Have a DIY ‘Spa Day’!
Five Recipes to Soothe Dry, Sensitive Skin
The CNE is the official end to summer. As the days start to get shorter, temperatures start their inevitable slide downwards and trees start their marvelous colour changing — it’s safe to say that fall has arrived. You may try to hold on to summer as long as you can; relaxing on the patio and throwing on a sweatshirt to BBQ, but those colourful leaves tell a different story!
Reality check! It’s getting colder. Sunny days are going to change into cool, windy and rainy days. Common rituals include picking players in your hockey fantasy pool, finding missing gloves, hats and umbrellas and unfortunately getting that fall coat out of the storage closet.
Moving from summer to autumn isn't only rough on your wardrobe, but dry air and colder temperatures take a toll on sensitive skin. Most of us don’t know that we need to change our skincare regime too. Without preparation, autumn can have a dramatic negative impact on your skin.
As Canadians, we can’t get enough of the sun (when it is finally here) and our skin pays the price. Throughout summer, skin becomes dehydrated thanks to sun exposure. As temperatures drop, humidity drops, and our skin has difficulty drawing moisture from the air. Here are just a few suggestions to help keep your skin radiant:
Facial: Take a weekly gentle moisturizing facial. Rather than spending a fortune on a “chemical soup”, try this EASY, natural moisturizer.
Ingredients: 1 Cup Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 1 Teaspoon Avocado Oil, a few drops of your favourite pure essential oil (I’m partial to lavender or lime). Just beware of cheap essential oils; they may be just as bad as the “chemical soup” you are trying to avoid.
Place all ingredients in a good quality electric mixer (do not melt coconut oil first). Mix on high with a wire whisk for 6-7 minutes until light and fluffy. Place in a glass jar and cover tightly. Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator if your house is warm enough to melt the oil.
Sunscreen: While it is true that the sun is not as intense in autumn, it is still strong enough to cause damage, and let’s face it, we still want to enjoy as much of it as we can! Ignoring protection is a sure way to cause damage that will lead to further problems (flaking, dryness, wrinkles and lines). Swap your sheer summer sunscreens for fall formulas that contain moisturizing ingredients, in addition to UV protection. There are many brands of sunscreens with varying levels of “naturalness”. Look for ones with clean ingredient lists (only items you know, no chemical names) including items such as beeswax, zinc oxide (UV protection), Shea butter, cocoa butter, vegetable glycerin, and aloe Vera.
Clean and Clear: Many try to keep their summer bronze look as long as possible. Canadian summers are so short that we try to hold on to every last bit. For our skin though, this can be a big mistake. Flaky skin (whatever colour, bronze or not) can clog pores, dulling the overall appearance of skin. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells clogging the skin and uncovers fresh new cells below. This opens the way for moisturizers (like the one above) to penetrate more deeply into your skin, which makes them more effective.
Similar to facial products, many commercial scrubs are filled with nasty chemicals. You can make your own healthy natural scrub that is as good, if not more effective than commercial products. This specific scrub is simple and has many benefits. It has used coffee grounds (excellent recycling) which contain caffeine (anti-cellulite, anti-wrinkle and antioxidant) as well as coconut oil (moisturizer), cinnamon (increases collagen and antioxidant). It has an amazing smell and you can use it all over your body
Ingredients: 1 Cup used coffee grounds (dried), 8 Tablespoons organic virgin coconut oil, 3 Tablespoons organic coconut sugar, 1 Teaspoon organic vanilla extract, 1 Teaspoon organic cinnamon powder.
In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together well, add melted coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend until uniform. Transfer contents to a waterproof jar or container and close. Be gentle with the scrub—a light touch is all you need to slough off the dead skin cells. Any more than that and you’re likely to irritate your skin. Limit exfoliation sessions to once a week; any more frequent can leave your skin dry, irritated, and damaged. In this case, less is more and your skin will love it!
Body Beauty: The changing of the seasons affects all your skin, not just on your face. Knees, elbows, arms, legs, and lips all need attention. For your lips, use a natural lip balm regularly making sure your lips are always moist. There are many options for commercial products that are “clean”. Look for those containing beeswax, coconut oil, honey, vitamin E and essential oils. Anything else is unnecessary. If you can’t find one you like, there are hundreds of blogs with recipe variants. For the rest of your body parts, use moisturizing lotions throughout the day, making sure to pay extra attention to skin that tends to dry out. Again, there are many options for commercial products that are “clean”. Most good products contain natural oils (almond, jojoba, hemp, avocado and coconut), butters (shea, cocoa) beeswax, water, vitamin E, essential oils and not much else.
Bathe Well: Hydrotherapy is the new word for the ancient practice of people submerging themselves in hot water to cleanse, refresh, rejuvenate, repair and relax. Adding herbs and essential oils to hot water enhances the water’s natural healing and soothing qualities. Herbal baths can be extremely therapeutic. When you are immersed in water, your pores are open and receptive to the herbs, making it efficient and effective.
To keep skin soft and moisturized, you need to pick the right combination of herbs and oils. There are many recipes available (in books and blogs) for each type of skin. Here’s one I like, using items you may have in your house (nothing too exotic).
Ingredients: 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary, 1 Tablespoon dried thyme, 1 Tablespoon dried mint, 1 lemon peel, 1 medium orange peel, 200g organic coconut milk powder, good quality sweet orange essential oil.
Combine herbs and fruit peels in a large heatproof container. Pour 3 cups boiling water over the mixture. Allow to steep 4-8 hours. Strain the liquid, discarding any solid pieces. Draw a warm (not hot) bath. While drawing, mix the coconut milk powder into the herbal liquid and mix well. Pour mixture into bath water and add a few drops sweet orange essential oil. Soak for at least ½ hour, adding hot water to keep bath water warm. When finished, rinse milk bath off your skin, gently pat dry and moisturize.
A long vacation in the heat and sun might not be in the plans for fall but a home “spa day” could help bring total relaxation. Try to schedule a day per month where you can spend it uninterrupted (no housework, cell phones, etc.) to pamper your body and mind. Though the summer may be ending, your relaxation should continue throughout the year.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.