When we look back over our history, it is clear to see we have always had an obsession with our appearance. It’s not surprising to know that all the make-up and beauty products we have today, originally stem from the herbs, plants and flowers that grow all around us.
Every civilisation throughout history have had their own way of using native plants for their various beauty regimes. Make-up dates back to the ancient Egyptians and many of the beauty rituals and practices we use today have been popular for centuries all around the world.
The ancient Egyptians were really into skincare. They would make sure their skin was always hydrated and protected from the hard-Egyptian sun. Green and blue eye shadow were popular among women and men which they made from a copper and led ore mixture. Kohl, a mixture of metal, soot, and animal fat was used to line their eyes. Even to this day, we still try to imitate the Cleopatra look. Cleopatra was well known to have loved bathing in moisturising milk and honey baths, she used Aloe Vera as a soothing face serum and sea salts to exfoliate her skin.
In Greek Mythology, the Goddess known as Cosmeos epitomised radiant health and beauty. The name Cosmeos meaning balance and harmony, she never tried to mask what she was, but only to enhance her natural beauty through nature. It is said she gifted the world with all the plants, flowers, and herbs for us mere mortals to enjoy. What a gift!
The major difference between our own regimes today and that of years gone by is the products that we use.
The Beauty Industry Today
In today’s world beauty often involves covering up our natural features to be almost unrecognisable rather than celebrating our uniqueness, our individuality and enhancing our natural beauty. A beauty industry that promotes total coverage and false everything from eyelashes to lip injections inside a beauty bag that has more chemicals in it than a hospital pharmacy. So called natural ingredients used in commercial skin care products that would leave a chemist impressed.
A whole industry created around starving yourself and using unhealthy methods to achieve a look that is neither natural nor beautiful in the true sense of the word.
Beauty should be about celebrating what you have, who you are and enhancing that so you can feel amazing in your own skin. How you feel inside is just as powerful as your appearance alone and what you put IN your body matters just as much as what you put on it. Beauty is so much more than just skin deep, beauty begins within, where it can radiate from the inside out.
Herbs are one of the best kept beauty secrets of our modern age. They are full of multi vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and therapeutic properties that can transform how you look and fee. They really are like a gift from the Gods and are often considered mother nature’s pharmacy. These nutrients and micronutrients are so powerful to our health and wellbeing that they are as good if not better than any lab made supplement you can buy. The wonderful thing about nature is, it seems to know the exact right mixture of everything the body needs in the right amounts. The problem with lab made or human made is that we often have far too much of one ingredient and not enough of another.
Beauty Products Nasties!
Did you know that the skin is the largest organ of assimilation and elimination of the human body? And what goes on to the skin is absorbed IN to the body and into your bloodstream!!? Makes you think about all the unnecessary chemicals used in skin care products today doesn’t it? Unfortunately, just about all of the common skincare, haircare, and cosmetic products out there are full of chemicals and additives that wreak havoc on our health.
Let’s start with Sulfates. Sulfates are salts that are formed when sulphuric acid (H2SO4) reacts with another chemical. They are also produced from petroleum and plant sources like coconut and palm oil. They act as surfactants and are used for lathering purposes. Sulfates can irritate your eyes and skin. They can prematurely clear off dye from your hair. There is also an ongoing debate about their use due to potential threats to the environment. Deriving them from natural sources like palm oil is causing the destruction of rainforests. When they are washed away, they can be toxic for the aquatic species.
Have you heard of Parabens? These are the preservatives used to keep your skincare and makeup fresh and germ-free. They are found in a variety of products, from soaps to lotions and makeup. Research shows that they cause increased production of the hormone estrogen (female sex hormone) and interfere with reproductive and brain function. Some studies explain that parabens enter your skin and mimic estrogen that triggers excessive cell division in the breast. This eventually leads to breast cancer.
We are recommended to use a daily SPF to protect our skin from sun damage and yet chemicals like PABA, benzophenone, oxybenzone , ethoxycinnmate and homosalate are used in sunscreens. They are believed to absorb light, but they cause more damage to the body instead of protecting it. These sunscreens should just be named endocrine disruptors.
Then there is Lead, found in lipsticks, eye-liners, foundation and whitening toothpastes. Lead is not directly added to lipsticks but is a major contaminant in colorants used in lipsticks. Lead is a heavy metal that is naturally found in the earth’s crust. We are already exposed to enough lead in our air, food and water without directly applying it to our lips. What about the foaming cleansers, body washes, bubble bath and shampoos. Are you aware of the ingredient that helps in foaming? It is called diethanolamine and It is a proven cancer-causing agent and a respiratory toxin.
