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Why Make Your Own Beauty Products?
Every time you rub something on your skin, imagine you are also rubbing it on your internal organs. We need to get over the notion that our facial skin is something separate from the rest of our body and that it requires ridiculously expensive and scientific-sounding potions to keep it youthful and glowing. We need to wise up to the marketing ploys of the giant corporations, whose advertising campaigns would have us believe that all our "fine lines" will be erased in a matter of weeks. The ubiquitous cliché "Beauty is from within" is mercifully true, so what we eat has to be the starting place for gorgeous skin. I say "mercifully" because what we ingest is totally within our control and doesn't cost as much as expensive skincare products. Filling your cart with fresh fruits, veggies, and grains-as opposed to pre-prepared convenience food-will pay huge dividends in the gorgeous department in just a few weeks. Having taken care of our insides, we can then learn how to nourish our skin instead of plastering it with synthetic chemicals that can actually increase the visible signs of aging.
A major concern about commercial skincare products is that they can be full of all kinds of chemicals that actually have an adverse affect on our health. Isn't it bizarre that there are no regulations to keep this in check? The reality is that many companies can pack their potions with preservatives, plasticizers, synthetic fragrances, and worse. Many of these chemicals, cumulatively and over a period of time, cause all kinds of health problems. Many preservatives are hormone disruptors. This doesn't just mean that you might get a few bad rounds of PMS: it means that, over time, your entire endocrine system will be nudged off course, which could ultimately lead to a plethora of diseases, including cancer. The synthetic fragrances are neurotoxins, which can cause allergies and affect your entire nervous system-and we haven't even gotten to the antifreeze, asbestos, and lead in your cosmetics bag.
Our skin has two major functions. The first is as a protective barrier against all kinds of horrors, including environmental pollutants. The second is as an organ of elimination. Through our skin, we detox many harmful pollutants and heavy metals. Our skin also absorbs as much as 60% of what we put on it. What it absorbs goes directly into our bloodstream. This is quite terrifying when you realize that scientists are discovering some commonly used skincare chemicals lead to the very diseases we take pains to avoid.
The number of green and eco-friendly skincare products is on the rise-there's even a section for them at many drugstores. There are two reasons for this. The first is that many large cosmetics corporations have had to face mounting pressure from online activists demanding safer cosmetics. The second is that by slapping an "organic" or "handcrafted botanicals" label on a bottle, they can jack up the price considerably. However, we need to be really savvy when it comes to forking out hard-earned cash for products that claim to be safer. The labeling loopholes are such that much of this natural-sounding terminology is intended to trick us into believing that the "organic" lotion in question was made by a team of herbalists on an organic farm-hmmmmmmm, not so sure about that!
Most of us can't possibly afford to replace our entire skincare/cosmetics line anyway. So what's a gorgeously green girl to do? The solution is DIY skincare-yes, making your own. I've been creating my own skincare products for years and not only am I guaranteed a top-quality product, but I'm saving myself oodles of cash. Many of you may be hesitant because you can't entirely trust that these products will be as effective as the store-bought ones you're used to. Those of you who have specific skin conditions might worry that you won't get exactly what you need. The truth is that you can easily create a product that is much more effective, less toxic, and less expensive in a matter of minutes. Your products won't need any preservatives, which are the top toxic culprits, and they won't need synthetic fragrances, stabilizers, dyes, or anything else that doesn't belong on your body's largest organ.
You can make virtually everything, from hair conditioner to luxury anti-aging cosmetics, and you don't need to don a white lab coat or plan to spend hours in your kitchen sterilizing bottles. My recipes are quick, easy, and fun, and can be hilarious if you get a girlfriend to join you. Making cosmetics is especially entertaining-it beats finger-painting with a 5-year-old any day of the week-and can have you looking gorgeous for just pennies.
Almost all skincare products contain oil and water. To prevent the oil and water from separating, wax of an emulsifier must be added. The difference between body/face oil and lotion is simply that the latter contains water. But the moment water is added to oil, the lotion becomes unstable-meaning it can go bad really quickly. That's why lotions and creams usually contain preservatives, while oils don't.
Look at the ingredients list on every product you currently have. Generally speaking, the longer the list, the more wary you should be. The joy of making your own products is that you'll begin to understand the basic components that make up a particular product and you'll see that most of the toxic chemicals are actually unnecessary. They're added to either stabilize or lengthen the life of a product or make it appear or smell nicer. These added chemicals do more harm than good to your skin.
