Nature’s Best Pedicure

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Nature’s Best Pedicure

By SHANNON MURPHY

I am a new resident of the lovely prefecture of Japan called Okinawa.  Part of the excitement of moving to a new location is the discovery of new foods, cultural sites, and activities.  Today, had a lunch date with my hubby at the delicious Indian food restaurant, Alibaba, in American Village.

Afterwards, we walked around the mall and came across a sign, Dr. FishBeing naturally inquisitive (aka nosey person), I was intrigued by the pictures that were posted of little fish all over people’s hands, feet and legs.  I looked at my hubby and said, “Let’s do this!”  They advertised a five minute trial course for only 500 yen ($7), and we figured we could handle the tiny fish for only five minutes.

There was a small, plastic pool with warm water (about 27 degrees C) with many small Garra Rufa, the scientific name for these fish.  We bravely took off our shoes and at the instant our toes touched the water, approximately 50-60 fish immediately started nibbling my feet!  The sensation is hard to describe, but it did not hurt at all.

These fish are toothless, so no actual biting is occurring.   It was incredibly ticklish and for the first minute as they puckered along my skin, I found myself giggling like a young school girl!  Once I became used to the sensation, it actually became more relaxing as the tiny creatures devoured the dry, dead skin from my feet.

I admit I had many more fish at my feet than my hubby did, but I wear sandals more often and always have extremely dry heels.  Honestly, my heels feel just as smooth after only five minutes with Dr. Fish than when I spend $40 on a spa pedicure and they scrub my heels.  However, I did not walk out of the fish pool with prettily colored toe nails.  🙂

Garra Rufa ready to dine on old calluses and corns. Yum!

BENEFITS OF DR. FISH

Garra Rufa are a freshwater cyprinid fish that mainly inhabit local hot springs in the central region of the Turkish Republic. They are accustomed to living in water temperatures of 28 degrees C, but can still swim vigorously in 37 degree C water. The practice of using these therapy fish dates way back to Cleopatra, where she relied on them for her beautiful skin.

The Garra Rufa eat rough, dry human skin as food and are reported to alleviate symptoms of many skin ailments, such as calluses and corns.  The removal of the dry skin stimulates your senses and is a soothing way to help you relax.  Therapy fish spas have also been long known for their ability to treat the symptoms of skin conditions, such as psoriasis.

The small Turkish town of Kangal has a spa that has been a healing destination for over 100 years.  Since 1988, this spa has a treatment center for those suffering from psoriasis.

Now for the Warning…

Numerous countries in the world have therapeutic fish spas and resorts, as well as a few states in the United States and Quebec, a province of Canada.  You can easily do a search online and find your nearest state or country that has them. However, those that have outlawed them claim the use of the fish is unsanitary since they cannot be “cleaned” like regular cosmetology tools.   An article in the Wall Street Journal reported that “cosmetology regulations generally mandate that tools need to be discarded or sanitized after each use.  But epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to throw away.”

There have also been a few reports where customers contracted fungal skin infections; therefore, you should take care in choosing a spa based on recommendations.  Another concern that has been discussed is the contraction of blood-borne diseases, such as Hepatitis and HIV, from the same fish nibbling on others feet while having open sores. Koray Altan, manager of psoriasisfishcure.com (the company that organizes bookings for the spa in Kangal, Turkey) explained, “The HIV virus, for example, cannot survive outside the human body and fish cannot transmit the virus from one person to another.”

You should always use good judgment if choosing to utilize one of these facilities: use a facility that has good recommendations, do not use if you have open sores, wash your feet afterwards with soapy water, and use clean towels and your own slippers when exiting the pool.

Dr. Fish in Action

Sources:
“Fish Therapy Gone Wrong”, August 26, 2008
http://www.asiaone.com/Health/Women%2527s+Matters/Story/A1Story20080825-84184.html
“Eaten Alive”, April 9, 2007
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/apr/10/healthandwellbeing.health2
“Doctor Fish”, 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_fish
“Psoriasis Treatment in Turkey”, 
http://www.psoriasisfishcure.com/moreinfo.htm

Homemade Skin Treats

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Many natural ingredients have special properties that help heal, soothe and rejuvenate the complexion. They can be made into effective facial recipes with little time and effort.

