Way back in olden times, when I was in high school (the late 1990s), I went through a brief period where I was trying to make homemade soap and other beauty products. But I got bored with it, as I often do.

Fade in to this year. I’m not sure why, but I suddenly started cleaning everything with white vinegar instead of chemical cleaners. I also, desperate to stem the tide of my split ends (I wanted long hair at my wedding… I am so tired of this hair by now I think that among the first acts of my married life is going to be getting a super drastic short haircut), started using olive oil as a hot oil treatment on my hair.  This works fantastically, by the way, but that’s not the point of this post. Somehow or other, following the trail of these natural, nontoxic additions to my life, I stumbled across Crunchy Betty.

My skin is not the worst skin a person can have. Even in high school it wasn’t that bad. But I am one of those women who gets a pimple or two at around the same time every month. Hormonal acne, huzzah! And they last a long time, so often last month’s will still be present when the new batch starts to arrive. And they leave red scars that linger, sometimes for months, especially if I don’t leave the thing alone and let it go through its life cycle, and let’s be honest here; all of us know we should leave the pimple alone. But who actually has that kind of self-control?!

So, while I may only have one or two actual pimples at a time, my skin frequently looks rather worse.

Or at least it did, up until a month ago, when, in one of my many bouts of all-night insomnia-fueled internet rampages, I read a massive number of posts on Crunchy Betty, one of which was the Honey Challenge.

I remembered honey from my adolescent forays into natural beauty products. I actually used to mix up a little lotion of milk and honey which I used to wash my face until I got completely tired of keeping my face wash in the fridge. And for years and years after that, well into my twenties, I took occasional milk and honey baths. I’d heat up milk and honey on the stove until it was nice and warm and then pour it into bathwater. For a while I had this amazing powdered green tea which I would sometimes whisk into the milk as well, until it was hot and frothy and those baths were amaaaaaazing.

But it’s been a while. But yeah, honey. Something clicked as I read that post and I knew I had to make up with honey again. Because honey? Is awesome.

After a week of washing with honey, I was so enthusiastic that I posted the following on facebook:

friends, I have to tell you, I have been using raw honey to wash my face for the last week and I LOVE IT. I don’t even know the last time I had no pimples on my face! And the red marks from old breakouts are fading away, and my pores are shrinking before my very eyes. Plus [Fiance] said I look “luminous.” THANK YOU, BEES!

My post garnered a surprising level of interest, and I’ve gotten several questions from friends about what exactly I’m doing, what kind of honey I’m using, and so on. And I do tend to ramble, so I thought it made a lot more sense to make a blog post on the subject than to keep trying to have the conversation on Facebook.

Here’s what I’m doing with my face these days. There’s a bit more to it than just honey, but it’s quite simple, it’s nontoxic, and it has continued to work wonders for me. I have gotten a couple of small pimples in the month I’ve been using it, but they went away within days, rather than weeks, and didn’t leave a scar behind.

Here is a photo of my skincare basics.

I may be a hippie.

From left to right: in back, a homemade face scrub made from finely ground oatmeal and almonds, housed in an old spaghetti sauce jar; jojoba oil (the label got oily and fell off the bottle); castor oil; raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey from Y. S. Eco Bee Farms; apple cider vinegar (in a bottle that used to contain Patron tequila) (You know the third “R” is “Reuse”).

Does this seem unnecessarily complicated? Because it really isn’t. For one thing, it’s super flexible and I change up what I actually do almost every day. And a few of the pictured items don’t get used every day. And think about how many skincare products you already have. Because here’s what I used to put on my face before.

Better graphic design, sure, but the vast majority of their ingredients are unpronounceable by human tongues.

That’s a face scrub, makeup removing wipes, and two kinds of moisturizer. So what I’m doing now is actually not any more complicated, especially because my skin is a lot more forgiving now that I’m not stripping all of its natural oils away twice a day and replacing them with synthetic versions.

And honey really is the main ingredient and the star of the show! So here is what I do, but keep in mind that everyone’s skin and circumstances are different. There is no one correct way to do this, so if you are keen to try, feel free to experiment and read around on Crunchy Betty or other blogs and find what works for you. Maybe you hate the smell of vinegar (I looooove it!) and don’t want that anywhere near your face, in which case you should try something else! This is just what’s been working for me for the past month, and people seem really curious about it so I am going to go into excessive detail!

