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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.

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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.)

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

 

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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!


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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.

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Featured Healthy Living Skin

It’s “Oil” The Same, As Long As It’s Coconut…Right?

Like all food options, there are differences between coconut oils. Read on to learn what’s what, and what to splurge on.

What are the different coconut oils?

The most common for cooking and industrial use is RBD (Refined, Bleached, Deodorized). Then there is virgin coconut oil, extracted by heat, enzymes, centrifuge, or manually. You can read more about the differences between each in “Are All Coconut Oils The Same?” but it comes down to this: a) while less ideal, RBD coconut oil is still better than other oils for cooking; b) any virgin coconut oil is good to eat and for less sensitive needs, but c) splurge on organic, manually cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, particularly for your freshest salads (to get the most of the healthiest stuff), when caring for sensitive skin, and for oral care.

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Why organic?

Unlike “natural,” the term “organic” is strictly regulated. Farms are inspected annually to ensure conditions as natural or “wild” as possible for the soil, trees and the coconuts, and that water and waste are managed in a manner that is safe and environmentally responsible. Organic certification includes how the oil is processed — no artificial additives can be used to extract the oil.

What is Know-It-Oil?

Know-It-Oil is a certified-organic cold-and-first-pressed virgin coconut oil. It is prepared within hours of optimum age (the longer a coconut stays out in the sun and heat, the more important antioxidants and phytochemicals are lost). It is pressed entirely manually, without centrifuge, heat or additives.

It is the oil we used for our randomized, double-blind clinical studies which have been published in peer-reviewed dermatological journals. What you may not know is this same oil is in any VMV Hypoallergenics product that contains virgin coconut oil, from moisturizers to baby care, shaving creams, and makeup. It’s what we use in our facials and spa treatments, too!

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Beauty Featured Healthy Living Skin

Age LESS: Six Things To Do Now To Stay Younger, Longer

There are many things we can do that are proven to keep us younger, longer — not just looking it but physically being it. Simple steps, sans needles or “miracles.”

Skeptical about how much anything you do can affect your biology? New studies are showing that our actions can influence our genes so much as to alter their behavior, slowing the aging process, preventing diseases we “should” get based on our genetic profile, extending life spans…changes so profound we might even pass them on to our children. We’ve chosen the top six most rewarding, most effective ways to truly, systemically age less.

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Healthy Living Skin

Al-mond, Dieu! This Superfood Makes For Super SKIN, too

Almond As Superfood

Studies show that eating almonds decreases your risk of heart disease, helps you feel full faster, and helps with weight loss and diabetes prevention. Other studies suggest benefits for arthritis, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Packed with antioxidants, eating them is great for your skin, too.

What About On Skin?

Don’t go rubbing almonds on yourself. Do check out mandelic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from almonds.

What’s So Great About Mandelic Acid?

Like the almond, from which it is derived, mandelic acid is a powerful health multi-tasker, addressing:

  • Photo-aging (wrinkles, loss of elasticity),
  • Acne, and
  • Dark spots.

It’s also far less irritating than many other effective actives out there.

Mandelic acid (present in VMV Hypoallergenics Superskin Toners) has a larger molecular size which makes it penetrate the skin less…but more evenly, performing excellently as a keratolytic.

On AHAs and Irritation

But isn’t the holy grail of efficacy how well an active penetrates the skin? Like lots of things skin, it’s more complicated than simply: penetrating deeper is good, more superficially is bad.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) mostly work by keratolytic action or “pKa”…basically microscropic peeling — forcing old, dead cells to the surface and encouraging bright, healthier, newer cells to the surface. This process is highly effective but is generally irritating, which is why relatively few cosmetics use actives in effective concentrations or in unbuffered (undiluted) form.

If an effective active is highly irritating, it becomes difficult to use and could cause other problems such as reactions, redness and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark splotches after a skin trauma like a pimple or rash).

And while a smaller molecular size does mean faster penetration into the skin (allowing the active to micro-peel at a deeper level), the general rule is: the smaller the molecular size of an ingredient, the higher the risk of an irritant or allergic reaction. For many actives, a tiny molecular size means they can penetrate the skin more readily, but they do so unevenly and increase the risk for irritation.

Mandelic acid pulls off a neat trick in that it remains highly effective even if it penetrates the skin less.

In clinical studies (our own and others), mandelic acid is the least irritating when compared to other actives such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, retinoic acid, and hydroquinone. All are effective micro-exfoliants, but mandelic acid is better tolerated even by compromised skin. This makes it ideal for drier, more sensitive skin, younger skin (Superskin can be started at age 9 for prophylactic care), skin that is prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or people who want the most benefits with the least amount of product.

Inside and out, the almond is a quintessential superfood.

Superfood in Superskin: Get your almond goodness in you…and on you!

Allergy Info

Allergic to tree nuts? You might still be able to use mandelic acid. Food and skin allergies do not always correlate. A prick test or blood test is specific to food. Make sure to get a patch test to confirm your skin allergies.

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Featured Healthy Living Skin

7 Steps To Sublime Summer Skin

We asked Holly, Senior Esthetician and Brand Educator at VMV Hypoallergenics, to share some tips for summer skin survival. Survival, she scoffed, is so defeatist. And limited. Here are Holly’s top 7 steps to summer skin survival sublime summer skin!

