I absolutely love spending time outside. I love breathing in the fresh, crisp air and in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with majestic evergreen trees all around. It really is pretty magical. There’s also research to suggest that spending time outside boosts mood and lowers blood pressure, so bonus! But wait, I need to do something very important before I get too excited and rush out the door.
I need to sport some form of sun protection before exposing myself to that burning beacon in the sky (even if she is hidden behind the clouds we see so much of around here). Unfortunately, I am a perpetually lazy person. I just want to get outside and start feeling some good vibes. “I don’t want to apply sunscreen all over,” I say in my whiniest voice. I know I should, but it just takes so much time (in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really but like I said, I am lazy). So, how do I protect myself from UV exposure with the least amount of effort? The answer, my friends, is clothing.
Clothing is our first line of defense against the sun’s harmful rays. Aah, but not all clothing is created equal. Most clothing naturally absorbs some UV radiation but a select few come out ahead of the pack. Clothes are made from fabrics and fabrics are made of tiny fibers woven or knitted together. Look for fabrics with a tight knit or weave, like twill. Stay away from bleached cottons and shiny or lustrous semi-synthetic fabrics like rayon. Wear those pretty pieces at night when the sun is sleeping.
Loose-knit fabrics have more holes which exposes more skin. The looser the knit, the more UV can pass directly through the holes to reach the skin. The tighter the knit, the smaller the holes and the less UV can get through.
Synthetic fibers such as polyester, lycra, nylon, and acrylic are more protective than bleached cottons. Shiny, semi-synthetic fabrics like rayon reflect more UV than matte ones, such as linen, which tend to absorb rather than reflect UV. Finally, consider the fabric’s weight and density — light, sheer silk gauze will provide far less UV protection than heavy cotton denim.
It’s important to apply sunscreen to exposed skin to protect it from UV damage but it’s so easy to forget to do it. To make your life easier, wear clothing that acts as sun protection. Look for fabrics with a tighter weave to allow less UV light to reach your skin. Also look for clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). UPF is the rating given to clothing for its broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. The best part about using clothing as sun protection is that clothes don’t rinse off, they’re not applied incorrectly, and they don’t need to be reapplied. They’re pretty much fool-proof. The Skin Cancer Foundation has some great information about UPF and clothing as well as a list of clothing brands that they endorse.
I buy a lot of my UPF clothing from Coolibar. The only thing they do is make UPF clothing, hats, swimwear, and accessories for men, women, children, and babies. They have some fun, cute, and comfortable clothes.
Do you wear hats? I never thought I was a hat person. I wanted to be one. I watched the Kentucky Derby and wished I could pull off one those gorgeous, elaborate hats. I would try on different styles just to be disappointed. It didn’t help that I was doing this when I was a teenager, the only people I knew who wore hats were men and they wore baseball caps. Although baseball caps can be cute, they’re not really the best choice for every occasion.
As teenagers we are influenced so heavily by our peers that I thought I would be judged, and not in the “look how cool she is” way, for wearing a hat. My point is, I would wager that some of those hats I tried on did actually look good; I just had my own preconceived notions that I would be disliked for wearing one. So, no hats for me.
Fast forward several years, and I still thought my face and head just weren’t cut out for hats. Mind you, I haven’t tried on any hats since I was a teenager so how do I know? My mother-in-law bought me a hat made by a local company, Flipside Hats, and I immediately fell in love with it. If this hat looks good will others as well? The answer was yes!
We were planning a trip to Hawaii, so I took that opportunity to buy some cute hats for walking on the beach and lounging poolside.
I found some cuties that also have UPF 50 (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) from Coolibar. As a bonus, some of their hats could be rolled up and placed in my suitcase for easy travel.
How do you pick the best hat?
1. Consider the occasion
Will you be sitting poolside? Then a wide-brimmed hat works well. I like a cute cowboy hat for walking on the beach. Out shopping or having a quick bite to eat at a little café? Then a simple hat with a scarf accent could work.
2. Face Shape
If you have a round face, a disk shape hat will highlight your cheekbones and balance your face shape. If you have an oval face, wide brim hats work well. If you have a square face, slouchy hats or soft berets will compliment your face shape. Finally, if you have a heart shaped face, any style that isn’t too wide or too slouchy works.
If your hat isn’t comfortable, you likely won’t wear it for long. It’s not only part of your overall look, it has a functional purpose as well; it will give you added protection against the sun. So, comfort is key. If you worry that your hat will slip during the day, you can use headbands or fun barrettes to secure it in place.
You don’t need to try to match every color in your outfit to every color in your hat. You can choose any range of colors that blend. If you want an elegant look, try silk hats that will hold their shape. For sitting by the pool, look for a wide-brimmed, shapeable hat made from lightweight, breathable material like polyester.
