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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Green Sugar Part 1: Are All Sweeteners Created Equal?

Physicians, diet experts, and beauty gurus agree: refined sugar is the enemy of graceful aging. If you want to stave off wrinkles, weight gain, fatigue, and age-related diseases, then start by replacing all those empty calories you consume with real nutrition.

A Sweet Life After “White Death”
While this anti-aging prescription might sound like a bitter pill to swallow, a spoonful of nutritional awareness—and a trip to your local Asian market or health food store—can make it a lot easier to take.
Today’s expanding green marketplace offers a number of naturally delicious plant-derived sweeteners that ancient holistic traditions and emerging scientific research suggest are not only far less toxic to our bodies than refined sugar, but even beneficial to our health.

The Beauty of Whole-Food Sugar
As for the old saw that sugar is sugar regardless of what you call it, there’s a good deal of evidence that throws that nutritional wisdom into question. Although the jury is still out on claims that honey, molasses, and their more exotic counterparts release energy into the bloodstream more gradually than refined sucrose and high-fructose corn, scientific research does suggest the effect of minimally processed sugars on blood glucose levels is balanced by their green bonuses.

Not only do the simple cooking methods used to produce these more complex sugars leave most of their nutritional content intact—heat derivation is a far safer than chemical extraction. Obviously, the phosphoric acid, sulfur dioxide, and bleaches used to manufacture those sparkling white granules and crystal-clear syrups are anything but pure and innocent.

Why Less Isn’t Always More
But what about no- or reduced-calorie sugar substitutes like aspartame? Confirmed waist-watchers who think artificial sweeteners are the best way to avoid empty calories should consider the other negatives of sugar’s synthetic cousins. From headaches and other side effects to increased risk of cancer and neurological damage, the numerous health hazards of nonnutritive sweeteners are hardly a positive alternative to white sugar’s potentially deadly effects.

And while these chemical concoctions only remind of us of sugar, the traditional Asian sweeteners I’ll discuss in my upcoming spots add a deep, rich flavor that may even surpass it.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Facing Wrinkles: Why It Doesn't Have to Hurt

News Flash from Peru: “A gang of murderers...allegedly macheted to death some 60 peasants, then slowly rendered the headless cadavers over votive candles in a mountain laboratory…The body fat harvested from this operation was supposed to have been sold…for use in high-end European face creams.”
“Face It,” Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, March 29, 2010, pp. 58-61 While the author cautions that this grisly tale may have been concocted as a cover-up for drug dealing or terrorism, its inclusion in this lively, down-to-earth look at the latest wrinkle preventatives certainly makes a dramatic point.

If a conspiracy involving high-end cosmetic companies buying human fat at $60,000 a gallon strikes a gang of criminals, the Peruvian police, and the public as a plausible motive for mass murder, then society’s search for "hope in a jar" is definitely getting out of hand.

As Thurman notes, “Apart from dying, there is, to date, no permanent cure for wrinkles." Yet she also readily admits her own susceptibility to the alluring claims of today's anti-aging industry. But while her straight talk about the realities of aging is refreshing, I couldn’t help feeling the rueful tone of her article might leave many mature readers feeling resigned to looking older than they feel.

The fact is, there’s a lot you can do to restore a healthy glow to aging skin. Scientific research into the mechanisms of aging continues to uncover new ways to prevent and even repair the free radical damage that ultimately leads to dull, wrinkled, sagging skin. From sun protection, solid nutrition, optimal fitness and adequate rest to mental and spiritual serenity, the elements of a balanced holistic lifestyle will do more to rejuvenate and revitalize your complexion than any so-called miracle cure.

But remember: The positive effects of adopting good health habits don’t happen overnight. Although achieving incremental improvements over time demands patience, commitment, and discipline, you’ll enjoy more lasting results while avoiding the risks of radical procedures. The same is true of your daily and weekly skin-care routine. Regular use of safe, effective plant-derived cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers comprise the skin-care regimen of choice for a face that’s beautiful at any age.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sea Buckthorn Seed: Age-Fighting Might in a Miniscule Package

This hardy mountain shrub’s nickname, “Siberian pineapple,” suggests its early fans considered its juicy orange berries one of the plant world’s natural wonders. Its Latin botanical name, Hippophae rhamnoides (“shiny racehorse”), probably derives from legends that the mighty steeds of ancient Greece grew swift and sleek on its leaves. Sea buckthorn's fabled reputation as a super-food for four-legged thoroughbreds persists even today. But its nutritional value isn’t just for horses—nor do its benefits as a dietary supplement and cosmetic ingredient rest on myth and tradition alone.

