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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reading the Skin

 A crucial part of my training as a licensed esthetician in my native Romanian was learning to look at the skin as a “mirror” that reflects an individual’s overall health and well-being. As a result, I often recommend changes in diet and other aspects of my clients’ lifestyle or even a visit to their physician when my evaluation of their skin reveals signs of a physiological imbalance, stress, or a medical condition.

The various skin characteristics that I evaluate include its coloration. Unusual changes in coloration may be linked to physical problems ranging from pigmentation disorders and nutritional deficiencies to a variety of serious diseases. To help you become more attuned to the important health messages conveyed by our skin, I’ve outlined the major types of coloration problems and their possible causes below.

Whiteness—The causes of extreme paleness  include iron deficiency anemia, circulatory congestion, respiratory problems, various genetic conditions, and vitiligo, a pigmentation disorder that may be triggered by severe sunburn, emotional distress, and other types of stress or trauma. In addition to causing self-consciousness and embarrassment, vitiligo may in some cases indicate an autoimmune disorder, genetic syndrome, or disease. Decreased pigmentation may also be a side effect of some drug treatments.  

Blue or purplish coloration—This skin tone is linked to cyanosis, a serious condition caused by impaired circulation. Cyanosis indicates a lack of sufficient oxygen in the blood. People with asthma and other respiratory problems may also have bluish skin.

Yellow skin—Jaundice , or yellowing of the skin, is a symptom of serious gallbladder or liver problems that should be investigated by a physician.

Orange tone—The causes of orange skin range from eating too many carrots or other foods with high levels of beta carotene to a genetic condition that leads to excessive iron levels in the blood.

 Redness—A variety of skin conditions including rashes, rosacea, and dermatitis can cause redness. In other cases, redness occurs when a rapid heartbeat causes swelling of the capillaries, bringing a rush of blood to the skin. Excessive consumption of alcohol or spicy foods, as well as some types of hypertension, can also redden the skin.

Skin darkening—Many cases of increased pigmentation result from free radical damage caused by sun exposure and environmental toxins. Some cases of skin darkening may indicate a serious health problem such as Addison’s disease or scleroderma.

As you can see, a number of the conditions I’ve outlined are related to what we eat and to the functioning of our circulatory system--two aspects of wellness that have long been a major focus of holistic medical traditions. A recent study by British researchers on healthy skin color has now lent additional weight to the importance of eating foods rich in antioxidants and maintaining circulatory health. Participants in the study used a software program to optimize the skin tones of faces displayed on a computer screen. The results showed that the complexions the participants considered the healthiest and most attractive looking typically displayed a balanced combination of two skin tones: the golden pigmentation gained from eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and the rosy glow provided by healthy blood flow and oxygen levels in the skin. Although this particular study was limited to Caucasian skin, the skin tones of all races display similar variations in brightness and tone. To me, these research findings are yet another example of how modern science is deepening our understanding of traditional intuitive approaches to “reading” the skin for clues to internal health. 

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's So Special About Silk Amino Acids?

An increasing number of skin and hair care products now prominently display silk amino acids on their list of active ingredients. But do silk amino acids actually add anything more to the mix than a highly appealing name?

Let’s start by clarifying the role of amino acids in skin care. As the building blocks of the proteins in our skin, amino acids are essential for maintaining healthy cell function and renewal, as well as the skin’s structure and natural moisturizing factors. Amino acids also have antioxidant properties that help repair free radical damage.

Amino acids are added to anti-aging skin treatments to help replenish the collagen and elastin fibers that give our skin its strength, texture, and resiliency. But not all amino acids are created equal. Those produced synthetically have fewer of the L-form amino acids that constitute living tissues. Our bodies use these organic molecules to synthesize collagen, elastin, and other essential proteins in our skin. L-form amino acids also have a natural tendency to form strong bonds with water molecules, so they can dramatically boost the skin’s moisture level as well. 

