Home Spa Treatment #1 – Treat those eyes

March 4, 2010

thanks to iChaz on flickr

"Aloe" thanks to Herb Companion

"Aloe" thanks to Herb Companion

I’ve been offering you some Herbal Remedies quick tips, but I’d like to start a new series of Home Spa tips focusing on different treatments you can do at home for your own private spa experience.  Let’s start with those alluring eyes of ours that communicate so very much.

We all know by now why there are eye serums & creams on the market. First, we live insane lives here in the United States, where the response “Busy” has replaced “Fine” when we are asked how we are doing. Second, we don’t get enough sleep. Third, sun damage. Finally, despite our greatest efforts, we are aging, and here in America, we don’t tend to like that. Despite the truth that many skin care product claims might be a bunch of B.S., there is actually some truth to ingredients that attest to reduce puffiness, smooth out wrinkles, and brighten our peepers (or at least the skin around them).

These ingredients, when present in your eye care product, can do a lot to remedy your eye area issues: Retinol (increases collagen production), forms of zinc (may increase elastin production), cucumber extract (anti-inflammatory), chamomile extract (anti-inflammatory), caffeine (diuretic – so it reduces puffiness & seems to “lift” eye tissue), Vit C (decreases melanin production, treating dark circles), and Vit K (helps break down pigment particles in blood, decreasing dark circles).  Extra-emollient oils can also help keep that fragile skin elastic and supple, reducing wrinkles in the long-term and helping repair sun damage. That sun damage part can also be mitigated by anti-oxidants by reducing the ravage caused by free radicals.

Weren’t you wondering why I include green tea (antioxidant, vt C, and caffeine), Vit C, and chamomile in my popular Eye Potion? Don’t worry – I’m making a fresh batch next week. But I’m here to tell you about home remedies you can do yourself! Fortunately, there is a lot you can do yourself at home to do something for your poor tired eyes.

Eye cream

Lilith's eye potion

Tea Bag eye packs
— seriously! That concentrated tea contains caffeine that is proven to reduce puffiness. Leave teabags on eyes for 10 minutes and make sure to use cool water as hot water may burn and can help dry out eyes. Use a caffeinated tea with rosehips and you have a good amount of Vit C in there too. One with green tea, chamomile, and rosehips and you have an eye tea powerhouse!  Hey…maybe I should make these.

Cucumber eye packs. Yeah cucumber! We all know that Cool as a Cucumber says it all. And cucumber truly does reduce puffiness and inflammation, calming the eye area (and the rest of the skin too!). You can use cucumber distillates, mists, or slices of the vegetable placed over your eyes for 5-10 minutes.

Eye Serum. You can create a special oil of emollient oils such as avocado, coconut, shea, meadowfoam seed, hemp seed , evening primrose, and rosehip seed oil. Extra powerhouse ingredients include carrot oil, blueberry seed oil, seabuckthorne berry oil, and essential oils or CO2 extracts of Calendula, blue chamomile, and helicrysium.

Eye Potion. This is a simple Cocoa Butter & Coconut Oil recipe from Herb Companion. You need only two ingredients and you don’t need to use preservatives because there is no hydrous, or water, component. Super rich and long-lasting.

Cooling Cucumber Eye Gel.  I love this recipe from Herb Companion and remember when I first noted it when it appeared in print last year. This is a once & done spa treatment, meaning that it won’t preserve longer than a few days if kept in the fridge. But considering the ingredients, including fresh cucumber juice and aloe vera, it sounds like a great treatment!

CALM your skin: what the ingredients actually do

February 12, 2010
Red Tea

Red Tea, courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs


In product descriptions in my Etsy shop, I often write about ingredients that act to “calm” the skin. What does that mean, exactly? For one thing, someone might turn to ingredients that calm the skin because she experiences redness, puffiness, dark circles, potentially inflammatory conditions such as rosacea or acne, and needs the harmonizing power of doubly calming & regenerative ingredients for more mature skin. 

Some of the ingredients used in the skin care industry include those that contain ANTI-OXIDANTSESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (ESFs), and ANTI-INFLAMMATORY compounds.  In fact, many of these ingredients contain all three qualities, as anti-oxidants and essential fatty acids both work to reduce inflammation, and certain extracts or oils contain both anti-oxidants and essential fatty acids. 




