The Skin

By now you will be very familiar with the concept of beauty beginning from the inside out. Your skin is a reliable barometer for your overall state of health. It is the body’s largest eliminative organ, weighing about 6 lb (3 kg), and far from being delicate is dynamically hardworking and, if healthy, very resilient, renewing itself with superb biochemical efficiency.

The skin is a two-way street. Not only can it push things out, it can also absorb things. Substances fed into the body can appear in the skin and those put on skin can appear in the body. Which is why it is vital to put on your skin only things you would be prepared to eat and drink.

Four factors affect the skin: environment, age, attention and genetics. Environmental assaults in terms of temperature changes, air pollutants, too little moisture or too much sun, as well as internally poor ecology in the form of poor diet, or the inefficiency of any organ, will be reflected in the skin. Some people inherit a genetic blueprint which includes translucently beautiful skin, but if they don’t give it the attention it deserves it will mar that inherited treasure for their children.

A brake can be put on the process of skin ageing by regular exercise, which produces thicker, stronger and more flexible skin; by regular exfoliation (removal of dead skin cells), especially as older skin tends to produce a different type of epidermis cell that does not flake off so easily when dead; by a diet like the one described in Chapter 1; by good circulation, which ensures all that nutri tional goodness reaches the skin; and by sensible simple daily care.

EXFOLIATION

The finest way to exfoliate body skin is by skin scrubbing or a salt or Epsom salt rub   The face needs to be tackled more cautiously. Men who shave exfoliate that part of their skin daily. Our alternative is to use a small stiff facial brush, a cream with abrasive particles in it or a rub-off mask. The following scrubs should not be used if you have thread veins or open lesions, but otherwise should be used two or three times weekly, For a noticeable improvement in the texture of the skin use them for five days at a stretch. Make up only a small quantity of the scrub – if the rose-petal infusion or potato is added and the scrub is left for days, it will start to rot.

BEAUTY FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Rose and oatmeal scrub (for dry and combination skins)

Choose flaky oatmeal with large, soft flakes, and mix it (adding just enough liquid to moisten the oatmeal) with an infusion of rose petals made with milk rather than water. Spread this over your face and rub the skin firmly with the flat of your fingers using small circular movements. Linger on the forehead, nose and chin. Avoid the area around the eyes. Rinse off with cunning warm water. Some women find it easier to incorporate the oatmeal and milk in a small muslin bag firmly tied up into a ball shape (a rubber band helps here) and then to use this as a pad to rub the skin.

Sugar, cinnamon and soapwort scrub (for spotty sallow skins)

Scrub a small potato, leaving the skin on. Then grate the potato coarsely, adding enough brown muscovado sugar to form a paste. Add 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped soapwort leaf and 1 dessert spoon finely pulverized cinnamon stick. Mix and spread over the face. Rub the skin with the flats of the fingers, paying special attention to the spotty areas.

CLEANSING

The body’s oils and waste are excreted onto the surface of the skin and are joined there by external atmospheric pollution. This motley assortment of decomposed cells, sebum, sweat, bacteria and pollutants will rapidly block the pores if it is not rigorously and regularly removed. Please note that a quick swish of soap and

water will not do. In fact it may further aggravate facial debris by adding residual soap to it and leaching precious moisture from the cells, which may already be desiccated.

There are those who are utterly opposed to washing with soap at all, believing that there are better, non-alkaline ways of cleaning ing the skin. Perhaps at this juncture Thought to explain the whole concept of acid-alkaline balance. Normal healthy skin and hair are slightly acidic and this acidity comes from the skin’s secretion. This makes up the skin’s acid mantle, which protects and lubri cates it. The pH (hydrogen potential factor in any soap, shampoo or cosmetic product is the relative degree of acidity or alkalinity in that product. Some companies make soaps, shampoos and cleansers with a pH that corresponds to the acid mantle, but this ignores the fact that the pH of skin varies from person to person, and even from one part of a person to another, and at different times in the same person. Whenever the pH is artificially altered the body will return to its normal pH within a few hours unassisted and without any difficulty. The pH of the skin is measured on a scale from o to 14 and is generally round about 5.5. Any skin registering between 5.4 and 6.2 shows a mildly acid condition,

which means that it is at its peak, well protected from infection by the acid mantle. Bacteria cannot live on an acid surface. A pH of between 6.2 and 7 means that the skin does not have enough acid and, as it is a bit alkaline, will tend to be more prone to infection. If a pH is recorded well below 5.4 the skin is too acid and will feel extremely sensitive. However, it is soap’s very alkalinity which is one of the things which enables it to cleanse so thoroughly, and personally I don’t feel that you can beat the lovely fresh feeling of soap and water followed by a rinse with cider vinegar diluted in fresh water (1 tablespoon to a basin of water), which will help to restore the pH balance in your skin even more quickly. Indeed I always recommend this rinse after a poultice or fomentation has been removed from the skin, or tobathe wounds. For centuries now soap has been made from water, fatty acids, sodium salts and various oils. The modern detergent soap is really soapless because chemicals have taken the place of the various natural ingredients, but all soaps, no matter what their origin, carry out the same task of loosening dead skin cells, degreasing the skin and dislodging dirt, so that the whole mess can be rinsed

away with water. I prefer glycerin-based soaps or those made with olive oil. Provided you have not got thread veins, finish off with a

cold water splash, the icier the better. Paul Newman buries his head in a basinful of ice cubes daily and it is certainly keeping his skin (and the rest of him!) looking wonderful. If you are still not totally convinced about using soap on your

face try soapwort.

