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· Beauty Notes: Raw Materials

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Beauty Notes: Raw Materials
by Dain

I'm not much of a DIYer, but I keep these ingredients around for various contingencies. They are useful for tweaking textures. Since I have sensitive skin, for me there is often a binary of irritants versus safe ingredients, but I generally don't have to worry about occlusivity. Figuring out ingredients is a wholly individual process, and those of you with more resilient skin should be able to branch out into more options than I've shown here.

my emergency cabinet: Phoenix Botanicals Sweet Birch Butter, Lansinoh, Hadalabo, coconut oil, jojoba oil.

Now, Hadalabo is a complete product unto itself. It makes an excellent softener, featuring both hyaluronic acid and glycerin, two humectants that draw moisture into the skin. I've used it for years. It's not the least bit exciting, a bland, minimalist formulation that eschews all unnecessary additives, which makes it an ideal match for sensitive skin, but also functions well as a mixer. A drop or two in any aqueous solution, from hydrosol to serum to moisturizer, boosts its powers of hydration, while emulsions absorb better into the skin.

Emollients are extremely handy if you've got dry skin; they soften, condition, and seal moisture into the skin. There's humble mineral oil, one of the most effective barrier formers and totally inert on intolerant skin. Unfortunately for me, it contributes to milia. Silicones rival mineral oil in ubiquity, and offer a range of textures from the heavy silk of dimethicone to cyclopentasiloxane, a volatile silicone that dries down to a lightweight, slightly rubbery feel. Sensitivity defeats me again: most silicones make me itch, others ball up in a most unattractive way. As a consequence, I have a strong preference for plant oils and butters. I find that they absorb more readily into my thin, sebum-starved skin, and anti-inflammatory EFAs (essential fatty acids) soothe the usual irritations that simmer beneath the surface.

The drawbacks to natural oils are generally threefold:
  1. Expense. Be wary of buying repackaged and overpriced argan oil, for example. Others, like seabuckthorn berry or jasmine, which you'd never use neat, are so costly it will raise the price of a blend significantly.
  2. Shelf life on plant oils is generally short, especially if they're packed with antioxidants. Store them in a cool dark place away from heat, air, and light. CO2 extractions are generally more stable than cold-pressed, if you can get them.
  3. If you've got skin that tends towards congestion, you might balk at using oils on your skin. A study has suggested, however, that those high in linoleic acid (omega 6), such as safflower and grapeseed, can actually diminish clogged pores. Fatty-acid compositions might serve as a rough guide, but ultimately it comes down to trial and error.
After dithering around with many fancy and exotic oils, from Decleor to Rodin Olio Lusso, I've decided that plain jojoba oil, the first of them to enjoy a 'craze' nearly ten years ago, is my favorite to use neat. If I'm very dry, I still rely on Kahina Serum, an enriched argan blend so rich it's almost a gel in texture, perfect for adding body to a lighter cream, but it is very expensive. Jojoba is cheaper and more stable than argan, with a faint nutty odor inoffensive to my nose. I also like apricot kernel, emu, rosehip, evening primrose, macadamia, and squalane, but the texture of jojoba, the oil closest to human sebum, seems most neutral: it sinks in seconds after application.

If my skin is really sore and chapped, shea butter is all my skin can tolerate. It's more protective than an oil, as it takes much longer to absorb. Since raw shea isn't so pliable, I prefer it leavened slightly with some oils, like this Phoenix Botanicals Sweet Birch Butter.

My lips are chapped at all times of the year, so I go through a tube of Lansinoh faster than you'd believe. Of all emollients, I find lanolin penetrates and softens roughened, flaky skin most effectively, then a little beeswax seals and protects. Pure lanolin is not quite as nice as the balm I like best (Dr. Hauschka), but it's a good deal cheaper, and sized generously enough to last. I sometimes melt down an overly waxy lip balm with a dollop of lanolin, about half and half.

The day I discovered Leonor Greyl's Huile de Palme marks a seismic shift in the way I condition my hair. It used to be there wasn't a deep conditioner formulated "deep" enough; turns out, all I needed was an oil soaking into my hair, pre-shampoo. You don't need a fancy blend, either. Simple coconut oil will do the trick. Coconut has the distinction of being one of the few oils that can penetrate the hair shaft and nourish from within. For cosmetic use, many formulations already use the refined, deodorized version, capric/caprylic triglycerides. It is a heavier oil, with a characteristic buttery-rich texture that liquefies at body temperature, and it has a nutty warm coconut aroma, like macaroons baking. If you're having trouble rinsing it off, use less. The right amount should readily absorb into your hair, but that depends on length, porosity, and dryness. If your hair needs also protein, add a few egg yolks and honey, to a tablespoon of coconut oil; it makes a great fortifying hair mask.

Honorable mentions go tea tree oil and Evanhealy Green Tea Clay (not shown). It's not often I break out, but the antiseptic properties of tea tree and clay's sebum-absorption takes care of most acne-related contingencies. As a spot treatment, this simple mix of montmorillite clay and matcha shrinks down a burgeoning, pus-filled pimple, and, applied all over, temporarily refines the grain of my pores to nigh unto invisibility, though it does little to actual blackheads. It also stimulates circulation, so that irritation heals faster.


11/15/2012 [8]

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