The judicious use of essential oils in skin care helps to rejuvenate and beautify the face and body. We can call this cosmetic aromatherapy’ — a natural way to enhance the skin’s condition and maintain it in good health. However, following the holistic approach of aromatherapy, we need to look further than our faces.
Beauty is more than skin deep, because what you eat and drink, how you cleanse your skin and your overall general health are all reflected in your face. Taking a holistic approach to caring for your skin helps to ensure that you face the world looking as good as possible. This means examining what you eat and making changes to help your skin from within.
Some people can eat cream cakes and chips and still have lovely skin, but they are in a tiny minority. Most of us need to eat sensibly to keep our skin in good condition. This means drinking lots of spring water, substituting herbal teas for tea and coffee, and eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, together with whole grains. Eliminating or reducing salt, alcohol, fried foods, red meat and sugars will help the skin to retain its natural bloom.
Fresh air and sufficient exercise, avoiding smoking (or passive smoking) and reducing stress complete the lifestyle checklist for healthy, beautiful skin. Once skin care has been tackled from the inside, it is time to consider how essential oils can be used to improve your complexion, treat specific skin conditions and generally care for your skin.
Essential oils have been used for cosmetic purposes for centuries, notably by the Egyptians, who included frankincense and cedarwood in embalming procedures. Scientific studies have revealed that certain essential oils, such as rose, frankincense neroli and lavender, stimulate the regeneration of healthy new skin cells. Some essential oils also have a rejuvenating effect on the skin, restoring vitality and regulating capillary activity. Essential oils are, therefore, of great value in skin care.
Drinking lots of spring or mineral water helps to keep your complexion clear and glowing.
So called ‘normal’ skin is rare beyond puberty, and therefore — other than in children — not really normal at all! For the lucky few, normal skin is characterized by good hydration, muscle tone, a balanced metabolism and good circulation.
Normal skin has an attractive, natural bloom and colour, and looks soft and supple. The surface of the skin is free from blemishes and has a fine texture with no wrinkles, no crow’s-feet around the eyes and no enlarged open pores.
Caring for normal skin is just as important as caring for other skin types, although in this instance the aim is to preserve the skin condition, rather than compensate for any deficiencies. As with other skin types, normal skin must be cleansed thoroughly, first thing in the morning and last thing at night before going to bed. Toning and moisturizing after cleansing completes the basic daily skin-care regime.
Occasional exfoliation — perhaps once a fortnight — using a facial scrub is recommended, and using a face mask or pack once a week is also a good way to keep normal skin healthy. Specific recipes and instructions for incorporating essential oils into base creams and other skin-care bases are given for all skin types later on in this section (see pages 78—89).
Suitable aromatherapy products
If you have normal skin, you can use almost any essential oil you like in your skin-care products, with the exception of essential oils that might cause irritation such as the spice oils. However, the following essential oils are particularly recommended for normal skin care: german chamomile, rose otto, rose absolute, neroli, lavender, geranium, palmarosa and rosewood.
Flower or floral waters (also known as hydrosols) are by-products of distillation of essential oils, and are valuable in skin care alongside essential oils. Suitable flower waters for normal skin include rose water, chamomile water, orange-flower water, cornflower water and linden blossom water.
Dry and sensitive skin
Dry skin is caused by insufficient production of sebum, the skins natural moisturizer or lubricant, which is manufactured by the sebaceous glands. Dry skin is also often dehydrated, which is not quite the same condition. Dehydrated skin lacks moisture generally (and even oily skin can be dehydrated).
However, the lack of sebum in dry skin diminishes the skins ability to retain moisture, so dry and
dehydrated skin often accompany each other.
Dry skin frequently looks delicate, fine and thin, with tiny pores. It is heavily affected by sun, wind and rain and wrinkles easily. It needs a lot of protection and moisturizing to maintain it well. Sensitive skin is usually fair and delicate, and shares with dry skin the need for lots of protection and moisturizing.
Sensitive skin easily reddens and itches, and only gentle, plant-based natural cosmetics should be used. It is also prone to allergic reactions caused by the alcohol and chemicals used in many commercial cosmetics and skin- care products, so these should be avoided.
Both dry and sensitive skins need more attention than normal skin. They should be moisturized several times a day, using a light base cream rather than a rich, heavy moisturizer. Cleansers and toners need to be very gentle, and plain flower waters make excellent toners. Gentle, hydrating face packs that include honey should be used once a week.
