Make It Miniseries: Body Oil

One of the easiest body products to make yourself is body oil.  Depending on what your skin likes and how fancy you want to make it, it can be as simple as a small bottle of oil or jar of coconut oil on your vanity.  Wait.  What?  People just put straight up oil on their skin?  Isn’t that what lotion is for?

If you like to use lotion and it works for you, that’s great.  But if you find that after applying lotion you have to keep re-applying over and over again, or if you would like to avoid synthetic fragrance and preservatives, using body oil might make your skin very happy.

In some cases, over-moisturizing can actually make your skin drier.  Putting on lotion too often (three or more times a day) will send a message to your body to send less water to the skin cells.  So instead of your body producing its own moisture, it becomes dependent on external sources to provide moisture.  Along with water, the body delivers lipids/proteins and other nutrients to the skin, which also decreases when your body is dependent on lotions and creams for moisture.

Of course, the best way to hydrate your skin is to drink an adequate amount of water, about two liters a day.  A small amount of plant-based or botanical oil, cold-pressed with minimal processing, will create a light barrier to hold your natural moisture in. It also softens skin and absorbs quickly.  To make your own body oil, try a few oils first to see which you like best: olive oil, castor oil, sweet almond oil, sunflower oil, or grapeseed oil.  If you want to spend a little more money, try rosehip oil, argan oil, or jojoba.  While some of these oils have little to no scent, you may want to add a few drops of essential oils for aesthetics.  A good rule of thumb is no more than 1% EO diluted in a carrier oil.  So for a four ounce bottle that would look something like this:

4 ounces = 113.4 grams; 1% of 113 is slightly more than 1 gram; 1 gram is approximately 20 drops, depending on how thick or thin the EO is.

Some EO’s that have beneficial properties for skin include (listed from least expensive to most expensive):

  • Lavender

  • Patchouli

  • Chamomile

  • Carrot Seed

  • Frankincense

  • Helichrysum

  • Neroli

  • Rose

A less expensive way to scent body oil is a little more time consuming but offers some very nice beneficial properties as well – herb infusion.  Cold infusion is done by puttiing dried botanical material in a glass jar or container with a tight fitting lid, and pouring enough oil to cover the herbs.  Put the jar in a dark, cool place (like a cabinet or closet), give it a shake every day or so, and after two or three weeks, it’s ready.  Strain the herbs from the oil with cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, pressing or squeezing the oils from the botanical material to make sure you get all the goodness from the herbs.

Hot infusions can be done in a similar way, putting the jars (with lids on tight) in a water bath inside a large pot, covered, heating the water bath to barely a simmer.  In an hour or two the infusion is done.  Strain the same way as the cold infusion.

I’ve infused oils with dried lavender buds, dried peppermint leaves (much milder to skin than the concentrated essential oil), chamomile, lemon balm, and comfrey leaves, to name a few.  The scent is light but covers the smell of olive oil nicely.  This would be especially nice for someone with very sensitive skin, such as babies or the elderly.

Body oils are so simple, and so good for your skin – try it, you’ll love it!

DIY Spa Facial in 6 Simple Steps: Step 1, Cleanse

A spa facial is such a luxurious treat – and depending on where you live and what type of facial you choose, the price range can be anywhere from about $60 to $200.  For most of us, this isn’t something that would happen once a week or maybe even once a month.  For some, this just isn’t in the budget at all.  But if you have about 45 minutes to an hour, you have enough time to give yourself a spa quality facial.  You just might like it so much you’ll want to schedule it on a regular basis, or invite a few girlfriends over for a Facial Night.

The first step is to cleanse your face.  You can use whatever product and method you normally would use, or you can try the Oil Cleansing Method.  This method has been around for a few years, and before the widespread availability of soap, was the only method of cleansing the body in ancient times.  The basic premise of the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) is that oil is highly effective in dissolving oil, dirt, and grime.  After the oil has done its job to cleanse away the grime, it’s steamed and wiped away, leaving the skin clean, soft, and hydrated.

