A Natural Path to Healthy, Beautiful Skin

Feb 3, 06:24 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Many people suffer from chapped or dry skin during the winter months, or may suffer skin reactions from occlusive products designed to hold in moisture during cold weather. This is a reprint of an article I previously wrote for a natural skincare site:

Walk into the cosmetics department of any store, and you’ll be inundated by skin treatment products of all sizes, shapes and colors. Each of them promises to deliver healthy, glowing, perfect skin… often at a hefty price tag. Some of these products work, some don’t, and nearly all of them contain a plethora of artificial ingredients and preservatives. If you’re into natural skincare, finding safe and effective products can be a frustrating and confusing proposal.

The good news is that you can obtain healthy, radiant skin by using just two or three fine quality essential oils and a handful of natural ingredients, most of which can be found in your pantry.  Beauty treatments don’t need to be complex or expensive, and experimenting with aromatherapy is both pleasurable and fun.

My own experience with aromatic natural skincare began nearly twenty years ago.  My already hypersensitive skin was left red and peeling by a blood disorder. As my blood vessels healed, my skin lagged behind. I experimented with several pricey lotions and gels to control the dryness and redness, only to suffer allergic reactions which compounded the situation.

In desperation, I turned to an esthetician who had extensive training in aromatherapy. Her treatment regimen was simple: after misting my face with lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) and geranium (Pelargonium x asperum graveolens) hydrolats, she applied a thin bentonite clay mask mixed with yarrow (Achillea millefolium), German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oils. She prepared a macadamia nut carrier oil containing these same aromatics for daily home use. After three months of weekly aromatherapy facials, my skin was smooth and radiant, lacking any trace of redness. I was hooked.

My interest in essential oils became an obsession that eventually led to ownership of an essential oil company, Aromaceuticals, and a career as a registered clinical aromatherapist. Most of my clients are women, and many of them are dealing with issues such as cystic acne, menopausal skin changes, cosmetic surgeries, skin grafts or unexpected reactions to chemical peels. Aromatherapy can successfully address all these situations, but can also be employed in basic, everyday skincare.

Lavender, geranium and ylang ylang (Canaga odorata) essential oils are suitable for virtually all skin types, and can be used in unscented toners, lotions or gels for facial or body care. Moderation is key, because these oils are highly concentrated and biochemically active in very tiny amounts. One drop of essential oil mixed into a teaspoon of lotion is plenty; more can result in an adverse skin reaction. If you want to go all natural, substitute a light-textured vegetable oil such as sweet almond, apricot kernel or macadamia nut for the lotion.

Dry skin benefits from geranium, rose otto (Rosa damascena), palmarosa (Andropogon martinii) or frankincense (Boswellia carterii) oil.  You can combine any one or two of these essential oils along with the mildly antimicrobial effect of honey for a simple masque. Add one or two drops of essential oil to a tablespoon of honey and massage gently into face. Leave on for twenty minutes and rinse with lukewarm water. Your skin will feel tight, smooth and refreshed. Add a bit of sugar or salt to the masque to make a quick and easy body scrub.

Mature, devitalized or sun damaged skin can gain new life from carrot seed (Daucus carota), frankincense, helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum var. serotin), rose, geranium or lavender oils.  All of these have cellular regenerating properties. Frankincense and German chamomile are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, and their derivatives are found in many high end anti-aging cosmetics.  For dull, lifeless skin, mash an avocado, drizzle in a bit of rosehipseed oil and add one or two drops of essential oil. Apply this masque for twenty or thirty minutes before rinsing with warm water and patting dry. Hydrolat, or floral water, makes a fragrant toner for any skin type. Rose hydrolat, in particular, is wonderful for mature or sensitive skin. Simply mist it over the face, neck and décolletage straight out of the bottle.

Blue-hued essential oils such as helichrysum, yarrow and German chamomile have an affinity for sensitive skin. Strong anti-inflammatories, they can work wonders on acne, rosacea and couperose. For both sensitive and oily skin types, I prefer to use French green clay for a weekly masque. Mix the clay with just enough water or hydrolat to make a paste. Apply and rinse off, following the directions for the other masques mentioned above. German chamomile hydrolat makes an effective toner for sensitive skin, and can also be used as an aftershave for those prone to razor rash. For a quick and easy serum for problem skin, add a drop of one of the blue oils to a teaspoon of apricot kernel oil (yes, even oily skin will tolerate a vegetable oil based preparation!).

If you’re interested in starting an aromatic skincare routine, remember that quality counts. The inexpensive essential oils usually found at the local health food store are often adulterated and won’t always yield the desired effect. Buy from suppliers you can trust, and use aromatics with respect… remember that a little essential oil goes a long way. If you’d rather not experiment with your own kitchen cosmetics, Aromaceuticals has several treatment products that are suitable for all skin types.


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