Monday, July 31, 2006

Blog update: problems with links

Hi everyone,

A reader just posted about a comment about problems on viewing some of the links, and I posted a response (in the comments section), but just in case everyone doesn't see it, I'm posting my response as an entry too.

Thanks Robin for posting your comment! :)

The problem is that some of the links are showing up in really small, tiny, unreadable font.

Here is my response; what I think the problem is:

"I think there may be either a bug in the html code, or it may be just how certain browsers show my blog.

(I'm on a Mac and) I noticed a few days ago that in Safari, Firefox, and Netscape the font size is fine (same as all the other links), but on Internet Explorer the font size is tiny on some of the links, which is strange since the font on all the links is supposed to be the same (I did not change the html code on any of the links, and I had originally written the code for all font to be the same size). I'll have to look at the html code again, and see if it got corrupted. Sorry about that, I'll try to fix it when I have time, but it probably won't be for several days since I have a lot of grad school work now.

Most of the links that are showing up as small font in IE are just the individual entries of my archives.
If you want to read any of the archives/previous posts, you can scroll down to the very last links, and click on the individual months you want to read.

I'll try to fix it as soon as I can! :) "

So is anyone else having problems seeing the links in Internet Explorer or on any other browser? I'll look at the html code and address this prob soon (probably not for a week or more at least--sorry; my rough draft if my thesis proposal is due soon), but in the meantime, click on the individual months of the archives if you are having trouble viewing the links to the individual entries!


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Herbs and Oils for Anti-aging (Natural Skin Care)

What are some carrier oils, essential oils, and herbs that I can use for anti-aging?

A lot of carrier oils, herbs, and essential oils are great for anti-aging; many will reduce and help prevent the signs of aging, soften and soothe fine lines, and improve the clarity of the skin. Some plants like lavender can also heal and regenerate the skin. Now I don't have any real lines yet, but I fully intend to prevent them for as long as I can. LOL! ;)

Here are a few carrier oils, essential oils, and herbs that good for anti-aging. This list is by no means a full list as there are many, many herbs, essential oils, carrier oils, and butters that are great for the skin. I've just listed a few of my favorites :)

Carrier oils and butters:
rose hip seed oil (don't use on active acne)
kukui nut butter and oil
camellia oil (from the green tea plant)
shea butter
sea buckthorn oil (this has to be mixed with another carrier oil)

Essential oils:

rose attar
carrot seed
myrrh (the Egyptions used frankincense and myrrh to preserve mummies!)
clary sage (mimics hormones)
geranium (mimics hormones)
patchouli (along with lavender, a favorite of men but great for women too!)

Herbs (used usually in the form of extracts or infusions):
Green tea
rooibos (both are anti-oxidants, and rooibos is great for dry skin)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Quick Blog Update

In the process of reorganizing archives and links (to make it easier for people to find things). Hopefully I'll get around to adding more links too after I finish organizing them. :)

Natural Deodorant; MIY Dusting Powder (Natural Skin Care)


What is a good natural deodorant?

My favorite all natural deodorant is the crystal rock. It is the only natural deodorant that I've found that really works! The trick is to get them very wet (run them under water), and also apply to freshly washed skin (it doesn't work so good if you apply it in the middle of the day!). You can also spray the crystal with witch hazel, rose hydrosol, or aromatherapy spray (water with essential oils and maybe alcohol or witch hazel) for extra odor protection, but note, sometimes the crystal can feel rough if you wet it with something other than water. Some people prefer getting it in liquid form, but be careful, since some liquid brands are preserved with synthetic preservatives, like parabens. They are only good for controlling odor, but for wetness, I'll use my crystal rock first, and then apply a powder (see below). Works great! Using just powder, witch hazel, rose hydrosol, or aromatherapy spray also work great for some people, but I prefer either using just the crystal rock, or combining a few things. The crystal rock is also very cost effective since 1 rock lasts at least a year! Available at health food stores or online, multiple brands.