Suitable aromatherapy products
The best essential oils to use for dry skin include german chamomile, roman chamomile, rose otto, rose absolute, geranium, lavender, neroli, jasmine and sandalwood. For sensitive skins, essential oils include rose otto, rose absolute, melissa, neroli, helichrysum (also called ‘everlasting’ and ‘immortelle’), german chamomile and roman chamomile. For sensitive skins, always use a very low percentage of essential oil, such as 1 or even 1/2 per cent, and if any reaction occurs, stop using that particular essential oil.
Suitable flower waters for both dry and sensitive skin include water, rose water, orange-blossom water, rose geranium and lemon-balm (melissa) water.
Mature skin is something we will all have one day. This brings up an interesting point about skin types: they change, according to age, health, environmental circumstances, diet and other lifestyle factors. It is therefore important to reassess your skin type from time to time, because you may find that your once- lovely normal skin has become dry or sensitive, or has simply aged into mature skin. Ageing is, however, a normal part of life and with proper skin care, mature skin can still look good for its time of life.
As we age, the body’s functions slow down, cells are not replaced as quickly, and skin elasticity gives way to a gradual drooping. A mature skin is characterized by wrinkles and crow’s—feet (those fine lines around the eyes), and thread veins, blemishes and age spots start to appear. The skin loses the natural bloom of youth, the bone structure underneath the face becomes more noticeable, and creases along the lines of the face muscles become apparent.
Do not despair. This process happens gradually, individual variations occur and for some lucky people the signs of ageing appear only in late life. Good and regular skin-care treatments can even slow down the signs of ageing. Reducing unnecessary exposure to the sun, assessing your diet and trying to improve it, and eliminating stress and environmental pollution as much as possible all help to delay the signs of ageing.
Regular aromatherapy Facial treatments with selected essential oils can help maintain a healthy skin. Facial massage helps tone the sagging muscles and restore
some skin tone. Hydrating face masks that include aloe vera, seaweed extracts, honey with propolis and other nutrients are beneficial. Careful twice-daily cleansing, toning and moisturizing remains important.
Suitable aromatherapy products
Essential oils that have a beneficial effect on mature skin include carrot seed, frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh, patchouli, rose otto, rose absolute, roman chamomile, german chamomile and palmarosa. Carrot seed is especially valuable for revitalization, and frankincense can help to reduce wrinkles.
Suitable flower waters include rose water, chamomile water, linden blossom water and angelica-root water.
Oily and combination skin
Oily skin is the bane of many adolescents, with the accompanying acne and blackhead spots. Adolescents tend to have oily skin because their bodies are going through changes and flux after puberty, especially the endocrine system, which is linked to sebum production. At that vulnerable age it is small satisfaction to learn that an oily skin in your early years means that your skin will age more slowly than normal or dry skin.
Oily skin can also affect adults. It is characterized by a dull, neglected appearance, possibly acne, and certainly some blackheads, spots and blemishes. The skin feels oily to the touch and has a shiny look, together with enlarged pores and sometimes a thick, coarse appearance.
The combination skin of an oily T-shape of forehead, nose and chin with dry skin on the rest of the face is the most common skin type. Aromatherapy treatment is aimed at balancing and reducing sebum production. The patches of dry skin and of oily skin require different essential oils and other skin-care treatments accordingly, so a wide range of products is necessary.
It is important to resist the temptation to use harsh cleansers on oily skin. Although they are effective in temporarily cleansing excess sebum and dirt, such harsh cleansers typically contain alcohol or chemicals that literally strip the skin of sebum. This merely encourages more sebum production and is therefore counter-productive.
The best approach to treating oily skin is gentle, frequent cleansing, toning and moisturizing with a light moisturizer. Essential oils are chosen to balance and reduce sebum production and for their healing, antiseptic qualities. Deep-cleansing treatments weekly are recommended. These include face masks based on green clay, which draws out dirt and excess sebum; and facial steaming to unblock pores and prevent spots from forming.
Suitable aromatherapy products
Essential oils that are beneficial for oily skin include geranium, lavender, cedarwood, palmarosa, niaouli, juniper berry, ti-tree, ylang ylang, cypress, grapefruit. bergamot and myrtle.
Flower waters for oily skin include verbena water, witch hazel, orange- flower water and cornflower water.