Facial Care

The great thing about all natural skin care is that it's not just about using natural beauty products—it's also about nourishing your skin from the inside. Project Wellness serves as a natural skin care blog that can help you decipher which products to use and how to feed your skin internally. We'll continue to fill the blog with natural skin care tips, from cleansing rituals to hydration to the latest and greatest product ingredients. In one easy spot, you'll find information about natural skin care that draws from clinical research and the expertise of our estheticians, including information about natural sun protection and natural makeup looks that are perfect for every woman.

  • Your Skin Care Ingredient Glossary

    Ever wonder exactly what a peptide is? Or what's so great about argan oil? Here, we demystify a few of the most common skin care ingredients that promise to smooth, firm and plump. (And check back soon-we'll continue to update our skin care ingredient glossary as we learn about new exciting ingredients.)

    Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis):
    Aloe is a succulent perennial of the lily family that is native to Africa and commercially grown in warm and tropical climates around the world. The gel is rich in beneficial polysaccharides and amino acids and has been used to soothe the skin for more than 2,500 years. It is used externally to rebalance dryness and calm delicate skin.

    Alpha Hydroxy Acids:
    This family of acids smooth and soften skin, even skin tone and stimulate the growth of connective fibers. Ultimately they can improve overall moisture, as well as the appearance of wrinkles. Also known as glycolic or lactic acid.

    Argan oil:
    Extracted from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree. The resulting oil has long been valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. Incredibly rich in vitamin E, essential fatty acids and proteins, argan oil helps fight lines, repair imperfections, minimize scars and stretch marks, restore texture, elasticity and tone, and reduce inflammation. 

    Ascorbic Acid:
    A potent antioxidant that helps scavenge free radicals that can cause aging. A form of vitamin C, ascorbic acid plays an important role in the skin's natural restorative process.

    Avocado Oil (Persea gratissima):
    A rich oil that contains beneficial fatty acids to nurture the skin and protect it from moisture loss and dehydration. It helps to rebalance dryness and comforts delicate skin.

    Beeswax (Cera alba):
    A natural wax used as an emulsifier and thickener that is sourced from the honeycomb of bees.

    Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Known for its bright yellow and orange flowers, calendula has soothing properties and has been used to rebalance sensitivity on the skin and throughout the body.

    Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): Chamomile is known to have hydrating and calming properties. It rebalances dryness and helps restore the skin's radiance and freshness.

    Ginkgo Biloba: The ginkgo is the oldest living tree species, and geological records indicate that it has been growing on earth for 150-200 million years. Ginkgo has powerful antioxidant properties and helps to reduce the visible signs of aging by protecting and firming the skin.

    Glycerin: A natural humectant, excellent for smoothing and moisturizing the skin, that helps to prevent moisture loss and skin dehydration.

    Grape Seed (Vitis vinifera): Rich in natural plant antioxidants that are beneficial to the skin and help to reduce visible signs of aging. It helps maintain a smooth, balanced and enlivened complexion by protecting the skin from free radical damage.

    Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia chinensis): Derived from jojoba seed, this highly moisturizing oil is naturally rich in proteins, minerals, vitamin E and myristic acid, essential nutrients for healthy skin.

    Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): A hydrating and calming ingredient that's used in aromatherapy and cosmetic preparations. It is used to rebalance dryness on the skin leaving it feeling refreshed and hydrated. (Read more)

    Lactic Acid: A natural acid derived from the fermentation of vegetable starch. It is generally used as a pH acidity/alkalinity-adjusting agent and skin smoother.

    Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis): Marshmallow root contains a high percentage of natural mucilage, giving extracts of marshmallow root a thick, syrup-like consistency. This humectant quality gives marshmallow its intensive hydrating and softening properties that help to rebalance dryness on the skin.

    These molecules are formed when collagen breaks down. Because it's a protein, collagen is made of long chains of amino acids, and when small segments break off, they form peptides, which in turn signal your skin to create new collagen. According to Ben Fuchs, they improve just about any chemical reaction you want to catalyze on your skin. Also known as: dipeptides, tetrapeptides, peptapeptides, etc.

    Plant Stem Cells
    : Much like the stem cells in the human body, plant stem cells have the potential to develop into various types of cells, and can repair and replace damaged cells by dividing almost limitlessly. In the basal layer of the epidermis (the deepest layer of the outer surface of the skin), stem cells divide and replace lost or dying cells. They also repair the skin when it suffers injury. The epidermis is in a constant state of renewal, sloughing cells every single day, so it requires non-stop cell replacement.

    Researchers have found a number of plant-based sources from which stem cells can be harvested (including Edelweiss, Gotu Kola and a rare Swiss apple called Uttwiler Spätlaube) and used to mimic the body's own replenishing stem cells.

    Pumpkin Enzyme:
    When pumpkin seeds mature, pumpkin's proteolytic enzymes begin to degrade the plant in order to create a fertile environment for the seeds to develop. In skin care products, these enzymes are used for exfoliating skin, leaving it healthy-looking and refreshed.

    Retinyl Palmitate: This oil-soluble form of vitamin A is readily absorbed into the skin to provide antioxidant benefit while rebalancing dryness.

    Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):
    Rosemary contains potent antioxidants and a natural compound called ursolic acid that has skin-restorative properties. Rosemary invigorates, restores and enlivens the skin and scalp, rebalancing oiliness. Its essential oil also has a reputation for enhancing focus and memory during stressful times. (Read more)

    Shea Butter (Butyrospermum parkii): A natural, waxy plant extract used as an emollient to help moisturize, soften and smooth the skin, keeping it supple.

    Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia): A narrow-leafed paper bark, tea tree is a member of an extensive botanical family that releases powerful essential oils. It's taken from a bush that's native to the northeast coast of Australia, and has long been used by Australian aborigines for its healing properties. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and a cleansing agent that rebalances oiliness on the skin. (Read more)

    Vitamin A
    : Skin cells divide rapidly, and vitamin A helps them grow at the right pace. It's also an important vitamin for stimulating collagen production. Also known as retinol or retinyl palmitate or retinoic acid (prescription strength).

    Vitamin C:
    This one has powerful antioxidant properties, and turns on production of the skin's own moisture factors. "The most powerful, effective forms are the stable, fatty forms," says Fuchs, such as ascorbyl palmitate or ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate.

  • MyChelle's Powerful Pumpkin Products

    Just in time for fall, learn more about MyChelle's fabulous pumpkin products. With exfoliating enzymes, vitamins a and c, and zinc, there's a reason pumpkin extracts show up in more than a few of their products! Here, Catie, MyChelle's Training Manager, talks about how to use four of MyChelle's pumpkin products: Creamy Pumpkin Cleanser, Pumpkin Enzyme Peel, Pumpkin Hydrating Mist and Pumpkin Renew Cream.

    Shop MyChelle's complete line of skin care.

  • Pharmaca favorites among Delicious Living's 2012 Beauty & Body Awards

    Delicious Living Magazine just announced their 2012 Beauty & Body Award Winners. No surprise that many Pharmaca favorites made the cut. Here’s what they had to say about a few of our own.

    Breakthrough Company: Andalou Naturals
    “…sophisticated, surprisingly affordable…featuring plant stem cells and other science-backed bioactives like probiotics, enzymes, and super fruits.” Andalou Naturals is new to Pharmaca in the last year, and customers are already raving about its innovative ingredients and efficacy. And don’t forget: Andalou’s facial care is on sale at Pharmaca, now through February 28!

    Industry Influencer: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
    “After 60 years, household name Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is among the most vocal organic-personal care advocates...” We love that they pack their multi-purpose soaps with Fair Trade and organic ingredients--making them a perfect, travel-ready way to carry shampoo, soap and face wash in one bottle.

    Best Splurge: MyChelle Dermaceuticals Supreme Polypeptide Cream
    “…Armed with a new antiwrinkle peptide, this even more reparative formula applies with the same smooth consistency.” Fellow Colorado company MyChelle continues to innovate with their specialized, plant-based ingredients.

    Best Classic Product: Weleda Skin Food

    “Natural beauty devotees still crave Skin Food for severely dry skin…” And Pharmaca Team Members swear by its ultra-moisturizing properties! Tip: Massage a small amount around the nose area when you’re sick to prevent chapping (when you just can’t get around blowing your nose).

    Best Oral Care: VitaCare

    “This new, inventive line of oral care products had us smiling wide from the get-go with its toothpaste, mouthwash, and yummy whitening gum….” Find VitaCare oral health care products on sale now at pharmaca.com!

    Best Body & Hand Skin Care: Desert Essence Tropical Coconut Hand & Body Lotion
    “…pairs coconut oil and extract with other skin-softening plant-based ingredients like shea butter, jojoba, and vitamin E...and a large bottle costs less than $10.” Moisture and the feel of the tropics: the perfect winter pick-me-up.

    Best Sun Care: Badger SPF 30+ Unscented Sunscreen
    “…has a pleasant texture and offers mineral-based UVA and UVB protection...” Pharmaca practitioners recommend it for its broad-spectrum protection and good value.

    Tell us: What Pharmaca products are among your beauty and body care all stars?

  • Buyer's Guide: Lip Balms

    Navigating the world of personal care ingredients can be confusing—how do you know what’s really natural and non-toxic? We’re starting a new series on Project Wellness that focuses on common beauty and body care products, including which ingredients to look for, and which to stay away from.

    Tis the season for dry, chapped lips, so we’re focusing on that winter mainstay: lip balm. There are hundreds of lip balm remedies on the market today, and as with any product, there are some that work better and are safer than others. When shopping for a lip balm, look for products containing shea butter, beeswax, zinc or titanium oxide. Shea butter provides and locks in moisture; beeswax seals in moisture and is a natural antibacterial; and zinc and titanium oxide protect your lips from the harsh UV rays of the sun (even in winter, when sun reflects off of snow).

    Those are the good ones. Now, which to avoid? Don’t forget that some experts estimate that we eat as much as six pounds of lipstick and lip balm in our lifetimes. So read the labels and steer clear of lip balms containing petrochemicals, synthetic fragrance or menthol, camphor or phenol.

    Pharmaca carries a variety of lip balms that feature all the best ingredients, without the bad ones. Here are some of our most popular lip balms:

    And finally, don't forget our own best-selling brand of lip balm. So keep those smackers moisturized this winter with some of our favorite all-natural lip balms!

  • Many Pharmaca brands named Cosmetic Champions!

    The Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics just announced the cosmetics brands that fulfilled their pledge to the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. Companies who made the voluntary pledge agreed to eliminate or avoid many chemicals and to fully disclose their product ingredients to consumers.

    More than 300 companies were named Champions for the following:

    • Complying with the European Union’s Cosmetics Directive, widely considered the global gold standard of cosmetics safety regulation.
    • Disclosing all ingredients, including chemicals in any “fragrance.” (Fragrance ingredients are often shielded as trade secrets in the US, but can contain toxic chemicals such as hormone disruptors, carcinogens and other harmful substances.)
    • Publishing and regularly updating product information in the EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetics database so that consumers have easy access to ingredients.
    • Complied with any additional ingredient prohibitions and restrictions under the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and substituted ingredients of concern with safer alternatives.

    Here are the Champion companies that Pharmaca is proud to carry:

    Aromaland: Aromatherapy products
    Avalon Organics: Body, facial and hair care
    Babo Botanicals: Children’s body and hair care
    Blossom Organics: Intimacy products
    California Baby: Children’s body and hair care
    CleanWell: Antibacterial soaps, sprays and wipes
    Dr. Bronner’s: Multi-purpose soaps
    Goddess Garden: Sunscreen for children and adults
    Good Clean Love: Intimacy products
    jane iredale: mineral cosmetics
    Juice Beauty: Skin care and cosmetics
    Little Twig: Children’s body and hair care
    Max Green Alchemy: Hair Care
    Badger: Sunscreens, lip balms, bug repellants and more
    Yes to Carrots: Body and hair care
    Zia: Skincare for men

    Congratulations to all of these great brands!

