WTF is… Flax Seed?! (Version 2.0)

Flax is your friend! In fact there is no reason why flax shouldn’t be your best friend! The plant is a pretty affair topped with gentle blue flowers though it’s not afraid to change it up and appear in white, yellow, or red. The fibers are soaked in water and beaten out to make sumptuously soft sheets, called linen, and paper (fun fact: The American Dollar is made out of linen paper)! And the oil from it’s seeds is super duper good for you! Talk about going green! Flax for everyone!

The flax plant (Linum usitatissimum)

The flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) with it’s beautiful blue flowers! So cute! Image via Wikipedia.com

Let’s get to know a bit more about our fine fibered friend. Flax has been in use for a very VERY long time. There is evidence that the use of wild flax dates back to the Upper Paleolithic 30,000 years ago! From there is was domesticated and made a tour across Europe and Asia while occasionally stopping in to party with Egypt and Rome. In fact Egyptian Priests wore linen exclusively, since flax was seen as a symbol of purity in ancient Egyptian culture.

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All that goodness packed into a little seed! Amazing! Image by Bdevel via wikipedia.com

Now while flax seed’s are a decent nutritional supplement, it’s oil is of value for it’s rich moisturizing and soothing properties. Of note is it’s high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid which not only helps to reduce redness and irritation from inflammation, but also helps to balance the skin, to keep break outs to a minimum. these awesome properties and bolstered by the healthy dose of Omega-3’s that flax seed rocks. See what I mean now? Flax really IS your friend!

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Don’t let it’s pretty appearance fool you- it’s a mess-free face mask!!!

Flax seed meal is pretty nifty, too! It’s high mucillage content means that when it combines with water, and releases a slippery, nourishing gel that is packed full of polysaccharides to deeply hydrate the skin and keep it feeling healthy. Think of it like a a super simple conditioner for your skin! In fact, flax seed gel is so awesome that it is frequently used as the base ingredient for nourishing organic hair gels (behold this glorious list of styling flax creams on Etsy!). It’s exceptional for curly hair types, and we’ll be giving you a quick and easy recipe that Mack used to use before she… ahem… shaved off all her hair….

Here at The Raw spa, we subscribe to the Ancient Egyptian application of flax seed oil in our products to promote purity. Or better said, to promote purely happy skin! Our Nefertiti products, formulated for dry skin with occasional break outs, are all loaded with flax in it’s many forms, from the flax seed oil swirled into the Nefertiti facial treats like the Skin Tonic and Skin Parfait, to the shower confections like Salt Bars, Gelly Baby and Marshmallow Creams; and the flax seed meal folded into the Nefertiti Clay Bar, Nefertiti Exfoliant Bar and Nefertiti Sugar Bar.

We are especially proud of our flax seed oil and flax seed meal, because we know EXACTLY where it was pressed- we press the oil ourselves, to keep it super fresh, and grind down the flax meal once the oil is pressed out. Besides helping to minimize our carbon foot print and to limit the amount of waste that our products create, it also allows us to ensure that you are getting a fresh flax that doesn’t smell like old fish. Because regardless of what you have been told, flax seed shouldn’t smell fishy!

What are your favorite ways to use flax?

 

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Skin Care Sunday: What’s the Deal with Oily Skin?

I feel like the past few weeks this weather has just been playing tricks on Philadelphia- a few warm days to get us excited for the end of winter, and then BAM! More freezing cold. Are you as sick of it as I am? Because I’m kind of done with this cold weather.

So last week I took some time to introduce your skin to you. If you missed the post, you can check it out HERE. Obviously, it was just a brief overview, because there’s more to skin than just it’s layers! For example, there’s oily skin, dry skin, acne etc. So let’s take a second to talk oily skin.

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if your skin shines brighter than this bubble…. you probably have oily skin, or a WHOLE LOT of highlighter on!!

If you have it, you probably hate it- it makes your skin shine like a disco ball, and all that excess oily that your skin insists on producing can lead to black heads and break outs. There’s not really a clean and cut explanation for WHY some people have oily skin, while others don’t. But the how is easy to answer- your sebaceous glands are going waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy overboard in their job. For some people, they go through a “oily phase” right around puberty (oily teenager, any one?) but then they manage to pull out of it and the oil production regulates (and we stare at them with envy). For other people, the oily sheen pops up around their period, and then goes away for a few weeks (that’s right ladies- you get extra SPECIAL oily skin!). And yet still others only really seem to get oily skin in hot weather- this one is pretty normal, and results from sauna-like temperatures opening up your pores and getting the detox on!

