Mother Earth Living

Real Beauty

Tips and tricks for natural body care

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1/16/2013

We all want great skin and a gorgeous face, but who wants to shell out the big bucks for top-dollar products? Thankfully, natural beauty (and great skin) is close at-hand—as close as the kitchen, in fact! Many foods commonly found in the pantry are brimming with nutrients beneficial for skin. So next time your skin feels dry or those wrinkles look too deep, raid your pantry for these seven skin-improving foods.

7 Foods for Skin

Turmeric

Prized for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and astringent effects (among other health benefits), turmeric is great for skin. In Asia, turmeric is used in natural beauty treatments to tighten skin and reduce inflammation. Try turmeric for yourself by mixing this herb with flour and water to make a paste. Rub the paste on your skin while in the shower, then rinse off.

avocado on cutting board
Avocados can help lock in moisture on skin. Photo By Jon Chiang/Flickr.

Avocado

Avocados are loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats that can help stimulate production of our skin’s own natural oils, help lock in moisture, reduce inflammation and heal skin issues. Take advantage of the goodness in avocado with this two-ingredient Avocado Facial Mask recipe, Tropical Body Polish recipe, or Lavender-Avocado-Honey Mask recipe.

Honey

A natural humectant, honey can attract and trap in moisture for softer skin. Honey also possesses antioxidant and antimicrobial powers, making it a great treatment for cuts, scrapes and burns. To use its natural healing powers, apply just enough quality honey (we recommend unpasteurized and from a local, trusted source) to cover the wound, then cover with a bandage. Change daily. To take advantage of its skin-renewing powers, try these five easy honey-based beauty recipes, from a honey cleanser to a smooth-skin treatment.

Yogurt

A natural source of lactic acid, yogurt can help refine pores and exfoliate rough skin while calming and moisturizing. And unlike other exfoliants, yogurt is suitable for even sensitive skin. Yogurt also contains protein that makes the skin firmer and more resistant to wrinkles. Try this moisturizing yogurt mask.

carrots
Tighten aging skin with a homemade mask made from fresh carrots. Photo  By Shutterstock.

Carrots

Carrots aren’t just good for your eyes. Thanks to its treasure trove of vitamins A, B and C, carrots are also beneficial for your skin. When used topically, carrots can provide tightening, anti-aging effects, helping to restore skin’s elasticity and reduce inflammation. To take advantage of this root vegetable’s beauty benefits, try this Vita-Carrot Anti-Aging Mask recipe.

Olive Oil

Oil works wonders for skin, but many beauty oils can cost a pretty penny. Instead of spending lots on expensive oils like argan, turn to your cupboard for olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in vitamins K and E, which can help reduce dark circles and protect skin from photoaging. Olive oil can be used as a nightly moisturizing treatment—just spread a few drops over your skin (olive oil is so thick that a little will go a long ways). You can also use olive oil to remove makeup, condition hair and moisturize cuticles, among other beauty uses.

Vinegar

Because it effectively removes soap residue from skin and hair, rinsing with vinegar is a great way to get rid of shampoo buildup—not to mention leave your hair shiny and soft. Another perk of rinsing with vinegar: its acidity can help kill the bacteria that cause dandruff. Always dilute vinegar before using—one tablespoon of vinegar to one cup of water should do the trick. To take advantage of vinegar’s beauty benefits, check out this collection of herbal vinegar treatments, from a hair-softening rinse to a soothing foot soak.



12/20/2012

An unsightly condition most often seen in the legs, varicose veins are the result of blood pooling in the veins. When leaving the heart, blood can rely on the pumping action of this organ to propel it through the body. For the return trip, however, muscles surrounding our veins must contract and relax in order to pump the blood back. Special valves in our veins help the process by prohibiting the blood from flowing back the way it’s being pumped.

Varicose veins can be caused by a number of factors. As we age, our veins stretch and enlarge, which allows excess blood to accumulate in them. This in turn can cause the valves in our veins to malfunction, preventing the proper flow of blood back to the heart. As the blood accumulates, it causes the veins to appear enlarged and raised. Varicose veins are often seen on the legs, where the muscle contractions have to fight the pull of gravity. Because veins weaken with age, varicose veins are often seen in middle-aged people and older, although any sort of condition that puts extra pressure on the veins such as a high-fat diet, inactivity, obesity, pregnancy or standing or sitting for long periods of time can also contribute to varicose veins.

