It's no surprise several of the world's finest formulas for beautifying mature skin contain natural essential oils. Therapeutic grade essential oils used in aromatherapy are each selected for their distinctive healing action; many oils are specifically indicated for skin healing and healthy skin maintenance. Of greatest interest here are the oils known for their tissue regenerative effects and support of the skin's metabolic functions. An effective personal blend using premium therapeutic grade oils is easily made by choosing a few oils corresponding to the needs of your skin type, and blending with easy-to-follow formulas.
What makes essential oils and their accompanying carrier oils so effective for natural skin care? It happens that their chemical structures are highly-compatible with that of our skin cells. Essential oils are easily absorbed through the dermal layers and even through the skin's individual cell walls. This makes them extremely simple to create and use your own formulas. Just mix each chosen essential oil into one or more carrier oils (which have their own therapeutic effects as well) at the recommended concentrations, then apply regularly for best results. The carrier oils will do just as the name implies - ‘carry' the essential oils more deeply into the skin, and prevent them from being quickly evaporated into the air (as a perfume might be).
Essential oils for topical application in nearly every instance will be blended with what are known as carrier oils or ‘base' oils. These cold-pressed seed or nut oils make up the foundation of most natural skin care formulas. There are a many lovely carrier oils from which to choose - a few favorites for nourishing and healing mature skin include: Avocado is known to be both hydrating, and nutritive; it has a medium consistency and is generally included at about 20% of the total base oil mixture. Apricot Kernel is fantastic for dry skin and is used for healing damaged or irritated skin. Apricot oil can be used in combination or with other carriers or as 100% of the base oil. Borage oil is used as a small (perhaps 10%) portion of the carrier blend; it helps to calm inflammation and supplies important essential fatty acid nutrients. Borage and Evening Primrose oil may be interchanged though the Evening Primrose should be used in slightly larger concentrations of up to one-quarter of the base formula. Hazelnut oil is a very common carrier in skin care blends. It has a thinner consistency and is best used by those with oily skin conditions. With its astringent properties Hazelnut should not exacerbate oily-skin conditions. Lastly, and likely most importantly, we have Rosehip Seed. Rosehip seed oil combines a plethora of therapeutic properties including the ability to speed turnover of skin cells without drying or flaking (as can be a common side effect of synthetic preparations with the same purpose). An excellent base oil mix for mature skin might include 70% Apricot Kernel, 15% Rosehip and 15% Evening Primrose. For those with dry skin, add Avocado oil at 20% and reduce the Apricot Kernel to 50%. For oily skin, replace Apricot Kernel with Hazelnut.
On to the essential oils - the magic active ingredients. These are in no particular order; they all have unique properties, and selecting one or more depends on your personal skin's condition. We'll begin with Carrot Seed, a wonderful warm, smooth and earthy essential oil with a long history in skin care. It is particularly indicated for skin that has lost its glow from undue stress, whether from external environmental factors or other types of strain. Carrot seed is very gentle, inexpensive, and useful for all skin types. Next is Rosemary of the Verbenone chemotype - it's distilled from common rosemary grown in particular regions of the world that lead to a higher fraction of regenerative ‘ketones' in the oil. These molecules enhance regeneration and metabolism - improving the use of nutrients and removal of toxins on a cellular level.
Clary Sage essential oil is noted as being particularly suited to natural beauty care. It contains sclareol, which mimics the effects of estrogen; this is noted by one expert author as the primary reason it helps with skin aging. It may also be the reason Clary Sage is said to regulate the skin's secretions, bringing balance to both over-dry and over-oily skin. Elsewhere, it is noted as relaxing - even mildly euphoric - which may also contribute to its positive effects for wrinkles. Sweet Fennel is another ‘estrogenic' essential oil, called for by Valerie Worwood in "The Complete Book of Essential Oils" as an ingredient in wrinkle-preventative blends for all ages.
Sea Buckthorn Berry CO2 (a cold-processed essential oil) is a gentle oil with a pleasingly sweet aroma. Sea Buckthorn contains significant amounts of essential fatty acids along with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. This specialty skin care essential oil is rich in carotenes, which likely impart its rejuvenative effects. It is noted as a particularly effective anti-wrinkle and skin softening agent. Another specialty oil for mature skin care is Cistus, also known as Rock Rose. The oil is distilled from a plant grown in hot, sun-drenched regions, and can be added to blends for its particular effect of firming the skin. It also has astringent properties which can support clearing of oily skin; further, it is mentioned in blends for firming around the eyes - when used near the eyes, any blend should contain no more than .5% essential oils as to not be irritating in this sensitive area.
Then there is the tried and true French Lavender - Lavendula angustifolia - the essential oil which began the modern aromatherapy revolution with the discovery of its nearly miraculous healing power. Lavender is balancing, gentle and regenerative. It may be added at any concentration to your blend. Its sweet and floral aroma is loved by many - though if you find it too sweet, and are looking for a potent regenerative essential oil, try Helichrysum instead. Helichrysum contains regenerative molecules unique to this plant alone, with a warmer, slightly spicy and herbaceous aroma. Helichrysum need only be used in small amounts, and may otherwise overpower other oils aromatically - otherwise, Helichrysum is very gentle, and is even called for being applied directly to the skin undiluted for acute healing needs.
The formulas for therapeutic care for mature skin are fairly straightforward. Oftentimes, you can start with 10 drops of each essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. For example, if you have four total ounces of base oil, you could use 40 drops of each desired essential oil as a starting point. Much more essential oil than this is rarely better; in fact, many oils work best at low concentrations, and some can potentially irritate the skin at high doses. Further, if you are combining several essential oils together in one blend, try not to go over a 5% total concentration of essential oils (approximately 30 drops per ounce) - the face and neck are relatively sensitive areas, and will respond best to small amounts of nature's "active" ingredients. If you are not working with a recipe, you can start with equal amounts of each essential oil, and adjust according to your perceived potency of each oil; some oils will have more powerful aromas than others, and you could likely do with slightly less in your overall blend. You can also adjust according to your aromatic preferences as well, creating a formula that not only supports your skin's health and metabolism, but smells lovely too.
Many of the oils mentioned here are found in blends for women, but there is no rule that prevents men from using them as well. For an aroma that a man may appreciate, deeper, earthier essential oils can be used - Sandalwood, Frankincense and Myrrh are all essential oils noted for their benefits to mature skin. Also, for any gender, including essential oils for their fragrance and not just their therapeutic properties is certainly an option. With one's emotional health often clearly reflected in the condition of their skin, there's more than likely to be a benefit beyond simply smelling nice! Just be aware that there are a few oils that should not be applied to the face; these are some of the spicier oils - Cinnamon, Oregano, Clove and Thyme varieties; cold-pressed citrus oils like lime, lemon, orange and bergamot should also be avoided for facial care, as these oils can cause the skin to be extra-sensitive to UV light. If you have any uncertainty about a particular oil, there are many quality resources regarding essential oil safety available both on the internet and in print.
Creating your own personal therapeutic skin care blend is a wonderful aromatherapy project for beginning and advanced practitioners alike. You'll have an effective mixture made just for your skin type, and that you can adjust according to your needs in the future. Plus it's fun to do, and easier on the pocket book than high-end commercial formulations. As always when starting out with these medicines from nature, be aware of you're body's responses to the oils, respect their potency, and most of all, have fun!
By Tarah Michelle Cech ND, M,Ir,
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