You Are At The Archives for 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012 in , , , , ,

The Trick to Keeping Positive (even when it's positively grueling)

Positivity.  Happiness.  Joy.  
With so many different messages pushed our direction it's no wonder we end up confused and befuddled about why we still don't have lasting happiness.  After all, it's so easy, right?

Here's the word from a person usually seen publicly as a healing, inspirational, energetic, happy individual - Positivity is positively HARD sometimes.  Getting to happy and maintaining a light, bright mindset isn't always shiny.  In fact, sometimes it's like nails on a chalkboard, it's slogging through the mud, it's facing every icky, awful voice inside yourself and baring it in ways you might like to otherwise avoid.  It’s striving to give even when you feel like the whiny Kindergartener inside you would like to just throw a supernova style fit. 

I still struggle with the idea of whether happiness should be a constant state of being.  Sometimes I just feel sad – deeply, intensely sad, and a smile feels like an impossible feat.  I can feel like I’ve fallen pretty far down my very own little mucky hole.  The quiet of the weekends and holidays is a particularly trying time for me as it is when I am “supposed” to be happy and have fun.  Instead it feels like a giant letdown mixed up soup of stress blowout that I’ve been trying to ride through all week.  It tends to implode on me by Saturday morning.  Blah.  

Is this a personal weakness?  Does this mean I’m not nearly as spiritually secure and accomplished as I’d like to be?  Or is this acceptable and normal?  Does the Dalai Lama have “off” days?  I’m still wrestling with trying to divine answers to these things inside myself. 

What I do know is that recovering from these funkety-funk lows often takes every trick I know and they often feel like hard, hard work to a bummed out, low energy me.  Despite being a natural and holistic health advocate I often wish there were an easy way out too.  (Where did I put my magic wand?)  Recovery takes effort and often not a small bit.  Mental discipline is also the toughest at the moments when you need it the most.  

Even though I might feel like just wallowing in my lopsided mood I make myself meditate, do yoga, take a hot bath, employ some aromatherapy, repeat myself some positive mantras, fix some nourishing food that I know will boost my happy body chemistry, and what I honestly find to be most inspirational and tide-turning of all – look towards the other people in my life for a kick in the pants in the right direction.  

Chances are that with 300+ online friends someone else might be happy even while I’m feeling down.  Since I’ve surrounded myself with a large network of encouraging, intelligent, kind, growth-oriented and truth-seeking souls oftentimes my Facebook, Twitter, or blog feed has just what I’m needing that day offered by someone who was on the up-and-up with the happy vibes. 

When you’re feeling weak and low it might be time to let the smile of another bolster you.  If you have brought the right, reinforcing people into your life they’ll happily help keep you on the positive path.  Many times I have felt like others have been my guiding lights back out of the darkness, a little lifeline cast into the murky depths and towing me back to the boat.  Often all they need to do is just show they are gamely going through their days the best they can, and just by being another empathetic example I don’t feel so alone.  Sometimes like in this blog post by Juliana of the Peaceful Peacock called How to Be Courageous the message is much more direct – get up, dammit, no excuses.   

Over time the wisdom offered by friends has saved me from sadness more times than I can count.  They fill my empty cup and quaff my thirst.   

“Reach out your hand if your cup be empty.  If your cup is full may it be again.”  Robert Hunter, Ripple

Jasper Jones, a novel by Craig Silvey, features a key conversation between Charlie and his best friend about who is the better superhero, Superman or Batman.  Charlie's friend argues that Superman is better because of all his powers.  Charlie argues back that Batman is the greater hero because he’s just a regular guy who decides to do the right thing.  Because he isn’t invulnerable it is the courage to still stand against all that is evil despite being only human that elevates Batman.  I’ve kept this conversation close in my heart since reading it.  While I’m no Batman I do attempt to keep Batman style courage fervently in mind as I’m standing each day against my challenges.  I don’t have to be superhuman, I just have to keep striving.

In the end when the good side wins it’s because those who stand in hope and love never truly stand alone.  You may be out there at the forefront of your life battling your worst fears and feeling awfully exposed, but if you look just next to you I think you’ll find there’s someone else engaged in the same struggle.  They want to see you win, and the gift of continuing your own struggle is that they might see through to the victory in theirs as well.  Don’t give up, for goodness sake.  We all win when you keep at it. 

I’m not perfect.  I’m not even positive all the time.  But dang it I’m out here trying.  My deepest gratitude goes to those who have gone before me as my teachers and guides.  Because of  your light my way has been a little brighter and my progress more possible.  I hope I can cast a line for a few others and pay the positive forward.  Soul warriors, spirit seekers, troubadours, lovers, and those awakening to all the possibilities – you’ve got a friend, and I hope that brings you Happiness.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 in , , , , , , , ,

Autumn Aromatherapy // What (and What Not) To Do

A change of seasons brings a fresh feel in the air, a softer color to the light as it's filtered through colored leaves, and a shift in our moods and cravings. The advent of fall also brings a return to work routines and many gatherings, both professional and just for fun. It always seems to go so fast, and you want to treasure each moment of carefree comfort. You can relish sitting on the porch in the evening with just a light jacket, gabbing with friends and stargazing into the cool autumn sky. The only chill you really get is just enough to make an excuse to snuggle closer to your date, who if you're lucky smells a little woodsy.

If you surround yourself with aromas apropos to fall it will help you to create rich, striking memories of this special time. Your sense of smell ties directly into the part of your brain where memories are stored, so it makes a perfect way to enhance your experience of seasonality...  

Writing and pictures by yours truly with tips on great online suppliers, which natural essential oils to use, and ways to use them for get-togethers, home, and the office.  Mmmmm...Smells like fall to me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 in , , ,

One to Grow On - Organic Gardens + Giving

Right now you can help Blissoma grow something organic and good.

How, you ask? You might be sitting there in your pajamas, or in your latest sustainable fashion or thrift store score, or maybe a suit, or even your skivvies. Maybe you don't like to get dirty. Maybe you live in the middle of a concrete jungle with not a shovel in sight.

No worries, we'll do the digging.

If you've been with us since last year you might have seen that Blissoma is spearheading the start of a community garden on the 1400 block of Bremen Ave. in St. Louis, MO. The lot is just across the alley from our studio building. When we bought the building we had dreams of gardens, but were pigeonholed into purchasing a building that had minimal yard and building all around. Fate took care of that for us when the city-owned row houses across the alley from us were demolished. Photos of the buildings and their demolition are included in our initial garden post that you can read to catch up.

Over the last 1 1/2 years we have broken ground on more than 40'x40' of this massive lot. It's not easy work. As a former building site we have bricks and clay to contend with. To generate a safe and fertile bed for our plants we have hauled in more than 8 city dump trucks worth of compost, manure, and new soil materials. With them we have built what is essentially a giant raised bed for the plants.
This year we hope to triple the amount of cultivated land. We want to get big and we want to get big fast. To save the land from developers in future years we need to put down our footprint large and in charge. We hope to show our alderman and everyone in the area how a garden can change their quality of life.

It's a big lot - the size of 4 row houses. Here you can see the center of the lot where we put in a circular flower bed for last summer.
We are gearing up to try to cultivate most of the lot - at least as much as we can get to this year. It's rather magical turning weeds and bricks into flowers and food. Our hope is that the plot can be a teaching tool for local residents and a source of clean food, healthy activity, fun, and neighborhood beauty in a place that sorely needs it.
We're not alone here in St. Louis doing this growing thing. In fact some of the folks that inspire us most are working just over in Ferguson, MO.

Earthdance is a nonprofit founded by my friend Molly Rockamann. Molly had a big vision to save a 100+ year old organic farm in Ferguson from imminent development. The farm wasn't being used and the family owner was in her 90s. No one was cultivating the land and it broke her heart to think of such clean, fertile soil being graded for just another housing development.

Molly stepped in and created a nonprofit that would work the land and teach organic farming skills to others. She's our inspiration and the agricultural instigator for dozens of "Farmies" now. Each year a new group of apprentices heads to the farm to be taught how to plant and maintain crops sustainably. Those Farmies then head out into the wide world to spread organic skills wherever they go. Approximately 30 Farmies are working Earthdance this year. They're bringing sustainable produce to farmers markets, a small CSA, and local stores and eateries. More importantly they're "growing" the future of organic farming.

Molly brings people together to work and to play. With Earthdance the phrase FARMS stands for Food, Art, Relationships and Music - Sustainably. Life revolves around their plants. Earthdance folks love a good song and some good greens - and sometimes songs about greens!

To support Earthdance and our community garden we're hosting One to Grow On now through 5/31/12. Every purchase on our home website will contribute to One to Grow On.

For every $10 spent on our website for the program's duration we will give:
$1 toward supplies to grow our Blissoma sponsored community garden
$1 toward Earthdance nonprofit organic farming programs
$1 back to you

This means that 20% of our gross website sales for more than a month and a half will be going to directly support the expansion of organic farming in our local community. You'll save 10% off your order total for yourself as long as your order totals more than $10.

No coupon code is needed. In fact you don't need to do anything special to contribute. Just show up, buy what you love from us, and your purchase contributes to the giving fund. All products on our website are included - even gift certificates. New customers and returning customers all pitch into the pot so tell your friends. Their purchase helps too.

For promotion we are partnering with our wonderful friends at Eco-Emi, the original green sample box program. We'll announce more fun with them in coming days. Incidentally Eco-Emi is another St. Louis based eco-friendly operation, so we've got triple the environmental and organic goodness all packed into one great event.

