (a little less than) 1/4 teaspoon of SA in 3/4 teaspoon of alcohol. Blend these together and put into a 2 oz. container. Fill the container with your water and add your drop of pH balancer. That will be almost exactly a 2 percent SA solution.

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  23. hi miri, I received your toner kit in the mail today! I just mixed it and im a little confused. I used the ph test trips and its coming out at as a 2-3 on the scale. Isnt that a bit harsh?

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    1. Alessandra, I'm so sorry, I missed this question. Keep adding the pH balancer drop by drop, and test after drop. Your pH should be between 3.5 and 5 or so. I usually go with 4 or 4.5.

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  24. So I am about a month in and I have noticed less breakouts and less deep black heads on my nose. I am still getting painful acne every now and then, but it is limited to one at a time rather than several at once like in the past. I still have large pores on my nose and the apples of my cheeks, but they are a bit better.

    It might help me to use the masque more often as I have only been using it every other week. After my experience of reacting to the SA I wanted to not stress my skin, even thought I cut the recipe in half. Plus, since I use the oil cleans every night due to make-up use, I think I would rather stay on the safe side even if it take a little longer for this to really work. I use the toner and oil religiously, and like the water only method in the a.m. when I wake up.

    I like the way my skin feels, it feels smoother and more even. So far so good. I will update again.

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    1. O Meagan! I'm SOOOO happy to hear this! It sounds like you're doing really well. Thank goodness! I'd keep the SA mask to once every couple of weeks. I do it once every couple of months now! YAYYYYYY!!!!! Keep us posted, please!

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  25. Hi there! I have some questions regarding using the SA mixed in with the hemp oil, as someone up-thread mentioned doing. How would you calculate the percentages for this? Is it the same as with the alcohol and water? And do you need the TEA still?

    I want to try this as the only rubbing alcohol I've been able to find is really irritating my skin I think, heaps of dryness and itch and then breakouts caused by the skin irritation! When I made the mix without the alcohol, it didn't irritate my skin but was very difficult to use as of course the SA doesn't dissolve much at all. Besides, I thought it could be nifty to make the whole thing a one-step process - not that it isn't simple enough as it is :)

    Anyway, thanks very much in advance and for putting this website up - all the info has helped so so so much.

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    1. Hi! Welcome! One of my other readers (the marvelous ED) used SA in hemp oil with great success. Put 1/2 teaspoon of SA in 2 oz of Hemp oil. This will give you a roughly 3.5 percent solution. Try it! Let us know how it works out for you!

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    2. Wonderful, thanks so much! I will definitely let you know how it works out long term, but I can say the SA and hemp oil are already making a difference, even though the alcohol did irritate my skin. Only a couple of weeks and all the tiny little plugs around my mouth and chin are basically gone, and when there are the occasional clogs they don't get inflamed and turn into red-rimmed whiteheads (shudder) so for that alone it's already worth it. I seriously can't believe how clear the skin is there now - it was my worst spot, either side of my mouth, and I thought I was going to end up with scarring as the clogs would come up in the same pores over and over again and get all angry and crazy every time.

      I think I'm trying to express how relieved I am and I don't actually know if that's possible :P Still a ways to go with the bigger breakouts and blemishes, but I'm already really happy with it and wish more people knew about it.

      Something I found in the beginning that I think a couple of other commenters have gone through is that while I was waiting on the SA, I went ahead and bought the hemp oil and started cleansing with that and moisturizing, and while the areas of my face NOT prone to breakouts looked GREAT, the rest of my face went haywire. I was just using too much hemp oil with nothing else to quickly dissolve the clogs like the SA does, I think - the hemp was obviously great for my skin, but not for the clogged pores, so I started using like two or three small drops in the palm of my hand, then pouring about a tablespoon of purified water into my hands and rubbing it all to mix. It made the application of the oil much more even and my skin stopped breaking out. Yay!

      Xox ~ Isha

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    3. Excellent! So happy you're seeing results, Isha. Your suggestion about the water and hemp oil is really great. Thank you so much!

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  26. About two months... Still getting some cystic acne and still some real big pores with deep clogs on my cheeks. After reading Isha's comment, I am thinking I will give the water hemp oil mix a try. Maybe with the use of oil every night to cleanse I am over oiling.

    Not giving up... I calculate that by the end of August or September I will have a good idea whether or not I should continue or keep looking.

    This is not a skin related question, but I have light colored wash cloths and I can't get them clean any more. They are really dingy looking from the green of the oil and the make-up. Any suggestions? I have tried bleaching them and that did not do it... not sure what else to try. Anyone have success with other detergents or washing methods?