If you don't want to make your own aromatherapy spray,
Burt's Bees also makes a nice herbal deodorant, as does Mountain Rose Herbs. Terressentials also makes a good all natural deodorant (basically a combination of aloe, herb extracts, baking soda, essential oils). I also once used the one from Aubrey Organics, but I did not like it at all (some people love it though; I think it's the only product they make that I don't love).

MIY Dusting Powders
(for under arm sweating or all over body)

You can use any of the following: clay, baking soda (mix with another powder since it can be a bit gritty), cornstarch (some people are allergic), orris root (some people are allergic), or arrowroot. To any of the powders listed, add about 5-10 drops of essential oils per ounce (to fragrance, and they are also antibacterial), mix well, and let sit for a few days; lavender is a popular fragrance. You can add also finely grind herbs like lavender, chamomile, or rose flowers to add a bit of scent.

I like adding clary sage essential oil (Salvia sclarea) since it not only is a great deodorant, but also reduces sweating. Other good deodorants: lavender, tea tree, and bergamot essential oils. Rose and cypress essential oils also great for reducing odor and also for sweating (though true rose attar is pricey!)

More about powder: though talc is a natural product, I wouldn't recommend it, as it is often contaminated with asbestos. Also talc itself has been linked to ovarian cancer, and is a known carcinogen when breathed into the lungs (Hampton, A. 2000. Take Charge beauty Book).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Natural Skin Care Routine/Dehydrated Skin/MIY Scrub and Mask (Natural Skin Care)

**Although this entry is primarily for dehydrated skin, I briefly mention what products to use on other skin types too.

A few years ago, after my skin became sensitive to synthetic chemicals, I switched to an all natural routine. At first that seemed to make my skin worse; my skin had always been on the sensitive side, sometimes normal and other times slightly oily, but the natural skin care routines that I read about and tried to follow didn’t seem to help. Using natural recommendations for sensitive skin (which are often designed for dry skin) were too rich for my skin and clogged my pores, which caused blemishes. When I tried suggestions for oily skin that made the problem worse because my skin seemed to become even oilier, leading to blemishes. Normal or combination skin products were not either moisturizing enough or dried me out more. At the same time, my skin seemed to become flaky. I read tons of natural skin care and aromatherapy books (somewhere around 40 now), but their skin type profiles didn’t seem to make sense. Oily skin is often characterized as large pores, thick texture, and dry skin is often distinguished as the lack of sebum (the skin’s natural oil/lubrication substance), small pore size, and delicately textured skin. My skin didn’t even fit into the combination skin type since that is characterized as certain sections of the skin (T-zone) being oily and the cheeks being dry or normal. My skin is fine textured with small pore size, and was dry and flaky, but at the same time, the flaky skin was very oily too. I also had more blemishes. Some books did mention sensitive skin could be in any skin type category, but nearly all the recommendations were for the dry skin type. It was with sheer luck, that I was re-reading a couple of books and I found one line (in each book) that there was a kind of dry skin that could produce enough oil. This skin type is called water dry or dehydrated skin. Now these two books did not have suggestions on how to treat dehydrated skin, but through trial and error, and making my own cosmetics (catered to my own needs) I finally figured out what my skin needs. Now my skin has become balanced and I hardly ever get blemishes anymore.

I realized that using the right natural ingredients, and also applying natural cosmetics in a certain way (different than conventional products) is the key to great skin. Just because it is natural does not mean it will work for your skin; certain ingredients are better for dry skin and others are good for normal skin, etc. Also natural products are highly concentrated substances—they contain no fillers—so it is not necessary to apply a lot (in fact that was one of the reasons using natural oils clogged my pores at first. I was applying just as much product as I used to use for conventional products). Since dehydrated skin is a little discussed skin type (at least in the resources I’ve come across), I’ve decided to post my skin care routine here. Hopefully it will point people with the same skin type in the right direction on what to use on their skin; but every person’s skin is different (even with the same skin type), so don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what’s right for you! You may have to try a lot of things before it works, since finding products that work for dehydrated skin is tricky, since most people don't even make products specifically for dehydrated skin (which is different than regular dry skin).

