My top 10 picks for your skin’s winter survival kit

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         So we’ve survived the first month of winter. Barely. Between the snowstorms, weather extremes, and indoor heating, are you finding that your skin is now dry no matter what you do?

Want to know an effective way to keep your skin well hydrated during our harsh Canadian winters?

Oil. Yep, oil.

A few years ago, while working for a few weeks in Banff, I experienced some of the harshest and driest climate I’ve ever been exposed to. No matter how much water I drank and organic creams & lotions I used, my skin was still dry.

Thankfully I brought my favorite oils with me (along with my parka!) in case my skin needed extra help against the -40°C temperatures and the extreme dryness the region is well known for. I mixed some of the carrier oils with a blend of essential oils and lavished this on my face and body as often as I could. And it worked!

Using oils on your skin, especially on your face may seem like a recipe for breakouts, particularly for those with oily or mixed skins, but if you use the right oil combinations and blends, you can survive winter with beautiful, glowing skin.

 

Here are my picks of the top 10 oils for skin hydration: 5 carrier oils & 5 essential oils.

For easy do-it-yourself home remedies, use any of the oils on the following list in combination, by mixing the carrier oils with your choice of essential oils.

Use a ratio of 10 drops of essential oils for every 50 ml of the carrier oils.

 

CARRIER OILS:

  1. Jojoba carrier oil:

Jojoba oil is a liquid wax, extracted from the beans of the jojoba plant. It mimics and dissolves sebum, the fatty substance produced by the body to protect the skin.

This is important because acne is caused by the over production of sebum. Adding Jojoba to the mix will not only hydrate the skin, but also help prevent breakouts. It is very stable, which is ideal if you want your mix to have a longer shelf life.

Can be used at a 100% ratio in your mix.

 

  1. Apricot Kernel carrier oil:

If you are looking for a silky-smooth carrier oil that is easily absorbed by the skin without leaving it feeling oily, look no further.

Apricot oil has a lovely light texture and is wonderful for mature skin, prematurely aging skin, and dry or sensitive skin. I find it leaves my skin feeling silky and well hydrated. It is mostly used as a facial oil and has a long shelf life.

Can be used at a 100% ratio in your mix.

 

  1. Sweet Almond carrier oil:

Sweet almond is a lovely oil to work with. It penetrates well into the skin while softening, soothing, and re-conditioning. It contains mono & polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins A, B1, B2 & B6, as well as a small amount of vitamin E, which will help it from going rancid too quickly.

Sweet almond oil is a wonderful choice for dry and itchy skin.

Can be used at a 100% ratio in your mix.

 

  1. Macadamia Nut carrier oil:

Macadamia nut oil is one of my favorite anti-aging oils. It is to be used as an addition only, but well worth adding it to the mix because it contains palmitoleic acid, an essential fatty acid found in sebum (the fatty substance produced by the body to protect the skin), especially the sebum of infants, children and teenagers. Because its presence diminishes as we age, adding macadamia nut oil becomes very beneficial for mature skins. It doesn’t clog the pores while also providing a barrier against moisture loss.

Can be used at a 5-10% ratio in your mix.

 

  1. Calendula carrier oil:

Calendula oil is known as “pot of marigold”, and is extracted from the flower heads of the plant. It has a reputation as a wonderful skin-healing oil, and has been used in ointments and tinctures for centuries. It is well known for its ability to protect against dry, chapped and cracked skin. It is to be used as an addition only.

Can be used at a 25% ratio in your mix.

 

ESSENTIAL OILS:

(Important note: Please consult a health care professional if pregnant, breastfeeding, on medications or homeopathic remedies before using any essential oils).

 

  1. Rose Otto essential oil (For the face – high-end):

Known as the queen of essential oils, Rose Otto is soothing to all skin types. It is highly regarded as being especially effective with acne, dry sensitive skin, mature skin, wrinkles, and broken capillaries. Its toning and soothing effects make this essential oil a wonderful skin healer as Rose Otto is regarded as a powerful skin rejuvenator.

