Featured Healthy Living

Put Virgin Coconut Oil In Your Coffee!

It’s a faster, simpler way to “bullet coffee” that gives you the same energy boost with more benefits for your skin, body, heart, and brain!

Eat less:

Virgin coconut oil is high in calories but they’re healthy calories. It has excellent satiety, so that it may help you consume less throughout the day by making you feel full, longer.

Help your immune system:

There are many published studies on the antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral, and anti fungal) benefits of VCO, lauric acid, and other coconut derivatives. Check out this study review for some of them.

Get more energy:

Get more kick from your coffee. VCO is rich in medium-chain triglycerides and, instead of being stored as fat, its fatty acids are processed by the liver into energy. This could also…

Increase your metabolic rate…

…which helps your body burn fat more quickly.

Other health benefits

Our bodies’ cell walls (including those of our skin) are made up of lipids. VCO helps strengthen those cell walls. It’s also cholesterol-free and great for heart health. Other studies show promise for brain health, too. And VCO is a great natural laxative.

How to?

Getting all the magic of VCO in your morning coffee is super easy. Add a tablespoon of Know-It-Oil or Oil’s well to your coffee (along with coconut sugar or your choice of sweetener) and blend until mixture turns a light color. Or, pour the VCO directly into your cup — there will be a film of oil on top but it’s the same goodness and yumminess (and less cleanup)!

This information should not be considered medical advice. Particularly if you have a medical condition, before you change anything in your diet, ask your doctor.

Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister CC and husband Juan Pablo (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a great cream!)

Featured Healthy Living

“Nut” Is Really Short For NUT-rients!

For Your Health, It’s About What “Nut” To Do…

“Crazy” and “nutty” as words for something frantic or over-the-top might be falling out of favor because they may contribute to the trivialization of mental health concerns…and their negative connotations certainly do edible nuts a disservice! Nuts are incredibly rich in some of the most essential nutrients and have been valued as excellent foods for thousands of years.

Archeological findings lead scientists to believe that nuts have been a popular food source dating as far back as 50,000 B.C. According to some historians, almonds, mentioned in the old testament of the bible, were the earliest cultivated food. Simply because of their fondness for it, Romans called walnuts “food for the gods.” The cashew, popular in the Philippines, originated in Brazil but already had been cultivated since the 16th century in India and Africa. It was the Spanish who first brought this nut to the shores of the Philippines. It is said that nuts were the first universal “convenient” food source because of the ease in transporting them and their relatively longer shelf-life.

Nuts quickly became a popular trading product for this ease, flavor, and ability to provide satiety (feeling of fullness), but most importantly, for their nutritional value and benefits to the human body. They’re even great for the skin — keep in mind that skin and food allergies involve different cells and don’t always correlate (get a patch test for skin allergies and a prick test for food). All this goodness paved the way for how popular and indispensable nuts remain in the culinary world and in human diets around the globe.

Here are my top 5 picks of nutritiously-rich nuts, with their corresponding nutrient values, benefits, and recommendations:


1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 161

How do almonds benefit the body?
  • Beneficial impact on blood sugar due to a good amount and combination of fat, protein and carbohydrates;
  • Consumption can help improve lipid profile in the long run;
  • Impacts oxidative damage (vitamin E as antioxidant) and satiety level;
  • Improves proper energy metabolism (B2 and magnesium);
  • Helps in the growth and development of body organs (copper and phosphorus);
  • Aids in proper metabolism of nutrients and nerve function (manganese and magnesium
  • Improves digestion (fiber content)

Although almonds are great in general, over consumption can block proper absorption of some minerals due to its content of phytic acid, known to be an anti-nutrient when ingested (it is actually beneficial in skincare as a chelating agent that promotes antioxidant activity by reducing lipid peroxidation and free radical generation). Almonds also have a high ratio of omega 6 to 3 (omega 3 is considered the healthy and anti-inflammatory fat), which could lead to imbalances. It is therefore important to not overdo it and balance out your intake by consuming a variety of omega 3-rich foods such as fatty fish and fortified eggs.

How can almonds be added to your diet?
  1. As a topping for salads, cereals or breakfast grains, cooked foods
  2. As a spread by using almond butter
  3. As a substitute for refined flour
  4. As an ingredient when making desserts
  5. Added to smoothies or drinks
  6. As a healthy, on-the-go snack


1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 155

How do cashews benefit the body?
  • Contain compounds, such as lutein and zeaxthanin, that fight against eyesight and macular degeneration;
  • Keep blood vessels, nerves, immune system, and bones healthy (copper and iron);
  • May help in wound healing and proper taste and smell (zinc);
  • Support proper metabolism of nutrients (magnesium and phosphorus)

As much as cashews are a great addition to the diet, if you’re on a low-carb diet, be cautious. Cashews are higher in carbohydrates than any other type of nut. Cashews also have a more anaphylactic (a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal) effect than peanuts. If you’re not allergic, and if consumed in proper amounts, cashews are highly beneficial to the body considering their nutrient content.