5. Putting It All Together
Wear your hat right above the eyebrows and not on the back of your head. To enhance your facial features, try placing your hat at a slight angle. On almost all hat designs, the trim goes in the front, not the back. You want to be seen coming, not going.
Hats are a fun, fashionable way to get extra protection from the sun. There are so many choices out there that will fit your style so try on some hats and have some fun!
My feet depend so much on the ground to walk.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, Freakonomics, and it got me thinking about feet (of course it did, the episode is called “These Shoes Are Killing Me!”).
I have seen a lot of feet throughout the years and let me tell you, people don’t take care of their feet! We seriously under-appreciate our tootsies. They’re a pretty important piece of anatomy and are the foundation for our entire body. If you didn’t have your feet how would you walk, run, or dance? If our feet are out of sorts our back, hips, and knees hurt.
Everyone thinks that feet are stinky, but that’s because they’re in shoes most of the time. If we kept our hands enclosed all day they would probably smell too. Shoes definitely keep our feet protected but we tend to wear them far too much. Keeping our feet jammed in shoes all of the time can cause other issues as well like shortening of the Achilles tendon and the muscles in the back of the lower leg.
Taking care of our feet does not mean keeping them constantly confined in foam, leather, pleather or any other material. The ancient Chinese practice of foot binding is coming to mind (If you don’t know what that is you can read an interesting article from the Smithsonian.com).
Some pointers to keep your feet healthy:
- Let your feet breathe as often as you can. Fungal and bacterial infections, like athlete’s foot, usually occur because we keep our feet trapped in warm, damp, and dark environments.
- Wash your socks in hot water, separated from the rest of your laundry. Studies have shown that fungus can transfer from feet to socks and detergent alone will not kill it.
- Take off your shoes and socks and make fists with your toes (watch Die Hard for inspiration).
- Go for a barefoot walk through (clean) grass (this feels even better if the grass is a little moist from rain or dew). Notice all of the new sensations when you don’t have shoes and socks interfering. Reconnecting with the muscles and sensations in your feet can help your whole body including your mind.
- Try picking up marbles with your toes.
- Practice foot recovery every day. You only need 5 minutes. Do it while you brush your teeth or watch television. Take a golf ball, Lacrosse ball, or other similar ball and roll it from toes to heal and back again.
- Roll your calves on a foam roller for a few minutes at the end of the day.
- Raise your feet when you are sitting or lying down to help increase circulation.
- If you sit for long periods of time, stand up, walk around and stretch to get the blood flowing.
- Soak your feet in warm, not hot or cold, water.
- My very favorite is to get a foot massage. I will massage lotion into my own feet after a shower but it feels so much better when someone else does it for me.
- To avoid ingrown toenails or infections, cut your toenails the right way. Buy straight-edged toenail clippers (the big ones not the small ones) and cut your nails straight across instead of in a curved shape. Use several small clips instead of trying to clip the whole nail all at once. After you have finished clipping all of your toenails, make sure to clean and dry your clippers well.
- Find a barefoot park or join a barefoot club. Over 100 barefoot parks and paths were founded across Europe in the past 20 years. These parks include specially designed walking paths that meander over grass, logs, smooth stones, water, and even mud. The United States, to my knowledge, does not have any barefoot parks but there are barefoot clubs.
If you’re interested in more foot stuff listen to “These Shoes are Killing Me” podcast from Freakonomics (found on Stitcher or through the Freakonomics website), the “Barefoot Strong” podcast from Yoga Talk Show with Lucas Rockwood found on Spotify or directly from the Yoga Body website or read Barefoot Strong by Dr. Emily Splichal.
Our feet take a lot of abuse every day. This sometimes manifests as plantar fasciitis and/or knee, hip and back pain. We don’t have to stop wearing shoes (let’s be real, there are way too many cute pairs of women’s shoes out there to stop) but, if we practice a little TLC every day, we can avoid injury and pain.
The ocean is wild and calm, dangerous and beautiful. It holds miraculous treasures; powerful, healing treasures. Life flourishes here. Algae are one of those life forces with abundant potential for our skin.
Algae are nonflowering, mainly aquatic plants. They can be classified as macro (large enough to see with the naked eye) or micro (small enough to need a microscope to see it). Some algae live in the salty sea and others live in fresh water. They both hold promise, but for now, I want to focus on the macroalgae of the sea.
Macroalgae are better known as seaweed. There are three groups of seaweed, green (Chlorophyta), brown (Phaeophyta) and red (Rhodophyta). These seaweeds are a culinary delicacy in some parts of Asia. They are rich in healthful nutrients like dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids, and vitamins A, B, C and E. They have also been used in alternative medicine for internal and external applications for centuries. Phlorotannins, sulfated polysaccharides and tyrosinase inhibitors are a few stars in seaweed that have been shown to be beneficial for skin health.