Because it is so expensive, it is often sold at a 10% dilution (10% Rose Otto, 90% Jojoba). This is a good option and can be used in your oils at the same ratio even if you buy it diluted

 

  1. Neroli essential oil (For the face – high-end):

Neroli is renowned for its cytophylactic (cell-regenerative) properties. It is excellent for stimulating cell growth and cellular activity, and is therefore very helpful in rejuvenating and regenerating the skin. Neroli is also considered to be wonderful for treating acne, dry, devitalized, oily, and mature skins. It is also highly sought-after for improving elasticity, fighting broken capillaries on the skin and preventing permanent scarring, making this essential oil ideal for both young and mature skins alike. If you’ve never heard of Neroli, it is produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree.

Neroli is also sold at a 10% dilution because of its high cost.

 

  1. Carrot seed essential oil (For the face & body – mid-range cost):

Carrot seed oil is one of my favorite oils for anti-aging and skin healing. It is known for reducing or preventing wrinkles and for its regenerative powers, particularly after severe burns. It is a good addition to a blend for treating and healing scars.

 

  1. Lavender essential oil (For the face & body – more affordable):

Lavender not only has a wonderfully soothing scent but it is also known as a remarkable healer & balancer. It is considered to be incredibly versatile & adaptable for all skin types and skin problems. It is highly regarded for possessing cell-regenerating properties and is well known for healing sunburns or burns of any kind. This is a wonderful oil to use for all ages and skin types.

 

  1. Sweet-Orange essential oil (For the face & body – most affordable):

Sweet-Orange essential oil is regarded as useful for dull and oily skin, while its renowned cell-regenerating and hydrating properties work well on wrinkles & dry skin. It is also considered helpful with puffiness, strengthening to the epidermis, stimulating to circulation and melanocyte development (the cells capable of producing melanin) and calming to skin gland function. This is another wonderful oil to use for all ages and skin types.

 

TIPS on how to oil the skin:

Face:  

Massage the oils gently, until they start to penetrate. Let this settle in the skin for 30 minutes before applying your favorite organic facial creams.

Body:

Dermatologists warn against the use of hot water because of its drying effect on the skin, but I’ve always failed miserably at my attempts to bathe or shower in lukewarm water. When I’m freezing, I want hot water. So while it is excellent advice, I can’t very well expect anyone to follow it if I can’t.

Here’s a compromise: take shorter showers and baths, and follow the methods listed below. They work!

(1) Baths:

In a bath, add 2 tablespoons of the oil mix to your bath water. A lovely residue will cover your skin and it will look radiant. If you find you need even more hydration, either add more oil next time, or apply the oil mix prior to entering the bath, massaging lightly to help its absorption. When toweling off, dab, don’t rub.

(2) Showers:

Try both of these methods to see which suits you best:

(a) Apply the oil mix before entering the shower, massaging lightly to help its absorption.

(b) Slather on the oil mix after washing, away from the water flow. Either stop the water or turn the showerhead away. Massage briefly and then rinse lightly. When toweling off, dab, don’t rub.

I highly recommend attaching a shower filter to the showerhead. There are quite a few affordable ones available now. The one I use is from Santevia.ca and was under $40.

 

Always choose organic oils and soaps. Harsh chemicals in soaps can strip the natural oils from the outer protective layer of your skin and dry it out more than any hot shower can.

Essential oils should be therapeutic grade. Make sure to look for the following on the labels: the Latin name, country of origin and whether it is classified as certified organic, organic, wildcrafted, or unsprayed, otherwise it is not therapeutic grade, and could be a false chemical replica.

A final note on skin hydration: when applying the oils, if they are absorbed too quickly, it’s your body’s way of telling you that you are dehydrated. Your body is literally drinking in the oils.

In the winter I find it difficult to drink water, so I hydrate with organic herbal teas or soups, juicing and smoothies. I dilute the juices & smoothies with water and that does the trick for me!

Wising everyone happy, well hydrated skin!

 

(NOTE: Essential oils are for external use only. Always consult your health care professional if pregnant, breastfeeding, on medications or homeopathic remedies before using any essential oil products. Keep out of reach of children and pets, especially cats and birds. NEVER use essential oils on cats or birds.)