How can cashews be added to your diet?
  1. As a healthy, energy-giving snack
  2. As a substitute ingredient in sauces that require thickness or richness in taste;
  3. As a topping for salads, breakfast cereals or grains, and cooked dishes;
  4. Added to smoothies or baked products


1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 183

How do walnuts benefit the body?
  • Fight against oxidation damage (omega 3);
  • Reduce risk factors by helping to lower blood pressure and blood glucose;
  • Help maintain cognitive function with positive effects on brain health due to rich amounts of healthy fats and phytochemicals;
  • Aid for reaching satiety level faster

Historically, walnuts are the most popular type of nut consumed. This remains true today. However, they can still pose a threat to those who have nut allergies.

How can walnuts be added to your diet?
  1. May be added to any dish
  2. As a lone snack or mixed with other snacks
  3. As an ingredient for cooking or baking
  4. May be ground up to create dough
  5. As a delicious, nutritious diet food that quickly helps you feel full


1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 193

How do pecans benefit the body?
  • Reduce risk of heart disease (presence of polyphenol compounds);
  • Help improve triglycerides and elevate HDL (high oleic acid content);
  • Improve digestion and help cleanse gastrointestinal system (fiber);
  • May help reduce risk of certain cancers like breast and colon (healthy fats and fiber);
  • Aid in proper nerve conduction and brain function as well as boost immunity (manganese);
  • Reduce inflammatory indicators in the body (presence of minerals)

Although the pecan has very positive attributes, do take into consideration that the ratio between omega 6 and omega 3 is one of the highest among nuts. This obvious imbalance may cause inflammation. Keep inflammation at bay by eating lots of food that is rich in omega 3 such as fish, egg, and certain seeds. Typically, people allergic to nuts may also find this nut a threat.

How can pecans be added to your diet?
  1. Great addition to meals
  2. As an ingredient in baking products
  3. As part of a healthy snack
  4. As a substitute ingredient to enrich sauces
  5. As a food to aid in weight loss


1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 156

How do pistachios benefit the body?
  • Reduce triglycerides level;
  • Positive impact on exercise performance and oxidative stress levels after exercise;
  • Prevent macular degenerations (great for eye health);
  • Rich in antioxidants;
  • Help lower cholesterol and blood pressure;
  • Aid in weight loss (low in calories but high in protein);
  • Promote healthy blood vessels (presence of minerals);
  • May lower blood sugar (low glycemic index)

As much as they are delicious to eat, pistachios can also be challenging because they need to be shelled before eating. They can also be allergenic and may contain aflatoxins (mold) that may be beyond what is safe. Caution is key.

How can pistachios be added to your diet?
  1. Great ingredient in dishes and desserts
  2. May be sprinkled on favorite breakfast cereals, salads, or yogurt
  3. As part of healthy snack or food, especially after a workout session
  4. As part of weight loss food


1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 204

How do pili nuts benefit the body?
  • Help improve hearth health and cognitive development (presence of omega fatty acids);
  • Improve or maintain bone health (presence of minerals);
  • Regulate blood sugar levels (presence of fat and proteins);
  • May help relax blood vessels and lower hypertension (magnesium);
  • Reduce inflammation (presence of antioxidants);
  • Aid in lowering LDL levels (presence of omega fatty acids);
  • Aid in weight loss while boosting energy levels

Rich, delicious, packed with nutrient goodness, and abundantly found in the Philippines, pili nuts are heavenly to eat but lack the fiber that the other nuts are known for. Make sure to add fiber-rich food in your diet. The pili nut is also high in calories so control your portions.

How can pili nuts be added to your diet?

The same way you would use other nuts. Just take note of how much you consume to keep your health goals in check.

In a nutshell:

Nuts have remained part of the human diet for centuries. Their benefits to the body cannot be ignored. They are considered one of the best diet foods to help you control weight. While there are concerns with portion control, the good news is that their satiety means they make you feel full faster and stay feeling full for longer. Make sure to check with your allergist so that you can eat them safely, and then definitely dive into the wonderful world of nuts!


Check out the other posts related to health and nutrition:

Eat Right, Exercise, Daily Skincare Regimen: Healthy Habits to Look & Feel Your Best

Your Skin Wants You To EAT Your Antioxidants

Your Skin Wants You To Exercise Daily: 30-Day Healthy Skin Challenge

Nutrition & Lifestyle Counselor Ginny Sinense-Marksl, RN-D, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman and a member of National Kidney Foundation in the USA. She’s been an avid student and practitioner of health and nutrition her entire adult life — professionally, for 20 years. Her passion is for overall wellbeing, other than just health and fitness, and she is a frequent speaker at corporate wellness events. She believes health is our life power and that we should take any chance that we get to optimize it!

Featured Healthy Living Skin

Skin and Nutrition: 5 Foods To Add For Healthy Skin

Beauty is within…

The phrase “beauty is within” may seem spiritual or philosophical but it is evidently true in science and our physical well being.

There has been an explosion of fortifying food, beverages, and even beauty products with vitamins and minerals (natural additives) intended to enhance a product’s effectiveness. Assuming they are present in the stated concentrations, how can these so-called natural additives improve effectiveness? These natural additives are essential components for the efficient functioning of each cell in our body. The possible result, therefore, in a particular product fortified with these natural additives is that the product could be more effective than others without them. But nothing beats eating foods that are naturally rich in these vitamins and minerals.

Each of our cells is a vital part of a larger organ and each cell in our body thrives on proper nourishment and protection to ensure its optimal function. Of all the organs in our body, the skin is the largest. This beautiful armor encases our body to house other organs, protects our body from harmful things we come in contact with in our environment, helps us regulate our bodily temperature, and allows us to interpret sensations (pain, wet, soft, etc.). The skin is also a mirror of our nutritional status. Give your body the proper nourishment and it shows, beautifully, on healthy, glowing skin. Add these 5 food essentials to your daily diet for a inside-out health:


While common contact allergens, citrus fruits are important to eat (just take care to avoid skin contact if you’ve patch tested positive for them). They are well-known good sources of vitamin C, which aids in the production of collagen (the protein that forms the basic structure of the skin). A study on over 4,000 women aged 40-74 published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked nutrient intake and skin aging. The study found that women who had a higher intake of vitamin C were less likely to have dryness of the skin and wrinkles, and more likely to have better skin-aging appearance. Citrus fruits are also abundant in antioxidants that prevent skin from cellular damage. So for smooth, taut skin, add citruses to your salad, eat them as snacks, or drink them!

Good sources are: oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi, guava, pomegranate, lemon, lime.


The sea contains treasures far beyond pearls. Fish and shellfish are rich sources of zinc and the important fatty acid omega-3.

Zinc is an essential mineral that can help combat acne since it is involved in metabolizing testosterone which affects the production of sebum, the oily substance that is one cause of a certain type of acne. Zinc can also facilitate the sloughing of dead skin cells by boosting new-cell production.

An increase of omega-3 in the diet can significantly reduce inflammation and dryness of the skin. Inflammations can hasten the skin aging process and are linked to many skin problems.

For youthful and glowing skin, fire up your grill with salmon, tuna, halibut, or prawns, or tame your hunger pangs with a warm seafood chowder. If you are more adventurous, shuck some fresh oysters or whip up an enticingly spicy Ceviche!

NOTE: seafood can be rich in iodides so control your intake if you have halogen acne.


They add color to any dish but more importantly, they are rich sources of vitamin A and beta-carotenes.

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that facilitates the removal of dead skin cells on the outer layer of the skin. It helps in collagen production and in thickening the dermis (the layer of the skin that contains collagen, which is an important protein that hydrates the skin and keeps its elasticity).

Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant, protecting the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. Furthermore, it helps reduce sun-induced skin damage and may help improve melasma. German researchers found that as little as 30 milligrams a day (the equivalent of 11/2 cups of cooked carrots) can help prevent or reduce the redness and inflammation associated with sunburn. “Beta carotene accumulates in the skin, providing 24-hour protection against sun damage,” says Ronald R. Watson, Ph.D., professor of public health research at Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson. Its use for skin protection is a reason why it is added in many supplements and topical creams.

For radiant-looking and smooth skin, enrich your diet with vitamin A- and beta carotene-filled colored fruits and vegetables such as mango, apricot, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash and collard greens.

NOTE: while vital to your health, beta carotene-rich foods cannot replace the daily use of sunscreen.


These alternative sources of protein have the added bonus of being rich in the cleansing substance, fiber. Fiber is important to rid the body of waste and impurities. Nuts and seeds also contain a highly effective antioxidant in vitamin E.

Protein helps repair cells that have been damaged by free radicals. When protien is digested it is converted into amino acids, the building blocks of cells, which helps speed up the repair of skin cells and collagen.

Vitamin E is another top contact allergen but excellent fat-soluble vitamin that inhibits further damage of cells caused by free radicals — so if you have sensitive skin, eat it instead of spreading it on in a cream. It works together with other groups of nutrients like vitamin C, gluthathione, slenenium, and vitamin B3 to counter oxygen molecules that become too reactive (highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules damage the structure of the cells surrounding them).

Aging may be inevitable but having youthful, soft skin is attainable. Try sprinkling some nuts and seeds on your favorite dishes and salads and (with proper skincare and daily sunscreen use) watch those age lines ease up on you! Choose from walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, macadamia, pecans, brazil nuts, sunflowers seeds, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

NOTE: as always, follow your allergist’s instructions.


“Whole” grains simply means: grains that did not undergo the extensive processing to remove their harder covering…which actually is the part containing the nutrients our body needs. Whole grains are rich in rutin and vitamin B.

