Monthly Archives: November 2013

Essential oils for sensitive skin

This is a guest blog entry from a good friend of mine, Mary Anne Leary, who has avidly studied the art and science of essential oils, and teaches it through in-class as well as online classes at Skyline College in San Mateo, CA. New students can apply to the college and get started here…and click on the courses for 2014.

Essential Oils for Sensitive Skin

When considering essential oils for sensitive skin one would immediately think of Blue Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) which is also known as German Chamomile.  It is very calming for irritated skin that is hypersensitive to its inner and/or outer environment.  Blue Chamomile can address issues whether the inflammatory condition is due to a poor skin barrier, sensitivity to environmental conditions, or to excess heat and/or inflammation within the body.  It can be used on acneic skin in a gel or aqueous solution.  For dry skin, I will discuss a few carrier oils to consider.

The reason for the name Blue Chamomile is due to the oil’s beautiful color produced by its azulene content, a constituent of the essential oil known for its soothing qualities.  Azulene is present but not active in the chamomile plant as it appears in nature, but is created from a precursor within the steam distillation process.  The heat and pressure required for the distillation of the chamomile flowers combine to produce the azulene. The longer the oil is distilled the brighter the blue color.

Interestingly, Blue Chamomile has four chemotypes that have been distinguished.  A chemotype occurs when the same genus and species of a plant produces different proportions of aromatic molecules.  Chemotypes occur when there are variations in weather conditions, altitude, the composition of the soil, and variations in light wave-lengths. 

Of the four Blue Chamomile chemotypes, the (-)alpha-bisabolol type is prized for being strongly anti-inflammatory and has a fast-acting effect for all types of skin inflammation.  This essential oil can be helpful for contact dermatitis, burns, irritated, and highly sensitive skin.  It is a non-toxic oil that has wide-reaching effects for healing the skin. (If interested, you can find this Blue Chamomile chemotype at Original Swiss Aromatics)                

Another essential oil with strong anti-inflammatory qualities is Helichrysm (Helichrysum italicum) commonly known as Everlasting, Everlast, or Immortelle.  It comes from the Asteraceae or daisy/sunflower family, just as Blue Chamomile does.   Helichrysum has cell regenerative qualities, due to its diketone content (the components responsible for the antioxidant and tissue protective qualities) and therefore can assist with repair of the skin, new wounds, old scars, dermatitis, and sun damaged skin. Helichrysum can be used on acneic skin in a gel or aqueous solution.

An essential oil combination recommended for sensitive, damaged skin per Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D., in Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy:

Moroccan chamomile (Tanacetum annuum): 0.5 ml

Everlasting (Helichrysum italicum): 0.5 ml

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): 0.5 ml

Roman chamomile (Athemis nobilis): 0.5 ml

Hazelnut oil: 50 ml.

Note: Moroccan chamomile is not a true chamomile; its common name is deceiving.  However, it does have a high azulene content and is regenerative and gentle to the skin. Roman chamomile is used in this formula to help calm overstimulated or injured skin and complements the effect that the lavender essential oil provides for calming not only inflammation of the skin but also emotional tension.

Essential oils can be absorbed into the skin since they are lipid soluble and have a small molecular size (low molecular weight).  Absorption is normally detected within twenty minutes of application and eliminated within ninety minutes. 

Other essential oils that have been used to address skin sensitivity include jasmine, lavender, neroli, and rose.  Hydrosols, the liquid produced through the distillation process, are impregnated with water-soluble (hydrophilic) compounds.  Hydrosols made from plants that treat skin sensitivity, such as Blue (German) Chamomile and Helichrysm, can be used as toners for their therapeutic value to reduce inflammation and sensitivity. Some of these are included in the products of the Sensitive Skin Clinic line.

When choosing essential oils make certain that they are genuine and authentic, come from the specific botanical origin desired, and from producers and vendors that are known.  These criteria help guarantee the quality and safe use of essential oils for skincare.  You can safely use the oils if you research the quality of the essential and carrier oils, do not use essential oils undiluted on the skin, watch for sensitivities (use the below described skin patch test), are aware of photosensitivity (many of the citrus oils are photosensitive, but not ones being considered for sensitive skin) and any contraindications for the oils.

