Category Archives: The Healthy Life

Express Yourself: Self-Care Activities to Express Your Creativity (and Clear Your Head)

We’ve all heard about the importance of maintaining a regular self-care practice. The long term benefits of a self-care routine are wide-ranging, including better sleep habits, improved mood and overall health, just to name a few positive results and overall health benefits.

But if self-care activities like yoga or meditation aren’t your thing, what options do you have if you’re looking to take better care of your mental health?

Self-Care Activities to Try Today

“There are so many ways to practice self-care,” writes Margarita Tartakovsky, MS. “One of my favorite ways is to connect to my creativity.”

What follows are just a few ideas for self-care activities that will help you express yourself and do your well-being some good.

Doodle away

Doodling is one of the easiest ways to get creative, and literally anyone can do it. While it seems trivial, the act of taking pen or pencil to paper and doodling does more good than you might realize, however. “Doodling increases your visual literacy,” writes Emily Potts, “and helps you process ideas, even when you are not trying! Experiment with different materials, and draw whatever comes to mind.”

Write it out

No need for the grammar police — take 30 minutes and just start writing. Fill up a few pages with whatever comes to mind and get your thoughts down on paper. Artist Julie Cameron takes time every day for her Morning Pages:

“There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

Make a List

Often we have so many ideas, tasks, and concepts swirling around in our minds that we lose track of what is actually a priority for us.

Take some time every evening to jot down a list of what’s floating around there in your head. Pick a general theme: what you need to do tomorrow, your short term goals, or activities that you’d like to participate in but haven’t gotten around to trying.

Getting these things out of your head and onto paper can help to clear your mind a bit, and provide some extra motivation to tackle some of those goals you’ve written out.

Brainstorm a Big Idea

Sometimes thinking through a concept can feel like untangling a stubborn knot. You can work through an idea or build out a plan that you haven’t fully thought through by first making sure you have a journal with you at all times, and, second, jotting down those ideas as they come to you.

You don’t necessarily have to write out an entire strategy or blueprint in one sitting. In fact, it’s best to just write out ideas – even if they’re not complete or fully fleshed out. Getting those thoughts on paper can help provide you with a different perspective when you see it in black and white, so that you can come back to them later and build on what you’ve come up with.

Tune Into Yourself Again

Self-care matters because we give so much of ourselves to our friends, families, jobs, and projects. Making more time and saving energy for yourself is crucial, so that you’re able to take care of the other important people in your life.

According to Kim Boivin,  a registered clinical counselor with a Masters of Education in Counseling Psychology, “We are interdependent, so what I do to take care of myself has an impact on all who I interact with. When I care for myself, I care for others better too.”

Journaling and list-making are just a few ways to help sort through the jumble of all that our brains work through on a daily basis. Making the time to sit down, with pen and paper, and write out your thoughts can do wonders for anything that you might be worrying about.

And if you’re searching for the perfect journal, check out the Michael Roger notebooks that we’ve got in stock here at Soap Hope! They feature fun and quirky designs to fit your personal style, and use 100% post-consumer-recycled pages and soy ink printing,

What are some self-care activities you’ve started recently? Share in the comments below!

Applying Mineral Makeup: A Beginner’s Guide

It’s likely that you’ve seen ads or commercials touting its many benefits, but you might be wondering: what makes natural mineral makeup different? Or, you may have recently purchased some mineral makeup and you’re thinking: Is there anything different to applying mineral makeup versus “regular” makeup?

Applying Mineral Makeup

Before We Start Applying Mineral Makeup

Let’s first look at what is in mineral makeup.

Mineral makeup has been around for several decades now as a beauty product, and it’s known for its light finish and “barely there” feel.

Mineral makeup contains many of the same ingredients as other types of makeups — just without the preservatives or skin irritants that can be found in a lot of other brands. In fact, many dermatologists recommend applying mineral makeup on skin disorders like rosacea and eczema, because it doesn’t contain fragrances or oil that can cause breakouts or redness.

And even better — you can find natural mineral makeup for your whole face. From foundations to eye shadow, you can nail that night-on-the-town or everyday look that you’re going for.

Setting the Perfect (Mineral) Foundation

Natural Medium Beige Foundation from Mahya Cosmetics
Medium Beige Foundation from Mahya Cosmetics

Starting your look with the right foundation is key — and especially during the warmer months, having a foundation that still lets your skin breathe is a bonus!

Before you begin applying mineral makeup, you’ll want to start with clean, moisturized skin. Throughout the application process, you will be adding layers of powder to your skin. If your face is too dry, you might wind up with a “powdered” look.

Once you’ve got a clean and well-hydrated face, applying the mineral foundation is easy — just swirl a makeup brush in the foundation, tap away any excess, and apply as usual. If you prefer more coverage, you can always add an additional layer.

