My work as an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist has completely changed my understanding of healthy. Food is medicine in the Chinese way of thinking, and you have to put the right medicine in to be well in your body.
Fresh veggies at Central Square farmer’s market
No matter what your constitutional needs, switching to a diet of minimally processed foods is going to make you feel better. You’ll eat lots of fruits, veggies, protein and actual whole grains. I know you can’t be perfect every day–shoot for 80% unprocessed and 20% whatever you want (well, within reason. . .). The goal is to avoid as many added chemicals as possible (the unpronounceable ingredients on processed foods, which appear in a shocking number of products).
Fixing your diet is an important part of having radiant, healthy skin. A healthy diet with lots of fruits and veggies is high in antioxidants, which makes your skin glow!
What you put on your skin matters as much as what you put into your body. We know that you absorb all kinds of things through your skin, including chemicals (nicotine and estrogen patches? Stick on birth control patches? I could go on). We know that most commercially prepared skin care products are full of the same sort of unpronounceable chemicals you try to avoid in your diet.
So, why not make your own skin care products? You don’t need to make all of your products–all-natural products do exist–but it’s not too much work to make some things of your own. Many are easy to whip up right on the spot.
One way I enjoy passing cold winter nights here in Boston is to give myself a natural facial (preferably followed by a hot bath, when I have the time).
I follow Rosemary Gladstar‘s 5 step program: 1. Scrub, 2. Steam, 3. masque, 4. tone, 5. moisturize. Rosemary includes a great selection of skin care recipes in her book, Herbs for Natural Beauty.
I keep a variety of herbs on hand, and I know that you might not, but it’s easy enough to visit your local herb shop (if you’re lucky enough to have one), or order a few things on the internet. I order my herbs from MountainRoseHerbs.com, which sells herbs in small quantities, making it easier to experiment. They carry an extensive selection of organic herbs and oils, giving you to option of making your skin products that much better!
Here’s what I’ve been doing lately:
1. Scrub–2 tsp honey mixed with 2 tsp ground nuts (almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, etc).
You can grind nuts and seeds in an electric coffee grinder (I recommend buying a dedicated grinder for herbs and nuts–you will ruin your coffee if you do them in the same machine!).
2. Herbal facial steam: in a large pot (soup pot?) boil a handful or two of herbs that you have on hand (tea bags are just fine!): Calendula, Rose, Lavendar, Chamomile and Mint are all excellent and gentle options (I like a combination of them all). Boil them for 2-3 minutes, keeping the pot covered until you are ready to use it (the essence of the herbs is in the steam, and you want all of it to go into your skin!). I recommend setting the pot on a low coffee table, tent a bath towel over your head and sit on the couch so you can steam for 5-10 minutes (longer is supposed to be better). It should be hot under your “tent”, and if it’s too much, you should let some air in to cool the steam.
3. Masque: Betonite clay and whole milk yogurt, cream or calendula hydrosol. (start with 1 tsp clay and 2 tsp liquid, and adjust until spreadable but not runny)
Betonite clay is a mineral-rich clay that is appropriate for most skin types. It’s action is to gently and throughly pull all the dirt out of your skin.
I love using fatty milk products–the lactic acid gently exfoliates while the milk fat moisturizes.
This masque doesn’t smell very good, but it’s great for your skin. The least messy way to remove it is in a shower or bath.
4. Tone: spray on Calendula or Rose hydrosol
Toning helps close your pores back up after the steaming and cleansing masque. If your pores stay open, it’s easier for dirt to make it’s way back in.
I like to make my own lotion. Most of us use lotion every day, so it seems like the most important product to make. I make mine with organic oils and organic true hydrosols. I haven’t seem many products that boast such an ingredient list.
Making lotion takes some finesse, but it’s extremely satisfying when you succeed. I hope to post instructions soon. I highly recommend Rosemary’s excellent Herbs for Natural Beauty, where you will find clear instructions and an excellent lotion recipe to get you started.
Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) photograph by AudreyJM529 under creative commons licence.