240: How To Wash Your Face (PART 2) w/ Rachael Pontillo

Brought to you by Quell

This episode is bought to you by Quell — to help support rebuilding healthy skin from the outside-in + inside-out!

Take 10% off your next order! Use promo code QUELL10 at check out — Get started HERE!

– – –

This is a two-part interview! Check out part 1 by clicking HERE!

Today I continue my conversation with Rachael Pontillo all about holistic skincare and yes, why order matters when it comes to layering on products.

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

My guest today, Rachael Pontillo, is a holistic skincare innovator, author, and educator. She is the bestselling author of the book Love Your Skin, Love Yourself, and co-author of The Sauce Code.

She’s a functional nutrition practitioner, AADP and IAHC Board Certified International Health Coach, licensed aesthetician; and natural skincare formulator and educator. She’s the president and co-founder of the Nutritional Aesthetics™ Alliance, the creator of the popular skincare and healthy lifestyle blog, Holistically Haute™, as well as the much-loved online course, Create Your Skincare.

She’s an avid herbalist, skincare ingredient aficionado, and lifelong learner.

Join us as we continue the discussion on what to look for when choosing a holistic and herbal skincare regime along with HOW to use it.

What's your favorite skincare ingredient? Let me know in the comments!

CHECK OUT PART 1 of this conversation HERE!

In this episode:

  • Issues with exfoliants + anti-aging skincare products (that no one tells you)
  • Why hydration is important for your products to even work
  • What order should you put your products on
  • Different DIY at-home face masks that are single-ingredient + simple
  • Opinions on the gold-standard of vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid


“It's a tricky thing because vitamin C can also help the skin repair after sun damage. But depending on the type of vitamin C you get, which you might not know just from looking at the label, not all of it is the kind that actually can absorb into the deeper layers. Some of it stays on the surface where it oxidizes. And then if it comes into contact with the sun, you get a magnified sun response, which can be problematic. [36:11]

So, I have an unpopular opinion about hyaluronic acid. I'm not a fan… And for those of you who don't know, hyaluronic acid is something that does naturally occur in the skin. However, there's no evidence that shows that if you apply it topically that you're increasing the skin level of hyaluronic acid.” [42:24]

“I always say that your skincare routine is as personalized, needs to be as personalized as your diet. Every person needs different things at different times of life. So, you've got to figure out what works for you. It usually really does help by just stripping it back, simplifying it to almost nothing. [53:45]


Find Rachael online HERE

Nutritional Aesthetics

DON'T MISS OUT ON YOUR FREE GIFT! Free DIY skincare course, Boutique Skincare Basics–learn what you need to know if you want to make your own products to make sure you're using the right ingredients for your skin and doing it safely–plus you'll learn to make a simple, custom cleansing oil and moisturizer!

Purchase her books: Love Your Skin, Love Yourself and The Sauce Code

Healthy Skin Show episode 024: Most Harmful Ingredients Hiding In Skin Care w/ Rachael Pontillo

Healthy Skin Show episode 114: Why Preservatives In Skincare Can Be A Good Thing w/ Rachael Pontillo

Healthy Skin Show ep. 145: The Problem With Sensitive Skincare Products No One Talks About w/ Rachael Pontillo

Healthy Skin Show ep. 160: How To Care For Rosacea Skin To Avoid More Redness w/ Rachael Pontillo

Healthy Skin Show ep. 239: How To Wash Your Face (PART 1) w/ Rachael Pontillo

Follow Rachael on Instagram I Facebook I Twitter I Youtube

240: How To Wash Your Face (PART 2) w/ Rachael Pontillo FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer: Okay. So, we wash our face. We then apply this step two toner/hydrosol type situation to bring the pH back down.

Rachael: Yes.

Jennifer: And now I assume-

Rachael: We want to moisturize.

Jennifer: I don't know. So, we moisturize, because then there's like, you got to put this eye cream on. And then you have to put the serum. And you have to do all of these things. And I'm like, I don't even know. You help me keep it simple. It's, I wash my face, I put the hydrosol on and I put moisturizer on, and I'm done. And that makes me happy. But I know that there's other people who have other things. So, what is generally next?

