Sunshine is a Superfood

11933484_10207807893099558_8719821257942277099_nSunburn is not ideal. No arguments there. But the frequency with which the big “C” word is mixed up with sunshine is ridiculous when you think about how rarely cancer is brought up when discussing processed food, sedentarism, or cell phone use.

I anticipate many family members will gasp when I refuse to baste my son in chemical emollients this summer, but I couldn’t possibly imagine an aunt or uncle slapping a donut out of his hand or offering to put their cell phone in airplane mode!

I do not mean to suggest that the sun has no ill effects or that we shouldn’t take measures to protect ourselves and our children, but to point out that our entire modern lives are built around habits and structures than are detrimental to the epigenetic expression of our DNA, the least of which is sun exposure. If anything, we are not getting enough sun. (Epigenetics is a fancy word that describes the way genes for certain traits are able to either switch on or remain dormant based upon how you live your life. For example, even if you are born with a predisposition toward a certain disease, you may be able to evade that fate by making healthier choices.)

There are populations that spend most of their time in the sun and have very low rates of cancer. When those same people migrate to the U.S., they suddenly develop cancers because their diets change, their exposure to EMF’s increases, and their immersion in natural movement patterns is depleted. Clearly, sun exposure is not the only, or even the most critical, factor in skin cancer prevention.

The underlying paradox is that vitamin D is needed to PREVENT skin cancer; vitamin D sWCbKFRCV9n3S30QrwhU_CoverPhoto.btriggers apoptosis, or healthy cell death. Without apoptosis, endless cell division leads to cancer. The contact between sun rays and bare skin is unequivocally the most efficient way to absorb vitamin D and sunscreen blocks this process.  

Typical brand-name sunscreens are also chock full of fun toxins like petrochemicals, which disrupt the endocrine system by fitting into the same receptor sites as our natural hormones, thus obscuring healthy cellular communication and enzymatic processes. Topical petrochemical exposure is even more harmful than ingestion since absorption via the skin bypasses digestion and allows the chemicals to be stored in fatty tissues. 

Dangers of chemical sunscreens

  • Disrupts the endocrine system and increases estrogenic activity
  • Increases cellular damage and generates free radicals
  • Indirectly damages DNA with carcinogenic ingredients
  • Absorbs UVB rays, but lets most UVA through
  • Sunscreen washed off into the ocean endangers sea life

According to the Environmental Working Group, the only two active ingredients for which we have enough information to classify as safe and effective are the mineral UV filters zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Most conventional sunscreens utilize chemical UV filters such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. The risks of using such chemical filters outweighs the benefits.

Benefits of Vitamin Sunshine
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The benefits of sunshine are rarely touted. I think it’s about time we fully appreciated this bright burning star that is quite literally a progenitor of life on earth:

  • Produces essential cholesterol sulfate + vitamin D3 sulfate
  • Stimulates production of melatonin and serotonin
  • Our bodies can actually convert the sun’s light into cellular mitochondrial energy. We’re like solar chargers. Or plants.
  • UV rays are potent disinfectants; they hinder the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses
  • Triggers apoptosis via vitamin D absorption
  • Organizes biochemical processes
  • Increases muscle tone
  • Relaxes nerves
  • Increases oxygenation of blood & tissues
  • Regulates + boosts hormones
  • Supports eye health
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Regulates basal metabolic rate

Best Practices

So how do we reap all these juicy benefits in a healthful way?image2-3

  1. Melanin produced in the spring prevents sunburn in the summer! Gradually build your sun-time tolerance as soon as it’s sunny outside. Start with just 5 minutes of ray-soaking a day and add a minute every other day or so. The hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are best.
  2. Build an internal SPF with your diet: sun-ripened fruits + veggies are sun harmonizing. Increase antioxidant intake with Ningxia Red.
  3. Spend a safe amount of time in the sun without protection, then apply a mineral sunscreen*. A “safe amount” is going to differ for each person. It may be 5 minutes, it may be 30, but you want to soak up that vitamin D as much as you can without burning! *Beware of “mineral” sunscreens that ALSO contain synthetic ingredients. 
  4. If you have enough of a base color or do not burn easily, you may be able to get away with using coconut oil, which has a natural SPF between 4 and 10. I like to apply coconut oil all over my body and a mineral sunscreen to the areas I typically burn (face, chest, shoulders, tops of ears). Also to consider: Raspberry seed oil
  5. Don’t wash it off! A significant portion of vitamin D is actually made in our skin’s sebum (oil). When we shower with soap after sun-bathing, we actually wash away our chance to absorb the vitamin. Believe it or not, our skin doesn’t benefit from constant sudsing anyway!
  6. Stop wearing sunglasses! “When the full spectrum of light rays is intercepted in the retina, it is positively encoded in the brain and sets in motion the juicy hormones and neurochemicals that help us stay happy and healthy. This process works even if we are in the shade, yet not if we are wearing shades.” – Nadine Artemis
  7. During not-so-sunny seasons use the D-minder app to find the best times of day to catch some rays.

Safe Sun Products + Recipes m437GfWTdSo7RPxHK6yX_2_Too_Much_Fun_In_The_Sun.instastory

Young Living Mineral Sunscreen

  • Broad-spectrum SPF 10 or 50 sunscreen protection (To determine application interval, take the amount of time it would take you to burn without protection and multiply it by the SPF – i.e. if it takes you 10 minutes to start to crisp and you are using SPF 10, you would need to re-apply every 100 minutes)
  • Blocks UVA and UVB rays
  • Water- and sweat-resistant
  • Dermatologist tested and hypoallergenic
  • Formulated without UV chemical absorbers; active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide
  • Contains helichrysum, frankincense, lavender, myrrh, and carrot seed.

Lavaderm After Sun Spray

  • Dermatologist tested and hypoallergenic
  • Provides immediate relief by soothing and cooling the skin
  • Moisturizes to help prevent peeling

DIY After Sun Spray

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Lavender is known for its regenerative properties and is always the first oil indicated for burns. Peppermint’s cooling properties soothe the skin.

Essential Oils

Although there are no essential oils that function as sunscreen, there are botanicals rich in antioxidants that are nourishing and regenerative. Any of these oils may be added to a sunscreen or after-sun spray or lotion for enhanced healing.

  • Alpha and beta santalol in sandalwood are chemopreventative
  • Frankincense, Geranium, Cypress, Helichrysum and Rose prevent abnormal cell growth and may fade hyper-pigmentation
  • Lavender, Myrrh and Lemongrass for cellular regeneration
  • Carrot seed for wrinkles, sunburn and dryness

Warning: While the above oils are sun harmonizing, others, particularly citrus oils, are photosynthetic. This means that they could actually increase the risk of burning.

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Make it a Challenge

Place a bet with a friend to see who can catch more rays responsibly this summer! Loser buys the winner a premium starter kit 😉

Happy sunning,

XO-Harriet

 

Skin isn’t Skin Deep

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We all want a quick fix. We want to purchase solutions that exonerate us from doing work. We want to feel effortlessly smart and beautiful and complete. This is why advertising is so powerful – it sends the message that we are not enough and then promises a neatly packaged, hands-off approach to bridge the gap between who we are and who we wish we were. This has never been more prevalent than in skincare remedies; your face is the first thing other people notice and that makes you vulnerable and marketers rich.

I’d like to offer solutions, but they are going to be of a different hue. I’ll start by telling you that you ARE enough. You are already beautiful. You have the tools to become whoever it is you’d like to be because there is a reason why that version of yourself is the one you exalt.

Okay, now that your self-worth is properly buttressed it’s time to get real. Transformation is work. Changing a habit is hard. No product or essential oil will do it for you! Skin care is no exception; acne is typically a sign that something else has gone awry. I’m going to bring up a ton of health topics and the scope of this piece cannot scratch the surface of each one, so further investigation might be appropriate!

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Dietary Factors 

  1. Dairy protein intolerance – you may not be classically “lactose intolerant” and still experience unwanted side effects. If you’re not sure, try going a full month without it. Here are some substitution suggestions. 
  2. Gluten sensitivity- Gluten compromises the tight junctions between the cells lining your intestinal wall and can lead to a landslide of insidious health problems that don’t always show up right away (sometimes they show up on your face, first).  This is true whether you are celiac or not! If you have unexplained pizza face it might be time to ditch the pizza. (OR just love yourself and do whatever you want. Totes up to you). For more info I recommend this book.
  3. Blood sugar spikes and crashes – Consider going low (or lower) carb and reduce your sugar intake. 
  4. Hydration – Water, water, water and more water. Not soda. Not juice.

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To learn much more about gut health, the dietary and lifestyle factors that influence it, and how essential oils and other Young Living supplements can help, check out my YouTube video, here.

 

Other Factors

  1. Hormonal Imbalances – This is such a multi-layered and important topic that I cannot simply gloss over! I will, however, recommend this book and advise that you seek a functional medicine practitioner if that is within your means. Hormonal acne is usually indicated along the jawline, chin or cheeks and usually gets inflamed in accordance with your cycle. 
  2. Your liver or kidneys are working too hard – Detoxing is often the FIRST step in approaching a health issue BEFORE introducing oils to reduce adverse reactions. 
  3. Harsh skincare products – Now this one, I’m prepared to get into.

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Your epidermis, or the top layer of your skin has 4 layers, the outermost of which is designed to protect and seal the layers beneath. This layer, the stratum corneum, keeps the skin elastic and prevents water evaporation. It is ALSO composed primarily of dead skin cells, which according to Nadine Artemis “has given rise to the practice of chemical peels and excessive exfoliation. Yet this vital layer is our topsoil that feeds our friendly flora. Cell loss is designed to precisely match cell production. Exfoliating cells away too quickly tips the balance, and cell loss exceeds cell production. This signals stress in the skin.”

When harsh chemical cleansers and surfactants in cosmetics strip away this layer prematurely, they leave the immature underlying cells vulnerable to toxins.This new skin becomes inflamed and a vicious cycle of dermal dysbiosis is initiated. Below are some common side effects and the underlying issue:

REDNESS – impaired lipid barrier

DRY / ITCHY – Inflammation

CLOGGED PORES – Oxidative stress

PREMATURE AGING – impaired cell signaling

You wouldn’t walk around the desert in your birthday suit. You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked. Would you decimate your skin’s natural body guards?

You’ve likely been doing just that for years without knowing it. So how do you revive your skin’s natural function?

  1. Invest in a quality water filter for your shower that filters pharmaceuticals, fluoride and chlorine such as this one.
  2. STOP using synthetic skincare products, especially those containing antibiotics and
    other harsh chemicals. Download
    EWG’s healthy living application to scan common products.
  3. Don’t over-exfoliate – Try dry brushing instead (this is to stimulate lymph, not slough off dead skin!)
  4. Do not wash your body with antibacterial soap. IN FACT, the bulk of your body doesn’t really need soap at all most days. Just the pits and bits.
  5. Practice oil washing on your face:30729820_10216513514054641_6164356600472535040_n
  6. SEAL the hydro-lipid barrier with soothing essential oil serums. PRO tip: pop open your preferred probiotic and add to your moisturizer.

Below is a list of my favorite skin-supporting botanicals. Simply choose essential oils that speak to you and combine 10-20 drops per 15 ml of carrier oil. (Dilution ratios are subjective; you may prefer more or less. For pregnancy and breastfeeding I recommend 2-4 drops per 15 ml). You can store the serum in a glass pump dispenser or roller bottle. I like the roller bottle because it fits in my purse and regulates the amount nicely – just swipe across the chin, jawline, forehead and bridge of the nose, rub it in and you’ll be glowing in no time.

Another way for your skin to imbibe the oils is via a diffuser running in the bathroom during a hot shower. If you don’t have a diffuser, simply place a few drops on the shower floor far away from the drain!

Essential Oils for Radiant Skin

  • Blue Tansy: works at an early stage of the inflammation cascade by preventing the synthesis of proteins that would transmit inflammation.
  • Roman Chamomile: rich in easing esters, making it the gentlest go-to oil to soothe unruly skin conditions
  • Carrot Seed: Revives skin cells, enhances elasticity and revitalizes skin lacking tone
  • Cypress: stimulates lymph, prevents spread of varicose veins, hemorrhoids and edema, heals cellulite, balances excess oil, soothes dandruff

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  • Frankincense: unparalleled power to heal wounds, fade scars, treat wrinkles, and reduce inflammation
  • Geranium: offers skin a natural glow by driving moisture into the skin, stimulates blood circulation, assists the release of toxins, tightens loose skin, balances female hormones and adrenal dysregulation.
  • Helichrysum: aids in cellular regeneration, skin tonic for acne, wrinkles, cuts, bruises + burns
  • Lemon: brightens dull complexions, combats cellulite and varicose veins
  • Myrrh: optimal oil for wrinkles and dry, dull, uneven skin. Induces healthy cellular apoptosis.
  • Neroli: youth hormone ocimene fades fine lines, scars, and stretch marks. Improves elasticity, strengthens fragile skin, balances overproductive oil glands, reduces pore size and prevents water loss in skin cells

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  • Lavender: balances the skin’s sebaceous glands
  • Palmarosa: balances oil production (in either direction), helps all body systems work together more efficiently
  • Peppermint: reduces redness, tranquilizes itchiness
  • Rosemary: Enhances the skins metabolism and has antiseptic, cleansing, cell-rejuvenating, acne-clearing stimulating qualities.
  • Sandalwood: Excellent for toning, regulating, and moisturizing the skin.
  • Vetiver: Helps skin maintain a youthful plumpness, soothes tired tissues
  • Ylang Ylang: cell regenerator, oil production regulator, skin softener, facial-muscle-relaxer, skin-tone balancer
  • Patchouli: tones and smoothes mature skin 

Carrier Oils

My favorite carrier oil is jojoba because it stabilizes native bacteria and unplugs pores by dissolving oxidized sebum. A close second is coconut oil, which is good to keep on hand for anything and everything – plus it has a natural SPF between 4 and 10!  Tamanu oil is my preferred choice for first aid. 

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Recipes

A toner is a water based solution intended to remove residues and tighten pores. Apply with a cotton ball after washing but before moisturizing.

Toner – For dry, sensitive, or combination skin

Astringent Toner – For oily, acne-prone, or combination skin

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* It isn’t necessary to lather up your whole body in soap everyday! Since that can disrupt the skin’s natural ecology, I recommend sudsing up areas that need washing and simply use a wet washcloth (not a scratchy loofah) for everything else!

*Any of the skin-supporting oils may be substituted in place of lavender or frankincense

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This daily serum is appropriate for daily use for most skin types, but have fun and create a serum that addresses your unique needs!

New to essential oils? Take my free oil course to get acquainted!

What is your favorite way to support healthy skin? Drop a comment below!

XO-H

 

 

Sleep Train Your Nose

If you’re a new parent, you’ve likely thought about whether or not to sleep train your baby. And which method to use. And when to start. The catfight in the healthy sleep arena is FIERCE. In the left corner we have the attachment parents singing songs of abandonment and emotional sabotage. In the right corner, we have the CIO clique staking claims about sleep deprivation and developmental delays. And both fighters seem to be backed by scientific studies. Wherever you place your bets, there’s a referee to tell you how irrevocably you’ll screw up your child.

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I’m not going to attempt to sift through the conflicting data or share which camp I reside closest to – but I will point out some consistencies. With so many soap boxes and pointing fingers, finding areas of accord is a blessing!

I’ve read several books and many articles, and as far as I can tell, creating a consistent pre-sleep routine and using the same soothing mechanisms every time you put your child down is the shiny middle of this sordid venn diagram.

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Some of the best advice I came across was to not consistently do anything you wouldn’t want to continue to do with a toddler. Bouncing my swaddled up infant on a yoga ball was really working out until I imagined suppressing a squirming toddler in my lap while I sang “the sleepy song.” Lately, I’ve been incorporating things that are effective, require minimal work, and are portable – like white noise, dim lights and you guessed it, essential oils! By consistently incorporating a scent into the bedtime routine, you can train your little one to associate that aroma with sleep.

When a fragrance is inhaled, odor molecules are trapped by olfactory membranes, fitting like little puzzle pieces into receptor sites in the epithelium. This triggers electrical impulses to the olfactory bulb in the brain, which then transmits the impulses to the limbic system of the brain. Smell is the only sense that is directly linked to the limbic lobe, which is why a scent can evoke a response before we are even consciously aware of it.  All other senses are routed through the thalamus, a sort of brain-switchboard that passes stimuli on to the conscious thought center (aka the cerebral cortex.) IN SHORT, unlike our other senses, when it comes to smells, we REACT FIRST and think later. This makes it easy to understand why diffusing a scent, once you’ve clearly established an association to sleep, can make your little one drowsy before they even realize it’s bedtime.

4. Sleep

Theoretically, you could achieve a strong association with any scent, but since some essential oils are inherently down-regulating and others are inherently stimulating, I would recommend choosing one that is known for its calming properties, such as lavender.

Lavender is my go-to oil for sleep mostly because the aromatic influence is calming, relaxing and balancing, but ALSO because it is one of the more affordable oils and has many other applications. I always have lavender on hand for skin care, first aid, allergies and healing.

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There are a few ways I use lavender with my son. Every night without fail, after story time but before the last stages of our bedtime routine, I put 2 drops of lavender in the diffuser (you may use more depending on the size of your room, but I find that less is more, especially with babies and young children.) For nap times, in lieu of setting up the diffuser every single time, I simply use a linen spray that I spritz into his crib before putting him down. This is also a convenient option for travel! A third way to introduce the scent is to put a few drops into your favorite carrier oil or lotion and use it for infant massage. (I recommend a 1-2% dilution for infants). 

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AS always, be sure to buy your oils from a company you trust. With the ever expanding awareness of essential oils, more and more companies that are willing to cut corners and use chemical extenders to maximize profit are labeling their synthetic imitators with promises like “100% pure” and “therapeutic grade.” Don’t be fooled, as these labels are not regulated!  Since essential oils are highly concentrated and have the unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, it is especially important that we choose products that are completely safe, especially for our little ones!

To learn more, sign up for my free oil course.

 

Repair Your Damaged Programming

Check out my recent interview with Samantha Wright on the Revolution Oils Podcast – The #1 rated podcast on iTunes!

We talk all about…

  • The myriad health habits that can help pry you out of depression
  • The oils that support mood, energy and motivation
  • How aromas affect the limbic lobe of the brain
  • The implications of neuroplasticity and myelination on mental health
  • How essential oils can act as a compass on the road to wellness