Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored, but Mountain Rose Herbs was kind enough to send me some credit for the items I needed to get to make this post. Regardless of that, I love their products and would have used them anyways.
I've always had sensitive skin and the need to watch what I put on my face and body for as long as I can remember. The vivid and traumatic memories of breaking out in a rash from sunscreen, or that time in the early '00s when people were obsessed with micro beads, have sacred me away from using anything too far out of the ordinary on my skin. Even natural and homemade exfoliants made from sugar or salt tend to irritate my face and leave me covered in tiny breakouts. This aversion to products has meant that I've had to scout out creative ways of finding what works. Over the years I've developed a few natural and homemade recipes which help keep my skin moisturized and fresh while remaining gentle enough for my sensitive eczema prone body. These recipes are simple, inexpensive to make, and best of all, can be made using bulk ingredients. They are the foundation of my skin care routine along with a few steams, masks, and and the odd store bought product. Happy self caring <3
1) ABHYANGA with SESAME OIL
One of the practices I've developed a great deal of love for over the years is the traditional Ayurvedic oil massage of Abhyanga. While I could go into details about the process, I am not trained in Ayurvedic practice so it's best to do some research or talk to a trained professional before you start. There are a ton of great write ups and video tutorials on the web you can look into showing this technique along with it's medical and spiritual meaning. While I do enjoy it for the meaning behind it, I also love it for the way that it hydrates my skin, leaving it feeling nourished and soft.
For this practise I enjoy using sesame oil (not the toasted stuff, that's for cooking!) on my body and jojoba oil for my face (as it's more sensitive). These may not be the best oils for you Ayurvedically, so you may want to consult with someone or look into your dosha and the appropriate oil.
To begin the practice start in a warm room of your home, a bathroom is perfect. You may need to turn on the heat if it's a little chilly. Start by heating 1/2 cup or more of sesame oil (in a squeeze bottle is best) in a sink full of hot water. Strip down and begin the massage as outlined below. This entire process will take 15-20 minutes. Once the process is complete, I like to let the oil penetrate the skin for 10-15 minutes more before washing.
When ready to shower, try to use as little soap as possible (maybe just wash in certain areas if you get my drift) as it will wash away too much of the protective oil (and be super careful as the shower can be slippery!). While it's common to do this practice in the morning, I like to do it before bed as I don't want to walk around all day with semi greasy hair (adding shampoo to your scalp before getting your hair wet will help this) and besides, I find that this practice helps me sleep extra soundly. Just be sure to put a not-so-good towel down on your pillow first.
Start with the head
Place a small amount of oil on the crown of the head. Gently massage it in before pouring more oil on your scalp. Massage with your whole palms, not just fingertips, in a circular motion until the oil is evenly distributed.
Next, massage your face and around your ears using a face oil. Pass your palms across your forehead, down along your nose, and across your chin in a sweeping motion.
With the sesame oil again, massage the front and back of the neck using long strokes downwards.
Massage your arms and legs
Legs and arms should be massaged using long strokes downwards (from the shoulder towards the wrist, and knees to ankles). Using your palms, rub the oil in a circular motion on the joints - like the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. The hands including palms, back of the hands and fingers should also be gently massaged. Legs should be done like arms using long stokes and circular motions on the knee and ankle.
Massage your core
Massage your abdomen and chest using larger circular motions. On the abdomen be sure to massage in the direction of your intestine (clockwise) moving up on the right hand side and down the left. Massage the back as far as you can reach using long stroking motion. Wait 10-15 minutes before showering.
2) EPSOM SALT BATH
There is nothing better than a soak in the bath after a long or emotionally exhausting day. To help decompress and relax, I like to add a good helping of epsom salts to my bath and soak in it for at least 20 minutes. You can keep the salts simple or add dried organic flowers like lavender, rose, or chamomile along with a few drops of corresponding essential oil.
Epsom Salt Soak
- 1/4 cup epsom salt
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- lavender, rosemary or eucalyptus essential oil
- optional lavender blossoms
Mix all the ingredients together and add to a warm bath.
3) WITCH HAZEL + ROSE TONER
Part of my morning self care includes a multi-step face routine which begins with washing with mild water, using this face toner, followed by a face oil. Face toner like this helps balance completion and is refreshing yet gentle. It helps remove excess oils without being too drying on the skin.
- 1/4 cup rose water (food grade is great)
- 1/4 cup witch hazel
Mix together in an atomizer and use to spritz your face in the morning. Allow the skin to dry before applying a face oil.
4) HOMEMADE BODY BUTTER
Years ago when nothing worked for my skin I begin to make my own lotion. This version is the one I've stuck with over the years. Heavily based on the renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar's lotion recipe among others, it's light and creamy and doesn't leave the skin feeling too oily. Probably a little too heavy for the face, this cream is best used on the body. If you're after something floral try adding scents like essential oils once the cream is whipped (and out of the blender).
