Friday, June 30, 2006

More on Scrubs and Masks; MIY Honey Scrubs and Masks Recipes (Natural Skin Care)

I've blogged about miy scrubs (brown sugar, white sugar, and salt) and masks (herbal and clay) before, but I thought I'd post some more information!

In addition to using brown sugar, white sugar, and salt to make scrubs, you can also use ingredients like ground almonds, ground oatmeal, finely ground herbs (use leaves and flowers, and none of the harder parts of plants), and cornmeal--though I prefer using sugar and salt since they melt and don't leave a mess in the bath tub! I know some ladies also like using baking soda too. A few skin care books recommend (dried) crushed avocado pits! I haven't tried this yet, but I've been saving avocado pits and am going to try this soon! However, I suggest only using sugar, almond, oatmeal, and herbs in a facial scrub, and not the grittier substances (like avocado pit, salt, and cornmeal) since they may be too harsh for the facial skin. For a great body scrub, some people even use coffee grinds!

Add oils to any of these bases, or honey, aloe, hydrosol, herbal infusion, etc. I prefer using lighter oils like kukui, camellia, grapeseed, or maybe jojoba. Or you can use oils specific for your skin type, or any of the other ingredients I've listed in my miy mask entry. Note: if you make a scrub with just sugar/salt and oil, it will have a longer shelf life (months; no need to refrigerate) than a scrub or mask made with water-based or perishable ingredients (be sure to store in the fridge and use within a few days).

All of the following recipes have honey in them, though I've included vegan substitutes too. I don't know why I've got honey on the mind--maybe because I don't eat it anymore, and only use it for skin care now and then. It leaves the skin very soft and healthy looking.

The following scrub is gentle enough for the facial skin, and is very easy to make. It may feel a bit sticky going on, but it rinses cleanly away and will leave your skin glowing.

MIY oatmeal, almond, honey scrub

Finely grind equal amounts of oatmeal and almonds in either a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Add enough honey to make a paste. Add 1-2 drops of essential oil if desired. I don't really measure my ingredients but I like using about 1 tablespoon each of oatmeal and almonds, 1 tablespoon of honey, and a couple drops of lavender essential oil, but you may want to use more or less. Don't use more than a few drops of essential oil though, since they are highly concentrated substances, and too much may irritate your skin. Store in the fridge.

For a vegan version use aloe or a carrier oil in place of the honey.

This mask is great for really dry skin. Great for the face and body, and also the hair!

MIY Avocado mask

1/2 mashed avocado
1-2 Tablespoons honey

Mix well (make sure there are no lumps). Apply and leave on for at least 15 minutes. I recommend trying to use this all at once but if you have excess, store it in the fridge, with plastic wrap pressed on the surface.

For a vegan version, you can omit the honey. If the texture is a bit thick, add aloe, hydrosol, or maybe a little almond or soy milk.

Honey will absorb toxins and leave your skin feeling soft. You can use honey to cleanse your skin daily.

MIY Easy Honey mask

1-2 teaspoons Honey
Optional: 1-2 drops of essential oil

Pat the honey onto damp skin (it may feel sticky, but rinses right off). Leave on for 10-15 minutes.
Vegan version: try a clay mask to absorb toxics.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Difference Between Body Butter, Balm, Salve, Ointment, Liniment, Tincture, Infused Oil, Infused Vinegar, Lotion, Cream (Natural Skin Care/Medicine)


What is difference Between Body Butters, Balms, Salves, Ointments, Liniments, Tinctures, Herbal Infused Oils, Herbal Infused Vinegars, Lotions and Creams?

Body butters are usually made with a combination of carrier oil (liquid fats) and butters (like cocoa butter, etc. So solid fats) and often a wax (like beeswax). It does not contain water. It is a thicker and harder product than a lotion or cream (though it melts on the skin on contact), and often takes longer to absorb. It may also leave a slightly oily barrier on the skin for several minutes to a few hours, depending on the types of oils used and skin type.

Butters also refer to just the butters/solid fats themselves, such as cocoa, shea, mango, or kukui butter. They vary in texture and hardness, and absorbancy; some may leave a slight oily barrier on the skin, and others may absorb instantly.

A balm or salve is similiar to a body butter except it may or may not have butters in it, and body butters contain a higher percentage of butters than balms or salves. Balms and salves are made with carrier oil and a wax, and sometimes solid fats/butters. They do not contain water. As to the difference between a balm and a salve, it depends who you ask. Most herbalists, aromatherapists, and skin care authors mention that there is no difference. From looking at products on the market, I always thought salves were usually made with herb infused oils (see below for definition), while balms were made with either infused or non-infused carrier oils, and may contain essential oils. Looking at recipes though, there is little difference between the two, and as to what each product is called, it depends on the herbalist/author/crafter! I swear I once read somewhere that there was a difference but I can't seem to find it now!

