Personal Care Products and Safety: A Quick Guide to Choosing Safe Products

hygiene-870763_640Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

If you’ve ever read the list of ingredients on most of your personal care products (such as make-up, skincare, hair care products, or personal hygiene products) you will likely see a long list of chemicals.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) the average American women uses around 12 personal care products a day which exposes her to around 168 chemicals. Also, the average American man uses 6 personal care products a day which exposes him to around 85 chemicals a day.

Out of all of these chemicals, some of them are likely safe for long term use, however, consumers are reporting adverse reactions to certain products which shows that some of these chemicals may indeed have harmful effects on our health. These negative effects can be as minor as irritation or allergic reaction to more severe long term effects such as asthma or even cancer.

The large number of chemicals in a product makes it difficult for consumers and researchers to pinpoint exactly which chemical is causing the harmful effects.

Some chemicals that are thought to be harmful are parabens and phthalates. It is believed that parabens and phthalates effect the hormonal system of both men and women. They are also believed to effect immune function, metabolism, and thyroid function.

A huge point of concern is that here in the U.S. when consumers do complain about the health effects of a product to the company that made it, the company is not required to share this information with the FDA. Furthermore, companies are not required to list all of the ingredients.

For example, phthalates are often used to create the fragrance of the product but companies simply list fragrance without listing the ingredients that are used to create the fragrance.

In the United States, only 11 cosmetic chemicals have been banned by the government, however, in the European Union 1,328 cosmetic chemicals have been banned.

Although this information may seem discouraging the good news is that there some things that you can do to make sure you are using products with safe ingredients.

Read the Ingredients:

Okay, so I know that earlier in this post I mentioned that in the U.S. companies are not required to list all the ingredients. But in general, they do list the majority of the ingredients somewhere on the packaging of the product.

Just read through the list of ingredients and if you don’t recognize most of the ingredients you might want to think twice before you purchase the product.

If you want to be extra safe, visit the EWG’s Skin Deep database (ewg.org/skindeep) to type the name of the product into the EWG search engine to learn more about the safety of the product. The EWG Skin Deep database has rating and safety information for over 74,000 personal care products.

“Natural” May Not Really Be Natural:

After reading this post you might be inspired to only purchase products that are natural. Unfortunately, “natural” is not an FDA approved term so if a product claims that it is natural there is no guarantee that it won’t cause harm and there is no guarantee that the product contains all natural ingredients.

A safer bet is to look for products that have the USDA organic label. But if you have sensitive skin do a patch test of the product because some organic products contain common allergens.

Stop Using Premoistened Wipes:

Premoistened wipes (such as make-up removers wipes) contain a preservative chemical (methylisothiazolinome) which has been labeled as being completely unsafe by the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Public Safety.

Minimize Products:

Its a good idea to go through all of your personal care products and see if you can stop using certain products. Sometimes without even realizing it, we use two or more products with the same purpose or benefit. By getting rid of a few products we can reduce the number of chemicals we are being exposed to.

Is the Scent Really Important?

On certain products, if the scent is not important, consider choosing a fragrance free product. By doing so, you can limit your exposure to parabens and phthalates.

Buy From Safe Sources:

Trust me, I am all for looking for deals and trying to find the cheapest option. However, when it comes to personal care items, there is nothing wrong with finding a deal but make sure that if you’re shopping online, you only buy from authorized sellers on large websites such as Amazon or eBay. Research has shown that certain products sold online by unauthorized sellers have dangerous ingredients such as lead.

Stay Informed:

If you are interested in finding out about product recalls and warnings that have been  issued by the FDA you may want to consider signing up for the FDA’s Cosmetics News email updates. Click here to sign up for updates.

Make Your Voice Heard:

If you do ever experience any adverse effects from a product make sure to report it to both the manufacturer of the product and the FDA . To report to the FDA, you can call them by phone (800)-332-1088) or you can report online by visiting http://www.fda.gov/safety/mediawatch and click on “Report a Problem”.

I hope that you find these tips to be helpful!

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

Quick Guide to Layering Your Skincare

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

During my free time I love learning about (and then implementing)  new skincare regimens. I feel that lately the idea of layering skincare products has really been trending and I definitely think that this trend has been inspired by Korean beauty.

As a side note, the university that I attended had a large Korean population and I was always mesmerized by their flawless and glowing skin. So, late last summer after graduating, I learned about Korean skincare and I got a little too excited and I ordered a bunch of random Korean skincare products.

The products that I ordered (from Amazon) were all nice products with good quality. However, I have acne prone skin so some of the products were a little too moisturizing for me and they caused me to breakout. I know this sounds really obvious but make sure to buy products that will actually benefit your particular skin.

For those that are interested in layering their skincare products or they just use a number of different skincare products and they’re curious about the correct order of applying their products, here is a very brief guide:

  • The first and foremost step to any skincare regimen should be to wash your face with a gentle cleanser. The reason behind this is that most skincare products need to penetrate into the skin and they cannot do this if there is bacteria, natural oils, or other forms of impurities on the skin.
  • It is also a good idea to go from the thinnest to the thickest textures. Start off with liquids such as toners and then work your way up to the heavier and creamier products. If you do use a face oil, that should be applied last.
  • The exception to the above rule is products that have acids or retinol. These are active ingredients and they should be applied on clean skin so they can penetrate properly. Be sure to wait a minute or two before applying another product to allow it to penetrate.
  • Don’t forget about your eye area! The skin around our eyes is especially sensitive so it is often the first area that shows signs of aging. If your moisturizer is gentle enough you may be able to use it around the eyes as well. However, if you have a specific eye cream that is a serum or gel make sure to apply it before your general moisturizer so it can better penetrate the skin.
  • Finally, the last step to any skincare routine should be a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

The above guide is a very ideal skincare regimen and to be completely honest I rarely follow all the steps because I can get really lazy. However, one thing that I learned about Korean skincare is that for many people who follow the lengthy Korean skincare regimen, they view taking care of their skin as a therapeutic and almost meditative act and I admire this mindset!

With Love,

Yasmin

A Bit About Depression

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

As someone who has studied psychology in college I have read and heard quite a lot about depression. I am a firm believer that antidepressants should not be the first option in treating depression. However, I hope that by the end of this quick post I can convince you that antidepressants should not be completely avoided either.

First of all, a person is diagnosed with major depression when they have been in a depressed mood for more than two weeks. Specific symptoms of major depression include some of the following:

  • loss of interest in activities they normally enjoy
  • weight loss/gain
  • trouble concentrating
  • guilt
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • worthlessness
  • suicidal ideation

Depression can impact a person’s social life, career, and/or performance in school. A family history of depression can slightly increase one’s risk of depression. However, there are a number of environmental  factors that can contribute to depression as well:

  • history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • major life events such as the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job
  • other mental illnesses or other physical ailments
  • history of, or current, substance abuse.

Of course, taking antidepressants is not the only effective treatment option for depression. Effective alternatives include physical exercise, psychotherapy, and in extreme case electroconvulsive therapy or ECT.

Physical exercise can increase endorphins, which can counteract the symptoms of depression. Research has shown that physical exercise can also improve overall brain health by promoting the birth of new neurons.

Psychotherapy, where the depressed person talks to a mental health professional, can help the depressed person change their negative thoughts and actions and replace them with positive ones. Psychotherapy can also help people find better ways to cope and solve their problems. Research has shown that psychotherapy can be just as effective as antidepressants for people with moderate to severe depression. Overall, psychotherapy is especially beneficial to people who experience depression due to the challenges or difficulties they’ve faced in the earlier days of their life.

In extreme cases where no other treatment option including antidepressants, has worked Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT can be used. During the ECT procedure, the patient is given general anesthesia and then a series of small electrons are passed through their brain and this purposefully triggers a seizure. ECT impacts the neurotransmitters in the brain to help relieve symptoms of depression. For many patients this is only a temporary option.

What some people may not know about depression is that aside from affecting our moods and behaviors it also negatively impacts the biology of our brain. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released by the body during times of physical and mental stress. However, in people with major depression excessive amounts of cortisol are released and sent to the brain.

In the long term excessively high levels of cortisol in the brain can lead to a wide range of problems. Some of these include:

  • slowing down the birth of new neurons
  • memory problems
  • shrinking the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for regulating emotions and making decisions)
  • High cortisol levels also increase the size of the amygdala which is responsible for emotional responses. This can lead to sleep disturbances and it can cause the body to release irregular amounts of hormones and other chemicals.
  • High levels of cortisol also decrease the brains structural plasticity (which is the brains ability to adapt to different situations).

The reality is that for many people depression is not limited to constantly feeling sad. For some people depression is caused by biological changes in their brain and for many people if depression is left untreated, in the long-term it can cause potentially irreversible damage to the brain.

Unfortunately, physical exercise, psychotherapy and ECT cannot prevent or improve the biological causes and the long-term biological damage that is associated with untreated major depression.

Once again, if someone is diagnosed with depression they should most definitely try physical exercise, psychotherapy, or any other non-prescription remedy. However, after a certain period of time if these other remedies don’t work it might be time to try an antidepressant.

For those that are wondering about the effectiveness of antidepressants, the latest research has shown that compared to a placebo (in a scientific experiment a non-drug  sugar pill that is presented to the patient as an antidepressant) the actual antidepressant are significantly more effective in treating depression. Of course, some antidepressants are more effective than others and only a doctor can correctly prescribe the right medication for you.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people with depression do not get the help and treatment that they need. In developed nations only one in six people receive treatment for depression and in the developing nations its only one in twenty-seven people. If you do suffer from depression, please make sure to reach out for help regardless of which treatment option you choose, never leave depression untreated.

I know that for many people this is much easier said than done because unfortunately,  here in the United States not everyone has access to a mental health professional and going to visit one can be very expensive. These are systemic problems that the government and those with power have the responsibility of fixing.

Aside from exercise here are some free mental health resources.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

10 Uses of Coconut Oil

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

A few weeks ago, I posted about some of the benefits of coconut oil for hair. Since that post received a lot of positive feedback I thought I would create another post about some of the benefits of coconut oil for the skin and skin related conditions. As a reminder, in all of these cases its best to use virgin organic and unrefined coconut oil.

Moisturizer:

Coconut oil is a great skin moisturizer. A little bit goes a long way so just take a dime sized amount and rub it on your face or on any rough or dry patch of skin.

Coconut oil actually has a small amount of SPF sun protection (like around SPF 4) so if you’re going to be inside during the day, coconut oil can help protect your skin from some of the harmful radiation from the sun that might for example, come through the window. However, obviously it is no substitute for sunscreen.

Coconut Oil and Acne:

If you have acne prone skin I would recommend approaching coconut oil with caution because some people claim that coconut oil makes then breakout but then others argue that coconut oil can actually help with acne due to its antibacterial properties.

Eczema:

People of all ages who suffer from eczema, including babies and toddlers, can benefit from coconut oil. All you have to do is rub a small amount on the affected area or as a preventative measure rub some of the oil on areas that generally tend to flare up.

Ideally the best time to do this is after a shower or bath. Coconut oil can help with eczema due to the fact that it has vital nutrients such as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and vitamins E and K. Coconut oil can really help ease the itchiness associated with eczema.

Sunburns:

Its important to mention that you should always wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to prevent a sunburn. However, if you do get a sunburn the first thing you should do is apply a cool damp towel on the sunburn for around 15 minutes to hopefully cool down the skin and ease the burning sensation.

After a few hours have passed, apply some coconut oil to the affected area. The coconut oil can prevent the sunburned area from becoming excessively dry and it may even speed up the healing process.

Mosquito Bites:

If you get a mosquito bite or other bug bite, consider applying some coconut oil to the affected area. It can protect the affected area from bacteria and it can help quickly stop the itching and reduce swelling. It is best to use warm coconut oil so it penetrates faster and reapply two to three times a day until symptoms improve.

Lip Care:

If you’re like me and you have dry chapped lips, coconut oil can be a great natural alternative to most lip balms that contain alcohol. At night, you can dab a small amount on your lips and overtime you will wake up to softer and more moisturized lips.

Alternatively, you can mix one tablespoon of melted coconut oil with two tablespoons of brown sugar to create an easy and effective lip scrub to exfoliate your lips.

Also, the MCT, or the good fats in coconut oil can help speed up the healing process of cold sores. Or, alternatively, if you feel a cold sore is about to pop out rub some coconut oil on the area to prevent it from getting larger.

Fungal Infections:

The lauric acid and caprylic acid in coconut oil help fight many different types of fungal infections. Just cleanse and dry the area and apply warm coconut oil and massage it in. For more severe cases, consider adding a drop of tea tree oil to the coconut oil and then apply to the affected area.

Make-up remover:

Coconut oil is very helpful in removing make-up from the face. It is especially useful in removing stubborn eye make-up. It can even remove waterproof mascara.

Shaving Cream:

Coconut oil is a great all-natural shaving cream. Just apply warm coconut oil onto your legs and make sure to spread it evenly over the area you will be shaving. Then, just shave the area and if you take a shower afterward your legs will feel extra soft and smooth.

Cracked Heels:

Coconut oil can help soften and heal the rough skin on your heels. First, while you’re in the shower use a pumice stone or any other exfoliator to slough off some of the dead skin and then rub coconut oil onto your heels once or twice a day.

A few additional uses:

Mouthwash: thanks to its antibacterial properties you can take a spoonful of coconut oil and swish it in your mouth for a few minutes to help freshen your breath and fight bacteria.

Coconut oil is also great for gum health. Just massage the oil onto your gums for a few minutes to prevent gum damage.

My father was taking a medication that can cause gum damage as a side effect. He found that rubbing coconut oil helped decrease the damage of the medication on his gums.

Coconut oil is also great for your nails and cuticles. The fatty acids in coconut oil can lead to healthy nails and cuticles. It can also help strengthen weak and brittle nails and thanks to its anti-fungal properties coconut oil can help prevent nail fungus.

You may have never considered rubbing coconut oil on your armpits but the coconut oil can act as a natural deodorant. It won’t prevent you from sweating but thanks to its antibacterial properties it can kill the bacteria that causes the bad smell.

A Word of Caution:

Without a doubt, there are many great topical uses of coconut oil. However, it is important to mention that the American Heart Association warns against eating a lot of coconut oil. This is because coconut oil consists of 80 percent saturated fat which is more than lard or butter. Saturated fat can increase bad cholesterol so its best to limit your intake of coconut oil.

I really hope you found these tips to be helpful!

With Love,

Yasmin

Coconut Oil for Healthier Hair!

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

If you’re interested in improving the health or texture of your hair, there are literally hundreds of products out there, some that work better than others. However, if you’re interested in using an all-natural product then in my opinion the number one product would be coconut oil.

Coconut oil is very helpful in helping your hair to become healthier and shinier. Many people from the Indian sub-continent, at least partially, attribute their luscious locks to coconut oil. In fact, the gorgeous Priyanka Chopra swears by this oil.

Hair Benefits of Coconut Oil:

  • Strengthens hair strands
  • Adds shine to the hair
  • Fights frizz by moisturizing the hair
  • Fights dandruff thanks to its antibacterial properties.
  • It’s an all-natural product without any harmful ingredients.

Additionally, according to a study by the Journal of Cosmetic Science, coconut oil can strengthen the hair shaft because it can reach deep levels of the scalp.

How to Use Coconut Oil:

It is best to purchase virgin cold pressed coconut oil. Depending on the temperature, the oil will either be in a solid or liquid state. When you’re getting ready to apply the oil on your hair it is best to use it in its liquid state so if its solid feel free to warm it up so it becomes liquid.

Before you start applying the oil make sure that you’re wearing something that you don’t mind getting dirty because this can be a messy process.

First of all, to reap the full benefits you should rub the oil on dry hair. Start rubbing the oil between your fingers and then rub your hair from the roots to the ends. Most people say you should focus only on the ends of your hair but I personally make sure to rub the oil throughout my hair including my scalp as well. I find that this makes my hair shinier and helps keep the dandruff away. If you have excessively oily hair than you might want to avoid the roots but in most cases your shampoo should remove most of the oil.

By the time you have finished applying the coconut oil your hair should look wet (just like you came out of the shower) In order to make sure the oil is fully absorbed you should leave it on overnight to wash it out in the morning. Obviously, you might want to wear a night cap or put a cloth over your pillow to avoid getting the oil on your bed.

If you’re not able to apply the oil at night then just feel free to apply the oil during the day and let it sit for a minimum of 45 minutes before washing it out in the shower.

Caution: While this treatment works for many people, it may not work for everyone. Additionally, Coconut oil interacts with Keratin products so do not use this treatment if you’re currently using keratin products on your hair.

For best results, use this product once a week. Also, be patient, it may take a number of months to see all of the benefits of this treatment.

With Love,

Yasmin

Tips for Fighting Bad Breath

toothbrush-571741_640Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

I think its safe to assume that no one wants to have bad breath but sometimes it can happen to anyone. In fact, according to Prevention magazine 50 percent of people suffer from bad breath at one point or another.

If you’re worried that your breath is not as fresh as you’d like, lick the back of your hand, then smell that hand. If it smells bad then you know that the odor is likely coming from your mouth. An alternative would be to fill a cup with water and then blow onto the water and then check to see if there is an odor.

Prevention:

There are many things that you can do to prevent bad breath from occurring in the first place.

  • Obviously, having good oral hygiene can go a long way in preventing bad breath. Make sure to follow the common advice of brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day.
  • The buildup of sulfur on the tongue can cause bad breath so make sure to brush your tongue as well. In fact, a study showed that brushing the tongue reduced sulfur compounds by a third.
  • Brushing twice a day is a must but every time you eat a snack or a meal try to go rinse your mouth to quickly remove most of the food particles.
  • If you know you will be having close face to face interactions, try to avoid eating onions, garlic, and anything with sugar. The problem with sweet treats is that they increase the bacteria that causes bad breath.

Home Remedies:

If you do suffer from bad breath there are a few simple things that you can do at home to eliminate the odor.

  • Make sure to sip water throughout the day. A dry mouth is a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes bad breath.
  • Most dentists recommend renewing your toothbrush every three months because consistent use may cause the bristles to become less effective at removing food residue and bacteria from the teeth. I know this is pretty obvious but don’t share your toothbrush with anyone because this can lead to a host of other dental problems.
  • An alternative to the toothbrush is the miswak. The miswak is basically like an all-natural toothbrush that you can use without toothpaste. The miswak is a twig that is extracted from the roots and barks of the Salvadora Persica or Arak tree. Thanks to its nutrients, such as, fluorine, Vitamin C, Potassium, Sodium, etc. and its antibacterial properties the miswak can maintain and/or improve oral health. You don’t have to give up on the traditional toothbrush but consider using the miswak as a complimentary method of oral hygiene. This video does a great job of teaching you how to prepare the miswak twig as a toothbrush.

Medical Causes and Options:

If you’ve tried some of the above tips and you still suffer from this problem here are a few additional tips:

  • If you take any sort of prescription medication read the pamphlet of information that comes with the medication to see if bad breath is a side effect of a medication. Consider visiting your doctor to evaluate your options.
  • Try to visit a dentist at least once a year (ideally twice a year) for a dental cleaning. Even if you have good oral hygiene the dentist can help remove some of the more stubborn residue that you may not be able to see. The dentist can check your oral health and let you know of any possible problems that you may not have been aware of.

 

I hope you find these tips helpful.

 

With Love,

Yasmin

Here are Three Things That Won’t Make You Happier

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

I truly believe that deep down each and every one of us wants to be happy and I believe that ultimately we make many of the decisions in our lives with the hope that someday it will bring us some form of happiness.

Most of us have certain beliefs about what will make us happy. Some of the things that we believe will make us happy may indeed increase our happiness however, other things may not.

If you are in the search for happiness here are some of the things that research has shown that will not help you reach long term happiness.

Money

I know that this sounds cliche but money really cannot buy happiness. One research study showed that high income earners are not significantly happier than middle class income earners.

Obviously, we all need money to pay for shelter and our basic needs and then having some extra money can help us live a comfortable life. However, I think that one of the problems with money is that most people who start making lots of money never reach a point when they are satisfied with the amount of money they have. This is potentially dangerous because for some people the pursuit of money and riches becomes the purpose of their life.

I think most of us know that money by itself will not make us happy. But we feel that having lots of money helps us buy or gain the things that we want and this will make us happy. The reality is that material possessions only bring short term happiness. When we first buy something we may be excited and happy but after a while we get used to the item or something even better comes out and we often take the version of the item that we have previously bought for granted.

Material possessions may not bring lasting happiness but there is one way in which money can buy happiness. A research study has shown that after people have their basic needs met if they have extra money to spend on time saving services such as a housekeeper they will be happier. The reason is that they will have more freedom to spend their time as they wish.

Too Many Choices

This may be slightly shocking to some people but research has shown that when most people are given too many options or choices to choose from they often become exhausted and unhappy. Social Psychologists often refer to this phenomenon as tyranny of freedom or choice overload.

I know personally when I am shopping online I feel overwhelmed by all the choices that I see that I have to choose from. Even when I want to sit back, relax and watch a TV show I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of shows that are available. I don’t even have traditional cable so my TV viewing options are fairly limited but still there is just too much choice on Netflix!

On a more serious note though, we humans have a cognitive reserve that is limited and we can only make so many decisions until we run out of energy and we ideally stop for the day or we continue and risk making impaired decisions. The problem with choice overload is that we can easily deplete our cognitive reserve by making trivial decisions before we make the tougher decisions.

I think that this quote from former president Obama helps to explain this idea:“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits… I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Personally, what I like to do is every night before bed I choose my outfit for the next day and I basically get everything ready so that in the morning I don’t have to make any trivial decisions. Getting everything ready the night before really helps ease my morning routine and occasionally if I do wake up a little later I am less stressed than I would otherwise be.

Having More Friends or Followers on Social Media

I know this one is probably a pretty obvious one but having more friends or followers on social media will most likely not lead to you becoming any happier.

One particular study divided frequent Facebook users into two groups. One group continued to use Facebook as frequently as they usually did and another group was asked to take a one week break from a Facebook. The results showed that the group that took a one week break were happier and less stressed.

I think that the problem with social media is that we the social media users often tend to compare our lives with the lives of others and we often come to the conclusion that our lives are not as great as the lives of these other people. We become unappreciative of all that we do have. We often forget that most people only post the highlights or the best moments of their lives on social media.

I am a social media user myself and I would not go so far as to say that we should completely stop using social media. I believe that social media has many benefits as well. I have family that live all across the world and social media has helped us connect in a way that may not have been possible without it.

Also, social media has played a role in many positive movements across the world as well and I often see images and videos of people that are going through such difficult times and while these images are extremely hard to see I become aware of their struggles and I become immensely grateful for everything that I do have.

My humble piece of advice would be to first of all try to establish or strengthen relationships that you have in real life outside of social media because these are the people that are more likely going to come to your aid during difficult times.

Also, go through your social media accounts and simply unfollow accounts or people that make you feel bad about yourself or they just don’t add value to your life.

Always remember that social media is just a means of connecting and interacting with others but ideally it should not be the only way that we interact with each other.

A Final Note on Happiness

Life definitely consists of many ups and downs and it’s impossible to always feel content or happy. It turns out that accepting the fact that we are not always going to be happy is actually good for our overall well-being.

Research has shown that the pursuit of happiness does not lead to more joy. An Australian research study asked participants to what extent is being happy important to them. Then they were asked to keep a journal of all the stressful events that occur in their lives and and write how it made them feel.

The results showed that those who highly valued happiness felt more lonely during these stressful times.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the desire to feel happy and joyous however, if the desire for these positive feelings and emotions becomes obsessive then it will lead to more emotional pain rather than joy and happiness.

With Love,

Yasmin