A Functional Medicine Doctor’s Clean Beauty Routine

by health and nutrition advice journalist

Through my own health journey, I came to an important conclusion: beauty is an inside job. When my health was at its worst, I had acne, rashes, bloating, weight gain, and inflammation. The glow was gone. Getting my health back was a long process that involved healing my gut with dietary changes, sleep, exercise, stress management, supplements, medications and focused elimination of environmental toxins. I truly believe that any beauty routine starts with good nutrition and lifestyle practices, and addressing underlying health issues. When I got my health back, I got my glow back. And in doing so, I revamped my beauty routine and ditched the toxic chemicals I used on my skin and hair.

We Have To Advocate For Ourselves

Did you know that many personal care products expose you and your family to toxic chemicals? While the European Union has banned approximately 1,400 harmful chemicals and ingredients from personal care products, the United States has only banned about 30. An analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that

“more than 1 in 5 of all products contain chemicals linked to cancer, 80% contain ingredients that commonly contain hazardous impurities, and 56% contain penetration enhancers that help deliver ingredients deeper into the skin. Cosmetic ingredients penetrate the skin and may pose health risks, particularly for children. Personal care products may be the primary exposure route for many chemicals that raise significant health concerns. Consumers can be exposed through skin absorption, inhalation, and ingestion.”

If you’re not convinced that the products we slather on our skin are actually absorbed, think about the topical medications we prescribe, like hormone creams. It is well known that topical estrogen raises systemic estrogen levels.

And to make matters worse, the average woman uses 12 personal care products a day, exposing her to over 168 unique chemicals…. before she even walks out the door.

You Don’t Have To Compromise Health In The Name Of Beauty

Skin care and beauty products can be both effective and safe. That is why I counsel my patients to utilize resources like the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and Think Dirty to evaluate the safety of their personal care products. You can also look for the EWG VERIFIED mark on products that meet EWG’s strict criteria based on a variety of health standards.

It’s also why I endorse companies like Beautycounter. Their mission is one I can stand behind. They started by eliminating over 1,400 chemicals restricted in personal care products by the European Union, and then eliminated chemicals screened by Beautycounter and found to be of concern. This means approximately 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals on their “Never List” are already off the table before they even begin to formulate a product. In fact, Beautycounter is a founding member of EWG VERIFIED. Plus, these are hands-down my favorite beauty products on the market. And I’ve tried a lot!

My Safe + Effective Clean Beauty Routine

Below, I share my favorite products and resources for my own clean beauty routine. Many, but not all, of the products I use are from Beautycounter. You might be thinking the same thing as me… that’s a lot more than 12! I don’t use all of these everyday, but this is honestly what you’ll find in my bathroom. And maybe I’m a little excessive. Details below (with a * next to my top 12 essentials).

Skin Care

Charcoal Cleansing Bar* – This is my daily face wash for a smoother, brighter complexion. It is great for removing makeup at the end of the day. Charcoal detoxifies and absorbs impurities without drying out my skin. A Beautycounter fan favorite.

Cleansing Balm* – This luxurious balm hydrates while it cleanses, and can be used overnight as an intensely nourishing face mask. I use this with my Clarisonic to get glowing skin. A best seller at Beautycounter, and for good reason.

Overnight Resurfacing Peel* – this is a new favorite that everyone (including me) seems to love. Botanically-derived acids improve skin texture and minimize pores, fine lines, and dark spots without irritation or over-drying. Gentle enough to use every night.

No. 3 Balancing Facial Oil* – I love all of the facial oils, but this one is my favorite. I layer this under my serum and moisturizer several nights a week.

Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum* – This collection is where I got hooked, as it brightened skin and made a notable difference in fine lines and wrinkles. I layer this serum under my moisturizer day and night.

Countermatch Recovery Sleeping Cream* – I use this every night, and swear that I wake up to smoother, firmer, more hydrated skin.

Dew Skin Moisturizing Coverage* – This tinted moisturizer provides SPF 20 and sheer coverage, which makes it ideal for days without makeup and also gives me extra coverage when I do wear foundation. I use this daily over my Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum. This is another Beautycounter best seller, and won the Allure Best of Beauty Award. I use No. 3.

Nourishing Eye Cream – I use this day and night for the sensitive and delicate skin around eyes.

Lip Conditioner in Peppermint – I’m a lip balm junkie, and I love this one because it smells good and isn’t waxy. I use this all day long.

No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask* – This mask has a well earned cult following. Clay absorbs excess oil and impurities, while activated charcoal minimizes the appearance of pores and detoxifies skin. I try to use this at least once a week.

Clarisonic Mia 1 – This cleansing brush is part of my nightly routine. I use it with the Cleansing Balm to prep my skin and make my other products more effective.


