How to have good skin and hair part three: science! SCIENCE!!! *evil laugh*

Let’s talk ingredients. Everyone put on your labcoats and goggles. We’re going to try science!

First, some basics. Let’s go over some terms you may see on packaging and what they do (or don’t) mean:

Natural- I know. People like natural products. They sound safe and earthy, right? Don’t be fooled. Many things are natural that aren’t safe, and many things that are safe that aren’t natural.  Natural could be something nice like aloe, something nasty like arsenic, or something that isn’t really different from the conventional version.

Organic- this means the ingredients were produced without synthetic growth enhancement. In skin care, this is often a synonym for natural. I know someone is going to argue that I’m wrong, but I don’t think organic skin care is worth spending extra money.

Chemical- people are afraid of chemicals. It’s pretty stupid really. Everything is made of chemicals. Knowing what chemicals are and do is important. For example, you’d be in real trouble if instead of h2o you drank a chilled glass of h2so4!

Okay? Good. Let’s talk about some ingredients with good science behind them! I’ve oversimplified some of the descriptions for brevity.

Retinoids- this is just about the best stuff out there! You can get prescription creams like retin-a, or over the counter versions.
Alias: retinoic acid, retinol, tretinoin, retinyl palmitate, vitamin A

Peptides- peptides are componds that tell cells to behave certain ways. Different peptides do different things. Some increase collagen, some relax muscles, some make hair and eyelashes grow! You can find plenty of information online about which peptides do what.

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids- these vary in strength from removing entire layers of skin (performed by a derm) to gentle enough to use twice a day.
Alias: glycolic acid, salicylic acid, acetic acid, ascorbic acid, trichloroacetic acid

Hydroquinone- this substance bleaches melanin from the skin. Despite rumors to the contrary,  it is safe and effective.  Many “replacements” such as alpha arbutin are converted to hydroquinone in the skin, so you may as well go with the real thing.

Antioxidants- oxidation is what causes rust in metal. In skin it does similar damage, but it isn’t as obvious. Antioxidants help stop, or even reverse, this damage. There are lots of good ones, but I’m partial to white or green tea, and vitamin c.

Look for those things when shopping for skin care.

For hair, it’s important to remember that hair is dead. Your scalp needs care and nutrients, but most nutrients can’t be absorbed by the hair. Biotin, keratin, and oils are good for the hair. Other than that, look for lower sulfate products because they’re gentler.

That give you a good start. Next week I’ll share some advice I have trouble following!


How to have good skin and hair: part two (in which I end up sounding like your mother…)

Hello again!
Last time I talked about the most important things NOT to do. Today I’m going to talk about some really basic things you NEED to do if you want to have good skin and hair.
It’s really important to remember that good skin and hair require good health. Yes, you can fake it pretty well with makeup and procedures.  So what. Isn’t it better to be able to skip makeup entirely and still look lovely?
Okay then!

1. Get enough sleep.
The term “beauty sleep” exists for a reson.  During sleep the body repairs itself and renews the skin. If you skimp on sleep, not only will you look tired, but your skin won’t recover from the environmental damage it got during the day. 8 hours is about right for most people. No less than 6 though, and more than 10 is not so good either.
Bonus: if you can sleep on your back you will wrinkle less. If you can’t (like me. I keep trying though) use a satin pillowcase and try to put less pressure on your face if possible. Satin pillowcases also prevent tangled hair, so they’re a hood choice for anyone.

2. Get some exercise regularly.
You don’t have to spend hours at the gym, but you really should get off the couch and do something almost every day. Not only does it make you healthier, but it improves blood flow to the skin. Better blood flow gives you a glowing complexion and helps your hair grow faster! About 30 mins per day is good. Anything will do. A brisk walk is nice. I like strength training and HIIT but I’m a glutton for punishment.  If you’d rather play tag or go dancing, go for it!