Michèle

Michèle is a passionate advocate for healthy living and organics. A lifelong vegetarian, vegan for the last 3 years, organics enthusiast and environmentalist, she loves sharing with others her knowledge of all that is good for humans and the planet. Empowering people to make the best health choices for themselves is her passion.  She developed her own line of organic skincare and founded Michèle’s Organics, a company for those who, like her, needed more transparency, honesty and integrity when buying products. Michèle is a certified aromatologist, actor and a self-proclaimed ingredients list expert!
You can follow Michèle on twitter and facebook. Her products can be found  on michelesorganics.com.

Organic perfumery: My Sexiest Essential Oil Picks for DIY Perfumes!

By Michèle Duquet

Featured photographer: Colette Stevenson
(Click here to visit Colette’s website; click photo for larger view)

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Ahhh spring! It has finally arrived, and there is definitely something in the air!

Our senses seem suddenly reawakened by the freshness of its enticing bouquet. With its perfect blend of scents and sensuality, what better time than spring to explore the seductive allure of essential oil elixirs.

One of my great passions is creating essential oil blends for organic perfumes.

Essential oil perfumery is such a sensuous art form. It involves all the senses… even the intuition… and the heart. Like a beautiful song, the right blend can make my soul sing.

A lot goes into blending and building a scent bouquet, drop by drop, harmonizing the notes, listening with the heart and ‘nose’, journaling every detail and nuance, then knowing when to let it rest, age, like a fine wine.

It is where art meets organic chemistry with an entrancing sprinkle of je ne sais quoi.

Now before I get too carried away, I first need to introduce you to the concept of “Notes”.

 

Notes:

Notes are the building blocks of any captivating blend. These are grouped into to 3 categories: Base, Middle and Top notes.

To understand how notes function in a perfume blend, think of them in terms of which scent you smell first. Those are the top notes. Let a bit of time pass, and a secondary scent appears. These are the mid or middle notes. And finally, after the mid notes seem to settle, a final scent emerges. These are the base notes, or a mix of the base and mid notes that remain as your main scent.

The basic science behind it is the size of the molecules and the rate at which they evaporate. The faster they evaporate, the quicker we can smell them.

The notes are also known as head (top), heart (mid) and base (I like to think of these as the connection to our sensuality). I love the notes seen through this imagery. Very romantic!

So let’s get you started on creating your very own enchanting bouquet!

Here are my sexiest picks for each category:

 

Base notes:

 

To start building a blend, always begin with your base notes. Think of these as your ‘fixatives’, the notes that will grab hold of the mid and top notes, enhancing the whole bouquet while giving it its depth.

1. Vetiver:
This is a very common base note you’ll find in many perfumes. It has a beautiful velvety touch when creating a perfume blend. One of my absolute favorite base notes.

2. Sandalwood:
I love the scent of sandalwood, such a sensual sexy scent. It isn’t very strong as a base note, but what it lacks in strength, it more than makes up in sexiness. It can literally make me weak in the knees!

3. Patchouli:
What?? Oh no not patchouli! I know, I hear you, but you’ll have to trust me on this one, it is a fantastic base note. A little goes a long way. You might not even be able to detect it in your blend, but the result will amaze you. It has a way of mixing with the mid and top notes that can turn a simple 5 essential oil blend into a rich complex and sophisticated scent. But ok, if you really hate patchouli, just go for vetiver.

4. Balsam de Peru:
This essential oil is special on its own in that it is already textured and layered with a soft vanilla undertone and a hint of cinnamon. But its richness and warmth, along with its ability to fix floral mid and top notes, makes it a beautiful base note to any perfume blend.

 

Middle notes:

 

The important role of the mid notes is as the heart of the perfume. It also helps to soften some of the stronger or even more unpleasant side of some base notes (Myrrh is a good example of this).

Before determining which mid notes you will choose, you’ll first need to determine which mix well with the base notes you’ve selected.

Here are a few of my favorites followed by which essential oils they combine well with (I’ve only listed those that are among today’s picks).

Use these combination lists when you choose your top notes as well.

