Archive for Health

Why Your Skin Needs Carotenoids

Carotenoids are good antioxidants for the skin and are found in a number of plants. They are  yellow, orange, or red colored, fat-soluble pigments that give color to plants including autumn leaves. There are over 700 different carotenoids identified by chemists. Plants use these molecules to help absorb light that is then used for photosynthesis as well as for antioxidants.

You may have been hearing since you were a child to eat your carrots so you can see better.  Lutein and the two zeaxanthin isomers are actually part of the retina of the eye where they protect the retina,  help prevent macular degeneration, and enhance vision.

Vitamin A is important for skin as it assists in the regeneration of tissue, preventing the degeneration of the epidermis. Sunlight causes damage to the skin and carotenes can help protect the skin against this damage. Carotenoids can stimulate collagen and elastin in the skin to increase its density, elasticity and firmness. In addition carotenoids can repair and regenerate these protein fibers after damage by UV light. Carotenoids help stimulate epidermal regeneration helping to soften and smooth skin. They also reduce water loss so help hydrate. Carotenoids can help reduce skin pigmentation by decreasing the size of melanocytes and melanin levels.  Thus addressing hyperpigmentation caused by UV radiation, hormones or even acne.

Overall, carotenoids can help protect skin against premature aging caused by UV exposure.  Some types of carotenoids can actually absorb UV light thus protecting skin against burning. All this makes carotenoids a powerful anti-aging and skin repair ingredient in cosmetics.

Two broad classifications of carotenoids are carotenes (orange)  and xanthophylls (yellow). But they can also be classified as compounds that can be transformed by the body to create vitamin A (retinol) or those that do not. Provitamin A carotenoids include alpha-carotene, beta carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.  Other carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene are not transformed into vitamin A but have other important roles.

We use herbs that are rich in carotenoids in our products including calendula. Over 19 different carotenoids have been identified in calendula including lycopene, gamma carotene, flavoxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene. This may explain why calendula has such a history of use in skin care. You’ll find calendula extract in our Springtide Face Creams, Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion, Sole Pleasure Foot Butter and Knuckle Balm. Another herb rich in carotenoids is parsley. You’ll find this in our Parsley Eye Serum.

Calendula Basket

Smoking, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, illness, UV light and infrared radiation (heat) all decrease the levels of carotenoids in the skin.  Studies have shown that skin that is high in carotenoids looks considerable younger than skin depleted in carotenoids.  Skin benefits from both topical and oral carotenoids.

Movember Foundation Fundraiser

Most of us are familiar now with the Movember Foundation that supports Prostate and Testicular Cancers. They are well known for their No Shave November where they urge men not to shave for the month of November to draw attention to men’s health issues, including mental health. Their goal is to “change the face of men’s health.” You can learn more about the Foundation and learn about mustache care at their website.

beard

According to The American Cancer Society prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men after skin cancer.

Colorado Aromatics shares similar values with Movember in cancer prevention and education. For this reason we want to help raise money for Movember Foundation. During the month of November we will donate $2.00 for every bottle of Red Rocks Beard Oil that we sell. We think this is a great product for men growing a beard. It not only helps soften and condition the beard, but helps care for the skin under the beard as well. If you or someone you know is growing a beard for Movember check it out. You can also donate to Movember on our MoSpace  or in our store.  Let’s do it for our Fathers, our Sons, our Brothers, our Husbands and our friends.

You can buy Red Rocks Beard Oil here. You’ll love the masculine vetiver/petitgrain scent.

Three Herbs for Skin Care

Why do we use herbs in skin care when there are so many scientific actives to choose from? Herbs are complex chemical factories that are churning out a multitude of their own antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Many of these active compounds in herbs have not even yet been identified, but we know that they do good for our skin. Herbs are also a renewable resource that we grow right here on our own farm. By sourcing in this way you get a more sustainable, farm to skin product. Herbs grown at higher elevation such as in Colorado are thought to be richer in aroma and active ingredients. Our herbs are grown under the watchful eyes of Long’s Peak and Mount Meeker that rise in the distance.

Some of our favorite herbs to use in skin care include:Calendula Basket

Calendula (Calendula officinalis). This small orange flower produces a resin that has been found to stimulate wound healing; part of the mechanism involves increased collagen production. Calendula is rich in vitamin A related components (carotenoids) which benefit skin. It has often been used for treating skin problems such as dermatitis and eczema. Calendula also provides a n abundant number of antioxidants which can help reduce skin damage caused by the environment, it is especially useful for dry and damaged skin. You can find calendula extract in Springtide Face Cream, Oasis Spray Lotion,  Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion,  Knuckle Balm, and Sole Pleasure Foot Butter. Calendula is an annual that we plant each summer and harvest throughout the summer.

Mint (Mentha x piperita). Mint is such an fresh and uplifting scent, and has a cooling feeling on the skin or when eaten. The menthol is mint also has pain relieving qualities which is why we use it in our Herbal Foot Soak. Mint contains antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin C, and B-complex as well as vitamin-K. Mint is toning to the skin and is great for hair as well. You’ll find mint in our Mint Lip Balm, Angel Falls Shampoo, Botanical Salt Scrubs,  Sole Pleasure Foot Butter, Chalk Creek Deodorant Powder, Oasis Spray Lotion and Clear Creek Hand and Body Cleanser. Mint is a perennial and comes back strong every year without replanting. Each year our mint patch gets a little bigger which is good because each year we need a little more. We also distill mint for the hydrosol to use as a facial mister.

mint

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis and Lavandin x intermedia). Lavender is by far my favorite herb to grow and it’s beauty and aroma are captivating. Lavender is a great crop for the typically dry climate of Colorado. Lavender is a very calming and anti-anxiety herb, for the nervous system as well as for the skin. Its great in a spa experience as it helps a person relax. Most of what we know about lavender is it’s aromatherapy benefits but it is helpful for most skin types but especially on dry and inflammed skin. Lavender also provides antioxidants to the skin.  Products that contain lavender include Allure Lip Balm, Angel Falls Shampoo, Chalk Creek Powder, Lavender Rose Body Oil, Botanical Salt Scrubs, Lavender Scented Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion, Coolness Aftershave Lotion and Herbal Foot Soak. We also distill lavender to make lavender water for use as a face mister.

lavender_cut Lavender is a perennial that comes back each year. It doesn’t spread like the mint does, and we plant more and more lavender each year. The past few years, our area has gotten much more rainfall than normal which has caused some problems for our lavender and many have died.

We grow over 30 different herbs for use in our Colorado Aromatics Cultivated Skin Care Line.  We’ll let you know about more of them in another blog post.

The Colorado Facial

We had our esthetician, Laura Lee, develop this facial using Colorado Aromatics products.  All of us here at Colorado Aromatics received the facial and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Colorado Facial

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After a Colorado Facial

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What you will need:  
3-4 warm, wet, washcloths Your choice of 7 Herbal Hydrosols
Yarrow Makeup Remover and Oil Cleanser Meadow Mist Exfoliating Cleanser
Starbright Brightening Face Mask Razz Tightening Serum
Parsley Eye and Face Serum Springtide Gold Face Cream
Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion  Herbal Relief or Allure Lip Balm

1. Begin by massaging a large pea size of Yarrow Makeup Remover & Oil Cleanser onto dry skin, covering all of the face. Using a warm, wet cloth remove the cleanser from the skin. Skin impurities and makeup will be attracted to the oil and will easily glide off skin.

2. Spray the skin with chosen hydrosol until damp, then apply Meadow Mist Facial Cleanser in a circular motion. This cleanser will provide mild exfoliation with jojoba beads and cleanse the skin more deeply, removing any lingering impurities. Remove with a warm, wet cloth.

3. Next, apply the Starbright Brightening Mask to the skin and let sit 10-15 minutes. This mask will provide mild exfoliation, hydration and will brighten hyper-pigmentation. Hyper-pigmentation ingredients may irritate sensitive skin. If this happens remove the mask immediately and spritz with a hydrosol. Otherwise, remove after 10-15 minutes with a warm, wet cloth.

4. During the mask time, give a hand and arm massage using Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion (citrus or lavender).

5. Spray the skin with a hydrosol, then apply Razz Tightening Serum to the face. The hydrosol will restore skin pH and provide antioxidants. This serum will lift & tighten the skin and reduce puffiness. Continue to lightly massage into face in a circular motion until the serum has been fully received by the skin.

6. Again spray the skin with a hydrosol, followed by an application of 4-5 drops of Parsley Eye and Face Serum. This serum, packed with Vitamins A & K and organic Macadamia nut oil, will reduce fine lines and dark circles as it replenishes the skin. Use this oil to give a facial massage with this tremendously nourishing and luxurious oil.

7. As a final moisturizing step, use Springtide Gold Face Cream (after spritzing with a hydrosol, of course!). This exceptionally hydrating cream will boost collagen production and fuel skin rejuvenation with an extra boost of anti-oxidants.

