Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time to Eat Your Veggies

It’s a well known fact that fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious, but did you know that they make you more attractive? Foods like carrots, broccoli, squash, pink grapefruit, tomatoes, and spinach contain carotenoids, the yellow-red pigments that give many produce their color. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, are associated with changes in skin color and are even found in leafy greens. They are known to be helpful antioxidants and help protect skin from sun exposure by decreasing skin’s sensitivity to UV light.

Researchers have found that a modest increase in fruit and vegetable consumption over a six week period improves yellow and red skin tones. A second study showed that such changes in coloration were judged to enhance appearance and attractiveness in the eyes of others.

Don’t worry, no amount of cantaloupe and carrots is going to turn you orange. For those wanting a natural, healthy glow this is a great alternative to tanning or chemical self-tanners. So if nothing else motivates you to start eating better, give in a little to vanity and be beautiful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Read the Label

Cosmetics are a multi-billion dollar industry. They are heavily advertised and often come in beautiful packaging. However, no matter how attractive the front label is, it won’t tell you anything about the health and safety of the product. When choosing cosmetics the most important piece of information is the ingredient list. To protect consumers the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetic labeling requiring all ingredients to be listed in descending order of concentration.

Last week the FDA issued a warning against 35 off-brand and foreign cosmetics that contain mercury. The tainted products have been found in seven states so far, including Texas, California, Virginia, Maryland, New York and Minnesota; and include skin lighteners, age-spot removers, anti-aging creams, and acne treatments. Mercury has also been found in some antiseptic soaps and lotions.

The dangerous products are usually manufactured overseas and then brought into the U.S. illegally, or, in some cases, by returning travelers. One sample tested in Texas revealed mercury levels that were 131,000 times the allowable levels. Many of the products have labels in other languages or have no labels at all. When shopping, avoid any product that lists mercurous chloride, calomel, mercuric, mercurio, or mercury among the ingredients.

The symptoms of mercury exposure include tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and numbness in the hands and feet. It can also cause depression, irritability, and memory problems. Mercury will accumulate in the body and can eventually cause organ damage, illness and death.

My advice is to always read all labels and if you can't read the language that lists the ingredients, or if ingredients aren't listed, don't buy the product.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shamrocks and Sunscreen

On the 17th millions of Americans will don the color green, raise a pint of Guinness, and pretend to have Irish roots. If, however, you are lucky enough to be kissed this St Patrick’s Day for truly being Irish then there’s a good chance you have red hair. There are a lot of red haired stereotypes, but as far as skin goes redheads and others of Celtic descent are more likely to burn in the sun, have a higher risk of skin cancer, and are more prone to wrinkling with age.

Redheads tend to have sensitive skin. If you’ve wondered why everything seems to irritate your skin it’s because your skin is actually thinner than people with other coloring. Meaning your nerves and blood vessels are closer to the outermost layer of skin. To protect your skin avoid extreme temperatures, products with alcohol and fragrances, and prolonged sun exposure. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises pale-skin types to use a 30 SPF or higher sun screen, wear sun protective clothing, and to do a skin check every month for spots that may indicate cancer.

While all this might not seem very lucky with a careful skincare routine and monitoring, you can have beautiful, healthy skin. And with only about 2% of the US sharing your coloring naturally celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and your unique look.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Manicures and UV Risk

Millions of women visit nail salons to have their nails shaped, buffed, and polished every year. Most walk out with beautiful nails, but there are those who unfortunately develop nail fungus, rashes, and bacterial infections related to unlicensed technicians or poorly sanitized tools. It appears now that manicures may pose an additional threat related to exposure from UV nail lights.

The UV nail lights often used at salons to dry and cure regular and gel manicures are essentially mini tanning beds. I understand they harden polish and cut drying times considerably, but like full-sized tanning beds, they emit mostly UVA rays, the strongest most penetrating ultra-violet rays. And according to studies, they emit similar amounts of UV radiation per square inch. For women getting multiple manicures a year, this is considerable exposure.

The Food and Drug Administration has not released a statement about UV nail lamps, but regulates them as a radiation-emitting electronic product. One study described the cases of two healthy middle aged women with no risk factors who developed non-melanoma skin cancers on their hands. More studies are needed, but until then I recommend reducing your exposure.