The largest cause of skin wrinkling is from oxidative damage, primarily from over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. There is a whole chemical cascade of events that occurs starting from the UV damage to the up-regulation of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP’s). MMP’s are a group of enzymes that are activated by UV exposure or inflammation. They breakdown collagen and inhibit new collagen from forming. When this happens we see skin wrinkling and sagging. There are two specific kinds of MMP’s (MMP-2 and MMP-9) that are elevated in sun-damaged or inflamed skin. Studies using extracts from the marine alga Corallina pilulifera (a red seaweed) prevented expressions of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in human dermal fibroblast cells. This suggests that this seaweed may be able to prevent skin-aging caused by UV damage and inflammation. Another bonus, and maybe even a more important one, is that it protected DNA. This means it could protect against skin cancer.
A large population of us experience hyperpigmentation (a harmless condition where patches of skin are darker than surrounding normal areas). Examples are age spots and melasma. It’s not necessarily all that attractive and we have been searching for ways to safely and effectively eradicate it. Hydroquinone has been the gold standard but carries with it some potential negative side effects (if you’re interested you can see my post about melasma here). Seaweed to the rescue! Derivatives from Laminaria japonica (a brown algae) have shown to suppress tyrosinase activity. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that controls the production of melanin. Melanin is the natural pigment found in all human skin that gives it color. If tyrosinase is activated by say UV exposure, then a signal is sent to increase production of melanin. Increase in production of melanin equals darker skin (a tan) and sometimes, in uneven patches.
In addition to their skin and health benefits algae are natural, abundant, and reproduce rapidly. Although more studies need to be done, algae in skincare products shows some exciting promise.
If you want to give algae a try there are a lot of products out there:
La Mer Crème de La Mer is a cult favorite. It was created by aerospace physicist, Max Huber, to treat burns to his face after a laboratory accident. It combines fermented sea kelp, vitamins & minerals. You can now find La Mer products at Sephora.
Ahava Age Perfecting Hand Cream. Ahava products contain brown algae, a patented combination of Dead Sea minerals called Osmoter as well as other botanical ingredients. As an added bonus, this hand cream contains SPF for UV protection. You can find Ahava products at Ulta.
OSEA Undaria Algae Oil. OSEA is an organic, family-run company. They incorporate USDA certified organic algae into their products & are completely vegan. I am currently pregnant and want to nourish my stretching skin the best way I can, so I have been using the Undaria Algae Oil every day. OSEA’s products can be obtained directly through their website or are available in several spas.
Ren Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Cream. This line contains kelp, Magnesium, and Algae as well as other beneficial botanical ingredients. This is a newer line from Ren. It is not available through Sephora right now but I am willing to bet it will be in the future as they carry other Ren products. It can be obtained directly from Ren’s website or from one of my favorite online skincare stores, Dermstore.
When we think about protection from the sun’s rays we think of our skin. Our skin is very important, and deserves thorough daily sunscreen application. There is another part of our bodies that is exposed to the sun every day, and yet we don’t even think about protecting it… our hair.
We may not think much about protecting our hair from sun damage because it’s not living and therefore, can’t get sunburned or develop life-threatening diseases like cancer. Also, if our hair becomes damaged we can just cut it off, and new healthy hair will grow in its place. Can our hair even be damaged from the sun, and if so, why do we care?
First, yes our hair can be damaged by the sun. Our hair contains natural oils that make it shiny and easier to style. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun damages those natural oils (also called lipids) causing the hair to be dull, dry, frizzy, and prone to static electricity and breakage. Our hair also has proteins and disulfide bonds which help to keep it strong. They exist to protect the hair shaft from breaking when we brush or comb it. UV damage can disrupt the proteins and disulfide bonds, which then makes the hair weak and brittle.
Our bodies know that we need protection from the sun so it produces melanin. Melanin is the pigment we have in our skin that causes it to darken when we tan. Our hair also contains melanin. Very black hair has more melanin than blond hair. This means that light hair is more susceptible to UV damage than dark hair. That doesn’t mean that dark hair can’t be damaged, it can; it just takes longer exposure time for that to happen. This also means that the sun’s rays will cause all hair colors to lighten. If you color your hair, it’s in your best interest to keep it protected from the sun so that expensive color doesn’t fade.
There are ways to protect our hair (and scalp) from the damaging effects of the sun. We can stay inside (boo), stay in the shade (boo again), wear hats, and/or put UV protecting products on our hair.
We use hair care products in a couple of different ways: in the shower or bath for shampooing and conditioning, or spray-on products like hairspray and heat protectant. For a sunscreen to do its job it has to adhere to the surface of the hair for a long period of time. Shampoos and conditioners are applied for a short period of time and then washed away. It is likely any photo-protection that existed would be washed away as well.
We also wouldn’t want to think that if we applied shampoos and conditioners with sunscreen to our hair and let it wash over our bodies, that would be adequate sun protection for our skin. If it washes out of our hair it washes off our bodies.
For a spray sunscreen to be effective, it would have to evenly coat every square inch of hair. Since we don’t have beehive hairdos anymore, most people don’t use that much hairspray. A spray sunscreen will be more effective at protecting your scalp which, unlike our hair, is susceptible to sunburn and carcinomas like the rest of the skin on our bodies.
If you are looking for the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating on your favorite hair care products, you won’t find it. That’s because the US FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) prohibits SPF ratings on any hair care products in the United States. It is permitted, however, to state a product will provide UV protection. It just won’t say how much.
There are several manufacturers out there that have UV protection in their products. It will likely state it right on the front of the product but it’s important to read the list of ingredients. Some products will say they are UV protecting but they don’t contain any sunscreens. They will probably have all kinds of great conditioning agents in them that are great for keeping your hair hydrated, but they won’t block any UV rays.
Below is a list of FDA acceptable active ingredients in products that are labeled as sunscreens.
- Aminobenzoic acid
- Menthyl anthranilate
- Octyl methoxycinnamate/Octyl salicylate
- Padimate O
- Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid
- Titanium dioxide
- Trolamine salicylate
- Zinc oxide
Look for these ingredients in your hair care products. Also, be aware that some ingredients have more than one name. For example, octyl methoxycinnamate is also known as ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate or octinoxate. If you would like to see a complete list of FDA approved sunscreens with all of their glorious chemical names, then go here.
Products with sunscreens:
Coola Organic Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30. This one states an SPF because it is for the scalp.
Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray SPF 30. This one also states an SPF because it is for the skin but can be used on your hair.
The ultimate protection for your scalp and hair is to stay in the shade away from reflective surfaces like sand, water, and cement but what fun is that? The second-best option is to wear a hat. There are a lot of fun hats out there and you can find one to go with pretty much any outfit. Coolibar has some great hats that are all rated UPF 50 (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).
If you don’t want to wear a hat then you can always apply sunscreen directly to your scalp. This is where the spray sunscreens come in handy. Trader Joe’s has an inexpensive spray sunscreen that was highly-rated by Consumer Reports. Dr. Cynthia Bailey offers a mineral spray sunscreen with micro-sized zinc particles so it’s not so white.
Although there isn’t a product out there that will effectively provide UV protection for your hair, there is always hope. Advancements happen every day. So, until that day arrives protect your strands with a spray like any of the ones listed above, wear a hat, and seek shade when you can.
You’ve most likely heard of probiotics for good gut health. It’s a hot topic with a lot of buzz right now. There has been some promising research to suggest that if we keep our digestive tract happy, the rest of our bodies will follow suit. Yes, even including our skin.
So what are probiotics anyway? Simply put, probiotics are live microorganisms like bacteria and yeasts that have health benefits.
Our bodies host large numbers of microorganisms on the inside and out. These tiny “bugs” help keep us in a state of good health and homeostasis. Sometimes these good bugs get out of balance and that leaves the door open for bad bugs to take over. When that happens we can experience digestive issues, infections, allergic disorders, and skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.
Probiotics are intended to be the same or similar to the good bugs that live in and on our bodies. If our good bugs need some help then a probiotic is meant to be that help. If we can keep the good bugs healthy, that can translate to a healthy body overall.
If you want to try taking a probiotic there are some things to keep in mind because not all are created equal.
What to look for in a probiotic
- It’s always best if you can obtain probiotics from fermented foods and beverages like Kimchi, yogurt and kombucha but if you are not a fan of those foods then taking a probiotic supplement is a great option.
- The FDA regulates probiotics like food instead of like medicine. This means that the makers of probiotic supplements (or any other supplements) don’t have to prove that their product is safe and that it works. You want to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Look for established manufacturers of probiotics. These guys will go the extra mile to have their products verified by outside groups that have a reputable history of certifying supplements. A few names to look for are ConsumberLab, NSF International, US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), and Good Manufacturing Practice Certification (GMP). Some manufactures will list the certification directly on the bottle but some do not. If you are purchasing your probiotic from a store or pharmacy, you could ask a store employee or pharmacist. Another option is to go directly to the manufacturer’s website. If you are unsure or can’t find this information then choose another probiotic. There are a lot of different brands out there.
- Look for a probiotic that contains multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. There are a lot of different strains of bacteria that live in our guts and we don’t yet know the functions of all of them or what each one needs to thrive. If you can add a combination of strains, then you greatly improve your chances of a healthier gut and skin.
