Hair cosmetics. Chamomile flowers and cosmetic bottles of essential oil and extract on white wooden background.

The Benefits of Plant Oils for Scalp and Hair Health

Do you want healthy, shiny hair and a scalp that's free from dandruff and itchiness? If so, you should consider using plant oils in your haircare routine. Plant oils are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can nourish your scalp and hair, similar to how they nourish the skin. In this blog post, we'll discuss the benefits of plant oils for scalp and hair health. We'll also provide tips on how to use plant oils to improve your scalp and hair health.

So if your scalp is dry, itchy, or flaky--or your hair is dry, brittle, frizzy, chemically treated, or prone to split ends, then a hot oil treatment may be your saving grace. Keep reading to learn more!

 

Pine essential oil with wood hair comb

What do we mean by plant oils?

Simply, plant oils--also known as vegetable oils or carrier oils--are lipids that are cold-pressed, expelled, or otherwise extracted from the seeds, nuts, or kernels of plants. Plant oils vary greatly in their lipid chemistry and fatty acid composition, so some will be very light and have a dry feel, while others will be heavier, with a more oily feel. Some them work from the inside out, and others work from the outside in. Because of this variety, you can be sure there's an oil for you.

 

Essential oils for hair with comb and leaves

What are the benefits of plant oils for scalp and hair health?

Hot oil can swell the hair strand and slightly raise the outer layer of the hair shaft to allow for better penetration and absorption. When it cools, it closes and seals the hair cuticle, helping to protect your hair from damage.

If you have dry, porous, or medium-coarse hair texture, your hair may like the “penetrating” and “coating” oils.

If you have fine hair which tends to get weighed down by oils, your hair may like a blend of penetrating and coating oils.

 

Natural cosmetics, coconut oil hair treatments concept, view from above

The difference between penetrating oils and coating oils for the hair and scalp:

PENETRATING OILS- INSIDE OUT 

“Penetrating” oils can lock in moisture from the inside out. Moisture is one of the critical elements needed to strengthen hair and prevent breakage.

Coconut, sunflower, and Babassu oils are ideal penetrating oils.

Coconut oil has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft deeply. Studies have shown that coconut oil is also capable of reducing protein loss in the hair. Protein is what gives hair its fullness, bounce, and sheen. Coconut oil also helps improve blood circulation, thereby supporting hair growth.

Sunflower oil can help undol hair damage from friction. Hair friction occurs when the hair strands rub against each other during aggressive manipulation (combing, brushing, styling, heat exposure, and over-washing). Sunflower oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may relieve an itchy scalp.

Babassu oil is a Brazilian oil that contains a high amount of vitamin E and other antioxidants, which help the scalp and hair repair damage from external toxicants and free radicals. Babassu oil also has anti-microbial properties that protect sensitive and irritated scalps from harmful pathogens.

 

Dropper bottles with fresh ripe avocado and essential oil on white table flat lay

COATING OILS- OUTSIDE IN 

While penetrating oils can seep inside your hair shaft, “coating” oils sit on top of your hair strands and lock in moisture from the outside in. This provides an additional layer of protection against hot tools and Earthly elements like humidity and UV rays.

Castor, olive, avocado, and sweet almond oil are ideal coating oils.

Cold-pressed castor oil contains ricinoleic acid that helps lock in moisture while creating an optimal environment for hair growth. Please note that while castor oil great for hair, those prone to dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis should not apply it to the scalp. Castor oil’s fatty acid composition has the ability to “feed” fungal conditions and make them worse.

Olive oil is full of oleic acid, which is an emollient with softening and nourishing properties. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to it, which can help calm down inflammation on your scalp.

Avocado oil has a potent mix of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E, forming a protective barrier that coats hair strands, making them more flexible and much stronger. It also may help stimulate blood flow and unclog congested follicles.

Sweet Almond oil is packed with vitamin E, proteins, and antioxidants which help protect hair from environmental damage such as air pollution, and contains magnesium, which reduces hair breakage.

 

grape seed oil in a small jar. Selective focus. nature.

LIGHTWEIGHT COATING OILS- OUTSIDE IN

For more delicate hair strands, lighter-weight argan, grapeseed, and marula oils are ideal coating oils.

Argan oil, also known as Moroccan oil, is rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins A and E, which work together to heal split ends, smooth hair, and tamps down frizz. Argan can also help to manage sebum (body's natural oil) production, as well as nourish the scalp.

Grapeseed oil is odorless and incredibly lightweight. Its high levels of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E can help strengthen brittle, fragile hair. Grapeseed also can help loosen dead skin and restore moisture.

Marula oil is an African oil that is rich in fatty acids, vitamins C and E, antioxidants, and flavonoids. Marula oil assists in moisture retention, increases hair elasticity, and imparts a natural shine. Marula oil also is a great choice as a leave-on oil because it is pH balanced and is known to be non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog your hair follicles.

If you have an inflammatory skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema, always consult your licensed healthcare practitioner or dermatologist if a hot oil treatment is safe to use on your scalp.

If you have sensitive scalp/skin sensitivities, give yourself a patch test to see if you react adversely to the oil (give it 24 hours to respond).

 

dermatologist sitting at table examining skin of patient in clinic

Do you want to learn more about how to help your clients look and feel their best with an integrative approach?

Check out our professionally accredited Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® (CNAP) Training Program! In this program, you will gain solid foundational knowledge about our integrative approach to healthy skin. We also teach you how to create programs and packages that will educate your clients, and help them implement lasting changes to their lifestyle that will help them achieve significant improvements to their skin and overall wellbeing. Learn more, download our syllabus, and enroll today HERE!

About the author:

Today’s post was written by our Advisory Board member, Jules Annen, PhD. Learn more about Jules HERE.


Woman thinking about her skin condition

Is H. Pylori Behind Your Chronic Skin Condition?