If there is any doubt about a particular essential oil a skin patch test can be done to see whether your skin can well-tolerate the essential oil or not.  Take a 2% dilution of the essential oil in a carrier oil (10 – 12 drops in 1 oz. carrier oil) and apply some to the nape of your neck or crook of your elbow.  If a reaction is to occur it will normally happen within 12 hours.  If you have a reaction to an essential oil remove the excess immediately with a vegetable oil, not cool water.

When thinking about essential oils that can be used for sensitive skin I would first consider which season of the year it is.  Some sensitive skin types may be more sensitized during fall and winter especially with exposure to cold weather and dry indoor heat.  If more emolliency is needed consider using a carrier oil with a high fatty acid content to protect the skin from the elements.  A thin coat of a carrier oil can be worn on the face should it redden when being steamed or when in the shower.

Rosehip Seed Oil, (Rosa rubiginosa) which is also called Rose Mosquita oil, can be very useful for skin that is dry and dehydrated.  Read the profiles from the vendor you are considering purchasing from in order to see if it meets your skincare needs.  Rosehip seed oil should be cold pressed for extraction and protected from fluctuations in temperature, oxygen exposure, and light, best being kept in a colored glass bottle.  The same is true with all carrier and essential oils.  If it is refrigerated it is said to have a shelf life of 2 years.  

Rosehip seed oil is well-absorbed into the skin so it does not leave an oily residue. It has a high fatty acid content and can be used directly on the skin or used as a carrier oil for essential oils for dry, damaged, or sensitive skin.  It would not be recommended for oily or acneic skin.

Calendula oil, which is an herbally infused oil, is a very soothing and cooling oil that is good for irritated, inflamed, dry and sensitive skin and is gentle enough for a baby’s skin.  It is exceptional for sensitive skin.  The calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis), are normally infused in a certified organic olive oil.  The olive oil provides a stable base that, with good care, will have a long shelf life of 2 years.

The information provided here is not meant to diagnose or cure any medical conditions. Please see your doctor or a trained medical professional should you have any concerns.

GMO is a fact of life – how to deal with it?

GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) are a fact of life today. Big money, Big marketing, Big political maneuvering means that you cannot turn back the clock. GMO is here to stay. Most of the US soy crop and corn crop is GMO! And many more crops and even fish (salmon) are becoming GMO….

The reasons for this move to GMO1) the massive number of humans on this planet demanding more and more food, 2) the dramatically changing climate (aka Global Warming) that is changing the ability of countries to produce enough food to feed all the 2 legged animals (humans) on the planet, and finally 3) the amount of money that is being made by bio-tech corporations, corporate agriculture, corporate food processors, investors and mutual funds and everyone in the big money making machine…

So, in order to grow more crops to feed the ever increasing population of the planet, you have to engineer them to grow in adverse conditions and yet produce a massive harvest. Sounds good yes? But what is the cost to the overall environment of the planet? GMO totally alters the natural balance in any environment in which they are grown. Everyone knows that an unbalanced situation will definitely cause problems. Think of it as how excessive alcohol consumption will inevitably affect your liver by changing the balance from healthy to unhealthy and diseased – to the detriment of your life on this planet. Yes all the GMO promoters (aka money interests) say that their science has proven that GMO has no effect on the environment…yeah right…that sounds like the tobacco industry in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s saying tobacco smoking will not kill you…..and it also sounds like all the global warming nay-sayers (aka money interests) that say global warming will not happen and will not affect our lives on the planet!

