It seems to me that these days many skin care products are marketed via what I have come to call the Hero Ingredient Syndrome. That is, featuring the ingredient du jour (be it synthetic, botanical or cosmeceutical) that is currently trendy. I have seen these ingredients come and go over the years. If a certain ingredient gets good press extolling its virtues, chances are, within months, you'll find that ingredient popping up in skin care products everywhere. Then, when the general public attention span wanes or they realize it didn’t really work, au revoir Hero Ingredient.
Most fortunately, Dr. Lee, my ancient and enigmatic Chinese herbal medicine teacher, drummed into my practice the 'royal court' doctrine of making herbal preparations. This emphasizes the informed combining of numerous botanicals to create a well-rounded formula greater than the sum of its parts. He taught that a truly effective formula would need many of the diverse members of the royal court included; not only the principle emperor herb, but also the empress herb and the various minister and courtier herbs. It might even need a lady-in-waiting, servant or bodyguard herb to help guide the formula in the correct therapeutic direction.
So how is it decided which ingredients will be chosen for any particular Grateful Body 'royal court' formula? I've always had some difficulty putting my own personal method of choosing ingredients into words, but I'll give it a try. Initially, I consider my aim. (The more common purposes that I seek to achieve are: deepening hydration, reducing inflammation, smoothing roughness, balancing oil, stimulating circulation and promoting detoxification.) And then I visualize what I have come to call the 'great neutral' conveying itself in a clear and straight stream, much the same as a ray or beam of light, but liquid. (This liquid is either the Aqueous, Lipid or Emulsion Phase discussed in Tutorial #1.) Now, if I add a substance to the great neutral, it seems I bend this stream in a slight curve. When this substance is added with intention, this curve is my definition of 'therapeutic'. So, my approach is to develop the royal court in such a way that I can coax the great neutral in the direction of my intent. For example, add emperor Horsetail to the great neutral and I have spiraled the stream into a bioavailable silicon/calcium direction. Include empresses Chickweed and Nettles and the stream has a stronger curve with more versatile mineral powers. The minister of defense, Cranberry, and his bodyguard, Turmeric, offer an antioxidant protective intrigue. The strong-willed courtier, Chaga Mushroom, delivers court support to the collagen layers while our lady-in-waiting, Rosehip Seed, modestly joins the party, spreading her hydrating charm to thirsty skin tissue. The royal court method creates rich and generous, multi-dimensional recipes that are holistically therapeutic.
The principle of nourishing the skin always underlies everything I do. I try not to get lost in the myriad symptoms of imbalance, for the body, as part of gaia, as a micro-unit of all creation, has an inherent intelligence and I wish always to work in partnership with this. So the formulating principle is consistently clear; the 'royal court' must increase vitality and sustain the life force of the skin. Gratefully, this orientation creates proper formulas that work in harmony with the body and can give the skin the nutrients needed to solve a host of issues.
Regardless of my aim and methods, nothing I create will have any value at all if I start with barren, lifeless ingredients. Life force is the only game worth playing. If a skin care ingredient has been created out of the laboratory, then it might have a unique and definite molecular structure with a designed target action, but who knows if that action will work in concert with the intelligence of gaia, and what will be the long-term effect on your skin and your environment? I would say, just look around you, do you get a sense that all those wild beauty claims are true? Concerning this question, we issue these two precepts: 'Grateful Body works with the Intelligence of Nature as opposed to the intellect of the laboratory' and 'Most innovations in skin care are simply innovations in marketing'. When the skin, as an organ, is thriving, it can naturally handle the many chronological and environmental stresses that must be faced day by day and still look healthy and radiant.
To work only with ingredients that have their life force intact, we have developed our own set of yes's and no's:
- Yes to whole, fresh, organic, biodynamically-grown or ethically wildcrafted botanicals grown in biologically-active soil.
- No cosmeceuticals, bioceuticals, botanical isolates, GMOs, hazardous preservatives, petroleum/coal tar or formaldehyde based ingredients, synthetic fragrances or colors, nanoparticles, oleo-chemicals, peptides, esters, hydroxy acids, or hyaluronic acid. No animal or animal by-products or grains. No ingredients subjected to extreme heat, over-processing, chemical solvents, or testing on animals. No ingredients de-vitalized by corporate farming, high-tech meddling or adverse processing methods.Next Tutorial: What is the skin?