- 1 cup grapeseed oil
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup cocoa butter (food or cosmetic grade)
- 3/4 ounce grated beeswax or carnauba wax
- 3/4 cup distilled water
- 1/2 cup aloe vera gel (food or cosmetic grade, but if you use food grade it's best to keep the lotion in the fridge)
Begin by measuring out all the ingredients. The distilled water and aloe vera can be combined and set aside while the oils, coconut butter, and wax can be placed in a heat proof bowl and gentle warmed up over a double boiler. Once all the wax and oil is melted, carefully add to blender. With the blender running, slowly add the water/aloe mixture in a thin steady stream. You'll notice that the oil and water with start to turn creamy, much like a mayo. Continue to slowly add the water until all of it's gone and the cream is uniform. Transfer the cream to individual jars.
While I have never had issues with this lotion going bad kept at room temperature, it is preservative free so for longer storage you may want to keep it in the refrigerator.
5) FAVOURITE FACE OIL
In the morning after I wash and apply my face toner, I apply a liberal amount of face oil. There are many different types of face oils on the market right now that contain a variety of blended oils, some of which can be very clogging to those with sensitive skin (like coconut oil). Personally, I like to stick to oils which are low on the comedogenic scale ( a scale showing the likelihood of an oil being clogging to the skin). Jojoba oil is considered non-comedogenic with a rating of 2, meaning it will not clog the skin on most people.
- 1 part jojoba oil
- 1/2 part rosehip oil
Combine all the ingredients together in a glass jar. Apply a small amount to your face in the morning after the toner.
6) SIMPLE HONEY FACE BALM
While I use homemade body butter on my body and the jojoba oil on my face, sometimes something a little stronger is needed. When I have an extra dry patch I reach for my honey face cream. Unlike the other lotion which is light and creamy, this lotion is thick, so a little (like less than pea size) goes a long way. The blend of olive oil and honey make this lotion great for those dry elbows, knees, and ankles, and it is gentle enough to be used on your face. It's a basic version of the calendula salve (below) with some honey inspired by my friend Lily.Unfortunately, there isn't really a vegan alternative for the honey which offers healing properties.
Honey Face Cream
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. grated beeswax or carnauba wax
- 1 tsp. raw local honey
Heat the olive oil and the wax in a double boiler until the wax is melted. Once melted, remove the oil from the heat and stir in the honey. Pour into a glass jar or tin to let cool.
7) CASTOR OIL
While most people think of castor oil as sometime people take internally for cleanses, castor oil is one of my favourite oils to use on extra dry or callused skin (think feet, elbows, etc). In times when my feet are feeling calloused, I rub a little castor oil in before bed to help soften the rough skin. Since castor oil is super thick and sticky, it's best to wear a pair of socks overtop. And again, be extra cautious when showering the next day as it can be slippery.
8) LIP HYDRATION
Lip balm is something I like to have loads of - some at home, some in my bag, and some in my other 12 bags (you know go it goes). While there are many varieties of lip balms and sticks on the market, I find a lot of them to be costly and, well, they all come in those small plastic tubes which seems a little wasteful. Instead of spending money on something I'm likely to misplace, I make my own version with a few simple and natural ingredients I often have kicking around the house. This balm is super versatile and can be used on dry skin in a pinch, or as I sometimes do, an eyebrow tamer. Just be sure not to store this balm in a hot car as it will melt easily
EVERYDAY LIP BALM
1 tbsp. grated or pellets of beeswax or carnauba wax
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tbsp. grated cocoa butter
Melt all the ingredients together over a double boiler. Once everything is liquid remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour this liquid into a small jar or tin. If you want, feel free to add natural pigment for colour or a few drops essential oil (like peppermint).
9) DRY BRUSHING
On the days I don't practice Abhyanga, I dry brush. Although dry brushing is getting a lot of attention these days it's been practiced everywhere from ancient Egypt, Greece, and during Roman times. More recently it can be seen used in Scandinavia, Ayurvedic medicine, and in the far East. Although some can find brushing to be too stimulating, I find it invigorating and a great way to help slough off dead and dry skin.
To dry brush you'll need a specially designed dry brush with firm, natural bristles. Softer ones can be purchased for your face.
- Begin at your feet, brushing the bottoms and working up your legs towards your heart. Use either small, firm strokes or in a circular motion, both in an upwards direction.
- Next do your hands and work up your arms, again towards the heart as that's where the lymph system drains.
- Brush your armpits, back, and stomach working in a clockwise direction.
- If you have a softer dry brush, then do your face last.
- Shower as normal
Never press too hard, instead the exfoliation should gentle and never break the skin or cause too much redness.
10) CALENDULA SALVE
One of my absolute favourites for the occasional dry patch. Calendula is a traditional soothing herb that has been used for generations across the globe. According to Mount rose herbs,
- Calendula was used in ancient times in India as well, and according to Ayurvedic healing principles is energetically cooling and has a bitter and pungent taste. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), calendula (called Jin Zhan Ju) is considered energetically neutral and drying and is used to support healthy skin.
To make your own version on the wonder-plant salve, check out my recipe here