If you're struggling with chronic skin issues, it's important to try to find the root cause of what's causing them. Could it be your diet? Your cosmetics? An imbalanced microbiome?

One of the largest responsibilities of the gut microbiome is to keep pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, and other malevolent microbes at bay. However, even a strong, biodiverse microbiome might be compromised should a powerful pathogen come in. One possible culprit is H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori), a pathogenic bacterium that can infect the stomach and small intestine, and cause a number of different health problems. Though H. pylori is usually associated with digestive issues, it can also affect the skin.

Woman wondering what causes an H. Pylori infection

What causes an H. pylori infection?

It is estimated that more than 50 to 75% of the world’s population has an undetected, long-term H. pylori infection. It may take months, or even years for symptoms to appear, and some people never experience symptoms at all--it's estimated that only 20% of people living with H. pylori will experience symptoms. This is troublesome because many people who experience chronic skin issues wouldn't necessarily link that to something internal like an H. pylori infection.

H. pylori is highly contagious (primarily via saliva), and anyone can get it.

H. pylori has been linked to peptic ulcer disease, gastric lymphoma, and gastric carcinoma (the pathogen itself is classified as a class 1 carcinogen). It has also been reported to cause diseases affecting the cardiovascular and immune systems, the liver, as well the skin. Skin issues such as idiopathic urticaria (presence of wheals, and erythema), pruritis, acne rosacea, alopecia areata, eczema, psoriasis, and some types of dermatitis have also been linked to its presence.

Though studies have not yet definitely named H. pylori as a cause of the aforementioned skin diseases, multiple reports have shown "epidemiological and experimental evidence for a possible role of H. pylori infection in skin autoimmune diseases," as well as an association between the pathogen's presence and presence of acne rosacea, and multiple other conditions and diseases of the skin. It's also been observed that for many patients who experienced a chronic or autoimmune skin disorder alongside an H. pylori infection, eradication of the infection significantly improved the skin disorder.

Woman look at and touching her skin

How does H. pylori affect the skin?

It is already well established that the health of the gastrointestinal tract is directly linked to diseases and symptoms of the skin, via the gut-skin axis. "H. pylori multiply in the mucus layer of the stomach lining and duodenum. The bacteria secrete an enzyme called urease that converts urea to ammonia. This ammonia protects the bacteria from stomach acid. As H. pylori multiply, it eats into the tissue," which weakens the mucosal barrier of the intestines, which allows the lining to be directly in contact with bile and other digestive acids. This leads to a chronic state of inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, and gut dysbiosis--all of which contribute to the development of inflammatory skin conditions. 

Blood test for H. Pylori

How do you know if H. pylori is behind your skin condition?

For many people who have tried everything from a holistic perspective but are still not seeing positive results--or are experiencing worsening or additional topical or internal symptoms--H.pylori infection might be the root cause. Fortunately, it is simple to test for using blood antibody, urea breath, stool antigen, or when needed, stomach biopsy tests. Most of these tests can be ordered through conventional primary care or GI specialist doctors and are covered by insurance. However, the stool antigen tests (such as the GI Map or GI Effects) are not always offered by conventional doctors, and need to be ordered through and interpreted by a doctor or nutritionist with functional or naturopathic specialties. These tests might or might not be covered by insurance.

Doctor holds a blister with an antibiotic.

How is H. pylori treated?

Treatment options vary and range from conventional antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors to biofilm disruptors and strong antimicrobial herbal supplements on the holistic side. What type of treatment each person needs varies, as not everyone is a candidate for herbal antimicrobials, and sometimes combination therapy is needed. H. pylori is a stubborn and resilient pathogen and can be difficult to completely eradicate. Re-infection is also possible, especially if the person's immune function is low, or additional pathogenic or parasitic microorganisms are present in the gut microbiome. Often, H. pylori is not the only microbial culprit!

If you or your client suspects an H. pylori infection--or if a stubborn skin issue just won't clear in spite of using proper skincare and eating clean, a visit to a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor or functional nutrition practitioner is in order.

Woman learning about skin conditions on computer

Do you want to learn additional possible root causes of common skin issues?

So there you have it. A quick roundup of H. pylori and how it might be impacting your skin health (or the health of someone you know). We hope this was helpful! If you’d like more information on potential root causes of skin issues, and how to help your clients, we’ve got a course for that.

Enrollment is open for our Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program! Learn more, download our syllabus, and enroll HERE.

 

*Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, or treat any health or skin condition. Please consult with your licensed healthcare provider for advice and information about your own skin or health.


Woman pushing large tire in CrossFit gym

The Role Testosterone Plays in Women's Skin Health

Many people mistakenly believe that testosterone is a hormone that exclusively impacts men. But, in reality, testosterone levels influence everyone’s health, and women need to ensure that they have a healthy balance of testosterone and estrogen, too. Unfortunately, spotting a testosterone imbalance can be difficult. But, as with all hormonal irregularities, if you have an imbalance, you may notice skin conditions like acne or melasma first. 

So, how does testosterone impact women’s skin health? And what can women do to support healthy testosterone levels?

Woman standing with heavy barbell on shoulders

Testosterone in women

When most people hear “testosterone,” they think of bodybuilders and NFL athletes. However, in reality, testosterone is a hormone we all have in abundance, as it helps with normal daily functions and keeps us feeling focused and energized. 

For women, testosterone is secreted through the ovaries and the adrenal gland. Some of this testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone or estrogen. However, normal blood testosterone levels for women are around 15-70 nanograms per deciliter. This “normal” level is likely to change during a woman’s life and naturally declines as you age. 

