natural hair care blog post

Natural Hair Care

For the vast majority, it’s our crowning glory. The natural hair care product market was valued at almost $9 Billion in 2019 and is expected to continue it’s upward momentum. Savvy consumers and new technologies are fueling the growth, as well as issues such as ingredient sensitivities and heightened awareness of the environmental impacts of their product choices.

Hair anatomy

A strand of hair consists of three layers – the innermost medulla, the cortex and the cuticle. The cortex, or middle layer, is where pigment resides, and it contributes to the flexibility of the hair shaft. We’ll be focusing on the outermost layer, or cuticle, for the purposes of our discussion. This is the layer that takes the most abuse.

Our hair consists primarily of keratin protein which is made up of 18 amino acids. It also contains lipids (like sebum) which provides hair with lubrication. The hair shaft itself is not “alive”, which is why it’s so difficult for us to reverse any damage done to the hair.

The cuticle consists of a layer of overlapping cells, which forms a protective layer over the cortex. Frequent use of chemicals is the primary cause of damage to the hair shaft. Things like bleaching, dying perming, heat styling, exposure to pool chlorine and other ingredients can damage the cuticle, leaving it torn, and leaving hair dry and brittle. It’s important to tailor your haircare routine to your hair type. Check out this informative Healthline article on hair types.

Products to avoid

Healthy hair, no matter how curly or how straight, has a closed cuticle – that is, the overlapping cells lie flat. There are many products and ingredients that can damage the cuticle;

  • hair dyes (even “natural” ones like henna can dry out hair)
  • chemical relaxers (anything that breaks chemical bonds is not good)
  • chemical perms (same as above)
  • high-heat styling tools (standard blow dryers and straightening irons)
  • direct sunlight
  • pool chlorine
  • salt water

Products that penetrate the cuticle like hair dyes and perms can cause the cuticle to raise up, making hair rough and prone to breakage. Heat styling can remove moisture from the hair, making it dry and brittle. There are also many hair care products on the market that contain ingredients that do not benefit hair; ingredients like

  • sulfates (e.g. sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate) which strip oils from hair
  • silicones (which can build up and leave hair drier)
  • alcohols
  • mineral oil
  • perfumes (containing hundreds of ingredients like parabens and formaldehyde)

It’s important to read product labels and to know what you’re putting on your hair and scalp, especially if you are allergic to many ingredients. The bottom line is that, much like your skin, you want to use products that provide benefits to your hair without side effects.

Oils and natural hair care

We’re great believers in the benefits of using plant-based oils to nurture hair. Oils penetrate the cuticle to add vital lipids and help slow down moisture evaporation. A few oils that have been shown to nurture dry, brittle hair include Olive, Avocado, Argan and Jojoba oils. Hot oil treatments have been used for quite some time to nourish dry, chemically treated hair. They work well as a treatment mask under a cap or mixed with your regular conditioner. (Before using a new carrier oil, it’s good to test it on the skin to be sure that you won’t get an allergic reaction. This is especially true about nut oils like coconut, almond and kukui nut.)

Dry oils came on the market as a multi-purpose solution for skin and hair. They are absorbed quickly with minimal residue. Some common oils used in dry oils include sunflower, safflower, jojoba, rosehip, olive and others. They can be applied without the need to rinse them out and they add antioxidants like Vitamin C and E, as well as leaving hair with a subtle sheen. They’re great when you are looking for a lightweight oil for regular use. An example is our All Purpose Organic Dry Oil. It’s great on hair, but many customers use it as a post-shower body oil or cuticle oil.

Other natural hair care tips

If you’ve been going “natural” and have avoided things like hair dyes, perms and blow drying, then you may not need to do much. But if you’re like many of us, you’ve spent lots of time and money covering grays, blow-drying and straightening your hair, with resultant damage. If the damage is severe, it may be necessary to cut off the damaged hair and start with virgin hair. For example, does your hair look “fried” with lots of breakage and split ends? Does it feel “mushy” when wet? If so, it may be best to get a good cut.

For the rest of you, seek out hair care products with naturally-derived ingredients that have a proven track record. You can begin your journey with this natural haircare product article by TheGoodTrade.com. Applications containing keratin can help. You can also try these natural hair care tips to keep your hair as healthy as possible:

  • When outdoors, wear a wide brimmed hat – sunlight can literally bleach the hair. This will dry it out.
  • When coming out of the pool or ocean, rinse hair out right away. Or before going in, apply olive oil to the hair to help keep chemicals from being absorbed.
  • Avoid using too many products at a time. If hair becomes dull, use apple cider vinegar or beer before shampooing with a sulfate-free shampoo.
  • Use a satin cap or pillow case in the bedroom. It will reduce surface friction while you sleep, keeping the cuticle intact and preventing static cling.
  • Avoid elastic hair ties or metal clips in the hair. They put stress on the cuticle and, if used often, can pull hair at the root, resulting in traction alopecia. The same goes for teasing and wet-combing.
  • Drink plenty of water. Our bodies need it, and our hair benefits from it, too.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes adequate protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If supplements are needed, try Vitamin E tablets. (We like plant-derived ones.) Extreme diets, sudden weight loss and certain diseases can cause hair to fall out. If this happens often, see your doctor.
  • Exercise regularly. This does more than put the rose in your cheeks. Increased circulation benefits the scalp, which makes your hair look better.
  • Control stress and anxiety. Constantly touching or obsessing over your hair can become a habit, and can be controlled with professional help. If you tend to over-wash the hair, this can dry it out.

https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/natural-hair-care-products-market

Staying healthy at work and at play

Staying Healthy At Work And At Play

We are experiencing some unprecedented threats today to our health and safety. Staying healthy at work and at play has become quite the challenge. Many of us may be experiencing anxiety over the best course of action to take while waiting for the world to come back to normal. CoVid19 is not our only concern, of course. Everything from stress to chronic illness, climate change to food uncertainty complicates the picture for many.

Good Health Is More Important Than Ever

If you are currently in good health, you’re ahead of the game. Healthy bodies are better able to fight infection and recover more quickly when illness strikes. Studies have shown that chronic inflammation can contribute to many chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. A healthy lifestyle can help to mitigate the effects of environmental pollutants, chronic diseases and even cancer.

Despite the challenges involved, there are a number of things that you can begin doing right now to maintain health and to stay well no matter where you are. A few of these are listed below:

Healing is a matter of time, but it is also sometimes a matter of opportunity.

Hippocrates

Staying Health At Work

  • Practice Preventative Medicine – Regular checkups are the mainstay of a health and wellness regimen. Tests that measure blood levels of vitamins, minerals, blood sugar, triglycerides and more can tell you a lot about your current health status. Moreover, if you alert your physician about any symptoms that you are having early on, your physician can help prevent more serious problems. Most employee health insurance plans include regular checkups.
  • Get A Good Night’s Sleep – Not only will you perform at your peak, but a lack of sleep has been correlated with conditions like diabetes and chronic inflammation. It also affects your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection and making recovery more difficult. If you suffer from insomnia, avoid alcohol and caffeine, especially late in the day. Keeping computer monitors and TVs out of the bedroom prevents blue light from reducing levels of sleep-inducing melatonin. Melatonin also decreases as we age. Maintaining a regular sleep routine involving consistent sleep times and wake times helps to maintain your body’s biological clock.
  • Avoid Empty Calories – Some individuals like to eat out while others like to bring a bag lunch. Whichever you choose, it’s important to avoid temptation when it comes to those unhealthy snacks. A healthy diet can be completely derailed by that box of cheese danishes in the break room. If possible, stock the refrigerator with healthy snacks like nuts and seeds, carrot sticks, yogurt and whole grain crackers. Ask if the vending machines can be stocked with low-calorie seltzers instead of soda and fruit juice. Green tea with lemon is a healthy alternative to those high-calorie Coolatas.
  • Prevent Infection Before It Starts – If you’re feeling ill (cough, fever, body aches), stay home. Keep alcohol wipes on hand to wipe down high-touch surfaces regularly. Check the humidity level in the office; it should hover around 50%. Low humidity dries out mucus membranes, increasing the likelihood of developing upper respiratory infections. Use a room humidifier if necessary, and be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. And avoid touching your face.
  • Get Up And Move At Least Once Every Hour – Prolonged sitting has been implicated in a number of issues from back problems to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. If possible, set a timer and get up and walk around on a regular basis. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stand while you talk on the phone or use the computer. Every opportunity taken to move extends your life.

Staying Healthy At Play

  • Consistency Is Key – Whether trying a new exercise routine, diet or a new sport, it’s important to stay at it long enough to reap the benefits. Find a work out buddy. Pick the same time each day or week to practice. Pace yourself. Reward yourself for a job well done. Remember that achieving something new can be its own reward.
  • Be Aware Of Your Environment – Be aware of potential hazards for a particular area so that you can be prepared for them. Wear boots in areas that harbor ticks or snakes. Carry water and sunscreen if sunlight and heat are prevalent. In cold climates, avoid staying outdoors too long and wear adequate protection. Carry a first aid kit with you when visiting a new area or maneuvering across new terrain. And if you must travel alone, make sure that someone knows where you are going and when you’re expecting to return.
  • Carry Snacks That Travel Well – Use stainless steel or glass water bottles in warm weather; plastic bottles can leach chemicals. High-calorie snacks like nuts, dried fruit, jerky and granola don’t require refrigeration.

