Energy Matters April to June 2017
This is a wonderful time of year, as nature springs back bringing us the delights of fresh flowers, singing birds and with any luck bright sunshine! The days are longer, and we can make plans for outdoor activities and carry out ideas for our homes and gardens - and for our therapy work too!
This time around, my focus is on new product ingredients, how we communicate with ourselves and our clients, and an exciting new course. I love making products and it feels like the right time to share my skills with students!
Stinging Nettles - the next big beauty story?
The humble nettle is springing up this time of year in gardens, waste ground and hedgerows – anywhere the ground has been disturbed. Gardeners curse it as a ‘weed’, and strive to get rid of it (but herbalists love it). Nettles (Urtica dioica) are so common because our ancestors found them useful – ‘nettle’ is said to come from the Anglo Saxon ‘noedl’ or needle, because the fibres of the plant were once used as sewing thread before flax (linen) was introduced. The use of nettles in textiles dates back to the Bronze Age, and they were used until the early 20th century to produce cloth and dyes, particularly for military and industrial purposes.
Nettles are edible and are used to make products ranging from ‘Granny’s Nettle Beer’ to pesto (look online for lots of delicious recipes using spring nettles). The young leaves are best to use, and nettles should be avoided once they have gone to seed.
Urtica dioica is high in antioxidants due to its phenol content. It is antimicrobial so has antiseptic properties, and is an analgesic. It is used in herbalism to treat anemia as it has a high iron content, and nettle tea is a remedy for arthritis and rheumatism. The plant has diuretic properties and so can be used to help urinary tract and kidney problems and it has anti-ulcer qualities also. It is a valuable astringent.
The plant stings due to chemicals such as serotonin, histamine and acetylcholine found at the base of the fine hairs which cover nettle leaves. These chemicals irritate the skin when we brush against the plant, because the tips of the hair get broken off. The broken hairs become sharp, and are able to work like little needles, punching the chemicals into the skin. Nettle stings can cause pain, redness, swelling, itching and numbness. This, of course, is why the plant is regarded as a garden pest. Once nettles have been boiled or steamed, they lose their stinging qualities!
My focus here is on the use of nettles in beauty therapy. The high level of antioxidants in nettles help inhibit the activity of the free radicals which age the skin, and the antimicrobial properties of the plant mean it is useful in dealing with a wide variety of skin and scalp problems. Nettle is an astringent, so it is of benefit to over-oily skin with open pores. It is a good plant to use for acne-prone skin, and it will help heal the blemishes without leaving scarring behind.
I think nettles will be the next big thing in beauty therapy! Green is the new colour of the season, so they chime with what is happening in fashion – and their versatility and abundance means they are a relatively cheap ingredient useful in a wide variety of products for different client needs. They are also short on food miles and an environmentally friendly choice if grown organically, as they provide food for caterpillars and a home for butterflies!
Try making some simple beauty products for yourself, and look out for what the big cosmetic companies may be doing with nettles!
First of all, you need to make a nettle infusion. Use one ounce of dried stinging nettle leaves (from a herbalist, or simply open a bag of nettle tea or even dry your own). Add eight fluid ounces of boiling water, then leave to infuse overnight (8-10 hours). Strain the mixture into a clean bowl.
Your Nettle Infusion
3 oz Castile soap (unscented)
3 tablespoons aloe vera juice
A few drops of carrier oil – jojoba, sweet almond, argan, it’s your choice depending on hair type
12 drops peppermint oil
12 drops rosemary oil
Use a sieve to bottle your shampoo, and label it with the ingredients used, the date made and the purpose of the product.
You will need to shake the product before use as the ingredients will separate.
One cup of carrier oil – sweet almond, coconut, argan, jojoba, sunflower, sesame according to skin type and preference
One cup of dried nettles – or use half nettles, half rosemary for an antiseptic, half nettles and half calendula for a soothing salve
One ounce of beeswax (less makes a very thin salve, more makes it harder)
15 drops of camomile essential oil (optional) – essential oils will make the salve a bit harder
You will also need muslin or cheesecloth to sieve ingredients, and little jars to put the salve into.
First, make a herbal oil infusion. You will need a bain marie or double boiler. You can use a pan of water with a pyrex or steel bowl which fits neatly into the top of the pan. The water should come no more than halfway up the outside of the bowl. You must avoid getting water into the oil. Place the herbs into the bowl and add the oil, then bring the water in the pan to the boil. Turn the heat down so the water simmers for about an hour. The oil will heat gently, and the herbs will infuse into it. Allow the oil to cool before you sieve it through the muslin into a glass or steel container, ready to use in the salve.
To make the salve, use your double boiler again – the beeswax goes into the bowl with the oil, and the two are gently heated together. Combine them with care. If you are using essential oils, add them now and stir gently.
Use a sieve to put the salve into pots and leave it in a cool place to set.
You can use the salve as a remedy, or indeed for massage. It is wonderful for foot treatments of all kinds!
Do you like making natural products?
If so, you will love my new Moroccan Style Candle Massage course, which combines a wonderful body treatment WITH making massage candles!
The treatment involves a traditional Moroccan gommage using savon beldi (black soap) followed by a massage using the oil produced by a candle. You will make your own massage candles from natural waxes designed for use on the body, and learn how to use them safely in your own treatments.
Bring original Moroccan techniques into your practice, and add a touch of spa luxury!
The course is one day and costs £225 including the cost of making your candles to take home. It will be available from August 2017.
Minding our Language
I am a teacher, and so I read articles about empowering learners from time to time. One common theme is language, positive language, language which makes the student feel able, supported and achieving.
This focus on what I am saying has made me more sensitive to what I hear and say during my work as a therapist. Like anyone else, I have treatments to help me feel and indeed look my best and sometimes I deliver my courses in salons, spas and hotels. I listen carefully to the language I hear around me, and what is said to me.
I have a simple message for all of us - Don’t body shame the client!
We need to say positive, empowering things to our clients! They come to us to boost their wellbeing, and focusing on how to get the maximum benefit from their treatment with good aftercare is a good way to keep things positive at the end of the session.
There is a tendency to sell products post-treatment with negative marketing techniques – ‘you’ve got the first signs of ageing, with some wrinkles and crepey skin along with hyperpigmentation in some areas. This serum I just used in your treatment will help slow the damage if you use it every day’. Does this make you feel good when you’re just about to pay for a facial? Wouldn’t you rather be told that the product will help maintain the levels of hydration and nourishment achieved in the treatment and improve the skin even further?
We all need to listen to what we say to ourselves about ourselves and be mindful. If we give ourselves negative messages, do we pass these on to our clients? Using positive language gives a good impression of us as therapists (and as people it’s good to be around), and the client will respond to it by enjoying the treatment, coming back for more and listening to ways to help them boost their health, fitness and appearance so that they look and feel their very best!
Dysmorphia is an issue, especially in the fashion and beauty world, with many people going on to develop eating disorders, spend thousands on plastic surgery and extreme diet and exercise plans and feel miserable about themselves and their appearance. The healing starts with you and me and the messages we give ourselves about our own bodies. This in turn influences the words we use at work and the energy we exchange with our clients.