Botanical Self-Care for the Win

One of the main reasons people aim to incorporate natural products into their self-care routines is to minimize exposure to harsh and potentially harmful chemicals.

Just like processed foods, most commercial products are designed to remain stable on store shelves for long stretches of time, meaning that they’re usually made up of a list of mysterious and unpronounceable ingredients that, quite frankly, you probably don’t want near your body. (Have you ever gone poking around the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database? I mean, that shit is bananas.)

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I was listening to an interview recently with Nadine Artemis of Living Libations, speaking about her new book, “Renegade Beauty” (which I’ve got on pre-order, hul-lo!), and one thing that really struck me was her description of our body’s skin as its own unique microbiome.

Have you heard the word “microbiome” before? I hadn’t until just over a year ago, when I started learning about leaky gut syndrome and heard the word microbiome used over and over to describe the “gut microbiome“, or rather, the countless micro-organisms that reside in our gut. As it turns out, these microbiota play a big role in our overall health and how conditions in our body manifest.

So – back to Nadine, who suggests that our skin can also be considered its own microbiome consisting of its own microorganisms that play a big role in shaping the unique ecosystem of our skin health. To be fair, the interview only touched briefly on this concept, which is why I’m looking forward to getting my hands on her book next month, BUT one thing she did make clear is that chemically-laden self-care products are as detrimental to our skin health as processed foods are to our gut health.

I mean, she really touched a chord here, particularly as I was one of those teenagers that endured a horrible period of acute acne, to the point of taking prescription antibiotics and swiping my face with chemicals on a daily basis. I remember sloughing off a layer of skin every night with Benzoyl peroxide-soaked cotton pads so harsh, they literally made my eyes water. And all the while, my skin microbiome was simply responding to the treatment I was giving it – by repeating the awful pattern of eruption and imbalance.

1506641053255As Naomi pointed out in the interview, the sheer beauty of natural, botanical-based products is that they work in harmony with our body’s make-up, rather than fighting aggressively against it.

Think of jojoba oil, for instance, an ingredient most of us are familiar with (though only few can pronounce) (heh). Did you know that the chemical make-up of jojoba oil is similar to the make-up of the sebum oil produced naturally by our skin? In fact, if you’ve ever applied jojoba oil to your face, you’ll notice it doesn’t sit heavy on your skin like you’d expect, but rather, readily absorbs into the surface. This makes jojoba an excellent hydrator for the skin, PLUS its antioxidant properties help counteract yucky free radicals (unstable particles whose life mission is to bond to organic substances and cause destructive oxidation – think of the way an apple turns brown when you slice it – and create a damaging inflammatory response, THUS all the buzz about anti-oxidants) (and yes, I double check this stuff to ensure I’ve got it straight, ’cause science, you guys!).

So in short, botanical ingredients are great, not simply because they originate from nature, which alone is already a spectacular reason to embrace them, but because this fact inherently makes them better-suited to our biological make-up than any synthetic ingredient that could ever be dreamed up in a lab!

Of course, without depending on chemicals to keep products hyper-stable, there are some extra things to consider as you welcome naturally-based alternatives into your self-care routine.

  • Avoid storing your natural products in the washroom. The temperature and humidity in our washrooms changes frequently with the running of baths and showers, and these fluctuations create an unstable environment for products. I mean, we’re all guilty of this – it’s just downright convenient having your salves and serums and perfumes at hand…but think of it as an excuse to go hunting for that vanity dresser you kind of always wished you had. At the least, store natural products in a drawer or closet, away from fluctuating heat and humidity.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Sunlight degrades and destabilizes natural ingredients, so avoid leaving them stacked on your washroom windowsill if you want to get the most bang for your buck.
  • You can even refrigerate your products. I actually really love refrigerating lotions at the peak of summer, when every little bit of cool-ness helps take the edge off the suffocating heat. If your salves get a bit soft, you can also pop them in the fridge for a couple hours and they’ll firm right up again!
  • Use clean, dry hands or a clean applicator to apply products. This helps minimize the introduction of bacteria into the container, helping to make your products last longer and go further. It’s also a good rule of thumb to avoid getting any water into the container, as it becomes a breeding ground for the gross stuff.
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