Why a Clean Kitchen Isn’t Always a Safe Kitchen: A Case for Natural Kitchen Cleaner

(Article written by guest contributor Amy Wynn)

As a kid, I always knew when my mom had been scrubbing the kitchen. Not just by how the sink sparkled and the floor shined, but by the pervasive smell of bleach and noxious blue window cleaner.

Like many of us, I grew up thinking that it’s not a clean kitchen unless it “smells clean.” But that particular “smell of clean” can also be the scent of damage to your body.

Toxic Clean

The American Lung Association warns of the dangers of many commercial household cleaners. The risks are plenty:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), bleach, and ammonia are known lung irritants that worsen the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
  • When products containing household bleach and ammonia are mixed, they emit dangerous toxic gases into the air that have adverse effects on the body when inhaled.
  • New research shows that fragrances used in household cleaners, when mixed with ozone (O3), can create carcinogenic formaldehyde particles in the air.

Because of all of the risks associated with the use of harsh chemicals in our house, don’t you think it’s high time we reconsider the old “tried and true” cleaners as the benchmark of cleanliness?

Natural Clean

In all honesty, I never liked the smell of bleach or any other industrial cleaner when I was growing up.  As I’ve grown up and taken on the responsibility of managing the care of my own home, I’ve come to love the fresh and light aromas of pure plant extracts and essential oils found in natural kitchen cleaning products.

Products made with safe, natural ingredients instead of artificial chemicals can be just as effective at cleaning and sanitizing your home. And, you don’t have to give up “the smell of clean” just so you can get a product that’s safe enough for even the smallest hands and feet (or paws) in the house.

If you’ve ever caught your toddler (or pooch) eating food off the kitchen floor, you can appreciate the overall safety of a natural kitchen cleaner like Better Life’s All Purpose Cleaner.

Anti-Bacterial or Anti-Effective

When considering the effectiveness of natural ingredients, take for example the recent attention on the overuse of anti-bacterial soaps.

Once lauded as an aid in preventing illness and increasing safety, Triclosan, which is found in many anti-bacterial soaps and sanitizers, has been shown to have no demonstrable benefit in preventing everyday illnesses. In addition, triclosan may pose additional health risks, like the contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria and causing adverse hormonal effects, when used long-term.

Top to Bottom

Even though my mom may not have had it entirely right with the “smell clean, is clean” mantra, she taught me that when we know better, we do better. It’s time to do better with our kitchen cleaners.

So when it’s time to clean your kitchen again (When is the kitchen really ever clean?), avoid the temptation of the “old smell test” and instead, opt for the refreshing aromas of natural ingredients that won’t overwhelm the olfactory receptors of your family. They will thank you, and your kitchen will thank you as well.

Here are a few of our favorite natural kitchen cleaners at Soap Hope.

Ingredients We Love: A Damascus Rose By Any Other Name…

(Article written by guest contributor Amy Wynn)

One of my favorite forbidden treats as a little girl was the delicate glass jar on my grandmother’s vanity, filled with fragrant, pink-tinted rosewater.  I would dab just the faintest drop of the blushing potion beneath my nose so that the heady but soothing aroma of rose lingered well after the car ride home.

It wasn’t until much later, on my own journey that I discovered the benefits of that sweet elixir went far beyond its aroma. As my own path meandered towards natural and plant based solutions for both health and beauty, I came to understand the lasting allure of the rose for both mind and body.

The Symbol of Love

The symbol of love, The Queen of the Flowers, the rose draws countless references in art, history, and culture. With the recent passing of Valentine’s Day, roses have been absolutely everywhere.

Damascus Rose Face Oil by Badger
Damascus Rose Face Oil by Badger

From ancient Asia to Rome and Greece, this flower is steeped in mythology and revered as a most precious botanical. It was said that in India, Vishnu built his bride, Lakshmi, out of 108 large and 1008 small rose petals.

Nearly everywhere you look in ancient history, the rose is revered. What you may not know about this bud, is that it is honored just as much for its health and beauty prowess as it is for its appearance and aroma. In particular, the rose hybrid known as rosa damascena (or the Damascus Rose) offers wonderful benefits for the mind and body.

Not Just a Pretty Flower

The aroma alone of the Damascus rose carries a potent combination of both relaxing and uplifting properties. As an aromatherapeutic, rose oil is touted for improving and helping to stabilize the mood of regular users. I have to admit, even though I’m not wild about highly floral scents, I am unable to close my eyes and take a deep breath with my face buried in a rose without coming out the other side almost mystically happy.

Damascus Rose Beauty Balm by Badger
Damascus Rose Beauty Balm by Badger

But the reasons roses have been used for health and beauty for centuries go far beyond a pretty smell.  From controlling acne to maintaining moisture in dry or maturing skin, rose oil has many phenomenal benefits:

  1. CLEANSER: Like many essential oils, rose carries both antiviral and antibacterial properties, making it an outstanding cleanser.
  2. MOISTURIZER: As we are learning in the world of natural health and beauty, oil cleansers carry many benefits for maintaining moisture in the skin. Rose is particularly helpful to those facing dry conditions or wishing to maintain their skin’s moisture as they mature.
  3. ACNE: It may seem like a contradiction for something that hydrates so deeply to also help prevent and control blemishes on the skin, but rose oil is known for both of these things, making it an ideal ingredient to have in your routine in all stages of life.
Damascus Rose Facial Cleansing Oil by Badger
Damascus Rose Facial Cleansing Oil by Badger

If you’re interested in the benefits of Damascus Rose for health and beauty, take a look at our selection from Badger’s Damascus Rose skin care line.

 

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!

 

 

Ingredients We Love: The Ever-Useful Eucalyptus

Finding natural remedies is kind of our thing here at Soap Hope. Whether you suffer from a condition like eczema or want to relieve headaches without medication, we’re pretty convinced there are a variety of treatments available if we just look at the natural world around us.

One of those natural wonders is the eucalyptus tree. Specifically, the essential oil that comes from the eucalyptus plant.

Eucalyptus is a type of flowering shrub, of which there are hundreds of species. Most of those species are native to Australia, with only 15 species existing outside of the Land Down Under.

koala-668720_1280The leaves of the eucalyptus are typically poisonous to most animals — except the adorable koala bear, of course, whose unusually long intestines help it process the toxins in the leaves. Fun fact: koalas can eat up to THREE POUNDS of eucalyptus leaves in one day.

While the leaves are toxic to most organisms, the oil produced from eucalyptus is safe in lower doses.

In fact, eucalyptus oil can be found in a number of skin care and aromatherapeutic products, because it’s just that useful!

Inflammation Be Gone

We discussed inflammation and its complications in a previous post, and it’s a condition that everyone suffers from at some point. Luckily, the oil from a eucalyptus plant is an analgesic, which means that it’s a pain reliever. When applied, eucalyptus oil has a cooling effect, which helps to reduce symptoms of inflammation like swelling and redness.

Immune System Booster

Eucalyptus oil is capable of preventing and stopping infection — its antimicrobial properties make it effective at killing germs and preventing any further infection.

“When administered, this oil [strengthens] the response of macrophages (the cells that kill infections). Moreover, it also helps the immune cells within the body to produce their own innate protective mechanism,” reports a recent study.

No More Pests

You’ll find eucalyptus oil in a number of insecticides and repellents. Its strong aroma makes eucalyptus oil perfect for keeping insects like mosquitoes and flies at bay. The oil is also frequently used to prevent and kill lice, and is an excellent alternative to mainstream lice treatments that are severe and damaging to the hair.

Fresh Breath and Sparkling Smiles

You might find eucalyptus oil in your mouthwash, if you read the ingredients. Because of its impressive germicidal qualities, the cineole compound in eucalyptus makes it great at fighting germs and preventing cavities.

hydrosol-939216_1280Cough and Cold Relief

The next time you’re congested, try a steam inhalation treatment with eucalyptus oil for near-instant relief.
“[It’s] due to the antibacterial qualities that wipe out even drug-resistant bacterium from the respiratory tract. Moreover, the vapours of eucalyptus oil act as a powerful decongestant which when inhaled help in relieving the symptoms of bronchitis and a congested nose.”

Mental Clarity and Brain Power

Eucalyptus oil is often used in aromatherapy for stress relief and mental exhaustion. The oil is a stimulant, and helps to increase blood flow and circulation when used. Incorporating eucalyptus oil in aromatherapy helps to not only clear nasal passages, but helps to increase blood flow and bring more oxygen to the brain.

So the next time you’re sneezing, or exhausted, or wanting a natural remedy for pain relief, give eucalyptus a try! What other treatments have you used eucalyptus oil for? Feel free to comment below.

 

Check out some of our favorite Soap Hope products that contain eucalyptus oil here!

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!

avocados-1041466_640

  • 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

Stories of Hope: Microlending through Milaap

We’re grateful at Soap Hope — for our customers, of course, but for our mission partners, as well.

These partners are addressing some of our planet’s biggest issues like poverty and access to education, and they share in our vision of creating impact through bigger innovations.

We’ve previously highlighted what our nonprofit partner, Milaap, has accomplished through their distinctive approach to microlending.

Milaap was founded by three entrepreneurs in 2010 — friends with a vision “to change people’s concept of giving and make it a personal, transparent, and sustainable process.”

Their program and platform are unique — when you give you Milaap, you’re able to choose from a list of eligible borrowers, categorized by their needs and loan requirements. Borrowers receive 100% of the funds, and when the loan is paid back, those repayments accumulate in your Milaap account as credits. You can withdraw your money or re-lend the funds to other Milaap borrowers.

It’s an easy and engaging way to lend money to the causes you care about most: ending poverty, supporting education, or (if you’re like us here at Soap Hope) helping women who want brighter futures.

