Fiberglass in lip-plumping glosses, petroleum in moisturizers and parabens in shampoos.
Sugar, pumpkin, chocolate, strawberries and honey in facial masks and scrubs. Which group sounds more appetizing?
Even though more people are becoming aware of (and concerned about) the potentially harmful additives in our food, most of us still don’t think twice about scrubbing our skin with harsh soaps or lathering on moisturizers with unpronounceable ingredients. Who knew some of the most appetizing food items in our kitchens could replace those more abrasive products?
Becky Sturm and Kris James already know. The Twin Cities women are among those touting the health benefits of using naturally based products on our bodies.
Take a quick comparison of olive oil versus baby oil. The latter, derived from petroleum, sits on top of the skin’s surface, while olive and other plant-based oils absorb into the skin.
“We grew up in the baby oil generation,” says Sturm, owner of Stormsister Spatique, a home-based natural and organic beauty product company in St. Paul,StormSister.biz. “We’d slather that stuff on and go sit in the sun, not really thinking about what the ingredients were doing to us.”
Natural-spa experts recommend avoiding mineral oil and petroleum jelly, as they are byproducts of petroleum production and can clog pores, prevent the skin from breathing naturally and prevent toxins from leaving the body through the natural process of sweating.
Sturm and James advocate the use of natural ingredients – sugar, plant oils, even organic coffee grounds – in homemade beauty products.
Growing up in her grandmother’s beauty shop, Sturm picked up plenty of tips on the use of natural products (example: using leftover caffeinated tea bags to reduce eye puffiness). A hairdresser for more than 26 years, she’s a graduate of the Horst Education Center (now known as the Aveda Institute).
Sturm recommends exfoliating the skin using a sugar-and-olive-oil scrub no more than twice a week. The same mixture can be used as an all-over body scrub and a foot scrub, too.
James – a Waconia resident, longtime cooking instructor and tea blender who now teaches tea-tasting and aromatherapy classes at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum — prefers other oils, such as grapeseed, because she finds olive oil too heavy and oily.
Both women recommend experimenting with different types of “carrier” oils from seeds, nuts or kernels; essential oils; and natural food-based products to see what you like best.
For the face, Sturm recommends a superfine baking sugar. James also likes to use natural clays (Bentonite and French green clay help to draw out toxins) and powdered marshmallow root in her homemade facial masks. For years, she has only washed her face using raw honey. “It’s a wonderful humectant and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.”
Egg whites, mayonnaise, yogurt, cucumber, parsley, walnuts, oatmeal and many other ingredients from the refrigerator or pantry also are good options.
“I’m always experimenting,” says James, who works a lot with essential oils, distilled from the leaves, bark and roots of botanicals.
For women struggling with cellulite (and are there any who don’t?), Sturm recommends mixing used coffee grounds with some olive oil and rubbing the mixture on problem areas.
“Sit or stand for a bit, about 10 to 20 minutes, and let the caffeine do its work,” she advises. “Caffeine will pull the moisture out of the skin, and it’s not going to affect you like drinking caffeine would.”
Sturm says using the coffee scrub once a week will help in the cellulite fight. Hydrating after every scrub seals in skin’s natural oils.
About those natural oils in our bodies, Sturm points out that commercial soaps, cleansers and moisturizers can work against the body’s natural processes. “The cleansing is so strong, and our body wants to heal itself, so it keeps pumping out oil,” she explains.
Even those with oily skin should use a matte moisturizer daily, she says. Everyone – men included, ahem – should moisturize. She also recommends that people over the age of 30 should avoid foaming cleansers, but rather use milk- or cream-type cleansers that don’t lather.
And in what goes against every fiber of our get-and-stay-squeaky-clean-at-every-expense society, she says we shouldn’t shampoo every day. As we use certain products less and less frequently, our body chemistry changes and our bodies regulate their natural oils, she explains.
“Shampoo every other day at most,” she counsels. “Rinsing is OK in between.”
Another tip from Sturm, particularly helpful to those with acne issues: Make cleansing your face a priority (do it morning and night), and change your pillowcase every day. And that cell phone pressed against your face? Wipe it down with a baby wipe at least once a day.