Tag Archives: skin

How safe are your skin care products?

Our bodies absorb 60% of what we put on it (in 26 seconds!). Children’s bodies absorb 40-50% more. This is a scary fact and we need to become more aware about what we actually use for skin care, not least for our children. Toxins are present in most skin care products and even though the quantities may be small, they build up in the body. How many products do you use daily? What is in them? What about your children?

Cosmetics; true claims or publicity?

Though the skin acts as a barrier to the “outside world”, a lot of the stuff we put on it will pass through and enter the bloodstream, influencing every cell of your body. In this day of enlightenment with information and knowledge, literally at your fingertips, more and more people are growing aware of the importance of what you put on, and in, your body. Later years there has been a great wave of new awareness of “the bad stuff”; chemicals, artificial flavorings, synthetic perfumes and manipulated foods. People stay clear of that which they know to be bad and try to make informed choices, especially when it comes to food. BUT when it comes to skin care, only the tip of the ice-berg has been scraped.

Catchy, but is it true?

Catchy, but is it true?

The cosmetic market is one of the largest in the world, turning over more money than we can even imagine and there have been almost no regulations whatsoever. Over the past few years new bodies of regulation have been formed and guide-lines are being set up. This is all good and well, but in reality it means nothing because the only regulations we are seeing are about certain (a very small percent) ingredients which have shown to be harmful to human health. There are still no guidelines in place about what you are allowed to say in terms of publicity. A producer can say anything he likes, even if it is a blatant lie. (see earlier post)

As a producer and manufacturer of botanical organic products, I have spent much time doing research among people and shops; How informed are people and what do they ask for? How informed are the staff in cosmetic sections? I have spent hours browsing cosmetic departments in many different countries and the picture is the same everywhere…The answer is; NOTHING! More people than ever are asking for “clean” cosmetics; no chemicals, no animal-testing, organic and natural. They trust the staff in the shop to know these things and help them, but the staff only knows that which they have been told when trained to sell specific brands. This is no knowledge at all, it is publicity. Staff as well as the common person don’t know how to read inci-list (ingredients) nor do they know what the words mean. On top of that the inci-list is printed on some obscure part of the packaging that you have to search for and in such tiny letters that I need both my glasses and a magnifying glass to read it. (see this post on inci) If you buy cosmetics over the internet, the inci is not always listed on the site, only on the physical product.

Clinically? I doubt it. Spread on that botox, no more shots...Seriously?

Clinically? I doubt it. Spread on that botox, no more shots…Seriously?

Animal testing is a huge arena and the world is beginning to understand the impact such testing has on millions, billions of animals. Most people are horrified and would never want to use any product that has been tested on animals. The majority of products on the market today claim that they have not been tested on animals which is probably true. BUT many of the different ingredients have been tested on animals, even though the finished product hasn’t been tested. Claims on skin care are seldom true, they are publicity.

With this I will leave you to inform yourself; what do you actually need for your personal hygiene and cosmetics? What is acceptable to you? If you want to know more and inform yourself so that you can make better choices, there are loads of sites on the internet where you can find this information very easily, I have put a few links on the right under “information & resources”. When you go shopping, ask questions and demand informed answers.

SPIKENARD

Spikenard or Narde (Nardostachys jatamansi / N. grandiflora): It belongs to the Valerian family and has similar properties as its cousin Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). A flowering plant that grows to a height of about 1 meter, the rhizomes are distilled to produce the essential oil. It is native to the Himalayas; China, northern India and Nepal, mostly cultivated in Nepal and India. The best quality oil comes from Nepal. Spikenard is a slightly viscous, greenish-brown oil, darkening with age. The scent is deep and fresh, reminiscent of earth after rain, with a hint of fruity overtones.

History: Nard was (and is) used in the Indian tradition of Ayur veda. In ancient Egypt it was a luxury perfume and upon investigating the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1926, small alabaster vessels were found with a solidified, scented unguent (ointment, solid perfume) which turned out to be perfumed with spikenard and frankincense. Spikenard was also one of the ingredients in the ancient Egyptian perfume “Kyphi” that was burned at dusk to make sure the life-giving sun would return the next day. It was an important part of the Hebrew traditions where it was a component of the sacred incense, HaKetoret, wich was burned in the Jewish temple of Jerusalem. Spikenard in Hebrew is Nard and translates as Light. Most people recognize the name due to its mention in the bible (Song of Solomon, Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9). Spikenard was the oil used by Mary Magdalene to anoint the feet of Jesus at the last supper (John 12:1-10). At the time, spikenard was extremely costly and Judas Iscariot was outraged by the fact that it was used, seeing as the amount used was worth about a year’s wages for an ordinary working man. The Greek word for Spikenard means genuine and pure.

