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Skin Deep

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Laura Davimes was a lifelong allergy sufferer who could no longer tolerate fragrances or perfumes in her cosmetics and skin care products.

"I got headaches, asthma attacks and nausea," she tells "I struggled to find 100% natural skin care products and perfumes, but found them hard to come by-so I started making my own," says the owner of Richmond, VA-based Herban Avenues.

After studying aromatherapy, herbalism and nutrition, Davimes began to grow her own botanical ingredients so she could have "super-fresh, super-high-quality skin care-like the gourmet organic foods that I prepared from my garden harvests," she says. "I prefer to use ingredients that were put on the earth thousands of years ago and have been used by humans for thousands of years. I don't need to go beyond these earthly delights because they are far more perfect than any substances that a scientist could invent for me."

While Davimes believes America's "herbal renaissance" and increased interest in organic living have opened the door for "greener" skin care lines, she is still concerned with questionable chemicals in mainstream cosmetics. Alcohols, while derived from natural sources, "strip the skin of its own protective oils and disrupt the skin's pH," she explains. "When pH is unbalanced, the skin is irritated, so redness, flakes and inflammation usually follow. When women use strong alcohol-based astringents to 'tone' or 'cleanse' their face, they can actually set the stage for problems. I highly recommend pure rosewater or a rosewater/witch hazel combination as the most worthwhile facial astringent or toner."

Petroleum is another repeat offender-"where the automobile industry and the beauty industry collide," Davimes says. "I don't get the logic that says: Because cheap grease is good for my car, it might also be good for me. Petroleum-derived waxes and oils will sit on top of the skin and form a barrier that doesn't allow skin to breathe. The pores become clogged, and infection can follow. Petroleum ingredients are often cited as 'skin irritants.' Many aromatherapists believe petroleum ingredients can 'cancel' or 'block' the beneficial effects of botanical ingredients in a formula. Avoid ingredients that have names that start with 'ethyl,' 'methyl,' 'propyl' and 'butyl.' "

Turning Over a "New Leaf"

The Éminence Organic Skin Care line is a top seller at the New Leaf Skin Care & Boutique in Ojai, Calif., according to owner Lelah Lombard. Active ingredients include 100% natural, organically grown, handpicked Hungarian paprika, wild plum and apricot.

"Éminence was established in 1958 in Hungary-where it still comes from," she tells "It's based on old-world knowledge of fruits and herbs. When I first saw it, I liked the smell and texture of the creams. There are no chemicals or fragrances. They're whipped for hours to create a creamy, yummy texture, and they're very effective."

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From the Organic Authority Files

Éminence products are also bound to make you hungry. Facial masques come in delectable flavors: sour cherry, quince apple, lime, pumpkin orange and peach. The Tomato Summer Cream uses the fruit's natural properties to hydrate the skin. The new 10 Grain and Spices Exfoliating Granules slough off dead skin and promote cell renewal (mix with a masque or use alone).

Mineral makeup, available as a loose powder, pressed or in liquid form, is also popular at New Leaf. Lombard carries her own proprietary brand, called "L," as well as the Jane Iredale line (not certified organic, but replete with all-natural ingredients-and no harsh chemicals). Both are "principally the same," Lombard notes, with vitamins A, B, C and other nutrients to replenish and protect skin.

"They have very natural coverage and an SPF of 20," she says. By incorporating natural sun protection ingredients, no chemical SPF needs to be added.

"They are also antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, so they're great for acne and rosacea," Lombard says. "There is very little allergy risk, as well as no harmful chemicals, talc, dyes or alcohol, and they help bind moisture to the skin."

For a unique holiday gift, check out Jane Iredale's 24-Karat Gold Mine: six pressed powders in shimmering shades of gold, silver, bronze, pink, lilac and champagne. Each can be applied to eyelids or cheekbones. The line is sold exclusively in salons, spas and medical offices, so click here to find a location near you.

Ho-Ho-Holiday Beauties

If you're looking for the perfect holiday gift, you can purchase any of the brands cited here. Other organic gift ideas include:

  • Avalon Organics' Vitamin C Skin Care line, which contains certified organic botanicals, plant emollients and vitamin antioxidants to improve the skin's circulation, clarity, tone and texture. Products include a facial cleanser and toner, revitalizing eye cream, moisturizing lotion and soothing lip balm.
  • Dr. Hauschka Rosemary Foot Balm, the ideal solution for a friend or loved one whose feet take a beating each day. The holistic balm helps absorb moisture, stimulates and warms feet, and effectively treats common problems like calluses and hardened skin.
  • Ecco Bella Big Bar Soaps, which weigh in at a whopping 6 oz. each and are triple-milled for longevity. Super-moisturizing shea butter replenishes dry and sunburned skin, and you can select your gift recipient's favorite scent: vanilla, grapefruit, lavender or lemon verbena.
  • Doll Face Lemondrop Exfoliating Scrub, which sloughs away dead surface cells with finely ground pumice. Aloe vera gel moisturizes skin, while antioxidants-green tea, thyme and grapeseed extracts-help prevent further damage. Citrus essential oils (grapefruit, lime and lemon) halt excess oil production.

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