What about Triclosan, a common chemical found in tubes of toothpaste, antibacterial soaps and deodorants. It is effective against microbes (anti-bacterial in nature), but it is also an endocrine disruptor and a skin irritant. Some studies reported that triclosan can lead to gut inflammation and tumor growth in mammals. Triclosan breaks down slowly and hence, is considered a potential threat to the environment. Like sulfates, triclosan too is dangerous for aquatic life.
How Do I Know If A Product Contains Harmful Chemicals?
- Read the labels on your skincare products before you buy them.
- SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) are the common sulfates that you spot on the labels of your shampoos and other personal care.
- Chemicals under methyl, butyl, propyl classes fall under parabens.
- Toluene is often labelled as benzene, phenylmethane, toluol and methylbenzene.
- PEGs can be spotted as numbers like 100, 120, 14M, 30, 32, 40, 75 and so on.
- Formalin, formaldehyde, glyoxal and bronopol on the labels of skincare products indicate formaldehyde.
- Diethanolamine is abbreviated as DEA on skincare products.
- Ethanol, methanol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol are all drying alcohols.
- Mineral oil, benzene, paraffin wax and compounds that end in -eth are also petrolatum ingredients.
- FD&C or D&C represent artificial colors. F means food and D&C means drugs and cosmetics.
- Look for beauty brands that are transparent and disclose all their ingredients.
- Consider natural brands that are not just safe, but also contain potent ingredients.
- Don’t be quick in judging a natural brand as some of the natural, plant-derived ingredients can also turn out to be an irritant for you.
DIY Beauty Products
When we use whole plants, we often forego all the side effects that you get from modern day products, drugs and medicines. When these products are created in the lab, the chemical constituents are often isolated, making them a lot stronger, a lot faster acting and also a lot harsher on the system. Modern technology is amazing in what it has done and achieved, but it does not come without a cost. It could be said there is nothing without positives and negatives, which could be said about both medicine and nature. Use chemicals when necessary but try to avoid over use and seek out natural alternatives where possible.
Some of the best beauty products for your skin are things you also cook with or eat such as cold pressed vegetable oils. Cupboard staples like coconut, olive, avocado and sunflower oils can do wonders for your skin and hair.
Try adding in different essential oils depending on what you are looking to achieve. You can mix them up for yourself depending on your skin type, use more of the lighter oils and less of the fattier ones such as coconut and avocado to avoid it feeling greasy.
Play around, use what you have. Plant oils are jam packed full of good fats, vitamin E and other antioxidants that are just so good for the skin and the body when absorbed.
Plain, natural Yoghurt is another good one to have on hand. You can apply it directly on to the skin, especially good where red and itchy. The good bacteria does wonders for skin problems such as eczema, acne and psoriasis.
For hair care, heat vegetable oils gently for a minute and use as nourishing hot oil treatment. If you suffer from itchy, flaky scalp and/or dandruff the properties in coconut oil will help with regular use. Add a few drops of Tea Tree to boost the antifungal and antibacterial effect.
I really do love messing around with different natural ingredients and making my own creams, facial washes, oils and serums etc too which is well worth trying especially when price is the deciding factor in your skin care regime. You would be so surprised at what you can rustle up yourself at home that is just as good if not better than shop bought.
If creating your own beauty products or using the food you eat for your face is not your jam, then fear not, there are many natural, organic skin care ranges to choose from that only use the very best of nature with no nasty toxins or chemicals.
Be warned thought that once you find the right one you will never go back. Some of my favourite Irish Brands are Natures Alchemy by Lynn, Sana Naturals and Plean Nua.
Top Tips For Flawless Skin
One of the first things we judge ourselves and others on is the condition of our skin. It is the first thing we cover up, to hide our lines, and our blemishes. You could say it is the first sign of health and beauty. Who doesn’t love the idea of perfect, glowing skin – free from blemishes?
This want for flawless skin is so strong that some people are willing to do anything to achieve it and spend fortunes on all kinds of treatments, creams and procedures, when in reality it’s a balance of many things within our control, working together that will maintain optimum health and radiant appearance.
The key to skin health that is so often overlooked, starts from what we put directly into our bodies. First on that list is;
Plain and simple. The bodies need for water is second only to its need for air. You need to drink enough water to function and for your bodies to flush out toxins, in turn keeping your skin clean and clear. In order to do this you need at least 2 litres of water every day and more if you are active. Honestly, I can not over emphasize the importance of drinking water for every single bodily function. Forget expensive creams, lotions and potions, water is the single best supplement you can take today for skin health.
Here are a few essential reasons to drink more water:
- Maintain the health of all body cells.