CLEANSING CREAMS AND LOTIONS

Soap won’t fully remove the oil-based colours of make-up. You will need a cleansing cream or lotion which liquefied on the skin (because of the skin’s warmth) to loosen and suspend the make up debris. After tissuing it away, use a toner to remove the last of the greasy residue. By omitting the second step you will end up with only part of the proverbial horse and carriage. Without the horsepower of the toner a cleanser is useless. Nearly all commer. facial cleansing creams contain mineral oil – the sort of the thing which is sometimes sold as baby oil. It should not be used on you or babies as it robs the body of the fat-soluble vitamins. Choose instead natural plant or nut oils with anhydrous lanolin or beeswax as an emulsifier.

Natural preservatives

Wheatgerm oil acts as an anti-oxidant and stops creams going rank and turning dark brown. Simple tincture of benzoin (a balsamic resin extracted from trees in Java) lengthens the shelf life of creams and lotions. Tincture of myrrh will do the same thing. Use benzoin for dry delicate skins and myrrh for oily skins. Witchhazel and apple cider vinegar will also help to preserve creams but I don’t find them as effective.

As a general rule, decoctions, which have been boiled and in which most bacteria have been killed, are less likely to make creams go off than infusions. Mould starts once the cream is exposed to air, so cut out a little disc from waxed or greaseproof paper and lay this on the surface of the cream as soon as it has been potted. If you are making up a large batch keep whatever you are not currently using in the refrigerator. Don’t let other people use your cream. Recent research has revealed that

the bacteria passed from one person’s skin to another’s via the wire of any communal product may cause infection. The beauty of making your own cosmetics is that, depending on what herbs you add to them, they can be made to fulfil all sorts of functions astringent, antiseptic, soothing or stimulating drying or hydrating. The action of the herb can be reinforced adding its essential oil to a decoction or infusion. Either way, the thing that really gives me personal satisfaction is the knowledge that you are only including items that are fit to eat and this being the case, they will certainly be good enough for cherishing your priceless skin.

Lanolin

When making up a cream you have the choice of using lanolin, beeswax or cocoa butter as an emulsifier. Lanolin is quite close to the sebum the skin produces as its protective lubricant. It is also an excellent moisturizer capable of attracting moisture from the air. Your chemist will probably have two types in stock: hydrous and anhydrous. Except in cleansing creams, you will generally be using anhydrous lanolin, which has no water added. In cleansing creams, use hydrous lanolin, which will help to remove the dirt from your skin in a slurry rather than moisturizing the skin.

Glycerine

This is an excellent alternative moisturizing agent. Most glycerine is now a product of chemical synthesis and because it is no longer made from animal bones it does not involve cruelty to animals. Vegetable glycerine is available but it is extremely difficult to get hold of .

Benzoin

Two types of benzoin are made: simple and compound. Buy the simple tincture; the compound one is toxic and can hurt the skin.

Basic cream directions

The ingredients are as follows:

1. Lanolin or beeswax – 30 g (1 oz). You can amalgamate the

two, varying the proportions for different consistencies. Bees- wax will give your creams a stiffer, shinier consistency. Cocoa

butter can also be incorporated, mixing it with lanolin or beeswax. This will make your creams feel rich and oily. Note that some people are allergic to cocoa butter and a few to lanolin, so try a patch test (see below) first.

2 Any natural oil -110 ml (4 fl oz). Again you can use a blend of several as long as they make up this quantity in all. I generally add about 4 teaspoons wheatgerm oil as part of my oil selection because of its marvellous healing properties as well as its antioxidant capacity. But it does make the cream heavier, more yellow and difficult to spread. For a less rich cream use only 90 ml (3 fl oz) of oil.

3. Any herbal infusion or decoction, or any flower water – 30 ml

(1 fl oz). 4 Any essential oil from a herb or flower – 3-6 drops. The number of drops you add will depend on the strength of the essential oil and how strong you want the cream to smell. In my experience basil, bay, bergamot, clary sage, neroli, penny royal, peppermint, sage and spearmint are the essential oils which may in some people cause allergic reactions on the skin. This quantity will make about 180g (6 oz) of cream, so have a

large wide-necked opaque sterilized jar standing by. Melt the emulsifier in the top of an enamel double boiler which will stop the lanolin, beeswax or cocoa butter from burning. Now slowly add the oil a bit at a time, beating with a wooden spoon (which you should reserve for cosmetic use only) or an electrically powered whisk. Do not use a balloon whisk because it will incorporate too many air bubbles into the cream. Now remove the boiler from the stove and add the herbal water, a trickle at a time, still beating constantly. Once it is well incorporated, slow to a steady stir and keep the mixture moving until it is cooled to blood heat. Add at this point an essential oil of your choice. If you try to do so any earlier the heat of the cream will distort some of the more delicate top notes of the oil. Then spoon the mixture into your sterilized jar.

