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I don’t know if you’re experiencing an unusually tough winter like the one that’s been ravaging Northern California since last November. Even though the temperatures continue to hover above average, the insane amounts of rain falling on my area means fewer days outside, and more time spent inside with heaters blowing. As a result, my skin is noticeably drier and overall more sensitive. (Undoubtedly my skin is also drier due to my advancing years, but that’s another topic for another time.)

While I still haven’t embraced the oil cleansing technique using plain coconut oil, I do understand the science behind it, and I agree with many beauty experts that oil is the best and gentlest way to cleanse and moisturize your skin. Of course, human skin responds better to some oils than others, so I recommend always using plant oils over unnatural oils, such as mineral oil which is derived from petroleum products. Most people with mature and/or very dry skin seem to do well with pure coconut oil as their cleanser. If you’re like me with regular oily patches and prone to breakouts, something gentler and lighter like almond or sesame oil works well.

That said, because I’m a product junkie, I like to use products someone else makes for me to–including my oil cleanser. (As always, I only use all-natural products free of parabens, petroleum-based ingredients, phthalates, glycols, and other irritating, hormone-disrupting or toxic ingredients.)

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My favorites right now are Marie Veronique Replenishing Oil Cleanser and Weleda Soothing Cleansing Lotion/Almond (shown above). For nighttime moisturizing, I love Marie Veronique’s Rejuvenating Night Oil (also shown above). Like all MV products, it smells amazing, is completely natural and free of any toxic ingredients, and it absorbs beautifully. You can apply it over your other serums or treatments, such as retinoids and Vitamin C serums.

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Protect your lips with one of RMS’s tinted lip shines. They’re super moisturizing and completely natural and non-toxic as well. I like the shade “Honest,” (shown above) because it gives a subtle bit of peachy-pink color, which helps gently brighten the winter pale face most of us have right now.

You can moisturize your body with coconut oil as well, or if you’re bothered by the slightly greasy feel you get after applying, simply melt some in between your palms with your regular lotion. You can also use coconut oil to moisturize dry locks by either massaging some into hair and scalp at least 20 minutes before you shampoo, or by working a small amount into the ends of your hair before or after you’re doing styling it.

 

Happy moisturizing!

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summer1

 

I suspect that no matter where you live, you can already sense summer’s approach. For those living in more northern climes, it may have been an unusually warm day, or lighter, skimpier clothing displayed in department store windows. Here in northern California, we’ve had some bizarrely warm days–warm enough for shorts.

I relish preparations for summer. OK, I admit, I use the change of season as an excuse to buy a few new pieces for the wardrobe–you know, something to make me anticipate sand between my toes, the clear cool of a lake, or an travel adventure in a foreign land. I also like to fully prepare my arsenal for protecting my skin against stronger sun rays, and longer times spent in the sun. But in all honesty, these products are ones I use year-round… I just like to stock up before summer.

 

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This year’s sun protection favorites include:

Burnout Sunscreen, $17.99 for 3oz – This continues to remain my favorite.* Reasonably priced, and all natural, this non-nano-particle zinc oxide-based cream goes on easily, doesn’t give you the white “Casper” look, provides true SPF 30 protection and doesn’t sting the eyes.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream, $39 for 1.7oz – I still find this all-natural, tinted “BB” cream superior to any other natural BB creams available. The moisturizing formula goes on beautifully, provides SPF 30 using a non-nano zinc base, and comes in several natural shades. I use it every day–religiously. When I want a little extra coverage, I simply brush a bit of mineral-based powder over my face after I’ve applied the CC Cream.

BrushOnBlock, $32 for .12oz – I really like this mineral-based SPF 30 powder for touching up during the day and for when I want extra coverage over my tinted face cream/block. It’s the perfect size for carrying in a tote bag or even a small clutch. It controls oily afternoon shine–if you’re prone to that, and makes reapplying sunscreen easy.