Personally, I go from having bone dry skin through the winter to having skin like an Exxon-Valdez oil slick in the summer. It’s an experience. The result is that I’ve learned that when it comes to oily skin, you do have to be a little careful with how you handle it.

Firstly, put down that astringent toner formulated for acne-ridden teenagers. While it’s tempting to force your skin into being oil-free, you may end up doing more harm than good if you go too hard. Completely ridding your skin of oil with excessive washing or toning can lead to you skin creating even more oil- because here your skin was, doing it’s job, and then suddenly all the oil went away. There’s only one logical course of action for your skin- MORE OIL!!!!!!

Instead of harsh cleanser, try a gentle cleanser with few bubbles, and cleanse your skin twice a day to help keep the oil under control. Another option is to try oil-cleansing, which sounds counter intuitive, but can actually help to deeply cleanse oily skin without adding more oil. You can Google how to do it. I would recommend using an oil that’s pretty high in linoleic acid, like castor oil, grape seed oil or safflower oil- while these oils do have a really heavy “greasy” feel to them, you’ll be wiping them off your face once you’re done, taking away the oil you put on, and the excess oil your skin doesn’t need!

Secondly, your skin is already naturally moisturizing itself, so you won’t really need to use heavy creams with cocoa butter or shea butter, but a little lotion can go a long way, if it has the right oils in it! For oily skin, look for products that have “dry” oils (or oils that absorb quickly without leaving a protective film). These oils not only add a little extra moisturization, but also tend to have very mild astringent properties, so that they trick your skin into thinking its already produced enough oil and can take a break! I suggest looking for products that have lots of hemp seed oil (OMG it’s SUCH a pretty green color!!!!), hazelnut oil, black seed oil, rose hip seed oil, evening primrose oil, pumpkin seed oil and sesame seed oil.

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Fresh aloe is super awesome for oily skin!!!

A little hydration, wouldn’t go amiss in your skincare routine either! Look for oil free moisturizers (often marketed as gels) to add to your regime. Fresh aloe in particular is great for oily skin, as it is cooling, calming, and mildly astringent- it won’t over dry your skin , but it will gently slow down the oil production! It’s especially awesome in the summer if you freeze it in an ice cube tray and rub a cube over your face after you’ve washed it- very refreshing!!

With all of this talk about how to calm oil production, and have just a little less shine, now might be a good time to point out something absolutely awesome about oily skin- it doesn’t age! I mean, obviously it literally DOES age… but it takes a muuuuuuuuuch longer time for things like wrinkles and fine lines to start showing up on oily skin!! So the next time you look in the mirror and think “ugh, so oily today!” take a second and remember how much money you won’t be spending on anti-aging products!! 🙂

What are your favorite things to do for oily skin?

The Kitchen Sink Spa Files: A Turmeric Chai + DIY Turmeric Chair Cleanser

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The mug really is as big as it looks… my mugs are bowl sized!

So let me explain the black stuff all over my face. Some of us are blessed with the ability to attract biting insects. Some people attract mosquitoes, so while every one is swatting occasionally at a buzzing bastard, they are smacking themselves like crazy, screaming “I AM BEING EATEN ALIVE!!!!!” Other people attract gnats, and a few unfortunate souls attract flies. I attract spiders. I HATE spiders.

I didn’t always hate them- I grew up with “Charlotte’s Web”, and as a small child, I thought EVERY spider was Charlotte, and wouldn’t let my mom kill them. And then I got my first spider bit. I hated spiders ever since. I understand that they are beneficial for keeping pests out of gardens, but they need to stay the F*** out of my home. Yesterday, I woke up with two spider bites above my eye. Great, big, red, swollen itchy bumps of archid hatred.

My normal course of action is to smear black salve all over them until the swelling goes down. Normally these bites are on my foot, or my arm, so it’s not particularly noticeable. But the S.O.B.’s bit my FACE. And let me just say, I PITY the next spider I see, because I am going reap a retribution upon the likes of which the world has never seen.

There is one up side to these bites- it’s the perfect excuse to drink Turmeric Chai by the gallon. If you haven’t had a chance to read our WTF spotlight on it yet, you can give it a quick skim HERE.

Clearly my camera skills could use some work…

One of my favorite drinks is a big soup-sized mug of turmeric chai, but I don’t often have an excuse to binge on it. As far as chai’s go, it’s warm, it’s invigorating, and it doesn’t came loaded with caffeine like traditional chai made with black tea, so I can drink it before bed without worrying that I’ll be wide awake for a few extra hours. Big bonus. Plus, the strained spice blend makes a nice face wash for my seriously sad looking skin. You can make the chai with a milk substitute like almond or soy milks… but it won’t have the exact same skin properties. Say what you will about dairy- it’s really awesome on your face!

Also, I really love spice. SO if you know that you can’t do really spicy things, you may want to dial back the amount of black papper that the recipe calls for- I made it to have a little bite. No belated pun intended.

SPICE FOR LIFE!!!

TURMERIC CHAI SPICE BLEND

1 Tbs ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 generous pinch ground clove
2 green cardamom pods

TO MAKE THE CHAI:

1. Mix the spice blend in a sauce pot with 1.5 c. milk (or milk substitute)

It may look like your spices aren’t doing a good job of mixing in with the milk. Don’t worry, we are going to strain them out any way!

2. Over low heat, gently heat up the mixture until it gives off steam. Remove from heat and cover with a lid for 5-10 minutes

This step will make your chai extra bright and extra spicy!!

3. Strain the mixture through fine mesh coffee filter or a piece of paper towel folded into a cone.

Using a standard size strainer will let a lot of the ground spices though, so you want something really fine like this.

4. Add honey to taste.

A bowl of happy delicious yellow chai!

5. ENJOY!!! And also don’t throw out your strained spice mix yet!

See all that sludge? That’s going to be your face wash, so don’t chuck it!!

TO USE CHAI FACE WASH:

  1. Discard the cardamom pods.
  2. Massage spice blend into face and neck with clean hands for 1-2 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add a little water to thin it out.
  3. Rinse face well with warm water, pat dry, and follow with your favorite moisturizer.

And there you have it, a recipe for a delicious and sunny beverage AND a face wash to give your skin some glow, all in one simple recipe!

Skin Care Sunday: What’s the Deal with Skin?

I hope everyone had a stellar week. Philadelphia is finally thawing out (dare I even say it was warm?! I dare, I dare!). My Pandora station even had the perfect line up of jam music… ALL WEEK! Guys, guys! ALL. WEEK!!! That never, EVER happens! Needless to say, I had a fabulous week, screaming along to Manson and belting out Matt Dusk lyrics!  The neighbors may never forgive me… I’m a little tone deaf.

Since we’re finally transitioning out of winter, and into the first glimpses of spring, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about skin. We all have it. And yet somehow, taking care of our skinseems so much more complicated than keeping your heart healthy (Easy. Eat Cheerios. The TV told me so.).

Your skin is one of the largest organs of the body, serving as the first line of defense from external threats (like infections), as a purging system for things your body can’t metabolize (like that time you got trashed in college and woke up smelling like ketone. Give your skin and your liver a round of applause!). That’s not all! It insulates you from the cold, regulates your temperature (especially useful in the death throes of August and the arctic freeze of December!), and aids in the production of Vitamin D folates. It’s pretty important!

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There’s alot going on under the surface of your skin!! Image by Madhero88 and M.Komorniczak, via www.wikimedia.com

Your skin is also more complex than you would think! It’s not just the hair and outer epidermis that you see when you look in the mirror. Hidden from sight are sweat glands, sebaceous glands (to produce oil for the skin), the dermis with it’s connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels.

The skin on your body varies in type and thickness depending on where it’s found. The skin on the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands are the thickest, and are lacking the hair follicles and sebaceous glands found almost everywhere else!The skin on your eyelids, however, is the thinnest, and most delicate. See? There’s a real reason not to neurotically rub at your delicate eyeballs!

When it comes to having healthy, glowing skin, the most important thing to remember is that, like most things related to health, you have to have a good diet to support your skin! You can have all the awesomest skincare products in the world, but they are only going to be so effective, if you aren’t feeding you your skin!

What does that mean?

It means that if you are already on your eighth cup of coffee today, it’s time to put down the mug and start chugging water.  While your skin works to keep water in the body, it’s not going to be able to do an awesome job if you aren’t filling up on water in the first place. And boy oh boy, does your body need a lot of water!

