Monday, November 19, 2012

Washing Grains: Traditional Soapless Cleanser for all skin types

Another great traditional cosmetic found in almost every ancient beauty book from around the world.  From azuki beans to almonds to rice bran, ingredients usually feature local products, but most have at least a few exotics in them, for both medicinal purposes and to lend a sense of elegance and luxury.  Naturally soapless, they cleanse the skin of oils and impurities, as well as exfoliate and smooth the surface without harm.  If the herbs are chosen with health conditions in mind, they can even out tone, soften lines and wrinkles, and help cure everything from psoriasis and eczema to blemishes!

I made this originally for myself, as I couldn't find any on the market made with quality ingredients as well as reasonably priced, and it is now my most popular product. You'll see these in boutiques and spas for four times the amount, but they all used to be made at home. I find that, used daily, the healing herbs and exfoliation can appear to take 5-10 years off my face in about two weeks. They work like magic!  They are also a welcome and thoughtful handmade gift, and an essential for a home spa day.

My version of washing grains are based on years of experimentation on ancient formulations with modern sensibilities in mind. I use only organic ingredients where possible, including the essential oils, so this cleanser has the least chance of reaction for even the most sensitive skin. I designed this product to work with any other regime and for everyday use. It contains no nut products, which have allergy issues, and can spoil if not used directly. These will keep almost indefinitely, though using herbs as soon as possible is always best. I grind them at the lowest temperature as possible so as not to decrease the efficacy of the delicate herbs and oils.  I use newly dried herbs, since using fresh will mean that you must use them within one or two days, and it will already be a paste.  Rather like a facial pesto, it is also traditional, of course, but requires a bit more fussiness. Feel free to give it a try!

They can also be used as a mud masks - once or twice a week is recommended. Water, honey and yogurt can be used as a base with the Grains. Honey is antibacterial and is especially recommended for problem skin. For a slight natural bleaching effect for freckles and blemishes, the Acidophilus in yogurt increases the efficacy of the elderflower.

If you've never used Grains before, I recommend starting off in the bath or shower, as they can be tricky to rinse off completely in a sink. Now I know why previous generations needed a basin on their vanities: to splash off Washing Grains!

My typical batch can include:

Oatmeal : For softening, exfoliating, and relieves irritations.
Cornmeal: Exfoliating. Considered sacred by peoples of the Americas.
Kelp: Exfoliating. High in vitamins and minerals.
Clay: Used to draw out toxins and other impurities from the skin while providing minerals.
Fennel: Wrinkle remover. Fragrance herb.
White Willow: Moisturizing. Healing wash for eruptions and sores.
Nettle. Astringent, tonic, improves skin. Very high in vitamins and minerals.
Lavender flowers: Soothing. Stimulates circulation. Toning. Anti-microbial and topical antiseptic. Healing for cuts, burns. Fragrance.
Rose petals: Wrinkle removing, moisturizing. Fragrance. Sacred in Western Europe.
Linden: Softening, healing. Wrinkle removing, antiseptic, mildly bleaching. Fragrance.
St. John's Wort: Anti-microbial. Healing for skin ulcerations and severe conditions.
Red Clover: Skin conditions of all types. Purifier. Blood cleanser.
Yarrow: Astringent and healing, especially for cuts and gashes.
Elderflowers: Tonic. Clears and softens skin, smoothes wrinkles and bleaches freckles.
Calendula: Treats inflammation, wounds, irritations, and sores.
Chaparral: Treats severe skin conditions, including serious infections.

Add only a small amount of the essential oil of your choice into the mix, or whisk in at the end for different batches.  Any more than a drop or two, and you risk it becoming a bit more tingly than you might be comfortable with, as well as creating a rather lumpy mixture.  Many essential oils have medicinal as well as perfumery properties, so keep in mind the effect you want.  Don't use fragrance oils. They have no medicinal properties, can clog your skin, and are usually entirely a chemical creation.

Use the bases in greater ratio than the herbs.  You don't actually need many herbs, and they can be rather stick-like.  Grind everything to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, wheat mill, or blender specifically set aside for this purpose.  Take a break if it's gets too hot. You wouldn't want to ruin all the best parts of the ingredients. Experiment with the ratios to get the effect you want.  Don't be afraid to try some of the traditional formulations with different beans and nuts.  Some of those are much harder, though, and may require a hammer to get down to a reasonable size before grinding, which is another reason I don't use them.  It's too much wear and tear on my equipment, since I make so much of these... Each nut and bean has different effects and properties, but remember to keep those types in the fridge to minimize degradation.  And keep track of your recipes!  You may hit upon the next, greatest version, and we'll all want to know about it...