Don't Fear Facial Oils

Most of us, especially people with oilier skin will do anything to avoid using oil as part of their skin care routine.   Unfortunately, oils have gotten a bad rap.  Oils, or what we usually refer to as lipids when discussing skin, create a barrier protecting your skin against the elements.  Damage to this barrier occurs daily, so maintaining an effective barrier requires a continuous application of products containing lipids. . For example when oils are applied on the skin it prevents dehydration not only at the surface but at the deeper levels of the skin.  In addition, lipids increase the water resistance of the skin which is quite important as it obstructs water-soluble pollutants from penetrating into the skin.  Moisture loss may result in dry, scaly or even cracked skin, bacteria-related acne, eczema, rosacea-type inflammation, atopic dermatitis and/or skin congestion, among other problems. Lipids also help to soften the skin, to smooth it and to provide elasticity.The crucial aspect should always be the support of the natural skin regeneration. 

There are many different oils on the market.  And though all oils will create this important barrier, not all oils are necessarily beneficial to the skin such as mineral oil, which is a petroleum based oil.  I also recommend using unrefined, organic cold pressed oils when available.  Aside from the oils being free of pesticide residue, they will retain more of the important properties.  Different oils have different benefits and are appropriate for different skin types.  Therefore when I am mixing a serum for oily skin I would not use the same carrier oil that I would use on dry skin. This is a mistake commonly made, especially from the DIY blogger.  One person may get fantastic results from using Almond Oil and write that it helped their skin, however, it may not be the best oil for your skin. 

Here are a few of my favorite oils and the skin type they are best suited for.  Keep in mind that a synergy of two of three oils work better than one single oil, in my opinion.  In addition some oils such as Argan, Rose Hip Seed, Pomegranate, etc. can be very expensive so using 100% will break the bank.

Dry Skin:  Avocado, Pumpkin Seed, Apricot Kernel, Hemp Seed

Oily SkinAcne:  Grape Seed, Hazelnut, Marula

Combination Skin:  Jojoba, Almond, Apricot Kernel

Great additons:  Argan, Rosehip Seed, Pomegranate, Moringa

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 So put those fears aside, try a serum or body oil you will be so happy you did.  Watch for the launch of my anti-aging serum, which will be available to purchase on my website, this winter.

How to Prevent Dry Winter Skin

It may seem strange to talk about winter when the leaves are only just starting to turn, but during the past 26 years I have observed that if we do not take preventative action against dehydration in the early fall, it becomes a battle all winter long to try to undo the damage.

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Cooler temperatures, wind, and of course turning on the heat can wreak havoc on your skin; drying it out, causing flakes and even redness. Dehydration can cause premature aging, sensitive skin, rosacea, and congested skin.  Now's the time to take steps to prevent dry flaky skin.

Here are some tips to help prevent dehydration.

  •  Continue to drink lots of water...We tend to turn to hot drinks in the cooler weather, more coffee and tea, however, both of these act as diuretics and can cause dehydration.
  • Use the proper cleanser and moisturizer, and make sure your moisturizer twice a day.  Keep in mind the cleanser and moisturizer you used all summer may not be what your skin needs now..

  • Exfoliate once a week.  It is important to gently remove the dead skin build up so that your moisturizer can penetrate your skin.  Keep in mind that over exfoliating the skin will have the opposite effect.  This means no AHA in your cleansers
  • Get a facial.  If you haven't had one in a while now is a good time to. At the same time you can discuss your home care and make sure you are using the best product for this time of year.
  • To counter the dry heat indoors consider buying a humidifier for your home and/or workplace.

If you follow these tips I guarantee your skin will stay radiant, soft and beautiful all winter long.

Tea Time

Let me start off by saying I am a coffee lover.  It is part of my morning ritual.  The aroma fills the house and gets me going.  I love that first sip.  BUT as fall approaches I think about cocooning in the evening with a cup of hot tea.  Through the dark winter months there is nothing more soothing, warming and nourishing to my soul than a cup of herbal tea. Of course herbal teas are so much more than that.  I will discuss different herbs and there healing properties in future posts.  Last fall I started experimenting with different blends.  My husband who has never been a tea drinker accepted a cup one evening of my Night Repose blend that I created using Chamomile, California Poppy, Oatstraw, Skullcap and with a touch of Rooibos.  He told me the next morning it was the best nights sleep he had in a long time.

