Tagged: beauty

Ayurveda: Seeking Balance and Beauty

This I Wear | Ayurveda: Seeking Balance and Beauty

Balance may be a myth, but the stress we’re putting on our bodies is real.

Last year, I shared the beginning of my switch to natural beauty products with you. The switch was motivated by a desire to incorporate my values around sustainability and health into what I put on my skin. Yet it also coincided with my own search to find new daily self-care rituals for myself, especially at the end of a long workday. And that latter part is because I’ve realized that I have been putting myself under so much stress, that the stress is starting to show up as very real physical health issues.

From the unusual pain in my neck that I’ve had since last August to the feeling of being unable to go any further as I’m rushing the six blocks to the subway in the morning, my health issues have been seemingly inexplicable. My doctor tells me I’m perfectly healthy. And admittedly, every time I go to a doctor and tell her what’s wrong, I follow up any description of the problem with “but I think it is just stress related.”

Well, at this point, most choices I’m making about how I live my life are “stress related.”

Before doing a total life overall, I’ve started to get curious about what balance means for me right now.

Ayurveda, an ancient system of healing founded in India, offers a totally different perspective on balance. Ayurveda is about “learning how intimately your body and mind are connected, knowing what will make them work in harmony, and doing what you can to create that harmony.”* It sees balance not as an end goal – you cannot achieve it once and then always have it – but instead as a constant process of listening to our bodies and responding to its needs through the activities we choose to do, the food we choose to eat, and the lifestyle we choose to lead. Balance, in Ayurveda, looks different for each one of us and differs based on our age, the season and even the time of day.

Inspired and intrigued by this different perspective on balance, I tumbled down the Ayurveda rabbit hole. Here’s why I think I might stay for awhile.

After a few initial attempts to learn about Ayurveda (a dense confusing book and a few online dosha quizzes), I serendipitously ended up in class at the yoga studio I attend occasionally with the resident Ayurveda teacher who had just returned from India. Taking it as a sign but too intimidated by my total ignorance to ask her where to start, I picked up the book Essential Ayurveda by Shubhra Krishnan in the studio’s lobby, assuming that the teacher had likely picked out this book anyway. And lucky for me, it was the perfect introductory book and was such a good read that I almost missed my train stop on multiple occasions.

Since Ayurveda is a holistic healing system that relies on whole foods as “medicine,” the focus is truly on what we are putting into our bodies as nourishment, which obviously reflects in our outer beauty. When we’re functioning well on the inside, the outside glow is a natural side effect. But there are quite a lot of Ayurvedic daily “beauty” rituals – just consider oil pulling or dry skin brushing. My curiosity around how Ayurveda translates to skincare led me to Pratima Spa and Skincare, based in NYC.

As a birthday treat for myself, I tried the Ayurvedic facial, and my amazing esthetician Heidi (after I admitted I was intimidated by the products) walked me through where to start. I’ve been using the Pitta face oil twice daily after cleansing and before I add a little moisturizer on top. I’ve also been massaging post-shower with the Vata body oil, which is really lovely. If I had based my purchase on scent alone, I wouldn’t have picked these, but given how happy my skin is, I plan to stick with both. If you’re curious, you can pick up Pratima’s book Absolute Beauty (though I don’t recommend it as an introductory book) and take her dosha skincare quiz to find your dosha type and the right products for you.

And after all of this, I am still so hungry for more knowledge. It’s been really interesting also to see how it fits in with my regular yoga practice and (mostly) healthful diet.

So what does balance look like for me right now? Well, it looks like 10 minutes with the Headspace meditation app while I ride the train to work, going to bed earlier than I would like (old habits die hard!), and letting myself get up from my desk and take a break without feeling guilty for not looking busy. It looks like really luxurious evening rituals like a steamy shower followed by thoughtfully applying body oil to soothe the aches and pains. It looks like reaching for a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea instead of a caffeinated beverage. And it also looks like experimenting with new and delicious recipes that warm me from the inside out.

And most of all, it means acknowledging that only I know what my body feels like when it is in balance, and trusting my gut (rather than a perfectly normal blood test) when it says that it’s time to make some changes. Balance is not achieved in one day, but then again, it didn’t take just one day to reach this state of imbalance. But a very good place to start the healing process is simply to redefine our idea of balance to allow for constant change and even imperfection.

So tell me, what rituals keep you in balance? What are your best tips for letting go of stress?

*Krishnan, xvi.

Easy on the Eyes

This I Wear | Easy On The Eyes

A few months ago, I shared with you how I overhauled my medicine cabinet with new, safer cosmetics after learning about the harmful chemicals in the products I was using.

Today, I’m happy to report that my minimal makeup routine in the morning consists of an eyelash curler, RMS “the un-coverup” wherever I need it, RMS lip2cheek on the apples of my cheeks, a little Korres tinted lip balm, and an eyebrow powder that I have yet to investigate but is probably toxic (nobody’s perfect!). It takes me about 5 minutes total, and the RMS makeup has even improved my skin.