La Natura Botanicals Green Tea Hand Cream, $16 for 3oz- I only recently discovered this product, but I became an instant fan. The formulation feels rich, but absorbs quickly thanks to a little rice and cornstarch in the ingredients. It also has a nice, light herbal scent, which I’m always on the lookout for since I’m so scent-sensitive. As I’ve gotten older, my skin has gotten increasingly drier–a trend that’s amplified on my hands, and made worse by all the dishwashing and gardening I do.

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm, $6.99 for .15oz – I think I own every color this product comes in! The six subtly-colored shades provide long-lasting moisture, and the easy to use, “Chapstick”-style tube make this product a go-to for purse, beach bag, etc.

Most importantly, remember the basics:

  1. Apply sunscreen every day–rain or shine, and reapply often if you’re going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time or you’re swimming.
  2. Avoid chemical formulations, and look for mineral, zinc oxide formulations with an SPF of 30.
  3. The sun’s rays are typically at their strongest between the hours of 10am and 3pm.
  4. Make use of hats, cover-ups and rash guards. All three are available in so many great styles, and many can provide sun protection superior to any cream or lotion (and without the hassle of reapplying).

Summer here we come!

 

*I used the Honest Company’s sunscreen last year, but while I liked the non-whitening, super-moisturizing formulation, I agreed with a lot of the media that it didn’t provide the SPF 30 it claimed to. I don’t know if they reformulated the product, but once I hear they have, I will give it another try.

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legs2

 

I mentioned a few weeks ago my constant battle with “spots,” otherwise known as melasma, liver spot, sun spots, hyperpigmentation. I may have become  a sunscreen convert in my 20s with regards to my face, but I have always allowed the rest of my body to soak in the sun with little to no precaution taken.

Well those spots haven’t just taken up residency on my face. The decades of sun exposure now tell their tales across my legs, arms and hands. And while my chest isn’t freckly or spotty like you see with many fair-haired women, I can see the damage wrought by the sun when I shrug my shoulders and a dozen lines appear across my chest –proof that the skin has lost its elasticity.

Now I recall the years I laid in the sun, slathered not with Johnson’s Baby Oil, but with some equally insufficient oil or lotion, with an SPF of 4 and the luscious smell of coconuts. In fact, recently, while looking through old photos, my husband asked, “Who’s this girl on the beach with your cousins?” “It’s me!” I promptly replied. “What? It can’t be… She looks Black,” was my husband’s response. When I recalled that the production of melanin is your body’s natural response to injury, I could only respond with a heavy sigh.

It’s not just vanity that is causing my spot obsession… I want to set a good example for my children who are still young enough to influence, and who are exposed daily to the intensity of our Californian sun. I hope to instill in them great respect for the power of the sun (think solar as well as radiation), and get them to think of applying sunscreen the same way they view brushing their teeth or getting dressed.

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I’m only recommending one sunscreen this year, although I still like Burn Out (Ocean Safe and Sensitive formulas), and Kinesys Earth Kind Sunscreen Ointment if you’re going to be in the water for an extended period of time, due to its water-proof quality. However, Honest Co.’s Honest Sunscreen Lotion is my all-around favorite this year. It’s formulation (which, like all my recommendations relies on non-nano zinc oxide) is more elegant than Burn Out which means it goes on easier and is absorbed into the skin better. It’s also much more moisturizing–so much so that it feels like you’re just using a regular face or body lotion. (While not an issue for my family, I know others have found the Burn Out to be somewhat drying.) And I love the price–just $13.95 for a 3 oz tube or if you have access to a Costco, $19.95 for two 2 oz tubes.

A final comment about sun safety… While many people now understand the damaging effects of the sun’s rays, and use sunscreen daily as a result, most of us don’t take the next essential step: reapplication. People often think you only need to reapply sunscreen if you’ve been swimming or sweating, because both can wash off the sunscreen. However, most sunscreens also begin losing their effectiveness after just a few hours. To stay adequately protected throughout the day, reapply sunscreen every 3-4 hours.

Safe sunning!

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spring favs

 

I don’t know whether to attribute my latest obsession with skin and hair to my advancing years, but I’m definitely obsessed.

