Pharmaca Blog

  • Fish Oil & Prostate Health: Deconstructing the Studies (Video)

    Recent studies have concerned some men who take fish oil that it could be negatively impacting their prostate health. Here, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog talks about the study and why it is not a good indicator of the real connection between fish oil and prostate health.

  • Vegan Beauty: Why We Love What’s Not There

    Bottle with basics oil isolated on whiteNo matter what your eating philosophy, vegan skin and beauty products can be a great way to take care of yourself and protect animals. Here are a few reasons to explore vegan skin care and makeup.

    They're rigorously certified.
    Vegan products that earn the “Certified Vegan” label adhere to strict guidelines. The Vegan Awareness Foundation requires that companies guarantee a vegan product does not contain and is not manufactured with animal ingredients or animal by-products. This means no meat, fish, fowl, egg or milk ingredients, honey or royal jelly, silk proteins or dyes derived from insects.

    They're cruelty-free.
    Besides ensuring that no animal products are used in manufacturing, certified vegan beauty products guarantee that no animal testing is done on the product or on any ingredient in the product.

    There are excellent plant-based alternatives.
    With the high demand for effective, non-animal based ingredients, the skin care industry has responded with botanical substitutes that offer the same or better results. Here are some common animal-based ingredients to avoid, and their plant-based alternative. For an extensive list of ingredients to avoid, check out PETA’s recommendations.

    Animal: Allantoin (uric acid from cows)
    Plant: Comfrey – a moisturizer and skin protectant, used for treating skin wounds.

    Animal: Carmine (pigment from crushed insects)
    Plant: Beet root - a red dye used in lipsticks and blush

    Animal: Collagen (protein from animal tissue)
    Plant: Soy Protein – used in hair care products for body and strength

    Animal: Lanolin (oil glands from sheep)
    Plant: Coconut oil – a skin moisturizer

    Animal: Stearic Acid (from animal fats)
    Plant: Stearic Acid - this thickener makes products creamy, and can be either animal or plant based. Look for stearic acid found in shea or cocoa butter, or coconut oil, instead of generically labeled “stearic acid”.

    Animal: Keratin (protein from animal parts)
    Plant: Rosemary and nettle - found in shampoos and conditioners for volume and body

    They offer amazing results.
    Plant-based beauty products harness the natural power of botanicals. We asked esthetician Shayna Plunkett in La Jolla and Los Gatos health and beauty expert Katie Turturici about some of their favorite vegan brands.

    • Vegan Skin Care

    Evanhealy's Blue Lavender Cleansing Milk gets raves for its deep cleaning properties and its gentleness on sensitive skin. Kaolin clay detoxifies while rose, lavender and aloe calm the skin. And evanhealy's Whipped Shea Butter with Olive Leaf blends shea butter with nourishing olive and coconut oils to moisturize and revitalize skin. DeVita's Perfect Time Moisturizer with Argireline is a great moisturizer for aging skin. Its peptides boost collagen, reducing lines and wrinkles.

    • Vegan Hair Care

    Acure's Moisture Repairing Moroccan Argan Oil & Argan Stem Cell Shampoo gets high marks for moisturizing hair without weighing it down, leaving it extra silky and shiny. Giovanni's Nutrifix Hair Reconstructor saves chemically treated or damaged hair. Pure botanical oils like rosemary, thyme and chamomile combine with soy protein to repair the hair cuticle.

    • Vegan Cosmetics

    The ZuZu Luxe line is a favorite of estheticians and customers who love its vegan, gluten-free and paraben-free cosmetics. For a light, sheer foundation, try ZuZu Luxe's Foundation Dual Powder, a mineral-based powder with SPF protection and oil-absorbing power. ZuZu Luxe's Oil-Free Liquid Foundation provides medium coverage and its easily blendable formula comes in nine skin-matching shades.

    Vegan eye shadows, liners and mascaras come in a wide variety of colors to accent your peepers. Juice Beauty's Illuminating Eye Color in Champagne is the perfect pinky-beige for an easy everyday look. Pacifica's Smolder Eye Lining Gel in Midnight is a navy liner that makes the whites of your eyes appear brighter, neutralizing any redness. Or get full, dark and lush lashes with Pacifica's Stellar Gaze Length & Strength Mineral Mascara that conditions lashes with coconut oil and vitamin B.

