Skincare rituals

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My philosophy on skincare has always been a holistic one. Beauty is harmony in body, mind and spirit. The face is usually just a reflection of what is going on inside our bodies, our hearts and our minds. Your diet, your lifestyle, your environment, your thoughts, your emotions…they all show on your skin. Just slapping some cream on your face will not really solve your skin problems. Diet and lifestyle are crucial when it comes to healthy skin, even more than skincare.

When it comes to skincare, my philosphy is to nurture the skin with healing, good quality products through beautiful rituals, like massage, mindful meditation, and setting intentions…

How do you usually apply your skincare? Do you just apply your cream in 2 seconds and off you go? What is your dialogue with yourself when you are caring for your skin? Does it come from a place of judgement or one of a love and acceptance?

Here is my advice.

In Chinese medicine, the heart meridian passes through the tongue where it spreads out to the face. This is maybe one of the reasons why we have that glow when we are happy and in love. 

First, center yourself. Be here, now. Even just for 2 minutes. Have the intention that this is a time to pause and nurture.

So when you look in the mirror, before you apply your products, set your intention. Don’t say something with a negative connotation like… ‘I want to get rid of my wrinkles’… Opt for something like ‘May my skin be healthy, nourished and balanced’ or ‘may my skin glow with vitality’…Whatever it may be, make it something positive.

Then apply your products. Choose products that are healing and nurturing, that make you feel good. I am not a fan of any products or procedures that wound the skin in order for it to heal and as a result produce more collagen. First, all those products and procedures do more damage in the long run. Everytime you wound your skin with strong acids and overexfoliation, overly drying products, lasers and everything else that promises that ‘quick fix’, you increase inflammation, damage DNA, and distroy your skin’s immunity. I could write an entire book on this, but I will just sum it up and say that I personally believe in strengthening and nourishing practices instead.

This brings me to my next point, and that is massage. It can drain lymph, stimulate blood circulation and therefore bring more nutrients to the skin, increase skin function, relieve tension, relax, firm and lift muscles, release toxins, help products penetrate better into the skin…the list goes on and on…and let’s not forget: it feels AMAZING! I posted a few techniques on facial massage and acupressure in the past, so feel free to take a look at those, or try out others that are out there on youtube.

This doesn’t have to take long. It can be 2 minutes….or, if you have the time and feel like it, you can make it 30 minutes. The main idea here is to just carve this little time for yourself, and make it feel good.

Of course, topical application is just a small part of healthy skin. A healthy diet (good digestion, good quality, organic whenever possible – ingredients, supplements when needed, lots of water, a healthy microbiome), a healthy lifestyle (avoiding toxic products and environments whenever possible, staying active, practicing yoga or another type of physical activity you may prefer, practicing pranayama, spending time in nature, fresh air), and a healthy mind and spirit (through meditation, expressing and practicing gratitude, connecting with others) are all important parts of healthy, beautiful skin.

I hope this inspires you to approach skincare from a holistic level and that we all stop buying into the quick-fix, no pain no gain philosophy.

Here is to a healing, nurturing journey to healthy, glowing skin!

Ps:

One last thing…on botox…as you probably guessed by now…I am not a fan. I don’t judge anyone who does it, of course, but please if you are planning on doing it, consider the following:

Botox atrophies muscles. As we age, our capillary bed in our skin (the blood flow) decreases significantly. When you weaken muscles, you decrease circulation even more. This literally starves your skin. So the skin, although it has no wrinkles, it looks lifeless. Also, it slackens a lot. It may be wrinkle free, but gravity still pulls on it, and since muscles are weak due to atrophy, everything just droops even more. This is why most botox users end up having fillers and other procedures after a while. And those are a whole other mess.

Another thing to consider is that there has been quite a bit of research on muscle memory. When we are happy, we smile and we contract certain muscles. This goes the other way around as well. When we smile, we tend to feel better. There have been several studies showing how if certain muscles are not triggered during facial expressions, the emotion associated with those expressions is not felt to its full extent.

And one last thing that I learned in a natural skincare seminar…there is a whole book about this actually, but for all new moms out there…babies, before they learn how to speak, they look at their parents and read their facial expresions. They learn how to read emotions and it is a way for them to understand the world and most importantly the people around them.  Something to keep in mind.