Giving to our community, giving to the earth, and giving to our customers - that's just how we do here at Blissoma. We hope you'll help. If you want to help plant more organic seeds here in St. Louis this year tell your friends and help us make One to Grow On a resounding success.Shop for Blissoma products and support One to Grow On
Check out the Earthdance Facebook Page
Visit the Earthdance Website
Learn about our promotional partner Eco-Emi and their sample boxes
Connect with Eco-Emi's Facebook Page

Thursday, March 15, 2012 in , , ,

Blissoma Skincare is now Certified Vegan

Blissoma's facial skincare collection is now entirely Vegan.

Previously the only thing preventing our line from being Vegan was the Lactoperoxidase enzyme used as part of our preservation blend. It was natural, but milk-derived. Based on new ingredients introduced into the natural skincare world we have been able to update our recipes to another natural and vegan blend. After 3 years and a great deal of reformulation and testing we are proud to introduce our updated recipes.

Products affected are:
Awake Morning Facial Moisture
Peace Evening Facial Creme
Lift Intelligent Energy Creme
Smooth A+ Moisture Serum
Refine Clay Renewal Treatment
Amend Antioxidant Lotion
Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser changed to the new preservation system last fall.

The system consists of several components. One is Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate which is an isolated peptide produced by the bacteria that ferments Kimchii. Pretty cool! The second component used is an Aspen Bark Extract which is a rich source of antimicrobial Salicylates, much like willow bark extracts. We have also added Gluconolactone, which produces gluconic acid that helps acidify and assist the other two extracts.

This means our entire facial care range is now Vegan as well as still being one of the cleanest, most active and results oriented natural skincare lines available. We have applied for the Certified Vegan seal with and will update everyone when we hear more back from them.

Peace and Lift have also had several other tweaks to their formulas.
We have REMOVED the vitamin ACE peptide blend we were previously using based on client concerns about the safety of Retinyl Palmitate. We believe the evidence surrounding this ingredient is still developing, and are not taking any particular position about it's relative safety other than that at the time we included it in our original formulations the data we had on hand suggested that it was a safe and nonirritating form of Vitamin A. Until further research comes out we have discontinued its use in both these products and will not use it in upcoming formulations. We believe strongly in evidence and not hype. We also want to provide you safe products.

Instead of the vitamin ACE peptide combination you'll see Tocopherol and Tocopheryl Acetate in both of these recipes now, which are both forms of Vitamin E. Our mixed Tocopherols come from non GMO soy source. Tocopheryl Acetate is a stabilized vitamin E created by reacting Tocopherols with Acetic acid (the same acid as in vinegar). Both contribute to antioxidant activity and topical benefits.

We will be planning new formulas that will include Vitamin C as a key active. No suitable replacement was available that would have kept our current moisturizer formulations at the same price. As we use unrefined, nutrient rich oils and botanicals as the base for all our products you are already getting a wide profile of naturally occurring vitamins and we expect you will notice no significant difference in product performance.

Lift has also had an update to the herb blend. Organic Nettles have been substituted for the seaweeds in this formula to give the product a cleaner lavender aroma. The Organic Evening Primrose and Organic Grapeseed Oils have been boosted in concentration as well to increase the product's suitability for dry skin types. We think you'll love these changes.

Below are the updated ingredients lists for all the affected products. We can't wait to finally share them with the Vegan community.

PRODUCT: Awake Morning Facial Moisture –
Infusion of Melissa officinalis* (lemon balm), Euphrasia officinalis* (eyebright), Avena sativa* (oatstraw), Rosa damascena* and Equisetum arvense* (horsetail), Aloe barbadensis Juice*, Hamamelis virginiana* (witch hazel), Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides and Cetearyl Alcohol, Niacinamide, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Glyceryl Stearate, Gluconolactone, Calophyllum tacamahaca (tamanu) Oil*, Vaccinium macropacrpon (cranberry) Seed Oil*, Rubus ideaus (red raspberry) Seed Oil*, Cannabis sativa (hemp) Seed Oil*, Calluna vulgaris* (heather flowers) Extract*, Soy Lecithin*, Essential Oils of Juniperus communis (juniper), Cymbopogon martinii (palmarosa), Canarium luzonicum (elemi), Achillea millefolia (blue yarrow), and Citrus bergamia, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Jasminum grandiflorum (jasmine) Extract*, Xanthan Gum, Grain Alcohol*, Chlorophyllin, limonene**, geraniol**, linalool**

PRODUCT: Peace Evening Facial Crème –
Infusion of Rhodymenia palmata* (dulse seaweed), Porphyra umbilicalis* (nori seaweed), Plantago major* (plantain), Taraxacum officinale* (dandelion), Lavendula angustifolia*, Water, Butyrospermum parkii (shea) Butter*, Glyceryl Stearate and Cetearyl Alcohol and Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) Seed Oil*, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Extracts of Symphytum officinale* (comfrey) and Ginkgo Biloba*, Gluconolactone, Soy Lecithin*, Cannabis sativa (hemp) Seed Oil*, Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E), Euterpe oleracea (acai) Oil, Essential Oils of Lavandula angustifolia, Cymbopogon martinii (palmarosa), Canarium luzonicum (elemi), Boswellia carterii (frankincense), Vetiveria zizandoides (vetiver), and Achillea millefolia* (blue yarrow), Matricaria chamomilla (german chamomile) CO2 Extract, Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Xanthan Gum, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Chlorophyllin, Grain Alcohol*, linalool**, geraniol**, limonene** 

PRODUCT: Lift Intelligent Energy Crème –
Infusion of Euphrasia officinalis* (eyebright), Ruscus aculeatus* (butcher’s broom), Urtica Dioica* (nettle), and Aspalathus linearis* (rooibos), Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Vitis Vinifera (grapeseed) Oil*, Rosa rubiginosa (rosehip) Oil*, Vaccinium macropacrpon (cranberry) Seed Oil*, Oenothera biennis (evening primrose) Oil*, Extracts of Grifola frondosa* (maitake mushroom), Gingko biloba*, and Calendula officinalis*, Grain Alcohol*, Tilia europaea* (linden) extract, Soy Lecithin*, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) Oil*, Extracts of Eleuthercoccus senticosus* (eleuthero), Pueraria lobata* (kudzu), and Centella asiatica* (gotu kola), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E), Gluconolactone, Resveratrol, Proanthocyanidins, Populus Tremuloides (aspen) Bark Extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Xanthan Gum, Essential Oil of Lavandula angustifolia, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, linalool**

PRODUCT: Smooth A+ Moisture Serum –
Infusion of Coriandrum sativum* (coriander), Achillea millefolium* (yarrow), Solidago virgaurea* (goldenrod), Foeniculum vulgare* (fennel), Rosa damascena* (roses), and Taraxacum officinale* (dandelion), Aloe barbadensis (aloe) Juice*, Cetearyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Glucoside, Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel), Niacinamide, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Daucus carota (carrot) Juice*, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) Oil*, Extracts of Olea Europaea* (olive leaf), Gluconolactone, Lonicera japonica* (honeysuckle), Glycyrrhiza glabra* (licorice), and Calluna vulgaris* (heather flowers), Essential Oils of Citrus bergamia (bergamot) FCF, Boswellia carterii (frankincense), and Rosa damascena (rose otto), CO2 Extracts of Daucus carota (helio-carrot) and Matricaria chamomilla (german chamomile), Populus Tremuloides (aspen) Bark Extract, Xanthan Gum, Grain Alcohol*, citronellol**, geraniol**, linalool**, limonene**

PRODUCT: Refine Clay Renewal Treatment –
Infusion of Foeniculum vulgare* (fennel), Stellaria media* (chickweed), Lavandula angustifolia* (lavender), Rosa damascena* (roses), Porphyra umbilicalis* (nori seaweed), Ruscus aculeatus* (butcher’s broom), Rhassoul Clay, Apium graveolens (celery) Juice*, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Zinc Oxide*, Cannabis sativa* (hemp) Oil*, Vaccinium macropacrpon (cranberry) Seed Oil*, Rubus ideaus (red raspberry) Seed Oil*, Extracts of Glycyrrhiza glabra* (licorice), Symphytum officinale* (comfrey), and Salix alba* (willowbark), Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Gluconolactone, Cetearyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Glucoside, Extracts of Olea europaea* (olive leaf), Echinacea purpurea*, and Caldendula officinalis*, Essential Oils of Litsea cubeba, Commiphora myrrha, Pelargonium roseum (rose geranium), Citrus reticulata (mandarin), Lavandula angustifolia, Pogostemon cablin (patchouli), Coriandrum sativum (coriander), Cedrus atlantica (cedarwood), Grain Alcohol*, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract citral**, xanthan gum, limonene**, citronellol**, geraniol**, linalool**

PRODUCT: Amend Antioxidant Sprayable Lotion –
Infusion of Aspalathus linearis* (rooibos) and Taraxacum officinale* (dandelion), Aloe barbadensis Juice*, Water, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides and Cetearyl Alcohol, Calophyllum tacamahaca (tamanu) Oil*, Glyceryl Stearate, Extracts of Tilia europaea* (linden) and Symphytum officinale* (comfrey), Gluconolactone, Soy Lecithin*, Euterpe oleracea (acai) Oil, Calluna vulgaris* (heather flowers) Extract*, Punica granatum (pomegranate) Extract, Essential Oils of Pelargonium roseum (rose geranium), Mentha spicata (spearmint), and Citrus aurantifolia (lime), Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Xanthan Gum, Grain Alcohol*, citronellol**, geraniol**, linalool**, limonene**, citral**

PRODUCT: Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser –
Infusion of Althea officinalis* (marshmallow), Stellaria media* (chickweed), Plantago major* (plantain), Rosa damascena*, Arthemis nobilis* (chamomile), Glycerin*, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) Oil*, Oryza sativa* (brown rice), Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernal Oil*, Glyceryl Stearate, Salix alba* (willowbark) extract, Cannabis sativa (hemp) Oil*, Cetearyl Alcohol, Gluconolactone, Echinacea purpurea Extract*, Essential Oils of Lavandula angustifolia, Litsea Cubeba, Cymbopogon martini (palmarosa), Canarium luzonicum (elemi), Boswellia carterii (frankincense), Vetiveria zizandoides (vetiver), Xanthan Gum, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, Grain Alcohol*+, linalool**, geraniol**, limonene**, citral**

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 in , , ,

Consult the Herbal Chemist - Acne Rescue Au Natural Part 3

Today is the final installment in my holistic, healthful, and natural suggestions for acne treatment. Have you been keeping up with Part 1, Part 2, and our article on the link between stress and skin problems? If you have you're armed with a few new ideas to try.

On to step 4 to help you prevent and manage acne...
4. Moisturize and spot treat with something soothing and anti-inflammatory - not drying!!

Here's an important premise even people with acne should remember.

Hydration makes skin happy.

With all the products out there to "dry" pimples or that are astringents a lot of overzealous, concerned folks will overtreat and irritate their skin. It's easy to do. Most marketing revolves around oil being blamed as the source of your problem, but as we've discussed it can be interior triggers like hormones, stress, and the foods you eat. Oil isn't always the culprit.
Acne is an inflamed situation - the pimple itself is swollen, aggravated, and painful. What it needs more than anything is soothing.

One of my primary gripes with Benzoyl Peroxide is that while it can kill acne bacteria it can also really dry and irritate the skin on the pimple and in the immediate surrounding area. So then you've taken a bad situation and made it worse with more irritation to repair. Double whammy! If you can fight bacteria and calm at the same time you'll be in much better shape. Keep your skin supple, hydrated, and calm so it can concentrate on defending itself from bacteria.

Your skin is intelligent and responsive to its environment and what you apply to it. If you are drying, drying, drying your skin your skin will begin to think that it is oil deficient and respond by producing even more oil.

So what about oil-free moisturizers? It seems like a good deal - theoretically you are getting moisturization without excess oil. You should be aware that many creams marketed as oil-free contain highly synthetic emollients, penetrants, and softening agents like this
Oil Free Moisturizer from Alba which contains dimethicone, a silicone which would coat your skin instead of soaking in, and octyl palmitate, a synthetic ester produced from palmitic acid from palm oil that has a silicone-like feel. Octyl palmitate rates a 4 out of 5 as a comedogenic ingredient. Comedogenic means pore-clogging.

What on earth are these formulators doing using coating, clogging ingredients when they know that the people most likely to purchase an oil-free product generally have acne problems!?!?! Please for the love of pete skip using this product or its ugly stepsisters that abound all through your local drug and grocery stores. (And really skip the whole Alba brand, which is the pits in terms of actual natural quality and to which I and numerous others I know have had pronounced allergic reactions). In addition to pore clogging synthetics and silicones you're also getting synthetic fragrance and the most watered-down, fake botanical extracts you could ever find in a product. The part that really hurts is that this product might set you back anywhere from $13 to $30. For that much you can have a really good quality, clean natural product that won't cause you even more problems. Keep moving and save your precious funds for something truly beneficial.

"Oil-free" moisturizers are one of the dirty little secrets of the mass market skincare world. The way they are constructed and marketed is closely akin to how the food industry created low-fat foods by taking out the fat and pumping in a whole lot of artificial thickeners and sugars to replace the mouthy feel and flavor in products.
A low fat cookie is no healthier for you - nearly the same calories, no vitamins, no fiber, and loads of flavoring agents and texturizers. But through the magic of marketing they can smack LOW FAT or FAT FREE on the packaging and people feel like they can eat the whole box. Oil-free moisturizers are the Snackwells of the skincare world. It's all slick sales and not actually good for you.

There's just no reason to use a bunch of synthetic replacements when real, nutrient rich, botanical oils are GOOD for your skin in the right amounts and also don't clog pores. Plus they come with anti-aging benefits as a hefty bonus. Sorry, Octyl Palmitate and Dimethicone, you can't claim anything close to that.

Choices for Oil-Rich and Acne Prone Complexions

1. An Aloe gel or herbal serum like
Dr. Alkaitis Organic Herbal Toner.

The consistency of this lovely product is just perfect. A base of real Aloe Vera and a host of regenerative herbs are a perfect treat to feed and heal. It isn't sticky and though it says "toner" in the title an oily complexion could easily use this product alone to hydrate or in combination with other products. It's amazing and is probably one of my favorite aloe based products I have ever used other than my own line.

Aloe Vera has polysaccharides and glycoproteins that short circuit inflammation, moisturize, and stimulate growth and repair. There's nothing about that your skin won't love.

DON'T just get any old "aloe gel" product from your local drugstore. Most commercial aloe gels are a faked mixture of aloe's polysaccharide components and not even from the actual plant. They're full of synthetic carbomers, colorants, and preservatives. That is a tragic representation of real aloe juice. To assure you're getting the real thing stick to certified organic aloe. The certification assures traceability back to the field. There's so much organic aloe being grown as well that there is no reason a company shouldn't be using it except to cut costs and potentially shortchange you in the bargain.

If you don't have or don't want to invest the dollars in a higher end treatment the best advice is to get a nice hefty aloe plant. Break off a leaf and squeeze every time you want to soothe. Voila! On-demand juice that will leave your face perfectly moist and nourished every time. I have 3 aloe plants for just such purposes.
2. Organic Jojoba Oil (with or without a little essential oil)For a simple, affordable moisturizer try Organic Jojoba Oil, and add 3 drops of your choice of essential oil per each oz for added benefit. Organic Jojoba isn't actually a triglyceride oil, it's a liquid wax. It is highly absorbent and similar to skin's sebum structure, making it perfectly compatible with skin. The addition of essential oil discourages bacterial growth. It's readily available through your local health food store or many online beauty resources and very shelf stable, meaning it won't go rancid quickly. Using a small amount of jojoba can condition your skin and help manage sebum production.

3. Lightweight, Balancing MoisturizersInstead of Oil-free try a lightweight moisturizer that contains small amounts of absorbent, nutrient-rich, plant oils. Oils like argan, pumpkin seed, fruit seed oils like grapeseed, blueberry, red raspberry, and cranberry, and exotic lightweight oils like perilla seed oil pack antioxidants, sterols, and vitamins as well as absorbancy. A small amount won't overdo you.

Can you actually use a straight facial oil other than just jojoba? The answer is yes depending on the oil blend. Just put a little on your fingertips and pat the residue onto the face. Botanical oils often contain anti-inflammatory compounds that will do your irritations a world of good.

For a budget friendly cream moisturizer maybe something like Logona's Clear Skin Moisture Fluid would fit the bill for you. Or perhaps you'll enjoy something from their similarly BDIH Natural Cosmetic certified twin Lavera - their Young Faces Mint Moisturizing Fluid?

Both these products use more neutral oils for their bases but the texture is lovely and European BDIH certification ensures that you're getting a truly natural product that is tested and certified to a strict standard. If you can't go organic then BDIH is a great seal to look for.

4. NiacinamideNiacinamide is Vitamin B3 recommended by natural dermatologists for anti-acne benefits. Read more about Niacinamide in this article. A 1995 study showed that a 4% Niacinamide product had results better than Clindamycin, an antiobiotic. It's benefits include moderating oil production, building collagen, evening coloration, and helping skin retain hydration so you don't end up dry in the middle of the day. It's a winning ingredient all around for fighting acne problems. And yes, I feature Niacinamide in numerous Blissoma moisturizers including Smooth A+ Serum which contains the recommended 4%.

5. HerbsWillowbark for exfoliation, Chamomile, Comfrey, and Calendula for calming, Yarrow for astringency, Fennel to deter bacteria, Gotu Kola, Echinacea, Licorice, and many more.

As with anything the quality of the herbs matters.
You can get your herbs as extracts in the skincare products you purchase or get loose herbs to make your own infusion for a compress. For a compress dip a clean washcloth in a strong infusion of herbs and water and press it gently to your problem areas. Dip and press again when the washcloth cools.

6. MasksIt's great to have something to apply directly to your problem areas or as a deep cleaning, proactive treatment. A weekly mask is your best answer for a regular routine. Choose something that will offer you a boost and variety of nutrition, perhaps at higher levels than what you use daily.

Clays are one of the top choices for oil management, pore cleansing, and overall detoxification. There are a lot of clay mask choices in the naturals community available so experiment and try a few so you can decide what works best for your skin. Some come dry and some come wet. For a preblended dry clay you could try this mask from Anne Marie Gianni Skincare, another Fig+Sage endorsed natural skincare brand also endorsed glowingly by the Glamorganic Goddess. For a wet, creamy, premixed clay mask check out our Refine Clay Renewal Treatment. You can also purchase just straight Kaolin, Pink, Green, or other types of clays and mix them with water for your own DIY mask. Leave a dot of clay mixture directly on a pimple overnight to shrink it.

Acid masks and peels are popular for exfoliation and these can be fine used in moderation. If you use them keep it to once a week. Most use fruit acids, glycolic, or lactic acids. Overuse of these can irritate skin so take it easy. Beta-Hydroxy acids like the natural salicylates found in Willow Bark are also a great choice and can be less irritating for some people.

Other DIY mask ideas:

- Mash a Mango and Papaya together and apply to the face. Papaya contains the enzyme papain that will dissolve dead skin cells and exfoliate for you.

- Apply raw honey to the face, let sit 15 minutes, and then wash off. Honey is moisturizing and has natural antibacterial qualities. Purchase a certified organic, raw, unrefined honey for full benefits or at the very least something from a local farm. Why? Because in recent food testing it was found
that most honey at your grocery store may not really be honey at all. Lack of pollen content in highly refined "honeys" means there is no way to verify that it is truly honey. Local honeys by small family farms all had pollen content, and certified organics will be traceable. Considering this information you might want to change the honey you're eating too!

- Use organic, full fat, unflavored Yogurt to deep condition and provide a burst of pro-biotics. Make sure you get organic and unflavored as mass market fruit yogurts mostly contain a lot of sugar, flavorings, artificial color, and preservatives.

- Try this recipe for a Chocolate/Avocado/Honey/Green Tea/Oatmeal mask.

- A Cucumber/Yogurt/Clay mask might be to your liking and this recipe from The Herb Companion will tell you just how to do it.

- Steam your face with herbs for deep pore cleansing, detox, and toning. Use the Chamomile, Peppermint, Rooibos, and Green teas already in your cabinet at home for a
steam experience using these directions.

There are so many ways to treat your acne-prone skin to botanicals that will help fortify you to fight your inflammations and come out victorious. Treating acne problems holistically looks for the root of the problem in order to provide a long term, safe, and sustainable solution.
The best thing is that most changes you can make as part of your holistic acne transformation will benefit your total health as well. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Get to it! We want to see those pretty skin pictures....

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Consult the Herbal Chemist - Acne Rescue Au Natural Part 2

Everyone wants to know what will work to solve their difficult acne problems. There's no one magic bullet but you can have a big effect on your biology and environmental factors through what you do. Changing your behavior may make a big change for your skin.

A successful acne remedy generally involves a whole lifestyle approach. Using the right skincare matters but it is also about the foods you are eating and your stress levels. For ideas on how you can start to revamp your eating habits see Part 1 of this series. Going organic and plant-based in your diet is a huge step in the right direction and your total health will also improve as a result. There's so much more to cover with the internal/external health link but today is about how you can simply and effectively treat your acne using skincare methods and products on the exterior. Here's the third step in my recommendations for natural acne prevention and treatment.

3. Use a gentle, natural cleansing routine daily to exfoliate, balance sebum, kill bacteria, and maintain proper PH.

Exfoliation is a big skincare buzzword, but what is it and why do it?

Skin cells replicate and die off each day as part of the skin’s natural repair and growth cycles. The dead skin cells may slough off but some individuals’ skin may not maintain itself as efficiently. This causes buildup of dead skin cells on the surface and can cause a dull appearance, patchy and flaky areas, and clogged pores. The skin replicates less efficiently as individuals age and regular but gentle exfoliation can help maintain a smooth, fresh, bright appearance. A clogged pore is a pore likely to get a pimple, so helping your skin with its daily renewal is a great idea.

Exfoliation can be done manually with a mild abrasive, but a gentler way to go at it can be enzymes such as Bromelain from Pineapple, Papain from Papaya, and even Kiwi Fruit juice will dissolve dead skin cells. A mild acid like the Beta Hydroxy Acid salicylates in Willow Bark will dissolve dead skin cells too. Even just using a terry washcloth to gently wipe your face while removing your cleanser can provide benefit. Over-exfoliation is not a good thing and gentle is the key word for good results. Take it easy on yourself.

Environmental pollutants and occlusive moisturizing agents like petroleum oils can also block pores so cleansing helps remove these external factors as well as your own dead skin cells.

For the best in gentle and effective exfoliation some people swear by a fun little gadget called the Clarisonic.It has a brush head that gently polishes away dead skin cells. It's a strictly manual method that uses no chemicals at all, and Terri Bly of The Nature of Beauty calls it "the perfect facial cleansing and exfoliating system".

How does it work?
Terri says, "Using ultrasonic technology, the facial brush uses a sonic frequency of more than 300 movements per second to remove 6X more makeup and 2X more dirt and oil than cleansing with your hands alone. Even better, it does so without irritating the skin." For more compelling, complimentary information on the Clarisonic see her article "Why you should have a Clarisonic". It can be used alone with warm water or with your favorite herbal cleanser for added benefits.

Balancing Sebum
Sebum, your natural skin oil, protects the skin and creates what is known as the acid mantle. The acid mantle is hostile to many types of bacteria. It also serves as a food and breeding ground for other types of bacteria though, such as Propionibacterium Acnes, the bacteria responsible for acne lesions. When sebum levels are overly abundant the bacteria have a ready supply of food, leading to growth. Ideally sebum levels should be enough to provide comfort and protection but not feed bacteria. Daily cleansing with gentle products can remove excess sebum and still leave skin conditioned and comfortable.

