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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blending Essential Oils: Aromatherapy for Aging Skin

Pure essential oils are found in many of the world's finest beauty care preparations for mature skin, with very good reason. Known effects of essential oils include stimulation of cellular metabolism, tissue regeneration, antioxidant action, anti-inflammatory effects, and hormone-like activity. These benefits form the therapeutic foundation for topical support of the health and beauty of aging skin. And while essential oils used in natural skin care many not sound as exclusive as some fancy laboratory-made concoctions from Europe, their results can certainly be as profound. The added plus being you can make a blend precisely suited to your skin's needs at a fraction of the cost of the high-end European imports. All the ingredients you?ll require are often available at your local health food store, with the more exotic items found on the internet from providers of therapeutic-grade aromatherapy supplies.

What makes essential oils and their accompanying carrier oils so effective for natural skin care? It happens that their chemical structures are highly-compatible with that of our skin cells. Essential oils are easily absorbed through the dermal layers and even through the skin's individual cell walls. This makes them extremely simple to create and use your own formulas. Just mix each chosen essential oil into one or more carrier oils (which have their own therapeutic effects as well) at the recommended concentrations, then apply regularly for best results. The carrier oils will do just as the name implies, 'carry' the essential oils more deeply into the skin, and prevent them from being quickly evaporated into the air (as a perfume might be).

In describing the ingredients, we'll start with the carrier oils (also known as 'base' oils). These natural seed and nut oils will make up the bulk of any skin care formula. There are a great many carrier oils to choose from for mature skin support: Avocado: hydrating, and nutritive, with a medium consistency, avocado oil is most often included at about 1/5 of the total base oil mixture. Apricot Kernel: Excellent for dry skin, also for healing damaged or irritated skin; can make up to 100% of the base oil. Borage: Used as a small (5-15%) portion of the base oil mixture; supplies important fatty acid nutrients, which also act to calm inflammation. May be interchanged with Evening Primrose oil, though the Evening Primrose should be used in slightly larger amounts than Borage (up to 25%). Hazelnut: This is likely the most common carrier in skin care blends. It has a relatively thin consistency, and is best used by those with oily skin conditions. It is mildly astringent, and should not exacerbate trouble with overactive sebaceous glands. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Rosehip Seed: this oil contains a wealth of therapeutic properties, including Retin-A like compounds that increase skin cell turnover without the drying side effects found in pharmaceutical preparations. In summary, a good base oil for mature skin might be 70% Apricot Kernel, 15% Rosehip and 15% Evening Primrose. If the skin is dry, reduce the Apricot Kernel to 50% and add 20% Avocado. If the skin is oily, use Hazelnut in place of Apricot Kernel.

And now for the magic ingredients, the essential oils: Carrot Seed essential oil is distilled from the seeds of Wild Carrot, Daucus carota. It is considered one of the most potent revitalizing essential oils for the skin. It is chosen particularly as a remedy for dull, pallid and lifeless skin where one's lifestyle and/or environment may have taken their toll on the skin's vibrancy. Carrot seed has a smooth, earthy aroma that will blend well with many other oils. Also for revitalizing the skin, Rosemary Verbenone can be highly effective: this is a type of rosemary essential oil containing a higher amount of regenerative ketones than common rosemary. The essential oil "displays its main activity in the dermis (the middle layer of the skin), where it stimulates the metabolic functions, circulation, and elimination of waste products" according to Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt in his Advanced Aromatherapy.

Clary Sage essential oil is noted as being particularly suited to natural beauty care. It contains sclareol, which mimics the effects of estrogen; this is noted by one expert author as the primary reason it helps with skin aging. It may also be the reason Clary Sage is said to regulate the skin's secretions, bringing balance to both over-dry and over-oily skin. Elsewhere, it is noted as relaxing: even mildly euphoric: which may also contribute to its positive effects for wrinkles. Sweet Fennel is another 'estrogenic' essential oil, called for by Valerie Worwood in The Complete Book of Essential Oils as an ingredient in wrinkle-preventative blends for all ages.

Sea Buckthorn Berry CO2 (a cold-processed essential oil) is a gentle oil with a pleasingly sweet aroma. Sea Buckthorn contains significant amounts of essential fatty acids along with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. This specialty skin care essential oil is rich in carotenes, which likely impart its rejuvenative effects. It is noted as a particularly effective anti-wrinkle and skin softening agent. Another specialty oil for mature skin care is Cistus, also known as Rock Rose. The oil is distilled from a plant grown in hot, sun-drenched regions, and can be added to blends for its particular effect of firming the skin. It also has astringent properties which can support clearing of oily skin; further, it is mentioned in blends for firming around the eyes: when used near the eyes, any blend should contain no more than .5% essential oils as to not be irritating in this sensitive area.

Of course no discussion of skin care and aromatherapy would be complete without Lavender. True lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) can be included in aromatherapy blends for skin at any age. It may be especially supportive of aging skin through its combination of anti-inflammatory, balancing, and regenerative actions. Lavender is also well-known for its relaxing effects, and its support for stress reduction may quickly result in improving your skin's appearance. For those whom enjoy its floral aroma, Lavender may be added in whatever concentration one chooses to impart its aromatic quality to the formula. For an even stronger anti-inflammatory and regenerative effect, use Helichrysum essential oil (also known as Everlasting or Immortelle). Helichrysum may be the most profoundly healing essential oil for damaged skin, often called for in blends for healing wounds or reducing the appearance of scars. If you are combining aromatherapy with other treatments such as microdermabrasion, Helichrysum would be an important ingredient in your blend.

The formulas for therapeutic care for mature skin are fairly straightforward. Oftentimes, you can start with 10 drops of each essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. For example, if you have four total ounces of base oil, you could use 40 drops of each desired essential oil as a starting point. Much more essential oil than this is rarely better; in fact, many oils work best at low concentrations, and some can potentially irritate the skin at high doses. Further, if you are combining several essential oils together in one blend, try not to go over a 5% total concentration of essential oils (approximately 30 drops per ounce) the face and neck are relatively sensitive areas, and will respond best to small amounts of nature's 'active' ingredients. If you are not working with a recipe, you can start with equal amounts of each essential oil, and adjust according to your perceived potency of each oil; some oils will have more powerful aromas than others, and you could likely do with slightly less in your overall blend. You can also adjust according to your aromatic preferences as well, creating a formula that not only supports your skin's health and metabolism, but smells lovely too.

While these are many of the oils favored for women's beauty care, similar recipes may be used by men as well. A more masculine formula can be created using essential oils from woods; Australian Sandalwood, for example, can be added for both its therapeutic and aromatic properties; Frankincense and Myrrh are also noted for their positive effects for aging skin and have warm, earthy aromas. Further, adding oils purely for their aromatic beauty is always an option. There are only a few oils that should not be applied to the face that are commonly used in aromatherapy: Cinnamon, Oregano, Clove and Red Thyme; cold-pressed citrus oils and Angelica Root oil are phototoxic, and should not be applied to skin that will be exposed to sunlight in the following 72 hours. If you're not sure about a particular essential oil, check with a reliable resource; otherwise, feel free to enhance your blends to suit your aromatic taste.

*The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. The information presented here is for educational purposes of traditional uses and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

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