Are you Dehydrated or Dry?

Perfect skin balance requires both, but how do you tell the difference? To keep it simple, think water for hydration and oil for moisture. When you are dehydrated, your cells lack water. You will notice a dull tone, mixed with a tight texture in the skin and a slight pucker to the touch, even when you are moisturized. When dry, your skin lacks oil or a healthy lipid layer, which can result in rough, thickened texture and dry, flaky skin.

How to Hydrate

Your skin is made of almost 64% water. Keeping water and fluidity in the skin will not stop fine lines and wrinkles but it does indeed lessen their appearance. A common analogy in the skincare world is to visualize a grape vs. a raisin. A grape is loaded with water, keeping it plump, rounded and smooth. Dehydrate the grape and it becomes a dull, flat and textured raisin. Most of us love raisins but we definitely don’t want to look like one!

It’s much the same for human skin cells. Your skin needs fluidity and water to maintain a plump and youthful appearance. Also, many structures in the skin that support healthy collagen require adequate water to work effectively. Without it, the skin appears duller and wrinkles, fine lines, and pores appear more prominently. It’s also more likely to become less elastic and crack, potentially allowing in external particles that can irritate and increase blemish activity.

Water is key for almost every function of the body, so the perfect start to hydration is to drink plenty of pure fluids every day. By pure fluids, I don’t mean coffee, soda or even extra juice…those things can actually deplete you of water content and potentially add way too much sugar and preservatives into your system. Instead, drink about half your body weight, daily, in filtered water, decaffeinated herbal teas, and yummy organic broth. I dig a good bone broth for not only hydration but extra electrolytes, minerals, and collagen.

However, here’s the rub…the very last organ to receive the benefits of all your water intake, is the skin. For that reason, external application of hydrating ingredients, in a serum or light-weight delivery, are key in your skin care regimen. These types of ingredients are called humectants, which have the ability to pull moisture from the air, back into the skin. So cool! Ingredients like hyaluronic acid (HA), aloe vera, honey and even alpha-hydroxy acids like Glycolic and Lactic, are fantastic humectant superheroes. HA can actually carry up to 1000x its own weight in water. If that doesn’t convince you, I’m not sure what will!

Making Moisture

As mentioned earlier, good moisture in the skin comes from active oil production, otherwise known as sebum. Our hair follicles contain sebaceous glands that produce this lovely, oily substance that helps to lubricate, protect and nourish our skin. The water in our cells can rapidly evaporate through a process called trans-epidermal water loss, so sebum designs a natural barrier to help slow the depletion of water and prevent our skin from drying out. It also helps protect us from environmental assault and free radicals that lead to premature aging.

Obviously, those with dry skin have a lack of oil production. Inversely, those with oily skin tend towards overproduction of sebum. Interestingly enough, an overproduction of oil is often associated with a dehydration in the skin. If the skin is stripped and dehydrated, it tends to panic and overproduces more oil to compensate. This is why drying out a blemish-prone, congested, oily skin type is rarely the answer!

To get your moisture on, eat your moisture-makers! Each skin cell is wrapped in a protective fatty membrane that helps to seal in moisture and ward off irritation from chemicals and toxins in our environment. If you don’t have enough fatty acids nutritionally supporting your body, you cannot effectively replenish this protection in the skin. Loads of beneficial Omega-3s, otherwise known as Alpha-linoleic acids (ALAs) can be found in delicious fatty fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines. Eggs have the perfect balance of omegas (yolk and all) and the perfect touch of useful protein. Grass-fed butter and ghee are fabulous sources of healthy fat without all the antibiotics and toxins. Coconut oil is one of my very favorite cooking oils and sources for healthy fat because of its natural anti-fungal properties, healthy omega ratios and high heat capabilities during cooking. Avocado, hemp, flax and sprouted walnuts are also fat-fabulous!

Additionally, good fats applied topically will really ramp up your skin’s moisture value. In this case, heavier isn’t always better. Most heavy moisturizers tend to have a very fat molecular structure. The crazy thing is, those fat molecules are often too big to actually penetrate the pore. This is where a good facial oil helps save the day! Oils that are a high molecular weight protein (loads of essential fatty acids, amino acids and antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E) in a low molecular weight oil (lightweight and very absorbable) have great success penetrating that outermost skin cell layer and the nutrients being utilized effectively. Some of my favorites for all skin types (including oily, acne-prone) are Grapeseed, Argan, Marula Blue Tansy, and Rosehip oils.

Here are some fave Soap Hope dynamic duos for balanced hydration + moisture after cleansing!

For skin battling stress, morning or night:

  1. ACURE Seriously Soothing Biocellulose Gel Mask – Provides a closed contour of the face to evenly distribute the hydrating powers of Hyaluronic Acid, Argan, Geranium, and Plant Peptides to soothe and saturate the skin cells.
  2. Seriously Soothing Blue Tansy Night Oil – antioxidant-rich blue tansy oil is a concentrated blend to soothe sensitivity and refresh thirsty skin. Excellent used in place of a night cream for those seeking deep hydration and balance.