Rachael: So, the thing that has the most emollient property, the most fat, the most oiled, you want that to go on last. Okay? Because that is going to keep everything else that you put on earlier in. It's going to seal it in. So, if you're using a serum that has, if you're using something water-based like, I don't know, an aloe-based serum that has water soluble vitamin in it, whether or not that's necessary. I'll leave that up to people. I don't use the serum. I'll be honest with you. I don't. But some people like to put some water-based serum on that has performance ingredients. But if you leave that alone, if you don't put some sort of an oil on top, it's just going to evaporate. And it's going to do that faster than the nutrients can get absorbed into the skin, because honestly, oil soluble nutrients absorb faster since the skin's barrier is primarily lipids. So, the oils recognize the oils and dissolve into each other, and are able to penetrate to a certain degree, whereas, oil or water soluble products, the skin is meant to repel those. Okay?

So, the skin does have to be hydrated in order to take anything in. So, hydration is important. And you can have some benefit from having water soluble nutrients in your products, but you need to seal that in somehow. So, if you're going to use a serum, that's some sort of a gel, which I don't think it's necessary, personally. I would rather see a properly formulated cream that has those humectant, those water-based ingredients mixed in with your oil-based ingredients. You have the waters and the oils formulated properly. But some people like to do it separately.

So, water-based product first, then your oil containing product goes on top, so that you're sealing in the moisture, as well as whatever water soluble nutrients happen to be in there. And then during the day, obviously sunscreen, that should be the very last thing to be applied.

Jennifer: And so, if you were to do say like a vitamin C, some of us as we age might want to use a vitamin C serum or something with a retinol in it. So, would that be done before the moisturizer or after?

Rachael: It could be done, those would typically be found in this serum or a cream.

Jennifer: Okay.

Rachael: So, if you're using a properly formulated cream that contains those ingredients, in my opinion, if it's properly formulated for the person, that's going to be enough. But if you're using a retinol or a vitamin C serum, that should go on before your moisturizer. Okay? That'll go on after you tone and before you moisturize.

Jennifer: And the retinol should only be done at night, is that correct?

Rachael: Vitamin C should only be done at night too.

Jennifer: Really?

Rachael: Yes. Both vitamin C and retinol can make the skin more susceptible to sun damage.

Jennifer: Really?

Rachael: Yeah.

Jennifer: I mean, I knew the thing about retinol because I used to use that when I had acne, but vitamin C, really?

Rachael: Yes. And it's a tricky thing because vitamin C can also help the skin repair after sun damage. But depending on the type of vitamin C you get, which you might not know just from looking at the label, not all of it is the kind that actually can absorb into the deeper layers. Some of it stays on the surface where it oxidizes. And then if it comes into contact with the sun, you get a magnified sun response, which can be problematic.

So, I typically recommend if you are going to use a vitamin C product to do it at night, same with any type of retinol. I personally don't use either vitamin C or retinol. I prefer to get those nutrients from the plants that they come in. But people who do like to use those products, I would recommend those at night.

Jennifer: Okay. Now, in general, do you feel like it's worthwhile for people to do scrubs like actual exfoliation of their skin on a weekly basis? Because I feel like we've been sold this idea that we have to scrub and strip our skin in order for it to be healthy. But many people who listen to this show have very compromised skin barriers. Like we have a lot of people that have rosacea, who email me going, “I tried this hyaluronic acid.” And you could even maybe mention about hyaluronic acid for rosacea. Why some of these things are just way too strong for someone who's got this compromised skin situation. So, talk to us a little bit about scrubs, and then I think we should definitely mention about the hyaluronic acid in regards to rosacea.

Rachael: Well, I'll start with scrubs. So, overall, I'm not a believer in scrubs for the face and the neck. The skin is again, it's too thin. It too delicate. A lot of the scrubs on the market actually have very jagged surfaces. So, you can actually be creating micro lacerations and micro abrasions on the skin, which is breaking the skin, putting the skin at risk and disrupting the barrier. You're physically scrubbing off that barrier.

The exfoliants don't differentiate. The exfoliant is not intelligent that it says, “Oh, I'm just going to scrub off the skin cells that are ready to fall off anyway. And I'm going to leave the barrier intact.” They don't do that. They don't say, “Oh, hey, there's a microbe. We're going to leave that microbe alone.” And that's not what they do. And unfortunately, a lot of people also just go overkill with the scrubs because they just do. We feel like we have to scrub ourselves clean. And that's just like a social conditioning that has happened with the beauty industry that we need to get away from, because science has shown us the importance of the outermost layer of the skin in keeping us healthy. So, we want to keep that really intact.

If you want to exfoliate, I recommend doing so with very gentle enzyme type ingredients. So, raw honey contains natural enzymes that can gently dissolve the cells that are just right about ready to fall off without disrupting things further and without causing cells to exfoliate off or other things to exfoliate off that are not ready to exfoliate off yet. Okay?

A lot of these treat treatments that are primarily “anti-aging treatments” that they're saying, “Take away the outermost layers and reveal the youthful cells below.” When exfoliate too often and too quickly, the skin that you see that comes up that might be like plump looking and youthful looking, that's actually swollen. It's inflammation. And we don't want to be bringing inflammation into the skin. So, whether we're using manual exfoliants like a scrub or an acid exfoliant like an alpha hydroxy acid cleanser, or even a harsher enzyme cleanser, if we're doing that every day, that is just repeated inflammation. And if you're someone who has already inflamed skin from rosacea, from eczema, from acne, you're only exacerbating the problem. You're never allowing your skin to recover from that inflammation. It's just like a constant stress bender for your skin.

So, I am not a huge fan of forced exfoliation. I do like a honey mask, just regular raw honey on the face. You can gently tap it around. It feels really good. It also helps to improve circulation of both blood and the limp. So, there's benefit there. And then just wash it off with luke warm water, and your skin is just going to be so refresh and soft, and hydrated, because honey is also a wonderful humectant, which brings in water. And it has antioxidants, which bring in nourishment. So, that's way I'd do it.

Jennifer: How long would you leave it on?

Rachael: I would put it on, leave it on until it gets tacky. So ,a couple of minutes. And then you can just tap it around just a minute or two. The whole thing shouldn't take longer than five minutes. And that can be done once a week.

Jennifer: I'm sorry for asking stupid questions, but I would be the person that would leave it on my face for 10 minutes or 15 minutes, thinking.

Rachael: Look, if you do that, it's not going to cause any harm, but it's not going to give you any further benefit either. So, I would say put it on, let it sit there until it feels a little tacky, and then tap it around for a couple of minutes. That actually does help with cleansing as well, because the stickiness pulls any lodged in makeup or congestion in there. It'll help pull that out, but you're also improving that circulation. And then just take a warm, soft cloth and let the honey melt off, or you can wash it off in the shower, or something like that. And then you can follow up with your toning and moisturizing after that.

Jennifer: And so, I have one more question of out this, but let's talk about the hyaluronic acid for sensitive skin, rosacea skin. You answer about this one.

Rachael: So, I have an unpopular opinion about hyaluronic acid. I'm not a fan. And I actually was not a fan really the first time I experienced it. When I was in aesthetic school, the skincare brand that I was trained on was based around hyaluronic acid.

And for those of you who don't know, hyaluronic acid is something that does naturally occur in the skin. However, there's no evidence that shows that if you apply it topically that you're increasing the skin level of hyaluronic acid. It doesn't work that way. All right.

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant. It's also got antioxidant properties, but it is one of the most powerful humectants that we have. It has the ability to bind a thousand times its own weight in water to itself. And if you've ever had honey on your skin or aloe on your skin, you feel how wet your skin feels after that. Aloe, it binds about 4% its own weight. And that's usually more than enough hydration for people. So, if you imagine a thousand times, it's like a thousand wet blankets on top of your skin. And it just sits there. And then it starts to dry. And as it dries, it evaporates, and then it can pull the water out of your skin.

So, a lot of people who experience irritation from hyaluronic acid, it's because it's evaporating and it's actually dehydrating the skin as it does that. A lot of the hyaluronic acid serums on the market do not have enough oils in it to actually keep that moisture in. And some people also, if they tend to have a damper constitution, which is something that we hear about in East Asian medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, and there are some conditions that are associated with dampness, some skin conditions that is putting more dampness into the skin, which can exacerbate the problem.

Too much water does not necessarily mean better moisture. If you think of like an overly saturated sponge, nothing is getting into that sponge because it's just oversaturated. So, that can actually be irritant for some people.

And then something that a lot of other people don't know is that hyaluronic acid is very difficult to preserve. It's also almost impossible to preserve naturally. Okay? Because it increases the water activity of the product so much. It actually deactivates most preservative systems.

So, the hyaluronic acid products on the market, most of them have to have such strong preservatives that can actually also be skin irritant. And the ones that are not, because we do have a lot of natural skin care formulators out there who want to use gentler preservatives that are more skin friendly, unfortunately though, they get deactivated. So, you might actually be using a contaminated product, which can also cause problems for the skin.

