Monthly Archives: April 2014

Oil Cleansing – Your Skin Will Thank You For This!

Oil cleansing is one of those things I’d heard people talking about for years before I actually worked up the nerve to try it. Let’s face it, smearing oil on your skin to clean it just seems counter-intuitive.  Several years ago, in a fit of boredom, I decided to give it a whirl and I’ve never looked back.  After oil cleansing my skin literally felt softer than it has ever felt. Soft and smooth and it looked kind of dewy – you can’t buy that. It was an amazing transformation after oil cleansing just once so for all you skeptics out there who have used every product imaginable and are utterly jaded on the whole “miraculous difference” thing – just wait until you’re having a bored day, and slather up!

Why Does Oil Cleansing Work?

The basic idea behind oil cleansing is that oil is natural to your skin, where soap isn’t.  Oil naturally travels deep into your pores, because it’s pretty much what is meant to be in there, where water stays outside because oil and water don’t mix, and they’re already filled with oil.  So if your pores are filled with oil (which seems bad) but then you’re adding it on topically (supposed to be good) then what is the real story?  Essentially we’re  pulling out the gross, dirty oil from your pores and replacing it with oils that are beneficial to your skin and clean so that your skin can stay smooth and soft and lovely. This is great for acne-prone skin, dry skin or combination skin and it’s amazing for anti-aging because it keeps your skin hydrated and nourished.

What Oil Should I Use?

This is where it gets fun because you get to play kitchen chemist. First, let’s start with the base:

Oil Cleansing Base:50% Castor Oil
50% Jojoba

This base has the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the castor oil as well as the stability of jojoba oil.  It also penetrates deeply into pores because the castor oils ha very small molecules and the jojoba is the most molecularly similar to your skin’s natural sebum. This base by itself is a great mixture and if you’re just starting out and not sure you’ll like it, it’s a great place to start. You can always add things to the mix later on.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Great add-ins for Dry Skin

Kukui nut oil – high in essential fatty acids, readily absorbed into the skin to nourish the deeper layers.
Argan oil – rare, high in vitamin E which absorbs quickly and adds a level of luxury.
Baobab oil – light, rich in vitamins A, E and F which absorbs quickly and is specifically used for hydrating and protecting dry skin.
Sea Buckthorn OIl – exceptionally rich and healing for deeply dry, chapped skin. A small amount goes a long way.

Add-ins for Oily or Blemished Skin

Meadowfoam Seed OIl – healing and nourishing and high in natural salycilates, which reduce inflammation.Hazelnut Oil – highly suited for oily skin because it has astringent properties and helps to reduce excessive oil production.

Meadowfoam - of course this beauty would help your skin.

Meadowfoam – of course this beauty would help your skin.

Great additions for Anti-Aging

Pomegranate Seed Oil – it isn’t hard to imagine that this is highly prized for skin care and nourishes the skin while it provides antioxidant benefits. Promotes skin regeneration.
Rosehip Seed Oil – one of my favorites this is the predominant oil for wrinkled and aging skin.Black Seed Oil – highly nutritive and restoring to the skin. A little goes a long way.

Beautiful rosehip seed oil. My favorite.

Beautiful rosehip seed oil. My favorite. Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for all of these exotic goodies.

So How Do I Oil Cleanse?

This is the best part:

  1. Get a headband to pull your hair back because stray hair gets oily really quickly.
  2. Put a dime sized amount of your oil mix in your palm and use the fingertips of your other hand to gently massage it into your face – don’t forget your lips, under your jaw line and your decollete, those are highly visible areas that often have the same problems as your facial skin, and your lips will just love the moisture. Use gentle upward strokes or light taps to encourage collagen production because god knows we all want more collagen.
  3. Leave the oil on your skin for five to ten minutes if you have some time, or you can skip straight to washing it off if you’re in a hurry.
  4. Run a washcloth under super hot water and wring it out then put it over your whole face and use the heat to dissolve and liquify the oil.  Don’t scrub, just use the heat to almost steam the oil off your face and wipe up what is left with the still hot washcloth.
  5. Marvel at the beauty of your newly lovely skin. Seriously, it’s amazing.
  6. Use a tiny amount of an oil based moisturizer – I love MiraCell Skin Relief and Support (for a premade product) but you can also make a lighter skin oil and use a few drops as a moisturizer. We’ll talk about that in a separate post.

    Miracell - a nice moisturizer after oil cleansing.

    Miracell – a nice moisturizer after oil cleansing.