The quality of the individual ingredients that make up most regular skincare products are unlikely to be top notch. Even if the company boasts that they use completely "natural" ingredients, they're likely to be the cheapest ones they can find. The joy of making your own is that you'll be able to source the best ingredients possible, for a fraction of the price. You won't, of course, be paying for packaging, marketing, travel, storage, or a storefront-ha-ha! Now you're the crafty one. So get ready to dive into an Aladdin's cave of fragrant and unctuous oils, pearly powders, and creamy balms. You're about to have a party.
History of the Lowly Moisturizer
The base of almost every skincare product you're going to make is cold-pressed plant oil. Ancient civilizations, including those in Egypt, China, and Rome, used cold-pressed vegetables oils for beautifying the skin, but nowadays using these oils is the exception. Why did we stop?
At the end of the 19th century, moisturizers began to be mass-produced. Demand became greater as more women started using commercial soaps and hot, chlorinated water to wash. Commercial soap strips your skin of all its natural oils, and hot, chlorinated water is horribly drying. So way back, then, scientists got in their labs and started synthesizing petroleum, pig fat, lard, and whale oil into inexpensive/low-quality ingredients suitable for a moisturizer. They also had to synthesize emulsifiers and preservatives. Cold-pressed plant oils, however, contain natural preservatives. Nearly all the emulsifiers and preservatives you find in commercial skincare products are artificial. You mar have heard of a class of preservatives called parabens. These are especially worrisome because they act like hormones and have been linked to reproductive and development problems in infants.
Most mass-produced commercial moisturizers today contain water, alcohol, coloring, mineral oil, and preservatives. All of the above interfere with the skin's natural production of sebum and are therefore aging. Even if the moisturizer contains minute amounts of antioxidants, botanical extracts, or whatever today's beauty buzzword is, these "nutrients" cannot be absorbed by the skin because they are not mixed with natural plant oils, which would aid in their absorption. Most of the more expensive department store moisturizers aren't any more effective than the cheaper drugstore brands. They still contain the usual synthetic chemical cocktail, which you want to avoid if you need a gentle and effective moisturizer. The greatest trade secret is known only by Mother Nature, and most mass-produced skincare product companies cannot afford her bounty.
Having now understood the basic components and history of what you have hitherto whipped out your credit card for, I hope you've realized that you can get a greatly superior product by making your own. The biggest advantage your own creation has over its store-bought equivalent is that you know exactly what's in it.
What Does "Natural" Really Mean?
The word "natural" is bandied about everywhere nowadays, but what does it actually mean? According to www.dictionary.com, the first definition of "natural" is "existing in or formed by nature." This gets us a little closer to the truth, but it's still a bit generic for our purposes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that a "natural" ingredient is "extracted directly from plants or animal products, as opposed to being produced synthetically." Because some of the ingredients you will be using for your recipes, especially essential oils, are extracted by distillation, which can create chemicals that didn't exist in the first place, I prefer the following definition from the Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics: A natural product is one that is "derived from plant, animal, of microbial sources, primarily through physical processing, sometimes facilitated by simple chemical reactions such as acidification, basification, ion exchange, hydrolysis, and salt formation, as well as microbial fermentation." I know-that's a lot of information. So to keep things simple, here is what "natural" ingredients mean in my book:
Grown, raised, harvested, and processed in an ecological manner Not produced synthetically Do not contain petrochemicals Not extracted or processed using petrochemicals Not extracted or processed using anything other than natural ingredients as solvents Do not contain synthetic ingredients Do not contain artificial ingredients, coloring, or flavoring Do not contain synthetic or chemical preservatives
IS NATURAL ALWAYS BETTER?
The problem with synthetic is that it's a compound made artificially by using chemical ingredients-that is, it's made in a lab as opposed to being found in the great outdoors. I believe it's healthier for the most part to nourish yourself, food and skinwise, with what is actually found in nature. Obviously, not all things that are found in nature are good for us. Actually, some plants could literally kill us. However, through the ages many plants have been found to have incredible healing and beautifying properties. Most of the great benefits come without risk to your health or unpleasant side effects. The problem with many synthetics is that our bodies just weren't designed to deal with them. They may succeed in instantly making your skin appear softer, but you could also be throwing your endocrine system totally off balance or interfering with the neurological processes of your brain.