Note: You’ll want to stock up on some quality brushes that will last you a good while. You can generally find a brush set with all your basics just about anywhere. Mahya Cosmetics offers a sweet 7-piece set that’s great for everyday use, even when you’re traveling.

Covering and Concealing

Pure Beige Concealer from Mahya Cosmetics
Pure Beige Concealer from Mahya Cosmetics

For any unwanted blemishes or scars, mineral makeup has you covered. A mineral concealer is perfect for minimizing the appearance of any spots or lines, without clogging your pores.

These concealers also work on dark circles under your eyes, leaving you with a brighter, fresher appearance.

The concealer is applied by using a smaller brush, for a more focused application on blemish areas. Dip the brush in concealer, tap away excess powder, and gently “dot” the area that you want to cover up. Be sure to blend the area a bit so that the look is consistent and not “patchy” looking.

You’re Making Me Blush

Crazy Glimmering Blush from Mahya Cosmetics
Crazy Glimmering Blush from Mahya Cosmetics

Everyone loves some color, and no look is complete without a great blush to highlight those cheeks. You can choose from matte applications or a blush with some sexy shimmer to it.

From fresh and youthful to sultry and dramatic, there are dozens of color options for you to choose from. Remember — mineral makeup is highly pigmented, so you’ll want to use a lighter hand when applying the blush to your cheeks. You can always add more!

The Eyes Have It

You and Me Glimmering Multi-Purpose Minerals Eye Shadow from Mahya Cosmetics
You and Me Glimmering Multi-Purpose Minerals Eye Shadow from Mahya Cosmetics

No look is complete without the perfect eye! Whether you’re heading into the office or out with your friends, there’s a mineral eye shadow for the occasion.

It’s worth noting that mineral eye shadow will stay on the skin longer if a primer is used before you apply it. Don’t have any primer? Just a bit of moisturizer or some of your foundation applied to your eyelid will give the eye shadow something to stick to. Have fun!

Bronze Away!

Istanbul Bronzer from Mahya Cosmetics
Istanbul Bronzer from Mahya Cosmetics

Give your look some additional glam with a gorgeous bronzer. You can use the bronzer to add more color to your skin, enhance your cheekbones, or add highlights and contouring to your look — get creative!

The bronzer is applied just like your foundation, with a larger brush to cover more surface area. Use a light hand here, as well. You can always build on more powder if you’d like the effect to be more dramatic.

Finishing the Look

#2 Mineral Veil Finishing Powder from Mahya Cosmetics
#2 Mineral Veil Finishing Powder from Mahya Cosmetics

After you’ve put the time into creating your perfect look, you’ll want to make sure it stays put, right?

Grab one of your larger brushes after you’ve applied the rest of your makeup, and gently dust your face with the finishing powder. This sets the mineral makeup and leaves you with a soft finish to your look.

So if you’ve been curious about applying mineral makeup, maybe it’s time you gave it a try. Start with something fun like an eye shadow or blush, then branch out into the foundation, bronzer, and finishing powder. Your new look is just a few brush strokes away!

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Not Puppy Love: Why is Formaldehyde in Shampoo

When you last went to the store, did you buy soap or shampoo? Have you recently purchased shampoo for your dog or cat? If so, did you even consider that there might be formaldehyde in shampoo, soap, and other skin care products you use every day for your pets, your baby, or yourself? This is the sad, but sometimes true reality of the products we have in our homes. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Really, there’s formaldehyde in shampoo?!

By now you’ve probably seen the adorable pictures that blogger Jessica Shyba took of her son Beau napping with the family dog Theo.

Puppy and baby got us talking here at Soap Hope about what goes into products for kids and pets.

We picked up a bottle of dog shampoo at the local pet store and had a look at the ingredient list. It started off fine – water, honey extract, and chamomile extract seemed like winners to us — but why was artificial fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, and Tetrasodium EDTA in dog shampoo?

Formaldehyde is for the Dogs

DMDM Hydantoin is a preservative that works by releasing formaldehyde into the product continuously over time. Formaldehyde does a great job inhibiting the growth of mold; but it’s also a known carcinogen, and most people don’t want it on their bodies or on their pets – especially when the puppy is snuggled up with the kids.

The consumer goods industry in the U.S. has a lot of leeway. If they want formaldehyde in shampoo, for example, but you don’t want to tell their customers, they can just add DMDM Hydantoin instead. The DMDM Hydantoin will slowly break down into formaldehyde in the shampoo throughout the life of the product. Problem solved!

(In the European Union, companies can’t get away with this trick: if an ingredient in their product breaks down into formaldehyde, they have to write “contains formaldehyde” on the label.)

In the Dog House

It’s not just Theo’s shampoo we think about at Soap Hope, it’s young Beau’s as well. Until 2014, Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo had Quaternium-15 in it. You guessed it – Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde in shampoo and other products they designed for babies. Years of public outcry finally caused Johnson & Johnson to reformulate their baby shampoo.

