Archive for the “Beauty” Category

Love Yourself Thin

Love Yourself Thin

You don’t have to spend the rest of your life bingeing and feeling bad about it.

by Susan Weiner, Energy Times, January 2011

Sometimes your strongest cravings for food take place when you’re feeling the weakest emotionally. A stressful day at the office may steer you to the nearest fast-food eatery for a double cheeseburger, while an night spent arguing at home might end with a bowl of ice cream.

Food does more than simply fill the stomach when used to feed mounting emotions in situations such as these. At that point it can sabotage good diet intentions and lead to a never-ending cycle of bingeing and self-blame.

While few of us take pleasure in facing tumultuous feelings of depression, anger, sadness and resentment, stuffing these emotions inside can eat away at self-esteem, triggering anxiety and an irresistible urge to indulge. An unhealthy binge commonly leads to feelings of guilt and a cascade of self-blame that tends to repeat itself.

When you take a harsh view of yourself as weak, overweight and unable to lose weight, those negative thoughts only perpetuate weight gain. In fact, when participants in one study engaged in self-criticism and self-blame, their brains showed activity in brain regions correlated with depression, eating disorders and anxiety (NeuroImage 1/15/10).

“When we feel really bad, either from an uncomfortable emotion or when we add insult to injury through criticizing ourselves, we may try to avoid or ward off the feeling by eating. That’s emotional eating, and it’s a defense against feeling bad,” explains Christopher K. Germer, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion (The Guilford Press, (www.mindfulselfcompassion.org). “We do it to bypass the pain and to feel better. It’s an excellent short-term solution, but the long-term consequences can be devastating.”

The remedy to emotional overeating, suggests Germer, is mindfulness—being aware of your emotions and how they affect you—and self-compassion. These practices give you the strength to evaluate what’s really bothering you and to respond with self-kindness rather than criticism. “That gives us a little more mental space to make healthy choices,” says Germer. “Self-compassion is a new habit that anyone can learn. Deep within all beings is the wish to be happy and free from suffering.”

Baby Steps

After gaining more than 40 pounds, Lauren Tobin learned how to practice self-compassion, which ultimately allowed her to drop the excess weight. “I think back emotionally to what was going on in my life at the time and there was a lot,” recalls Tobin, 40, mother of two young girls and controller for a packaging company in Oaks, Pennsylvania. “You don’t feel well, you eat and then you don’t feel well because you ate. At the end of the day, I don’t think eating a bag of pretzels and dip will change the outcome of how you feel about your life.”

Feeling lethargic and low on energy, Tobin divided her weight-loss strategy into manageable steps that included incorporating healthier foods into her diet, exercising, maintaining a food diary and evaluating the emotional triggers that spurred her to overeat.

“I had to find a different way, when I was feeling down or depressed, to not automatically turn to food. One day I just made a decision,” notes Tobin. “I broke it up into small goals so it wasn’t such a daunting task.”

A simple mental exercise to help you achieve your weight-loss goals is substituting “self-compassion breaks” in lieu of food breaks. Germer suggests that you find a quiet place, put your hand on your heart, take three deep breaths and tell yourself you are in a moment of suffering (mindfulness), that suffering is a part of everyone’s life (common humanity) and that you want to be kind to yourself (self-kindness).

This type of self-compassion, explains Germer, is a self-soothing alternative to food. “These practices can interrupt the automatic connection between stress and eating,” he says.

Releasing Weight

As the handsome star of the popular soap opera “One Life to Live,” Freeman Michaels based his success on how the world perceived him. After leaving acting behind in the mid-1990s, a thriving real estate development company provided Michaels with that same sense of security. “I thought if I was famous, I’d be happy. I thought if I was rich, I’d be happy,” says Michaels. But when his business failed during the real estate crash, his weight ballooned to nearly 280 pounds.

A self-described “latchkey kid,” Michaels admits that he has turned to food for comfort during much of his life. “I ate my way through my troubles. All these attempts in my life to make it from the outside in were never sustainable,” he says. “At no point was I ever really okay, not with myself and not with my eating.”

A speaker, workshop trainer and author of Weight Release: A Liberating Journey (Morgan James), Michaels received a masters degree in spiritual psychology and founded the Service to Self Process (www.servicetoself.com), a life coaching program that helps clients examine food-related behaviors, explore “self-honoring” alternatives and create healthy practices that ultimately become habits.

