A Brief History of American Independence Day

4 Jul

Independence Day is one of America’s most cherished holidays. The celebrations and festivities are commemorated with fireworks, barbeques, parades, and the flying of our American flag. Our younger generations enjoy the festivities and though most know it’s an Independence Day celebration, many don’t understand the significance or history involved that led to the national observance of July 4th.

In 1775 conflict and tensions between the 13 North America ruled British colonies in and the British colonial government came to a head after many years of growing conflict. The ongoing conflicts eventually lead up to what we now know as The American Revolutionary War or the U.S. War of Independence which lasted until 1783.

As early as 1765 the colonists began to protest the British authorities due to taxes and equal rights on the basis that they were not properly represented in Parliament. British authorities wielded their power in such a way that they were taking political liberties and using them to the greatest advantage of British crown thus causing many colonist to rise up in resistance. There were several historical events that happened between 1765 and 1775 when the American Revolutionary War broke out. A couple that we’ve all heard of is the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, Massachusetts was at the heart of the resistance.

The Boston Massacre happened in 1770 when 5 colonists were killed by British troops. Though the officer in charge, Capt. Thomas Preston and eight of his soldiers were arrested, he and six of his men were acquitted and release while two soldiers received a guilty verdict for manslaughter. The tensions created by the massacre and resulting verdicts led to the eventual retreat of the British troops from Boston as well as abolishment of most import duties, note duties on tea remained in place. In 1773 The Boston Tea Party led by Samuel Adams boarded three ships importing tea from the monopolistic East India Company and dumped 342 chests filled with tea into the Boston Harbor. This defiant act against British is considered to be a pivotal moment in our history. These events in Boston (among others I’m sure) led to British authorities to invoke the Intolerable Acts which were designed to bring the colonies back into submission of British rule.

In 1775 when the American Revolutionary War did break out, not all colonists subscribed to independence from the British. Resistance groups grew quickly and by 1776 a full blow revolution that led to American independence was well underway. By July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress embraced a nearly unanimous vote in favor of American independence. Then, on July 4th 1776 the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by Congress, thus our Independence Day was born and celebrated each July 4th.      

I wish you all a very Happy Independence Day!

Source: History of July 4th The Boston Tea Party of 1773, Declaration of Independence, American Revolutionary War, Intolerable Acts.


How Does Hyaluronic Acid Work?

30 Jun

Hyaluronic Acid is an ingredient of many uses and is increasingly showing up in a growing number of beauty, skin care, medical and supplemental products. The very word “Acid” conjures thoughts of harsh chemical burns or reactions, and visions of a bubbly chemical break down upon contact, but the ingredient behaves very differently. Hyaluronic Acid is naturally occurring in the human body. Though it exists throughout the body, high concentrations exist in our joints, cartilage, bones and eyes for purposes of lubrication, fluid, and for supporting body structure. By far, the largest concentration of Hyaluronic Acid is found in the dermis or second layer of our skin. It truly is a molecule that is widely used by our bodies and has many purposes however, from a skin care perspective Hyaluronic Acid is simply fascinating.

There are a few schools of thought on the how Hyaluronic Acid works and it benefits as a topical skin care product. The most commonly accepted and widely believed thought is that when applied topically the ingredient penetrates the skin and provides very hydrating results that reduce wrinkles. It does this by binding with water or moisture and it holding on to it, it is in fact a humectant. It can hold many hundreds times its weight in moisture due to its molecular structure. The result is smoother, younger looking skin, wrinkles appear to be smoothed out.

Another school of thought and less commonly accepted one, is that when applied topically the Hyaluronic Acid molecule is too large to penetrate the skin, thus it sits on top of the skin and actually pulls moisture out of the skin thereby causing dryness to occur from within. Though some believe this will happen regardless of environmental factors, others reason that climate is a contributor to this moisture pull from the skin. They believe that this will happen if Hyaluronic Acid is used in a dry climate because it will attempt to bind with and draw moisture from the skin verses from the air.

When I think about how folks reason out the benefits or drawback of the ingredient, I think about the size of the Hyaluronic Acid molecule, it’s very large. I fall into the school of thought that unless its molecular weight is greatly modified, the molecule cannot penetrate the surface of the skin much less the dermis layer which is where it naturally occurs and is most beneficial for hydrated healthy looking skin. Getting the Hyaluronic Acid into the skin directly is facilitated through the use of Restylane injections performed by a qualified dermatologist. Restylane is simply the commercial name for Hyaluronic Acid. The Restylane treatment is effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles for several months. Once injected into the skin, the Hyaluronic Acid retains and binds with moisture and partners with your collagen to improve firmness and plumping of the skin. I don’t endorse it, but people do it to obtain the greatest benefit from Hyaluronic Acid.

All of this said, I’m a believer in topical Hyaluronic Acid as a valuable plumping and moisturizing ingredient when properly used in conjunction with a good skin care regimen. Since it is a humectant, it does hold moisture and is a great filler, thus it will increase the efficacy of a good moisturizer. It will temporarily hold moisture to the skin and generate a fuller and smoother appearance.

This video gives a great explanation! Feel free to view and/or share your thoughts on this cosmetic ingredient.

Best Sunscreen Reviews – 5 Top Picks

27 Jun

Summer has once again blessed our skin with its radiant presence. From beaches to mountains to time at the park, many of us spend more time outdoors during the long warm summer days. With increased exposure to UVA (age rays) and UVB (burn rays) it’s critical that we protect our skin from the suns harmful rays. More than ever before, we have options ranging from physical to chemical protectants. Since finding the right sunscreen can be such a challenge, I thought that I would share my experience with some wonderful products. Here are some of my favorites selected randomly from products that I’ve used most recently. If you want information about other products, leave a comment and I’ll respond with any information that I may have!

La Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50 (about $31.95). 100% mineral protection. This product is remarkable, when you first place it on your fingers you may find yourself questioning if it is really a sunscreen because it is so light and fluid. The formulation is truly non-whitening and its lightweight perfection, seriously you don’t feel like you’ve just applied a sunscreen, it feels more like a very light treatment product. Some noteworthy benefits are its Titanium Dioxide broad spectrum protection and the Cell-Ox Shield which is a powerful antioxidant formula featuring Senna Alata extract, a medicinal plant that has healing properties. Other benefits include its photo-stability, a matte finish that doesn’t leave you shiny, and the fact that it is free of parabens, PABA, and fragrance. The biggest selling points for me is that it’s super lightweight and feels like nothing is applied to the skin once dry. This product is great for outdoor activities or prolonged sun exposure.

NIA24 Sun Damage Prevention Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 (about $45.00). Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation this product offers 100% mineral protection. Though it does go on white, it absorbs quickly and leaves a silky feeling versus the normal gooey feeling felt with other sunscreens. The result when applied and absorbed is more like a makeup primer, when make-up or tinted moisturizer is applied over it, the application is smoother than normal and leaves your skin looking like it has a healthy brightness to it. That said, this sunscreen can be felt little more under makeup but only if you touch your skin, it’s not heavy at all, it just feels like a primer. The formulation on this one includes broad spectrum physical protection using micronized Titanium Dioxide (9.45%)  and Zinc Oxide (3.6%). It also includes vitamin E and the Pro-Niacin (5%) patented molecule that is designed to deliver Niacin into the skin. Niacin helps improve the appearance of sun damage and hyperpigmentation, with that in mind, I think of this product like a sunscreen, moisturizer, and treatment all in one. There is a whole other science behind the Pro-Niacin so I highly recommend researching that ingredient to discover the benefits of it. One con to this product is that some folks are sensitive to Niacin and it can cause redness if you are sensitive to that ingredient specifically, otherwise its good for all skin types. This product is great for outdoor activities or slightly longer sun exposure.

Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF30 Brush Perfectly Clear (about $50.00) Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation this product offers broad spectrum mineral protection. This product is a great alternative to a cream or lotion. This unique product is a mineral powder SPF that is contained within its own brush application system thus it is a highly convenient SPF solution that is safe for the entire family, it travels very well in your purse with no worries of leakage. This product is also water-resistant and uses the Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as a physical sun barrier that won’t absorb into the skin. The biggest selling points for me are that it’s a powder, it lasts a long time, and is super convenient. It does feel a little grainy to me, but I’m not generally into powder so that is likely a personal bias matter.

BareMinerals SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen (about $28.00).  Another product recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Winner of a 2010 CEW Beauty Award, this SPF is a mineral powder that is preservative free and offers broad spectrum protection using Micronized Titanium Dioxide. It also has Aloe Vera Extract and Vitamins A,C, and E which are your core antioxidants essential to healthy skin. This product is a great alternative to the Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF30 if you are looking for a lower price point. It also didn’t feel as grainy to me.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare All In One Tinted Moisturizer SPF15 ($44.00). LOVE! This is a favorite of mine. The smooth texture and moderate coverage makes this the perfect all in one product. No make-up application required and the SPF protection is perfect for daily use with minimal sun exposure. To increase coverage, simply let first layer of product dry, then apply another layer. Single layer application is plenty of coverage for most people. The downside, its pricy and the container is not huge. It is well worth the price if you don’t mind spending a couple of extra bucks to save time, a little does go a long way, I just wish it would last forever.