3. Eat your vegetables.  (And fruits, and protein and good fats)
Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.  So are fruits. The more colorful your diet, the better! However, don’t forget that you need protein for healthy hair, skin, and nails. You also need good fats (omega fatty acids) to avoid dry skin and reduce inflammation.  I like sardines and salmon because they have protein and good fats, but if you don’t eat fish there are plenty of other options.
Bonus: make a skin smoothie.  Put 1 cup skim milk in a blender with 1/2 cup each frozen strawberries and blueberries and a peeled banana. Add about a teaspoon cocoa powder and blend until smooth. Yum!

4. Keep your skin and scalp clean. (Gently)
Don’t sleep with makeup on. Ever. I wash my face twice a day, but a lot of people just wash at night. I like to get the night products off before I put on my day stuff because I think the spf is more effective on clean skin. Some people might go for three times if oil is a problem or the gym is a priority. If your skin is dry and tight after you wash your face, use a gentler cleanser and wash less often. I also LOVE my Clarisonic brush. It’s a bit spendy, but it leaves my skin really clean.
Some people say you shouldn’t wash your hair every day. I really think it depends on the person. I have eczema, and if I don’t shampoo daily my scalp gets super itchy and I end up scratching/picking at it until it bleeds. It won’t hurt you either way, as long as you use a low/no sulfate shampoo and a good conditioner.

5. Drink plenty of water.
Hydration makes a big difference in how you look and feel. Most people don’t drink nearly enough water. Carry a bottle (preferably a metal one that you fill yourself) with you everywhere. Green tea and white tea (brew them yourself and don’t add sweetners or dairy!) are awesome since they have minimal caffeine and tons of antioxidants. I love the using loose teas, but there’s nothing wrong with the humble teabag. (Bag tea isn’t as tasty though.) Decaf green is actually great too, but try to find the oxygen decaffeinated kind, rather than by water or chemicals. I love Bromley decaf green when I get teabags, because it’s decaffeinated the right way and the customer service people were super nice and very responsive when I emailed to ask! Coffee and soda, are not so good. Juice isn’t great either, since it’s mainly sugar. Vegetable juice is better than fruit juice, but not as good as whole veggies. Just get a bottle you love and keep it full of water. It’ll be your best friend before long!
Bonus: filtered water is better tasting, so get a filter pitcher and keep it full. I track my water by keeping 4 20oz bottles in my fridge filled with water and trying to finish them by the end of the day.
Bonus 2: learn to make green tea properly. Most people use water that is way too hot and then wonder why the tea ends up bitter. Different teas require different temperatures and steeping times, so learn about the tea before you brew it. There are also lots of different kinds of green and white teas, so try as many as you can! I like sencha, which tastes kind of asparagus-like and vegetal. I also love silver needles, which is a white tea where the leaves are rolled into long, thin needle shapes. It tastes almost sweet, and is a subtle flavor.

Reapply every couple hours if possible.  I admit, I cheat on reapplication if I’m not going to be outside, but I am always wearing SPF 70 mineral block, over a moisturizer with sunscreen. Powder sunscreen is a nice way to reapply since it doesn’t leave you greasy or smear makeup.
Bonus: mineral block also blocks infrared light, which may increase photoaging. There isn’t a ton of evidence since UV is the supervillan in sunlight, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution. 

Well, that’s the basics. Again, probably stuff you already knew. And probably not the answers you were hoping for. In the next post in this series I will get into what ingredients to look for in skin care/hair care products and why they work.

In the mean time, let me know in the comments if you found this helpful/interesting,  and if you have any tips to add!

Workout update!

I’m halfway through week 3 of the beginner workouts and they’re getting pretty hard. (That’s a good thing!)
Yesterday I showed the program to my nutritionist. I expected to hear that it wouldn’t work, or that it was badly designed, but she thought it was awesome! Now that I have that approval, I am going to try to find the link and post it in case anyone wants to check it out. In the mean time, I’ll get started on taking pictures this week, and get something posted by next week. I haven’t lost any weight yet, but I haven’t been following the diet very well, and my body fat seems to be a little lower, so I feel pretty good about it so far. And my posture has really improved from the shoulder exercises!