For skin on the verge of cracking, go to bed with plumping and boosting:

  1. Derma E Anti-Wrinkle Night Serum – Vitamin A encourages cellular renewal, reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles for a fresher, healthier looking appearance while Vitamin E helps to soften, smooth.
  2. EO Ageless Skin Care Transformative Night Serum – the Powerful elixir of antioxidant-rich Argan, Meadowfoam, Pumpkin, Rose, Tsubaki, Avocado, Macadamia, Hemp, Sunflower, and Carrot Seed Oils for intense moisturizing.

For skin working towards a brighter day, upon waking:

  1. ACURE Radically Rejuvenating Oil-Free Serum – Chlorella & apple fruit extract provide an ideal cocktail for rejuvenating hydration and supportive regeneration while Poet’s Daffodil Cell Culture Extract helps to improve overall tone and pigmentation. 
  2. Derma E Radiant Glow Face Oil By Sunkissalba – Nutrient-dense Pumpkin Seed, Seabuckthorn Fruit, and Argan Oils, help combat dehydration and improve moisture concentration, while protective minerals accentuate glow and protection.

Amy Halman is an award-winning skin therapist, speaker and product development specialist. As the owner of EcoBlend Therapies, she connects each client’s diet, lifestyle, body wellness and stress levels to imbalances reflecting on the skin. Utilizing this information, she designs topical, nutrition-packed treatments to feed the skin’s ability to re-engage and optimize. Learn more about her services at ecoblendtherapies.com

Ways to go Plastic Free This July

We keep seeing #plasticfreejuly and if you aren’t celebrating, you should! This is a movement that was started in Western Australia in 2011 by a handful of people that wanted to empower individuals around the world to think about their plastic use and how it negatively impacts our world. Today this movement is celebrated by more than 150 countries worldwide. We know at Soap Hope that a simple thought and action can change the world. Just like shopping at Soap Hope helps empower women and end poverty, celebrating Plastic Free July means a world that can have less and less dependency on plastic that pollutes every corner of our world. The most powerful action is your ability to choose how you will cast your vote.

Before you start your path, no matter where you are on the journey to plastic free, be sure and sign up to be counted in this year’s challenge here.

Skip the Plastic Microbeads

Microplastics are a macro problem. As you may know, plastic degrades (breaks down into pieces), but it doesn’t biodegrade (break down through natural decomposition). This is a big problem and has grown over time. Over the last seven decades, we have steadily turned the sea into a gloopy plastic chowder.

These tiny microplastics will end up in our food. That’s right and don’t think you are safe just avoiding seafood, the food chain is more complex than just fish to human. We need to avoid purchasing products that contain these microplastics. These types of plastics can be found in bags, bottles, utensils, face/body washes, toys, laundry detergents, it is even in our clothes – polyester is a plastic.

If you are looking for alternatives to body, face, and laundry soaps look no further than Soap Hope. We work hard to avoid selling products that contain these environmentally harmful contaminants.

Avoid products with known microplastics

It’s in your body wash, your face cleansers, laundry soaps, and kinds of toothpaste. Do not support companies that do not protect the environment. Making a dollar today doesn’t do the world good tomorrow and we know that the choices we make today cast a vote for the type of world we want.

We love this website called Beat the Microbead, they have taken the time to share by a rating system which brands currently contain microbeads in their products by country. Check out the U.S. list here. Find out for yourself and find alternatives! If you want recommendations, send us a message.

Stop using single-use plastics

We have so many options around us to reuse, why use a single-use plastic? Avoid straws, plastic shopping bags, and plastic drink cups and bottles. Think reusable!

Single plastic uses are the biggest pollutant in the plastic world next to microbeads. We are big fans of Klean Kanteen reusable bottles and containers. They are setting new standards for durability and eco-friendly food and beverage containers. Klean Kanteen uses stainless steel bottles and containers that are BPA-free and easy to clean making that transition from plastic one use to everyday reuse simple and easy. Plus it doesn’t hurt they come in amazing colors. So find your hue and let the earth stay greener!

Recycle at home and in your community

Start recycling in your community if it doesn’t already exist and if it does get on board and start recycling at home. Tell recycling centers how much you appreciate and learn about the materials they do and do not accept. We are responsible for our environment and this is a fast way to start reducing plastic pollution in the environment. Looking to start or improve your recycling habits? Check out this great resource from Keep American Beautiful.

Give a Crap

Did you know that most toilet paper comes wrapped in plastic? We recommend seeking out brands that offer a choice of recycled paper. Seventh Generation offers recycled individually wrapped toilet paper and can be ordered right here. It comes in a cardboard box without any plastic wrapping. Come to think of it Seventh Generation offers eco-friendly 100% biodegradable or recycled product packaging for all their cleaning and home care products. A win for you and the planet!