J&J Removing Formaldehyde in Shampoo
J&J removes formaldehyde-causing ingredients in their shampoo.
Image Source: NYTimes.com

Shampoo needs a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria. Big manufacturers don’t care that Quaternium-15 and DMDM Hydantoin produce formaldehyde; they care that they are very cheap and give their products a shelf life of over a year. These manufacturers know they can put pretty pictures on the products and make commercials with happy kids and pets, and that most people won’t look any further.

“No more tears!” Not quite.

Better Ways

There are better ways for manufacturers to preserve shampoo rather, than putting formaldehyde in their products. They can use a low-risk food-grade preservative like potassium sorbate, which has the same toxicity level as table salt. Even better, they can use vitamin e (tocopherol).

Some manufacturers don’t even require a preservative. For your pooch, try the totally natural Woof Wild Dog Shampoo Bar. Hand made by Maggie Hanus at A Wild Soap Bar, this shampoo bar has organic oils, aloe, oats, clay, sea salt, essential oils, yucca root and horsemint. It will leave your dog’s coat soft, shiny, and smelling great.

For moms and dads looking for a safe shampoo, we recommend any products from Acure Organics.

For baby’s bath time, try Hugo Natural’s Chamomile Vanilla Shampoo and Wash, followed by Badger’s Chamomile & Calendula Baby Oil, which contains nothing but certified organic essential oils.

What other ingredients are you worried about in your body care products? Let us know.

The Ugly Box: Soap Hope’s Upcycled Product Solution to Unnecessary Waste

Businesses are struggling to deliver customer orders in an environmentally-friendly method, either through upcycled product packaging or recycled materials. With the ecommerce industry on the rise (and, by default, the shipping industry too), the need for sustainable packaging solutions is greater than ever.

A Growing Need for Upcycled Products

We all know the feeling. You place an order for the perfect pair of shoes or that new dry shampoo you’ve been wanting to try, and before you know it the shipping box is sitting on your doorstep.

Chances are you’ve placed quite a few Internet orders in recent years. You’re not alone. Cyber Monday in 2015, for instance, was America’s biggest ecommerce sales day ever, with U.S. online orders totaling $3.07 billion.

When More Convenience Means More Waste

Our culture and economy are shifting towards all sorts of “on-demand” products. With just a few clicks, you can order groceries, clothes, beauty products — just about anything your heart desires.

There are some pretty serious consequences that come with this kind of convenience, however.

“From a sustainability perspective, we’re heading in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Dan Sperling, from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he explained that this trend — while convenient for consumers — is ultimately damaging.

In 2014, 35.4 million tons of paperboard materials were produced in the United States, “with ecommerce companies among the fastest-growing users.”

The numbers are pretty daunting. It’s clear that significant change is needed to shift the impact of consumer waste.

The Problem with Recycling

There is, of course, the option of recycling, but even that process poses its own issues. Not all materials are recycled in the same way or use the same resources.

“Each material has a unique value, determined by the rarity of the virgin resource and the price the recycled material fetches on the commodity market,” states environmental journalist Amy Westervelt. “The recycling process for each also requires a different amount of water and energy and comes with a unique (and sometimes hefty) carbon footprint.”

In short, not all materials are worth recycling.

The Upward Trend of Upcycling

So if recycling isn’t always sustainable, what other options are there?

While individuals can make changes to lessen their carbon footprint, it’s the businesses that are creating these products (and their packaging) that can create a bigger impact.

For the average consumer product sold today, nearly 10% of the finished and shipped product contains packing material which is normally unusable, and therefore dumped.

The concept of upcycling or upcycled products isn’t a new one in business — if you shop on Etsy, you’ll see a wide range of goods made from discarded materials that would have otherwise been tossed aside: jewelry made from old vinyl records; tables crafted from wooden baseball bats. The possibilities seem endless when it comes to turning “junk” into something you can flaunt.

This same concept can be applied to shipping, and Soap Hope has found an upcycled solution that customers are thrilled about.

For our planet. The Ugly Box.

Enter the Ugly Box

At Soap Hope, we’ve made it our mission to end poverty for women worldwide. But another value we hold close is our dedication to protecting our planet.

We ship all customer orders in upcycled product packaging, made with barely used scraps of cardboard and packaging material from local businesses. This is what we call the Ugly Box.

The standard shipping practices of ecommerce retailers create two unnecessary consequences:

  1. They use new cardboard boxes, which means more trees cut down and more environmental waste.
  2. The boxes used by these retailers are often many times bigger than necessary to fit the product(s) being shipped. You may have experienced this phenomenon from another ecommerce retailer who shipped you a small product in a box that was large enough to fit four or five times the amount.

