…continued from yesterday’s post
Commonly used before and after a facial, toner refreshes the skin and removes impurities.
Perhaps the quintessential toner and natural alternative to rubbing alcohol, witch hazel is an astringent extracted from the leaves and bark of the plant Hamamelis virginiana. Reportedly effective as a treatment for bruises, insect bites, sores, and for cleaning wounds, it was used medicinally by American Indians. Today it is used as a natural remedy for eczema, acne, oily skin, dry skin, redness, and other skin conditions. The active ingredient in many commercial healthcare products, witch hazel is perfectly effective on its own without all the fillers and parabens.
I’ve used many different brands, including the premium brand, Thayer’s (but mostly for the aesthetic appeal). Thayer’s manufactures several types of witch hazel blends including lemon, cucumber, rose petal, aloe, and peach. These are more expensive; a 12-oz bottle is $10 on the website and ranges between $6 and $9 in stores and online. Despite the novelty of Thayer’s “Since 1847” label, I’ll let you in on a secret. Plain witch hazel works just as well, at a fraction of the cost. You can buy it at most stores with a drugstore section. I once bought a 16oz bottle at Walmart for under $4. Other big-box stores market it under their own brand name. However I recently discovered a brand with a mid 19th century style label similar to Thayer’s called Humphrey’s priced at $8 per 16oz bottle.
Fancy labels aside, I recommend buying a bottle of generic witch hazel to use as a base for making your own rosewater, aloe, lavender, or lemon-infused toner. You might want to try one or all variations, depending on your skin type. To apply, use cotton cosmetic pads without fragrances or other ingredients. Saturate the cotton pad with toner and sweep across the face and neck, avoiding the eyes. To store the toner(s), any small bottle will work. At natural foods stores in the beauty and body care department you can typically find small glass bottles and spray bottles. I recommend going that route if you can. Otherwise, beauty supply stores sell small plastic bottles of various sizes–and most drugstores have a travel section stocked with 2oz plastic bottles.
Recommended for all skin types
Add 20 drops lavender essential oil to 4 oz of water. Lavender works well for dry, normal, oily, and combination skin. Its main benefit is its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. In the past three years, lavender has been the subject of clinical trials for its potential use as a treatment for anxiety and depression. The FDA has not approved it as a treatment for either condition. However, reports from client surveys and subsequent research have only determined lavender to relieve stress, uplift the mood, and result in an overall sense of well being.
Recommended for normal to dry skin
Combine 1 part rose water with one part water in a glass or plastic bottle. Shake gently. Tip: for daily use, Dilute 1 part rosewater with 3 parts water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on your face and neck whenever you need a boost. Rose petal extract is used in aromatherapy for its rejuvenating and uplifting properties. Some consider it the best of both worlds; it calms anxiety and relieves tension while increasing mental alertness and uplifting the mood. According to traditional medicinal practices of other cultures, essence of rose petal is an antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant. You can buy rosewater at natural foods stores, most drugstores, and online for roughly $1 per ounce.
Recommended for oily and acne-prone skin
Juice 1 lemon or lime and mix with 1 tbsp witch hazel. The natural astringency of the citrus reduces the amount of witch hazel needed. If your skin is not oily or prone to breakouts, use this occasionally but not daily. If your skin is prone to dryness, avoid toners containing citrus.
Recommended for sensitive skin, suitable for all skin types
Mix 1 part pure aloe vera juice* with one part witch hazel. Bottle for use as a toner and/or a spritzer (no need to dilute, as this is most likely the gentlest toner invented). *Note: NOT the recently-popularized aloe vera beverages containing sugar. You can either juice your own from an aloe plant, or buy it. I’ve tried a few different brands but Lily of the Valley seems to be the most commonly sold in stores. It feels redundant to elaborate on the healing properties of aloe since it is nature’s gift to people who don’t wear sunblock (guilty) or for those who do but still burn like lobsters no matter how high the SPF.
4. Facial Steam
Steams are effective on their own or as part of a complete facial treatment. Aromatic steams sooth and hydrate the skin while gently removing impurities from the pores. At a spa, essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon are common. Aromatherapists tend to administer specific essential oils on a per-case basis. I am not qualified speak authoritatively regarding what type of essential oil to use for those that have inquiries or concerns about anything besides basic skincare. That said, as a teenager I worked with an aromatherapist and acupuncturist to deal with severe acne that resulted in poor self esteem. It was expensive but remarkably effective. After three years of salicylic acid, benzyl peroxide, clindamycin, tetracycline, doxycycline, topical retinoids, and hours spent popping zits while staring into a magnifying mirror–I tried the holistic route and it actually worked. In fact, sometime during high school the embarrassing breakouts ceased and nearly a decade later I haven’t experienced more than the occasional blemish. Part of the treatment involved steams with tea tree oil which I administered myself after I stopped seeing the specialist. This was never painful, and resulted in the side benefit of clear nasal passages and avoiding the flu. However, in some instances tea tree is reported to be abrasive and not effective as a treatment for acne. Despite its effectiveness in my case, the following is not advice but shared information. Instructions for administering the steam follow the descriptions of each essential oil and its properties.
Reportedly effective as a treatment for acne. For sensitive skin that is acne-prone, eucalyptus oil is a milder alternative. In the past 5 years, tea tree became established as the forerunner for natural acne treatments. Example: Desert Essence. Recent studies have also brought about evidence of its efficacy.
According to Jean Valnet MD, it takes 3,000 lemons to produce one kilo of oil. This makes it more expensive than other essential oils. Instead, use lemons or limes (which I prefer, and tend to also be cheaper). In place of the essential oil, add 2 lemons or limes, sliced.
aromatherapeutic Steam – Method
Boil 3 cups water. Remove from heat. Add the ingredient from your chosen recipe. Steep for 10 minutes or until the temperature of the water has reduced to 140 degrees. Transfer water to a large bowl. Carefully, position your face over the bowl with a towel draped over your head. You can stay there for 5-15 minutes. Relax and enjoy!
To be continued…Next post: Facial masks