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Eat Your Way to Glowing Skin

Bae Yoon Young for Beauty+, April 2015

Bae Yoon Young for Beauty+, April 2015

While we are all about slathering our face and body with nurturing oils, beautiful skin starts with nourishment from within. In fact, what we eat has a direct effect on our skin, and a healthy diet abundant in antioxidants, vitamin C, good fats, collagen, and amino acids can mean the difference between a fresh, radiant complexion and a weary, puffy, one. Older skin cells are continuously shed and replaced by younger ones, and a steady supply of micronutrients is essential to support this rapid growth. When you eat the correct balance of foods, you feed your skin the vital nutrients it needs to stay, soft, supple and blemish-free.

To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of eight beauty superfoods that will significantly enhance your complexion. Keep reading to see what they are.

BEETS

The powerful antioxidants in beets help fight signs of aging to keep skin firm and youthful. Their combination of minerals and vitamins (folate, Vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium) stimulates cell production and repair, protecting our skin from premature aging and wrinkles. Add the vibrant root vegetable to your morning juice along with apple, carrots and a hint of ginger for a delicious cleansing boost.

CHIA SEEDS

These antioxidant-rich seeds are packed with minerals and fiber as well as the perfect balance of essential fatty acids (packing almost 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per 1-ounce serving). Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is credited for giving our skin that "glow" we all strive for while also leading to a visible reduction in inflammatory skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. Sprinkle chia seeds into smoothies and fruit salads, or soak them in almond milk overnight for a satisfying dessert.

BRAZIL NUTS

While you probably already know that Brazil nuts are a healthful snack, they are also a beauty food, as they’re a rich source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant which is essential for the immune system. A selenium-rich diet can help to protect against skin cancer, sun damage and age spots. Just four nuts will provide you with the recommended daily amount. Sprinkle them on your salad alongside other seeds, or carry as nutritious snack.

SWEET POTATOES

Adding these delicious beta-carotene-rich starches into your daily diet can combat lackluster complexions. The wondrous, skin-brightening combination of Vitamin A and Vitamin C in sweet potatoes works to neutralize cell tissue-damaging free radicals that cause the dreaded dulling effect. Sweet potatoes are also rich in biotin, which stimulates hair and nail growth.

SPINACH

This leafy green is high in Vitamin A, essential for promoting growth in skin and hair. Spinach is also loaded with Vitamin C, which is imperative for the building and maintenance of collagen, making it a no-brainer for any meal, juice, or smoothie.

PINEAPPLE

Tangy and exotic, pineapple benefits the skin by improving digestion, reducing inflammation, and removing toxins from the body. What’s more, it also helps in the production of collagen.

 

Antioxidant fantasy

Anti-oxidant fig fantasy

FIGS

The tiny seeds in figs are loaded with nutrients that help rid the digestive track of toxins and mucus, which may prevent important nutrients from getting to the skin. High in fiber, figs are a perfect sweet treat to aid in cleansing and detox. 

 

AVOCADO

Besides being a delight smashed on a crispy toast, avocados are an abundant source of vitamin E. Praised as a skin-beautifying antioxidant, Vitamin E is present in the human epidermal tissue, where it creates smoothness and suppleness. Studies also found that vitamin E  helps fight signs of aging by protecting the skin against oxidative cell damage as well as supporting healthy skin growth.

And lastly, it goes without saying water is imperative for a dewy, healthy complexion. Our skin needs moisture to stay flexible, and even mild dehydration will cause it to look dry, tired and slightly gray. After all, H20 isn't a beauty secret — it's a basic human need. So make sure to keep hydrated at all times (especially during these hot summer months). If you work in an office, keep a large bottle of water on your desk to remind yourself to drink regularly.

 – Written by Sofia Sosunov

Toxic Beauty - 7 Ingredients to Avoid

 

Some beauty ingredients have surprising links to carcinogens

When it comes to putting things into our bodies, we tend to take careful consideration of the ingredients and their origin, but somehow this important moment of reflection often slips us by when it comes to what we’re putting onto them. And while it’s increasingly crucial to check our food labels, we also need to be more discerning when it comes to selecting skin and beauty products. As the largest and most exposed organ in the human body, our skin will absorb whatever we put on or around it, making it especially vulnerable to infiltration by unsafe chemicals. In fact, 60% of what we slather, pat or spray on our skin daily is absorbed into the bloodstream.

It's no secret that most cosmetics contain chemicals, although recognizing their degree of hazard may be as difficult as pronouncing the chemicals themselves. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average woman’s face is exposed to about 168 toxins from the 10-12 products she uses in her daily skincare and beauty regimen (men use about half as many products in their daily routine with an average of 85 toxic ingredients while kids get exposed to approximately 60 ingredients in a typical day). Horrified? So are we! But these alarming numbers can be significantly reduced if we became a little more mindful and educated about the substances we so freely use on our bodies.

To help you detox your beauty cabinet, we’ve compiled a list of seven harmful ingredients you should be wary of before buying your next lipstick, deodorant or face cream. 

Parabens

Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast in creams, lotions, ointments, and other cosmetics, including deodorants. Sounds good, right? Not quite, there's more to the story. Parabens contain estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. Alarmingly, you can also find these dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceutical products.

Toluene

Derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, toluene (you may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene), is a strong solvent that can dissolve paint and paint thinner. Commonly found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair color and bleaching products, toluene is a petrochemical that can affect the respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Expecting mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause developmental damage to the fetus. If you’re still unconvinced of its harmful impacts on your health, this potent chemical has been linked to immune system toxicity.

Formaldehyde

A colorless, flammable gas often used in cosmetics to help protect products against contamination by bacteria during storage and continued use. The two known categories of products with the most formaldehyde are hair straightening treatments and nail hardeners.

The most common side effect of formaldehyde in cosmetics is skin irritation, including scalp burns and hair loss. But the major concern is that formaldehyde causes cancer. The National Toxicology Program’s 2011 June report classified formaldehyde as a carcinogen under conditions of high or prolonged exposure—conditions typical for industrial workers and professional groups, including embalmers and even salon workers.

Synthetic colors

If you glance at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors (F — representing food and D&C representing drug and cosmetics). These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar source (lovely, isn’t it?). Banned by the European Union, synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and have even been linked to ADHD in children.

Propylene glycol

Commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent, propylene glycol is a synthetic organic alcohol. It has been associated with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans — sensitization effects can be manifested at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2 percent! Widely used because of its relatively low cost and versatile nature, it can be found in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

This surfactant appears in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoos, body washes, mascaras and acne treatments.

Phthalates

A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. You can spot them in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers.

Finally, as a general tip try to always opt for products with as few ingredients as possible. That way, you can rest assured that you’re being exposed to fewer chemicals overall. While change is not always easy, it’s time to apply a more considered approach to our beauty regime. Nourish your skin as you do your body.

Green is beautiful

 – Written by Sofia Sosunov

Smiling Your Way to Wellbeing

 In the midst of hectic schedules, social stresses and the rushed lifestyle associated with modern urban living, it’s easy for negative thoughts to arise and accumulate on our faces. We sulk, scowl and frown to express irritation or frustration when things do not go our way. And while being told to cheer up is the curse of the downturned mouth, smiling amid the mayhem may not only make us appear more approachable but be the key to good health and longevity.

According to Taoism, "emotional intelligence" is the process of recognizing emotions by their effects on the body, and employing exercises that transform negative sentiments into positive life force, or Chi. The life force stems from the vibratory nature of phenomena: the flow and tremoring that is happening continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels. One of the most ancient Taoist Inner Alchemy (Neidan) practices, is the "Inner Smile." Normally we think of a smile, as an expression of friendliness or benevolence directed towards other people. But with the Inner Smile meditation, we offer the smile to ourselves, directing it towards our major internal organs. According to the Tao, different physiological systems store different emotions, and therefore organs have different energies. The Inner Smile meditation focuses on five organ systems: the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, the liver/gall bladder, and the stomach/spleen. Starting as a mere facial expression, the smile spreads to soften the whole body, dissolving malevolent energy and replacing it with gratitude and serenity, empowering us towards strength and restoration.

While you may be unconvinced of the merits of a simple smile, before you raise a sarcastic eyebrow or pull a frown, you may want to consider the implications. Prominent French physiologist, Dr, Israel Waynbaum, found that facial muscles used to express emotion activate specific brain neurotransmitters. His research shows that frowning triggers the release of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline. Stress doesn't merely turn our moods a little sour, it spikes blood pressure, weakens our immune system, accelerates aging, increases our susceptibility to anxiety and can lead to weight gain (especially around the abdominal area). Meanwhile, the effortless act of smiling changes your brain chemistry. It signals the body to release feel-good chemicals, such as endorphins, which give us a natural high, and help to fight off depression, reduce pain and relax muscles. Smiling also releases immune-boosting T-cells, which defend the body against germs, viruses and bacteria and accelerates healing.

But what if we don’t feel like smiling? Can we fake it until we make it? Although a genuine smile has a deeper impact, a surface smile tricks the brain into producing the same chemicals. And scientific studies have shown that the more we smile, the more we want to smile. As Buddhist monk and global spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

For a detailed guide to the Inner Smile Meditation see:

http://albanyqigong.com/images/Inner%20Smile%20and%20Six%20Healing%20Sounds%20Practice.pdf

 – Written by Sofia Sosunov