  • Inside Out Beauty: Supplements for Skin Concerns

    Young caucasian woman receiving a head massageConcerned about dry skin? Perhaps wrinkles, fine lines or acne have been your concern. Read on to learn about supplements and strategies for restoring your skin to radiant health.

    The first step to preventing and reversing dry skin, of course, is making sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of healthy liquids. The following supplements may also help.

    Sea buckthorn berries contain more than 190 biologically active compounds, including vitamins, amino acids, folic acid, tocopherols, flavonoids and an omega 7 fatty acid that provides antioxidant protection, anti-aging and health support. Try Genesis Today’s Sea Buckthorn 100 liquid or New Chapter’s Supercritical Omega 7.

    Omega-3s—and EPA in particular—are essential for healthy skin because they help regulate oil production. Try Nordic Naturals’ Ultimate Omega or EPA Xtra.

    Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring component in skin that helps maintain its moisture, but production decreases with age. Try supplementing with Hyaluronic Acid from Pure Encapsulations or Jarrow Formulas.

    When pores become blocked with excessive keratin or sebum—often a result of a hormone imbalance—it can cause bacteria overgrowth and promote inflammation. If you’re experiencing acne, I recommend a whole foods diet and avoiding sugar, milk and fried foods, especially those with trans fats. Proper supplementation may also help keep acne under control.

    Zinc is vital to normal skin function and wound healing. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Zinc Balance or Thorne Research’s Zinc Picolinate.

    Vitamin E and selenium are beneficial antioxidants for controlling acne. Try Bluebonnet’s Vitamin E 400IU + Selenium.

    Proper intestinal flora balance is critical in controlling skin breakouts; try supplementing with a probiotic containing both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria with at least 5-10 CFUs per day. I recommend Pharmax’s HLC Intensive or Pharmaca brand Acidophilus & Bifidus.

    A green foods supplement can be a good way to add a flavonoid-rich, plant-based antioxidant formula to your daily regimen. Try Paradise Herbs’ ORAC-Energy Greens or Health Force Nutritionals’ Vitamineral Green.

    Wrinkles naturally develop over time as collagen, keratin and elastin production decreases, and loss of fat cells weakens the structure of skin and its ability to retain moisture. In addition to wearing sunscreen, getting adequate hydration, and eating a whole food-based diet, you can further support your skin by supplementing with collagen or formulas that support your body’s own production of collagen.

    Try Reserveage Organics' Ultra Collagen Booster or NeoCell's Super Collagen + C Type 1 & 3 for quality sources of collagen. Natural Factors’ BioSil is a good way to boost collagen production, and is clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and increase skin elasticity.

    Under eye circles
    What exactly causes dark under-eye circles? Some of our thinnest skin is around the eye and the area is susceptible to showing the inflow and outflow of fluids. Many different imbalances can contribute to under-eye circles, including allergies, sinus infections or colds, food sensitivities, anemia, hormone disruptions, kidney issues, toxicity, adrenal fatigue or lack of sleep. Check with your practitioner to rule out more serious issues. Here are a few suggestions, depending on the cause of dark circles:

    Allergies: I recommend quercetin, a bioflavonoid known to support healthy histamine levels and allergy responses. Try Pharmaca brand Quercetin or MegaFood’s Quercetin Strength. I also recommend a neti pot to help relieve fluid build-up related to circles. Try Himalayan Institute’s Neti Pots and Salts.
    Anemia: Try MegaFood’s Blood Builder or Floradix’s Iron + Herbs.
    Sleep: Try Pharmaca brand Sleep Formula or Gaia Herbs’ Sleep Thru.
    Adrenal fatigue: Try MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength or Vital Nutrients’ Adrenal Support.

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about supplements for beautiful skin.

  • 6 Easy, Healthy Switches for Spring

    SpringladyTime to get back on board with those New Year's resolutions--just in time for spring! Here are a few ideas for healthy habits that are good for you and the planet.

    1.   Cook with Coconut

    There’s been a lot of buzz about coconut oil recently. Early studies show how using coconut oil (especially virgin or cold-pressed) can help increase resistance to viruses and bacteria and improve digestive system functioning. Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short- and medium-chain fatty acids that offer a variety of health benefits. It also contains lauric acid, which increases good HDL cholesterol (read more about coconut's benefits). Remember though, coconut oil is a saturated fat and shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of your daily calories. Barlean's Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is a fresh tasting oil that gives food just a hint of real coconut flavor.

    2.   Banish BPAs

    Using storage containers made from polycarbonate plastics can allow synthetic compounds like BPA (bisphenol) to leach into food and beverages. Still under review by the FDA, BPA is worrisome because of possible health effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. Instead, use containers made from BPA-free materials like glass or metal. Wean Green's Cubes are stylish, tempered glass storage containers that are perfect for snacks, baby food or fruit. Or check out Kids Konserve’s Rectangle Stainless Steel Container, a safe, reusable lunchbox container for eco-conscious kids and parents.

    3.   Clean without Chemicals

    Don't think you can clean your home effectively if you don't use serious chemicals? Think again. Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Lavender Surface Scrub is a non-scratching powder made with naturally safe ash and oxygen bleach that gets the grime off tile, stainless steel and porcelain fixtures. And Biokleen's Bac-Out Stain & Odor Eliminator uses natural enzyme cultures and lime peel extract to safely remove pet, food and beverage stains and odors on carpets, clothes and even diapers. Your home (and family) will thank you for it!

    4.   Get Your Nutrition from Real Food

    Try getting your nutrition from the source! Whole food-based multivitamins are made from real food, meaning they're easier on the stomach and easier for your body to absorb. MegaFood Women’s One Daily, for example, is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and immune-boosters from whole foods, yeast and herbs. It’s a veritable buffet of good stuff like cabbage, brown rice, broccoli, berries and mushrooms in one tablet.

    5.   Keep Chemicals off Your Skin

    Why risk using skin care made with synthetic chemicals? The Environmental Working Group tells us parabens, phthalates, fragrance, PEGs, tricholsan, oxybenzone and boric acid are all suspected toxins, and are commonly found in lotions, sunscreens, deodorants, soaps, diaper creams and cosmetics. Instead, turn to Pharmaca for a wide range of safe and effective alternatives. Customer favorites that rate highly with the EWG include Juice Beauty's Exfoliating Cleanser and evanhealy's Pomegranate Repair Serum. For overall body coverage, try Coola's Plant UV Body Sunscreen Moisturizer SPF 30.

    6.  Think Reusable, Not Disposable

    Let’s make this the time to really commit to stop buying water in disposable plastic bottles. Mavea's stylish filter pitchers offer great tasting water that removes contaminants, toxins and micro-organisms. And when you want to take some with you, use the stainless steel Pharmaca Triple Insulated Hot and Cold Beverage Bottle or Lifefactory Glass Bottle.

  • Frequently Asked Questions About Probiotics

    Fish OilProbiotics are an important part of your supplement regimen and can support immunity, balance digestive health and more (learn more about which strains to look for based on your health concern.) Here, Tori Hudson, ND, member of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board, answers some of the most common questions our practitioners get about how and when to take probiotics.

    I eat yogurt; aren't I getting enough probiotics?

    Not all yogurts contain active live cultures of probiotics, and not all contain the same species and strains of probiotics. In those that do contain active live cultures, there are differences in the number of these live and active cultures. Optimally, the yogurt would come with a label that reveals the species it contains as well as the number of colony forming units (CFUs) it contains. Beware though that the number of CFUs listed is based on the amount contained in the yogurt at time of manufacture. Some yogurt manufacturers will feature more information on their website about testing and quality assurance that will tell you about the stability of the probiotic strains in their yogurt.

    Two other issues with yogurt as a source for your probiotics: the dose is lower per serving than you could easily get in a pill, and many yogurts contain sugar and are high in carbohydrates and calories. Using a dietary supplement as a source of probiotics rather than yogurt is more efficient, reduces calorie/sugar intake, offers more accuracy in labeling and can deliver higher amounts of probiotics in a shelf-stable form. Some supplemental probiotics even have more sophisticated delivery systems that allow the probiotics to bypass the stomach acid so that they're even more prominent in the intestines.

    How old do children have to be before taking probiotics?

    The ideal time to introduce a child to probiotics is in utero! Probiotics are one of the most important dietary supplements a pregnant woman can take. I put it in the top three important supplements, along with fish oils and folic acid.

    Later, infants can be introduced to probiotics through mom's milk when breastfeeding, or as a powder—put on the nipple or on a finger that is then placed in the infant’s mouth. Pediatric studies confirm that when probiotics are introduced as early as week one, it can reduce the incidence of vomiting, reflux, constipation and diarrhea. Other research also confirms reduction of Colic, crying time, spitting up and constipation when introduced in the first three months. As they grow, you'll find special formulations for children of all ages at Pharmaca.

    Do seniors need different strains/strengths of probiotics?

    As we age, the microflora of the gut changes, including a reduction in the numbers of good bacteria (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) and an increase in the numbers of potentially pathogenic bacteria. These changes can result in gastrointestinal disorders and infections, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, clostridium difficile, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.

    A growing body of research is showing that when the elderly supplement with some species and strains of probiotics, they're seeing positive effects such as a reduction in fecal enzymes, improvements in vitamin synthesis, cholesterol reduction, lactose intolerance reduction, reduction of potential mutagens and predigestion of proteins. Some of the research that has been done includes Bifidobacterium longum 46 and B. longum 2C, and several Lactobacilli species.

    What's the best time of day to take a probiotic?

    There are numerous opinions on this. Some say to take them on an empty stomach so that the stomach acid is relatively low, which may result in a higher chance of the probiotics adhering to the intestinal wall and colonizing the colon. Other researchers assert that probiotics should be taken with food for optimal colonization. I am of the belief that they should be taken with food because the increased gastric pH is more favorable for the probiotics. But I think the most important thing is to take them at a time that will work for you and not worry about the details.

    Can I take them while I'm on antibiotics?

    Not only can you, but it’s very smart to do so. By doing so, you can reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe. Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus spp., (consider L. rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, Bifidobacterium spp. and Saccharomyces boulardii), can not only reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by as much as 42 percent, but they can also improve antibiotic therapy as they keep the infection-causing microbe from adhering and multiplying.

    As far as when to take the probiotics in relation to your antibiotics, S. boulardii does not appear to be inhibited by the antibiotics, but the lactobacilli species can be and should be taken at least 2-4 hours after the antibiotic dose. Consider taking the probiotics for 1–3 weeks longer than the duration of antibiotic treatment.

    I've read that probiotics can help with mood elevation or depression, is that true?

    There is a growing body of evidence linking gut health to brain health, and one study showed that even daily consumption of a probiotic-containing yogurt for three weeks significantly increased mood.

    It appears that probiotics can also help to deliver neuroactive substances such as serotonin and GABA, which act on this brain-gut axis. Further research is needed to identify which species and strains are most beneficial to mood and the brain.

  • 5 Reasons to Get Better Sleep

    SleepMaskIf you have trouble getting quality sleep, it can affect more than just your level of fatigue throughout the day. “We think sleeplessness actually accelerates a lot of health issues related to age,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. It can also affect your endocrine system, carbohydrate metabolism, glucose tolerance, cortisol levels, and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, he says.

    Here are a few reasons why getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is essential to good health.

    Sleep improves your mood.
    We all know how we feel after a lousy night’s sleep—irritable, impatient and unable to concentrate. The reason could be that the chemicals involved in the sleep-wake cycle are also in involved in mood and energy concentration. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you enjoy, exacerbating the cycle.

    Sleep can aid in weight loss.
    Too little sleep can increase your levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite and can affect the way we process and store carbohydrates. It can also impair your ability to process glucose and increase your body’s tendency to hold on to fat cells. Experts have even linked these issues to increased rates of diabetes.

    Sleep is good for your skin.
    Our bodies produce proteins while we sleep to restore and repair skin damage that comes from UV light exposure, stress, pollutants and other age-accelerating factors we deal with daily. That means not enough sleep can make it harder to fight off free radicals and speed up our skin’s aging process.

    Sleep keeps your brain and memory strong.
    Not enough sleep limits our time in REM sleep, the cycle that is most closely linked to improved learning and memory. Adequate sleep has been shown to improve our ability to learn tasks, consolidate memories and make good decisions—a good reason to take a night to “sleep on it” when faced with big choices!

    Sleep can reduce your chances of serious disease.
    A number of studies have shown that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for health problems such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and more. Sleep deprivation can also alter immune function, impair the activity of the body’s killer cells and increase the presence of stress hormones in the body.

    Want better sleep? Learn more about natural strategies and supplements from Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD.

    Ask a practitioner about other helpful sleep supplements and strategies.

  • Natural Care for Aging Joints and Bones

    FibromyalgiaStiff, achy joints and brittle bones don’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. Natural supplements and nutrients can help keep us strong, explains Dr. Matt Murphy, a chiropractor and practitioner at our Napa store. These remedies, along with vitamin-rich foods and exercise, can go a long way in keeping our bones and joints fit and feeling good.

    Keep inflammation down

    As we age we notice the after-effects of physical activity a lot more than we used to. Natural anti-inflammatories can help reduce the swelling and pain of achy joints, and may be safer than pharmaceutical NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), Dr. Murphy tell us.

    “Chronic, long-term use of NSAIDS may actually damage joints, and reduce cartilage. Natural turmeric, bromelain and ginger work well to reduce swelling and related pain.” Pharmaca's Turmeric & Bromelain Capsules combine the anti-inflammatory power of turmeric root extract and curcumin (turmeric’s active compound) with bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple that enhances absorption. Gaia Herbs' Ginger Supreme Caps blend ginger root extract with turmeric to ease inflammation in joints. And systemic enzymes, such as Garden of Life's Wobenzym, can also help break down inflammation-causing proteins in the joints.

    Omega-3 fatty acids are another good choice for helping reduce inflammation and keeping joints lubricated. A diet that includes omega-3 rich foods is your first line of defense, but if yours doesn’t include plenty of fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines, a natural omega-3 supplement like Pharmaca's Omega-3 Clinical Strength Fish Oil can help.

    Repair the damage

    When cartilage (the cushion in the joint) breaks down, natural supplements can help repair the damage, says Dr. Murphy. Glucosamine and chondroitin, which are found in and around the tissue that surrounds joints, have been found to help reduce pain and stimulate the repair of cartilage. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), a naturally occurring sulfur compound, is often combined with glucosamine and chondroitin because it can slow down joint degeneration and help speed exercise recovery.

    Pharmaca's MSM with Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfates has all three of these active ingredients. Glucosamine usually comes from shrimp or crab shells, so those with shellfish allergies or sensitivities can use Genuine Health's Fast Joint + Care. It uses natural eggshell membranes (NEM) that provide similar joint benefits, and studies have shown it works well in reducing pain and increasing flexibility.

    Build strong bones

    Women over the age of 50 (and men over 75) need to take extra care of their bones to prevent osteopenia (low bone density) and osteoporosis. “Calcium and magnesium supplements, taken with vitamin D to help absorption, are the way to go. Jarrow Formulas' Bone-Up features calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, along with boron, an essential nutrient that helps build healthy bones,” says Dr. Murphy. And be sure to take calcium supplements twice a day instead of all at once for better absorption.

    Dr. Murphy also reminds us to include light resistance exercise in our workout routine to increase bone density, and eat bone-strengthening foods including dairy, dark leafy greens and fish like tuna and salmon that are rich in vitamin D.

  • Aromatherapy 101: Essential Oils for Better Moods, Better Health

    WashingFaceWhy is it that certain smells can evoke strong emotions? It turns out our sense of smell is one of the most basic, primal senses. Aromatherapy uses pure, highly concentrated scents from plants in essential oils to effect changes in our emotions and body. Dr. Becky Phillips, a chiropractor and aromatherapy practitioner in Albuquerque, tells us more about this effective therapy.

    How does it work?

    “Aromatherapy works on two levels,” explains Dr. Phillips. “When we inhale, smells activate a part of our brain. Smells can also work energetically, in a homeopathic way, to ease specific health conditions.” Specifically, smell receptors in the nose send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system, the part of the brain that’s connected with emotions. Smells can cause physical responses too, and can ease some ailments when we breathe in the appropriate scent, Dr. Phillips tells us.

    How do we use it?

    Essential oils can be mixed with water and used in a spray bottle to scent a room, or dropped into a diffuser. A good choice is the Green Air SpaVapor Ultrasonic Oil Diffuser, which creates a micro-fine mist of the oils using ultrasonic vibrations. The oils can also be applied to skin when diluted with pure carrier oils like almond, jojoba or even coconut oil.

    Rubbing diluted essential oil blends on acupuncture points can stimulate healing of the corresponding body area. Aromatherapy bath salts are another option; you’ll get the therapeutic effects of hydrotherapy and aromatherapy combined.

    Essential Oils 101

    With the power to enhance our mood and make us feel better, here are some of the most common essential oils—and their uses.

    Lavender – Calming
    While lavender’s ability to calm us is well known, this essential oil is a useful anti-viral agent too. Mix it with water in a travel spray bottle, and you’ll have a safe, alcohol-free sanitizer. Another tip: Spray around the house to keep spiders out. Try Pharmaca’s Essential Oil of French Lavender

    Mint – Energizing
    Mint is invigorating—and the perfect wake-up call to use in the morning. Breathing in the scent of peppermint can help settle an upset stomach, or make you feel cooler on hot days. Try Pharmaca's Essential Oil of Peppermint

    Citrus – Refreshing and Uplifting
    Citrus scents like orange and lemon renew and cleanse the air, and enhance our sense of wellbeing. They can help clear the mind of distractions, and are ideal preparation for starting a new task or project. Try Pharmaca's Essential Oil of Lemon, or Essential Oil of Orange

    Clove – Pain Relief
    The active compound in cloves is eugenol, known for decreasing pain (especially in toothaches) and also for its antiseptic properties. Clove’s warm, spicy scent can help relieve headache, too. Try Pharmaca's Essential Oil of Clove Bud

    Lemongrass – Stress Relieving
    Known for its ability to relax us and help with insomnia, lemongrass is also revitalizing, and a perfect way to refresh any room. It’s a great insect repellant too, especially for mosquitoes and “no-see-ums.” Try Pharmaca's Essential Oil of Lemongrass

    Eucalyptus – Decongestant
    Eucalyptus has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and its ability to open nasal passages make it ideal for respiratory and sinus conditions. Try Pharmaca's Essential Oil of Eucalyptus

    Explore our full selection of Pharmaca brand essential oils and blends.

  • Vitamin C: Skin Care Superhero

    PrettySkinWhat can banish wrinkles, make dark spots disappear, save you from the sun, and keep skin healthy (and pretty)? It’s vitamin C to the rescue! Of course, vitamin C is good for us when we get it through food or supplements, but it works 20 times better on skin problems when applied topically. Here’s why it should be in your beauty arsenal.

    It attacks free radicals.

    Free radicals from pollution, smoke or ultraviolet light damage healthy cells and can even change their DNA, causing mutations and disease. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, neutralize these damaging free radicals. While vitamin C is naturally present in our skin, ultraviolet light from the sun significantly reduces the amount; you can boost its antioxidant benefits by applying vitamin C topically. Cowgirl’s Extreme C Serum is packed with vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants like vitamin D3, elderberry extract and sea buckthorn.

    It makes brown spots fade away.

    As we age, accumulated years of sun exposure can cause dark or brown spots, from skin-coloring melanin, to appear. Vitamin C significantly lightens these spots and prevents the formation of new ones, and is a safer alternative to the skin-lightening agent hydroquinone, which has been shown to have questionable side effects. Jurlique’s Purely Bright Spot Treatment blends natural vitamin C with kakadu plum and citrus unshui peel extracts to create a super skin lightener, brightener and spot remover.

    It diminishes wrinkles and lines.

    Vitamin C increases collagen production in our skin cells, so it can plump up skin and make it appear firmer and less wrinkled. Sanitas’ Vita C Serum has high levels of concentrated vitamin C, boosting collagen to fill in lines and wrinkles and increase skin elasticity.

    It boosts sun protection.

    Although vitamin C doesn’t act as a sun block in itself, it does help protect the skin against UV damage from the sun. Vitamin C can reduce the number of sunburned cells and help extend the time before skin burns, especially in combination with vitamin E. Slather on Sanitas’ Vitamin C Lotion before applying sunscreen.

    Use it wisely.

    Reap all the benefits of vitamin C by following a few tips.

    • Get the right concentration. The amount of vitamin C in a product should be at least 10 percent; 15-20 percent is even better. The highest concentrations might cause mild dryness or redness on sensitive skin, so speak to an esthetician about what’s right for you.
    • Store it correctly. Vitamin C deteriorates easily in sunlight or heat, so be sure your container is dark or opaque, and keep it in a cool place.
    • Use it every day. Pure vitamin C doesn’t last long when exposed to air or light, so use it up! It works best when a light layer is applied to skin daily.
  • The Truth About Phthalates and Parabens

    WinterskinPhthalates and parabens are buzzwords in the natural beauty industry. As synthetic additives found in many skin care products, they came under the microscope in the late 1990s when they were first suspected to be toxic. But are they really as scary as we think? Here’s what you need to know about where you may find parabens and phthalates, and how to avoid them.


    Phthalates are chemicals used to retain fragrances in products, and also used as softeners. They're used in cosmetics and skin care products like lotions, shampoos and nail polish. You'll find them listed as DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) or DEP (diethl phthalate) on ingredient labels.

    Parabens are common preservatives used to limit bacteria growth in skin care products that contain significant amounts of water. The ones most commonly used are methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben and butylparaben.

    Health risks

    While the amount of exposure that’s considered dangerous is up for debate, studies in both the U.S. and Europe have proven that phthalates and parabens can impact human cells and hormonal functions.

    Phthalates have been shown to interfere with hormones, and can cause defects in the male reproductive system at birth. Some have even been labeled as carcinogens. The European Union has banned DBP and DEHP in cosmetics, and the state of California listed DBP and DEHP as chemicals that are known to cause reproductive or developmental toxicity. The FDA, however, has lagged behind and says the amount of phthalates used in cosmetics do not pose a safety risk.

    Parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, which can be linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. Parabens mimic estrogen, and researchers have found parabens in breast tumor tissue. Recently, the European Commission banned five lesser-used parabens in cosmetics, and they are currently proposing to lower the allowed maximum concentrations of butyl and propylparaben. But the FDA (in partnership with an industry-led Cosmetic Ingredient Review study) says consumers should not be concerned about using cosmetics or skin care products with low concentrations of parabens.

    Baby care

    In the last few years, phthalate-containing skin care products for children have come under special scrutiny. Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center found high levels of phthalates in the urine of babies after common baby shampoos, powders or lotions containing these chemicals were applied. Congress has banned specific levels of certain phthalates in toys, based on toxicity studies.

    As for parabens, The European Commission banned leave-on products with these chemicals for the “nappy (e.g. diaper) area” in children under age three.

    Buy wisely

    Although regulations may take years to pass in the US and research continues about the safety of these ingredients, it makes sense to avoid phthalates and parabens as much as possible. Fortunately Pharmaca offers a number of safe choices. Evanhealy, for example, is a high-quality line of phthalate- and paraben-free products approved by top estheticians. “They’re very pure, and highly rated on the EWG (Environmental Working Group) website,” says Bambi Stenberg, esthetician in Portland.

    Acure products come highly recommended as well. “It’s a well-priced organic line and customers love their paraben- and phthalate-free shampoos and body moisturizers” explains Bambi. For kids, Babo Botanicals is a top customer choice. The plant-based line offers pure hair, scalp and skin care products for babies and children.

    Learn more about other ingredients to avoid in your skin care.

111-120 of 490