Shop with sustainability in mind

When you shop for your everyday products you have the power to ignite change in the product offerings, we’ve seen this in the last few years where consumers demand more and more transparency in products and packaging.

At Soap Hope we take packaging and sustainability practices seriously and we encourage our customers to do the same in their own lives. The brands we carry on our shelves at Soap Hope strive to continually find more and more ways to package in a more simple and sustainable way.

We, ourselves sought out how we could play our part, we created these boxes called “ugly boxes”. You know when you order from those retail giants and they ship small items in huge boxes filled with plastic and air, that just drives us batty. We package most orders in cardboard ugly boxes that are made from scrap. Large orders are packaged in reused boxes from local businesses and we do not use plastic in our packaging. We use recycled materials only. We work hard to reduce waste in shipping our customers and we think everyone should work towards this effort. No more plastic air filled boxes, please!

What action will you take today to stop the plastic pollution of our planet?

 

 

Hair’s Best Friend: Moroccan Argan Oil

Miracle Oil

By now you’ve certainly heard of argan oil. It’s been called “the miracle oil” and “liquid gold,” and while it’s a relatively new discovery in the beauty industry, the benefits of argan oil have been known for centuries in northern Africa. In the arid environment where it grows, argan has always been used to keep hair and skin soft and supple. Rich in nutrients, argan was also used topically for skin ailments and to fight infections.

Argan oil is one of the rarest oils on the planet, because it comes from the fruit of the argania spinosa tree which grows in only a very small part of the world.

Focus on Hair

Argan oil has powerful applications for skin, face, eyes, and nails, and as you will learn today, for hair.

Many people who try argan oil for the first time are amazed by its effects. It helps with both oily and dry scalp conditions because it regulates the activity of hair follicles. Argan is used to counteract the root causes of dry or damaged hair. For those with dull or rough hair, it can create shine and smoothness.

Argan oil is rich in the nutrients that your body and hair need – antioxidants, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid to name a few. Hair absorbs and retains this oil to create shine and body – but argan is light and does not build up, so hair gets the benefit of these great properties without being weighed down.

Argan oil penetrates the hair follicle and even protects from UV rays and environmental pollutants; it is definitely recommended for color treated hair and to strengthen styled hair.

Everything Good

At Soap Hope we always encourage practices that support our “Everything Good” motto. We love that most argan oil in the world is produced by fair trade women’s co-operatives. Environmentally, the argan forest in Morocco is a designated protected biosphere to ensure that argan fruit production remains sustainable.

I Want It!

Soap Hope’s brands recognize the importance of argan oil in their top of the line hair products. You’ll find argan-focused hair products and more from Seaweed Bath Company, Acure Organics, Hugo Naturals, and more. You can also get pure organic argan oil at Soap Hope from Acure Organics.

Do you use argan oil as a part of your hair regimen? Share your experiences with us in the comments below – we want to hear from you.

Raw Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Ice Cream

Today is National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day and I thought I would share my recipe for my favorite raw vegan banana and cinnamon ice cream. This is slightly sweet and more savory ice cream that is decadent and simple at the same time. Best served with a nice espresso in the evening or in the late afternoon as the day is winding down. The cinnamon isn’t strong and is almost like therapy with each bite and certainly less expensive. Enjoy with family and friends, because let’s be honest, that’s the best way to enjoy everything! If you love this, you’ll love my saffron ice cream recipe…

Serves: 1-4

Healthy Ingredients:

  • 4 cups organic banana, chopped into chunks (be sure and place these in the freezer before you start this recipe).
  • 1 scoop Plant Protein (love Maca Powder by Gaia Herbs)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 10 to 8 drops of Vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (or just sprinkle on top with each serving)
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid organic sugar

Prep and Make Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor (my ninja is my best friend) and blend until smooth or the texture you enjoy.
  2. Serve immediately (because you won’t be able to help yourself) or if you have restraint, store in the freezer for up to three weeks.

Zero Waste Tip: Don’t throw out those overly ripe bananas. Peel them, break them into chunks and freeze them for up to two months, and use in your favorite smoothie or ice cream recipe.

Enjoy this recipe and National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day!

Refreshing Summer Mint Tea

When I think of Summer I think of swimming, afternoon sun soaks, and my Aunt’s mint tea. This taste so refreshing on a hot summer day. So as I enjoyed a glass this past weekend, I thought I bet there are others who would love this recipe for celebrating the upcoming 4th of July. The crisp mint, the juicy lemons….oh so refreshing.

An hour from refreshing summer joy…

Ingredients

Pro Tips

I use Yogi Refreshing Mint Tea because the taste is divine and this specific blend has Green Tea Extract and Cinnamon Bark with Ginger and Peppermint Leaf. It is the perfect blend. You can use another mint tea, but I’ve yet to find one that compares to this blend.

Don’t use a plastic container, invest in a nice glass pitcher, your body will thank you!