Science has uncovered the diverse mix of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and other nutrients that makes virtually every part of this plant a high-energy health food. The benefits of these compounds alone might explain why the rejuvenating power of sea buckthorn has become a hot topic in the natural skin-care industry. But what’s really driving the anti-aging buzz goes straight to the source of this long-revered medicinal plant’s health and vigor: the tiny seeds that store two major classes of skin nutrients.
Fatty acid The high levels of omega 3, omega 6, and omega 9 oils derived from sea buckthorn seeds support skin health by stimulating circulation, repairing cell membranes, and retaining moisture. Fatty acids also promote a balanced complexion by regulating sebum production in the epidermis.

Phytosterols Plant-derived alcohols, like plant-based fats, offer major anti-aging benefits with none of the negatives associated with their synthetic versions. Because plant sterols are so similar to the natural sterols in human skin, they quickly penetrate the epidermis without causing dryness and irritation. In fact, plant sterols do just the opposite, boosting moisture retention, while reducing inflammation. Research suggests that plant sterols may also help repair sun damage and stimulate collagen renewal.

When you consider the full gamut of nutrients and phytonutrients from antioxidants through zinc packed inside every sea buckthorn seed, the growing reputation of the concentrated seed extract as an anti-aging powerhouse seems only natural. But as with any botanical skin-care ingredient, the quality standards observed by its growers and manufacturers make all the difference. To ensure you get all the synergistic benefits and none of potentially toxic effects of shoddy production practices, choose only certified organic sea buckthorn extract.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

The Truth About Green-Speak

Is today's greener beauty industry walking a new walk? Not according to consumer advocacy groups. Apparently most “green” cosmetic companies continue to play fast and loose with the facts—they’re just cloaking their deceptions in more politically correct language.

As a holistic skin-care provider and educator, I’m highly aware of the challenges my clients face in trying to see through the seductive camouflage of Earth-friendly hype. My concern with this issue was one of the reasons the producers of Lifetime’s Balancing Act thought their environmentally aware viewers would connect with my approach to natural skin care and organic anti-aging treatments.

Like my client base, the show’s target audience comprises a highly educated and influential consumer demographic. This generation of green consumers shares their predecessors' disenchantment with corporate misbehavior, as well as their activist spirit. But today’s burgeoning green marketplace has a lot more financial clout. And with so many more products options available, these economically empowered green shoppers can afford to be demanding.

Unfortunately, the slickest hucksters in the beauty industry keep coming up with clever new ways to fool the public. Even smart green shoppers who religiously read the label of every product they buy can be taken in by fuzzy terminology and deceptive language.

Take the word organic, for example. It certainly sounds safe, healthy, and pure. But in fact, organic can mean whatever manufacturers want it to mean, including “containing crude-oil derivatives”! The reason? As long their “organic” ingredient is a “carbon-based chemical,” it meets one of the half-dozen or so dictionary definitions of the o-word—and as a result, cunning corporate wordsmiths are legally entitled to use it.

That’s why consumers who prefer to protect their skin from potentially toxic ingredients should look for a statement confirming their beauty products are 100% free of petrochemicals, parabens, and other synthetic ingredients. The term certified organic offers additional quality assurance, because it indicates that the product contains plant-derived extracts that have been grown and manufactured according to strict third-party standards.

And don’t be surprised if a label or product description doesn’t clearly specify every single ingredient. You may need to do some online sleuthing to get the whole story.

Never settle for anything less than total transparency, accountability, and commitment to quality, safety, and effectiveness. You--and your skin--deserve the best of everything in holistic beauty and health.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coming Soon to Lifetime TV…

This week's mail delivery included a wonderful surprise package that I can’t wait to share with you: a preview of my upcoming appearance on Lifetime TV’s popular morning program The Balancing Act.  This lively, informative show is dedicated to introducing women to lifestyle options that empower their total well-being and success.

I was invited to speak to viewers about my approach to anti-aging skin care after one of the show’s producers came across the Lavie Organique™ Web site. “Your commitment to balanced, holistic treatments and organic ingredients really spoke to us!” she said. “Helping women achieve health, harmony, and success in every aspect of their lives is what our show is all about.” 

The people I met during the filming of my segment in Lifetime’s Florida studios couldn’t have been nicer—and best of all, their concern about the total health and wellness of their audience proved to be as genuine as my own. 

My conversation with a Balancing Act senior producer was particularly telling. As a beauty-industry veteran, her eyes had long been opened to the relationship between what goes on in company boardrooms and what happens in cosmetic labs and manufacturing facilities. “Most cosmetic companies care a lot less about the art and science of beauty,” she said, “than they do about profits.”  

