Monthly Archives: April 2011

Naturally Protective.

Summer months are just around the corner, which means the explosion of outdoor activities and celebrations will soon commence.  Decades ago, there was minimal knowledge of the damaging effects that UVA and UVB rays have on our bodies.  People would lay in the sun slathered in iodine and baby oil to work on bronzing their bodies.  Our generation has the privilege of having information at our fingertips.  We know how harmful failing to protect ourselves from the sun can be thanks to numerous research groups and the saturation of information we have access to through various media outlets.

Not only has research been done to successfully prove that we need to be careful about sun exposure, but now we need to be more careful about how we protect ourselves.  Many of the non-natural sunscreen brands on the market contain chemicals that are carcinogenic.  Remember, your skin is the largest organ you have.  So, you must be thoughtful of what you put on it because a large portion will be absorbed by your body and broken down on a cellular level.

I have elected to test and review a number of natural sunscreen brands to help assist you in your pursuit for a healthier option.  Before I tell you more about these products, I want to share with you a couple of helpful resources the manufacturer of Beyond Coastal introduced me to.

The first is: The Natural Products Association

Their site contains a plethora of information.  You can find federal, state, international and grass roots legislation regarding the laws and regulations governing the manufacture and distribution of natural products.  They keep their legislation section updated with articles on topics currently affecting the dietary supplements and natural products industry.

The NPA has a tool called The Natural Products Buyers Guide.  You can either enter a keyword related to the product type you are looking for or search by brand name to find manufacturers who have natural product certifications.

Additionally, the NPA hosts natural products training seminars, releases educational publications on the subject of natural products and has a program which certifies companies to become natural products manufacturers and distributors.

The second is: The Environmental Working Group

One of the tools that I found to be immensely helpful on their site was the Chemical Index.  This section contains a list of toxic chemicals many people are regularly exposed to, defines each chemical, lists the health effects resulting from exposure and provides the top routes of exposure.  We see many of these chemical names, but often don’t have adequate information about them.  There is some excellent info on here!

Their health/toxics section has a variety of subjects ranging from Children’s Health to Consumer Products and Our Water.  Each section contains featured articles on public health issues to expose threats and help you find solutions.

Now for the results of my exploration in natural sunscreens…

Kabana Skin Care

I had the opportunity to review 2 of the suncare products manufactured by Kabana Skin Care.  The first was their Green Screen SPF 22 Organic Sunscreen Tinted and the second was their Green Screen SPF 20 Organic Sunscreen.

Let me begin by saying I LOVED their products.  They protect against both UVA and UVB rays and have 9 simple ingredients!  If you have ever used a natural sunscreen you will know that many of them leave behind a very noticeable white film after applying.  The CEO of Kabana Skin Care was kind enough to take time out of his day and provide me with some excellent insights on sunscreen.  Zinc Oxide is the active ingredient in most natural sunscreens.  To avoid diluting the valuable content provided to me by the CEO I have included a portion of it to help educate you:

“Zinc oxide is a mineral pigment – as such it’s a particle vs. the clear petrochemical oils in other sunscreen products.  Since it’s not soluble or miscible in the formula, it does typically go on ‘white.’  This is why I’ve developed the tinted formula; while many of the mineral sunscreens advertise they go on ‘clear’ zinc oxide is by nature a white pigment that stays on the surface of skin and doesn’t get ‘absorbed’. It’s also a major pigment used in today’s non-toxic white paint (in the past it was lead oxide, which is toxic).   You really don’t want sunscreens ‘absorbing’ because of the problems of bioaccumulation – search Google for “CDC study and oxybenzone” if you want more information about bioaccumulation, and some very good reasons to use zinc oxide sunscreens.”

Kabana Skin Care’s products were long-lasting.  I personally am very fair-skinned.  A poolside vacation in Texas tested the strength and endurance of their products.  I applied the Green Screen SPF 22 Organic Sunscreen Tinted to my face and the Green Screen SPF 20 Organic Sunscreen to my body every 4 hours with intermittent exposure to water and toweling.  By the day’s end my skin exhibited VERY minimal evidence of sun exposure.  I had light tan lines and zero burning.