- Aid the transportation of substances around the body
- Dilutes waste products and aids in their elimination
- Maintaining body temperature
- Fluid balance in the body
Water does not have to be boring either, you can add in a slice of lemon, or a few sprigs of mint or any number of herbs, fruit, and flowers for a little flavour.
It’s a good idea to avoid as much as possible drinking processed sugar laden cordials and soft drinks. The sugar free versions might sound more healthy but they are actually full of chemicals instead. Do these drinks actually contribute to your daily water intake? I would question that because you’d imagine it takes your body more effort to work through the muck and extract anything worthwhile from it.
Herbal teas like HealthTea are the perfect choice of beverage, like a super charged water because they also contain multiple micro nutrients that contribute to good health and radiant skin on so many levels, making them a great addition to any beauty regime. They are cleansing & healing whilst at the same time nourishing and replenshing.
The body is an amazing machine that is capable of amazing feats and detoxing is one of those, herbal teas are one of the best natural detox aids we can use.
Consider this; FOOD IS FUEL and depending on what type of fuel you feed yourself, it will have a direct impact on your health and your beauty. A balanced diet that contains an adequate intake of nutrients is needed to maintain health and for your body to function efficiently! Would you run your car on empty, or put dirty fuel in to the tank? Your car won’t run as well and will eventually break down, well your body is no different.
Your body needs a wide range of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre to provide energy and material for growth, maintenance, repair and energy. When you take away any one of these, your health begins to suffer and the first place that will show is your skin. Remember that the next time you consider going on any diet that limits your intake of any of these nutrients.
Time to say goodbye to the fat free diets of the past. Fat is your friend if you want healthy skin, do not be afraid of high fat content foods. Fat is essential to protect vital organs such as the heart, the liver and it makes up the largest part of the protective membrane surrounding all of your bodies cells. The four types of fats that you need are:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
The one to avoid is TRANS fatty acids, they are artificially created during food processing when liquid vegetable oil is hardened to make a solid fat. Most processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, pies, pastries, spreadable butters contain alot of these hidden nasties. New research and studies are coming out all the time to confirm how damaging these are for your health.
The fats you do need are found in natural unprocessed foods such as (but not limited to) olives, olive oil, other vegetable oils such as rapeseed, sunflower (but not when used for frying), nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts, oily fish, and eggs.
Most of the nutrients you need are found in natural foods such as fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants. It really does not matter as much as you might think which of these you eat because they are all super in their own ways.
From extensive research of so many different food types and their nutrient levels, I guarantee you that If you eat and drink all the colours of the rainbow and change it up with the seasons, you will get more than enough of these longevity essentials to have you looking and feeling amazing. It is not important to keep track and know exactly how many vitamins are in this and how much of a certain mineral are in that (unless that stuff excites you and you are happy to do it of course then be my guest). And as for calories, well….
The 80/20 Rule
When it comes to nutrition, I’m not talking about perfection. It’s not all or nothing, there are way too many things to worry about in the world and life is too damn short to deprive yourself or consider food a sin. My best advice to you is;
Use the 80/20 rule, apply it to every aspect of your day to day and watch your life transform, especially your skin.
So what is the 80/20 rule? Put simply, it’s doing everything that’s good for you for 80% of the time and then leaving you the other 20% to just throw caution to the wind! You can apply the rule to your daily life by eating a whole food unprocessed diet 80% of the time, drink your 8 glasses of water, health teas, get regular sleep, exercise, and so on leaving you the other 20% to be more careless.
The idea is that you maintain your health by ensuring that 80% of what goes in to your body is full of health promoting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other micronutrients that your body needs, not just to sustain you but to have you performing at optimum levels. In other words – to keep you living your best life.
Skin Care Routine
Do you have a set regime or ritual to follow religiously? Here are a few simple steps to follow for amazing skin. No matter what type of skin type you have it’s really important to pay attention to your skin because that is your body’s way of telling you that something is up. Keep an eye on any changes, fluctuations etc and remember less is definitely more for glowing skin.
Wash daily with a mild, natural soap or facewash. (I alternate between natural soaps and an oat based face wash). Toners or astringents are a great addition to tighten the skin and close the pores. (I use a rose water hydrosol or a witch hazel toner) and finally, most important is to moisturise.
Once a week try using fine salt or a handful of oats for a good exfoliation. A herbal facial steam is the job to really cleanse and open up the pores. Herbal steams can be easily done with some Chamomile or Lavender flowers and/or essential oils if you have them. If you don’t have any to hand just check what herbal tea you have handy and pop that into your bowl of hot water. If you have nothing to hand then no worries because even steam on it’s own is good too, no need to over complicate things.