  • Get Great Skin Care Advice Through MyChelle’s Ask Our Esthetician Program

    If you’re ordering online or simply have a question about skin care, take advantage of the Ask Our Esthetician program from MyChelle Dermaceuticals, one of our favorite skin care lines (and a fellow Colorado company!).

    Here’s how it works:

    You come up with a question about MyChelle products, or need some general skin care advice. Want to know which ingredients are best for a humid climate? Or which facial cleanser to use for your skin type? MyChelle’s expert estheticians can help.

    Next, call MyChelle’s toll-free Ask Our Esthetician number: 800.447.2076. Better yet, dial in via Skype, FaceTime or iChat so you can have a face-to-face conversation with the esthetician. Call during normal working hours, and if they’re not on the phone with another customer, they’ll be able to answer right away.

    Skype name: mychelle.dermaceuticals
    FaceTime: esthetician@mychelle.com
    iChat: onemychelle

    Make things even easier by downloading their iPhone App—MyChelle’s Pocket Esthetician. With a touch of the screen you’ll be able to connect with a real esthetician, or book an appointment for later. (Bonus: the app features MyChelle’s skin care tip of the week!).

    After your consultation, explore our MyChelle selection at pharmaca.com!

  • Our Beauty Favorites

    In honor of our winter Spa Day events, we talked to a few customers, practitioners and staff members about that one beauty, body or hair care item they just can't live without. Here are a few favorites.

    "I love MyChelle's Fabulous Eye Cream--it has plant stem cells and I have seen a decrease in my fine lines around my eyes. So now I use it all over my face!"
    -Kristine, Facebook fan
    I really like Sanitas' Vita C Serum. It really does help restore the skin's tone and eslasticity, and we've found it can even help with acne and hormonal breakouts. And a little bit goes a long way--all you need is a small amount and you can usually see a noticeable difference within a week or two.
    -Cecily, Pharmaca Esthetician
    "I am currently hooked on the John Masters Lavender & Avocado Intensive Conditioner. I have super long hair and it keeps it from getting tangled. It smells really good and it keeps it smoother and shinier."
    -Lauren, Pharmaca team member 
    "I really love Juice Beauty's Cleansing Milk. It works great, smells great and it's a natural product that's hard to find. But I can always find it at Pharmaca!"
    -Jody, Facebook fan
    My favorite is the Andalou Naturals Kukui Cocoa Body Butter. It smells so good and has no nasty chemicals!"
    -Robin, Pharmaca naturopathic doctor
    "Burt's Bees Sensitive Night Cream. It's very moisturizing without being greasy for our dry Colorado winters. It doesn't irritate my sensitive skin, and it's not expensive!"
    -Deirdre, Facebook fan
    "The number one choice for me is Juice Beauty's Green Apple Peel. Customers use it and come back and tell me how much of a difference it made for them for acne, pigmentation, dryness, etc. It's like what you would get in a spa, but it's a natural, certified organic option that still does something for you!"
    -Mina, Pharmaca esthetician
    "I love the Peter Lamas Rice Protein Shampoo. My hair was really dry and kind of limp, and now it's super soft and shiny. It's also really helping with the dry winter scalp."
    -Diane, Pharmaca team member
    "Jurlique Hand Cream, especially in Rose, is the ultimate luxury. It's so moisturizing, and it's the only thing that keeps my hands soft and crack-free during Colorado winters. I gave it to all my female relatives for Christmas last year!"
    -Tiffany, Pharmaca team member
  • Everyone's Talking About Sea Buckthorn

    Sea buckthorn


    So by now you're probably up on all the health benefits of omega-3s. But have you heard about omega-7? It's the new fatty acid that everyone’s talking about, and it’s usually derived from sea buckthorn oil. Our practitioners are recommending it like crazy for moisturizing and nourishing the skin. First we heard about its anti-aging properties, and then about its ability to infuse moisture into the skin during the winter months.

