Herbal Skin Care

In the northern hemisphere, we’re all itching to get out of our winter layers and into T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops and for some, bathing suits. Here in north Georgia, you need about three wardrobes this time of year as Ma Nature vacillates between late-winter temperatures and those we normally see in late June. One of the problems with getting out of all those layers is most people ignore their skin in the winter and then rush to get everything looking nice when it’s bared to the public. There are things you can start to do now and incorporate into your routine so next spring, you won’t frown when it’s time to bare those arms & legs.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it not only holds everything together and makes you look better than just muscles & bones, it also protects you from harmful bacteria and is the body’s ‘third kidney’ – getting rid of a lot of toxins that accumulate in the body, helping the kidneys out. We really want to take care of it! Guys, don’t tune me out. This is for you, too!

First & foremost, you need to drink plain water. I wrote a blog post all about this awhile back and I suggest you go back and read it here.

Next, you might want to try dry skin brushing. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Literally millions of skin cells move up to the top layer and die every day. Most of them you shed off but some stay stuck. Buy yourself a natural bristle body brush (I got mine at the local chain drug store for about $6). Before you get wet, brush yourself with this brush. You don’t have to bear down, a light touch is all it takes. Start with the soles of your feet and work your way up with small circles. On your arms, start with your palms and work toward your shoulders. Don’t do your face (or any other sensitive area, if you get my drift), but do the nape of your neck. Brush every part you can reach (with a handled brush, you should be able to reach everything). Bottom up, top down, always working toward the heart. The sensation isn’t real pleasant at first (unless you like the feel of fine sandpaper) but you get used to it. It’ll take you 3-6 minutes which isn’t very long. By dry skin brushing, you’ll get that stuck layer of dead cells off and unclog your pores – where the toxins are eliminated through the skin. You’ll also stimulate surface circulation which helps your skin work like it’s supposed to, and a bonus for folks with cellulite: it’ll help break up those fatty deposits. It takes several weeks to see major improvement but I saw some in a little over a week.

If you don’t want to dry skin brush, at least get yourself a washcloth or body sponge that exfoliates. You don’t have to get something as harsh as a loofa but there are now many options on the market that will help.

Next up is moisturize. Guys, don’t skip this and even oily skin needs moisturizing! By keeping your skin moist, you don’t get micro fractures in the skin surface which can allow bacteria to invade the lower layers of your skin and make their way from there into other parts of your body by way of the blood. When you get out of the shower or bath, pat yourself until you’re damp, not dry, then use a moisturizer to seal in that water. If you dry skin brush, I think you’ll find your moisturizer absorbs quicker than it used to.

Commercial moisturizers are fine. My schedule has gotten rather crowded lately, so rather than make my own, I’ve been buying a mild moisturizer and adding some essential oils to it. Once life calms down again (please?), I’ll go back to making my own.

If you’re making an all-over moisturizer, olive and jojoba oils are probably a little too heavy to use as a base unless you have very dry skin and I’d never use them as a face oil. I prefer coconut, sweet almond or grapeseed for mine … sunflower in a pinch. To an eighth cup (one ounce) base oil, add up to ten drops of:

For dry skin Rose or Geranium essential oil; for oily skin Bergamot or Juniper essential oil; for normal skin Lavender essential oil. If you have breakouts, add two or three drops of Tea Tree, Thyme or Sage oil. I’m at that age where I’ve got combination skin so for my face I use Lavender, Geranium and a couple drops of Thyme. Smells yummy.

If you prefer to make an herb-infused oil, use 1 part dried herb to 10 parts oil (1 ounce herb by weight in 10 fluid ounces of oil), put in a sealed jar, shake it every day for 2 weeks and then strain. You can use almonds, borage, chickweed, comfrey, hollyhock, licorice, flaxseed, marshmallow root, mullein, plantain, rose petals or slippery elm. These are all good emollient (softening) herbs. Be sure to first crush any herb a bit to open the plant’s pores & allow the base oil to seep in.

Enjoy these warming days and be sure to take time to admire Ma Nature’s awakening. Stress takes its toll on skin, too. Stopping to ‘smell the roses’ is a great way to combat stress!