Sometime after I wake up, I wash my face. First I splash a little warmish water on. Ideally you want just enough water to help the honey spread easily, but you don’t want to be dripping wet or the honey won’t stick to your skin at all. So a dampish face. Well actually FIRST I pin my hair back so it doesn’t get too sticky! Although honey is great for hair as well, it is also harder to wash out of hair. Then I take my little container of honey (not pictured… the big jar in the photo stays in the kitchen because I also eat the stuff, because it tastes like pure sweet heaven) and just grab a bit. You don’t need a ton. Just grab some and rub it onto your face. If you don’t have enough you can always get more.

Now you have several options. Option one is just to rinse the honey off right away. That works great if you are feeling a bit lazy, or are in a hurry, or you just plain don’t feel like having a sticky face (maybe you’ve got little kids around and your whole house is already at High Stickiness Risk).

Option two is to rinse your hands off and then go do something else for five or ten minutes, THEN wash it off. This will be more moisturizing for your skin. Either way, all you need to get the honey off is more water. Just splash water on your face and wipe it away with your hands; it should be pretty easy (a wet washcloth can also be helpful).

Option three is to hop in the shower. If you shower every morning anyway, this is probably the best idea for you! Slap the honey on, then go about your pre-showering business. Try to keep the honey on as long as you can and rinse it off at the end of your shower. One of honey’s interesting properties is that it actually pulls moisture from the air and gives it to your skin, so a nice steamy shower is a great time to have honey all over your face!

When I’m in the shower with my honey, I grab my oatmeal-and-almond scrub.

Gentle on the skin and it smells like delicious breakfast.

I pour a little bit into my hand (probably around half a tablespoon, but I don’t measure it or anything, just dump a little bit out) and dampen it with a little shower water. Then I just gently rub it into the honey on my face. And rinse it all away. I don’t do this every day, but you probably could, as the oatmeal-almond mixture is very gentle and soothing.

Whichever of these options I do, I usually (but not always) follow up with an apple cider vinegar toner. Don’t use the vinegar directly on your skin. I tried that once and I got beautiful red splotches wherever it touched me. OOPS. It needs to be heavily diluted. But premixing a diluted mixture is going to increase the risk of bacterial growth. Vinegar kills bacteria but once it’s diluted far enough to use on your skin, you’re going to have lots of water, and bacteria love water. You’ll have to keep that in the refrigerator, and as I believe I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am not going to walk to the fridge for my skincare. Nooooooope. So what I do is dab a bit of the vinegar on a cotton ball and then run the cotton ball under the tap. When I can’t see the brownish color of the vinegar anymore, I squeeze it out a bit and run it over my face. Pat it dry and then rub a couple of drops of jojoba oil on as a moisturizer.

The apple cider vinegar I use because it’s supposed to help prevent blackheads. I have like one big annoying blackhead but otherwise my pores seem small and unobtrusive, which is sweet. A lot of people find they don’t need a moisturizer at all when they wash with honey, but I do feel a bit on the dry side so I like to have the jojoba.

The only real problem I’ve had with honey is when I tried to use a rosemary-infused honey for a while. It turns out rosemary is great for oily skin but me it just dried out beyond all comprehension. So: if you are oily, maybe give it a try! If not, probably don’t!

So that was my morning routine (well, as routine as something can be when it’s not the same from one day to the next) (and as morning as it can be in the afternoon). At night I do the same thing, unless I wore makeup that day. Although since my skin has been looking so swell, I haven’t felt the need to wear much makeup lately. I do enjoy my eye shadow from Geek Chic though, if I’m going out. And I will need to wear makeup if I ever manage to book any acting work.

So, if I wore makeup that day, that’s where the castor oil comes in.

I am sending you to Crunchy Betty yet again, to learn about the Oil Cleansing Method. You’re going to be like “This can’t be a real thing.” But it is a real thing. And I have been doing it, a little bit. Go. Read. She explains it all so much better than I ever could.

Oil cleansing may require a fair amount of experimentation before you find the combination that works for you. I’ve been using a mix of just castor and jojoba oils and that seems to work just fine for me, luckily. A lot of people say that when they try this method, their face goes through a brutal adjustment period where it looks worse than ever. This didn’t happen to me, because I am very, very lucky. Well, and it may be because I don’t use it that often (only when I wear makeup), and I had already stopped using the chemical stuff (which is so harsh on your skin and makes it overproduce oil) at least a week before I tried it the first time.

So that’s… basically it. She said, two thousand words later. And I love it, and it works wonders for me. I don’t know what it will do for you. You just have to see what happens, I suppose.

There is one horrible thing I’ve noticed though. My face is totally clear but I’ve suddenly got two zits on my back, which has never really been a thing that I’ve had. So it’s like I have some definite quota for pimples and if they can’t find room on my face they’ll show up somewhere else. Hrrrrmm. Not ideal!