    Sea buckthorn is a deciduous shrub that grows throughout Europe and Asia. The spiny plants produce a yellow or orange, berry-like fruit. Over the centuries different populations have used the fruit for everything from juices to desserts to liqueurs—as well as for a wide range of medicinal purposes.

    The oil extracted from sea buckthorn berries contains a specific fatty acid called palmitoleic acid, an omega-7 fatty acid, along with potent antioxidants like carotenoids and phytosterols. [Side note: In Russia, sea buckthorn is clinically approved for use as a medicine, where it’s prescribed for inflammation, circulatory disorders and cellular regeneration, among other things (via Natura Health Products).]

    At Pharmaca, you can find sea buckthorn in New Chapter’s Supercritical Omega-7 (currently in the process of being reformulated), and in combination with omega-3s, 6s and 9s in Natura’s Beyond Essential Fats. Speak with a practitioner about whether it might be a good addition to your current supplement regimen to boost skin health and support the sensitive membranes that line the digestive tract.

  • Expert Advice: Good Winter Skin

    Worried about what the cold weather and dry indoor heat are going to do to your skin this winter? Here, our expert estheticians sound off about their favorite skin-saving tips for winter.

    Name: Jeri L, Esthetician, Santa Fe
    Recommends: Hyaluronic Acid

    “Hyaluronic acid is this great humectant that holds moisture to the skin,” says Jeri. “You don’t feel greasy, you just feel hydrated.” Pharmaca carries a number of products that feature hyaluronic acid, and Jeri especially loves Mychelle’s Ultra Hyaluronic Hydrating Serum. She uses it twice a day, after cleansing.

    Name: Jenny M, Esthetician, La Jolla
    Recommends: Jurlique’s Moisture Replenishing Day Cream

    “People get dry, chapped skin as their oil production slows in the winter,” says Jenny, even in southern California where it’s summer-like weather year round. That’s why she loves Jurlique’s Moisture Replenishing Day Cream, filled with shea butter and avocado oils, which she says can be used day or night on the face and neck. “It’s so thick and luxurious, it’s like butter!”

    Name: Maggie B, Esthetician, Redmond
    Recommends: Sunscreen

    “People don’t think they need sunscreen in the winter, but they do,” says Maggie. “Especially for winter sports—the reflection of the sun off snow can burn you in just a few minutes.” She recommends the especially hydrating Replenishing Solar Defense SPF 30 from Mychelle.

    Name: Jenn R, Esthetician, Mill Valley
    Recommends: Essential Fatty Acids

    “Topical hydration can’t touch your skin if your internal hydration is off balance,” says Jenn. That’s why she emphasizes the crucial role that omega-3s play in hydrating our skin from the inside out. For women especially, Jenn will turn to a well-rounded formula that includes borage or primrose oils to help balance hormones, such as Nordic Naturals Complete Omega 3-6-9. Jenn also really likes the omega-7s found in sea buckthorn (try New Chapter’s Supercritical Omega 7, which Jenn says they can’t keep on the shelves). “I would take both of these in the winter if you’re noticing that your skin is drier than normal.”

    Name: Janet N, Esthetician, Oakland
    Recommends: Sanitas’ Topical C

    “For colder weather I like Sanitas Topical C, which is very protective for the skin,” says Janet, adding that that protection is especially important when the heat comes on inside. She loves that this healing vitamin C comes in a thicker base, and can be good for burns and chapped skin. “I have people that use it all year round,” she says, adding that she even layers it over eye cream or an anti-aging cream to further seal in active ingredients.

    Visit a Pharmaca esthetician for your own personalized winter skin care tips.

  • Botanical Ingredients for Better Skin Care

    If you’re searching for the best skincare ingredients, botanicals get our vote every time. Boulder-based Pharmaca esthetician Camille Capone explains that botanical ingredients are not just a safer choice, they’re often more effective than synthetic ingredients. “Many can have moisturizing, hydrating properties, stimulate cellular regeneration, and work with the immune function of the skin,” she says. That’s in addition to the fact that they’re non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.

    So how to choose which botanicals are right for you? We recently talked ingredients with Terese Linke, Global Education and Training Director of Spa for PRIMAVERA, a German skincare line. (Though PRIMAVERA products are sold in spas, Pharmaca is PRIMAVERA's only U.S. retail outlet.) Here are some tips and highlights from PRIMAVERA’s NATRUE-certified line, broken down by skin type.

    Sensitive skin: Soothing chamomile is great for sensitive skin, says Camille. PRIMAVERA’s Revitalizing Serum contains chamomile extract as well as organic rose essential oil to help reduce broken capillaries and promote cell renewal for a radiant, even tone. Also try PRIMAVERA’s Replenishing Cream, which contains organic, EFA-rich cassis seed oil and organic shea butter to lock in moisture and strengthen skin.

    Dry skin: Find everything for your skincare regimen in the Moisturizing line. Each product in this line features Neroli oil, an essential oil from orange blossoms that Therese says is exceptional for balancing and soothing dry, flaky skin. Also good for dry skin are cassis oil, jojoba oil, fig oil and apricot oil—all of which help prevent moisture loss and together make up the super-softening contents of PRIMAVERA’s Moisturizing Multi-Purpose Face Oil.

    Other skin challenges, solved
    As Capone says, many botanicals have the ability to “stimulate cellular regeneration.” We got the skinny on Linke’s top tips for common skin problems, based on the botanical ingredients they contain.

    • For rosacea, Linke suggests the Revitalizing Intensive Firming Cream. Its Matcha Tea Powder is anti-inflammatory and helps prevent free radical damage, while Green Algae Extract increases collagen and moisture, decreases expression lines and wrinkles, and enhances skin's firmness and density. She says another perk is that “since the color is slightly green, it takes away the severity of redness.”
    • For sun-damaged or aging skin, go with the Restoring Body Care line. It features organic rose essential oil, which Linke says is good for broken capillaries, as well as “organic sallow thorn oil, which helps restore the condition of sun-damaged skin and helps heal and calm overexposed skin, and organic rose hip seed oil, which helps refine skin texture.”
    • For puffy eyes, try Revitalizing Anti-Puffiness Eye Cream. Linke says its “organic eyebright extract helps soothe irritation and is wonderful for skin around the eyes because it brightens and stimulates the eye area.” It also contains organic Madonna Lily extract “to fight free radicals around the eyes.”

    Sourcing is everything
    It’s not just about choosing the right botanicals, it’s also about their origins. Therese emphasizes PRIMAVERA’s dedication to working closely with small organic and biodynamic farms, and finding farms in the country in which each ingredient grows its healthiest and best--e.g., lavender from France, tea tree oil from Australia or sage from southern Italy.

    Nurturing close relationships with small farms also means that PRIMAVERA has much better control over handling and manufacturing, from harvest to bottling. For example, they use a custom cold-pressed distillation method just once; Therese says that many companies purchase oils that have been distilled three to five times, diluting their natural benefits. Camille prefers the same simple distillation processes that don’t require lots of heat. “This keep enzymes and other aspects of the herb intact, making it more beneficial,” she says. “As you distill it multiple times, the concentration gets weaker and weaker.”

    Setting high standards for distillation means that PRIMAVERA knows for a fact that most of its natural essential, seed and plant oils are also organic. “We are not only in control of how the plants are grown, but also how that oil or extract is taken out of that plant,” she says. “Most of our oils are certified organic because we’ve extracted it naturally and haven’t used a synthetic solvent to take it out.” Camille agrees that it’s important to understand the distillation process, as oftentimes essential oils are distilled in cheap, synthetic solvents that contain parabens.

    To find out more about better botanicals or about which products are great for your skin type, speak with a Pharmaca esthetician today.

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