An Introduction to Natural Skincare, by Helene Berton
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
My first contact with natural cosmetics was during a course on essential oils, more than ten years ago. Though it was about the therapeutic uses of essential oils, some words were said about some of oils that are beneficial for the skin.
I made my first trial with a mix of vegetable and essential oils as skin care oil for my face. I liked it very much; the effect on my skin, the price (compared to a conventional cosmetic product), and the fact that it is not only totally natural but also very simple to prepare and to use.
Then, questions arose: Which vegetable oils and essential oils can be used on skin? Which ones are useful for skincare? What are the specific properties of the various oils? Which proportion of each of them is the best? And the vegetable butters? And the hydrosols? And what else, still keeping things simple, can be used?
That is how I decided to write my book, The Essential Guide to Natural Skin Care. I wanted to collect and reassemble answers to these questions and others that arose during my research.
After more than a decade of experimenting, training, researching, and teaching and writing on the subject, my motto remains: efficient, natural, and simple.
I stay faithful to skin care oils (versus creams or lotions) because they are easy to prepare, with very few manipulations and few ingredients, and they are easy to store and to use. For me, the less transformation, the better!
People often ask me which vegetable and essential oils they should choose. It is not necessarily an easy question, as it depends on the person's skin type, age, and the effect sought. For a good start, here are some tips that use affordable, easy to find ingredients:
- For young, oily skin, jojoba vegetable oil and rosemary ct. verbenone essential oil can be a good choice, as they regulate the sebum production of the skin.
- For acne, I would choose jojoba oil with palmarosa and ylang ylang essential oils. Those two last oils can also be used, pure, right on pimples and blemishes. The antibacterial properties of palmarosa and the anti-inflammatory properties of ylang ylang one are helpful to that condition.
- For dry skin, avocado oil is very nourishing and well absorbed, and myrrh essential oil helps prevent dehydration of the skin.
- For mature skin, rosehip vegetable oil has good regenerating properties, as does helichrysum essential oil.
- For sensitive skin, macadamia vegetable oil is a good choice, as is with chamomile (German or Roman) essential oil (both have soothing properties).
Usually, a very small amount of essential oil is added to the vegetable oil (usually 0.5 % to 1%); that is about 5 to 10 drops of an essential oil for an ounce of vegetable oil.
Once you have chosen, prepared, and tried your first skin care oil, you can begin to experiment; you can choose a second vegetable or essential oil that you add to your preparation or use to replace another one you do not like that much. And so, small touch by small touch, you can customize the skin care oil that suits you the best. There is no need to have a preparation made of ten vegetable oils and the same number of essential oils; usually, up to four of each is more than enough, and fewer can be excellent as well.
In the same fashion, it is also possible to modulate the ingredients according to the season. For example, some more nourishing oils can be used during dry weather and lighter ones can be more suitable on hot or moist season.
You will likely buy the new ingredients you have not yet experimented with in small amounts; keep in mind that if you do not like them as skin care oils, you can still use them in other ways. For example, you can use the vegetable oils on your dry skin (legs, hands, etc.), as a makeup remover, or as hair treatment. For the essential oils, if you like the smell, they can perfume a room or a car. As they have therapeutic properties, you can also save them for that use, if needed.
As mentioned in The Essential Guide to Natural Skin Care, it is good to make you preparation in a small amount (for example, 1/3 or ½ fl. oz.). This way, it is easier to make adjustments if needed. Keep any unmixed vegetable and essential oils in the refrigerator; the cool, dark environment will help to preserve them longer.
These skin care oil mixtures are the simplest, natural way of taking care of your skin.
You can also experiment simple recipes made with hydrosols. Hydrosols come from the steam used to distillate plants; this steam condenses into water as it is cooled at the end of the distillation process. Hydrosols contain part of the aromatic molecules of the plants, and can have the aromatic composition of the essential oil extracted from the same plant, or they can have a more or less different one—it depends on the plant processed. They also contain some of the elements that are otherwise extracted by doing an infusion: minerals, oligo-elements, acids, etc. That explains why there are hydrosols, with cosmetics and therapeutic properties, produced from plants that are not aromatic.
For a long time, most hydrosols were seen as waste by-products of the production of essential oils and thrown away (with the exception of a few, like rose or orange blossom hydrosols). More and more, their therapeutic and cosmetic properties and values are being considered, and it is getting easier to find them.
Hydrosols are much cheaper, at equal volume, than essential oils. Unfortunately, being aqueous, they do not preserve as well and as long as essential oils (1 to 3 years), and need to be kept in the refrigerator. Their short shelf-life also makes them not as easy as to find as essential oils. They are usually used in bigger volumes and are sold as such, making the shipping weight and fees higher than for essential oils. All that also limits the affordability of hydrosols produced from plants only available in very far countries.
However, it is still possible to find true hydrosols, even if not as many as desired. They can be used as toner or hair rinse, or to make creams. They are also very good as mouthwash.
Below are some good hydrosols to be used if making mouthwash:
- Helichrysum is regenerating for the gums, healing, and anti-inflammatory (note: do not use right after a mouth surgery, as it is an anticoagulant.)
- Mountain savory, thyme (thymol type), cinnamon bark, oregano, or scarlet bee balm (also called Canadian bergamot—thymol type) all have anti-infectious properties Mountain savory, thyme (thymol type), cinnamon bark, oregano, or scarlet bee balm (also called Canadian bergamot—thymol type) all have anti-infectious properties (be careful, these hydrosols are irritating to the tissues when used pure. It is suggested to have a maximum of 30% of them if used in a mouthwash)
- Common sage is an astringent, regenerating for the gums, and anti-infectious
- Laurel is anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, and an analgesic (very good on gums that are sensitive and that hurt)
- Peppermint is good to add for taste
You can use a single hydrosol (as long as it is not mountain savory, thyme, cinnamon, or Canadian bergamot), or you can mix more; two hydrosols are generally mixed fifty-fifty and three of them are usually mixed in thirds (or 40/40/20 if peppermint is your third choice), depending on the desired effect. (For example, gingivitis is the inflammation and degeneration of the gums caused by bacteria. Thyme plus common sage could be a good choice for that condition, and a little bit of peppermint would improve the taste.) Again, as with your other mixtures, experiment and adapt your recipe to your needs and taste. These mixtures provide a very efficient, alcohol-free mouthwash.
If you decide to prepare a mouthwash with several hydrosols, the best thing to do is to make a mix in a separate bottle that you leave on the bathroom counter for daily use. Keep the remaining unmixed hydrosols in their original containers in the refrigerator.
There are thousands of other uses for these wonderful ingredients, but a simple article could not begin to explain them all. While there are many other vegetable ingredients that can be used for cosmetic purposes, these are some that I know and love best. The above recipes and ingredients are intended to help you begin exploring natural ingredients and help you switch to simple, natural products for your daily cosmetic routine. Begin simply, one product at a time. Little by little, you will widen the range of products you can make and use.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2013. All rights reserved.