Even as more people are waking up to the importance of what they put into their bodies, they don’t always think carefully about what goes onto their bodies. What can we do to stay informed about the ingredients in skincare products and make careful choices about what we rub, spray, and wipe on our bodies? How about taking it one step further and making some of the products at home?
We recently spoke with our friend and herbalist extraordinaire Faith Rodgers to gather guidance so we can each chart the path that’s right for us and our families.
Meet the Expert: Faith Rodgers, Herbalist and Entrepreneur
Faith Rodgers is a certified herbalist and mother of three who is passionate about making skincare products and herbal medicine and teaching others how to do the same. She empowers people to take control of what they put on their own skin and their kids’.
Faith came to herbalism after exploring other paths, including nursing. As a nursing assistant on the orthopedic floor in a Denver hospital, she saw firsthand how overly medicated our culture had become, and she was inspired to find other ways to help people heal. After some research, she discovered something that would change her life profoundly—an herb school in Boulder, Colorado, called the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism (now called the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism). Faith explains:
While in herb school in 2007, Faith began working at Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary, an enchanted herb shop in downtown Boulder. Rebecca Luna, the owner, taught Faith how to make medicine, relying on research and intuition. Faith says, “I have developed my intuition, but I’m definitely practical. I like to see facts and the underlying research.”
Working at Rebecca’s, Faith learned to develop new product formulas, source ingredients, work directly with customers, and teach classes. She discovered a passion for the alchemy of natural skincare and herbalism. She explains, “I think skincare is the area that people often overlook. They’re eating organic meats and organic vegetables and trying to make good choices, but then they’re often putting really yucky products on their skin.”
Faith recently struck out on her own to launch a line of “really clean, really good” products for pregnant women, new moms, and babies through her online venture The Little Herbal Apothecary. Through her apothecary, Faith offers parents safe and healthy products for their families.
Faith has seen that when people become parents, they often focus more on healthy, sustainable living. However, as they work to make informed decisions, they often find that the available information is overwhelming and difficult to decipher. So we asked Faith to share a few tips to help you find safe, high-quality bath and body-care products for your family.
Tip #1: Read Those Labels
It may seem basic, but many people don’t read the labels on their skincare products. They see “natural” on the bottle and figure they’re in the clear. The problem is, natural is an unregulated term that could mean almost anything. Faith explains that even in “natural” body-care products, there are many harsh chemicals, synthetic fragrances, and potential carcinogens.
A diligent review of the label will tell you what’s in the product. And if you don’t recognize a specific ingredient, you can look it up in the Skin Deep database, a project of the Environmental Working Group. Skin Deep assigns a safety rating to each ingredient so you can make informed decisions about whether products are right for you and yours. Skin Deep also includes the scientific studies underlying those ratings, so it’s a helpful way to learn more and gather unbiased, research-based information.
Tip #2: Buy Organic or Wildcrafted Products When You Can
Consider buying organic skincare products, but know that careful label reading is still required. Look for items that have the USDA seal and that say either “100% organic” or “organic.” Look also for ethically wildcrafted herbs (wild plants that are responsibly harvested), which cannot be labeled organic because they are not cultivated, but in some cases they actually offer the most health-giving benefits. One caveat: Some wildcrafted herbs are endangered so you’ll want to avoid those. Visit the United Plant Savers’ Species At-Risk list to find out which plants are endangered. This sounds like a lot of work, but we think it’s worth the effort.
Tip #3: Avoid “Fragrances” – No Easy Feat
When the ingredient list in a product includes “fragrance,” it’s often an undisclosed mixture of different-scent chemicals. Companies are not required to list these ingredients, which may be a bunch of possibly harmful ingredients that are being absorbed by your skin. With this in mind, Faith recommends avoiding products that include fragrances.