We also love to drink a chai spice with astragalus, cocoa and turmeric.  Not only is it delicious, it is a great for your immune system. So I am now making my Night Repose tea blend and Chai Spice available at my studio.  I will be adding other tea blends in the very near future and don't forget my elderberry syrup kit to fight cold and flu.

 

So make yourself a nice cup of tea, sit back and relax!

10 Skin Care Mistakes Keeping you From Healthy Skin

Day after day people book appointments with me for facials.  Some have skin care problems such as acne, rosacea or pigmentation issues.  Others come to maintain healthy skin and slow down the aging process. But many come because they are having issues that can be quickly remedied by following these 10 easy steps.

1.Use the right products for your skin type.  Following the advice from a DIY blogger may not work for you, since your skin may be very different from theirs. One size does not fit all.  Get your skin properly analyzed by a professional.   

2.  Cleanse your skin properly.  First make sure you are using the right cleanser for your skin type.  If you wear makeup, you must cleanse twice.  Once to remove the makeup, second to clean the skin.  After cleansing, your skin should not feel tight or taunt.  If so your cleanser is too drying.

3.  Moisturizer.  This is very important for everyone, even those with oily skin.  Not applying moisturizer especially to wet skin will cause the water to evaporate leaving your skin dehydrated.  Your skin will overcompensate for the loss of hydration which can lead to break outs, and the most common condition; dry cheeks and oily t-zone.

Renew Botanicals Organic and Vegan Moisturizer

4. Over Exfoliating .  This has become one of the biggest problems in the last few years because so many companies are putting exfoliants into their cleansers such as jojoba beads or alpha hydroxy acids.  Even products that say "gently daily exfoliant" should not be used every day. That is not to say exfoliation isn't important because it is, but once or twice a week is enough.  Once or twice a week you are removing the dead skin but more than that you are actually removing the protective barrier which can cause inflammation, moisture loss and sensitivity.

5.  Sunscreen.  Wearing sunscreen everyday should be part of you daily regime.  Besides protecting your from skin cancer, nothing will age you more than too much sun damage.  It is important to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 25-30 (more is not necessary).  If you are going to be out in the sun all day, reapply.  Avoid sunscreens with chemicals such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.  Stick with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as your only active ingredient, although I prefer just zinc oxide.

6. Drink Water.  Keeping hydrated is important for your inner health and outer beauty.  Your skin is your largest organ and if your skin is not getting the sufficient amount of water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and flaky which may have the same results and lack of moisturizing (see #3).

7. Picking at Your Pimples.   When you pick, pull, squeeze your pimples you are causing damage.  This can lead to scars, which are far worse than the pimple.  It can also lead to irritation and inflammation and most of all infection.

8. Eat Healthy.  As mentioned above, your skin is your largest organ so what goes in your body will reflect on your skin.  Eat lots of fresh veggies, fruits, lean meats, healthy fats and complex carbs.  Cut back on dairy, sugar bad fats. Choose organic and grass fed dairy and meats, whenever you can.

9.  Clean Your Makeup Brushes.  Obviously dirty brushes will introduce bacteria into your makeup and on your skin.

10.  Throw away expired products and makeup.  Most products and makeup have a shelf life.  Using products that have expired can introduce bacteria into your skin.

In addition to following these tips, treat yourself to a facial at least 4 times a year, if you can do it more often all the better.  Make sure you are using the right products for your skin and check ingredients.  Remember glowing skin is healthy skin.

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An Ounce of Prevention

Flu and cold season is just around the corner.  If you are like me, you prefer to find a natural way to prevent yourself from getting sick, or if you do lessen the severity of the illness.  Which is exactly what my husband and I have done for the past few years.  Each year in the late summer/early fall I make a batch of Elderberry Syrup and take some each day.  I have not gotten sick (knock on wood) and my husband felt like he was coming down with a cold last year and increased his dosages.  He felt better within 2 days.

“Recent research from Israel and Panama has demonstrated that elderberry juice (Sambucus nigra) not only stimulates the immune system, but also directly inhibits the influenza virus (Zakay-Rones et al 1995; Mumcuoglu 1995)."  Paul Bergner, Herbalist.

If you would like to try and make your own syrup this is my favorite recipe

ELDERBERRY SYRUP

Ingredients:   2/3 cup dried elderberries,  1 cinnamon stick,  1 tsp -1 tbs ginger root,  1 cup raw local honey (you can add more or less depending on your taste)

Place all the ingredients in a pot, except honey, add 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-45minutes.  Smash the berries and strain.  Add1 cup Raw honey and brandy.  Refrigerate.  Will last 2-3 months.

