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Still Covid Quarantining But Yearning For a Facial?

Look to Your Pantry, Fridge, Lawn, and a Nearby Beach to Make Your Own Skin Care Products

By Katie Weisman

Tracey Ryan, who created the Bia Collection, a skin care line based on the principles of traditional Irish herbal medicine, still loves to concoct her own beauty potions. After all, that’s what she grew up doing while roaming and foraging the hills and forests of Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland. 

Ryan ultimately studied horticulture, sustainable development, and herbal science, all of which led to her create the Bia range, which was acquired by Codex Beauty, a sustainable skin care collective from founder, scientist, and inventor Barbara Paldus. Paldus established Codex to create a group of skin care collections based on cosmetic chemistry and ethnobotany, using the same plants and their active ingredients that have been used in traditional herbal medicine by peoples worldwide for centuries. 

But you don’t have to be a trained skin care guru like Ryan to make your own beauty indulgences. She shared some great recipes with us on a recent webinar, using easy-to-find ingredients to make your own skin care products and enjoy at home. 

Therapeutic and calming soaking baths are a great place to start, and Ryan is a huge fan of seaweed baths. Seaweed, with its polysaccharides and natural minerals including zinc and magnesium, can moisturize dry skin or soothe skin affected with eczema or psoriasis. If you live near a clean beach or ocean outlet, search for bladderwrack or serrated wrack seaweed (the latter found mainly in the North Atlantic, or the coasts of Ireland and the British Isles); otherwise you can order seaweed from an online retailer. Add the plant and sea salt to very hot water and let the bath rest for 10-15 minutes. Before submerging yourself, make sure the water isn’t too hot, adding cool water if necessary. Once in the bath, squeeze the seaweed to release its beneficial ingredients, and rub the plant all over your skin. Soak yourself for a good 20 minutes. When you leave the bath, just pat yourself dry to keep the seaweed elements on your skin, rather than trying to rinse everything off. Save and dry the seaweed for a second use. Once finished, if you’re a gardener, you can use the seaweed for compost and fertilizer.

Salt baths are also very beneficial, notably for relieving stress and reducing muscle pain. Pour equal parts of Epsom salt, which is easy to find in your local pharmacy, and a sea salt such as Himalayan salt into a hot bath. Sea salts, produced through the evaporation of sea or salt lake water, have a high quotient of trace minerals and elements that are largely not present in processed table salt. Add several tablespoons of dried herbs, say, calendula or the common daisy, and some essential oil based on any specific needs you may have. Lavender oil, for example, is great for relaxation. Ryan likes to add a solubilizer such as polysorbate 20 that allows the essential oil to blend into the water. Soak and enjoy!

Irritated skin or skin suffering from eczema or psoriasis benefits greatly from colloidal (powdered) oatmeal baths. Again, easy peasy. Get some oats, preferably organic, from your cupboard or a store, and toss into a blender to make a powder. Add the powder to a hot bath and soak while rubbing the water and remaining powder into your skin.

Face masks are also fun to make and apply at home. Ryan loves crushed fresh pineapple blended into a puree with raw honey for an enzyme peel mask, except not for sensitive skin. The pineapple fruit contains natural alpha hydroxy acid, an exfoliant, and bromelain, an enzyme that eats away at dead skin. This mask will likely sting, so leave it on for 10 minutes tops. 

A great moisturizing mask can be made from yogurt, oatmeal flakes, water, and honey. Blend and apply for a half hour. You can add kaolin clay or activated charcoal for their added extraction benefits. But with these ingredients, limit the application to 10-15 minutes. 

One of the easiest things to make at home is a lip scrub, perfect for exfoliating chapped lips during the winter and great for keeping lips smooth all year as an ideal base for lipstick. You need some plant butter, such as coconut oil, mango butter, or cacao butter; brown sugar; sunflower, olive, sweet almond, or argan oil; and a few drops of an essential oil, say a mint, or a vanilla-infused oil, depending on what you want to taste. Mix these ingredients, dip in a finger, and massage the scrub into your lips. The scrub  can be stored in a mason jar for up to two years. P.S. This makes a great gift or stocking stuffer!

Other nice beauty potions to have on hand are infused oils which, again, are easy to make. Ryan suggests grabbing some calendula, commonly known as pot marigold, and putting it into a mason jar. Pour in enough oil — Ryan likes sweet almond oil — to cover the plant, close the jar, and let the mixture steep for three to four weeks. This allows the oil-soluble therapeutic constituents of calendula,   including flavonoids, to be released. Apply the calendula oil as a salve to moisturize skin and help heal grazes or cuts. Ryan adds that daisy oil, like arnica cream, is great for treating bruising.

Are you a tea drinker? If so, use your tea-brewing skills to make a nettle rinse for your hair. Grab some nettles from the garden — or buy them dried. Take one teaspoon of the fresh plant or two grams of the dried and let steep for five minutes in just under a cup of water. Strain the liquid; add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and use the solution to rinse your hair after washing. Ryan notes that nettles contain silica, which is great for hair. If you have dark hair, add a sprig of rosemary to the tea. Fair hair? Add some chamomile flowers. 

And, finally, after months of stripping our hands and destroying our cuticles with hand sanitizer and soap, Ryan has the best recipe for cuticle cream. A mix of butters, oils, wax, and vitamin E creates a great long-lasting balm that will restore your cuticles and keep them looking pristine. The vitamin E, which you can get from bursting a capsule with a pin, is optional, but it will act as an antioxidant and keep the oils from going rancid. You can also include a few drops of an essential oil such as lemon, Ryan’s fave. To make, pour the oils and wax in a small heat-proof bowl or measuring cup and place over a pan with an inch or two of boiling water in it. Melt the mixture, and then add vitamin E and essential oil. Pour into a container and cool. The addition of vitamin E will preserve this balm for two years, making it another great gift; otherwise it will last for six months. 

Ryan’s preferred US-based retail suppliers of botanicals and other ingredients for DIY skin care are Mountain Rose Herbs and Formulator Sample Shop.




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