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Facial Care Wisdom from Holistic Herbalism

The face doesn't lie, or at least according to traditional assessment techniques. Where you're breaking out, where you have lines, and the general moisture and temperature of your skin are all reflections of the complex workings of your body. Naturally, the best way to have glowing skin is to have glowing insides. Of course, life presents many barriers on this road to inner enlightenment, and thus originates the search for outer beauty without inner perfection. There are many tools that I have found in my journey as an herbalist that I feel passionate about sharing.


Hydrotherapy is, in a nutshell, blood circulation regulation and capillary exercise. It is incredible medicine for the skin, which requires nourishment and waste excretion to be healthy, both of which require good circulation. There are different ways of applying it, but some basic principles:

Hot water (or wet hot towel) drives blood to the surface of the body. It turns your skin red, and opens the pores. This can help the skin get nourishment, and get old waste products out. Sometimes infections and their waste products can get stuck when there is not enough circulation to get rid of it. Hot compresses can help clear unresolved pimples and hard swellings in the face.

Cold water actually drives circulation to the core (which is used on the trunk of the body to drive circulation to the inner organs), and closes the pores. Cold can be used as a contrast to hot when you want to move the circulation in and out of the facial capillaries, which essentially exercises the muscles. Ending a hydrotherapy session with cold also ensures that pores will not be left open as you go out into the world. Look at it as closing yourself back up after surgery.

You can either use towels soaked in the water, or plunge your face straight in. Don't burn yourself, and don't shock yourself with cold. I recently found an interesting article saying that plunging your face in ice water for 30 seconds can force a parasympathetic (rest and relax) state onto your body in times of emotional distress. I tried it immediately after reading the article, and it really helped me get my mind in order! Talk about a great alternative to coffee. This is also excellent capillary exercise for the skin on your face.


If you have not discovered witch hazel yet, do. You can apply it with a cotton round to your face, and moisturize after if you have dry skin. It's best for breakouts, blackheads, blemishes and oily skin. I find it helps prevent cystic acne from coming to a head and getting all nasty. I apply it every night before bed.

Now, if you already knew about witch hazel, what you probably didn't know is that you can infuse it with herbs. HERBS. The possibilities abound. My favorites so far are St. John's Wort (speeds healing and prevents infection), and rose petals (astringent and reduces irritation). I want to try gotu kola (theoretically helps collagen production), violet (reduces irritation and soothes tissues), plantain (stops itching), Oregon grape (for rashes and infections). Possibilities abound! Make it just like you would a tincture; put herbs in a jar and pour witch hazel over. Let sit for a week and strain.

Getting the natural or high quality stuff is better. I don't honestly know what they put in the drug store brand stuff.


Both of these substances draw things out, and thus are ideal for skin that feels like it has junk in it. If that applies to you, you know what I mean. I actually use My Magic Mud tooth powder (RIGHT), which is much more finely ground that typical charcoal.

Once I've washed it off it feels like my face has lost a few karmic pounds. It's really quite remarkable. These masks are very drying, so they are not the best for dry skin. Some people with sensitive skin find that their skin can turn red and break out if they leave this mask on for too long. If this happens to you, either use only gentle clay masks, or leave it on for less time. I recommend aloe vera to soothe skin afterwards.

HOW: Combine a teaspoon of both activated charcoal and a clay of choice with 2 teaspoons of water and stir. I happen to use bentonite clay, which is the strongest and most drying, so dry skin people should probably use a white or green clay. use your fingers to apply this evenly to your face, giving your eyes some space. Leave until it begins to tug and shrink, and then wash off thoroughly. I do this about once a week, but not more. You don't want to deplete your face!


As suggested in the introduction of this article, inner health is the best way to achieve outer health, and there are actually some basic things you can do, depending on your particular constitution and skin type:

PIMPLES ON FOREHEAD: There is a toxic wasteland in your small or large intestine (especially if you also have a white coat on the back of your tongue), and you need to work on clearing that out if you want your forehead to stop doing it for you. Try Trifala, gentle herbal laxatives, psyllium or bitters, depending on your particular need. This can be caused by poor diet or eating things your body doesn't like.

REDNESS AROUND NOSE: A food allergy or general irritation in the small intestine! Try peach leaf, marshmallow, licorice and rose petal tea, and figuring out what you're eating to make this happen.

PIMPLES ON AREA BELOW EDGES OF MOUTH: This is the ovary zone, so chances are you have some kind of stagnation or heat in your ovaries. This requires more specific herbal formulas, typically, so seeing an herbalist is best.

GENERAL ACNE: Tends to be related to liver metabolism and fat quality. Eat the best fats you possibly can, and take liver and lymph herbs. Classics for this are: burdock root, red clover, Oregon grape, yellow dock, milk thistle, and cleavers.

DARK CIRCLES UNDER EYES: Is generally either food allergies or adrenal fatigue (or both, since they often are co-causative). Get rest, eat nourishing, gentle foods and find ways to destress your life. Herbs for this are: Eleuthero root, California spikenard and Rhodiola.

DRY SKIN: This one is so obvious I feel bad I don't have a better answer, but you need to eat good oils, especially those high in Omega 3, and drink water. Marshmallow and other moistening, yin-rich herbs can help, but ultimately you need the building blocks for good skin to be in your body before you can expect it.


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