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    1. Meagan! So sorry to hear that you're still getting cystic acne. Ugh... so frustrating. I would say that cutting down on oil cleansing would be a good thing to try. I have only ever done the long (10 minute or more) cleansing once a month. I've done short (1 minute) oil cleanses maybe three or four times a month, but never every day or even two days in a row. Please let us know if things get better with your changes.

      I have to replace my washcloths every 3 or 4 months, Meagan. I launder them in hot water after every use, but eventually they just become saturated with oil and then there's nothing you can do. I buy cheap cotton washcloths by the dozen...

      Don't give up! Have you seen any improvement overall?

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    2. Maegan - hi! This is Isha from a comment above about mixing the oil with water. Obviously this is a month and a bit after you posted this comment, but I just dropped in and thought I'd give some encouragement and tips:

      I have oily-combination skin, and I found oil cleanses were never ever good for me, they just weren't. I also found that the SA masque with honey made me break out, as well as stinging a lot! My skin is super sensitive, not just to products but to heat and cold, and also MOST IMPORTANTLY my skin does not like to be covered completely by anything - anything that forms a "seal" over my skin will cause me to break out. So, any kind of masque, a thick coating of oil, thick coating of liquid foundation, will all cause clogged and/or inflamed pores; it's as though my pores are reacting to heat buildup or something from being covered like that. Fun!

      So instead of oil cleansing, I do one of two things:

      I use a basic make-up remover wipe to take off my eye make-up and any particularly thick coverage of mineral powder foundation I use (Nude by Nature is so, so amazing at covering blemishes and acne you wouldn't even believe it) and then I use the SA toner - I really soak the make-up pads I use and slop it on, rubbing a bit over problem areas. Then I moisturize with 2-3 drops of hemp oil and a teaspoon of water smooshed all over my palms - sometimes I add a little more water if my skin's feeling really oily. That's it.

      The other thing I do is every second or third day I wash my face in the shower (after removing any thick make-up with wipes) using the most basic, shortest-ingredient list, natural/organic-est gel facial wash for sensitive skin I can find. Yes, some of these will have pore-clogging ingredients in them, mine has a teensy bit, but I've found it doesn't really matter because after the shower I tone with SA and moisturize with hemp so it cleanses any negligible amount of residue might be left from the gel wash. I jut do that because sometimes I get a build-up of make-up and/or really want to wash my face in the shower!

      Gosh, sorry this comment was so long, but hopefully it might help a bit. Hope all's well. Xox

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  27. Can you just use witchhazel is a toner? Or is there a specific benefit to using the toner forumla you created?

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    1. Hi Ms. E!!! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. :(

      Witch hazel is fine as a toner, although I'm not sure how it would affect skin that is prone to clogging. I created the SA toner specifically to dissolve the hardened sebum clogs. The hemp oil as moisturizer prevents the clogs from forming in the first place, but it takes some time. Combined, they will prevent future clogs and clear up existing clogs!

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  28. Hi miri..im using neutrogena toner which is 200ml..and i have Verrumal salicylic acid 10% solution..can i mix it together???

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    1. Dear January,
      Verrumal is a prescription wart remover that contains Fluorouracil, an anti-cancer agent used against rapidly dividing cells (like warts) but also a dangerous chemical that can cause serious damage to your body even through topical usage (like spreading it all over your face). Please don't!! Please find another source for your salicylic acid.
      From the Wikipedia article: "5-FU injection and topical even in small doses cause both acute central nervous system (CNS) damage and progressively worsening delayed degeneration of the CNS in mice."
      You may not be a mouse, but people who are prescribed fluorouracil for cancer do experience severe side effects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluorouracil
      Please don't use prescription medications in ways other than those prescribed - could be dangerous to your health!
      Sincerely,
      Dr. MacDonald (M.D.)

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  29. Hey Miri, this is Isha! Just wanted to give an update: in short, you have saved my face and I just don't even know where to begin with that. Like, I don't think there are enough smiley-faces or exclamation marks on the internet to convey how happy I am with my skin now. I actually just look in the mirror sometimes and am totally confused that I have clear skin.

    IT IS AWESOME.

    The only problem I have is that I want to grab random ladies in the street and tell them "it doesn't have to be this way" and give them your blog url and I can't do that because it would be creepy and rude.

    Xox

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  31. I just discovered your blog after doing a little research on hemp seed oil. I'm super excited to try the entire regimen. Just one question: Since SA makes the skin sensitive to the sun, do you use a daily sunscreen? What do you use? Finding a good sunscreen that won't clog my pores has been a huge challenge for me.

    Thanks so much!
    Tricia

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  32. I'm very allergic to hemp and all hemp products. I've had several deleterious experiences from purposeful and unintentional incidental exposure to it and the end result is always a nasty rash. Is there an alternative you can recommend that would have similar results as the hemp oil?

