Tuesday, May 11, 2010
For centuries herbs have been applied to the skin to help with healing and preventing skin problems. With the "natural movement" in the cosmetic and beauty industry gaining a huge following, one concern I do have is the quality of the products being used, and if they are really effective in overall treatment.
When I started "soaping", I used the cold process method. Meaning, no heat source is used to make the soap. You mix fixed oils (coconut, olive etc) with a sodium hydroxide
solution (water and lye) and allow to saponify for up to three weeks. This method is a good way to make soap. I had no problems, and it was relatively easy to do. But then I thought about the materials I used to enhance my soaps and if they were being utilized properly. Meaning, were the herbs making a difference or were they being demoted to mere decoration.
For an herb to have any effect, it's properties must be able to get to the skin,and most need the help of carriers. Not only that, it has to be absorbed. Now taking a fresh mint leaf and rubbing it on your skin doesn't give you the full benefit of the herb. But if you release the properties of the mint leaf effectively, the essential oil, then it becomes absorbable and you would have the true benefits of mint available to you.
I switched to hot processing my soaps because I wasn't getting the full effect of the dried herbs I used. Yes, I also use essential oils, but I really like the benefit of having an all-natural product in it's natural form as well. When I add the herbs to my fixed oils and heat them, they release their healing qualities effectively. Not only that, but after the mixture has "cooked", the product is stable. I ensure the chemical process is finished, and I can actually use my product immediately. I know if a batch is good right away, and this prevents alot of wasted effort.
I have a history of cystic acne, and many of my friends have various skin conditions they suffer with. The leading culprits are acne and eczema. I used Acutane for awhile, and it wreaked havoc on my face, I mean the side effects were devastating. Raw irritated skin followed by dry peeling skin. It effected my mood, my digestive system, but I continued with the prescription because I wanted clear skin. After a year I just couldn't deal with the effects and switched to using medicated skincare. Some worked, some didn't. It was trial and error.
My grandmother told me of natural remedies and I tried tinctures and decoctions (teas) and these really helped my condition. Healing teas are becoming more common placed again, but one has to be very careful and armed with knowledge, as well as the a-okay from a physician to proceed with a personally made formulation.
Herbs in soaps and body products, for me, was a great way to receive all-natural benefits that were consistent and readily available. Also the repetitive use of the product also helps to improve the skin effectively. I suggest reading more about herbs and the healing properties they possess.
A great book I suggest to everyone is actually endorsed by the Herb Society of America, "Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses" by Deni Brown. Deni is a botanist and freelance horticultural writer. The book is very informative and I have had mine for over 11 years. If you are willing to invest the time to discover the benefits of herbs and how to use them effectively it is well worth it.