Jojoba Cleanser and Eye Makeup Remover

Jojoba is non-greasy and rich in antioxidant vitamin E (tocopherols) giving it natural moisturizing and healing properties. It is also resistant to oxidation and so very stable.

  • Add 50ml jojoba oil to 6 drops of an essential oil or blend that suits your skin type.

Store in an airtight bottle and use within four weeks. (For treating eczema, psoriasis and acne prone skin- use hemp seed oil)

Vinegar Toner

Vinegar has a tonic action that promotes circulation in the tiny capillaries that nourish the skin. It is also antiseptic, dissolves excess fatty deposits on the skin surface, reduces scaly or peeling conditions, and regulates the skin’s pH.

Apple cider vinegar is rich in enzymes and organic acids and full of vitamins and minerals. It is particularly effective when used with lavender, rose or rosemary essential oils.

  • Stir 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into 250ml of pure water and add up to 5 drops of an essential oil or blend that suits your skin type. Apply to your face after cleansing.

Keep refrigerated and use within four weeks.

Avocado Mask with Manuka Honey

Avocado is rich in vitamins A, D and E, beta-carotene, potassium (the ‘youth mineral’), proteins, lecithin, and essential fatty acids. It also contains plant steroids, called sterolins, which help soften and moisturize the skin, reduce age spots and heal sun damage and scars. 

Avocado is a wonderful emollient and assists in the regeneration and rejuvenation of the skin. It is ideal for mature, dehydrated and sun-or-climate-changed skin. It also helps relieve the dryness and itching of psoriasis and eczema.

All honey naturally attracts moisture and penetrates deeply, moisturizing and repairing the cracking or damage caused by dryness. Manuka honey is highly antibacterial and rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes and amino acids – all essential for healthy skin. Active manuka honey is unique to New Zealand and contains non-peroxide antibacterial agents that inhibit the bacteria that cause acne. It also helps treat slow-healing wounds such as eczema and burns.

FOR NORMAL SKIN

  • Mash the flesh of half a medium-sized organic avocado into a creamy texture.  Massage into the face and neck, leave on for 15-20 minutes. Gently rinse off with warm water, then, if you wish, dab your skin with cool green tea.

FOR VERY DRY SKIN AND MATURE SKIN TYPES

  • Add 1 tablespoon of manuka honey to the mashed avocado

FOR OILY SKIN

  • Add 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed organic lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of manuka honey to the mashed avocado. Use the same day.

Nourishing Banana Mask

This face mask will gently detoxify and rehydrate your skin, leaving it glowing. Bananas are a good source of potassium, vitamins A, B6 and C – all are wonderfully effective at softening and hydrating the skin.

Our skin has a protective layer to keep water in and foreign substances out. Cold or hot weather, wind, air-conditioning and heating can all damage this layer, making it dry and flaky. When you smear this banana mixture on your face, oil molecules form a temporary waterproof layer over your face, giving your skin cells a chance to rebuild their moisture levels.

  • Mash together half a small banana, 1 teaspoon of hemp oil and 1 teaspoon of manuka honey.
  • Smooth the mixture over your skin and leave for 10 minutes before gently rinsing it off with warm water. This mask won’t keep, so make it fresh whenever you want to use it.

Green Tea Soothing Spray

Green tea (camellia sinensis) is a powerful antioxidant and inhibits bacterial growth. The leaves contain tannic acid which is cooling on the skin (especially for sunburn). It also contains catechins, which help prevent and can even repair skin damage.

  • Steer 1 cup of organic green tea leaves in 1 liter of boiling, filtered water for 20 minutes.
  • Cool and strain the liquid into a sterilized bottle and refrigerate. It will keep for eight days. If your skin is prone to blemishes, add 1 teaspoon of dried sage or basil before making the infusion.