Our Ugly Box addresses these two important problems:

  1. The cardboard we use is an upcycled product, which means it has been gently used — usually only one time — by local businesses who would have otherwise thrown the cardboard away.
  2. The Ugly Box minimizes the amount of cardboard needed to wrap a product, because it is built to fit the exact size of the products being shipped.

While the Ugly Box may not be the most attractive package you receive in the mail, it does its job of keeping your products safe during shipping and eliminating the need for new cardboard.

With that said, many Soap Hope customers have expressed their love of the Ugly Box.

A photo posted by Soap Hope (@soaphope) on

The Future is Now

While there is still much ground to cover in waste reduction, it’s promising to see that there are new and outside-the-box (pun intended) methods of upcycling, packaging, and shipping your favorite products right to your door.

“Ugly” Box or not, there is hope that businesses are capable of creating a positive, worldwide impact.

What is in Coconut Oil? 5 Things that Make it So Good

It seems like every few years there’s a new buzzworthy ingredient in natural health and beauty products, like argan oil and rosemary. The popular ingredient these days appears to be coconut oil. But what is in coconut oil that makes it so good for your face and skin?

I’ve heard that “coconut oil is the new duct tape; it fixes everything.” And while you may not be able to fix a broken bumper with it, coconut oil is being buzzed about for very good reason.

It’s touted as the ideal ingredient for lustrous hair, luminous skin, strong nails, and healthy digestion. In this article, we’ll focus on the benefits of coconut oil for your skin.

So, What is in Coconut Oil?

Much has been said about the benefits of coconut oil as a dietary supplement, but its benefits go beyond only internal. Here’s a quick breakdown of the naturally occurring elements of coconut oil that make it beneficial to the human body in so many ways:

  1. Antioxidant properties of Vitamin E contribute to healthy skin growth and renewal, and aids in prevention of premature aging.
  2. Proteins aid in cellular health and tissue repair, improving healing time of damaged tissues and ensuring healthy cell replacement rates.
  3. The natural pH balance of raw coconut oil is 7.3, a near perfect balance for the human body.
  4. The type of fatty acids in coconut oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, are more easily digested and used by the body than other types of more common fatty acids.
  5. Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial, making it an excellent cleansing agent for the skin.

They’re Even Better Together

All of the elements in coconut oil make this natural ingredient a fantastic health and beauty aid all by itself. But in combination with other natural, gentle elements like exfoliating scrubs or other moisturizing agents, the complimentary effects can be greatly enhanced:

  • With a body scrub or exfoliant, the natural oils aid in clearing skin and pores of sebum and increase cell regeneration for healthy, glowing skin.
  • In a moisturizer, coconut oil offers deep hydration very similar to the natural oils in our skin. It also helps to soothe and prevent dry, cracked skin, and heal acne.
  • In hair products, coconut oil moisturizes and hydrates, adding luster and shine back to dry, damaged hair.
If you’re ready to add coconut oil to your health and beauty regimen, check out our favorites from Deep Steep’s collection of coconut based products.

As an added bonus, here is a wonderful DIY Coconut Oil Hair Treatment, courtesy of Hair Love on Pinterest:

Deep Conditioning Coconut Oil Hair Treatment

(Article written by guest contributor Amy Wynn)

5 tips for your best bath ever

About a year ago, I moved into an apartment in a great location, with updated appliances and lovely neighbors.

The *only* outstanding issue is that there’s no bathtub. This was almost a deal breaker, but I’ve managed somehow over the last 10 months to go without.

However, any chance I get to use a bath when I’m staying at a hotel or friend’s house, you’d better believe I take the time to soak for awhile.

There really isn’t anything like a good bath, and we’re going to talk about a few ways to make your next soak in the tub something to sing about.

1. Mood Lighting

Please don’t just flip on the light switch and hop on in. Bath time means taking time to relax, so skip any kind of overhead light and light some candles.

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Indigo Wild’s Lavender Zum Glow candle

Aim for some aromatherapy and try scented candles: lavender aromas help soothe anxiety and promote relaxation. Indigo Wild’s Zum Glow candle has a fresh and floral aroma, perfect for a stress-free evening.

If you don’t have scented candles, low lighting or unscented candles from your grocery store work, too. The key here is no harsh lighting and a calm environment.

2. Music

Music can greatly impact your overall mood and energy, and it’s a great way to set the tone for a relaxing bath. I have a go-to playlist that I use, but music services like Pandora and Spotify offer playlists based on occasion/atmosphere.

The physiological effects of music have been researched extensively. “Dr. Frank Lipman, founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, recommends musical time-outs as a way to calm your body and brain with soothing rhythms and to slow down your heart rate and help you breathe easier.”

Check out the Cool, Calm, and Collected playlist on Spotify for a mix of mellow and modern tunes as your background music:

3. Recipe for Relaxation

There are a ton of choices out there for bath “additives.” From bath salts to oils to bath bombs and bubbles — these can take a bath from boring to totally blissful. Add to your water while you fill up the tub and soak with your favorite aroma surrounding you.