The only part about this that I don’t absolutely love is the washcloths – simply because it’s hard to get the oil out of them.  The best trick I’ve found is soaking them in a bowl with baking soda in the water to dissolve the oil before you put them in the washing machine. In general it shortens the lives of wash cloths, but so spectacularly worth it for such lovely skin.

This is a totally different approach to skin care that has entirely changed the way I view soaps, and not for the better.  I source all of my carrier oils from Mountain Rose Herbs and keep them in the fridge to prolong their shelf life.  I mix up small batches (usually just an ounce at a time) of the facial cleansing oil, and then also end up using it as an after-shower moisturizer because it feels amazing.  Typically I use about 80-90% carrier oil, almost always a larger portion of rosehip oil because I’m pretty sure it’s addictive, and then experiment here and there.  I love changing it up a little bit and am always trying new combinations.  I have added essential oils before, but I honestly like the simple oils better by themselves. I hope you love oil cleansing as much as I do – let me know what you think!

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

The Benefits of Being Sick: Are You Being Honest About Your Suffering?

The Benefits of Being Sick: Audio Version

The folks at the Diabetes Council were kind enough to make an audio version of this article, read by Holly Houston (sadly I can’t claim that lovely voice). If you prefer to listen, rather than read then here it is!

The Benefits of Being Sick: Plain Old Written Version 😉

This is such a difficult topic because our culture likes to make things all “bad” or all “good” but the truth is, there are many social benefits of being sick and sometimes it’s hard to get well if you’re not willing to really look that whole concept in the face. For the most part, nobody actually wants to be sick.  There are some rare exceptions with psychological diseases, but at the end of the day most people want to be healthy, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t benefit in some way – usually some entirely unconscious way – from being sick.  When there are benefits of being sick, sometimes they can become an obstacle to truly getting better – simply because somewhere in your subconscious mind you aren’t ready to let go of whatever it is you’re getting out of being ill. It’s easy to generate a lot of judgement about this and to immediately recoil from the idea that people might have unknown motives even for suffering, but the fact of the matter is that your brain is more highly evolved than you can possibly imagine.  If your brain finds a way to get what it wants, it isn’t necessarily going to stop and ask for permission from your rational mind – it’s just going to go ahead and get what it wants and give your rational, thinking self a nice story (I’m sick – I have to stay in bed) to hold on to. Never underestimate the power of the human brain, and certainly don’t fall for the illusion that “you” – the part of you that you hear thinking in your head and that makes up all sorts of reasons why things happen – are actually the one in control.

Illness is a huge, multifactoral beast. Sure, there are plenty of colds and flus and simple things that you get because there is some kind of germ or bug going around. Although when you really look at them, even the simple things might not be so simple.  Why is it that some people go down with a particular flu and some don’t? Sure there are lots of arguments about immunity and previous contact with that virus. No question those things matter, but what about the convenient fact that often the people who get sick are the ones who really need to take a break? Or the ones who haven’t let themselves rest? Sure – their system is weakened from overwork, that is probably true, but it might also be true that being sick is a socially acceptable reason to stop, to rest, to take a break, to not be at work, and to actually give your body the sleep it’s been missing.  When you get into complex or long-term illness it’s a whole different animal.

The benefits of being sick. Image from © Shannon Matteson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The benefits of being sick. Image from © Shannon Matteson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I want to say here that I am NOT trying to imply that people are fabricating illness in any way – absolutely not. When you get sick you actually get sick and for people who are chronically ill, they’re actually ill and not because they want to be. Still, if you don’t look at the benefits of being sick then sometimes that can become a barrier to becoming well, simply because your body isn’t willing to give up the benefits if you haven’t changed your life to incorporate them naturally. Let me start with an example – this is a pretend client that is based on literally hundreds of real clients I’ve seen in the same position:

“I’ve always been healthy and I was a really energetic person – I was always able to go above and beyond for everybody. I worked in a corporate setting and was in a high stress job but I really loved it, I loved the challenge and the business.  Everything was great, but when I had my second child it felt like everything suddenly shifted.  That child is a little more demanding than the first was and generally needs more of me and I just started to feel drained.  Now I’m on a leave of absence from work and I really don’t know if I’ll be able to go back because I feel worn out. My joints hurt, I’ve become sensitive to so many different foods it feels like I can hardly eat without something disagreeing with me.  My sleep has suffered but all I want is more sleep. I can get up to fix breakfast for the kids but that just wears me out and I have to spend the next few hours resting or watching TV or trying to recharge.  I feel pitiful – just getting up to make breakfast shouldn’t be all I have in me for the day.”

I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve heard variations of that same story. I was an uber-achiever until this thing happened and now I can’t keep up at all. I am forced to rest, to hold back, be home with my children, to not work, to constantly recuperate. No doubt this person is actually exhausted and actually has physical dysfunction – possibly autoimmune disease or mixed hormone failure. Absolutely. In reality those things are happening and need to be addressed. But what about possible benefits?

Primary Gain – The Benefits of Being Sick

Primary gain is a concept in medicine that looks at exactly this idea – that being sick does come with some advantages, even mixed in with all the obvious disadvantages, and that those advantages are a factor in healing. Primary gain deals mostly with the psychological benefits of being sick, which are typically entirely unconscious. These are the psychological perks of being ill that nobody actually notices or talks about, but that you may have a hard time giving up. Examples of primary gain might include:

  • If you’re not performing the way you think you should, being sick can reduce some of the feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
  • If you deeply believe that doing things for yourself is “selfish” or have a negative judgement about it then sometimes being sick is the only acceptable reason to allow yourself to care for yourself appropriately.
  • Being sick might actually encourage your partner to be more supportive, more caring or more nurturing.
  • Being sick is a valid reason to not do things that you might not want to (but probably think you should).
  • Being sick is a legitimate reason take breaks.
  • Being sick is a real reason to stay home more with the kids.

These are big obvious examples – but there are thousands of tiny gains that can be individual to each person and aren’t always obvious to them or to anyone around them (these are kind of obvious – but the best examples I could come up with this morning). Often in the healing process if we don’t address this issue, then healing gets stalled out as soon as we run into this wall. If we took the above example patient and re-balanced her hormones and addressed autoimmunity, chances are we’d get her to a great place right up until she started taking on too much again, because that’s her basic nature.  She’d pick up all of her old obligations and no doubt over-perform to make up for feeling guilty about being sick and inevitably land in a crumpled heap on the office floor despairing because she relapsed. I’ve seen it over and over and over again. People charge right back into the old way of being without examining what it was that their body was trying to tell them with the illness.  What was the benefit of being sick and how can they keep that without the sickness?

Of course it’s easy to talk about, but in real life this comes down to some incredibly hard transformations and evolutions as a human. Maybe it means letting go of the deeply ingrained belief that you only have worth based on what you produce. Or the feeling that your job is to take care of others (only others – anything you do for yourself is “selfish”).  Maybe it means confronting ideas from your faith about how good people suffer, or how suffering is a penance. Maybe it means sitting down with your partner and having the tough conversation about ways to change your circumstances so you can stay home with your children more. It could mean looking at your life and seeing if you’re still on the path you want to be, or if you really wanted to be an artist but your family thought that was a soft option. These issues are at the core of who we are, who were were taught to be, and are always the biggest, scariest and most challenging to actually work though.

Secondary Gain – The External Benefits of Being Sick

Secondary gain is the idea that there are also real benefits of illness that come from the outside – from society. These are far easier to see and to deal with and include things like:

  • Missing work
  • Avoiding military duty
  • Financial gain (disability, family support)
  • Drugs
  • Avoiding jail (insanity plea, etc…)

Again, although these are more obvious, more tangible benefits, they are still largely unconscious.  Your brain is tricksy and doesn’t let you see some of the subtle motivators.

There are No Benefits to Being Sick – This is The Worst!

I know – there are people reading this who are deeply and personally offended because they feel so crappy and have been struggling for so long to get better. I know that, and here’s the thing – it is 100% true. Being sick sucks in so many ways, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all black or all white – there are almost always shades of grey and sometimes looking at the grey areas can help you to examine your life more deeply, even if it ultimately doesn’t change the course of the illness at all. Here’s an exercise.  No matter how horrible you feel you can probably think of three good things that come out of being sick – even if you’re really reaching.

The Benefits of Being Sick Exercise:

1. Write down at least three benefits you get from being sick. These can be big things (like my partner is nicer and more supportive) or little things (someone else cleans the toilet).  At least three but list as many as you can think of.

2.  List three things you’ve learned about yourself and what your body needs directly because of being sick:

3. If you were suddenly 100% healthy, what would be the hardest for you to change?

4.  What are some ways you can keep the benefits of being sick but let go of the sickness? You don’t have to have concrete answers, but start the thought process.

Remember none of this is about judgement or right and wrong answers, it’s about learning something about you as a human and discovering a little more of what you need to be your happiest most functional self. Sometimes illness is the greatest teacher and you can choose to take the opportunity to grow from it. There are some benefits of being sick, but there are also ways to structure your life so that you have those benefits without actually having the sickness and finding them may help you on the path to healing.