In addition to making a refreshing facial mist or blemish remedy – splash on, do not rinse – this infusion can be used to freshen strained or tired eyes.

  • Soak cotton pads in green tea solution, squeeze out excess, and lay gently on closed eyelids.
  • Leave on for 10 minutes. Repeat if necessary. It can also be used as a perk-up for tired feet or an anti-fungal foot soak, or to soothe minor sunburn: soak a cloth in the tea and place on the sunburned area for about 15 minutes.

For thousands of years women have turned to nature to help enhance their own beauty. The ancient Romans used beauty packs consisting of raw eggs mixed with honey.

Oatmeal and Banana Exfoliator

Oatmeal is highly absorbant, hypoallergenic and helps soften skin and heal dry, itchy skin. Of all the cereal grains, oats have the best balance of amino acids, which work as water-binding agents in skin care products.

  • If you have oily or acne-prone skin, add 1 tablespoon of organic fine oatmeal to the banana mask mix. (recipe above)

The small grains will gently exfoliate your face, removing dead skin and trapped dirt.

Pineapple or Papaya Exfoliator

Pineapple contains the natural enzyme bromelain, which helps to break down the keratin proteins that form dead skin cells and so has a natural exfoliating effect that helps to improve skin texture.

Papaya is rich in the natural enzyme papain, which also has skin smoothing properties.

  • Simply rub a thin slice of pineapple or papaya over your skin to lift dead skin cells and exfoliate the skin. Leave to act for five minutes then rinse off with tepid water.

 

Recommended Reading: Naturally Gorgeous by Charlotte Vohtz

Toxic Skin Care Products

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Beauty from the Inside Out

Your skin is the body’s largest organ and its condition is an indicator of your overall health. Healthy skin starts from within and proper nutrition is crucial to your looks and well-being. Eating a balanced nutrient rich diet based on fresh organic produce, combined with moderate exercise and a positive outlook on life will contribute to a glowing, radiant complexion.

If your skin is looking tired, sallow and prone to spots, you might wish to consider a detox. The health of your digestive system, your liver, the acidity of your blood and the way you breathe all affect your health and your looks. Drink plenty of fresh pure water throughout the day and increase your intake of dietary fibre and essential fatty acids.

Care for your digestive tract – it not only assists the removal of toxins, but it also releases vital energy for healing and elimination.

Absorbed Directly into the Blood Stream

What you put on your skin can also affect your inner health. It is now known that up to 60% of what comes into contact with the skin may be absorbed and can enter the bloodstream, from where it is transported to every organ of the body. Many ingredients used in mainstream cosmetics and personal care products are toxic to living cells – examples include ethanol, synthetic perfumes, and many preservatives. The same applies to household cleaning products, many of which contain potentially toxic ingredients.

What’s in your moisturiser? 

There are a number of factors that limit the choice of ingredients that can be used in organic skin care products, which makes it difficult to create totally organic formulations. Currently, only salves, butters and balms can be 100% organic. These products contain plant based oils, waxes, essential oils and nothing else. As they don’t contain water, they don’t need preservatives – but consumers may find them heavy and greasy.

Water is the main ingredient of most skin care lotions and creams, accounting for as much as 75% of the total. It may be listed as ‘aqua’ (Latin for water) or indicated by ingredients such as aloe vera juice, herbal infusions, seaweed extracts or floral waters.

Lighter skin care products such as creams and lotions are more complicated to formulate as water and oil must be held together by an emulsifier. In addition, any product containing water needs a preservative to prevent it becoming contaminated with micro-organisms.

 

EMOLLIENTS

Emollients are the oily or fatty part of the emulsion. Emollients prevent dryness and protect the skin, providing lasting lubrication and softening. Natural emollients such as plant oils and butters are soluble in sebum, and easily absorbed and utilised by skin cells. They are readily biodegradable, available as organic ingredients and are of edible quality.