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A simple, relaxing meditation

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This is a very simple meditation I have been practicing lately that I absolutely love! I have read about it and heard about it in many books and meditation apps, but I just started practicing it lately. It’s a present moment awareness meditation similar to the ‘noting’ meditations, but this time just focusing on positive thoughts and sensations, and then labelling them. Our brains have a negative bias, which means we usually spend more time and energy focusing on negative experiences than on positive. Sometimes this can be useful, and it can be part of our defense system; however, sometimes it is nice to just pause for a few minutes each day and focus only on the positives. Doing so can be a very relaxing experience.

Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Next, begin to note any positive sensations or thoughts that arise at the moment. Describe them to yourself in simple, positive one-word labels like ‘calm’, ‘bliss’, ‘relaxed’, ‘quiet’, ‘softness’… whatever it may be that you notice in the moment, that is positive. There is no wrong answer here. When you notice negative thoughts arising, or that your mind has wandered off to the past or future, simply and gently tell yourslef ‘let it go’, or ‘release’, or ‘hey, don’t go anywhere’ (the latter is my personal favorite, and it is from a relaxation meditation from Emma Mills). Then, just come back to your postive words. Do this for as long as you’d like. When you are done, simply stop noting the words, take a few deep breaths, and then open your eyes.

“No more words. In the name of this place we drink in with our breathing, stay quiet like a flower.
So the nightbirds will start singing. “

-Rumi

DIY Nourishing, brightening face mask

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I was in need of a face mask yesterday to help my stressed out, hot skin! I remembered of a recipe I learned a while ago, from an old spa book I had from years ago. (The book is ‘Spa Living’ by Sunamita Lim)

The recipe is for an Ayurvedic Fragrant Nutritive Mask:

2 tbs colloidal oatmeal (I didn’t have colloidal oatmeal, but I ground organic oats in my blender till they turned into a superfine powder) – oatmeal is anti-inflammatory

2 tsp goat milk powder (I used my organic whole cow milk powder instead)- milk is brightening and softening due to its lactic acid

1/2 tsp white kaolin clay – detoxifying and softening

1 tsp rose petal powder (I just ground dry rose petals) – rich in vitamin C

1 tsp sandalwood powder ( I order mine on amazon…I LOVE sandalwood powder!!! It has the most beautiful fragrance!) – cools the skin and balances all skin types, relieves skin rashes and allergies, it is anti-bacterial, cooling and soothing.

2 drops rose attar (essential rose oil from India infused in a sandalwood base- I didn’t have this either, but improvised- I just added 2 drops of my all-time favorite ila spa glowing radiance face oil, which has the highest quality of rosa damascena oil as well as sandalwood, it is completely natural and smells absolutely divine💗💗💗)

Mix all DRY ingredients in a jar, then take half of the powder, add a bit of water to reach the desired mask consistency, and then add the 2 drops of rose/sandalwood oil (in my case Ila oil). Leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes and rinse off with warm water. It feels a bit exfoliating when you remove it.

I followed with my jasmine white tea mist (I make my own just by making a really strong cup of really good quality white jasmine tea, let it cool, put it in a spray bottle and store it in the fridge- I will make its own blog post one of these days and go over the details, because tea mists are really simple to make and the polyphenols in tea are very beneficial for the skin).

I moisturized with my ila oil at the end. My skin (which is combination, lots of freckles in the summer and has a lot of heat) felt cool, really soft, smooth and brighter.☺

Please note: If you are pregnant or have a medical condition, consult with your doctor first before trying this mask. If your skin is very reactive or sensitive, I recommend doing a test patch first. Everyone is different, so please be mindful when trying somthing new.

 

Don’t just count on your sunscreen

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I really wish everyone read the article in this link:
http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/imperfect-protection/

Since where I live feels like summer is in full swing, I wanted to share some great information on sunscreen. When I used to work as an esthetician, I got this question a lot: What is the best? Chemical? Physical? What SPF number? I think the problem is that the public is not really educated on sunscreens. Media and companies try to sell you their products, but they don’t fully educate their customers on how to use it properly. I actually find it very misleading.

Today I wanted to shine some light on this subject, and most importantly, share some great articles (based on science and extensive research) on sunscreen.