Rutin is a bioflavonoid, found abundantly in buckwheat, and may be considered as an antioxidant working synergistically with vitamin C. One of its main functions is the proper absorption of vitamin C in the body. Rutin helps prevent vitamin C from being metabolized, which in turn enhances its benefits in the immune system.

Vitamin B is linked to acne (truer more for vitamin B12 but also for vitamin B6) but is very important to your body’s health! It strengthens the skin’s barrier by hydrating cells and acts as an anti-inflammatory, preventing redness and irritation of the skin. It aids in healthy skin-cell turnover. It is also said to help metabolize macronutrients and the absence of vitamin B renders the skin susceptible to skin lesions and light sensitivity.

For fresh, clear and more moisturized-looking skin, have a slice of your favorite buckwheat, whole wheat, rye, or multigrain bread! If you’re not fond of bread, brown rice or whole-wheat noodles might do some vitamin B goodness. Just go easy on the portions please!

NOTE: do not automatically assume that vitamin B is causing your acne. There are many types of acne and many possible causes, and vitamin B is too important to your health to avoid without your doctor’s ok.


This list is a helpful guide and by no means the only food that is helpful to the skin. Our skin needs protection and nourishment for it to be at its best. The bottom line on nourishment for our skin is still to have a diet that is nutritionally dense, varied, balanced and well-proportioned, plus engaging in physical activity that ensures the proper distribution of these nutrients throughout the body.


Check out the other posts related to skin, exercise, and nutrition:

Eat Right, Exercise, Daily Skincare Regimen: Healthy Habits to Look & Feel Your Best

Your Skin Wants You To EAT Your Antioxidants

Your Skin Wants You To Exercise Daily: 30-Day Healthy Skin Challenge

Nutrition & Lifestyle Counselor Ginny Sinense-Marksl, RN-D, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman and a member of National Kidney Foundation in the USA. She’s been an avid student and practitioner of health and nutrition her entire adult life — professionally, for 20 years. Her passion is for overall wellbeing, other than just health and fitness, and she is a frequent speaker at corporate wellness events. She believes health is our life power and that we should take any chance that we get to optimize it!

Beauty Healthy Living Skin Tip of the Week

Top 40 Skin, Makeup, Health & Happiness Tips!

Pause, please. 

40 years of published and awarded research on skin, hypoallergenicity, and clinically-effective care has led us more and more to this fact: what affects the skin is far more than what is applied on it.

Science is showing just how interdependent — how linked — all aspects of our health are. The care of skin cannot be separated from what we eat, how often we exercise, underlying health conditions, and how well we sleep and manage stress.

It’s time to pause, review, and share some of the most proven ways to care for all aspects of health — skin, body, and mind.

Healthy Living Uncategorized

Garden-To-Table: Sweet Potatoes & Herbs

Sweet Potatoes & Herbs

I’m no gardener and we don’t have a pretty garden. We’ve always liked the idea of growing our own food (and in the case of our organic virgin coconut oil, food and skincare 🙂 ) and have taken the same approach to it as we have our work — gleeful experimentation! Mango tree here, pomelo tree there…ooh why not try tomatoes…or corn! It’s more Jungle Book than Secret Garden but it’s so rewarding to get food from our back yard! Bonus: kid-popular non-digital play alternative. Those are my two creatures at “harvest.” Bonus-bonus: kids learn that food grows (it isn’t “born” in a box or bottle), that natural food isn’t supposed to be manicured-pretty, and they learn what food tastes like when it’s less or unprocessed.



A recent triumph: SWEET POTATOES.

There are thousands of varieties that grow easily in different weather and soil conditions. They play well with others (the photo below shows our ripening sweet potatoes leaves next to lemongrass.)


They work for so many recipes: from healthier (they are packed with antioxidants and fiber) french fries to mashes and sweet treats…and I just learned that the tops are fab in salads and soups! All this makes them perfect for most gardens. They’re not bad-looking plants either (corn is a…commitment).

Another super easy grow: HERBS.



We use fresh herbs in most of our cooking and salads now. And in something I’m particularly proud of — drinks!



I can’t stress enough how important garnishes are to a cocktail. In the best gins (I come from a long line of gin lovers), different garnishes change the drink completely, bringing out wildly different notes. I’ve even discovered that lavender does lovely things to certain espressos!




From an apartment windowsill, to a garden or local urban farm, getting food as close to the source as possible means a few pretty wonderful things:

  • Less preservatives: foods need preservation to survive long transport and days on shelves.
  • Less processing: most foods need some processing for consumption (even simple slicing or peeling is a type of processing). But the more processing (more chopping and dicing, heat, added chemicals), the more antioxidants, phytochemicals and other good stuff is lost. If it’s grown, picked, put in a canvas bag and brought home, that’s already a lot less than the processing that happens with truckloads of harvests and food preparation.
  • Healthier foods: see above…less processing equals better retention of the food’s inherent antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. No hydrogenation is needed for longer preservation either (hydrogenation results in trans fats). And less additives — many of which are ingredients that our bodies cannot process or process well — in general, too.
  • Fun family activity: whether the kids are doing the actual gardening or just helping you shop at a local farm or market, the sights and smells are an adventure in themselves, and it’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about nature, food and health.


