Throughout history women have gone to great lengths to achieve the standard, "beautiful" face. Elizabethan women covered their faces in lead to achieve the coveted ghostly pallor that was considered beautiful in that time. Roman women use to smear wax on their wrinkles, and used mercury based lotions on their freckles and spots, in order to maintain their idea of a beautiful face.
The ancient Greeks believed that facial proportions needed to be harmonious for a woman to be beautiful, while the Victorians favored thin lips, and Rubens went for double chins and fat cheeks (many of us long for those days I think! lol).
Clearly the idea and the standard of what constitutes a beautiful face changes with time. While our society, even just a few short years ago, favored the thin bodied, with full, lush lips, today there is a large push toward more "normal" sized women, with proportionate features. However, no matter what anyone in particular identifies as beautiful, one thing is for certain, the key is clean, healthy skin.
Everyone, men and women alike, desire clean and healthy skin, and feel better when they have it. You can cover your hands and feet, and camouflage the skin in clothing, but you cannot hide your face. It is always out there for all to see. And, it is always out there taking the brunt of all the elements. Additionally, poor diet, poor sleep patterns, smoking, drinking alcohol, stress,and exposure to weather all affect the sensitive skin of the face.
Of course good habits and good health are the first key to good skin care, after all beauty (and health) comes from the inside out. But still, you can have issues, no matter your age. Actually, about 25% of adults suffer from acne, and most of theses are women. Unfortunately, the hormonal fluctuations that females endure from the teen years to menopause, trigger an increase in the production of sebum. Sebum comes from the sebaceous glands in the skin, and is the skins way to lubricate itself. It is our body's oil. When there is excess sebum it can become trapped under the dead skin cells, and block the block the pores. Blocking the pores effectively cuts off the sebum's route to [skin's] surface, which leads to inflammation inside the pores. Then the bacteria that normally lives on the skin heads to that site to feed on the trapped oil. This is when a pimple or zit pops up.
So what can you do to ensure good skin and combat the elements that conspire against your face?
First of all we need to review the basics. Realistically, there are five steps that should be in your routine skin care plan.
1. Cleanse. This will rid your skin of dirt, makeup and oils. For this step, you should consider using a good soap adn keep the detergent bars on the shelf. In case you are new to this blog, you should know that almost every bar of soap in the big box store is actually a detergent bar. If you have to choose from commercially prepared soaps, at least choose one designed for sensitive skin. For more information on cleansing, as well as some natural recipes, see this post.
Want to make yourself a good cleanser that won't break the bank? Try this one.
2. Steam. Steam opens the skin's pores, increases the blood circulation in the facial capillaries, and deep cleans the skin. For more about steams, including recipes for steams to address various skin conditions, see this post.
3. Mask or Peel. This will further remove residue deep in the pores. It also nourishes and replenishes the skin with essential vitamins and minerals. Need some easy recipes to make masks and peels at home? See this post.
4. Tone. Toners tighten the pores and prepare the skin to accept the moisturizer. For recipes and more details about toners, see this post.
5. Moisturize. This replenishes the skin with fluid and gives it a fine coat of protective film. For recipes and more details, see this post.
Before continuing on I want to review some face care tips that we all would do well to remember;
-ALWAYS clean your face BEFORE doing a steam.
-Pull your hair back so you can get right up to the hairline.
-Should you have a flare up, do not be tempted to over-wash your face. Washing too often can strip the skin of its natural oils, as well as irritate already inflamed skin. Do not think that striping the skin's natural oils will solve your problems, because all it does is stimulate the body to produce more sebum to compensate for its loss.
-Avoid products containing heavy oils, namely petroleum by-products. When choosing makeup, avoid oil based foundations, as these tend to clog pores.
-Always remove makeup by cleansing the face before bed time. As previously stated, be sure to use a gentle cleanser. The more natural, the better.
-ALWAYS wear sunscreen when outside. That means ALWAYS, not just when you go to the beach or pool. Uv rays are always present.
-Don't forget to cleanse and care for your neck just like you care for your face. Neck skin ages the same way that the skin on your face does.
-Don't forget to moisturize above your upper lip and the area above the cheekbones, but below the eyes. These areas tend to be particularly lacking in moisture.
-Steam your skin once a week for the benefits mentioned in the steps of facial care.
-Be cautious when steaming. You do NOT want to scald the skin. If the steam is burning the inside of your nose when you breath in, wait a few minutes for the water to cool down, the try again.
-Eating more whole grains, eggs, leafy greens and broccoli will naturally increase the vitamin E in your system, and vitamin E promotes skin elasticity.
-Eating more spinach, cantaloupe, carrots and pumpkin will increase the amount of vitamin A in your diet, which lubricates and heals the skin.
So....since extra washing is not the answer when you have pimples, what else can you do, what will correct the problem? While there may be some cases where only a dermatologist consult is appropriate, certainly there are many instances where a small amount of time and an herbal remedy is the key. In fact, there are several herbs and essential oils that have been used for many years to treat skin conditions. The following is only a partial list.
Bergamot oil is primarily used for its antiseptic properties. In a facial steam it reduces redness, irritations and puffiness.
Burdock root is a herb that contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It too has traditionally been used to treat acne, as well as other skin conditions.
Chaparral, also called “stinkweed,” is often used to treat inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, herpes, psoriasis and eczema.
Lavender is very beneficial for acne-prone skin, as it normalizes the secretions of sebaceous glands.
Neem oil has traditionally been used to treat all kinds of skin conditions. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and is said to be quite effective against acne.
In beauty treatments, rose oil is effective for treating wrinkles, puffiness and dry skin. Rosewater has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and toning properties, and makes a great steam for any skin condition.
Witch hazel is an old, and well used treatment for psoriasis, eczema, and cracked or blistered skin. Witch hazel reduces swelling, has antiseptic properties, and even though it is a strong anti-oxidant and astringent, it also acts to soothe the skin, which makes it very useful in fighting acne. It is much more skin friendly than alcohol, which is often present in commercial astringents and toners. For more about astringents and toners, their definitions and recipes that you can make at home for skin problems, see this old post.
Yellow Dock Root also has minerals that control swelling and irritation in blocked pores.
Rosemary, sandalwood, tea tree, red thyme, green and blue yarrow, ylang ylang, galbanum, geranium, and helichrysum are all essential oils that would be beneficial in creating acne treatments.
While the following essential oils would benefit preparations for oily skin; fennel, grapefruit, juniper, bergamot (make sure its furo free), myrtle, patchouli, petitgrain, red thyme, rosewood, tea tree.
In fact, if you look through older posts, I am sure that you will find some things mentioned that I have forgotten to include here. Generally speaking, there are several good herbs and essential oils that you can use to benefit various skin conditions. So study up, then have fun experimenting!
**Essential oils are a wonderful treatment modality. However, they need to be treated with caution and respect. Unless you are educated in their usage, please seek out a professional. Trying to formulate your own recipes with these oils when you are unaware of their proper implications, usage rates, or contraindications can be quite dangerous. So please be safe!