1

Micro-needling: Would You Try It?

 

Over here in our fairly natural neck of the woods, we don’t often talk about the various cosmetic procedures on the market and in the offices of dermatologists everywhere. I thought it would be fun to discuss something different and perhaps controversial — micro-needling.

Ever intrigued by skincare trends, my eye was drawn to this treatment that has been getting play around the Internet for some time. Known commonly as micro-needling, the concept is actually called collagen induction therapy, and it involves puncturing hundreds of tiny holes into the face with small sterile needles. Make you wince? Me too. This causes superficial, microscopic injury to the skin, which stimulates the production of new collagen. Micro-needling is used to treat scars and wrinkles, and it can be performed by a dermatologist or at home.

The tool used for at-home micro-needling looks like a small lint roller with itty-bitty needles, typically .25 millimeter in length. A dermatologist will likely perform this treatment with larger needles, using an electronic micro-needling pen rather than a roller, but at-home treatments should steer clear of those — apparently you can really do damage. The micro-needling tool is rolled in crisscross patterns around the face and neck. When longer needles are involved, bleeding can occur. When shorter needles are used, the process should be relatively pain-free and not induce bleeding.

There are definite risks involved. For example, proponents claim that micro-needling opens micro channels in the skin and allows for deeper penetration of topical treatments, but the flip side to that is the risk of infection or irritation. You are causing microscopic trauma to your skin, after all. If not performed correctly, you can damage the skin and cause scarring where there was none. Bummer. As with anything, safety first!

People who are fans of micro-needling report that you get the benefits of more expensive procedures, like laser treatments and microdermabrasion, without the high cost and with minimal pain and recovery time. My take? I’m pretty fascinated by the idea but too chicken to try it at home for fear of messing up my skin. I don’t have troublesome scarring and I’m happy treating my fine lines with botanical oils and serums. Plus, even though it’s considered less expensive than other procedures that dermatologists offer, I would way rather spend the money on a back massage or a lavish dinner. Oh yeeaaah.

What do you think? Would you try micro-needling? Have you already experimented with this treatment? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Drinking enough water everyday should come naturally to us, but it doesn’t always — at least not for me. Some of you are little fishes. You guzzle from fashionable water bottles all day err’day, and you mean it. Yes, I have an adorable BKR water bottle, too, but I fall squarely into the camp that struggles to stay on top of my water intake. My average to-do list includes drink more water because it’s as forgettable to me as go to the post office. While I’m big on herbal tea, I will drink as little as one glass of pure water per day if I’m not making a conscious effort. I’ve gone so far as to set my iPhone alarm for hourly reminders to sip away.

For maybe the 100th time in my adult life, I recently made a commitment to drink at least 64 ounces of pure water a day. That might sound touch ridic since it’s so basic, but hey, committing to basic health habits ain’t always easy. Drinking enough water each day has been a difficult goal to meet, but the benefits are so noticeable — especially skin and energy improvements — that I am motivated to keep at it.

It’s easier to become dehydrated than you think. You are often already dehydrated once you become thirsty. Worried you’re not getting enough? Here’s a short list of some of the subtle and not so subtle ways your body can revolt if you are not drinking enough water each day.

1. You feel fatigued and moody.

Do you get enough sleep and still wonder why you’re tired during the day? Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. Headache may accompany your exhaustion, as well as a moody and cranky disposition. Yep, the total package. H20 boosts energy levels and enhances clear thinking and productivity. Water carries vital nutrients to every cell in your body. When water intake is low, we become depleted and our performance suffers as a result. Water is energizing!

2. You feel hungry when you probably shouldn’t.

If you eat a normal, healthy diet but often feel hungry despite your good eating habits, you may actually just be thirsty. Water is filling. When you drink enough water throughout the day, your appetite will be properly regulated. Drinking enough water will also help prevent fluid retention. Your body won’t fight to retain fluid if it’s properly hydrated.

3. Your back or joints ache.

Your joints need moisture to stay lubricated and move pain-free. Water is the main lubricant in the joints, and it cushions the discs in your spine. Without proper hydration, acid waste, such as uric acid, can accumulate in the joints and cause inflammation and pain. Keep cartilage supple and flexible by drinking plenty of water.

4. Your skin looks dull and fine lines are pronounced.

As NMDL readers know well, the skin is the largest organ in your body, and your water consumption habits have visible effects on the clarity and condition of your complexion. Challenge yourself to drink more water and see if your skin doesn’t look more plump and glowing. Bonus: water is also the main lubricant for eyes, so increasing your water intake promotes bright, sparkling eyes.

5. Your visits to the bathroom are infrequent or difficult.

Water is the most detoxifying resource we can offer our bodies. When you’re getting enough water, you’ll urinate freely and often, and urine will be light in color. When you’re not getting enough water, your kidneys will trap extra fluid to ensure you have enough for bodily functions, and urine will appear concentrated as a result. Improper water intake can also lead to constipation. The colon pulls too much water from stool when you’re not adequately hydrated, making it difficult for your bowels to function normally.

Do any of these signs sound familiar? What do you experience when you aren’t drinking enough water and how do you stay on top of it?

You know how you get stuck on a daily makeup look? It’s just enough to look polished for work, school, or whatever and you can practically do it in your sleep, right? Yeah, me too. However simple or lavish your makeup routine, there’s an easy thing you can do to bring out your eyes and appear more polished and awake than you may actually feel. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Maybe you wear concealer or foundation under your eyes, maybe you don’t. I use it pretty conservatively, and I stopped blending it all the way up to my lower lash line because it tends to settle in fine lines right there. Trouble is, the skin closest to the lash line can often look red. Evening that area out can help you look more fresh-faced. So what do you do when concealer isn’t a great option but you’re not into red dragon eyes? I finally figured it out, thanks to Suzy Gerstein, makeup artist extraordinaire. She shared some tips with me a few months ago, and this one took my makeup game from daily grind to jump back, I wanna kiss myself. Plus, it’s so simple and takes zero skill.

Use a small, tapered smudge brush to line your lower eyelid with bronzer. Yes! Bronzer! Right underneath your lower lashes. Blend a little. It conceals any redness and defines your eyes in a soft-focus, smoky-daytime kind of way.

A tapered smudge brush makes application a cinch, but you can even use a cotton swab or your pinky. If I’m traveling and don’t have a bronzer on hand, I use a light brow powder or eye shadow. Mineral powders tend to have great tenacity, so the look lasts way longer than any application of concealer. This is really tough to screw up and never looks harsh. Even if I woke up tomorrow to find the most perfect concealer on earth waiting inside my makeup bag, I would still opt for this look. It just makes me feel a little more put together.

Do you have a favorite makeup trick that you return to over and over? Share!

11

Don’t Just Ditch the Dirty

1930s Palmolive Ad

Last week at the W3ll People Supernatural Session, Heather White, Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group, reminded attendees of a startling fact.

The current laws regulating cosmetics in the U.S. date back to 1938. That’s just 18 years after women were granted the right to vote.

Doesn’t that seem impossibly long ago? That’s when the Palmolive ad featured above was current, by the way. Loopholes and inadequacies in the U.S. law allow the cosmetics industry, worth $50 billion and growing, to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into their products without any real oversight. Sometimes I get so carried away in my little green bubble, celebrating the latest amazing shampoo or serum, that I forget there is still so much progress to be made.

When I read Siobhan and Alexandra’s book No More Dirty Looks, I saw the cosmetics industry clearly for the first time, and I was forever changed. Yes, it was that dramatic for me. I knew my personal relationship with skincare and cosmetics was in for a serious overhaul on a consumer level and on a more personal, emotional level as well. Probably the most troubling realization I had was that brands I loved and trusted were not, in fact, looking out for my well-being. More bothersome yet, many of these companies were marketing their products in a way that duped me into thinking I was making good choices for myself when I wasn’t. Hello, greenwashing. At least with the L’Oréals of the world, you aren’t being sold the idea that ingredients matter. It’s just wham, bam, now you’re glam. The greenwashing hurt the most. I fell for it, and all because I didn’t know how to read an ingredient list or suspect that I even needed to. Sound familiar? Oh the naiveté.

So we’ve got this regulation problem on our hands, and Congress is not, uh, functioning very well. However, legislative change is not our only hope. Consumer preferences are a powerful thing. The real green beauty industry is booming, and companies are getting the message that there is a shift occurring in how people think about personal care products and their health. Point is, we can laugh about how we don’t even miss those old conventional products and boast about how clean beauty is better than ever, but we need bigger change. People shouldn’t have to worry about what’s inside the bottle of any product. Ever.

I’ve got a little grassroots challenge for you. Think of this as a social responsibility experiment. Thousands of us have committed to cleaner lifestyles and beauty habits, so why not let those old dirty companies know we changed and they should change, too?