Testosterone has many different functions in the body. It maintains your libido, combats the onset of conditions like osteoporosis, and helps modulate your mood. In addition, testosterone, like all hormones, plays a crucial role in ensuring that your skin looks healthy and happy. 

tired woman sleeping on office table at night

Hormonal imbalances and skin

There are plenty of reasons why you might experience a skin condition or pimple flare-up. Anything from allergens, genes, or autoimmune diseases can cause skin conditions like acne, rosacea, or psoriasis; and poor hygiene may make issues worse. For most conditions, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor as soon as possible (we recommend an integrative, functional, or naturopathic doctor), as they may be able to spot underlying issues and can usually get you on track to improve your skin health. 

However, it’s also possible that hormonal imbalances are at the root of your skin condition. That’s because hormones do more than cause hot flashes or mood swings. They regulate our day-to-day behavior and determine things like our sleep cycles, appetite, stress responses, and libido. 

Your hormones are also influenced by environmental factors, and imbalances may be caused by things like poor diets, an overdose of caffeine, too much alcohol or sugar, or a lack of sleep. Unfortunately, these are all things that we are predisposed to in modern society, which can mean getting your hormones back in balance can be difficult and stressful. 

Testosterone imbalance in women can lead to acne

Hormonal acne

Let’s talk about acne for a moment. Acne is a condition that impacts 50% of women between the ages of 20-29 and can continue to impact women in their 40s. While researchers aren’t entirely sure about what causes acne, hormonal acne may flare up during menstruation or menopause, as your testosterone levels are in flux during this time. 

There are natural treatments for hormonal acne, but first and foremost, you must understand that acne is a normal part of life — even if the beauty industry says otherwise. Holding unrealistic beauty standards won’t help your acne go away and may even worsen the flare-up as stress is one of the root causes of acne. So, before you start reaching for harsh chemicals or popping pimples, try to think of your acne as a normal part of life rather than a blemish to be embarrassed about. 

natural protein food on table

Handling testosterone

Your testosterone levels naturally change throughout your life. As such, there’s no universal remedy to a testosterone imbalance: women going through menopause may benefit from bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, while women with high testosterone may need other treatments to rebalance their levels. The key is to speak to a qualified, licensed medical professional who can help you get the treatment you need and ensure that you aren’t at risk from other underlying conditions. 

That said, there are also a few natural remedies to testosterone-induced skincare issues — most of which involve making lifestyle changes. You can boost your testosterone naturally by engaging in exercise and weightlifting and ensuring that you eat a diet founded on whole foods with plenty of protein and carbs. You also need to keep your sleep schedule in check and ensure that you aren’t drinking too much alcohol, as this can dampen your body's ability to produce testosterone. 

It’s also possible that you’re being exposed to xenoestrogens that mimic the effect of estrogen. Estrogen and testosterone work in unison with one another, so staying away from xenoestrogens could be the answer to your testosterone imbalance. 

Female doctor using laptop at work

Conclusion

Hormones play a vital role in women’s health and skincare. However, our hormones are always in flux, as environmental changes and genetic predispositions influence the amount of testosterone we produce. If you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, or just want to get a better understanding of how hormones are impacting your skin, then you should get in touch with a medical professional who can figure out if and why your testosterone is irregular and create a treatment plan to help you live a healthier, happier life with fewer acne flare-ups. 

Do you want to learn more about the role of hormones in skin health?

We devote an entire month to studying this topic in our professionally accredited Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program. Learn more, download our syllabus, and enroll here.


Probiotics food background. Korean carrot, kimchi, beetroot, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers in glass jars. Winter fermented and canning food concept.

Fermented Foods: Do They Really Help Clear Up Skin Issues?

Though fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and sourdough bread have been staples in traditional menus of various cultures throughout the world for centuries, they are new to most who eat the Standard American Diet. In recent years, as information about the microbiome continues to spread--as well as the connection between gut health and skin health--fermented foods have made a comeback for many people looking to improve their gut health and clear up skin issues. But do fermented foods really help clear up skin issues? Are there any contraindications?

The connection between gut health and skin health is well-established. In fact, the gut microbiome is now considered a "new organ" by many scientists and medical professionals, as it plays such a vital role in our overall health. The gut microbiome consists of trillions of microbes--bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa--that live in our intestines, and it has a huge impact on our immune system, metabolism, and inflammation levels. When the gut microbiome is out of balance, it can lead to a host of health problems, including skin issues.

Fermented foods are a great way to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, which can help to restore balance and improve gut health. In addition, fermented foods are high in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that have been shown to improve gut health, skin health, and overall immune function.

Fermented foods concept. Fermented, pickled, marinated preserved vegetarian food. Organic vegetables and fruits in jars with spice and herbs on white kitchen.

What are fermented foods?

Fermented foods are foods that have been fermented with bacteria, yeast, or a combination of both. During the fermentation process, these microorganisms break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fiber in the food into lactic acid, alcohol, and carbon dioxide. This not only makes the food more digestible but also increases its nutrient content and helps to preserve it.

During the fermentation process, bacteria feed on natural sugars and starches in foods to develop acid, gas, or alcohol. Fermentation typically preserves food while increasing its digestibility and content of vitamins, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria.  The beneficial, or probiotic, bacteria found in fermented foods support the health of your digestion and inner ecosystem.

Depending on the particular food or beverage being fermented, the fermentation process may take days, weeks, or months. Fermentation was originally used as a means of food preservation to prevent spoilage before refrigeration was common. Today, it is widely recognized that fermented foods offer unique health benefits due to their natural and varied content of beneficial bacteria, which develops as food ferments.

fermented foods in glass jars

What cultures include fermented foods in their diets?

Fermented foods are a staple in many traditional diets around the world. In Asia, fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are popular condiments used in cuisines from China to Germany. In Africa, fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir are common, as well as fermented grains like sourdough bread. In Latin America, fermented beverages like chicha and pulque are popular, as well as fermented meats like chorizo.

Today, you’ll find those foods becoming widely available regardless of geographic location. Look for fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kombucha, miso, natto, tempeh, and kefir as examples of fermented foods.