“A lot of us are feeding something inside. It can be an expression of rebelling, of deflecting unwanted attention, of abuse,” says Michaels. “What we do today is the process of applying compassion to the part of us that hurts. The minute we apply compassion, it lifts.” Instead of reacting from the painful past, Michaels suggests creating healthy rituals such as walking and meditating, generating intention between bites by focusing on healthy food choices, and writing down a list of wholesome foods along with their health benefits for extra motivation.

Learning to break free from mindless, emotionally driven eating—and the self-blame it creates—may feel a little awkward at first if you have always reached for cookies in times of crisis. But Tobin and Michaels say they are living proof that the results are well worth the effort. “When you do something repeatedly, over time it becomes easier to do,” says Michaels. “Compassion allows us to see clearly. It’s a healing journey.”

Summer Hair Care

Summer Hair Care

Summer Hair Care
Strong sunlight and salt-laden wind are hard on your tresses, but there
are natural ways to restore bounce and shine.

By Susan Weiner, Energy Times, July/August 2009

It’s summertime and the living may be easy. Summer elements, however, are anything but easy on your hair, which is exposed to salt water or chlorine (or both), dry winds and high humidity. The damage these elements can cause often results in locks that are drab, dry or frizzy.

When confronted by such environmental exposures, “lather, rinse and repeat” just isn’t enough to keep your hair in tip-top shape on long hot days. To achieve that magnificent mane, it may be time to step away from your traditional routine and evaluate new approaches to hair care.

Girl with flowers in her hair.Hair Basics

Each of us has approximately 100,000 scalp hairs that grow from one-quarter to one-half inch every month from structures called follicles. Each hair shaft has three layers; the cuticle, or outside layer, protects the inner two. When the scales that make up the cuticle lie flat and reflect light, hair is shiny and healthy. When the hair shaft is damaged these scales separate and hair becomes dry, dull and prone to breakage.

Whether hair is straight or curly also influences shine. Sebum, a protective oil produced within the follicles, spreads out and covers straight hair easier than curly or wavy hair. This is why straight hair often appears shinier than a head full of curls.

The longer the hair, the longer it has been exposed to harsh elements such as scorching sun and chlorinated pool water during the summer (as well as cold outdoor air and overheated indoor air during the winter). Over time, these conditions take their toll, zapping your hair’s luster and sheen.

Ayurvedic Benefits

Brunette Girl with flowers in her hair.A 5,000-year-old system of holistic healing from India, Ayurveda steers away from chemical-based hair care and emphasizes all-natural treatments that combine wholesome foods, herbs, scalp massage, aromatherapy and yoga. Individual mind-body types, or doshas, determine the specific combination of each individual. Someone with a vata constitution, for example, may have naturally frizzy or coarse hair and struggle with dandruff and split ends. A pitta person may have light-colored, fine hair that may go gray or thin out early, while a kapha individual is likely to have full, abundant hair that is less prone to damage. (To determine your dosha, go to www.whatsyourdosha.com or find a trained practitioner through the National Ayurvedic Medical Association at www.ayurveda-nama.org.)

Ayurvedic practices are ideal for sun-stressed hair. “Typical Ayurvedic treatment will include massage of the scalp with medicated oils, which have extraordinary qualities,” says Suteja Navarro, CAS, PKS, founder of OmSpring in San Francisco, California. “Ayurvedic knowledge teaches that there is a true digestive system that operates through the skin, including the scalp. This is why Ayurveda recommends putting nothing on the skin that we cannot eat.”

Oils such as almond, coconut, olive or sesame soften hair and protect it from the elements, lubricate and replenish the scalp and enhance blood circulation to the head and neck. Oils should be warmed before use and applied little by little using the pads of the fingers, massaging gently in a circular motion. For flaky summer scalps, a mixture of olive oil, cinnamon and honey can be applied. Amla oil, one of the world’s oldest natural conditioners, is said by Ayurvedic practitioners to rejuvenate hair growth.

Aromatherapy offers other hair-friendly oils in the form of plant essences. In one study, massaging in a blend of lavender, rosemary, thyme and cedarwood oils improved hair growth among people with thinning hair (Archives of Dermatology 11/98). Lavender oil also helps repair split ends and ease scalp dryness, as do oils taken from rosewood, sandalwood, yarrow, lemon balm, bay and cypress. “Ayurveda includes aromatherapy as a healing modality,” says Navarro. “You may add these essential oils to your homemade shampoo or directly massage your scalp with an essential oil adapted to your case.”

girl with blowdryerAyurvedic herbs such as neem, turmeric and amla powder can be mixed with warm water and applied to weather-damaged hair as a rejuvenating paste, while neutral or colorless henna powder mixed with water strengthens the hair shaft. (Pig­mented forms of henna let you color your hair naturally.) A final rinse with apple cider vinegar or sage tea can help stimulate hair growth.

