Lifestyle

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…

Healing Waters

healing-water

We all know that water is essential to life – and these days so much is made of staying hydrated. it does make sense when you think that the average adult is 65% water, and that it is a huge multi-tasker in the the body. It’s a building block for cells; helps to regulate internal temperature and the metabolism; it’s a primary component of saliva (where digestion begins); lubricates joints and helps to flush out waste via the kidneys. So no wonder the big wellness mantra of our time continues to be ‘drink more water’.

However, it’s the one health habit I personally struggle with, hence I use all kinds of ways to trick myself into drinking more. In the winter it’s hot water with lemon, and lots of herbal teas; summer, it’s room temperature with fresh cucumber and or mint. Sometimes I’ll add a little food grade rose water to my glass when I need a general pick-me-up. And though I know some might dismiss the idea of buying bottled waters, and most of the time, I’d agree it’s not the most sustainable thing in the world. And yet a good bottled mineral water tastes way better than tap to me, so I sometimes indulge (maybe even with a bit of fizz!).

Recently, I’ve been sipping on a whole host of new health waters. Having drunk my way through the coconut water fad, I was a little sceptical when I first heard about Birch water until a Lithuanian friend of mine told me it has been used for centuries in her country as a tonic in spring to revive after a long winter (likewise in Russia and Nordic countries). When I tasted it, I was surprised how much I loved it – kind of sweet/sour, a little bit medicinal yet very restorative and refreshing. Much more so than plain water. Maybe it’s no coincidence I’ve always loved silver birch trees, so being able to imbibe a bit of their goodness and beauty makes sense – and especially refreshing right now as spring gets into full swing.

Apparently, the sap is literally ‘tapped’ from the bark of silver birch trees as it rises full of nutrients post winter, and its sweetness comes from naturally occurring xylitol. The brand Sibberi blend theirs from birch tree forests in Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. They’ve now introduced Maple Water which has less sugar than coconut water, and Bamboo Water which contains silica renowned for its ability to boost skins natural glow. Tapped use Finnish birch sap in their collection which includes a deliciously delicate traditional Scandi berry flavour called Wild Bilberry & Wild Lingonberry.

Alongside hipster tree waters, you can now also sip in the power of flowers. Many of us are familiar with Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, created in the 1930‘s by Dr Edward Bach who is credited for modernising this ancient practice used in many traditional cultures throughout the world, including Australian bushmen and Native Americans. The method captures the energy, emotion and healing properties of flowers in bloom by floating them in water and allowing sunlight to help the goodness diffuse.

I’ve always been a big fan of sprays you can use in the atmosphere and drops to ingest and now a company called Conscious Water have made little concentrated sachets of flower essences you can drop into plain water so you can drink in the benefits. The packaging is a real delight – Japanese in detail – the box even contains mini wooden stirrers to mix in your essence. There are six flavours – my favourites are happiness which has a brightness I reach for to elevate my mood. It contains Purple Magnolia which heightens the senses, and Snowdrop which helps to boost enthusiasm. Also clarity on deadline days – it has Blue Lupin for focus and makes knuckling down to work a little smoother. The Variety Pack is well worth getting to try them all.

So now there’s no excuse for me – or any of us – miss out on our 6-8 glasses a day.

The (Unexpected) Benefits Of Meditation

the-unexpected-benefits-of-meditation

Many of us are instinctively drawn to meditation these days – it’s the much touted anti-dote to modern day life. However, not so many of us are actually able to do it every day, and stick to it. In my case, it remained as just another thing on my to do list for ages simply because in the back of my mind, it seemed like a waste of time to just ‘sit still’ for ten minutes each morning. The truth is even if we do get started it is hard to keep it up – some of the most disciplined yogis do fall off the wagon.

For me, it was a gradual start. I began to realise I enjoyed the breathing exercises and Shavasana (relaxation) part of yoga classes, and I went on to explore these and other meditative practices at home. I instantly reaped big bonuses, such as sleeping better, having more energy and this gave me the impetus to practice regularly. Little and often. Then I began to hit a real gold mine of deeper benefits which I’ve written about here. There are many more. And the experience will be different for each one of us, but I hope these less talked about perks will inspire you to begin or kick start your meditation practice. Read More…