Many authors also say that balms or salves are essentially the same as an ointment. For some reason I can't fathom, I always thought that ointments were made with the same ingredients but that they were thinner/softer in texture since they usually contained less wax. But all of my sources mention they are the same thing, so I just must have been thinking of something else!

I've found several different definitions on what a liniment is. They are made for external application for the skin, to soothe or disinfect. Basically you infuse herbs in a solvent. The difference in opinion that I've seen is what kind of solvent. One source said that the solvent is witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, while another said it is a carrier oil (and made it a point to mention that a liniment did not contain wax like a salve). Another book had a bunch of different recipes that included solvents or thickeners such as wax, oil, alcohol, or cider vinegar. I guess the true definition is any infused herbal solvent for external/skin usage!

A tincture is basically when you infuse herbs in alcohol or glycerin. Some books also mention cider vinger, though most tend to think of infused vinegar as a totally different product. A tincture is for internal use, but you can use it for external use too. Tinctures are a highly concentrated product. Many herbalists prefer using tinctures, as they have a longer shelf life than fresh or dried herbs, and they utilize less shelf space.

An herbal infused vinegar is herbs infused in vinegar, usually apple cider vinegar, and occasionally red wine vinegar. There are many cosmetic, medicinal, as well as food uses of infused vinegars.

Herbal infused oils are herbs infused in a carrier oil, such as olive or other carrier oils appropriate for your skin type. There are many cosmetic, medicinal, and food uses.

You can also make herbal vinegars and herbal oils by adding a few drops of essential oils. While these can be used for cosmetic purposes, they are not recommended for consumption, since essential oils are very concentrated plant substances. Herbal oils make awesome aromatherapy body, bath, and massage oils.

Lastly, all natural body lotions or creams are made with oils and waters (water, aloe, hydrosol, herbal infusion, etc) and also either a wax (like beeswax), thickener (like xanthan gum), and/or other emulsifier (like borax). It can have butters/solid fats in it, but not always. Lotions and creams are thinner, and 'runnier' than body butters. Lotions are thinner than creams, as they contain a higher percentage of water than creams.

Which is better to use for cosmetic purposes; which is more moisturizing or less greasy?

As to which is better, it depends on your skin type. Since lotions and creams contain water, if your skin is really dehydrated, they would be better. Lotions are also good for oily skin. Creams are better for drier skin.

Since butters, balms, and ointments are thicker, and may stay on top of your skin longer (preventing moisture lost), they are also good for dry skin (though if your skin is really dry, be sure to apply to really damp skin). Many people like to use them on really dry areas like lips, elbows, knees, and feet.

Infused oils are great to use on just freshly cleaned, damp skin, and are awesome to use during massages (or you can use an aromatherapy body oil). They also make a fantastic hot oil treatment for your hair.

The only thing that really moisturizes skin is water (or things that contain a lot of water like hydrosols, aloe, herbal infusions etc), so if your skin is really dry apply your chosen product to damp skin or choose a product with a high water content in it. Oils and butters work by lubricating and softening the skin and preventing moisture loss by forming a barrier on the skin. And (unlike mienral oil) they contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients that are great for your skin!

Infused vinegars, diluted with water or hydrosol, are great to use as toners, and as hair rinses. Really dry skin types may want to use just plain hydrosols, as vinegars can be drying.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cosmetic Safety (Natural Skin Care)

Be careful what you put on your skin! Not all ingredients used in cosmetics are safe. Federal laws on cosmetic (by cosmetics I mean all kinds of personal body and hair care, as well as makeup) ingredients are rather lax, and they do not mandate safety studies on cosmetics. Some of the chemicals used in cosmetics have been linked to higher increases in cancer and many can cause skin irritations.

Four good websites on the issue are:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which contains many news articles and some reports on the subject, as well as a list of companies that have pleged not to use to use toxic materials in cosmetics.

Environmental Working Group has compiled a good database on ranking the safeness of thousands of different brands and ingredients of personal care products.

Though focusing primarily on organic cosmetics, Organic Consumer Association has dozens of news articles on organic/natural vs. synthetic ingredients used in cosmetics. I love this website--it's really eye opening, there is a lot of information on the tricks some companies use to try to fool the public into thinking their products are natural and organic. They have a lot of information on their site on all thing organic, not just body care!