Scalp Stimulation

Scalp massage is far more than simply a relaxing form of stress relief. It stimulates circulation, nourishes the follicles and distributes natural oils, sending nutrients to damaged hair and creating an ideal environment for healthy new hair growth.

“Massage brings blood flow, sloughs off the dead skin cells and gives bounce to the hair,” explains Tod Peterson, CMT, of Advanced Massage in Pleasant Hill, Cali­fornia. “I massage the full scalp in different directions. It’s a vigorous finger massage to slough the scalp and rejuvenate the hair follicles so that the hair can grow faster.” Doing self-massage on a regular basis can help maintain the health of your hair (if your scalp is oily you may require fewer massages).

There are two basic types of scalp massage. Use the balls of the fingers in rapid movements over the scalp during the friction massage, moving the fingers in circular movements starting from the front of the head toward the nape of the neck, then use the same motions to move forward to the front of the head. To perform a kneading massage, spread the balls of the fingers over the scalp, press firmly and rotate the skin, but do not move fingers over the scalp. Slowly rotate the skin in one area, and then move to another area until the massage is complete.

In addition to maintaining a basic haircare routine, preventative steps need to be taken in the summertime to ensure that your hair does not become damaged. Do not brush or blow-dry excessively, shampoo hair soon after swimming and avoid over-exposure to wind and sun.

Nutrition for Healthy Tresses

You may be having a bad hair day because of what you put in your mouth. “Deficiencies in essential fatty acids, the vitamin B complex, protein, zinc, iodine and other trace minerals may cause less-than-healthy hair,” says Tara Lambert, BA, CNC, EFT-CC, of Nutritional Wellness Center in Ithaca, New York. “These types of nutritional deficiencies may cause dry, brittle, weak hair that lacks shine and luster. They may also cause the hair to grow very slowly or be very fine and thin.”

Eating certain foods on a regular basis can support hair health. Salmon is loaded with protein along with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12. Dark green vegetables provide vitamins A and C to produce sebum, while beans offer zinc and biotin as well as protein. A handful of selenium-rich nuts and seeds each day can help safeguard your scalp. Additional hair helpers, including iron to help the blood transport oxygen to follicles, vitamin B-6 for color and strength and calcium for growth, can be found in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, eggs, brewer’s yeast, low-fat dairy products and whole grains.

Pay close attention to your diet during warmer weather when hair may be prone to additional nutritional deficiencies. “Sweating could cause a person to lose trace minerals if they don’t replenish them through healthy foods and drinks,” says Lambert. “Swimming in chlorinated pools may also deplete the body of iodine, which is needed for fast-growing, thick hair.” What’s more, year-round sources of hair stress such as toxins, cigarette smoke, alcohol consumption and lack of sleep can result in dull, lifeless hair or even retarded hair growth. And don’t forget the effects of age, which reduces the number of capillaries supplying nutrient-rich blood to the follicles.

For all these reasons a daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals can help keep your hair at its healthy best. Vitamin E, for example, encourages blood circulation to the scalp by increasing the uptake of oxygen, while vitamins B-12 and C, along with the amino acid lysine, aid in the absorption of iron and other nutrients. Beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, promotes healthy hair, skin and nails. Certain minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, silica and sulfur (available in supplement form as MSM) are also crucial for hair health. The herb saw palmetto is thought to help reverse hair loss because it lowers levels of DHT, a type of testosterone that harms follicles. According to a study in the April 2002 Journal of Complementary Medicine, saw palmetto actually triggered hair growth.

“To support healthy hair, look for supplements that contain the vitamin B complex, including biotin, vitamin C complex, vitamin E complex, zinc, trace minerals, iodine and essential fatty acids containing omegas-3, 6 and 9,” says Lambert, who prefers supplements made from whole foods.

“Fish, flax, primrose and black currant seed oils are all good essential fatty acids.” Some supplements provide omega-3, -6 and -9 essential fats in carefully balanced formulations.

From nutritional changes to scalp massage to essential oil use, a full, beautiful head of hair is the natural outgrowth of a health-conscious lifestyle. It’s never too late to possess flowing tresses that are kissed by the sun and tousled by the wind—without being mangled by either.

