Starting with All-Natural Skincare

Heidi of Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage recently co-led a workshop on using all-natural skincare products that you can make at home. In this workshop, the attendees learned about nutrition for optimal skin health and the hidden ingredients in your average skincare products that contain (among other things) hormone disruptors, carcinogens and immune suppressing ingredients. She taught the group how to make a gentle oil-based skin cleanser, a refreshing facial toner and a rejuvenating skin moisturizer. These products contained only all-natural plant-based oils and no preservatives or harsh chemicals.

Oil-based skin cleanser? Homemade products? I was intrigued. How would this work? Was it cost effective? How long do the products last? I sat down with Heidi and asked her about her experience with switching to all-natural skincare.

Buying all-natural skincare products often turns people off because of the price. How does the process of buying the ingredients stack up to conventional skincare products one could get from the drugstore or a large chain store?

Making your own skincare products at home is a very economical alternative to buying ready-made products from a natural food store or website. The initial cost of getting the ingredients can seem expensive, but when you cost out each use it is as expensive as conventional skincare items. I recommend sharing the cost with a friend who is also interested in making their own all-natural skincare products. I found great prices for the oils needed on and through Mountain Rose Herbs. I found the recipes on Jenni Raincloud’s wonderful blog. There are many recipes for all skin-types.

The first thing that jumps out at me is “oil-based cleanser”. Cleaning with oil? How does that work? Does it work for oily skin?

Many people worry about the effectiveness of oil-based cleansers at first. But it is a “like with like” philosophy. The oil works to gently remove the skin’s own oils and impurities without stripping the skin like soap-based cleansers. You also gently massage the face for longer than a traditional cleanser. This helps to encourage the collagen in the skin to make the skin more elastic and supple. I am always amazed at how soft and rosy the skin is afterwards. The oil-based cleanser works for all types of skin: oily, dry, sensitive or combination.

Is there any caveats you would offer to someone looking to switch from conventional skincare products to all-natural?

Yes. The only one I would offer is that it may take time for the body to adjust to the new skincare routine. As with anything, the body’s reaction to soap-based cleansers and harsh chemical toners will be different than an oil-based cleanser and natural moisturizers. Your skin will need time to acclimate to the new products and learn to produce less oils/protective measures. If you notice a change, be patient and continue using the product for at least a week. For others the transition may be much more smooth. It depends on several factors: age, skin sensitivity, etc. I have really enjoyed using the all-natural skincare products. My skin is smoother. I have noticed a remarkable disappearance of sunspots. And as someone who has experienced my fair share of sun, this is a pleasant change. I would highly recommend switching to anyone.

Will you be holding another workshop anytime soon?

Yes. Elizabeth and I will be holding another workshop in October. We will be discussing nutrition for skin health and all-natural skincare. We will also be making a selection of skincare products for you to bring home and try for yourself. (Oil-based Cleanser, Facial Toner and Moisturizer) The workshop with be held in October. Call The Wellness Center for more information.


Recipe of the Month: DIY Natural Sunscreen

As Summer winds down and we prepare for cooler temps, we may forget to be as diligent about sun protection. But using sunscreen is no less important in daily life. This recipe provides you with an easy, safe and effective sun screen that is free of harsh chemicals and/or additives.

  • 1/2 c jojoba oil
  • 1/4c shea butter
  • 1/4 c beeswax
  • 2 tbsp of non-nano zinc oxide
  • 1 tsp carrot see oil
  • 5 drops of lavender essential oil

Place all ingredients but zinc oxide in metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan with water on medium heat (bowl should not be touching water in saucepan). Warm gently until all ingredients are melted. Slowly incorporate the zinc oxide in the warmed mixture. (Use mask as not to inhale the zinc oxide dust.) Once the mixture is well incorporated, transfer to air tight jar. This product should be good to use for up to 6 months. It will need to be reapplied following swimming and activity.


