St Brigid rolls out her great green mantle …
Spring is a time of unfurling. Even before the new leaf buds open to reveal their brightest greens, unseen stirrings are happening underground. Whenever the days seem bleak, I think of the secret preparations being made, the stored energy being drawn on and the promise of life.
It’s a great time for your own green revival, bringing nature into your life on a daily basis. Our skin responds to times of seasonal transition. Here are some ways to get in tune with nature and make preparations for your transition into spring, making the most of the plants that are appearing around us.
Once the general temperature is below 20 degrees C, every further drop of 7-8 degrees C will halve the water in the air. Through winter we notice this dryness in our skin, particularly exposed hands and faces, so rely heavily on balms and creams. In spring ambient moisture levels are generally higher, so as winter eases into spring, we can make the switch to lighter moisturisers and less frequent applications.
Comfrey leaf is a great ingredient to incorporate into moisturiser for its natural caring and softening qualities. It helps combat dry, flaking skin and can be helpful in counteracting skin conditions including acne, psoriasis and eczema. The allantoin it contains helps with the speedy formation of new cells. It can be used on all skin types from delicate to oily. Simply make an infusion to add to a blend it yourself cream or lotion.
If your skin’s been suffering through the cold months, it’s lovely to greet the arrival of spring with an all-over freshen-up, preparing yourself for the new season. In early spring nature offers a host of cleansing plants, as if in tune with our needs. Give yourself a week of really focusing on your daily cleansing, spending time each day to enjoy a mini-massage as you deep clean pores and brighten your complexion.
Select herbs for your cleansers such as skin-brightening blackberry and dandelion leaves, refreshing nettles, soothing chickweed, clarifying cleavers or skin-refining horsetail.
… the white cow becomes rich with milk ….
If you’ve been using heavier oil or cream cleansers during the winter months, try adjusting to lighter formats such as cleansing milks. You can make these simply by infusing herbs in a milk to suit your skin type. The oilier your skin, the fattier the milk you should use – so perhaps full fat or buttermilk for oily skin, almond milk for dry skin. To make your cleanser simply infuse a tablespoon of your gathered herbs in a cup of your chosen milk. You’ll need to warm the milk to boiling then switch off the heat, cover the pan and leave to infuse for ten minutes before straining off the herb and bottling for use. Keep your cleanser in the fridge and make a new batch every other day.
Try adding refreshing spring leaves directly to your bath or, if you prefer, making an infusion from them to add to the bath. For this, you’ll need about 6 to 8 handfuls of leaves with a litre of water. Heat the water to boiling then cover with a lid until it cools to a suitable temperature to add to your bath. Strain off the herbs and it’s ready to use.
…the hibernating bear would awaken from her lair; the serpent would emerge from her hole in the ground, her old skin shed, a symbol of rebirth …
Months of heavy clothing and sluggish fire-side-loving activity can mean our skins have a harder time ridding the dead skin cells that are sloughed in an on going cycle. Consequentially, our skin looks dull. Freshen up your skin by exfoliating to help shift those old cells and encourage the fresh, plump, new cells to the surface. You’ll be amazed how uplifting it is to support your skin’s natural renewal processes in this way, and how radiant your appearance can be.
Exfoliating should be done cautiously and just occasionally, don’t overdo it. Use something with a gentle formula, lactic acid is a good option. In Vital Skincare there is a recipe for a milk sponge bath, that benefits from both the lactic acid in full fat milk and skin-softening orange.
… and the world is filled with flowers.
In balance with nature
A toner can help you transition from one season to another, and if you blend it yourself you can gradually vary it as your skin awakens. Make the most of newly available herbs and flowers to benefit your skin. For dry skin, use a toner to help hydrate (chamomile and marshmallow are herbs that can help with this); for oily skin look for astringent ingredients (such as horsetail, walnut leaf, yarrow, sage, parsley and lemon balm) that will help dry and balance your skin. Toners can help even out skin tone and reduce blemishes.
Other spring herbs you could consider using in your toners include:
Dead Nettle: recommended by the herbalist Gerard as a complexion water.
Violets: cleansing, emollient and good for headaches
Cowslips: favoured in Elizabethan times as a spot treatment. However, be certain to do a patch test first (as with all new skincare) because cowslips in particular are something certain skins can be sensitive to.
Sweet woodruff: infuse to create a firming complexion water. (Do also gather a few leaves to dry as their scent comes out more then, you can use the dried leaves in a muslin bag to hang among clothes. Or slip a stem pressed flat into a book as a handy marker and nostalgic reminder of spring walks.)
As you’re tempted to spend more time outdoors, remember to protect your skin from the sun. It may not yet have gained its summer strength but rays can still do damage, especially promoting wrinkles. To avoid this, look for products with an SPF factor of 30 or more, or wear clothing that keeps your skin covered out of harm’s way.
Think especially too about the skin around your eyes. It is more fragile than anywhere else and can dry out quickly so take care to moisturise, using a delicate cream. Watch out for wrinkle-forming habits too – with brightening skies you may find yourself squinting more, equip yourself with good sunglasses.
You can make your own gentle eye cream, here’s a recipe. If you’re trying this you’ll want to use electronic micro scales to measure the ingredients super-accurately.
Exercise and shower the sweat away
If a bit of brightness outside helps energise you, make the most of it by increasing your exercise levels, it will help boost your skin by improving circulation and eliminating toxins – a great way to get a spring glow. Once you’ve sweated it out, dive in the shower with a herbal scrub to unclog your pores and freshen up your skin. Make the most of fresh spring herbs by macerating them in the oil you use to make your scrub. Here’s a recipe showing you how.
Clear and renew
While you’re refreshing your skin, also take some time to spring clean your bathroom cabinet:
- Check expiry dates on products, typically you shouldn’t be keeping anything longer than 12 months.
- Clean make up brushes and sponges (a great habit to get into) – Gently wash your brushes with a natural cleanser, then lay them flat to dry for 24 hours.
- And perhaps treat yourself to new wash cloths, bamboo is a great option: soft and gentle with natural antibacterial, antifungal and odour resistant qualities, and they can be produced sustainably.
Start or refresh your herbal skincare habit
Even among bare branches and underfoot mulch, you can start spotting the fresh growth. It’s a great time to get your eye in, to take especial interest in what’s growing around you before it all becomes so abundant you miss the tiny treasures. You only need gather small amounts for a little blend-it-yourself and those sought-after early gifts can bring you in tune with the awakening season.
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