Your guide to naturally beautiful skin
Industrialisation brought us convenience and domestic freedom, but it changed the way we perceived both food and skincare. What we once did for ourselves, including the basic life skill of growing and preparing our own food, went out of our hands and in the process drove us further and further away from our connection to nature and, as a consequence, control of our health and wellbeing.
Our great grandmothers were gardeners and home cooks and many were also herbalists and proud cosmeticians. Simple, fresh creams made of natural oils and herbs macerated into balms, compresses and fresh face masks made up the healthy skin diet of their time. For centuries, women looked after their own skin and in many parts of the world, they still do.
At some point, however, we relinquished control over the health of our skin and handed over the responsibility to mass-market companies which have, overall, done a very poor job. Our great grandmothers didn’t witness the epidemic of eczema and other skin conditions we are seeing today.
For healthy, vibrant skin, it’s crucial to use fresh ingredients that are rich in nutrients and energy to revive, nurture and rejuvenate the complexion. Looking after your own skin is easy once you have a few simple recipes and guidelines.
The bounty of plants
Humans and plants have a profound synergy. In a symbiotic relationship based on the fact that we both require similar elements to function well, we rely on each other for basic survival. The vibrant pigments found in plants help to protect them from environmental stress, including UV assault, and when we eat those plants or put them on our skin, they pass on their protective powers to us.
When a plant is injured, hormones travel to the wounded area to heal the plant. These plant hormones can also be employed to help rejuvenate human skin. Erich Keller, in his book Aromatherapy Handbook for Beauty, Hair, and Skin Care, writes, “The life within us can best be cared for and healed with living things.”
Antioxidants, phyto-oestrogens, fatty acids, minerals, amino acids, peptides, vitamins, alphahydroxy acids and enzymes — these are all essential elements for healthy skincare and they are at your disposal in the kitchen and the garden. But, before making skincare aids, it’s important to identify your skin type.
Understanding skin types
- Normal skin is rare unless you are very young. It is soft, smooth and finely textured, supple and balanced in both oil and moisture content. It has no enlarged pores, wrinkles or blemishes and is firm and resilient.
- Oily skin has a coarser texture, with obvious enlarged pores. The skin may look sallow or dull and is prone to acne, blackheads and infection. It’s greasy as a result of overproduction of sebum.
- Dry skin is usually delicate and finely textured, with no obvious pores, and has a predisposition to lines and wrinkles. It lacks moisture or fat due to inadequate production by the sebaceous glands and an inability to trap surface moisture. Often it feels tight, parched and flaky. (Dry skin, or alipoid skin, generally refers to skin that is lacking oil, whereas dehydrated skin is characterised by the lack of moisture in the stratum corneum.)
- Combination skin is a mix of two or more skin types, often dry patches with oily patches on the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) where the sebaceous glands are most prevalent. Each area is best treated according to its needs. For example, two types of mask should be prepared, one for each skin type.
- Sensitive skin is fine-textured and translucent, and often prone to lines and small surface veins. It can suffer redness and irritation when exposed to allergens in the air and to products such as perfume, lanolin and pollen. It’s often more susceptible to eczema and dermatitis. People with this skin type are often very sensitive and finely tuned, both physically and emotionally.
- Dehydrated skin is lacking in water, wrinkles quickly and is drawn and often cold. Lack of water in the tissues can be caused by insufficient fluid intake, poor lymphatic function, dieting, climatic conditions, swimming in chlorinated pools, central heating or air-conditioning, and lack of sebum, as well as over-use of soap and harsh detergents. Both dry and oily skins can become dehydrated.
- Mature or ageing skin is prone to dryness and dehydration, as it lacks oil and moisture, and to wrinkles and lines. The skin becomes flaccid, sags (with underlying fat shrinkage and skin-loosening) and looks dull. Growths and pigmentation occur and small capillaries appear.
- Acneous skin suffers from acne, a disease of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles. An excess of sebum is produced and clogs the pores, forming blackheads. The pressure of this sebum in the connective tissue increases and creates inflammation, abscesses and pimples.
