Karen Runnels

By Monique Dykstra

Originally printed in the Montreal Gazette of September 3, 2001.
Reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.


           "A woman without paint is like food without salt," wrote the Roman philosopher Plautus. "Better dull than dead," the women of the day might have retorted, but didn't, nor did the generations of women who followed. That's because, no matter what they looked like, women have always wanted to look better, regardless of the consequences.
          Japanese women once darkened their teeth with a paste made from tea and sake soaked in iron scraps. While jet black smiles were fashionable in Asia, white skin was hot in Europe. To achieve that seductive sickroom pallor, Edwardian women would power their faces with white lead powder.
          Then, wanting a touch of colour to compliment their ashen cheeks, they'd apply lip reddeners (containing mercuric sulfide) eye shadows (containing lead and antimony sulfide), and a few drops of deadly nighshade to make their eyes sparkle.
          While it's tempting to believe that the days of poisoned paint are behind us, they're not, according to herbologist Karen Runnels. A graduate Montreal's Natural Health Consultants (NHC) and Vancouver's Dominion Herbal College (both schools of natural healing), Runnels teaches classes at Vanier College on making natural cosmetics.

          "If you knew what went into commercial cosmetics, you'd never buy them. Some ingredients can irritate the skin, or dry it out, or are basically carcinogenic. You don't get a label for whatever you put on your face, but you should.
          I recently read a book called Beauty To Die For by Judi Vance. This woman's body was a wreck, and the doctors couldn't pinpoint why. So this woman changed her diet, got rid of the toxic substances in her living environment and stopped using harmful cosmetics. Today, she's completely recovered.
          Her point is, with everything we ingest through our skin over 30-40-50 years, what's that doing to our immune system?
          I don't know, but I err on the prudent side. That's why I make my own cosmetics. It's not difficult. It's like cooking-- you just follow a recipe. You start with a good oil: almond oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, even olive oil. These go right into the skin, rather than mineral oil, which just sits on top. Then you add natural plants oils, which repair and regenerate the skin tissues, reduces inflammation and irritation, and moisturise the skin.
          It's not just that commercial cosmetics don't do much to heal and nurture your skin, they're outrageously expensive as well. And the packaging! We are sold down the garden path with that. Why bother with any of that, when Mother Nature's got everything you need?"

* For more information on Runnel's natural cosmetics classes, call (514) 630-1125

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