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Many of us think of massage as something pampering, an occasional treat or something we book if and when we ever have time to go to a spa. We might understand the physical benefits of manipulating muscles – that it increases blood supply, helps to relieve tightness or soreness, and generally makes us feel relaxed. There is also plenty of scientific evidence that massage has deeper benefits, by changing the body’s immune and endocrine response, and for example, reducing levels of the ‘stress’ hormone cortisol.

Yet not many of us would think to include regular massage in our routines as a way to improve our emotional as well as physical wellbeing. Me neither, until I met Horst Rechelbacher, founder of the natural beauty brand Aveda. It was the mid 90s and at that time, I was living the glossy magazine life, travelling the world on photo shoots and going to fashion shows in New York and Paris. One of those trips was to the Aveda HQ spa to photograph beauty stories and interview Rechelbacher. For some reason, while I was there, he offered me a massage treatment – which turned out to be a profound healing experience. Read More…

Under Our Skin – Inner Beauty

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For me beauty has always meant beyond the superficial. Of course, we can see it as a commercialised industry – and it is. In 2012 in the UK, we spent nearly £8,438 million on fragrance, make-up, skincare, haircare and toiletries*. But it works on many levels. In nature, beauty is about attraction and many eminent psychologists talk of the ‘hard wiring’ we have as humans to procreate – the signals of fertility being the youthful clear, unlined skin and thick, glossy hair we so hanker after.

Even if there is an underlying mating instinct going on, it doesn’t necessarily explain the whole picture these days as we manage our fertility, invest in our health and live longer. As a make-up artist pointed out to me recently, it’s not necessarily sexual attraction at work. Yes, when we see someone (or equally something) beautiful, we’re drawn in, and it somehow brings out a protective instinct. It’s rare, precious, we want to take care of it, make it last.  Read More…

Clearing the Mind

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The words mindfulness and meditation seem to be on everyone’s lips at the moment – no wonder, since the busier life gets, the more we crave calm. Yet most of the time, deep peacefulness is something elusive, a million miles away from us. Sitting crossed legs with our eyes closed a) feels like a waste of time and b) it seems pretty impossible to remain still for more than a few minutes. I felt the same way not so long ago, but now I’m beginning to realise that precious time spent in meditation more than pays off. Not only does it create the focus and head space I need to get things done, but it’s also surprisingly addictive. The more I practice, the more the calmness begins to have a positive effect on my life, and crucially, how well I feel.

It’s not just a feeling either. Science is increasingly showing us that far from being an esoteric practice, meditation can have positive effects on our biology – and fast. A study published by US medical journal PloS One* in 2013 found that just one relaxation session enhances the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduces those linked to inflammatory response and stress. In 2012, UCLA scientists published a study* which showed that 12 minutes of daily meditation for eight weeks increased telomerase (the ‘immortality enzyme’) activity by 43 percent, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced ageing. Read More…

Sun Loving

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Reading one of the books for my yoga teacher training course, written by a very wise modern-day Swami, I was struck by these lines: ‘The rays of the sun give life to all living beings; the heat of the sun is energising. It removes all kinds of ailments. When the rays of the sun are absorbed in the right measure, the right amount, they have healing power.’ It got me thinking about my attitude to the sun and how it has changed over the years. As a child I’d be outside all the time without a care in the world. I couldn’t wait for the days to get longer so I could play in the back garden all the time – usually from the Easter holidays onwards. When the sun was hot, or when we were on holiday, my mum would slather us in a thick white sun cream called Uvistat. Her fair skin had been burned as a child, and she wanted to protect us. This was the 70s and I realise now she was ahead of the curve in terms of using sunscreens at a time when many were slathering on baby oil to increase their tan. Read More…

A New Kind of Natural

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The hippy side of me will always be for natural and organic, but when it comes to beauty, I’m afraid I’m a little superficial. I want and need products which help keep my skin youthful and smooth, my hair shiny and full of volume, plus they have to smell and feel good to use. Of all products, I’m the most hypocritical with make-up – I fall for the glossy packaging and colours way before checking organic credentials or ingredients lists.

In the past, natural meant making compromises, particularly with hair products. You simply didn’t get the glossy sheen that man made ingredients or the squeaky clean-ness we are used to that harsher foaming agents give. Now, manufacturers have more organic and natural plant extracts at their fingertips and formulations as well as results have improved. There are some great shampoos and conditioners that leave hair with a clean, light feeling that is actually more authentic looking than the over-polished ‘done’ look which I now realise some of the more hi-tech hair products leave. But that’s a matter of taste. Read More…

Facial Healing

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I used to think that a facial was simply a superficial treatment – something which ‘fixes’ our skin. And I’ve experienced the benefits in that way via various methods of gentle peels, light therapies, electro muscle stimulating machines. To varying degrees my complexion would look smoother, glowier, younger even. Especially the time when I had my face re-sculpted by a super skilled aesthetician extraordinare from a cult French beauty company. Not only did I have new cheekbones, I also looked younger, less crumpled and tired. Yet while I loved the result, I must admit, I was never dedicated enough to keep up the treatments. Ultimately, I realised it was not a comfortable sensation, it felt as though I were tensing up against the electrical current from the machine being used and it created a not-so-lovely metallic taste in my mouth.

Several years prior to that, I’d had the worst facial experience. The time when a rookie therapist dug around my pores so much I came out looking as though I’d had an acne break-out (my skin was prone to spots at the time, but never that bad). I was scarred by the experience – for weeks afterwards I had red raw spots which not only marked the surface of my skin, Read More…