Your skincare regime
Cleansing is arguably the most important part of your skincare regime as it literally washes away the day’s accumulation of dirt, pollution and makeup. It also helps to loosen dead skin cells, dislodge blackheads and clean out pores. Poorly cleansed skin leaves oil glands congested with dirt and cellular waste — the perfect environment for unwanted breakouts. Following are the various kinds of cleansers you can use for both body and face.
Both milk and yoghurt make effective skin cleansers. They are natural emulsions replete with acids, lipids and enzymes that help dissolve the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together, prevent blackheads and smooth out the skin. The high fat content of milk helps promote a finer complexion and soothes reddened, dry or irritated patches. For dry and mature skin use full-cream milk, soy milk or cream; for oily and untoned skin, use buttermilk, yoghurt or skim milk. Goat’s milk is kindest on sensitive skin.
Method: Add to a little fine oatmeal and use as a daily cleanser.
Women have cleansed their skin with vegetable and nut oils for centuries. Oil is very effective for helping to dissolve impurities on the skin. Those with oily and combination skins use lighter oils such as jojoba (excellent for oily skin as it has a balancing effect on sebum production), sweet almond and apricot kernel, and those with mature or very dry skin can use heavier oils such as olive or macadamia nut oil. Oily skin types, don’t panic: feeding your skin with oil can help balance sebum production by tricking the skin into “believing” it has made enough oil, so it doesn’t produce more.
Method: Massage with hands into a damp complexion. Remove thoroughly with a damp cloth submerged in water three times.
Castile soap is made with a high percentage of olive oil, so is not as drying as other soaps. However, the addition of some vegetable oil makes it even less drying and enhances this cleanser’s healing properties. This makes a great face and body cleanser.
80ml liquid castile soap
20ml unrefined vegetable oil to suit your skin type (if your skin is very dry, add another 20ml and reduce the castile soap to 60ml)
20 drops essential oils suited to your skin type (see combinations below)
1 tsp green clay (optional — a great addition for oily/acneous skin types)
Method: Mix together well and store in an airtight bottle in a cool place. Apply to a damp complexion with your hands.
Toners or skin fresheners are traditionally applied to the skin after cleansing or masking to help remove or dissolve any residue. They are also used to help stimulate circulation, restore the skin’s acid mantle, hydrate and refine the skin and temporarily reduce pore size. Avoid alcohol-based toners that strip the skin of its natural oils, over-stimulating the sebaceous glands and making your skin far greasier than before. The ideal toner should heal while correcting the skin’s balance. Witch-hazel makes a beautiful astringent and healing toner, as does apple cider vinegar in water — a great ingredient for balancing the skin’s pH.
Herbal teas make effective toners. They are cleansing, astringent, stimulating, soothing, calming and healing.
Herbs for oily and combination skin include: dandelion, lavender, lemon balm, green tea, lemon verbena, raspberry leaf, burdock root, sage, witch-hazel, rosemary, yarrow, bay leaf.
Herbs for mature and dry skin include: calendula, chamomile, red clover, elderflower, licorice root, marshmallow, green tea, gotu cola, fennel seed, ginseng, parsley, sage.
Herbs for sensitive skin include: calendula, chamomile, green tea, licorice, red clover, soapwort, lavender.
Healing floral toner for all skin types
Floral waters make soothing and healing skin tonics alone or as bases for other ingredients. Aloe vera is an ideal addition to a toner because of its astringent, antiseptic, healing and regenerative properties.
4½ tbsp floral water (lavender, rose water or orange blossom)
2 tsp aloe vera juice
Method: Mix together well and store in an air-tight bottle in the refrigerator.
Besides a bracing dip in the ocean, there is nothing quite like exfoliating the skin for instant rejuvenation. When dead skin cells are hanging around on the surface of the skin they prevent moisture, oxygen and nutrients from reaching living tissue, causing a dull, lifeless and uneven complexion. Exfoliating speeds up the natural process of the constant shedding of dead skin cells on the top layer of the epidermis (the stratum corneum), a process that naturally occurs within a monthly cycle but slows as we age. Too much exfoliation can dry out the skin, however, especially when using harsh scrubs that irritate the skin’s protective barrier. Sharp granules can create micro wounds in the skin, which in turn promotes infection. Use an exfoliant when you feel your skin needs it.
