Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Skin You're In

How did we fall for this? Our logical brain, when presented with the facts, knows that our skin is far more important than just the way it looks. We learned it in high school biology, didn't we? That our skin is our primary detoxing organ and critical for temperature regulation of the body. That our skin is the barrier between us and infection, and absorbs compounds and passes them into the bloodstream. That our skin is our primary sensory organ - that amazing thing that interprets touch in all its forms. So how did we sink to this place where everything we see in the media is only about skin and the way it should look? Pimple free. Not shiny. Glowing. Radiant. White or tanned, depending which part of the world we live in. But obsessed with appearance and sidestepping the health aspects of skin - that wonderful thing that holds us together, literally, and protects us from all that is other.

We live in an information age where pretty much anything we want to know is out there, waiting to be found. So it's incredibly easy to find the information online that explains how Sodium Laureth Sulphate, a primary ingredient in most commercial skin care products, was proven to be carcinogenic in 1967. Its easy to find articles online that explain how petrochemical bases used for nearly all lotions and creams actually damage and dry out the skin... how many of these common, cheap ingredients actually are officailly registered by the FDA as skin irritants. How many of us who buy products containing glycerin to supposedly "soften the skin" know that it's really a petrochemical waste product and well documented to dry and damage the skin?

What is it about us - smart, savvy, educated 21st century people - that accepts this marketing spin and ignores readily available fact?

If you are conscious of your health, you need to switch off this commercial hype that focuses only on the face and the way our skin presents us to others. We need to go back to 9th Grade biology and remember that detoxing the body is what skin does, better than any other organ.

So how should we care for our skin if we're concerned for our health and not only the way we look?

Firstly, our skin will mirror what we ate for the last 3 weeks or 3 months - eat fresh, eat predominantly plant based foods, drink clean water, reduce known toxins like soft drinks, synthetic sweeteners and foods with chemical coloring and flavoring agents. If you drink coffee, drink only the best fresh organic coffee in moderation. If you drink alcohol, don't drink it with mixers other than pure soda water... and drink plenty of water afterward.

Secondly, our skin needs stimulation. Exercise to improve blood flow is number one. The fresh healthy pink cheeks post-exercise can't be bought anywhere. As Mastercard would like to say: "priceless". But you can also use a loofah or brush before or during a bath or shower to remove dead skin cells and improve circulation. Or have a massage.

Thirdly, sweat to remove toxins. Again, exercise will do it naturally but you may consider the decadent delights of a Thai Herbal Steam. Or a sauna. Remember to drink plenty of water.

And finally, keep you skin in premium condition by the sparing and regular application of oils all over... from head to toe. Your skin health is about more than that little bit of your face. Use natural, plant based oils only which will nourish the skin and allow it to breathe. Use it sparingly on damp skin before sleep and you'll be rewarded with silky, healthy, glowing skin from head to toe. If you use oils on your skin regularly and eat well, you'll be able to toss out all the expensive body creams and potions and enjoy the responsiveness of smooth, healthy, sensual skin.

It's your skin... that skin you're in. Think about it and take care of it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One change at a time

Creating a healthier, more sustainable life can be daunting if you try to do it all at once. It's like binge drinking or eating... you go crazy at the health food store or the green products store buying all sorts of food supplements, natural body care products, and things you know you should use. You get home and feel elated at your major strike for the environment and the future of the world, not to mention your own health. But tomorrow and the next day the euphoria wears off and you find yourself missing the body lotion you've used for years (toxic petrochemical base notwithstanding) ... longing for the foamy minty toothpaste instead of this awful herbal salty stuff. When everything changes at the same time you are easily discouraged, start reasoning with yourself that healthy bodies can manage modest chemical loads/fats/sugars and, before you know it, the healthy goodies are pushed to the back of the cupboards and the old habits in terms of spending and product use creep back.

A healthier, more sustainable life is really about gluing a string of better habits together, one at a time, until they feel like second nature. Or carefully piling the blocks and stones, one upon the other, in balance. Each good habit needs time to be reinforced before it becomes automatic. Repeat something every day without fail for a month and it's just about a habit. Autopilot. Then choose the next one.

Think about starting the healthy changes for your body and the environment by not only focusing on what you eat or how you exercise, but also about what goes on your skin. Make one choice - a small choice - maybe changing your petrochemical based cream body moisturizer for a nourishing natural oil used all over each night before bed. Or swapping your chemical toothpaste for a more natural alternative (that tastes good too!). Or throw out the nasty chemical formula shower gel (even though it smells lovely) and change to beautiful, nourishing 100% natural soap.

Why should what we put on our skin be part of the small incremental health changes we make? Think about people trying to stop smoking: the nicotine is delivered most effectively through a skin patch. Likewise long term hormone therapy is delivered most effectively through skin patches. What goes on our skin does end up in our blood and, subsequently, in our liver and kidneys.

Make your healthy life style changes small and practice them for 3o days before trying the next one. Drink a warm glass of water with lemon/lime every morning on rising. Do it every day for 30 days and then just keep on doing it without thinking about it anymore. Change just one product in your bathroom for a purer, healthier, less harmful alternative. Use it everyday for 30 days while you practice changing your shopping habits at the same time. Keep practicing. Don't deprive yourself - simply add one healthy habit and make it stick, until the new habits crowd out the old ones. It is surprising how focusing on the achievement of integrating one new habit empowers you and helps to set a solid platform for the next stone to be laid.

Pile the stones up slowly... make small, steady lifestyle changes for a healthier, more natural, more sustainable, balanced and enjoyable life.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Newest Currency

It should have been front page news, the day that the new currency became official, but somehow it slipped by unnoticed, as so many of the huge changes in our world do. Which day was it that a "Gee, thanks, great product and super service" was given an actual dollar value and when your "like" clicks actually tangibly increased someone's income?

The giving and receiving of praise is possibly the oldest currency... it starts from our mothers patting our backs when we've drunk enough milk and squealing excitedly when we take our first steps. At that point, the value of praise is priceless.

When my little girl gives her all in what she's doing, she frowns with delightful concentration. That might be during the dressing phase to become a magical fairy princess or when she's learning to colour within the lines. She looks to me for approval every step of the way, and it is given freely and abundantly and regularly. She looks up for a moment, gets the message that she's doing great and then she goes back to it with confidence and focus.

Unless you are someone learning to sell online, you probably don't really understand that all those little "buyer feedbacks" and "reviews" and "likes" are counted in dollars and cents by someone out there. At the most obvious level, say on eBay for example, you can't move past auctioning one item at a time till you get 15 separate 100% feedbacks on purchases made. When you get lots of feedbacks, eBay upgrades you to be a Power Seller which has direct financial benefits. On a more subtle level, search engines look for sites with lots of links and automatically rank a site higher which has more. So when you go into Trip Adviser and leave a lovely review and your email address against a given service provider, retailer, hotel or whatever, you are actually giving them something that will ultimately generate money for them. The simple act of rating an article on a blog will change the way the search engines display it in search results, which ultimately will mean more site visits and more sales for someone out there.

In a way it's sad that something like a smile and a spontaneous "thanks" has turned into an obligation. But like most things, you need to turn it around and reconsider. Think about the request for your feedback as a chance to support a new business, to tangibly give a tip to someone whose service or product you like and appreciate. Funny thing is, like encouraging a child, it makes you feel good and everybody wins.

So, consider that today you are like a rich woman strutting the town with a big purse full of "money" - your praise, thanks, clicks, stars and feedbacks. Fling it around! Start by rating this article... :) Click some "likes" on facebook and recommend the page to your friends... that business owner will be mighty grateful. But don't just do it in the faceless online world. Tell your vegetable vendor at the market that he has the nicest tomatoes. Smile at the car parking attendant who makes sure no-one breaks into your car while you shop. Send a note to a friend to say thanks for being supportive.

The best part of the new currency is that it never runs out... it sort of grows, actually. When you give nice thoughts and feelings, you feel better and then you feel like doing it more. It makes people smile and its the sort of currency that has always made the world go around.

Start small. Click a few times when you might have hesitated, become a fan of something you like, rate a blog article, remember to do your buyer feedback on eBay... and smile. Remember, this currency never runs out and you never feel guilty.