Most high-street skin care products are synthetic emollients such as mineral oils (paraffin wax and petrolatum) because they are cheap and stable. Mineral oils simply coat the skin, which stops the skin breathing and can cause irritation.

Other synthetic emollients include silicones (methicone and dimethicone). Like mineral oils they can inhibit the skin’s ability to release toxins and may cause irritation. They are also non-biodegradable.

 

HUMECTANTS

Skin creams are designed to keep skin moist and so must have humectant properties to retain skin moisture. Humectants draw and hold onto moisture from anything around them.

Collagen, elastin and keratin are widely used humectants as they are compatible with the skin and deposit a protective film. However, they are usually sourced from animals, and so most consumers prefer to avoid them.

Glycerine and lecithin are natural, plant-derived humectants. Glycerine, the most common, is derived from oils and fats made during soap-making. Natural phospholipids such as lecithin are excellent humectants as they increase skin hydration without forming a coating and so allow the skin to breath.

Synthetic humectants such as propylene glycol can cause irritation and should be avoided.

DETERGENTS

Detergents are foaming emulsifiers found in shampoos, shower gels and soaps. They’re designed to emulsify oily grime, keeping it in liquid suspension until it is washed away. Because all detergents emulsify oils, they can remove sebum, leading to dry skin. They can also interact with cell membranes – causing irritation.

Some detergents are more irritating than others. Harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulphate strip away natural protective oils, leaving the skin dry and inflamed. Milder detergents such as coco betaine and decyl glucoside are less irritating and are more suitable for sensitive skin.

COLORANTS

Natural, nutrient rich colours can be found in avocado, pumpkin seed oil or chlorophyll (green), azulene from chamomile (blue) and rose hip or calendula oils (golden orange). These colours are not as vivid and vibrant as those from synthetic colours and may change or fade with exposure to light and oxygen.

Avoid synthetic colours: they are used to make products look more appealing to consumers, but they can cause allergic skin reactions. Some contain heavy metals and may be carcinogenic.

FRAGRANCE

As much as 95% of the ingredients in the fragrances or perfumes used in skin care products are synthetic. Fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions.

Blends of pure, natural essential oils provide a pleasant fragrance, but with added therapeutic properties. Scents made with natural ingredients may cause skin irritation, but you are less likely to suffer allergic reactions than with synthetic fragrances.

PRESERVATIVES

Just like food, all natural skin care products eventually deteriorate and become unfit for use. Most cosmetics contain preservatives to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination during their intended shelf life. Preservatives are a leading cause of allergy and irritation.

In particular, the following can cause allergic reactions or irritation, or may act as a donors of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin: Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, 2-bromo, 2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol, diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium 15. 

 

PARABENS

Parabens (including methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl pareben) are commonly used as preservatives in personal care products. Although parabens are found in nature, they should be used with caution because they can disrupt hormone levels.

Research from the University of Reading published in 2004 found higher than normal levels of parabens in tissue from breast tumours. Research published in 1998 showed that butylparaben is the most POWERFUL of these oestrogen-mimics, while propylparaben can REDUCE sperm production.

LANOLIN

Derived from sheep’s wool, lanolin itself is perfectly safe and may be beneficial to the skin. However, cosmetic grade lanolin can be contaminated with carcinogens, such as the pesticide lindane, and organophosphates, which have been linked to central nervous system disorders.

TALC

The cosmetic talc found in baby powders, face powders, body powders and some contraceptives is carcinogenic. Inhaling talc and using it in the genital area is associated with an increased risk of lung and ovarian cancer respectively. Talc should never be used on babies, both because of its carcinogenicity and due to the acute respiratory distress from inhalation that can result in death.

In conclusion, it is no wonder so many people are getting cancer. The majority of people have been using toxic chemicals since they were little.  If you are skeptical about what you have just read, I recommend you do your own research and find out for yourself if all of this is the truth or just plain paranoia.

 

 

 

Recommended Reading: Naturally Gorgeous by Charlotte Vohtz