When I first made the natural switch, I threw away the Covergirl mascara that I have used for years, thinking I would replace it with a safer version immediately. A couple months passed and I never did as I learned that lots of natural mascaras can be slow to dry and take some time to get used to. I got spooked and put it off for awhile.

But recently I was inspired to get back in the game. With the advice of Kimberly Loc (one of my favorite natural beauty bloggers) and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website and phone app, I picked….(drumroll please) the Bare Minerals Flawless Definition mascara, easily found at your neighborhood Sephora or department store, and I love it.

To give you some perspective, on EWG’s 0-10 scale (0=least harmful), my Covergirl was a 7 and the Bare Minerals version is a 2! The red flag on the Covergirl mascara was the ingredient probylparaban, which according to EWG is a 10 on the toxicity scale and is linked to “developmental/reproductive toxicity, ecotoxicology, endocrine disruption, allergies/immunotoxicity” to name a few. Absolutely not worth it.

If you’re shopping for a new mascara, let EWG do the work for you by searching their database. Still not sure which one you should go with? Kimberly has a rundown of the good and the bad of natural mascaras that will definitely make your decision easy.

P.S. I really should replace that brow powder! Any tips? Because, honestly, I won’t walk out of the door without these brows filled in!

Natural Beauty

Last week, I had a big moment. A moment that included me suddenly becoming so decisive about an issue I have cared little to nothing about that started with me downloading an app, involved me throwing out half of my medicine cabinet somewhere in the middle, and ended with my boyfriend asking was I “ok”.

Skincare and makeup have always been part of an important ritual of self-care for me, a way I could indulge my otherwise stressed out self in some nice smelling things that make me soft and pretty and remind me that I can indeed take care of myself. So while “natural” has always been nice when it is on the packaging of these products, it has never been a priority for me.

A few months ago, I read about makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift who created the truly organic and healthful line of RMS Beauty after her own experience of severe illness due to the metals in cosmetics. Her intention with RMS Beauty was “creating a product that’s not only non-toxic, but that actually heals and nourishes skin.” This idea of makeup being nourishing and restorative, way beyond just being “not toxic”, really struck me. My makeup could make my skin better, not just hide the bad? This felt radical.

But I did nothing, mostly because makeup is a little intimidating.

Last Friday at work, an email reminded me of the GoodGuide mobile app, which ranks products and the companies that make them on health, environmental and social factors. I gave it a quick download out of curiosity, and the first ratings I searched for was the makeup I use, and IT WAS BAD. It was really bad. Some of the ingredients were banned in other countries. One of the ingredients is suspected of causing developmental, reproductive, and/or skin or sense organ toxicity. The guide is not perfect (I’m still questioning the basis of brand’s social and environmental scores), but the health score and ingredient list is firmly based in facts.

As soon as work was over, I walked right out and bought my first RMS Beauty product. I even struck up a conversation with a fellow shopper who apparently makes her own skin cleansing oil at home (It’s cheaper than face wash and way more balancing even for oily skin. Learn more here.). I’m pretty sure we were supposed to be best friends, and I should have taken her out for a glass of red wine so she could teach me everything else she knows, but that’s beside the point.

On Saturday morning, I kept the process going. I threw out a ton of products in my medicine cabinet (recycling when possible of course), and I felt no regret. And then, I took the next leap: I bought a new natural deodorant that everyone has been raving about, but I was too scared to try because it comes in a jar and you have to use your finger to apply it. Yes, it sounds weird, but the Soapwalla organic deodorant cream is amazing. The natural formula doesn’t include those metals that make your deodorant into an antiperspirant (i.e. they interrupt your body’s natural sweating mechanism so that you can’t release moisture – yikes!). So while it won’t make you stop sweating, it will keep you dry and fresh.

My whole skincare and makeup routine is not totally natural yet. But I’ve already come to one big realization: I wasn’t using natural products before because they didn’t “feel” or look like what I was familiar with – deodorant is supposed to be in a stick, shave gel in a resource-intensive aerosol bottle, and microbeads make for a great scrub. But just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is safe. The aerosol and the metals in my deodorant are pretty darn bad. And those microbeads are actually plastics that are polluting our oceans.

Natural products are going to be an experiment for me, and they are not always going to come in the familiar forms that I’m used to. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work as well. In many ways, they could work even better, like RMS’s promise to improve skin. I’ve also found that sometimes they take awhile to really prove that they are working, because our bodies have been compensating for those harsh chemicals for so long (think of your greasy hair – your body is producing extra oil because that harsh sudsy shampoo is stripping it of natural moisture!).

So what’s next in natural beauty? Besides updating my products, I’m also thinking of how else I can change my routines. I’m even thinking of trying dry shampoo, so I wash my hair less to shorten my showers and save water. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Find out the details of some of my favorite natural beauty products on my Pinterest board, Natural Beauty. And don’t forget to share your favorite natural products, whether bought or made at home.

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