Monday, July 28, 2014

Organic Skin/Body/Personal Care Products - Why It's Important To Use Them

Hello My Fellow Health Seekers!  Happy Mid-Summer To You!  As many of you know, I'm a Licensed Holistic Esthetician, certified aromatherapist, raw food advocate, herbalist specializing in topically-applied herbal medicine, and prolific author of books that deal with the topics of chemical-free skin and body care, raw food nutrition, and herbal medicine.  I teach classes all around the country, especially at the regional Mother Earth News Fairs (see their website for upcoming fair schedules), plus in my local Bucksport, Maine area - espousing the benefits of living a "clean" life with plenty of exercise, fresh air, good organic food, satisfying career, great companions, and using chemical-free products on yourself, on your property, and in your home, etc. 

With the dangers of chemicals in our environment (air, water, soil), and in our food, personal care products, and medicines being in the forefront of national and global news, it baffles me that there are sooooo many people still out there that are of the notion that what we put on and in our bodies makes absolutely no difference in our health and the health of our planet!  How can that be???

Since I specialize in natural skin care - it's near and dear to my heart - I'm going to tell you why it's important to use organic personal care products - for yourself, your significant other, and your children.  Some of this information is adapted from my best-selling Organic Body Care Recipes book (Storey Publishing 2007) and some of it just rambles out of my brain today.  You've got to stop putting chemicals on your body!

A Natural Approach To Skin & Body Care

Did you know that women use an average of 12 personal care products daily?  And men aren't far behind, with about 7 in their daily routine.  Each day we use soap, body scrub, lotion, face cleanser, toner, night cream, shave cream, after-shave balm, sunscreen, makeup, and deodorant, so it's important to know what's coming into contact with our skin.  Remember:  Your skin eats - or, more accurately, absorbs.

The official terms for the process of absorption of substances via the skin is transdermal penetrationAll topical substances can either penetrate or affect the skin's surface.  To what degree depends on the particular substance, molecular size of the ingredient(s), temperature, and the condition of the skin at the time of contact.

If you're having a hard time believing that your skin can actually absorb some of the ingredients from your favorite body product, then you have only to think of 3 popular drugs that are transported into the bloodstream via a topically applied patch:  nicotine used for cessation of smoking, hormones for birth control as well as for menopausal symptoms, and nitroglycerin for angina pectoris.

The High Price of Vanity

According to Myra Michelle Eby, founder of MyChelle Dermaceuticals, a large number of the chemicals and artificial fragrances in our daily applications of body care products have names that might sound like Greek to us - but because our skin may absorb up to 60 percent of them, they can all be potentially harmful.  Once in our bodies, our fatty tissue stores these chemicals, leading to a host of possible problems.  The solution to avoiding these chemicals: Read the label and choose organic next time you purchase personal care products!

Parabens, "estrogen mimickers and chemical preservatives found in almost all standard, commercially-prepared body care products," can affect those who have what's known as paraben-mix allergy, resulting in rashes after applying a product.  In fact, some topical parabens have even been detected in human breast tumors!

Other preservatives such as DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and quaternium 15, are very common and can release trace amounts of formaldehyde into the skin, leading to joint discomfort and contact dermatitis.

The chemical triethanolamine (TEA), often used as a base for cleansers and in cosmetics to adjust pH, may cause allergic reactions, skin and hair dryness, and eye irritations.

Artificial fragrances are often manufactured from petrochemicals and can irritate the skin and strip it of its natural protection and even lead to difficulties such as headaches and asthmatic complications. 

Synthetic colors such as FD&C or D&C followed by a number can be carcinogenic.  Fortunately, some commercial products do have natural coloring agents.

Phthalates, which can accumulate in the skin and lead to an increased risk of reproductive abnormalities, can be found in hair sprays, perfumes, and nail polish.

As a lic. esthetician and holistic skin care specialist, my focus is on educating individuals so that they can realize their highest health and beauty potential through the use of natural skin and body care products and vitalizing lifestyle habits.  I want my clients, event attendees, and readers of my books to become active participants in their own well-being (and the well-being of this precious earth of our!), too.