Healthy Living

Infused Water Recipes

By Holly Byerly

Gearing up for an active and eventful season — working out more or traveling the globe —it is vital that we keep hydrated with water. The recommended eight glasses a day (closer to nine 8 oz. glasses for women, thirteen glasses for men and even more for children) can sometimes leave us wanting something more. For variety, we often reach for sugary, artificial flavor-ridden alternatives. Below are some healthy hydrating alternatives (any of these infused waters easily keeps for 2 days; just add more filtered water as needed) that I keep stocked in my fridge all year long. Enjoy!



Sweet Basil & Strawberry Refresher

1 Full Pitcher of Filtered Water

3 Large Strawberries – Sliced

10 Large Basil Leaves – Torn in half



Citrus Wakeup Water

1 Full Pitcher of Filtered Water

1 Lime – Sliced

1 Lemon – Sliced

1 Orange – Sliced

2-4 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary



Cucumber-Ginger Cooler

1 Full Pitcher of Filtered Water

1 Small Cucumber – Sliced

10 Thin Slices of Fresh Ginger



Pear-Mint Hydrating Chill

1 Full Pitcher of Filtered Water

1 Crisp Pear – Sliced

4-5 Sprigs of Fresh Mint – Crushed in hand

Try it as a hot tea, too!

Note: Citruses, strawberries and mint can be allergenic (both as foods and on skin, which can manifest as acne, rashes or darkening around the mouth and chin). If you’re allergic to any of these ingredients, swap out for alternatives! The wonderful thing about these infused waters is how many ingredients work well with them, and how little fruit or vegetables you need to subtle, deliciously, flavor your water.

Got a recipe to share? Tell us about it below!

Healthy Living

The Sweet Life Done Right

I love this photo of @JessArnaudin‘s friend’s homemade jam and fig bars!

One shouldn’t overdo the sweets, but what’s life without an occasional treat? As I repeat to my children so often they robotically complete the sentence:

Me: Life is what?
Offspring: Balance, mama, balance.

I’m of the school of thought that complete deprivation promotes obsession, so sweets in our house are allowed, but a) in moderation, and b) we try to keep the processed foods out and prioritize home-made whenever we can. Instead of store-bought granola, jams or snack bars, we make our own. We even make our own peanut butter now (ingredient: peanuts). It’s surprisingly simple and you’re spoiled with a choice of healthy recipes (for kids, for snacks, for desserts, etc.) online. Switch out white sugar for coconut sugar, white flour for coconut flour, cream for coconut milk, even butter for avocado and you’ve already upped the good and decreased the bad (and the guilt!)

Almonds, walnuts, shredded coconut, plums, apricots, raisins, bananas: it’s amazing how delicious healthier options can be once you stop eating processed foods. Sweet potato chips? Loads healthier. Coconut water? Puts sport drinks to shame. A chunky fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt and peanut butter (fruits, healthy bacteria AND protein!) is filling and is much more nutritious than a bagel and cream cheese (speaking of cream cheese, we’ve crossed over 100% to boursin or roule).

And here’s the kicker: healthy eating creates a virtuous cycle as much as junk foods create a debilitating cycle. Many junk foods and even processed foods like white sugar, rice and flour are highly addictive. The more you eat them, the more you crave them…like a bad drug. Our bodies don’t know how to process many of these foods and end up storing them as fat or buildup in the body and the brain. They do your skin no good either. Many of these foods and drinks are pro-inflammatory and inflammation is linked to everything from eczema to acne, psoriasis and even aging. At the urging of my mother (VMV Hypoallergenics’ founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist who does a lot of work on nutrition and skin — she never sees a psoriasis, eczema or acne patient without delving into their food and exercise) the entire family got serious about getting healthier. We expected a bit of a learning curve…

…but what we didn’t expect was that our taste buds would need to
relearn what healthy tasted like!

Processed foods make you crave them, but they also alter what your palate prefers or thinks of as delicious or normal. As you shift back to less processed options, don’t be surprised if your taste buds need a little time to adjust back to how food should taste. When my kids and I went back to pure maple syrup instead of vaguely named “pancake syrup,” we thought that the real stuff tasted weird — almost sour or fermented. When we started eating wheat pasta we thought, should it taste “rough” like this? Wild rice totally threw us for a loop — it had a “taste” or (proving the point) it wasn’t “sweet.” We rediscovered sardines (better oils, less toxins) and had to get over a bit of an “ick” factor because they seemed too, well, “fishy.” Our first attempts at homemade peanut butter were greeted with, “but it doesn’t taste like peanut butter!” And my husband thought that coconut sugar tasted too coconuty to use as a sweetener for his coffee.

