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Stress and Your Skin

Stress, both psychological and physical can lead to skin problems. Stress has been found to aggravate psoriasis, rosacea and eczema as well as cause hives and rashes.  Much of this is due to elevation of the stress hormone cortisol.

Most importantly, studies have found that psychological stress decreases the skin barrier function, the most important role of skin. This leads to loss of moisture from the skin,  leading to dry, itchy skin. But also decreases the repair process and increases the potential for irritants, allergens, toxins and bacteria/fungus to penetrate the skin.  This can also cause inflammation, numbness, and itching of the skin.

Stress also affects the hair causing it to become dull, greasy, and even fall out.

It is more important than ever to use a good moisturizer with antioxidants when you are stressed.

Some tips to help deal with stress include

light exercise, such as walking,
taking time out for quiet or meditation
breathing deeply
getting more sleep
eating nutritious whole foods
laughing (watch a funny movie)
taking extra time for personal care
engage in a repetitive activity such as knitting or weeding
acknowledge that you are a body, mind, and spirit

Herbs can also bring relief for stress. Some of my favorites are lavender, rose, lemon balm, skullcap, tulsi, chamomile and hops. You can make a nice tea from lemon balm, tulsi, lavender and chamomile. Skullcap and hops may be better as a tincture. Although another nice way to ingest hops is with a cold, hoppy IPA beer.

Another way to enjoy these herbs is in the bath. Put the herbs in a muslin bag and let it soak in the tub as you run the water. You can even use the bag to wash with.

Try our lavender/rose bath salts, or botanical salt scrubs.

For more on the science, read here:

Altemus, M., Raoa, B., Dhabhar, F.S., Ding, W., Granstein, R. D., Stress Induced Changes in Skin Barrier Function in Healthy Women.  Journal of Investigative Dermatology

How to Revive Skin After Being Outdoors

For most of us, living in Colorado (and elsewhere) means an active, outdoor lifestyle.  But exposure to the elements takes a toll on skin causing redness, irritation, dry skin, hyperpigmentation and wrinkling. All of this results in premature aging.  But don’t let these skin problems keep you from enjoying a healthy outdoor lifestyle. There are many reasons to enjoy the outdoors, be it summer or winter, and Colorado Aromatics skin care can help enhance your healthy, outdoor lifestyle.

 

You wear a sunscreen, but what can you do to revive your skin after being outdoors?

Cleanse. Be sure to use a cleanser to remove sweat from your face. Follow this with a  pH balanced face mister to help restore and recover your skin’s natural pH. Colorado Aromatics makes both Meadow Mist milky cleanser and Yarrow oil cleanser. And you’ll love our aromatic Face and Body misters distilled from herbs (including lavender) that we grow on our Certified Naturally Grown farm.

Use Antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for repairing skin damage caused by the sun. Besides eating a diet rich in antioxidants, use skin care products that are rich in antioxidants. Colorado Aromatics uses herbs that are rich in complex antioxidant polyphenols to help repair skin damage.

Use Mild Exfoliation. Mild exfoliation can help brighten skin by removing the outer layer of dead skin cells and pigmentation. This can help your moisturizer work better by improving its penetration. It can also help reduce hyperpigmentation and that leathery appearance caused by too much sun. Too much exfoliation, however, can damage the skin barrier function and lead to redness and inflammation (so go easy).

Hydrate. Moisture must reach the skin from both the inside and outside. Drinking water is vital to staying hydrated. Use a good moisturizer topically such as Springtide Face Cream to moisturize from the outside and keep the epithelium moist. A good moisturizer is a balance of water and oil to both hydrate and hold that water to your skin and protect the barrier function of your skin.

And don’t forget your neck, chest and hands; they are exposed to the elements as well.

Being outdoors helps us regenerate and relax. Don’t let your skin care concerns keep you from enjoying the outdoors.  Good skin care is not a luxury but something to consider on a daily basis. Colorado Aromatics Cultivated Skin Care products are formulated by a biochemist and herbalist who understands skin physiology.

Hiking the Superstitions

I spent some formative years in Arizona going to college at NAU and became quite attached to the desert and the canyons. I don’t get back there often so when I heard the 2017 United States Lavender Conference would be held in Phoenix I was elated! The conference was a great time to reconnect with lavender friends I’ve made over the years, gain some knowledge and share some knowledge. But hiking was another highlight of the trip.

