Alms for the Pore 

Homemade herbal skincare products save you money — and your cells.

Even the costliest name-brand skincare products are mass-produced. We don't all wear the exact same eyeglass prescription. Why, then, would we all buy the exact same night cream? Our skins are as individual as we are, with infinite variations dependent on climate, age, genetics, health, and life experiences.

"The skincare needs of a young hormonally reactive teenager are much different from those of a menopausal woman," says Cheryl Fromholzer, who will help participants determine their specific needs and concoct aromatic herbal facial steams, facial masks, skin tonics, facial serums, and other products during an herbal cosmetics class at the Ohlone Center of Herbal Studies (1654 University Ave., Berkeley) on Thursday, May 21. "Learning what natural ingredients work for your skin type is very empowering."

A Western Clinical Herbalist who produces her own line of vegan skincare products, Fromholzer says her interest in the subject started "with handmade holiday gifts. I love being creative. I got bored making the same old jellies and jams and started branching out into bath salts and body oils. ... I've always felt a deep connection to the natural world and understood the healing power of plants. One thing led to another and soon I was making natural perfumes and facial-care products for friends and family."

Along with strong and sometimes even toxic synthetic components, commercial cosmetics often also include animal products. If you don't eat meat or wear leather, why rub the rest of the creature into your face? Fromholzer cites lanolin and keratin among many ubiquitous animal-based commercial ingredients. By contrast, she asks, "Who doesn't love working with aromatic essential oils and fragrant herbs? It's delightful."

The Ohlone Center, which moved to Berkeley from Walnut Creek nine years ago, is a teaching facility and dispensary. Director Pam Fischer thinks of the center as part of "a momevent toward getting Western herbs back into the fold." So many Americans, Fischer laments, make it a point to "understand Chinese or ayurvedic herbs, but they don't understand their own herbs — the stuff right under their feet. The exotic is very fun," she accedes, "but chickweed rocks." She calls the skincare class a form of "community education." Commercial cosmetics, she explains, often feature a few highly vaunted natural ingredients immersed in synthetic fillers: "Avocado is pretty good. Sure, we can dry it and mix it with a bunch of inert stuff and sell it back to you at ten times the price" — or you can just learn how to apply it directly to your hair and skin.

Along with the products created at the workshop itself, Fromholzer will distribute recipes for easy at-home spa treatments such as salt and sugar scrubs and bath tisanes.

"Chemistry class," she says, "never smelled this good." 7 p.m., $65. OhloneCenter.com

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