If you are looking to punch up this tasty tea, you can always throw in a splash of Vodka or an afternoon cocktail.

You can put sugar in this recipe if you wish, but I would avoid it.

Directions

In a large teapot pour the boiling water over the 12 tea bags and allow it to steep for 20 minutes.

Pour the freshly brewed tea (sans the tea bags) into your glass container and place in the refrigerator for an hour or until ready to serve.

To serve, place mint sprigs in the bottom of the glass along with a slice of lemon and pour the tea over these ingredients.

Place some ice cubes into the glass as well to keep it chilled.

Serve to guests or family and watch them enjoy!

This recipe serves 8, so double if you want a batch that lasts for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make Your Own Aromatherapy Candles

Who doesn’t love candles? Candles are lovely! The scents can affect your mood, lifting you up with happiness, energy, or calming your spirit. But sometimes we have to find our own scent that we cannot find anywhere. Here is the opportunity to experience and put those old mason jars to use. You just need wax, wicks, and your favorite essential oils!

Pro Tips

When pouring your candles, do it over newspaper or old magazines. This will prevent wax drops from getting everywhere. If you are like me, you aren’t passionate about cleaning off the stovetop.

You’ll want to secure your wicks with an anchor. Some will place a wax paper on the bottom of your jar or container, but I like to use little pebbles. I think it adds a bit of an earthy look to the bottom of the container. But you’ll want to ensure your wick is straight, it isn’t straight it won’t burn properly.

Environmental note, do not put your wax down the drain. This will save you a big mess.

Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Total Time: 3 Hours | Yield: 4 Candles

What you’ll need

  • A jar for the candle
  • Wax flakes (we always shoot for sustainably sourced wax)
  • Essential oils (You can select from Aura Cacia’s wide selection found here at Soap Hope. I’m partial to the Citronella since it is summer time.
  • Flower or plant leaves
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Wick
  • Pencil
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper
  • A container that can be boiled safely

Instructions

  1. Turn up the heat! The first step is to melt down your wax flakes in a pot over low-medium heat. They should melt quickly, so you’ll want to pay close attention, but if it takes a little longer than expected, just turn up the heat. While it is melting, be sure and stir using a wooden spoon. I like to mix in a few flower and plant leaves for texture.
  2. Now that your wax flakes are melted add 70-100 drops of your favorite essential oils. This amount depends on how potent your essential oil selection is and how much of a scent you want. You can select from subtle to sensational.
  3. At this point, you are going to want to anchor your wicks to the bottom of the container you have chosen using either a bit of wax or a stone.  Make sure it is straight.
  4. Tape the wick in a vertical position. Lay something across the top of the container and tape the wick to it so it stays upright. I’ll use a stick.
  5. Pour baby pour! Pour that wax into your container and then repeat this skilled move until all the containers are full.
  6. Let them cool and sit for about an hour or so.
  7. Cut it out! Cut those wicks to your desired height and now you have your candle.
  8. The final step, you worked hard, grab a book, a cup of tea (find the perfect cup here), and light up that candle for a cozy, well deserved afternoon!

Too much work for you? Don’t have the time and want a sustainably sourced candle solution right now? Check out our collections.

Ten Tips for Terrific Teeth

The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, so prioritizing oral health has many downstream effects. While ancient systems like Ayurveda have acknowledged for millennia the link between oral health and overall well-being, modern science is confirming that issues in the mouth affect organs and tissues throughout the body.

Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the oral cavity, for example, improves the function of the heart, lungs, pancreas, reproductive tissue, digestive system, and more. Even the health of the next generation is affected: findings indicate that a pregnant woman’s oral microbiome could more significantly impact the placental microbiome than the collection of microorganisms in her digestive tract or vaginal canal.

So it’s time to take a serious look at how you’re caring for your mouth. These ten tips will get you started.

Scrape your tongue

Scraping the tongue every morning upon waking confers myriad benefits. It

  • aids digestion
  • improves the sense of taste
  • stimulates the internal organs
  • helps cleanse the entire gastrointestinal tract
  • removes that unattractive white coating and other accumulations from the night
  • reduces the toxins and bacteria that contribute to bad breath
  • helps maintain healthy bacterial balance
  • encourages awareness of your current state of health as reflected in the tongue

Preferably use a stainless steel cleaner made specifically for this purpose. The back of a spoon could also work to loosen and clear accumulations, but your toothbrush will not.

Scrape the tongue from the back of the throat (just before the gag reflex) forward five to ten times, or until the tongue looks and feels clean.

Brush with natural toothpaste

After scraping your tongue, brush normally with natural toothpaste. Commercial kinds of toothpaste contain harmful ingredients, not the least of which is fluoride. Despite its prevalence, fluoride actually dissolves bones and teeth, in addition to suppressing thyroid function, creating an autoimmune response, damaging the brain and nervous system, and more.

Instead, favor brands with safe ingredients and transparent labeling, like those featured in Soap Hope’s oral care products here.

Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Toothpaste is a trusted favorite, made with organic ingredients and no fluoride, no synthetic foaming agents, and no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners. Cinnamon and Anise flavors are also available.

If you want to get a little more adventurous, check out A Wild Soap Bar’s Tooth Savior Natural Tooth Soap, an alternative to the traditional paste that comes in Cinnaclove and Ultamint.

Oil pull

Here’s another practice to add to your daily routine: oil pulling. It’s been gaining popularity lately, but the practice of holding and swishing oil in the mouth is quite ancient.

Like tongue scraping, oil pulling supports detoxification, improves digestive health, freshens the breath, and promotes a healthy balance of oral microbes. It also counters plaque build-up, maintains a normal oral pH, increases the circulation to oral tissue, and encourages strong teeth and gums.

Swish about a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for at least ten minutes, twenty if you can, taking care not to swallow it. While sesame oil was the traditional favorite, many find coconut oil more palatable, and it has excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Do this while showering or getting ready for the day so it doesn’t take up any extra time. Move the oil throughout the mouth—side to side and front to back—and pull it vigorously through the teeth with a sucking action to trap bacteria. When you’re done, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with water.

Whiten and brighten safely

Commercial whitening products can be even more toxic than standard kinds of toothpaste. Consider home remedies for addressing stains instead.

Activated charcoal, as a highly absorbent substance, effectively binds toxins so they can be excreted by the body. More commonly used for food poisoning, activated charcoal can have a similarly beneficial effect when you brush with it.

Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal is a safe and inexpensive way to give this a try. Open the capsule carefully, as charcoal can stain bathroom surfaces and clothes, and dump a small amount on your toothbrush. Brush as usual and then rinse thoroughly. Repeat a few days in a row and then periodically as needed. You should notice improved whitening.

Another counterintuitive way to whiten teeth is with turmeric—yes, another substance that stains! Turmeric overall is one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatories, and it can bring some of that stellar action to the gums and mouth.

Put a small amount of powdered turmeric (available in the spice section of the grocery store) on your toothbrush, taking care again to avoid staining your sink or clothes, and brush as normal. Wait five minutes before rinsing to let the turmeric take effect. Rinse thoroughly and brush with natural toothpaste. Results are usually observed with consistency over a few days or a week. Note that your toothbrush will get yellow so you might want to keep a separate brush for this purpose.

Maintain mineral balance

Teeth require essential minerals to maintain their integrity. Most people tend to focus on calcium, but are you getting enough of the other cofactors, like magnesium, zinc, silica, and boron?

A diverse diet rich in whole foods helps here, especially traditional mineral-rich foods like bone broth, colorful plants, and nuts and seeds. Sesame seeds are an exceptional source of calcium, and pumpkin seeds abound in both magnesium and zinc.

While secondary to diet, supplements can help, like this calcium-magnesium mineral complex from Nature’s Way.

And don’t forget silica, perhaps the most overlooked mineral not only for healthy teeth but also for healthy hair, skin, nails, and connective tissue. Horsetail, also called shavegrass, may be the richest source of silica in the plant kingdom. Infuse the dried grass into a tea, or go with the capsule form, as in this product from Nature’s Way.

For additional mineral support or to shift the movement of minerals in the body, you might opt for a homeopathic formulation like Calc Phos and Calc Fluor.

Get the right vitamins

Specific vitamins are just as critical as a mineral balance to teeth and bone. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 are especially important: in an intricate process of communication, transportation, and activation, these key players affect calcium metabolism and how well the body is able to build and repair hard tissue.

Again, getting vitamins from food is ideal, especially whole foods naturally high in healthy fats, like fatty fish and fish oil, especially cod liver oil; pastured butter, high-vitamin butter oil, or ghee; coconut oil; egg yolks; poultry liver; and raw dairy (if tolerated). Traditional cultures featured these foods amply in their diets, and they lacked many of the deficiencies and diseases so common today.

Note that these nutrients are not only crucial to your health but also to the health of any future children you might have. Research is showing that poor vitamin K2 status may contribute to deviated septa and other facial abnormalities, while vitamin A, long known for its role in fetal development and eyesight, may be implicated in cleft palate when deficient.

Address infection

The aforementioned tips will go a long way in maintaining a healthy microbial balance that prevents infection. The dietary recommendations are especially important, since nutrient-poor foods like refined sugars, flours, and oils, coupled with a lack of nutrient-dense foods, predispose the mouth to disease, just as they wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.

Additionally, make sure to support your body’s good bacteria with probiotic-rich foods like raw sauerkraut, coconut kefir, and beet kvass. While supplemental probiotics can help, especially in acute situations, they can’t match the species diversity acquired from a wide range of fermented foods.

If you do have an infection, then you may need more targeted therapies. Among them are the use of essential oils, of which Soap Hope carries a variety. Particularly beneficial to the teeth are clove, tea tree, and peppermint. You can apply the oil directly to the site of pain or infection, or drop the oil onto dental floss and floss as usual to reach pockets of inflammation or infection below the gum line. Another option is to add a few drops to the oil you use in oil pulling.

Work the jaw

The consistent mechanical action is part of good dental care, keeping the whole face and jaw in proper working order.

Among the best foods for this purpose is celery, which forces chewing. It also increases saliva, which serves as a personal mouthwash, and gently cleanses the surface of the teeth. Other crunchy vegetables, like carrots, have a similar action.

In general, try to eat some sort of whole, collagenous, or fibrous food at each meal. The sesame seeds you’re eating for nutrient density (see tip #5) can do double duty here; aim to chew methodically a handful every day. Regardless of the food, really involve the muscles of mastication, not just your facial muscles.

Breathe deeply

Breathing is so automatic we may rarely think about it, let alone about whether it’s optimal, but breathing and oral health are intimately related. A strong jaw and proper palate formation improve respiratory function, while a small jaw and misplaced tongue constrict the airway, causing a host of problems.

Even though the development of the oral cavity happens very early in life (making the case for adequate maternal and early childhood nutrition even stronger!), the palate is in fact malleable. Along with chewing (see tip #8), concerted effort can make a difference.

Nasal breathing is absolutely essential. The lips should be closed with the tongue pressing gently against the roof of the mouth. Mouth breathing and an inadequately positioned tongue, in contrast, starves the body of oxygen, especially during sleep. Poor sleep, in turn, prevents detoxification, repair, and restoration, leaving you feeling exhausted and irritable and your body more susceptible to inflammation, disease, and cognitive impairment. Once again, oral health is central to whole body health.

Additional breathing practices, like pranayama taught in Ayurveda and yoga, can train you to breathe more effectively and consciously. One simple technique, called ujjayi, is explained here.

Vibrate

In addition to proper breathing, vibration improves the health of bone and teeth. And it need not be complicated, though professional vibration products and therapies are becoming more common. Simple humming can do the trick: place the tongue on the roof of the mouth and hum into the upper jaw for a few minutes daily.

Humming not only activates bone and teeth but also calms the mind and nervous system, improves thyroid and immune function, stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands, and increases the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters, thereby aiding mood disorders, and much more.

Gargling, chanting, and voice exercises also open the airways and keep teeth healthy and the jaw functioning properly. Furthermore, they stimulate the vagus nerve, which helps to reintegrate that gut-brain, or mind-body, the connection often compromised in everything from digestive distress and constipation to depression, anxiety, and an overactive fight-or-flight response.

So don’t hold back on singing! Even listening to music with healing frequencies can be therapeutic.

There you have it—ten basics of oral care. And the results don’t stop at terrific teeth. As we’ve seen, when the teeth and mouth are well tended, the whole body benefits.

“C” The Benefits of Vitamin C

Pass the oranges, please! Time and time again we hear people talking about the benefits of Vitamin C. What is it? Why should I use it? And what’s so great about it? Vitamin C, which is ascorbic acid, is an essential water-soluble micronutrient that can transform one’s overall health. Water-soluble means your body doesn’t store or build it up. That’s why daily intake is vital to health. It is considered the “glue” that holds and strengthens the body.

This A-list antioxidant strengthens blood vessels and gives skin the elasticity it needs to stay strong and youthful. Just watch how a daily dose can transform your energy level, hair, nails, skin, and overall health. Best way to absorb vitamin C is through a healthy diet. Be sure you are taking in daily amounts of citrus and dark greens.

Powerful Healing Abilities

Vitamin C doesn’t have to be ingested to gain benefits from it. Your body uses vitamin C to help heal injuries to your beautiful skin. Collagen helps to close wounds and also aid in creating scar tissue to protect the wound area. From wounds to sunburn vitamin C can help to aid in recovery. If you find your skin takes a long time to heal it could be a sign of vitamin C deficiency.

It puts the “C” in Collagen Boost

Vitamin C is a powerhouse for anti-aging. Collagen is a main structural protein found in your skin and connective tissue. Actually, over 70% of all protein found in your skin is collagen.  Vitamin C is required to make hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, which in turn makes collagen. Collagen is what keeps skin looking bright, firm and young. This also includes smoothing out wrinkles and other symptoms of aging.

Treat Discoloration 

Vitamin C helps prevent discoloration of the skin. It inhibits the production of pyrimidine dimers, basically preventing the DNA in your skin from reacting with sunlight and causing discoloration. This’ll keep your skin supple and smooth and lighten freckles as well as age spots. Finally, treating skin with vitamin C will help reduce and aid in the prevention of skin cancer.

Hero of Healthy Hair

Vitamin C should be center stage in your hair care regime. It can help revitalize and protect, just as it can with skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it can help protect you from the daily pollutants in our environment. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it reduces free radicals that try to damage your beautiful mane. Protected hair will grow out faster, thicker and stronger. And goodness knows we all like that! It also helps retain hair’s natural color and prevents premature aging.

