In order to help maintain your skin’s health, it needs to be kept clean and hydrated, and dead skin cells must be removed regularly to encourage cell turnover. This is where skincare products come into play. I believe that taking toxins out of your skincare routine and using only nourishing, natural ingredients that your skin understands will go far in helping you to achieve the best version of your skin.
Your skincare also needs to combat damage to skin cells caused by free radicals – tiny molecules that alter our skin’s structure and come from the environment around us, in particular sunlight and pollution. It is this damage that causes skin to dull and dry out, as well as causing inflammation, which leads to signs of ageing appearing more quickly. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in skincare products are the most effective means of fighting free radical damage, but since so many natural ingredients are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, there is no need to reach for chemicals.
You may believe you have a certain skin type – dry, oily or sensitive – and this book will give you some understanding of the natural ingredients you can use for your particular type. Bear in mind that skin types are not static – the skin renews itself approximately every 28 days (older skin will take longer). The beauty of formulating your own skincare is that you can easily whip up fresh formulations to work with your skin needs at any stage in time.
Skincare products can only achieve a certain amount, however. It is critical to take your lifestyle into account if you really want to keep your skin in optimum condition, as well as minimize visible signs of ageing, and I believe that by far and away the most important lifestyle factor is diet. Your skin is your body’s biggest organ and is literally built from your food – it’s entirely true that you are what you eat. It therefore follows that if you eat a nutrient-rich, balanced diet, including an abundance of foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, you will have much healthier skin.
Brilliant skin superfoods are oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines), green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), nuts and seeds (walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds), berries (strawberries, blueberries), tomatoes, avocados, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, citrus fruit and eggs.
Dehydrating and inflammatory, alcohol, caffeine (drinking it rather than applying it; you will learn later on in the book that the topical application of coffee actually has skincare benefits) and sugar are the main skin enemies. Not that I’m proposing you cut out coffee, wine or chocolate from your diet, but just highlighting that they are best enjoyed in moderation.
Water consumption is also key to skincare – that long-held advice to drink 2 litres (3½ pints) of water a day really does make a difference in keeping skin cells plump, hydrated and glowing. Personally, I believe that limiting the consumption of dairy products can be helpful for skin too – I needed to give up dairy when my son was diagnosed with a cows’ milk protein allergy when he was weeks old, and I quickly noticed an improvement in the condition of my skin.
My advice: eat well, force yourself to drink that 2 litres (3½ pints) of water daily, try to get eight hours’ sleep each night, always remove make-up before you go to bed, exercise regularly to encourage blood flow and efficient delivery of nutrients to skin cells, protect your skin from the sun and DON’T smoke, as it will dull, dry out and visibly age your skin like nothing else.
SKIN FOOD BASICS
You don’t need a huge long list of equipment to begin making your own skincare products. In terms of ingredients, a selection of plant carrier oils, butters, waxes, sugars, salts, essential oils and some fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices are enough to get you started. If you would like to make some natural skincare products as gifts, it’s a good idea to source some dried flowers such as chamomile or lavender or dried rose petals, which are all easily available and always look lovely strewn through a blend.
Please note that the recipes in this book feature carrier oils and essential oils in my personal favoured combinations. Feel free to switch these around to achieve your own skin goals – you can learn about the properties of the various types of carrier oil and essential oil available in order to make your personal choice.
Use these in preference to wooden spoons, which can be a source of bacteria.
Making skincare products can get messy; wear an apron to protect your clothes.
This is simply a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, used for melting butter and wax gently and evenly without burning.
Used for chopping butters and other hard ingredients.
These are handy for stirring essential oils into smaller products, such as lip balms.
GLASS JARS AND BOTTLES
For storing your skincare products, amber glass jars are best to protect them from sunlight, but go for clear glass jars if you want your products on display. The recipes in this book are formulated to fill 15ml (½floz) lip balm-sized jars (or aluminium tins), 60ml (2¼fl oz) ointment jars, 30ml (1fl oz) dropper bottles, 100ml (3½floz) atomizer/spray bottles and 100ml (3½floz) pump bottles. You could also invest in some preserving jars, which are a lovely way of storing scrubs and salts.
Used for whipping up creamy butters and balms, and blending fresh produce. You can also use a freestanding blender or food processor, but a hand blender is easier for blending smaller quantities of ingredients.
ICE-CUBE TRAYS AND MOULDS