 

1. Rose:
Rose otto or rose absolute. This essential oil, known as the queen of essential oils, is a powerful aphrodisiac. It has a rich and enveloping scent, undeniably sensual. Unfortunately, it is also very pricy. If you find one that is inexpensive, it’s not an essential oil but rather a chemical or synthetic replica made in a lab. A few milliliters should cost over $100. I include it here because it is one of my favorite essential oils for perfumery. I am positively mesmerized by its sensuality… its delicate yet rapturous scent transports me to a world of love and beauty like no other. Oops! Getting carried away again – did I mention that it’s a powerful aphrodisiac!
    Rose blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood and balsam de peru. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, geranium rose, jasmine, mandarin, neroli, and ylang ylang.

2. Neroli:
Neroli comes from the blossom of the orange tree. Many of you might not be familiar with it but it is a most delicate and intricate scent. In aromatherapy it is known to fight depression. It is a scent I am quite certain I can never live without. It has a delicate flower aroma, offering instant freshness. It reaches me deep in my soul every time I smell it.
 Neroli blends well with the base notes of sandalwood and patchouli. It also combines well with carnation absolute, geranium rose, jasmine, lavender, mandarin, sweet-orange, rose and ylang ylang.

3. Geranium rose:
This floral scent is reminiscent of an English garden. It is fresh and instantly uplifting. It has a lightness of spirit that seems to grab your attention in a most delightful and surprising way.
 Geranium rose blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, jasmine, lavender, mandarin, sweet-orange, rose and ylang ylang.

4. Jasmine:
We cannot talk of sexy oils without mentioning Jasmine. Rich and exotic, it is a heavier mid note than the others, so I find I use it as a base/mid note that combines well with a light fruity top note like mandarin. It is known as the king of essential oils and is another powerful aphrodisiac. What a mood it creates!
Jasmine blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, geranium rose, mandarin, neroli, sweet-orange, rose and ylang ylang.

5. Ylang Ylang:
Ylang ylang is another essential oil classified as an aphrodisiac. It has a very distinct floral scent, and can be quite a strong addition to your blend, so start by adding only one drop at a time. I find it balances very well with base notes because its scent is so ‘heady’.
    Ylang Ylang blends well with the base notes of vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli and balsam de peru. It also combines well with bergamot, carnation absolute, jasmine, mandarin, sweet-orange and rose.

 

Top notes:


Top notes are what will form your initial impression of a perfume, so keeping this in mind, ask yourself what are your preferences. Do you prefer a floral scent or a citrus scent? Citrus oils are often used as top notes but there are also some deliciously exotic floral scents, as you’ll see!

1. Bergamot:
Bergamot is used a great deal in perfumes because it blends well with so many essential oils. It has a lovely light citrus scent without being too lemony. It is a more mature bouquet than the other citrus scents, and as a top note, it is a delightful first impression while your senses await the rest of the blend to travel with the mix.

2. Mandarin:
Mandarin has a more distinctive citrus flavor than other citrus essential oils like lemon or sweet-orange. I find it both richer and more robust than the others. As such, I like to blend it with stronger mid and base notes like jasmine and vetiver.

3. Orange-Sweet:
Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh oranges! Nothing like inhaling that zesty burst of freshness. It can be a fun and lively way to top off your blend. Although this might sound counter-intuitive, I don’t recommend mixing it with mandarin, rather try blending it with bergamot instead.

4. Lavender:
Have you ever brushed against lavender flowers, accidentally experiencing the soft and calming fragrance? During my summer walks with my dog Roxy I cannot resist passing my hands over the lavender flowers I encounter along the way. This same effect is what I look for when mixing lavender into my blends. A hint of it is all I need. It is especially lovely with roman chamomile, although chamomile is not on today’s list.
My main reason for listing lavender is that it is known as an enhancer. A single drop of lavender in a synergy will enhance all the other oils. As an experiment, after your perfume is complete, add a single drop of lavender to enhance the blend’s olfactory and aromatherapeutic properties.

5. Carnation Absolute:
Ahhh at last, carnation absolute. Its rich scent is a striking blend of floral, spicy, honey and clove notes. It is expensive, but a little goes a long way. As soon as you open the bottle and sample its lavish scent for the first time, you will never forget it. It has nuances of the carnation flower, but only slightly as the flower itself has a much weaker and simpler scent. Even if it’s not in your perfumery budget, ask to sample its scent at the store, you are in for a treat!