Finally, it can fight the bacteria on the scalp that leads to dandruff and at the same provide the needed moisturize to maintain a healthy balance. Oh and did we meant that it helps to ward off grays, helping hair retain its natural color for longer as well as preventing hair loss. It helps fight adrenal gland fatigue which is one of the ways hair loss occurs.

Energy. Energy. Energy.

Vitamin C plays a main stage role in helping your body absorb iron and iron contributes to your overall wellbeing. So, it would make sense that it would give you more energy, because without iron we become weak, tired, and can develop anemia. Taking a daily dose of Vitamin C can help you feel vibrant and stay energized.

Hydrating Herbals

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely heard the common refrain. While ample fluids after birth are critical for your recovery and well-being, as well as making plenty of breast milk for the baby, there’s more to the story than keeping your water bottle full at all times.

Teas and tonics have historically featured prominently in postpartum care. Traditional healing systems like Ayurveda, in which I’m formally trained, recognize the value in herbal medicine and use much more than plain-Jane H2O for hydrating new moms. In fact, they often viewed the unadorned stuff straight from the faucet a lamentable missed opportunity. After all, with so many changes after birth, every sip and morsel can make a difference, so why not give your hydration the biggest bang for the buck?

Common spices like cumin, coriander, and fennel can be brewed into a simple digestive tea, as can ginger and fenugreek, with added support for breastfeeding. Other mineral-rich plants, like nettles, can infuse postpartum hydration, while more substantive tonics, like specially prepared kinds of milk, provide easily assimilated nutrition as well as hydration.

Before we look at each of these options, in turn, notice the emphasis on heating hydrators like herbal teas. In proper postpartum care, warmth is key! Food and drink should be served warm, with even plain water no colder than room temperature.

This is because birth disperses the newly delivered mother’s critical warmth, which must be rekindled from the inside out. Learn more.

Reaching for warm drinks serves another, less tangible purpose: ritual.

Medicinal and celebratory drinks permeate all cultures and cuisines—and not only for their powerful healing compounds. The ritual of savoring a warm drink can steady the mind and emotions far beyond the capacity of the given constituents to heal the body.

Furthermore, sharing a warm drink with a companion or community, or even in solitude if it’s a brew that’s been cherished throughout the ages, can create a sense of unity, a type of soul synergy that defies time, place, and even explanation. Postpartum hydration is indeed nourishment for body, mind, and soul!

Spiced teas

Cumin, coriander, and fennel (CCF) are powerful digestive spices that create a synergistic blend when simmered together. A traditional Ayurvedic remedy for a number of gastrointestinal symptoms, CCF tea especially benefits new mothers. In addition to gently removing gas, relieving abdominal distension, and enkindling the digestive fire, it aids hormone balance and milk production. Mildly laxative and diuretic, this easy-to-prepare tea benefits both mother and baby, since fussiness may be due to digestive discomfort.

While not classic components of CCF tea, fenugreek and ginger can be welcome additions. For new moms, fenugreek is often the go-to lactation aid, but it has other perks: in addition to supporting digestion and rejuvenation, it encourages the uterus to release remaining placental fragments. It also supports normal bile production, healthy pancreatic function, and blood sugar balance.

Ginger is also a well-known digestive aid. Gently warming with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, fresh ginger features liberally in postpartum cooking. In fact, Ayurveda affectionately dubs it the “universal medicine,” so throw in a few slices whenever you can!

Cumin-Coriander-Fennel Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring seeds, water, and optional ginger to a boil on the stove.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes or more.
  3. Strain and serve hot.

Especially for postpartum moms, the thermos method is even easier. Add the seeds and boiling water to a quart-sized thermos. Drink throughout the day, aiming for 5 to 10 minutes before breastfeeding if trying to counteract digestive discomfort in the baby. Chew some of the seeds while you drink for a little extra strength or strain them and add to a meal later.

If tea isn’t possible, you can still benefit from these healing plants. Herbal suppliers like Motherlove, a family business that makes organic products for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and babies, crafts supplements with similar ingredients. Their More Milk Plus and More Milk Special Blend alcohol-free liquid herbal extracts contain both fennel and fenugreek. Motherlove also makes a plain Fenugreek extract.

Herbal infusions

Other time-honored herbal favorites for both pregnancy and postpartum include red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, and oat straw, often prepared as infusions. When used regularly over time, they have myriad benefits, including

  • nourishing both mother and baby
  • strengthening bones, teeth, lungs, nerves, and the circulatory system
  • preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage
  • easing morning sickness
  • providing vital nutrients like iron and protein
  • reducing pain during labor
  • speeding birth
  • assisting milk production

Infusions are stronger than teas, extracting more vitamins, minerals, and proteins from the plant leaves. Yet they are easy to prepare: steep overnight and drink in the morning! Pick two herbs and prepare on alternating days, or combine several herbs into a large glass jar for storage and then infuse together.