Peralta Trail Head Superstitions

I was backpacking in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix years ago and wanted to revisit those mountains; an easy drive from Phoenix. Finding maps and hikes online proved difficult. Since we got into Phoenix (an easy flight from Denver) in the afternoon and had plenty of time to do something, we drove east towards Apache Junction. There we  saw signs to the Lost Dutchman’s State Park (not a park when I had last been there) up highway 88. We had just enough time to hike Treasure Loop at the base of the Flatirons. The views of the desert stretching out were spectacular and I had a hard time grasping how green it was due to recent rains.

After two days sitting at the Conference I was ready to get out and explore some more. This time we went to Peralta Trail which is out highway 60 just past the little town of Gold Canyon. Peralta Road is a dirt road that heads into the Superstition mountains. There were places along that road with many cars so there must be other attractions there including people camping off the road. When we got there the parking lot was full and we had to park further away in the overflow parking.

But the trail, oh the trail, what views there were.  So many different types of cacti, and such dense growth. Saguaros so incredibly tall. The trail was quite steep and we were climbing almost all the time.

Peralta TrailI learned that the tall pillar rocks that surrounded the canyon are called hoodoos. The trail goes 2.5 miles to Freemont saddle where there is an overview of Weaver’s Needle. We hiked a little around the saddle on Cave Trail before going back down. Enjoy the pictures here.

Hoodoos

Weavers Needle

I ran out of water on the way down. Something I should have known better about having hiked in Arizona before. I also wished I’d taken more sturdy hiking boots with me with ankle support rather than my low tops. I was at least glad to have my lip balm and Knuckle Balm with me. None the less, it was great to be back in the desert canyons hiking! We might plan more winter trips to Arizona for hiking in the future. Do you have a favorite place you travel to to hike?

Should I use Coconut Oil on my Face?

Using coconut Oil on the face seems to be a ‘fad’ right now. We often get customers and clients who ask about its use. I do not recommend that people use just coconut oil on their face for several reasons.

coconuts

Coconut oil consists of triglycerides that are mainly composed of short and medium chain fatty acids such as lauric acid. Lauric acid has 12 carbons. There is nothing innately wrong with lauric acid and it has benefits for the skin, but your skin needs so much more than JUST lauric acid.

An important part of the skin barrier function is the matrix of lipids (including fatty acids) found in the stratum corneum (outer layer of the epidermis).  The skin barrier functions to protect the skin from water loss, and to protect the body from the outer environment.   Linoleic acid, an 18 carbon fatty acid found in olive oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil and rice bran oil is an important component of the skin barrier system and has been found to help relieve dry skin. Palmitoleic acid found in macadamia nut oil has 16 carbons. It too plays an important part in the integrity of skin. A variety of longer chain fatty acids that are not found in coconut oil are crucial for the the integrity of the skin.

Coconut oil does not provide moisture to the skin as some people think.  Moisture means water. An oil alone, such as coconut, can help trap water in the skin but it cannot add water or moisture to the skin. Only water can do that. A good moisturizer is the perfect combination of water to hydrate and oil to help moisture stay in the skin – but you need both.

Coconut oil has fewer sterols and phenolics that act as antioxidants, compared to other oils such as sunflower and rice bran oil.

Coconut oil also has a lower level of vitamin e (tocopherols) compared to other oils.

Coconut oil is considered comodegenic. This means that it clogs pores and makes it particularly harmful for acneic skin but can cause any skin type to become congested.

Just as we are encouraged by nutritionists to eat a wide variety of foods for proper nutrition and functioning of our body in whole, it is just as important to give a variety of nutrients to our skin. This can be done by using a product that contains a variety of different plant based oils as well as added nutrients.

We of course recommend Springtide Face cream with rice bran oil, olive oil, raspberry seed oil and meadowfoam oils. Or if you prefer an all oil product, try Parsley Eye Serum with olive oil, sea buckthorn oil and Macadamia nut oil. This way you are getting a variety of fatty acids, as well as added antioxidants delivered to your skin.

 

Hiking Milner Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fall has got to be my favorite time of year. As the busy farming season slows down it give me a little free time to get to the mountains more. My goal was to drive across Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park before the road closed for the season. Trail Ridge Road goes through Rocky Mountain Park, covering 48 miles almost from Estes Park to Grand Lake. The elevation of the road peaks at 12,183 feet with more than eight miles lying above 11,000 feet. It offers some incredible mountain views. Because of the elevation and the difficulty in removing snow from the road, it closes when the weather makes passage difficult. It may be closed today as I write this because we had snow this morning so I was glad to have been able to make the drive on Monday.

We stopped at the Alpine Visitors Station, for bathrooms and the view. This picture is of Mummy Range off the back deck of the Visitors Center, well above tree line.

rmnp10_16alpinecentercompressed

 

Milner Pass

Continueing on the west side of the Park we came to Milner Pass at 10,759 feet. The trail starts right at Poudre lake. Its a quite steep trail that first goes past some very nice rock formations and continues through the subalpine forest. We took the split to Mt Ida split and hiked a little further. Its a beautiful trail that meanders through some wet areas with views of the Never Summer Range. We didn’t hike far and were completely unprepared for the cold temperatures and light snow. But we were very glad to be able to get out before the weather turned too cold as it is now. It was very dry and I was glad to have my Herbal Relief Lip Balm with me.

Stream at Milner Pass

Summer on the Farm

Summers are quite busy for us here at Colorado Aromatics. We are busy growing, harvesting, drying, processing herbs and getting them on the shelf for storage for making extracts the rest of the year. Many of the herbs though are distilled to make the watery extract sometimes known as a hydrosol and saved that way. We are also busy at Farmers Markets; both Longmont and Boulder. This means that sometimes I forget to keep up with blogging. We have several volunteers that come to the farm and volunteer to whom we are always grateful.

We had a great lavender harvest this year, but looks like the calendula harvest will be minimal. Most of the other 30 herbs we grow are doing well too. While I love farming and being here in our little paradise, farming leaves little time to hike and visit the mountains. Hopefully fall will be more cooperative for our other outdoor activities.

Here are a few pictures of the farm of things other than plants! We added a few new goats and chickens to our farm recently. Credit for the first two go to Gavin Wahl, credit for the chicken goes to Nancy Reaume.

 

20160821_0314

Still

wyandotte

How to do a Facial Massage for Lymph Drainage

A guest post by

Karen Kress, LE

Do you ever feel unusually puffy in the face? Maybe your head feels stuffed up? Excess lymph fluid clogged in your sinus could be the culprit.  If you have ever had a professional facial you may have noticed how light and clear your head is afterwards.  Part of the reason is the lymph draining massage techniques that your aesthetician uses.  In my practice, I have seen the most remarkable change in a person’s look and comfort level after proper lymph drainage. There is nothing better for clearing clogged sinuses due to allergies or a cold!

 

sinuses

Sinuses (credit CFCF – CC BY-SA 3.0)

Since most of us prefer a clear head and sinus, I have laid out the steps for doing a manual lymph drainage massage so you can experiment at home.  A hot shower is the best place to try this technique, as drainage starts and ends with your shoulders and they need to be exposed. It can work just as well wrapped in a towel while applying serums and lotions too.

  1. Assuming you are in the shower – Start with a good quality facial cleanser, cross your arms and massage, in a circular motion, around your shoulder joints with firm pressure. Spend at least one minute massaging each area in a circular motion then firmly stroke down to your arms from each higher starting point.
  2. Next, move to your shoulders, still using a circular motion while you travel toward your neck and then firm strokes towards and down your arms, then circle back up adding the neck and stroke back down to the arms.
  3. Maintain the “circle up, stroke down” pattern while working your jaw bone from chin to ears and your cheeks from ears to nose. Then stroke down to your arms.
  4. Start with small circles around your eyes to loosen and use large strokes around the whole eye area, working from the temples to the nose and all the way down to your arms.
  5. Circle back up to your forehead, ending with your scalp (a good time to shampoo) and stroking and moving the lymph through each area, all the way back down to your arms.

**Note** While we loosen in a circular massage from the bottom up, we drain in stroking motions, reworking each area from the top down.  This is extremely important because you can push loose lymph toward a clog and exacerbate the problem.  The idea is to loosen and move the lymph down away from your head into your arms. Pushing it down the arms is also important so the lymph passes your shoulders, from where it can travel to the heart.

I hope you enjoy your clear, light head!

 

Why Exfoliate

Exfoliation is the process of removing the outer layer of cells from the skin, how much depends on the type of peel. This has several positive results. By removing the dull, dead cells, skin automatically gains a more vibrant glow and smoothness. It also speeds up the renewal of skin cells. And by removing that dead layer of cells your skin care actives are more readily absorbed by skin and are able to do their job better. Exfoliation can help decrease acne and breakouts. improves skin texture, and decrease the appearance of pores. Overall, exfoliation reduces the fine lines and wrinkles on your skin.

Face Mask

There are many degrees of exfoliation and we recommend mild exfoliation. Using a washcloth to wash your face is one mild way of exfoliating.

Two  main categories of exfoliants are chemical exfoliants and mechanical exfoliation.

Mechanical, or physical exfoliation uses particles or roughness to exfoliate or a brush or washcloth.  Examples in our line include our Botanical Salt Scrubs for the body and our Meadow Mist milky cleanser for the face. This cleanser uses jojoba beads. You may have heard of microbeads and their negative effect on the environment. Well, jojoba beads are wax beads, not plastic and are completely natural and biodegradable. Don’t let the product get too hot though as the wax can melt.

Some people like to use salt on the face for exfoliation. If you do, be very gentle. Its better to use  something smoother and rounder on the face such as jojoba beads. But if  you like using a salt scrub, go ahead, just be gentle.

A natural bristle brush is a nice way to exfoliate the face. Again, make sure the brush is wet and be gentle. For your body, try dry brushing before taking a shower.

Clay is another method of mechanical exfoliation and can be used as a mask.

Don’t let the term chemical exfoliation scare you as this can also be very gentle. We recommend alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that are readily found in fruits or beta hydroxy acids which are similar. Fruit enzyme masks are also becoming popular as a relatively gentle means of exfoliation. One fun way to use fruit enzymes is to make fresh fruit masks in the summer. Exfoliation using AHAs can increase your sensitivity to sun so its best to do this type of exfoliating treatment at night. We use fruit acids in our Starbright Mask. Salicylic acid is a good way to exfoliate oily and acne prone skin.

Exfoliation of both body and face can be 1-3 times a week.

Exfoliation, however, can cause negative side effects, the most common of which is dry, irritated and damaged skin. Over exfoliation can damage the barrier function of the skin. This barrier function is important for protecting your skin from environmental assaults, bacterial and fungal attacks and protecting it from loss of water. This skin barrier is the most important function of your skin.

Signs of damaged skin include a tight feeling, sensitivity, irritation, inflammation, redness, and drying. Inflammation can lead to premature aging – the very thing you are trying to delay by exfoliation.

Be more careful of exfoliation if your skin is thin. You might want to exfoliate more if you have clogged pores, congestion, or oily skin or your skin is very sun damaged.

After exfoliation, use a soothing, anti-inflammatory product to help your skin recover. We recommend Springtide Gold.

A deep chemical peel actually is a mild wound that causes the skin to heal. They can be superficial, medium or deep. Superficial peels stay in the epidermis, while deep peels go into the dermis, removing all of the epidermis. These types of peels are done by a medical professional and can use AHAs, beta hydroxy acids, trichloroacetic acid and phenol. The barrier function of the skin is completely removed and the patient is at risk of not only dehydration but also infection and contact dermatitis. Scarring, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation and lines of demarcation can also occur. Sedation is often used for deeper peels because of the pain involved. Some chemical peels can cause scarring and changes in pigmentation; either darker or lighter.

Although mild exfoliation plays an important role in holistic skin care, we feel there are very few clients who can benefit from deep peels.

Why Antioxidant Rich Skin Care?

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds that bind to free oxygen radicals preventing them from damaging healthy cells.

What do free radicals do?

Free Radicals are unstable and cause oxidative damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins in the cells as well as damage to cellular structures including membranes.

Free radicals increase the rate of cellular aging and cause cell death. Free radicals also cause additional free radicals in a cascade like fashion.

Free radicals result in inflammation.

An excess amount of free radicals is called oxidative stress.

rosemary

Rosemary is rich in antioxidants

 

Where do free radicals come from?

Free radicals can come from intrinsic sources meaning inside the body and extrinsic sources meaning outside the body. They are formed naturally by the body through metabolism and increase with increased exercise. Most of the time the body can handle this, but when external factors come into play the stressful environment is more than the bodies natural defenses against free radicals can handle and oxidative stress occurs.

Extrinsic free radicals come from UV light, cigarettes, and pollution. People who spend a lot of time outdoors are exposed to many sources of free radicals.

The skin is particularly subjected to free radical damage because it is constantly exposed to the environment and works to protect the rest of the body. Although getting enough antioxidants in your diet is important for health, it is also necessary to apply them topically so that they benefit the outer layers of skin, the stratum corneum. Skin must constantly be repaired to combat oxidative damage and requires the necessary nutrients and antioxidants to perform this regeneration.

Antioxidants and Regeneration

Oxidative stress leads to accelerated aging of the skin by breaking down proteins including collagen and elastin which leads to wrinkles. Premature aging also decreases the skin’s immunity which can lead to increased risk of infection as well as cancer.