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Rose and Sandalwood Fizzy Bath Bomb from Hugo Naturals

The Rose and Sandalwood Bath Bomb from Hugo Naturals fizzes pleasantly when it’s in the water, and you’ll come out of your bath smelling fantastic.

Bath time is also ideal for an overall body scrub, to slough away dead skin and help moisturize it. Take an extra five minutes and apply the scrub after you’ve soaked for a bit — you’ll come out feeling like a whole new person.

4. Hair and Face Pampering

Since you’re taking the extra time, a long bath soak is a great opportunity for a weekly face mask or deep conditioning treatment.

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Pacifica’s Vital Immersion Deep Hydration Mask

The warm water helps to relax your skin and loosen any oils or dirt in your skin and pores — perfect for a deep (but not harsh) clean.

Pacifica’s Vital Immersion Deep Hydration Mask delivers lipids and antioxidants to your face, making this mask from Pacifica your secret weapon for damaged, dry skin.

5. A Fantastic Follow-up

Be sure to finish off your bath experience by toweling off lightly (no need to rub the skin vigorously – just pat yourself dry) and applying a nutrient-rich moisturizer.

bgr0041.t1Lotions are typically water-based, so your best best for super soft skin is a body butter.

Body butters and balms are perfect after a bath – they’ll help to retain all of the moisture after you’ve soaked for a while. Badger’s Cocoa Butter Body Balm is an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, and I find that it has no trouble keeping my dry skin soft for hours afterward.

 

Do you have a go-to routine for bath time? Feel free to share below!

 

 

The Hot Topic of Inflammation

There’s a burning topic (pun intended) of conversation these days, if you follow any health trends or new diets.

The topic is, of course, inflammation. Especially in the last few years, the symptoms and complications from inflammation have been discussed extensively, and recent medical research has brought the condition into more of a public discussion.

And the reason is pretty clear — we all experience inflammation, as it’s our body’s response to fighting off infection or disease.

It’s why your ankle might swell up when you sprain it, or when your throat feels sore and irritated when you’re sick. Inflammation is often characterized by redness, swelling, pain or discomfort, and some immobility.

Inflammation can fall into two categories – acute or chronic.

Acute inflammation might be triggered by something like a sprained ankle. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to harm or injury. Plasma and white blood cells are delivered to the damaged tissues (through your blood) to start the process of healing.

Prolonged, or chronic, inflammation “leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation.”

Chronic inflammation is typically a symptom associated with autoimmune diseases, allergies, and conditions like osteoarthritis.

“Whether acute or chronic,” explains Dr. Scott Walker, family physician, “inflammation is the body’s natural response to a problem, so it makes us aware of issues that we might not otherwise acknowledge.”

Chronic inflammation has been linked with mood disorders like depression in recent research studies.
Chronic inflammation has been linked with mood disorders like depression in recent research studies.

There are long-term side effects, however, with chronic inflammation, and recent studies have even found links between inflammation and our emotional health.

“Immune components, such as proinflammatory cytokines and brain-reactive antibodies, can induce changes in neurotransmitter and neuroendocrine function related to psychiatric disorders,” reports the study. In other words, conditions that trigger inflammation (like lupus or other auto-immune diseases) are also known to induce symptoms associated with mood disorders.

So how do we prevent inflammation?

As always, start with your diet. What we nourish ourselves with plays a key role in how our body responds to injury or infection.

“Anti-inflammatory food components, such as omega-3, protect the body against the possible damage caused by inflammation,” explains nutritionist Ximena Jimenez.

Try adding some of the following foods to your menu!

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  • Fish  — A great source of omega-3, specifically in salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Avocados — Who doesn’t love guacamole? “Avocados have great anti-inflammatory properties,” says nutritionist Laura Flores. Avocados contain antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols, all of which reduce inflammation.
  • Healthy cooking oils — Olive oils contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Cruciferous veggies — Broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and other green, leafy vegetables get the name “cruciferous” because of the shape of their leaf patterns. They contain a pretty extensive list of nutrients and vitamins, including the compound sulferophane, which helps to block enzymes that trigger inflammation in the tissues.
  • Nuts and seeds —  Walnuts are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, as are a number of different types of seeds (like chia, pumpkin, and hemp seeds).
  • Watermelon — When it’s in season, watermelon is perfect for cooling the effects of inflammation. Watermelon contains lycopene, “a cellular inhibitor for various inflammatory processes.” The summer melon also contains choline, which has been found to keep chronic inflammation down.
  • Herbs and spices — Don’t forget to spice things up, either! Ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg all have compounds that slow the process of inflammation — and they’ll add flavor to your next dinner recipe.

