By Patricia Wersinger
The holistic and organic skin care revolution that started in the United States in the 1970s was born in reaction to the technological takeover of skincare in the 1950s. Recently, I read about how Chinese people in ancient times took care of their skin and never separated the world of beauty from that of medicine and nature. My kind of world I thought! Good skin resulted from balancing energies and restoring imbalances through diet, stimulating circulation and applying herbal remedies. In traditional Asian Holistic skin care, herbal remedies were prepared by blending fresh local ingredients in an optimal balance of yin and yang to promote vital, healthy skin. Yin added moisture to the skin while yang energized it. Texture, smell and the caring intent of the practitioner in applying the herbal remedies were also essential components of the treatment.
Yet, on a mission to find what remains today of the ancient medicinal practices of the Far East in current Asian skin lines, I was taken aback by the discovery that most of them have opted for synthetic formulas with an unhealthy habit for skin whiteners and have reduced the role of the holistic ethical richness of their past. For this reason, in the United States, Asian Holistic skin care is rare and often confined to exclusive spas where ancient recipes for skin stimulation and rejuvenation take the form of unusual, professionally administered treatments such as the Geisha Facial offered at Shizuka NY.
In Chinatown many skin care lines claim to be natural or herb based but are not holistic. You need to know about the process of fabrication and the formulas used for extracting the herbs. In the holistic philosophy, the scents, textures and tactile applications are part of the remedy.
Shizuka, a modern Japanese holistic line available at Shizuka New York Day Spa was created by Shizuka Bernstein. Though trained as a medical aesthetician, the wise Shizuka came to question the pharmaceuticals used in skin care products very quickly and turned to the botanicals and holistic principles of her old culture to create a line of purity and integrity. “I developed these products because I believe that natural ingredients can give us powerful results with less risk of irritating the skin” she says. “Natural botanicals don’t work as fast but are safer”. The most original aspect of the Shizuka skin care line is that it contains the precious water from the sacred Mount Fuji. The water contains various minerals and its purity brings out radiant skin. Other ingredients carefully scrutinized and selected according to the high Japanese standards include soy collagen, pearl protein, rice bran oil and sake extracts, all notorious for their moisturizing and cellular turn over ingredients. “The formulation includes a combination of synthesized extracts and whole botanical plants “says Shizuka. The Shizuka moisturizer just sinks in and melts like butter leaving the skin moisturized and fresh. It has a calming re-texturizing effect while green tea, aloe vera and chlorella clarify and brighten it. Along with buying the products for home use, why not treat yourself to one of these facials in town at the Shizuka Spa .The Shizuka line is available at the Shizuka New York Day Spa, 7 West 51st street in NYC and at http://www.shizukany.com
At Bergdorf Goodman, Sulwhasoo a holistic Korean line was recently introduced. Sulwhasoo is founded on the traditional philosophy of ‘Sang-Seng”, the belief that all things exist in relation to one another. Our skin goes through seven-year cycles as we age and the yin yang balance of the skin changes. Our circulation slows and the balance of hydration and dryness essential for healthy skin is disrupted. Sulwhasoo works as a remedy for reinstoring those failing imbalances caused by aging. At the heart of Sulwhasoo is “Jaeumdan”, an exclusive complex of medicinal herbs. In creating this complex, select fresh ingredients are immersed in pure honey through the time honored Korean “Milja process” to enhance the full potency of the herbs. Jaeumdan employs a mixture of Peony, Solomon’s Seal, East Indian Lotus, White Lily and Achesive Rehmannia to counter the effects of dryness, dullness, lack of elasticity and wrinkles. “Sulwhasoo still follows the traditional way of Poje to eliminate possible poisonous elements of herbal ingredients” says Dr. Blakeman, a herbalist and Chinese Medicine specialist showing how unusually true to its holistic origin this line is. Ginseng is a powerful ingredient in the line, its earthly smell is said to ground us promoting healthy circulation that brings out glowing skin. “Ginseng is also an adaptogen, which means that it helps your skin adapt to stress factors” explains Dr Jill Blakeway. The use of the whole herb increases the benefits of each herb in Sulwhasoo as it increases moisture. The traditional preparation techniques of “fried, fermented and raw” bring out the therapeutic powers of botanical Asia as its best in Sulwhasoo.
Another key holistic component of that line is that it is created by hand with the mind of the practitioner in synchronicity with her intention which helps foster goodness for the recipient. Using hands improve “ki” and “hyul” or energy and blood circulation. Sulwhasoo massage and gentle tapping application technique is known to improve skin elasticity. You can experience this technique by booking a facial at the Sulwhasoo counter of Bergdorff Goodman. The skin treatment has an irisdescent healing effect that involves your whole being. I especially like the rejuvenating eye cream, the balancing emulsion and the concentrated ginger cream made out of the root of a 15 year old ginger plant that only grows in Korea under strict supervision and care. You can learn more about individual products suitable for your skin’s needs at http://www.bergdorfgoodman.com or visit the store in New York to learn how to derive the most benefits from this number one line in Korea.
As we already mentioned, the therapeutic effects of scents were essential in ancient Asian skin remedies. Akhassa is a skin collection based on old recipes of traditional healers from Thailand, Indonesia and China, which combine exquisite aromas and ingredients to lift up your mood to quietness and purity resulting on a healthy outlook on the world. Akhassa has a Rituals Collection of beauty therapies like the Jasmine Hand Cream to be applied in a soothing hand treatment inspired by Varada Mudra, the hand position that signifies charity and compassion and refers to a gift of rice received by buddhist monks as part of a ritual in Laos. This pungent and refreshing line based on Asian traditions is available on line at http://www.Akhassa.com
For sensitive and aging skins the treasures of the Ancient Holistic Asian tradition offer uncompromising purity and non-irritating effective solutions for skin maintenance. Its philosophy does not reside in isolating treatment for specific problems but in healing the imbalances that cause skin problems and restoring the skin’s energies to promote its health, youth and radiance. In my opinion, if you really understand how beauty is correlated to health and a harmonious balance that goes deeper than the surface, you will try these ancient recipes with an exotic, outworldly flavor founded on a well of wisdom that has survived millenia.