Alpha hydroxy acids
These occur naturally in fruits such as citrus, apples and tomatoes as well as in dairy foods. They help to clear the pores and moisturise the layers of the skin, creating a brighter, more radiant complexion. They are best used as masks as they need some time to break down the intercellular glue holding the dead cells to the skin. AHAs found in food are often gentler than AHAs found in creams. The other compounds, sugars and enzymes found in food buffer the intensity of the acid on the skin.
Certain plant enzymes help to dissolve dead skin cells, clearing the pores. Papaya and pineapple contain particularly effective enzymes for this purpose.
Method: Rub the inside of the papaya skin over a cleansed and damp face. Once dry, rinse off.
Rubbing skin with a specially prepared scrub will lift dead cells off the skin. Granules can be made from ground nuts, seeds, grains and pulses. This type of exfoliant is especially beneficial for oilier, more congested skin and blocked pores. They are also suited to skin that is sluggish and needs stimulating. They are less suited to sensitive skin types that are prone to broken capillaries.
This is a gentle exfoliant for very sensitive skin.
Method: Wrap some fine oatmeal in a piece of muslin cloth to form a ball. Wet the ball in warm water and squeeze. A milky liquid will be released. Gently massage over a damp face.
Base facial scrub
This will keep in the fridge if kept dry for three months.
½ cup very fine oatmeal
¼ cup rice flour (if your skin is very sensitive, exclude)
1 tbsp clay suited to your skin type
Method: Combine the ingredients together thoroughly and store in an airtight jar.
To use: Put 2 tsp of the mix in a bowl and add enough of a wet ingredient such as yoghurt, honey, milk (skim for oily skin), egg yolk (for dry skin), egg white (for oily skin), fruit juice, herbal infusions or floral waters to form a gritty paste. Spread onto a wet face and massage into the skin using gentle, upward, circular motions. Remove with tepid water and a muslin washcloth. Repeat until all residue is removed. Pat dry.
Masks are used to draw dirt, oil and impurities from the skin, soften blackheads and cleanse, stimulate, soothe, soften, hydrate, balance, nourish, brighten, heal, revitalise and generally improve the colour, tone and texture of the skin. They can be made from a mix of clays, flours, fruits, vegies, gels, milks, eggs, herbs, oils and essential oils. Paste them on a clean, damp complexion. Masks can be made up weekly or more often, depending on the state of your skin.
These are dry on the skin and are predominantly extracting, purifying, stimulating and toning. Argiletz clays, Australian clays, fuller’s earth, kaolin and certain gels are common ingredients.
These masks infuse active ingredients into the skin and hydrate, soothe, calm and heal. They usually stay wet on the skin and are made from fruits, vegetable gels, dairy, herbs, egg yolk or honey.
Feed your face with these ingredients:
- Avocado — rich in good oils, vitamins and phytosterols (plant hormones that rejuvenate the skin); nourishing and smoothing for mature/dry skins
- Cabbage — effective for treating inflamed pimpled skin; dip a couple of leaves into boiling water to soften them, cool and place over your face for 10 minutes
- Corn flour — mixed with a little water makes a soothing mask that’s brilliant for calming irritated, dry skin conditions such as eczema
- Honey — spread a fine layer over your face to help smooth and soften lines, treat skin eruptions, disinfect, cleanse, nourish and tone; manuka honey is excellent for acneous skin types and also helpful on eczema and dermatitis
- Tahini — a thick, buttery food made from pureed sesame seeds, it’s rich in vitamin E and softens and moisturises dry skin; spread a fine layer over skin and leave 10–15 minutes, then rinse off with a cotton cloth and tepid water
- Seaweed — boast healing properties from having the largest range of minerals of any organism, used in skincare for their cell regenerative properties and ability to attract and retain water; use powdered kelp mixed with water or soak sheets of nori seaweed in warm water and apply to the skin, leaving for 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly
- Turmeric spot mask — anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, used in many Ayurvedic skin treatments for oily, acneous skin types and for mature skin types; mix with a little yoghurt or lemon juice and apply to a blemish
- Tomato — mix with a little cosmetic clay on acneous patches and pimples to help dry them up; rich in skin-rejuvenating nutrients such as AHAs and vitamins A, C and B
- Almond meal — a great nutritious base rich in good oils, perfect for dry and mature skin types; add yoghurt, berries or avocado (or use all three) to make a nourishing mask (too rich for oily skin types)
Note: Fresh food masks will last only a couple of days in the fridge, but you can make a big batch and freeze in ice-cube trays.
Olive oil & lime juice skin rejuvenator
For mature, dry skin
This simple mask is full of antioxidants, including vitamin C, and alphahydroxy acids. It will soften and revive most complexions. You’ll be amazed at how much dirt it lifts. It works well as a 30-minute mask or can be left overnight and rinsed off in the morning.
¼ tsp olive oil (use jojoba for oily skin types)
½ tsp lime juice
Method: Whisk the ingredients until they turn cloudy. Apply to clean skin.
Green tea & fruit AHA gel mask
For dehydrated skin with blocked pores
Citrus pectin comes from citrus peel and is a gelling agent available from healthfood stores. Other nourishing and natural gelling agents that can be used in cosmetics include guar gum, xanthan gum and gel made from linseeds.
1 tbsp cooled green tea
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp apple juice
1–2 tsp citrus pectin
Method: Mix together the juice and tea and slowly whisk in the pectin until a gel forms. Apply to clean skin. Leave for 15 minutes and rinse.
Probiotic & papaya enzyme smoothing mask
For any skin types needing an overhaul
Argiletz or Australian cosmetic clays make great additions to your cosmetic creations. They are healing, balancing and extracting. It’s important not to let the clay completely dry on the face, as it can send oil glands into turbo drive. Use live organic yoghurt where possible. The good microflora help re-texturise the surface of the skin.
1 tbsp pink clay
1 tsp papaya
1 tsp yoghurt
Method: Mix together ingredients and apply to clean skin. Extend to the décolletage. Leave until the mask is almost dry and gently remove with a cotton cloth.
Calming chamomile & rosewater mask
A calming, hydrating mask for sensitive skin with broken capillaries
2 tsp strong chamomile infusion
2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp honey
1 tsp citrus pectin
Method: Mix tea, rosewater and honey together. Slowly whisk in citrus pectin with a fork, until it forms a gel. Apply with a flat brush or fingers. Leave for 20 minutes. Rinse.
The basic job of a moisturiser is to help keep moisture trapped in the surface layers of the skin. This influences elasticity, strength, and overall appearance of the skin and, most importantly, maintains barrier function and the skin’s immune system. Plants and their components provide us with everything we need for a good moisturiser as they boast many compounds already found within our skin. What do you want in a moisturiser? You want a mix of emollients, water, minerals, humectants and lipids — all the things naturally present in the skin’s surface layer.
Ingredients for a moisturiser
- Water is essential to keep the skin’s layers soft and supple.
- Natural moisturising factors (NMF) are naturally found within in the skin cells and help keep the cell plump and hydrated. They also help draw moisture from the atmosphere. Ingredients that act like the NMFs in our skin are honey, glycerine, lecithin, hyaluronic acid and lactic acid. Aloe vera and other plants, including those of the sea, contain mucopolysaccharides that act like hyaluronic acid, a substance in skin cells that keeps the skin moist and supple. Levels of hyaluronic acid decline as we age, requiring replenishment.
- Lipids are oils and fats that make up the oily parts of the skin or the lipid matrix include phospholipids, triglycerides, fatty acids, sterols and linoleic acid. These diminish as we age. Thankfully, they are also found in plant oils, so we can replenish our supplies by including vegetable and nut oils in our moisturisers. These plant oils have the added benefit of being rich in vitamins and antioxidants. These substances can be found in evening primrose oil, borage oil, sunflower oil, rosehip oil, soybean oil, ricebran oil, sweet almond oil, wheatgerm oil, avocado oil, vegetable squalene, macadamia nut oil (contains palmitoleic acid, also found in human sebum), grapeseed oil, blackcurrant oil, sea buckthorn oil, lecithin and olive oil.
- Antioxidants such as vitamin E and C and those found in green tea, grapeseed extract and calendula extract may help prevent oxidation of the skin lipids and provide protection against environmental assault. These extracts can be used in your creams at 1–2 per cent.
- Amino acids such as wheat amino acids can be used to smooth the skin.
- Essential oils are cleansing, healing, anti-bacterial, regenerative, sebum-balancing and anti-inflammatory, and they can speed up cell metabolism.
Lipid-rich intensive moisturiser
For dry and mature skin types
It will last for up to six months or longer if kept in the fridge.
This is a good base recipe for making other emulsions including cleansing milks and body moisturisers. As long as you keep the quantities the same, you can interchange ingredients to suit your skin type. You can also add floral water instead of purified water. If you’d prefer a richer cream, add more oil, or if you’d like to make a lotion, simply add more water. If you increase your measurements, you’ll need to increase the amount of emulsifying wax accordingly. If your skin is oily or combination, replace all the oils with 15ml of jojoba oil and keep the 5ml of vitamin E oil. You can buy emulsifying wax and natural preservatives and plant extracts from suppliers of raw materials. This will make about five 50ml jars of cream.
8g plant-derived emulsifying wax
10ml sweet almond oil
5ml rosehip oil
5ml vitamin E oil (tocopherol)
4 drops rosemary leaf extract (an antioxidant to prevent the oil from oxidising)
60ml purified water (boil the water twice to help purify it further)
20ml aloe vera juice
5ml vegetable glycerine
30 drops green tea extract
14 drops grapefruit seed extract (an anti-microbial that helps preserve the water content)
10 drops palmarosa essential oil
10 drops Australian sandalwood essential oil
Method: Mix all the ingredients of the fat phase (except for the rosehip oil, which spoils at high temperatures). Place in a bain marie (or glass pyrex jug upright in a pot of water) and heat over a medium temperature. Mix the water phase together in a pot and also heat over a medium temperature. Once both phases have reached 65–70°C, remove from the heat. Add the water phase to the fat phase, constantly stirring. At 40 degrees, add the essential oils and rosehip oil. Mix thoroughly. When it starts to thicken, pour into jars. Seal lids after allowing the cream to cool for 1–2 hours.
Jojoba oil moisturiser
For all skin types
Jojoba oil can be used alone as an effective moisturiser. It’s actually a wax and has excellent protective properties. It has the added benefit of acting as a humectant, drawing moisture from the atmosphere. Apply to damp skin.
Milk is an emulsion rich in acids, enzymes, sugars and protein — all the ingredients your skin needs to be properly moisturised. It’s rich in lactic acid, an AHA that refines the surface of the skin and improves moisture. It’s also reputed to help synthesise collagen. A popular Ayurvedic practice is to put a smattering of lemon juice in milk and sleep on it — a treat for smoothing the complexion.
Rejuvenating night treatment
Essential oils are stimulating, rejuvenating, antibacterial, balancing and anti-inflammatory. Put these combinations of essential oils in 100ml of base oil suited to your skin type and massage into your skin in the evening. If you have oily skin, put the blend into jojoba oil or a gel base.
Normal skin: 10 drops lavender, 6 drops geranium, 4 drops ylang ylang
Oily skin: 8 drops sandalwood, 6 drops lemon, 6 drops lavender
Dry skin: 8 drops sandalwood, 6 drops geranium, 6 drops rose
Combination skin: 10 drops lavender, 6 drops geranium, 4 drops orange
Sensitive skin: 6 drops chamomile, 4 drops rose, 2 drops neroli
Dehydrated skin: 10 drops rose, 8 drops sandalwood, 2 drops patchouli
Mature skin: 8 drops neroli, 6 drops frankincense, 6 drops ylang ylang
Acneous skin: 10 drops lemon, 10 drops cypress, 5 drops lavender
Devitalised skin: 10 drops geranium, 6 drops rose, 4 drops cypress
Broken capillaries: 8 drops rose, 6 drops chamomile, 6 drops cypress
Herbal facial steam
Steam opens the skin’s pores while deeply cleansing and rejuvenating all the skin’s layers. Using herbs and essential oils (see combinations above) in facial steams is an effective way to nourish your skin for their emollient, hydrating, anti-bacterial and rejuvenating properties. Licorice root is a good herbal choice for steaming, no matter what your skin type, because it helps open the pores, cleanses, soothes and moisturises. So break a piece of root into your steam pot. Other herbs to use are:
Dry skin: lavender, rosemary, mint or calendula
Sensitive skin: calendula or chamomile
Oily skin: mint, lavender, yellow dock, burdock root or witch-hazel
Mature skin: red clover, fennel seeds, marshmallow or lavender
1. Place a handful of herbs in a pot of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, adding water as needed.
2. Tie your hair back and cleanse your face.
3. Place the pot on a stable surface, preferably at a height that allows you to put your face over it comfortably. Make a tent over your head with a towel and hang your head over the pot. Be careful not to lean too close or you’ll scald yourself.