For dehydrated skin, the most important things to remember are to provide your skin with plenty of water and use nothing too drying or too rich, but use enough natural oils to provide a moisture loss barrier and to also lubricate the skin. And to switch products if you need to; if your skin is a more little dry one day, use something more hydrating. If it is a little more oily, use sometime that will gently remove the oil (like a clay) but be sure to use a richer moisturizer later. Note: for the first few weeks of using ANY new skin care routine, your skin may break out more as the toxins rise to the surface.

I found the best thing to cleanse my skin is all natural soap. Some natural skin care users may disagree with me on that point, but other cleansers don’t seem to clean my pores as well (which tend to get clogged). Usually for the regular dry skin type, either a cleansing oil or cold cream is recommended, but I found that using them (and then following with toner and then another oil or cream as suggested) was too rich for my skin (this dry skin routine clogs my pores!). Though people with normal or oily skin like to use clay based cleansers/scrubs, using them every day seems to strip too much oil from my skin (making dehydration worse, which causes my skin to produce more oil in order to correct the problem). Though I do love clay masks!

Truth is, I usually hate most natural bar soaps because every bar soap I've ever tried has left my facial skin feeling 'tight' and dry (I won’t bother discussing conventional soaps which are made of mostly synthetic detergents, cock full of chemicals, and aren’t really ‘real’ soap). But I’ve found some that my skin really loves. I like the soaps made by Karla Moore of Heart of Iowa Soapworks, which are also sold at a few places: Heart of Iowa Soapworks, Jlynne Cosmetics, and Prairieland Herbs. They are the best natural soaps I've ever used; her soaps leave my skin soft, smooth, without any tightness or dryness. They are all natural, and her shampoo bars are pretty terrific too! (Note: some do contain synthetic fragrances, which I personally avoid). My favorite is the shea butter soap, which is great for both dryness and blemishes. I also like the carrot soap, when my skin is less dry and leaning more towards normal. I've also been using the Dead Sea mud soap (which also has shea in it), which is wonderful to deep cleanse when I do get blemishes, but since it has shea in it, it isn't drying at all! I think the secret (to why these soaps work for me when others haven’t) is the castor oil in them. I recently tried the lavender soap by Monave, which also contains castor oil, and it wasn’t drying either!

Sometimes when my skin is very dry, or if I am wearing a lot of makeup, I will use cleansing oil (simply one or a mix of light carrier oils), but I’ll follow it with soap. I also sometimes use liquid castille soap, which removes dirt but has a higher concentration of water in it so it doesn't strip my face as much. I usually add a bit of carrier oil to it (super fattening it like the shea butter soap), so that it doesn’t strip my face. I also found that the (rose mosqueta and green tea) cleansers from Aubrey Organics are pretty good, though I much prefer using his shampoos (rose mosqueta or blue chamomile) as a face cleanser! (I ordinarily wouldn’t recommend using a shampoo as a face cleanser, since most are made with synthetic detergents, but these are one of the only truly all natural shampoos out there on the market that are made only with liquid soap and herbs). I also sometimes cleanse my skin with aloe during the morning (no makeup). I also use to occasionally use Dr. Hauschka’s cleansing milk (a light textured cold cream) and cleansing cream (gentle almond meal in a cream base), which was a cream base but contained a small amount of alcohol, so wasn’t too rich nor over dried my skin, but that was before they started using components of essential oils (versus the whole essential oils) for scent. Using components of essential oils (single isolated natural chemicals) doesn’t sound ‘holistic’ to me! And (once you get to used to real natural scents) they just don’t smell right to me.