Kill/Discourage Bacteria Populations
The first route by which cleansing discourages bacterial buildup is by physically removing anything deposited on the skin through your environment (dirty hands, fabrics and air) and by removing excess sebum that serves as food for bacteria, as mentioned above. The second route can be by actually killing bacteria using herbs, oils, or other medicines. I prefer a strictly botanical approach.

Many natural acne products concentrate on Tea Tree oil due to a proven antibacterial fraction in the oil called Terpen-4-ol. It does directly kill acne bacteria. However, it can also be quite drying and for some people Tea Tree oil prompts allergic reaction.

Most essential oils have antibacterial qualities and are highly mobile into skin, which make them uniquely suited to natural acne treatment.
They discourage bacteria on the surface and work against bacterial growth inside pores. For common antibacterial essential oils that may help manage acne more gently than Tea Tree oil try Lavender, Rose, Palmarosa, Geranium, Cedarwood, Myrhh, Bergamot, and Frankincense.
For more specific recommendations on these and other essential oils from respected herbal and essential oil expert Jeanne Rose see her article "Antibacerial/Acne-Fighting Essential Oils".

Tea Tree oil is suitable mostly for acne in teen and young adult skin types. I would not recommend Tea Tree oil for anyone above the age of 25 due to excessive drying and potential for irritation. Take care with essential oils and always dilute them well before use.

Maintain Proper Skin PH
Your skin is made of proteins. The building blocks for proteins are amino acids. Notice the word acid there. Your skin is naturally acidic with a PH of somewhere between 4 and 6. 7 is neutral PH and anything above 7 is basic.
Many people are damaging their naturally acidic skin PH by using alkaline cleansers. Once the acid mantle is removed or compromised your skin's defenses are down and acne bacteria can flourish. A typical soap cleanser will have a PH of 9 or 10 - solidly alkaline. Some people have more resilient skin than others and may rebound quickly from washing with an alkaline cleanser. Some lucky people have other genetic factors that contribute to a lack of acne bacteria growth. But for those who are exceptionally PH sensitive or have a propensity for acne this PH change can be disastrous.

According to a paper titled The Importance of Skin PH by Gil Yosipovitch, MD and Judy Hu, MD from 2003 it can take skin up to 14 hours to return to normal PH. That means if you are washing twice a day with a soap cleanser your skin may never be reaching optimal PH, leaving you vulnerable to acne bacteria ALL THE TIME. Wow! That is a skincare juggernaut as far as I'm concerned. Acne is not the only detrimental effect from skin PH being too high. Some people may simply be experiencing dryness or discomfort, so proper PH isn't just for acne sufferers. Increased skin PH is also related to other disturbed skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.

If you're using a soap-based cleanser and have acne problems stop now and switch to something with an acidic PH that will not damage your acid mantle.

How can you tell if a cleanser is a good PH for you? Unfortunately many of the natural facial cleansers that are available, even liquid cleansers, are soaps. Look for "liquid castile soap" or "saponified oils of" in the ingredient declaration. Other ways it may be listed is "Sodium Cocoate", "Sodium Olivate", "Potassium Cocoate", "Potassium Olivate" or potentially as just botanical oils and then Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide.

Cream cleansers, oil based cleansers, and those using mild glucoside cleansers like cocoglucoside and decyl glucoside would be something to look for instead. I still have my personal preferences even within PH correct cleansers but the point is to help you make an educated decision about what product is right for you.

None is what I'm saying is meant to speak badly overall of natural soaps. Natural soaps are wonderfully simple products and generally toxin-free, which is how they've made their way so well into the routines of many natural and organic lifestyle lovers. However, when I get a client who tells me they've used many natural skincare lines and are still having no luck with their persistent acne a non-soap cleanser is the first thing I recommend. Change your cleanser and see what happens for you. Improper PH may be the culprit.

A cleanser to try that would be correct PH, soap-free, and the pinnacle of clean ingredients would be Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Anti-Aging Cleanser.

As evidence of what the right, non-soap cleanser can do for acne-prone skin check out this proud, bare-faced Twitter post from one of our fans of Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser.

Also watch this video from ILuvJesse444 who thought she had oily skin with her acne but it turns out a cleanser switch to a non-soap made all the difference.

Cleansing is incredibly important and the right cleansing routine can change your whole skin condition.
Make the commitment to find the proper cleansing routine for YOU and the benefits will come. Whether it's the Clarisonic, an essential oil, or a cleanser product something is out there that will set your skin up for success.

I'll be back tomorrow with some moisturizing, spot treatment, and mask ideas to finish off. Stay tuned!

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