Take 1 tbs daily to ward off illness or a tbs every 2-3 hours if you are sick.  For children use half the dose.

Optional Ingredients:

Brandy, Astragalus, Echinacea, Orange Peel, Cloves

Note: Please use only raw honey and add the honey after cooking...heat will destroy the important enzymes in the honey.  I would also recommend not replacing the honey with any other sweetener as honey has it's own healing properties.

                                                                                           Elderberry syrup simmering

                                                                                          Elderberry syrup simmering

Do you have a favorite recipe for Elderberry Syrup or any other cold and flu prevention ideas.  Please share and here's to a healthy season.

Please Say No To Palm Oil

Recently, I was on a quest to find some handcrafted soap that was free of Palm Oil.  It amazed me how few manufacturers, from the smallest to the largest are still using Palm Oil in the U.S.  I could find many handcrafted soap makers in Australia and Europe but not here.  I am happy to say I was able to find an amazing company, Unearth Malee.  Not only are their soaps free of Palm oil, but they use organic ingredients,  and no synthetic fragrance.   This is not a review of their products but I did want to give them a shout out. 

You may be asking yourselves, why are you so against Palm Oil?

Palm oil from the oil palm tree is a high quality versatile oil.  However, it grows only in the tropics where it has had a disastrous effect on the environment.  According to the environmental group Friends of the Earth, it is estimated that 87 percent of Malaysia’s deforestation was due to palm oil plantations.  Their researchers also estimated that if nothing is done to alleviate the rising rates of deforestation, orangutans could become extinct within 12 years.  The palm oil trade is destroying orangutan habitats, endangering other rain forest animals, contributing to the high levels of carbon emissions, and has placed Indonesia as possibly having the world’s fastest deforestation rate (Greenpeace sources estimate an area equivalent to 300 soccer fields per hour).  And according the the World Wildlife Fund "Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture oil palm plantations – destroying critical habitat for many endangered species, including rhinos, elephants and tigers. In some cases, the expansion of plantations has lead to the eviction of forest-dwelling peoples."

In 2004 The World Wildlife Federation and teamed up with the Palm Oil Industry and launched RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).  Many manufacturers especially small companies proudly state they are using sustainable Palm Oil, however, this is not as benign as many of them think because the rules are riddled with loopholes. 

The environmental groups Greenpeace International and Wetlands International argue that such loopholes allows palm oil firms to join RSPO and improve their image despite the fact that very little palm oil has yet been produced according to the sustainability criteria. And The Jakarta-based Center for Orangutan Protection has directly opposed the certification scheme. The group said last year that it found two RSPO member companies clear-cutting forests that were home to orangutans, sun bears, and Borneo gibbons. "It has been six years after RSPO was put into operation but forests are still cleared and orangutans are continually killed," said Novi Hardianto, the Center's habitat program coordinator, in a press release. "All criteria on sustainable palm oil and certification process are merely public lies."

Because of it's versatility, Palm oil is used in so many products, ranging from margarine, cereals, sweets and baked goods, to soaps, washing powders and cosmetics. (If you are a vegan and use products by Earth Balance beware that they use Palm Oil in many of their products.) And you have to practice due diligence if this concerns you, because often times it is listed as an ingredient on product labels, with the term ‘vegetable oil’ often being used instead.

So, please practice consumer awareness and I hope that the next time you are shopping think about who and what will be affected by that product. 



New York State of Mind

I was born and raised in New York City, The Bronx to be exact.  As an adult I lived in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Catskill Mountains.  I moved to Maryland in 1987, but my heart is and will always be in New York.  There are reasons I have stayed in Maryland and perhaps I will discuss these in a future blog post.

This past weekend my husband and I went to visit my sister and brother-in-law in NY State.  I love spending time with my family.  My sister and I have always been close. They have a lovely home and are the excellent hosts.   It was an ideal weekend. Unlike the high humidity of Baltimore, Saturday was picture perfect, reminding me of summer days in the Catskill Mountains.  Until moving to Baltimore, summer was a favorite time for me.  While Sunday was a little more humid it was still lovely.

We went swimming, grilled dinner, and enjoyed the evening on the deck around the fire pit, listening to my husband play guitar. At first the sky was a little overcast but as the evening progressed the sky cleared and the stars twinkled with a beautiful half moon.

 

Sunday morning we went to the Farmers Market.  I don't know if it is just me, but boy everything I bought was the sweetest and the absolute best I had in years.  A repeat of Saturday left me feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated than I have felt in quite a while.