I’ve been noticing everyone else’s skin and hair, and thinking a lot about what skin and hair properties age us most. Is it wrinkles? Sun/age spots? Overall even appearance in tone? The presence or absence of glow? I suppose it varies by observer, but there are plenty of medical professionals out there that claim the number one “ager” is spots (otherwise known as sun spots, age spots, liver spots, melasma and hyperpigmentation). While genetics, oral contraceptives and pregnancy can influence our spotting–how much we have and what type(s), the largest contributor is UV sun exposure. And it’s the UV rays that break down the collagen in our skin, speeding the onset of wrinkles. (We naturally lose collagen as we get older.)

Spots have inhabitated my face since I was a child. Some of them existed early on, so they might actually be freckles, but the vast majority laid claim to my visage during the past 20 years. I know now that they came at the bidding of the sun. That’s why I’m always touting the need to use sunscreen, with an SPF of 30 or greater, daily. It’s also why I am determined to find a natural product that helps lighten and brighten my complexion.

There are numerous products available today that use hydroquinone to lighten areas of hyperpigmentation, but hydroquinone is a known toxin that has been shown in laboratory studies to cause cancer in rats. It can also cause swelling and irritation and can lighten areas surrounding hyperpigmentation, resulting in a bulls-eye appearance. And wouldn’t you know…it’s been banned in Europe; there’s our (not) highly-effective FDA at work again. I have friends who have used products containing hydroquinone with positive results, but the benefits simply don’t outweigh the risks.

I’ve only been using Jurlique’s Purely Bright Treatment Serum for a few weeks, so I haven’t noticed any of my spots diminishing in size. However, my skin definitely seems brighter, “glowier,” and more even-toned! I love how this product feels on my skin even after it gets absorbed. The serum uses Jurlique’s proprietary VitaBrightKX+ along with Kakadu Plum, which is the world’s richest natural source of Vitamin C. I’ll report how the product continues to work, but it’s my current skin defense and skin repair weapon of choice. Jurlique is also one of the purest skincare lines available.

And to ensure my serum is really penetrating the skin to do it’s work, I cleanse with Juice Beauty’s Green Apple Cleansing Gel. Like Jurlique, the entire Juice Beauty line is completely natural (e.g., free of parabens, sulfates/ites, glycols, disodium ETDA, fragrance, etc.). The gel cleanser claims to “refine and brighten,” (using the natural exfoliant: glycolic acid), but all I know is it removes my eye make-up easily and leaves my skin feeling incredibly smooth and supple.

Of course, as I’ve gotten older, my hair has decided to reinvent itself several times over. I’ve battled gray hair for the past two decades (a trait inherited from my father who turned gray in his 20s). Then after having my children, my hair decided to turn from nearly stick-straight to wavy. Then as the years came on, my hair decided to get coarser and drier. I’m using two products that do a great job of combating coarseness and dryness naturally. Both are made by ACURE. The spray-on Leave-In Conditioner makes my hair instantly soft and supple, and the pure Argan Oil (use sparingly!) does a great job eliminating coarseness and controlling frizz. Both also help protect your hair from styling tools and UV rays.  I’m in love with both products, and find they work magic on my hair regardless of which shampoo and conditioner I use in the shower.

So here’s to “glowier” skin and glossier hair!

 

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lice

I confess, today, I wish my blog was strictly a food blog… Or a strictly fashion or photography blog. But alas, I’m committed to improving the health of the whole body and looking for natural solutions to common problems.

(My head feels itchy just thinking about how to write this post.)

It feels somewhat embarrassing, and just a little gross to blog about lice, but I feel compelled–and I’ve been asked, to share this non-toxic, highly-effective solution since lice is a big problem where we live.

I never had lice growing up, nor do I remember knowing anyone who’d had it. But living here in Northern California, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, my kids have fallen victim to the annoying little critters not once, but three times!! And before you think, she must not keep a tidy home, or she must not wash and comb her kids’ hair, let me share that nearly every family I know here has also experienced the joys of lice at least once. One friend’s child has had it nine times!!

No kids I know living on the East Coast have had it, so I’m guessing it has something to do with the very mild climate we live in, and I’d love to connect it to and blame it on global warming. The coldest it usually gets here is 42F, and it rarely gets hotter than 92F. It must be the perfect environment because there is always a lice “incident” (as our school calls it) in one of the classrooms at our school, every week of the school year. Think about that… that’s nearly 10 months of fearing the little critters will find their way onto your child’s head.

If you or your child should be so (un)fortunate as to get lice, you have just three options, as I see it, for ridding yourself of them. You can pay a “nit picker” to come to your home (very discreetly) and carefully comb through your hair. You can go to a nit picking salon (a booming business in the San Francisco area), since many don’t care about being discreet since the problem is so rampant here. Or you can do it yourself at home with this great product I’ve discovered by LiceMD. Mind you, many people rush out to the pharmacy to buy and later wash or have their hair washed with a shampoo containing pesticides, such as Nix. Please do not waste your time doing this! The pesticides used in lice treatments are known carcinogens, and are the last thing you want to put on your scalp or the scalp of your developing child. They also aren’t effective in killing the eggs, called “nits,” so they usually require multiple treatments.

LiceMD* has a product that is pesticide free and eliminates 100% of lice and their eggs. In reality, a thorough coming with a good quality lice comb will remove 100% of lice and their eggs, but this product helps you by literally suffocating any live lice, and making the eggs easier to comb out (they’re incredibly small and nearly impossible to see). The only ingredient it contains it Dimethicone–a silicon-based polymer commonly used as a lubricant or conditioning agent in many conditioners and hair styling products.

You simply apply the product to the scalp, work it through the hair, wait 10 minutes and then carefully comb through the hair section by section. Since the product is very slippery and viscous, it does require more than one sudsing with shampoo to get completely out.

Please note: LiceMD also manufacturers a product that does contain pesticides, so make sure you get the product shown above.

I always get lazy with this, but I find tea tree oil to be an effective preventative measure. When I’ve heard there’s been an incident, I wet my hands, put a few drops of tea tree essential oil in my palm, and rub my palms together before running them over and through my children’s hair.

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winter products

These four products top the list of my current favorites. Having just returned from the freezing cold of Park City, Utah, where I watched the premiere of the amazing and at times gut-wrenching film, Racing Extinction, I was glad to have these products with me. They protected me against the cold air outside, the sun–made stronger at 8,000+ feet elevation, and the dry indoor heat in which we spent most of our time.

I also love that all five of these products carry reasonable prices… I truly dislike reading magazine or website articles that rave about a product that costs one-hundred or more dollars. I don’t feel anyone should have to pay that much for a quality product. And quantity doesn’t necessarily matter, because products made with completely natural, plant-based ingredients can’t stay active for more than six or so months any way.

Favorite #1: Although it carries the name Stem Cellular CC Cream, my new favorite “BB” cream by Juice Beauty tops my list. It’s just $39, comes in five shades, and provides a wonderful, sheer coverage along with broad-spectrum, mineral-based, non-nano SPF 30. It claims to also increase cellular turnover, improve elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines, while evening out skin tone. I don’t see the point in me trying to quantify what this product does, all I can say is my skin loves it!

Favorite #2: If you suffer from dry lips during the winter months like me, you will love the Waxelene Lip Tube, $3.99. It cures the driest lips quickly and when used daily, like I do, you won’t experience any drying or peeling. It’s marketed as “petroleum jelly alternative,” because like all the products I recommend, it is all natural and cruelty-free.

Favorite #3: While I still get oily around my T-zone (even at my age!!), my cheeks remain drier, and everything feels drier during the winter months. MyChelle’s Supreme Polypeptide Cream banishes dry skin and purportedly improves elasticity, reduces wrinkle depth and increases overall firmness. I use the unscented option, and love how my skin looks and feels after applying this rich–yet also light, cream.

