Summer is here and many of us are spending more time out in the sun. And though we may apply sunscreen liberally, at the end of long hot days our skin will still feel the effect of the sun’s rays. Friends in that natural health sciences tell us that most damage from sun exposure to our skin is our result of ultra violet rays creating free radicals within our skins cells. Our skin becomes inflamed as a result. Fortunately, topically applied antioxidants can quench these free radicals, reduce inflammation, and leave our skin with a happy healthy glow. Application of the proper formula can have a marked effect in reducing premature aging for yourself and everyone in your family.
Some essential oils are among the most potent natural antioxidants known, with ORAC values of over 100,000. All essential oils have some level of antioxidant activity, and each used in skin care is selected for its unique skin care properties. For example, a study just released by French scientists note that Myrrh essential oil has a profound oxygen quenching effect on free radicals produced by the interaction of UV rays and the skin’s sebum. Myrrh is one of many oils found in recipes for “mature” skin.
It’s simple to compound your own formula: Choose from a select group of oils commonly used in skin care, add them to one or more nourishing carrier oils, and there you have it — your own personally-tailored recipe. The obvious first choice of essential oils is lavender. Lavender reduces inflammation and has natural constituents which stimulate healthy skin cell regeneration. Lavender in fact began the modern aromatherapy revolution with its quick healing of burns. Really, when we come in from sun over-exposure, even without a sunburn, we do have a mild burn on a cellular level — making lavender and excellent choice for every recipe.
Blue tansy is a wonderful essential oil that is frequently used for its anti-inflammatory action in skin care. Blue tansy is seen in many blends for dermatitis and skin irritation, and it will impart its deep blue cooling nature in your after sun healing recipe. It has a lovely ‘blueberry patch in the forest’ aroma loved by everyone who comes across it. It will also reduce allergic reactions that give us itchy skin in the summertime. Use in relatively small concentrations, of approximately one to two percent in your overall formula. If blue tansy is not readily available, blue chamomile is a perfect substitute.
Helichrysum may be the most dramatically anti-inflammatory and regenerative oil used in skin care. While expensive, just a small amount will have important healing effects. Helichrysum is used in wound healing and scar removal blends, and will do just as well for daily facial care for “mature” skin.
Sandalwood essential oil has recently been the subject of research noting its protective effects for the skin, actually preventing skin cancer when applied before sun exposure. The mechanism of action implies that this same protective effect should occur when applied after sun exposure as well. Another exotic oil has also been researched for anticancer activity: Frankincense. You’ll also find this oil prominently in blends for aging skin, having been researched to actually reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and result in smoother skin texture. Its range of effects makes it an excellent addition to your recipe.
Finally, a lovely essential oil that should be perhaps be in every aromatherapy skin care formula is Sea Buckthorn. This oil is extracted from tiny red berries from a bush wildly grown across Europe. This fruity smelling, deep red oil is dense with vitamin A – like nutrients for the skin which dramatically increase healing and regeneration rates. You’ll see this oil recommended in nearly every skincare formula these days — it can help in conditions ranging from acne to dermatitis, from general skincare to improving the appearance of healthy mature skin. Sea Buckthorn has even been studied for the protection of astronauts’ skin from the powerful raise beyond the Earth’s atmosphere — how’s that for a recommendation?
Other additions to your formula outside the realm of common aromatherapy include fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin E in its natural form can even be squeezed from a capsule — be sure to find it labeled “natural”, as the synthetic form is considered not all that good for you. The fat-soluble form of vitamin C is becoming a very popular skin care ingredient as well. Found as ascorbyl palmitate or “Ester-C”, you can open up the dry capsules of powder and add this to your blend.
All your “active-ingredients” will be based in carrier oils. These are cold-processed seed or nut oils carefully made for therapeutic applications. The most useful for after-sun formula are jojoba, avocado, apricot kernel, tamanu, and rosehip seed oils. Jojoba, avocado, apricot kernel are soothing, hydrating, and nutritive. Tamanu and rosehip seed are specialty skin care oils are particularly suited to this use. Tamanu is mentioned in the medical aromatherapy literature as called for in various wound healing and skin care recipes; Rosehip seed has been the subject of numerous studies, helping create healthy skin numerous and diverse conditions. Rosehip has been specifically indicated for reduction of appearance of fine lines from sun over exposure.
The recipes are really flexible and easy to make. You can easily tailor them to your own needs, or to those of your children and other loved ones. Simply choose one or more essential oils and add them to your carrier oil mixture at the rate of between 14 and 35 total drops per ounce. The idea is that you want to have a total essential oil concentration of somewhere between 2 and 5%. Seven drops of essential oil in one once of carrier oil equals a one-percent concentration.
As an example recipe, you might use one-third parts each jojoba, evening primrose and rosehip seed, and to this add 7 drops each of sea buckthorn, sandalwood, lavender and German chamomile. This is a very potent and effective formula for those with the most concern for the sun’s effect on their skin. For a more simple formula, perhaps for your children, you might use just lavender and sea buckthorn in a jojoba base. These oils are particularly gentle, and should be suitable for even the most sensitive, youthful skin. Use your intuition as a guide, blending with lower concentrations for the young ones. Whatever formulation you choose, it is sure to have a positive effect on the long-term skin health for you and your family.