We can get these compounds in our diets, and certainly that is the best way to bring these nutrients to your skin, that great filtering organ that can benefit –or suffer from–whatever we put into our bodies. Antioxidants are found in colored fruits, leafy greens, and colorful vegetables, as well as green, white, and black tea, red (rooibos) tea, cinnamon, coffee, and black pepper. Essential Fatty Acids include Omega 3,6, & 9’s are found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts, among other sources. Dietwise, we get plenty of Omega 6 & 9’s regardless, so what you want to focus on are getting those Omega 3’s from good, fresh sources (i.e. keep your walnuts in the freezer to prevent rancidity). Anti-inflammatory qualities are found in superfruits like blueberry, mangosteen, goji berry (or chinese wolf berry/lyciium fruit), acai, and powerhouse herbs such as turmeric, lavender and chamomile.  You can get a great solid blueberry extract at Herbalist & Alchemist. The benefit of these superfruits is that they contain both antioxidants AND anti-inflammatory compounds, as these qualities often come from the same source. 





Anti-oxidants reduce free-radical damage and help repair the skin and protect it from long-term damage. In your skincare products, when you see extracts or oils from fruits & vegetables such as blueberry, carrot, or kelp, you know you’re getting something that is high in anti-oxidants. Extracts are usually alcohol “tinctures” which act to chemical extract these active compounds. You might see CO2 extracts, which can closely resemble the original plant, or alcohol extracts. It is preferable to have extracts made from grain alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol. Another type of extract can be created from glycerin, which adds additional moisture content to the product.  Oils used in bath & beauty products can also be high in antioxidants, including carrot, coconut, and meadowfoam seed oil. These high anti-oxidant oils not only protect your skin but they prevent further damage. There are many herbs that are rich in anti-oxidants as well, including Tea leaf (black, white and green), Rooibos, Cinnamon, and Rosehips. 

Essential Fatty Acids (ESFs) are usually found in oils that are rich in Omega 3, 6 & 9’s. Some of these oils include sunflower seed, safflower seed, rosehip seed, borage, evening primrose, camellia seed, sweet almond, and walnut oils among others. Borage oil is a fabulous source of the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and as the GLA of borage oil is 24% , it  is actually the richest known source in the world. Amazingly, GLA is needed by the body to produce the anti-inflammatory protaglandins believed to strengthen cell membranes & combat diseases such as eczema, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions.  Essential Fatty Acids are superior moisture-grabbers. Research suggests that some of those with eczema or severely dry skin may have an ESF deficiency and would benefit from ESF-rich diet and skin care attention. Therefore, it is important for anyone with dry skin issues, especially dry, flaky and reddened skin to make sure they use products rich in ESFs both externally and internally. 




Some favorite anti-inflammatory herbs are Turmeric and Chamomile. Turmeric is the anti-inflammatory herb of choice in Ayurvedic medicine and is also high in anti-oxidants. Chamomile is another favorite anti-inflammatory that I often use in the treatment of skin conditions such as eczema, as it seems to have clinically proven benefits as great as that of topical steroids. Holy Basil, or Tulsi, my ‘herb of choice’ for 2010, also has mild anti-inflammatory qualities. Essential oils and distillates/ hydrosols, the by-product of steam distillation, can also contain potent anti-inflammatory qualities in skin care products. Helichrysum hydrosol and essential oil, for example, is a strong anti-inflammatory often called ‘Imortelle’ or ‘Everlasting’ because of its wonderful anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties. Lavender is another herb that is wonderful to use as an essential oil, distillate, or extract for its anti-inflammatory compounds, and its calming activity on the skin has been seen in individuals with rosacea and acne. 

I hope that helps clear up a few questions! Are there ingredients that you’ve noted lately and have wondered about? If so, let me know!

Ingredients 101: Chemicals are bad, aren’t they?

October 14, 2009
Lotions require preservatives

Lotions require preservatives

Yes, parabens have been shown to cause some dermatological reactions, including allergic ones, but they might not be quite as bad as we all seem to think. That said, they are on the ‘Ingredients to Avoid’ list in most cases, along with Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea, the most commonly used preservatives after parabens, well-established as the primary cause of contact dermatitis (American Academy of Dermatology), and also formaldehyde precursors. Indeed, there is a lot of fear around the use of chemicals of any kind in our products, including ones that purport to be ‘natural’. However, many chemicals, as I’ve learned from Cosmetics Unmasked: Your family Guide to safe cosmetics and allergy-free toiletries, are not as terrible as we might think.