With such an illustrious history from ancient times, Spikenard is bound to tickle the imagination. Many believe that its claim to fame is due to the high cost it carried, but spikenard was not the only costly scent at the time; myrrh and  frankincense  were also extremely costly – even more so than gold. On researching the oil I find a red thread which points to the spiritual properties of the scent; Spikenard connects us to the divine.

USES:

  • SKIN: Balancing, regenerating and healing. Mature skin, psoriasis (1% blend), allergies, itching, skin-problems. Healthy skin maintenance.
  • DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Antispasmodic and digestive: nausea, constipation, colic and cramps.
  • CIRCULATION: Harmonizes & stimulates circulation. Haemorrhoids, varicose veins. Regulates heartbeat.
  • NERVOUS SYSTEM & EMOTIONAL: Balancing, calming, grounding, harmonizing: Insomnia, migraine, stress, nervous tension, insecurity, anxiety. Deep emotional wounds. Can be of use in working through addictions, especially drugs.

Spikenard works on the solar plexus in a deeply calming manner. It is liberating and profoundly soothing. It releases emotional tension and being  at the same time grounding and opening it bring us in touch with our inner spirituality.

Personal: The word that comes to me is surrender. Spikenard brings us to a place of such peace and tranquility, enveloping us in a deep sense of safety. In this place we can allow ourselves to let go of emotional wounds, fears and insecurities. It connects us to the divinity within and lessens the stresses of the outside world. It shows us the way to heal from within. I mainly use this beautiful oil for emotional work. Its wonderful skin-care properties make it easy to incorporate as a releasing agent in the every-day life. Used as a facial oil you have the healing emotional benefits as well as excellent skin-care.

This oil resonates deeply within me. The first time I met Spikenard I was in the midst of a tremendously painful and difficult period of my life. It transported me to a place of such calm serenity, that all the difficulties fell away and I could see – for the first time –  solutions and possibilities. This moment brought me forever out of the worst trauma of my life. Till this day Spikenard is my doorway to assurance, peace and spirituality. It is probably the one oil I would always carry.

Considered a safe oil to use. As it has a ovary-stimulating action, I avoid using it during pregnancy. Spikenard is sometimes used in natural perfumery as a fixative.


SHEABUTTER or BEURRE KARITÉ

Latin name: Butyrospermum parkii

The name Shea comes from s’i – the tree’s name in Mali. The Latin name comes from the explorer Mungo Park who introduced it to Europe.

The shea-tree grows in the dry savannahs of Africa. It grows to a height of about 20 meter and starts bearing fruit after 8-12 years, though it reaches full producing capacity only after 40 years after which it can bear fruit for over 200 years. Flowering season is January/February and the fruit ripens between May and August. The fruits are the size of large plums. A “good” tree can yield up to 80 kg of nuts/year but normally a tree produces about 20 kg of fruit, giving 1.5 kg of butter. 100 kg of fruit will yield about 8 kg of butter.

Process: The  fruit falls as it ripens and is collected – traditionally by women and children. The outer shell is then crushed and removed, revealing another, inner, shell that is removed by boiling or roasting. Inside is the nut that is used. After drying, the nut is crushed to release the butter. This method of extraction leaves the butter intact but gives a lower yield and is therefore more expensive. Another process is by using a hexane solvent extraction which gives a higher yield. The butter is also made into an oil by reducing the amount of stearic acid. The cheaper, refined, variety is widely used by the chocolate industry and can also be found in margarine and other foods. Shea-butter is extensively used by the cosmetic industry and can be found in many creams, lotions and emollients.

The butter has been used for thousands of years by the Africans as food oil, lamp oil, protective salve and for soap. Therapeutically it has been used to treat sprains, muscular pain, and as an anti-inflammatory. It has also traditionally been used as a protective agent for skin and hair.

USES:

  • Shea butter contains cinnamic acids which  has sun-screening properties, protecting the skin against UV-rays.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties help with cracks, skin-ulcers and fissures.
  • prevention of stretch-marks by making the skin supple.
  • Emollient on dry skin, hair and lips. Makes the skin soft and supple.
  • For sprains, aches and rheumatism.
  • Acne, itchiness, eczema, irritated skin, scars.

