The concept of fighting oxidative stress with antioxidants is pretty mainstream these days. It seems like everywhere you look you see some superfood or cosmetic touting an antioxidant rich banner. We want to tell you about what it actually means.
It’s all on a super small scale because it’s about chemical reactions and that can be pretty complicated but let’s consider for a moment that every time we have a thought or a sensation, it’s due to a series of chemical reactions in our body’s cells.
What is a Free Radical?
A free radical is, at its most essential, an atom that’s flying around with an extra electron. It has a negative charge and it wants to have a balanced charge so it steals an electron from a balanced atom, making another free radical. This creates a chain reaction of chemical changes within the body and when we have an overload of those chemical changes, it can create real damage.
Free radical damage, also known oxidative stress, occurs when there is more free radical creation than there is antioxidant activity in the body. It’s linked to some pretty serious illnesses like cancer, inflammatory diseases (including several forms of arthritis and respiratory diseases), hypertension, acquired immunodeficiency, and a lot of other nasty things.
As with most things this isn’t a black and white issue. Our bodies operate through continual chemical reactions and some of those reactions actually create free radicals inside of our bodies like the breakdown of sugars by digestive enzymes or regular exercise—and that stuff is necessary for our survival—but some of the exposure comes from sources that aren’t so great.
We wouldn’t tell you to skip a needed treatment but a lot of medications and medical procedures (like radiation therapy) increase oxidation and oxidative stress in our bodies. That’s definitely something to consider when you’re looking into treatment options and we suggest speaking with a holistic practitioner before taking on a really serious treatment strategy for illness.
There are a lot of very common ways to be exposed to free radicals though and those are the ones to avoid. Cigarette smoke, alcohol, industrial chemicals or solvents—including pesticides, herbicides, and household cleaners—environmental pollutants, and processed foods are just a few of the ways we’re exposed.
Now, we’re not here to tell you to quit smoking and drinking, change to an all-vinegar home cleansing routine, buy an air purifier (though there are some cool plants that clean the air) and only eat organic whole foods high in antioxidants, but those are a few really great ways to limit your exposure to free radicals.
I’ll admit it, free radicals scare me. Annmarie Skin Care is based in the Bay Area and we’re surrounded by industry, sometimes my commute is 45 minutes with most of it sitting in traffic and I’m not perfect when it comes to having a smoke or a drink after a long day. Even the things I feel good about, like having plants in my home and choosing to eat organic, I’m not always perfect at. It’s not about being perfect at this, it’s about being aware that this silent chemical reaction could be causing some real issues and, even better, knowing that there’s a super simple way to combat its effects.
What is an Antioxidant?
Here’s some great news for you: antioxidants can help!
In manageable science terms, an antioxidant is something that lends electrons to free radicals so that they don’t damage other cells. They basically create a buffer between our body and the dangerous free radical. I think of antioxidants as martyrs—they’ve given themselves up for oxidation so that we can keep living our daily lives as healthy as possible (is that too dramatic? I’m not sure, it seems pretty accurate).
Remember that oxidative stress is a chain reaction—when a free radical steals an electron from a balanced atom, the chemical makeup of the atom is changed, a process is started, and new one is created. That new free radical has a new critical mission: create another free radical.
Antioxidants scavenge the body to find places where there is an active free radical chain happening and they break the chain, ending the cycle of damage. The most effective antioxidant we know for this type of activity is vitamin C!
Since this damage is occurring on a subatomic level, it can cause changes to the very chemical makeup of our bodies. Antioxidants help revitalize our natural ability to heal ourselves and remove oxidized cells that aren’t useful for our bodies anymore. Cool right?
Where to get Antioxidants
Luckily for us, natural antioxidants are just as readily available as free radicals. Every organ that we have works to combat oxidation in their own way so we need a lot of different antioxidants to get the job done. We create them naturally within our cells and we find them in our diet.
You might think, “if I’m making antioxidants to fight the free radicals, why does it matter how much I eat?” Simply put, we just don’t make some of the best antioxidants. Remember I said that vitamin C is the best scavenger for radical chain reactions? Yeah, we don’t synthesize that. We’re facing more pollution, eating more processed foods, using products with more chemical ingredients, and are exposed to more environmental stressors than ever before. Without mindful input to support our body’s functions, we would all be toxic with oxidative stress. Making sure that we’re getting a great vitamin and mineral intake with a balanced diet rich in whole foods with antioxidant properties is the best way to make sure we’re supporting our healthy functioning.
Choose Foods with Antioxidants
Have you heard of the ORAC scale? It’s a list created by the National Institute of Health that tells you the “Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity” of a food. Basically, it’s a list of foods (almost any food) and how high their antioxidant count is. The higher the number, the better the antioxidant action is. We suggest working with your diet to increase your antioxidant intake rather than taking antioxidant supplements. Overdoing supplements can be a real danger to your body and the best antioxidants are inherently finicky because they’re reactive so if an antioxidant supplement was created with high heat, exposed to oxygen, or if it’s old there’s a chance that it’s actually useless.
You don’t have to check the scale every time you eat a meal, but if you’re wondering about how your favorite snacks hold up on the scale, you can check them out.
There are a few general rules to follow if you’re looking to make dietary changes to focus on sources of foods high in antioxidants:
Eat Whole Foods. Processed foods are both low on the ORAC scale to begin with and they create more free radicals than they’re worth when they break down. Fruits and veggies are key to the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy foods high in antioxidants.
Cook with Lower Temperatures. Yes, it takes a bit longer but if you’re frying all of your food, you’re oxidizing it and the antioxidant content is gone.
Eat Organic. Food grown with pesticides causes a whole slew of issues and here we are adding another one – while we’ve been assured that pesticides are safe for our bodies in small amounts, they do create free radicals in our bodies. Don’t forget that most pesticides are fat soluble so if you’re storing those enzymes in your fat cells and then using those fat cells for energy later, you’re looking at future oxidative stress too!
Eat the Rainbow. Different colors come out of our fruits and veggies because of their different chemical makeups. Eating every color will give your body the different vitamins and minerals that it needs to support itself in the oxidative battle. Beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A) gives the orange color to carrots and anthocyanin is responsible for the vibrant red to purple colors of your favorite berries—aside from being beautiful, these colors are nature’s way of indicating a high antioxidant content!
Are you feeling a little bit overwhelmed? That’s okay! Not everyone is drinking an antioxidant smoothie every day. Just like with any health-related goal, this is your body and your life that you live with every day so take it slow and easy if this is a big change for you. Antioxidant-rich foods come in all sorts of different flavors so do a little research on what kind of foods you’re craving and try adding an antioxidant rich substitute! Here’s a list of yummy foods and spices that are easy to find and score high on the ORAC scale:
- Baobob Powder
- Goji berries
- Dark chocolate
- Chia Seeds
- Dandelion Greens
- Green Tea
The list is long and it includes all sorts of spices along with bitter greens and fruits both sweet and sour. See? Starting on your pro-antioxidant routine is as easy as adding some extra rosemary to your spaghetti dinner and cinnamon, chia seeds, and blueberries to your morning oatmeal. When you look at it that way, you’re not really changing anything, are you? You’re just enhancing what you already have! It tastes great and you get a real boost of natural antioxidants.
What do you do to add antioxidants to your diet? Let us know in the comments!
“Antioxidants – Topic Overview.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.
“List of ORAC values.” List of ORAC values of food items. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.
Lobo, V., A. Patil, A. Phatak, and N. Chandra. “Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.” Pharmacognosy Reviews. Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2010. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.
“What is OXIDATION and what are ANTIOXIDANTS?” YouTube. YouTube, 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.
The following post Antioxidants: What Are They and Why Do We Need Them? was first published on Annmarie Gianni Skin Care.
Great news! Our friends over at PaleoHacks sent us their cookbooks, Paleo Eats and Paleo Sweets and we thought it would be fun to share a whole meal with you guys!
Okay, okay, if we’re being completely honest here, we couldn’t choose just one recipe to share with you. You should have see us going back and forth looking at all the recipes in these cookbooks trying to decide what to share with you.