The Green Screen SPF 20 Organic Sunscreen leaves a slight white residue, but nothing terribly noticeable.  There are days that I abandon my make-up foundation and replaced it with Green Screen SPF 22 Organic Sunscreen Tinted !  I have actually noticed an improvement in the skin texture on my face since using this product.  I love it and would highly recommend trying their tinted formula.

Beyond Coastal

Beyond Coastal’s staff was also exceptionally helpful with regard to educating me on natural suncare.

So you know, the sun emits 3 kinds of rays: UVC (the ozone and oxygen absorb all UVC Rays), UVB (primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer), and UVA (penetrate deeply and contribute to premature aging).  It is imperative that you find a broad spectrum sunscreen for your extended periods of sun exposure.

Approximately 80% of a sunscreen’s formula is made up of inactive ingredients.  You should pick a product that both protects and nourishes your skin when you use it.  Beyond Coastal’s products contain ingredients that not only protect and nourish, but repair and hydrate as well.

Beyond Coastal’s Natural Clear Sunscreen SPF 30+ worked famously.  About 5 minutes after applying there was no visible residue.  My skin is very light so I can get away with using a sunscreen that leaves a slight white film, however those of you with deeper skin tones may prefer this formula because of it’s ability to absorb without a trace.  I wore this sunscreen for approximately 3 hours to a couple of outdoor events.  If you anticipate excessive perspiration I would recommend reapplying more frequently.  This screen protected me against burning, but I was still able to achieve a little tan after direct sun exposure for 3 hours.  It is a little sticky, but that’s just an indication of how well it stays on your skin.  Another benefit that I would like to mention is that this sunscreen is very moisturizing!  I have naturally dry skin and it can be challenging to get an even application of sunscreen with some of the other brands that are not as moisture rich.  So, if you have dry skin this is a good one for you to pick up!

Beyond Coastal’s Natural Lip & Face Screen SPF 30+ was also great.  It comes in a convenient little tin that can be thrown into any bag or purse without fear of it being squished and making a mess all over everything.  This sunscreen is also very moisturizing.  I apply it in lieu of a moisturizer prior to putting on my make-up foundation.  On a typical day I only apply this product once in the morning to protect me from occasional sun exposure throughout the day.  I love the way my skin looks when I use this product.  There is something about it that gives me a very youthful, natural glow.

Badger

I will be very blunt about this one….I am not a fan.  I had the opportunity to review their Badger SPF 30+ Lightly Scented Lavender Sunscreen and first of all the smell made me a little nauseous.  They advertise a lavender scent, however it was not properly achieved.  The formula is VERY greasy.  As I said, I have dry skin, but even this formula was too heavy for my skin type.  Bees wax is listed as one of the inactive ingredients and I believe it may be responsible for the heavy residue left on your skin after application.  It is difficult to rub in so expect a whitish-purple tint to your skin.  The one nice thing I can say about their product…it stays put.  After over 4 hours of swimming, toweling and direct sun exposure there was no immediate need to reapply.  It stayed on like a champ and protected well against burning.

Bella B

Bella B is a brand that was created with expecting and new mothers in mind.  Their products are crafted with natural ingredients that are gentle enough for both babies and mommies.

I was sent their Sunny Bee SPF 40+ Natural Sunscreen.  I used the product on both myself and my 4 year old son.  He is the world’s biggest fan of playing at the park.  With hours of playtime and sun exposure under our belts, Bella B gets 2 thumbs up from me and kido!  Not all ingredients in Sunny Bee are organic, but they are all natural.  It is a broad spectrum sunscreen so you’ll be safe from both UVA and UVB rays for hours on end.  It leaves a white film, but I see this as a benefit because it is easier to keep an eye on when I need to reapply it to my little one.  This sunscreen is very gentle.  So, whether you have kids or just sensitive skin you can rely on Sunny Bee to deliver excellent results!

I will be following this article up with an additional batch of reviews on a few other natural sunscreens.  In the mean time, grab one of my recommended products and go enjoy the outdoors!


Lash Extase.

If you’re anything like I am then your make-up bag is littered with half-used tubes of mascara.  Some you use with one another, others not at all.  Fallen soldiers in the pursuit to find the best volumizing, lash lengthening miracle worker out there.  It’s a challenge to find the perfect one!

