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A Natural Approach:
     Whole foods, in your diet or as a beauty product,
     do wonders for skin and scalp

By Sharon Niederman

In the battle against Father Time, we are always searching for new and better ways to minimize the wrinkles life has inscribed on our faces. Because no one out there actually wants to look older, with each advancing year we are willing to spend more on the latest promise of “younger-looking” skin.

Ironically, though, some of the “latest” skin care advice is to turn to remedies Grandma knew all about.

Remember the good old oatmeal mask? Cucumber slices to soothe the eyes? Beaten eggwhites to get rid of blackheads? The avocado peel facial? How about massaging your dry hair with olive oil and wrapping it in a towel before bedtime, then shampooing in the morning for a silky mane?

Herbs and botanicals like aloe, rosemary, lavender, chamomile, borage and calendula, from marigolds, may sound old-fashioned, but shelves are stocked with body care products boasting these ingredients.

Not only that, Grandma got her beauty secrets out of the garden, and you can, too.

“My personal belief is: the simpler the better,” says Martha Doster, founder and owner of Body Bueno, now in its 30th year of serving Nob Hill. “The old-time remedies are still around because they work,” she says.

To the list of tried-and-true fruit, vegetable and herbal products, she adds: brown sugar as an exfoliant; grapefruit juice for toning; and, rosemary oil for split ends. Shea butter, a nut butter derived from karite, is a very emollient moisturizer that leaves the skin with a silky smooth finish. And purified mud or kaolin (clay) still makes a great face mask.

Eat Fresh

The “back to basics” common sense approach to beauty goes along with natural foods and the “natural healing” approach to medicine. And like the standard prescription for health, obtaining and maintaining a beautiful complexion first depends on a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, minimizing the intake of processed foods and sugar, plus exercise, ample pure water, fresh air and sufficient rest. If stress isn’t good for you, it isn’t going to be good for your skin, either.

Beulah Moses, owner of Moses Kountry Health Food Store, located in the North Valley for 30 years, believes that beautiful skin comes from within. “You can put a gallon of oil on your skin and it won’t help,” she says, unless you are lubricating your skin from the inside out.

Toward that end, she recommends essential fatty acids from flaxseed and fish oils — that the body cannot itself produce — and a good daily multiple vitamin.

Borage, evening primrose and black currant oils contain essential fatty acids, including an especially important one, GLA, short for gamma linolenic acid. “Some of it is genetic, but in general, the younger you start taking care of your skin, the better it is,” she cautions.

She has seen lots of “testimonials” walk into her store. Many are finding the recommendations of “The Perricone Promise” helpful when it comes to adding dietary supplements to counteract the effects of aging. This popular book suggests taking nutritional supplements like alpha lipoic acid and DMAE, substances the body produces in greater abundance during the early years. Hyaluronic acid is another such substance available as a dietary supplement.

Thinking Whole

Joyce Kincaid, nutritionist at the Vitamin Cottage in Santa Fe also emphasizes the importance of whole foods in the diet — whole eggs, whole fruit instead of juice, nuts and grains will keep the entire body running well.

“The colon is the center of it all,” she says, so fiber is especially important.

Kincaid also suggests adding anti-oxidants for the skin, like vitamins A, C, E and selenium, as well as coenzyme Q10.

But beware of the quality of vitamin E you take, says Moses. Avoid the synthetic kind, that is made from petroleum and which the body cannot synthesize. Buy only vitamin E made from soy, wheat germ and sesame oils.

Before embarking on any new herbal or supplemental regimen, it’s best to talk to the experts, and always tell your physician what herbs and supplements you are using.

If you would like to try making your own natural body care products, an excellent “recipe” book is“The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book” by Josephine Fairley. Her delicious formulas for “milk, cucumber and mint cleanser,” “lettuce face pack,” “fruit bowl facial” and “vita-carrot face mask,” are based on items found in the refrigerator blended with those that are easily obtainable from the herb or health food store.

But if you intend to exchange your skin’s chemical dependency for a more natural lifestyle, don’t expect instant results.

“It’s not going to work overnight,” says Moses.

This article first appeared in Boomer Magazine,
Albuquerque Journal,
March, 2005


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