Natural Skin Care from the Kitchen Pantry
The basics to healthy skin are fairly straightforward:
- drink lots of water
- get plenty of rest
- eat healthy, including lots of fruit and vegetables
- protect yourself from the sun
We all do our best to sleep and eat right, for a variety of health benefits. But, our skin needs a little help to keep it glowing and smooth on its surface. The market is flooded with products promoting different ways to improve your skin.
For most of my life, I (like many of us) have been searching for the perfect products to keep my skin healthy and happy. Sometimes, I get into a routine that seems to work for a while, but, so far, I have not been 100% happy. I found, at one point, I was using so many products and so many steps to my skin care on a daily basis that it was interfering with my time management. Not to mention my budget. According to a study by the money management group, Mint, the average American woman spends $15,000 on beauty products in a lifetime. Even though I tend to stay at the low end of the drug store selection, too many products cost too much.
I worried that, not only was I using too many products, but that everything was full of chemicals that were damaging my skin. Reading the ingredients of my beauty products, I used the same rule I do with food: if I can't pronounce the name of (or identify!) the ingredient, then it can't be good for me.
I needed to find out how I can simplify my skin care, using cost effective, all natural products.
My normal routine consisted of washing my face at night using a make-up remover--either a disposable cloth wipe or a liquid cleanser and a washcloth--then a facial scrub. My skin is naturally dry and sensitive, so I would follow cleansing with a moisturizing face cream and an anti-aging, dark circle reducing eye cream. I do not wash again in the mornings, since my skin is dry, the natural oil build up keeps my skin hydrated. I would then apply a lightweight sunscreen, followed by foundation, concealer and face powder. On my eyes, I'd use a primer and an under-eye concealer. Then an eye-brightener and full-on eye make up: liner, shadow and mascara.
In the shower, I would use a cream based liquid body wash, with an occasional sugar and oil scrub. I'd bathe with Epsom salt or a nicely scented bubble bath. Once dry, I'd slather a heavy, sometimes "medicated" body lotion, mixed with oil, on my skin. When able to afford it, I would splurge on an argon oil or Shea based body butter.
I have a minor dermatitis condition, exacerbated by dry weather, and have never found the right products to keep my skin feeling healthy and moisturized all day long. As a teenager, one dermatologist told me "not to wash" my body, for the sake of my skin. He said "dirt is good." I thought he was crazy. I was a teenager, just learning how to maintain grooming this changing body and he was telling me I should be the smelly kid in class. Later on, I understood that he unsuccessfully was trying to convey how damaging soap is, stripping the skin of its natural oils. Even when using soap for the essential parts of my body, I avoided sudsing my arms and legs, where my condition is worse.
Before I decided to tighten my purse strings and stop spending too much on skin care, I realized that my routine was not benefiting me. My eyes were the first sign: I was getting wrinkles and scaly skin! The skin under the eyes is possibly the most delicate, and I've always had very dark circles. No product I can afford has diminished the color, but I had thought they would help keep the skin moist and supple. Instead, I noticed crow's feet and dry, rough, scaly skin. Sure, I'm in my 30's, but my family ages well, and I was not prepared for such dramatic signs of aging.
It was time to make a change. I needed a simpler routine, with more natural products.
At this point, I introduced myself to coconut oil.
Suddenly, coconut oil was in the news everywhere. Remember the stigma of the 1980's when coconut oil was the worst thing for you to consume? That was when it was over-processed, and no one was using the pure, healthy form of it. Now, you can easily by pure virgin coconut oil that gives you many health benefits when used in cooking.
But, coconut oil is also fantastic on the skin. About two years ago, I introduced it into my skin care routine, and noticed immediate improvements.
I ditched my expensive under-eye creams, primer and brighteners. I also vowed to go make-up free more often to give my skin a chance to breath. Instead, I applied a generous amount of pure coconut oil to my eye area, focusing on the dark circles and crow's feet, every time I washed my face. Sometimes, throughout the day, I'll dab a little more under my eyes for good measure.
I was thrilled with the results! Nothing can get rid of the dark circles; they're a genetic flaw. But I noticed the crow's feet diminishing, and the softness returning to my skin. And, it was easy on my wallet. I could find a good deal on a large jar almost anywhere, swiping up sales when I found them.
With such success, I decided to spend a week using nothing but coconut oil as a moisturizer, for my face and body.
Want to know more about coconut oil? This site is helpful:
The Benefits of Coconut Oil on Your Skin
There are plenty of natural, plant based oils to use topically. So why coconut?
- Its combination of fatty acid structure will improve moisture and the lipid content of the skin. This keeps your skin moist and supple.
- The National Center for Biotechnology Information discovered that coconut oil can improve the skin barrier function, strengthening your body's outer most defense against pathogens and irritation.
- Also, coconut oil has antiseptic effects, as well as antibacterial properties, helping to keep your skin from infection.
- The protein content promotes cellular health and aids in tissue repair, helping heal any irritation or damage.
- Vitamin E in coconut oil will aid in skin regrowth, with antioxidants to prevent aging and wrinkles.
Honey Sweet Skin
The biggest challenge in my new skin care crusade was finding something to clean my face with and remove make-up. Every soap based cleanser I've used doesn't break down the make-up enough to really take it off my skin, and can be pretty harsh around the eyes. Oil based make-up remover worked better, with less irritation around my eyes, but the products were to heavy for my pores and I always broke out.