This last website, which one of the regular posters on craigslist's alternative health and medicine posted (thanks CT!), is simply awesome. The "Guide to Less Toxic Products" is from the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia. As much as I love Environmental Working Group's database, not all of their safe cosmetic suggestions are all natural. Many on this guide are all natural, though some of their choices may contain some synthetics, but the products are pretty natural (Okay! so I am anal in where everything has to be all natural. My only bane, and vice, being toothpaste! More on that later!)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Drugstore Mineral Makeup Hype (Mineral Makeup)

When I first heard that many conventional companies were going to make mineral makeup, I was excited since sometimes it is a hassle buying products online. However, I do not recommend most of the drugstore brands, like Physician's Formula, Loreal, and Neutrogena, because they contain many synthetic chemicals and additives; they are not like true mineral makeup brands which only contain pure minerals and pigments (like mica/serecite,titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxides). These brands are at best a cross between conventional and true mineral makeup, and at worse, just marketing hype and companies jumping on the mineral makeup bandwagon. From looking at the ingredients of these brands, I wonder if they even understood what mineral makeup was when they were developing their product??

There are many good mineral makeup companies from large, well known (and rather expensive brands) such as Bare Escentuals, to smaller, women owned companies, and less expensive brands like Monave, Jlynne Cosmetics, Cory Cosmetics, Alima, and Ada Cosmetics. Most of the smaller lines sell samples. My favorites, as I've mentioned many times on this blog are Monave and Jlynne Cosmetics. (I actually haven't tried the more expensive brand for two reasons: some of them contain bismuth, which irritates many people, and they are way over priced in my opinion!)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Storage and shelf life of Aromatherapy Products and Essential Oils (Aromatherapy)

Some FAQs

What is the best way to store aromatherapy products (product that contain essential oils)? Are plastic containers suitable?

For temporary storage of aromatherapy products, I think that using plastic would be okay. But like many aromatherapists, I recommend storing aromatherapy products in dark colored glass for long term storage, because essential oils are light sensitive (they degrade when exposed to light), and many essential oils are mild solvents (they eventually eat through plastic). Also, over time (since the essential oils cause the plastic to break down) the plastic may release toxins into the products.

What is the shelf life of aromatherapy products?

It depends on the formulation! Products with essential oils should last at least a couple months, and those with other natural preservatives could last up to a year. However, if you constantly stick dirty fingers into your product, leaving the cap undone, or storing your products in the bathroom (a humid area) etc, it will obviously have a shorter shelf life! You can extend the shelf life of any product by storing in the fridge.

What is the best way to store pure (undiluted) essential oils (PEOs)?

Store your PEOs in a cool, dark area. I store mine in a wooden box, away from humidity. PLEASE do not store your essential oils in your bathroom!. It is suggested by many aromatherapists that as you use up your essential oils, to pour them into smaller bottles, so that there is less room for air (oxygen degrades the oils) in the container. Some also suggest storage in the fridge. Also I do not recommend storing essential oils with rubber stopper droppers, since they will eventual eat through the rubber (which will led to toxins in the essential oils). In addition, try not to leave them uncapped for long periods of time.

What is the shelf life of essential oils?

It depends on the essential oil! Citrus oils generally have a shorter shelf life (like 6 months, or less than a year), and most have a shelf life of 1 to 2 years, and may be good up to 3 to 4 years, with a slight decline in quality. However, some essential oils, if you store them probably develop over time. These are like the heavier oils such as patcholli and sandalwood. Some like sandalwood age well (sandalwood that is YEARS old is supposed to smell divine).

When an essential oil 'goes bad' it doesn't smell bad, it just smells less vibrant. But don't toss it out! I wouldn't use them for therapeutic or antibacterial properties, but you can still use them to scent a room, or objects like paper, clothing, etc. Apply on a cottonball near the object you want to scent, or make a room spray.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

All Natural Perfume (Aromatherapy)

One of the reasons I switched to all natural products a few years ago was because of my sensitivity to synthetic scents and chemicals. I used to love all kinds of scents--from air freshener to conventional perfume to 'fruity and herbal' lotions, but that soon changed. In 2001 I began working at perfume counter, and after being around all those scents all day for a few months, my skin became increasingly sensitive. I began to get rashes from products I had been using for years, and my facial skin would get these tiny red itchy puffy bumps that would only go away if I used aloe. It was about that time that I began researching what goes into cosmetics, and then switching to all natural products. In my research I learned that conventional perfumes contain hundred of synthetic chemicals and only a small percentage of real essential oil (often less than 3%). I think my exposure to all those chemicals for a few months (before I quit) made my sensitive skin even more reactive, but I'm kind of glad that happened because I've learned so much about skin care and natural cosmetics, and I'm never going back!
Through my experiences of aromatherapy I've come to appreciate the scent of REAL flowers and herbs. Now that I've smelled real jasmine and rose, I can not stand the smell of their fake, chemically counterparts. I used to love things like Bath and Body lotions, and now I can't stand the smell of anything synthetic!

