Jade gua sha tools are increasing in popularity in the West as folks find out about this beautifying and soothing skin care technique. I've used jade gua sha tools in my skin care treatments and my own skin care routine for a long time, and now you can get one for yourself! I also put together a little video demonstrating how to use your new tool, and a 5 minute organic skin care routine that will leave you with glowing skin and close your day with some self-care. Enjoy!
Sandalwood is an ancient scent that has been used in beauty and spiritual rituals for millenia. It's a key ingredient in Angelica & Peony's newly formulated Regenerating Serum, both for its rich, deeply comforting scent, and its traditional uses for skin radiance.
Sandalwood essential oil can be derived from a few species. Tisserand profiles East African (Osyris lanceolata), East Indian or White Sandalwood (Santalum album), New Caledonian (Santalum austrocaledonicum) and Western Australian (Santalum cygnorum). (Essential Oil Safety, Tisserand) Deforestation and overharvesting have led the slow growing Santalum Album to be placed on the threatened species list, although cultivation attempts are underway. New Caledonian sandalwood has an almost identical chemical and scent profile and can be sourced from sustainable plantations and wildcrafting. This is the variety I use at Angelica & Peony.
Chemically, sandalwood is high in sesquiterpenols - these are large complex alcohol molecules that contribute to the characteristic scent of sandalwood. The large molecular size slows their absorption into the skin, and may be why sandalwood is so rarely irritating, even on sensitive skin (Aromadermatology, Bensouilah and Buck)
In acupuncture school, I remember being taught the crossover action of acupuncture points on the heart channel, usually associated with calming the spirit, for use in skin conditions, especially itching. Our teacher, Dr. Yue Ying Li, a noted TCM dermatologist, told us that itching always has a psychological component. Skin disruptions and disorders are frequently connected to and exacerbated by spiritual and emotional distress. Sandalwood has been traditionally used as a sedative and spirit-soothing scent, and this application has been held up by modern research. In research studies, skin healed measurably faster from trauma when sedative essential oils like sandalwood were inhaled (Aromadermatology, Bensouilah and Buck)
The pheromone androsterone smells like sandalwood, and the oil has long been held to have an aphrodisiac effect. Sandalwood opens us up to erotic and sensual feelings because of its grounding, calming nature that encourages self-acceptance and a sense of safety.
Feeling sexy and calm is a prescription for gorgeous skin! With specific skin healing, regenerating and anti-scarring and anti-viral powers, sandalwood is a pleasurable and powerful addition to skin care. But it's deeper medicine of calming, grounding and releasing fear are what makes it a truly magical addition to your self-care routine
Calming and Grounding Massage Oil (may have aphrodisiac effect!):
2 ounces organic sesame or sunflower oil
20 drops sandalwood oil
15 drops sweet orange oil
blend well and keep in a cool dark place. Can be warmed before use by immersing the bottle in warm water.
I hope you enjoy this little how-to for spring skin - it features Angelica & Peony skin care products, but as always, I include some DIY alternatives. This went out to my subscribers last week, sign up here to get my monthly newsletter with articles like this, product specials and sales and interesting news in natural beauty and wellness. -Kirsten
At the end of the winter season, your skin might be ready for a little renewal - dark days, indoor heating, heavier foods, can leave your skin feeling dull, dry or broken out. Here's some easy yet sumptuous at-home skin treatments to try before stepping out into the springtime! Pick the one for your skin type.
Dry, sensitive and mature skin: it's important not to be rough with your delicate skin. Use steam, herbs and the gentle exfoliation of a terry cloth facecloth to renew your skin's surface without aggravating it. Slather your face with a gentle oil with healing and moisturizing properties, either a premade combination like Angelica & Peony's Nourishing Serum, or individual oils with moisturizing and healing properties like olive oil, sesame oil or wheat germ oil. Heat a wash cloth under the tap, and lay it on your face. Allow it to cool on your face, and then use it to wipe off the oil, giving a loving scrub as you do. If your skin is very dry, end with a final application of Nourishing Serum.