These are the winners of the epic paleo food battle to the fork. What do you think?
Sweet Potatoes and Pears Stewed in Ghee, Cloves and Bay Leaf
4 cups chopped sweet potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes,
sliced in half, then in long strips,
like the pears (3 cups)
2 pears, sliced lengthwise to
maintain shape (2 cups)
1 yellow onion, julienned (1 cup)
2 T ghee
1 bay leaf
2 t salt
1⁄2 cup chicken stock or broth
3 T chopped fresh parsley
Slice all the vegetables, then add half the ghee to a large sauté pan on medium heat. After 3 minutes of heating add onions and a pinch of salt and stir. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until softened, then add pears and another pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes then add sweet potatoes, cloves, bay leaf and chicken stock. Cook, stirring occasionally, on medium-high for 12 minutes, season to taste and toss parsley to finish. Remove clove and bay leaf!
Pan Roasted Wild Halibut, Fennel Salad and Parsnips
4 (6) oz pieces halibut (Get the square shaped pieces, not thelong thin ones. They’re very hard to work with and cook unevenly.)
2 T avocado oil
Make sure you have a large, seasoned cast iron on hand and begin to warm it over medium-high heat. Have halibut out at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking. Add oil to pan, when it simmers, pat halibut dry at the last minute, season with salt and then place into pan immediately. Hold the halibut down with the back of your fingers for a count of 15 Mississippi. Then move on to the next piece, starting at 12 o’clock on the pan and finishing at the 9 o’clock position.
Cook for a total of 4-5 minutes, then when golden brown and naturally releasing from pan (don’t force it!), flip and cook for 3 minutes on the other side. Keep the heat up the whole time. Make sure you have everything ready before you start, you don’t want to walk away and have this undoubtedly expensive fish go to waste. Let rest for 2 minutes on a paper towel and serve.
2 bulbs fennel with stalks and fronds removed
1 small yellow onion (3⁄4 cup)
1 Meyer lemon
5 T extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff makes a difference)
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
Remove bottom fifth of fennel bulb, the base root part. Stand up bulb on flat surface you’ve just made and slice thinly from top to bottom. This will make very pretty full pieces of the bulb. Julienne an onion, toss with fennel, Meyer lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper.
Let sit for 30 minutes in the refrigerator then add olive oil. Combine and serve.
1.5 lbs parsnips
3⁄4 cup roasted chicken stock
1⁄2 T avocado oil
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 ̊F.
Peel all parsnips, half can be medium diced (1/2 inch) and tossed in the avocado oil with half the salt and pepper. Place these parsnips on a sheet pan and put in the oven to roast for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir them once, about halfway through.
Rough chop the other half of the parsnips and put in a pot with chicken stock and enough water to cover. Boil until fork-tender, drain, season, smash, toss with roasted parsnips.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies
1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup almond flour
2 tsp cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
1⁄2 tsp ancho chili powder
1⁄4 tsp nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp ground coffee or espresso
1⁄3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 oz baker’s chocolate
1⁄2 cup cacao nibs, divided
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spread the cacao nibs in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the oils are released (you can tell when this happens because the nibs get shiny). Remove the toasted cacoa nibs from the oven and set aside to cool.
Line an 8x8x2-inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil and baker’s chocolate over low heat until melted. When the chocolate and oil are melted. Remove the pan from heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl combine the almond flour and coconut sugar and mix to incorporate.
Add the melted chocolate and oil and mix.
Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to completely combine. Fold in 1⁄3 cup of the toasted cacao nibs.
Scoop the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread to fit the dish. Sprinkle the remaining cacao nibs over the batter in an even layer.
Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean.
Let us know how these recipes turn out for you in the comments below!
Our Cup of Tea is Annmarie Skin Care’s monthly series featuring the team members’ favorite things! From recipes to workouts to nights on the town, we’ll share the things we love with you. You’ll get to know our team a little better and who knows, you might just find a new favorite thing.
Springtime is almost here and we’re just waking up from the wintertime hibernation with our favorite ways to workout! Rub those sleepy eyes and shake out the slumber from your limbs because it’s time to get moving.
Here’s what the ASC team is doing to elevate our endorphins and get our bodies ready for warmer weather! A lot of us have region specific work outs but if these sound good to you, we encourage you to find a comparable place to get your blood pumping!
Walking on the Bike Trail & Hiking
Lisa lives in NY and says, “it’s tough to get outside in the winter (I’m a big baby when it comes to the snow/chilly temps). I’m going to have a baby in early April and I’m very excited to put her in a Solly Wrap and go for walks with my family on our local bike trail and also go hiking. It’ll be amazing for all of us to get outside, get some fresh air, and enjoy the amazing spring weather here in the northeast!”
We can’t wait to see photos of Lisa with baby slung around her, hubby and kiddo in tow, power walking through the trees!
Nataly is LOVING resistance bands right now.
She says, “They are great for building strength and you can literally use them anywhere. I put a medium strength band around my thighs during traffic and werk it out. Is that weird?”
Yeah Nataly… a little bit 😉
Jonathan is a goal setter with his work out. He’s doing three sets of pushups everyday and slowly strength building throughout the year!
“I started the beginning of the year at 3 sets of 14/day. I’m up to 3 sets of 22/day. The goal is to do 3 sets of 100/day by the end of the year.”
We’ll check back in with you, Jonathan and see how this goal went for you!
Abby runs the Lyon Street Steps before work and she comes in so stoked on the day (while we’re all still drinking our morning cuppa) that we’re sure there must be some magic to it. This is what she says:
“These steps are 5 blocks from my house… I start with a warm up jog to the stairs and do about 6-8 rounds of the stairs (top to bottom). There are 2 long flights of very steep steps (62 steps each flight) and 8 levels of more spread out steps (15 steps each flight). It ends up being around a 40 minute workout. The view is gorgeous and it’s FREE <3”
Chandra is another strength building goal setter, she uses an app and goes to the gym to do the 5X5 workout.
“This workout is a great introduction for beginners interested in weightlifting and increasing strength. You work out 3x a week and there are 2 workouts that you alternate between, in which you do 5 sets of 5 reps of 3 compound exercises each workout. I love how this routine is structured and there’s also an app you can download to log your data and track your progress. I get to see how much strength I’ve gained since I began and even when I fail, it’s fun, because I feel more motivated to tackle it the next time around.”
Having done this workout with her (once… and never again) I’ll be the first one to tell you she is rocking this workout!
Stand on One Foot
I have to strength build pretty slowly because of an injury and the thing that has been most helpful for me has been standing on one foot—I have a regular yoga practice and rock climbing to gain strength too, but this is one thing I can do all the time! If I’m waiting in line, tired of sitting at the desk, or if I find a good log on a hike, I’m on one foot.
It strengthens the core muscles, keeps me balanced, and re-aligns my body.
Rachel was watching a video in her office pretty late last week and I asked her what she was doing thinking that she was still working hard late into the evening (again). She calming looked at me and said, “I’m watching my workout video before I go to the gym.” This workout is so fast that she can be in and out of the gym in 20 minutes, check out what she says about it:
“I am all about tabata training. It’s high intensity interval training workout… where you can choose what section of your body you want to focus on, or even your whole body and then do interval training. I typically like to do 5-7 unique workout moves at 45 seconds each, repeating them 3 times. You can easily google “tabata” to find some sweet moves which may include mountain climbers, burpees, some lunge variation, arm workouts, etc. The best part about this is you don’t have to spend too much time working out. So if you work a lot (like me), this would be perfect for you. Also, not spending so much time will allow you to do it more frequently (5-6 days a week).”
Jasmine is the newest edition to the Annmarie Team but she fits right in with this one:
“Dancing is my way to let loose, bring out my inner child, meditate, and work out all at once. There are many great ‘consious dance’ classes in the SF Bay Area where I live, but the one I’m really into right now is called 5 Rhythms. It’s basically two hours of free dance, with a little bit of spiritually minded guidance from the instructor. It’s highly therapeutic and incredibly fun!”
Sounds fun! Team dance hour anyone?
Yoga Classes or YouTube Videos
Rachel H doesn’t do it so often but she really likes them when she wants to clear her head. She says that “there is something super calming about moving through the different poses and concentrating on my breath. It allows me to become more present and connect with the things in my life that I am grateful for.”
Coast to coast hiking, Michon visits the trees just like Lisa! She says, “living in the Bay Area there are so many great places you can go hiking because of our beautiful hills but I really enjoy this park specifically. Lots of different trails & views to experience! Plus, it is always a lot cooler temperature in this area, which makes it a good summer hiking spot if you’re sensitive to heat like I am. The air feels so much nicer as well, who doesn’t like nice air?”
Carly is obsessed with these workouts. It’s a set of high intensity interval training sessions that last 12 minutes from start to finish. She says it’s great because she gets in a good workout in such a short period of time that it’s easy to fit in during her busy day. She does say it’s best to stretch afterwards when you’re all worn out.
We wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing Carly on the Body Rock videos and we’ll be sure to share those with you when we do see that!
“How often should I exfoliate?”
We get this question all the time and after years of answering it, we can tell you that everyone’s exfoliation schedule is a little bit different.
The ASC team is a good example! My office mate’s skin is oily and non-sensitive so she works with a gentle chemical product daily and a mechanical scrub every other day at least. Another workmate has combination skin bordering on dry depending on the weather so she uses a coarse mechanical exfoliator twice a week and then if she’s feeling flaky, she’ll use a mellow exfoliant for a third go around.
As you can see, exfoliating, like most skincare routines, isn’t an exact schedulable science and there are a lot of different factors at play when it comes to scrubbing your face.
What is Exfoliation? Do we need it?
We talked more in depth about what exfoliation is here but basically, it’s adding an extra cleansing step that helps to scrub away buildup and combat the signs of aging.
Exfoliating is a crucial step in any complete beauty regimen. Removing the build up allows the products you use to deeply nourish your skin, promotes an even skin tone, and helps expose the glowing skin you know is there.
We’re here to work within the boundaries of the skin, not force it to adhere to our strict schedule so you definitely want to check in with your skin before you exfoliate. To choose the best exfoliator, you want to take a look at what works best in your routine and what your skin needs.
What to Use?
This section is fraught with the questions you want to ask yourself to begin narrowing down the type of product you want to use.
Do you like a chemical peel that you can put on and rinse off a few minutes later? What kind of acids feel the best for you and how high is the concentration? What about using a daily toner that has glycolic and salicylic acids in it, do you need to add an extra exfoliating element? If you use alpha-hydroxy acids try starting with once a week and see how you feel. If you use a gentle peel and you get to the middle of the week and you’re feeling tight, seeing buildup, or your products aren’t soaking in the way you’d like them to, think about doing it a second time. Maybe even consider a manual scrub for your midweek treatment.
Maybe you find out that you prefer the mindful circular movement of a manual peel. How about a coarse product that leaves you feeling super clean once weekly or do you want more frequent scrubbing with less intensity? Try adding a something like our Ayurvedic Facial Scrub twice a week to start and then increasing in frequency until you’re comfortable with your routine.
We say this in every article about skincare products but we really, really mean it—check your ingredients. Exfoliating leaves your skin fresh and bare so you want to make sure that what you’re using to scrub and what you’re putting on afterwards is healthy and in line with your skincare goals. As a general rule, you’ll want to see something like salacious earth or an herbal formula. Anything with microbeads is going to be laden with chemicals and it’s been scientifically shown that the microbeads in these products are causing damage to the environment.
What does your skin need?
I hope that you have a good idea of the type of product and potentially the frequency that you’re wanting to exfoliate because now it’s time to compare what you’d like to use with what you actually need. We make suggestions based on skin type, which can be pretty general, so when you’re enroute to finding the perfect exfoliating routine, take it slow and watch your skin for signs of irritation.
Dry skin needs exfoliators to remove buildup, but it doesn’t need it very often. We suggest starting with a once a week treatment and then moving up to twice a week if you’re feeling comfortable with that. Exfoliating too often can cause some extra sensitivity so it’s important to pay close attention to what you’re experiencing.
Dry skin can tend to be a bit more delicate so people that begin to work with an exfoliator on a regular basis may find that they’re shedding quite a bit in the beginning — it’s normal and healthy. If you’re not seeing signs of over-exfoliating, keep with your routine and your skin will be revived in no time!
Dry skin types often work better with manual scrubs because it’s easier to control the intensity. We suggest starting with something gentle, like ground steel cut oats, and if you’re comfortable with it trying out something coarser like a salacious earth scrub.
As our staff esthetician can tell you, oily skin can handle it!
People with oily skin do well to work up to using almost daily exfoliators. Why? Because our skin is producing lots of oil that can trap dirt and grime in our pores and scrubs are an awesome way to clear out the gunk and unclog those pores.
There is one caveat here. Exfoliating with a facial scrub on active oil-burdened skin can spread pore-clogging bacteria. So for people that are working on getting a clean complexion, we suggest a chemical exfoliant like a toner with salicylic acid in it. A manual scrub that doubles as a facial mask that pulls out impurities and balances oils is a great option when there aren’t active clogged pores present.
Normal and Combination Skin
For once, the ‘normal’ category has the least obvious approach. Exfoliating increases your skin’s exposure to the world, which can be good or bad for normal skin so this is going to be more of a trial and error process for you.
Some people with thick, normal skin use a light product every day or every other day but people that are a bit more sensitive can stick to twice a week or so. If you’re not sure where you fall on this scale, start slow and work up.
What might be nice for you to try is a light chemical peel with alpha-hydroxy acids once a week and then a coarse scrub midweek, to begin with and see what looks and feels better!
Sensitive skin can be another tricky type to exfoliate because some people with sensitive skin can actually become less sensitive by exfoliating regularly and other people aren’t so lucky.
Since having sensitive skin isn’t related to having a specific type of oil production, you’ll want to read about the best way to exfoliate your skin type and then scale it back a little bit. So if you have sensitive but oily skin, daily exfoliators might be too harsh, try working with a natural toner with salicylic acid in it or a gentle scrub every other day.
If your skin is dry and sensitive, you might need to stick to once a week or even every 10 days! Some people with sensitive dry skin like using a light manual exfoliant and then following up with a nourishing mask like the Coconut Honey Mask.
What does your exfoliating schedule look like? Let us know in the comments below!
The following post Face Exfoliator 101: How to Find the Perfect Routine for Your Skin was first published on Annmarie Gianni Skin Care.
We are a growing company and have recently made big leaps and lots of changes to become compliant with Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirements for cosmetic labeling. If you want to know more about what that entails, the FDA has this cosmetics quiz where you can answer questions and read about everything from the requirements to cosmetic myths to animal testing. The questions on the quiz piqued our interest in our FDA compliance and rebranding overhaul—we found ourselves asking more questions and researching these topics even deeper for our own information so we decided that we would share them with you too!
Today’s inquiry is about absorption rates through the skin. The FDA asks True or False, about 60 to 70 percent of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body.
Here’s their answer:
False; Most of what we put on our skin is absorbed much too slowly, if at all, for that to happen. If the skin really let this much pass into our bodies, many of the chemicals that occur naturally in our bodies and keep us alive would escape through our skin, too, and that isn’t happening. Plus, cosmetic products are generally meant to work on or near the surface of our skin. If much were being absorbed through the skin, the products wouldn’t do a very good job.
Some things can pass through skin more easily than others. When we are concerned about the safety of an ingredient, skin penetration is something we check.
While I understand and respect the brevity of this answer, it really got my gears turning. This myth exists for a reason and I wanted to get to the bottom of it because there are some conflicting messages out there. My mind instantly went to things like transdermal medications, studies that find constituents like linalool in the bloodstream of people using lavender essential oil topically, or the children in Oakland that are testing high for lead in their bodies because of the polluted air and dirt.
It also got me thinking about how our skin is an elimination system. We have over four million sweat glands and adults humans shed almost 9 pounds of skin every year on average. In relation to naturally occurring chemicals escaping our bodies through our skin, our bodies absolutely push toxins and chemicals out through our skin, that’s part of it’s job! We don’t consistently reuse the same hormones and chemicals internally and we’re continually producing and consuming more so our skin, along with our liver, kidneys, and lungs, are always working to detoxify our bodies.
The difference between penetration and absorption
In reading the research, I learned that this is a really important distinction. Penetration is when a chemical makes it into the deeper layers of the skin while absorption is when the chemical actually makes it into the bloodstream. These two terms are often used interchangeably, and that’s just not correct.
While both things are important considerations when you’re choosing skin care products, absorption rate is really what we’re after here. Most chemicals, even if they can penetrate to the deepest levels of the skin, are too big to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. So there’s the silver lining, right?
The Chemical Factors
The truth is, every chemical has a different absorption rate and to complicate that even further, some chemicals react on the body and make other chemical compounds more or less absorbable.
Ethanol (alcohol), for example, is a really common additive in skincare products and that’s one chemical that increases absorption rates of other chemicals that are present both because it breaks down the skin’s natural barriers and because it tends to pull apart chemicals into their individual constituents so that they are small enough to absorb.
Silicone additives, like dimethicone, sit on top of the skin and don’t allow anything to absorb. In fact, dimethicone is so adept at blocking absorption that it’s causing problems for aquatic animals that breathe and intake nutrients topically.
It’s important to recognize that in most cases, it’s not going to be the case of “I put lavender essential oil on my skin and lavender essential oil showed up in my bloodstream.” The environment and our bodies work to break down those larger products into their many chemical components, so if they are small enough to be absorbed, they will show up in the body as parts of the larger product, rather than the product as a whole. In the case of lavender essential oil, we will often see an increase of linalool, a naturally occurring terpene, in the bloodstream. If a synthetic chemical is broken down into its absorbable components, our bodies won’t know what to do with it and it could be stored somewhere like our fat cells or lymph tissue.
Additionally, humans aren’t one consist chemical makeup, right? In general, everyone is made of organic matter and functions generally the same, but my precise chemical makeup is different than yours and yours is different than your best friend’s. This makes it a real challenge for scientists to do accurate studies on absorption rates and chemical reactions on the body. Organic chemists have to make some generalizations about human chemistry when they’re creating a formula for topical medication, that’s why some people can use it and some (myself included) suffer from serious irritation. We even have this issue as a natural skincare company and we don’t use synthesized additives at all!
So Yes or No? Does our body absorb what we put on our skin?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes and no. We can most assuredly absorb things through our skin and into our bloodstream, but it’s not as simple as “60 to 70 percent of everything.” Some things absolutely absorb right into our bodies, especially if there are other chemicals present that increase the absorption rates but most things, like the FDA says, just don’t absorb into our bloodstreams through the skin, though they can often penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. Luckily, the FDA restricts the use of ingredients that are easily absorbed by the body.
Because the jury is out on absorption rates in general, we definitely suggest researching penetration and absorption rates of any specific chemical or additive that you’re curious about. Even though there isn’t a black and white answer for this myth, it’s comforting to know that there is research out there that we can use to make informed decisions. Personally, I’ll stick with the natural, organic skincare products that I love, but I’m happy to know I’m not walking around blatantly absorbing everything I come into contact with.
What questions does this bring up for you? Let us know in the comments!
“Can Cosmetics be absorbed into your Bloodstream?” Herb & Hedgerow. N.p., 06 July 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
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It can be disheartening to get ready for a big event—a job interview, first date, or wedding—and look in the mirror, only to see tired, puffy eyes looking back.
Whether or not you’re really tired, you probably don’t want to look it. What can you do to lessen the appearance of tired, puffy eyes? Here are a few tips.
What Causes Puffy Eyes?
Puffy eyes may seem like a skin issue because that’s where it shows up, but it’s actually something that’s happening under the skin. The eye area is one of the most sensitive and thinnest places for our skin so it can tell us a lot about what is actually happening internally.
Puffy eyes are actually a form of edema, or water retention, that shows up under the eyes and that can be caused by a lot of different things.
Waking up with puffy eyes is really common because as you’re horizontal for several hours, excess water tends to settle there.
Bad/not enough sleep is one reason for puffy eyes, but it isn’t the only one. Allergies, sinus problems, dust and pollution can increase inflammation and water retention around the eyes along with smoke, too much heat or air conditioning, and eye strain (including reading in the dark, staring at a computer all day, and being in lights that are too bright)—things that make your eyes water!
Some medications can cause eye puffiness because they can affect the natural balance of water in the system, be it dehydration or water retention. I know it’s counter-intuitive to think of dehydration as a cause of puffiness but it totally can, since when we’re dehydrated our bodies start to preserve the water that we do have and our eye sockets are a place we can hold some extra water.
A fluctuation in the body’s hormones, blood sugar, or hemoglobin can all be attributed to puffy eyes too. I’ll take the opportunity here to remind you that our bodies are a set of systems all working together and all fed the same way, through the blood. When it comes to water retention and excavation, that’s a job for our kidneys, which they do while they’re cleaning toxins from our blood and helping to keep our levels balanced. Fluctuations in our body chemistry affects our kidneys, which in turn affect our water balance and can cause puffy eyes.
As we age, our eyes also have a harder time adapting to all these conditions, which means we may notice puffy eyes more often than usual. Add to that the fact that our skin around the eyes starts to weaken and thin, and puffiness becomes much more visible.
Tips to End Puffy Eye Woes
If you experience puffy eyes regularly, you may want to take a trip to the doctor, just to make sure the rest of your health is ship-shape.
Here are our top ten tips for reducing the appearance of puffy eyes so you look more awake and ready to go.
Drink plenty of water
Try lemon water first thing in the morning and throughout the day. It’s refreshing and will help hydrate you. Dehydration is one of the main causes of puffy eyes, and is especially common first thing in the morning.
Rose is naturally soothing. We love it so much we use it in a lot of our products. For puffy eyes, soak two cotton balls in the rose water, then wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes or so, until chilled. Then remove the plastic and place the cotton balls over your eyes for 5-10 minutes. You can also simply dip two cotton balls in chilled rose water.
These really do work! A combination of the coolness, along with the vitamin C and caffeic acid in the vegetable, helps soothe skin and reduce the appearance of puffiness. Simply slice the cucumber and place the slices over your eyes for 5-10 minutes. You can also try chilled tea bags, as these will help to tighten and firm skin around the corners of your eyes. Another great one is sliced, chilled strawberries—they have natural alpha-hydroxy acids that help smooth the look of your skin while reducing the appearance of puffiness.
Use this product regularly and you’re likely to see a reduction in the appearance of puffy eyes. We use green tea for antioxidant protection as well as gotu kola to tighten and firm. Use it on all the skin around your eyes, morning and night, to lessen the look of dark circles and puffiness.
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin have been implicated in some studies as potentially causing fluid retention. If you regularly have puffy eyes, try cutting back on diet soda drinks and see if it helps.
Not only do they protect your eyes from UV damage, but they can shield your eyes from the glare of the sun, wind, dust, and other environmental conditions that can encourage puffy eyes.
Check your thyroid
Some people with consistently puffy eyes may have thyroids that aren’t performing as they should. Check with your doctor—a simple blood test can tell you.
Getting enough iron?
Iron deficiency anemia is another cause of fluid retention—check your iron levels. Most post-menopausal women don’t need extra iron, but if you’re pre-menopausal, an iron shortage may be a factor in puffy eyes.
Beat a couple egg whites stiffly, add a drop or two of witch hazel, and apply around the eyes with a brush. Leave on 5-10 minutes. You should feel a tightening sensation, and when you rinse off, your eyes may look much better.
Avoid salty snacks
Sodium encourages water retention, so if you notice your eyes getting puffy and baggy after lunch, rethink that bag of potato chips.
What’s your favorite remedy for puffy eyes? Share with us in the comments.
The following post Quit Looking Tired! 10 Tips for Naturally Reducing the Appearance of Puffy Eyes was first published on Annmarie Gianni Skin Care.