Tint Skin Hydrating Foundation* – This lightweight, creamy foundation is a game changer, and a Beautycounter best seller. It’s easy to use and looks natural. I layer it over the Dew Skin tinted moisturizer for extra coverage. I use Honey.

Touchup Skin Concealer Pen – I use a little bit of this concealer under my Tint Skin Hydrating Foundation to hide dark circles and other imperfections. I use Medium 1.

Mattifying Powder – I use this over my concealer and foundation to set makeup and leave a natural, even finish.

Illuminating Cream Highlighters* – Sooooo excited that these are back! I use these sheer blendable highlighters to create contour and add a subtle glow. I apply Bronze Glow below cheekbones for contour, and use the Pearl Glow above cheekbones as a highlighter.

Satin Powder Blush – Delivers buildable color without questionable ingredients. I use Date.

Ultimate Nudes Eyeshadow Palette* – 18 gorgeous neutral shades make this palette great for everyday wear and date night. This replaced my Chanel eyeshadows and I’ve been super satisfied with this product.

Volumizing Mascara – Dramatic-looking lashes don’t have to be toxic! This is definitely a favorite that replaced my Lancome product.

Color Define Brow Pencil* – I love this pencil because it’s easy to use and looks really natural. It goes on thin, not like a crayon. I use Medium.

Lip Gloss – This is a natural, subtle look that’s not sticky… and not toxic. I usually wear this on nights out, and my favorite shade is Sheer Beige.

Hair Care

Daily Shampoo + Conditioner – A tiny bit goes a long way and leaves hair shiny and silky. I use these several times a week and they don’t dry out my hair.

Body Care

NATIVE Deodorant – This is my favorite natural deodorant by far!

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Castile Tea Tree Soap – A house full of doctors deserves a natural antibacterial soap made with Tea Tree Oil. This has a permanent place in our shower. Say no to triclosan!

Sugar Body Scrub in Lemongrass – This product smells amazing and is super luxurious. I use this as a special treat when I need a little pampering. It also makes a great gift.

The Honest Company Organic Body Oil Moisturizer – I use this daily after the shower, and also as a replacement for toxic shaving cream.

Cream Blends Body Butter – This small, local Michigan company makes the best body butter ever for dry winter skin (it is especially good for pregnant bellies!). Made with shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil, grapeseed and Vitamin E.

Protect All Over Sunscreen SPF 30 – This is a Beautycounter best seller and summertime essential that my whole family uses. I love all of their sunscreens and chase the kids around with the Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist.

Kenna Nicole TORCH Essential Oil Blend – I love this blend of 12 essential oils that includes some of my favorites like Frankincense, Clary Sage, Jasmine and Vanilla. I use this instead of perfume. Plus, Kenna Nicole is a local Michigan company that is generous enough to offer my readers 10% off! (use the coupon code MAREN, and buy their candle while you are there).

Dry Brush – I use a this brush on dry skin before my shower to stimulate circulation, lymphatic flow, and detoxification. Just brush from the extremities in toward the heart.

Oral Care

Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser – Since becoming more interested in dental health, I use this nightly and also recommend it to patients. It works so much better than dental floss (and you should know that dental floss is often coated with PFCs — Teflon, and PTFE).

Philips Sonicare rechargeable electric toothbrush – An electric toothbrush is also essential for good oral hygiene.

Spry Fluoride and SLS-Free Xylitol Toothpaste or Jason Natural Products Powersmile Toothpaste  – I look for toothpaste that is gluten-free, fluoride-free, and also free of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. I also avoid anything too abrasive, like many whitening products can be.

For the Family

My husband uses the Counterman Smoothing Shave Cream, the No. 3 Balancing Face Oil and the Countermatch Recovery Sleeping Cream. My kids use the Kids Bath Collection and we use the Baby Bundle Collection for our baby girl. We also use Vanicream lotion, which helps a lot with eczema (I’ve checked this out on EWG’s Skin Deep Database, and it’s not perfect but it’s acceptable IMO given the superb results and the importance of good skin barrier function).

Interested in trying Beautycounter? There’s never been a better time…

You’ll always get free returns and you can snag some free gifts, too. Use  to become a Band of Beauty member and get free shipping, 15% product credit, and a sweet welcome gift when you spend $50+. PLUS, follow me on Instagram for free Beautycounter giveaways. Just be sure that Dr. Christine Maren is listed as your consultant at checkout.

If you’re in the market for a new non-toxic makeup routine, check out the Flawless in Five set – which gets you started with the Tint Skin Hydrating Foundation, Concealer Pen, Brow Pencil, Mascara, Powder Blush Duo and Lip Gloss for $150 (a $199 value).


I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite clean beauty essentials? And what kind of health and beauty products do you want to know more about?

If you’re interested in learning more about a functional medicine approach to improving your health, please read the other posts on my website. Also, follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I share some of my favorite articles, emerging research, healthy recipes and trusted wellness products.

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