Supporting Small Business

Vanraj Mahila Mandal is a small collective of industrious women from Dahod in Gujarat, India (pictured above). These women are all running their own small businesses in order to support their families.

Parvati (pictured in the middle) leads the group. She’s a 35 year old woman and runs a petty shop in Dahod, selling items like sugar, rice, and tea to the community. Other women in the collective own similar businesses, selling groceries and other household products, or offering services like sewing.

The loan from Milaap has given Parvati the means to  add inventory in her shop and expand her business. Funding from Milaap ensures a better standard of living for these women and their families, and ultimately the communities they live in.

Supporting Real Impact

By partnering with organizations like Milaap, Soap Hope creates more impact with our profits.

We believe that businesses everywhere can create this kind of change in the world, and the support of our Soap Hope customers ensures that we facilitate bigger change.

Want to learn more about our Soap Hope mission? Visit our Mission page here. 

 

 

//Photo credit: Milaap

IN THE NEWS: President Obama signs act banning microbeads

2016 is off to a great start for consumers.

On December 28, President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.

The law will effectively ban “the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads.”

Several states have already banned the production and use of microbeads in products, with Illinois being the first state (in 2014) to roll out legislation that prohibits the materials.

Several other states have followed suit. California lawmakers approved a bill in September of 2015, which includes the ban of any biodegradable microbeads. Roberta Larson, executive director of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, spoke on the importance of enacting these laws.

“Plastic microbeads can pass through some wastewater treatment plants and make their way into the environment, where they can be harmful to marine life,” she said. “Controlling these microbeads at their source is simply good public policy.”

Soap Hope founder, Salah Boukadoum, wrote about the dangers of microbeads here on our Good Life blog, back in 2014:

“These plastic beads do not break down. Marine creatures eat the microbeads, which ultimately end up in our food. They cannot be removed from the environment.

Microbeads are getting even more attention lately because they have been found lodged in the gums of many people who are using Crest toothpaste. No one knows how much damage they are causing to the very teeth that were supposed to benefit from the product.

Manufacturers of these products are fully aware of the harm they are doing to humans and to nature – but they put profits above all else and use them anyway.”

We’re excited to see that lawmakers and leaders are taking action to improve our environment and health, and prevent businesses from such destructive practices.

The bill signed by the President would require manufacturers to stop using microbeads by Jan. 1, 2018. You can read the public statement here. 

 

(Header image credit: Wikipedia)

Ingredients We Love: Seaweed

Maybe you’ve only encountered seaweed in your favorite sushi restaurant or washed up on the beach, but seaweed has also been an ingredient in skin care throughout history.

A Bit of Background

Across every continent, seaweed has been used in a number of ways to promote health and cure ailments.

Source: Wiki Commons
Source: Wiki Commons

In Ireland, for instance, farmers collected seaweed to use as fertilizer for their crops, as early as 1200 AD. Ancient Hawaiians used seaweed for food, medicine, and in their tribal ceremonies.

The Japanese have used seaweed in their diet for centuries, as well, and recent research shows that using kelp in traditional dishes might contribute to the lower rate of cancer in Japanese women.

“Brown kelp seaweed makes up more than 10 percent of the Japanese diet,” said Christine Skibola, assistant research toxicologist at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “Soy has gotten most of the attention, but our study suggests that kelp may also contribute to these reduced cancer rates among Japanese women.”

Seaweed: Vegetables for Your Skin

Ocean-Fresh Whole Seaweed Detox Bath from Seaweed Bath Co.
Ocean-Fresh Whole Seaweed Detox Bath

The nutrients that seaweed provides can benefit our diet, but those same nutrients will also do wonders for your skin.

Seaweeds contain vitamins A, C, and E, and are full of minerals that our bodies love, like iron, potassium, and zinc.

Using seaweed directly on the skin has some amazing detoxifying effects — many spas use seaweed wraps to help diminish the appearance of cellulite and rejuvenate skin.

There are several varieties of seaweed, and can be grouped by color.

Brown algaes include kelp, kombu, and nori. This kind of seaweed is detoxifying and can help reduce cellulite.

Green algaes include wakame. Green algaes are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, and they assist in stimulating collagen production.

Blue-green algaes like spirulina contain amino acids and stimulate cellular metabolism.

Red algaes and white algaes are both known for their soothing properties.

Using Seaweed in Your Own Skin Care Regimen

If you’d like to incorporate seaweed into your beauty routine, there are a number of ways you can include it.

Using seaweed in a facial mask will help to detoxify skin, ease irritation, and moisturize dry skin.

Seaweed has long been praised for its effectiveness in getting rid of cellulite — many spas will offer full body wraps to minimize the appearance of dimpled skin.

Products with seaweed are also especially helpful in treating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. It’s a natural source of omega-3 fats, which nourish and hydrate, along with amino acids, which help to soothe flaking skin.

Here are a few of our favorite Soap Hope brands that use seaweed!

 

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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