A lotion is merely a matter of varying the proportions of the ingredients. Use the same amount of emulsifier; 90 ml (3 fl oz) of any oil; 60 ml (2 fl oz) of any herbal infusion or decoction, or flower water; and 3-6 drops of essential oil. If after a few attempts at making a cream or lotion you decide

you would prefer a thicker or thinner mixture, simply vary the amount of emulsifier, oil or water. Added lanolin will make the cream thicker and tackier. More cocoa butter will make the cream thicker and oilier. More water will obviously thin the cream. More oil will thin it but will also make it much greasier Variations should not extend to more than rog(oz) or son (2 fl oz) either way or you will not be able to emulsify the creation. Herbs with a lot of mucilage will make the cream feel spongier.

Patch testing

Rub a little of the item you are testing onto the pulse point on yout wrist, into the crook of your elbow, or into the dimple behind your ear. Use enough to cover an area about 2 cm (in) square.lt you are testing something that won’t rub into the skin, makes paste of it by pounding it up with a little water. Let the paste dry out and then cover the area with a loose plaster of the substance with a dressing on it. Leave the patch untouched for twenty-four hours. If the skin feels perfectly comfortable and shows no sign of allergic reaction you may go ahead and use that ingredient.

HERBS FOR VARIOUS SKIN TYPES

Oily skins

comfrey (root, leaves) fennel (leaves, seeds)

geranium leaves

horsetail lavender

lupin seeds

Dry sensitive skins

borage(leaves, flowers)

house-leek

lady’s-mantle

marshmallow (leaves, root)

Combination skins

bay chamomile, German (flowers only)

marigold (petals only)

nettles

peppermint

sage

yarrow

sorrel

pansy (flowers only)

parsley violet (leaves,

flowers)

comfrey (root, leaves) meadow-sweet (flowers only)

rosemary thyme

Normal skins

apple mint

comfrey (root, leaves) cowslip (flowers)

Just let me give you a word of warning about cowslips. I have seen them produce in some people a condition called primula dermatitis, which is a dark scabby cruption, the result of placing the flower directly on the skin. By all means use the flower freely in facial steam, teas, food and skin lotions, but don’t rub it on the skin directly.

TONING

Toners are particularly useful for getting the blood up to the surface of the skin, which will help to nourish it, for reducing excessive oiliness and for closing the pores. I should take the opportunity to explain here that pores do not open and close like doors. The words ‘open’ and close’ are really a simplistic way of describing what is a very complex physiological action. What really happens when you apply an astringent is that an oedema is formed round the pore, so that the skin is mildly irritated, causing it to puff up a bit and make the pore look smaller. The effect is soon dissipated. So skin that looks like orange peel will only ever be temporarily redeemed.

Any herbal vinegar (an infusion made with vinegar instead of water) makes a good toner. Choose the herb which is suitable for your skin type. Always dilute a herbal vinegar in proportions of 1:6 with mineral water and always use cider vinegar for your herbal vinegar – no other type will do. Herbal milks (infusions made with milk instead of water) make soothing, nourishing toners for very dry skins but they obviously go off quickly and need to be made in small quantities and kept in the refrigerator. Flower waters can also be used for toning and in this instance use them neat. They are best bought. Lavender water, rose water, orange-flower water and witch-hazel are readily available from good chemists and elderflower water is available from Culpeper’s. Homemade flower waters are highly perishable and

MOISTURIZERS

Once you have grasped the concept that the outer layers skin

are dead then you will understand the necessity moisturizing the skin. only the new living cells produced deep within the epidermis that are plump and full of water. As they struggle the surface they lose all their moisture and emerge flattened and desiccated. Water the only thing that will pump them up again, giving the skin soft, smooth appearance. an excellent idea, therefore, apply thin layer of herbal infusion flower water before applying moisturizer. Simply pat few onto the skin with your fingers and leave sink for seconds only. Then spread the moisturizer top, using hold the precious moisture the skin like piece of cling film.

Vitamin-rich skin food

large raw egg yoke tablespoons apple cider vinegar

capsules evening primrose

teaspoon clear honey cup almond oil

oiltablespoons wheatgerm oil 10,000 IUs oil-based vitamin

For speed and ease make this liquidizer. First blend the egg yoke and half the vinegar. Now slowly trickle half the evening primrose oil from the capsules and when well amalgamated add the rest of the vinegar and the honey. Finally add the rest of the oil, including the almond oil, the wheatgerm oil and the vitamin A, and store well the refrigerator.

This an unbeatable skin food which should be used sparingly at night. (Blot off any excess with tissues as the wheatgerm oil will stain bed linen.) It is also excellent rubbed all over after skin scrubbing and before long hot bath. The hot water washes off any excess oil and the skin left feeling smooth and Happily the mayonnaise-like combination does not smell all unpleasant so you won’t retire feeling like well-dressed have even used it with excellent results as a pre-shampoo con ditioning pack for the hair while sitting in a Turkish bath. shower cap stops it running down your neck.