Assortment of various fermented and pickled foods

Make sure your foods are actually fermented--not pickled for best results.

Though fermented and pickled foods are both preserved with vinegar or brine, there is a big difference between the two. Pickled foods are cucumbers, peppers, onions, and other vegetables that have been soaked in vinegar or brine for a short period of time (usually less than 24 hours). Fermented foods are made by fermenting the food for a longer period of time (usually several days to weeks) with bacteria or yeast. As a result, fermented foods are lower in vinegar and have a more sour taste than pickled foods.

Figuring out which foods are truly fermented, as opposed to pickled in vinegar or pasteurized to remain shelf-stable, takes a little examination. Look for pickled foods that have been fermented in a salt water brine rather than vinegar, and choose products that are stored in the refrigerated section of your market to sustain their living bacteria. On the label of these products, you may see words like, ‘active,’ ‘live,’ ‘fermented,’ ‘cultured,’ and ‘probiotic.’

Fermented preserved vegetarian food concept. Sour sauerkraut, pickled carrots, pickles, pickled celery glass jars on a wooden kitchen table.

Can fermented foods really clear up skin issues?

"A diet rich in fermented foods enhances the diversity of gut microbes and decreases molecular signs of inflammation, according to researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine." Regularly eating fermented foods can boost the health of your digestive system and positively affect your immunity, absorption of nutrients, weight, moods, and skin. 

There is a growing body of evidence to support the skin and health benefits of fermented foods. Fermented foods have been shown to improve gut health, skin health, and immunity. They can also help to reduce inflammation and protect against harmful bacteria. If you're looking to improve your gut health and clear up your skin, fermented foods are a great place to start!

Probiotics food background. Korean carrot, kimchi, beetroot, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers in glass jars. Top view.

Are fermented and pickled foods safe for everybody?

Though fermented foods are generally safe and healthy, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, fermented foods can be high in sodium, so if you are on a low-sodium diet, you may want to limit or avoid them. Second, fermented foods can sometimes cause digestive issues like gas and bloating in some people. If you experience these symptoms, try eating fermented foods in small amounts and gradually increasing your intake. Finally, if you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant, it's important to talk to your doctor before eating fermented foods, as they can sometimes do more harm than good.

People with mold sensitivities, or known or suspected overgrowth of candida or other pathogenic or opportunistic microbes (or who have SIBO--small intestine bacterial overgrowth or SIFO--small intestine fungal overgrowth) should avoid fermented foods, as the high levels of yeast in these foods can aggravate their conditions. People with histamine sensitivity should also avoid fermented foods.

If you have any symptoms of gut dysbiosis or experience chronic digestive distress or aren't sure if fermented foods are right for you, it's a good idea to consult with a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor or nutritionist who can best advise you on your diet.

Probiotics food background. Korean carrot, kimchi, beetroot, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers in glass jars.

Do you want to learn more about how certain foods affect the skin?

Do you want to learn strategies to educate your clients about topics like this, and integrate healthy food choices into their diets? Check out our professionally accredited Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program! 


embracing the pro-aging movement

The Pro-Aging Movement: Why the Anti-Aging Industry is Harmful

One of our favorite "trends" that we've been seeing over the past couple of years is the abandonment of the term "anti-aging," and embracing (or re-embracing) of the pro-aging movement. People have simply had enough with trying to look young forever with fad diets, painful procedures, and unrealistic (and unhealthy) beauty standards. The idea behind it is that if you're not aging then you're not living--literally!

The anti-aging movement has become a multi-billion dollar industry, which is great for "Big Cosmetics" and the pharmaceutical companies and doctors behind expensive (and invasive) cosmetic procedures. However, it's not so great for people (mostly women) who are being made to feel like they have to look 25 forever to be attractive, desirable, or worthy in society.

We, at The Nutritional Aesthetics® Alliance, are all for the pro-aging movement.

We don't use the term "anti-aging" to market our membership program or CNAP Training Program, and we also encourage our members and students to also stop using the term.

Pro-aging doesn't mean that people should be in a rush to age faster than with the natural passing of time. It certainly doesn't mean that we shouldn't care for our skin or be healthy with good food, hygiene, lifestyle, mindset, movement, and topical skincare choices.

On the contrary! The skin is our largest organ, and we firmly believe that skincare--inside and out--IS a key component of healthcare. It also doesn't mean don't wear makeup or color your hair if you enjoy doing so.

What the pro-aging movement means is that people no longer feel like the pressure of looking young forever is worthwhile. It means celebrating and embracing the natural passage of time, which includes aging. It means normalizing looking your age and not having any sort of negative stigma attached to looking your age.

About judgment and choice...

We don't pass judgment on people who choose to undergo cosmetic procedures such as Botox. While we encourage people to shift their perception of signs of aging like dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles from negative to positive, we recognize that that's not for everyone. Sometimes lines or wrinkles earned from trauma, sadness, or a very hard life ARE something that people would rather not see in the mirror every single day. And we acknowledge that.

Everyone has the right to choice--but choices made under duress (which is what societal pressure is) are not really true choices. No one should feel pressured to use harsh products or get potentially dangerous and painful procedures for the sake of fitting into outdated, sexist standards. Especially since there are so many wonderful holistic and integrative methods to promote your glow healthfully and joyfully.

Choice and non-judgment must be part of the pro-aging movement.

One of our favorite holistic, pro-aging techniques is facial massage.

There are so many different facial massage techniques available now:

  • The standard European-style facial massage
  • Gua sha
  • Facial cupping
  • Facial exercise
  • Face yoga
  • Abhyanga
  • Lymphatic drainage
  • Or any combination of the above!

Learn our favorite facial massage techniques

We were so excited to host Holistic Beauty Educator and Entrepreneur, Uma Ghosh, in a webinar on Wednesday, January 19 at 10am EST called "Holistic Facelift with Face Massage and Face Yoga!"

This webinar will be recorded and made available to NAA members and CNAP students in our Webinar Library after the 48-hour replay expires.

We are also excited to share with you that Uma's Pro-Age Aesthetics Academy now offers an accredited professional training on this modality, called Neolifting®. We love their holistic, non-invasive, and EFFECTIVE approach!

In the end, you've got one life to live and it should be lived fully and joyfully--with or without perfect skin. So let's embrace the pro-aging movement, ditch the anti-aging industry, and live life to the fullest!

What are your thoughts on the pro-aging movement?

Please tell us in the comments below!


3 Ways to Get Seasonal, Fresh, Local Food Near You

One of the most important facets of an overall healthy skin lifestyle is eating well. No matter which dietary theory you follow, the healthiest ones are all centered around eating whole, unprocessed foods. Sadly, the food culture in the United States has centered primarily around processed and convenience foods to the extent that many people even know where to find fresh, local food near them. Eating fresh, seasonal produce and local, traditionally farmed meat can ensure that you are eating healthy and supporting local farmers. Today, we share our favorite local resources for healthy food.

3 ways you can find fresh, local food near you

1. Farmer’s markets

woman shopping at farmer's marketFarmer's markets are organized markets where local farmers assemble to sell a variety of the foods they grow on their farms. You’ll often find locally-produced items like meat, dairy, produce, and baked goods here. Most farmer's markets also feature handmade skincare and personal care products, as well as herbal remedies and teas from local makers and herbalists.

Farmer's markets aren't just in rural areas and in the suburbs. Many farms in the surrounding areas of cities also unite to supply urban farmer's markets with fresh, local foods. They are an excellent opportunity to meet with local farmers, support local vendors, and also connect with like-minded members of your community.

Farmer’s market vendors and shoppers also tend to want to support other local businesses. This is a great opportunity to form networking and cross-promotional relationships for practitioners as well.

Farmer's markets are not always open daily like grocery stores are. Most are only open a few days per week. Be sure to check your local farmer's market's hours, and plan a trip in your weekly schedule.

To find a farmer's market near you, check the USDA’s Farmer’s Market Directory.

2. Community-supported agriculture (CSA)

A CSA is a membership program that allows you to subscribe to regularly scheduled shares of harvested produce from a local farm or farms. Some CSAs provide home delivery or delivery to your local farmer's market. Others allow for you to go to the farm to pick up your shares directly, or even help harvest your produce yourself. CSAs also offer extra goodies during the growing season whenever possible - all at an affordable price!

A share usually includes about 20 lbs of seasonal fruits and vegetables weekly, but it varies by region/season. Most CSAs also offer half or partial shares, the ability to share shares with other members, and drop points in cities for increased accessibility.

What comes in the share is based on what's been harvested, so this is a great way to immerse yourself in local, seasonal eating as well as to try new fruits and vegetables.

To find a CSA near you, check localharvest.org's CSA search listings.

3. Food co-ops

Rachael Pontillo as a working member of a food co-op
NAA President, Rachael Pontillo, is a proud owner/member of a food co-op.

Food co-ops are another local resource for fresh, local food. These member-owned and run business organizations buy a large volume of goods from local and organic farms in order to pass along savings to members who purchase those goods. Many co-ops also offer a small selection of specialty and imported foods, prepared foods, baked goods, and household cleaning products.

While food co-ops may not be as widely available or well-advertised as farmer's markets and CSAs, they are becoming more popular in the suburbs and even in cities. Your local health foods store will usually know where to find them if you ask.

To find a food co-op near you, check localharvest.org's food co-op search listings or healthcoops.net 's map of active food co-ops nationwide.

Farmers’ markets, co-ops and CSAs are not the only way to find fresh, local food near you!

Do your research - ask around in local health or skincare stores about what local resources they recommend for farmers' market locations, organic produce sources, etc., in your area. Many of these places will be able to point you in the right direction with some solid leads on where to begin looking locally for healthy foods at affordable prices that support local growers.

Learning how to find local, fresh foods near you can help you get out of a rut and try new fruits, vegetables, meats, artisan cheeses, raw dairy products (in the states that allow it), and other staples in your diet. Farmer's markets, food co-ops, and CSAs are also usually more affordable than online meal kit delivery services, specialty stores, and chain healthy grocery stores. If you're looking for ways to support local farmers while becoming healthier yourself - this is the way!

Do you want to learn more ways to help your clients with skin-healthy lifestyle choices?

CNAP Syllabus on an iPadCheck out our professionally accredited Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program. We teach you everything you need to know to help your clients look and feel their best in an integrative way.

Learn more, download our syllabus, or enroll today HERE!


7 Ways to Soothe Dry Skin from Winter Washing

Dry, cracked, and flaking hands can be an unfortunate part of winter and the colder months in general. As the weather begins to get cold and dry, your hands will likely be a little drier and more cracked than usual, especially when you take care to wash your hands regularly properly to prevent the spread of germs and illness.

The wintertime is cold and flu season, after all, and it’s important to look after your health first and foremost. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up feeling comfortable in your skin.

Here are our top 7 tips to help you soothe dry skin:

1. Moisturize

soothe dry skin by moisturizingAlmost everybody knows at this point how important it is to moisturize your face and the rest of your body. This can be especially true throughout the wintertime, or any other time when you’re washing your hands regularly. Try to have a lotion handy both in your home near sinks and on the go. That way, you can moisturize whenever you start to feel your hands getting dry.

2. Adjust the shower temperature

Especially when it’s cold outside, you might be constantly fantasizing about that hot shower and not looking forward to stepping out again once you’ve gotten in one. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be detrimental to the health of your skin.

Technically, you should never be taking piping hot showers — warm water is fine, but many people with dry skin find that hot showers can scald the skin and cause damage. Try lowering your shower temperature just a little bit and see you notice a positive change in your skin.

3. Wear gloves when you clean

If you’re somebody who washes your hands a lot, chances are good you also wash the rest of your space frequently, too. Whether you tend to clean with disinfecting sprays, dusters, or brushes, cleaning solutions can be a serious culprit behind dry hands.

Since products like antibacterial and disinfecting wipes tend to disrupt the skin microbiome, it’s important to protect your hands from constant exposure to products that aren’t intended for prolonged, direct skin contact. Make sure that when you are cleaning or even doing the dishes, you put on a pair of gloves to protect your skin.

4. Check the ingredients in your hand sanitizer

look for aloe vera gel in your hand sanitizer to soothe dry skinThough we (and the CDC) recommend handwashing with soap and water over using hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of disease, hand sanitizer usage is still recommended when handwashing is not possible. However, not all hand sanitizers are created equal.

Due to the increased hand sanitizer demand that COVID-19 brought on, for a while, there was a shortage of ethanol, ethyl alcohol, and even high enough strength isopropyl alcohol which caused some manufacturers to use methanol--a toxic form of alcohol--in their sanitizers. The FDA temporarily allowed this, along with other toxic chemicals in order to keep meeting the demand of hand sanitizers. However, the FDA withdrew that allowance on October 12, 2021, since there is no longer a shortage of safer forms of alcohol. On October 4, 2021, the FDA also warned consumers not to use certain hand sanitizers that were found to contain other known toxicants, benzene, acetaldehyde, and acetal contaminants. Not only are these ingredients toxic, but they are also extremely drying and skin irritant.

Aside from making sure the main ingredient in your hand sanitizer is ethanol or ethyl alcohol, also look for humectant ingredients such as vegetable glycerine or aloe vera which are known to soothe dry skin.

5. Avoid synthetic fragrances

Even if you use moisturizer or lotion regularly, you might still notice that your skin isn’t reacting very well to whatever you slather on. If this tends to be the case, check and see if your lotion contains synthetic fragrances.

Even though some people aren’t quite as sensitive to artificial scents and synthetic fragrances, they can often cause a drying effect and unnecessary skin irritation. If you know that you are already sensitive to fragrances, it’s better to be safe than sorry by seeking out fragrance-free products instead. Note: fragrance-free is not the same as "unscented." Believe it or not, unscented is still a synthetic fragrance.

6. Take oatmeal baths

oatmeal baths work really well to soothe dry skinYou might already be familiar with the magic that an Epsom salt bath can work in your life. But did you know that you can use oatmeal to heal your skin in a similar way? Not only can oatmeal baths relax and calm you, but they also introduce a layer of protection and moisture to soothe dry skin.

If you’re looking for that spa experience, an oatmeal bath is definitely the way to go. If you don’t have time to soak your whole body, you can even make a mini bath just for your hands.

7. Get a humidifier

Even if handwashing is the primary culprit of your dry skin, the dryness of the air throughout the winter months definitely doesn’t do you any favors. If you notice that the colder months tend to bring on dry, cracked skin; then you might want to invest in a humidifier for your home.

Humidifiers impact the entirety of a space, but that might be an added bonus if dry air tends to bother you all around. You can even put a drop or two of your favorite essential oil into the water to diffuse it and uplift your space while it nourishes your skin. We recommend a cool-mist humidifier, but be sure you clean it and change the filters as directed to prevent mold growth.

Soothe dry skin in your everyday choices

woman wearing gloves and a mask while cleaningWhether you simply want to prevent dryness or you’re looking to soothe dry and damaged skin, there are so many ways that you can go about it. From moisturizing regularly, to checking your ingredient labels, to wearing gloves when you clean, you can keep your hands soft and smooth this season.

Simple lifestyle upgrades can make a world of difference to your clients' skin

We dedicate a large percentage of our Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program (CNAP) curriculum specifically to lifestyle practices that are conducive to healthy skin. You'll also learn how to teach your clients how to implement positive lifestyle changes into their daily lives. Learn more about our professionally accredited CNAP Training Program, download our syllabus, and enroll today!

About the author:

Mia Barnes is the Managing Editor of Body+Mind and an online writer on all things beauty and wellness. Her favorite topics to cover include sustainable skincare and nutrition.


cells and microbes in the immune system

The Connection Between A Healthy Immune System and Healthy Skin

Taking care of your skin isn't just for vanity--it is also a key part of taking care of your immune system. The fact is that our skin is the largest organ in our body and it impacts every aspect of how we live. From fighting off invaders like bugs or bacteria, but also controlling inflammation by producing its own anti-inflammatory cytokines. If you want to improve your skin health, you may want to boost your immune system.

Here are six examples of the connections between your immune system and your skin:

1. Bacteria

skin microbiomeYou might already know that many places inside your body house a wide variety of bacteria and other microflora. Just as it is important for gut health, there needs to be an even balance, and biodiversity of micro-organisms living on or near our skin's surface layer so we can maintain protection from outside forces.

Specifically, those with dry skin or those who suffer from eczema are particularly at risk for things like bacterial infections and imbalances, as dryness can compromise the protective barrier that keeps bad bacteria out. If you want to boost your immune system in this way, adding probiotic supplements or eating probiotic foods like yogurt and kombucha might help. Be sure to talk to your licensed healthcare provider before making changes to your diet or supplement routine.

2. Breakouts

Your immune system can actually keep you from breaking out and keep your skin clear. This is because acne is often an inflammatory response to external stimuli such as dirt, grime, and overgrowth of the p.acnes bacteria. Of course, acne can come from a variety of sources, so your immune system might not be completely at the root of the issue, but having solid support can absolutely help, regardless of the situation.

However, acne that’s related to things like hormones or natural body cycles might be a bit more complex than improving your immune system.