Oily or acne-prone skin: be grateful for your face's oil! It's a natural protectant that will keep your skin plump and dewy for life! You can likely tolerate a slightly more vigorous exfoliation. For the benefit of Chinese herbs, use Angelica & Peony's Serenity Scrub and Mask. Mix a tablespoon of Serenity with an equal amount of warm water and pat over your face. Gently scrub and rinse. You can also make a mask using egg white, or yogurt for a slightly stronger exfoliating effect (tutorial here). For a homemade version, grind adzuki beans in a coffee grinder or blender until fine and use as scrub or mask. End with a treatment moisturizer for oily skin such as Angelica & Peony's Three-in-One.
Uneven pigment, sun-damage, fine-lines: if these are your main issues and your skin is not very sensitive or ultra dry, try my favorite treatment: a clay mask! This is a fun article on the different types of clays, but I use Angelica & Peony's Regenerating Masque with Ginseng and French Clay, which combines the detoxifying and purifying qualities of French green clay with Chinese herbs used for centuries to nourish, rejuvenate and heal the skin. Combine the Masque or clay with water to make a paste, and apply to the face, avoiding the eyes. Let it sit until it begins to dry - not until it's so dry it cracks. Using a warm wet washcloth, wipe off and rinse your face clean. Finish with a rejuvenating product like Angelica & Peony's Regenerating Serum, or single oils with skin renewing properties like rosehip seed oil or hazelnut oil.
I'll be offering customized treatments like these in the intimate and healing atmosphere of the Manzanita Wellness Clinic in Berkeley on May 1 if you'd like to join me! The admission price includes a 1 hour workshop on self-care and restorative practices, an array of mini-treatments including customized facial renewal with me, herbal foot soaks and energy balancing massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture and private energy readings. We'll also have time for reflection, journaling, communing and tea drinking, and send you home with herbal favors to keep your inner and outer beauty nourished. Tickets are very limited, so RSVP before April 20!
Your skin needs a detox. Moisturizers, makeup, exfoliants, anti-perspirants, eye creams, body washes... the whole gamut of personal and beauty products that we happily pick up at the drugstore - or even the health food store, is populated by an unsavory cast of characters that are impacting your body even while they plump, hydrate, exfoliate or deodorize.
The issue of dangerous ingredients in personal care products is one that's always resonated with me. It bothers me that these products primarily target women, affect our hormonal systems and cycles, as well as causing cancer, and often do all this by preying on self-hatred and unrealistic beauty standards. Break free! give your body and your spirit a break by lowering the toxic load on your body and detoxing your mind from social constructs of beauty!
You can read in-depth on this issue at Skin Deep - the database of skin care ingredients and safety produced by the Environmental Working Group. You can get active on this issue by visiting Breast Cancer Action, whose 'Poison Isn't Pretty' campaign aimed to stop the Personal Care Products Council from giving breast cancer survivors and those in treatment 'gift baskets' laden with cancer causing ingredients.
Here's my 4 step skin detox to give your bathroom this month. Denise Cicuto of Cicuto Acupuncture and I will be talking about natural skin care on TCM Talk all February, so join us on Periscope live on February 11 or 26, and comment here with any questions about non-toxic alternatives, your fave products or Chinese medicine and your skin! #getyourglow #tcmtalk
What I've been reading, writing, thinking and about and indulging in this week.
Inspiration Station: Canadian plus-sized clothing company Penningtons is receiving a lot of attention for this heart-lifting ad showcasing their yoga clothes. It may be an ad, but it made me feel pretty great (and eager to get my sun salutation on!)
Oil Cleansing How-to: I use Angelica & Peony facial serums to clean my face as well as moisturize it. If you're thinking "clean my face with oil?! what?!" read this nice overview from Already Pretty, a body-positive fashion and beauty blog.
Happy Lunar New Year! Also called Chinese New Year, many Asian cultures will celebrate the new year with the new moon on February 8. Many practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, no matter their birth culture, mark the Lunar New Year as well. I got to learn all about what we can expect this year from Lillian Pearl Bridges on Medigogy, and here's a fun article from her on lucky foods to eat through the new year season.
I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Monkey!
PS See you Thursday at 4 pm PST for the next episode of TCM Talk, all about radiant, natural skin!