After a short adjustment period, we noticed that our taste buds and bodies recognized these more complex textures and tastes as real food. Our cravings for white rice, colas and nachos stopped. We began to (really, vividly) taste the difference between homemade muffins versus store-bought. The kids and I decided to have a cheat day and used the old maple syrup…and immediately reached for the organic stuff after one bite. It tasted chemical. We discovered that roasting organic, raw peanuts first before putting them in the food processor was peanut butter perfection. My husband now knows when white or even brown sugar is in his espresso and prefers the coconut sugar. The more water we drink, the less we look for flavored drinks — and if we do want some flavor, we’ve noticed that even a little lemon makes a huge difference! It’s like our taste buds have “come back home.” And I consider it a major achievement that our kids don’t have a taste for colas or white rice.

My son still longs for donut or cookies but, hey, so do I. Again, balance. We’re only allowed such sweets on weekends. Dessert during the week is limited to fruit. We can add up to a tablespoon of peanut butter or dulce de leche on the fruit, but that’s it (still far less than all the stuff in a cookie or slice of cake). Even here, a few weeks of this, the kids forgot about these “toppings” and only occasionally ask for them. Because we don’t keep “sometimes foods” in the house, we don’t look for them. But we do look out for each other: there have been moments of weakness — when I’ve had an awful day, for example, and have proposed a cheat day mid week — and it’s the kids who have held me off, saying we’ll get something really yummy for the weekend.

Among the few legacies I want to try to leave my children are education, empathy (bullying is never ok), a strong work ethic, and health. Here’s wishing you and yours the same!


Laura is the CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of our founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister and husband (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about learning, literature, art, health, science, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness and goodness.

Family Blog

“It is you and only you that creates your own happiness.”: Tao Philippines

By Alex Goldyn

“We do not guarantee that you will have a nice, relaxing time. In fact, we do not guarantee anything.”

Those certainly are not the words that you want to hear or read before a vacation trip, right? Wrong! This exact attitude of Tao Philippines towards their customers’ experience is what will make for some of the best moments in your life. They will make you realize that it is you and only you that creates your own happiness. They, however, provide a wonderful canvas for you to paint your story on, in the five days you spend aboard one of their boats.


What is Tao Philippines?  

It is two people with a vision; two people that saw an opportunity in the raw, undiscovered land of Palawan — arguably the most beautiful cluster of islands in the world; two people that found a connection with the native, fishing communities; two people that aimed to make a difference…and oh boy did they! Starting from just one restored boat over ten years ago, today Tao Philippines has a number of boats, from large native bangkas (local Philippine outriggers) to beautifully-designed sail boats, and involves many of the local people in a number of projects, from natural farming and fishing through sustainable usage of native building materials, organic soaps, coconut oil, jewelry production and massages. Everything involves extensive educational programs for the local community. Furthermore, all their employees receive comprehensive, detailed training and are involved in all the projects in order to broaden their skill set, so that later on they can move from one position to another and utilize their skills effectively. For example, a boatman can become a team leader of the expedition and then become a chef on board or on Tao Farm. It truly is a beautiful project that raises environmental awareness and the importance of land preservation for current and future generations of the local people, while creating wonderful job opportunities for those less privileged.


What can you, as a participant, expect from this experience? It’s best not to expect anything. Just bring an open mind and a lot of sunscreen with you!  They prefer for you not to ask where, when and how. They want you to go with the flow — the flow of nature and the flow of the ocean. It’s best to be prepared for the worst and later be bedazzled by the stunning landscapes, gorgeous beaches, and breathtaking moments that are generously sprinkled along the journey. It’s best to take it all in as it is, feel it to the fullest, embrace what is odd and change your perspective as you flow.

During your time with Tao Philippines you will be cruising for five days between Coron and El Nido, stopping on inhabited or minimally-populated islands with stunning beaches. You’ll snorkel a few times a day on unspoiled coral reefs, swim alongside turtles, drink cold San Miguel beer while staring at the sunset. At night you will disembark to one of their base camps that are built in a native style with local materials, with minimal impact on the environment. Facilities are very simple but enough to make your night’s sleep extremely comfortable. I loved showering from small buckets or from old pumps. Simple also means that there are no mirrors. The first time you will look at your reflection after five days (no, selfies don’t count!) will provide for the most bizarre sensation…as though you are not you anymore, but that you are looking at yourself with the eyes of another human. Truly wonderful!


Sleeping arrangements depend on the particular camp and are different every night. It may be one communal hall with thin walls separating couples and boys and girls, or beautifully designed, arching, bamboo huts, or small huts built into the dramatic cliffs on one of many El Nido islands. You will continuously be fed the most amazing food that there is. During my trip, multiple times a day our skillful chef kept bringing more and more dishes and kept surprising us with new flavors and creative presentations. As a vegan, before the trip I set my mind on the possibility of eating just rice and simple salads for the five days, but I never felt more satisfied and ‘nutritioned up’ in all of my travels. Sometimes, as a vegan, it is hard to get all the nutrients while traveling but all the amazing fruit, curries and stir fries full of fresh veggies and spices kept me going and full of energy for endless amounts of snorkeling. Needless to say, for the carnivorous types there is a greater choice.  From all the sounds that my fellow travelers made around me with every meal, I take that everything tasted absolutely wonderful, too! Every morning there is never any rush to leave the base camp. All plans may change depending on the weather, group energy or the ocean conditions. The captain will take all of this into consideration and choose which route you will take and which base camp you will end up at later on. During your time with Tao you will be immersed in the raw, unspoiled beauty of the many islands as well as in the beautiful island communities and simple local life. The aim is to see no other tourists and get to know the Filipino style of living to the fullest.


What stuck with me the most was the most amazing crew ever.  They truly made this experience unforgettable and made me want to take another trip right away. I know that Filipino hospitality is number one in the world, but those guys really shined super bright. With their limitless supply of energy, positive and caring attitude, warm hearts, massive smiles, goofing around, playfulness and curiosity they made everybody fall in love with them. They truly are brilliant at what they do.


I almost feel as though I want to keep it all secret, all to myself. There is an internal dilemma of whether I should scream at the top of my lungs to every human I meet how amazingly wonderful this travel experience was, and sometimes I feel deeply compelled to keep it quiet, with a small hope that nobody will ever find out about it. But this place deserves all the goodness it can get! I want everybody to experience the fantastic hospitality of the Filipino culture, the beauty of their land. I want them to immerse fully in this journey and with that give back to the communities and have a chance to help make a difference together with Tao Philippines. At the same time, I am hopeful that, although accessible to everyone, it will be possible to keep this part of the country free from mass tourism. That the priority number one will be to make it all last forever for the generations to come. Big part of this experience is to immerse yourself totally and completely, have tons of fun whilst still staying responsible and respectful. Now go and plan your trip right away. One regret that I have was not singing karaoke in a tipsy turmoil. There is always next time. I am already plotting to go back…


Follow Alex’s vegan adventures in travel, health, yoga, scuba, surf, nature and critters!

Instagram_Icon_Large    buddy_boo


Some of Alex’s VMV faves include Skin Bloom Blush in Bellini, The Big, Brave Boo-Boo Balm, Ooh-La-Lash! Volumizing MascaraSkintangible “BBBB Cream (BB But Better!) SPF 30 and Armada Post-Procedure Barrier Cream 50+.

Tip of the Week

My Happiness Inventory of 5

Happiness. Peace. Joy. Whatever name fits best, I have a checklist for it.

How I came to it in a nutshell: I got tired of studying “issues.” I’d talked mine to death and I still felt ineffective, stuck, and vulnerable. I then met survivors of harrowing situations (typhoons Ketsana and Haiyan, political prisoners and more) whose unbowed — truly positive  — spirits inspired me, humbled me, and kicked my butt into gear: enough with the talking and analyzing, said my newly sore behind…study happiness, you goof.

I’ll add here that I have an autoinflammatory condition. When someone around me is sick, I get sick…which isn’t uncommon. But while most people might have an inflammatory reaction to fight off the bugs then go back to normal, my inflammation keeps going. And going. I was getting sick every month and a half and each bout lasted 2-4 weeks. Sick was my new normal. While my flare-ups aren’t so debilitating, chronic inflammation is never a good thing and stress is closely linked to inflammation, as is depression. I’m in a great study at the NIH and getting the best care for it but I need to do my part, too. Getting my mind balanced and happy was as much a matter of emotion and mood, good parenting, and success, as it was about my physical health. I have two young children. It’s important to me that they see their mom run a business, run her home, and run around with them — up, peppy, positive and strong. I am committed to giving them good values — among them, kindness and empathy, a love of books, hard work, stick-to-it-ive-ness, and health….which includes happiness. For my brain, for my body, and for my family, I needed to get happy.

This is true for everybody’s health in general, by the way. Several strong studies link happiness with physical health — everything from a reduced chance of a heart attack to being able to fight off infection better. In skin, the link is well-known and instantly visible. Acne, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, and eczema are just a few of the many inflammatory skin conditions triggered by stress. And while anecdotal, I’d argue everyone notices the special glow that truly happy, peaceful, centered people radiate. We can promote vibrancy with a treatment that rapidly renews skin cells and faux a sun-kissed glow with a great bronzer, but the radiance from deep-within joy just doesn’t come in a tube or bottle.

I am spiritual, disciplined, and a thinker, and have done lots to try to calm and better myself. But this time, I wanted something stickier and…sneakier: reliable, tangible practices that could “trick” my brain into positivity when I’d lost that battle with my mind and spirit. I wanted simple tools that “stuck,” that changed my brain’s wiring, and that yielded consistently reliable, replicable results. I arrived at these five. I am no doctor or otherwise qualified professional. I’ve found tools that have helped me and I believe goodness begets goodness, so I thought I’d share them.

This is my list:

  1. Gratitude Journal;
  2. Daily Exercise;
  3. Strict Schedule (Deliberate Practice);
  4. Want What You Have;
  5. Be In The Now.

I call it my happiness inventory as much as my checklist.  Like a checklist, it is an itemization of things I must do. But it is also a gauge of whether or not my “supplies” are well stocked. If I’m feeling off — down or anxious —I’ll review it and will find I’ve probably been less good about one or another item. My “supply” of, say, being strict about my schedule, is low. I’ll “stock up” there and, with consistency, return to balance.

The change was profound without my noticing. I began to sleep easily and peacefully, for an entire 8 hours — a new experience for me. One day about three months into the gratitude journal, I got news that should have sent me spiraling. Instead, I went, “hmmm, that sucks.” And that was that. I remember sitting up with a start, thinking, why am I not freaking out? Is this it? Have I gone off the deep end? Will this knock me to the ground in a day or two? Instead, it barely registered. I knew the problem was there and went about fixing it. But I was…fine. Like, water-off-a-duck’s-back fine. And all this okay-ness just kept going. It’s not like my life turned into a garden of magical butterflies sprinkling fairy pollen onto my head either. Crap still happened…it just didn’t derail me. If it was big crap, I could see what had to be done and get to doing it — I could see the turd instead of stepping in it, if you know what I mean. Now, when I feel on the edge of something bad, my list helps me see the ick as yet outside of me. It gives me solid ground to keep me from falling, and tangible footholds for climbing back out should I slip. And when something bad does happen, I’m able to buy myself some distance, to just observe it for a few seconds, so that I can calm myself and craft a healthier response.

“The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide,” says the sign at the end of the hallway in our cottage at the beach. I’d always loved that message and believe in the phenomenal power of hope. But I’ve also learned that high tides don’t solve everything and that the lowest ebb does reveal ancient shells and cool crabs and beautiful starfish. There is always happiness, high tide or low, in any season. One need only remember to choose it and remember that it is a skill, and like any skill, it needs to be practiced.


How do you stay happy?


Laura is the CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of our founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her sister and husband (Madison and Gavin frequently volunteer their “usage testing” services). In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about learning, literature, art, health, science, inclusion, cultural theory, human rights, happiness and goodness.

Healthy Living Skin

Less Is More In Skincare, Too!


“Less is more” is a healthy philosophy for pretty much everything in life.

In food, less processed means more nutrients and less junk. Studies show that mindfulness — clearing the mind of clutter and focusing on the now — has significant health benefits for the brain and aging. In skincare, simple formulations with as few ingredients as possible minimize the risk of cross reactions — it’s a golden rule of hypoallergenicity. Plus, sticking to fewer products from fewer brands means there’s less guesswork involved when identifying what could be causing a reaction or acne.

“Less is more” helps doctors more easily identify what could be the cause of a problem. Frequently, the first step of allergy or contact dermatitis management (often, along with a patch test) is an “elimination diet” (our popular, ultra-reliable 7-Day Skin Fast). In the Skin Fast, you’re asked to stop using all products — except a very, very controlled few — for 7 days. This helps skin return to its most non-irritated state, so that when new products are slowly introduced (one every three days or so), problem products can be more accurately isolated.

The same applies to acne: acne can have several causes and certain types of acne can take days to develop…making it almost impossible to accurately identify which product is causing the acne when using many different ones.

Having fewer ingredients in a formulation is a best practice in hypoallergenicity…so much so that one of the quickest ways to spot a high-risk product is to look at how many ingredients it has: the longer the list, the higher the likelihood of reactions.

In addition, using multiple products can lead to over-treatment and drying of the skin…getting it to a borderline-irritated state so that anything new applied (whether or not you are actually allergic to it) could trigger a reaction.

This is why doctors tend to recommend sticking to few products and, ideally, from the same brand. It is impossible to ensure how products are made from one brand to another, ingredients can have different raw materials (some pure, some with additives such as trace amounts of preservatives or allergens), and many formulations are outsourced to third-party manufacturing facilities where vats can be used for mixing many different formulations, including those with allergens. Check out Why Sticking to One Brand Is Safer (an interview with for more on why using products from different brands can make the management of complex skin conditions difficult.

For more on hypoallergenicity and how less is more, check out:

HYPOALLERGENIC: What is it Really?

Why Sticking to One Brand Is Safer

For more on reactions:

Reactions: About, Allergic, Irritant, Sudden, Prevention, Using VMV & Other Products, etc.

Mythfoliation: If I Get a Reaction, The Last Product I Applied Is The Problem