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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Squalane Body Scrub Delivers Powerful First Aid to Thirsty Skin

Even with the best sunscreen, long hours under the blazing summer sun can really take a toll on the exposed skin of our bodies. With colder weather on the way, the last thing you need is parched, itchy skin. To restore moisture and resilience before winter sets in, I advise treating your skin to a series of weekly exfoliation treatments.

Avoid a Dry Skin Emergency with Early Intervention

My own personal recipe (see below) is an “Americanized” version of an ancient Ayurvedic treatment. Although the sesame oil in the original recipe is also an excellent natural emollient, using olive oil as a replacement is a good option for people who prefer to avoid sesame’s strong “nutty” aroma—and it delivers the added benefits of squalane (see previous post).

Like the chickpea flour in the Ayurvedic version, whole grain cornmeal is a gentle and effective exfoliant. Both grains contain beneficial micronutrients such as manganese, an essential cofactor in several important enzyme and antioxidant functions—but cornmeal is generally easier to find in grocery stores.

Super-moisturizing Squalane Body Scrub

¼ cup cornmeal
Olive oil as needed

Wash in a warm shower using a gentle natural cleanser. Apply cornmeal to wet skin and massage it into your skin using a large circular motions and firm, even pressure. Rinse. Apply olive oil. Do not rinse off. Pat dry with a towel. Put on an old robe and some comfy socks and let the oil soak into your skin (at least ½ hour). In most cases additional rinsing will be unnecessary.

Image: Suvro Datta /
Image: Suat Eman /

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Promises, Promises Part 2: The Squalane Story

Look 10 years younger overnight! Who can resist a pitch like that—especially when the pitch letter comes with a free sample? So it’s only human to give the latest miracle ingredient a try—and to be disappointed when you look exactly the same the next day.

Squalane: Hope or Hype?
The natural emollient squalane is one of the latest examples of a skincare ingredient that cosmetics manufacturers love to hype. So, if you’ve been under-whelmed by the results achieved after a week or two of using a good-quality natural squalane cream you may already be suffering “buyer’s remorse.”

In cases like this, however, the real problem usually lies not in the ingredient itself, but in the manufacturer’s false product claims. My experience as an aesthetician and lifetime user of plant-derived oils and emollients has taught me that improving the appearance of a damaged, aging complexion takes time and a long-term commitment to protecting and nourishing your skin’s health.

What’s So Special About Squalane?
So before you abandon this natural moisturizer for a cheaper petroleum derivative such as mineral oil, let’s look at the facts about squalane.

1.    Safety and Effectiveness Squalane is a stabilized version of squalene, one of the natural moisturizing factors (NMFs),  found in the stratum corneum, or outer layer of human skin.  Squalane’s close resemblance to human sebum ensures our skin is able to quickly absorb this natural oil and to benefit from its ability to keep our complexions soft, moist, and supple with minimal chance of negative side effects.

2.    Antioxidant Power A recent study on the environmental pollutant ozone by Charles Weschler of New Jersey Environmental and Occupational Health Institute suggests that squalene is the primary antioxidant in our skin that protects against ozone’s harmful effects.

3.    Green Goodness The plant-derived squalane in all-natural skincare products is a safe, eco-friendly ingredient. Squalane sources such as olive oil, olive leaf, and rice bran are environmentally responsible alternatives to shark’s livers that avoid further depleting the world’s overfished oceans.

Reality Check

When it comes to evaluating skincare products, a little fact checking can save you a lot of money and disappointment—but don’t forget to check your expectations first.   

Image: Andy Newson /

Image: m_bartosch /

Image: Andy Newson /

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall Renewal: Shed Sun-Stressed Skin with Seasonal Fruit Peel

Now that September is here, you’re facing new challenges…and so is your skin.

In my native Romania, changing your skincare routine as the seasons shift is as natural as adjusting your wardrobe to the weather. This time-tested skincare tradition is rooted in the holistic practices of Romania’s health spas and reflects our culture’s emphasis on living in harmony with nature.

Exfoliating with Apples: A Traditional Practice That Makes Scientific Sense
At the first hint of fall, my mother and grandmother always began preparing their skin for the long hard winter with homemade masks and scrubs. Like women in other traditional cultures, they relied on seasonal fruits and herbs for ingredients.  So when apple-picking time arrived, they chopped up the extra fruit and used it to make facial masks and scrubs to exfoliate and nourish their sun-damaged skin.

The effectiveness of apples as a topical exfoliant lies in their high malic acid content. This natural fruit acid gently and safely sloughs off dead skin cells, stimulates circulation, and helps open and clear out clogged pores. Apples are also rich in antioxidants and other beneficial phytonutrients that help repair free radical damage, brighten skin tone, and accelerate cell turnover and collagen renewal.

A Perfectly Balanced Recipe for Optimal Conditioning
Today’s best all-natural exfoliating treatments intensify the rejuvenating effects of apples by combining them with other plant-derived exfoliants, such ground walnuts and lactic acid, quince and other vitamin-rich fruits, and circulation boosters like paprika and white tea. To soothe, protect, and hydrate freshly exfoliated skin, masks and peels should also include a balanced mixture of medicinal herbs, humectants, and emollients, such as horsetail, aloe vera, and squalane. For the most dramatic results, I recommend supplementing your homecare treatments with a series of organic enzyme peels in a salon that specializes in natural holistic skin care.

Others agree, by focusing on an exfoliation program in the fall, you’ll not only improve the overall health of your skin but also significantly expand its capacity to absorb moisture. So when the serious cold weather sets in, your skin will be in the prime condition to benefit from a wintertime program of hydration and lubrication.

Image: Matt Banks /

Image: Paul /

Image: Filomena Scalise /

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