One thing that I’ve noticed is the style of brush used is key.  Some of the mascaras you buy have very widely spaced bristles.  I’ve found that this causes the application to become too heavy.  You wind up looking like you’ve gobbed on the mascara and your lashes end up clumped together.  Some have too many bristles.  In this instance you either end up with a very thin coat (it’s almost as though you have none on at all) or you have raccoon eyes from applying it so aggressively in an attempt to get more on your lashes.

I have blonde hair and in turn, blonde lashes.  So, a good mascara application is important so that I don’t look washed out.  I used to be a VERY loyal user of Cargo’s SupersEyes.  However, they made a fatal mistake…they changed their brush!  They switched to a brush with bristles that were too widely spaced.  Dear Cargo, if you’re wondering why sales fell off on this product it is because you tried to fix something that was not broken.

After months of agony and countless mascara purchases I have finally found a superb replacement to my Cargo companion.

Christian Dior has released a little beauty gem called Diorshow Extase.  No longer shall I mourn the loss of my old mascara.  This stuff is fantastic!  Not only does it have the appropriate bristle spacing, they went one step further and varied the length of the bristles.  Now your very short, newer lashes AND long, older lashes get an even coat of Dior’s well formulated black magic.  I dare say it’s the equivalent of false eyelashes in a tube!

If you are in search of a great mascara, give this one a whirl.  They have my ringing endorsement!


Scope out the swimwear!

All of the hard work you’ve put into fine-tuning your bikini body is about to pay off.  Take a look at some of the summer’s sexiest swimwear!


Jazz: Vix

Paulina: Charlie by Matthew Zink

Missmojave Stardust Fringe: L *Space by Monica Wise

Soldier Girl: Zeugari


Feline Monokini: Paradizia

Postal Triangle: Paradizia

Swanky Monokini: L*Space

There are oodles of incredible options for the warm weather days ahead.  Visit the sites that I have included links to under each swimsuit option if you want to see what else these fantastic designers and retailers have to offer.

Swimwear World has decided to show us a little love by offering 10% off on every order over $100, exclusively for Muse Style readers.  Simply enter the code: MUSESTYLE before you provide your payment information and the discount will be applied to your shopping cart!

Happy shopping!


Cutting edge tools.

As an aspiring fashion designer, I have begun collecting the basic tools necessary to construct beautiful clothing.  One of the first items on my list was…shears.

Little did I know that there were so many options on the market for beginners to choose from.  My knowledge of scissors was limited to the $3 pair of Fiskars residing in a cluttered drawer of my kitchen.  Until now.  I decided on a wonderful brand called Gingher.

I resolved to purchase the following 6 items as my “basic needs” set:

  1. 45mm Rotary Cutter
  2. 24″ x 36″ Cutting Mat
  3. 4″ Embroidery, Chrome Finish
  4. 8″ Serrated/Knife Edge Dressmaker’s Shears, Chrome Finish
  5. 10″ Knife Edge Bent Trimmers, Chrome Finish
  6. 7.5″ Pinking Shears

I cannot even begin to tell you how pleased I am with the quality of these shears so far.  Not to mention…I built my collection for about 2/3 of the price.  Jo Ann’s carries these shears and if you watch carefully, they run 30% off on their different scissor brands every now and then.

Gingher has both light and medium weight options for their products.  I opted for their chrome finish because I prefer the weight that these provide.  The more weighty scissor helps me with regard to control of the scissor and cut.  Their shears have no trouble cutting through multiple layers of fabric if you so choose to do it this way.  And if you find after months and months of heavy use that your shears are getting a bit dull, you have the option to send them back to be sharpened by Gingher professionals or buying a sharpening stone and doing it yourself at home.

I feel like their scissors are a really high quality product that I will not grow out of too quickly as my skills advance.  If you’re looking to replace your current shears or upgrade to a higher quality.  I would highly recommend you consider this brand to add to your arsenal of butt-kicking design tools.


Food Staples.

Eating healthy is so important to not only getting back into shape, but maintaining the new image you’ve worked so hard to create.   Sure, a lot of the fad diets will help you get to where you want to be.  The trouble is that few of them are sustainable and some can even be damaging to your body over time.  The most important thing you can do to foster success is create and commit to a lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise.  It’s going to take a little effort and a very open mind, but you’ll get there.  I promise!

