I am not an aesthetician or a chemist. My approach is more holistic, based on years and years (twenty plus at this point) of reading textbooks on nutritional healing, herbal healing (Western and Chinese), and therapeutic aromatherapy—for internal and external use. If you have a keen passion for something, you often don’t need formal training as much as you might think (unless you want to become a doctor or an engineer). In herbal healing or homeopathy, years of experience treating individuals with an array of complex symptoms is what I want to learn from. That is why books with case studies by herbalist Matthew Wood or homeopath Paul Herscu have been more educational to me than my two years’ stint as an office manager for a (most charming and esteemed) NYC dermatologist or talks with aestheticians. Depth of knowledge is what I seek. After a while, connections become apparent among the understandings of say calendula by a homeopath, herbalist, and an aromatherapist. Then I come in and make up a recipe for a calendula face cream for particular skin needs.
Nutritional healing has become incredibly popular in the last two decades, with naturopaths and other alternative healers using mushrooms and dry apricots in cancer treatments and green tea for weight loss. Food manufacturers have responded to the customers’ sophistication by offering truly pure, unrefined, ingredients for food use, from virgin coconut oil to completely unrefined, unfiltered sesame oil that ships with an ice pack. At this time, the cosmetic industry seems to have gone as far as offering organic ingredients to skin care manufacturers, but those are of questionable freshness, most often bleached and deodorized, and often containing added ingredients such as vitamin D, that upon further investigation turns out to be derived from sheep wool, but how were the sheep treated, we will never know.
So, in my skin care formulas, I resort to using carefully selected ingredients sold for food use as much as possible for my formulas, plus aromatherapy-grade essential oils, pure active vitamins, and a handful of natural preservatives.
A lot of my recipes are based on my own experience with ingredients. A friend with eczema on her eyelids asked for help, and I managed to research and make a formula that ended up being effective (key ingredients here were comfrey root and allantoin, also derived from comfrey; had there been itching as well, I might have added chamomile, calendula, and zinc oxide). My own struggles with dark spots motivated me to test formulas on myself to help lighten them up and prevent new ones from occurring (my favorite ingredients in this realm are a physical SPF such as titanium dioxide, carrot seed oil or vitamin A, lemon peel essential oil, and active vitamin C). Someone else needed a facial toner for an extremely dry, reddened, and sensitive skin . . . with severe acne (for this condition, I used a combination of German chamomile for soothing and moisturizing, witch hazel for disinfecting and cleansing, and sweet basil to help with the acne breakouts).
I hope that you will find my approach refreshing and trustworthy, but if you disagree or have something to add to the discussion, I would love to hear from you.