Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cherry, Coconut, and Dark Chocolate Lip Gloss

Another fun thing I did for Christmas this year was experiment with making my own lip gloss.  To make lip balm, you really need things like beeswax...which I did not have on hand and didn't want to spend money buying.  However, making lip gloss is a whole different story!  The base for lip gloss is petroleum jelly, which is cheaper, and is also something I happened to already have on hand. 

Fun side-note, petroleum jelly
fluoresces under a blacklight!
Petroleum jelly is not only good for soothing dry, chapped, or flaky skin (including lips!), it is also good for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  It helps the skin to retain moisture and can minimize or even prevent scarring if applied to wounds. (Which is particularly good for this post if your lips split in the winter like mine do!)

The first time I made petroleum jelly lip gloss, I got a little over excited with the flavor combo.  I started off wanting to do a dark chocolate flavor because I had some dark cocoa powder in my cabinet.  Then I wanted to add some cherry flavor to it....then I thought it needed coconut too!  I didn't realize it at the time, but there were some great benefits to each of these ingredients.

First, let's discuss the dark cocoa powder.  This ingredient contains a wide variety of antioxidants that promote healthy cellular function, giving it anti-aging properties.  It also contain an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent known as epicatechin.

The cherry extract is apparently rich in vitamin C and contains a great deal of antioxidants.  This provides anti-aging benefits while also reducing pain and inflammation. (Great if your lips are painfully dry like mine get around Christmas!) It also boosts the production of collagen and elastin as well as increases the body's ability to retain moisture.

The coconut extract also helps the skin retain moisture. It also helps to actually moisturize skin as well.  It's also ideal for people who have sensitive or easily irritated skin.

Here's how to make this luscious lip treat for yourself or someone else that you love!

Cherry, Coconut, and Dark Chocolate Lip Gloss
1 Tbsp. Petroleum Jelly
1 tsp. Dark Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp. Cherry Extract
1/4 tsp. Coconut Extract

1) Melt the petroleum jelly in a microwave-safe bowl for about 2 minutes or until it is completely liquid.

2) Stir in all other ingredients mixing well to avoid your gloss being too gritty. You may want to add more extract if you want a stronger flavor/scent.

3) Pour into desired containers such as cosmetic pots, empty lip gloss tubes (not sure how well these work), or my favorite, cleaned contact cases that I get free when I order new contacts.

4) Allow gloss to set for 2 hours, then seal with lids and enjoy at will!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lemon Skin Smoother

Another Christmas-Is-Possible creation from last month was a lemon skin smoother.  This is a special body scrub made with sugar that has fabulous results with regard to leaving your skin silky smooth.  It is intended to be used specifically for the legs, but I've used it in other places and had good results.

This recipe starts with your basic body scrub ingredients like sugar and EVOO or Baby Oil.  To learn about why these ingredients are used, click HERE.

The lemon juice in this recipe is full of vitamin C and citric acid, both of which help to brighten dull skin, reduce the appearance of scars, and exfoliate.  Lemon juice is also a natural astringent and a natural skin bleach (reduces the appearance of blotches and freckles).

I haven't tried this with lime juice, but I'm sure it would still be awesome and I'd imagine the properties would be similar.  I have, however tested this myself using lemon juice and baby oil, and let me just tell you, it will leave your legs feeling amazing!

Here's how to make it:

Lemon (or Lime!) Skin Smoother
1 & 1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Baby Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
*~*I prefer the Baby Oil, but either works great!*~*
3 Tbsp. Lemon (or Lime) Juice

1) Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To Use: Apply to skin using a circular motion while in the shower.

*~*For super silky legs*~*
Use scrub in the shower before shaving (rinse well!),
shave your legs, and then use the scrub a second time.

Instant Coffee Body Scrub

 Let me start by saying that I am, admittedly, a coffee snob.  I have never purchased instant coffee, and I certainly do not keep it on hand in my kitchen.  (Working for Starbucks for 4 years will have that affect.)  However, I was helping my major professor clean out what was left at a house where a visiting scholar had lived last semester a few weeks before Christmas.  Among the treasures that made their way home with me from that trip was a jar of instant coffee granules.  I wasn't too keen on using the coffee, but I thought the jar would be useful for putting some protein poppers in as a Christmas present.  Although I didn't want to drink the coffee, I hated just throwing it out, so I did a little research and found that it has some health benefit as an ingredient in skin-care products! Who would have thought?!

I ran across a nifty recipe, which I used to make a body scrub for a friend who used to work with me at Starbucks years ago and then worked with me a biology grad student.  (I hope she liked it!) I made this scrub for her primarily because of the fact that it contained coffee, but there are some neat health benefits that came along with it!