Varicose veins are most often a cosmetic issue only, although occasionally they can cause pain and discomfort and may be a sign of larger circulatory issues. If the pain of varicose veins is intense, consult a doctor. For cosmetic-only issues, however, try these natural home remedies for varicose veins.

horse chestnut
Horse chestnut is one of several herbal remedies you can take to treat varicose veins. Photo By Rhisiart Hincks/Courtesy Flickr

Natural Home Remedies for Varicose Veins

Horse chestnut is widely prescribed in Germany for the treatment of conditions associated with varicose veins. Horse chestnut helps strengthen vein walls and valves by preventing damage to the capillaries. Take a standardized extract containing 100 mg of aescin (horse chestnut’s main active compound) daily.

Butcher’s broom can reduce inflammation and cause blood vessels to constrict, tightening up and strengthening the veins, helping blood to flow more smoothly. Because of its blood vessel-constricting properties, butcher’s broom is not recommended for people with high blood pressure. Take an extract with 200 to 300 mg ruscogenins (the compound responsible for butcher’s broom’s helpful properties) daily.

Grape seed extract contains a type of flavonoid known as proanthocyanidins, which enhance collagen linkage to help strengthen and tone blood vessels. Take 720 mg of grape seed extract daily.

Bilberry, like grape seed extract, contains proanthocyanidins. Bilberry can thin blood, so don’t take this herb if you are on blood-thinning medications such as warfarin or aspirin, or if you’re taking a prescription diuretic. Take 80 to 160 mg three times daily.

Witch hazel: The tannins in this astringent can constrict the blood vessels and help to reduce swelling and inflammation. Witch hazel works best when used externally. Try a cold compress, or add 1 ounce of witch hazel to a bath daily.

bilberries
Bilberries can help strengthen and tone blood vessels. Photo By tin G/Courtesy Flickr

Lifestyle Treatments for Varicose Veins

Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Changing position every half hour or so will improve circulation in your legs.

Exercise. Frequent exercise can also stimulate blood flow. Try walking or cycling.

Watch what you wear. Tight clothes restrict circulation, especially when they’re tight in the waist, groin or leg area. Avoid panty hose, and high heels—low-heeled shoes work the calf muscles more, helping to improve circulation.

Elevate your legs. Putting your legs in a position higher than your heart will help blood flow back to heart, decreasing pooling in the veins in your leg.

For more natural and herbal remedies for treating varicose veins, check out these articles:

Treat Varicose Veins Naturally

Q&A: Herbal Remedies for Varicose Veins

Astringent Herbs for Varicose Veins



10/31/2012

Everyone needs a product in their handbag that serves as an all-around cure-all. And I think I just found a new favorite.


Keep this balm handy for all sorts of skin woes.

Medicine Mama’s Sweet Bee Magic Wand is a travel-sized balm made with natural ingredients produced by honey bees, including purifying propolis, antimicrobial honey and protective beeswax.

The uses for this product seem almost endless. Need to treat your chapped lips? No problem. Do you have bothersome cuts and scrapes? Use this tube to keep them moisturized. It will also soothe insect bites, sunburns, cold sores, rashes, dry skin and almost anything else you can throw its way. I have been using it as a lip balm, to treat my cuticles, and to moisturize a scar that I now have from a mole-removal surgery.

Knowing that I’m not applying harmful chemicals to my skin only adds to my excitement over this product. In fact, the remaining organic ingredients (extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil) reassure me that this company is being responsible with my health by using natural, vitamin-packed ingredients. My only complaint with this product is that it goes on a little oilier than I would prefer. But its versatility more than makes up for a little excess oil.

Medicine Mama’s Apothecary created the all-in-one cream used in this balm, otherwise known as Sweet Blessed Bee Magic, after many late nights experimenting with the formula. The company is proud to offer products made using traditional artisanal methods. Browse their website to discover additional healing body care products, including their Sweet Bee Magic healing skin cream and lip balm.

This $12.95 tube fits snuggly in nearly any purse. Find it at a store near you.


Gina DeBackerGina DeBacker is the assistant editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.



7/31/2012

It always seems that I have more than enough lip balms around, and while all of the ones we receive at the office do an excellent job of keeping my lips soft, sometimes I want something beyond moisture. Sometimes, I want a little color. For those times, I reach for Yes to Carrots Color Balm.

Yes to Carrots Color Balm 

Yes to Carrots’ line of tinted lip balms are made with all the good, moisturizing ingredients you want from a natural lip balm—beeswax; cocoa seed butter; and sunflower, olive, castor and jojoba oils—with just a hint of color that gives your lips a subtle sheen. Although the Environmental Working Group hasn’t reviewed the product on its Skin Deep cosmetics database, a quick search of the ingredients listed doesn’t raise any red flags. And like other products from the Yes To brands, the Color Balms are made without parabens, phthalates or SLS and not tested on animals.

Yes to Carrots Color Balm comes in three varieties: Peachy Keen (a light peach), Rosy Bloom (a medium pink) and Soft Plum (a richer, deeper red). Although the balms have a matte feeling common to lipsticks, their color isn’t as strong. I generally reach for the Soft Plum, as its color shows up strongest, and pair it with an oilier-based lip balm to create a lip gloss-like feeling that tones down the matte texture.

If you’re looking for serious, lasting color, this isn’t the product for you. But if you're not a fan of lipsticks and want a moisturizing, tinted lip balm that will give you just the slightest hint of color for everyday use, give Yes to Carrots Color Balms a try. They’re $6 for a standard-size tube and can be found at a variety of locations in the U.S.



6/5/2012

Conventional personal-care products are rife with chemicals, many of which are linked to major health concerns. Synthetic preservatives and fragrances act as hormone disruptors and are linked to possible birth defects, infertility and even breast and liver cancers. Foaming agents like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate can produce cancerous byproducts that are toxic to the kidneys and respiratory system. And many shampoos also contain silicone, a cheap moisturizing agent derived from petroleum that coats hair instead of penetrating its core, eventually leaving your locks dull and lifeless.

Your body—and beauty—deserve better. Next time you need to restock on shampoo, skip the chemical-laden conventional options and opt for one of these natural shampoos. Crafted with natural and often organic ingredients, these shampoos are free of potentially hazardous chemicals like parabens, SLS, sulfates and more. Many of them can also be found at your local supermarket—meaning you won’t have to go out of your way to buy them!

 

John Masters Organics Bare Unscented ShampooJohn Masters Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo

If you’re looking for a basic natural shampoo, John Master’s Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo is the way to go. With a fragrance-free formula suitable for all hair types, this shampoo offers mass appeal. Crafted with 14 certified-organic ingredients such as jojoba oil, evening primrose, white tea and chamomile, John Master’s Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo provides a thorough rinse that will leave hair clean, moisturized and shiny. It also has a good consistency—not too runny, not too thick—making it easy to work through your hair without wasting any product.

Cost: $14.50 for an 8-ounce bottle

 

Hugo Naturals Tea Tree and Lavender Balancing ShampooHugo Naturals Tea Tree & Lavender Balancing Shampoo

 For a scalp that requires extra attention to prevent flakiness, bypass traditional dandruff shampoos—which contain potentially harmful ingredients such as salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione and even tar—and try Hugo Naturals Tea Tree & Lavender Balancing Shampoo. Lavender soothes an irritated scalp, tea tree oil cleanses and restores balance, and quinoa protein adds body and shine. This shampoo’s consistency is a bit on the runny side, so you’ll feel like you’re using lots of product to get your hair clean—but a glance at the bottle after your shower will tell you that you’re probably not using any more than you would with any other product.

EWG rating: 1 

Cost: $10 for a 12-ounce bottle

 

Shea Moisture Organic Coconut and Hibiscus Curl Control ShampooShea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Control Shampoo

Curly hair has its own set of needs. To keep your locks defined and distinctly un-frizzy, moisturize with a rich shampoo like Shea Moisture’s Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Control Shampoo. Made with coconut oil and shea butter for extra moisture, this shampoo is free of harsh ingredients like sulfates and parabens. In addition to added hydration, the coconut oil imparts a divine, tropical scent to this product, making it a pleasure to use every time.

Cost: $10 for a 12-ounce bottle

 

Yes to Cucumbers Color Care ShampooYes to Cucumbers Color Care Shampoo

Color-treated hair needs extra care to preserve color and, in some cases, rebuild damaged or fragile locks. Yes to Cucumbers Color Care Shampoo offers a gentle formula, free of SLS, parabens and petroleum, that cleanses and hydrates with help from jojoba, olive and sweet almond oils and extracts of aloe vera, green tea and organic cucumbers. Gentle enough to use for all hair types, this easy lathering shampoo will quickly become a go-to product for your shower.