One of the big problems is that consumers don’t really know how much product you really need to use in order to get the level of SPF advertised on the bottle. When they test SPF in a lab, they apply 2mg of product per 1 square cm of skin. That is a really, really thick layer! Almost nobody applies that much! (And remember, after 80 minutes-2 hours (depending on the sunscreen), you need to reapply…unless you sweat or wipe and then you need to reapply immediately).
I love this general guideline on how much sunscreen to use: ( http://www.skinacea.com/faq/sunscreen/s04-how-much-sunscreen.html#.WVLvsmip5SA )

Face: 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen
Neck (front and back): 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen
Arms: 1/2 teaspoon of sunscreen per arm
Legs: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen per leg
Chest: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen
Back: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen

(If you are interested in the Math, here is a great link: https://www.futurederm.com/how-much-exactly-is-2-0-mgcm2-the-amount-of-sunscreen-necessary-to-achieve-the-labeled-spf-rating/ )

So if you go to the beach for a couple of hours with your family (let’s say family of four), each adult of averge size needs 5 tsp of sunscreen…and I am talking real, measuring teaspoons. Let’s say the children are younger…so let’s say about 5 tsp for both. I measured 15 tsp out of curiosity and to me it looks like about 90 ml. My Eminence sunscreen bottle is about 150 ml, so if I go to the beach with my family for a couple of hours, I should be using more than half that bottle of sunscreen. If i decide to spend the day at the beach, or we get in the water, there wouldn’t even be enough for us to reapply in order to get the level of SPF advertised on the bottle.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that most of us are not getting the SPF level that says on the bottle. And keep in mind, suncreens, no matter what the SPF, cannot fully block the sun even when applied in the ridiculously thick layer. Even if they prevent you getting burnt, the UV light that does penetrate through will still damage your skin. This is why, it is SO IMPORTANT to also seek shade, wear protective, light clothing, big sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, and try to avoid sun exposure at peak hours, when the UV rays are the strongest. Don’t just count on your SPF to protect you from sun damage, because it is never enough!

Please, read these articles on sunscreen. They are very helpful in understanding how sunscreen works and also talk about the dangers of combining chemical sunscreens. They also talk about how some sunscreens contain active ingredients that break down in the presence of UV rays which result in free radicals that actually HARM surrounding cells.

The best article on the subject is here:
http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/imperfect-protection/
And these are also great:

http://www.suncarelab.com/Blog.html
https://www.futurederm.com/true-benefit-layering-spf/
http://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/testing/spf/premium-Adapting-SPF-Testing-Methods-for-Mineral-Sunscreen-Density-211063281.html

I hope this helps! Let’s all be SunSmart!

 

DIY Soothing Sugar Scrub

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I was in a DIY – pamper myself – spa at home mood yesterday. I had a fun weekend that involved hours spent at the beach on Saturday and 2 hours of canoeing and 2 hours of hiking on Sunday, so Monday I really felt the need for some TLC. I decided to make my own body scrub. Scrubs are great to remove dead skin cells, increase product absorption, increase micro- circulation and also stimulate lymphatic drainage. The skin is softer, brighter and just glows after! Since it is summer right now where we live, I wanted something sweeter and more soothing for my skin.

Here is what I used:

– 3/4 organic powdered whole milk (contains lactic acid, which is a natural chemical exfoliant and skin brightener)
– 3/4 coconut sugar (a physical exfoliant as well as humectant-attracts moisture)- any granulated sugar would work, I just chose coconut
– 3 tbs of Manuka Honey (humectant, antibacterial, rich in vitamins and great enzymes that soften, nourish and help heal the skin)
– 5 ml vanilla essence ( I used the one I got from an Oleum Vera kit)- I love the smell of vanilla – calming and delicious at the same time
– 60 ml of almond oil (also from Oleum Vera-they use high quality, pure, organic ingredients and make some great DIY face and body kits)
– 3 g dried rose petals (again, from and Oleum Vera kit) – for their scent, for their power to heal us emotionally and also because according to Ayurveda, roses calm the pitta dosha.

(Note: You can play around with the consistency. You could add more oil to make it runnier. I prefer it as a thick paste personally, because you can make it into a ball and scrub yourself with it on damp skin. The product just starts to melt into your skin, and the rose petals are all that you are left with in your hand-leaving their beautiful scent behind. )

Mix all ingredients together into a thicker paste and Voilà! Take about 2 tbs of the scrub, hop in the shower and scrub your entire body – on damp skin. I like to leave it on the skin for a few minutes, and in the meantime apply hair conditioner and give myself a scalp massage. Then rinse off and you are done (don’t use soap after)

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After this scrub, I don’t feel like I need to use any moisturizer, but I like to spray on some refreshing rose water.

Finish with a cup of herbal tea and relax for a while💗

 

 

Life is a gift

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I was talking last week with my acupuncturist, and she told me she never goes to bed at night expecting to wake up the next day….I think that is such a beautiful way to live! That way, every morning you wake up, you see life for what it truly is: a gift! This perspective changes the ‘Ugh, I HAVE to wake up” into “Yes, I GET to wake up!”.

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Each morning I wake up, I get this gift…I get to hug my children one more time, I get to be with my husband one more time, I get to see my family, my friends…I get to feel the cats purring in my lap one more time, I get to smell a flower, enjoy a hot cup of tea or a warm bath…I get one more day of exploring this beautiful world…I get yet another chance at life, to experiene it fully…with all its ups and downs, laughter and sorrow….

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And when I go to bed, I am at peace and I can let it all go. There are no expectations for tomorrow. Just full gratitude for right now. You know the saying ‘Live like it was your last day’? It really should be changed to ‘Live like it is the only day’. Embrace each day with gratitude for getting one more chance at life, which is the greatest gift of all… Be fully present with those you love, do the job you love (and if you don’t, maybe it’s time to change), go places and do things that bring you joy. Tomorrow may really never come, so I am just grateful for the gift of today.

As the wonderful poet R. W. Emerson put it:

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
-R.W. Emerson

Anahata

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Anahata is the Heart Chakra, and it is governed by the Air element. This is the centre of unconditional love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness. This chakra governs the circulatory system, respiratory system and thymus. Healing the heart chakra can help let go of negativity and fear. The predominant sense for this chakra is the sense of touch.

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This morning’s massage oil was warm Argan oil with pure rose essential oil. I used two pink rose quartz heart crystals to massage the warm oil, paying extra attention to the heart area. I lit up a rose and tuberose candle, and played soothing music in the background  (ila’s Heart of the Earth…yes, I have an obsession with ila spa…they have the most amazing products and rituals, and they are completely ethical, plus the founder, Denise Leicester, is a true inspiration). During the massage, I focused on gratitude and love for my body. You can also practice positive affirmations, like: “My heart is free of unnecessary burdens”, or “My spirit is as boundless and free as the air”, or anything else that may resonate with you.

Excerpt from ila’s Heart of the Earth

Yoga followed. Again, Shiva Rea’s Anahata Chakra vinyasa, which focused on breath and a lot of chest openers. The meditation focused on the heart-fire. (LOVE)
Pranayama (the breathing practice) for Anahata is inhalation, inhalation retention, viloma pranayama. This breathing practice is very simple, and can be done by almost anyone, sitting or lying down. My favorite way to practice this is lying down on my yoga mat, with a bolster under my knees, and two cotton pads soaked in rose water placed over my eyes. The breath goes like this: you inhale for 2-3 seconds, then you pause for 2-3 seconds (hold your breath, don’t exhale, don’t let the diaphragm loose), then you continue to inhale for 2-3 more seconds, then pause again for 2-3 seconds, then inhale for 2-3 more seconds, hold for 2-3 seconds…keep doing this until your lungs are full, and then fully exhale the whole breath out, slowly. Repeat this breath for 5-10 minutes.

After yoga, I had a relaxing candlelit bath, with ila’s pink himalayan salts (rose, sandalwood, jasmine). I applied a face mask on that I made myself. I used 1 tsp manuka honey, with a little bit of rose water and a couple of drops of rose and sandalwood essential oil. I placed 2 cotton pads soaked in rose water over my eyes and relaxed in bliss for 20 minutes. After the bath, I rinsed my mask off and gave myself a face massage. Then I applied ila’s aroma oil for glowing radiance on my pulse points.

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After reading Dr. Pratima Raichur’s Radiant Beauty book, I have been making my own face oil, using organic argan and rosehip oil, with pure rose and sandalwood essential oil. I always ALWAYS give myself a pressure point/marma massage with the oil…every day. No matter how tired I may be, this massage really makes my skin glow and my face looks radiant and completely awake. I described this here

In the evening, I complete my Anahata practice with a loving-kindness meditation, inhaling and exhaling through the heart, focusing on feelings of love and gratitude.

‘Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is a light in the heart” – Kahlil Gibran

PS: You will notice I use a lot of rose oil. According to Ayurveda, Rose and Sandalwood are very good at balancing Pitta dosha (fire nature), which is my predominant dosha.( I go to an Ayurvedic doctor- I LOVE everything about Ayurveda). Pitta skin has a lot of redness and sensitivity, as well as dehydration from too much internal heat. So for me, I use these oils in all my beauty products on a daily basis. It so happens that rose essential oil is also one of the best oils for balancing the heart chakra, as well as balancing hormones. Sandalwood essential oil is also used to balance hormones.

PPS: If you are going to follow any of these tips, please be mindful, and consult with a doctor first if you have any medical conditions.