So the money interests in GMO usurp the humanitarian interest story (feeding hungry people/saving lives of babies) to make more money! The money interests are not ‘the corporation’ – it is all the thousands of individuals that work for corporations who bring about the new GMO world. The person who sells Monsanto GMO seeds and fertilizers and pesticides to farmers, the political lobbyist who sways the thinking of politicians, the PR writer who spins a ‘fabulous humanitarian’ story that glosses over the real facts of the GMO story, the food processing engineers who use GMO ingredients in their formulas, the food and agriculture industry marketing people in multiple organizations that aim to increase market share of their GMO based products so that they get a bigger bonus at the end of the year….and so on and so on! Some of those people are your friends and neighbours. So how do you feel about it now? These corporations employ hundreds of thousands of people. People make decisions that we blame on corporations – but we should really blame the people….

Now that we understand that we cannot change history and go back to a non-GMO world, how do we deal with it – for ourselves and our children and all future generations? Check out this video on GMO – and there are plenty more such videos out there…if you want to increase your knowledge on this critical issue. Get to know the truth!

How do we deal with GMO in our world?

Firstly, GMO based ingredients in food must be labeled as such. We have a right to know what we are buying and putting in our mouth. The USA used to be the nation known for enabling citizens with the right to know what the government and those around us are doing. Well, Europe is way more of a leader on this than the USA. Even smaller countries are getting in on the act and forcing all food related companies to disclose GMO ingredients to their citizens. The same people in all these corporations that spend millions trying to stop GMO labeling by telling Americans that it will force food prices up, well they comply with GMO labeling laws in other countries when they export there….and they are still competitive price-wise. Hmmm. The lies they spin. Why? What’s to fear? They are covering up something aren’t they! Here is an article about how much GMO labeling will cost the US consumer – a BIG ZERO! To decide if these people in the large corporations are lying or not, just check out the corporate profits of each mega company like Monsanto, DuPont, BASF etc, as well as their biotech subsidiaries. They are highly profitable companies – so why do they say that GMO labeling is going to increase their costs and therefore the prices to the end consumer? With the hundreds of millions they spend on fighting GMO labeling, they could save money by just complying and labeling their products with GMO sourced ingredients! Yikes!

Therefore, make sure that whatever you eat is not GMO. Eat Organic fruit and vegetables only. Eliminate (definitely reduce) your consumption of processed food, all sodas and junk food – they use a lot of GMO ingredients without you knowing it. You can bet your bottom dollar that the homes of the wealthy executives of these food and chemical product corporations have lots of organic produce in them. Will they just eat GMO based processed food – hell no! That’s for other people – not for them! The scary thing is that the Monsanto (etc) employees in our world are ‘buying’ congressional support to say that organically grown GMO seeds can be marketed as organic produce….YIKES!

Eating corn-fed beef? Firstly beef should not be eating corn – it’s not natural for them. Secondly, the quantity of corn needed to feed all these cows in their ‘fattening-up’ concentration camps prior to being pushed into a slaughter house, is huge. Do you think they are feeding them organic corn? Definitely not. By the by, organic beef will be fed on grass (their natural food) and have a more natural ‘free-range’ life before being pushed down a line into the slaughter house.

Ethanol added to the gas for your car? It’s going to be GMO corn. Is that worse than eating GMO food – NO! Household cleaners may contain ingredients from GMO sourced plants. Mass produced ‘anything’ means they need huge volumes of ingredients and as cheaply as possible…so along come the GMO proponents in the food and chemical corporations.

GMO ingredients in your skin care products?
This is going to happen. It’s a fact of life. The use of soy based ingredients will inevitably mean they are sourced from GMO soy crops. There are lots of corn based ingredients in skin care – like corn based ethanol, and even xanthan gum – it comes from bacteria that feed on corn (no it’s not organic corn)…

How do I feel about this?
Seeing as the skin is designed, by nature, to be a barrier, it absorbs very little of what we put on it (see the video on how the skin works). And seeing as the quantity of organic based food is limited and must be used first and foremost for food consumption, I would hesitate to worry about GMO ingredients in skin care products. I think that anyone who diverts valuable organic produce for the sake of skin care rather than feeding humans and other animals on the planet, is not accepting the reality of GMO in this world. Yes it will play into a larger marketing hyped message for financial gain, but is it right to divert valuable food to skin care? My pragmatic perspective is – NO!

