Holistic skin care improves outlook

I am slathered with goop, pleasantly on the outskirts of la-la land, enjoying the heck out of this assignment, which I gave myself.

My holistic aesthetician, Kerri Ward Merrill, has just applied about the zillionth layer of natural facial treatment on me. For the last hour and a half, I’ve been lying here, offering no resistance to the herbal compresses, aromatherapy creams, colored lights (to affect the emotions and chakras), refined New Age music, soft brushes (to stimulate the lymphatic system) and — la piece de resistance — the herbal masque.

Oh yes, there was the warm sagescented foot bath at the beginning — a long time ago.

Ward Merrill, a staff member at Radiance Herbs & Massage in downtown Olympia for 16 years and the resident aesthetician for the past decade, is softly explaining her holistic all-natural product line, Dr. Hauschka. It is, like the Waldorf School, another derivative of the creative mind of the late Rudolph Steiner, whose philosophies were to align all things with the natural world and with spirit.

Botox, it ain’t. Holistic skin care, like the increasingly popular facial acupuncture treatments or — as in Time magazine this month — facial yoga, are options for people who want to avoid plastic surgery or injections with fillers, toxins or other synthetics.

The benefit of holistic skin care — whether it’s a massage, acupuncture, yoga or a facial — is that it treats the whole body, not just the outer layer of skin.

“Your skin is a living being. We want to awaken this living being, the etheric life force,” Ward Merrill says. “When your skin is healthy, you look younger and you have a glow.”

After two hours and $125, I am indeed glowing and very relaxed. The crow’s feet that live around the outer corners of my eyes are, if not gone, at least smoothed. My husband, waiting for me at Batdorf & Bronson’s coffee shop, smiles when he sees me.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was really stressed? I don’t recall.

Natural skin health, at least in Thurston County, often is approached as a side benefit of other practices and therapies that reduce stress and maintain a healthy body, says Suzanne Wenner, an acupuncturist in Olympia since 2003.

Wenner says she is trained in facial acupuncture but most of her clients see her for other reasons.

“This time of year, most people come in for stress reduction or they can’t sleep with the seasonal thing of lack of sunlight,” says Wenner, whose clinic is at Artesian Wellness in downtown Olympia.

“People have extra family obligations now, and they come in to treat the moods and the darkness,” Wenner adds.

However, skin health can result from paying attention to the rest of one’s body, she says.

“The thing that other people respond to is a healthy glow coming out of your whole body,” Wenner said. “If you do the exercise and healthy lifestyle, you get the stress off your face, and then you do get a radiant glow.”

Ward Merrill, whose business is named Kosmea for the Greek word root “to harmonize,” adds that her facials are about “listening to the rhythms of our bodies instead of working against them.”

OK, I can get on board with that. And, uh, I just might need another one of those to get me through the holidays.

Keri Brenner writes for The Olympian. She is a licensed acupuncturist in Oregon and has a master’s degree in Oriental medicine and acupuncture from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland. Brenner is the author of “Sleep Disorders: An Alternative Guide” and a contributing editor to “Alternative Guide to Women’s Health, Vols. I and II.” She can be reached at 360-754-5435 or kbrenner@

KERI BRENNER your alternatives

Ward Merrill

Courtesy photos Olympian reporter Keri Brenner gets a facial from Kerri Ward Merrill, a licensed aesthetician at Radiance Herbs & Massage. BELOW: Products from the Dr. Hauschka line of holistic skin-care products.