A single oil can be used, such as olive, coconut, or jojoba, but some prefer a combination of oils.  Here’s a rule of thumb for different skin types:

  • Oily Skin – blend 30% castor oil with 70% olive or sunflower oil;

  • Normal or Balanced Skin – blend 20% castor oil with 80% olive or sunflower oil;

  • Dry Skin – blend 10% castor oil with 90% olive or sunflower oil.

As you can see, a greater amount of castor oil is used for oily skin and less for dry skin.  You can customize your own blend to adjust up or down, depending on what works best for you.  You can also substitute other oils for any of the oils, but try to keep at least part of the blend as castor oil.  Other oils that might work better for you are sweet almond oil, rice bran oil, apricot seed oil, or grapeseed oil.  (Grapeseed oil is very light and also has astringent or drying qualities, which might be good for a person with very oily skin.)

To cleanse your face with oil, begin by pouring about ½ to 1 teaspoon of oil into one hand.  With your fingers, spread the oil over your face and massage with light, circular motions.  Leave it on for 5-10 minutes, then take a facecloth and soak it with hot water; wring it out and while it’s still hot, place it over your face and keep it there for about one minute.  Remove the facecloth and use it to gently wipe away the remaining oil.  Your face will feel clean, soft, supple, and refreshed.  If it feels a little dry, take a drop or two of the oil mixture and massage it on your face, concentrating on any dry spots, and leave it on.  If your face still feels dry, decrease the amount of castor oil the next time you cleanse your face.

An easy way of mixing your oils can be done by converting the percentages into grams.  A kitchen scale that measures in grams can be used to weigh the oils in the correct percentages.  Example: I want to use 20% castor oil and 80% sunflower oil.  So:

          (20%) 20 grams castor oil

          (80%) 80 grams sunflower oil

The next day, I want to decrease the castor oil so I can add 5 to 10 grams of sunflower oil (1 teaspoon = 5 grams) to my oil blend.

And if I want to enjoy some nice lavender essential oil in my blend, I’ll use a 1% dilution since this is going to be used on my face.  (Facial tissue is more sensitive than other parts of the body.) So I take the total weight of oils, 100 grams, and divide by 100, which gives me 1 gram.  A gram is roughly equivalent (pretty close) to one milliliter, or just under ¼ teaspoon.  It’s also about 20 drops if you are using a medicine dropper.  Now I’m no math genius, but that was some super easy math, wasn’t it?

Be sure to have a clean glass bottle with a tight fitting lid to store your cleansing oil.  100 grams is a little over 3.5 ounces, so a 4 ounce bottle is big enough to hold that much.  Also make sure that you never get any water inside the oil bottle, because bacteria can grow with the addition of water.  When your bottle is empty, wash it thoroughly with lots of soapy hot water and allow it to dry completely before mixing up another batch of cleansing oil – even a very tiny amount of water can launch bacterial growth.

This is the first step of a facial, but it’s also a way to cleanse your face that may work much better than using soap or liquid cleansers.  Tomorrow, I’m writing about Step 2: How to Exfoliate.  (Hint: you want to be careful with that delicate facial tissue, so no harsh exfoliates on the face, OK?)

Natural Skincare Wonder #2: Olive Oil

The cosmetics industry is big business in the U.S. – it’s predicted that in 2016, over $62 billion in revenue will be generated just from the sale of beauty and cosmetic products.  It’s no wonder that we are bombarded on a regular basis with advertising on TV, magazines, newspapers, and now the internet.  We can have 100% flake-free hair, get the London look, be an easy-breezy cover girl, have high drama for every single lash, and even take our lashes to luxurious lengths.  Although maybe she’s born with it, some will say that there’s no such thing as natural beauty; and isn’t it great that our cosmetics are allergy-tested, 100% fragrance free, oil free, and dermatologist recommended?  Because after all – we’re worth it.

Wait a minute.  Why exactly do we want our cosmetics to be oil free?  Because dermatologists said that eating chocolate and fried foods gave us acne, right?  So putting oil on your face became a terrible thing, because TV commercials in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s said so.   But just a few years ago, the tide began to turn.  Consumers began to read labels and look for more natural ingredients.  By 2010 or so, argan oil and a few other exotic oils began to appear on cosmetic labels, and botanical oils have become the trendy newcomer to the beauty industry.   Today, big name, high-end companies sell facial serums comprising of mostly botanical oils with exorbitant price tags: Renewal Oil, by Le Mer, costs $240 for a one ounce bottle.  And that seems like a bargain, compared to Chanel’s Sublimage L’Extract – it sells for $650 for a half ounce bottle.

Do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars for a half ounce or ounce of oil that will condition and help retain moisture on the skin?  You can if you want, but let me tell you about olive oil.  Cold pressed olive oil is classified as “extra virgin” and doesn’t contain any chemical solvents, like some other oils.  It’s loaded with vitamins A and E, which are excellent antioxidants that can help repair damage from sun exposure, cigarette smoke, and other pollutants.  Olive oil will deeply penetrate the skin, promotes elasticity, and leaves the skin with a protective shield. 

I know what you’re thinking: that all sounds great, but it’s oil – won’t my skin feel greasy if I rub olive oil all over me?  Let me tell you a little story.  It so happens that a dear friend of mine is a partner in an olive oil business, and she told me that she uses olive oil as a moisturizer, instead of lotion.  In my mind, I envisioned my friend working at the olive grove, then toiling at the shed with the presses, out in the country, where their accommodations were….less than luxurious.  Now she had a lovely home in the city, but out where the olives were grown and pressed and bottled, that was a more primitive set up.  I pictured my friend looking around for something, anything, to put on her poor, sun-parched skin; in desperation, she reached for the one thing that was available in abundance: olive oil.  She rubbed it on her skin, and smelling like a salad or Italian restaurant, fell into her little cot in the corner and slept the slumber of an exhausted farmer.  (Or so my fantasy went.)

One day she asked me to make a delivery for her, and I was happy to help out.  I had two boxes to deliver to a home in an upscale neighborhood – I was a little nervous about that part. But I found the address, parked in front of the house, and grabbed the boxes.  Just as I was about to hand off the boxes to the customer, the box on top slid off and hit the cement – with a sickening tinkle and crunch of broken glass.  The customer was so gracious, she went inside to grab paper towels and an old box to put all the broken glass in.  It was only one bottle that broke, and fortunately I had another bottle in my car to replace it.  So all was well again.  As I turned to walk back to my car, I realized that I still had olive oil all over my hands – and I needed to open my car door.  Not wanting to get oil all over my car door, seat belt, and steering wheel, I wiped each hand on the opposite arm.  This was my defining moment, where I realized suddenly that all those commercials and ads were wrong – oil is not evil!  It’s not greasy or sticky, it’s…..nice.  Oh, it’s really, really nice!  In seconds, the olive oil had absorbed into my skin, and it felt great!  The whole drive home, I kept touching my arms and marveling at how soft they were.  I might have smelled a little bit like a salad, but I didn’t care.

So here is what you can do – and should do – with olive oil:

  • Use it like lotion, after a bath or shower; a little goes a long way, that’s a good thing!

  • Remove your eye makeup with it;

  • Use it on your face instead of a night cream;

  • Use a little oil on a warm, wet cloth for gentle cleansing for very sensitive skin; gently rinse with warm water.

  • If the smell bothers you, mix in a few drops of essential oil, like lavender or chamomile; keep that bottle on your bathroom vanity, so it doesn’t get used on salad or other food.

Tomorrow we’ll cover another Natural Skincare Wonder: CLAY.