If you haven't seen this video by BuzzFeed, it provides just a few examples of the multitudinous nasties and no-no's that are found in traditional cosmetics and beauty care products in this country. While you may think to yourself, "well, there must be some explanation, the FDA wouldn't really let companies poison the populace!"... the fact of the matter is, that's not so simple a case to prove. Many people come up with rebuttals like 'anything can be toxic, it's all about the dosage,' or 'if it's so bad, then just don't wear makeup,' or 'this is clearly an exaggeration, did BuzzFeed cite all their so-called sources of information for this video?' While these are arguments that we can easily argue against (If toxicity is all about dosage, then why aren't there studies done on the long-term effects of wearing certain makeup that contains these ingredients? No, just not wearing makeup is not an acceptable solution, I shouldn't be deprived of products that make me look & feel great. And I'm not too sure, but the fact still remains that there are a ton of chemicals banned in the European beauty marketplace and I'm pretty sure the Europeans are healthier than we are... by the way, there are studies to prove that!), it's easier to simply switch over to products that won't give you anxiety over their ingredients. Below, our suggestions for healthy replacements:
1) FORMALDEHYDE-FREE Nail Polish: RGB Nail Polish, which comes in a variety of great colors and is available for purchase here on SZL, has not only removed formaldehyde from their formulas, they have also taken out the DBP, toluene, camphor, and formaldehyde resin (making them a 5-free brand). My favorite for fall? A midnight green called Tropic.
2) TRICLOSAN-FREE Deodorant: Schmidt's Natural Deodorant is a favorite here at SZL, but you can always check out our article (HERE) on how to forego the daily underarm application completely. And the best part? The only thing you'll need is something that is found in drug stores and pharmacies everywhere... and at barely a dollar!
3) PARABEN-FREE Cream: Zoe Organics makes a fabulous cream with minimal ingredients (in fact, they're all organic and plant-derived!). It's the perfect body lotion for transitioning into autumn and winter, when dropping temperatures and increasing layers of clothing make keeping your self silky-smooth a bit more difficult. Or, you can always try the simplest route available, and purchase an oil to keep moisturized.
4) ETHYLENE OXIDE-FREE Fragrance: While perfumes and colognes are easy to spritz on, the most natural method of scenting yourself is actually aromatherapy! And you get to derive additional health benefits from specialty essential oil blends, whether you mix them yourself or purchase them from a reputable retailer. Take a look at our introductory articles on aromatherapy in the blog!
5) LEAD-FREE Foundation: Kjaer Weis is my go-to for a quality, high-coverage, organic foundation. However, not every day (or every occasion) requires an all-over layer of face color. Often, we only need concealer and powder to make our complexions almost perfect. RMS Beauty makes the best of both these products (in our opinion), and the powder is only made from silica, while the concealer has a coconut oil base. Check on our shop and choose your shade, and get ready to feel the difference on your skin (mine is super-silky when I use these items!).
- Maria Vasylivna
Everyone talks about the benefits of exercise, but one of our body's best detoxifying processes (our ability to sweat) isn't necessarily linked to exercise. The benefits of sweating are manyfold, and critical to the upkeep of our systems. While I am a big advocate for at least 15 minutes of exercise daily (a quick walk after dinner will not only fill this quota, but also aid in digestion!), breaking a sweat can be done without incorporating cardio. Here's how:
- Purge your body of built-up toxins with a relaxing, rejuvenating soak in the tub! Hot baths are not only therapeutic because they soothe the senses, but because they raise our core temperature and cause us to sweat, thereby assisting in the elimination of pollutants, irritants and other no-no's. You can keep it simple by only adding Epsom salts to your bath, or incorporate aromatherapy with a few drops of essential oils. If you really want to take your bath game up a notch (yes, we are pretty hardcore), we recommend trying one of Pursoma's many bath detoxes! A summertime favorite is the Ocean Potion Bath, which is great for when you are itching to hit the beach, but can't. And with fall just around the corner, we're sure the Hot Tub Bath will become a lifesaver during flu season!
- If you are a member of a gym or club with amenities, try out the steam room! Take advantage of all those fees you're inevitably paying, and put them to work by putting in some time in the heat. A quick steam is a great way to get glowing skin, and going from the dense humidity and warmth straight into a cooling shower will invigorate the senses and give you an energy boost. Just remember to rinse off before stepping into the steam in the first place: sweating while your pores are blocked with makeup, or just general build-up from daily life (hello, city smog!), is not recommended.
- If you happen to fancy a more glamorous kind of sweating, find yourself a dry sauna and get your sweat on in a chic way. I am a huge fan of dry saunas, for many reasons (I sometimes have difficulty breathing in steam rooms, and I happen to love the smell of cedar, the traditional material used to build saunas). Dry saunas are basically small rooms or cabins built entirely of wood, and the temperatures inside can get quite high! Since they are heated by a stove, and there is far less moisture in the air than in a steam room, the thermometer inside a dry sauna often hovers around 176 Fahrenheit. This requires a bit of extra caution for users: since the heat is dry, our bodies "feel" it less, so it is easy to overdo it. First time dry sauna users should not remain in the heat for longer than 15 minutes, and always make sure to hydrate (with plain old water) before and after your session.
- Maria Vasylivna
As discussed in our previous article (found HERE), the complete components of bee pollen are, as yet, immeasurable by modern technology. But the reported health benefits of consuming it are garnering more and more attention in the world of scientific studies, and those are the facts that we find worth dedicating an entire article to. We also find it worth mentioning just how precious bee pollen really is: to collect a teaspoon of these golden grains, a sole honeybee must work 8 hours a day for a whole month! Each compacted pellet can contain over 2 million flower pollen grains. Perhaps it is this incredible, microscopic variety that lends itself to healing the human body in so many ways. As previously mentioned, some of the health benefits of taking bee pollen orally are attributed to its high content of rutin, which is exceptionally beneficial for the circulatory system and general heart health. It can help prevent blood clots, strengthen capillaries and blood vessels, correct cholesterol levels and soothe symptoms of other afflictions, such as colitis, irritable bowel disease, and edema.
Besides rutin, bee pollen is also rich in free amino acids, making it an excellent source of protein. In fact, bee pollen is the most protein-dense animal food source. It contains more amino acids, by weight, than any other animal product (cheese, eggs, etc.). Dubbed “the building block of life,” it contains all the nutrients necessary for human sustenance, and then some! Along with rutin and protein, bee pollen is also a great source of the B-complex vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and cobalamin). These vitamins are responsible for performing various roles within the body, including, but not limited to, producing cellular energy from food, synthesizing fatty acids, forming red blood cells, and assisting in healthy metabolic and nervous system functions. Patients who suffer from anemia (as I do) can benefit from a daily intake of bee pollen; studies prove that bee pollen increases hemoglobin levels.
And that’s not all. It is estimated that over 50 million people in the USA alone suffer from hay fever or other seasonal allergies. Real-life doctors have shown that a daily dose of bee pollen can effectively neutralize these symptoms. In fact, this method of treating allergies was developed, modified, and honed at the Allergy Clinic in Denver, Colorado! If you ask me, that is some major SZL fate. If you’re itching to try to this natural home remedy yourself, we recommend setting up a relationship with a local beekeeper in your area (you can also look up apiaries, which are basically bee farms). The exact ratio of nutrients and vitamins in bee pollen will differ from area to area, based on the flowers and plants that are available to the bees, but the one thing that will always remain constant is the incredible, all-natural benefit your body will receive! And if you’re worried about the taste? Don’t be. Bee pollen smells just like honey, and tastes like it too (although with a milder saccharine overtone, and just a touch of bitterness). Like all the best things in life, it is balanced; not too acrid, not too sweet!
- Maria Vasylivna
When most people hear the words ‘bee pollen,’ they start reaching for their prescription medications and cursing the change of seasons. But bee pollen is drastically different from the simple flower pollen that was floating so thickly through the air just a few weeks before, causing so many to suffer from allergy symptoms. Bee pollen refers to the mixture of flower pollen, bee saliva, and hive honey that is made by the young honeybees, and which is also their main food source. These tiny yellow granules are the foundation of life for a colony: one of the most fascinating facts about bee pollen is that it has yet to be successfully synthesized. In lab experiments, when it is replaced by a man-made substance which contains all the same ingredients (according to the most up-to-date chemical analyses), the bees simply die off. There is yet something present in bee pollen that science has not been able to identify… perhaps this mysterious component is the one responsible for all the incredible health benefits that stem from bee pollen consumption!
Bee pollen is thought to be one of Mother Nature’s most nourishing foods. It is approximately 40% protein, and contains more amino acids than any other animal source of the same weight. It also contains almost all the nutrients necessary for human sustenance, and is particularly rich in B-complex vitamins and folic acid. Rutin, a bioflavonoid with strong antioxidant properties, is also found in high concentrations in bee pollen. Studies and experiments have shown that rutin can be a catalyst for preventing blood clots, and providing relief from colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and edema. And those are the benefits reaped from just one element found in bee pollen!
As there are so many ways that our bodies can profit from a regular intake of bee pollen, our subsequent article will focus more on the different benefits. When beginning consumption of bee pollen, it is important to start off slowly. The body needs to become accustomed to it, especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies or have a sensitivity to bee products (bee pollen should not be consumed without consent from a doctor if you have any known intolerances to bee pollen itself). The best way to take it is in the morning. I prefer to take it after I have completed my oil-pulling and drunk 16 ounces of filtered water over the course of half an hour (to gently wake up the internal organs before breaking my fast). I place a teaspoon of the tiny, golden pellets underneath my tongue, and let it slowly melt and mix with my saliva, swallowing little by little. Once they are all dissolved, I start my day off by eating a piece of fruit, generally an apple, and then moving on to a filling and healthful first meal.
- Maria Vasylivna
Bee venom – it’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of alternative therapies! Whether you’re apprehensive about its use as a treatment because you’ve been stung by a bee, or because you simply don’t see how any type of venom could be beneficial to a human being, let us at least try to waylay your suspicions. The medicinal use of bee venom can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and even Hippocrates himself tried it. While the scale of scientific studies on bee venom is miniscule to date, holistic remedies have rarely relied on the approval of those in white lab coats. Witnessing the positive effects of a therapy first-hand, and seeing record of its use for hundred of years, is good enough for me!
Bee venom is purported to be an effective treatment for those suffering from arthritis, both osteo and rheumatoid. The process of treatment is known as bee venom acupuncture: the venom is administered on acupuncture points along the body, which soothes swollen, painful joints. The venom can be given as a shot, from a syringe, or directly from the bees themselves: in the latter case, the bees are held with tweezers or other small instruments, and then placed on the skin, where it stings the patient. Although this may not seem like a pleasant experience, it seems that those suffering from RA or OA prefer this to the discomfort of inflamed joints.
This joint-soothing effect of bee venom may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Among some of the compounds that have been identified in bee venom, 3 of them – apamin, adolapin, and mellitin – possess the ability to reduce inflammation within the body. It therefore makes sense that these could be some of the components of bee venom that make it a successful treatment for arthritis. Other troubles that it might treat are nerve pain, multiple sclerosis, tendonitis, and severe allergic reactions to bee stings. It may seem counterintuitive, but treating a reaction to a certain compound with controlled amounts of said compound is known as immunotherapy. By exposing the body to small doses of bee venom, those who are allergic can become desensitized to it. This is known as venom immunotherapy. Of course, any administration of bee venom should be done by professionals, and a doctor should always be consulted before a course of alternative therapies is begun.
- Maria Vasylivna
Our third article in our series on apitherapy (healing through bee products) is dedicated to that inconspicuous binding agent, beeswax. While you might think it’s simply for making scrumptious-smelling candles, the truth is that it is suited to so many more exploits (and those candles may be more beneficial than you’d think!). Pure beeswax in its raw form is mostly made up of fatty acids and long chain alcohols, and scientific studies have yet to identify all the compounds it includes. It begins as a secretion from the abdomens of the young bees, which is then mixed with bee saliva and other enzymes to create the substance we recognize, and is used to store honey and pollen, and house the bees themselves. Since it is inert, consuming it orally is of little benefit to humans (although some people do eat it as a source of roughage).
Where beeswax really shines (pun intended) is as a topical application. It is safe to use on the hair and scalp because of its hypoallergenic and thickening properties. When applied to the hair, it adds volume, shine, and makes your locks softer and more manageable. It can also be used as a base to make your own hair pomades (check back for our recipe next week!), and has been said to slow hair loss and actually stimulate hair growth. Due to the fact that it contains vitamin A, it is also excellent for use on the skin, and combats afflictions such as acne and eczema. Its emollient properties not only help it to soothe and hydrate parched skin, but also to prevent moisture loss in the first place.
But to get back to those candles we mentioned earlier, an incredible advantage that beeswax candles have over paraffin or tallow candles is that they can help to soothe allergies! When beeswax candles are burned, they produce negative ions. These ions act as natural air purifiers, cleaning the air of pollutants such as dust, mold, and bacteria. But reaping the rewards of respiratory relief is a little more complicated than you’d might think: a candle can be labeled as beeswax if it contains as little as 51% beeswax (the rest can be anything else burnable), so you may not be getting the bang that you expect for your buck, if your candle is almost half “other.” Be sure to look for candles that are 100% beeswax. If you have ever smelled an authentic beeswax candle, you will be able to recognize the scent immediately, and this is what you should be looking for when making a purchase. A pure beeswax candle is likely the easiest bee product to buy, and the simplest to use.
- Maria Vasylivna
Royal jelly – if it’s good enough for the Queen Bee, it must be good enough for you too (Beyoncè pun intended)! As the source of sustenance for the monarch of the honeybee hive, this substance clearly contains a little magic something (since hive queens grow to be at least one and a half times the size of other female bees, and live approximately 40 times longer). Royal jelly is actually a mixture of pollen, bee saliva, and a special excretion that comes from the heads of the worker bees. It is fed to all larvae in the colony for the first 2 days of their existence, but only the queen bee continues to feast upon it for the remainder of her life.
What is so special about it, you ask? For starters, it is extremely nutritious, containing a wealth of B-family vitamins and 17 different amino acids, including the essential 8 that our bodies do not produce on their own and which, consequently, we must consume in our diet. Rich in folate, nucleic acids, biotin, and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium, it is easy to imagine that it has super powers! And that is precisely why so many people refer to it as a “super-food.”
Investigations conducted on the ingestion of royal jelly, which is milky-white in color and of a gelatinous composition, have had startling outcomes. Scientific studies have shown that, by suppressing the blood supply to tumors, it can even fight cancer! Not only that, but it is a wonderful agent in the struggle to improve general blood health. Royal jelly works to improve insulin resistance and blood pressure, mainly because of the presence of a certain protein called hydrolysate. High levels of vitamins A, C, and E give it remarkable antioxidant powers as well.
As a topical remedy, royal jelly has been used in the cosmetic industry for years. This is due to the fact that it contains gelatin and DNA, both substances that aid in the production of collagen. As an anti-aging and invigorating product for your skin, royal jelly receives top marks. But harnessing the health and beauty benefits of this bee material is a bit tricky. Royal jelly loses all its enzymatic properties when it is heated, so it is important to buy it (in whichever form you choose) as fresh as possible. An ideal situation would be to get it straight from a beekeeper, but purchasing it from a health food store or specialty retailer is likely the more feasible situation. Opt for fresh-frozen royal jelly, or capsules of its powder form.
- Maria Vasylivna
The first article in our series on bee products (the use of which as healing remedies is called apitherapy) is propolis – it is, essentially, what holds the hive together and keeps predators (including microscopic bacteria) at bay. A compound produced from the sap of trees and the bees’ own bodily excretions, it is employed in the building of panels in the hive, sealing fissures or holes, and as a general disinfecting agent. To the bees, it is simply multi-functional. But this incredible product has a wide range of uses, medicinal and beautifying, for humans. What luck!
For starters, it is anti-microbial, anti-septic, and anti-bacterial. The ancient Greeks used it to treat abscesses, and the ancient Egyptians used it to embalm the dead. These properties make propolis quite adept in aiding the reparation of skin, and studies have shown that it speeds the healing process of wounds (natural Neosporin, anyone?) It is also notable for being just as effective as silver sulfadiazine (a drug) in the treatment of second-degree burns. With all of these disinfecting capabilities, it is a wonder that this bee product is still so little known.
Propolis, like many other bee products, is also a wonderful, all-natural immune system booster. Perhaps due to the fact that it can contain up to 300 natural compounds (only 17 of which have been identified in chemical analyses to date), it can raise the effectiveness of the body’s own defenses. Many people, besides noticing a marked difference in immune system function, have also reported higher levels of sustainable energy while taking propolis internally. And the benefits don’t stop there. This “bee glue” has also been reported an impressive dental aide, treating conditions such as periodontitis and gingivitis, and inhibiting the growth of bacterial plaque, thusly limiting cavities.
But where to find this incredible contrivance of the nimble honeybee? It goes without saying that the less refined and processed, the better, so your ideal source would be to obtain propolis straight from a beekeeper. However, for those of us without hive-mongering friends, it can be found in health food stores, in various forms. It is available in capsules, as a cream, or as a topical liquid.
- Maria Vasylivna
One of the most overlooked creators of life on this planet is also one of the smallest: it is the humble honeybee. These tiny creatures swarm together in masses that can seem overwhelming, but as individuals, they are so tiny as to seem inconsequential. However, their effect upon the world at large is staggering. Bees are responsible for the pollination of over 80% of all plants on this earth, which, simply put, makes them absolutely irreplaceable. But besides fostering the growth and perpetuation of the majority of greenery on our planet, and producing the most delectable all-natural golden sweetener of all time, honeybees are also creators of other nurturing and healing concoctions that you may not have heard of. This article, the start in our series on bee products, will introduce you to 5 items that will change your life!
- Bee pollen – a staple in holistic medicine and folk remedies for countless years, it has never been successfully synthesized in laboratories. Its health benefits are manifold, and it has been proven effective in situations ranging from treating allergies and hay fever, to increasing strength and physical performance, to regulating the intestines, among others. It is also one of the most completely nourishing food sources, a true Superfood, containing almost all the nutrients necessary for our bodies.
- Propolis – anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anesthetic, anti-microbial and containing a greater concentration of antioxidants than any other edible substance known to date, it packs quit the therapeutic punch! Known to be an excellent stimulant for the body’s own defenses (aka the immune system), it is what the bees use to fortify and protect their hives.
- Royal jelly – an ingredient popular in beauty products, it gets its aristocratic name from the queen bee. Royal jelly is what these matriarchal monarchs subsist on, and it is also used to feed all the larvae of the colony in their first few days of existence. Rich in minerals (potassium, iron, calcium, and copper, to name a few), it is also high in B-family vitamins, folate, and seventeen different amino acids, including the 8 essential amino acids.
- Bee venom – while it can be bothersome to those of us who are so unlucky as to be on the receiving end of a bee sting, it is a miraculous healing agent. Administered as a shot to treat rheumatoid arthritis, it is also used to combat tendonitis. There are substantial testimonies that purport its having aided in the healing of scars, resulting from skin cancer, as well. Medicinal history dates the use of bee venom back to ancient Egypt.
- Beeswax – and you thought it was just for making candles! The container for the bees’ nectar absorbs many nutrients in its lifetime of use in the hive, including enzymes from the saliva of the bees themselves. Popular as a topical application, it is a known natural treatment for various skin maladies (including acne, eczema, and stretch marks) and uncomfortable nether-region afflictions (such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures). It is also an excellent stimulant for the scalp, improving hair growth and texture, as a result of being a thickening agent.
- Maria Vasylivna
Now that you've been prepped on the basic information (HERE) and the importance of choosing the correct carrier oil (HERE), you are ready to start concocting your own essential oil blends! Doing so is easier than you might think, especially if you have a specific goal in mind (i.e. relaxing, correcting a specific ailment, uplifting your spirits, etc.). Below, you'll find a list of the main essential oils, divided into categories based on their most prominent properties, and a few of my favorite combinations. Aromatherapy is greatly based on personal preference, so see which combinations best suit your olfactory predispositions.
Invigorating oils: aniseed, black pepper, camphor, caraway, coriander, juniper, lemon, rosemary, savory
Refreshing oils: basil, bergamot, eucalyptus, lemongrass, melissa, orange, peppermint, pine
Relaxing oils: benzoin, chamomile, clary-sage, cypress, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli, patchouli, petitgrain, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang
Warming oils: cajuput, clove, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg
Antiseptic oils: cinnamon, tea tree, thyme
An excellent way to feel the healing powers of aromatherapy almost immediately is to do a gentle face massage (make sure that skin is clean and dry before starting). I tend to suffer from anxiety, so some of my favorite combinations of oils are intended to soothe and settle my nerves. I like to mix 3 drops of lavender and 2 drops of ylang-ylang in a base of sweet almond oil when doing facial massage, and for a bath, 3 drops of lavender, 3 drops of rose and 1 drop of sandalwood in a base of jojoba oil. When suffering from menstrual cramps, I find that a mixture of 3 drops rose, 3 drops jasmine, and 2 drops clary-sage in grapeseed oil is very effective when used for abdominal massage. And when struggling with digestive issues, my favorite aromatherapy remedy is to use a warm compress of just 4 drops of chamomile on a moistened washcloth (a carrier oil is not necessary for this method). There are many more ways to combine these oils, so see which ones your body responds to and use those to your advantage. Happy healing!
- Maria Vasylivna