Natural Skincare with The Home Apothecary
The dry, cold air of winter presents a beauty challenge-- how to keep skin moisturized and refreshed while avoiding chemical-laden products. We’ve long been fans of natural beauty regimes, and now we’re ready to start blending our own remedies with a little help from an expert. Recently, we chatted with Cold Spring Apothecary founder Stacey Dugliss-Wesselman, whose new book, The Home Apothecary, is filled with all-natural recipes for hair, skin, body, and home care-- like the Almond Scrub found below-- that we can’t wait to try.
terrain: What inspired you to become an apothecary, and how do you come up with your natural remedies?
Stacey: My inspiration developed out of necessity; in my 20’s, I developed allergies to pretty much every store-brand cosmetic. As I learned about the powers of botanicals, I began to experiment, combining their healing and beautifying properties. My creations often stem from a need; I’ve also been known to learn about a new herb and create around it.
terrain: What essential tools and ingredients do you recommend for someone just beginning to create homemade remedies?
Stacey: When you first start out, there’s often no need to go beyond your kitchen for supplies. Once you start creating more, then you can purchase separate tools for your craft. I list a number of essential tools in The Home Apothecary, but the most important are a double burner, spatula, strainer, and measuring utensils. I also love my mortar and pestle.
When it comes to herbs, oils, and butters, my recommendation is “start small” and pick around five of each to really master. For herbs and essential oils, start with lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, and turmeric. They’re some of my favorites, and they have so many medicinal and beauty uses. For butters and oils, try jojoba, coconut oil, argan oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and (my favorite) neem oil. Additional must-haves for me are wax (soy or beeswax), witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, and aloe. Once you’re comfortable and begin experimenting more, expand into less common botanicals.
terrain: Is it possible to store handmade apothecary creations, or is it best to blend fresh formulations each time? If they can be saved, what’s the best way to store them?
Stacey: I usually recommend that you make your potions fresh, especially those that require fresh produce or the addition of water. Recipes using dried herbs, like tea blends or salt blends, will last some time when stored properly. Depending on the blend, oils, salves, and tinctures can last for weeks or months when prepared correctly. Always make sure to store them in an airtight, sterile, and dark-colored container, avoiding direct sunlight and water. There are even some herbs and oils that can act as preservatives, like neem oil or rosemary.
terrain: Which recipes from the book do you find yourself using most frequently?
Stacey: When it comes to skincare, I switch up my routine depending on my skin’s needs, but one of my favorites is the Dry Skin Cream Cleanser. It’s a thick cleanser, almost salve-like, and I always have it in my shower. My skin gets very dry, so I like that the cleanser is super gentle and moisturizing to ward off dry, cracked skin. I use powder cleansers as well, daily and for a weekly mask. I also love mixing up my herbal cold and flu remedies right before winter, so I have them ready. Some things I always keep on hand are Cold and Flu Honey, Cold Season Tincture, and my favorite, Sore Throat Lozenges. I very rarely get sick and when I do, it never lasts long!
terrain: Winter can be tough on hair and skin-- what ingredients do you recommend for cold-weather rejuvenation?
Stacey: During the winter months, keep the following on hand, to either use alone or to blend into a creation: cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and meadowfoam oil. Add a few drops of skin-softening lavender essential oil to any of the above and you’ve got a winter skin cure-all. Or melt them with some argan oil and/or rosemary essential oil for a scalp conditioner that combats dry hair.
terrain: We’re sharing your recipe for an almond scrub; can you tell us about the beneficial properties of its ingredients, and why it’s a good choice for all skin types?
Stacey: The properties of each ingredient make this recipe amazing for all skin types; it restores dry and mature skin, heals blemish-prone complexions, and calms sensitive skin. Almonds have lots of healing benefits, because they’re rich in phytochemicals that help restore the skin and body. Full of antioxidants, almonds are also great for dry, mature skin, and they to help treat dark spots. Combining almonds with sunflower seeds doubles the moisturizing and healing properties. Sunflowers contain high amounts of vitamin E, which diminishes fine lines and also fades dark spots and scars. Oatmeal calms and soothes the skin, unlike most over-the-counter scrubs, and wheat germ is packed with antioxidants that repair the skin and fight damaging free radicals. Wheat germ also soothes and heals the skin while fading scars.
When using this scrub, I often choose honey as my wetting agent, because it’s a natural humectant that moisturizes dry skin. Its consistency allows me to create a mask, which I leave on for a minute or so before scrubbing in a gentle, circular motion and rinsing with water. Honey also serves to heal and disinfect, so it’s great for acne-prone or irritated skin.
Almond Scrub for All Skin Types
from The Home Apothecary
2 tablespoons finely ground almonds
1 tablespoon ground sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon oatmeal
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1 tablespoon chamomile powder
Sweet almond oil, water, honey, or milk (as needed for wetting agent)
Combine all ingredients in a blender until creamy. Alternatively, double the recipe, combine only the dry ingredients, and store in a dry, sealed container for several applications, adding a wetting agent only at the time of use. To use, apply to the face in a gentle, circular motion. Rinse well with warm water.
Yields 3 oz.