EWG rating: 1 

Cost: $9 for a 16.9-ounce bottle

 

Jonathan Green Rootine Nourishing ShampooJonathan Green Rootine Nourishing Shampoo

For dry or damaged hair, Jonathan Product’s Green Rootine Nourishing Shampoo offers a rich, moisturizing formula that can help restore hair—although it’s also perfectly suitable for any hair type. Free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates and petrochemicals, this shampoo is crafted with coconut, jojoba, olive, avocado and orange oils to moisturize and revitalize hair. Its consistency is a little thicker than normal shampoos, but not so much that you can’t work it thoroughly through your hair for a clean, natural rinse. Its refreshing mint scent is also a great pick-me-up for the morning!

EWG rating: 0 

Cost: $20 for an 8.4-ounce bottle


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on .



5/18/2012

With warmer days right around the corner, it’s almost time to don summer clothing and bare a little skin. Before you slip into those shorts and tanks though, get your legs and arms ready for show by sloughing off old winter skin with a natural scrub.

Hugo Naturals Sea Salt and Sugar Scrub in Sea Fennel and Passionflower 

My go-to scrub lately has been Hugo Naturals Sea Salt & Sugar Scrub in Sea Fennel and Passionflower. The combination of both salt and sugar provide the perfect amount of abrasiveness for exfoliating my legs and arms, while vitamin E and sweet almond and jojoba oils nourish and hydrate my skin. And unlike some other natural scrubs I’ve used, Hugo Naturals Sea Salt & Sugar Scrub doesn’t leave the bottom of my shower a mess. My favorite part about the scrub? The scent, which is refreshing, invigorating and (best yet) made with natural extracts instead of synthetic fragrance. In addition to fragrance, Hugo Naturals’ scrubs and other products never include any parabens, sulfates, silicones, phthalates, artificial colors, propylene glycol or petroleum products.

Because the sea salt and sugar separate from the oil between uses, the scrub must be mixed before it can be used, a messy process that’s actually more difficult than it sounds. The scrub also seems to go rather fast. Because I like the product so much, I’ve been rationing it by mixing up my routine with other natural scrubs—delaying the day it will inevitably run out.

Hugo Naturals Sea Salt & Sugar Scrub costs $12.99 and can be bought at retailers such as Whole Foods, Wegmans and others. Hugo Naturals also makes a variety of other scrubs, including Kumquat Brown Sugar Body Polish, French Lavender Dead Sea Salt Scrub and Grapefruit Himalayan Pink Salt Scrub.



4/20/2012

Faith MoserFaith Moser is the creator of eco ike {organic baby t’s + cookbooks full of yummy, healthy and quick recipes for kids and grown-ups}! If you want your kids to grow, live, eat & play green, visit ecoike.com. 

Lately I have been looking for make up that is free of potentially harmful chemicals. Feeling and looking beautiful should not come with the price tag of our health. It’s important for makeup companies to know that we want beauty products that don’t hinder our well-being in any way. I vote with my money and will purchase products that are free of:

• Benzophenones (oxybenzone): Can cause photoallergic reactions and is a hormone disrupter.

• Paraben (butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben): The most widely used preservative in cosmetics and personal care products. It can mimic estrogen in the body, may disrupt hormones and possibly increase the risk of breast cancer. (Check out this video from Cornell University on breast cancer and the estrogen connection.) 

• Phthalates: A chemical additive that can disrupt the endocrine system, mimic estrogen and cause thyroid problems, allergies and asthma.

• Sulfates (sodium lauryl sulfate—SLS—or sodium laureth sulfate—SLES):  This thickening, lathering agent is a skin irritant (despite being used in products that you put on your skin!) and can mimic estrogen. SLS has been linked to cancer-causing carcinogens.

safe makeup 

A good resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Just type in your makeup brand and it will give you the lowdown on that product. My one complaint with this site is that it does not state why some products don’t get better marks than others. So, use it—but sometimes question how they came to their conclusions.

Here’s what is in my makeup bag!  I am very happy with all of these products:

Zuzu liquid eyeliner
Gabriel foundation
Mineral Fusion lipstick
Badger lip tint & shimmer
Pacifica Hawaiian Ruby Guava perfume   



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