3. Nutrients

definition of nutrientsAnother way in which the immune system can impact your skin is through the nutrients you consume and therefore pass along to all of the systems in your body. Eating nutritious foods like small, fatty fish; fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in essential fatty acids, probiotics and antioxidants can improve your skin’s health and your immune health. When the immune system is supported by healthy nourishment, it can pass along those nutrients all over the body so they can do their jobs.

Even though they feed into one another, the nutrients that support your immune system also support the health of your skin all over your body, not just on your face!

4. Hydration

One of the things that your immune system also supports is skin hydration. When your immune system is thriving and healthy, the hydration that supports the rest of your body will support your skin as well. This can be highly important, as hydrated skin is crucial to its texture, coloration, and even how fast it exhibits visible signs of aging.

If you tend to have dry skin, aging spots, or even if you are simply looking to avoid signs of aging, staying hydrated both for your immune system and for your skin can go hand in hand. Keep in mind though, that the amount of hydration that comes from your diet and drinking water is not enough to keep skin hydrated for people with dry or compromised skin--topical hydration is also a must.

5. Protection

Along with hydration, a healthy immune system can also help prevent transepidermal water loss from taking place, specifically on your face. People with both dry and oily skin should pay attention to the moisture barriers of their skin, and that involves nourishing your immune system to provide protection against damage and dehydration.

6. Resilience

Black woman with glowing skinOne of the primary ways that your immune system can influence the rest of your body, including your skin, is its ability to heal the various illnesses, infections, and injuries that occur in daily life. A large concern within skincare, especially as people age or go through hormonal changes, is the skin’s ability to bounce back and heal from damage.

From sun damage to acne scarring and discoloration, the skin can accrue a variety of types of damage just by living life. When your immune system is healthy and prepared, you are much more likely to heal from injuries and infections quickly and fully. And that includes things like acne and other skin damage.

A healthy immune system and skincare

Even though supporting the immune system might not be the very first thing you think of when adding a step to your skin care routine, it can actually be one of the best things you can do. Health works from the inside out, and that includes fostering the body‘s natural connection from one system to another. 

Do you want to learn more about how to help your clients support healthy skin from the inside out?

Our accredited Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program takes a deep dive into topics such as the microbiome, how stress affects the skin (and how to minimize its effects), hormones and skin health, digestion and gut function, and more. You will not only learn about these topics, but you'll also learn how to educate your clients about these topics and how to incorporate skin-healthy changes in their daily lives.

Click HERE to learn more, download our syllabus, and enroll today!

About the author:

Kara ReynoldsKara Reynolds is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Momish Magazine. Mom and stepmom living her best life while managing anxiety and normalizing blended families. She enjoys pilates, podcasts, and a nice pinot grigio.

 


Serotonin and Melatonin: The Real Culprits Behind Seasonal Skin Changes?

Do you ever wonder if our ancestors felt the same effects of seasonal change as we do. As they eased into Autumn, did they notice a change in their sleep schedule? Mood? Appetite? Sex drive? Skin? If so, what did they attribute these changes to? The lack of food? Warmth? Sunlight? 

autumn sunsetFrom September 22 (autumn equinox) to December 21 (winter solstice), we lose around three minutes of sunlight each day.

Three minutes may seem insignificant, but any lack of sunlight dramatically affects our body’s natural production of serotonin and melatonin. An imbalance of these hormones can lead to unwanted breakouts, premature aging, and more severe conditions such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, seborrheic eczema. On the flip side, when these hormones are balanced, clear, radiant, healthy skin emerges.

About serotonin and melatonin:

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter hormone (which is actually a precursor to melatonin) that’s produced by the brain and the intestines. It’s medically referred to as 5-hydroxytryptamine. Serotonin plays a role in regulating our mood, appetite, sleep, digestion, and skin health.

The body makes serotonin naturally by using sunlight. The light enters our eyes and activates the parts of our retina that signal our brain to produce serotonin. 

foods to help support serotonin productionNatural ways to support healthy serotonin production:

  • Exercise- motor activity increases serotonin neurons' firing rates, which results in increased synthesis and release of serotonin.
  • Tryptophan- is an amino acid that gets converted to serotonin in our brain. Tryptophan is found primarily in high-protein foods, including free-range turkey and wild-caught salmon. Chickpeas, bananas, and oats are also good sources of tryptophan. The US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 250-425 tryptophan milligrams per day (but always discuss your personal diet and how much of each nutrient you need with your physician, dietitian, or licensed nutritionist)
  • Balanced gut microbes - scientists have found that intestinal bacteria help to produce serotonin. The greatest amount of the body’s supply of serotonin is found in the intestines and the lining of the stomach. Its presence helps move food through our intestines.
  • Aromatherapy- inhaling aromas like cedarwood triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, which converts to melatonin. This essential oil is known for its soothing qualities and encourages relaxation.
  • Lightbox therapy-as a supplement to natural sunlight, especially in the winter, a lightbox can be used. It’s essential to make sure the lightbox is safe and effective. The Center for Environmental Therapeutics is dedicated to education and research on safe environmental therapies. 
  • Far infrared therapy- the gentle heat of far infrared light is known to increase serotonin in the skin, which is then circulated throughout the body.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is another hormone our body naturally produces. It is made in the mainly "in the pineal gland and a small portion in the retina. It can be found in the skin as well as in the body and is stimulated by darkness. Melatonin (not to be confused with melanin) is our primary skin protectant - blocking free radicals, protecting our collagen, and repairing oxidative damage to the skin.

melatoninOur bodies require serotonin to produce melatonin. Our pineal gland, located deep in our brain, chemically alters serotonin to make melatonin. Our body’s sleep-wake cycle is affected by how much light we take in through our eyes, and the related production of these hormones. That’s why it's recommended to dim the lights as we approach bedtime and avoid exposure to the green and blue-toned light that smartphones, computers, smartphones, and TV monitors produce. The dim lights activate our melatonin for a restful sleep.

Other ways to increase melatonin production is through:

  • Food- Tart cherries, goji berries, oily fish, and nuts like pistachios and almonds contain melatonin.
  • Dietary supplements- The Sleep Foundation asserts, "it’s best to start a melatonin supplement with the lowest recommended melatonin dosage for your age. From there, you can gradually increase your dosage until you find a dose that helps you fall asleep without causing any side effects. A safe starting dose for adults is between 0.5 milligram and 5 milligrams of melatonin. Older adults may find lower doses, starting with 0.1 milligrams, to be safe and effective. Children should not take melatonin unless recommended by a physician," and adults should consult with their physician to determine the right amount for their personal needs.
  • Meditation- Meditating can help relax the muscles and joints, reduce anxiety, and lower nervous system stimulation, which helps promote melatonin release.
  • Aromatherapy- A research study The effect of aromatherapy with lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) on serum melatonin levels found that “blood melatonin levels significantly increased in the total population after the intervention with aromatherapy.”
  • Topical products- Applying melatonin topically can trigger our skin into antioxidant behavior that would otherwise occur during sleep. Melatonin works synergistically with antioxidants such as Vitamin C, beta carotene, and other Pro Vitamin A carotenoid antioxidants. It also works well with cross-linked forms of hyaluronic acid in improving skin elasticity. Caution: Using topical melatonin on your skin may may darken the skin. Those treating hyperpigmentation may want to skip using melatonin topically.

How serotonin and melatonin affect the "Brain-Skin Connection"

stressed skinSince serotonin contributes to sufficient sleep and balanced moods, we’re less likely to experience stress hormone surges that can lead to breakouts and cause skin cell damage. Research shows that abnormal serotonin receptors may exacerbate psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and seborrheic eczema – just further evidence that a balanced brain means balanced skin. The brain—skin connection helps explain why emotional and mental stress can cause unwanted skin conditions.

At night, our skin converts from a mode of protection into repair. Somatotropin or human growth hormone (HGH) production and melatonin are boosted within the brain, which accelerates skin regeneration and production of antioxidant enzymes. Since melatonin helps us reach sleep cycle 3, the most restorative phase, this brain—skin connection explains why we look our best when we are well-rested.

Note from author, Jules Annen, PhD:

Jules AnnenWhile writing this post, I looked into how our ancestors handled seasonal change. My research led to countless articles about beautiful ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations of life and very few articles about their struggle. Our ancestors adapted through seasonal change. They passed down the wisdom of how to boost our mood, balance our skin, and achieve restorative sleep just by keeping serotonin and melatonin in check. Learn more about Jules Annen, PhD here.

Do you want to learn more about how hormones affect the skin?

We dedicate an entire month's worth of curriculum about hormones and skin health in our professionally accredited Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® Training Program! We also teach you how to educate your clients about topics like this, while staying safely within your scope of practice.

Learn more about our program, download our syllabus, and enroll HERE!


Advisory Board Highlight: Rakhi Roy

We are so excited to welcome Rakhi Roy, MS, RD, LDN to the Nutritional Aesthetics® Alliance’s Advisory Board! We have been searching for a dietitian for the Board, who not only shares our passion for advancing an integrative approach to healthy skin, but also who has a deep connection and understanding of how food and digestion affect the skin. Rakhi certainly fit that bill!

About Rakhi Roy, MS, RD, LDN:

Rakhi is an actress-turned Registered Dietitian who holds a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Theatre, and a Master’s in Dietetics & Nutrition. Her own skin struggles with eczema on- and off-camera led to her passion to help others with chronic skin conditions, find food freedom, and support their skin from within through an integrative approach.

Rakhi believes that there is no one diet that fits all. She helps guide her clients on how to reintroduce foods back in safely instead of focusing on long-term food eliminations. Rakhi also writes, educates, and speaks for various health online outlets in the dietary & nutrition health community. She has been featured on Healthline.com and the National Eczema Association.

Rakhi's past work includes corporate wellness, Food Network & Cooking Channel SOBE WFF Festival, consulting as a clinical dietitian in VA long-term care, the Department of Health, Miami Children’s Hospital, eating disorders, and detox substance abuse patients in behavioral health psychiatric hospitals.

Rakhi Roy, Registered Dietitian joins the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance's Advisory BoardRakhi currently sees eczema, psoriasis, and TSW (Topical Steroid Withdrawal) clients via phone and video conference as a licensed Dietitian and internationally as a nutrition coach.

We love Rakhi's story, and we are honored to welcome her to our Advisory Board!

As we do with all our Advisory Board members, we asked Rakhi to share why she wanted to be part of the Nutritional Aesthetics® Alliance:

The Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance:

What excites you the most about The Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance?

Rakhi Roy:

Skin health is so much more than just what we put on our skin topically but also what we put in our body internally. It’s so rare to see both modalities integrated into one platform so I love that the NAA does that.

The NAA:

How has Nutritional Aesthetics® (integrating nutrition and lifestyle changes with skincare and self-care) impacted your practice and/or work?

Rakhi Roy:

Being a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, my wheelhouse of practice is in nutrition and gut health, so I love to collaborate with aestheticians to help serve my clients holistically. I learn something from my aesthetician colleagues every time. In turn, I teach them about nutrition, supplements, and even the psychological relationship one has with food can impact our overall health. Knowledge is power when it’s shared.

The NAA:

Complete the sentence: “For optimal skin health, I wish people would do more of ___________________, and less of ___________________.”

Rakhi Roy:

For optimal skin health, I wish people would adopt mindful eating practices everyday: something as simple as eating out in nature, slowing down to chew your food, drinking enough water, including at least 2 colors on your plate, and less stress eating.

We are so grateful to have Rakhi Roy on our Advisory Board!

We already have a webinar planned--stay tuned for that!

Connect with Rakhi Roy:

SOCIAL:

WEBSITE: 

www.gutskinnutritionist.com