4. Keep your face in the steam tent for about 5 minutes. If it’s too much, have breaks in between.
5. Rinse your face with cool water and follow with an astringent such as witch-hazel to close the pores.
Hot compresses are relaxing, while cool compresses invigorate the skin.
Method: Infuse a cloth with an active ingredient to calm, invigorate, heal or rejuvenate. You can use a simple tea such as chamomile to calm or peppermint to refresh.
Phyto-oestrogen firming compress
For mature skin types
This is rich in phyto-oestrogens found in both flaxseed, fennel and soy milk, which are touted to have a firming and moisturising effect on the skin.
1 cup soy milk
3 cups water
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp flaxseed oil
Method: Heat the soy milk and water. With a mortar and pestle crush the fennel seeds and add to the soy milk and water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Take off heat, strain out the seeds. When warm, add flaxseed oil and honey.
To use: Submerge a cotton cloth into the mixture and wring, leaving some moisture in the cloth, and place over the face for a few minutes. Repeat a few times.
Ayurvedic physician Sri ian Sri Chaitanyananda said there are three golden rules for good health and skin: “Keep your bowels moving, keep your body moving, keep your breath moving.” Body brushing is the best and easiest treatment for rejuvenating the skin on your body. It aids in hydration, detoxification and moisturisation. It also whisks away dry, dead skin. Freshly made body scrubs are an excellent way of keeping your skin smooth. As the skin on the body is thicker than on the face, you can use salt and sugar granules to lift dead skin cells.
The skin on your limbs has fewer oil glands than your face and soap strips the skin of oil. So, instead of using soap, massage your body with unrefined vegetable or nut oil before going into the shower. When wet, wipe your skin with a flannel. This is a lovely way to clean and moisturise at the same time. Coconut oil is anti-bacterial and a great choice for a cleanser. (Oil in the shower can make the floor slippery, so be careful.)
Fresh coffee body scrub
This is a delicious scrub for kick-starting the lymphatic system and smoothing out bumpy skin. Coffee is stimulating and grapefruit is a decongestant. For a simple scrub (or if you’re not partial to the scent of coffee), omit the coffee.
1 cup granulated salt
½ cup vegetable or nut oil
¼ cup freshly ground coffee
40 drops grapefruit essential oil (or other oil)
Method: Mix together and put in a jar. Gently massage on decongested areas on the body.
Antioxidant-rich body oil
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and applying antioxidant-rich foods and oils to the skin will help counteract the damaging effects of a harsh climate and keep your skin looking radiant.
80ml sunflower oil
20ml carrot-infused oil
4 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops ylang ylang essential oil
12 drops sweet orange essential oil
Neck and décolletage
The neck, like the hands, is one of the first places to show signs of ageing. Engage in regular neck massages and extend your creams and lotions to the neck each day.
To keep neck muscles strong, a simple exercise is to pull the neck muscles up as you grimace/smile. Repeat 10 times.
Replenishing neck & breast oil
60ml sweet almond oil
20ml rosehip oil
20ml vitamin E oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops frankincense essential oil
Method: Blend and use a little on your fingers to massage with long sweeping movements, lifting the tissue as you go from the collarbone to the jawbone. The massage will improve the neck tissue by increasing blood flow and will also improve the underlying muscles.
Because of their high amounts of nerve endings and lack of covering, the lips are super-sensitive and an important erogenous zone. However, they can be easily damaged. They lack the usual skin-protective substances such as melanin and sebum, making them particularly vulnerable to the elements. Lip cracking is usually the result of a harsh climate, but other factors can contribute, including nutritional deficiency (often in vitamin B, C or A), allergies, gum problems or candida overgrowth (especially if there’s cracking or scaling in the angles of the lips). When your lips are dry and cracked, resist licking them. Saliva contains the enzyme amylase, which can damage lip tissue. Remember that whatever you put on your lips, you’re bound to eat most of it off, so make sure it’s natural and good enough to eat.
