Is it really true that if you wouldn't put it in your mouth, you shouldn't put it on your skin? Does what you slather on your dermal layer really get absorbed into your system? Of course we wouldn't chow down on moisturizer or toner. And our pores certainly aren't our stomachs. On the other hand, so much has been written about toxin-drenched commercial lotions, creams and cleansers that you do have to wonder why we still soak our faces in them daily.
See how far you can disconnect from the the marketplace glamour game by concocting your own homemade beauty boosters out of herbs and other edibles. You can even grow your own herb garden! For some of us that's just crazy talk, but if you're one of those super-resourceful types, go for it. And remember to keep the organic quotient high.
what the experts say
"Abhyshekas, the ritual of self-purification, uses raw organic yogurt and raw organic milk , the two symbols of the divine sacred cow that brings nutrition and nourishment. We believe these have the highest nourishing qualities for the skin. Mix yogurt or milk with an organic banana and raw honey and cinnamon . Add a dash of nutmeg and cardamom for an intoxicating scent. Pour over your body after a deep cleansing scrub with raw organic sugar , lavender flowers, a teaspoon of cardamom and about four tablespoons of rose powder .'
ANDREA OLIVERA , Centre for Ayurveda, Toronto
"It's virtually impossible to make your own organic cosmetics. People have to realize that to make something that is absolutely pure is almost impossible. There are no preservatives that are 100 per cent natural. A face mask made of carrots , almonds , honey and egg yolks will only last a couple of hours. That being said, hydrosols (hydrolates and floral waters made with a distillation unit) can be used. Roman camomile hydrosol will take off almost any makeup, and it contains no chemicals, alcohol and preservatives. Frankincense hydrosol is an instant toner and good for fine lines. German camomile is good for puffiness and dark circles around the eyes. Rose is for dry skin. Rosehip seed oil heals scars and nourishes the skin. Shampoos don't have to foam - foam is not natural. Creams are not white. White is not a natural colour."
SUZANNE CATTY , aromatherapist, author, Hydrosols: The New Aromatherapy, Toronto
" Cucumber is a natural preservative and very good for toning the skin. I make a toning lotion with rosewater , pure distilled witch hazel , a few drops of geranium and chunks of cucumber. This can last up to six months. Calendula is good for dry skin. I take a blossom and infuse it in olive oil. You can make carrot root oil the same way with dried carrots. I use organic ingredients. Fruits aren't going to last as long, but you can make a facial for dry skin with avocado , honey and yogurt. Strawberries and whipped cream will whiten skin. You can whiten your teeth by brushing them with strawberries."
JAN BENHAM , founder and director, Institute of Aromatherapy and School of Holistic Studies, Toronto
"Some herbs for indoor window container gardens can also be used for organic homemade cosmetics, like rosemary , lavender, sage , lemon verbena and lemon balm and annuals calendula and camomile. Organically grown herb plants and seeds are available at Richters in Goodwood (www.richters. com). Here's a recipe for a natural herbal ointment or lip balm: Make a herbal infused oil by chopping up or grinding 30 gm of a chosen herb and placing it in a jar. Add 150 ml of organic almond or olive oil and put the lid on the jar. Shake and let steep in a cupboard for two weeks. Strain. (Herbal-infused oils can be used for many purpposes.) To this add five tablespoons of grated beeswax. Heat gently over a very low flame, stirring constantly. As soon as the beeswax melts, take the mixture off the heat. Pour into ointment jars or lip balm containers. Let cool."
DANETTE STEELE , registered herbalist, Toronto
"Some, not all, cosmetic ingredients are absorbed into the skin. All of these ingredients have to be approved by Health Canada, or in the States by the FDA. Every ingredient that is added to a toiletry product has to be reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review expert panel. It looks at dermal absorption data, carcinogenicity, photo-carcinogenicity and whether the substance causes irritation or allergies. It has to decide what is an acceptable amount to be absorbed. Some are absorbed, and are okay at 5 per cent [absorption], but there may be an issue at 10 per cent. The bottom line is you have to put faith in the Health Canada."
SANDY SKOTNICKI-GRANT , dermatologist, Toronto
"I think most cosmetics are pretty innocuous. I would worry about hair dye more than anything. Paraphenylenediamine is common in a lot of hair dyes. Paraphenylenediamines are carcinogens in animals. More recent studies suggest there's no increase in the risk of breast cancer to people who use hair dye. This does give some degree of reassurance. Laurel sulphate is a detergent used in cosmetics and toothpaste. When I look at the structure, I think it could cause changes in DNA. But to my knowledge there's never been evidence that it is toxic."
JACK UETRECHT , biomedical pharmacologist, University of Toronto