Avocado, honey or egg whites make for deliciously nourishing facemasks and pop some cold teabags or cucumber on your eyes for a little extra TLC.
There are so many good ideas and recipes out there online and you’ll definitely have at least one of the ingredients in your cupboards.
Even as we mature, looking after yourself from the inside out is probably one of the best things you can do for your body as you get older to maintain your health and wellbeing. The advice doesn’t change no matter how old or young you are. When it comes to aging, there are so many amazing herbs and natural products to help with the aging process.
Forget ANTI aging, it’s time to embrace aging with natural methods so that you can grow old gracefully and still be beautiful, even with those extra laughter lines.
Easy to Find Herbs For Skin Care
- Rose hips and flowers – not just because they smell divine, but they are super rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C so perfect for cell rejuvenation and in general to just nourish and balance the skin in a way that no other herb does. Fantastic for scarring, they are slightly astringent but don’t dry the skin out which makes it especially great for mature and aging skin. Both the Rose hips and petals can be drank as a tea full of vitamins and micro nutrients which in turn will help your skin and whole body to glow from within. I included Rose hips in our AphrodiTea blend as it’s high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Bioflavanoids, specifically designed to release your inner beauty. Rose petals are also one of the main ingredients in SereniTea due to their fab smell and over all calming and cleansing properties.
- Calendula – now this flower really does not need any introduction. It is well renowned for it’s skin healing properties. It is a wonderful ingredient in all cosmetics from soothing lotions, creams, lip balms to salves and baby bum creams. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial making it perfect for damaged, irritated skin and can be used on the face as a wash too or drink it in tea to cleanse and soothe inside. I use it regularly in my blends as a little dose of sunshine. Although calming It is a pretty powerful flower.
- Oats – I use oats regularly in my skin washes as a soothing exfoliant that is mild and cleansing. It smells so good too. The first time I ever discovered oats amazing healing properties was when my son who was just a baby at the time came out in a bad rash and my mother told me to put him in a bath of oats. I did as I was told, and I am not joking it took away the itch and redness immediately. It is great for sensitive skin that is prone to redness and itching. I just grind a handful up in my blender and use it as I would any other exfoliant.
- Lavender – no list would be complete without this little purple beauty. Most people think of lavender as a relaxant and a sleep aid, which of course it is but It can also be used for so many different things from skin care to cleaning products to air fresheners. It is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and relaxing. It has cell regenerating properties so good for wrinkles, scarring and stretch marks. I love having herbal bath soaks with a mix of different herbs and without fail I always include lavender. It really is always my go to herb. I keep a bottle of the essential oil and add a few drops to jojoba, rosehip, and grapeseed oil as a facial serum. I use it regularly for the children especially at bedtime a drop on the pillow to help wind down and encourage a good nights sleep. Less is more though and Do not put it directly under their nose or where their nose will lie on the pillow.
- Rosemary – Not the most popular one you might think for cosmetic use, this is another herb with many uses. Although I use it regularly when cooking I also use rosemary essential oil in my body oil blends to stimulate the skin and get the blood flowing. Rosemary is astringent, antiseptic, and cleansing for your skin when used both outside and inside. The smell of the essential oil in a burner or diffuser is really uplifting and good for the mind helping to clear brain fog especially when you are feeling stressed or are overthinking. Great for memory and focus. I love it in hot oil mixtures for the hair to encourage good growth and help against dandruff and flaky scalp.
There are literally hundreds more to choose from, that is not even barely scratching the surface of all the different herbs you can use but remember there is only so much that even these super plants can do.
Even with the use of specific herbs and products, health and beauty ultimately comes down to you, how you feel and your lifestyle. Are you stressed? getting enough sleep? Too little exercise or too much exercise (yes you really can over exercise). Are you happy and content in life or do you need to shake things up a little bit?
Life is like one big balancing act, constantly trying to keep that perfect equilibrium.
Nothing is static in this world, everything is always moving and changing, including us, our lives, and emotions. There will be some days we keep that equilibrium much better than others and that is OK. Think of the seasons and how they change, We are the very same because we are a part of that nature.
For true beauty you need to Love yourself enough to look after yourself. Stop beating yourself up, put down the stick and genuinely just start liking yourself, just a little bit, even without make up. Be kind to yourself, you are enough, you are worth it. No one else is going to care about you as much as you care about yourself and no body can truly love you until you begin to love yourself.
So find 10 minutes to spend on a skin care regime, move more, dance more, eat the good food and drink the good tea. It all helps, because just like everything in life, it is not one single thing we do on its own but rather a combination of things that make the difference. Do you agree?
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