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    1. Hi Elizabeth! Try sunflower or safflower oil. Those are very high in linoleic acid, and low in oleic acid. They should work like the hemp oil works. Good luck!

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  34. Hi there - could you explain how Salicylic acid can dissolve in hemp oil? How does this work with out the alcohol?

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    2. Hi! I'm not sure about the mechanism, but SA is fat-soluble, meaning that it will dissolve in fat or oil. It doesn't dissolve as readily as it would in alcohol, but it's tolerable!

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  35. Hi. I am VERY excited to try the Hemp Oil/homemade SA toner regimen. I've tried the castor oil based OCM which worked BEAUTIFULLY for about 3 weeks; then *poof* clogged pores and breakouts were back :( After reading your blog, it makes sense as to why. I have one question about the toner, however. I am VERY leery of using the Triethanolamine (like you said, very 'chemical' sounding) and knowing you've done EXTENSIVE research and trial and error, I was wondering if you had tried using a little baking soda in the toner to balance the PH instead? Or is it just not strong enough?

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    1. HI! Thank you so much for visiting! I have tried baking soda, and it actually works well. However, I have hard water, and the baking soda tends to form a film in hard water. That's why I don't use it. According to Makingcosmetics.com, the Triethanolamine is an organic compound, but they don't say what it's derived from, so I can't comment on that. Good luck, and let us know how you get on!

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  36. Hi Miri I just made this recipe 3 times and everytime it turns out cloudy and kind of white flakey looking. Is that normal and can Iuse it this way? I read all the posts here, but still am not sure

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    1. Sarah, this is quite normal, and you can use the toner that way. It doesn't hurt your skin at all. I have found that if I heat the ingredients to room temperature, it minimizes the cloudiness. Whatever you do, don't throw away the cloudy toner! It works the same. Just shake it up and you're good to go!!!

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  37. Miri, I am excited to try this recipe! What are your thoughts on using vodka instead of rubbing alcohol?

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    1. Hi! Thanks so much for visiting! Vodka is absolutely fine, as long as it's good quality.

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  38. Hi, Miri. I'm having trouble with my salicylic acid recrystallizing a day after I put water in and I was wondering if you know how to prevent this.

    I bought 100% salicylic acid (it's in crystal form, not powder form) and dissolved it completely in 70% denatured ethyl alcohol. Then I added distilled water until the salicylic acid content is 2% and the actual alcohol content is 26%. The toner is clear the first day, but by the next day, the salicylic acid recrystallizes and I don't know why.

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  39. Hi, Miri. I was wondering about how many drops of the Triethanolamine powder you normally put in. It seemed like I was putting in a lot -- 10 drops or more -- and couldn't get the pH down to below about 5. Do I need to use more?
    Thanks!

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    1. Hi Moon Siren! Do you mean triethanolamine liquid? The more triethanolamine you put in, the higher the number will be, because you'll be making your blend MORE alkaline and not less. My SA/alcohol/water mixture starts off, usually, at around a 2 pH. I usually put in 3 to 5 drops to raise it to between 3.5 and 4.5. If your blend is coming out to 5, you have added too much triethanolamine. You will need to add more Salicylic acid and alcohol to your blend (mix a little together first and then add the mixture to your bottle). This will create a higher proportion of SA in your toner, which will make it stronger. If you don't want this to happen, you may need to start over from scratch. I hope this helps!

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  42. Hello Miri,

    After coming across your blog about a year or so ago, and after a little anxiety, I finally started doing the OCM method with hemp oil a few months back, and I have to say that I love it! I'm so grateful that I came across your blog before trying this method. I was just about to use castor and jojoba oils--I believe that would have broke my face out terribly!! The hemp oil is everything you mention!!! I even ingest it as my omega 3s sporadically, and it lasts forever in the fridge. So far, I've just been using the hemp oil, Dickinson's alcohol-free toner(sometimes), and manuka honey(sometimes in between OCM cleanses) and it's been relatively good.

    I purchased salicylic acid like you suggested to incorporate into my routine, but have yet to use it. At first, I was nervous about the alcohol. Now, I'm leary of the Triethanolamine. After doing a bit more reading I came across these two sites:

    http://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/triethanolamine
    http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706639/TRIETHANOLAMINE/

    My questions are: Do you still use triethanolamine in your toner?
    I know that a PH balancer is important, are there other healthier
    alternatives?

    I tried using just ACV with the mother, organic lemon juice, and aloe vera juice as a toner before and I think it was too acidic. So, I do believe a PH balancer is necessary to add to the salicylic acid. I know salicylic is supposed to prevent future blemishes, so I would like to try it...but I don't want to cause future problems?

    Thank You for your continuous help and feedback :o)

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