For toner I usually make it myself or use some ingredients ‘straight’. A lot of natural toners for oily skin, combination skin, and sometimes normal skin use alcohol, witch hazel (the extract NOT the hydrosol), or apple cider vinegar, but I’ve found that using these ingredients daily was too drying for my skin. Be careful of hidden sources of alcohol in toner—like herbal extracts, which are usually extracted with alcohol.
I usually like using hydrosols or aloe, either as is or mixed together. Sometimes I’ll use an aromatherapy spray or herbal infusion. Rose hydrosol is wonderful for dry skin, and is my favorite hydrosol. During those times of the month when I have a couple of blemishes, I use lavender hydrosol or pure aloe vera gel. Rose and lavender hydrosols are good at balancing the skin's sebum production (rose is more hydrating), and lavender hydrosol and aloe are good for acne. I also like the cucumber toner from Garden of Wisdom which contains rose hydrosol, cucumber distillate (which is great for dry and sensitive skin), and witch hazel hydrosol (which does not contain alcohol so isn’t drying like the extract).

Other hydrosols for skin care:

chamomile (good for irritated, sensitive skin. It is mildly astringent)
rose (dry and dehydrated skin, some authors debate it is good for sensitive, some disagree)
helichrysum (dry and inflamed skin)
neroli (dry, mature sensitive. Can be a tad drying for some people)
lavender--all skin types, balancing

Natural oils are very good for balancing the skin. Skin is naturally moisturized by sebum, a natural oily secretion, and the addition of natural oils can help regulate your skin's natural moisturizing system. The type of oil to use for your skin really depends upon your skin type. Certain oils are better for specific skin types. It took me a long time to figure out which oils to use on my facial skin. The skin on my body can tolerate pretty much any kind of oil, but the skin on my face is a lot pickier. After months of using different oils and breaking out, I finally figured out that if I apply too much oil/moisturizer I get clogged pores, and if I apply too little, my skin gets really dry, and then my pores will ironically pump out more oil, and I get blemishes. I really needed oils that was light (not heavy) and easily absorbed, but that prevented moisture loss and that weren’t astringent. After trying over a dozen oils and butters, I finally found four that really work well for my skin: kukui nut oil, kukui nut butter, shea butter, and camellia oil. All have really balanced my skin.

Kukui nut oil is the lightest weight oil for the skin out there. Though it is light, it is highly nourishing since it is a nut oil. It is good for all skin types, especially dry and dehydrated skin with blemishes. When my skin feels really dry, I like using kukui nut butter. Though it is a butter it absorbs instantly into the skin. Shea butter is also great for both dry skin and acne too. It can be used on most skin types, except perhaps the extremely oily. It is the heaviest out of the four oils/butters, but it absorbs quickly and forms a non-greasy barrier on the skin. My favorite though is camellia oil. It isn’t as light as kukui nut, but it is one of the lightest oils out there. It is good for all skin types, and helps retain moisture and is also good for blemishes.

I usually make my own lotions/creams with these four or use them straight or mixed with essential oils (serums), but sometimes I buy a few natural brands too. When using natural lotions and oils, be sure to apply only a small amount to your face, and apply to really damp skin (best to spray the skin with aloe, toner, herbal infusion, hydrosol, or spring/distilled water). Use only 3-5 drops of oil or a very, very small amount of cream or butter (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon). If you are using shea butter, let it melt in the palm of your hand before putting it on, or use whipped shea. I usually spray a bit of hydrosol (like rose water), aloe, or water onto my face, apply the oils and massage gently in, spray with more liquid and then gently massage again. Let the oils penetrate for a few minutes before makeup application.

Be sure to try to buy oils that are cold pressed, unrefined, and organic if you can (which retain more of the active constitutes than refined, solvent extracted oils). These oils may have a richer smell than you are not used to (some people hate the smells but I love them!), and may be a little more expensive, but they are worth it!

A store/already made cream that I love is from Monave. Their rose cream contains camellia, shea, jojoba, and rose and lavender hydrosols. I also love Aubrey Organics' rose mosqueta night cream, which contains vitamins and shea butter, as well as rose mosqueta (aka rosehip seed). Miessence also makes a nice cream; their cream for dry skin is actually more like a lotion, and since it contains a lot of water, it is very hydrating. I prefer to buy them from Cosmetics Without Synthetic’s website since they have samples of this brand and many other natural brands
There are several other good natural brands but these are my favorite for my skin (but I prefer using my own creams and serums of course!)


For my eye area I either use kukui nut butter, shea butter, or I use Aubrey Organics’ eye crème (I LOVE this stuff). I also sometime use helichrysum/rose hip seed serum. I can’t seem to use rose hip seed oil straight all over my face but in small amounts around certain areas of my face, or mixed with another oil, my face can tolerate it.


I exfoliate or use a mask at least once a week. I love rhassoul clay masks, and I also use a store brought natural scrub (Aubrey Organics’ rose mosqueta scrub or Paul Penders walnut scrub) on my face or I make my own (with various ingredients depending on if it feels drier or oilier). Brown sugar scrub is my favorite, but so is the scrub below, at the end of this long entry.

And once or twice a month I give myself a natural facial with an exfoliating cleansing scrub, either a flower/herb or essential oil steam, oil massage, herbal or clay mask, toner, face cream or serum. A monthly facial really improves the texture of my skin, not to mention it keeps my pores clear. I found that for the oil massage, I can use any oil (like argan or jojoba or olive) with no problem (as long as I remove most of it later, and moisturize with my favorite oils).

If I do get a blemish I apply my pimple remedy directly to the spot. Burt’s Bees and Desert Essence also make a blemish stick. If I make it with alcohol or witch hazel, I apply this on top of a moisturizer to prevent it from drying my skin out too much. Otherwise I make it with aloe.


After applying mineral makeup, I like to spray my skin with hydrosol or distilled water. Sometimes I'll mix my mineral in a natural cream or aloe and apply them that way, to prevent dryness.


Easy scrub:
Oatmeal and/or finely ground almonds mixed with honey. Oatmeal and almonds gently exfoliate and can be used on all skin types, including sensitive. I like using equal amounts of the ingredients. Store in fridge.

Easy mask and cleanser:

Organic yogurt with/without honey and 1-2 drops of essential oil. Yogurt is a great cleanser for all skin types and will make your skin soft. Honey removes toxics and is also a good cleanser by itself. You can also choose essential oils specific for your skin type. Lavender is good for all skin types. Store in fridge.

Vegans can replace the honey in the scrub with aloe, and use clay to remove toxins.

Blog update/Carrier Oils (Natural Skin Care)

My post on carrier oils for specific skin types has been updated (added a few more oils and a little bit more information, and links to other sites with oil profiles).

I am tempted to revisit other posts as well, and may do so if time permits, but I have a lot of other things I want to blog about before next semester starts. I am currently working on a loonnngggg entry on a skin care routine for dehydrated skin, and after that a couple other long entries I'm working on (natural shampoos and conditioners), and also a bunch of shorter FAQ type entries (answers about natural skin care). Hopefully also more environmental related entries (since this blog has kind of turned into a natural skin care/miy blog, instead of an all things environmental blog) before the summer ends. As to the fall and spring semesters, I don't know how much time I'll have to blog since I will be working my thesis and will be very busy. I will try to post as much as possible since I enjoy blogging, but will not be posting as much as I usually do. Thanks for reading :)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fight Global Warming (Environmental Information)

A few months ago, Environmental Defense started a 'Fight Global Warming campaign'. In my graduate studies I've been learning a lot about the potential but extremely likely effects of global warming and climate change, especially in relation to changes in the arctic. This website is great at summing up the facts and the science of the issue, and has a calculator to compute your environmental pollution impact. It also lists many great ideas on how you can reduce your impact.

One thing that really grabbed my attention on this site were the ads--they were very high impact and really push the message across, especially the one with the little girl and the train. I think many people do not realize that these problems have been in the making (slowly building up) for 200 years, and that in the near future, probably within the next 10 to 30 years, many ecological changes are going to happen. The evidence is overwhelming. Changes in the climate and several ecosystems are already occuring, and it is most likely just going to get worse.