In my years of experience, I've worked with a wide range of commercially prepared products, including high-end preparations and "natural" products from health food stores and wellness spas.   Many of these skin and body care preparations, even the so-called "natural" ones, contain highly toxic and irritating ingredients.  Frequently, I've heard from both clients and my readers who have endured allergic reactions or other skin sensitivities resulting from their use of these often costly and often synthetic products.

But if potentially irritating or harmful chemicals and artificial colorants and fragrances can be absorbed by your skin, then so can highly beneficial natural ingredients (especially organically-derived ingredients), which can promote beauty and wellness.

In this rapidly advancing technological age of skin and body care, you can visit your local medical spa and choose from a dizzying array of "youthifiers."  A few of the products and services offered might be pharmaceutically enhanced cosmetics; laser skin resurfacing; acid-based skin peels; microdermabrasion; surgical face and body reconstruction;  application of permanent eye and lip liner and brow color; intense pulsed light for acne treatment; or an injection cocktail to temporarily remove this, that, or the other wrinkle.

While these technological advancements do have their place, they shouldn't prevent us from taking control of our own bodies. These quick fixes do not come without some pain or irritation, risk, or high cost.  Nor do they offer an everlasting cure-all to our perceived physical or emotional shortcomings.

The time is ripe for getting back to the basics.  Many of us have lost sight of our true selves in an effort to become synthesized, smoothed, or physically augmented.  It's important to remember, however, that Hollywood hype is NOT reality - nor should it be.

Holistic herbal skin and body care comprises an ancient tradition practiced for thousands of years, promoting mutual respect between individuals and generations; harmony and balance within; gentle co-existence with the earth; and a visible physical radiance in the individuals who practice it.  Herbs and other natural ingredients are nourishing, pampering, cleansing, protective, and fragrant to body and soul.  They produce in us a profound sense of authentic beauty, contentment, and well-being.

With the instructions and recipes in my best-selling skin and body care books, Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing 2007) and Hands-On Healing Remedies (Storey Publishing 2012) - both available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and other retailers of books - you'll learn how to create natural, often organic personal care and topically-applied medicine products that sing with vitality, vibrance, and inner wellness.  The formulas I've created will help correct current skin problems and prevent future ones, smooth and balance your skin, deodorize, pamper, and fragrance your body, entice your significant other, address some intimate-care issues, create radiant hair and nails & beautiful, comfortable feet, and show you how to heal minor-to-moderate afflictions using herbal remedies that you make yourself at home.  Natural, simple, cost-effective remedies can be the basis for long-term skin and body care. 

While I enjoy making many of my personal care products at home, I realize that there are many of you out there that are not of the inclination to do that nor do you have the time . . . so I have discovered a fabulous company from which you can purchase your organic personal care products . . . it is NYR Organic.  Ever heard of Neal's Yard Remedies?  The UK company that began in the early 80's?  For the last 5 years, they have had a strong US presence.  I've been looking for a an ethical, environmentally sound, fair-trade-based, personal care company that uses nearly 100% organic, plant-based ingredients (they're almost vegan) to refer my conference attendees, clients, and readers to . . . I finally found that company.  If you want to peruse their products - which are absolutely fabulous - just go to my NYR Organic website: and cruise around.  I'm sure you'll be happy with what you see.  If you would like a seasonal catalog of all the products, just e-mail me with your name, address, and zip and I'll shoot one off to you.  

I'm not trying to do a "hard sell" about NYR Organic - just wanted to tell you -  my health seeking friends -  about an amazing company that will "do your body good"!! 

