holistic health

two-step face: apothecary style

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So you wanna talk beauty?  That’s a little outside my comfort zone.  I’m not a RA RA natural beauty cheerleader, and those mantras about beauty being skin deep and on the inside get really twisted in my dark mind.  I will say: the best way I’ve found to stay glowing is to surround myself with people who love all aspects of me (especially people who think I’m funny, because I will make lots of jokes and do lots of bits and generally be my silly self), and to live in such a way that I feel I’m doing the best I can.  I like to eat well (real food and soul food), hang out by the ocean, belt my favorite songs, snuggle my favorite animals (and humans!).  I also stick to my comfort zone when it’s important for me, like what I wear and where I go.  You won’t find me in a miniskirt in a bar, because I’m probably in a sweater in the backyard with a good book and the dog.  In all this, I may not have the best hair or flawless airbrushed skin, but I can look at myself in the mirror and actually see myself.  I don’t have to avoid myself, and I don’t have to try very hard either (which is key).  

You must know: I have weird aversions.  It’s not that I don’t care about being clean (although sometimes I truly don’t), it’s that I seriously hate showering so much I’ll endure until I want to scratch my head off.  I only shower at night because I hate being cold and wet in the morning.  I only wash my face in the shower because splashing water on my face in any other context makes me cringe.  I literally tense all my muscles and try to curl up in a ball while standing.  So this process was borne out of an extreme desire to avoid doing anything unnecessarily time consuming and uncomfortable, including washing my face.  TMI TMI TMI.

I stopped wearing makeup in college, in true granola fashion. Until recently, I didn’t even own anything that could be smudged onto the facial plane to elicit effect. I bought a mineral powder a couple months ago to hopefully tone down what was a particularly tomato-bright sunburn, and I’ve worn it probably three times since (to job interviews). The point is, I got very comfortable with my naked face. Thought it wasn’t always in the “fall in love with your natural self” way; it was often out of extreme disinterest and an inability to grip why something like that might be of necessity.  (Ask me why it took me 25 years to maintain a hairstyle, and see above for why it’s an awful chore to even wash my hair.) It was one of the easiest old habits to shelve – despite being one that begins incredibly early for women as my peers and I started dabbling in grade school. Whether or not you wear makeup, maintaining healthy skin is important to look and feel our best.

So many of us who take interest in the health and presentation of ourselves (including our face!) are in pursuit of those young features: even skin tone, blemish-free, firm elasticity. I basically don’t want to be thinking about my face all day; I want it to be there, doing it’s job, not causing problems. As I also strive to be a minimal consumer of products, I wasn’t interested in hunting down this or that serum that might do the trick – with unholy chemicals to boot. So I looked where I normally would: the apothecary kitchen.

I’ve been doing step one for about four years now, and recently committed to step two (I had been using a natural lotion sporadically, and started committing to actually moisturizing my face for the past six months). It’s never felt better!

Today, my skin routine is merely two steps. It can be done morning or night, or both, or whenever it’s warranted. I don’t have to worry about over-cleaning my face, or struggling with a dry face all day if I forget to moisturize. It’s so simple and keeps me thinking on the daily, “How is my face this soft?!”

TWO-STEP FACE: APOTHECARY STYLE

What you will need:

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STEP ONE: cleanse

  • Witch Hazel → you can find organic options in your natural foods store. I have also found it in my regular grocery store’s first aid aisle.
  • Apple cider vinegar → you know the drill; it’s in EVERYTHING these days
  • Cotton balls
  • A glass jar

STEP TWO: moisturize

  • Sesame oil → when I open a new jar of tahini, I pour off the oil that gathers on top and jar it specifically for bathroom use. You can also purchase sesame oil in the grocery store; I’ve found it in the ethnic foods aisle, and you can seek out organic options if you like.
  • Bonus: natural sunscreen!

Ingredient Spotlight

WITCH HAZEL – is a natural astringent made from the bark of the witch hazel shrub. It works to tone the skin and calm hives and rashes. I use it primarily as a cleanser instead of the whole soap-and-water routine. It can remove makeup, under-eye bags, and soothe a variety of skin conditions. I also use it on my underarms and anywhere I’m worried about razor burn.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR – is full of vitamins and minerals that fight bacteria and regulate the body’s pH levels.

SESAME OIL – has long been used in the practice of Ayurveda to promote health and balance VATA dosha (grounding, moisturizing). It can be swished in the mouth to pull out toxins and mucus buildup. In self-massage, it moisturizes and maintains health due to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.

How to prepare

In a small jar, mix 1:1:1 → witch hazel : apple cider vinegar : water.

How to use

  1. Remove all heavy makeup using coconut oil or other makeup remover. Light makeup (such as a light dusting of mineral powder) can be removed with the witch hazel solution.
  2. To cleanse face: dip a cotton ball in the witch hazel solution and squeeze out excess liquid. Apply to face. There will be a noticeable lift in dirt on the cotton ball. You may do this multiple times if desired until cotton ball comes clean. Dispose.
  3. To moisturize: dip a few fingers into sesame oil and rub fingers of both hands together. Distribute evenly to face and neck (if desired). A little goes a long way, but be sure to apply enough to moisturize the skin properly.
  4. Optional: if desired, mix sunscreen and sesame oil together before applying.