What I've been reading, writing and indulging in this week
Season's Greetings: Denise of Cicuto Acupuncture shares some wisdom about Late Summer - which is its own season in Chinese medicine terms. Denise has studied a lot of the more esoteric ideas in our medicine, and shares her deep understanding here. Featuring a snap of a late summer meal we enjoyed together!
I'm on TV! Sort of: I'm doing my first Periscope broadcast this morning at 10 am PST. Periscope is a new social media network that lets you stream live video and chat with people in real time, from your phone. So far I've walked up the steps of Petra in Jordan, watched a taco cooking demo in an SF apartment, and listened to a piano concert in Brazil! I'll be talking about the hows and whys of facial serums, and answering any questions about them that folks have. I've got more demos and q&a s in the pipe, so up scope!
Bitter is Better! The bitters I started brewing six weeks ago are ready tomorrow! I reread this great article from Lesley Tierra about what's great about bitters, and can't wait to start having a few drops of my tasty concoction before meals.
My friend and colleague Prajna Choudhury L.Ac, is a healer, herbalist and thinker that I love and respect - so I’ve been wanting to share some of her wisdom with Angelica & Peony! We chatted a few days ago about the acupuncture facial rejuvenation work she does in her practice - and dove into issues of Chinese Medicine, healing, feminism, self-acceptance and the vibrational frequency of facial serums!
Prajna practices in Oakland California at Energy Matters Acupuncture and Qi Gong, and she’s my acupuncturist as well as my friend.
How did you first become interested in facial rejuvenation acupuncture?
I began doing facial rejuvenation as a student intern at Yo San University. I studied with Dr. Yue Ying Li, a gifted dermatologist and facial rejuvenation practitioner, and patients began asking me for it. I continued my training and practice of facial acupuncture after graduation when I worked on a cruise ship.
In the first years of my practice, I began studying with Virginia Doran, teacher of constitutional facial acupuncture.That really changed everything! Her techniques are amazing. Her teaching is truly grounded in the medicine, and politically and spiritually I really resonated with her approach.
Can you say more about the politics and spirituality of facial acupuncture?!
People hear about facial rejuvenation acupuncture and they sometimes put it in the same box as surgical face lift, or botox, which are the opposite of what we do here. I’m thrilled to give people safe, natural, and health-promoting alternatives to these kinds of treatments. We all care about beauty - and we don’t need to buy into the belief that that requires doing harm to ourselves, physically or psychically.
There’s a certain feminist philosophy, rooted in the second wave of the seventies, that really opposed practices that were perceived as being about external looks or conventional ideas of femininity. It was the “flip side of the coin” of notions of feminine beauty that came from a patriarchal system. In most things, I’m more interested in the ‘grey areas’ between black and white thinking.
Instead of rejecting beauty altogether because of oppressive standards that exist, third wave/post-colonial feminism celebrates and encourages our diversity and external expressions of our inner life. To me, it's about reclaiming what beauty is: that beauty is not skin deep, not superficial, not about making ourselves into something that we're not. Beauty to me is really about allowing the radiance of our spirits shine through our countenance. Beauty is all around us in nature. And that beauty is also inside of us.
It bugs me that beauty is so gendered in our society… true beauty is important for people of all genders! I've had cis-gender, straight and gay men, as well as transgender men come to me for facial rejuvenation - it's not just for women. To me facial rejuvenation is about increasing happiness and well-being of body, mind, and spirit and allowing that to radiate outward through our face, through the spirit that shines out of our eyes.
Wow! That’s a great way of framing it. Can you say more about what the experience of this kind of treatment is like?
Well, we get body work on our bodies, massage, acupuncture - but who touches our face?! It's very nurturing and nourishing - we use our facial muscles more than any other muscles - and we hold a lot of stress and tension in our faces. So it's about allowing some relaxation of the tension in our faces, allowing nurturing and nourishment. From a Chinese medicine standpoint, dealing with excesses like muscle tension, and also deficiencies, allowing the yin and the blood to really innervate the face. You can see that by way of increasing collagen and moisture.