Whether at work or at play, staying healthy can be as simple as being prepared for the inevitable. By being mindful of your body’s needs, you can take important steps to remain at your best for as long as possible.

Summer Sun, Vitamin D and Sunscreen little girl with sunscreen

Summer Sun, Vitamin D and Sunscreen

Much has been said about summer sun, Vitamin D absorption, and sunscreen use

Vitamin D performs many important functions in the body, from helping keep our bones strong to enhancing immune function and reducing inflammation. For many of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere or who spend much of our time indoors, we may suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is believed to be responsible for everything from depression to asthma to osteoporosis. Luckily, our doctor can order a simple blood test to check our Vitamin D levels.

If we’re found to be deficient in Vitamin D, we can increase our exposure to the sun by about 20 minutes/day. We can also take a Vitamin D3 supplement. Of course, it’s best to get one’s Vitamin D from whole foods. Some foods rich in Vitamin D include Shitake mushrooms, oily fish, eggs and fortified milks and grains.

But shouldn’t we wear a sunscreen when we’re out in the sun? We’ve been told to always use a sunscreen if we’re spending significant time outdoors. Using sunscreen can help lower the risk of skin cancer, and that’s a good thing. A recent study has also demonstrated that, depending upon the application, the body can still enough sun to produce Vitamin D, which is also a good thing.

This is particularly significant when we consider that children who get sunburned are at higher risk for developing skin cancer later in life. The type of sunscreen one uses is also important. There are two types of sunscreen – chemical and physical. An example of a chemical sunscreen is one that contains Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, or Helioplex. An example of a physical sunscreen is one containing Zinc and/or Titanium Oxide.

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens have been known to cause allergic reactions and other adverse affects in and on the skin. They can be less stable than physical sunscreens, as well. Zinc oxide is a safe and effective physical sunscreen that works by blocking the sun’s rays from reacting with skin. It sits on the skin and is not absorbed, unlike chemical sunscreen ingredients, which are. Talk to a Dermatologist about the best sunscreen and SPF level for your skin type based on your health history and personal preferences.

So do use a sunscreen if you are going to be exposed to the sun. You can also wear hats and protective clothing if your skin is sensitive to a sunscreen’s ingredients. Finally, eating a well-rounded diet and taking a Vitamin D3 supplement will help you to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D, regardless of your sunning habits.

References:
ACJN information about Vitamin D
Women’s Health article on sunscreen and Vitamin D production
Skinacea.com’s comparison chart on physical vs chemical sunscreen

healthy foods service

Diet and Your Skin

Our diet has a huge impact on our skin.

We’ve often heard that “you are what you eat.” When it comes to your skin, the same is true. While many “fad” diets were developed to help people lose weight, little consideration is given to the impact that they have on the skin. The best diet consists of health-promoting foods that keep our skin healthy, too.

Our bodies function optimally at a very narrow pH – 7.3-7.5, which is slightly alkaline. Our diets can often create an acidic environment which can contribute to disease states in the body. The same can be said for our skin. Normal skin has an “acid mantle” somewhere near a pH of 5. Our skin produces sebum which creates a barrier. This prevents drying and protects the skin from harmful bacteria, while supporting beneficial bacteria. When this natural barrier is stripped away by harsh products, it creates an imbalance that can contribute to skin problems.

Our diets may also contribute to skin imbalance by creating an imbalance in the body. Our modern diets are often low in fiber and fresh vegetables, which can make our bodies work harder to digest food and can lead to kidney and gallstones. We often don’t drink enough water, which is needed for proper muscle, kidney and skin function. It also allows the body to flush out toxins and prevent dehydration. Fresh fruits and vegetables also have a high water content. The following foods can contribute to a healthy body and glowing skin:

1) Foods high in antioxidants like berries, spices, dark leafy greens, and green tea, help reduce free-radical damage on the skin as well as in the body.
2) Foods rich in Vitamins C (orange, pineapple, papaya) help to maintain skin integrity and promote healing.
3) Foods high in beta-carotene (squash, sweet potato, kale) can help protect against sun damage.
4) Foods irhc in Vitamine E (nuts, wheat germ, leafy greens, cold-pressed oils, fish oil) can help protect the body’s lipid-bearing membranes (including skin).
5) Drinking adequate fluids (purified water or herb tea) help prevent dehydration, which can cause skin drying and helps maintain the body’s normal functioning.
6) Foods high in fiber (wheat germ, beans, dark leafy greens) can help the body remove toxins from the body, while supporting beneficial gut bacteria.

By taking the time to find the right diet and skincare regimen, we can go a long way towards maintaining optimal health, inside and out.

References:
http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/information/anatomy/sebum.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18489300
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6243/How-to-Balance-Your-pH-to-Heal-Your-Body.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_antioxidants_in_food