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Eating for healthy happy skin doesn’t have to be boring- in fact, it’s down right delicious!! Image via https://www.candyindustry.com

Foods that are naturally high in folates and vitamins A, B, C, and E are also great to include in your diet. Veggies like kale, tomatoes, and beets help your skin (enter poorly imitated Russian accent) be strong like bull. Oily fish including salmon, mackerel and sardines are loaded with vitamin E to keep your skin happy. And healthy fatty snacks like olives, walnuts and dark chocolate can work to boosting your skin’s overall health by making sure it gets the nutrients it craves.

But most importantly, drink lots of water.

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Seriously. Pretend you are a tree and drink up!!

What is your favorite way to keep your skin healthy?

 

 

 

WTF is… Turmeric?!

Turmeric is what the layman would describe as an ‘exotic spice’. It doesn’t help that it’s a widely used ingredient in several Indian dishes, and a well known component in Ayurvedic medicine that , in some regards, is comparable to ibuprofen. No seriously.  Turmeric is what the layman would describe as an ‘exotic spice’. But before you go raiding your spice cabinet, let’s get some facts for your cerebral curry!

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If you mistake it for ginseng you are in for a slightly-less-bitter-than-you-expected surprise. Image via wikimedia.org.

First things first, DO NOT use turmeric as a substitute for ibuprofen or other over the counter painkillers. While some studies have shown that it can be used as a painkiller, it they are by no means conclusive. So if you have a pounding headache or joint pain don’t reach for your spice rack.

That being said, there are a lot of things that turmeric is definitely good for!  Aside from being an integral ingredient in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes turmeric contains folates (to help support healthy skin behavior), niacin (helps skin stay glowing and youthful), pyridoxine (helps skin retain moisture), is rich in vitamins C (helps to rejuvenate damaged skin) and E (blocks free radicals that wrinkles the skin), in addition to it’s heavy hitter, curcumin, which helps to reduce inflammation.

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Ain’t no party like a turmeric party! Image via wikimedia.org.

At the Raw Spa, we use turmeric exclusively in our all of our Hatshepsut products. Aside from being an actual ingredient the ancient Egyptian queen would have used for her beauty practices, we utilize it today to help calm oily or generally aggravated skin. The turmeric also synergizes well with the frankincense and spices to reduce the appearance and aggravations from acne break outs.

 

You can find some of our Hatshepsut bars, skin potions, and even bath cupcakes on our website! You can also find other excellent products in the Jewel of the Nile line HERE.

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The crazy color of these Hatshepsut Bath Truffles is all thanks to the healthy pinch of turmeric that we use!

What are your favorite ways to use turmeric?

 

 

 

 

 

The (Much Delayed) Kitchen Sink Spa Files: DIY Milk & Honey Face Wash

There are A LOT of formulas in my Raw Spa arsenal, and sadly, many of my favorite products are just for house use, like this creamy cleanser. So why not share a little love while we all wait impatiently for spring to swing into gear, am I right?

Don’t let the name fool you- oats are the real star of the show here, helping to calm, condition, and soften dry skin! If you missed out on why oats are so awesome, you can check out the blog post HERE.

This was one of the first things I ever mixed together on my own, and while I’ve played around with the idea of bringing them to the store and farmers market, it’s just so incredibly simple, I figured I’d just share the recipe with you, to make at home. It makes a pretty big batch, so if you are just using it on your face, I’d recommend storing it in a jar.

Honestly, I like to use it once or twice a week as a whole body wash, especially in the drier weather. The honey helps to deeply hydrate your skin, the oats calm irritation and help condition the skin, and the powdered milk adds just a little bit of extra exfoliation. You can substitute the dried milk with finely milled nuts or sunflower seeds!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 c. honey (I’m a sucker for Swarmbustin’ Honey)

1/4 c. whole oats (see NOTE)

2 Tbs. powdered milk

 

DIRECTIONS
1. Using a spice grinder (or, if you are looking for a hard core arm work out, grab a mortar and pestle), finely grind the oats. NOTE: different oats will grind up to different textures. Any rolled oats will work for this recipe, but we used locally grown Morganics oats, which a rolled super thin, and grind up to a very silky powder.)

2. Combine the oat flower with the powdered milk and honey. Stir slowly to incorporate the ingredients. If it becomes to thick to stir, use your hands to work it into a well blended mass!

3. Scrape it into an air tight container. As long as you keep water out of the container, it will pretty much keep indefinitely… all though the honey may crystallize over time. You can also roll the paste into little single serving face bonbons! I used a teaspoon to scoop them out.

 

TO USE:
-Mix a large pinch of cleanser (or one face bonbon!) in your hand, with a little water, to make a creamy gel texture.

-Massage the cleanser into your face and neck. You can let it sit for a minute or two as a mask!

-Rinse well with warm water, and pat dry.

All done!! I recommend following this up with your favorite moisturizer, to keep your skin feeling great!

Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

WTF is…Oats?! (Version 2.0)

We decided it was time to update our oats post, because as we have a grown, so too has our research… and it turns out that oats are way more awesome than we thought they were!! Oats are great for helping your skin fight off the harsh conditions of winter (or cooked with milk and a heaping pile of brown sugar dumped on top!). So grab your grains and hunker down. It’s time to talk oats… again!

Mmmm-mmm! Good inside and out! Photo via freefoodphotos.com

Before the simple oat (Avena sativa) was recognized as the grain we all know and love (with brown sugar), it was considered a weed. In fact the term ‘sewing wild oats’ is a reference to the rampant and widespread growth that oats were once known for. However after it was domesticated, oats became a staple in many peoples diet, even to this day! In Scotland oats are still held in high esteem and are a mainstay of the national diet. In Britain oats are sometimes used for brewing beer. Even here in America, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s never heard of good old fashioned oatmeal (with brown sugar- ALL the brown sugar).

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This is what oats look like before they go into your oatmeal! Photo via commons.wikimedia.org

Not only are oats a great source of energy, but they’re also good for your skin too (but leave out the brown sugar if your going to be smacking oats on your face… apparently brown sugar doesn’t go with EVERYTHING.) Oats are great for gentle exfoliation, as they soften with water, but they are more than just an killer scrub for sensitive skin!

Cleopatra Salt Bar

The Cleopatra Salt Bar is a gentle soap for dry and sensitive skin, loaded to the gills with finely milled oats and local honey… try not to eat it!

Oats also contain a whole host of phytochemicals that make them absolute rock stars for skin, including saponins, which help to gently remove dirt and oil from your pores; polysaccharides, which become gelatinous in water and leave a protective residue on the skin preventing further damage; flavonoids and silicic acid to intensely soothe skin irritation, agitation and redness; Vitamin A to rejuvenate your skin; and Vitamin B to help hydrate your skin while also making it feel softer and smoother! Calming, moisturizing, exfoliating. What else can we say but: Bring on the oats!

Morganics Oats

It doesn’t get any fresher than local farms! We adore our oats supplier, Moraganics Family Farms! Photo via www.morganicsfamilyfarm.com

When it comes to our oats, we’re pretty proud to say that our oats come from a local farm, Morganics Family Farm (you can find out more about them on their website ). Located in Hillsborough, New Jersey, this family run operation grows the best oats ever. Seriously. THE BEST. Plus we think it’s pretty cool to be able to so drastically reduce our carbon foot print with such a ubiquitous ingredient. You can grab Morganics oats in Philly at the Headhouse Farmers Markets on Sundays (If Mack doesn’t beat you to it and buy them all…).

Cleopatra Bath Cupcake

We always seem to have issues convincing people that this oat-packed Cleopatra Bath Cupcake goes in your tub, not your stomach!

We use oats in all their many forms, from the rich oat milk that we swirl into Skin Parfaits, and the milky oat tops that we infuse into Skin Tonics, to the ground oats the we pack into our shower bars and bath confections! if you’re rocking some seriously dry skin, you’ll be happy to know that oats reign supreme in the Cleopatra line up, which you can find here: https://www.therawspa.net/jewel-of-the-nile

Cleopatra Skin Parfait

It’s creamy, it’s dreamy and it’s packed with fresh oat milk, made with local Morganics Oats and a little patience! The Cleopatra Skin Parfait is a boon for those wrestling with dry or sensitive skin!

If you’re wondering how you can start rocking the oats right now, we’ll have a post up later this week with one of Mack’s super special house specialties, the Milk & Honey Face Wash! Don’t let the name fool you- oats are the star of the show! 🙂

So, what do you think? They’re a little more awesome than you thought, right?