Author Archives: Debi Calabrese

  • The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreen Safety

    SunCare4-ArticleDid you know there’s a non-profit research organization that is completely dedicated to protecting our health and the environment? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) does just that by telling us what we need to know about skincare product safety, food additives, pesticides and all-around clean living. This year, their diligent analysts rated over 1,700 sunscreens and SPF moisturizers for safety and effectiveness.

    Here’s what they had to say about the best ones for you and your family.

    How EWG Rates Sunscreens

    EWG determines the top-rated sunscreens by analyzing how well they protect us and the safety of listed ingredients. Two-thirds of the score is based on a product’s UV protection and stability, and one-third on toxicity concerns of ingredients. Product ratings are from 0-10, specifically 0-2 (low hazard), 3-6 (moderate hazard) and 7-10 (high hazard).

    Minerals vs. Chemicals and Vitamin A

    When it comes to ingredients, EWG studies the latest research to see how ingredients impact our bodies. In the case of sunscreens, the sun’s damaging rays are blocked with minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, or with chemical filters like avobenzone and oxybenzone. EWG recommends mineral-based sunscreens because they are more stable, last longer and don’t penetrate the skin like chemical-based sunscreens (some of which, like oxybenzone, are suspected hormone-disruptors). And be on the lookout for added Vitamin A, listed as retinol or retinyl palmitate. EWG says this common anti-aging ingredient speeds up the development of cancerous skin tumors when exposed to sunlight, so save Vitamin A products for nighttime use.

    Top Picks & Why We Love Them

    For Kids

    (EWG doesn’t recommend using sunscreens on infants under 6 months of age)

    ThinkBaby SPF 50+ (EWG rating 1) Organic, non-nano zinc oxide, non-aerosol, no chemical UV absorbers with super skin-protecting anti-oxidants cranberry and raspberry oil.

    TruKid Sunny Days Face and Body Stick SPF30 (EWG rating 1) Easy to use and carry, a roll-on sunscreen that’s water-resistant.

    For Athletes (or extended time outdoors)

    Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream SPF 35 (EWG rating 1) Water and sweat resistant, unscented and environmentally friendly; it’s biodegradable, safe for coral reefs and comes in a BPA and phthalate-free tube.

    Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sport Sunscreen SPF 45 (EWG rating 2) Water-resistant and skin nourishing with aloe vera, calendula, lavender, grape seed and green tea extracts.

    For Bodies (everyday coverage)

    DeVita Solar Body Moisturizer SPF30+ (EWG rating 1) Non-greasy and easily absorbed, it revitalizes skin with anti-aging vitamins and botanicals like vitamin E, Japanese green tea, rose hips and seaweed extract.

    Alba Botanica Mineral Sunblock SPF30 (EWG rating 2) Lightweight and moisturizing with jojoba oil, green tea and lavender, it hydrates and protects skin.

    For Faces (with extra benefits)

    Supergoop Daily Correct CC Cream SPF35 (EWG rating 2) Provides sun protection and anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants in a lightweight, color-correcting cream that comes in two shades.

    Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream SPF25 (EWG rating 2) Goes on smoothly for a dewy, radiant finish with excellent coverage in eight easy-to-match shades.

    Juice Beauty Tinted Mineral Moisturizer SPF30 (EWG rating 1) Zinc oxide-based with skin-saving botanicals like aloe, white grape juice and cucumber extract.SunCare4-Article

    <p class=”italic”> Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner for your health and beauty questions. </p>

  • Why Plant Stem Cells Should be in your Skincare Products

    featIMGWe know natural botanical extracts in our skincare products provide a whole host of beauty benefits. But did you know that the stem cells from certain botanicals can be significantly more effective at reducing the signs of aging than the plant extract alone?

    Here’s what you need to know about these microscopic powerhouses.

    Stem cells give you just what you need

    Unlike other cells that have a specific purpose (i.e. a brain cell is specialized for the brain), stem cells are able to develop into many different types of cells, based on which type of cells they are near. For example, stem cells applied to the skin can generate new skin cells that repair and replace cells that have been damaged by sun exposure, environmental toxins, injury or disease. And these new cells keep dividing, producing even more healthy cells to replace lost, damaged or dying skin cells.