There are many natural companies that make some really nice scents. Some scents, like 'apples', 'grapes' etc obviously are only available as synthetics, and others, such as a true gardenia scent is hard to find and rarely available (gardenia essential oil is hard to find and also pricey, but infused gardenia oil is easy to make). However, for hard to find scents, sometimes several essential oils can be combined to create scents like 'lily of the valley'. It should be noted that perfumes made with essential oils do not last as long as their synthetic counterparts (so you won't smell like your perfume for days) and throughout the hours the scent will develop as lighter essential oils disappear (top notes, and then middle) and the heavier notes (middle and base notes) are left behind. They are usually available in an alchohol and water base or a carrier oil base.

Aubrey Organics just revamped their line of fragrances. They now offer six all natural and organic perfumes, made with essential oils.

You can also buy a lot of lovely blends from aromatherapy companies like Nature's Gift and Mountain Rose Herbs. MRH sells things like spiritual blends and NG sells a couple blends and perfumer's kits (essential oils in jojoba oil). Both have excellent prices.

True Aroma makes several nice blends, you can find them at Cosmetics without Synthetics' (allnaturalcosmetics) website, which also sells many other all natural (or nearly all natural) cosmetics.

Well known aromatherapist, Alexandra Avery, also offers several perfume blends on her site (inexpensive), and she will also make a personal aromatherapy perfume for you (kind of pricey but probably worth it). She also sells a wonderful line of all natural skin care.

Aromatherapist Kendra Grace also sells some perfumes, along with her aromajewels. (They are kind of pricey though, but she is supposed to be an aromatherapist perfumer)

Or, of course, you can MIY! It is not only less expensive but you can unleash your creative spirit!
Simply add essential oils to either a base of jojoba oil or alcohol (everclear) anywhere from a 10% to 30% concentration. Perfume concentration ratios to make eau de toillete, parfum etc are here.
I brought MRH's rose essential oil sampler, and made a perfume of of the essential oils. The rose oil sampler contains Rosa damascena (same species) from three different regions, and they all smell different! Blended togther they are absolutely divine.

If you would rather have a spray then dilute the essential oils in alcohol, then add 3-12 drops of essential oils per ounce (12 drops will make a 2% concentration).

Or you can infuse fresh plant matter in jojoba oil or another carrier oil (you can try this with gardenias and lilies since it may be hard to find those blends). I suggest jojoba since it doesn't become rancid, but if you want to use another carrier, be sure to choose a lightly scented oil, and add either vitamin E or grapefruit seed oil to perserve its shelf life. The essential oils will also preserve it to some extend. You can also make an infused oil, if the essential oil isn't available or pricey. Be sure to use fresh and, if possible, organic flowers and herbs.

You can buy essential oils and jojoba oil at Whole Foods or at MRH, NG, or at Garden of Wisdom.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Clay and Herbal Masks (Natural Skin Care)

Making your own skin products is addicitive!

For clay masks, I like using rhaussoul clay (good for all skin types including drier skin) or green clay (normal to oily). Other good clays: kaolin (a gentle white clay from China) and Bentonite, a soft but very drawing clay (draws/binds toxins).

There are a lot of ingredients you can add to clay masks. Add any of the ingredients, depending on what kind of mask you want. I don't really measure but just add a small amount of each ingredient. I make it fresh each time but you could store it in the fridge for a few days (be sure to add vitamin E, grapefruit seed oil, or essential oils to help prolonge self life).

-hydrosols, aloe, herbal infusions (tea)-basically to wet the mask and also add moisture and nutrients
-honey-helps pull out toxics, and softens skin
-egg-pulls out toxins, softens skin. If you use the egg yolk it add moisture (for dry skin), and the white part for oily skin. I like using the whole egg.
-mashed fruit or juice: the natural acids helps exfoliate dead skin cells, and also moisturize skin. Not for sensitive skin. Fruits that you can use stawberries, tomatoes (oily skin), bananas (moisturizing), avocado (moisturizing)
-mashed veggie or juice: carrot (good for all skin types esp. dry), cucumbers (soothing and moisturizing, good for puffiness)
-milk/cream--cleanser and also softener.
-witch hazel--astringent. Better for oily and normal skins (dry skins add hydrosols, aloe, and herbal infusions)
-yogurt-cleanser and softener. good for all skin types
-carrier/base oil--to seal in moisture and add vitamins.
-1 to 2 drops of essential oil--for fragrance and for specific skin conditions

If you want an exfoliating clay mask add:
-oatmeal--good for sensitive skin
-almond--good for all skin types
-brown or white sugar
-baking soda

I do not recommend using salt on your face (too gritty, though salt makes a great body scrub) or aspirin (I know a lot of beauty mags and ladies rant about the effectiveness of aspirin masks, but considering the skin is very absorbant, I am wondering if any of the chemical components of aspirin can reach the blood stream through the skin. I have not read much about the topic, but I believe it is better to be safe than sorry, especially when there are other just as effective exfoliants).

For an herbal mask (without clay) you can use a base of either honey, yogurt, egg, fruit, or one of the exfoliants, and add any of the other ingredients. Let your imagination run wild!