Mais oui, according to a new study.

We told you a few weeks ago that thyme has been shown to be more effective than benzoyl peroxide—that skin-destroying ingredient that, in my opinion, totally doesn’t work if you’re over the age of 15. Many of you jumped with joy (which is to say posted comments about how awesome that is), and now we have even more interesting news: Rose essential oils can block the effects of stress on skin when inhaled—not applied topically.

This is the kind of research that gets me excited. As anyone with skin woes can tell you, the impulse to reach for a product to fix the problem is tough to beat. Unfortunately, as we’ve said many times, this doesn’t do much for you in a big-picture way. It’s the old “treating the symptoms, not the condition” thing. When it comes to just about everything, and especially our skin, this kind of spot treating (ha) does not work. Or if it does, it doesn’t work for long.

Rose has been shown—in a human and rat study—to significantly inhibit cortisol, the stress hormone that causes inflammation (which causes zits). It also blunted transepidermal water loss, which happens when your skin’s barrier function is compromised.

There are many ways you can put this into play in your life. Prevention.com has recipes for both thyme and rose skin solutions here.

Or you can seek out a potion that contains rose and huff the stuff when you’re stressed. Here’s some things that are worth knowing about aromatherapy:

1. Not all oils are created equal. The tidy rows of bottles you see lining the counter at health food stores? Not what you’re looking for. To work, essential oils need to be super-concentrated and carefully crafted, and when they are, they are incredibly powerful for your mind, body and your spirit. Many of these plants and flowers have incontrovertible evidence supporting their use to heal us, but you’re not going to get these benefits unless you’re working with high-quality oils. That means organic, wild crafted and, ideally, made in small batches.

2. You can use them anywhere, anytime. I basically always have aromatherapy and flower essences in my handbag, as anyone who’s been to a bar with me can attest. (I like dosing people whether they ask for it or, as with our friend Erika, violently protest.) I also keep some on my desk at work, which many a coworker has gotten in the habit of popping by to borrow. This makes me happy.

3. Understand that they can seriously affect your mood. This is important! Essential oils should not be used willy-nilly. The sleep potions I use, for instance, feel almost narcotic when I take them (looking at you Hope Gillerman and Essence of Vali). But investing in high-quality oils can be an amazingly effective (and completely drug-free) way to reduce stress, sleep better, and even look better.

Different ways to use them:

—Drip a few drops on a tissue and hold it to your nose taking 10 deep, meditative breaths.

—Put a few drops on your hand and rub them together, warming the oil and releasing the fragrance. Cup your hands over your nose and inhale as above. Remember that oils are super-concentrated, and can irritate or even burn the skin if you use too much. You may be better off skipping this approach altogether, though I’d be lying if I said this isn’t what I usually do.

—Put four or five drops in the bath for a sinus—and stress—clearing bath.

—Bring it with you in the shower and apply a few drops to your hands, rub them together and pretend you’re at a spa.

—Dab a few drops on the corner of your pillowcase at bedtime.

Have you ever tried rose essential oils?

13

In Praise of Oxytocin, My Drug of Choice

Saturday night over dinner with some friends, the conversation turned somehow to oxytocin—that wonderful hormone sometimes called the “love drug” or the “cuddle chemical.”

The pituitary gland secretes it during orgasm, when we get bear-hugged or massaged, possibly when we pray or meditate, and when we snuggle. It also prompts new moms to produce breast milk, which promotes bonding and builds trust. Even meaningful eye contact with someone you love—including an animal, apparently (though, not being a huge pet person, I find that harder to understand)—can flood your brain and blood with the stuff.

Men produce it too, but since testosterone can interfere with oxytocin, they tend to have less of it. Its impact on the way we think and behave is nothing short of fascinating.

Oxytocin, scientists believe, makes us behave morally, can increase empathy, compassion, and generosity, and it helps build trust (in most of us, anyway). There is even research underway about its ability to treat depression. It’s not a psycho-social panacea, but read enough research about it and it starts to seem that way.

Here’s what I find especially interesting about it: You can’t “feel” oxytocin rushes the way you might adrenaline or dopamine—and yet in study after study, scientists are finding that when levels of it are elevated, we behave differently—regardless of how we feel. And different in a good way.

But here’s the thing: According to the researchers I’ve spoken with, it’s not like any old hug fills up you up with the cuddle drug. There has to be trust there (or at least some illusion of trust, which, yes, can get a little dicey depending on who’s hands you’re in). The prize you get for feeling trust in the first place is this hormone—which can then lead to more trust. Assuming you’re in the right hands, this is a very good system.

Soon, a book called The Moral Molecule, written by a neuroeconomist named Paul J. Zak, will come out about it. (You can and should watch his TED talk here—apparently, and unsurprisingly, the guy is a big hugger.) I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of it sent after my boyfriend got one first and I got jealous. I tore through it, fascinated by the ways our hormones impact our actions and our feelings about our actions and, in turn, may lead us to behave in ways that are more morally sound.

I’m going to not do the thing where I give you a list of ways to boost oxytocin in your life. Once you understand what the hormone is you can figure that out on your own. Or you can read Zak’s list, here.

Why am I writing about this on a clean beauty site? Because, duh, we’re about much more than products over here, as our stress series, our “There’s No Such Thing As Being Bad At Meditation” tips and our insanely frequent posts about sleep can attest. Also, being happy is one of the most natural ways to look good, and oxytocin is one of the most fun ways to get happy. So there’s that.

There’s no obvious question for a post like this, but please comment if you have anything at all to say. Perhaps you could tell us what you ate for lunch? Or, if you’re feeling sharey, your favorite source of this feel-good hormone?

Fire up the kettle! Siobhan tweeted this study the other day, and I’m just tickled by it. It turns out that good old black tea—something I quite enjoy (for all you vegan challengers, I recommend trying it with some coconut milk for creamy deliciousness)—is just as hydrating as water.

Conventional wisdom says that caffeinated beverages are diuretics, i.e. that they cause water loss. But in research conducted on 21 male subjects—females weren’t used because of how menstrual cycles influence water retention (tell me about it, right?)—and controlled for all kinds of variables, it appears that tea is just as good as water when it comes to keeping us hydrated. The outcome according to the study abstract:

It was concluded that black tea, in the amounts studied, offered similar hydrating properties to water.

You might be thinking (as I was): How can that be? Drinking tea and coffee makes me pee all morning long! But then I realized something: Drinking anything makes me pee. Deep thoughts, I know.

So, have you avoided caffeinated tea because you’re worried about dehydration? Pass the cucumber sandwiches.

A tea party we can get behind: image via

7

How Often Do You Laugh?

While researching something at my job recently, another editor came across a statistic that got us thinking. It said that on average, people laugh 17 times a day. So here’s a question: Does that seem high or low to you? And here’s another question: How many times a day do you laugh?

Alexandra and I are both big laughers—sometimes with other people around, sometimes alone in our offices because someone on the other side of the country just said something really, really funny on gchat. In any case, I definitely consider us both people who are pretty easily entertained and promiscuous with a laugh—but I also know it’s possible that I think I laugh way more than I actually do. And so:

Starting tomorrow (or today if you’re an early bird), we’d like you to count how many times you laugh—obviously typing LOL, ha, or haha does not count unless you actually, you know, LOL—and then post it in the comments. We’ll tally up the results and divide by the total (math math math) and see if we laugh more or less than the average.

No big science here, and no makeup tips—just the basic truth that laughter is a great antidote to stress and sadness, and that literally every single person under the sun looks beautiful when they’re laughing.

So get counting! And happy laughing.

Image via

10

Are 40,000 Scientists Wrong?

Happy Friday! Big news: Scientific groups representing more than 40,000 researchers and clinicians have come together in the pages of the super-influential journal Science to insist that federal regulators do more—and do more, more quickly—to assess the human safety of the 12,000 new substances registered every day at the American Chemical Society.

“The need for swifter and sounder testing and review procedures cannot be overstated,” the letter says.

The letter’s corresponding author Patricia Hunt, a professor in the Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences, said:

“As things stand now,” she added, “things get rapidly into the marketplace and the testing of them is tending to lag behind.”

Hunt told ScienceDaily that the letter was inspired by growing concerns about BPA, which more than 300 studies have found to cause adverse health effects in animals. Hormone disruptors more broadly, were also of concern. She says:

“Hormones control everything—our basic metabolism, our reproduction. We call them endocrine disruptors. They’re like endocrine bombs to a certain extent because they can disrupt all these normal functions.”

Boom. She also said one of the problems is that the methods used to assess safety—primarily toxicology—are insufficient. “The FDA and EPA need to look beyond the toxicology of substances to the other ways chemicals can affect us. … One of the problems they have is they look at some of the science and don’t know how to interpret it because it’s not done using the traditional toxicology testing paradigm,” she said. “We need geneticists, we need developmental and reproductive biologists and we need the clinical people on board to actually help interpret and evaluate some of the science.”

I think this qualifies as a sign that things are changing, no?