Body care products are something I rarely write about, but it’s one of the most common areas of interest from clients and friends that we inevitably get to talking about when health goals extend past their nutrition and onto the products they put on their skin. It makes sense to pay attention to the products you’re using on a daily basis because within a matter of seconds, everything you put on your body is absorbed into your bloodstream, and can have similar health effects as the foods that you eat – either supportive or detrimental. The US has extremely lax standards when it comes to cosmetics and body care products in general (it’s alarming, really, how many questionable ingredients are allowed in the cosmetics industry in this country), and usually I’m personally looking for products that have minimal ingredients, are botanically based and not tested on animals. The EWG also has an awesome resource to check your ingredient list for safety and read up on ambiguous sounding ingredients. Ultimately though, I use and recommend botanical oils for most body care uses because, well – they’re just so simple and pure.
Botanical oils I think are woefully under used, and they are absolutely unmatched in their simplicity, effectiveness and multi-purpose use. Oils such as jojoba, coconut, sesame, rosehip seed and olive oil are some of my favorites for whole body use, and there’s one for almost every skin type.
Jojoba: perhaps the most universal in terms of types of skin it can be used on, jojoba is practically completely unscented and is a wonderful moisturizing oil for infants all the way up to the elderly. It’s gentle, long lasting and stable (doesn’t go rancid for quite a while equalling to a long shelf life), and is vitamin rich, including vitamins E and B’s. It’s moderately anti-inflammatory as well, making it an ideal gentle treatment for sensitive skin (especially on the face) that shows up as eczema, acne, psoriasis or very dry patches. It’s mineral profile is quite close to our skin’s natural oil, sebum.
Coconut: You may already have this in your kitchen to cook with (so great for that too!), and if you do – it’s worth a try as both an extremely effective skin moisturizer and also for your hair. Coconut oil is perhaps my favorite oil to use as a repairing oil for my hair. I’ve been using it for years every week to maintain a healthy oil balance for long hair, and to massage into my scalp to normalize dryness in the fall and winter seasons. It’s extremely repairing to dry or damaged ends of hair strands that have been subjected to too much heat or styling over the years. It’s also wonderful massaged into the scalp to not only stimulate your hair follicles for healthy growth, but to enhance the natural oil balance needed by your hair to stay healthy and strong (especially if you wash your hair more than 2-3 times per week).
Sesame Seed: In Ayurveda, sesame seed oil is one of the more warming oils to use in the winter months to help stimulate circulation throughout the body and really helps the Vata person stay warm and moisturized (as Vata constitutions tend to be very cold and dry in the winter time). It’s best applied liberally just after a hot bath or shower to the whole body. When purchasing – don’t get this in the cooking isle at the store (and especially don’t get the “toasted” sesame oil to use topically). It’s best to purchase either from Banyan Botanicals (if you like infused sesame oil – I certainly do!), or from the natural beauty section of Ellwood Thompsons for best quality.
Castor Oil: This is perhaps my favorite healing oil to apply topically. Castor oil has kind of a thick and sticky consistency, but it’s unmatched as a topical healing oil for bites, rashes, scrapes and little injuries. I also love to use it for castor oil packs on areas that could use deep nourishment and healing, such as bruised bones, sprained ankles or even on the stomach for digestive support. I also use it almost daily as a gentle facial cleanser (recipe below!).
Rosehip Seed: As a gentle and rejuvinatize facial oil, reship seed oil wins. It has a silky smooth and light texture that is rich in vitamin A & C and essential fatty acids which make it highly nourishing to skin cells and balancing to combination skin or damaged skin. It’s one of the very few oils that, when used consistently, can reduce the appearance of brown spots and actually repair the cell membranes and balance out skin tones. High quality is usually on the pricier side, but well worth it for such a healing, moisturizing and nutrient rich oil.
Olive Oil: As a makeup remover – this is so simple, effective and pure. This is another oil rich in healthy fatty acids that’s both moisturizing and reparative to damaged skin. It can be used on the entire body as a moisturizer, and I personally love to use it as part of a facial cleansing formula. It’s best to purchase organic, unrefined olive oil and it should smell like fresh olive oil (the smell of olive oil is very indicative of freshness and quality).
Gentle Facial Cleanser (for a 2 ounce bottle):
- 1 ounce olive oil + 1/2 ounce castor oil + 1/2 ounce jojoba oil.
- I like to add 1-2 drops of sandalwood essential oil.
- Shake the bottle daily to keep mixed, and shake well before using.
- Pour just a nickel size amount into the palm of your hands and rub in a circular motion onto a damp face to remove makeup and impurities. Massage your face well while doing this. Remove with a warm washcloth and repeat nightly. Adjust the amount of castor oil to a lesser amount if you have very oily skin and add more jojoba oil. Adjust as needed for your skin type.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com