Archive | February, 2012

Take the Woe out of Winter’s Dry Skin

20 Feb

Yesterday CNN Health promoted a segment about ways to help dry skin during the winter months.  I hung around to see what  I could learn.  I was disappointed; it was the same old tired information that has been repeated year after year after year, and it is the same information that is on almost every website discussing dry skin.  CNN’s report was basically a fluff piece, something that is not uncommon in television news. 

Their expert (dermatologist) suggested not to take hot showers or baths; keep the showers short; apply moisturizer; give extra attention to joints (elbows and knees).  Common sense tell us the same thing.  It really annoyed me that CNN (ditto to other news outlets that do this) has an almost unlimited amount of resources, and this was the best it could come up with.  While the suggestions are helpful to some extent, they will not give much relief.  I know.  I did them for years.  So, I am going to pick-up where CNN left off and give you some other insights and suggestions to help get your dry skin under control.

Things That Can Worsen Dry Skin
Definitely, winter’s dry air and the dry air heat in homes and offices create the perfect setting to suck the moisture right out of your skin.  At the same time, however, there could be things that contribute to your dry skin that you do not notice during other times of the year because the dryness is not as severe.  During, say the summer months when there is more humidity in the air, your skin may not be as dry.  Therefore, you may not notice factors other than winter that contribute to your dry skin woes.  Even if that is not the case with you, these still may worsen winter’s dry skin: 

  • Trigger Foods.
    You may have a sensitivity or allergy to certain foods that reveals itself on your skin.  Wheat, gluten, yeast, corn (including corn by-products), dairy, and sugar are usual suspects.  For example, wheat, yeast, and sugar make my dry skin and seborrhea worse.  An elimination diet is  an easy way to see if certain foods bother you.  With an elimination diet, you eliminate one food for a certain period of time and then reintroduce it.  
  • Alcohol.
    Drinking alcoholic beverages increases dry skin because it dehydrates the body.  For women, this is even more so because women have less body water then men ( (52% for the average woman v. 61% for the average man) to begin with.  Also, alcohol stays in women’s body longer then men because women metabolize it slower, which will affect the skin in numerous ways.
  • Caffeine.
    Too much caffeine will also worsen dry skin.  Caffeine is a diuretic that increases the excretion of water from the body; thereby increasing dehydration.  Also, too much caffeine can cause nutrients to be excreted from the body.  Since the skin is the last organ to receive nutrients, a lack of or decrease in them will affect it.
  • Smoking.
    Really nothing more needs to be said.  Smoking is bad any way you look at it. Period.
  • Wool and Lanolin.
    You may be allergic or sensitive to wool.  Of course, you don’t wear wool in the summer, so you would not notice it.  If you are sensitive or allergic to wool, it will make your dry skin worse.  Since lanolin is derived from wool, lanolin in products can make you dry skin worse.
  • Glycerin.  
    Humectants, such as glycerin,
    are believed to draw moisture to the skin.  However, that is not the case for everyone.  Some people (self included) dry skin becomes worse when using glycerin products.  Also, research has shown that in dry climates and when humidity is low (winter – less than 65%)  glycerin draws moisture away from the skin.  Another thing to watch out for is petroleum derived glycerin.  This is a cheaper version of glycerin.  Also, glycerin can be obtained from animals.  Petroleum and animal based glycerine can be harsh for your skin.  If you want to use glycerine, make sure the product states that it is a vegetable form.
  • Chemicals and Petroleum-based Ingredients.
    They can irritate the skin, making dry skin itchy and drier.  Often they are added because they are cheap.  Products made with them are marketed to make them alluring to the consumer.  They are often used to emulsify; preserve; give a certain feel or texture, and/or scent skincare products.
  • Lotions.
    Lotions can build up on the skin; therefore not giving skin a chance to shed dead skin cells.  If dead skin cells are not removed, your skin will be flakier.
  • Sugar/ artificially sweetened carbonated  beverages.  
    Stop or reduce your consumption of these because of the chemicals, such as phosphoric acid, and sugar.  They will irritate already dry skin and too much phosphoric acid found in many sodas (esp. colas) interferes with absorption of some nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin K.  Vitamin K is an important skin nutrient.
      