Favorite #4: Last but not least is my new favorite deodorant, which I’ve been meaning to blog about for the past year. A friend recommended it, and knowing that it contains just two ingredients–both completely natural and without any toxicity risk, I immediately ordered it. Yes, the only downside is that you have to order it online, but it ships quickly, and it’s by far the best natural deodorant I’ve ever used. OK, the manufacturer might want to consider changing the name, but DeodoMom, $12.00, works great, and I love that it contains just two ingredients–water and Magnesium Hydroxide, a mineral safe enough to eat given a zero risk rating by the Environmental Working Group. To be clear, I wouldn’t apply this, go for a 6-mile run and then attend the most important meeting of my year without showering and reapplying after the run. But I can apply it and go through an entire workday and evening without the slightest hint of “smell.” Even my husband uses it, although he would like a more unisex name.

Enjoy!

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halloween 14

 

It’s that time of year again when leaves take on the most brilliant colors and the evenings come earlier and chillier. Grocery store fronts are stocked with pumpkins, gourds and late season heirloom tomatoes (at least here in California). And if your home shares any similarity with mine, you get the frequent scene of kids huddled over the Halloween costume catalogue, fiercely debating their choices for the year.

You might also have a love/hate relationship with Halloween, like me. I love to see the kids get dressed up with that great look of anticipation sparkling in their eyes. I love to dress in costume, too. I also love black crows, black cats (at least black and white tuxedo cats), and pumpkins. But I HATE, loathe and despise the shear amount of candy that gets handed out, and more than the amount, I hate the poor quality of most of it, with its corn syrup base and artificial flavoring and coloring.

So I must share a story with you … Last year, we got invited to a Halloween party in a friend’s neighborhood. After a light supper, all the party guests spilled out onto the streets to begin trick-or-treating. The parents sort of hung back to watch the kids run across the streets and scamper across lawns in an effort to amass as much candy as possible in as short a period as possible. I actually saw kids with pillowcases for collecting candy. After the fifth house, my kids announced they were done. One recently-made friend, with the most incredulous look on her face asked, “How can you already be done?” Immediately after which she noticed the candy collecting bags my kids were carrying. Roughly 8 inches by 8 inches by 1 inch, the relatively miniature bags conveniently (at least to me) only hold five home visits worth of candy. And so, my family spent the remainder of the evening strolling home admiring others’ costumes and decorations.

But my candy-curbing efforts didn’t stop with the bags. To further prevent the ingestion of tons of corn syrup and chemicals, we started a practice whereby our children “donate” their candy to their dentist who in return gives them one dollar per piece. Sadly, their dentist doesn’t really offer such a wonderful service, so I handle the “exchange” for them, giving them the appropriate number of dollars after my alleged visit to the dentist. Luckily, those small bags, hence small amounts of candy, don’t break the bank, and a few days later, our children gleefully go to the local toy store to pick out something of their choosing. I know this ruse will end soon when my kids, who are growing increasingly comfortable with their dentist, work up the courage to broach the subject with him. I’m hoping a conspiratorial look or swift kick under the dentistry chair will allow the moment to pass without incident.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I still hand out candy to any one who visits our home, but I buy only natural products. It’s not my place to tell children other than my own how much sugar is too much, but I also don’t feel comfortable doling out chemicals. I love that natural foods stores, such as Whole Foods Markets, are offering more and more natural candy options. While the colors might not be quite as vivid as what you find in the drugstore, and although the candy might not fizz or crackle on your tongue, the flavors are actually much better and much more authentic.

Here are two to consider this year. Tasty brand’s Organic Fruit Snacks* (“all natural gummies”) and YumEarth Organics Organic Pops (lollipops). Neither contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, artificial flavors or preservatives. Read: no Red 40, Yellow 5, etc. Both rely on colors from fruits and vegetables, such as beets, black carrots, carrots and pumpkin. The Organic Pops even contain 100% of the daily recommended dose of Vitamin C!

 

Happy Halloween!

*Note: The 36-pouch box of Tasty brand’s Organic Fruit Snacks do not appear to be available on-line. Otherwise I would have provided the link. The trick-or-treat size pouches, sold in a box,. are readily available in most Whole Foods Markets

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