A trip to skincare heaven: Colleen Hague’s homemade organic lotions and potions

Those who have been reading this blog for a while (or my book, of course) will know that underneath my newfound appreciation for minimalist living lies a ruthless product junkie. It really wasn’t so long ago that I could be found slinking through the aisles of high-end department stores in search of the Best Face Cream In The World, and I’d pay up to $100 to get it. Fortunately, during my green challenge, I was able to see just how ridiculous this was and realized that the only thing my face really needed was a firm slap; eventually, I managed to pare down my long list of facial products to a simple bar of soap and a bottle of jojoba oil. I still maintain that we don’t need much more than this.

However, I recently had the privilege of meeting an incredible woman named Colleen Hague, a clinical aromatherapist and founder of Awaken My Senses, a line of organic skincare products, which she makes in the basement of her Toronto home — a space that’s been converted into a beautiful and serene kind of apothecary, laboratory and womb-like healing centre (that smells AMAZING). This is Colleen:

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Can you believe she’s 55? Anyway, I was introduced to her by a friend of mine who raved about the Awaken My Senses products. Then I heard that, instead of testing on animals, Colleen tests all her lotions on herself — and you can see the difference. It’s hard to notice in the photo above, but in person, you’ll see that the right side of her face has fewer lines and a firmer, smoother texture. But what really caught my attention when I first met her was how she walked into the room, pumped out a blob of organic moisturizer into her hand, and licked it right off.

“If you don’t feel comfortable eating it, why would you put it on your skin?” she asked, adding that up to 80% of what we slather on our bodies and faces every day ends up being absorbed within 30 seconds, gradually making its way into the bloodstream.

She then took some peppermint oil and rubbed a bit on my foot.

“You’ll taste that in your mouth after a few minutes,” she said. “That’s how quickly it gets into your system.”

OK, I thought. So I have to be careful about what I put on my skin. But I already am careful about that. What I wanted to know was this: Does it matter whether we use an essential oil or a carefully blended mixture of oils, water and other nutrients? And to what extent does our diet really affect our skin? And really, is there any truth to this aromatherapy business? I was once told that, because of my low blood pressure, I should never smell lavender again — but come on, that’s a bit crazy.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Colleen convinced me that what we smell can definitely affect how we feel, and this also has an effect on our health. But more important is what all these different oils do once they’re absorbed by our bodies. In a mini lesson on dermatology, she explained that there are three layers of skin: The epidermis (on top); the dermis (below); and the subcutaneous (even futher below), where new skin cells are formed about every 28 days. Standard moisturizers only affect the epidermis, but pure essential oils will get down to the subcutaneous level; a good skincare regime therefore involves using a combination of both oils and lotions.

When it comes to problematic skin, you also have three areas of concern: Eczema (which belongs to the dermatitis family); psoriasis (which is related to the nervous system and is often stress-induced); and rosacea (a cardiovascular problem that manifests itself in the skin).

As we get older, the nutrients we ingest are diverted more to the endocrine system and skin becomes less of a priority organ. But just because our bodies care less about our skin, doesn’t mean that we have to forget about it, too. So while it’s important to eat healthy, bear in mind that our skin will be the last to benefit from all those antioxidants and whatnot, which is why we need to feed it topically as well.

In terms of treating wrinkles, pimples, redness, dryness and so on, there’s no single magic ingredient — the secret, says Colleen, is all in how you blend the oils. It also makes a difference when you use the whole oil, rather than extracting it, synthesizing it and then reinserting it into a water and petroleum-based cream to give it fragrance, which is what most manufacturers do. But Colleen also blends her products according to environmental and climate factors, pointing out that a person’s skin will look and feel different in the prairies versus the east coast.

Anyway, after almost two hours of poking around her lab, I was desperate to try some stuff out. Then, Colleen came up with an even better idea.

“Why don’t we make something up right now?” she said. “I’ll let you choose which oils and how thick you want it, so it’ll be custom-made.”

SO EXCITING!

She tied on her apron, we went over to the counter, turned on the hot plate, brought out the electric whisk and got down to business. I wanted to use the extra-virgin avocado oil as my base as she had just gotten it in and had been raving about it, and it’s a lovely green colour. So she poured some out in a measuring cup, then grabbed a vegetable-based emulsifying wax, shook a few kernels out into a mixing bowl and let it melt. Here’s the photographic documentation:

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Once this was melted, Colleen added it, along with some distilled water (or maybe it was spring water… I can’t remember), to the avocado oil and began blending them all together:

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Soon, it turned into a lovely, thick cream that looked good enough to eat (and, naturally, we could have eaten it and been totally fine):

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She then added some carrotseed oil, which gives it a longer shelf life (Colleen says most of her products have an expiry date of six months), as well as some jasmine, and presto! Beautiful, nourishing moisturizer:

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And finally, here’s a shot of her clays, which she uses for face masks. I just thought they looked pretty (sorry about the lack of focus):

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I really can’t say enough about Awaken My Senses — I’m not about to suggest that everybody go out and buy every single one of her products, because the packaging and shipping does have some environmental footprint. However, if you’re serious about nurturing your skin and making it as healthy as possible, these lotions and potions are the perfect answer. On top of this, Colleen is an incredibly inspiring woman, so if you want to learn more about natural approaches to dermatology, give her a call. And check out her amazing stuff over here: www.awakenmysenses.com.

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13 Responses to A trip to skincare heaven: Colleen Hague’s homemade organic lotions and potions

  1. Barbara says:

    Great post, Vanessa! I’m going to check out this line of skin care the next time I’m at Noah’s.

  2. OMG that sounds AWESOME. I am way jealous of your trip to skincare heaven.

  3. jadekitty says:

    Thanks for the great review!

  4. Fun! Bring me to play next time. Or come over to the new kitch and we can make out own skincare goodies!

    • Kohei says:

      It depends on where you live and the kind of care you chosoe. I live in Wisconsin and the average home daycare is anywhere from $ 125-$ 180 per week for infants (under 1), in a daycare center, however, costs range from $ 170-$ 250+ per week (up to 16mos) for full time care. Nannies cost roughly the same as a daycare center, and are usually better for an infant than large groups, but nannies can vary greatly depending on whether you hire her privately or use an agency. Just be sure to do your research oh, and make sure you check the numbers on whether paying for daycare is worth it compared to your paycheck.

  5. gettinggreen says:

    Oh yeah, good point Barbara — should’ve mentioned that you can get this line at Noah’s. Still, even if I couldn’t, I’d order it all online and carbon offset the shipping or something. My skin looks/feels amazing.

  6. […] A trip to skincare heaven: Colleen Hague's homemade organic … […]

  7. rebslee says:

    It’s also worth checking out Tracey TieF of Anarres Natural Heath: http://www.anarreshealth.ca

    Tracey hosts workshops on making your own natural skincare, including sun protection. She is also making the move to live without using plastics.

  8. msatyarao says:

    I tried and it worked 80% of my satisfaction.

    Really skin is a complex organism in our body. Learn how to keep it always healthy.

    Read some skin care tips at

    http://betterskincareblog.blogspot.com/

  9. I was looking for more information on this topic this morning when I came upon your really informative blog post…thanks a lot for writing this. I will definitely be keeping an eye on your blog and visiting again to read new articles.BTW how long have you been blogging? :)

  10. avn says:

    I have used this line for a few months now and really like it. The only thing is you do have to look at the expire date on the package when in the store so you can use it on time. Love how i can bring back the bottle.

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  12. I just wanted to thank you for the Two Minute Miracle Gel. It’s the only thing that has helped my skin in the five years that I’ve dealt with with severe acne. I’ve been to dermatologist after dermatologist using skin care product after skin care product and this is the only thing that has helped me! Thank You So Much.

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