Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Beauty after Baby September 2, 2014

 

Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child

 

 

Any mother with a newborn or a baby knows one thing for sure – your baby’s needs always come before yours.  That’s just the way it is.  Finding time for yourself, not to mention household chores, sometimes seems like the most impossible thing ever when you have a baby at home.  Depending on how much sleep you are getting, probably very little, taking care of yourself quickly falls by the wayside once you have a baby.  So I’m here to remind you that even when you have no energy or it seems to silly to invest in your appearance because so many other things require your immediate attention, that you should and can take five to ten minutes a day for yourself each day.  Believe me I know how ridiculous that sounds when you’ve had four hours of sleep or when your baby decided to start their day at 5 am.  It’s hard; it seems pointless, but consider giving it a try.  Yes, if you had an elaborate skincare routine before you gave birth you probably can’t keep up with it now.  Don’t beat yourself up about that.  Keep in mind that when you feel good about how you look (even if you haven’t lost all the baby weight and that takes lots of time) your outlook changes about everything around you.  So don’t neglect yourself after you’ve had a baby.  Do take a few minutes each day to concentrate on your appearance; there is nothing selfish or wrong about that.

In no particular order here are some tips for a fast beauty routine when you have a baby at home:

  • Remember to wash your face – at the very least at night.  Once you’ve gotten your baby to sleep (or passed off childcare to your partner) take a moment to wash your face.
  • Use sunscreen!  Take a moment in the morning to apply sunscreen.  In case you need a reminder about why sunscreen is so important take a look at this video.  If your skin really needs a moisturizer use one with SPF in order to cut-down on skincare routine steps until you have more time for yourself.
  • Find an under-eye concealer you like and use it.
  • Use multitasking make-up products like Nars The Multiple which is for both lips and cheeks.
  • Think about what beauty or make-up product always makes you feel good and use it.  Is that product mascara?  Or a facial mask once a week?  Don’t give up those feel good products.  The baby can cry for a moment while you apply your mascara and everything will still be fine with the world.
  • Is there a beauty service that you really can’t live without?  Well don’t!  For a lot of women getting their eyebrows professionally waxed is just something they can’t give up and in my opinion shouldn’t.  Eyebrow waxing when compared to other beauty services is one of the fastest and cheapest services out there.  You can probably even bring your baby along to your eyebrow wax so keep up with having well groomed  brows.   Remember that having your eyebrows waxed or tweezed can change the look for your entire appearance for the better.  For other people their weekly manicure is a must so I fully endorse finding the time to keep up with the beauty service that makes you feel like yourself again after giving birth.  Keep in mind that there are many estheticians and nail techs that will come to your home to provide services so if you really can’t leave your baby or don’t want to have the service come to you.

 

I strongly believe that the better we feel about ourselves the better parents we can be.  So even if it’s only a few minutes each day take that time for you.  Even your baby will appreciate it.

 

Further Reading:

 

Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Midnight: Mother and Sleepy Child by Kitagawa Utamaro

 

 

Wrinkles: What They Are Exactly and What Causes Them March 27, 2014

Filed under: Aging,beauty — askanesthetician @ 12:35 pm
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In anticipation of moving very soon I’ve been trying to go through different parts of my home and get rid of everything I don’t need.  I am a hoarder.  No, not the kind that you see on one of those reality shows that can’t walk through their home because of the vast accumulation of things, but the more subtle kind that saves articles, refuses to donate clothes she hasn’t worn in years, and somehow has collected seven blank, decorative notebooks over the years (in my defense all those blank notebooks were gifts).  It is really time that I move without taking things with me that I will never look at or use again.  So this week I went through all the esthetics related materials that I had at home and discovered articles that I had saved from years ago.  I looked things over, I evaluated if I really needed to save the information, and some of the articles I actually found online so I pinned them onto my skincare board on Pinterest.  Though Pinterest has indeed revolutionized the way I save information for future reference (and no I don’t think using the word revolutionized is too dramatic) not all the esthetics related material I read online can be pinned.  So sad.  So I still have a binder with articles, but at least the binder is now very organized.

One article that I saved was from Dr. Leslie Baumann’s Skin Type Solutions website entitled The Anatomy of a Wrinkle.  The article succinctly explains how wrinkles form and what factors contribute to the formation of wrinkles:

… all wrinkles are caused by the same chain of events within the skin.  Age causes uppermost epidermal cells to get thinner and less sticky, which allows moisture to seep out in turn making skin drier.  Oil glands begin to slow down, which contributes to dryness as well.  A bit deeper in the skin, supportive scaffolding (i.e. collagen and elastin) breaks down, and skin loses its smoothness and tautness – leaving it no other choice than to wrinkle and sag.  In the skin’s lowest layer, the subcutaneous layer, fat cells begin to shrink, so they are less able to “fill in” or plump out damage in the skin’s other layers.

And what factors can contribute to the formation of wrinkles?  Dr. Baumann explains:

Sun exposure:  The damage caused by UV rays does a number on our skin’s supportive matrix, mainly collagen and elastin.  Think about it … wrinkles appear on the face, neck, chest, backs of the hands and forearms – all places that are most frequently exposed to the sun.

Facial expressions: You know what happens when you fold a piece of paper too many times?  A line becomes etched and it’s impossible to smooth out.  That’s exactly what happens in areas of the face that are responsible for facial expressions.  This is why the areas around the eyes and lips and on the forehead are often the first to show wrinkles.

Skin color:  Pigment plays a protective role, so those with lighter skin have less natural defense against damaging UV light.  Conversely, darker skins usually show wrinkling much later in life, and they have their melanin to thank for that.

Genetics:  As with many other beauty and health concerns, your DNA dictates how wrinkly your skin will get.  If your mom looked great well into her 60s, it’s possible you will, too, as long as you’re not baking in the sun every chance you get.

Now what is the best way to prevent wrinkles and/or treat them?  Dr. Baumann recommends the daily use of sunscreen to prevent wrinkles and retinoids if you already have wrinkles.  To those recommendations I would recommend following anti-inflammation diet and incorporating antioxidant serum, such as a Vitamin C serum, into your daily skincare routine.

One more thing – another thing about looking through things you’ve saved is discovering that you have already used the above mentioned article in a post.  I briefly toyed with the idea of just updating the old post (it is almost three years old), but in the spirit of “out with the old, in with the new” I wrote this new post instead.

My Related Posts: 

Image from laserskinsolutions.com

 

Can Make-up Actually Improve Your Skin? March 6, 2014

Filed under: beauty,make-up — askanesthetician @ 8:00 am
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The older I get the more I need make-up.  Though that doesn’t mean that I won’t leave the house without a full face of make-up it does mean that I have realized that a few strategically placed make-up products do make a big difference in my appearance.  Some days I have the time and the inclination to put on eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara along with my other essential make-up steps, and other days I just make sure that I fill in my brows with brow powder, use undereye concealer, face powder, face concealer, and a little lip tint.  It’s the little things that can make a big impact.  You don’t have to use a lot of make-up to look polished and put together even if all you are doing is going to the grocery store.  No one has flawless skin; everyone has a beauty feature or two that make-up can help look better.  For instance, my brows are sparse so filling them in with brow powder makes a big impact on my face.  I never seem to get enough sleep so using undereye concealer helps me look more rested.  And no matter how much skincare knowledge I amass my skin still has post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, blackheads, breakouts, and blotchiness so using a foundation (either powder or cream) and a concealer makes me feel like I am putting my best face forward to the world (even if that world is just the grocery store clerks and patrons).  Make-up gives you confidence.  Make-up is fun.

But some people still worry that wearing make-up on a daily basis, particularly foundation, is actually bad for their skin instead of good for it.  There is a persistent skincare myth that our skin needs to “breathe” and by wearing make-up we are preventing that important function from taking place.  I’ve already debunked this myth in a previous post: Does Your Skin Need to Detoxify/Breathe?, but I’ll revisit the topic here briefly. I quoted Discovery Health in that previous post and let me once again share what they had to say about this topic:

Every day, a barrage of advertisements for various cosmetics, oils and ointments assault our eyes and ears, all claiming to “let your skin breathe.” But does your skin actually “breathe”? Does it really take in enough oxygen to keep you alive?

Not unless you’re an amphibian, an earthworm or a Julia Creek dunnart. Although it can’t perform the functions of respiration, your skin can absorb fat-soluble substances, including vitamins A,D, E and K, along with steroid hormones such as estrogen. Many menopausal women, for example, have estrogen patches to thank for their relief from hot flashes, while nicotine patches have relieved cravings for many smokers trying to kick the habit. So, while the skin can’t breathe, it can take substances from the outside and bring them in, including a little oxygen.

The skin and its appendages, such as hair and nails, make up the integumentary system. The word integumentary comes from Latin, meaning “to cover,” and that is the skin’s main purpose — to keep the world out and our internal organs protected. By its very nature, skin does not help us breathe.   …

What does help us breathe is the respiratory system. The respiratory system is responsible for getting oxygen to our blood and removing carbon dioxide from the body. When we inhale, we take in oxygen through our mouth and nose and into the lungs. In the lungs, the oxygen flows into the blood through the arteries, while veins deliver carbon dioxide back to the lungs. From the lungs, we exhale the carbon dioxide back out into the atmosphere, and the process begins again.

So why might we be led to believe that oxygen can pass through the skin?

Misconceptions and Myths

Many people are convinced that we pull in oxygen through our pores, and cosmetic companies capitalize on this belief — at least through unspoken messages — by claiming that their products “let the skin breathe.” If pressed, the manufacturers would probably say what they really mean is that the cosmetics and creams are non-comedogenic, meaning they don’t block pores. This prevents acne from building up, not suffocation. Some companies take it a step further and claim that their products contain oxygen that your skin will absorb. Since your skin doesn’t have the capacity to absorb and use oxygen, dermatologists warn that this is totally bogus. The closest thing to pure oxygen in a skin care product is benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria by oxidizing fatty acids.