  • Cleansing bars.
    What is usually referred to as “soap,” is generally a detergent.  These detergent bars can be too harsh for dry skin.  The same with most commercial shower gels; they are too harsh for dry skin.

Things That Can Help Dry Skin
Dry dead skin cells hang around because there is not enough oils to help them to flake off.  Skin oils keeps skin moisturized as well as help with the removal of dead skin.  The plan then is to find ways to increase skin oils, keep moisture in, and remove dead skin cells.  Try these suggestions and see if they help you combat dry skin:

  • Increase omega 3 fatty acid intake.
    One of the symptoms of omega 3 deficiency is dry skin.  And as we have stated several times on this blog, most Americans are deficient in omega 3 while being high in omega 6.  Omega 3 and omega 6 need to be in balance.  Due to the western diet, Americans are out of balance with these essential nutrients.
  • Eat fresh vegetables and fruit daily.
    Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collards, and broccoli (not a leafy vegetable, but is skin loving) have many skin-loving nutrients.
  • Eat foods high in vitamin C.
    Research shows that vitamin C helps with wrinkles and dry skin. Vitamin C helps form collagen.
  • Drink WATER daily.
    There is nothing like good ‘ol water for keeping skin hydrated.  Juice, soda, coffee, and tea don’t count.
  • Use a warm air vaporizer or humidifier.
    Place one in your bedroom and/or home.
  • Exfoliate regularly, at least once a week. 
    Because there is not enough oil on the skin, dead skin needs to be manually removed.  I exfoliate every time I shower.  Be careful, do not use harsh detergent exfoliators.
  • Water filter for the shower head.
    Chlorine in water is dry skins worst enemy and winter only makes it worse.  So invest in a water filter for the shower head; they start at about $35.00 – $45.00 dollars; you’ll thank me.  They make a huge difference.  And if you want to take a bath, you can run the water through the shower filter (takes awhile, but worth it).  A dechlorination ball also works great for baths.  We’re familiar with Rainshower Dechlorination Crystal Ball.  You use it by placing the ball in the tub as it fills with water.
  • Moisturize skin at least 2x day.
    But do not use just any old moisturizer, moisturizers are not created equal.  Of course, we prefer plant oils and botanicals to lotions.
  • Keep skin covered.
    This help skin to retain as much moisture as possible.
  • Exfoliate the bottoms of your feet.
    Nightly before going to bed scrub the soles with a body brush.  Afterwards, massage a plant-based oil into them (extra virgin olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, etc.) and put on cotton socks.  Your feet will love you for it.  The bonus is that this routine is very relaxing and will help you to sleep.
  • Pamper dry hands.
    Apply moisturizer (plant based) and wear a pair of cotton gloves over them to bed.
  • Spritz face throughout the day. 
    Use an herbal hydrosol (skin loves rose and lavender) to add moisture to your face during the day.  It’s an especially good way to moisturize skin while wearing make-up.  You can also use plain distilled water in a spritzer.

These are our suggestions to help winter’s dry skin.  If you have a suggestion we missed, we would love to hear it.  Just add your comment below.

Click to Buy Our Great All-Organic Skincare Line:

YumScrubhttp://bit.ly/1jKksLG

Abe’s Market bit.ly/1rueto2

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Yum Friday Recipe: Spicy Sweet Potato and Parsnip Soup

17 Feb

Yum Spicy Sweet Potato and Parsnip Soup

East meets west in this hearty soup that combines  Thai/Indian seasonings with sweet potatoes and parsnips.  Besides taste, we love this soup for the nutritional bang it brings to skin.  Sweet potatoes are the main ingredient that delivers this nutritional punch; they’re loaded with beta-carotene.  Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body; vitamin A ramps up skin cell production and sloughs off old skin cells.

We added parsnips to the soup to bring a nice buttery and slightly spicy taste.  Another reason we added them is that parsnips like sweet potatoes are a root vegetable.  Root vegetables in eastern medical traditions are warming foods that aid in digestion.  Proper digestion is necessary for the body to absorb nutrients and to remove waste.  Also, root vegetables are grounding, just the thing we need in the cold winter months.  They are a good source of potassium and magnesium.  In case you are interested, the Romans considered parsnips an aphrodisiac.  So…well, that’s all we’ll say on that score.

A dollop of coconut milk cream placed on the soup when serving rounds out and heightens the richness of the soup.  As we have reported before, coconut milk is rich in lauric acid.  Lauric acid is in mother’s milk and is said to be antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal.  Check out our post “Coconut Milk Shake” for details on benefits of coconut milk.

Eating sweet potatoes or other foods high in beta-carotene is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants healthy beautiful skin.  But is really important for those with skin issues such as dry skin, premature wrinkles, acne, eczema, psoriasis, keratosis pilaris, etc.  In addition, recent research indicates, sweet potatoes have a nutrient in them (batatosides) that have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  You can boost the absorption of vitamin A from foods by eating them with a bit of fat, such as olive oil, ghee, butter, etc.

If you are looking to attract a significant other into your life you may want to boost your consumption of cartenoid nutrient rich foods because researchers found they give the skin a healthy glow.  This healthy glow has yellow undertones, which people find attractive.  This attraction is true for all ethnicities.  We covered it in a post awhile back, “Carrots, Attraction, and Bugs Bunny – Huh?

I like sweet potatoes baked, oven fried, added to potato salad, in risotto, and mashed with some garlic, but I love them in this soup.  Come Thanksgiving, however, I pass those cloyingly sweet babies right by me.  It was those Thanksgiving sweet potatoes that kept me for years and years from embracing them and thereby missing out on their skin healthy benefits.  BTW–I do not get adding sweetener to an already sweet food.  They’re called sweet potatoes….  So, I love this recipe because their natural sweetness is balanced with some lime juice, and the flavor is tweaked with ginger and cilantro. The spiciness also chases winter chills away.  Those with eczema and psoriasis will want to make the soup without the jalapeno.  Spicy food is thought to exacerbate these conditions.

One cup of cooked sweet potatoes has 438% of daily value of vitamin A.  438%! Along with vitamin C, some B’s and copper, you can see why we think it’s one of skin’s ultimate foods. One other interesting and very beneficial aspects of sweet potatoes that researchers have recently discovered is that certain antioxidants in sweet potatoes bind heavy metals and helps to remove them from the body.

Cilantro another ingredient in the soup also helps to remove heavy metals from the body.   This detoxification of metals from the body is very important for everyone, but especially those with health conditions.  Cilantro is also rich in phytonutrients that are anti-oxidants and has anti-bacterial benefits.  In India, it is used for its anti-inflammatory benefits.  It is also a good source of the specific skin loving nutrients, zinc, copper, and the vitamins A, C, E, K, and some B’s.

Keep Cilantro Fresh in a Glass Jar

Yum Recipe: Spicy Sweet Potato and Parsnip Soup –
serves 6

3 cups (approx. 1#) sweet potatoes
2 cups (approx. ½ #) parsnips
1 cup chopped onion
3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-3 teaspoons chopped jalapeno  (depending on amount of fire you want)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3 cups high quality chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups water
¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped plus a few sprigs for garnish
salt and pepper
¼ – 1/3 cup of the cream from top of the coconut milk in a can (use the rest of the coconut milk in a smoothie – check our recipes for one–or use in another recipe.)

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes in 1 to 2 inch cubes.  Peel and cut the parsnips in 1 inch slices.  Parsnips like potatoes do turn black after being peeled.  If you peel and cut them ahead of time, place them in a bowl of water.

Pour olive oil in a 4 quart pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  When the oil is hot add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the sweet potatoes and sauté for about 4 minutes.  Add the parsnips and cook for about an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so mixture does not burn.  Add the garlic, jalapeno, ginger, and 1 Tablespoon of the lime juice.  Also add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables occasionally so they don’t burn.

Pour in the stock and water.  Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat so the soup simmers.  Simmer soup until the sweet potatoes are very tender–about 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove soup from heat and add the cilantro and remaining 2 teaspoons of lime juice.  Stir and allow to sit a minute until the cilantro becomes a bit wilted.

Use an immersion blender or blender to make the soup smooth and creamy.  If you use a blender, do the soup in batches.  Be mindful because the soup is hot, and you don’t want to burn yourself.
Serve with a dollop of the coconut cream.  Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

Notes:

If you use homemade vegetable or chicken stock, don’t dilute it.  Commercial stock, especially vegetable, is stronger than homemade, so I always dilute it.

