When it hurts too much to wash your face

Autoimmune disease can hurt in ways you never imagined - even washing your face can make you cry.

Eczema, psoriasis, lupus rash, and the dry cold of winter can make washing your face extra painful. If you’re using makeup to conceal discolorations and rashes, it’s important to clean your face daily, or you’ll end up with infections and acne that make it even worse. Most cleansers have preservatives, colors, or fragrances. Even the ones marked ‘free’ can have all sorts of unpleasant chemicals that can sting, burn, or dry out your skin.

When I was working through my own symptoms and figuring out that my skin care products were causing me to have autoimmune flares, I started formulating my own skin care products. My favorite one is my Extra Gentle Facial Cleanser. It’s a lovely, gentle cleanser with no harsh ingredients. It’s lightly moisturizing and soothing for inflamed skin. It’s also quite effective at dissolving makeup – even mascara (not the waterproof kind). You can also customize it for your own tastes.

This recipe makes 2 oz of cleanser, but you can adapt to make more or less. I like to keep the ingredients fresh, so I make a 2oz bottle and then remake as I use it. A 2oz bottle lasts me for about a month of once daily cleansing. If you are a heavy makeup wearer or wash more often, it probably won’t last as long.


1 oz vegetable glycerine – this is available at your pharmacy or natural foods store. Glycerine is soothing, moisturizing, and cooling. It helps your skin retain moisture, which is perfect during this drier time of year.

1 oz Tulsi Hydrosol – I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs, but it is available online at many stores. Tulsi hydrosol has a spicy scent that I love in the winter months. It’s also a toning hydrosol, so it will help to close your pores and further retain moisture. The scent is calming and centering – and we all can use more of that.

4 drops yarrow essential oil – this essential oil is known for its skin calming properties. The blue color is from the chamazulene, which is a strong anti-inflammatory. It also helps to normalize blood flow, which will reduce the appearance of spidery capillaries under your skin.

3 drops frankincense essential oil – I love this fragrance! Frankincense is an antiseptic oil to combat any bacteria that might want to set up a space on your face. It’s also soothing and helps with skin cell regeneration.

3 drops helichrysum essential oil – this oil is great for healing the skin. It helps the skin to heal and reduce scarring. It also adds some anti-microbial properties to this cleanser. Helichrysum has a lovely earthy, nutty fragrance that blends nicely with the Tulsi.

All the essential oils can be purchased at Mountain Rose Herbs or your local health food store. Yarrow is more challenging to find, but you should be able to get it online. If you have very sensitive skin, I’d recommend omitting the essential oils for your first batch. While essential oils are wonderful plant medicine, they can be irritating. I’d suggest you add them in one at a time to see if you have a reaction. With essential oils, less is more. Even one drop of each oil will bring the benefits to you.

To start, pour 1 oz of glycerine in a measuring cup. It’s helpful to have a smaller measuring cup. If you don’t, then use 2 tablespoons in a larger container. Then add your essential oils, and mix well. I used a wooden stirring stick and noticed that it absorbed some of my essential oils, so you might want to use a glass or metal stirring rod.


Then, add 1 oz (or 2 tablespoons) of Tulsi Hydrosol. If you don’t have hydrosol, you can use distilled water. If you don’t like tulsi, use rose water (available at your natural foods store). As you start to mix the liquids, you’ll see the mixture get cloudy. This is normal and expected. Keep stirring until it becomes clear.


Once it is clear, you’re ready to pour into your storage bottle. Use a shaded glass in amber or cobalt blue to protect your cleanser from damaging light. I like a dropper to get out just what I need to wash my face, but you could pour it out in your hand, too. This cleanser doesn’t spray well, so stay away from spray bottles. I use about 30 drops, or 1 dropper full to clean my face.


When you’re ready to use, just put some cleanser in your hand, rub your hands together to distribute, and gently massage it into your face. You can rinse with clear water or use a soft cloth and gently wipe away. I follow with a few drops of jojoba oil to seal in the moisture.

That’s it! An easy, gentle cleanser that’s good for you and won’t cause a flare up.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. Leave me a comment and let me know how it works for you.