One of the first things people do when they decide to live a more holistic lifestyle is to change their diet. We eliminate junk food and add more whole, nutritious foods to our diet. We begin to question the status quo; we annoy people by stopping to read labels on everything from cereal boxes to canned beans. With our heightened consciousness we also start to remove known toxic chemicals from our environment. In a larger sense, we may begin to re-prioritize what we believe are the most important things in life. Spending time with loved ones and getting close to nature are usually pretty high on the list. Learning to use natural resources conscientiously by repurposing what we already have and conserving what we can is also part of a holistic lifestyle.
As we slowly make these changes to what we eat and how we interact with loved ones and our environment, we may have overlooked one of the most essential considerations – what we are putting on our bodies. We may be of the belief that what we put on our bodies has no effect on our health or wellbeing, however, this cannot be farther from the truth. We must remember that what we put on our bodies also enters our bodies. In fact, our bodies absorb 60 to 70 percent of topical applications.
Many commercial body care products are loaded with toxic chemicals. Our skin is literally drinking a chemical cocktail every time we slather on some of these products. Unfortunately, children’s body care products are no exception. Here are a few of the bad guys to watch out for:
• Fragrance (this can be a multitude of chemicals)
• Diethanolamine (DEA)
Maybe it would be best to understand that if we can’t eat it, we shouldn’t use it on our bodies – and while this may seem like a stretch, it is indeed possible to make body care products solely from truly natural and food-grade ingredients. You can learn to make many body care products from shampoo to foot soaks with natural ingredients. It doesn’t take a lot of time and it is less costly than buying commercial preparations. Just as we feel empowered when we exercise control over what goes on our plates, we can also feel empowered when we have control over what goes on our bodies.
Alas, it may be much easier to tackle this concern if we feel more confident in our ability to replace these familiar products without too much fuss, time, or expense. We also need to know that these homemade concoctions work as well as our current mainstays. Homemade products can offer you the same beauty and health benefits without introducing a slew of harsh, toxic chemicals. In many cases, homemade body care products are not only as effective as the alternative, they are also downright wonderful.
Our skin is our interface with our environment, protecting us from outside threats. The skin’s ability to protect us is highly dependent on the health and state of the organ itself. Just as we feed our body internally, we can feed our skin externally with fresh, organic, botanics.
Here’s how easy it is!
There is no need to head to the nearest health food store, or even scour the internet for suppliers. Just head to your local supermarket (and it doesn’t have to be the fancy one). If you are lucky enough to have a vegetable garden, you may have some of these items just outside your door. Wild plants are an abundant resource for making your own body care products.
Contemplating writing this article, I ventured out to my neighborhood supermarket to walk my talk, so to speak. As I walked into the store I was met with a blast of cold air and the scent of fresh flowers. I naturally took a beeline to the flowers for a quick whiff and some visual delight. Not being able to stay on task, I grabbed a bunch and placed them into my shopping cart before heading to the produce department. In this one section, I believe that I can complete my mission for finding healthful ingredients for my beauty needs. Everything after this is the icing on the cake!
The bouquet of roses in my cart may seem like a frivolous purchase, but this is not necessarily true. Roses (if organically grown) can be used to make infused oils. They are naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory (more on rose benefits here). Rosehips contain high amounts of Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect skin cells from damage – and the rose bushes in my garden offer up plenty of rosehips every year.
Moving through the produce section, I am greeted by a basket of ginger root. We know that ginger root can treat digestive disorders, but what can it do as a topical agent? Ginger root has antiseptic properties and is warming and stimulating. When used in a facial cleanser, ginger can help stimulate blood flow to the skin’s surface (more on ginger benefits here).
Looking up, I see a row of herbal packets (my personal favorites, no surprise!), including rosemary, thyme, tarragon, basil, parsley, oregano, sage, and the loveliest of all, lavender. Not only do all of these herbs have nutritional properties, but they have powerful healing properties as well. These herbs can be made into infused oils for skincare remedies to soothe dry and cracked skin, plump, stimulate, warm, cool, protect and nourish.
Next, I find hydrating cucumbers; vitamin-rich, moisturizing avocados; versatile lemons with vitamins, minerals, magnesium, potassium, and antibacterial and antifungal properties; bromelain-rich pineapple; humectant bananas; and antioxidant-packed cranberries.
Heading to the inside isles, I find almond milk, nuts, seeds, chocolate, oats, wheat germ, dried spices, dried milk powder, sugar, salt, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, coconut oil, pumpkin seed oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, tomato juice, tea bags, honey, maple syrup, rice, baking soda, witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, Epsom salts, yogurt, eggs and milk – all of which can be used in fresh, healthy, clean, nourishing body care products that are truly good for your skin.
I am purposely including only recipes that can be made with supermarket finds. As you grow comfortable with the idea of making and using your own skin care remedies, you’ll want to learn about using more natural ingredients that serve as emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives. Essential oils are powerful healers and a superb ingredient for fragrance, healing, and preserving.
So, let’s get to those supermarket skin care recipes!
Honey Vanilla Milk Bath Soak
• 1 cup milk
• 1 whole banana
• 2 whole eggs
• ½ cup raw honey
• ½ cup dried milk powder
• 2 tablespoons baking soda
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Place ingredients into a blender and blend until completely smooth, about 30 - 45 seconds.
2. Pour the mixture into a very warm bath. This soak will clean and moisturize the skin. In order to reap all of the benefits, stay in the warm bath for at least 20 minutes. You may use other natural soaps while in the bath along with your soak.
Yield about 2 cups.
Herbal Lemon Facial Toner
• 1 cup water
• 3 sage leaves
• 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
• 4 sprigs parsley, chopped
• 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
• 1 sprig oregano, chopped
• 4 tablespoons witch hazel
• ½ lemon, peeled
1. Place the herbs in a medium size saucepan, cover with 1 cup water, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Allow to cool.
2. Pour the cooled mixture into a blender and blend thoroughly. Strain through a cheese cloth into a clean glass jar. Compost the solid materials.
3. Add the witch hazel and lemon and stir well. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. This toner can be used after the face has been cleansed and before moisturizer. This is a refreshing, invigorating, vitamin-packed, and antiseptic toner.
Coconut Lavender and Green Tea Skin Moisturizer
• 1 cup coconut oil
• 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 tablespoons loose green tea
• 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
1. Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over very low heat.
2. Once the coconut oil has liquefied, add the grapeseed oil, olive oil, loose green tea and lavender.
3. Gently heat on very low heat for 45 minutes.
4. Strain through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a mixing bowl.
5. Beat the mixture with a kitchen mixer just as it begins to harden. You will have a creamy, beautifully scented, hydrating moisturizer that may help prevent skin cell damage. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar.
Other supermarket skin care tips:
Try cut cucumbers on your eyes to help reduce swelling and dark circles.
Use 1 part sugar to 2 parts olive oil with a drop of lemon for a body scrub to exfoliate – or try making our Calendula Sugar Scrub.
Mix 2 parts Epsom salts, 1 part baking soda, and 1 part fresh herbs in a cheesecloth bundle and toss in the bath for a mineral-rich soak.
Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy of New England, the home of the Online Introductory Herbal Course and the Online Intermediate Herbal Course, and meeting place for Boston area herbalists. Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy of New England.
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