Step-by-step ‘How TO’ blending tips:

What you’ll need:
– A journal for your perfume blend trial entries
– 5 ml dark bottle with a dropper
– Essential oils grouped in base/mid/top notes
– Jojoba carrier oil
– A small bowl of coffee beans

VIP! ….. Write everything down! Nothing like discovering an amazing scent blend only to be unable to replicate it.

Ensure that you are working in a well-ventilated area, and take frequent breaks by stepping outside for some fresh air. Otherwise you may end up feeling a wee bit too ‘euphoric’, or unable to distinguish one scent from another.

Between each smelling test you do with the essential oils, make sure it’s then followed by smelling the coffee beans. This will prevent each individual scent from losing its perceived odor intensity between your scent sampling. If only air is smelled between samplings, the odor intensity will decrease.

Ever wondered why there’s always a bowl of coffee beans next to the essential oils display in health food stores? Now you know!

 

The “lab” work:

(Here’s a photo I took of some my perfumery tests. Each number’s detail is noted in my perfumery journal, along with my impressions of the scent as it grows and changes)

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(1) In a clean dark 5ml bottle, add 1 drop each of your base note choices. You can choose more than one*.


(2) Add your mid note choices: add 1 drop of your mid-note choices in the same bottle, once you’ve decided on a combination you like*.


(3) Using the same method (*), decide on which top note you feel most attracted to and add 1 drop of each to your blend.


(4) Cap it and roll it in your hands vertically in a quick back & forth motion for about 30 seconds. This heats the mix slightly, just enough for you to get a better first impression.


(5) Open the bottle and smell your blend by waving it back & forth under your nose.


(6) As you smell, decide if there is anything missing, or any scent you’d like to add.


(7) Add 1 or 2 drops of these essential oils. They can come from any note group, even a base note if you feel the blend needs more grounding.


(8) Cap it and put it aside without opening it for a few hours. When you smell it again after this rest, see if you’d like to add anything else. Don’t forget to write everything down!

 

*A little trick I sometimes use is to simply open each essential oil bottle and ‘wave’ them together under your nose to pre-sample them together.

 

Bottling your potion:

Now that you’ve fallen in love with your blend, you are ready to amplify it and add a carrier oil to it.

(1) Multiply each drop you’ve chosen by 5 for a light blend, or 10 for a stronger blend. For example, a blend of 2 drops of sandalwood, 1 of jasmine, and 4 of mandarin, will have 10/5/20 drops when multiplied by 5, and 20/10/40 drops when multiplied by 10.


(2) Fill the rest of your bottle with jojoba carrier oil. Cap it tightly and store it in a dark place, away from the sun and heat.


(3) Try leaving it unopened for a few days, but if you can’t resist, go ahead and start using it!

 

Voilà! Congratulations, you’ve just created you very own personalized organic perfume!

An organic perfumer’s secret: essential oil perfumes only last a few hours on the skin, so just use a few drops of essential oil perfume on the inner seams of your darker clothes and the scent will last until the next wash!

Don’t be surprised if everyone wants to know what perfume you’re wearing… just tell them Michèle showed you how to DIY!

 

(NOTE: Essential oils are for external use only. Always consult your health care professional if pregnant, breastfeeding, on medications or homeopathic remedies before using any essential oil products. Keep out of reach of children and pets, especially cats and birds. NEVER use essential oils on cats or birds.)

Michèle

Michèle is a passionate advocate for healthy living and organics. A lifelong vegetarian, organics enthusiast and environmentalist, she loves sharing with others her knowledge of all that is good for humans and the planet. Empowering people to make the best health choices for themselves is her passion.  She developed her own line of organic skincare and founded Michèle’s Organics, a company for those who, like her, needed more transparency, honesty and integrity when buying products. Michèle is a certified aromatologist, actor and a self-proclaimed ingredients list expert!
You can follow Michèle on twitter and facebook. Her products can be found  on michelesorganics.com.