As I sit here, back home, I just finished eating some corn we brought back, putting me in the New York State of mind.


The Truth About Antibacterial Products

Finally, after 30 years of sitting on a ruling the FDA announced that unless manufacturers can prove that antibacterial soap is safe and more effective than using soap and water it will have to be removed from shelves by 2016.

For those of you wondering what is wrong with antibacterial products here are some facts, the ingredient in these antibacterial products, Triclosan can:

  • They can create antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria - The World Health Organization calls it "a threat to global health security"
  • Some studies have found that, in animals, triclosan appears to interfere with the body's regulation of thyroid hormone.   If this is the case in humans, too, there are worries that it could lead to problems such as infertility, artificially-advanced early puberty, obesity and cancer.
  • It may cause allergies
  • It is harmful to the environment.  It is still found after going through sewage plants and has been detected in streams and other bodies of water where it disrupts alga's ability to perform photosynthesis.  
 The bottom line is using triclosan as an antibacterial wash is really no more effective than good old hand washing with soap and water according the the Center for Disease Control...just use soap and wash for about 30 seconds...singing the alphabet song if you like.

The bottom line is using triclosan as an antibacterial wash is really no more effective than good old hand washing with soap and water according the the Center for Disease Control...just use soap and wash for about 30 seconds...singing the alphabet song if you like.

 

In my skin care practice and when I make my skin care products I never use any product or  ingredient that may harm humans, animals, or the environment and many like myself have been fighting long and hard to get these harmful products off the shelves.  So a small victory but a victory nonetheless.

Memories

So many different things can trigger memories.  A song comes on the radio and brings you back to a certain day and time.  The same can be said for smells and tastes.

This past weekend my hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.  My husband being an ex-chef decided he wanted to cook us a special meal instead of going out this year.  As he described some of his menu ideas I knew I was in for a treat.  I am the baker in the family but since we both love ice cream, and hardly ever have it any more, we decided instead of baking we would buy some good quality ice cream.   We chose a raspberry ice cream with chocolate chunks.

When I took my first bite I was transported back in time to my childhood days at day camp.  Every afternoon we would have a snack break.  One of my favorites was an ice cream pop of raspberry ice cream covered in chocolate.  As I sat there eating the ice cream I was that little kid again back at camp.

Oh and just in case you are interested the rest of the menu was:

  • Olive tapenade
  • Mushroom pate
  • French Bread
  • Shrimp with arugula pesto, capers and olives served over pasta

Here's to making new memories!


How The Right Foods Can Keep You Cool Pt 2. - Some recipes

To follow up last weeks post I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Pitta summer recipes.

VICHYSSOISE  (cold potato leek soup) makes 4 servings

While this is not generally found in classic Ayurvedic recipes, all the ingredients are and it is one of my personal favorites for a hot summer evening coupled with a salad.

  • 1 tbs butter or ghee
  • 2-3 leeks
  • 5 potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
  • 5 cups water or chicken broth
  • pinch of thyme
  • chives for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup organic grass fed half and half or whipping cream

In a large stock pot melt butter over low heat. Add leeks and cook for 10 minutes or until translucent . Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add thyme and stir well and continue to cook for 12 minutes.

Add  water or chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, partially covered for 30 minutes.

Puree soup in blender or food processor and cool.  When cooled add cream and sprinkle with chives.

COCONUT RICE  makes 4 servings

I like to make extra and eat it for breakfast. I then add some blueberries and almonds.

  •  2 cups  jasmine or basmati white rice, rinsed
  • 1 cup good-quality coconut milk (not "lite")
  •  2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp. dry shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened

Place rice in rice cooker. Add the water, coconut milk, salt, and shredded coconut. Stir well (use a plastic or wooden utensil to avoid scraping off the non-stick surface). Cover and set to cook.

Once your rice cooker switches to "warm" mode, allow another 8-10 minutes for rice to finish "steaming". This will ensure your coconut rice is fully cooked and pleasantly sticky.  Gently fluff.

For breakfast heat with additional coconut milk or water and add blueberries and nuts  and pinch of cinammon and cardamom  may be served cold.

Hope you enjoy!  Please share your favorite recipes.




Summer Skin Care

Most of us stay pretty busy during the summer. Many people take their vacations during this time and we tend to be out and about more.  Because of our crazy, hectic, having fun schedules we are more prone to neglect our skin. Yes, more and more people are remembering to use sunscreen but summer skin care is more than just applying sun protection.