Green washing has become a bit of a problem. Many large companies want to appear greener than they actually are because it makes for good marketing. Now that you know the definition of the word "natural," you'll see that many products out there that use the word on their labels are misleading us. They may have one natural ingredient floating around in a sea of synthetic chemicals and still call the whole thing "natural." When you make your products from the recipes here, you can rest assured that it's the real thing, and you can and should proudly write the word "natural" on your labels.
Basic Ingredients You Will Need
Where do I find them?
Go to gorgeouslygreen.com and click on "Do It Gorgeously" to find an updated resource guide for absolutely everything you'll need for making your own skincare products. You mar also be able to find many of the ingredients in your local drugstore of health food store.
How safe are they and can anyone use them?
Although I try to use ingredients that are nontoxic-so much so that you could eat them-I don't recommend that you chug down a bottle of jojoba oil! Be particularly careful with the essential oils. Although nontoxic, they are extremely concentrated and so should be used exactly according to the recipe. And they should never be ingested.
Plant oils come from nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies. These natural oils will be the mainstay or base oil of many of your preparations. They're also referred to as "carrier" oils.
You can use these oils on their own or mix them with all kinds of wonderful waxes, butters, and essential oils to make your potions. Don't skimp on quality when it comes to buying these beautiful oils. They need to be minimally processed because high temperatures, deodorizing, and bleaching can destroy the very nutrients in them that our skin needs. So look for one of the following terms on the label:
Because these oils are minimally processed, most of them have a relative]y short shelf life. If you store them at room temperature for more than six months, they could go rancid, which means they oxidize and form free radicals-the very thing we want to avoid. Free radicals are one of the main culprits in aging skin, but they can be kept in check by using potent antioxidants. Your minimally processed oils, when they are fresh, are packed full of antioxidants-so buy only the amount you know w)u will use within six months.
Always store the products you make from plant oils in dark glass containers (either amber of cobalt blue glass are readily available: see the resource section, p. 379). Light and heat will cause your oils to oxidize faster. When you purchase your oils, they will arrive in clear or opaque plastic bottles, so keep these containers in a cool, dark spot until you use them. The shelf life of most of the following plant oils is about one year. Also start looking around for amber glass bottles that you can reuse. I keep a stash of old bottles, from ones that contained cough medicine to vanilla extract they'll all be useful.
Sweet almond: This light but nourishing oil forms the base of many skincare products because it is easily absorbed (leaving no residue), and has a high concentration of fatty acids, which help regenerate facial tissue.
Sesame: Sesame oil is used extensively in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine due to its unique molecular structure, which enables it to penetrate all the way into the deeper layers of the skin. It is a very stable oil, so it has a longer shelf life than many other carrier oils.
Rosehip seed: Also known as rosa mosqueta this extraordinary oil has been found to contain powerful anti-aging properties. It contains an extremely high concentration of essential fatty acids. It's the only vegetable oil that contains natural retinoic acid (vitamin A acid).
Apricot oil: Rich in vitamin A, this wonderful carrier oil is great for inflammation and/or sensitive skin conditions. It's also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Avocado oil: This rich and beautifully nourishing oil is green and brownish in color due to its chlorophyll content. It's useful in treating eczema, psoriasis, and sensitive skin conditions.
Jojoba oil: "Jojoba oil" is actually a liquid wax made from the jojoba bean. It contains essential fatty acids, proteins, minerals, and myristic acid (an anti-inflammatory agent). It attracts and holds in moisture to the skin and helps you increase collagen production. It's also great for your hair and scalp.
Virgin coconut oil: Made from fresh coconut meat, virgin coconut oil has a slightly sweet coconut scent, his produced without chemicals. It forms a wonderful protective barrier around your skin. It's also useful in treating irritated or inflamed skin and is extremely soothing.
Evening primrose oil: Moisturizing, softening, and soothing, this oil is packed with gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that's great for your skin.
Wheat germ oil: Packed with nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and E, and lecithin and squalene, this light carrier oil is a perfect addition to facial skincare products.
Excerpted from Do It Gorgeously by Sophie Uliano Copyright © 2010 by Sophie Uliano. Excerpted by permission.
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