Essential Oil of the Month: Melaleuca

Melaleuca, or tea tree oil, is an essential oil from Australia. It can be used for cleansing the skin, purifying the air and helping support the immune system. You can be add it to witch hazel and aloe vera gel to create a soothing facial toner. Melaleuca can also be applied directly to the skin in small amounts to help with blemishes. This oil’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties make it the ideal essential oil to support the skin.


15ml for $22.80 (10% off the retail price)

Be sure to stop into The Wellness Center and pick some up today! Ask Heidi or Janet for more uses. This versatile oil will help you have clearer, healthier skin.

Healthy, Vibrant Summer Skin

Skin 101

Your skin is the largest organ in the body. It is comprised of three layers: epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer which is a protective barrier to outside environment. The dermis contains the hair follicles and sweat glands. The lowest layer, the hypodermis, is made up of fatty and connective tissues. All of the layers work together to provide: temperature and fluid regulation, protection against infectious agents, respiration and elimination.

Common Skin Issues During Summer

Summertime presents many challenges for your skin. From burns to rashes to stings, a little bit of prevention goes a long way to a happy, healthy Summer.

Sun burn is damage caused by the UVA and UVB rays of the sun. These rays penetrate the layers of the skin and can cause symptoms ranging from a mild redness to painful burning and blistering. This damage can cause larger problems that may lead to premature aging and saggy and several types of skin cancers.

Rashes during the Summer can be caused by contact to allergens, heat or friction. Avoiding obvious allergens such as poison ivy and oak can be relatively simple with some precautions like wearing protective clothing and staying on clearly marked trails. It becomes more difficult when it comes to contact dermatitis caused by an unknown allergen. Chlorine, sun lotions, bug sprays, etc. may be a source of rashes. It is best to look for products with natural ingredients and try only one product at a time. When in doubt do a skin test (placing a small amount of the product on the inside of the elbow and wait 48 hours) before committing to a product. Heat and humidity can cause rashes if you spend an excessive amount of time outdoors on a hot day. Be sure to take breaks to avoid getting overburdened. Friction rashes happen when one part of the body rubs against another. Lotions, powders and wicking clothing can help reduce friction to prevent rashes.

Insect bites have become a hot topic this year. From Lyme to Zika, people are concerned that bug bites have gone from nuisance to deadly. Precautions against getting bitten in the first place are very important. There are many safe and effective natural bug sprays on the market now. Reapplication is key, as any spray is only as effective as your use of it. And don’t scratch. As hard as it is, scratching spreads the irritant under the skin and can introduce infection.

Promoting Healthy Skin

So what can you do to help protect your skin in the Summer? The number one thing is prevention. This means applying sun lotions and bug sprays as directed. Wearing clothes that protect you from the sun is also an easy way to keep your skin healthy.

Proper hydration will keep your skin healthy throughout the Summer as well. It is very easy to lose body moisture in the heat and humidity. This leaves your skin loose and lacking in elasticity. Dehydration also taxes many organ systems such as lymphatic, urinary and cardiovascular. Beyond water, consuming hydrating foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting salt intake can help you stay hydrated.

Bloating/swelling is a main concern for many people in the Summer. Unknown food allergies and sensitivities may be the culprit in many case. Heat and humidity also contribute to swelling through causing widespread inflammation in the cells.

Self-care for Daily Skin Health

So besides prevention, what can you do to help your skin during the Summer? Daily self-care massage can be part of your routine. In the Ayurvedic tradition, daily self-massage or abhyanga, is an important ritual for keeping healthy, vibrant skin. Click here for a tutorial and more discussion on the benefits of abhyanga.

Dry brushing can also help stimulate the skin’s elasticity and drainage of the lymphatic system. Be sure to use a dry brush and always work towards the heart (up the extremities towards the body). Click here for a tutorial on dry brushing. 

Checking your health and beauty products you use daily is another easy way to make sure you are getting the best for your skin. Many conventional products contain ingredients that may dry and damage the skin cells. Be sure to check out the Skin Deep database of the Environmental Working Group to check the ingredients of your products. 