Adjusting is the most challenging part.  This will sound a bit harsh and a bit dramatic, but the easiest way to begin is by purging.  Remove the temptation to eat junk food all together by simply banishing it’s presence from your home!  When I decided that enough was enough,  I literally grabbed the trash can, went to the pantry and began throwing things out.  Then I moved to the fridge and finished with the freezer.  Once I was done with that, I grabbed the car keys and drove directly to Whole Foods to replace all of the garbage I had just disposed of with healthy, vitamin rich foods.

A very good, very simple piece of advice was given to me a while ago.  If it is not something that can be purchased from the perimeter of the grocery store, then it should not be present in your diet.  Take a second and think about this advice.  Where do you find the produce, dairy, meats and bread?  Around the perimeter!  That’s a pretty dang easy rule to follow if you ask me.

I’m going to give you a few of my absolute favorites and tell you why they’re so great for your body.

Cruciferous Vegetables

A small list of veggies belonging to this family of plants are:

  1. Arugula
  2. Bok Choy
  3. Broccoli
  4. Brussel Sprouts
  5. Cabbage
  6. Cauliflower
  7. Chinese Cabbage
  8. Collard Greens
  9. Horseradish
  10. Kale
  11. Mustard Greens
  12. Radishes
  13. Rutabaga
  14. Turnips
  15. Watercress

These guys have some of the highest concentrations of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Various components of cruciferous vegetables have been found to assist in the prevention of cancer by stimulating enzymes in the body which aid cells in the elimination of carcinogens.  Their antioxidants help to protect you against free radicals (an atom with an unpaired electron) which can cause oxidation and damage to cellular structures if abundantly present in your body.  Some examples of phytochemicals are: cartenoids, flavonoids, and plant sterols.  Phytochemicals help protect your cells against absorption of carcinogens, fight malignant changes within cells and boost antioxidant activity in the body.  They are rockstar health staples and typically have stronger flavors so you can enjoy their natural taste without putting unhealthy sauces on them.  These foods also have the added benefit of being high alkalizers.  They are going to help neutralize a lot of the overly acidic systems your body now has.

Berries

  1. Acai
  2. Blackberries
  3. Blueberries
  4. Bilberries
  5. Cherries
  6. Cranberries
  7. Goji
  8. Raspberries
  9. Strawberries

Berries also have the benefit of containing high concentrations of vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and flavenoids.  They are a naturally sweet, low calorie treat you can use to replace your candy bars and ice cream with when you find yourself craving sweets.  I put them in my salads a lot to add some contrasting flavor to any salty protein I include.

Omega-rich Foods

  1. Avocado
  2. Arctic Char
  3. Atlantic Mackerel
  4. Black Cod
  5. Legumes
  6. Nuts
  7. Olive Oil
  8. Seeds
  9. Soy Products
  10. Wild Salmon

Remember it is best to consume fish that has been caught in the wild and not farm raised.  Farm raised fish contain less of the good Omegas due to their lack of wild diet.  Additionally, many have been administered antibiotics and exposed to higher levels of PCBs.  If you are going to switch to organic, your meats should be the absolute first thing on the list to buy organic/free-range.

Omega 3 fatty acids are your poly-unsaturated fats.  Studies have shown that an omega-rich diet can lower triglycerides and in turn promote heart health.  They also help to increase metabolic activity, ease joint conditions and boost brain activity.  These are just a few examples of the myriad benefits Omega 3s can provide.  An interesting side note: 60% of your brain is comprised of fat.  So many people think cutting fat completely out of their diet will make them healthy, when in fact fats are essential to your health and functionality.  Just keep an eye on the types of fats you are consuming.  Try to keep the “saturated” and “trans” fats to a minimum.  They’re the ones with the terrible health risks.