The first thing to consider is your home care regime.  Are you using the same products you did in the winter?  Some skin types are not effected by seasonal changes,  however,  many people need to switch their skin care products for lighter weight cleansers and moisturizers.  That creamy cleanser that was perfect in January may not be what you need in July. If you are feeling a bit more oily you may need a gel or foaming cleanser.  Renew Botanicals has a cleanser that is a little of both.  Our Herbal Cleanser has some of the ingredients and properties of a gel cleanser but with additional lightweight oils so that your skin does not feel dry.  The addition of activated charcoal helps to detoxify the skin.  Same idea holds true for your  moisturizer.  Your current moisturizer may still be perfect the rest of the year,  but just as with your cleanser, you may need a moisturizer that is a little lighter.  You still need to use your moisturizer twice a day.  If you are feeling too oily do not stop using a moisturizer, this is a mistake many make.  Your skin can still become dehydrated in the summer.  Just lighten it up.

Don't forget to take your skin care products with you on vacation.  It is also a great idea when you get back from vacation to see your Esthetician for a facial.  It is a great way to replenish your skin.  And please keep applying your sunscreen.  Check out my last blog post on sunscreens

Speaking of dehydration.  It is so important to drink lots of water during the summer.  Remember iced tea (unless it is herbal) and iced coffee will further dehydrate, you as will any alcoholic beverages.  If you are not fond of water, try adding watermelon chunks, slices of orange, lime or lemon, cucumbers or berries.

Happy Summer!

What you Need To Know About Sun Protection

Summer officially starts next week and many of you are once again facing the conundrum of what sunscreen should you use.  For years we heard how important sunscreen is but there has been some controversy lately regarding using sunscreen and other reports that many ingredients are not safe.  So before you hit the deck (pool, beach, boat) I will try to shed some light.

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To Wear Sunscreen or Not, That is The Question

We need to get some sun exposure. Sunshine on our bodies produces vitamin D.  Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, immune function and blood cell formation. However, we don’t need very much sun exposure to meet our needs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 5-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure a few times a week is all that’s required to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. So, the answer is YES, after your initial recommended time of unprotected sun exposure, apply your sunscreen and apply it often.

Why Suncreen?

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So as you just learned a little unprotected sun is a good thing, however, if you are trying to prevent aging (and who of us isn't?) or more importantly prevent skin cancer (which is on the rise) than you must wear sunscreen. The latest scientific studies tell us that we need a broad spectrum sunscreen.  Most sunscreens in the market protect you from UVB rays.  These rays are responsible for causing harmful sunburns and are most dangerous between 10 am and 4 pm.  However, most of the rays that reach the earth are UVA rays.  The UVA rays are present sunrise to sunset and penetrate the skin much deeper. UVA rays can cause free radical damage causing the breakdown of collagen which leads to wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and aging skin.  UVA rays can penetrate through light clothing, cloud cover and untinted glass.   That’s right folks, even on a cloudy day these rays can damage your skin.

SPF

It should be noted that manufacturers have mislead consumers by using words like waterproof/water resistant and of course SPF values.  Very often people mistakenly believe that using sunscreen with a higher SPF means that they can stay out in the sun longer and not have to reapply as often as lower SPFs.  Using between 20 and 35 SPF is all you need BUT you must apply 30 minutes before going out in the sun andreapply throughout the day.

Choosing Sunscreen

Although we must wear sunscreen, there are many scientists that believe that using chemical sunscreens may actually increase cancers by virtue of their free radical generating properties.  For instance, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that 97% of Americans are contaminated with a widely used sunscreen ingredient called oxybenzone that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage?  And according to the Holistic Health Library, “Organic chemists have long been aware of the dangers of compounds in chemical sunscreens, but this was ignored by the manufacturers of commercial sunscreens and most of the medical establishment”  The list of toxic chemicals in sunscreens does not stop at oxybenzone.  The list includes:  PABA and PABA esters, Cinnamates, Salicylates, Avobenzone, Fragrance, Parabens

So with all this “negative” information about sunscreens you are probably asking yourselves, what can I use?   The safest sunscreens are physical blocks made with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide which work as a barrier against sun.  Lately titanium dioxide has come under some scrutiny but as long as you check to see they are not nano-particles you will be fine.  In addition to using physical block sunscreen, I recommend your sunscreen contain antioxidants such as green tea extract. 

Additionally you can wear a hat to keep the sun off your face and sunglasses to protect the thin, delicate skin around your eyes. Keep in mind that is important to get Vitamin D3, so spend a little time each day out in the sun without sunscreen.

As they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.