At the end of the day, however, we absolutely must have chemical preservatives in our natural products. A top ingredient supplier, Essential Wholesale, outlines their philosophy about the need for preservatives. But this isn’t really about philosophy, belief, or hope, but rather, the science. Essential Wholesale makes some bulk bases for suppliers and has increasingly tried to create the most natural and organic formulations possible, but even products rated 98 percent organic still contain a chemical preservative, namely, phenoxylethanol, often with Tetrasodium EDTA. Essential wholesale knows, as all formulators do, that you cannot sell a product without a preservative. The shelf life is minimal and the product, potentially harmful. Anything that contains water is instantly susceptible to mold, bacterial, and fungal growth in a matter of days, even if created in sterile conditions. A great blog by natural skin care company, Sterling Minerals, has fabulous posts about the chemical side of things, including fillers for mineral make-up and the absolute necessity of chemical preservatives in creams and other hydrous (water-containing) products. By the way, her post on Mineral Make-up contains a brilliant expose of the so-called ‘natural’ (ha-ha) company, Arbonne, and her incredible quest to finally confirm the presence of silicone in their mineral make-up.

Orange Rosewood Facial Cream

Orange Rosewood Facial Cream

Back to preservatives…many of you know that my relationship with preservatives has certainly evolved over time. I just have to say that it is incredibly difficult to find the prefect choice of preservative systems, and at first I mistakenly thought — like many do –that mere refrigeration would do the trick. Even using preservatives like potassium sorbate, I found that the preservative system wasn’t complete, and the product was still susceptible. Not only did I have to recall creams earlier on in my still very small endeavor, but I’ve since had to help customers who had used unpreserved products (made by other businesses) that had had terrible consequences for their skin.  The need for not only a system, but a full-spectrum system, is critical. One preservative might have good action against molds and fungi, but not bacteria. So that preservative has to be combined with another one effective against bacteria. Then you have to find a level that will be perfect in terms of preservation but at the lowest possible percentage in your formulation so as not to cause any irritation. It’s an incredibly difficult task in some respects, especially as you try to find the most gentle chemical preservative system possible.  After use of different systems, I’ve basically come around to Essential Wholesale’s recommended pairing of phenoxylethanol and Tetrasodium EDTA. Caprylyl Glycol is another component of my system that is simply an emollient base for the preservative. The phenoxylethanol basically covers the yeast and bacteria, while Tetrasoidum EDTA binds to components that enable mold to grow. Together, they act as a broad spectrum preservative system.

That said, I’m intrigued by the use of colloidal silver as a preservative, though this preservative requires a number of other chemical buffers, etc, a fact that is usually masked by labeling that purports to have a proprietary colloidal silver ‘formula’. Ah yes, but it looks so natural!  Be aware also that some ‘natural’ companies are able to mask their use of chemical preservatives under the INCI name of ‘fragrance’, which is as sneaky as it gets. For a long time, I would look at Burt’s Bees ingredients list and think, “How on earth do they do it?” Well, they don’t. Now I know.

So readers, what do you want to know more about? The chemicals that are harmful and should be avoided or the ones that appear in our products, sound “unnatural” and yet are perfectly fine, even helpful? I’m all ears. Let’s start a Lilith Round Table!

Hello everyone!

October 20, 2008

Well, I finally have my own blog, devoted to all the fun aspects of herbal-inspired (or should I say ‘infused’?) self care, including mind, body, and spirit… I am going to post recipes for home use, information to help sort out current debates about preservatives, chemical ingredients, and what constitutes a ‘natural’ product, as well as what some of our very mysterious precious ingredients, such as buckthorn berry and carrot root extract. I welcome questions and queries that will lead me down the research highway.

I currently have an ever-expanding line of bath, body & beverage tea products::: LILITH’S APOTHECARY ::: on my Etsy site: www.lilithsapothecary.etsy.com and I have a www.lilithsapothecary.com site in progress.

Also check out the Etsy Philly Street Team for some great, local Philadelphia artisans! http://phillyetsy.blogspot.com/

I also have a shop devoted to jewelry creation on Etsy: www.lilithsjewels1.etsy.com ~ as a friendly FYI !!!