Skin Care for Inflammation

You’ll often find natural skin and beauty products with ingredients like oatmeal and honey as soothing agents for red, irritated skin.

Oatmeal, for instance, has widely been used to help ease severe skin conditions, or for those unfortunate enough to encounter poison ivy. Colloidal oatmeal is found in a number of different lotions — but you can make your own at home if you have some breakfast oats in the pantry!

Here’s a great DIY video we found:

“Its many functional properties make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent,” reports a 2007 medical study.

 

What natural remedies have you employed to help with inflammation? Feel free to comment below!

 

 

The 7 Products You Need in Your Natural Skin Care Routine

The skin on our face is typically the most exposed part of our body. Harsh winter air, UV rays, and the natural processes of aging can damage skin and slow down cell renewal.

But there’s still hope! You can ensure that your skin is getting the nourishment and protection that it needs by incorporating these natural products into your skin care regimen.

1. The Right Cleanser

Washing away the day’s impurities is essential to your skin’s health. Leaving behind any grime and dead skin on your face can lead to breakouts and further skin damage.

Choosing a cleanser, though, is no easy task! You’ll want to find a product that is effective enough to wash away impurities, but not so harsh that it strips away all of your skin’s natural moisture and oils.

Sensitive Facial Cleanser by Acure Organics
Sensitive Facial Cleanser with Argan Oil and Probiotics

The Sensitive Facial Cleanser from Acure offers a hydrating, soothing solution for even the most sensitive skin types.

Probiotics, enriching argan oil, and omega fatty acids make this cleanser a gentle but seriously nourishing solution.

“It’s the perfect mix between a gel and a cream cleanser,” says one Acure customer, “[it] doesn’t leave skin with a residue and removes every bit of makeup, even smudge-resistant liquid liner and mascara. Very gentle and soothing, doesn’t leave my skin sensitized or raw afterwards. This is definitely a new staple in my face care routine!”¹

“The facial cleanser doesn’t leave skin with a residue and removes every bit of makeup, even smudge-resistant liquid liner and mascara.”

2. A Gentle Toner

Red Tea and Rose Facial Toner by Acure Organics
Red Tea and Rose Facial Toner

Some might not consider this step of facial care to be entirely necessary, but we’re big fans of toners.

Applying a toner after you cleanse helps to balance out skin tone and soothes any irritation.

The Red Tea and Rose Facial Toner from Acure restores balance in your skin, and removes any excess oil from your face, without overdrying it.

3. Moisturizers

Moisturizers are a no-brainer. They deliver vitamins and nutrients, and lock in hydration for your skin, keeping it healthy and nourished. Who wouldn’t want that for their skin?

Picking the right moisturizer can be a chore, though — there are a lot of different options, and finding the right one for your skin’s needs means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Oil Control Facial Moisturizer by Acure Organics
Oil Control Facial Moisturizer with Lilac Stem Cell

Acure’s Oil Control Moisturizer does just what it says. Combat oily skin and help prevent future breakouts by applying after you wash and tone. The moisturizer contains Lilac Stem Cells, which help to reduce acne lesions and protect against more irritation. The Chlorella Growth Factor renews damaged skin cells, and improves your skin’s tone and texture.

Gotu Kola Stem Cell Day Cream by Acure Organics
Day Cream with Gotu Kola Stem Cell

To support cell renewal and skin elasticity, try Acure’s Gotu Kola Stem Cell Day Cream. It goes on smoothly, absorbs quickly, and protects your skin from free radicals and environmental damage.

4. Night Creams

Night Cream by Acure Organics
Night Cream with Argan Stem Cell + 2% CGF

Our bodies undergo repair while we sleep, and we can help boost this restorative process by using products that benefit cell renewal and deliver extra hydration.

Acure’s Night Cream contains Moroccan Argan Oil, which moisturizes and feeds your skin. Chlorella Growth Factor strengthens the elastin fibers and collagen in your skin, so you’ll wake up looking refreshed (even if you’re not feeling it).

5. Masks and Scrubs

These kinds of products should not typically be used on a daily basis, but including them once or twice a week in your routine will help boost the effectiveness of your existing regimen.

Brightening Facial Scrub by Acure Organics
Argan Stem Cell + Chlorella Growth Factor Brightening Facial Scrub

Revive dull skin with this Argan Stem Cell + Chlorella Growth Factor Brightening Facial Scrub. It’s great for ALL skin types, and incorporating this into your weekly routine will leave skin feeling fresh, bright, and new.

“I’ve never used a scrub that made my face feel so good after using this one. It’s very effective, and strikes the perfect balance between working and still being gentle. I use this everyday before I use my cleanser,” said one Acure customer.²

“I’ve never used a scrub that made my face feel so good after using this one…I use this everyday before I use my cleanser.”