Here's wishing that your journey with herbs and other pure, natural ingredients brings you endless joy and delight and the realization that your body is a beautiful and faithful friend to your spirit!  Peace to all . . .  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Natural Herbal Remedies For Scars - Part 4

Hello Everyone!  It's the 4th of July and summer is finally in full swing here in Maine.  My red Russian and Toscano (blue dinosaur) kale plants are ready for harvest (yummy in raw smoothies!); "flashy troutback" lettuce is coming along nicely; and the rest of my veggies (excepting the winter squash and pumpkins), will be ready in about a month.  My red and yellow raspberries, as well as the wild blackberries, will produce a bountiful harvest in late August, if all goes well. If only the weeds weren't so prolific!  With organic gardening, you have to take the good with the bad . . . weeding keeps me sane, though . . . it's a good way to de-stress and get my mind off my heavy writing and book touring schedule.

Today, I'll conclude the "Natural Herbal Remedies For Scars" series by sharing with you a recipe that -  if you love the aroma of lavender and cocoa butter - will have you reaching for this creamy product over and over again - it has myriad uses other than to help prevent and /or soften existing scar tissue, which are mentioned in the BONUS section below. This recipe and many other topically-applied healing remedies can be found in my best-selling book, "Hands-On Healing Remedies".  Enjoy!

Skin-Be-Smooth: Lavender & Cocoa Butter Balm

Lavender essential oil and cocoa butter have long been used to help prevent scarring after an injury in which the skin is abraded, cut, or scraped. This formula combines these traditional herbal ingredients into one potent blend with antiseptic, vulnerary (tissue healing), anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and skin-cell-regenerating properties that will aid in healing the injury and rejuvenating the skin so that scarring is minimized.  It is gentle enough to be used on children over 6 years old.  The blend has a lovely lavender-cocoa cream smell and is readily absorbed into the skin upon application. The final consistency will be that of a firm balm - if you want it softer, add another tablespoon of jojoba oil. Remember, though, that cocoa butter melts at skin temperature.

Note:  This is an extremely mild, yet aromatherapeutically concentrated formula, so use as directed.

To Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy: This balm acts as an effective stretch-mark preventive, but for safety's sake, please omit the lavender essential oil or use at your own discretion. Many women use lavender essential oil during pregnancy, as it is one of the absolute safest essential oils to apply to your body during this sensitive time, but I will not recommend it. Typical use for essential oils is a 2% solution, or 12 drops per ounce of carrier oil. This is a 2-ounce recipe. Some pregnant women would only use 12 total drops of lavender in this recipe - but, once again, it's your call.

- 2 tablespoons cocoa butter
- 2 tablespoons jojoba base oil
- 50 drops lavender essential oil

Equipment:Very small saucepan or double boiler, stirring utensil, 2-ounce glass or plastic jar or tin

Prep Time: 20 minutes to make the balm, plus up to 36 hours to synergize and thicken

Yield: Approximately 1/4 cup

Storage: Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year

Application: 2 times per day

Directions: Combine the cocoa butter and jojoba oil in a very small saucepan (a 3/4-quart, or smaller, works great) or small double boiler, and warm over low heat until the cocoa butter is just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the lavender essential oil and stir again to thoroughly blend. Slowly pour the liquid balm into the storage container. Cap tightly and label.

This particular blend of ingredients can take up to 36 hours to synergize and properly thicken, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If after 36 hours, it has not thickened to at least a soft salve consistency, then give it a good, gentle stir and place the container in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Remove the container after that time, and allow the product to return to room temperature before use.

Application Instructions: If possible, immediately after incurring an injury, clean the area and then massage a small dab (or more depending on the size of the injury) of this formula into the surrounding skin. Massage a small dab into the entire wound 2x per day as it begins to heal to prevent or at least minimize the potential for scarring.

BONUS USES: This gentle yet highly effective balm is wonderfully healing for minor to moderate cuts and scrapes, blisters, and poison plant rashes. I also like to apply a dab to each fingernail at night to gently condition my nails, soften cuticles, and encourage growth. It also makes a fabulous, rejuvenating "neck cream" when lightly applied to neck and chest after your evening cleansing. The lavender aroma encourages a good night's sleep, too.

NOTE:  This article is written by Stephanie Tourles and adapted from her best-selling book, "Hands-On Healing Remedies" (Storey Publishing c2012). The information is true and complete to the best of her knowledge. All recommendation are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles. She disclaims any liability in the connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.