The all-natural amino acids used in my LaVie Organique™Serum, Face Cream, Day Cream, and Eye Cream are derived from the cocoons of silkworms. These L-form and other essential amino acids have a lower molecular weight than most synthetic proteins, so they’re better able to penetrate the skin surface and deliver the moisture and nutrients required for optimum cell growth in the underlying dermis. Like all the ingredients in my Lavie Organique product line, the silk amino acids in my serums and creams are produced by a cruelty-free process that causes no harm to the silkworm or moth.

Silkworm cocoons have been prized as the source of the ultimate luxury fabric, as well as a medicine for treating a variety of ailments, since the days of Imperial China. Today, the legendary properties of silk have been incorporated into powerful anti-aging treatments that blend traditional wisdom with modern science. From the luscious texture they add to face creams to the visible benefits they bring to your skin, silk amino acids truly deliver on the promise we hear in their name.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Beauty Secret You Can’t Afford to Ignore

It’s a highly effective 100% natural treatment for a multitude of skin problems—and it won’t cost you a penny. Yet even many skin-care care fanatics think it’s a waste of time. I’m referring to sleep. Deep, restful sleep—at least 7 to 10 hours of it every night—is one of the best ways to ensure a vibrant, youthful-looking complexion.

Our bodies can devote a lot more energy to repairing damage from free radicals, environmental pollutants, infections, and other skin stressors when they’re at rest than when we’re pushing them through our busy daily routines. In fact, scientific studies have shown that the power of sleep to reduce wear and tear on our bodies can help prevent a range of age-related ailments, including heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases, memory impairment, and diabetes. Ongoing research at the University of Chicago on the role of poor sleep quality in type 2 diabetes and other diseases dramatically illustrates the profound impact of sleep on biological aging. Tests performed there showed that healthy young individuals who were deprived of sleep not only developed abnormally high insulin levels, but also suffered a decline in cell functioning similar to that of a 60-year-old. 

Our vulnerability to a variety of skin woes from acne flare-ups and under-eye puffiness to premature aging increases when we don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation impairs our immune systems and disrupts hormone levels, interfering with the skin’s ability to fight infection and replace damaged cells with new ones. The decline in cell function caused by lack of sleep also makes it more difficult for skin cells to cleanse themselves of wastes and toxins.

Modern science may have increased our understanding of sleep but it hasn’t done much to help us get more of it. In fact, ever since the invention of the electric light, the amount of sleep the average person gets has been decreasing. Unfortunately many factors, including stress, age, and poor health habits can also contribute to insufficient or poor-quality sleep. 

One of the best ways to a avoid a major sleep deficit is to "unplug" from the myriad sources of electronic stimulation that provide our evening entertainment. Turn off your cellphone. Don’t sit up half the night surfing the Internet or watching TV shows that assault your senses with nonstop action and blaring commercials. Spend some time really relaxing before you go to bed. Meditate, take a warm bath, or light some aromatherapy candles (warm, familiar scents such as vanilla are particularly restful) and listen to some soothing music. Develop a consistent nightly ritual that tells your body it’s time for sleep.

You can also assist your skin’s night-time work by incorporating a high-quality all-natural face cream  into your evening skin care regime. Make sure the night cream you choose is packed with plant-derived antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and moisturizers. Ingredients such as white tearosemary, hops, and horsetail that have a combination of these properties offer the most efficient approach to fighting the effects of aging and restoring a healthy balance to our skin.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Add a Touch of Traditional Healing to Complexion Care

Speaking of the long-standing focus on healthy circulation  in holistic medical traditions, another time-honored way of optimizing blood flow to the skin is now steadily gaining popularity in U.S. spas—facial massage. 

In Europe, where I was trained, mastering traditional facial massage techniques is an essential step in an esthetician’s education. The European approach to massage incorporates many aspects of acupressure, shiatsu, and other holistic therapies used to treat stress, migraine  headaches, PMS, sinus pain, and neuralgia.