Antioxidants that are made by the body include glutathione, lipoic acid, and CoQ10. Levels of these antioxidants decline with age. Vitamins C and E are not produced by the body and must be obtained from the diet or applied topically to the skin.

Vitamin C content in the skin decreases with age, another reason to look for vitamin C in your skin care. Exposure to UV light, pollutants, cigarette smoke and ozone can also lower vitamin C content, primarily in the epidermis.

Antioxidants to look for in skin care include vitamin C, vitamin E (also known as tocopherols), alpha lipoic acid, green tea extract, and flavonoids. Flavonoids as such will not appear on the label, but are abundant in herb extracts such as calendula, rosemary, parsley, lemon balm, mint and raspberry leaf.

When applied topically, these antioxidants act in the epidermis to help revitalize skin that has been exposed to extrinsic oxidants including UV light (sunlight), elevation, wind and more. For people who love to be outside using antioxidants to combat this is very important. Damage to the epidermis can lead to more severe problems including a break down of the skin’s barrier function. The barrier function not only helps to keep skin moisturized but also helps to keep toxins out of the body.

At Colorado Aromatics we think that using herbs as one of the primary sources of antioxidants in skin care is important for skin health and recovery. Herbs contain a multitude of highly effective antioxidants to reduce the oxidative stress of skin.

 

 

Three Herbs for Skin Care

Why do we use herbs in skin care when there are so many scientific actives to choose from? Herbs are complex chemical factories that are churning out a multitude of their own antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Many of these active compounds in herbs have not even yet been identified, but we know that they do good for our skin. Herbs are also a renewable resource that we grow right here on our own farm. By sourcing in this way you get a more sustainable, farm to skin product. Herbs grown at higher elevation such as in Colorado are thought to be richer in aroma and active ingredients. Our herbs are grown under the watchful eyes of Long’s Peak and Mount Meeker that rise in the distance.

Some of our favorite herbs to use in skin care include:Calendula Basket

Calendula (Calendula officinalis). This small orange flower produces a resin that has been found to stimulate wound healing; part of the mechanism involves increased collagen production. Calendula is rich in vitamin A related components (carotenoids) which benefit skin. It has often been used for treating skin problems such as dermatitis and eczema. Calendula also provides a n abundant number of antioxidants which can help reduce skin damage caused by the environment, it is especially useful for dry and damaged skin. You can find calendula extract in Springtide Face Cream, Oasis Spray Lotion,  Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion,  Knuckle Balm, and Sole Pleasure Foot Butter. Calendula is an annual that we plant each summer and harvest throughout the summer.

Mint (Mentha x piperita). Mint is such an fresh and uplifting scent, and has a cooling feeling on the skin or when eaten. The menthol is mint also has pain relieving qualities which is why we use it in our Herbal Foot Soak. Mint contains antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin C, and B-complex as well as vitamin-K. Mint is toning to the skin and is great for hair as well. You’ll find mint in our Mint Lip Balm, Angel Falls Shampoo, Botanical Salt Scrubs,  Sole Pleasure Foot Butter, Chalk Creek Deodorant Powder, Oasis Spray Lotion and Clear Creek Hand and Body Cleanser. Mint is a perennial and comes back strong every year without replanting. Each year our mint patch gets a little bigger which is good because each year we need a little more. We also distill mint for the hydrosol to use as a facial mister.

mint

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis and Lavandin x intermedia). Lavender is by far my favorite herb to grow and it’s beauty and aroma are captivating. Lavender is a great crop for the typically dry climate of Colorado. Lavender is a very calming and anti-anxiety herb, for the nervous system as well as for the skin. Its great in a spa experience as it helps a person relax. Most of what we know about lavender is it’s aromatherapy benefits but it is helpful for most skin types but especially on dry and inflammed skin. Lavender also provides antioxidants to the skin.  Products that contain lavender include Allure Lip Balm, Angel Falls Shampoo, Chalk Creek Powder, Lavender Rose Body Oil, Botanical Salt Scrubs, Lavender Scented Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion, Coolness Aftershave Lotion and Herbal Foot Soak. We also distill lavender to make lavender water for use as a face mister.

lavender_cut Lavender is a perennial that comes back each year. It doesn’t spread like the mint does, and we plant more and more lavender each year. The past few years, our area has gotten much more rainfall than normal which has caused some problems for our lavender and many have died.

We grow over 30 different herbs for use in our Colorado Aromatics Cultivated Skin Care Line.  We’ll let you know about more of them in another blog post.