Lifestyle

Sustainable Exercise

golden light bike

The exercise routine I follow goes like this: I begin the day thinking I’ll go for a run at lunchtime, and/or a 7 pm yoga class. But as the time draws closer, my mind will resist. The sun is setting, I’ve got to finish some work – a whole list of excuses suddenly comes to mind. It takes an iron will to ignore those resistant voices in my head even though I’ve never regretted going once I’m done. I know that it’s good for me to get moving. A stack of scientific research shows that those who exercise are less susceptible to serious disease. Most importantly, I feel much better when I’m active, so why do I so often choose the easier option – to stay in and watch a box-set instead?

There is an evolutionary explanation for this. Our ‘fight or flight mechanism’ means we are hard wired to do the minimum to survive. Thousands of years ago – when finding food was a life or death situation – we needed to conserve energy in order to fight predators. Now that our lives are sedentary, food is generally on tap, this natural response in our bodies hasn’t changed, therefore we rely on willpower and our minds to stay active. Read More…

Turmeric, Ghee and Sesame Oil

healthy-eating-ayurvedic-catherine-turner-seeds-and-oil

Health bunnies can’t fail to have noticed how Ayurveda (the ancient Indian approach to wellness) is increasingly influencing our daily routines. Lattes and porridge laced with the golden herb, Turmeric; the idea of ‘oil pulling’ i.e. swishing our mouths with sesame or coconut oil; ghee (revered as a precious superfood in India) as the ‘good fat’ of choice.

In a way this is a natural extension of the interest in yoga, since Ayurveda stems from the same knowledge base – the Vedas, a vast body of ancient texts covering all aspects of living life to the full from exercise, eating and meditation practices through to astrology and architecture. But what does Ayurveda mean? Directly translated, the word ‘Ayur’ means life and ‘Veda’ knowledge, and generally could be described as a holistic approach to healthy living and longevity. A renowned Vaidya (Ayurvedic Doctor) I met in India recently had a very simplified and practical explanation – that it is a way of extending life mainly through good food and sleep. Read More…

Super Sleek Hair Treats

hair

Oils have become the superfoods of the beauty world – and no wonder – they have endless healing and nourishing qualities via a myriad of micro nutrients which make them multi-taskers on many levels. Applying them is almost like feeding your body a dose of the best vitamins from the outside. Hair wise, we had the Moroccan Argan craze with a few drops of the rich golden oil acting as a conditioning serum to banish frizz and bring back shine. Along with the vogue for sipping coconut water came a splurge of ranges containing variations of the tropical oil as a natural foaming agent in shampoo, as well as a moisturising ingredient in all sorts of conditioning products. And these are just two examples of countless plant, vegetable and nut oils being used as beautifying ingredients.

Trouble is, it is hard to get our heads (!) around the idea of slicking our hair with oil. Specially if, like me, you have super fine hair which needs all the volume it can get. My own experiences began in the ‘back to natural’ days of the 70s when as a teenager, my Grandma suggested using warm olive oil to deep condition my hair. I loved the effect, but it was a little messy and took a lot of washing to get it out. So I moved on to the little tubes of VO5 oil which you warmed in a cup of hot water (remember those?).

As I grew out of my teens I began to try sophisticated, hi tech hair products until more recently when I’ve deliberately chosen to simplify my regime again. This has happened gradually, through becoming more conscious of what I’m putting in and on my body in general. I began ‘cleaning up’ the food I eat – more to stay away from unnecessary additives rather than to be on a spartan detox or new fangled diet. I discovered that the purer the food I ate, the better I felt and interestingly, the less complicated I wanted my beauty products to be. The best thing is that it’s so much easier to see when an oil is truly 100% natural or organic – the label may have maybe one or very few ingredients on it or at least names you recognise.

I found making the switch to oils as skin care pretty easy. The skin on my body is on the dry side and so naturally loves the richer texture of balms, unctions and oils. It has been a little harder with hair and scalp, however, but there are ways and means to get that shine and nourishment without the oil slick. I’ve always loved the Indian Ayurvedic holistic approach to health and beauty, and many of their simple, daily preventive treatments revolve around oils, so I take inspiration from that.

A big part of the Ayurvedic routine is daily top to toe self-massage with warm oil – ideally before showering. That means you can include your hair and scalp as you’ll be washing it off. Warm the oil – either by putting the bottle in a bowl of hot water or for speed, warm it in your palms first, then apply the oil to dry skin and hair working your way up from toes to crown, taking time to massage your scalp and run the remains of the oil through the lengths and ends of your hair. Once you’re done, apply a normal amount of shampoo and massage in before you add water – this ‘lifts’ the oil before it gets diluted. Then jump in the shower to rinse off. You’ll find your hair and skin feel soft and supple – almost with a water resistant feel without being sticky.

Once I started to do this regularly, my skin became more resilient and healthy – as if the barrier was more in tact. Same with my scalp – previously it had been prone to itchy, scaliness and sensitivity and that improved. Gradually my hair is feeling shinier and stronger, the bonus is, my nails are too. It may take a bit of practice to fit into your routine, but the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit. And you can always adapt – for example, on days I don’t have time to wash my hair or if I’ve had a blow dry, then I’ll skip a day or two just using oil on my body and protecting with a shower cap as you would anyway.

As for which oil – well, that’s where we can have fun experimenting as we are spoiled for choice. Generally speaking, all oils will soften and smooth hair and scalp. If you want to go the very pure Ayurvedic route, buy 100% organic sesame oil (the non-toasted variety) and is used to not only moisturise, but also to soothe what is known as Vata tendencies (i.e. calming down anxiety, stress and a busy mind). Otherwise there are lots of ready made blends specifically for hair which contain other ingredients such as essential oils to trouble shoot specific problems, or you can simply go for beautiful aromas. Here are just a few recommendations:

This Works Sleep Plus Hair Elixir, £25 we love multi tasking and this spritz cares for your hair and helps you sleep. The famous argan, alongside jojoba, baobab and sunflower to nourish hair and scalp, while essential oils of lavender, vetiver and camomile help soothe you into a deep sleep. Best of all, it has a light texture – great if you’re oil averse.

Aromatherapy Associates Enrich Hair Oil, £31 has a base of coconut and jojoba oils with a beautiful blend of wonderfully scented and therapeutic essential oils including ylang ylang, geranium and rosemary which help to soothe and moisturise hair and scalp. Easy to use – 2-3 pumps on dry hair – ideally leave on overnight and wash out in the morning.

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil, £5.90 the classic hair oil in pure form. This version is cold pressed to retain all the micro nutrients. A few drops applied to damp hair (depending on thickness and length) pre-styling smooths frizz. Or use as a pre-wash conditioner on dry hair to soothe scalp and deeply moisturise. Simple, effective, great value.

The SPF Dilemma

spf dial

These days I’ve a new found love of the sun – the light mornings and being able to wander in the park and sit outside before the heat rises and the hustle and bustle of the day kicks in. In the past though, it was always a bit of a hassle to go out into the sun. Having fair skin, I would never leave the house without at least an SPF15 sunscreen on – whether I was on holiday in Greece or going to work. And I did this unfailingly throughout my teens, twenties and beyond. It was good in the sense that I was practising what I preached as a Beauty Director. It’s a fact that there is a direct correlation between sun exposure and premature ageing of the skin in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven texture and pigmentation (and worse still, skin cancer). And this approach seems to have worked to keep my skin relatively youthful in my 50s. Read More…

Your Healthiest Smile

Lemon

My fear of the dentist stemmed from around age ten when I had to have four teeth extracted to make room in my ‘overcrowded’ mouth. I did manage to escape without train track braces, but the damage was done. Once I became a teenager, I totally refused to go at all and it wasn’t until I hit my mid twenties when one of my molars disintegrated into a massive cavity through decay (yuk!) that I finally faced my fear. Via a friend’s recommendation, I found a female dentist who not only seemed to be able to calm my anxiety throughout the drilling and filling, she also managed to save my tooth. She explained it was a close call – I was lucky, the nerve hadn’t been affected and I didn’t need root canal treatment.

It was the wake-up call I needed. I felt ashamed at the neglect and finally appreciated that if I wanted my teeth to last a lifetime I needed to look after them. From then on, I never missed a check-up, scheduled hygiene appointments every six months and upped my teeth cleaning regime at home. Read More…

Healthy Scalp, Healthy Hair

Close up of scalp and hair

We think nothing of putting a lot of effort, time, and money on cuts, highlights, blow dries, buying the latest shampoos conditioners and styling products. Anything to avoid the dreaded bad hair day. Yet as any trichologist or hairdresser will tell you, glossy, shiny, voluminous hair is borne of a healthy scalp and, holistically thinking, a healthy body too. Of course when we look in the mirror, we’re dealing with the superficial and the right styling products are crucial to get our hair behaving and swooshing in all the right ways, but they’re similar to make-up in the way that they enhance what’s already there. Read More…