The following (NATURAL SKINCARE Part 1) is a brief introduction to Natural Skincare - how to look after your skin and body using natural botanicals, oils, clays and butters. This guide also covers the different types of products available, how to use them, and why they're beneficial to your skin.
PLEASE ALSO HAVE A READ OF THE SECOND PART OF OUR GUIDE (NATURAL SKINCARE Part 2) which outlines many of the amazing natural ingredients readily available for your own DIY projects, as well as a list of beneficial Essential / Carrier Oils to each skin type, along with some simple recipes on how to get started creating your own personalised natural skincare regime using only natural ingredients.
IF YOU FIND THIS GUIDE HELPFUL: We'd be grateful if you could click on the 'thumbs up' button at the top of the page. Thank you!
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL SKINCARE AND COMMERCIAL SKINCARE PRODUCTS?
Natural skincare products are created using botanical ingredients that are known to be beneficial to the skin, avoiding synthetic or petro-chemical ingredients that can build up in body tissue, cause allergic reactions or contain known carcinogens. For the most part, commercial products tend to make your skin or hair dependent on the product, creating a vicious circle of consumerism - for example commercial soaps usually remove the naturally moisturising glycerin component from the soap, and focus instead on harsh foaming agents that strip the skin of its natural oils. As a result the soap dries out your skin and you are then required to purchase moisturisers to remedy the effect - which usually contain the glycerin that was removed from the soap. Your skin is then caught in a cycle of dependency on these products, encouraging you to purchase more and more remedies. Natural skincare, on the other hand, employs the approach of encouraging your skin to look after itself to learn to maintain a healthy balance on its own, with a minimum of extra attention.
Natural vegetable soap for example contains a large amount of glycerin, so will not dry your skin and will actually leave it feeling far more moisturised than after using standard commercial products. Botanical shampoo, as another example, does not contain extreme foaming agents which strip the hair and scalp of its own oils, so while it will still leave your hair clean and soft it won't feel dried out - you may even find that you don't need to use conditioner any more, particularly if you have shorter hair. Your scalp can continue to produce the correct amount of sebum (oil) to protect your hair from the elements, instead of over-producing the oil to compensate for what the shampoo took out, which then of course would require additional shampooing and conditioning. Natural moisturisers or toners, and oils such as Jojoba oil, (as another example) lock moisture into your skin and act to protect it from the elements of the day, but unlike mineral oils, they're also wonderful for skin health, assisting in maintaining elasticity and condition, while encouraging the skin to maintain a healthy oil balance to avoid producing too much sebum (oily skin) or too little (dry skin).
Natural skincare products don't promise overnight changes. Instead, over a period of use you should find that your skin becomes 'trained' to look after itself better, to maintain its elasticity and its general tone. After a week or a few days you should start to feel the difference, and you'll notice that your skin isn't requiring nearly as much attention as it did when it was being bombarded with harsh cleansers or soaps. As such, natural skincare products often last much longer than you're used to.
CAN I MAKE MY OWN NATURAL SKINCARE PRODUCTS?
Absolutely - and when you start reading up on it you'll realise that it can be very simple and a lot of fun. Many ingredients, such as carrier oils and essential oils, are commonly available and you may even already have them in your own collection. Alternately you can get unscented natural skincare products, or bases, and add essential oils to suit your skin type or condition. We've listed many suitable oils towards the bottom of this page. There's also instructions on how to make your own moisturising spritzers and serums at the bottom of the page - more recipes can be found on our FACEBOOK NOTES page on our Facebook fan page, where we regularly publish information, recipes and other useful reference material.
HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT USING OR MAKING NATURAL SKINCARE PRODUCTS? (Apart from reading the rest of this article!)
* BOOKS: For detailed information about natural skincare, there are plenty of books available which will help you understand the uses of different natural ingredients, with suggestions on how to create your own products that are tailor-made for your skin type and condition. Even the most basic aromatherapy handbook usually has a section on skincare that will give you some ideas on where to start.
* AROMA QUEEN FACEBOOK NOTES FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more recipes on skincare and oil blends to suit your skin type, please visit our FACEBOOK NOTES page on our Facebook fan page, where we regularly publish information, recipes and other useful reference material. Also if you LIKE our Facebook fan page you'll receive regular updates with added information.
* LEARN MORE - BELOW: The following is an overview on many of the natural skincare products available, and how they can be used. To the bottom of the page is a list of which essential oils can be used to treat each skin type and condition, and instructions on how to make your own simple products.
Ok, here we go:
WHAT DOES EACH BOTANICAL SKINCARE PRODUCT DO?