- Your chosen probiotic should contain ten billion colony forming units (CFU) per dose. CFU’s are the amount of living probiotic organisms. Studies have shown that ten billion CFU’s was effective for treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
- The packaging should have information about the viability of the probiotic. Manufacturers may use enteric coating or some other proprietary process for protecting the probiotic. Look for an expiration date as well. You may also need to refrigerate your probiotic. These live organisms don’t like heat and can die during transport from manufacturer to the store. They can also die when they are exposed to the acid in our stomachs. We want the bacteria to be alive when it reaches our gut so it can work.
Our bodies are true miracles that possess everything they need to grow and thrive. They are fine-tuned machines that function perfectly without us even realizing what’s going on. Sometimes that magical machine gets a wrench in it and needs a little help. Probiotics just might be exactly what the doctor ordered!
Antimicrobials from human skin commensal bacteria protect against Staphylococcus aureus and are deficient in atopic dermatitis
Every part of our bodies that sees the sun’s rays is susceptible to premature ageing and skin cancer. The best defense, aside from staying inside all the time which is not recommended, is to apply sunscreen. There happens to be one place that we cannot and should not apply sunscreen, our eyes.
Just like our skin, our eyes can get sunburned. Our eyelids are designed to protect our delicate eyes but the skin is so thin that light passes through, including sunlight. Over exposure to the sun can lead to vision loss, cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye causing blurry or double vision), macular degeneration (destruction of the central part of the retina impairing central vision) and eyelid cancer. In addition, squinting every time we go outside can contribute to those pesky crow’s feet on the skin surrounding our eyes.
So, how do we protect our eyes? The best thing we can do is wear sunglasses every time we go outside (despite the title of this piece, you don’t need to wear your sunglasses at night). It may sound funny to wear sunglasses if it’s not sunny out, but the UVA rays from the sun penetrate through clouds and haze and can still cause damage. I started wearing my sunglasses every day, rain or shine, a long time ago because my eyes are sensitive to light. I have what’s known as a photic sneeze reflex. It’s also known as, not joking, ACHOO (autosomal dominant compelling helio-opthalmic outburst) . I start sneezing uncontrollably when I go from low light (inside) to brighter light (outside). I found that if I wore my sunglasses I could avoid the sneezing fits most of the time. I believe it’s one of the reasons I don’t have a lot of wrinkles around my eyes; I’m not squinting every time I go outside.
Not all sunglasses are created equally, so how do you find the best sunglasses that (let’s face it) also look good.
- The sunglasses should have packaging or labels that state they have the ability to absorb and block 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
- Size matters. They should be large enough to cover the eyes, eyelids, and surrounding skin. The sun’s rays can enter the eye from a lot of different angles, so the bigger the better.
- They should be durable so they don’t break after one wear or even if they get dropped. I have lost count of the number of times I have dropped my poor sunglasses. They are still going strong despite the abuse.
- Polarized lenses to eliminate glare. This is especially helpful when driving, out in the snow, or when you are near water and white sand. Pavement, snow, water and white sand all reflect UV rays and cause us to squint from the glare. My lenses are polarized and it makes everything around me seem more colorful and vibrant. I put them on and look at the trees, the ocean, and the sky and it’s like whole new world! The polarized lenses can also help you see fish, turtles, and other fun stuff under the water. When I went to Hawaii I was able to see turtles swimming under the water but only if I had my polarized sunglasses on.
- Anti-reflective coating. This coating is applied to the back surface of the lenses in sunglasses. When the sun is behind you, its rays can be reflected from the back surfaces of the sunglasses into your eyes. The anti-reflective coating helps to eliminate this. Higher quality sunglasses often times come with this coating.
- For additional peace of mind that you are getting adequate sun protection from your sunglasses, you can look for the seal of recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
The following sunglasses brands have great, stylish options for every type of outdoor activity and they also offer prescription and readers:
I have 2 pairs of Maui Jim sunglasses and I absolutely love them! They fit into every category above including the seal of approval from the Skin Cancer Foundation. They are a little pricey, but they are amazing! When it comes to my health and well-being I am willing to spend a little more for the best because, well, I’m worth it.
Each one of us was born with our very own personal body suit, our skin. It is the largest organ that we possess. It grows and changes as we grow and change. It has a very important job to do, and that is to protect our inside from infection and germs. Our skin is constantly exposed to injury, whether from UV exposure, pollution, or physical injuries like scratches, scrapes, and other wounds. It is perpetually making new skin cells to repair itself. It’s always on the defensive, just waiting to mobilize the troops if damage is detected. In fact, our skin fully regenerates itself roughly every 27 days!
Unfortunately, each time our skin regenerates itself, it loses a little bit of it’s luster. We can help keep it fresh and youthful by taking care of it. The most important thing you can do is apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every single day. I have said this before and I will keep saying it because it is that important! If you don’t take this first step, the signs of ageing like fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone will keep getting worse!
So, now that we are applying sunscreen every day what else can we do to keep our skin healthy and youthful? We can apply skincare products with key ingredients. Once these products are applied we expect to see results, especially if we have paid a lot of money for them. So, when can you expect to see results from your skincare products?
The most disappointing news about skincare products is that they do not work overnight. It took years for skin damage to appear so we can’t really expect to apply a magic cream and wake up with ageless skin. We need to have a little patience. It takes time and consistency to see results. All good things come to those who wait.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to protect our skin from free radical damage like sun spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. It also helps to lighten existing sun spots and boosts collagen production. You may start to see results after a few weeks of daily use but maximum results can be seen after 2-4 months. The wait is worth it. You will see an improvement in skin tone and texture and your complexion will be brighter. You can read my Vitamin C post here.
This is a power house ingredient that works wonders. Retinols are available without a prescription and retinoids require a prescription. They increase the rate of cell turnover which stimulates new collagen production, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, diminish sun/age spots, and help prevent and treat acne. When first starting to use a retinol/retinoid most people experience redness, flaking, and/or purging (pimples that were lurking below the skin waiting to escape). If this happens try mixing it with a moisturizer and applying it every other or every third night. Gradually increase to nightly application as your skin gets used to it, and those annoying symptoms will subside. Expect to see results after six to eight weeks but you can expect your best results after 3 to 6 months. You can read my retinol/retinoid post here.
If you have dark spots, the most common lightener is hydroquinone. This ingredient blocks melanin production in our skin. You will likely notice a more even skin tone in approximately one month but your best results will be seen after 3 months. For more information about skin lighteners see my post here.
It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is different and everyone’s skin responds to different products in different ways. Some people may experience results much sooner than others and some may not experience the results they were hoping for. The one thing that is true for everyone is that if you don’t use sunscreen every day, you will not see improvement, no matter what products you use.
When I was in elementary school I had the most wonderful music teacher. She loved what she did and her enthusiasm spread to me so profoundly, that music was my favorite class of the day. She taught us to sing the popular music that we liked; she taught us to dance. Each spring she would choose a musical for us to perform. She directed and produced each one herself, and my favorite was Oliver Twist.
If you don’t already know, Oliver Twist is a tale written by Charles Dickens. It’s about an orphaned boy named Oliver Twist who was mistreated in many ways, including starvation. The musical includes a wonderful song about food which so happens to be called Food, Glorious Food. It was my favorite song to sing and the lyrics are sealed in my long term memory forever.
It is a powerful song because food is powerful. What we eat has such a profound effect on our bodies, both physically and mentally. There is even evidence that when we eat foods rich in sugar, fat, and salt we trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine. Once we experience that dopamine rush we typically want more and more because, hey, who doesn’t like to feel good? The problem is that this reward signal may suppress other natural responses like fullness and satisfaction. A survival instinct becomes an addiction.
Eating too much of the wrong kinds of food can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer. According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of deaths from heart disease and stroke are caused by high blood pressure, tobacco use, elevated cholesterol and low consumption of fruits and vegetables. There is evidence that changing what we eat can slow inflammation or make the body inhospitable to cancer cells. It’s amazing to think that just by changing what we eat, we can prevent, or sometimes reverse disease! Food really is medicine.
I’m not saying you can never eat pizza and hamburgers, because we were given taste buds for a reason. We have just trained our taste buds to prefer pizza and hamburgers over fruits and vegetables all the time. This is where the problem lies. I love food, I love to eat and I love pizza and hamburgers. I also love fruits and vegetables. I don’t have pizza and hamburgers every day, but I do have fruit and vegetables every day. I find the fruits and vegetables that I enjoy and I eat those. If I can find what’s in season, even better because it will be fresher. The fresher your fruits and veggies the more antioxidants and vital nutrients they have to give to you. Look for farmer’s markets, even in the winter, because they will be able to offer the freshest, in-season produce.
Every organ, blood vessel, and cell in our bodies benefits from good food. We begin to see a healthy glow that begins on the inside and radiates outward. Our brains are happier, our bodies are happier, our hair and skin are happier. We give ourselves the chance to increase not only quantity of life but quality as well. And I’ll take quality over quantity every time.
I love to read and I recently read a great book about food. If you are interested:
One day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and there they were. Vertical creases in between my cleavage. It was official, I had clinkles!!! I had worried about and took steps to prevent and diminish wrinkles on my face, neck and hands but I didn’t really think about my cleavage. Were they permanent? I slathered those babies with moisturizer and peaked in on them throughout the day. Luckily, they disappeared by the mid-morning. Phew.
The next morning those clinkles reared their ugly heads again. I hastily researched cleavage wrinkles (I tried clinkles but apparently that is not a very scientific name) and I found some useful information, including an old-school way to prevent and treat them.
Let’s talk about what causes cleavage wrinkles. The first culprits are the thieves of collagen: age and the sun. You can’t stop ageing but you can protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen every day. In addition to sunscreen, you can also wear clothing that reflects or absorbs the sun’s rays.
Sleeping on your side will also hasten the appearance of our clinkle friends. The skin between our breasts is smooshed and creased over and over each night we sleep on our sides. Over time, lines or wrinkles will form. I have always been a side-sleeper but I have trained myself to sleep on my back. I purchased a sleep pillow that encourages back sleeping and this has helped. Even though I am now a back-sleeper, those clinkles still pop up to say hi. It’s because I move around at night and end up on my side at some point (this is totally normal because if you didn’t move around at night you would develop pressure wounds, which is bad). So, is there something else I can do to keep those creases from forming?
If you already have clinkles, like me, and you want to diminish their appearance and prevent any future surprise visits, then you may want to check out silicone pads. Silicone pads have been used in the medical field to treat scars for years. There is ample evidence that silicone pads reduce the appearance of scars significantly. And since scars and wrinkles are happy cousins, in that they are both related to collagen, then silicone pads, in theory, should work to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
The silicon pads are not really magic, they work in a very simple way. They provide an occlusive barrier that prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL is the term used to describe water evaporation from our skin. Our skin needs hydration to keep it from drying out and turning into a crepey crypt keeper. Wrinkles will become less pronounced when the skin is hydrated. Think of what happens when you put water on a dry sponge. The hard, dry sponge becomes soft and pliable. If you don’t keep adding water to the sponge it will dry out again. Our skin is pretty good at keeping a moisture balance but as we age it needs extra help. The silicone pads prevent water from evaporating from the skin to preserve the water balance needed for plump, youthful skin.
How to use silicone pads:
- Wash your face, neck, and décolletage
- Apply your favorite moisturizer
- Apply the silicone pad
- Go to sleep
- Wake up and remove pad
It is best to have the pads in place for several hours which is why it is recommended to use them at night (they also don’t look all that glamorous to wear during the day & probably wouldn’t go well with your bikini).
If your interested in trying some silicone pads, there are several available. There are pads that can be used for places other than your cleavage as well. I purchased a Sio Decollete Skin Pad, Nurse Jamie Neck & Décolleté Wrap, and the Nurse Jamie Face Wrap. I have been using the Sio pad and I noticed a difference after the first night.
Lastly, I read something the other day that I think I will remember from now on: Your face starts at the bottom of your boobs.
I had no idea what melasma was until I was pregnant. I never had as much as a freckle on my face beforehand. I didn’t even really notice it until after I delivered my baby. It started out as uneven, light brown patches on my cheeks. Those patches went from light to dark in the summer time when I was outside more. What I learned from my summer time hyperpigmentation fun was that I was not doing a very good job at applying my sunscreen. I was not applying enough sunscreen to my cheeks and just a few hours in the sun produced giant patches of brown on my cheeks (it looked like someone flicked a paint brush covered in brown paint at my face). I now begin my sunscreen application at my cheeks and take extra time to make sure I have adequate coverage, not just on my cheeks but all over. In addition to proper and adequate application of sunscreen, I used (and still use) other methods to keep my melasma at bay.
What is melasma?
We all have cells in our skin that produce a pigment called melanin. How much melanin we have is primarily genetically determined; the darker your skin the more melanin you have. Excess melanin production occurs when the cells are stimulated by hormonal fluctuations, heat, and/or UV light. The current school of thought is that melasma is hormone related, specifically estrogen, which is why it is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” (men can also be affected but far less frequently than women). It usually shows up as brown or grayish patches on the face, forearms, chest, and/or neck.
How to treat melasma
If you have melasma there is hope; you can get rid of it. If it occurs during pregnancy, it may fade on its own after delivery of your baby. If it does not fade, there are things you can do to move things along. Exfoliate to help with skin cell turnover and apply topical products that contain ingredients that help break down existing melanin and/or prevent new melanin from forming. Look for the following ingredients:
- Hydroquinone, naturally found in berries and wheat, is a topical skin lightener that works well, but there has been some controversy over its use. It works by breaking down existing melanin and destroying the cells that produce melanin so new melanin cannot form. Killing off the melanin cells could cause the skin to darken (a condition called exogenous ochronosis) but this is extremely rare & has only been reported in those who have used hydroquinone for a prolonged period of time (more than 6 months). Another reported issue is skin irritation, but this can be alleviated by using a lower concentration. If you decide to use hydroquinone try not to use it for longer than 6 months at a time, especially if you have darker skin naturally (some dermatologists recommend using it no longer than 3 months at a time). Typically you should see results after 4 weeks of use. One to try is Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum. This one also contains kojic acid and licorice. Rodan + Fields also offers a Reverse Lightening Regimen that includes hydroquinone.