Many people also are not aware that global warming is not a debate and that it is happening. About 50% of the media still frames global warming as a debate and not as a fact. The truth is, perhaps as little as 10 years ago, climatic and other scientists were debating about whether or not global warming was occuring, but pretty much now, nearly all scientists agree global warming is happening, but what they are now debating about are the potential effects of it. The global climate has already risen by 1 degree F in the last 100 years, and is expected to rise as much as 2.5-10.4 degrees F by 2100. This may not sound like a lot but considering the last ice age was only a difference of five to seven degrees, slight changes in the global average temperature make a huge difference!

I think that out of any environmental issue, global warming is the biggest environmental threat this planet is facing and will face in the coming years, and solutions to global warming will have to involve major changes on the part of everyone, not just a few individuals. Many skeptics point out that global warming is one of the Earth’s natural processes to keep the surface warm. While this is true (the planet would freeze without this natural process!), excess CO2 levels (from fossil fuels and deforestation) are causing a temperature increase that is occurring at a much quicker rate than in the past (over decades and not over thousands of years), and probably too rapidly for the planet and all its inhabitants to adapt to. Some predicted changes (worse case) include radical climatic shifts, habitat change, biodiversity loss, and sea level rise. Acute climatic and ecological changes may also directly affect human health, as well as established cultural, economical, and political structures around the world. Whether or not changes will be this radical, the bottom line is that the global temperature is rising, and there will be changes, though it remains to be seen how much. Ecological changes are happening/going to happen (whether from global warming or other environmental concerns), and people have to make their own changes if we are to protect and preserve this Earth for present and future generations.

Be sure to check out Environmental Defenses' site!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Herb info: Aloe vera (Natural Skin Care)

Aloe vera (Aloe vera aka Aloe barbadensis) gel is a great ingredient that soothes and heals rashes, sun burn, inflammed skin, razor burn, and other skin irritations.  It can also be used as a skin cleanser, as a toner, and makes a fantastic ingredient in scrubs and masks.  I love using it in the water phase of my creams.  Some people drink aloe juice, if they have constipation, because it is a natural laxative. Be sure to buy a product that is as pure as possible: pure aloe gel mixed with potassium sorbate (antifungal), citric acid (pH stabilizer), and a thickener (usually it is carrageenan, a thickener from sea weed.  Some companies use gums). And preferably organic!   Many aloe gels on the market contain a lot of synthetics that can be irritating or toxic to the skin.   I've blogged about some of the ingredients previously.  So don't buy any of that green junk that poses as aloe!  And make sure it is organic!  Some good companies include Aubrey Organics, Mountain Rose Herbs, Garden of WisdomNature's Gift, and Lily Of The Desert.  Once you open the bottle, refrigerate it for best results, since there is no true broad spectrum preservative in most aloe brands.

Better yet, use the gel fresh from the leaf! Try to get a plant that is organic. I don't have an organic aloe plant yet (I usually buy organic aloe gel), but one of my local Asian super markets have started to carry (super HUGE) organic aloe leaves (they are the biggest leaves I've ever seen--over a foot long!--and are sold by the leaf). According to one of my herbal books, for external use, cut the leaf from the base of the plant, and you just squeeze the gel out. You can store the cut leaf in the fridge for several weeks. For internal use, the outer skin of the leaf has to be peeled away before use because the brown gel (aloin) near the leaf blade is an irritant.

NOTE: Though aloe is great on all types of skin infections, don't use it on staph infections; staph bacteria grows quickly in aloe (herbal book: Rosemary Gladstar: the Family Herbal, which is now called Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health).

Edited March 5, 2014: to add more info on the ingredients in store bought aloe gel and minor edits.  Plus Gladstar's book is now available as a paperback (the name of the book changed, when the publishing company made it as a paperback).