I do two kinds of treatment - Virgina Doran's style which is very intensive and at Energy Matters we call ‘Facelift Acupuncture’. I also do Acupuncture Facial Rejuvenation or AFR which is less intensive, uses fewer needles, and is combined with an herbal facial treatment. The AFR series brings an overall glow to the face, increases collagen, reduces fine lines, and evens out colouring. Facelift Acupuncture really addresses the effects of gravity and a lifetime of stress and emotions showing up in our faces - so, deeper wrinkles as well as sagging. It lifts everything - in Chinese medicine terms it treats the falling of spleen qi constitutionally, not only in the face. It's a strongly raising treatment - so I screen out folks with yang rising symptoms including high blood pressure or migraines - they are better suited to the AFR series. And in both treatments, I incorporate facial massage. In AFR, the herbal facial is followed by a tuina massage, which is gentle and has an energetic healing component, and with Facelift Acupuncture, it's more of a deep tissue massage to help release muscle tension in the face, using essential oils that are beneficial for the skin.
How do people typically respond to the treatment? And what age can folks start this kind of care?
As with all acupuncture, different people respond differently, and people respond better when they do a course of treatment and follow that with maintenance. In general, I see all of my patients have increased collagen and a ‘dewiness’ to their faces. You can start at any age! I used to sometimes say 'you don't need this!' to younger patients, recommending the milder AFR rather than the more intensive Facelift Acupuncture treatments. But one of my Facelift patients, who is 60 years old, said to me ‘I wish I knew about this 20 years ago - it really works and would have been a great preventative!’ And she is right! In classical Chinese medicine texts, around 30 is when the yang ming channels of the face stop bringing nourishment to the face, so that would be an ideal time to begin - that age would be a great time to start, with a preventative focus - once a season, or once a month, and then incorporating a treatment series/course if needed as time goes by. Preventative treatment is always the best!
What are some unexpected benefits you see?
It's acupuncture! Every facial rejuvenation treatment, we're doing a health intake, I'm looking at tongue and pulse, recommending herbs if needed, so it’s just regular healing acupuncture with an added focus on the face. So patients find that their energy is better, stress and aches and pains reduced, digestion and sleep improved; everything acupuncture is good for, this is good for!
Patients also often tell me, 'I'm loving my face!' which makes me so happy to hear! Unfortunately, what often brings people in to this kind of treatment is that they're not feeling happy with themselves and their faces. Besides the tangible or visible results, something happens where people are able to be more loving towards themselves. I often hear patients say they 'feel their face' - they used to feel a disconnection between their head and their body, and now they feel the energy in their face. One of my long term patients decided to stop colouring her gray hair following treatments - she discovered a new place of self-acceptance, feeling good about herself and loving herself as she is. And this is something I see again and again. It's not like people are getting facial rejuvenation and then progressing to botox or facelifts. I don't really see that. In other words, the benefit of these treatments is not just superficial, but is happening holistically and on a deep level. These treatments can harmonize the shen or spirit and address underlying issues of non-acceptance and lack of self love.
As a practitioner, these treatments are also a gift! When It's a busy day and I'm going from patient to patient, the pace can be intense. Doing facial acupuncture gives me a time out to really be present, loving the patient - touching their face with intention and channeling love. I really enjoy giving that kind of nourishing treatment - and of course my patients love receiving them! Facial treatments are my patients’ favourites - health, beauty, and pampering all in one!
You're a long time user of and inspiration for Angelica & Peony products. How do they connect with your facial rejuvenation practice?
I use A & P facial oils in my AFR kit, with the jade roller massage. I select the serum most suitable for each patient. And I recommend them to my patients for their own at-home care. I use the Nourishing Serum for myself, which I love for everyday use. Besides being awesome for my skin, I actually feel happy when I use it! The more experienced I get as a practitioner, both of Chinese Medicine and of meditation, I feel very sensitive to the energies of things - if I use products that are not good energy, I can feel the difference. I know the quality of the ingredients that you use and the love you put into it, and I feel that in my face - the serum vibrates at a high frequency (I know that is so woo-woo!). It's very similar thing to what we’ve been talking about with facial acupuncture - putting loving attention towards the face, morning and evening, and combining effectiveness with a more spiritual or soulful dimension - they are a great adjunct and support to my facial acupuncture treatments.
If you’re a practitioner and would like to incorporate the loving energy of Angelica & Peony products into your services to patients, visit my practitioner page and contact me to receive samples or place an order!