If you treat your skin sensitively, as all skin should be, and help it become strong and balanced, it will be even better at protecting the body by keeping bad stuff out. Make sure your skin care does not contain commonly understood as ‘bad stuff‘. All said and done, the stronger and healthier you are the better your skin will be (and your body of course).

It’s a new world – if you don’t fight for your right to know, the powerful money interests out there will definitely keep you in the dark about what they are doing with your food…

Just say NO to GMO food!

Hunters and killers probably don’t use vegan skin care products

As a developer of the vegan skin care line Sensitive Skin Clinic, I am opposed to animal killing, cruelty and any form of excitement that comes with it….

Naturally, any hunter seems to get a thrill out of the act of killing. Serial killers of any animal (2 legged or 4 legged) are unacceptable forms of humanity as far as I am concerned.

This article about Melissa Bachman, a Minnesota-based television presenter posing with a big smile and a powerful firearm over the lifeless body of a male lion that she had ‘successfully’ eliminated from this planet, is something I find quite disgusting….  My personal wish is that she and all other thrill-seeking hunters get dumped in the bush without firearms and then fend for themselves on an equal footing with those they love to kill.

My guess is that people like her are not interested in vegan or cruelty free skin care products!

With my ethical beliefs, I would be horrified if any serial killer were to buy my product line. Money is not my God – but a better, kinder world is.

Coconut oil for the skin, is it good or bad?

Question from a client:
How do you feel about coconut oil?  I hear it’s all the rage these days

Answer from me:
Coconut oil is fine – most moisturizers have it in the form of caprylic/capric triglycerides…it is just that the marketing hype around it makes it sound like a new discovery…. ‘Caprylic Capric Triglycerides are a specific fraction of coconut / palm oil fatty acids resulting in only the more stable, and skin loving, caprylic & capric fatty acids which creates a dry, silky oil form of esters.’ Reference

There is an important difference between caprylic/capric triglycerides and ‘fractionated coconut oil’. I prefer the use of caprylic/capric triglycerides to that of fractionated coconut oil. ‘Caprylic Capric Triglycerides are a specialized esterification of Coconut Oil using just the Caprylic and Capric Fatty Acids, while Fractionated Coconut Oil is a, standard, distillation of Coconut Oil which results in a combination of all of the fatty acids, pulled through the distillation process.  Fractionated Coconut Oil has the same feel, and performance, of traditional vegetable oils with a lighter feel and extended shelf life, than most common carrier oils.  Caprylic Capric Triglycerides do not feel like a standard carrier oil, at all.  Caprylic Capric Triglycerides are an ester and have a very light, silky oil, feel that is not at all greasy / oily feeling on the skin.’ Reference

As with all chemicals, the way it is produced/processed can result in unfortunate/unwelcome artifacts in the formula that won’t be suitable on the skin. Using small amounts of well produced product will be fine. Too much and poorly formulated products can help clog pores or develop skin irritation. In skin care applications Caprylic Capric Triglycerides offer several key benefits: 1. they offer a noticeable silkiness in products, 2. they exhibit excellent anti-oxidant properties to extend the natural shelf life, 3. they offer skin nurturing benefits due to the skin loving nature of the specific fatty acid esters, not seen with common Fractionated Coconut Oil, or other carrier oils, and 4. they are especially suited to sensitive skin and oily skin.’ Reference

I am a great believer in lipid rich ingredients with moisturizers as they inevitably help build and strengthen the skin’s lipid barrier (this is essential for sensitive and reactive skin). Coconut lipids, like olive lipids, soy lipids, wheat lipids, shea butter lipids, phospholipids, are all good for the skin when used appropriately…. You will find most of these incorporated in the formulas of Sensitive Skin Clinic moisturizers, as well as those sold through the Blue Turtle Spa online shop.

Whatever is the ‘latest rage’ will inevitably just be marketing hype!