Her words could’ve come from my own mouth. In the wake of so many product scandals, buyers have good reason to beware of companies that cut corners and inflate claims to fatten their wallets.  But figuring out which products can be trusted isn’t always as easy as it looks—especially when it comes to the increasingly diverse options entering today’s “green” marketplace. 

The current controversy over the safety of the Toyota Prius is a case in point. Of course, the merit of the class-action lawsuit against Toyota is still undetermined, but as a recent New York Times article notes, the marketplace repercussions--for Toyata and the hybrid car industry as a whole--are already undeniable. Clearly, many green consumers are frustrated, angry, and confused.   

This rising tide of consumer uncertainty is what makes The Balancing Act such a timely show. Its mission. like my own, is to help you choose safe, environmentally friendly products and holistic lifestyle practices based on facts--not hype,  I’ll have more to say about this topic and  in upcoming posts,,,

In the meantime, you can see a preview of my Balancing Act segment on natural and organic skin care below or watch it at Lavie Organique™ .

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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Perimenopause Paradox Part 2: Skin’s Midlife Crisis Calls for Multifaceted Approach

There’s no magic bullet for perimenopausal skin problems. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept midlife as the beginning of the end of a beautiful, radiant complexion. Like any complex condition, the acne and signs of aging that tend to occur during these years require treatment that addresses not only the visible symptoms that result, but also their underlying causes.

A holistic skin care regime combines gentle, yet powerful topical treatments and healthy lifestyle habits to help you achieve clear, younger-looking skin. This multifaceted approach not only helps restore skin’s strength, resilience, and youthful luster by improving blood circulation, boosting elastin and collagen production, and neutralizing free radicals, but also calms irritated, acne-prone skin with plant-derived organic extracts that promote hormonal balance and fight bacteria and inflammation. I call this treatment plan the HERS program to remind my clients to focus on the fundamentals of caring for their skin during perimenopause. 

If perimenopausal skin problems have got you down, give your complexion a boost by following these steps: 

HYDRATE Hyaluronic acid is not only more easily absorbed and tolerated by sensitive skin than petroleum-based ingredients, but also offers superior moisture-binding capacity. Holistic Hydrators: Other multi-action plant-based moisturizers include aloe vera,  shea butter, and avocado oil. Botanical skin-care ingredients also contain a variety of beneficial compounds, such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and antibacterials.
ENERGIZE Eat Right: To nurture peak skin health during your 40s and 50s—and beyond—you need adequate daily doses protein; healthy fats such as olive oil; vitamins A, B, and C; and other antioxidants, minerals, and phytonutrients. Stave off snack attacks with fruits vegetables, yogurt, and other nutritious options—not junk food. Recent research links high blood sugar levels with wrinkles and premature aging. And remember: most of the foods that are good for the inside of your body can help nourish your skin from the outside, too. Exercise: Whether you prefer hiking up mountains or stretching in a yoga studio, maintain a regular schedule of vigorous workouts. Working up a sweat several times a week ensures the healthy blood circulation needed to optimize cellular functioning Exfoliate: Organic skin care products and salon peels that contain food enzymes such as  fruit acids, lactic acid, and other AHAs are a safe, effective way to revitalize your complexion. A regular exfoliation programs clears clogged pores, boosts blood flow, and strips away dead surface cells to reveal the fresh, glowing skin underneath.   
REST/RELAX Be sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night and keep your stress levels in check. Poor stress management and lack of sleep can aggravate the hormonal fluctuations that lead to adult acne. 
SUN-PROOF SPF 15 Sunscreen: Apply it liberally every day—all year round. Zinc oxide is a perfect choice for perimenopausal skin. In addition to acting as a highly effective physical barrier to UV rays, this multipurpose mineral is not only non-comedogenic—it actually helps regulate overactive oil glands, as well as heal blemishes. 

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Perimenopause Paradox Part 1: Crazy, Mixed-Up Skin

For many women, their 40s and 50s are the worst of all possible times for their skin. They’re facing not only the return of the blackheads and blemishes that plagued their teenage years, but also the steady accumulation of the visible signs of aging. As one of clients said recently, “Having to deal with wrinkles and acne at the same time just isn’t fair!”

The fact that your complexion’s erratic behavior is also perfectly natural doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Nor are the natural processes that cause aging, acne-prone skin simple and predictable.