- Kojic acid, naturally found in soy and mushrooms, will prevent new melanin from forming. Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum contains licorice and hydroquinone as well.
- Retinoids, synthetically produced, prevent new melanin from forming and boost cell turnover which helps to get rid of hyperpigmented cells. As an added bonus, retinoids help with collagen and elastin production which will aid in reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Retinoids can cause skin irritation but this can be alleviated if you apply a moisturizer as well. Stronger retinoids require a prescription but you can purchase some great lower concentration retinoid products like Rodan + Fields Redefine AMP MD System, Skin Medica and Replenix.
- Vitamin C, naturally found in citrus fruits, prevents new melanin from forming. I use and love Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, and Dermadoctor Kakadu C Intensive Vitamin C Peel Pads.
- Glycolic Acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, decreases melanin. Exuviance Triple Microdermabrasion Face Polish, Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, Drunk Elephant TLC Babyfacial, and Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Pads are all great products.
- Lactic acid, found in milk and sugars, prevents melanin from forming. I use and love Dermadoctor Kakadu C Intensive Vitamin C Peel Pads. Another option is Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strenght Daily Peel Pads.
- Licorice, natural root, prevents new melanin from forming and reduces inflammation. I love the products by Tatcha and they have a Deep Brightening Serum with licorice root extract. The full size is a little spendy at $185 for 50 ml (1.7 oz) but they offer a travel size at $39 for 10 ml (0.34 oz). My personal philosophy is to get free samples, if I can, to try products before I buy them. If free samples aren’t available, then I look for travel size options which will be significantly cheaper than the full size versions. This way, if the product does not work for my skin I am not wasting my hard-earned money.
- N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) and niacinamide, two compounds found in a recent study to reduce facial hyperpigmentation in Japanese and Caucasian subjects. Find these ingredients in Olay Definity.
Melasma is exacerbated by exposure to the sun, so it is also highly recommended to wear broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day (this is something you should do even if you don’t have melasma). It is possible to over treat melasma, which will cause it to worsen. Avoid treatments that cause heat or friction including laser treatments and high concentration chemical peels.
So how did I treat my melasma? I did not use hydroquinone products simply because I did not want to add another product to my routine. I like to keep things as simple as I can, so I try to find products that can multitask and that I can use every day as a part of my routine. That is why I chose to use exfoliation and a vitamin C serum and although it took about 6 months for my brown spots to fade, they did fade. I also received the amazing benefits of the vitamin C. If my goal was to get rid of my melasma quickly then I would have chosen a hydroquinone product.
- Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 every day!!!
- Exfoliate to help skin cells turn over.
- Apply topical products that contain any of the above ingredients.
- If you want quick results (in skincare that means weeks instead of instantly) use a product that contains hydroquinone.
- Avoid laser treatments and high concentration chemical peels.
- Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 every day!!! (I know I already put this one in here but it is that important.)
- Consult your dermatologist or aesthetician.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.
We have all heard this nursery rhyme but what does it have to do with skin care or health in general? The point I want to make is, that once something is broken it can be really difficult (and/or expensive) to fix. The same thing goes for our bodies. The earlier we start taking care of ourselves the less damage we will have to try to “fix” later in life.
Most of the cells in our bodies divide, die, and regenerate. The old or damaged cells are replaced by new cells but as we age, that turnover slows down and is less efficient. That means things start to break down and wear out (collagen and elastin start to fizz out as early as 25 years old!).
Ageing is inevitable and there is nothing we can do to stop that from happening, at least not yet. How well we age and the quality of life we have is largely based upon how well we treat ourselves (I know people who take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies). So what can we do to take better care of ourselves? Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (find the ones you like and eat those), drink water (infuse it with fruit or herbs for flavor), exercise (just walking is great), learn something new (anything at all), get quality sleep (important for just functioning properly), wear sunscreen every day (helps prevent skin cancer and wrinkles), spend time with the people you love (people who do this are happier and healthier), and relax (stress leads to all kinds of problems including premature ageing).
Take a little time to take care of yourself now and every day. Like we’re instructed on the airplane: put the oxygen mask on yourself first; you can’t help anyone else if you don’t first help yourself.
I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from the late George Carlin:
Life in reverse By George Carlin
“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends.
I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time.
What do you get at the end of it?
What’s that, a bonus?
I think the life cycle is all backwards.
You should die first; get it out of the way.
Then you live in an old age home.
You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get a gold watch,
you go to work.
You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You drink alcohol, you party,
you get ready for high school.
You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb,
You spend your last nine months floating…
Then you finish off as an orgasm.”