Sunday, June 29, 2014

3 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Dark Spots

Photo Credit: Flickr/Photographer: SMN

Skin discoloration, no matter how faint, can be frustrating when trying to achieve smooth, even skin. Keep in mind, some level of skin discoloration is normal. When it comes to the face your T-Zones are lighter, and naturally so. However, when you look into the mirror and see blotchy skin this could be attributed to a wide variety of root causes.

Take for instance in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which says the body must balance the flow between five main elements to properly function. In case you were wondering, here's a list of those five elements:
kidney associated with water
- liver linked to wood
- small intestines related to the fire 
- large intestine correlated with metal 
- stomach affiliated with earth 

Things like skin discoloration can be indicators to greater underlying issues or warnings signs for potentially greater issues. Of course TCM is complex, so if you’re addressing any ailment using this school of thought it's always best to consult a professional practitioner. If you’re in the Northeast region of the country and have a valid passport, I highly recommend checking out Cheung TradingCompany in Windsor, Canada.

Back to the quick ways you can help eliminate blotchy skin starting today…

Water – internal hydration is vital, considering your body consists of about 80% water. Studies show that about 75% Americans are dehydrated. This means, as your body’s running low on water it first hydrates your blood, tissues and internal organs, getting little to no moisture to your skin. Your skin then becomes dry, maybe even ashy but over time the lack of moisture both internally and externally, results in dark spots and blotchy skin. Not to sound all campaign-like, but drinking water really does do your body a lot of good. About eight glasses per day is recommended, or half your body weight. However, (this is my personal opinion, warning not backed up by… well, anything) I think it’s good to follow your instincts and drink water until you feel hydrated. You already know that too much of anything is not good for you, so you don’t go overboard but you may be more dehydrated than you think, therefore require more water. In this case, if you’re tired of drinking water, then eat more water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumber, honeydew, tomatoes and lettuce for starters.

Greens – while we’re on the topic of food, eating more fresh green veggies also does a body a lot of good. I like to call these foods sun foods, as they are rich in chlorophyll (phyto-nutrient a.k.a plant nutrients), simply put chlorophyll helps your skin to radiate and shine. Not only are greens packed with protein, but they also are loaded with iron, calcium, antioxidants and plenty more vitamins and minerals (especially when eaten together). Consider greens like Swiss chard, spinach, collards, callaloo your best friend, or at least when it comes to nutrition. But remember your cruciferous veggies too: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, arugula for starters.

Baking Soda – Before I offer any tips here, let me caution you PLEASE DO NOT GO OVERBOARD WITH THIS INGREDIENT. Again, too much of anything can become harmful, so start with small amounts. With that said, just as baking soda is a natural whitener for your teeth it also can help even out skin tones. Again, start with small amounts place about a quarter size amount in the palm of your hand, add a little water until it forms a paste-like texture, and then gently rub into your skin. Wash away with water. Some people use baking soda daily in place of soap. However, I suggest first seeing how it reacts on your skin and based on your preference and your skin’s response, use more frequently. Baking soda is an alkaline compound, and therefore helps to restore pH balance in skin. If you use too much at once, some people have experience adverse effects where baking soda literally eats the skin, which also is a natural chemical response if you go overboard. Don't let this scare you away, because this may not be your story and baking soda has many healing properties. Just remember to avoid using TOO MUCH at once.

Oh, one more bonus tip... STOP picking at your blemishes. Continued touching, rubbing, pricking and busting creates dark spots -- but of course you know that already ;)

If you enjoyed this post, check out my previous post explaining why it's best to use natural body products with whole recognizable ingredients... Healthy Skin Care Tips

- Avec Amour

Monday, June 16, 2014

Three Benefits and Easy Ways to Exfoliate

Yeah, you've heard about exfoliating but you're not sure what all the hype is about. Well, as it turns out, exfoliating is one of the best ways to remove both calluses and dead cells from your skin. But you're probably wondering how is it that your skin is both dead and alive at the same time? Let's peel through the layers for a better understanding of your skin's makeup... (promise not to get too scientific sounding).

So, your skin has three layers:
1) Epidermis -- the outermost layer, which is in a constant state of shedding. This sliver of skin has five layers: stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum licidum and stratum corneum. These layers work together to shed dead skin, create new cells and give skin its color.

2) Dermis -- this part of the skin produces tissue cells and collagen. Here, you'll find oil and sweat glands, hair follicles and nerves running through this layer.  Click here to find out what else you'll find at this level.

3) Subcutaneous -- the most internal layer, housing fat and connective tissues. This part of your skin regulates the skin's and body's temperature. Click here to learn more about the subcutaneous layer.

Image courtesy of marin/

Exfoliating helps to remove dead cells resting at the outermost layer (epidermis), softens and brightens skin. When you avoid exfoliating, the skin can become dry, dull, blotchy, rough, callus and pores may clog. 

When exfoliating, take special care of your skin during summer months. For instance, if you get sunburn, your skin is more tender and agitated, so avoid using exfoliants as it will need time to heal. However, if tanned (but not burned) a body scrub can polish the skin and even the tone. Because exfoliants, in and of themselves, have scrubbing particles, you don't have to scrub hard; unless of course you're trying to irritate and tear your skin (sarcasm).

As it relates to exfoliating techniques and tools there are many differences.  When experiencing rough, callus, or blotchy skin many exfoliants are just a few steps away, right in your kitchen cupboard.

So, finally here are three quick and easy ways to exfoliate:
  • Sugar/Salt Scrub -- use small granules for frequent use, as they are more gentle on the skin and dissolve more easily (this is usually the case for small granule sugar scrubs). As a rule of thumb, both sugar and salt are crystallized particles, but salt crystals have sharper or jagged edges making it more likely to tear the skin, which is great for something like callous feet but maybe not so much for the body. Salt scrubs (Dead Sea Salt, Himalayan and Hawaiian) contain natural trace minerals making them useful when detoxing, in which case a small granulated sea salt scrub might be useful for helping to purify and get a deeper clean when your feeling under the weather. When it comes to sugar scrubs, it's best to use raw cane or coconut sugar. Avoid using processed, refined sugar both internally and externally.
  • Exfoliating Gloves -- just like all scrubs or exfoliants, scrub gloves helps with blood circulation, causing skin to look more vibrant, softer and supple. You can find exfoliating gloves at your neighborhood CVS, Walgreens or RiteAid. Use them in place of a wash cloth and lather them with soap for a deeper cleanse, removing buildup and dead cells.
  • Baking Soda -- one of the simplest options of them all has a dual-action both cleansing and exfoliating. Many people ditch commercial bar soaps and body washes in lieu of baking soda. Bisodium Carbonate (i.e. a salt derivative) buffs the skin with its mineralizing properties unclogging pores for a deep clean and helps with pH balance. Pour a quarter size amount and mix with either coconut oil or water until it forms into a paste. When using for your entire body you can use the same method, just pour a little more baking soda to cleanse your entire body. Then gently rub into your face and rinse away. Frequent use may be a better option for oily skin types because of its excellent ability in removing buildup, which may remove some of the needed oils and nutrients in dry skin sufferers. However, this may be resolved when you follow-up with a moisture-rich cream.
How often you use each of these, solely depends on how your skin reacts. So, use your best judgement to find your unique regimen. If you find that exfoliating starts to irritate your skin (or it rubs your skin raw), stop or do so less frequently.

Beauty is a lifestyle requiring one to adopt their own methods and techniques; of course it's always a good idea to consult a health care professional to best help walk you through this process. Keep in mind that common sense and instincts also make pretty good options for figuring this sort of thing out too. Of course there are plenty more exfoliating options available, but it is my hope that you keep searching until you find what you're looking for. 

- Avec Amour

Saturday, June 7, 2014

DIY: Organic Foamy Shaving Cream...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Show some love for the man in your life by making him a personal batch of handmade shaving cream. If you don't have anyone special to give it to, then use this shaving cream for yourself -- on your legs, arms, etc. 

In general, shaving creams offer a three-in-one deal cleansing, moisturizing and nourishing skin. Most people use some variation of shaving creams because it creates an anti-slip glide and lubricates hairs for a closer shave; the results -- smoother skin and less stubble. Creating an organic, homemade version allows you to kick the chemicals (found in many leading brands -- seriously, flip the bottle over and see for yourself) and add more nourishment to your skin and is much better for the environment. When it comes to those daily hair removal for beards, mustaches and maybe legs, shaving is far less painful than waxing and easier to do yourself.

So, round up these ingredients and it should take about 10-minutes to prepare.

Natural Foamy Shaving Cream
1/4 cup - Raw Unrefined Shea Butter
1 Tbsp - Unscented liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap)
1 Tbsp - Aloe Vera Gel
3 tsp    - Baking soda
1/3 cup - Extra Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil (can also use almond oil here)
Rosemary Essential Oil (optional) 

Directions: Place contents in a bowl and stir together using a wisk, hand-mixer or regular stand mixer. Set on medium to high speed, mix for about 1-2 minutes or until the contents look creamy and evenly combined. Store in an airtight container of your choice. If you don't have anything on hand, try these airtight mason jars as they're great for gifting.

Image courtesy of Marin/
Here are some benefits for the ingredients we used. However, I encourage you to do additional research for yourself.

Aloe Vera has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties making it a useful option for helping to heal scarring from razor bumps and acne prone skin. It also is an excellent moisturizer penetrating deeply through the skin's layers, nourishing it at a cellular level. It is most prized for its ability to regenerate skin cells. Aloe is an astringent, which means it helps to tighten skin for firmer and more youthful looking skin. 

Castile Soap helps to naturally provide the lather needed for your foamy texture without the sketchy toxic ingredients. On that note, it doesn't strip the skin of its natural oils; instead, it helps to nourish skin, as it's made from a medley of natural oils. Castile soap can be found at most major drugstores like Meijer, Target or Walgreens; but if you can't find it there you may have better luck at your nearest health food store, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

Coconut Oil has a gazillion uses and benefits for the body, but when it comes to your skin it is an excellent moisturizer. It is rich in antioxidant properties, which provides a protective shield from free radicals and microscopic invaders; and simultaneously helps to keep skin looking vibrant. It also contains high amounts of vitamin E, doesn't clog pores and deeply penetrates through skin's layers nourishing it from inside out.

Baking Soda is another ingredient with a bounty of uses, but combined with these ingredients, it'll help create that foamy-sudsy mixture. Plus, it's an excellent cleanser... did I mention it's reeeally inexpensive too. For best results, use baking soda from your nearest natural health food store, as you'll be able to tell the difference with the results (especially if you use it to brush your teeth).

Shea Butter helps to even your complexion, reduce appearance of scars, and functions as a creamy moisturizer that absorbs into the skin without blocking pores. Its moisturizing compounds helps to lubricate skin, reducing irritation during shaving. The butter contains a lot of vitamin A and E, helping to protect from aged-looking skin.

Rosemary Essential Oil, as for this ingredient not only is it a refreshing piney scent, but it also is a natural preservative.

Credit: Evan-Amos

If you are gifting, make it a complete package with this double-edge safety razor and brush set via Mini Fab. Turns out there's a difference among the various razors out there. Many men report, namely the Art of Manliness and Velvet Forge, that the best shaving results comes from using either a straight edge or double edge safety razor. 

What do you think? Do you have preferences on which razor or shaving techniques to use? Please share below.

For More DIY Tips: