I don't know about you, but for this outdoors-loving gal, Canadian winter spells D-R-Y S-K-I-N. I might lace up my running shoes and breeze through the door as though the grass is still green and the temperature mild, but my skin can't be fooled by my mind-over-matter attitude to the dry, frigid air that pervades in winter.
Enter sodium hyaluronate. No, it's not a crazy synthetic compound that promises to work miracles on my poor frostbitten cheeks. It's the salt of a naturally occurring carbohydrate called hyaluronic acid (HA) that is found in every cell in the human body. HA is one of the most water-loving molecules in nature; it's a humectant, which means it absorbs and binds to water, and it helps keep skin supple and well-hydrated (among other things). Young skin is smooth and elastic in part because it contains large amounts of HA. During the aging process, the skin loses its ability to maintain those high concentrations, and thus its ability to hold water.
Dermatologists use HA in injectibles like Restylane in large part because it's a naturally occurring substance and the body doesn't see it as foreign. It's easy to use and safe—the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database gives HA its lowest hazard rating—0. HA is also a popular ingredient in topical beauty products, such as moisturizers and makeup, for its nourishing and hydrating qualities.
Sodium hyaluronate has a smaller molecular size than HA, making it easier for the skin to absorb. It can hold more water than any other natural substance—up to 1000 times its weight! Thanks to its superhero ability to attract and bind moisture to the skin, it's definitely on my list of must-have natural skin care ingredients to get me through winter.
And sodium hyaluronate:
Kahina Giving Beauty Toning Mist, Brightening Serum, Eye Cream, Facial Lotion, Eye Serum
Tata Harper Eye Creme, Rejuvenating Serum, Repairative Moisturizer, Rebuilding Moisturizer, Hydrating Floral Essence
John Masters Organics Firming Eye Gel
I was thrilled to see a good number of Fresh Faced brands and products recognized in the 2012 Organic Beauty Talk Awards. Check out below which products were awarded for their amazing natural goodness—"the best of the best while trying to ensure the purest of the pure," as OBT says.
Best Natural Facial Line for Sensitive Skin (suitable for all skin types): Pai Skincare
Best Natural Face Moisturizer: Tata Harper Repairative Moisturizer
Best Natural Face Serum: Lina Hanson Global Face Serum
Best Natural Eye Cream: Tata Harper Restorative Eye Creme
Best Natural Mineral Makeup Line: Alima Pure
Best Natural Liquid Foundation: Vapour Organic Beauty Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation
Best Natural Eyeliner: Lavera Soft Eyeliner
Best Eco-Friendly Nail Polish: butter LONDON and Priti NYC
Best Organic Body Bar Soap: Dr. Bronner's
Best Natural Deodorant: Soapwalla Deodorant Cream
Organic Beauty Talk also held voting for Reader's Choice Awards, and the winners are...
Turns out that eyes aren't just the windows to the soul. More than anywhere else on the face, the skin around the eyes tells a lot about age, health, and diet. As I navigate the waters of my thirties, the eyes staring back from my reflection appear not only wiser and kinder (yay!), but increasingly tired, crinkly, and puffy, too.
The skin around the eyes is unlike any other area of the body. It's much thinner there, more so as we age, and much more absorptive—which means we should be very careful about what's in the creams and potions we slather on it. If there's one element of your beauty routine that should be all-natural, it's your eye cream. And a holistic approach that includes elements of lifestyle and diet is your best defense against dreaded dark circles, bags, and crow's feet.
The cause? A combination of genes and lifestyle. Excess pigmentation in the skin is the likely culprit behind most chronic dark circles. And since the skin under the eyes is so thin, dilated blood vessels can show through, giving a bluish cast. Allergens and sun exposure tend to worsen their appearance.
For a quick fix, only makeup can help in the short term. The right concealer will be a shade slightly warmer than your natural skin tone. Use a small, pointed brush to apply it, and consider following it with a dusting of translucent, shimmery powder to illuminate and set the concealer in place.
For the longer term, foods rich in vitamin K help fortify blood-vessel walls, so munch on brown rice, eggs, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, cornmeal, and liver. Daily use of eye creams or serums that contain vitamins C and K, which can revitalize skin and add volume, should also help. Treatments with vitamin A can help bolster vitamin K activity. Fresh Faced best bets for dark circles: Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Cream, Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Fruit & Seed Oil Blend, John Masters Organics Vitamin C Anti-Aging Serum.
As with dark circles, some eye puffiness is genetic—and it will worsen with age as we produce more free radicals that cause the skin to lose elasticity and structure. But genetics or not, we've all woken up to periorbital puffiness—otherwise known as puffy eyes, likely as a result of allergies, late nights, too much salt or booze, or not enough water.
Morning puffy eyes will typically resolve on own their by lunchtime (this might be one of the few instances of gravity working in our favour!). To speed up the process, place cool cucumber slices or chilled tea bags (caffeinated, for the tannins) over your eyes for 10 minutes to help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling, and drink plenty of water. Eating vitamin-C rich food will support collagen production, and reducing your salt intake will decrease your fluid retention. Exercise, and therefore circulation, will help your body move fluid efficiently, avoiding accumulation.
Choose eye creams and serums with vitamins A and E, which will help fight free radicals; green tea and witch hazel can aid in diminishing excess fluid and tightening the eye skin. Fresh Faced picks: John Masters Organics Firming Eye Gel, One Love Organics Morning Glory Brightening Complexion Booster, Soapwalla Restorative Face Serum, Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Cream.
I'd rather call these laugh lines—it sounds so much lovelier, but either way, the fine lines that begin to appear at the corners of the eyes in your late twenties or early thirties are a sure sign that you're living life. Repeated muscle movement from smiling, laughing, and squinting are the culprit. You could take the robot approach and never crack another smile, but sun exposure and other environmental pollutants will probably get you in the end anyway. Instead, look for eye products that contain evening primrose, sesame, and jojoba oils to help hydrate the sensitive skin near your peepers. Hyaluronic acid can help increase the skin's absorption of vitamin C, which fights free radicals and sun damage. Chamomile, allantoin, calendula, milk thistle, tea, and licorice can all help reduce inflammation. Fresh Faced picks: Pangea Organics Turkish Rose and White Tea Eye Cream, Pai Echium BioRejuvenate Eye Cream, Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Cream, Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Fruit & Seed Oil Blend.
I can't tell you how many times I've wished for different hair. Oh, to be able to wake up in the morning with glorious, healthy, shiny tresses that need nothing more than a few strategic tousles to land in perfect place. I've managed to figure out a thing or two, though, when it comes to taming the frizzy, unruly mess I was born with: In other words, my seven habits of highly effective hair care:
Most of us can agree on this: A good facial cleanser is the first step to taking care of your skin. In addition to removing dirt, grime, and impurities; dissolving makeup; and unblocking your pores (without stripping away moisture), proper cleansing opens the door for other skin care products to perform at their best.
Not all cleansers are created equal. How should you choose from among the thousands of products on the market? A few good rules of thumb: Always avoid putting harsh detergents on your face. No matter what your grandmother may have told you, good old soap and water is not your best defense. If your skin feels tight, dry, or squeaky when you step out of the shower, you need a creamier cleanser. If you have oily skin, try a gentle foaming cleanser.
That said, whenever I see the words "foaming" and "gel" in the name of a product, I worry about it containing harmful ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. These petroleum-based foaming agents are inexpensive surfactants often used in personal care products that can cause endocrine disruption, affect the nervous system, and lead to cancer. A healthier choice is a cleanser that depends on coco glucoside, a gentler, non-ionic surfactant derived from renewable raw materials like coconut oil and fruit sugars. My best-bet picks for all-natural cleansers suited for oily skin are John Masters Organics Jojoba & Ginseng Exfoliating Cleanser, One Love Organics Easy Does It Foaming Cleanser, John Masters Organics Rose Foaming Face Wash, and Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser.
For dry or mature skin, look for creamy, soothing cleansing lotions and milks, which contain higher concentrations of oils, water, and emollients. Rose water helps the skin to retain moisture, and glycerin is a natural, gentle humectant that draws moisture to the surface of the skin. Try Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, John Masters Organics Linden Blossom Creme Cleanser, Suki Moisture-Rich Cleansing Lotion, or Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser.
Glycerin is also beneficial for sensitive skin, since it has been shown to encourage normal cell maturation. Steer clear of exfoliating cleansers and scrubs if you are prone to irritation or rosacea, and avoid alcohol in your skin care regimen. Aloe vera is excellent for combating swelling, inflammation, and redness. Give these natural cleansers a go: Green Beaver Daily Facial Cleanser, Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, or Pangea Organics Egyptian Calendula & Blood Orange Cleanser.
If you have combination skin, it may take a bit of trial and error to find a cleanser that doesn't leave your face feeling tight but does leave behind your skin's natural oils. Thyme, tea tree oil, aloe vera, clay, and witch hazel are effective at calming acne. Foaming cleansers may be too drying for acneic skin, leading to excess sebum production as your skin tries to overcompensate for the loss of its own oils. Take the middle ground and consider Green Beaver Daily Facial Cleanser, Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser, or Pangea Organics Egyptian Calendula & Blood Orange Cleanser.
Most of us could use a little toning in the rear end department, but what about our skin? I have to admit, I've always erred on the side of minimalism when it comes to my skin care regimen, opting to cleanse and moisturize but skip the middle step of toning. Since I can attribute that to laziness more than anything else, I decided to do a little digging about the purpose of toners.
So what is a toner? In general, toners are said to eliminate oil, tighten pores, and prep the skin to absorb moisturizer. They fall into two broad categories: those intended to remove excess dirt, oil, or makeup missed by your cleanser (called astringents), and those that impart vitamins, minerals, and hydrators to nourish the skin (called fresheners or balancers). Seems pretty win/win, all in all.
If you have oily or combination skin, you might want to consider an astringent toner. Good astringents help clean the pores and reduce oil using alcohol or witch hazel. Pangea Organics French Rosemary with Sweet Orange Toner or Italian Mandarin with Sweet Lime Toner are great options. If you're rather go alcohol-free, Suki Concentrated Balancing Toner is specially formulated for acneic, rosacea, eczema, and dermatitis-prone skin; and Pai Rice Plant & Rosemary BioAffinity Toner contains pure "living waters" that have the exact pH and biochemical balance of healthy skin.
Those with dry or mature skin should definitely avoid alcohol (at least in your toner!), as it can be too drying and may even cause breakouts by disturbing your skin's natural oil balance. Look for a humectant such as rose water, which can help lock moisture into the upper layers of the epidermis by preventing evaporation. Pai Lotus & Orange BioAffinity Toner hydrates and protects dry and sensitive skin and helps calm visible redness.
If maintaining your youthful glow is your skin-care goal, check ingredient listings for antioxidants such as white tea, natural salicylates such as aspen bark extract, or rose or chamomile extract to seal in moisture. John Masters Organics Rose & Aloe Toning Mist has all three.
Toners come in especially handy during the (sweltering!) summer months when your skin feels more oily and you don't need intensive moisturizing treatments. When the sun goes down tonight on Toronto's 43-degree-celsius skyline, I'll be reaching for a toner (and an ice-cold Corona!) rather than my usual night cream.
Collagen is the most common protein in the human body: It's in tendons, muscles, bone, cartilage, and skin. In fact, it's the main structural component of the dermis—the lower layer of the skin—and it's how our skin gets its elasticity. As we age, collagen production slows, and elastin—the substance that enables skin to "snap" back into place when it's pulled—gradually loses its spring. Collagen production is also hindered by environmental toxins, sun exposure, and smoking.
Collagen as an ingredient is often sold as a miracle wrinkle eraser—in the form of creams, injectables, and oral supplements—but the effects of these products are debatable. Creams and other topical skin products that contain collagen may help moisturize, but they don't provide any firming benefits since the collagen molecule is too large to be absorbed through the skin. And most of us are blissfully ignorant about the source of the collagen used in these products (it's usually derived from cow and pig tissues). According to Ecoholic expert Adria Vasil, some collagen injectables even contain genetically engineered human collagen made from lab-grown human skin. Pretty gross.
If the idea of ingesting, injecting, or applying bovine and porcine proteins in the hope of smoothing away your wrinkles is more than you can stomach, consider a more natural approach to refreshing your skin. Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, so increasing your intake through food and personal care products (see our suggestions below) can help improve the health and appearance of your skin. At lunchtime tomorrow, think sweet potatoes, strawberries, broccoli, kale, and oranges.
While you're at it, you might also increase your dosage of antioxidants. By definition, antioxidants inhibit the oxidation of molecules (which can produce free radicals), and therefore they can help prevent some cellular damage that contributes to aging and disease. Foods rich in antioxidants include beans, berries, broccoli, pecans, and green tea.
Consider these Fresh Faced goodies before you reach for the collagen pills or go under the needle: