Fall season has arrived and many of us may have already started to experience increased dryness in our skin. Many of us may turn to our favorite lotions. But if you’ve made your own lotion, you know how quickly it can go bad if it’s not sitting in the referigerator. If there’s a lotion that’s sitting on the store counters, there’s a good chance that lots of preservatives (and other harmful addititives) are being used.
If you want to address the deeper systemic dryness that comes with the fall, massaging warm oil on to your body can offer a more effective layer of protection from both the physical and emotional changes that can come with the change in seasons. Warm oils have a much higher capacity to deeply penetrate the skin and thus bring relief to deeper layers of the skin.
My favorite oil for the fall is almond. Sesame oil is also often used, but I prefer the neutral odor of almond. Coconut oil is probably the most common oil massaged on to the body by the general public. However, coconut oil is cold and is best used during the summer. * Whatever oil you choose, strive to use organic oil that has been extracted naturally, without harmful chemicals.
Once you’ve decided to start applying oils on to your body, now you want to make sure that you maximize your body’s capacity to absorb the oil deeply into the tissues. Here are a few tips on maximizing skin permeability:
Warm oil before using – There are so many different techniques to warm oil before using. The simplest technique that I have found is to place a small glass bottle of the oil that you will be using and place it into a cup of very hot water. The oil will warm up in just a few minutes. Other techniques that have been shared with me include warming the oil in an essential oil diffuser or warming it over the stove.
Use friction on your skin – Applying friction as you apply the oil increases skin permeability. Massage towards your heart - hands towards heart and feet upwards towards the torso.
Essential oils – Adding a few drops of essential oil into your massage oil can also increase skin permeability because of terpenes in the essential oils. Terpenes also cross the blood-brain barrier, which gives them the potential to treat disorders of the brain. Essential oils of clove, basil, oregano, cedarwood, vetiver, black pepper and many others contain high levels of terpenes.
If you massage warm oil before you bathe, use larger amounts of oil and allow the oil to stay on your body for at least 20 minutes. When bathing, rinse off with water, but it’s not necessary to use soap all over your body, only in areas such as armpits or the pelvic area that can develop strong odor and bacteria. The oil acts as a layer of protection and excessive use of strong soaps will only peel away that layer of protection.
If you massage warm oil after you bathe, wait 5-10 minutes to allow the oil to absorb in the body before putting on your clothes.
There are so many products in the market. There always seems to be a new skin care line coming up, some of them using wonderful ingredients. What I love about Ayurveda is how the best medicine is often just sitting right in your kitchen. I have been told by many clients that once they have started applying warm oil, they're not sure how they ever lived without it - physically and emotionally. The best things in life are usually fairly simple.
*If you have specific conditions that need to be addressed, it’s always best to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner for more individualized recommendations.