The skin you're in: Not only is it your body's largest organ, it's also your most important accessory. Wrinkles, blemishes, eczema ' even plain old dry skin ' will compete with any zippy piece of jewelry, cool hat or other inanimate accent you don to express your individuality and boost your flair factor. But with the controversy over synthetic ingredients (some of which are thought to exacerbate or cause allergies and even cancer), you're not that keen to be trying out just any old wrinkle-reducer, pore-minimizer, or acne-zapper.
So check out these (mostly) new and innovative natural skin-care products that will buff, fluff, soothe and smooth, and make your body's largest organ also your most valuable asset.
To slough off dead skin, which can appear ashen and scaly if neglected, try a body scrub like Organic Body Polish from Trillium Organics ($13 for 8 fl. oz., from The Soap Opera). The gritty scrub of salt, safflower oil, vitamin E oil and 100% pure-grade essential oils boosts circulation, removes dead skin cells and leaves skin smooth and hydrated. The scrub is available in a variety of aromatherapy scents such as The Soap Opera's best-selling lavender geranium.
A relatively new company, 100% Pure, makes skin-care products that are absolutely luscious ' as well as paraben-free and chock-full of antioxidants and organic ingredients. Of note is the company's Honey Blackberry Facial Polish ($15.50 for 10 fl. oz., from Community Pharmacy), a blend of vitamin C-rich blackberries, honey and jojoba beads that polishes away flakes and bumps and bathes facial skin in the supposedly anti-aging properties of gamma linolenic acid.
Cleanse and soothe
A main ingredient in most commercial soaps is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a foaming agent that can be irritating to sensitive skin and which has come under scrutiny for possible links to cancer. Avoid these concerns by investing in an all-natural, vegetable-based soap from Saddle Soaps, locally crafted by Stacy Stone and Jennie Nuese, both mothers who 'test out all our products on ourselves and our families ' we never put out any product we don't stand by 100 percent.'
The duo make a soap aptly called 'Skin' that contains kukui nut oil, which Stone says is great for eczema and psoriasis. The lavender rosemary is their best-selling soap, and other scents include citrus avocado and chocolate, which is made with cocoa butter swirled with pure cocoa ($5 for a 5 oz. bar, from the Glitter Workshop and seasonally at the Dane County Farmers' Market).
Another product from Saddle Soaps is Zap!, a concoction of calendula oil, jojoba oil, and essential oils of peppermint, clove, eucalyptus and lavender, that helps clear skin ailments from pimples to eczema. 'We have customers who swear by Zap for getting rid of all kinds of funky skin things,' says Stone ($9 for .35 oz., also at the Glitter Workshop).
A soothing body treatment that can also be used for stress reduction, psoriasis and muscle pain is Pure Mud from AHAVA ($6.50 for 8.5 fl. oz. from The Soap Opera). This natural skin-care line is made at an Israeli kibbutz and utilizes black mineral mud harvested from the Dead Sea. The mud is applied like a body masque and works to restore the skin's natural moisture balance, leaving it soft and radiant. 'AHAVA is almost like a cult thing,' says Chuck Beckwith, co-owner of The Soap Opera. 'People just love it.' And so will your skin.
'I believe that you need to start internally to treat your skin, then move on to the topical,' says Jackie Nikolaus of Community Pharmacy. She suggests diet supplements that help to nourish and lubricate the skin from the inside, like Wrinkle Rescue by NOW that contains grape seed extract and vitamin E ($15 for 60 capsules).
Golden Crown, a topical facial treatment from Baraboo herbal company Four Elements, combines sage, calendula and ginseng (a powerful antioxidant) in a nifty roll-on applicator that makes combating wrinkles quick and easy ($15 for 1 oz., also from Community Pharmacy).
Juice Beauty is a certified organic skin-care line that has gained popularity because of its integration into the mainstream cosmetic world via big-time makeup retailer Sephora. The popular Green Apple Peel uses natural alpha-hydroxy acids from organic apple juice, cane sugar and milk peptides to deeply exfoliate the skin and reveal fresh, new skin cells ($39 for 2 fl. oz., at Whole Foods).
In the winter, you may feel like all you do is slather on lotion to combat the effects of dry, heated air and low humidity. Well, make your body lube ritual a treat with 100% Pure's vegan and paraben-free Vanilla Bean Nourishing Body Cream. It smells so delicious you may find yourself thinking that you need to count calories. But the wonderful thing about this body cream is that it is rich in antioxidants and revs up circulation with raw organic green coffee extract ($13.35 for 7.5 fl. oz., from Community Pharmacy).
While do-it-yourself treatments are a necessary part of taking optimal care of your one and only skin, the assistance of a professional can complement your beauty ritual and even correct a skin-care routine that lacks results.
A totally natural holistic approach to skin (and health) care is Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old Indian practice. Harsha Keister from Bombay has been an Ayurvedic practitioner and massage therapist for 35 years and owns Satyam Ayurvedic Massage Center in Madison.
A consultation with Keister will reveal what your 'dosha' or body imbalance is, and will help you determine a plan to 'get healthy and stay healthy,' which covers skin ailments and issues. Indulge in a facial treatment that Keister describes as though revealing a recipe: 'I exfoliate with honey, flour and herbs, then I apply a mud pack that uses mud I bring back from India each year. Finally, I massage the face with aromatherapy oils and ice.'
And, Keister says, she's never had anyone have an adverse reaction to a treatment, a complaint with mainstream facials, where synthetically fragranced products can irritate the skin ($65 for a one-hour facial treatment).
Where to buy
The Soap Opera
319 State St., 251-4051, www.thesoapopera.com
341 State St., 251-5339, www.communitypharmacy.coop
920 E. Johnson St., 255-2025
3313 University Ave., 233-9566
Satyam Ayurvedic Massage Centre
6634 Mineral Point Rd., 829-1090, www.satyamayurvedic.com