Among the many complex physical processes that lead to adult acne two stand out:

  • ·      Hormonal havoc Although female hormones start dwindling during periomenopause, they seldom go quietly. Levels can fluctuate wildly from day to day and week to week to week. The chain reaction that ultimately leads to an acne flare begins with a spike in androgen levels. As androgen levels rise, the dermal sebaceous glands get bigger. The amount of sebum, or oil, produced by these enlarged glands increases as a result.

  • ·      Inflammation As excess oil pumped out by the sebaceous glands accumulates in pores and hair follicles it combines with dead skin cells, forming sticky clumps. These clumps of organic matter not only clog pores but also serve as a hearty feast for the different species of bacteria that live there. The fatter and happier these bacteria get, the more they reproduce. The resulting boom in the bacteria population inflames the pores, causing pustules and whiteheads to erupt. Other unsightly manifestations of inflammation such as contact dermatitis, rashes, and dry itchy patches may also develop. These factors together with declining cell function often lead to "combination skin" with oiliness and acne in some areas dryness and flakiness in others.   

The lines, wrinkles, sags, enlarged pores, and scaly brown splotches that emerge during perimenopause also entail a variety of factors:

  • ·      Free radical damage Decades of exposure to UV radiation, toxins, and other environmental stressors—as well as the accumulated byproducts of normal metabolic processes—impair the functioning of skin cells and speed their death.
  • ·      Sluggish circulation A variety of factors, including diet, genetics, and habits like cigarette smoking, may reduce blood flow to the skin, depriving it of oxygen and other vital nutrients.
  • ·      Diminished collagen and elastin production In addition to contributing to skin cancer and a host of degenerative diseases, free radical damage interferes with the renewal of collagen and elastin cells. The network of protein fibers formed by these cells supports the skin. When the influx of fresh cells needed to  reinforce this supportive network slows, skin starts losing firmness, strength, and elasticity. 
  • ·      Decreased cell turnover As dead cells build up on its surface, skin not only looks increasingly lackluster, but also becomes more susceptible to acne.
  • ·      Habitual facial expressions Sooner or later, a lifetime of smiles, frowns, squints, and other outward expressions of thoughts and feelings leaves lasting imprints on our face.
  • ·      Gravity The lifelong pull of Earth’s magnetic core can lead to jowls and sags when skin becomes thin and weak.

That’s the bad news about perimenopausal skin changes. The good news is that the right skin care regimen can help you overcome these challenges. I’ll tell you how in my next post. 

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Putting Healthy Color in Your Skin: The Beauty of Phytonutrients

One of the best ways to keep your complexion in the pink is also one of the simplest. Head straight for the produce section of your local supermarket and load up your cart with oranges. And while you’re at it, pick up plenty of greens, yellows, whites, reds, blues, and purples, too.

The Glow That Keeps Going: No Blushers, Bronzers, or Pink Tattoos Required
Each of the various pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant hues is made up of a different collection of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are antioxidant compounds that protect plants—and the people who eat them—against the free radical damage caused by excessive sun exposure, infections, and other environmental stresses.

The Brighter the Better
To help defend your skin against free radical damage, you need to regularly consume adequate doses of a full range of phytonutrients. That means your daily diet should include fruits and vegetables in each of the different color families. And whether you’re choosing peaches or tomatoes, always go for the most richly colored pieces in the produce bin. High-intensity color signals a high concentration of phytonutrients.

A Full Spectrum of Skin Benefits
Phytonutrients go to work beneath the surface of the skin to combat the visible effects of aging. By promoting the strength and suppleness of the collagen and elastin fibers in the underlying dermis, these energetic free radical fighters help stave off the wrinkles, lines, sags, and enlarged pores that can make us look old before our time. Phytonutrients also help skin retain its youthful firmness by increasing the stability of cellular membranes. Another key benefit is their ability to improve blood flow to the skin.

Include a varied palette of plant pigments in your diet to nourish your skin with these vital phytonutrients:

  • ·      Polyphenols (flavonoids) such as the anthocyanidins found in the deep blues and purples of fruits like grapes and blueberries enhance circulatory health. Other flavonoids including those found in red peppers also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • ·      Carotenoids including beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene protect against the harmful effects of UV radiation. Yellow/orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes; leafy greens like kale and spinach; and tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables are good sources.
  • ·      Allicin and quercetin are two of the important phytonutrients found in healthy white foods including garlic, apples, and onions. In addition to their antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, these compounds help boost collagen production.

To take full advantage of the rejuvenating power of phytonutrients, revitalize your complexion with a steady diet of plant-based organic skin care products. Any way you slice it, a healthy daily dose of these plant-derived nutrients is the perfect meal for your  skin.  

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