As a reader of this blog, you're probably someone who cares a lot about what you put into your body... but are you as diligent about what you put on it?
Our skin (the largest and heaviest organ of our bodies!) is very strong and well-adept at protecting our delicate insides from the world around us. But don't be fooled! As strong and resilient as our skin may be, it's also porous. So everything you apply to it will soak through and effect your inner body - just as much as what you eat and drink! For example, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that human skin absorbed 64-100% of the chemicals found in contaminated tap water. The higher percentages represent the absorption rate of more delicate areas of the body, like the underarms and face.
Many women in our culture spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on skincare every year. Of course there are men who spend just as much, but I single out women here because we're the demographic that the skincare industry traditionally targets with its advertising dollars. Speaking of dollars... skincare is a 17.5 billion dollar industry. It's also riddled with toxic chemicals, endocrine disrupters, and pollutants to our environment (the glitzy branding and ad campaigns leave that part out). Yuck!
But don't fret! As always, the power is in the consumer's hands. It's our responsibility to read those ingredient labels, do our research and choose products that are simple and clean. I personally love the Environmental Working Group for the work it does to inform the public about products that contain fewer or no dangerous chemicals. Check out the EWG and see what their research shows about the skincare products you currently use!
Another wonderful option? Craft your own skincare at home! It's fun, empowering and easier than you might expect. I like to think of my skincare routine as an important form of self-care, and that goes for making my own skincare products, too. The soothing aromas, textures, sensations and time involved can be so calming. It's a practice of pure self-love!
Here are a few of my go-to skincare recipes that you can master with everyday ingredients at home:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
If you've come to visit me at Nüssli118° in Cambridge, you know I have very kinky, curly hair. I love it, but it's super sensitive and needs lots of TLC! So I don't use drugstore shampoo - or any shampoo - ever! Instead, I use an organic conditioner along with a once-a-week Apple Cider Vinegar rinse. This is a great treatment for all hair types, curly or straight. It's supremely natural and it effectively rids the scalp of dirt and product build-up, leaving your hair clean and shiny.
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (if you use raw or unfiltered ACV, strain out the solids first)
Optional: A few drops of your favorite essential oil
Combine the water and ACV in a cup. Add essential oils if desired. In the shower or over your kitchen sink, pour the mixture to cover your hair and scalp. (Be careful not to get it in your face and eyes! If you do, simply rinse your eyes out with clean water.) Let it set in your hair for 2 minutes. Rinse out completely. Your hair will feel super soft and shiny! Don't worry about smelling like vinegar, the smell dissipates immediately after rinsing.
2. Coconut Oil Scrub
My facial routine is relaxing. I love to set aside lots of alone time for it (especially because if my family sees me with a face mask on, they always try to make me laugh to "crack my face"!) To begin my facial routine, I apply this exfoliating Coconut Oil Scrub. This "recipe" requires no measuring - simply adjust the quantities to suit your personal preference.
Unrefined coconut sugar
Unrefined coconut oil, slightly melted
Optional: A few drops of essential oil, or a sprinkling of cinnamon
Combine the coconut sugar and slightly melted coconut oil to create a mud-like consistency (about equal parts of each). Add a touch of cinnamon or essential oil for a nice aroma. Mix well.
Slightly dampen your face, and apply the scrub to your skin using very gentle circular motions. This is a lovely treatment for the body, as well. Coconut oil is anti-microbial and anti-bacterial leaving skin clean and moisturized - no need for soap, which strips the skin of moisture! After a minute or so of exfoliating, rinse and towel dry. (I love bamboo towels for their soft texture and the fact that they're made of a renewable material!)
Extra, unused Coconut Oil Scrub can be stored in a jar. This makes a nice homemade gift, too!
3. Herbal Facial Steam
Gentle steaming is used at spas for relaxation and to open up the pores for deep cleansing. You can replicate this process at home! Customize your steam with different herbal teas, and take your time for the ultimate de-stressing effect. (Note: Be sure to steam after exfoliating, not before - steaming makes the skin slightly more sensitive.)
One herbal tea bag, or the equivalent in loose-leaf tea
Optional: Eucalyptus leaves or a few drops of essential oil
Boil a few cups of water. Pour the steaming hot water into a wide bowl, and add an herbal tea bag. Peppermint, lavender, rose or chamomile are all lovely options. Instead of tea, you can also use eucalyptus leaves or essential oil.
Sitting at a table with the bowl in front of you, place a large towel over your head and the bowl. Create a tent with the towel so no steam escapes. Enjoy 10-15 minutes here in peace and quiet. Afterward, towel dry your face spending some extra time on the areas with larger pores - mostly the T-zone. Follow up with a pore-cleansing mask.
4. Oat Mask
I use many different ingredients in facial masks depending on the time of year and how my skin is behaving. For the cold winter months, oats are perfect. They contain avenanthramides, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that soothe itchy, dry or irritated skin.
1/4 cup oats
Optional: 2 green tea bags or cucumber slices
Grind the oats (rolled or quick oats work best ) in a blender or coffee grinder to make flour. Mix the oat flour with water, one tablespoon at a time, until a paste forms. Smooth the paste over clean or just-steamed skin. Allow it to dry for 10-15 minutes. This is a good time to lay back and place moist green tea bags or cucumber slices over your eyes. I love to rest like this over my yoga blocks, or with my feet and legs up against the wall to encourage lymphatic drainage.
Rinse your face thoroughly, and follow with moisturizer. I use a nice, pure oil like argan oil for mature skin or marula oil for combination skin. One ingredient, no mystery chemicals!