Many people believe the urban legend that Buddy Ebsen, cast as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz,” nearly died because the aluminum in the makeup that gave him his silvery sheen clogged his pores. In fact, Ebsen did wind up in the hospital and was replaced, but it was attributed to an allergic reaction or an infection in his lungs caused by the aluminum dust. Needless to say, the makeup was modified for new scarecrow Jack Haley, and he danced through the role without incident.

Another famous movie incident involves 1964′s “Goldfinger.” After discovering his secretary has betrayed him, the villain Goldfinger paints her entirely — hair and all — with gold paint. Looking at her lifeless body, James Bond explains that the paint closed the pores she needed for respiration. In 1964, it seems, this was a medically accepted belief. The filmmakers took no chances and were careful to leave a patch of actress’s Shirley Eaton’s skin unpainted when shooting the scene.

Having gotten that issue out of the way, let’s focus again on the actual topic of this post: can using make-up actually help or even improve the appearance of your skin?  Esthetician Renee Rouleau certainly thinks so:

The fact is, wearing makeup (appropriate for your skin type) offers a barrier of protection against harmful UV rays. UV rays from the sun is the #1 reason for skin aging. It’s not genetics, smoking, and believe it or not, even age. The sun is the skin’s WORST enemy. Most types of makeup contain sunscreen and even if they don’t indicate an SPF number, most have UV-protecting ingredients like Titanium Dioxide. Based on this benefit from wearing makeup, I never leave my skin bare and never suggest my clients to do so either. So do your skin a favor and start wearing makeup NOW, to prevent wrinkles in your future.

(From Is Wearing Foundation Makeup Daily Bad for Your Skin?)

And what of make-up that promises anti-aging or the like?  The New York Times explored this topic in the article Promises from the Powder Room:

Light-reflecting. Acne-fighting. Energizing. Face powder, long associated with grandmothers and a dusty, chalky look, has been remade. Some companies say the product is not only a cosmetic, but also a face treatment, and are loading it with SPF, antioxidants and vitamins. …

Marketing hype aside, some doctors agree that powders pack more of a punch these days. “People have seen the utility of BB creams; they like getting many effects from the same products,” said Dr. Neal Schultz, a cosmetic dermatologist in private practice in Manhattan and founder of DermTV.com. “These are great for people who want fewer products to apply, and an oil absorber.”

But others say that the “poof — all gone” effects that these powders promise are basically stardust and mirrors. “I’m increasingly skeptical with products that over-promise,” said Ron Robinson, a Manhattan chemist specializing in the technology of cosmetic ingredients and the founder of BeautyStat.com, which reviews new products. “Where’s the clinical testing that validates their claims?”

“The blurring component is true,” he said, but “claims that it will reshape, sculpt and improve wrinkles are benefits few skin-care creams and serums designed to plump and firm the skin can offer.”  …

“There’s a real science to these products and to the ingredients in them, which help and maintain the skin,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. But he pointed out that a powder’s visual effects vanish once the product is removed; its particles are too big to penetrate skin.

As for long-term benefits: “That has yet to be determined,” Dr. Zeichner said. “If you use products like this on a regular basis and take care of your skin, it’s possible these powders can help slow down the aging process.”  …

Dr. Francesca Fusco, a Manhattan dermatologist, says she is firmly pro-powder, at least when it comes to the new modern products. “A powder won’t replace your moisturizer, serum or retinol, but it’s a great added extra,” she said. “For not a lot of money you can get a flawless look. And that’s better than using nothing.”

So when it comes to your make-up should you trust it to transform your skin long after you remove it?  Personally I am still very skeptical that a few extra ingredients mixed into your cream or powder foundation will be your anti-aging or anti-acne answer, but the better you look the better you feel and that is truly transformative.

My Related Posts:

Image from makeupandbeautyblog.com

 

Spas in South Korea February 17, 2014

Filed under: beauty,Spa Services — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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Or Why I Desperately Want to Visit South Korea Very Soon

Many of the spa's 22 baths and pools are located outdoors, including this saltwater foot bath and wading pool.

Please allow me to once again indulge my Korean beauty obsession.  I hadn’t been planning on writing another post about Korean skincare or beauty but after reading The New York Times article A Look at Korea’s Culture From the Bathhouse I felt compelled to write yet again about Korea and their beauty culture.  (As sometimes happily happens reading one article takes you to another related article or an interesting website so I’ll be sharing those links here as well.)  Previously I’ve written about Beauty in South Korea and my personal experiences trying a few different Korean skincare products (Korean Skincare Products: Tested).

I actually had an opportunity to go to a Korean spa (or Americanized version of a Korean spa) before moving back to Israel about a year and a half ago.  A branch of King Spa and Sauna opened not so far from my suburban Chicago home before I moved.  I really cannot come up with a good excuse why I never went since the admission is quite reasonable, it is open 24 hours 7 days a week, and a friend even recommended it to me. My loss to say the least.  Now I can only dream of hanging out in the salt room or the base rock room at this spa.  At least I now know one thing I will be doing the next time I visit Chicago (besides eating at my all time favorite restaurant) unless somehow I make it to South Korea first.

Anyhow, before I really digress any further lets talk about Korean spa culture.  The origin and the modern evolution of the Korean bathhouse is very interesting:

When South Koreans evoke the good life, they talk of a “warm back and full stomach.”

Nowhere has the Korean longing to lie on a heated floor (a feature of traditional houses) and eat one’s fill found fuller expression than in the jjimjilbang, the 24-hours-a-day public bathhouse.

But calling the jjimjilbang a bathhouse hardly begins to describe its attractions. …

The jjimjilbang is modeled on the public bathhouses that were popularized early last century by the country’s Japanese occupiers but eventually fell out of favor when showers became a standard feature of Korean homes. In their modern incarnation, the bathhouses are a reflection of South Korea’s relatively newfound wealth, but also a way to satisfy nostalgia.  …

The first public bathhouse was built here in 1925, mostly to cater to Japanese colonialists, but the institution quickly became part of Korean social life. Most urban neighborhoods had a bathhouse, as did small towns. Inside, patrons sat in or around large, sex-segregated baths filled with extremely hot water, gossiping and scooping water on themselves with gourds. Scrubbing other bathers’ backs, even strangers’, was common practice.

Many Korean adults share a childhood memory of being taken to public baths for no-nonsense, sometimes tears-inducing scrubs by their mothers. The bathhouses began adding amenities in recent decades as more people bathed at home. Those included steam rooms and professional body scrubbers, barbershops and hair salons, and communal sleeping rooms, where harried business people — often expected to work long hours and stay out late drinking with colleagues — could come during the day for a nap on a heated floor.

By the late 1990s, many bathhouses had turned into true recreation complexes, and going to one became as much a part of Korean social life as going to the movies. In 2006, there were more than 13,000 in the country, more than 2,500 of them in Seoul. Some can accommodate thousands of people. …

Some jjimjilbang have karaoke rooms, concert halls, swimming pools, even indoor golf ranges, as well as cafeterias and rooms to watch videos.

But a jjimjilbang’s reputation owes much to its saunas.

Some feature heated huts suffused with the aroma of mugwort (important in traditional medicine). Sometimes the walls are studded with jade and amethyst, which many Koreans believe emit healing rays when heated.

(From For All Kinds of Good, Clean Fun Koreans Turn to Bathhouses from The New York Times)

(This is not a political blog is any way, except for my occasional rant about letting everyone define for themselves their own idea of beauty, but I did find it interesting that the Japanese occupation of Korea produced such a positive, lasting effect on Korean culture in the form of bathhouses.  If you know nothing of the history mentioned above see this for more information.)

Unlike American spas which are seen as an indulgence, a special treat, Korean spas or bathhouses are meant for the entire family and as a place to spend the day.  Women (and men) in Korean follow a much more elaborate skincare routines than their American counterparts making skincare and body care a top priority for a large part of the population.  Since many young people live with their parents bathhouses are a place where young couples can spend quality time together outside the confines of their homes.  So if you are a Westerner forget everything you know about spa culture and open yourself up to a new idea of how to spend your day off.

Need more proof?  Frances Cha wrote about her day at a Korean bathhouse for CNN:

Visitors change into cotton shirts and pants handed out at reception. Then they head to communal areas.

There’s a tarot card reading station set up near the entrance, but most people beeline past this and head straight for the outdoor foot bath area.

Here there’s a large heated pool for wading back and forth, as well as private booths where couples often play games on their phones while perched precariously above pools of water.

Theme rooms

Spa Land has dreamed up a variety of themes for its many steam and sauna rooms.

These range from extremely hot (I couldn’t enter this one without yelping in pain) to extremely cold (the Ice Room has a cute, fake jellyfish aquarium) to the gimmicky.

How gimmicky?

The walls of the pyramid room are set at a 52-degree angle, “which has been said to be the easiest angle to collect energies from the universe,” according to the spa.

The SEV room “radiates electrons from SEV” meant to “metabolize your body rapidly.”

The theme rooms are fun to take pictures in.

The downstairs snack bar serves bingsu (a beloved Korean shaved ice dessert) and various vinegar drinks said to be good for the skin.

Customers can take the snacks and eat them all around the bathhouse.

Upstairs there’s a restaurant and cafe run by chefs from the Westin Chosun Hotel.

Alcohol consumption is limited to 500 ml per person, to prevent sauna accidents and overly rambunctious parties from disrupting the austere atmosphere.

Bath time

My favorite spot in the spa is the outdoor rock pool in the women-only bathing area.

I soaked under its sodium bicarbonate waterfall for a good 20 minutes before my appointment with the seshin ajumma (scrub ladies) in the scrub room.

For 25 minutes I beached myself on a plastic slab, and gave myself over to the capable hands of a professional scrubber.

Clad in black bras and panties (standard scrub uniform), she scoured my entire body with two loofahs.

“Young ladies are the most sensitive,” she said in an amused voice when I squeaked a little. “The older ladies always ask for the hardest pressure.”

I emerged red and raw, but wonderfully clean.

It was the best extra ₩20,000 ($18) I’ve ever spent in spa.

(From Korea’s Most Outrageous Sauna: Spa Land Centum City)

Back to The New York Times article  mentioned at the beginning of this post, the article does touch on the “darker” side of Korean beauty culture – conformity.  This takes the of form of plastic surgery, pressure to weigh a certain amount, and a strong need to try to achieve “perfection” as defined by the prevailing culture.  I guess it is always important to remember what an outsider may see as interesting and even “exotic” (I hate that word but sometimes there isn’t a better one to use) is actually a burden for those who are a part of that culture or country you are just visiting.

Bottom Line:  Despite the fact that I am now more aware of the conformity in Korea when it comes to beauty, and that does not sit well with me, I am still very intrigued by Korean bathhouse culture and Korean skincare practices and products. Since I am  “indulging” in Korean culture from afar I can pick and choose the aspects of Korean culture that I want to explore and experience making it easier for me to enjoy the best aspects of that culture.  Perhaps one day I’ll finally make it to South Korea or just visit a Korean bathhouse the next time I am in Chicago.

The original New York Times article that prompted this post lead me to discover two really interesting websites for information about Korea:

  • If I do make it South Korean for a visit I will be sure to read this entire website before going: Seoulist.
  • For reviews of Korean skincare and make-up I’ll be checking out this website: Lady Fox Make-up Blog

Photo from cnn.com

 

Meditation and Your Skin September 18, 2013

Filed under: beauty,Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 1:00 pm
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Image result for meditation

In the quest for beautiful skin have we missed out on a technique that can both quiet our mind, improve our health, and help our skin?  Can you meditate your way to perfect skin?

While the health benefits of meditation are well known – reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, strengthening immunity, and inducing calm – what about the skin benefits?

Celebrity esthetician Kate Somerville writes about the connection between meditation and appearance:

I became convinced about the power of meditation after I witnessed significant changes in the skin of several of my clients who practice it.  It really made me aware that I may be able to help someone topically or assist her in altering her diet, but if I can’t help her find a way to stop her brain craziness, she’s simply not going to look her best.

Meditation is a state of deep physical relaxation combined with acute mental alertness, and there are many ways to achieve this state.  Almost every religion incorporates meditative practices such as praying and chanting, and you might be able to find one in your belief system.  Other purely physiological techniques involve sitting and focusing on something that will hold your attention: a word, an image, your breath, or a visual cue.

(From Complexion Perfection! pages 36-37)

According to the online article Meditating for Better Skin as you practice meditation you reduce your stress levels and help your skin:

Meditation is practiced worldwide as an excellent way to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. Did you know, however, that meditation can also help improve your appearance?
When practiced properly and consistently, meditation is one of the few natural ways to improve the quality and tone of your skin, and even combat any number of skin ailments, ranging from acne to rosacea to premature wrinkling.
How stress affects your skin
The body responds to duress by releasing cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol, while necessary in small quantities to help you deal with “fight or flight” situations, is not meant to be sustained at high levels for prolonged periods of time. Continued production of cortisol can result in a variety of negative health issues including fat gain around the visceral organs, blood sugar imbalance, decreased bone density, higher blood pressure and of course, skin problems.
Cortisol can result in an increase in oil production, which can lead to acne and acne-related problems.
Additionally, when cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in our bloodstream go up. Increased blood sugar promotes glycation in our skin, which damages collagen. Damage to collagen can lead to more lines and wrinkles.
As soon as cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in the blood increase. We know that sugar spikes are especially bad for diabetics, but increased blood sugar also promotes a process called glycation in our skin which damages the collagen. Collagen is what makes your skin both firm and pliable. The breakdown of collagen leads to fine lines and eventually wrinkles.
Cortisol acts to dehydrate the skin by decreasing your skin’s production of hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizer for the skin. And it compromises the skin’s barrier, which allows hydration to evaporate instead of staying in the skin.
Another byproduct of stress that works negatively on the skin is adrenaline, which decreases blood flow to your skin and leads to a pale, wan complexion.

Better skin through meditationResearch has shown that meditation is a powerful stress-reliever. When you meditate, you slow your heart rate and produce less cortisol even as your immune functions improve. While difficult to adjust to initially, a consistent practitioner of meditation reaps myriad mental and physical benefits, including reduced stress responses and improved immunity to stress.

Reduction in stress naturally leads to reduction of stress hormones like cortisol, which allows your skin to continue to regenerate normally .

People have found that after consistent meditation, they see fewer lines and wrinkles, improvement in acne, fewer dark circles or bags under the eyes (due in part to improved quality of sleep that comes with meditation), and a healthy glow.

Note: For maximum benefits to your skin, do not shower immediately after meditation. Some studies have suggested that chemicals produced during meditation can be beneficial to the skin. Showering would not only wash off those beneficial chemicals, but also produce a shock to the nervous system, increasing the stress response which is the opposite of the intended goal. If you must shower post-meditation, try to wait at least half an hour to an hour. Ideally, avoid any kind of water exposure or submersion post-meditation.

There are many, many different ways to meditate.  Personally I suggest starting off slow – trying to sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes each day if possible.  I’ve found that guided meditations work best for me; I’ve even found some excellent free phone apps such as Take a Break and Omvana that make meditating anywhere easier.

Sources and Further Reading:

Image from http://www.organizationalwellness.com

 

Ayurveda Skincare June 6, 2013

I thought I would use this post as a way to introduce the theory and practice of Ayurvedic skincare to my readers.  Keep in mind that this post is just an introduction since subject and practice of Ayurvedic skincare is complicated and involved.  I hope that this post can give everyone a “taste” of what it means to practice Ayurvedic skincare.

What is Ayurveda?

The Chopra Center website provides an excellent explanation about Ayurveda:

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Although suppressed during years of foreign occupation, Ayurveda has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and throughout the world. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years.

More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life,Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.

Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth), these primary forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented and we have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.

For each element, there is a balanced and imbalance expression. When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When Pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammatory condition. When Kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when Kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, weight gain, and sinus congestion.

An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance, and offer interventions using diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments, music, and meditation to reestablish balance.

Ayurveda and Skincare

Just as all people (and the state of their health) can be divided into the three dosha types – vata, pitta, and kappa – so can our skin.  Once you determine your Ayurvedic skin type then you can start to treat your skin accordingly.  So for example:

Vata Skin Type
If vata is predominant the skin of a person is dry, rough, cold, wrinkled and thin with fine pores. Vata skin may age faster, and tends to be dry, rough and flaky when out of balance.
Vata Skin Care and treatment
Vata skin is typically dry and delicate, and tends to lose tone and plumpness prematurely unless nourished on a regular basis. For Vata skin to stay youthful, skin care products used should be very nurturing and should include some essential oils or herbs in combination, which can nourish the skin and rehydrate it. Some treatment approaches to vata skin care includes having sufficient sleep, eating regular meals that will help balance Vata and nourish the skin and avoiding physical and emotional stress.

Pitta Skin Type
If pitta is predominant, the skin is fair, sensitive, soft, warm, and of medium thickness, less tolerant to hot food and burns easily. When out of balance, Pitta skin can flare up in rashes, rosacea, acne, or sunspots.
Pitta Skin Care and treatment
Pitta skin is generally sensitive, especially to the sun, and needs protection to stay in balance.The Pitta skin type needs both cooling and nurturing. Tanning treatments and therapies that expose skin to steam for extended periods of time should be avoided.

Kapha Skin Type
If the constitution is of kapha dosha the skin of a person is oily, cold, heavy, soft, slow, dense, dull, lubricating and thick with a tendency towards large pores and proneness to cystic acne.
Kapha Skin Care and treatment
Toxins are the bane of people with Kapha skin. This is because of its oily nature which attracts impurities. The skin should be cleansed from the inside and the outside, or else the skin breaks out because of toxin build-up. Kapha skin needs to get both internal detoxification and external detoxification on a regular basis.

(From Skin – Skin Care and Skin Treatments, Ayurvedic Skin Care)

Furthermore, remember that Ayurveda comes to treat the body as a whole not just your skin issues.  So keep in mind that treating your skin according to Ayurvedic principles isn’t just about what you put on your skin, it is also about what you eat and other lifestyle choices.:

Ayurveda’s holistic approach to health aims at treating the entire individual, not just a symptom or specific ailment.

The Ayurvedic approach to health encompasses all aspects of a person’s way of living. From nutrition to mindset and from exercise to sleeping patterns, the Ayurvedic approach takes into account not just the person individually, but also the environment that he lives in.

When it comes to skin care, the quality and youthfulness of a person’s skin is viewed as a reflection of one’s health. A person who has acne will therefore not just be treated to get rid of the blemish itself, but rather the blemishes will be looked at as a symptom of a deeper underlying condition. A treatment plan will then be suggested that correlates the person’s constitution, or his dosha.

Digestion, elimination, nutrition and metabolism all affect the quality of skin, according to Ayurveda. If any of these processes are out of balance, it will show up through the quality of the skin. An Ayurvedic approach to skin care will therefore intend to restore balance to any or all of the systems that are interrupting the body’s natural desire to healthy skin.

The quality of the skin is determined by a person’s dosha, or constitution. The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha. While each person has all three within herself, usually one or two are more dominant, which creates certain imbalances. Therefore in order to restore health to the skin, the doshas must first be balanced.

The overall concept when it comes to Ayurveda and skin care is to choose a skin care regimen that matches the kind of skin a person has.

According to Ayurveda, if a person has oily skin, it is largely due to an imbalance in the kapha dosha. A treatment of oil-free cleansers and cooling tonics like cucumbers and lemons might be recommended. In addition, heavy and rich foods, and make-up that clogs pores should be avoided and instead should be replaced by light foods and light make-up. Exercise to release toxins through the pores and to get rid of excess oil is also recommended.

If a person has dry skin, a strongly vata condition, the treatment plan looks quite different. Oil-based cleansers and moisturizers are instead encouraged and a diet with a modest amount of healthy fats like olive oil, sesame oil and ghee are also recommended.

When it comes to Ayurvedic skin care, natural is best. Ayurvedic skin care products as well as Ayurvedic skin care practices rely only on natural ingredients, chemical-free processing methods and holistic regimens.

Some of most commonly-used Ayurvedic skin care ingredients are sandalwood, sesame seed oil, macadamia nut oil, lime oil, lemon oil, clary sage, sunflower seed oil, Gotu Kola, other essential oils, herbs and botanicals.

(From Live Strong – Ayurveda Skin Care)

I know this post just provided the briefest of introductions to Ayurvedic skincare.  Below I’ve listed more sources for learning about Ayurveda.  If you’ve ever treated your skin according to Ayurvedic principles please share your experiences below.

Further Reading:

Ayurvedic Skincare Lines:

There are numerous Ayurvedic skincare lines available.  I haven’t tried any, but a simple Google search produced an impressive number of sources:

Quizes to Determine Your Dosha:

Image from http://www.mindbodygreen.com

 

Beauty in South Korea October 1, 2012

Sometimes I think that this post should really be called “the post that keeps on giving”.  After having the initial idea to write this post I started researching the idea and found numerous references and blogs to help me with the post.  But then even when I wasn’t researching this post I would keep seeing information online that related to the post like Allure‘s blog post The Top Skin-Care Consumers Are … Korean Men? or New Beauty‘s Korean Exfoliation That Can Be Had At Home post.  Beauty is big business in Korea, and it is time that the rest of world really paid attention.

I became interested in the beauty industry in South Korea when I read the following in Marie Claire magazine:

“Ninety percent of the skincare products I use are imported from South Korea. They’re about 12 years ahead of the States in terms of technology,” says Mary Schook, the beauty guru and New York-based owner of M.S. Apothecary. In the skincare world, South Korea has become the new France. It’s outpacing other countries in beauty innovation faster than you can say “glycolic peel” (which in Asia is totally démodé, by the way).

“Koreans aren’t about stripping the skin until it looks like something you want to ice skate on. They’re into nurturing it,” says Schook, who also introduced eyelash extensions (yup, a South Korean invention) to New York almost a decade ago. She’s like our Christopher Columbus to Korea’s New World.

For the past decade, South Korea has been a buzzed-about secret among beauty diehards. “It’s so funny that Americans are only now getting wind of it,” says Sang A Im-Propp, a Seoul-born, Manhattan-based handbag designer who has modeled in ad campaigns for AmorePacific, a popular Korean cosmetics brand. (She swears by the Time Response Skin Renewal Crème.) But the secret’s out.

Korea’s skincare boom goes back to its famous beauty regimens, which, for the average Korean woman, includes roughly 18 products per day. Dr. Seung Yoon Celine Lee, a dermatologist based in Seoul, attributes the obsession with flawless skin to royal aspirations. “Bright skin meant that you came from a noble family. The concept carries on,” she explains.

“The demand for whitening helped create new technology treatments, such as lasers and photo facials,” adds Dr. Susanne Bennett, a Korean-American holistic doctor who lives in California and specializes in antiaging skincare. (Lee points out that laser treatments in Korea are so omnipresent, they now cost 80 percent less than they do in the U.S.)

(Read more: Korean Skincare and Beauty Products – South Korean Perfect Skin Beauty Secrets – Marie Claire)

This little article really got me interested in the beauty industry in South Korea so I kept searching for more information.  I learned the following from the website Cosmetic Business in the article South Korea – Riding the Korea Wave:

In common with other Asian nations, demand for perfumes and make-up is low. Skin care is the dominant category, particularly with regard to moisturising and whitening products. However, South Korea’s skin care market has its own idiosyncrasies. The current trends are for BB creams (sparked by the surgery creams pioneered in Germany, which are currently hugely popular amongst Koreans as foundation) and organic and/or herbal ingredients.

There is considerable brand variety in South Korea. For example, Amorepacific offers ten lines, while L’Oréal offers 14 of its 33 global brands. South Korea’s most popular brand is Amorepacific’s Sulhwasoo. Launched in 1997, it is a premium skin care brand whose ingredients include ginseng, a herb that Amorepacific pioneered as a cosmetics ingredient 35 years ago. Sulhwasoo includes skin care foundation but no other make-up.

“Asians believe that clean, clear skin reflects beauty, rather than colourful make-up. Maybe the high penetration rate of high definition TV helps,” says Lee [Seon-joo of Amorepacific’s investor relations department]. “We use natural, organic and herbal medical ingredients, such as ginseng, green tea and bamboo extract for our skin care products. We always try to find something that differentiates.”

Other sub-categories are catching on. “UV protection is very strong, anti-ageing is very strong,” says the foreign company executive. “In the past, Korean men did not have a skin care routine. They rarely even used aftershave. Now they use skin care – toners, lotions, essence and even eye cream. Men’s products are soaring.”

Amorepacific, which offers men’s lines for most of its brands, including Sulhwasoo, Hera and Laneige, launched a hair loss shampoo last year and is working on a range of specialised functions. “We are trying to upgrade our brand with more functional products,” Lee adds. “This trend is hot in the market right now and will get bigger in coming years. The functional shampoo category is growing strongly.”

Something else that fascinates me about the beauty industry in South Korea is how skincare has been embraced by men there.  According to a report by CBS NewsMakeup Grows In Popularity Among Men in South Korea –  South Korea has become the male make-up capital of the world.  (For some counter perspective on this fact check out this article in The New York Times about how American men are embracing the use of eye creams, yet hide their use of these creams.  It should also be noted that American men are starting to use cosmetics to enhance their appearance but the trend is nowhere near what is happening in South Korea)  According to the CBS report:

South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skincare last year, accounting for nearly 21 percent of global sales, according to global market research firm Euromonitor International. That makes it the largest market for men’s skincare in the world, even though there are only about 19 million men in South Korea. Amorepacific, South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company, estimates the total sales of men’s cosmetics in South Korea this year will be more than $885 million.

The metamorphosis of South Korean men from macho to makeup over the last decade or so can be partly explained by fierce competition for jobs, advancement and romance in a society where, as a popular catchphrase puts it, “appearance is power.” Women also have a growing expectation that men will take the time and effort to pamper their skin.

Evidence of this new direction in South Korean masculinity is easy to find. In a crowded Seoul cafe, a young woman takes some lipstick out of her purse and casually applies it to her male companion’s lips as they talk. At an upscale apartment building, a male security guard watches the lobby from behind a layer of makeup. Korean Air holds once-a-year makeup classes for male flight attendants.

While U.S. cosmetics companies report growing sales in male cosmetics, American men are often wary of makeup. “Men Wearing Makeup a Disturbing Trend” was how American columnist Jim Shea titled a recent post.

In South Korea, however, effeminate male beauty is “a marker of social success,” according to Roald Maliangkay, head of Korean studies at Australian National University.

Amorepacific Corp. offers 17 men’s brands, with dozens of products to choose from, and operates two Manstudio stores in Seoul that are devoted to men’s skincare and makeup.

South Korean men are barraged daily with messages in popular media suggesting that flawless skin is a crucial part of any plan to get ahead at work and romance.

“In this society, people’s first impressions are very important. A man’s skin is a big part of that impression, so I take care of my skin,” said Kim Deuk-ryong, a 20-year-old student.

It wasn’t always this way. The ideal South Korean man used to be rough and tough.

Things began to change in the late 1990s, when the South Korean government relaxed a ban on Japanese cultural goods, exposing South Koreans to different ideas on male beauty, including popular comics featuring pretty, effeminate men.

James Turnbull, a writer and lecturer on Korean feminism, sexuality and popular culture, said the economic crisis that hit South Korea in 1997 and 1998 also played a role in shifting thinking. Struggling companies often fired their female employees first, angering women who had already seen their push for equal rights take a backseat to protest movements against Japanese colonizers and the autocratic governments that followed.

“The times were ripe for a sea-change in the popular images of men in the media,” Turnbull said. Women, as a result, began questioning the kinds of men society told them they should find attractive.

In 2002, large numbers were attracted to a hero of South Korea’s World Cup soccer team, Ahn Jung-hwan, who became a leading member of the so-called “flower men” – a group of exceptionally good-looking, smooth-skinned, fashionable sports stars and celebrities who found great success selling male cosmetics. Men everywhere began striving to look like them, with the encouragement of the women around them, and a trend was born.

A decade later, ads featuring handsome, heavily made-up male celebrities are an unavoidable part of the urban scenery.

Personally, as I already stated, I find the beauty industry in South Korea fascinating.  As a matter of fact I thought it would be great fun one day to take a “beauty vacation” to South Korea to explore products and procedures up close.  Anyone want to join me?

Further Reading:

As I explained at the beginning of this post I found lots of information about the beauty industry in South Korea while researching this post online.  Here are some of the more interesting things I found:

       Skincare Tips:

       Shopping for Beauty and Skincare Products in South Korea

        Korean Skincare and Beauty Brands to Check Out

        Learn about Korean Spa Culture

        Related Articles

Image from ourvanity.com

 

 
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