July 6, 2009 Posted Under: Beauty, Energy Times   Read More

Natural Selection

Natural Selection

Natural Selection

The pursuit of beauty can be a kinder, gentler process—thanks to products made with
nutrients and botanicals. ET highlights the hottest natural ingredients to hit store shelves.

By Susan Weiner, Energy Times, September 2006

We all know glowing skin and healthy hair when we see it. I remember the first time I saw it. A number of years ago, while traveling through Europe, I met an older woman—perhaps in her late 50s to early 60s—with flawless skin. Her face was youthful and lacked the tell-tale sun spots and deep lines typical of someone her age.

Woman moisturizing her faceI asked for some details of her beauty regimen and learned that she never used soap—she washed only with gentle cleansers or water, then applied oils and other botanicals. Inspired, I would only wash my face with plain water and moisturize with olive oil and aloe vera. Within a few weeks my skin cleared up and no longer had that taut feeling I’d get after washing with soap. Friends and strangers commented on how my skin glowed.

While most women once relied on products solely made with harsh chemicals to achieve “natural beauty,” today more and more appear to be getting in on my little European secret. Olive oil and aloe vera happen to be two of the hottest natural ingredients in beauty products, providing results to back up the hype. Manufacturers have responded to this rising demand with more innovative products rich in vitamins, nutrients and naturally extracted oils. Here, Energy Times offers a rundown of the most powerful and pleasing natural ingredients and just how they can aid in your personal transformation.

“Ingredients that are all-natural are not going to do their job and leave—they stay and give you added benefits,” says Natalie Back, a New York state-licensed Paramedical Esthetician at August Moon Spa at La Tourelle Resort in Ithaca, New York (www.latourelle.com). “The more natural ingredients you can put on your skin, the better. They’re going to help you from both the inside and the outside.”
So here are the natural beauty ingredient all-stars.

Olive Oil

Commonly found in a range of personal products, olive oil is a basic kitchen staple with myriad cosmetic benefits. Used in soaps, shampoos, body lotions, lip balm, bath oils, massage oils, nail soaks and dandruff treatments, olive oil has protective, salutary effects for the entire body. Rich in antioxidants, which fight skin-cell damage caused by free radicals, quality olive oil can protect against aging by inhibiting oxidative stress, with both Japanese and German researchers claiming that virgin olive oil applied to the skin can protect against tumor growth and aging.

At Good Groceries in Watkins Glen, New York, co-owner Jylle Benson-Gauss maintains the same philosophy that, if it’s edible, it’s good for your skin. “In general, the rule is, don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat,” says Benson-Gauss. “Your skin is like a giant sponge. Everything we put on our skin is absorbed.”

Tea Tree Oil

Long revered as an antiseptic by the Aborigines, the native people of Australia, and once used by British sea captain James Cook to improve the flavor of beer, tea tree oil contains terpenes, beneficial types of proteins which possess anti-infective properties that are effective against skin outbreaks and sundry fungi. The Chopra Center Herbal Handbook recommends that “every household should keep some tea tree oil close at hand. It can be applied directly to skin irritations.”

Esthetician Natalie Back is living proof that tea tree oil and other botanicals work wonders on troubled skin. “As a child, I had severe acne,” says Back. “My mother took me to see an esthetician, and we used a lot of cleansers with tea tree oil, in addition to pumpkin enzyme peels with aloe vera and an aloe vera toner. I also used a lavender and chamomile moisturizer.” Today, Back’s glowing skin is a testament to the benefits of natural beauty care.

Additional miseries tea tree can ameliorate include insect bites, sunburn and minor cuts and scrapes; its anti-fungal properties make it useful against athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm and many vaginal infections. Tea tree also makes a refreshing, odor-killing foot soak.

Vitamin C

Typically thought of as a supplement to take internally, vitamin C topical preparations can deliver even higher dosages of the skin-strengthening vitamin. This stimulates production of collagen, the connective tissue that keeps skin firm and taut. Lotions and serums enriched with vitamin C—a well-known antioxidant—may also help repair and minimize fine lines and wrinkles caused by sun exposure and aging, and protect the skin against environmental oxidative pollutants and other free radicals.