August Special: Fascial Release Facial Massage with Essential Oil Skincare Sample $10 off

Welcome August! The month of beach vacations, hikes to beautiful sunny vales and picnics. Unfortunately all the heat, rich foods and sunshine can take a toll on your skin. This month we are highlighting how to care for your skin naturally. We will explore natural skincare, foods for skin health and much more.

But you can get a jumpstart on caring for your skin with our August special! We are offering a facscial release facial massage with a sample of skincare essential oils from DoTerra. Add this to a 60 Minute (or greater) massage in the month of August and receive $10.00 off your session. You will leave with rejuvenated and vibrant skin. Be sure to book your next session with us today!

Recipe of the Month: Roasted Garlic Gazpacho with Roasted Pistachio Garnish

Let’s face it; it is HOT outside. A recipe that doesn’t require heating up the whole kitchen and slaving over the stove is a blessing in this weather. Gazpacho is an excellent way to get fresh, wholesome nutrition without sacrificing taste. It is easy to prepare and can be eaten with a protein (adding grilled shrimp…yum!) or a salad for a light and healthful meal. The roasted garlic adds a minimal amount of extra work (largely unattended), but it adds layers of deep and delicious flavor.

  • 5 Medium Tomatoes (cored and chopped)
  • 1 Medium Cucumber (peeled, seeded and chopped)
  • 2 Ripe Avocados (peeled, pitted and cubed)
  • 4 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
  • 4 Cloves of Roasted Garlic (excellent tutorial here)
  • 1 1/2 tsp  ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped cilantro and/or parsley as garnish (about a handful)
  • 1c Roasted or Raw Pistachios (chopped for garnish)

Once the ingredients (minus the garnish) have been chopped/prepared, place them in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the soup to an air-tight container and chill. Serve with cilantro/parsley and pistachio garnish. (Toast the pistachios right before serving in a pan over low heat until you smell a nutty fragrance from the nuts. Chop and use as garnish.) You can always add your favorite hot sauce if your would like a little bit of heat.

The garlic, avocado, pistachio and cilantro/parsley all provide benefits to the respiratory and cardiovascular system and offer added antioxidant benefits. You are also providing vital potassium to your body with the tomatoes and avocados. The whole soup offers an excellent source of hydration in the heat without washing away nutrients. All that and it is delicious, too. Enjoy!

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Essential Oil of the Month: Breathe



Breathe by DoTerra oils is a blend of Laurel Leaf, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, Lemon, Ravensara and Cardamom oils. This minty, refreshing and herbaceous blend can be use to open and soothe breathing passages and promote sinus health. Add a few drops of Breathe to a carrier oil and apply it to your feet or use in a diffuser for maximum benefit.

We are offering 10% off the line of Breathe products from DoTerra. We will have the 15ml bottle of Breathe ($23.40, with 10% off), the convenient roller-ball Touch Breathe ($15.30, with 10% off) and the Breathe Vapor Stick ($9.90, with 10% off). These are available to purchase from Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage.

New at The Wellness Center in July

Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage is part of The Wellness Center in Burke, VA. The Wellness Center offering massage, acupuncture, yoga, Pilates, nutrition and educational workshops. During the month of July, there are several great offerings from yoga, massage and nutrition.

The Afternoon of Wellness: Beauty From the Inside Out

  • July 30, 2016
  • 1:45pm-4:45pm
  • $130.00 per person

In this workshop you will get an interactive demonstration of using nutritional wellness to create “beauty from the inside out”. Nutritionist Elizabeth Owens will offer helpful tips on eating healthful foods and creating easy, nutritious meals that will further you on your path to wellness.

Next, Heidi Vivieros will lead you through making your own natural skincare products. By the end you will have made your own facial cleanser, toner and moisturizer that you can bring home for your own use.

Lastly you will receive a 30 minute facial massage using all natural products to leave you with a healthy, beautiful glow.

Kick Your Cravings Workshop

  • July 16, 2016
  • 1:30pm-3:00pm
  • $25.00 per person

Do you constantly feel hungry and never satisfied? Do you find yourself snacking throughout the day, and often at night before bed? Do you crave sugar? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it is time to kick your cravings and balance your blood sugar! Your body and mind will thank you! This class will explain what to eat and what to avoid so you can get through the day without constantly thinking about food, while feeling satisfied and nourished. The dietary changes learned in this class can improve your energy, mental clarity, mood, and those cravings!