    Mighty plants with powerful stem cells

    Researchers have found that our own human stem cells can be protected and activated by plant stem cells. Combining the natural healing power in botanicals with stem cell technology, skin scientists have been working diligently to discover which plants provide the best results. We now know that there are certain plant superstars with proven restorative abilities like increasing collagen, boosting antioxidant protection and locking in hydration.

    Edelweiss

    This tiny white flower grows in harsh mountain climates from the Alps to the Himalayas and it has developed powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that let it thrive in these environments where UV radiation levels are high. Edelweiss cells contain anti-oxidants leontopodic and chlorogenic acids, proven to firm skin and prevent collagen loss, making wrinkles noticeably less visible. You can find Edelweiss plant stem cells in MyChelle Fabulous Eye Cream, along with super hydrating hyaluronic acid that locks in moisture. Edelweiss stem cells are combined with anti-inflammatory coneflower and collagen-boosting pennywort in Intelligent Nutrients Renewal Complex Plant Stem Cell Science Target Treatment, a daily serum that repairs stretch marks and scarring, and reduces wrinkles and age spots.

    Swiss Apples

    A rare, almost extinct, sour apple found in Switzerland caught the attention of scientists when they discovered the apple’s ability to self-repair damage to its skin and last for months without withering. This fruity fountain of youth’s stem cells have been cultured and can be found in products that repair skin damage from aging. Our dark spots and wrinkles can be significantly lessened with MyChelle Apple Brightening Serum which stimulates new healthy skin cells. For treatment and coverage, Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream combines apple, grape (another super anti-oxidant) and lemon stem cells with a color-correcting tinted moisturizer to revive aging skin and even skin tone.

    Argan

    Stem cells from the roots of the healing Argan tree found in Morocco stimulate our own skin stem cells to replace sun damaged, pigmented skin. All skin types can benefit from Acure’s Argan Stem Cell & Chlorella Growth Factor Cell Stimulating Facial Mask with stem cell technology, collagen-boosting green algae (chlorella), moisturizing sea buckthorn oil and detoxifying French green clay.

    <p class=”italic”>Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about your healthy and beauty questions.</p>

     

     

  • Tea Up for Health

    chamomile-tea

    Green, black, white, oolong or pu-erh, whatever your taste preference, these traditional teas from the Camellia sinesis plant deliver a potent brew of health benefits. Scientists have shown that tea can help our heart, reduce cancer risks and protect us against sun damage thanks to powerful compounds found in the leaves. Each tea’s characteristics depend on when the leaves are picked and if they are allowed to wither or turn black, a process called oxidation. White and green teas come from shoots and leaves that are not yet oxidized and retain the most beneficial anti-oxidant properties. Oolong, black or pu-erh tea are oxidized and have higher caffeine levels. Here’s why a cuppa should be a part of your daily routine.

    White tea comes from the young shoots of the tea plants and is the most delicate tasting, caffeine-free tea.

    Health Benefit: White tea is a good germ fighter, especially for bacteria that causes strep, pneumonia and tooth infections.

    Try: Teatulia Organic White Tea Pyramid bags for a mild tea with peachy notes.

    Green tea is a light tasting tea from green leaves of the plant that are heated to stop oxidation.

    Health Benefits: An anti-oxidant compound in green tea called EGCG can dramatically slow the growth of cancerous tumors.   When a protein found on the surface of cancer cells is treated with tea’s EGCG, the cancer cells growth is significantly reduced. Drinking just 2 or 3 cups a day produces anticancer effects, especially in lung, breast and prostate cancer. Green tea also helps make your skin more resistant to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The tea reduces inflammation caused by damaging sun rays, keeping wrinkles in check.

    Try: Teatulia Organic Green Tea Pyramid bags with whole green leaves and a tea bud for maximum antioxidants.

    Oolong tea is partially oxidized and medium-bodied falling somewhere between a green tea and a black tea in taste and caffeine levels.

    Health Benefit: Oolong tea lowers our LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and prevents arteries from clogging.

    Black tea is made from fully oxidized leaves that have turned dark and it’s favored for its robust flavor.

    Health Benefit: Studies have shown that women who regularly drink black tea have a much lower risk of ovarian cancer.

    Try: Republic of Tea Biodynamic Organic Darjeeling Black Tea with rich, dark grape notes.

    Pu-erh tea is a very dark, aged tea, fully oxidized for a strong, earthy taste with high caffeine levels.

    Health Benefit: Pu-erh has been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels due to a natural form of lovastatin that’s found in the tea.

