Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pumpkin

Ahhh, the pumpkin. A squash that is easily identified and loved throughout the world. It indicated that fall is on it's way and with it comes jack-o-lanterns, trick or treating and changing foliage. Pumpkins can actually grow in many climates and can be found on every continent except Antarctica, it is a member of the winter squash family and while it can be found in many different color variations, the most recognizable color would be a shade of orange. This squash has been cultivated for over 9,000 years and is indigenous to North America, for the people of this continent it was a mainstay in their diet. Pumpkin is packed full of nutrients such as: protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins A & C, potassium, zinc and beta carotene to name a few. It is also high in fiber and low in calories.

Pumpkin can be found in many different dishes, anything from appetizers to desserts to beverages, it is the great unsung hero of the food world, I wish I could find it on more menus. The self proclaimed capital of pumpkin festivals is  located in Half Moon Bay, CA, maybe someday I will get to visit this great festival.

Pumpkins and skincare.

Now that we have established the magic that is the pumpkin in food, let's talk about it in skincare. First let's look at the components that make up a pumpkin:

1. The meat or pulp
2. The seeds
3. The oils that can be pressed from the seeds

The meat of the pumpkin is packed full of vitamins that our skin can benefit from, vitamins A and C are great, A helps to improve the skin's texture, firmness and smoothness, this vitamin is believed to be essential for the generation and function of skin cells. Vitamin C is a well known anti-oxidant when combined with vitamin E in skincare these two are a powerhouse and can effectively fight free radicals as well as repair damage from the free radicals at skin level. Zinc is great for the skin, it is sometimes referred to as a micornutrient and is believed to accelerate wound healing as well as offer protection from some types of UV rays* (use only an FDA approved sunscreen please).  Zinc plays well with vitamin's A & E and promoted collagen synthesis in the dermis, it is also an effective when used to treat acne since it can lower sebaceous secretions. Pumpkin also contains something called AHA's or alpha hydroxyacid. This is also known as a "fruit acid." Depending on the concentration and pH of a formula containing AHA's they can help many different skin types and conditions. Some of the benefits include: reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, lightening of surface pigmentation, softer more supple skin with improved hydration. AHA's also act as a natural exfoliant and can help to regulate the top layer of the epidermis by reducing it's thickness.

When using pumpkin meat in a skin care preparation, such as a mask, focus on what it will do for the top layers of your skin, it can exfoliate dead skin cells, help with moisture retention and possibly pave the way for less acne and dryness with a regular proper skin care regiment for your skin type.

Let's talk about pumpkin seeds, the easiest use of this component would be as an exfoliant. If you are creating a home pumpkin seed exfoliant be sure to grind them up so that they are very fine, your facial skin is delicate and can get micro tears if the exfoliant is too sharp, the seeds may be better suited for other parts such as arms and legs and can be mixed with other exfoliants such as sugar, ground coffee or finely ground nuts. I will include some home recipes below for a fun home spa day.

Last but not least pumpkin seed oil. This oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the pumpkin, bringing with it most (if not all) of the nutrients found in the seeds. This oil can be included in lotions, soaps, scrubs and masks too. Only a tad is needed in a formulation in order to get the nutritious benefits it can offer. It will absorb readily into your skin and is thought to help other humectants also absorb leaving your skin super moisturized and soft. Just like most vegetable based oils it will not clog your pores.

So are you ready to get all pumpkin faced? Here are some fun recipes to make in your own kitchen.


Please note that unless you are using a proper preservative make these recipes in small batches (one use) and discard the rest as it will become prime breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and molds, even if you cannot see it, it's still there, don't take the risk!

Pumpkin mask:
2 tsp pumpkin meat (can use canned puree too)
1/2 tsp honey (a great humectant)
1/4 tsp milk (I prefer buttermilk and use buttermilk powder as it is high in AHA's and will help break down dead skin cells)
Optional: I also added about 1/4 tsp of pumpkin seed oil, this mask goes on very smooth and feels creamy. There may be slight tingling due to the fruit acids. If it's too much for you or you feel uncomfortable rinse off immediately with warm water.

(Suggestion:warm the honey slightly) Mix all together and spread on face and neck, let sit for approximately 15 minutes (watch Charlie Brown's great pumpkin) then rinse with warm water, tone and moisturize as normal.



Pumpkin seed scrub:
2 tsp finely ground pumpkin seeds
1 tsp granulated white sugar (if you have another sugar preference feel free, just make sure the granules are fairly fine)


Mix the dry ingredients together and slowly add the oil until it is the consistency you prefer, I prefer my scrubs to be very dry so I usually add very little oil.

If you want to make more to use this for a body scrub about 3-4 ounces would do it for a one time use application so use your kitchen scale for better accuracy:
2 oz finely ground pumpkin seeds
1 oz granulated white sugar
1 oz vegetable oil of choice (more if you would like a "wetter" scrub.)
If you have an essential oil or fragrance oil that you want to use, add it slowly drop by drop and try to limit it to no more than 2% of the total recipe. .08 oz or 2.2 grams max.

Directions for face or body:
Rub scrub in circular motions avoiding eyes and other sensitive parts. If using in the shower be cautious as the tub may become slippery.



Pumpkin Oil Serum:
This is a great serum to use before bed, for those that prefer the OCM (oil cleansing method) this can be adapted for use in that manner as well.

For a 2 oz bottle with lid:
Quick kitchen recipe, use your kitchen scale and convert to grams for better accuracy:
1.5 oz Pumpkin seed oil
.5 oz Almond oil
1 vitamin E capsule (pierce capsule and add the vita E oil)

A little more advanced recipe for a 2 oz bottle:
1 oz Pumpkin seed oil
.5 oz almond oil (or other light vegetable oil of choice)
.25 oz fractionated coconut oil (or other light vegetable oil of choice)
.25 oz jojoba oil
1-2 drops vitamin E oil
1-2 drops of preferred essential oil (lavender is lovely as is rosemary. Tea tree has great healing properties)

Mix all ingredients well and pour into your sanitized container. To use, first cleanse and tone your face then pour a couple of drops onto your clean finger tips and smooth gently onto your face and neck in circular motions. Leave on overnight.



Because the serum is anhydrous (without water) and you will not be dipping your fingers into it you can go without a preservative and it will last longer, store in cool, dry place.

So there it is, the pumpkin is just great for you inside and out. Have a fabulous fall and enjoy the power of the pumpkin !

Until next time
~ Your Soapsmith

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