Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homeade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & a Vibrant Self|Paperback (2024)

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A Natural Approach to Beautiful Skin, Hair, and Nails

In order to care properly for your skin, hair, and nails, it's important that you understand something about their structure and purpose. Knowing how, why, and when to care for them and identifying the best formulas for their needs will help them remain healthy and beautiful regardless of the climate you live in or your chronological age.

Your Skin

Think of your skin as a beautiful, satin robe that you wear night and day. It presents your external beauty and health to the world and at the same time protects your inner being. The skin, or integumentary system, is an actual living system that also comprises the hair and nails, various glands, and several specialized receptors. As a complex structure, it performs nine essential jobs for the body. The skin:

* Protects us from physical, chemical, biological, thermal, and electrical damage.

* Helps the body maintain a steady temperature.

* Acts as a moisture regulator, preventing excessive entry and evaporation of water.

* Prevents excessive loss of minerals.

* Converts ultraviolet rays into vitamin D3, part of the vitamin D complex that helps us maintain strong bones by enhancing absorption of calcium and other minerals.

* Serves as a highly sensitive sensory organ, responding to heat, cold, pain, pleasure, and pressure.

* Metabolizes and stores fat.

* Secretes sebum, an oily lubricating substance.

* Assists in processes of excretion of salts, urea, water, and toxins via sweating.

As a general rule, your skin is designed to keep out more things than it lets in, though openings in the surface from burns, abrasions, cuts, pimples, ulcers, boils, or acne can allow infectious bacteria to enter. Its follicular openings and pores also allow some topically applied substances to be absorbed.

Helpful to us, our skin constantly transmits and receives information. If something is amiss, it displays signs of interior or exterior distress. If all is well, it displays radiance.

The cutis, or skin, is our largest body organ; it consists of tissues structurally joined together to perform specific activities. The thickness of this organ varies: The skin on the eyelids and scrotum are the thinnest — thinner even than the paper these words are printed on — and the skin on the soles of your feet and your palms is the thickest. The skin of an average-sized adult weighs approximately five to eight pounds and, if stretched out flat, would cover an area approximately 17 to 20 square feet.

Of the three layers of skin — epidermal, dermal, and subcutaneous — the epidermal layer, or epidermis (also known as the cuticle or scarf skin) is the outermost, thinnest layer. Though it contains no blood vessels, it does have many small nerve endings and shows the world your wrinkles, break-outs, dry flakes, laugh lines, sunburns, blisters, age spots, and freckles — in other words, the results of genetics and lifestyle habits, good and bad.

The epidermis consists of a soft form of keratin proteins (hair, fingernails, and toenails are made of hard keratin) which are resistant to water and many chemicals and provide a shield of protection from the outside world. The melanocytes, or cells that produce your skin's particular pigment, are also found in the epidermis.

The dermal layer, or dermis (also known as the corium or true skin) lies just below the epidermis and is a tough elastic layer of connective tissue. Its abundant blood supply puts roses in your cheeks and gives you a look of vitality. This strong, yet flexible, layer holds together your internal organs, bones, fluids, and so forth.

The two major components of the dermis are collagen and elastin — fibers that impart the skin's strength and resilience. According to some studies, wrinkles begin in the dermis due to a change in elastin causing its structure to lose its snap. The result is that skin becomes slack, like an old rubber band. Some skin professionals believe that wrinkles are due to a degeneration of collagen, the protein providing the skin's strength and form. Maybe someday science will discover the true physiological process that leads to wrinkling, but for now, we know only that without sufficient moisture, the collagen and elastin matrix loses its ability to keep skin toned and supple.

As we age, skin naturally thins, its elastin weakens, and collagen production slows. Abuse of skin care products or neglect of basic care; poor nutrition; lack of hydration; insufficient exercise; and excessive exposure to sun, salt, wind, pollution, and dry air can also take their toll. Emotional stressors such as anger, depression, deep sadness, relationship issues, and the death of loved ones add to the chemical changes that occur within your body and appear on your skin.

The third layer of skin, the subcutaneous layer, or subcutis, is the fatty or adipose layer that lies beneath the dermis and connects to the underlying muscle tissue. A little fat is a good thing as far as your skin is concerned. It keeps your face from looking drawn and hollow and gives your body beautiful contours and smoothness. Fat provides a strong foundation for your skin and acts as a shock absorber and insulator protecting your internal organs. Circulation is maintained here by a network of arteries and lymphatics. This adipose layer provides your entire body with a storage house of vital, long-term energy reserves to draw upon as necessary. As you age (or crash diet), the subcutis becomes thinner, leaving behind sagging, unsupported skin.

Your Hair

Hair, or pilus, is an appendage of the skin — slender, thread-like outgrowths of fiber that extend through follicular openings within the skin and scalp. Hair grows over the entire body, with the exception of the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, lips, and eyelids. It is made of approximately 97 percent protein (keratin) and 3 percent moisture.

When treating the hair's internal and external structure, keep in mind these two substances: protein (to fortify, strengthen, and encourage growth) and water or moisture (to hydrate). The hair shaft, that part that extends from the scalp, has become keratinized, or hardened. It has no nerves, blood, or muscles. While the hair on your head provides some insulation from heat, cold, and sun, its main purpose may be purely ornamental.

The hair shaft has three distinct layers: the cuticle, cortex, and medulla. The cuticle, or outermost layer, is the part you see. It's your hair's coat of armor and is composed of overlapping scales that appear much like the shingles on a roof. When these lie flat, they reflect light and your hair appears shiny. When the cuticle is roughened due to damage resulting from hot styling implements, chemical treatments, medications, poor-quality styling aids, excessive teasing and brushing, and environmental stress, it appears dull and perhaps flyaway and frizzy.

The cortex, or middle layer of hair, is constructed of elongated cells or parallel fibers of hard proteins that grow end on end instead of scalelike. These cells give hair its flexibility and tensile strength. Due to protein and water content, the cortex comprises approximately 90 percent of the hair's molecular weight. Here you'll find the pigments, or melanin, that determine your natural color. Hair turns gray because the source of melanin has been depleted.

The parallel protein fibers in the cortex are held together by a variety of bonds. The greatest number are hydrogen bonds, which can be mechanically broken by the use of brushes, combs, rollers, curling irons, and flat irons. The strongest of the bonds, disulfide bonds, can be broken only by chemical means such as those used in straightening, perming, highlighting, or coloring. Your crowning glory can become structurally weak when large numbers of bonds are broken and not are reformed. This can lead to permanent damage that must be at least regularly trimmed.

The medulla, or innermost layer of a hair, is composed of protein. Its health contributes to hair's body and elasticity and it may be entirely absent in very fine hair.

We can keep all of this information in mind the next time we submit our hair to torture in the name of vanity. A simple, uncompromising beauty routine is important to both our hair's health and our good looks.

A Healthy Root = Healthy Hair

Every hair on your body grows from a living root, or papilla, embedded in the dermis at the base of the hair follicle. This is where the newly forming hair makes a connection with the rest of the body via the bloodstream. Good circulation in the scalp is essential to a healthy head of hair; it allows an ample supply of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to reach the root and encourage growth. The scalp, like your toes and fingers, is one of the hardest places on your body for blood to reach. A daily scalp massage is not merely an indulgence, but an important beauty ritual!

If you're in good health, your hair will grow with glossy ease. But toxins, drugs, poor diet, lack of exercise, hormonal fluctuations, and ill health are also reflected at the hair's root. The volume, body, shine, rate of growth, and general health of your hair and scalp are dependent on the food and water received by the hair's root. One of the primary reasons for hair loss and premature graying is a lack of nourishment. Proper diet, regular scalp stimulation, and removal of follicle-clogging sebum are the three keys to a glorious crop of hair.

Your Nails

Like hair, fingernails and toenails are appendages of the skin. The nail, or onyx, composed of the hardest keratin, exists to protect the ends of the fingers and toes, help your fingers grasp small objects, aid in general grooming, and scratch an itch. The average growth rate of an adult fingernail is approximately one-eighth inch per month; toenails grow more slowly.

The nail body, or plate, is the visible surface of the nail that's attached to the skin beneath it. The free edge is the portion of the nail that extends beyond the tip of the finger or toe — the part that you cut or file. Though it appears as a single structure, the nail is actually made up of many layers.

The nail bed, lying beneath the surface of the nail body, is richly supplied with blood vessels (it should appear pink in color) which provide nourishment necessary for nail growth. There is also a wealth of nerve endings in this area.

The nail root is embedded at the base of the nail, just above the nail matrix. This is where nail growth begins, with the rate determined by the nutrients it receives. Matrix cells produce the keratin that becomes the visible nail. This highly sensitive area also contains nerves, blood vessels, and lymph vessels. If the matrix is irreparably injured, irregular nail growth results.

The lunula is the pale "half moon" at the base of the nail that serves as a semi-transparent window through which to see the nail root and matrix beneath. This crescent is nearly always visible on the thumbs, but may be less or not at all visible on the other fingers.

The cuticle is the small flap of skin that often hangs over the nail plate, protecting the delicate matrix below. It's important to remember never to cut your cuticles or let a nail technician cut them, no matter how winter-dry and ragged they become. They are vital to nail health. Regular therapeutic soaking and moisturizing will revive them. Trimming them, using chemical solvents, or pushing them back vigorously can cause ridges in the nails. If the cuticle is damaged, the once watertight space under the nail fold (the deep fold of skin at the base of the nail, where the nail root is embedded) becomes susceptible to moisture and thus a potential breeding ground for bacteria and yeast infections.