    Tea for two or to go? A tea tasting is the perfect way to experience the subtleties of various teas. Tea Forte Rare Imperial Tea Gift Set offers different six limited edition teas, a proper artisan-crafted cast-iron teapot for brewing and two traditional sipping cups. Pharmaca’s Triple Insulated Hot and Cold Beverage Bottle with Tea Strainer keeps tea warm for 8 hours, a great way to keep sipping throughout the day.

  • 5 Steps to Beautiful Hair

    BathTowelWe’ve all heard the hair care mantra: lather, rinse, repeat. But the right techniques—and products—can make the difference between having a good hair day and hiding your hair in a scrunchie and baseball cap.

    Here are 5 easy steps to get the best results for your hair (and some Pharmaca favorites to try)

    1. Cleanse

    Beautiful hair starts with knowing how often your hair and scalp need cleansing.

    Fine, limp hair tends to absorb oils from your scalp more noticeably and may need daily shampooing. Look for balancing shampoos that gently cleanse with clarifying ingredients like citrus, mint or tea. (John Masters Spearmint and Meadowsweet Scalp Stimulating Shampoo)

    Dry or color-treated hair needs shampooing only every two or three days to keep it from being stripped of natural oils or color processes. Look for moisturizing shampoos with nurturing botanical oils like avocado or argan. (Andalou Naturals Moisture Rich Shampoo)

    Naturally curly hair may be shampooed just a few times a week with products that coat hair strands to avoid breakage, minimize frizz and enhance shine. Shampoos with natural softeners like coconut oil or smoothing keratin proteins work best. (Giovanni 2chic Ultra-Sleek Shampoo)

    And to prolong a blowout or touch up your hair after the gym, dry shampoo a terrific on-the-go option. (Klorane Dry Shampoo or Acure Dry Shampoo)

    2. Condition

    Conditioners restore hair and infuse it with targeted ingredients that make it soft and manageable. But don’t overdo it; apply the conditioner to the bottom half of your hair first, then comb it through.

    Fine hair benefits from added volume, so look for products with body-building plant proteins like barley or soy. (Mineral Fusion Volumizing Conditioner)

    Dry or color-treated hair needs protection from the sun’s color-fading UV rays and natural botanicals like avocado oil to moisturize. (ShiKai Color Reflect Intensive Repair Conditioner)

    Curly hair looks best with shiny, defined curls so a leave-in conditioner that tames frizzy strands is the right choice. (John Masters Lavender and Avocado Intensive Conditioner)

    3. Towel Dry

    Wet hair is fragile and can be easily damaged with excessive rubbing or twisting. Friction from cotton towels can cause split ends, breakage and even thinning. And because wet hair takes longer to dry, it’s exposed to more damaging heat from your blow dryer.

    To combat this, look for towels created especially for drying hair—they can wick excess water away without friction or tugging, and ultimately, dry hair much more quickly. The Aquis Essential Hair Towel or Turban, made with ultrafine microfibers, cuts drying time in half and can prevent hair damage. Plus, they’re super light-weight and ideal for travel or camping.

    4. Treat

    Occasionally, your hair may need extra help with targeted treatments. Need moisture? Get deep hydration with rich cocoa butter. Try Alba Botanica Hawaiian Deep Conditioning Minute Mask or John Masters Argan Oil.

    Thinning Hair? Chinese herbs and fruit stem cells work directly on hair follicles to encourage growth in Peter Lamas Chinese Herbs Regenerating Scalp Serum.

    Itchy scalp? Dr. Hauschka Strengthening Hair Treatment calms irritation with neem and chamomile.

    5. Style

    Finishing touches will give your style staying power. For extreme control, or in high humidity, rub a small amount of Max Alchemy MGA Scalp Rescue Sculpting Gel in your hands and work throughout your hair.

    And for more pliable hold and texture, MOP Orange Peel Molding Cream is an ideal choice for shaping your hair while adding a bit of shine.

    <p class=”italic”>Questions about hair care? Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner to find out how to keep your tresses healthy, manageable and beautiful. </p>

  • Get Extra Protection from Natural Sunscreen Boosters

    LadyOnBeachWe know that mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are very effective at physically blocking damaging UVA and UVB rays without harmful chemicals. But did you know that these skin protectors can get a boost from certain natural botanicals that prevent and repair UV radiation damage? Look for these added ingredients in your sunscreen to amp up its protective qualities.

    Licorice

    Recent scientific studies show that licorice root extract can boost our skin’s defenses against UV rays by producing antioxidant molecules in our skin that create a protective shield. The active ingredient in licorice, Licochalcone A, combined with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, gives us a more complete defense. Kiss My Face’s Sunscreen Oat Protein Complex SPF 30 blends licorice extract with skin-calming oat protein and powerful antioxidants to provide extra protection from sun damage. Or add licorice to your daily skin care routine by applying Eminence’s Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster Serum before your sunscreen. This multi-purpose serum combines pure licorice root with skin brighteners to created protected skin with more even tone.

    Tea

    Green and white teas contain antioxidants called polyphenols that make our skin more resistant to UV radiation and protect us against cell damage caused by sunburn, say researchers. Drinking just two cups of green tea daily boosts our skin’s ability to repair damage from the sun’s rays.

    Makes sense, then, that tea extract added to our daily sunscreen can maximize the benefits of these powerful antioxidants. Green tea extract, grape seed juice and zinc oxide come together to protect and moisturize in Elemental Herbs’ Sport Zinc Sunscreen SPF 33, which goes on smooth without leaving a sticky white residue. And white tea and licorice extracts combine with both zinc and titanium dioxide in Mineral Fusion’s Oil-Free Moisturizer SPF 15 to provide a light, daily facial moisturizer and sunscreen that’s especially good for oily skin.

    Sesame

    Plant oils have been found to block UV rays, and sesame oil is one of the most effective, blocking about 30 percent of the UV rays. It’s rich in antioxidants too, neutralizing free radicals that cause skin damage and premature wrinkles. Elemental Herbs’ Zinc Sunstick SPF 30 blends organic sesame seed oil with zinc oxide in an easy-to-use stick. And kids and babies get SPF 30 protection from zinc and sesame seed oil in Babo Botanicals’ Clear Zinc Sport Stick that absorbs quickly and goes on clear.

    Aloe Vera

    Known for its skin-healing and anti-inflammatory properties, aloe also helps absorb damaging UV rays. Rich in aloe leaf juice powder, MyChelle’s Sun Shield SPF 28, maximizes sun protection with both botanical and physical sun blockers. Its unscented, chemical-free formula is especially good for sensitive skin. Finally, customer favorite Goddess Garden’s Sunny Body Organic Sunscreen Continuous Spray SPF 30 adds organic aloe vera and calming lavender and honeysuckle extracts to a lightweight zinc and titanium dioxide formula that sprays on for fast, easy application.

  • Ayurvedic Beauty: Let Your Dosha Guide You

    Face of a young womanAyurveda is an ancient natural healing system that teaches us how to maintain optimal health by balancing our mind, body, spirit and environment. To help achieve this balance we need to understand the three doshas, or fundamental energies, that are found in all of us. One dosha is usually prominent in each of us, and keeping that dosha in balance lets us look and feel our best—while dosha imbalance leads to troublesome skin conditions. Here’s more about how our doshas work.

    Determine your dosha

    To help figure out which of the three is your strongest dosha, take this simple Dosha Quiz. You’ll find out if your mind-body type is mostly Vata (air), Pitta (fire) or Kapha (earth). Your dosha determines what energy rules your body, inside and out.

    In terms of your skin, these characteristics are typical for each dosha.

    Vata: Ruled by air. Skin: dry, thin, bruises easily, prone to premature aging

    Pitta: Ruled by fire. Skin: sensitive, reactive, prone to redness and inflammation

    Kapha: Ruled by Earth and water. Skin: oily, plump, soft, large pores, prone to pimples and blackheads

     

    Dosha do’s

    For your skin to look its best, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend caring for it in a way that balances the energy of your dosha. We asked Kathryn Fairbanks, esthetician and Ayurvedic expert in our Berkeley store, about the best ways to enhance natural beauty and prevent dosha imbalance.

    First off, Kathryn says, it’s important to understand that while our skin type is usually a reflection of our primary dosha, sometimes another dosha comes into play—so ask a practitioner to help guide you toward products that can help maintain balance between the two.

    Vata

    These lively, restless souls need to keep skin nourished and moisturized, and take steps to treat premature wrinkles and lines. Cleansing skin without drying it out is key; Kathryn recommends Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular Cleansing Oil for the job. Fruit stem cells brighten skin tone and resveratrol-rich grape seed oil balances skin’s natural moisture, and nutrient-dense and collagen-building products help strengthen Vata’s thin skin. Derma E’s Deep Wrinkle Reverse Moisturizer with Peptides Plus uses two powerful peptides to build collagen along with antioxidant green tea and vitamin C to keep further damage in check.

    Pitta

    Keeping cool is the goal for Pittas to avoid redness, inflammation or rashes. To treat reactive skin, Kathryn recommends oil-based vitamin C serums like Sanitas’ Vita C Serum. With a whopping 25 percent lipophilic (i.e. oil attracting) vitamin C concentration, this powerful antioxidant penetrates the skin to repair damage without irritation. Cooling mists and plant hydrosols used throughout the day will ease redness and calm Pitta skin, too. Try Jurlique’s Calendula Redness Rescue Calming Mist with soothing calendula and chamomile, or evanhealy’s Lavender Facial Tonic Hydrosol for sensitive skin.

    Kapha

    Detoxing is the key to healthy Kapha skin, flushing toxins that tend to accumulate in this dosha’s thick, oily skin. Evanhealy’s Lemongrass Facial Polish with Moroccan clay and natural astringent lemongrass is perfect for decongesting skin and deep cleaning pores, says Kathryn. Keep oiliness and blemishes in check with Astara’s Blue Flame Purifying Treatment that clarifies the skin with bacteria-fighting totara tree essence and tea tree oil. Evanhealy’s Lemon Thyme Facial Tonic Hydrosol is another good choice to spritz on after cleansing and throughout the day to balance and tone skin.

  • Biodynamic Beauty Basics

    Happy motherWe check skin care labels for parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes and fragrances. But how often do we check the quality of the active ingredients themselves? If you choose products with biodynamically farmed botanicals you can rest assured they’re organic, grown in harmony with nature and of the highest potency.

    Why biodynamic ingredients are better

    The essence of biodynamic farming is based on the premise that healthy soil, sustainable planting and a connection with nature’s cycles will yield the best crops. Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolph Steiner developed this notion in the 1920s when he conceptualized the farm as part of a greater whole. Today, biodynamic farmers around the world believe that farms should be seen as holistic, self-sustaining ecosystems, following these principles:

    -Healthy, fertile soil is the foundation. Prepared with fermented herbs and minerals, the soil is kept vital with rotating crops and plant diversity.
    -Planting and harvesting is done in sync with the subtle rhythms of the sun, moon and planets. Seedlings planted during the part of the lunar cycle when tides are high receive more moisture to the roots and absorb more nutrients from the soil. And then when the moon is in a descending cycle, farmers revitalize and re-compost the soil.
    -Great consideration is given to sustaining local natural resources.
    -Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) plants and seeds are prohibited.
    -Certification of farms is rigorous; Demeter International ensures biodynamic standards are followed with farm visits and mandatory yearly renewals.Organic practices rule. There are no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Crop rotation and plant diversity keep disease at bay, and provide home to diverse bird and insect populations that naturally promote pest control.

    Biodynamic beauty

    Using these methods to produce powerful active botanical ingredients is the mission of several premier skin care lines found at Pharmaca. Weleda, for example, was founded by Rudolph Steiner, the very father of biodynamics, and the company now grows more than 300 healing plants and flowers on their farms throughout Europe. In their biodynamic Medicinal Plant Garden, Weleda farmers cultivate calendula flowers and carefully harvest them by hand. Known for its comforting, soothing and antibacterial properties, calendula is the perfect botanical to use on sensitive baby skin. Parents love the gentle moisture from Weleda’s Calendula Baby Oil and the irritation-free, no-tear ingredients in their Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash.

    Eminence is a favorite of spa directors and holistic skin care practitioners, and their Bearberry Eye Repair Cream is a potent treatment. Hand-blended biodynamic ingredients include bearberry extract—a powerful antioxidant that prevents and repairs fine lines around the eyes—and collagen-boosting hops extract.

    Last but not least, Jurlique’s sources its pure, biodynamic flowers and herbs—including customer favorites rose and lavender—from its certified biodynamic Adelaide Hills herb farm in South Australia. Try their incredible smelling Rosewater Balancing Mist, combining skin-calming natural essential rose oil with super hydrating marshmallow root. For superior hydration, their Lavender Hand Cream is a rich moisturizer with natural lavender oil that promotes relaxation and calmness, perfect for stress-free travel.

  • Meditation: Bringing Mindfulness to Your Life

    MeditationIt’s been an essential part of religion and spiritualism for centuries, but only recently has meditation become mainstream (doctor recommended, even!). Celebrities, business executives and school children are now setting aside 20 minutes a day to simply practice stillness. Why? Fans of meditation swear it lets you focus your thoughts, make better decisions, improves your health and increases happiness.

    Meditation 101: Mantras, Guides or Movement?

    One of the most simple, pure ways to meditate is to find a quiet space, sit down, relax your breathing and clear your mind for 15 or 20 minutes. Mantra meditation uses a repeated word or significant phrase (like “om” or “I am relaxed”) and concentrated breathing to eliminate jumbled thoughts and create stillness in your mind. Although it sounds easy, it does take practice. The book How to Meditate, by Pema Chodron, available in Pharmaca stores, is a good step-by-step guide to help you get started.

    You can meditate interactively, too. Guided meditation walks you through a meditation with a coach or trainer, and you can find many guided recordings like those from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Resource Center on the web. Or pick up the easy-to-follow Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a DVD/book combo at Pharmaca stores. Some find meditation combined with deliberate physical movements beneficial, and Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Yoga (especially Hatha Yoga) incorporate both movement and mindfulness.

    Clear mind, healthy body
    Devotees of the practice know that relaxation and stress relief are some of the greatest benefits of daily meditation. It can help you gain perspective on difficult situations, focus your thoughts on the present instead of future worries or past regrets, and generally make you feel more positive. Physically, scientists studying mind-body medicine say that meditation not only lowers blood pressure but also can amp up your immune system. Meditation has also been shown to significantly help those with chronic conditions manage pain, especially back pain, headaches and gastrointestinal woes. Those who are facing surgery or a hospital stay can benefit, too. The free recording Guided Imagery and Relaxation for Surgery can help you focus your body’s healing response and experience less pain, according to the staff at California Pacific Medical Center.

    Setting the stage for tranquility
    While all you really need to meditate is a quiet place to focus your thoughts, sometimes setting the mood with a calming ritual can help center your intentions. Essential oils, for example, can be a trigger for your brain to be open to stillness. SpaRoom Essentials’ AromaMist Diffuser fills the air with customized essential oil scents. If your intention is to relax, Pharmaca Essential Oil of French Lavender is a good choice. Need grounding? Choose sandalwood or patchouli oil. And frankincense is said to enhance enlightenment.
    Salt lamps release negative ions that can help clear the air and create a tranquil environment. The soft, warm glow from a Himalayan Crystal Salt Lamp can enhance your meditation experience. Or combine both light and aromatherapy scents with a Himalayan Salt Aromatherapy Diffuser Lamp.

  • Natural Eczema Relief

    PlayfulScience has yet to figure out the exact cause of eczema, a chronic skin condition, but those who experience it know there are variety of things that can set it off—causing red, inflamed, crusty or itchy patches. Children are especially prone; about 10-15 percent of babies will have symptoms. Heat and stress can trigger flare-ups, as can food allergies, soaps, detergents, perfumes and even rough fabrics like wool. If you or your little ones suffer from eczema, try these practices to help ease symptoms.

    Cleanse with shea butter or neem oil. Body washes or soaps can be very drying to sensitive skin; look for one with shea butter or neem oil that are rich in skin-saving fatty acids. Shea Moisture's Raw Shea Chamomile and Argan Oil Baby Eczema Soap cleanses babies and adults with super hydrating shea butter and argan oil, as well as soothing chamomile. Theraneem's Maximum Strength Neem Oil Cleansing Bar Soap combines neem, olive and coconut oils to calm and safely cleanse sensitive skin.

    Moisturize naturally, without synthetic chemicals. Keeping skin well hydrated locks in your skin’s own moisture in and can prevent dry patches from occurring. Moisturizing lotions or creams should be applied often during the day, but be sure they are free from potential irritants like fragrance, parabens or synthetic additives. For severely dry and inflamed skin, esthetician Renee Oleson in Portland says Avene’s Trixera+ Selectiose Emollient Cream is a customer favorite. Featuring mineral-rich thermal spring water and evening primrose oil, this soothing balm calms hyper-sensitive skin and has received a seal of acceptance by the National Eczema Association.

    For a lightweight, yet deeply hydrating, moisturizer, Alaffia’s EveryDay Shea Butter Unscented Body Lotion combines unrefined shea butter with soothing lemongrass. And for kids, parents love Babo Botanicals’ Oatmeal Calendula Moisturizing Baby Lotion, filled with gentle organic botanicals that calm and colloidal oatmeal that comforts dry skin, especially on the scalp.

    Ease the itch with herbs and minerals. Topical ointments can help soothe the itch, and prevent infections in scratched skin. Herbal remedies with burdock root and barberry like Derma E’s Psorzema Creme are great for reducing inflammation. Water can soothe itchiness too, and Avene’s Thermal Spring Water Spray's cooling mist is pH balanced and rich in trace elements and minerals. Or try a warm epsom salt bath—the magnesium in the salt helps reduce swelling (stick with just a teaspoon of salt in the water for babies, and be sure to moisturize afterwards). Hydrocortisone creams are a quick fix, but aren’t recommended for long-term use because they gradually thin the skin and make it more prone to infection.

    Add anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthing supplements to your diet. Supplements like fish oil and probiotics can help, says Dr. Lee Dennis, a naturopathic doctor in Portland, by adding important nutrients that reduce inflammation and modulate the immune system to keep it healthy. Fish oils, like Pharmaca’s Omega-3 Clinical Strength Fish Oil, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that researchers say can reduce leukotrienes, an inflammatory substance that plays a role in eczema. Probiotics are another good addition, as they can keep our immune system strong. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS Higher Potency capsules or Baby’s Jarro-Dophilus Powder, which deliver a blend of beneficial probiotic bacteria.

  • Top 5 Ways To Recover After Exercise

    Woman stretchingCongratulations! You’ve joined a gym or started a new fitness program. But did you know that what you do after your workout—especially in the first two hours—is almost as important as the exercise itself? Try these techniques to help your body recover more quickly and maximize the impact of your exercise.

    Rehydrate: Water is a simple choice for rehydration, and is fine for low-impact exercise under 45 minutes. But more intense exercise, or exercise performed in hot weather, requires that you replace fluids lost through sweat with electrolytes and sodium. Try Nuun’s U Natural Hydration Goji Berry Green Tea tablets for an easy do-it-yourself sports drink without added sugars.

    Replace Carbohydrates: Glycogen, stored in our muscles, fuels our bodies during exercise. That’s why it’s important to quickly replace lost glycogen during the “carbohydrate window” that occurs within 60 minutes after stopping—when muscles are converting carbohydrate-rich drinks and food into glycogen up to three times faster. In addition to eating carb-rich food, Boulder-based nutrition expert Julie McGinnis recommends L-Glutamine, an amino acid supplement that boosts the production of glycogen and helps us refuel. She likes Jarrow Formulas’ L-Glutamine Powder. TIP: Refueling in the first 15-30 minutes of the carbohydrate window is most effective.

    Add Protein: Along with carbs, protein is needed to repair the micro tears in muscles after workouts, especially weight-bearing exercises like running and weight lifting. Whey, a by-product of cheese production, is a good source of protein and is rich in branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which help repair muscles and prevent soreness, says Julie. One serving of Pharmaca’s Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder Drink is a quick, tasty way to get 15 g of protein. Fat-free chocolate milk is another good choice for protein and carb replacement, say researchers, since a 16 oz serving has about 15 g of protein and twice the carbs of plain milk. Vegetarians and vegans can turn to spirulina, an algae-based complete protein. (Find it in Health Force Nutritionals’ Spirulina Manna). TIP: Most experts recommend 10-20 g of protein after a workout.

    Treat sore muscles: Stretching for 15 minutes after your workout can prevent soreness, but in those times when you know you’ve done too much, topical treatments or warm baths can also help, Julie tells us. Arnica relieves pain and stiffness, and speeds recovery of bruises; Boericke & Tafel’s Arniflora Arnica Gel with 8% tincture of arnica Montana rubbed on four times a day will help reduce inflammation and pain. Warm baths are another good choice for soothing aches; Kneipp’s Arnica Joint & Muscle Mineral Bath Salts combine arnica, pine and thermal salts to relieve soreness.

    Take a break: As good as it feels to find your groove with your exercise program, it’s important to take a break to let muscles repair. Fitness coaches say that after 8-12 weeks, take a week off. That doesn’t mean going back to couch-potato status—instead, transition to a less intense exercise to keep you moving and flexible, like yoga, dancing or walking. You’ll come back to your favorite exercise renewed.

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