8. Finally, apply Herbal Relief Lip Balm or Allure Lip Balm to the lips. The conditioning oils in both are rich in phytosterols, carotenoids and vitamin E. Herbal Relief contains lemon balm extract to reduce the incidence of cold sores and prunella to soften lips. Allure contains collagen promoting ingredients to plump lips.

Enhancing Your Melatonin Production

Melatonin may be your tool for a better night’s rest which is important for health and beauty. Read my last blog about how lack of sleep can affect the skin. Melatonin is a hormone produced and secreted from your pineal gland located in the brain. This gland is so named because of its pine cone shape.

brain glands
melatonin

Once thought to house the human soul, the pineal gland is quite mysterious. It produces and secretes melatonin in a cyclical pattern; increasing at night to promote sleep and decreasing during the day to promote wakefulness. and thus helps set our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. It is thought that melatonin may also have an effect on mood and be related to SAD (seasonal affective disorder), play a role in decreasing cancer risk and act as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. As we age, the pineal gland decreases in size and so decreases the amount of melatonin secreted.

So to improve sleep  and balance mood, we want to increase our night time levels of melatonin while decreasing our daytime levels of melatonin. There are ways to do this naturally.

Light Exposure. Light decreases melatonin levels and when melatonin decreases it also helps melatonin increase at night. So try to increase your exposure to natural sunlight during the day as  much as possible, especially in the morning. Get out in the morning for a walk or to just sit on the patio if possible. If this is difficult to do during the winter months, consider sitting under a full-spectrum light box.

Also, decrease your exposure of bright light at night. This might mean not using a night light and dimming the lights in your living room as evening progresses. Red or yellow lights interfere less with melatonin production so consider using these color lights if you need a night light. Staying up late in artificially lighted houses and sleeping in bedrooms continually invaded by stray light can rob us of the restorative powers of total darkness, most of which are mediated by melatonin.

Alcohol Intake. Although its easy to have a glass of wine in the evening to help relax, alcohol intake may actually decrease nighttime melatonin levels and thus affect sleep patterns. So go easy on the alcohol if you have difficulty sleeping. Other drugs that may affect melatonin and cause sleep problems include ibuprofen, blood pressure medications, caffeine and estradiol.

Foods. Many foods either contain melatonin or can otherwise boost melatonin levels. These include oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas, cherries, squash, milk, and apples. Herbs that can elevate melatonin include maca, panax, schisandra, feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), and Huang-qin (Scutellaria baicalensis). On the  other spectrum, foods rich in sugar, caffeine, green tea, etc can contribute to insomnia.

Step away from electronics such as TV and computers before going to bed and spend a few moments in quiet. Enhancing your melatonin production may do more than just help your sleep. Increased melatonin may help many aspects of your life including mood, anxiety, headaches, and possibly reduce the risk for cancer.

Yawen Zeng, Jiazhen Yang, Juan Du, Xiaoying Pu, Xiaomen Yang, Shuming Yang, and Tao Yang. Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being. Curr Signal Transduct Ther. 2014 Dec; 9(3): 148–155.Published online 2014 Dec. doi: 10.2174/1574362410666150205165504 PMCID: PMC4440346

Russel J. Reiter, Dun-Xian Tan, Zhou Zhou, Maria Helena Coelho Cruz, Lorena Fuentes-Broto, Annia Galano. Phytomelatonin: Assisting Plants to Survive and Thrive. Molecules 2015, 20(4), 7396-7437; doi:10.3390/molecules20047396

How Lack of Sleep Affects the Skin

We’ve all heard about the importance of sleep for the body. It has important physiological effects on both the brain and the body. What are the effects of sleep, or lack of sleep, specifically on skin?

woman sleeping

Several studies have found that sleep deprivation can damage the immune system, increase fine lines on the face, decrease collagen, increase uneven pigmentation, cause dry skin, and even decrease our perception of attractiveness.  Lets look closer at some of the factors involved.

Growth Hormone. Growth hormone is a natural hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. It is secreted during deep sleep or slow wave sleep and is important for cellular and tissue repair processes as well as collagen production. Sleep deprivation decreases the secretion of growth hormone and thus skin repair.

Skin Barrier Function. The skin barrier function is one of the most important roles of skin. It helps keep water in the body and helps keep the outer environment out of the skin. Studies have found that lack of sleep can decrease the skin barrier function and lead to water loss from the skin. This can also potentially increase the risk of further skin damage or infection.

Cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. It is also increased with lack of  sleep. Cortisol can breakdown collagen in the skin causing the skin to be more fragile and lead to increased wrinkles.

Immune System. Lack of sleep has also been found to decrease our immune response. This is not only important for the role of skin but also makes us more prone to colds and flu.

Recovery. One study looked at the time it took the skin to recover from ultraviolet induced skin damage. In sleep deprived individuals this recovery time was increased.

Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. Its levels increase during the dark hours of sleep. It acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in the body.

Decreased sleep can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other diseases.

Now I hope these facts don’t stress you out making it more difficult to sleep. Read my next blog on the role of melatonin with tips for getting better sleep.

References for more information on sleep and beauty:

Sleep deprivation linked to aging skin, study suggests. Science Daily

Oyetakin White P, Koo B, Matsui MS, Yarosh D, Fthenakis C, Cooper KD, Baron ED. Effects of Sleep Quality on Skin Aging and Function. International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland 2013

Axelsson J1, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren EJ, Olsson A, Lekander M.
Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. British Medical Journal. 2010 Dec 14;341:c6614. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c6614.

Sun, Sunscreen and Coral Reefs

I just spent a week on the beach near Cancun, Mexico which reminded me of an issue with sunscreen and coral reefs. Coral reefs are a very delicate ecosystem that has been suffering in recent years. Ocean acidification, climate change, sedimentation/pollution and destructive fishing are partly to blame for the increasing collapse of coral reefs but it is also thought that sunscreens that wash off swimmers bodies’ are also to blame. Sunscreens can contain benzophenones, a common UV blocker.

Beach in Mexico

A recent study looked at Benzophenone-2 and found that this substance can harm coral reefs in 3 ways:

kill very young coral
can bleach adult coral and
can cause mutations in the DNA of coral

While benzophenone-2 is not allowed in sunscreens in the US, other, related benzophenones are used. Benzophenones are also found in colored cosmetics and fragrances where they are used to prevent breakdown of the product by UV light. Interestingly, they can also be found in inks to prevent their degradation. So if you are having a UV coating on your printed material you might ask if the ink contains benzophenones.

It appears that how sunscreens bleach the reef is indirectly by activating a virus that disrupts the micro algae that help support the reef biome.

Even natural sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are not recommended. These mineral particles do not biodegrade. The particles block sunlight and can be ingested by fish.

While sunscreen use is very important for some of us to prevent cancer, I challenge you to use less. I see people slathering on so much excess sunscreen on their body at the beach and doing it with undo frequency. I challenge you to wear protective clothing; a lightweight blouse and a wide brimmed hat. I challenge you to let the sun very lightly tan your skin. As far as I know there is no evidence that a light tan is related to cancers. I challenge you to use moderation with sunscreen for the sake of our reefs.

Did you know that coral are actually colonies of tiny animals that secrete calcium carbonate to form the coral skeleton? Many people think coral is a plant. They grow very slowly, multiplying and laying down more calcium carbonate each year. Many of them live symbiotically with microscopic algae that live on the coral’s tissue. These algae produce energy through photosynthesis for the coral to benefit from the energy produced. This is why sunlight is so important for survival of the coral reefs.

coral_stock

Reference

Downs CA1, Kramarsky-Winter E, Fauth JE, Segal R, Bronstein O, Jeger R, Lichtenfeld Y, Woodley CM, Pennington P, Kushmaro A, Loya Y., Toxicological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, benzophenone-2, on planulae and in vitro cells of the coral, Stylophora pistillata. Ecotoxicology. 2014 Mar;23(2):175-91. doi: 10.1007/s10646-013-1161-y. Epub 2013 Dec 19.

Eating for Good Skin

 

Chard LeavesA healthy diet is important for healthy skin. But what nutrients specifically are good for your skin?

Vitamin A is necessary for skin cell regeneration and repair as well as to reduce wrinkles and acne. Vitamin A and carotenoids are chemically and functionally similar. You can find high levels of vitamin A or carotenoids in orange and green colored fruits and vegetables and these herbs: parsley, dandelion, peppermint, alfalfa and red raspberry leaf.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is necessary for the production of collagen. This large protein helps support the skin to reduce wrinkles. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables including oranges, strawberries and peppers.

Vitamin E (tocopherol) is a great antioxidant and can help even out skin tone. It can be found in a wide range of vegetable oils including sunflower oil, almond oil, olive oil and grapeseed oil. Vitamin E is also found in parsley, kale and broccoli.

Vitamin K promotes capillary health. It can decrease bruising and dark circles under the eyes. Basil (Pesto!), parsley and leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin K. Be careful if you are taking blood thinning drugs like Coumadin though as vitamin K counteracts Coumadin.

Vitamin B deficiencies can lead to dermatitis and hair loss. Vitamin B is typically from animal sources but can also be found in eggs and brewers yeast.