So, I find it to just be a problematic ingredient functionally in the product itself, and also for the skin. I have heard of some people, I mean, you would probably know more about this, some people receiving benefit from taking it as an internal supplement, rather than applying it topically. I would imagine that would differ based on what the person needs. But I do not feel that it's a necessary or overly beneficial ingredient to have for anyone topically, and especially if you're already somebody with some sort of sensitive condition, it is probably going to do more harm than good.

Jennifer: Yeah. I would say from an oral perspective, like taking hyaluronic acid supplements, there is some research to show that it can help, but there are very, I don't know, that they're the greatest quality. I haven't seen any improvement from any clients who have actually taken it. So, I don't generally recommend it, because I don't like people to waste money on things just like you. I want them to waste money on things that don't actually do anything.

Rachael: Exactly.

Jennifer: So, there's that.

Rachael: So many expensive things out there. Let's help people prioritize.

Jennifer: Right. And I've also found and heard repeatedly from different folks, whether they're clients or from my community who have rosacea, that they've tried a hyaluronic acid product on their face and it made everything worse. The skin was more dried out, more inflamed. And they feel like it's just them. They almost get gas lit by the beauty industry that you have to use because to make your skin look beautiful. And you're having this horrible reaction, and you think it's just you, and it's not.

Rachael: It's one of those ingredients that has become gold standard in the conventional skincare model. Conventional dermatology, conventional aesthetics, all have these kind of gold star in ingredients that are their go-to for everyone. Vitamin C, retinol, hyaluronic acid, that's like the trifecta.

But in my years in practice, I can tell you that the majority of my clients do better when they don't use those ingredients as add-on actives, because there are so many other ways to improve the skin when you take an overall holistic and integrative approach. All that stuff is usually just not necessary. It's mostly just for marketing purposes.

Jennifer: Yeah. So, speaking of an add-on, we were talking about the honey mask treatment once a week. So, this is my last point I want to touch on. Do you think it's worthwhile for people maybe once a week to do some sort of mask, whether it's a play mask? Or I mean, they sell all these different masks now, is that worthwhile? And I assume it's not a daily thing.

Rachael: Correct. So, I do not recommend a daily mask. I am not opposed to a weekly mask. You just want to make sure that it's the right type of ingredients for your skin. So, if your skin is drier, you probably don't want a mask that gets really dry and hard. You want to go for a clay, that is a finer particle, that has less absorbing properties, that it's almost like a mineral supplement for your face instead of an absorbing mask. So, something like a white kaolin clay or a rose clay is better for sensitive skin types because it's really doing a nice job at adding mineral content to your acid mantle, to your skin barrier. But it's not going to be as aggressively drawing impurities out of the pores, like a bentonite clay mask or a French green clay mask, or a Dead Sea mud would do.

Those are really good for people who have very congested skin or if they get a lot of black heads, and they need just help with deep cleaning on a regular basis. So, that can be done once a week. There are some masks that also do not harden. They might be like a jelly consistency, where sometimes they're actually made with a gel base, like an aloe or a pectin even. And it is meant to hydrate and add more water-soluble nutrients into the skin rather than minerals.

There's also a lot of masks that can be made using powdered flower pedals and herbs that are really beneficial, that can be mixed with clays or mixed with aloe. You can do your own thing.

With masking, just good old fashioned kitchen DIY can also be really effective. So, Greek yogurt is excellent for most people who have drier skin or even sensitive skin, as long as you don't have a dairy allergy, because Greek yogurt as your audience may know, does have additional strains of probiotics in it, whereas, regular yogurt does not. So, whole fat Greek yogurt can be a really nice DIY mask. You can add that with honey or you can put it on alone. You can even get your blender out and take some aloe leaf, peal the gel out, pop it in the blender and mix up like an aloe yogurt honey concoction, and apply that. And that can be a really nice once a week treatment.

Yogurt is also great because it does contain lactic acid, which is gently exfoliating, not in a way that is going to be overly harsh, not like a lactic acid peel or lactic acid product that you see on the market, which is synthetically made lactic acid. Anytime something is in a whole food form, it's going to be gentler and it's going to be more easily and readily utilized by the body, because the body is going to recognize it as food, instead of something synthetic that it has to figure out, “What is this? And what receptors do I have that recognize this? And what do I do with it?” It's just more bio available in that way.

So, you can even get powdered clays from online sources, mix them in with the yogurt. And then, that would be like a single use thing. You wouldn't want to make a big quantity, because that will go bad. It's perishable. So, you would want to just make enough for one treatment. Or maybe if you have sisters or friends, or kids, or something and you want to have like a facial party mask day, you can make enough for everyone. But typically, food based DIY skincare does not last longer than a couple days in the refrigerator.

Jennifer: Okay. And how long would you leave something like this on? Sorry to ask again.

Rachael: About 15 minutes.

Jennifer: 15 minutes. Okay. So, I wasn't entirely off. See, I'm learning. This is how you learn, everybody, you ask questions.

Rachael: You know more than you give yourself credit for.

Jennifer: I do. And I doubt what I know because I really didn't learn any of this.

Rachael: [crosstalk 00:52:38] likes to confuse people.

Jennifer: Right. And every time I used a system, my skin got worse. And that was how you and I ended up talking, because I had to have these pretty awful, large, salacious glands that have become very raised and would not return back to normal. Literally everyone burned off my face. So, for those of you who heard that episode, you understand that I come from a place of realizing that sometimes you have to be really careful because sensitive skincare as it is labeled, it's not right for everybody. I have sensitive skin, but I need something else.

Rachael: Yes,.

Jennifer: And this is why sometimes you have to really personalize what you're doing. And that's why I wanted to have this conversation today.

Rachael: Absolutely.

Jennifer: So, I hope that everyone listening to this is like, “Thank you, Rachel, for clarifying all of this.” I know I learned a lot today.

Rachael: Don't feel like it's you. If the skincare that you buy or that your friend uses, or your favorite Instagramer uses, if you try it and its not for you, there's nothing wrong with you. It's just simply not the right fit for you. And that's all it is.

I always say that your skincare routine is as personalized, needs to be as personalized as your diet. Every person needs different things at different times of life. So, you've got to figure out what works for you. It usually really does help by just stripping it back, simplifying it to almost nothing.

For many of my clients who are sensitive, I take away all the products and we just start by layering individual ingredients as the person tolerates, and then maybe they can start using products again. But usually, if you have sensitivity, elaborate skincare rituals often can overstimulate and do more harm than good. So, it's not you, it's not your skin, it just means that it's not the right fit for you at this time.

Jennifer: Yeah. So Rachel, where can everyone find you?

Rachael: My website is createyourskincare.com. I also have skinwellnesspro.com. Between the two, there are over 700 blog posts, lots and lots of information about holistic and integrative skincare. And then on Instagram, I am at Rachel Pontillo.

Jennifer: Awesome. I know people will be probably following up with you outside of this. I'm so appreciative that you could make it today. And I'm sure you will be back, because I always have questions. And I know every time that I've brought you in to do a talk with my Skin Rash Rebuild Group, and everybody has a million questions. And I learn something every single time.

So, I want to just thank you so much for making this time for us. And for those of you who are either interested in starting to strip it back and maybe doing a little more DIY, Rachel has a ton of information on her website, that you can get some of these questions answered. If you are somebody who's more interested in skincare, maybe you're an esthetician and whatnot, it's skinwellnesspro, correct? .com.

Rachael: Yes. Skin Wellness Pro is where the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance is, if you want to learn how to help your clients incorporate more of these types of things into their lifestyle, if you want to actually create programs to offer your clients of an integrative nature.

Jennifer: Yes. So, she's got you covered from wherever you're coming from here. Rachel, thank you so much for joining us. I really, really appreciate it.

Rachael: Thank you so much, Jen. It was a pleasure.

Click HERE for Part 1 of this conversation!

It's a tricky thing because vitamin C can also help the skin repair after sun damage. But depending on the type of vitamin C you get, which you might not know just from looking at the label, not all of it is the kind that actually can absorb into the deeper layers. Some of it stays on the surface where it oxidizes. And then if it comes into contact with the sun, you get a magnified sun response, which can be problematic.

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

Follow Us

Medical Disclaimer

Skinterrupt offers health, wellness, fitness and nutritional information which is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnois, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health care professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health related advise from your physician or other health care professional because of something you may have seen or read on our site, or in our advertising, marketing, or promotional materials. The use of any information provided by Skinterrupt is solely at your own risk.

Nothing stated or posted on our site, or in our advertising, marketing or promotional materials, or through any of the services we offer, as intended to be, and must not be taken to be, the practice of medicine or counseling care. For purposes of this disclaimer, the practice of medicine or counseling care includes, without limitation, nutritional counseling, psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, or providing health care treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis, or advice.