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aromatherapy 101

Scented Baths

Nothing is more relaxing than a soothing herbal bath, and because it is inexpensive, the pleasure is doubled. Bath salts, herbal blends, and facial-steaming mixtures are easy to make. Homemade products such as scented witch hazel, cosmetic vinegars, dusting powders, massage oils and bath oils are satisfying and luxurious projects.

Massage and bath oils are made by adding essential oils to carrier oils. Castor, sweet almond and apricot kernel oils can be used alone or in combination; they work best for dry to normal skin. Olive, cocoa butter, and palm oils are also good for this skin type. If you have normal to oily skin, you may want to use oils with a semi-drying effect, such as corn, sesame, and sunflower oils. Start with a few drops of essential oil to one tablespoon of carrier oil. Depending on individual taste, you can increase the essential oil up to one teaspoon. Generally speaking, more fragrance is required for bath oils since they will be diluted in water. A reclosable plastic squeeze bottle is convenient to store your mixture. The fragrance will fade in time so it is best to only blend a one-month supply.

Bath salts are made from common and inexpensive materials. They consist of various combinations of fragrance, salt (sodium chloride), borax (sodium borate), washing soda (sodium carbonate), and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Sometimes boric and tartaric acids are also added. All of these ingredients can be purchased at any food or drug store.

Any blend of these materials is pleasing. Try mixing one part baking soda to two parts salt, or equal amounts of borax and washing soda. You may even want to combine all four ingredients in equal quantities. Stir the mixture, add essential oils, then store it in sealed jars or tins. A few tablespoons per bath will bring increased pleasure to bathing. You may want to be extravagant and use a whole cup!

You can make an effervescent bath by combining 10 parts cream of tartar with nine parts baking soda, six parts rice flour or arrowroot starch, and one part essential oil. A blender is a helpful tool to disperse the oil evenly throughout the powders. A glass, waterproof container preserves your concoction until you are ready to add 1/2 cup to your bath.

Create an enjoyable bubble bath by combining 12 parts soap flakes with 16 parts hot water. In another container, dissolve 1/8 part essential oil in one part alcohol and two parts glycerin. Combine these two mixtures and store the bubble bath in a wide-mouth jar.

Sensitive or irritated skin can be soothed in an emollient bath. These baths can be made by soaking finely ground bran, oatmeal, or barley in warm water and then straining the mixture. Add the water to the bath along with soothing oils (up to one teaspoon) such as chamomile or lavender. You can use any one of the grains, or combine them in the proportion of one pound of grain to two quarts of water. Almond meal or skim milk powder can also be used in smaller quantities in the bath. (This recipe is not recommended for storage.)

Herbal blends will add fragrance and other qualities to your bath water. These solutions can be combined with any of the bath mixtures that have already been explained, or they can be used alone. There are an amazing number of herbs that can be used in facial steams and bath blends. Many of these herbs are shown below. Different herbs produce different results. If you have a specific effect in mind, consult an herbal book or a book on aromatherapy to see which herb will produce the outcome you desire.

birch bark
clary sage
elder flowers

geranium leaves
lemon balm
lemon thyme

malva leaf
marigold (calendula)
oak moss
passion flower
peach leaves
raspberry leaves
savory echinacea

A facial steam opens the pores and cleanses the skin. Certain herbs also contribute beneficial effects. To make a facial steam, simply place the herbs (one cup) with a quart of water in a glass or stainless steel pan. Bring to a boil and turn it off. Next drape a towel over your head and place your face over the pan, trying to capture all the steam. When you have finished, your skin will feel revitalized and healthy.

Steeping herbs for about 15 minutes in boiling water or vinegar is the best way to prepare an herbal bath. Use approximately one cup of herbs to each quart of liquid. Strain the mixture and pour the liquid into your bath. If you have used water in the mixture, you can also use the liquid as a facial steam before pouring it into the bath.

Another way to make an herbal bath is to wrap herbs with an equal amount of borax in a handkerchief or cloth scrap. Securely fasten the fabric with a rubber band and hang it from the faucet while running hot water. Be careful the cloth does not come apart, because the herbs may clog your drain. One way to avoid spilling the herbs is to make a drawstring sack of either silk or muslin. You can remove the herbs from your "bath sack" after each bath, rinse it with cold water, and reuse the sack.

Essential oils can be added to arrowroot starch, rice powder, cornstarch, or talc to make dusting powder. Place the dry ingredients in a blender, along with a few drops of oil, blend, and when the powders are settled, note the fragrance. If you wish, more oil can be added. Orris root is sometimes combined with the starches in quantities up to 25%. Orris is known as a fixative, but also imparts its own unique fragrance. (Some individuals are allergic to orris; you should perform a skin allergy test as described in our Safety Info.)

One cup of vinegar or rubbing alcohol, three cups of distilled water, and a few drops (up to 1/2 teaspoon) of a fragrant oil can be combined to make facial astringents and hair rinses. Gently pat them on after a facial steam to close the skin's pores or use them as a final hair rinse after shampooing. Witch hazel extract can also be scented with oil and can act as an astringent.

From beginning to end, fragrance can add to the enjoyment of your beauty routine.


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