Tip #4: Go with Glass
For packaging, glass is always Faith’s preferred choice. It contains zero harmful ingredients and is reusable or recyclable. When plastic packaging is necessary (we know it sometimes is!), keep two things in mind: First, be careful that it doesn’t leach toxins into your product, and second, be sure it’s recyclable. With these two things in mind, Faith recommends HDPE and PET plastics in terms of recyclability and safety.
Favorite Skincare Herbs for Your Family
If you’re thinking about making some of your own skincare products, you’ll need to learn about various herbs, their qualities, and their uses. But there are zillions of beautiful, effective medicinal herbs to include in your potions, so where do you begin? Faith says to start small. So, let’s get to know four of Faith’s favorite herbs along with information about how to use them.
Herb #1: Calendula
Faith puts calendula in almost every skincare product she makes. The herb soothes inflamed skin and is great for rashes, eczema, and other irritated skin conditions. It is also a “vulnerary” herb, meaning it helps heal wounds and is effective for treating everything from cuts and scrapes to chapped lips. Faith says, “A simple calendula-infused olive oil was the only moisturizer I used on my kids for the first couple of months of their lives.” She also uses the infused oil to create healing salves, lotions, and creams. When making her own herb-infused oils, Faith usually uses olive oil, but notes that you can also use jojoba, almond, apricot, coconut, and others.
Herb #2: Lavender
Faith considers lavender another skincare panacea. She remarks, “For burns and rashes that are hot to the touch, I like to use a small amount of the essential oil, diluted into liquid aloe vera or the floral water (hydrosol). This can help to cool the heat. Once a burn is no longer hot to the touch, you can use oil infusions, salves, lotions, etc. And, because lavender is antiseptic, it’s useful in antibacterial salves and creams.”
Herb #3: Chamomile
Chamomile is one of Faith’s favorite herbs for kids. Because it soothes and calms the nervous system, it’s great in a nighttime massage oil or a simple herbal bath. It relieves gas and bloating, so Faith often uses the infused oil for tummy rubs when her kids have stomachaches. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, making it useful for rashes, hives, eczema, and sore muscles. As with lavender, Faith uses chamomile infused oil, essential oil, and floral water in her skincare products.
Herb #4: Plantain
According to Faith, plantain is perfect for the skin because it’s so soft. She says, “When you add plantain-infused oil to salves and lotions, it makes them extra-moisturizing. It is also a vulnerary herb, as well as an antiseptic, so it is great for first-aid salves.” Faith adds the infused oil to her healing salves, body lotions, and creams.
Learn How to Make Your Own Baby Wipes! Because, Most Wipes Are Nasty, Way Before You Wipe a Tookus with Them
In Faith’s experience, making homemade baby wipes is an easy and satisfying way to begin crafting your own products. Store-bought wipes are often full of harsh chemicals such as parabens, formaldehyde, fragrance, and dioxin. She says, “Because wipes are used on the most sensitive skin on a baby’s body, it’s worth paying special attention to what products you use. Even the natural ones are often loaded with junk.”
Why so many preservatives in wipes? For one, moist wipes are made with water and are prone to mold; the preservatives mitigate this. This means that when you make your own wipes, make them in small batches because you’ll want to use them within five days.
Want to learn more from Faith? Check out our Concoct Elderberry Syrup online class. Faith and Rebecca Luna team up to teach you how to create your own natural immune booster.
And, if you’re inspired to make more of your own stuff, you can visit The Little Herbal blog and download Faith’s free ebook, The Little Herbal: A Beginner’s Guide to Herbs for Kids, which is chock-full of simple, useful recipes. Faith elaborates, “[The book] basically has the top 10 herbs that I use with my kids and a little profile about what the herbs do and how they work. Then it gives recipes using all those herbs, like herbal cough syrup, elderberry syrup, diarrhea relief tea, and constipation tea. All those little things that you don’t necessarily want to have to go to the doctor for.”
Author: Mara Rose
Editor: Maggie Wells & Joy Herbers
Photo: Christina Kiffney, The Little Herbal, and Shutterstock