Dairy

I personally do not consume dairy by it’s traditional definition, but I will give you some fantastic suggestions because most people do:

  1. Greek Yogurt (Unflavored and 0% fat: Fage makes a great product)
  2. Milk (1% fat content, maximum)
  3. Soy Cheese
  4. Soy Milk (I always have at least 2 cartons of Silk Light in the fridge)
  5. Soy Yogurt
  6. White Cheeses (with fats cut down to 1-2%)
  7. Yogurt (Unflavored and Fat Free)

While both are good for you, Greek yogurt typically has a higher protein content than other types.  I recommend the unflavored because they tend to have far less sugar than the ones with fruits or honey.  White cheeses have a lower fat and higher protein content than other cheese for some reason.  So, try and grab one of those as an alternative to your usual selection.  You will get many of your essential vitamins and minerals from these products.  Protein, calcium, magnesium, folate, B1, B2, B6, B12, A, D, and E can be found in a serving of dairy.  These nutrients help improve bone density, lower blood pressure, and regulate body-weight.  And if we’re going to talk about the vanity facet of their benefits list, they improve skin texture and hair luster.

Whole Wheats

Stay away from the the bleached and processed grain products!

  1. Barley
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Bulgar
  4. Couscous
  5. Millet
  6. Quinoa
  7. Rye
  8. Steel Cut Oats
  9. Whole-wheat pasta and bread

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.” -Diana Vreeland  Teehee.  I love that quote.  Seriously though.  Be careful about the kinds of carbs you are consuming.  You get a lot of your energy from carbohydrates, but the processed and bleached versions of them will cause insulin spikes, fatigue, weight gain and all kinds of problems.  Whole grains are more difficult for your body to break down.  This means you will feel full longer, have more balanced levels of energy, and your body will burn more calories processing this type of grain.  They are also high in fiber which will help keep your digestive system healthy and balanced.  I could go on and on about the benefits to these gems, but I’ll relent.

And the really excellent part of all these things….you will be eating MORE as opposed to less with a diet rich in these foods!  The foods I have listed are lower in calories and fat, as well as being more nutrient and water dense.  Hooray for not having to be hungry to be thin!  I have probably 6 gallon-size ziplock bags in my fridge of fresh veggies I’ve precut for convenience.  This is such a good trick because when I get hungry all I have to do is grab a couple bags and a container of hummus for a snack.

The last pointer I want to give you is HYDRATE!  Roughly 70% of our body is made up of water.  The scary thing is…most people are severely dehydrated.  Feeling thirsty is your body’s last indicator that you are dehydrated.  You should be sipping water at least every 15 minutes.  A lot of us feel hungry when the fact of the matter is that we are simply dehydrated.  Our body is searching for a source of hydration and it feels like hunger because at that point our bodies will take it in any form they can get it, be that liquid or solid.  To give you an idea of how much water you should consume on a daily basis: divide your body weight in half and add the word ounces to the end of that.  For example: I weigh 106lbs, which means I should be consuming a minimum of 53 ounces of water a day.  The darker your urine, the more dehydrated you are.  Bored with plain old water?  I slice up lemons and cucumber to add a little natural flavor.

I’m challenging you to take an about-face approach to your health.  Try these suggestions for at least 10 days.  I would be utterly shocked if you didn’t notice a drastic change in your energy levels and feeling of well-being.  Please come back to share with me your stories and any progress you’ve made!


Style revivals.

Now that we’re nearing the end of the snowy white winter season, many of you are starting to pack away those bulky winter clothes to usher in sundresses, shorts and many of your other spring staples.

Here are some of the style trends you can expect to see when shopping for some new complimentary pieces for your collections:

’70s Style Sophistication

No silly, pack that leisure suit back up.  That puppy’s not coming back….ever.  However, you will see a revival of high-waisted trousers, billowy blouses, bold prints, vibrant colors and the beloved platform wedge.  Mix in some of your boho pieces for a more sophisticated version of the last ’70s revival.

’60s Genteel

This was one of my favorite eras for fashion.  Expect to see comebacks made by full skirts/dresses, belted waists, and square heeled shoes.  Should you need any inspiration from this time period, Edie Sedgwick was glamour incarnate.  After all, she was Betsy Johnson’s ‘It’ girl.

Biker Chic

Biker is this spring’s version of military.  We saw some of this start to creep into the fashion world this past winter with the hot riding boots that were such a big hit.  Now we’re approaching the biker realm at full throttle (no pun intended).  There will be lots of polished leathers, edgy hardware, and motorcycle style pants.  Think Olivia Newton John at the END of Grease.


Hot bodies are never out of style!