Cloth wipes seemed to work well for a while. Many were soaked in products gentle enough for my skin, and the make-up came off rather easily. Around my eyes was always difficult, however, and I found myself scrubbing too hard on that delicate skin.
In the midst of my dilemma, I came across an interview on Time.com with Adina Grigore, author of Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin. While I have yet to read her book, the simple tips she spoke of in the article were intriguing. I'm not sure I want to try washing my hair with beer, she mentioned the use of honey to cleanse skin.
I loved the idea!
My kitchen is always well stocked with honey. As an avid tea drinker and, having given up refined sugar years ago, honey is my sweetener of choice. My family consumes it regularly for its health benefits: comforting a sore throat, immune system booster, aid in easing allergies, among others.
If honey is that great for you on the inside, imagine what it would do for your skin!
Check out this site for more about honey
Why is Honey Good for Your Skin?
It's amazing how something bees make can be one of the best things for your body, inside and out.
- It has been known to clarify the skin with its natural antibacterial properties, which prevents build up and breakouts.
- Honey is also a humectant, pulling moisture from the air, and keeping in your skin, helping you stay hydrated all day long.
- The antioxidants and enzymes in honey promote healing in your skin. According to WebMD.com, honey is the oldest known wound dressing. The Greek physician, in 50 AD, used to to heal patients for multiple injuries. Its healing properties are mentioned in the ancient texts of the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah.
- Honey is an anti-inflammatory, which is great for burns or sunburn, reducing scars and increasing tissue regeneration.
- It can help stop itching from skin irritation, due to injury, recovering from surgery or dermatitis conditions. Some reports claim that wounds healed with honey when other treatments failed.
What Did I Do?
With all this information about natural products, I was all set for my new skin care routine. I began, at night, removing my make-up with honey. Using a little aluminum pot, I put some honey onto the finger tips of one hand, and wet the other with some warm water. I lathered my fingers together like I would with soap. Then, I applied the honey around my face, and eyes, especially my lashes. Mascara is often the hardest to remove. Next, I rinse with warm water. I'll often add more honey to the eye area, rubbing gently and rinsing until the make up is completely removed.
Next, I created a body/facial scrub with coconut oil, baking soda and essential oils* (recipe below) that I use head to toe. Sometimes, I'll let the scrub sit on my skin for a minute or two, letting the oil work its magic on my skin. A warm rinse, and shower's done.
Once dry, I applied coconut oil and essential oils, usually lavender, all over my body. On my face, I put a generous amount of coconut oil under my eyes, gently massaging from corner to corner. My face also gets a layer of coconut oil, focusing on particularly dry spots, like around my nose during allergy season.
The daily make-up application has reduced, as well. I now use an organic tinted moisturizer with sunscreen, instead of a separate sunscreen and foundation combo. I use a mineral based concealer and the only thing I put under my eyes is a dark circle/puffiness diminisher with a light tint. Its not entirely natural, but contains caffeine with some plant based ingredients, and the metal roller-ball applicator is great to refresh the eyes. Being a glam girl, it's hard to get away from color on my face, and I am addicted to mascara, but I try to get organic and mineral based formulas whenever I can find and afford them.
And, of course, I make at least one day a week make-up free.
*You can also add honey to the scrub, increasing the moisturizing and healing properties all over your body. If you don't like baking soda, as it can be rather abrasive, natural bath salts or sugar can be substituted.
The results of a week's routine were not at all what I expected. I love how honey removes my eye make-up with little fuss. My eyes feel softer, and more refreshed then I can remember in my adulthood. The coconut oil on my face is perfect. It is substantial enough to give my skin the moisture it needs, but has a high absorption rate, so it doesn't sit on the surface of my skin and clog pores. I look forward to the possibilities of wrinkle reduction in the future.
When you look at yourself in the mirror every day (several times a day), it can be difficult to notice subtle changes. I had a minor breakout in the middle, due to the normal monthly hormonal fluxuations, but that cleared up rather quickly. After that, I felt like everything with the skin on my face was normal, which is not a bad thing. But, yesterday, I had confirmation that my natural regimen is successful. A customer, who I don't often see, complimented me on my glowing skin. I told him I had been trying something new, and he asked if I went to a professional. I was thrilled! Honey and coconut oil for a week and I look like I just stepped out of a spa!
The skin on my body has not had such success as my face. Do to the nature of my dermatitis, I don't think coconut oil alone is satisfactory as a moisturizer. I love the body scrub, and will definitley add honey to increase the benefits. While I haven't seen a reduction in irritation on my skin, when I do have a flare-up, it has healed more quickly than usual with the use of the shower scrub and daily moisturizing with coconut oil. However, I find the coconut oil absorbs too quickly and doesn't keep my skin hydrated throughout the day. I had to re-moisturize in the middle of the day. For now, I will go back to adding my favorite store brand body lotion to the coconut oil, but I may experiment with natural butters later.
Am I happy with my natural skin care experiment?
Coconut Oil Facial/Body Scrub
- 2 Tbsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 3-5 drops each Lavender, Spearmint, Lime, Grapefruit Essential Oils
- mix in small tin until paste-like texture
Baking soda is an alkaline scrub, which neutralizes acids and bases to cleanse and purify the skin, but can be too harsh on its own. Mixing coconut oil into the scrub will help improve your skin and protect against the harsh abrasive quality of the baking soda.
Lavender is known for its calming properties, but it can also be soothing on the skin, helping to promote healing. The minty aroma of Spearmint is refreshing, and revitalizing, with a sweeter, less harsh scent. Lime and Grapefruit can act as an astringent to help purify the skin.