First of all, if you haven't read at least part of my post on basic body scrubs, you should! Here's a link if you feel like making your way over there!  Building Basic Body Scrubs

Okay, so now that you know why we use sugar and EVOO in the recipe that follows, let's just hit on some of the other benefits.  We will start with the coffee since I've already talked so much about it! Like sugar and salt, instant coffee granules are good exfoliates. (Keep in mind that because they are coarse, they are not really good for sensitive areas such as the face, neck, or decollete.) Coffee applied to the skin can stimulate circulation, which can reduce the appearance of varicose veins.  It is also said to help reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Another good ingredient in this recipe is cinnamon.  Not only does this make the scrub smell delicious, it also has antibacterial properties.  Ground cinnamon is another good exfoliate. 

This recipe doesn't call for it, but you could also add some ground nutmeg if you wanted to add something with anti-inflammatory properties guessed it...a good exfoliate.  Another good-smelling ingredient to play around with adding to this recipe would be vanilla extract.  This ingredient is full of antioxidants that promote collagen development, giving it anti-aging properties.  It is also another good anti-inflammatory and it has cleansing properties that help in the fight against acne.  So, if you are making this scrub and you have problems with back acne, maybe add a little vanilla to help out with that issue! (I wish I had known that when I worked at Starbucks...the oils from all the coffee would soak into your shirt and could sometimes cause your back to break out.  Especially if you had worked hard all day and produced sweat that mixed with those oils!)

Final point in case, this is a relatively cheap body scrub to make.  Not as cheap as one of the more basic scrubs of course, but certainly cheaper than a commercial coffee body scrub.  Just by doing a quick Google search of 'coffee body scrub' you come up with little tubs of scrubs that cost between $24.00 and $32.00! If you are anything like me, the only thing you would have to buy for this is the instant coffee granules. (And maybe you even keep that on hand, so you wouldn't have to buy anything at all!)  Even if you DID have to buy everything on the ingredient list below, I don't think you'd spend that much for so little product.  Plus, there's lots you can do with left over EVOO, sugar, and cinnamon...not so much you can do with store-bought coffee scrub except...well, use it as a coffee scrub!

Here is the recipe you've been waiting for:

Coffee Body Scrub
2 cups Instant Coffee Granules
2 cups Sugar
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon

1) Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and then store in an airtight container.

To Use: Apply to skin using a circular motion while in the shower.  (The circular motion is important when using coffee granules!) Let the scrub sit on the skin for 5 minutes before rinsing off.

Building Basic Body Scrubs

Another product of my Christmas-Is-Possible mission was my new-found ability to create body scrubs.  What a delightful gift for those that love to be pampered! (And let's face it, who doesn't love to be pampered?!)  Body scrubs differ from typical body washes in that they are full of exfoliates. Sure, some body washes market themselves with having exfoliating beads, but body scrubs are used almost exclusively for their exfoliating properties.

Raw Sugar
The basic homemade body scrub comes in one of two forms: the sugar scrub or the salt scrub.  Both can be easily made at home using ingredients that you probably have lying around anyway.  For the sugar scrub, one can use raw sugar, white (granulated) sugar, or brown sugar. Each has their own, unique properties.  If you are looking to make a product for selling, I would suggest the raw sugar.

  *Fun Fact*: Raw sugar is the most pure form of sugar cane and gets its color from the natural molasses within the coarse granules.  White sugar is made from further processing sugar cane past the raw sugar stage.  To make brown sugar, white sugar is re-infused with molasses.
White Sugar
Back to body scrubs.  Using raw sugar will also make your products last longer, and it is more coarse making it a better exfoliant (to some extent) than the other sugar types.  However, all sugar types contain glycolic acid, which is an "alpha-hydroxy" (a component you have probably heard from a skin care product commercial).  This acid conditions and moisturizes skin by restoring balance to the natural oils found within it.  This alpha-hydroxy also helps to stimulate collagen production, giving it anti-aging properties.  Sugar won't clog pores, but will help to reduce blemishes.

Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is a little more gentle on your skin than raw sugar or white sugar, so if you are having issues of any kind with irritation, I'd switch to using this type.  Brown sugar is also a source of B vitamins, which help to both prevent and to reverse the signs of photoaging.  Photoaging is caused by UV ray damage from sun exposure.

The other type of scrub is based in salt rather than in sugar. For a salt scrub, one can use coarse salts like kosher salt, epsom salt, or sea salt, or one can use fine table salt.  In general, salts are great at reducing inflammation, acting as exfoliates, reducing stress, detoxifying, increasing circulation, softening skin, and working as antiseptics.

Table Salt
Table salt is derived from underground mining of salt deposits. After being processed, commercial table salts are typically mixed with calcium silicate to prevent clumping.  Some websites describe using table salt regularly, others advocate periodic use, and still others say to never use it at all.  Because it is fine, it makes for a decent exfoliate for washes than need to be gentle for areas such as the face. The nice thing about table salt is that it is readily available in most households and it's cheap.  The downside of table salt is that it can really dry out your skin, especially if you use it regularly.  I would say that if you are going to use table salt, use it sparingly and be sure to discontinue use at the first sign of irritation or chaffing.

Coarse salts, on the other hand, have not been processed as much as table salt and are much less likely to cause problems with drying. Let's start with kosher salts.  This type of salt has no preservatives and takes its name from the koshering process.  It comes from either underground mining or from evaporated seawater. This salt is more effective for drawing out toxins more so than other types of salts, but it also draws out lots of moisture in the process.  If you use this kind of salt, you will want to either add a really good moisturizer to your scrub, or be sure to use a moisturizing lotion afterwards.

Coarse Salt
Moving on to sea salts, these are often named for the place from which they are harvested.  Like the name implies, these salts are created from evaporated seawater.  They receive little or no processing, so they contain many of the minerals that were in the water from which it was harvested.  This is why different kinds of sea salts can produce such drastically different flavors when used to finish dishes. (Note that the flavors cook out if dissolved or heated, so they are better used to top dishes off than to season them from within.)  The minerals also may give a tinge of color to their salts.  As far as skin care goes the supposed "best" type is sea salt that comes from the Dead Sea.  This is because the mineral content is almost ten times that of other sea salts.  Several studies have shown that people who suffer from psoriasis experience  relief when taking regular baths that have been treated with Dead Sea salt.  I have never personally used Dead Sea salt, but I've read that adding 2lbs to a warm bath and soaking for about 20 minutes twice a week or so can really help people with psoriasis.  In general, sea salts (no matter where they come from) are good for promoting circulation, removing dirt, drawing out toxins (if in a salt bath), and for conditioning the skin.  They can also relax muscles and soften tough areas like feet if added to a foot soak.

Epsom Salt
The last type of salt is epsom salt. This kind of salt has LOTS of health benefits.  Like other salts, it reduces stress, relaxes muscles, and helps remove toxins.  Unlike other salts, it is also relieves muscle cramps, joint pains, and general muscle pains as well as boosts muscle and nerve functionality, prevents blood clots and hardening of the arteries, and increases the effectiveness of insulin to lower your risk of diabetes.  This one I can personally vouch for...I used to be a cross country runner back in junior high/first year of high school and I would soak in an epsom salt bath 2-3 times a week or more.  It did wonders!

Now that we've talked about the exfoliates in body scrubs, let's mention the moisturizers that should accompany them.  There are a variety of oils that are useful for being integrated into body scrubs, but the two most commonly used oils are extra virgin olive oil and mineral (baby) oil.  I typically keep both around the house for various uses.  Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a staple for my kitchen...I love cooking with it!  But it is just as much of a staple for DIY skin care products.  It is a natural anti-inflammatory because it contains antioxidants like vitamins A and E.  It also prevents free radical damage to skin cells because it contains hydroxytyrosol.  This gives it anti-aging properties.  It contains oleic acid, which makes it an incredible moisturerizer.  This acid makes skin more permeable and allows it to retain moisture.  It is also a great base ingredient because it is not irritating to even the most sensitive of skin types.

Mineral oil (a.k.a. baby oil) is another common choice for adding as a moisturizer to body scrubs.  I fell in love with this stuff after making a leg smoother with it that gave me the softest legs I had ever had.  That lasted only a few days, but it was pretty awesome!  Lately, however, I've been reading some mixed reviews of this ingredient.  Some websites say it's great, others say that it ruins your skin by leaving behind a thin layer that inhibits the skin's ability to be permeable and clogs pores.  I don't know how true/untrue that is, so my advice it to not use it on areas such as the face, neck, or upper chest area (i.e. nothing on the face or decclotte).  Then again, if you are making a body scrub rather than a face scrub, you already know that! If you do the occasional body scrub, I can't see that this would be dangerous, but if you are planning to use body scrubs regularly, you may want to go with EVOO instead.

Alright enough background!  Here's your basic body scrub recipe!

Basic Body Scrub
2 cups Sugar or Epsom Salt
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Baby Oil

1) Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. 

To Use: Apply to body using a circular motion while in shower,
and then rinse off and bathe as usual.