Even as a die-hard health nut I can get bored with the same old routines.  One of the most common things I hear from people who want to be in shape and work out is that lacing up their shoes and heading to the gym is the hardest part of their exercise routine.

That statement could not be more true for most of us.  It is our psychology and mindset that typically create the biggest road blocks to success.  In fact, this is true for most of our goals in life isn’t it?  If we can find a way to alter our perception of something causing us pain as opposed to pleasure, there’s nothing we can’t get done!

Now, if picturing yourself on a treadmill for 45 minutes straight or lifting weights doesn’t get you jazzed, or worse, makes you cringe, you’re probably not going to take the first step towards doing it.  In fact, that’s an understatement…you won’t do it.  You do things well when you’re excited about them and look forward to them being a part of your life.

One of the best ways to keep things interesting is to change up your approach.  Take some different classes that teach you new ways of exercising and put you in more of a group environment.  Group environments are also great for building your support networks.  You will be meeting people with similar goals to your own, they can help hold you accountable and potentially give you some pointers you may not have known.

Here are a few of things I participate in that I have a blast at and genuinely look forward to doing:

Boot Camp – A fitness boot camp is a type of outdoor group exercise that mixes traditional calisthenic and body weight exercises with interval training and strength training.  It will bear a slight resemblance to a military boot camp in that you will likely be pushed harder than you would normally push yourself.  You can search on Google, Craigslist and in the newspaper to find fitness bootcamps being held in your area.  No bootcamp where you are?  Start one!  There are a ton of online tools that can help you learn the exercises you need to craft your own routine.  Click here for a good resource.  It sounds intimidating, but it’s actually a ton of fun!  Even if you’re in the early stages of your fitness transformation, there is usually someone you can keep pace with in your group.

Yoga – This is a system of both physical and mental practices.  Yoga begins by working with the body on a structural level, helping to align the vertebrae, increase flexibility, and strengthen muscles and connective tissue. At the same time, internal organs are toned and rejuvenated; the epidermal, digestive, lymphatic, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems are purified of toxins and waste matter; the nervous and endocrine systems are balanced and toned; and brain cells are nourished and stimulated. The end result is increased mental clarity, emotional stability, and a greater sense of overall well-being.

I want to preface my strong push for you to do this by sharing my first experience in a Yoga class.  The one I attended was held in a room similar to that of a ballet studio: wood flooring and an entire wall of mirroring.  The lights were turned down very low, beautifully serene ambient noise was provided by a soundtrack of asian-style music and we all began by sitting down on the mats for some breathing exercises.  When you get rockin’ and rollin’ you’re told to try and contort your body into some seemingly impossible positions…AND control your breathing properly while doing so.  On top of it all, I got to look at myself in a mirror the entire time and bare witness to how poorly I was replicating the Yoga moves.  I felt discouraged, tired and very weak after my first session.  However, I have a competitive attitude about nearly everything and stuck with it for a few follow-up sessions.  Now I’m hooked!  This exercise makes me feel so relaxed and at peace afterwards now.  I’m glad I didn’t give up and you will be too.  Yoga has the added benefit of being something that you can do anywhere you are.  It is a great exercise for people who travel frequently or are too busy to take time out of their day to visit a gym.

Pilates  – Pilates has become very popular in recent years. Although Pilates works the entire body, the primary focus is on the core muscles (abs, lower back, and stabilizing muscles).  Pilates is very beneficial for strengthening muscles without shortening them or bulking up. In fact, dedicated Pilates practitioners are known for their long, lean look.  Pilates is Yoga’s ass-kicking older brother.  The goal of a Yoga session is to center yourself, strengthening your mind and your body equally.  Pilates has a more concentrated focus on the body facet.  This is my preferred means of exercise.  If I am looking to unwind and relax I will do a session of Yoga.  If I’m pumped up and ready to challenge my body, Pilates is my choice method.  To put it more simply, Pilates is my a.m. workout and Yoga is my p.m. workout.  If you’ve ever looked at a dancer and found yourself envying what you see…this is the workout for you!

I will stop at these 3 options so that you don’t get overwhelmed by what’s out there.  Give them a whirl and see what you think!  These are great starters because you don’t have to be a member of a gym or really buy any special equipment to get started on an exercise plan.

Try them out and share your experiences with me!  As they say in Yoga….

Namaste.