1: SUNSCREEN

InSKIN-SummerTips15-HByerly-SunscreenCollage-20150531Many of us still rely on the SPF that we apply in the morning or think that the SPF in our makeup is enough. That might be fine for the rest of the year when you’re mostly indoors (at this point, you should know that sunscreen is a daily thing, yes?). But in the summer, you need to be more vigilant. Sunscreen does wear, wash and rub off so it is very important to reapply every hour or two, and after swimming or toweling off. That’s whether you’re taking an easy bike ride in the country or strolling through the city, lounging on the beach or at the park, or training hard outside. No amount of sun exposure is damage free. If you want to keep your skin looking young, avoid sun exposure. Hats, sunglasses and protective clothing are also helpful. I use Armada not only for my own personal use, but also after each facial I perform. FYI: don’t dab: make sure to slather sunscreen on for real protection.

 

2: SERENITY

InSKIN-SummerTips15-HByerly-Serenity-20150531Serenity, positivity, happiness. Surround yourself with positive people, positive energy and positive summertime experiences. The days are lazier: focus on being in the moment more. When going on a walk, stop to look — really look — at all the beauty that you might normally rush past. Listen to happy, uplifting music. Music can be very inspirational and soothing. Regular exercise and a healthy diet help our bodies process and handle stress better. I like this website for quick guided meditations: just-a-minute.org.

 

3: SKIN TUNE-UP

InSKIN-SummerTips15-HByerly-SeasonalSkincare-20150531Much of our skin’s premature aging can happen over the summer. Don’t wait till after to refresh. Ask your esthetician for a good home skin care regimen. Regular facials should be done throughout the year for optimal skin health. For my clients, I recommend a 60-Minute Superskin Facial every 4 to 6 weeks with a 30-Minute Skin-A-Jiffy Refresher Facial in between or as needed (a nice boost for dull, sun-dried skin). Regular facials plus a skin care regimen adjusted to your skin’s summer needs is like giving your skin a regular tune up. And just like anything else, regular tune-ups and proper maintenance are so much better than trying to reverse bigger problems like acne scars or very dry skin later. To book one of our facials or spa treatments (each starts with an in-depth consultation and is customized to your skin) call (212) 217 2762 in NYC and (415) 255-9510 in San Francisco.

 

4: SANITATION

InSKIN-SummerTips15-HByerly-Sanitation-20150531Heat + humidity = microbe heaven. Wash your makeup brushes! Our new Instant No-Rinse Hypoallergenic Brush Cleaner (check vmvhypoallergenics.com — it’s launching soon!) is great for daily cleaning and Essence Superwash for a deeper washing every few days, weekly or monthly (depending on your level of use).

For bugs that bite or cause rashes, try Red Better Flare-Up Balm to quickly bring down redness and itching; Boo-Boo Balm for fast, ouchless healing. For daily use — remember that skin with eczema tends to be prone to microbial infection, which can promote itching — try Essence Hand + Body Smoother, which is ultra-light and comfortable for summer use but still very moisturizing and soothing to very dry or atopic skin.

 

5: SUSTENANCE…SALUD!

InSKIN-SummerTips15-HByerly-Sustenance-20150531YOUR SKIN IS WHAT YOU EAT. A good diet can improve your skin’s health and appearance. Control your meat and dairy; increase your essential fatty acids through a regular intake of small, oily fish, olive oils, nuts and avocados. Top off your diet with fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants. I add virgin coconut oil into my diet wherever I can! Know-It-Oil is excellent both topically and as a dietary supplement.

 

6: SMOOTH IT OUT

InSKIN-SummerTips15-HByerly-Smooth-20150531(DON’T) DO THE BUMP! If you find yourself with more breakouts in the summer, it could be due to sweat bacteria or a fungus that feeds on sweat going on overdrive. It sounds gross, but this fungus is healthy and natural to our skins. In the summer, however, when we tend to sweat more, the excessive perspiration can offset the skin’s good-microbe balance. When I feel oilier or have breakouts, I use Id Sweat Acne and Overall Antibacterial Monolaurin Gel — you can use it on face and body, and it cools the skin, too.

 

7: SLEEP IT OFF

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BEAUTIES SLEEP. The vast majority of people are sleep deprived, particularly women. The lack of sleep can leave one feeling forgetful, drowsy and also grouchy — all of these things can lead to more stress, in turn wreaking havoc on your skin (and, as more studies are showing, your body and brain). Commit to getting your 7-8 hours each night. A facial or spa treatment is a great way to get additional zz’s while taking care of your skin, too. A thorough cleansing with cool water and a SuperSkin Care Cleanser for your skin type and an application of a SuperSkin Care Moisturizer can help refresh tired skin. And our pale yellow No-More-Blues Skin-The-Bluff Concealer is the perfect eyebag camouflager.

 

Holly has a devoted following for good reason. She’s not only excellent at what she does; you’d be hard put to find a more soothing, gentle, good energy to be around. Follow Holly on instagram now for “skinsightful” tips, photos, recipes and more!