Vitamin C cream applied daily to healthy female volunteers with sun-damaged skin over a six-month period resulted in a significant decrease in lines and wrinkles, according to a study published in Experimental Dermatology. Skin biopsies revealed improved collagen structure and reappearance of elastic fibers in the vitamin C-treated skin, confirming the results of other studies demonstrating that the vitamin reverses cumulative skin damage from sun exposure.

For an at-home vitamin C treatment, Back recommends rubbing a slice of fresh orange in circular motions on the face before going to sleep, three nights a week. “The vitamin C in the orange will help with cellular renewal, naturally exfoliating hyperpigmentation scars,” says Back. “Your epidermis will look like a whole new skin.”

Green Tea

Just like vitamin C, green tea—another edible skin healer—is valued as a wrinkle-reverser, inhibiting inflammation and sun damage. An article published in the Archives of Dermatology concurs that green tea may, indeed, ward off skin cancer and signs of aging. Researchers at Case Western University in Cleveland maintain that the secret to green tea’s skin-protective properties are its high levels of polyphenols and catechins, powerful antioxidants shown to   function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents.

“Of all the antioxidants known to mankind, the components of green tea are the most potent,” says Hasan Mukhtar, PhD, professor and director of research at Case Western University. Not quite as popular as its cousin black tea, green tea comes from the same Camellia sinensis plant, but its leaves are less processed.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera and skincare products seem to go hand-in-hand; with more than 200 biologically active agents—including vitamins E, B and C and the mineral zinc—aloe vera possesses powerful anti-inflammatory, burn healing, and wound- and scar-healing properties. When used as part of a daily skin care regimen, aloe vera helps to keep skin supple by transporting oxygen to skin and removing dead cells.

Topically, aloe vera benefits dry and cracked skin, allergic reactions, burns, wounds, insect bites, blisters and even frostbite. Studies consistently demonstrate that aloe vera is effective in soothing a wide variety of skin ailments, including mild to moderate symptoms of psoriasis, eczema and seborrhea.

Shea Butter

Also known as karite butter, shea butter comes from the fruit of the shea nut tree, which grows wild throughout the arid regions of Central Africa. Processing shea butter involves sun-drying and roasting the nuts before extracting the creamy, rich, solid oil by hand.

“Shea butter, besides being a saturated fat, has all kinds of vitamins and compounds, including vitamin A, vitamin E, allantoin and catechins,” says Larry Plesent, founder of Vermont Soapworks and Green Products Alliance, a consortium of more than 100 manufacturers that pledge not to use hazardous ingredients. Plesent is a huge fan of shea butter, having spent significant time in Africa observing the production process: “Plants like the shea nut tree are chemical factories.”

Shea butter is used to soften skin and hair, heal wounds and scars, prevent stretch marks and soothe minor burns, muscle aches and rheumatism. Its non-greasy feel makes it a popular choice among massage therapists and spas. When shopping for shea butter products, Plesent recommends looking for the terms “raw,’’ “organic,’’ “traditional’’ or “unprocessed’’ on the label.

Lavender

Which common shrub can help heal insomnia, mood disturbances, depression and anxiety? The answer is lavender, a plant generally appreciated for its pretty purple-blue flowers and aromatic fragrance, and frequently used in soaps, shampoos and sachets. Widely available as aromatherapy oil, bath gels, infusions, extracts, lotions, soaps, teas and tinctures, lavender is a natural remedy for a range of ailments, with recent studies confirming years of anecdotal evidence showing that lavender produces soothing, calming and sedative effects.

Lavender oil is used to treat skin ailments such as fungal infections, wounds, eczema and acne. This fragrant herb is also used in inhalation therapy to subdue headaches, nervous disorders and exhaustion, and to induce deep sleep.

Chamomile

Similar in its benefits as lavender, creams and sprays with chamomile are used to calm nerves and nourish the skin. Revered by the pharaoh’s healers and depended upon by the Greeks for a variety of medicinal purposes, chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is still used to heal abscesses, bruises and sunburn, and is included as an ingredient in many massage oils.

Exhibiting an odor similar to apples, chamomile is well-known for soothing and rejuvenating the spirit. However, it has not been easy for scientists to explain just how chamomile works, since the herb contains so many different natural chemicals. The essential oil likely interacts with the brain, stimulating healing systems within the body.

By tracing established, all-natural healing remedies back in time, and by incorporating these beneficial ingredients into wholesome products today, each of us has the opportunity to maintain skin that looks its best at any age, on any day of the week. Isn’t it about time to be a true natural beauty?

September 6, 2006 Posted Under: Beauty, Energy Times   Read More