Au Naturel: Lady in Lavender
Natural beauty and hygiene ideas that will give you plenty of bang for your buck. Part 2: Lady in Lavender
There's a new trend on the horizon, and this one's a keeper! Many of us are beginning to take sustainability and natural health more seriously in our daily routines. Our awareness of what we put in and on our bodies is evolving, as is our understanding of the social and ecological impacts of the products we use. We're shifting our focus from fads and trends to long-term, ethical and natural solutions.
Does this mean our bathrooms need to become filled with individual, expensive natural products - one for each ailment, skin-zone and occasion? Absolutely not. Don't believe the marketing that targets your conscience as well as your wallet; the true beauty of most natural products is their multi-faceted and broad range of benefits.
In this series, we'll examine some of the key players in the natural beauty and hygiene game, from their effects, financial and ethical costs and myriad uses.
This week's product packs a punch, taking pride of place in your boudoir and your first aid kit: lavender oil.
What is Lavender Oil?
Put simply, lavender oil is concentrated lavender flower extract. The oil is obtained through distilling lavender heads in steam, a method that has been used to harness the power of herbs and flowers for centuries. Ancient Romans, Persians, Greeks and Egyptians all recorded using lavender oil to cleanse themselves, their clothes and their homes: the Latin name for lavender is even lavare, which means 'to wash!'
The pure version of the oil, as opposed to the commercial or diluted varieties which are most often sold as perfumes, is a primary ingredient in aromatherapies, hygiene products, household goods and even certain beverages.
How Can I Use It?
Lavender oil is one of the most accessible essential oils. Unlike all other essential oils, it can be applied directly to the skin and has benefits when inhaled, ingested and administered topically. Its myriad uses, in the kitchen, around the house and in personal hygiene and beauty routines, mean that it's widely available at many chemists, drugstores and even some groceries.
It's most renowned for its profound calming and relaxing effects, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, and its unique ability to regulate the excretion of sebum through hormonal manipulation.
It's true that essential oils can be a little on the expensive side, but remember this: they are highly, highly concentrated. Most treatments and products requiring essential oils necessitate only a few drops. Even though the bottle looks tiny, it'll last you ages if you use it correctly.
You'll also want to get what you pay for. Make sure you're purchasing organic and pure oils, which have been harvested ethically. One of my personal favourites is Doterra, which also makes its own oil blends for a variety of purposes. If you can find a company that's local to you, though, you'll minimise transportation costs and support local products!
Without further ado, let's jump into the health and beauty benefits of lavender oil.
Lavender oil's unique range of properties means it's ideal in treating several conditions, as well as helping to tone and revitalise your skin.
Pimples and spots can be tackled with one topically applied drop of lavender oil. The anti-microbial and bacterial properties help to fight infection, while the oil soothes and tones your skin.
Scarring resulting from spots, acne or physical injury can be diminished, or avoided altogether, with a drop of lavender oil used daily. Simply massage the oil into the target area with your fingertips, applying firm, steady pressure. When used on your face, this technique has the added benefit of stimulating the lymphatic system, especially when massaged from the midline outwards towards the jawline.
The same attributes that make lavender oil so good for the proteins in your skin mean it's also excellent for your hair.
Scalp moisture and follicle health
Massage a few drops of lavender oil into your scalp to leave skin and hair follicles feeling lush and healthy.
Lavender oil contains an agent which actively promotes hair growth. It's commonly used to reduce symptoms of alopecia areata (spot baldness), early balding or excess shedding, and leaves locks lusciously lush, moisturised and healthy. Massage a few drops into your scalp daily for best results.
The anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties innate to lavender oil have been shown to work effectively against head lice, lice eggs and nits, especially when combined with tea tree oil. Combine one or both oils with coconut oil and massage into the scalp regularly over two weeks for best results. Use a nit comb to brush out the hair after treatment helps get rid of any eggs or stunned lice.
Lavender oil's natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities make it a go-to for treating bruises, sprains and joint swellings. Using a compress allows you to apply the lavender oil topically, targetting problem areas. Simply add 2 drops of oil to a small bowl of room-temperature water, soak the compress in it and wring it out before applying it to the problem area. Repeat two or three times as the compress heats up.
Whether you've pulled a muscle, ache from exercise or feel tightness in your limbs, lavender oil can relieve you from the discomfort. Use the same technique as above, but substitute the lukewarm water for warm or hot water.
If you're suffering from mild-to-moderate pain, the analgesic qualities inherent in lavender oil can bring you some much-needed relief, especially if your condition is chronic. It's been shown to help with osteoarthritis pain, period pain (dysmenorrhoea), cramping, sore and tense muscles, muscular aches, rheumatism, sprains, neck and backaches, and lumbago. The most effective treatment is an aromatherapy massage: rub a few drops of lavender oil directly into the affected area, or combine it with a carrier oil for more spread.
Headache and Migraine Relief
Inhaling lavender oil directly, steaming it or rubbing the oil on your temples and the nape of your neck can bring relief from debilitating headaches and migraines. For an extra cooling sensation, add peppermint oil, but be sure to use a carrier like coconut or jojoba if you do.
Relief from Respiratory Disorders
Lavender oil can also ease any respiratory conditions you might be struggling with, including throat infection, flu, cough, cold, asthma, sinus congestion, bronchitis, whooping cough, laryngitis, and tonsillitis. It also loosens phlegm and aids decongestion. You can either apply it topically or inhale it.
Because lavender oil assists in skin healing, it makes a fantastic after-sun remedy, especially when combined with aloe vera gel, coconut oil or peppermint essential oil.
Symptoms of PMS include bloating, pain, irritability, moodiness, anxiety and low mood, and they are no fun for anyone. Luckily, lavender oil can help! Just 10 minutes of inhalation, whether through a diffuser or your own steam bath, can help alleviate the physical and emotional symptoms.
This is what lavender oil is really best known for. It's renowned for its calming, sleep-inducing effects. You can add a few drops to your pillow every evening, inhale it or massage it into your temples.
Anxiety or Stress
The same properties that help you get to sleep can also help relieve the symptoms of anxiety or stress. Whether through inhalation, topical application to the temples or neck or oral ingestion in teas, lavender oil re-balances your hormones helps you centre yourself. You can also add a few drops to your bathwater, to reduce nervous exhaustion and restlessness. This is because lavender oil contains terpenoids like linalool and linalyl acetate, which have powerful anxiolytic abilities.
Promotes Wound Healing
Amongst its many miraculous characteristics, lavender oil also happens to boost collagen production! Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin elastic, your joints smooth, your bones healthy, your gut intact and your hair and nails strong, amongst other things. By promoting collagen production, lavender oil can speed up the process of wound healing and improve blood circulation.