6. Facial Oils

It seems counter-intuitive to use oil on our skin – doesn’t oil encourage breakouts or unwanted shine?

Marula Oil by Acure Organics
Marula Oil for All Skin Types

But treating the face with oil provides your skin with the vitamins and nutrients that it needs, without stripping away any of your skin’s moisture.

Acure’s Marula Oil treatment uses 100% pure wildcrafted marula oil. Widely known for its anti-aging properties, marula oil is often referred to as a “miracle oil” for its extremely potent moisturizing and nourishing agents. Even better – it’s great for all skin types!

Your Ideal Facial Care Routine

Now more than ever, there is an overwhelming array of beauty products available for your facial care routine. Finding what works best for your skin type and its specific needs – and keeping your regimen consistent – will help to ensure that you maintain healthy skin and a fresh, happy face.

Acure Ultimate Natural Skin Care Collection

You can purchase the entire collection of natural skin care products from Acure here!

¹http://www.acureorganics.com/product-p/047.htm

²http://www.acureorganics.com/Brightening-Facial-Scrub-p/012.htm

5 Reasons to Start a Meditation Practice Today

We can all take some time to slow down and breathe, as we’ve suggested a few times here on the Good Life blog.

We tend to glorify the idea of staying busy and being on-the-go.

watch steering wheelResearch and science, however, are suggesting that the levels of stress and anxiety that we consider “normal” can have some pretty unwanted and sometimes dangerous long term effects.

“In primary care, stress-related illnesses are known drivers of healthcare resource utilization in the US,” states a recent study. “Healthcare expenditures attributable to stress-related disorders, such as, depression and anxiety, were over 80 billion dollars/year in 2012.”

Meditation isn’t a cure-all for our health issues, but there is growing evidence that dedicating more time to mindfulness and relaxation can make significant improvements in overall well-being.

1. Lower blood pressure

The American Heart Association recently wrote that a regular meditation practice can lead to lower blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Meditation provides a technique for reducing stress,” says Dr. Richard A. Stein, professor of medicine and director of the exercise and nutrition program at New York University’s Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

When we experience stress, adrenaline is released — it’s our body’s natural alarm system, when we’re provoked in some way. You might know this as the “fight or flight” response.

Living in this constant state of alarm, however, can have adverse effects.

“When we were cavemen, that adrenaline helped us be ready if a tiger was going to attack,” Dr. Stein said. “Today, all the tigers are in our heads.”

Making the time to meditate regularly has shown promising results for those suffering with cardiovascular issues.

In a 2012 study, “African-Americans with heart disease who practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die compared with African-Americans who attended a health education class over more than five years.”

2. Better memory

In a recent study at University of California, Santa Barbara, participants who underwent a two-week mindfulness course showed improvement in their reading comprehension and their “working memory capacity.”

asian-863318_640“Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting,” states the study.

“Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences.”

3. Functional connectivity in the brain

Establishing a meditation practice as a regular part of your routine can actually change how your brain works.

In one study, “participants with more meditation experience exhibited increased connectivity within attentional networks, as well as between attentional regions and medial frontal regions [of the brain]. These neural relationships may be involved in the development of cognitive skills, such as maintaining attention and disengaging from distraction, that are often reported with meditation practice.”

To sum up: practice makes perfect. Training your brain to focus and to avoid getting fully distracted (as one does during meditation) are both skills that can be improved on, and even used outside of a meditation practice.

4. Treatment of depression

A recent research study tested the effects that meditation has on depression, compared with the effects of medication on the condition. The study found that “mindfulness meditation may rival antidepressants in easing the symptoms of depression.”

woman-506120_640“Also relevant for physicians and patients is that there is no known major harm from meditating, and meditation doesn’t come with any known side effects,” said Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins. “One can also practice meditation along with other treatments one is already receiving.”

It’s not entirely clear how meditation helps depression, but studies have shown that a mindfulness practice like meditation reduces activity in both the amygdala (the stress center of the brain), as well as the brain’s “default mode network.”

5. Better grades, happier students (and teachers)

Students at Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco were considered “largely out of control, frequently fighting in the corridors, scrawling graffiti on the walls and cursing their teachers.

studyIn 2007, the school implemented their “Quiet Time” program, and it’s something they’re still practicing today.

Twice a day, students settle into 10 minutes of quiet reflection. A gong sounds, and the students at Visitacion Valley sit still and try to clear their minds. (Yeah, middle school kids. Sitting still.)

Since 2007, other schools in the area have adopted Quiet Time.

“On the California Achievement Test, twice as many students in Quiet Time schools have become proficient in English, compared with students in similar schools where the program doesn’t exist, and the gap is even bigger in math,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

And the program isn’t just helping the students. “Teachers report they’re less emotionally exhausted and more resilient.”

Getting started

Okay, so where do you start, if you’re new to meditation?

We don’t all have to be monks or live in a pastoral setting, in order to practice or benefit from meditation.

lay down“Find what works for you,” says Dr. Stein from NYU. “Maybe it’s just listening to your favorite music while you walk at a moderate pace.”

And thankfully, you don’t need anything but your brain and your breath to meditate. There are a number of mobile apps and video tutorials on meditation, so you might look around to find something that makes sense for your own meditative needs.

I’ve listed a few helpful online guides below, as well.

What other ways do you practice mindfulness? Do you have a meditation practice? Feel free to comment below!

Meditation Resources:

How to Meditate

A Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us

How to Get Started with Meditation

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Need some relaxing inspiration? Here are a few of our favorite Soap Hope items!

 

Self-Care: The Importance of Taking Care of Number One

(Written by guest author Sarah Galla of The Nourished Seedling.)

I was on empty – diapers, that is.

My youngest was now using the spare diaper I kept hidden in the car – the one only to be used in emergency situations. I had to drop off my oldest at school, get to the store and then get back home to a playdate with friends that were coming over within the hour.

Scrambling out the door, I took a last sip of my water. However, in my haste, it slipped from my hand, shattering all over the floor. As I jumped in surprise, my purse fell off of my shoulder, spilling all over the floor.

After frantically cleaning the glass up, then washing the floor, I stepped on a remaining shard, crying out in pain. Meanwhile, my kiddos were starting to bicker with each other, waiting by the front door, mostly out of a nervous apprehension while their mom was pretty much losing it.

It was nothing huge, but it made me pause.

These little people, whether I like it or not, are picking up on my energy, my anxiety, almost as if my racing thoughts were pouring out of my head and seeping into their little bodies.

It Made Me Pause

black-and-white-person-woman-girlAt this point, I was more upset at myself for letting the little things get the best of me than actually anything related to the mess that lay before me. I was irritable, tired, and, overall, just disappointed in myself because I felt I was failing at life.

I was supposed to do it all, be it all, have it all together. But I wasn’t, and didn’t.

Here I was, the designated grown-up, covered in water, limping with a chard of glass in my foot, contents of my purse (still) all over the floor and tears threatening to fall. Six beautiful big eyes looked back at me, shining of innocence and glaring uncertainty.

This was the moment – my opportune moment. I could continue to be angry, sad, frustrated and wallow in self-pity. Or, I could walk the walk and be the person I wanted my girls to see.

So, I sat – in the middle of the mess. They all looked at me, incredulously. I took them all in my arms and hugged them. And then, with some kid-interpretations here and there, I went on to explain about self-care, and why I was the example of how important it is to care for ourselves.

Why We Put Our Mask On First

We often give and give until we have nothing left to give. We give to our jobs, to our families, to our children, to our friends, but what about to ourselves? Not fancy clothes or expensive material items. No, I’m talking about something much harder and more precious to give – our time and attention. Without self-care, our bodies, our souls wither from the lack of nourishment.

Are we eating right, getting enough sleep, addressing our feelings of anger, sadness, and resentment? Or are we sweeping these underneath the rug, storing them away, promising ourselves we will get to them when we have time?

No one for sure knows what is going on in our heads at any given time. No one for sure knows exactly what is going on in our life at any given time.

However, there is one person that is aware, one person that can change the course or put on the brakes – and that person is us. Often we overlook the importance of how we think and feel, and just keep propelling forward, resolving that we will take time as soon as some ambiguous goal is attained.

However, there is a reason the standing rule of securing our mask before that of anyone else’s is still a standing rule. If we cannot function, how can we expect to help others function? If we start focusing on the desires of everyone and everything outside of ourselves, without regard to our own needs, we lose our bearings, our internal compass that not only guides us, but truly helps us thrive.

Checking In With Ourselves

I was so focused on trying to do all of these tasks and fulfill requests with speed, that I didn’t take the time to check in with myself. I didn’t notice I hadn’t consumed anything but coffee. I didn’t notice I had not taken at least one deep breath since I woke up.

Even more important to me, is that I didn’t notice how my frantic, yet robotic movements, profoundly impacted the feelings of serenity of myself and those around me.

Often times, it takes crippling body aches, emotional breakdowns, or even a great loss to see firsthand the importance of self-care.

However, when we take the time to assess our needs along with our realistic capabilities, and then ensuring these needs are met on a regular basis, we can head off many catastrophes and feelings of despair.

In fact, we become more accountable, more responsible, so not only can others know they can rely on us, we know that we can count on ourselves.

 


SGalla_profile2Sarah Galla, M.S., R.Y.T., is the creator, recipe developer, photographer and writer behind The Nourished Seedling. As a mother of three amazing kiddos, she is an advocate the importance of real food and mindful eating, and that no matter how hard the storm, to always look for the rainbow after the rain. Sarah is also a Soap Hope Ambassador of Hope!