Beginners Hatha Yoga

Tuesday Evenings at 6:00pm-7:00pm (Janet Brown)

Thursday Afternoons at 12:00pm-1:00pm (Alicia Cross)

While not a new class, there are new instructors leading the beginners hatha yoga classes at The Wellness Center. Our beloved Jen Hartmann is moving, so her classes have been taken over by Janet Brown and Alicia Cross. If you are new to yoga or just need a refresher, be sure to check out this class. Your instructors will guide you through safe and gentle poses while introducing you to hatha yoga. Our Summer Quarter has begun, but there is still time to register for classes.

Supporting the Muscles of Respiration

Breathing 101

Each and every day you draw a breath without thinking. Sleeping or awake, your body is unconsciously keeping your muscles of respiration working to bring oxygen in and release carbon dioxide as waste. This process is controlled by the most primitive part of our nervous system.

Despite the fact that the process is involuntary, many of us do not use our muscles of respiration to their full potential. Lack of exercise and poor posture all contribute to improper breathing techniques. The diaphragm becomes shortened and less efficient. The accessory muscles of breathing are used more and overworked. This stress on the body can lead to more than just shortness of breath. The digestive, lymphatic and nervous systems can also be effected by shallow breathing.

Deep abdominal breathing is the optimal breathing pattern for the body. In deep abdominal breathing, the breath brings the diaphragm down as the muscles of the abdominal wall expand. The rib cage is allowed to expand passively, rather than the result of the action of the accessory muscles of breathing. This action of the expansion of the abdominal wall and diaphragm helps to massage internal organs, pump the deeper vessels of the lymphatic system and provide ample space and mobility of vessels of the digestive, cardiovascular and nervous systems. It also means increased lung capacity and more oxygen to the cells in the body.

Muscles of Respiration

Diaphragm: The main muscle of passive (resting) respiration. This bells shaped muscle is used to raise and lower the ribs to activate the lungs.

Internal and External Intercostal Muscles: These tiny muscles between the rib cage help to raise and lower the ribs, increasing and decreasing pressure in the thoracic region.

Scalenes: These small muscles (usually a group of 4) help to lift the upper ribs and sternum.

Sternocleidomastoid: This muscle that connects the sternum and clavicle to the mastoid process works with the scalene muscles to raise the ribs and sternum.

Pectoralis Minor: Underneath Pectoralis Major on the front, top of the rib cage, this group of small muscles helps to raise the upper ribs.

Rhomboids: Located on the back between the shoulder blades, this muscle helps to pull back the shoulder blades to provide space for respiration in the upper regions.

 Abdominal Wall (Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus, and Internal and  External Obliques): These muscles of the abdomen help to expand and contract the belly during deep abdominal breathing.

Quadratus Lumborum: This muscle can impede deep abdominal breathing and the movement of the rib cage when it is shortened.

Practicing Deep Abdominal Breathing

If is simple to begin a practice of retraining the body to perform deep abdominal breathing. First lie on your back in a comfortable position. Next, place one hand on the belly at approximately the navel. Focus your breathing so that you are able to use it to raise and lower your hand. Feel the difference as you use your diaphragm muscle to take breathes, rather than shallow, shoulder breathing. You may find that this process relaxes you. You may need to spend about 15 minutes doing this each day for a week or more before this process becomes more second nature.

How Can Massage Help

Massage therapy can assist you in the process towards promoting deep abdominal breathing. Massage can help to open the body through the shoulder, chest and diaphragm. Your therapist may use myofascial release, trigger point therapy and/or Swedish massage techniques to facilitate this opening. It will take a series of weekly sessions in order to see real results, as the body has spent a long time with inefficient breath.



Muscles of Respiration: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine:

Accessory Muscles of Breathing I and II: Bahnda Yoga: