Get Plastic Smart for Healthier Skin and Hormones

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Plastic is one of those inventions that has made our lives massively easier. It’s transformed and even saved lives in its many applications in the medical world. But like so many other good things, there can quickly become too much of it. Look around at your environment and scan through your daily routine for plastics. Do you see them popping up again and again—and again? In food and drink products, utensils, cookware, personal care, waste removal, laundry, home cleaning, clothing, accessories— maybe even your kids’ or pets’ bath or playtime? The number of times we’re exposed to various types of plastics day to day is pretty mind-blowing.

Now consider that we know many types of plastics (especially those labeled 3,6, and 7) leach hormone-disrupting compounds into your food, water, and products—those same foods and products that you eat and apply, countless times as the weeks and months go by. Many of these compounds act like estrogens in the body, or otherwise affect and disrupt the healthy balance of our hormones. When your hormones are out of balance, you might see breakouts, redness, and issues with skin texture, your body may hold onto excess weight or water, and you may have reproductive or fertility issues. Hormones have a major impact on our beauty and health!

So how can you get smarter about plastic for healthier skin and hormones?

Start with the big picture of your exposures, like I do with my clients who are just beginning to incorporate safer personal care. The goal is to raise consciousness (so you get smarter about the occasions when you choose plastics), and to cut back in areas that will make a big difference, without stressing you out. I’m going to guess that your food and drink is your biggest regular source of plastic exposure, whether you are conscious of it of not. 

One important thing to know: many compounds in plastic are lipophilic, meaning that they tend to combine with or dissolve readily in fats. This is why dairy products (even super high-quality ones!) and other naturally fatty foods (even if they're healthy fats) are not good to store in plastic. The recent news that powdered cheese is a major source of exposure to phthalates (one type of plastic compound) is not surprising, given that harmful compounds in plastics can concentrate in these types of foods during their production process.  

Here are 9 ways to make simple swaps that will reduce your exposure to hormone-disrupting compounds in plastics:

1. Swap plastic storage containers for glass or unlined stainless steel. Do this today! And never, ever put warm food in plastic or reheat food in plastic containers, which can cause plastic to break down and leach harmful compounds more quickly. If you must, put only cooled food into plastic, and get rid of plastic containers that are scratched and worn, since they may leach chemicals even more readily. Personally, I’ve made an effort to skip takeout from places that dump hot soups and curries into plastic or styrofoam— those can be a big source of hormone disrupting chemicals. And I use mason jars for a lot of my portable storage! For at home storage of leftovers, I use Snapware and Frigoverre glass containers, which are glass with plastic lids. 

2. Cut back on plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is super convenient, so we may never be able to ditch it 100%, but consider how often, and for how long, it comes into contact with your food. I don't like closely wrapping halves of veggies or fruits in plastic wrap, and I especially try to avoid wrapping products with fats (avocados, cheese and other dairy, etc.) with plastic wrap because of the tendency for those foods to store hormone-disrupting chemicals.

3. Choose personal care in glass or in BPA-free plastic labeled #1, 2, 4, or 5. Yes, your personal care products can be a concentrated source of plastic chemicals too, especially if they’re stored in plastic, and in hot environments like your bathroom. Opt for personal care stored in glass when it’s available, and then look for companies that consciously choose safer plastics for their products (Acure Organics is one company that I know of that aims to use safer plastics for this reason).

4. Toss your vinyl shower curtain in favor of cloth. Every time that soft plastic shower curtain heats up (every time you take a shower!), it releases plastic chemicals into your environment. A cloth shower curtain is a simple swap that’s also easy to clean (just throw it in the washing machine).

5. No more plastic water bottles. This is a big one. Plastic water bottles are a major source of chemical exposure— not to mention their awful impact on the environment. Treat yourself to a really nice glass or unlined stainless water bottle. If you forget your water bottle and need to grab a plastic one on occasion, don’t stress. But buying plastic water (or other beverage!) bottles by the case, drinking from them regularly, and reusing them again and again is a big don’t for beauty and health. One important thing to note: ‘BPA-free’ plastic doesn't mean ‘free of hormone disruptors.’ It just means that it has no BPA. Other compounds used as BPA substitutes may be just as harmful as BPA, so it’s best to minimize whenever you can. 

6. Be careful with fragrance. Synthetic fragrance is a major source of phthalates, plasticizing chemicals that are hormone disrupting compounds in the body. They’ve also been implicated in fertility and reproductive issues, autoimmune diseases, and asthma. Skip items fragranced with synthetic scents, and opt for natural scents—or none at all—instead.

7. Check your cooking tools. Plastics abound in the kitchen, from rubbery spatulas to plastic cutting boards and mixing bowls. Be careful which of your plastics come into contact with hot foods, and throw away old or worn plastics, which can leach harmful compounds more readily. Keep a stack of glass and stainless steel bowls for mixing, and use glass, metal, and ceramic for serving. 

8. Skip canned foods with BPA. Cans that contain BPA in their lining are Beauty Betrayers called out in Eat Pretty, since BPA mimics estrogen in the body and can alter our healthy hormone balance. Choose canned foods that are labeled BPA-free to support your best skin and hormone balance, and learn a few simple ways to make foods from scratch and skip cans altogether when you have time.

9. Buy fewer foods stored in plastics. This one is hard—it takes consciousness, and effort. But I'm working hard to implement this in my life as well! Opting for more whole foods, especially those stored without plastic containers and wraps, can be more beautifying for us all. 

Summer Product Obsessions 2017

Healthy beauty products are one pillar of my daily self-love. I look forward to taking a few moments out of a packed day—juggling work and home life—to treat myself and my skin to ingredients that support the glow I'm nourishing from within. This season, I'm loving a tropical-scented scrub, a dreamy new cream-balm, a shimmering blush, a do-it-all cleanser & mask, and a time-tested deodorant. Read on for a peek at this summer's favorites...

Beverly to 5th Island Coconut Coffee Scrub, $19

This scrub is like an AM espresso shot for the senses. Open the pretty pouch to release the potent coffee-coconut scent inside and you'll find that your mind is instantly brought to focus. I love that the scrub itself satisfies a candy-like craving for tropical coconut, yet it's simple and natural—think ingredients like organic coffee grounds, sea salt, organic cold-pressed coconut oil, and brown sugar, instead of low quality oils and synthetic fragrance.  Coffee is known to tighten skin, reduce the appearance of cellulite, and deliver a hefty dose of antioxidants, not to mention its skin-smoothing benefits as an exfoliant. It's a fantastic pre-beach smoother. Since I am a bit sensitive to caffeine, I just use a little handful on a small area of my body, like shoulders or thighs, for exfoliation and aromatherapy in the morning.

Josh Rosebrook Vital Balm Cream, $45

Josh Rosebrook does it again. The July Beauty Heroes Discovery Box features a tiny, travel size sample of Josh Rosebrook's incredible new cream, and I'm savoring every application. It holds surprising richness in its whipped, cloud-like texture thanks to moisture-delivering ingredients like aloe vera, honey, rich organic oils like borage, evening primrose and sea buckthorn, and Indian senna seed extract. This beautiful cream-balm layers well over oils and I'm using it on nights when I crave extra moisture— a few nights a week in the summer, which will surely become nightly once cooler weather hits. It applies like a dream, and in the morning my skin has a happy, radiant glow.  I often find that balms can feel too heavy and occlusive on my skin, but this cream-balm hybrid hits a sweet spot for texture and moisture. I am also loving its sweet scent (it reminds me of a childhood candy) and baby blue hue, tinted by its soothing blue tansy oil. Thank you for a precious new product for my summer self-care rituals, Josh Rosebrook and Beauty Heroes!

Au Naturale Pure Powder Blush in Pink Champagne, $24

A little dose of pink from this shimmering, sweet blush is exactly what my skin needs this season. Au Naturale recently repackaged their line of natural, ethically-sourced cosmetics and the result is sleek, minimalist and convenient. Case in point: the revolutionary powder pump that dispenses a perfect dose of loose powder blush onto your skin (I start with mine on the back of my hand before applying to my cheeks with my fingertips) or blush brush. Definitely less mess and less wasted product than a traditional powder pot! The effect is a luminous pink with gold undertones (which are reminiscent of the undertones in the classic hit Orgasm blush by NARS) that builds easily on your skin. If this shade isn't ideal for your skin, check out the five other gorgeous shades in the range. 

Leahlani Skincare Kalima Coconut Cream Cleansing Powder, $46

I've been savoring this amazing skincare product since it arrived last month, but it's going fast for one reason: it's so versatile that I seem to always have a reason to reach for it! Cleanser, exfoliant, mask, aromatherapy transport to the Hawaiian islands— Kalima does it all. Usually I reach for this product on days when I need a little extra exfoliation, cleanse with it, and then leave it on my skin for 10 minutes to soak in all of its benefits, including water-activated vitamin C that brightens and boosts collagen. The entire formula is dry until you add water, which makes it a perfect summer travel staple. Shake a little of the powder (it's divinely citrus-vanilla scented) into your palm, add a few drops of water, and combine into a creamy paste with a base of coconut milk, clay, oatmeal, and a bundle of organic Hawaiian fruit and flowers (guava, banana, hibiscus...). I feel like some kind of Hawaiian princess when I use any of Leahlani's products, but this one in particular has me seriously obsessed! 

Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Grapefruit Cream Deodorant, $14

I've been using this amazing product off and on for well over a year, so it's not a new discovery... but it still warrants sharing! Meow Meow Tweet's baking soda-free deodorant cream is the real deal. The texture is super-creamy (you don't have to do any work to soften it before you apply— even in cold, winter months), and rubs in with a light, powdery finish. It smells faintly of lemon and grapefruit, but without any lasting, prominent scent—which I prefer. And it performs. Deodorant is tricky; because we each have a different pH, some deodorant formulas work better than others. It's a personal thing. But this one, I find, becomes a favorite of many of my clients. And being free of baking soda makes it much less prone to irritate skin. One jar lasts a LONG time, and keeps me fresh & dry in all seasons. If you haven't found your holy grail natural deodorant yet, give this one a try! 

 

NOTE: Buying a product from Beauty Heroes or Leahlani through the links above results in a small commission for me. My honest reviews and account of my experience is in NO WAY influenced by my affiliate status. First and foremost, I love these products and stand behind these brands! 

Make this 5-Minute Energizing Lunch for Gorgeous Skin

Lunch is the time of day when your body is primed and ready to digest a really nutrient-dense meal. You can make this your biggest meal of the day, packed with skin nutrition! Only, lunch also seems to be the time when we reach for packaged, processed, fast food options, in the name of convenience. To help break that trend, this recipe was also created in the name of convenience— and energy, and glowing skin. If you have 5 minutes and 4 ingredients (plus your leafy green of choice, which you ALWAYS have around, right??), you have this protein-packed beauty lunch that also adds a probiotic boost. Feel free to add more veggies to this salad, as your tastes desire and your refrigerators allow.

Chopped Chickpea-Kraut Salad

Here's a super-quick lunch I love to make when I have an empty fridge or a lack of leftovers. I always have a can of chickpeas on hand, as well as some sauerkraut (I used the Gingered Purple Kraut from Eat Pretty Every Day for this recipe— it adds the perfect flavor and color!), which is more than half the recipe. It checks off your protein, healthy fats, and your probiotic foods, and if you add greens you have an even more beautifying masterpiece that takes—seriously—5 minutes to assemble. This serves 2, or just me if I'm extra-hungry. Enjoy!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15-oz BPA-free can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped raw sauerkraut 
  • 1 heaping tbsp vegan mayo (you can sub ripe avocado here too)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • sprinkle of shelled hemp seeds (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Add chickpeas to a bowl and mash, using the back of a fork. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve wrapped in, or over a bed of, your favorite leafy greens!

The Best Essential Oils for Your Bath

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Whenever I have one of those days where stress, work, and motherhood (or all of the above) wear me out yet leave me wired, a bath is how I wipe the slate clean and prepare for restful sleep. You might call it a bathing meditation, because it has similar effects for my mind and body.

Many of my clients who have had difficulty sleeping or managing stress have found a bath to be an ideal evening self-care practice. If nighttime is the time when cravings hit, or when you find yourself staying up too late binging on TV, or even when you tend to feel restless and unable to settle into sleep, I challenge you to break that routine with a bath. A warm bath (I like mine HOT, even though I know it's dehydrating to my skin...!) detoxifies, relaxes muscles, increases circulation, restores the mind & body, and pampers you. It's an ideal time to grab a magazine, listen to a podcast, slather on a face mask— or just stare at the ceiling and breathe. And then there's the water. You can find any number of amazing bath products (see a few faves at the end of this post) to boost the benefits of your bath, but just a few drops of the right essential oil make an otherwise average soak into a tailored spa treatment. I like to change it up but always come back to some combination of lavender + jasmine + sandalwood. 

To find out which essential oils are best for the bath, I previously interviewed essential oil expert Robin Block of Wyndmere Naturals for her picks. I also added some of my own favorites to this list! Pick the ones that speak to you and follow the key instructions afterward for a rewarding beauty ritual you'll revisit time and again:

Best Essential Oils for the Bath

  • Rose: “If I had to pick only one oil, I’d probably choose rose oil,” says Block. “It’s calming but gently uplifting and it helps with anxiety or nervous tension.” Rose oil supports all skin types, so even those with dry, sensitive skin will benefit from its restorative effects.
  • Cedarwood, Sandalwood or Rosewood: Block says that any oils that come from tree bark are incredibly soothing and grounding—and I totally agree. Sandalwood in particular is prized for its fragrance, as well as its calming properties, making it a personal fave.
  • Neroli: This lovely oil, which is extracted from orange blossom flowers, calms the mind and uplifts the spirit. It makes a great addition to a wintertime bath, since, “We’re often starved for uplifting scents in the winter,” Block says. Neroli is a gentle sedative that encourages sleep and reduces anxiety. Think of this oil as the antidote to a stressful day.
  • Vetiver: Vetiver, distilled from the roots of the vetiver plant, is a humectant oil that brings moisture to dry skin and peace to your mind. “In India, vetiver is called the oil of tranquility,” says Block.
  • Lavender: Known as the quintessential oil for calm, lavender is a favorite for nighttime baths and the treatment of insomnia. Lavender also supports damaged, stressed or irritated skin, making it a wonderful choice for many of those with skin issues.
  • Roman or German Chamomile: Chamomile is known for its gentle, calming properties, making it an excellent essential oil to add to a tension-reducing bath before bed.  Add a few drops of chamomile essential oil to a chamomile tea bag and let it soak in your bath for extra benefits, Block suggests.
  • Ylang Ylang or Jasmine:  Ylang ylang and jasmine essential oils maybe stimulants that uplift your mood, but I also find them to be soothing to your body. A bath scented with these exotic oils, which are aphrodisiacs and blend especially well together, also benefits dry skin.

After filling your bath, Block recommends that you wait a few minutes for the water to reach a warm temperature, and never get into a bath that’s steaming or scalding, since it does strip natural oils from the skin. (I'm trying to do this more!). Then sprinkle a few drops of your chosen essential oil (or essential oil blend, since most oils mix well with others) into a cup of whole milk or a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add this diluted mixture to your bath water and stir to blend. Add essential oils directly to hot water and they will evaporate quickly, along with their therapeutic benefits. Or, as an antidote to sore muscles, mix a few drops of essential oils into two cups of Epsom salts and dissolve into your bath.

When choosing essential oils for your bath, look for an indication that the oils are 100% pure and therapeutic grade. Brands like Wyndmere Naturals, Young Living, doTERRA and Aura Cacia are known for the purity of their oils.

Want to add instant therapeutic benefits to bath, with a product that's ready to use? These are some of my personal favorite natural and organic bath products:

EO Botanical Bath Salt Soaks. With a range of natural scents and a choice of different types of salts (from Himalayan pink to sea salt and Epsom salt), these are a great budget-friendly bath soak option. 

Pursoma Bath Soaks. The Pursoma Hot Tub Bath (a splurge at $36) in particular helped me stop a cold in its tracks. The best part of these detoxifying bath blends is the incredibly high-quality ingredients, including wild harvested seaweeds, organic ginger powder, and pure French clay.

Dr. Hauschka Aromatherapy Bath Kit. A collection of trial sizes of Dr. Hauschka’s rosemary, spruce, sage, lemon and lavender bath oils that make your bath smell amazing and leave your skin so moisturized and happy.

What's your current favorite natural or organic bath product?

Note: This post was originally published 8/26/11 and was most recently updated June 2017.

Glowing Skin Secrets from Hawaii

Hawaii is one of those places that you kind of can't believe is real. The air smells like fresh blossoms, you see rainbows daily, and the only thing more amazing than the ocean waves are the creatures that reside there— from sea turtles to candy-colored tropical fish. So it only makes sense that some of the most beautiful natural skincare products that I've tried in recent years come from the Hawaiian islands. This natural paradise produces a fascinating array of ingredients that make your skin glow, both from the inside and outside, from noni, guava, and kukui nuts to turmeric, macadamia, and pineapple. 

Hawaii and one of its many rainbows, in 2011.

Hawaii and one of its many rainbows, in 2011.

Ahead, I share three incredibly beautiful Hawaiian natural skincare brands, as well as a powerfully skin-nourishing smoothie that reminds me of my own trip there. I've been rotating these products and making the smoothie over and over for the last several weeks, and I can't wait for you to experience them. I hope you get inspired to take a trip, or give your skin a pick-me-up by adding some Hawaiian ingredients to your skincare regimen and your diet. 

Leahlani Skincare

Kauai is known as 'The Garden Isle.' I know this because it was six years ago this week that I honeymooned there. Even back then I was writing about natural beauty, and I looked around for products to bring home during my travels— but came up short. Apparently I didn't look hard enough, because Leah Klasovsky, Holistic esthetician, skincare formulator, and founder of Leahlani Skincare, was at that time already offering her dreamy line at local Kauai farmer's markets.

Fast forward to 2017 (she has since developed a major following for her Mermaid Mask), when I finally got to experience Leahlani. No exaggeration, I opened up my box and was instantly lifted out of a funk I happened to have been in that day and transported to a dreamy place (where I return every time I use one of the Leahlani products). Like Hawaii itself, these products feel almost too good to be real. They smell delicious, dessert-like, and exotic—and they are terrifically effective and a pleasure to use.

I adore the Kalima Coconut Cream Cleansing Powder, which contains a base of dried coconut milk (!) that you rehydrate in your palm, along with powdered antioxidant-rich fruit and flowers like hibiscus, guava, camu camu, and honeysuckle. Tangerine, mandarin, and vanilla essential oils give it a scent that is just, well...beyond. Being powdered, it travels easily. The Meli Glow Illuminating Nectar Mask is another product that makes me weak in the knees; added to its base of organic raw Hawaiian honey and rose clay is a lineup of tropical ingredients that exfoliate, soothe, and bring out your skin's glow. Think organic starfruit, strawberry, and guava, as well as sea buckthorn, avocado, and argan oils. It's my usual raw honey mask, Hawaiian style. Finally, I feel like I'm in Kauai getting a facial every time I apply Leahlani's Bless Beauty Balm, a super-rich, hydrating, + soothing balm of cold-pressed oils and flowers that is excellent in place of a night cream. It smells like two of its ingredients, blue tansy and orchid, and the scent makes me fall asleep happily every time I use it at night.

Testing Leahlani, so soothing visually and in its ingredients.

Testing Leahlani, so soothing visually and in its ingredients.

Honua Skincare

Sleek black bottles protect Honua's potent formulas. 

Sleek black bottles protect Honua's potent formulas. 

Beauty Heroes founder Jeannie Jarnot is herself Hawaiian, and you can feel her passion and love for her home come through in the June Beauty Heroes Discovery box featuring Honua Skincare. (For those of you who don't know Beauty Heroes, it's a monthly subscription box that features one 'hero' product from a natural or organic beauty line— and my favorite mail delivery every month!) The featured, hero product in this box is the Aloha Youth Serum, a super-light serum with a base of organic coconut water, rose hydrosol, and aloe—can't you just imagine how those ingredients float over your skin? The feel is silky, cooling, and lightly moisturizing (with kukui nut, tammany and chia oils)— exactly what my skin wants for summer. So well timed as usual, Beauty Heroes! I've been using this serum first, followed by a few drops of the other product in the box, the Olena Beauty Oil. Olena is Hawaiian for turmeric, which gives you a clue that this oil focuses on reducing inflammation in the skin with fresh, Hawaiian turmeric (this batch was picked and infused only weeks ago), as well as noni and cacao. I tried it on skin irritation even outside my face and saw quicker healing and soothing. Beauty Heroes suggests using traditional Hawaiian lomi massage (a flowing technique with long, sometimes circular strokes) to apply this oil.

You can buy products from this month's Honua Skincare box or subscribe to Beauty Heroes here

Mahalo Skin Care

I first introduced Mahalo Skin Care and its Rare Indigo Beauty Balm in a post last year— you can read all about it here. The 'garden' island of Kauai is also the Hawaiian home of Mahalo Skin Care and its founder Maryna Kracht. Since my initial post, I've spent time using Mahalo's The Petal mask, a hydrating mask with a base of raw and Manuka honeys, as well as rose and white clays, that simultaneously leaves your skin smooth and hydrated, with a little extra glow from increased circulation and moisture. It would be wonderful for acne-prone skin that needs moisture without heaviness. Another Hawaiian treasure!

Honeymoon Glow Smoothies, for two.

Honeymoon Glow Smoothies, for two.

Honeymoon Glow Smoothie

This smoothie gives your skin that honeymoon glow. Healthy fats from coconut and macadamia strengthen your skin's cell membranes and give your body the building blocks for hormone production, while beet supports energy and glowing skin. Maca also lends itself to energy and hormone balance, while fresh pineapple helps maintain a flat belly and give you a sweet boost of energy from fruit.

Serves 1-2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 small roasted beet
  • Heaping 1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I like coconut milk for this smoothie)
  • small handful macadamia nuts (or 4-5 Brazil nuts)
  • 1-2 dates, depending on your desired sweetness
  • 1/2 tsp maca root
  • 1 tsp organic vanilla extract (optional) 

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

Feeling inspired yet? Me too. I can't wait for the next time I'm called back to magical Hawaii; until then, these Hawaiian beauty secrets infuse my regular routine with a dose of tropical delight. 


NOTE: If you purchase a Beauty Heroes subscription, or one of the aforementioned Leahlani products, I will receive a small commission on behalf of these companies that helps to offset the cost of maintaining this site. My honest review and experience with Beauty Heroes and Leahlani was in no way influenced by my affiliate status.

Skin-Nourishing Supper: Amaranth Polenta with Mushrooms, Basil & Greens

It's time to upgrade your complex carbs with a beauty nutrition-packed pantry staple: amaranth. Amaranth is a must-have in your repertoire, especially if you're vegan or vegetarian, as it's a great source of protein (8g in a serving) and beauty minerals including calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. The sticky, porridge-like texture of amaranth makes it a great breakfast grain (try the recipe for Coconut-Date Amaranth on p. 322 of Eat Pretty Every Day) or polenta base (as I've used it in this recipe), and also makes it excellent for your digestion. Even though we think of it as a gluten-free grain, it's technically a seed, one whose texture is really going to add something new to your usual meals— wait until you try it! 

Every single ingredient in this easy dish is loaded with skin benefits, and you can sub in new varieties of greens as they come into season and mushrooms as they become available. Enjoy!

Amaranth Polenta with Mushrooms, Basil & Greens

NOTE: If you prefer to serve a firmer square of polenta under your veggies (as opposed to a soft, porridge-y version), it's best to make the amaranth well ahead of time and let it chill completely. Try making it the night before serving, or the morning-of, so it has plenty of time to cool and solidify, and all you have to do is cook up the veggies to go on top. 

This veggie-packed meal is brimming with protein, one of the essential building blocks for your skin, hair, and nails that also helps keep your blood sugar stable (further supporting gorgeous skin!). It's also a great source of key beauty minerals like iron and calcium, and lots of antioxidants from basil and greens. Try subbing in whatever greens or veggies you have on hand.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

3 cups broth or water (if using water, be sure to salt it, or add 2 tbsp liquid/coconut aminos for flavor)

1 cup dry amaranth

2 tsp coconut oil, organic butter, or ghee

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

6 cups chopped assorted mushrooms (I recommend including some shiitakes for flavor)

1 pint (about 2 cups) organic grape or cherry tomatoes, halved 

4 tsp chopped basil, plus more for garnish

3 large handfuls of roughly chopped organic greens (I used baby kale)

DIRECTIONS

Bring broth/water to a boil in a large saucepan, and add amaranth. Cover, lower heat, and simmer about 25 minutes, until water has absorbed and amaranth is sticky, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt oil/butter/ghee in a sauté pan. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms, garlic, and a pinch of unrefined salt, and cook until mushrooms soften and release their water. (Depending on the variety of mushrooms that you use, you can pour off some of the water if it begins to collect). Add tomatoes, basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. When tomatoes have softened, add chopped greens and cook until just wilted.

Fill each plate with a serving of polenta, and top with the veggie sauté and additional fresh basil.

 

Summer-Ready, from the Inside Out

Got summer on your mind? I certainly did when I shared some of my favorite beauty nutrition-focused summer beauty prep tips with Anthropologie. Check out my summer-ready tips for inspiration, and don't miss the accompanying lineup of beautifying recipes (including a peek at a favorite recipe from Eat Pretty Every Day) to get your beautiful self ready for the season ahead. 

Here's what you'll find:

Eat Pretty: A Summer Detox Guide

Spring Detox Recipes

Many thanks to the incomparable Anthropologie for sharing my pre-summer inspiration, and letting me play dress up at their offices! Here's an outtake from our shoot:

PS THIS is the lovely jumpsuit I got to wear from the Anthro collection.

Images courtesy Anthropologie.

Beauty Is Wellness, In Depth: Collagen

collagen-foods

Eat Pretty, In Depth is a new long-form feature that takes a deep dive into a topic that's important for your beauty and health. If there's a subject you'd like me to explore in depth in the future, contact me at jolene@beautyiswellness.com.

Collagen & Your Beauty

There’s a collagen craze that’s been building in the beauty world for the past several years, and, in all honesty, it’s not something I’ve been too eager to jump on board with. For one, the word collagen is one I associate with images of unnaturally plumped lips or skin, and animal parts that make me squeamish. And collagen shots, gummies, hot chocolate, and tons of other sweet collagen drinks have totally turned me off too. But the truth is that there’s way more to collagen than injectables and collagen-fortified junk food. And more reasons to consider it than just its skin benefits. Let’s explore.

Collagen is an incredibly important and abundant protein in your body; you'll find it in your skin, muscles, tendons, bones, nails, teeth— even blood vessels. The middle layer of your skin, the one that makes up your skin’s bulk and gives strength to that gorgeous outer layer you see, is primarily made up of collagen. There’s no question, you definitely want this stuff in your body as you age! However, as with most great things, we make less of it as the years pass by.

When collagen starts to degrade (due to natural aging, a diet that's not beauty-friendly, stress, smoking, UV damage and general free radical overload), the skin loses its support and strength— and wrinkles, sagging skin, and loss of volume happens. To mask this trend, you could get a temporary injection of collagen into trouble areas (or use it to plump up lips, cheeks, etc.), but there are risks to that route. You could also opt for LED light treatments to stimulate new collagen production, though these treatments can be costly and they work best with continued use. Collagen supplementation in your diet plays the long game by slowing collagen loss and rebuilding collagen to maintain a youthful complexion, at a much more affordable cost, with benefits beyond skin appearance. I’ve been experimenting with collagen and am seeing skin that looks a bit more hydrated (and I’m actually using less facial oil and moisturizer), and I’ve heard raves from clients and friends who added collagen to their diets and saw healthier-looking skin. From what I can tell, those who see the biggest results already have dry skin, or skin that’s showing early wrinkles. Many of the studies done on collagen show a greater improvement in older women, some post-menopausal, with skin that’s on the dry side; so if you fit into any of these categories, you may stand to benefit the most from adding collagen to your body!

So, what/how/when to supplement collagen? Should we reach for that collagen candy after all? How about collagen pills? Powders?

What to look for— a collagen peptide or hydrolyzed collagen formula, and a high-quality source that aligns with your diet.
— Jolene Hart

You have a LOT of choices when it comes to adding collagen into your diet. I have no doubt that these choices will continue to expand rapidly in the years ahead. Just know that some sources of collagen are more proven to be effective than others. At the moment, there’s good evidence that collagen peptides (basically just small proteins that contain a few specific amino acids) improve skin hydration and increase the water absorption capacity of the skin (both of which can lead to a significant visible difference in skin, since better hydrated skin often means plumped, less visible wrinkles), as well as improve skin elasticity. You can readily find collagen peptides in powder form, making it easy to add to smoothies and other foods. Collagen may also improve the appearance of your skin by reducing the depth of visible wrinkles, which is quite exciting for a big range of ages.

Collagen Choices

If you’re an omnivore, you can choose from collagen peptides sourced from cow, pig, fish, eggs, or chicken. Bovine collagen seems to be the easiest to come by in products on the market today, followed by chicken and fish. Full disclosure: I personally don't eat red meat or pork, and haven’t for 25+ years, so bovine or porcine collagen is not something I desire to add into my diet. I haven’t tried these types of collagen to speak to their effects. However, studies done on several of these collagen types are compelling (usually results showing after 4 to 8 weeks of supplementation). Both Verisol, a brand of bovine and porcine collagen, and BioCell, a brand of chicken collagen, are well-studied for their positive skin effects. The brands Vital Proteins and NeoCell offer some of the highest quality collagen peptide powders on the market.

Marine collagen peptides easily penetrate the gastrointestinal wall and through blood circulation are mainly deposited in the skin.
— Jan 2016 study in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity

Lately I’ve been experimenting with marine collagen peptides, as much of the research I’ve found was done with marine collagen and shows that it is quite bioavailable (it appears even more so than bovine or porcine collagen), and is type I collagen, which is the type found abundantly in the skin. I’m a fish-eater, so I feel comfortable with this source. Again, it’s a personal thing. Food is a personal thing. I encourage you to always be very personal with your food choices, and to choose what nourishes and makes you feel best.

Beyond the promise of improved skin hydration and less noticeable wrinkles, one of the benefits that has led me to incorporate collagen into my diet is its ability to heal and seal the gut lining, which is a need that many of us (especially those with skin issues) have. Any food that supports digestive health is a major beauty food in my eyes! For additional gut benefits, bone broth delivers collagen and an array of health-supporting nutrients, and is worth a look if gut health and nourishment is your primary concern. Organic chicken broth is something I have chosen to put into my diet now and then postpartum, and it’s a fantastic source of collagen and beauty minerals that nourish your skin and heal your gut, if needed. Other collagen benefits that have been studied or are being researched include nail and hair strengthening, reducing cellulite, as well as reducing joint pain.

Sadly, collagen does not exist in plants, so there’s no comparable vegan or vegetarian collagen alternative to collagen peptides and bone broth, even though I’ve heard recipes like ‘vegan bone broth’ being touted. I think the idea of vegan bone broth is a great one, as broth is an incredibly nutrient-dense, healing food, but it’s not actually not ‘bone’ broth so choosing it for collagen-building will not yield the same results. For vegans who want to build and preserve collagen, I recommend eating plenty of collagen-building nutrients (see below) from whole foods, filling your plate with antioxidant-rich foods to fight free radical damage to collagen, and cutting down on inflammatory foods like sugar that break down collagen prematurely (this approach is helpful to anyone). There are also a few plant-based collagen-building supplements on the market; like this vegan and gluten-free supplement from Reservage that combines several components of collagen, including vitamin C, amino acids and silica, that may be of interest to vegans and vegetarians.

How Much Collagen do I Need?

One other thing to note about collagen supplementation is serving size. If you’re using collagen, or you intend to, check out how many grams you’re getting in each serving. 2.5 to 5 grams of collagen is a dose range that has been studied often and shown to produce results, whereas I find that brands routinely offer you scoops in the 5 to 15 gram range, and often recommend you taken them multiple times a day. Basically, you can buy a really high-quality collagen product and stretch your money by dialing down the daily serving size— and still see results. Also note that collagen is high in protein, so it may be helpful if you’re looking for beauty-friendly protein sources to add to your diet, and you may also want to cut down slightly on other protein in a smoothie, for example, if you’re going to be adding protein from collagen.

2500 mg of collagen peptides daily increase skin procollagen by 65% and elastin by 18% over an 8-week period.
— 2014 study on Verisol collagen

Another exciting thing to note is that some of the studies done on collagen supplementation show that some of the skin benefits like elasticity and moisture continue for weeks after stopping the collagen supplement. Basically, this could indicate that you’re making a real change to your skin because you’re providing your body with the building blocks it needs to make more, or better, collagen than you were before.

 

Collagen Supportive Nutrition

Regardless of your chosen diet, it helps to fill your meals with components of collagen (like high-quality protein, silicon, sulfur) and the beauty nutrients that support collagen production (like vitamin C and zinc). Here's where to find them:

  • Vitamin C. (strawberries, leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, colorful raw peppers, citrus, kiwi) An essential cofactor in collagen synthesis.
  • Protein. Specifically the amino acids glycine, lysine and proline (pastured eggs, bone broth, legumes). Other top beauty proteins come from plant sources like quinoa, sea vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, hemp and pea protein, lentils and tempeh, as well as animal sources like wild salmon and sardines.
  • Vitamin A. Key for collagen regeneration. (Leafy greens, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, pastured eggs)
  • Lycopene. Supports collagen synthesis. (Tomatoes, watermelon, red peppers, sweet potatoes)
  • Sulfur. An important component of collagen. (Arugula, garlic, cabbage, pastured eggs, and radishes)
  • Silicon. Collagen contains lots of silicon. (Cucumbers, celery, radishes, red cabbage)
  • Zinc. Essential to the collagen formation process. (Pumpkin seeds, cashews and oysters)
  • Manganese. Required for collagen production. (Hazelnuts, teff, amaranth, black and white beans)
  • Copper. Helps develop collagen. (Sunflower seeds, oysters, shiitake mushrooms, almonds, lentils, asparagus)
  • Anthocyanidins. Bioflavonoids that protect and strengthen collagen. (Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, eggplant, red cabbage, red onions)
  • Omega-3s. Maintain healthy cell membranes. (Flax seed, chia seed, wild salmon, walnuts)
collagen-beauty-nutrition

 

*For collagen recipe inspiration, you can download the free NeoCell & Delicious Living Collagen Kitchen ebook (I contributed the delicious Blueberry Cashew Collagen Smoothie recipe!).

--GIVEAWAY--

To win a 10 g tub of Vital Proteins Marine Collagen AND a 10 g box of Vital Proteins Marine Collagen individual travel-size sticks (both sourced from wild caught red snapper) [a $97 value], Leave a comment on either this post, or my Instagram post featuring these Vital Proteins products by the end of the day on May 3rd. Winner will be chosen at random.

CONGRATULATIONS TO INSTAGRAM USER @Christiineneeeee who won the collagen giveaway!

 

References:

Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis, 2014.

The Effect of Oral Collagen Peptide Supplementation on Skin Moisture and the Dermal Collagen Network, 2015.

Effects of a Nutritional Supplement Containing Collagen Peptides on Skin Elasticity, Hydration, and Wrinkles, 2015.

Skin Antiaging and Systemic Redox Effects of Supplementation with Marine Collagen Peptides and Plant-Derived Antioxidants, 2016.

Eat Pretty Spring Detox with Free People

If you're looking for a bit more energy, glow, and lightness this spring, follow along with the 4-week spring detox series I've created for Free People, over on their Bldg 25 blog (a great site for fashion, beauty and wellness inspiration, btw!).

This series is all about detoxing gently, with nutrition and simple shifts in your routine (no juice cleanses or fasting necessary) to support your body's own natural detoxification channels, which are turned on and turned up during the spring season. You'll learn how to add more detox-supportive nutrients into your diet, flush out waste, and prevent some of the biggest sources of toxins from re-entering your body The goal, as always, is to get you looking and feeling your best from the inside out. I hope you enjoy it!

Here are links to the series posts:

Week 1: Go Green

Week 2: Hot Water Hydration

Week 3: Paring Down

Week 4: Detox Your Environment

Happy spring!

New Self-Care Obsession: Lilfox Masks

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Beauty Heroes really knows how to pick them! I couldn't wait to show you my newest spring self-care obsession, a pair of masks from Miami-based brand Lilfox. Lilfox is a brand new find for me, one that I discovered in the (aptly-named) April Beauty Heroes Discovery Box.

The box features the Lilfox Jungle Glow Rainforest Honey Enzyme Cleanser and Mask, which is really just too good to use as a cleanser for a few seconds and then wash away. To me, you must use this product and all of its organic goodness as a mask, and leave it on for at least 15 minutes! It goes on sticky, like any great honey-based mask, and gently exfoliates while moisturizing and delivering some potent topical antioxidants from ingredients like raw cacao, maracuja oil, and rosehip. Totally calm, happy, smooth skin is the result. You'll look like you just got a professional facial.

I thought the results couldn't be any better until I paired it with the Cleopatra Restorative Milk + Honey Beauty Mask, the 'sidekick' that you get in the Beauty Heroes box. This clay mask is unique in that it comes in powdered form, and you get to reconstitute it into a paste by adding water. I tried it while taking a bath, as recommended (talk about self-care moment), and, combined with the good-circulation glow from the hot bath, it left my skin dewy, fresh, and radiant. Another winner! Two masks in one box, from one brand? Almost too good to be true!

I would recommend either of these masks, or the April Beauty Heroes box (or just Beauty Heroes in general— their radar for finding amazing natural and organic products is spot-on!) as a spring self-care treat. For the past few weeks I've been using them the night before photo shoots and speaking engagements to boost my confidence and skin glow!

NOTE: If you purchase a Beauty Heroes subscription, or one of the aforementioned products, I will receive a small commission on behalf of Beauty Heroes. My honest review and experience with Beauty Heroes and these products was in no way influenced by my affiliate status.