Basic Herbal Infusion

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried herbs (like red raspberry leaf or nettle leaf)
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • fresh lemon wedges (optional)
  • stevia to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put a large handful of herbal matter (about ½ cup) into a quart-sized glass jar or a small handful (about ¼ cup) into a pint-sized glass jar.
  2. Fill the jar with boiling water and cap tightly.
  3. Let stand for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Strain and drink, adding a few squeezes of fresh lemon or a few drops of stevia to taste, if desired. Refrigerate what you do not consume, reheating later as needed.

Again, Motherlove offers alternatives, if tea isn’t available. Check out their More Milk Two alcohol-free liquid herbal extract, which is specially formulated to include both red raspberry and nettle.

Tonics

If you tolerate dairy, consider warm milk tonics for additional nourishment and rebuilding. Make sure to choose raw (or at least low-temperature pasteurized), grass-fed, non-homogenized, organic cream-top milk whenever possible. You can also replace dairy milk with nut kinds of milk like almond, cashew, or coconut. Either way, make sure to warm it up and spice it up with tasty digestive aids like cinnamon, cardamom, and clove.

Here’s one new-mom-approved recipe for a warm milk tonic. You’ll notice that I often camouflage traditional herbal medicine, like Shatavari, in my postpartum tonics. Shatavari is a classic rejuvenating herb that promotes vitality and strength, nourishing the tissues and supporting healthy lactation.

While I like the simplicity of powdered Shatavari, it can also be taken in supplement form, like the Shatavari capsules or Shatavari extract from Motherlove.

Proper hydration with heating herbal brews can ease the transition into motherhood for body, mind, and soul. But much more goes into successful breastfeeding and a peaceful postpartum experience. Learn more.

And if you’re interested in other herbal products designed especially for the delicate and sacred season of new motherhood, check out the whole line of Motherlove products. They’re 15%  off right now at Soap Hope, but only for only a limited time! Use code MLVDD.

 

Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.

Aging Naturally

Aging has a negative connotation for many people. It means more doctors’ visits, frailty, wrinkles, fatigue, and sickness. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. We can incorporate steps into our daily routine for better aging and health naturally. These tips are basic needs we should be utilizing; food, water, sleep, and relaxation. While we have no control over our genes, we certainly have control over these! Remember you are beautiful and aging is part of that beauty!

Anti-Aging Foods

Don’t put that dark chocolate down, it’s actually good for you. Eating a healthy amount actually slows aging. Cacao, which is that bitter taste, is the healthy part of the chocolate.  Nuts lower the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease due to the amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. What kind of nut works? They all do. If you’re not much of a nut or have allergies, then avocados are a good substitute to consider. Bone broth offers many needed minerals, salmon improves blood circulation with astaxanthin, figs are packed with flavonoids. Those are just some of the foods that will keep you healthy and young. Some others include; mushrooms, maca, blueberries, watermelon, green tea, pomegranates and much more. Many of these would make excellent snacks to give your afternoon a sweet kick.

Sleep

It’s starting to become common knowledge that a stable sleep cycle can help many aspects of people’s health. There are many people who don’t get enough sleep, or whose sleep schedule is erratic. A consistent sleep schedule can help the body recharge. Sleep is when our bodies have a chance to repair damage inside and out. One of those damages is daily stress, which, if left to grow, can accelerate the aging process. The best target range is around 7-9 hours. Missing that target every once in a while is fine, but even too much sleep can be detrimental to your health. If getting to sleep becomes difficult, then consider using lavender to help you calm down.

Hydrate

Did you know cells shrivel up when dehydrated? It’s sort of gross, but animal cells don’t do well when left without moisture for too long. When our cells are hydrated, they work more efficiently. This means your system is working faster and keeping your skin plump, and that can lead to fewer wrinkles as well as happy cells. 2 liters over the course of a day is a commonly recommended amount, but if you exercise you may want to raise the amount after a workout. Balance is the key because drinking too much can also be harmful.

Relax

Managing stress is just as important to keeping a youthful glow as fighting off free radicals. Traditional stress reducers include exercise, meditation, tea, and talking. Green tea is already an anti-aging drink. If you’re out at the moment, Yogi offers a Green Tea Super Antioxidant that’s made specifically to fight free radicals. If you’re not a big tea drinker, you can meditate to help center yourself. It’s as simple as finding a comfortable spot, putting on some calming music/sounds, and clearing your mind. I’m an exercise person myself, being a little too restless to meditate. A good walk with my puppy is how I wind down for the day. I find myself feeling the best when friends join me, and we just chat about mindless things. Being able to talk about unimportant matters is what helps me find my center. We don’t have to solve problems we bring up , we’re just listening. That’s another natural way to lower stress. Slow down for a chat with a friend, not to talk about world problems or deep worries. Talk about a sale you’ve seen or a cute animal video. Remind each other of a funny event, or share interesting facts you’ve learned that week.