Massage has been a an accepted treatment since medicine began. In many great civilizations of the past—including ancient China, Japan, Greece, Persia, and India—the practice of massage was regarded as an important method of maintaining wellness. In the Ayurvedic tradition, massage is believed to stimulate digestion, flush out toxins, and rejuvenate the body.

The results of recent research on the effectiveness of massage suggest it is a useful adjunct to medical care. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine cites scientific studies indicating that massage is effective in reducing heart rate and blood pressure, relieving pain, and improving health. Similar beneficial effects were found in a study of physiological and psychological stress in acute-care nurses.

An expert facial massage should be a regular part of your skin care regimen and is included in my European facial treatments.  It’s a simple, safe. effective way to relax facial lines and bring a fresh, healthy glow to the complexion, while treating yourself to delightfully refreshing experience,

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keep It Moving: Circulation and Skin Health

One of the most important benefits of many of the plant-derived ingredients in my Lavie Organique™ Original Formulas is increased blood flow to the skin. The reason is simple. Optimal circulation is fundamental to beautiful, young-looking skin.

In many natural and holistic healing systems, healthy circulation has long been regarded as the key to total body wellness. Both Ayruvedic and traditional Chinese medicine use herbs and botanicals that boost circulation to treat not only wounds and skin diseases, but also a full range of health problems from liver and kidney ailments to depression and impaired memory.

As with many of the treatments developed by early practitioners of intuitive, experience-based approaches to healing, the role of stimulating botanicals can be explained by scientific facts. By transporting oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues and flushing out excess fluids and waste products, improved blood flow helps boost cell renewal and restore proper function to the skin and other bodily organs.

Skin care products that contain circulation boosters such as caffeine, cinnamon, paprika, rosemary, and white tea frequently provide additional beneficial effects. For example, many of them act as antioxidants, antiseptics, and anti-inflammatories that work in synergy to not only optimize blood flow to the skin, but also its pH level and balance of moisture and sebum.

In addition to a balanced skin care regimen, there are a number of other behaviors you can adopt to improve blood flow to the skin and maintain the overall health of your circulatory system.
1. Don’t smoke! Nicotine constricts blood vessels, starving the skin and other organs of oxygen and vital nutrients.
2. Exercise A regular exercise program is a great way to ensure your skin stays properly nourished and to optimize conditions for collagen renewal.

3. Eat foods high in iron Low iron intake can cause in iron-deficiency anemia. This condition involves a detectable drop in the number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to skin and other tissues in our body. Even the strictest vegans can help protect themselves from this type of anemia  by paying close attention to their dietary habits. In addition to eating plenty of green, leafy vegetables, beans, tofu, nuts, and dried fruits, it's also important to avoid overconsumption of certain salts, minerals, and other substances, such as calcium, antacids, and caffeine, that when consumed in excess can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb iron. Signs of anemia may include extremely pale, thin skin, as well as cracks at the sides of the mouth and sores on the tongue. Some conditions, such as heavy menstruation, can result in anemia despite a diet rich in iron. It's a good idea to have your doctor check your blood count from time to time to determine whether you need an iron supplement.
4. Be aware of symptoms and causes of poor circulation Vascular disease as well as diabetes and hypothyroidism can result in decreased blood flow to the skin. Persistent symptoms of these diseases—including swollen legs and feet, puffiness of the face, chronic sores on the mouth, feet, and legs, acne breakouts, and extremely dry skin—should be checked out by your physician.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

White Tea Part II: Good for What Ails Aging Skin

As with many components of a healthy diet, white tea benefits our skin not only when we consume it, but also when we apply it topically. The white tea leaf extract in my LaVie Organique™ formulas contain several substances that play an important role in promoting healthy, young-looking skin. In addition to the antioxidant flavonoids I discussed in my last blog spot, white tea also contains alkaloids. Alkaloids are used to treats variety of skin diseases, including psoriasis, acne, dermatitis, rosacea, and squamous cell cancers.

The alkaloids in white tea include caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. These three chemical compounds, referred to as xanthines, form loose bonds with the flavonoids in tea, increasing their antioxidant effects. In addition to contributing to the repair of free radical damage, xanthines help improve circulation, flush waste products from cells, reduce inflammation, and fight infection. These combined effects promote healthy, young looking skin in several ways.

Scientists have found evidence that topical application of unfermented tea fights photo-aging and skin cancer and works synergistically with sunscreen to boost sun protection. Because chemical reactions between the synthetic compounds in many sunscreens may alter the tea’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, my Day Cream formula combines organic white tea leaf extract with zinc oxide, a powerful natural-mineral sunscreen that is chemically inert.

Skin biopsies have shown that the antioxidants and xanthines in tea also help boost production of collagen and elastin cells. As we age, the rate at which these cells replace themselves slows, causing the network of collagen and elastin fibers that give our skin its shape, texture, and resilience to weaken. The result is sagging, wrinkled skin. While applying products that contain collagen won’t help—collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the epidermis—using treatments with ingredients that promote healthy cell renewal and that our skin can absorb can help improve the appearance of sun-damaged, aging skin.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

White Tea Part I: The Perfect Winter Pick-Me-Up

For generations of British subjects and ancient Chinese sages alike, there’s only one certain cure for whatever ails you. When all else fails, have a cup of tea. But does tea deserve its reputation as the perfect holistic remedy? I think it does—which is why my own prescriptions for a happy healthy winter include curling up on the sofa with a mug of hot tea. This year, I’ve also been suggesting my clients try a variety of tea that’s relatively new to the American market--white tea.

White tea comes from the immature leaves of the same tea bush, Camillia ginensis, that’s used to make green tea. While we’ve all heard a lot about the benefits of green tea, it turns out that white tea may be an even healthier choice. After harvesting, white tea undergoes only minimal processing. Because it’s left closer to its natural state than green or fermented versions, white tea has a more delicate taste—and a significantly higher concentration of antioxidant flavanoids

The antioxidant activity of  these plant-derived nutrients plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of our body by
·      enhancing immune response
·      improving cell-to-cell communication
·      regulating estrogen metabolism
·      inhibiting tumor growth
·      repairing free radical damage

Flavonoids also have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and antiallergenic effects. Scientific studies indicate that their ability to prevent blood clots may help decrease the risk of strokes. Research also suggests that high flavanoid intake may help prevent heart attacks and cancer as well. With all  these beneficial effects, it should come as no surprise that drinking white tea is also good for your skin.

But it’s not just the physical but also the mental effects of white tea that make it such a potent holistic remedy. In China, tea was originally used as a medicine for improving mood and mental prowess, as well as eyesight and digestive and kidney function. Tea’s association with an alert, yet calm and harmonious mental state persisted in Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Monks in China and other countries where these religions are practiced continue to rely on tea as an aid to meditation. In fact, in Taoist tradition, the very act of preparing and drinking tea has been refined and ritualized as a form of meditation. This link between tea drinking and mental clarity is now supported with scientific studies on the antioxidant properties of flavanoids that show these free radical scavengers can help reduce age-related memory problems, as well as the fatigue, irritability, and sadness associated with depression.

Today’s scientists have also discovered that putting white tea extracts on our bodies as well as in them can also help promote radiant, youthful-looking skin. In fact, white tea leaf extract is an important ingredient not only in my organic peels and Lavie Organique™ Exfoliating Mask but also in  my skin creams and serum. I’ll tell you more about how this organic extract can enhance your skin care regimen in my next blog spot.

In the meantime make yourself a nice cup of white tea. But instead of gulping your daily dose of anti-aging nutrients on the run, keep in mind the gentle rhythms of the Taoist tea ceremony, and as you enjoy the taste, imagine the warm, fragrant liquid dissolving your mind and body into the eternal universe.

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