If you frequently suffer from cold fingers, your nails may need extra stimulation to encourage proper blood flow. A daily nail massage with a good oil blend or a weekly at-home buffing can help. If your budget allows, a weekly professional manicure, complete with hand massage, is an indulgence to enjoy. Skip the polish if you wish. In no time, you'll see 10 nails (and cuticles) in beautiful tip-top condition.

Your nails, like your hair and skin, are mirrors of your general state of health or lifestyle. A healthy nail is smooth or very finely ridged, softly glossy, and translucent pink. Nail disorders such as deep ridges or furrows, thickening, discoloration, dimples, or slow growth can be indicative of systemic problems that could include malnutrition or illness or can result from excessive contact with dry air, water, soap, or chemicals. Even tools of the nail technician's trade — polishes, removers, artificial nails, nippers, scissors, brushes, and orangewood sticks — if improperly used or unsanitary, can physically harm nails or transmit bacteria and fungus.

Skin Sense

Joel Gerson explains in Milady's Standard Textbook for Professional Estheticians (Thomson Learning, 1999) that "Blood and lymph supply nourishment to the skin ... In the subcutaneous tissue are found networks of arteries and lymphatics that send their smaller branches to hair papillae, hair follicles, and skin glands." In short, all this physiology means that your skin is alive, and in order to keep your skin, hair, and nails looking their best and running at peak performance, you need to give them what they need to survive and thrive.

To insure a lifetime of healthy, vibrant good looks and an energetic body, you should observe what I call the seven lifestyle keys: daily cleansing, maximal nutrition intake, regular consumption of pure water, regular elimination of internal and external toxic buildup, daily movement, moderate exposure to sunlight, and sound sleep.

Step 1. Care for Your Skin Daily

Because your skin is constantly excreting wastes and shedding dead skin debris (sounds awful, but it's true), daily cleansing is a beauty must. All that's required is a mild, natural cleanser designed for your skin type (see What's My Skin Type?, below). If you wear foundation, powder, blush, or waterproof face and eye makeup, it's absolutely imperative that you remove this layer before going to sleep in order to avoid the possibility of clogged pores, blocked tear ducts, blackheads, and potential acne. Even if you don't wear makeup, it's a good idea to wash your face prior to bedtime, as the natural sebum on the surface of your skin readily attracts atmospheric pollutants and dirt like a magnet.

Speaking of dirt, here's a reminder: A telephone, whether personal or (especially) public, is usually filthy. This convenient communication device transmits a huge quantity of germs, dirt, and excess oil to your cheek, jaw-line, and mouth. Always clean your cell phone and land line at least twice a week using a good antibacterial cleanser or simple soap solution. And as your mother no doubt told you, always remember to wash your hands and keep them away from your face and mouth!

If you perspire a great deal in your line of work or if you exercise heavily, rinse off and massage your body with a coarse towel, then body brush (see page 36) or loofah before retiring to remove salt and dead-skin buildup.

What's My Skin Type?

Accurately assessing and caring for your skin type is key to having skin that is irresistible to touch and behold. Too many people treat their skin with the wrong products, and consequently, instead of improving its condition, they actually worsen it. What's more, skin type can change with the seasons, personal environment, health, and lifestyle. Yours may be different today than it was even a few months ago. It's important to know your current skin type in order to care for your skin in the best way.

Your skin probably falls into one of the following skin type categories, though some people may overlap two categories. Whether you lie in one classification or bridge two, though, it's important to assess your skin honestly and not judge what you have.

In each category you'll find ingredient and formula suggestions for recipes and methods of care. If you run across a particular ingredient or term that you don't understand (and you probably will), please see the index at the back of this book for all page references to that item. You'll be able to find an explanation or a formula recipe in no time. Also remember that in chapter 2, you'll find descriptions and explanations for all the ingredients used in the recipes in this book.

Normal or Balanced Skin

CHARACTERISTICS: This skin is neither too oily nor too dry. It's usually free of blemishes, but may form blackheads. It may get a little oily in the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin area) or in the upper-back region four to six hours after cleansing, depending on humidity and temperature. The pores are normal in size. The entire body may suffer from surface dehydration (lack of moisture) in very cold weather. Normal skin is a balanced skin functioning as it should and is everyone's desired type.


Excerpted from "Organic Body Care Recipes"
by .
Copyright &copy 2007 Stephanie Tourles.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homeade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & a Vibrant Self|Paperback (2024)


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