As mentioned in the text, if you have eczema or psoriasis don’t add the jalapeno.

Serving suggestions:

The soup can be served rustic style.  Do not blend the soup.

Top the soup with some parsnip crisps.  Cut some very thin peeled parsnip slices and cook until golden and crispy in some hot oil.  Drain on paper towel and sprinkle a pinch of salt on chips.


Reference:

“Sweet Potatoes.”  The World’s Healthiest Foods.  Online: http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64

Lead in Lipstick–Really

15 Feb

Those kissable lips we wrote about yesterday may have some lead on them if you use lipstick.  The FDA released its most recent findings and found 400 shades of lipstick contain lead.  L’Oreal, Revlon, Maybelline, Cover Girl, and Nars were in the top ten for highest contaminant amounts.  The FDA claims the amounts are traceable, but are not harmful because little is ingested or absorbed. 

What the FDA needs to ask is: What are the cumulative effects of lead in lipstick on women who wear lipstick daily and who reapply it throughout the day (lead builds up in the body)?  What are the effects on pregnant women and on women who want to become pregnant?  What about women with small children who love lipstick kisses from mommy or like to play with mommy’s lipstick?  Scientists and researchers who have studied lead say there is no safe amount of lead for pregnant women and children.  Read more:

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – “Lead in Lipstick”  
http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=223

Washington Post – “400 shades of lipstick found to contain lead…”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/400-lipstick-brands-contain-lead-fda-says/2012/02/14/gIQAhOyeDR_story.html

NPR – “Consumer Groups Want Lead out of Lipstick”
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/02/15/146917390/consumer-groups-want-lead-out-of-lipstick?ft=1&f=1128&sc=tw

Kissable Lips

14 Feb

Roses, candy, and dinner are just the backdrop for tonight’s main attraction–the Valentine’s Day kiss or the hope of getting that kiss.  We want you to make the best of it by having lips worth kissing. 

Just to be sure those kissable lips aren’t wasted because of faulty kissing technique, head over to kissing.com.  There you’ll learn how to make that Valentine’s Day smooch crackle with fireworks.  Though kissing has been happening for thousands and thousands of years, some of us apparently haven’t gotten it down yet.   There’s probably a gene for kissing that has yet to be discovered and unlocked for some.  Not only can you learn some toe wiggling kissing techniques at kissing.com,  you can also buy some lessons.  How about that for a Valentine’s Day gift?

While we will not share our snogging (Brit’s term for smooching) secrets, we will share some tips to get your lips properly prepared for a big smooch.

Tips for Kissable Lips

  • Honey is great for softening and smoothing chapped lips.  Put about a teaspoon or so in a small bowl, add a drop of water.  Apply to lips and let sit for a few minutes.  Take a wet toothbrush or damp washcloth over lips to remove dry skin.  Be gentle. Apply lip balm or some olive oil, Shea or cocoa butter.
  • Coconut oil also works well for softening lips.  Apply directly to lips; let sit for a few minutes and remove dry skin as above.
  • Run a warm air humidifier or vaporizer at night to prevent chapped lips.
  • Before applying your favorite lipstick, apply some chap stick to your lips first.  This is a good technique if you find that your lips become chapped after applying lipstick.  Lipstick can sometimes cause lips to dry out, esp. if you are sensitive to an ingredient in the lipstick, such as lanolin.  Also, the ingredient propyl gallate and phenyl salicylate (salol) in lipstick causes contact dermatitis in some people.
  • Lip balms can cause your lips to become chapped if there is an ingredient that your lips are sensitive to.  i.e.  I can’t use any chap stick that has hemp or lanolin in it.  Those two ingredients will cause my lips to become chapped.  Beeswax is the one ingredient I look for in a chap stick.
  • Stay away from petroleum, fragrances, and scents in lip balms.  They can also make lips worse.  Ingredients should be simple and natural.
  • Never lick your lips when they are chapped.  It will only make them worse.
  • Keep hydrated with some good old water.  It will help in preventing dry lips in the first place.
  • Breathe through your nose and not your mouth to prevent dry lips.
  • Citrus fruits, nickel, sodium lauryl sulfate in tooth paste, dyes used in candy and food, hypothyroidism can all contribute to chapped lips.