Lip herpes (herpes labialis) is a viral infection that manifests in painful blisters. It’s also commonly known as a cold sore. Once you’ve had a cold sore episode, the virus lies dormant in the skin and cold sores may reappear near the original site. Outbreaks frequently occur after sun exposure, trauma, stress or menstruation. They are highly contagious. L-lysine is one of the eight essential amino acids and research shows supplementation with it can help heal and prevent cold sores.
Herbal lip balm
This is full of antioxidants, fatty acids and other protective plant chemicals.
8g cocoa butter
20ml ricebran oil
20ml calendula-infused oil
10ml vitamin E oil
½ tsp honey
5 drops peppermint essential oil (or 10 drops mandarin oil)
Method: Melt wax, butter, honey and oils (except vitamin E and peppermint oils) together in a bain marie. When melted, take off heat. Add vitamin E and peppermint oils. Mix well. Pour into jars.
For centuries, the feet have been recognised as healing focal points, especially in the practice of reflexology, which uses points or energy channels that connect to the rest of the body, including the major organs. By massaging these points, health and vitality can be improved throughout the body.
The big toe is said to represent the head, so gently pull each one and rotate it to help relieve tension in your neck and shoulders. Use both hands to wring out your foot like a damp cloth and tap it to stimulate circulation. Allowing your bare feet to cavort regularly in the elements is favoured in both Kneipp hydrotherapy and macrobiotic philosophy as an aid to female reproductive health and to refresh body and soul.
The feet make great exit points for toxins. Soak your feet in a warm bath of epsom salts laced with a few drops of essential oil. Epsom salts help to detoxify the body and the high level of magnesium assists in relaxing the body and mind. Lemon juice also works well in a footbath for deodorising feet and drawing tension from the head. You can also throw in rejuvenating herbs from the garden, including rosemary, thyme, geranium, lavender and lemon balm. If you have a fungal infection, pop in a few drops of tea-tree oil. For cracked heels, soak in a footbath with a couple of tablespoons of bicarb soda. Once your feet are dry, employ a pedi-paddle to gently exfoliate the dead skin. Finish by massaging in some cream or calendula ointment.
Moisturising coconut & spice foot paste
1½ tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp oatmeal
2 tsp sweet almond oil
1 tsp mixed spice
Method: Combine the ingredients to form a smooth paste. Massage over the feet, leave for 10 minutes, then pop into a footbath. Ahhh…
The skin on the hands becomes dry very quickly, especially when exposed to the elements (and harsh surfactants) and continually submerged in water. This can wear down and wash away the skin’s protective barrier and can result in skin conditions such as dermatitis. It’s important to apply a protective balm or moisturiser throughout the day to help keep the barrier intact. Wear gloves when washing and always replace moisture with a lipid-rich hand cream. At night, massage a balm, cream or oil into your hands, then slip on some cotton gloves and sleep on it. Keep your hands fit and agile with massage, knitting, typing and yoga. If you have sore joints, try excluding nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and chilli) from your diet.
Strong fingernails are the result of a healthy diet, good digestion and the use of nutrient-rich topical applications. Flaws in the your fingernails are often a sign that something isn’t right. “White spots on the nails are usually caused by a deficiency of either calcium or zinc, says Alison. Other signs of compromised health are longitudinal ridges on the nails. Alison says these can suggest poor liver function or poor protein digestion.
A simple, healthy nail strengthener is unrefined vegetable or nut oil. Olive oil is both nourishing and high in polyphenols, which help to protect your nails. Keep a small bottle of oil near your desk and every so often rub some into your nails. This will also help to keep them flexible and strong, preventing brittleness, hangnails and ragged cuticles. It will stimulate circulation, thereby encouraging better growth. Soaking your nails in horsetail tea for five minutes daily can also help to strengthen them. The stems of the horsetail plant are rich in silica, vital for healthy nails, bones and hair.
Almond oil & lemon nail & cuticle refiner
2 tsp sweet almond oil
½ tsp lime juice
Method: Whisk together the ingredients until the mixture turns cloudy.
Carla Oates is a natural beauty expert and the author of Feeding Your Skin.