Copper is an element important for collagen production and may help tighten skin. It can be found in Swiss chard, spinach, kale and sage.

Zinc is good for wound healing as well as for the immune system. It is found in bilberry, sage, fennel, alfalfa, stinging nettle, parsley, chamomile, hops, chickweed and Echinacea.

Essential fatty acids are important to support healthy skin and form a barrier. These can be found in many vegetable oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oil, soy oil and grapeseed oil.

Water is necessary for hydration and moisturizing from the inside is important. Drink more water.

Keeping skin healthy is important for the skin to act as a barrier between the outside of the body and the inside of the body. This barrier function prevents the body from loosing to much water and prevents bacteria and other substances from entering the body. If this barrier is weakened by lack of nutrients, dry skin or from wounds, the body becomes more susceptible to infection. So although we love to apply cosmetics to the surface of our skin to keep it healthy and moisturized, lets not forget about how important diet is for healthy skin.

An Herbal Foot Soak

 Herbal Foot Soak

A Foot Soak can be a great pleasure at the end a hard day.  Foot soaks are especially enjoyable if you work at a job where you stand most of the day or if you are a hiker. The benefits of a Foot Soak include:
Improves circulation in the feet.
Reduces stress and helps you relax
Improves sleep
Decreases foot pain, especially that from standing all day
Soothes and hydrates skin
Soaking helps soften calluses, so partner a foot soak with an exfoliating treatment such as a sugar scrub.
Helps remove bacteria and fungus from around the toenails
Decreases foot odor
If you have diabetes or are prone to edema the benefits of a foot soak are even more important.

How to do a foot soak? You will need a container large enough and deep enough for your feet. I like to use a plastic dish pan, a rug to put under the pan to keep water off the floor, a towel to dry your feet on and whatever you want to use in your foot soak. Of course we recommend Colorado Aromatics Herbal Foot Soak followed by Sole Pleasure Foot Butter.
1.    Heat water on the stove to boiling. Put Herbal Foot Soak bag in a bowl and pour boiling water over this. Let infuse for several minutes.
2.    Fill your dish pan with very warm water, about 100-101 F. I usually start hotter because the water cools down quickly. Pour the hot herb ‘tea’ into the water in the dish pan. If you like, you can add a drop or two of essential oil to this as well.
3.    Sit and enjoy the foot bath for 10-15 minutes or however long you like. Drink a cup of tea while resting.
4.    When ready, take your feet out of the water and pat dry with a towel. At this time it is also good to apply Sole Pleasure Foot Butter to your feet and put socks on.
Now I bet you are relaxed and either ready to call it a night or go out dancing.

Collagen Boosting Ingredients

Collagen protein is made of amino acids.

Collagen protein is made of amino acids.

Collagen is an important structural component found in skin. It is produced in the dermis of the skin by cells called fibroblasts. This protein is very important to the skin and provides support to the epidermis, firmness and is involved in wound healing.  Collagen levels in the skin decrease with aging and exposure to UV light. These decreases are associated with wrinkles and thinning skin so it is important to take measures to maintain skin collagen levels.  Sun is one of the hardest things on the skin and UV irradiation can lead to lower levels of collagen in the skin, a condition known as photoaging which leads to wrinkles.

Colorado Aromatics Springtide Gold is a great collagen boosting product due to its ingredients that include alpha lipoic acid, green tea, vitamin C ester, Tripeptide-5 and calendula extract.

Green tea can help prevent and repair skin damage caused by the sun, particularly by preventing breakdown of collagen fibers in the connective tissue. It does this by inhibiting oxidation of proteins and inhibiting matrix metalloproteins (MMP) that break down collagen.

The antioxidant alpha lipoic acid has known antiaging effects on the skin. ALA can increase the production of new collagen in the skin through a mechanism involving TGF-beta.

The herb calendula officinalis has been shown to stimulate wound healing; presumably part of the mechanism involves increased collagen production. Subsequently, calendula has been shown to inhibit the degradation of collagen in tissue cells by inhibiting MMP proteins.

Vitamin C also helps boost collagen. In fact the biosynthetic pathway for collagen involves vitamin C.  Vitamin C also increases the production of collagen as well as increases replication of fibroblasts, the cells that make collagen. There are multiple steps in the biosynthesis of collagen where vitamin C is required, in other words, there can be no collagen without vitamin C.

Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 is an ingredient produced by green chemistry. Clinical studies have shown that it can boost collagen levels in the skin and reduce wrinkles.

Colorado Aromatics cultivated skin care for the outdoor lifestyle to repair damage caused by the environment.