Other helpful tips

  • If I run out of witch hazel or ACV, I have simply used one or the other. I like them best together, but I’m also economical and lazy, so I get it. Just know that they both have tonifying effects and do the job on their own.
  • If applying oil to your face sounds counterintuitive, know this: your face (your whole body, in fact) has its own proper process for producing whatever it is your body needs, and in the correct amount. A lifetime of soaping our face and hair and skin can strip our body’s natural sensors and this process must be reestablished. Your body will regulate, and applying a sensible amount of oil to your face will not make you the grease monster. It may take days or weeks to regulate, but when you do, your skin will keep the proper moisture necessary to stay hydrated and elastic.
  • The sesame oil does have a cooking-in-an-Asian-kitchen kind of smell when you first apply it, but it tones down quickly. No one has ever commented that my face smells like food or anything… 😉
  • It’s also important to drink a lot of water to keep your skin hydrated.

 

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herbal tinctures and mental wellness

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Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional or medical practitioner.  I speak only of my personal experience and do not attempt to make any recommendations for tincture usage by anyone else.  Please use caution when using herbal tinctures.  Use at your own risk.

I’m no where near being able to talk myself out of the dark place.  It’s not unlike arriving at your destination and having no memory of having driven there, like sleepwalking.  Like the general routine of taking medication, opening windows around the house in the early morning.  Your day – your life – will be affected by these things, but the small actions of doing them are seemingly inconsequential.  Living at a low vibration is cumulative and one day you realize you’re not where you want to be.

I’ve never been known to self-medicate.  I rarely remember self-care.  Something I have returned to again and again, however, is a home remedy using herbal tinctures.  Tinctures, like essential oils, are powerful vehicles in that they squeeze many essential benefits out of a few potent drops.  I don’t have to spend hours grooming or bathing or brewing elixirs or whatever else we’re often encouraged to do to make special time for ourselves.  Too much time to myself is quite likely what has been driving me mad.  I can instantly (and discreetly) imbibe a few drops of tincture onto my tongue or into my water glass and carry on.

I have made a few of my own tinctures and sought out others, and through a bit of personal experimentation have figured out the right dosage for my needs.  I wanted to share with you here the ones I have turned to again and again.

The process for making tinctures is very simple.  It requires about 4-6 weeks of soaking time for potency.  Typically, I fill a mason jar three quarters of the way full with herbs, and pour in soaking alcohol to cover.  It is recommended to use 80 proof or higher.  I then cover with a piece of parchment paper and seal with the outside ring of the lid.  Brew at room temperature in a dark cupboard.  

Dosage: Theoretically, everyone should consult their healthcare practitioner when taking any substances, and a naturopathic doctor can help determine the proper dosage for your needs.  If you are interested in supplementing with herbs and other natural substances, find a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner that will support your quest for holistic health.

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CAYENNE – I made this one myself using whole dried cayenne peppers and organic vodka.  I like this one for a burst of energy or focus.  I’ve also used it after a dehydration hangover or during a tension headache because cayenne can increase blood flow to an area and works as an anti-inflammatory.  Additionally, the rumor mill speaks of capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne and other peppers, as being mood-boosting.  A typical dose is one drop on the tip of my tongue or a few drops in warm lemon water.

PASSION FLOWER – I purchased this from a natural foods market as I was having trouble sourcing the herb and didn’t want to wait an additional month to brew.  Anxiety will do that to you.  This tincture is recommended for social anxiety, and I have been using it a lot recently while starting a new job.  I’ve also taken this right before I go into therapy because I tend to constrict my muscles and get the shakes when I’m emotional.  I generally find that a half of a dropper-full in a glass of water is a decent dose for this store-bought version.

CHAMOMILE – Homemade with organic dried chamomile from an apothecary shoppe, soaked in rum.  I use this in a similar way to passion flower, but mostly I use it to wind down before bed and for a good night’s sleep, especially if the events of the day have been particularly emotional.  Mine is full-strength, so I only need about five drops on the tip of my tongue to feel its effects.

KAVA KAVA – This is a half-strength brew with leaves from an apothecary shoppe mulled with brandy.  Kava is known as the “social” herb, in that it loosens inhibitions similar to alcohol.  When I take a higher dose, I have noticed similar effects to marijuana; particularly a relaxing of the muscles, drowsy eyes and loss of mental focus.  I only use this tincture in the comfort of my own home at the end of the day, typically to prepare for social interaction or to take an “emotional chill pill” (so to speak) before bed.  Because of the weakness of this brew, five drops will just begin to elicit its effects, and I generally take 10 drops on the tongue, though occasionally I will take more.  I do not take this tincture very often as Kava has been implicated in some kidney distress.  However, as I do not regularly tax my kidneys by alcohol consumption or other means, I figure I’m not at high risk.

MARSHMALLOW ROOT – This was gifted to me by a friend in a sort of “hippie trade” (I think I gave her some homemade salve…).  Marshmallow has a soothing effect inside the body (much like ghee, coconut oil, chia, and slippery elm) in that it coats our innards so things pass through more efficiently and resists bacteria growth and infection.  Because of this, it is great for cough and respiratory issues as well as digestive and stomach issues.  I take it when I start to feel pain in my “lady area” to prevent UTI and other infections.  I have found that five drops in a glass of water gives me results by the end of the day.