Shea butter is white to creamy in color. It is readily absorbed by the skin without leaving a greasy residue, and the skin will feel softer after use. Being very mild, it is tolerated by most people. The butter is stable, giving it a shelf-life of about 2 years if stored cool and dark. It melts at a temperature of 35-40 degrees celsius.

Chemical profile:

  • Oleic acid, 40-45%
  • Stearic acid 30-45%
  • Linoleic acid 3-9%
  • Palmitic acid 3-5%

MAY CHANG

Time for a profile again; this is a wonderful, versatile oil with a lovely scent. It’s attractive to most people and one of those scents that is always appreciated when it comes to scenting spaces.

May Chang, Litsea (Litsea cubeba). Synonyms: tropical verbena, yunnan verveine. These names are a bit misleading, since it is not at all related to Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla). It belongs to the same family as the rosewood and cinnamon tree. Litsea is a small tropical tree with lemony-scented leaves and flowers. It produces little fruits shaped like peppers which gives the name cubeba. The tree is native to Asia, especially China where it is often planted as a wind breaker. China is the main producer, but it is also cultivated  in Taiwan and Japan. The oil was introduced to the West as late as in the mid-fifties.

The oil is steam-distilled from the fruits, the yield is high – the fruits contain 3-5% essential oil. On Java, Indonesia, small quantities of oil is distilled from the leaves, though it is considered inferior since there is less citral in it. (I would love to get my hands on some of that oil, since, in aromatherapy, we are not looking at isolation but rather wholeness, it would have different therapeutic properties ) The main component of the fruit-oil is citral, up to 85%. The scent of Litsea is sweet-lemony, fresh and fruity. It is reminiscent of lemongrass but lighter and sweeter without the sharpness and tenacity of lemongrass.

The major use of the oil is for the isolation of citral which is used for flavor and fragrance. The chemical industry uses it as a raw material for the synthesis of vitamin A and also converts it into a violet-like scent. International standards set the minimum citral-content at 74% for Litsea, the same as for Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and both these oils are described in trade terms as “75 percent”.

Traditional uses in China are: indigestion, lower back pain, chills, headaches and travel sickness.

Essential oil of Litsea cubeba is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, carminative, sedative and calming. It is also used as an insect-repellent, though I find Citronella (Cymbogogon nardus) to be more efficient.

USES:

  • SKIN: Its antimicrobial properties make it excellent for oily skin and acne. It is astringent and gently cooling on the skin and makes a good tonic.
  • RESPIRATORY: Tonic. Has been used as a broncho-dilator and may be helpful with bronchitis and asthma. (In the case of asthma, I believe part of its usefulness is the calming and relaxing effect of the oil.)
  • HEART: Tonic to the heart; much research is being done in China on disease-prevention and cure of heart-problems. Recent research has shown Litsea’s ability to reduce arrhythmias in comparison with propranolol, a beta-blocker, antihypertensive and anti-angina drug. (Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1991 Aug;11(8):509-12.) Personal note: This ability might be of great help in stress-relief, especially when stress causes irregular heart-beat.
  • DIGESTIVE: Flatulence, indigestion and poor appetite.
  • NERVOUS SYSTEM: Calming and antidepressant. Useful for nervousness and depression as the oil is softly uplifting and strengthening (tonic). Use it together with Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) and/or Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) for sleeping disorders. This blend is deeply relaxing.

More: As a sanitary air-freshener when there is disease. Brilliant to use during those months of the year when colds and flu’s set in.

Personal experience: I have found Litsea to be one of the few oils that most everybody likes. I have used it successfully on clients with racing heart-problems from stress and for people suffering from anorexia.

Litsea can cause sensitisation in some individuals. Do not use neat on skin.

 

SKIN-HEALTH

A very beautiful old lady

(picture by: pedrosimoes7)

Skin-health is just that; healthy skin. The skin is our largest organ and it does a lot for us; it protects, communicates, informs and keeps the right temperature. It also secretes toxins and other stuff from our body. Lack of skin health can simply be imbalances such as spots, dryness, excessive sebum and/or blotches. But problems that shows up on the skin can also be symptoms of something else:

  • Sensitivities to foods, medication or products
  • Imbalances in different organs; liver, kidneys, intestine, lungs
  • Warning of disease (cancer can sometimes make itself known by random spots on the skin)
  • Dehydration
  • Toxicity
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Stress

It amazes me how we tend to see the skin as something apart from the rest of our bodies, as if the only thing that counts is to look good rather than to feel good. Often when there is a problem with the skin we attack it with everything possible, even aggressively, forgetting that it might be a symptom of something else.