Here’s the plan. Pick one cosmetic or skincare company that you loved before going clean. Send them an email and let them know that you used to be a customer, but you broke up with them. Tell them why. Maybe it’s because you found out they use ingredients that are harmful at worst and useless at best. Maybe it’s because they claimed to be natural, but you figured out the game. If you’re feeling sweet, tell them why you loved them in the first place. Let them know that you have standards for ingredient safety, and you think they should, too.

It may seem like a little thing, but the savvy companies are listening. In response to consumer pressure, Johnson & Johnson recently reformulated their baby shampoo to remove formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. Unfortunately, they replaced one questionable preservative with another, but the move was no small thing for a corporate giant like Johnson & Johnson. It signals that consumers can incite change where government laws and regulations do not. We just have to know what to ask for.

How do you feel about current cosmetics regulations? Will you join me in contacting a brand you used to love and share your concerns about ingredient safety?

18

A Healthier Way to Get Your Sweets

Image via Martha Stewart

Image via Martha Stewart

 

I have an intense sweet tooth. Not the gummy bears and jolly ranchers kind of sweet tooth — the chocolate, cakes, and cookies kind. Though I am largely in control of my sugar cravings — I eat small portions and don’t binge — I’m not that person who can sub Greek yogurt for ice cream, nor do I really want to be. But all things in moderation, right?

Here’s the thing, though — I have just enough of a problematic relationship with sugar to know that if I don’t have access to a little bite of bliss at some point on most days, I will seek it out. In my darker, weaker moments, that means taking the path of least resistance and grabbing one of the hyper-processed, sugar-saturated candy bars at the corner 7-11. Usually it’s a KitKat. And just like an addict, I know exactly what the fall-out of my decision will be but proceed nonetheless.

Hey, I’m not one to feel guilty about eating sweets. I live a pretty healthy life, but any run-in with the fast food version of candy leaves me with a physical and psychological hangover that is just yuck. First, talk about fast track to jelly belly. I’ve got a mature metabolism now, and I notice the littlest amount of hyper-processed candy on my waistline within no time. And my skin? My complexion looks red and blotchy for the next 24 hours, and boom — a zit or three pops up where there were previously none. The “you are what you eat” mantra is never more apparent than when I eat poor quality, highly refined sugar. Not only are the outward effects manifest, but inwardly I’m left feeling super irritable or downright depressed. Blech. So I made this deal with myself, because I don’t want to give up all sugar — I want to give up that kind of sugar.

Rather than repress it, I try to satisfy my sweet tooth in the most healthful and conscious way possible for me.

My foolproof method for avoiding the most toxic treats is to keep a better alternative on hand. Again, while I love a bowl of fresh fruit, I’m talking about something a little more indulgent. Just a little. With a little planning, I can reliably have something sweet in my kitchen that might include some sugar, but also contains healthy, life sustaining ingredients.

I don’t have a lot of extra time to spare in the kitchen. It takes enough effort to make sure I’m eating balanced meals as often as possible throughout the week. So when I found a recipe that is simple and fast, includes healthful ingredients, and satisfies my sweet tooth in that deep and wonderful way (no crazy side effects!), I kept making it and making it. It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up or after dinner treat. I’m talking about No-Bake Chocolate Almond Oat Bars.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped almonds — toasted if you feel fancy
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

  • Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper and leave an overhang of 2 inches on two sides.
  • Melt almond butter, honey, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes until everything is well blended.
  • Turn off heat and add chocolate. Stir until it melts.
  • Add the almonds, raisins, and salt. Blend in.
  • Add the oats and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Pour mixture into the pan and spread to distribute evenly.
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day until it hardens.
  • Run a knife around the edges to loosen, and use the parchment paper to lift out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into skinny 2 inch x 3 inch bars and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart Living, but variations abound on the Internet. You can take a lot of liberty with the ingredients. Switch to a different nut butter. Use walnuts instead of almonds. Try chopped figs or apricots instead of golden raisins. Try coconut oil or ghee instead of butter. You get the gist. With all these super healthy ingredients, you might think this sounds more like a chocolate flavored energy bar. Trust me, this definitely has more of a dessert vibe with its fudgey, rich taste. Better yet, this is rich enough that a little hunk goes a long way, but you won’t feel sick after eating it. Nope, just happy and sated.

Do you have a sweet tooth? How does your body respond to super processed treats?