Cleansing products are the first stop in your face-care regime. They remove dirt, make-up, oils and bacteria that have accumulated throughout the day, and leave your skin feeling clean, smooth and non-greasy. AQ stocks a mild cleansing gel, as well as liquid castille soap, and a range of vegetable soaps containing glycerin (a natural 'humectant' that draws moisture from the atmosphere towards the skin) and natural ingredients such as goatsmilk, honey and essential oils, that are all excellent as cleansers: don't be afraid to use natural vegetable or goatsmilk soaps on your face, or even your hair - as they contain a large amount of glycerin, they won't dry your skin like commercial soaps do. Health food shops are another place to find natural & goatsmilk soaps - but do read their list of ingredients to be sure they use only natural botanicals.
To cleanse, splash your face with warm water and squeeze a small amount of liquid cleanser onto your palm, a soft cotton washcloth or sponge (or lather a gentle vegetable soap). Apply the cleanser to your face using a circular motion, ensuring you cover all the areas - forehead, chin, nose, cheeks and neck. Massage your face for about a minute, then allow the cleanser to penetrate the skin for a minute or two. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water, making sure you have removed all traces of the cleanser, then finally rinse with cold water to shrink the enlarged pores and improve blood circulation. Pat dry and follow with toner.
Toners deep cleanse your skin after your cleanser has removed the superficial make-up, oil and dirt on the surface of the face. They also reduce pores, eliminate bacteria and refine the skin, and importantly they restore the protective acid mantle of your skin that can be removed by some cleansers, by balancing the pH level. If your skin is left to rebalance itself after cleansing, it can pump out too much sebum (resulting in oily skin), or not enough (resulting in dry skin) to compensate for what your cleanser has taken out. A good toner also hydrates facial tissue, providing nourishing moisture to the skin that will then be locked in with your moisturiser. Many natural toners are WITCH HAZEL based, which is an excellent natural astringent. You can use pure Witch Hazel (avoid if you have dry skin as it contains natural alcohol) or make your own blend using additional ingredients such as water or hydrosols (floral waters such as Rose Water - see below), glycerin or added essential oils. Natural preparations don't have to be complicated to work!
Use a cotton pad to apply toner after cleansing and exfoliating the skin. Saturate the pad and pat the toner gently over your face and neck - never rub the skin while applying toner, and avoid the eye area. While oily skin will benefit from using pure Witch Hazel as a toner, normal skin may prefer a water-based Witch Hazel toner; people with dry skin will love the humectant properties of pure Rosewater, and should avoid toners containing alcohol which can dry out your skin further. AQ stocks all of these options.
Moisturisers or emollients are usually creams or oils specially designed to make the external layers of the skin softer and more pliable. They increase the skin's hydration (water content) by reducing evaporation. Moisturisers can be used to prevent and treat dry skin, protect sensitive skin, improve skin tone and texture, mask imperfections and keep your skin supple and soft. As a general rule, think of your moisturiser as what you'll use to replenish the natural oils in the skin that are removed as a natural consequence of cleansing and toning.
A moisturising cream or lotion is basically a mixture of oils and water, bound together with ingredients that stop them from separating. The water component nourishes your skin, and the oil component forms a gentle barrier to hold it there and stop the water from evaporating. Natural vegetable oils (known as CARRIER OILS) such as Jojoba, Almond, Apricot Kernel and Rosehip to name a few, differ from synthetic mineral oils in that while they create a protective barrier, they are also easily absorbed by the skin, penetrating deep into the epidermis to assist in promoting elasticity and skin health. Good quality natural moisturising creams and lotions are made from a combination of carrier oils and vegetable butters as well as other simple natural ingredients such as beeswax and glycerin, plus a water-bassed component. Using easily found recipes, you can try making your own moisturising creams, which is also a lot of fun, or alternately you can purchase an unscented moisturiser (base cream) and add a small percentage of essential oils or other natural active ingredients to personalise your product.
For a really simple moisturiser, try spritzing your face with Rosewater or other hydrosol/floral water, and then applying a thin layer of pure carrier oil over the top (see bottom of page for instructions on exactly how to make these) - this simulates the water-and-oil based components of moisturising creams: you just apply them separately instead of mixed together in a cream.
Don't shy away from the idea of using oil on your face because you think it will leave your skin feeling greasy - natural oils absorb into the skin very easily. Jojoba oil is in fact a liquid wax, not an oil at all, and it closely resembles the oil (sebum) in your skin: once you apply it the skin absorbs the oil as easily as it absorbs your own natural skin oil. Not only this, but by using natural vegetable oils like these on your skin you'll be training the pores to create a natural balance instead of over- or under-producing sebum, which of course results in oily or dry skin. So while you may think that putting oil on oily skin is a silly idea, it may very well be the one thing that will work for you and assist in training your skin to create less of its own oil.
Moisturisers should always be lightly applied to clean, toned skin around the face and neck. Use a purpose made DAY CREAM as a barrier to protect your skin from the elements it encounters during the day - weather, heat, wind, pollutants and everything else that is thrown at you as you go about your day to day life. NIGHT CREAMS are rich creams designed to replenish your skin with everything that is taken out during the daytime - your skin is very good at absorbing what it needs as you drift into healing sleep, so it's a great time to treat your skin, and it doesn't matter so much if the cream is a little heavier as you don't need to apply makeup over the top.
If you have youthful skin you may feel that you don't need to use anything so rich as Night Cream, but as you get older your skin loses the ability to produce the same youthful skin that it used to create, resulting in the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Replenishing your skin with good quality moisturisers and creams will assist in keeping your skin hydrated and revitalised, which is the first step to combating the signs of aging.
The skin around the eye contains no fatty tissue and is therefore very thin and susceptible to wrinkles - this is why one of the first places you'll spot them is around the eye area. There are a number of ingredients that are renowned for treating the thin skin around your eyes - and cucumber is one of them. A big slice of cucumber on each eye isn't just a silly old wives tale - it really works: cucumbers have an anti-inflammatory effect that reduces puffiness. This vegetable not only has a high water content, but as it's often stored in the refrigerator and comes out cold, a cool slice of cucumber on your eye will hydrate your skin, while the cool temperature decreases the flow of blood to the area around your eyes. Smoother, more hydrated skin means less stretching and fewer lines and wrinkles in the future. Cucumber eye gel is another product that does wonders, utilising natural cucumber and other antioxidant ingredients - dab it around the eye area for a similar effect to using a fresh slice (and it's easier to carry around!).
HAND & NAIL CREAM
We all tend to focus on looking after our faces to stop the visible march of time, but a tell-tale sign of age is weathered hands. We all know that our hands get pretty tough treatment, so using a good hand cream will keep the hands supple and stop the formation of calluses or dry skin, which will of course also assist in warding off wrinkles. A good quality hand cream will be rich in natural ingredients and butters to penetrate deep into the skin, and it will also help create a barrier against the elements as you go about your day. Treatments containing natural KERATIN, a key structural element found in skin and nails, is also beneficial for the hands. Be sensible with your hands, one of your most important assets: wear gloves instead of plunging them into hot water or doing the gardening, and apply good quality hand cream on a regular basis - if your hands are dry and callused you'll begin to see the difference almost immediately.
FACE POLISH / EXFOLIATION
Exfoliants remove make-up, dislodge embedded dirt and eliminate dead skin cells by scrubbing them away with a gentle abrasive ingredient, usually in a cream or oil base. There are plenty of polishes and exfoliants available but be careful of using anything too abrasive on your face. Our own Aroma Queen Botanical Skincare Face Polish uses a light cream base containing micro-beads of jojoba oil, rounded scrubbing grains which are very gentle on the skin, leaving it looking more youthful as the dead cells are sloughed away to reveal the younger skin below. But you can make your own simple polishes and scrubs just by adding an exfoliant (ground botanicals such as nuts, herbs, pumice or even salt or sugar!) to base creams or carrier oil - try googling a few recipes and you'll get an idea of how easy it can be to create your own exfoliant, which you can even scent with your own signature scent.
Face polish and similar exfoliating products should be used no more than two or three times per week; rougher exfoliants should only be used once or twice a fortnight. Use finer ground exfoliants for the delicate skin on your face, coarser grains for the body. You can also use gentle exfoliating products such as gloves or brushes to help loosen dead skin and promote new growth.
PLEASE CONTINUE READING VIA OUR SEPARATE GUIDE (NATURAL SKINCARE Part 2), which outlines many of the natural ingredients readily available for your own DIY projects, as well as a list of beneficial Essential / Carrier Oils to each skin type, along with some simple recipes on how to create your own personalised natural skincare regime.
You might also like to LIKE our Facebook Page, where we regularly publish useful information in our NOTES section.
IF YOU HAVE FOUND THIS GUIDE HELPFUL: We'd be grateful if you could click on the 'thumbs up' button at the top of the page. Thank you!
WHO IS AROMA QUEEN?
Aroma Queen is an established registered Australian online business based on the mid NSW North Coast, in the Bellingen area.
If you're interested in purchasing Aromatherapy products, please visit our AROMA QUEEN STORE for our full range of Essential Oils, Oil Blends, Carrier Oils, Accessories (burners, inhalers, cases) and natural products including incense, smudging and natural skincare.
Copyright Aroma Queen Australia 2015.