While researching substances that are used in skin-care and looking at how people treat their skin I am horrified. The only thing that seems to matter is the whole anti-aging business; you have got to stay young-looking! This is not possible, every system in our body ages; the moment you are born you start aging. True beauty is health – that is what gives that radiant look, not the absence of wrinkles.

The first step to that “radiant glow” is food, sleep and exercise:

  • Nutrition: Take 1 month and follow an elimination diet. (a free E.D can be downloaded here) This will cleanse your system and you can determine if you suffer from any sensitivities. You might be sensitive to milk-products or wheat without having an allergy.
  • Exercise: Get out there every day and move! It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you get the circulation going and breathe fresh air.
  • Sleep: Try to get to bed a bit earlier in the evening so you get enough sleep. Use relaxation techniques to calm down and de-stress.
  • Water: The best beauty regime in the world. Dehydrated skin is life-less and dry. Drinking plenty of water helps your system to detox and leaves your skin plump and nice – no matter what your age is. Test: Squeeze your skin between 2 fingers and let go, it should return to normal rather quickly (even if you are older) if not, you suffer from dehydration.
  • Oils, fats and waxes: From natural sources. This is by far the most important thing for the skin. It is better to use only a high-quality cold-pressed oil on your skin (both for cleansing and protection) than a lot of products. Remember that a cream consists of 50-70% water… The older you get, the dryer your skin gets and water is not the solution – except when drinking it!

You can not live an unhealthy lifestyle and expect to look good. Alcohol, tobacco, coffee, sugars, aspirin, sleeping-pills… It deteriorates your system and will age you faster than anything else, no matter what you put on your skin.

Avoid too many different skin-care products and try keeping it as simple as possible. As I have stated earlier; it takes about 3-4 weeks for the new skin-cells to reach the top layer and show results from your skin-care regime. For a definite change you need to count 3 months. During this time you should stick to the same regime, to allow for the change. Very often there is a period of problems such as spots for example, this is the skin detoxifying and re-balancing itself from the inside out. Many products give an instant “good look” which can be deceiving since it is not even skin-deep, only superficial – like make-up. Over time this will deteriorate and stress the skin, creating more lines and dryness. (see my last post on mineral oils)

A lot of the stuff that is in a cream does not actually penetrate the skin, since the molecules are too large or the substances are not recognizable by our bodies. Sometimes they will even be harmful, just because products are expensive does NOT necessarily mean that they are any good. Remember: Less is more!

 

AVOCADO AND OLIVE-OIL

There are 2 oils that are pressed from the fruit-pulp rather than from the nut or seed:

Avocado Oil (Persea gratissima / P. americana): The fresh, oily pulp of the fruit is pressed or centrifuged to yield its oil, after which it is filtered. The oil is green due to its chlorophyll content. The freshly pressed oil degrades quickly when exposes to sunlight, making the oil turn brown – at this point it is off and should not be used. The scent is strong and fruity, when it starts to go off, the scent becomes earthy-moldy. Most avocado-oil is refined to make it more stable, it then has a light yellow color and hardly any scent. Sometimes a coloring agent is added to create the green color and raise the price. Make sure you get your oil from a reputed distributor. Store cool and dark. The oil hardens when cold but goes soft in room-temperature.

Avocado oil is rich in vitamins – especially vitamin D and E. It also contains different sterols that can have a healing effect on various skin-problems. Avocado oil is softening, protecting and cell-regenerating for the skin and absorbed rather easily. Use it on dry, damaged and mature skin.

Olive Oil (Olea europea): . When the fruits are stored free radicals are formed which impairs the quality. Therefor the  fruits need to be pressed immediately after harvest. By carefully cold-pressing the whole fruit, including the skin, the extra virgin oil is obtained. Next quality-level is Virgin fine. These are the oils that should be used both for culinary and cosmetic purposes. The oil is green due to its chlorophyll content and it has a strong, characteristic scent of olives. Olive oil is stable and will keep even in room-temperature. When stored cool (10 degrees celsius or colder) the oil will go cloudy and at colder temperatures it will harden.

Olive oil is mainly used for culinary use and this is how we best receive its health benefits. Use it for cooking, on salads, bread, vegetables… A true virgin oil has a wonderful taste, I don’t use that for cooking since it destroys the scent/taste. Rather I use a lesser degree for cooking and save the glorious virgin for use on salads, bread, vegetables etc.

For cosmetic use it is a bit heavy and it has a strong scent. That said, it is anti-inflammatory and can be used for eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, sunburn and insect-bites. Use with chapped, dry skin and brittle nails. Blend with lighter vegetable oils for skin-care.