Now that your lips are kissable, the rest is up to you.  Oh, don’t forget to check the breath.  Kissable lips won’t mean a thing if the vapors emitting from your mouth keep your sweetie from coming within twenty feet of you.

Click to Buy Our Great All-Organic Skincare Line:

YumScrubhttp://bit.ly/1jKksLG

Abe’s Market bit.ly/1rueto2

Reference:

Kunin, Audrey, M.D. “Chapstick and Verse; A Guide To Chapped Lips.” Online: http://www.dermadoctor.com/article_Chapped-Lips_185.html.

A Valentine Treat for Your Face: A Honey Mask

9 Feb

 What is the favorite fairytale of bees?   Beauty and the Bee.

 What flowers are their favorites?  Bee-gonias and Honeysuckles.

To bee or not to bee– Shakespeare
To do is to bee– Nietzche
To bee is to do– Sartre
Do bee do bee do– Sinatra

Sorry, couldn’t resist.  We are not to blame for the above.  They are courtesy of Honey Tasmania (www.honeytasmania.com/honey-bees/honeybee-jokes)

USDA Image Library – Scot Bauer

Does Your Face Need Some TLC?  

Want you face to feel more like a baby’s skin than a prune?  Maybe you want to control those break-outs; or even out your skin tone; or reduce the seborrhea flakes around the T-zone, or get some glow going on.  Honey is sweetness for the face.  And it doesn’t take a lot of honey for a facial–about a tablespoon or so is enough for the entire face.

What Makes Honey So Yummy for the Face? 

Honey is a humectant so it helps to bind moisture to the skin.  It plumps up those wrinkles so they are less noticeable.  Honey has some nutrients and antioxidants that help skin to repair and heal itself, which is why it is good for pimple prone skin.  Also, the enzymes in honey are beneficial for healing.  There are several B vitamins, C, copper, potassium, and some flavonoids in honey.  It is also said to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.  A honey mask is a gentle exfoliate because it contain natural glycolic acid. 

FYI: The reports I have read on the benefits of honey for acne say that repeated use is required to see any benefits.  Generally, results happen after about a week of daily applications.  Although, a few people reported seeing immediate results in the reduction of break-outs.

Not Just Any Honey Will Do

To get the full nutritional benefits of honey, raw or raw unfiltered honey is the way to go.  It can be purchased at health food grocery stores, from the local farmer’s market, or from local honey producers (Google your area or check craigslist).  Pasteurized honey that is sold in most grocery store chains has little or no nutrients left due to the processing.  Also, large bee-keeping commercial operations are very hard on bees and often the pollination is done on plants that have been sprayed with chemical herbicides.

Skin Test First

There are some people who can eat honey, but when they put it on their skin it causes an allergic reaction.  We would not want you to look like a blowfish for Valentine’s Day.  So, do a skin test with honey on a small area of the face first.

Moisturizing/Rejuvenating Honey Mask

1 Tablespoon raw honey
1/8 teaspoon extra virgin coconut oil (extra virgin olive oil also works)

1/8 teaspoon warm water
damp cloth
facial headband

Clear Skin Honey Mask
1 Tablespoon raw honey

1/8 teaspoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon warm water

damp washcloth

facial headband

Directions

Use the facial headband for preventing the hair from getting into the honey.  You may want to apply the mask prior to showering or taking a bath.  This way you can wash out any honey that may remain along the hairline.  Use the damp cloth to wipe any honey that goes where you do not want it to go.  Start with a clean face.

Mix the ingredients thoroughly.  Using clean fingers fingers, apply mask to face and front of neck.  Set a timer for 12 minutes. Recline and relax.  For some TLC for the eyes, put a couple cucumber slices or moistened tea bags over them as you wait for the honey to do its magic.

After 12 minutes, dampen the washcloth with warm water and use it to remove the honey mask from the face and neck.  Follow-up with splashes of very cool water to the face.

For dry or mature skin apply moisturizer.  We of course suggest our wonderful Argan and Allies Hydrating Serum.  For acne prone skin, we recommend applying our popular Argan Acne Serum.

Click to Buy Our Great All-Organic Skincare Line:

YumScrubhttp://bit.ly/1jKksLG

Abe’s Market bit.ly/1rueto2


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