To read more about sunscreens and the importance of consistent use, please visit The Skin Cancer Foundation for important and even lifesaving information.

Organic Personal Care Products – Are They Really Safe?

24 Jun

In a recent press release the Center for Environmental Health identified 26 companies that are engaged in the business of selling personal care products that are mislabeled as “Organic”. Sadly, this is not the first time that the personal care industry has been called out on ingredients contained in their products and labeling on their packaging.  At the center of the lawsuit is The California Organic Products Act of 2003, specifically section 110838.(a) of the Health and Safety codes that quote “Cosmetic products sold, labeled, or represented as organic or made with organic ingredients shall contain, at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients.” (Organic Products Act of 2003).

As I researched the 2003 act I found that the California Organic Program is the agency that is responsible for upholding the enforcement of the California Organic Products Act of 2003 as well as the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. This agency works in conjunction with many other agencies and organizations that help coordinate and facilitate enforcement actions necessary for regulation of organic foods and product. One very notable agency is our very own USDA!  So you may be getting the idea right about now that this is not just a California issue, this is a big deal and it could have a significant impact on the labeling of skin care and cosmetics industry wide, in my opinion this is not necessarily a bad thing. Considering the far reaching impact of this lawsuit, many major retailers are carrying these alleged mislabeled products and that are being distributed in mass quantities to consumers who may not be ingredient savvy. If there are truly toxic ingredients contained in the product being distributed by the companies mentioned in the lawsuit, the labels should provide clear warning to the consumer for the purpose of making an educated choice about what they are putting on themselves or their children. While reading the press release, the example of toxic ingredients reported on was a children’s hair care product that reportedly contains ingredients that are known to cause cancer. The article went on to provide examples of the warning labels stating blindness and serious injury if the product(s) was not properly used.

What do you think? Is this all hype? Or do you feel this is a serious matter? Should consumers be concerned about companies that are intentionally or otherwise mislabeling their goods?  Please post a comment and share your thoughts.

Sources/Information: Center for Environmental Health (CEH), View the full list of personal care products companies at CEH, The California Organic Program, Organic Products Act of 2003, News Coverage

What are Cosmeceuticals?

22 Jun

When I tell people that I work with cosmeceuticals the first question that I get asked is “What are cosmeceuticals?”, my typical response is “Great question!”. I then describe the following:

Cosmeceuticals are topical skincare or cosmetic products that contain ingredients which combine pharmaceutical and cosmetic qualities. This definition means that in most cases portions of the product ingredients have been scientifically formulated to include bioactive ingredients that claim to provide benefits beyond your standard drug store moisturizer.

Though this definition is technically correct, there are many things that one should consider when choosing products that are considered to be cosmeceutical in nature. The term cosmeceutical is not a legally recognized term as defined by FDA regulations, thus the term “pharmaceutical” can be misleading as it implies that the products are tested and regulated much like any controlled pharmaceutical, drug, or medical product, which is simply not the case. If a product has a drug or any ingredient that must be prescribed by a doctor or otherwise makes claims associated with a treatment or cure, only a doctor of qualified professional may distribute or use it, thus you generally can not or should not purchase such an item over the counter or on the internet. There are also some professional grade products that Estheticians may use that are stronger than OTC (regulations and services provided can vary by state)  In addition, if a product contains a actual “drug” it must also be approved by the FDA before it can be made available for distribution and it must comply with FDA regulations on active ingredient, safety regulations, labeling and distribution requirements. Most people heavily immersed in the beauty and skin care industry know that the FDA does not regulate the cosmetic and skin care industry with the exception of tightly regulated ingredients. The cosmetic and skin care industry regulates itself and simply complies with marketing requirements as it relates to labeling or product and benefit claims. Outside of that, there is a great deal of wiggle room for skin care industry, and ther are lot’s of reasons to take caution with what you use on your body. I always think of the example of a highly popular eyelash enhancer and its use of a drug that was developed as a treatment for glaucoma, the attractive side effect of the drug was eyelash growth though there were alleged negative side effects as well including temporary to permement eye discoloration. 

My recommendation to anyone concerned about what they are putting on their skin is to become an informed consumer, check your labels and make an attempt to gain an educated understanding of ingredients from reputable resources. Since “organic” and “natural” ingredients are readily available and typically fall outside FDA regulations, when selecting natural products it is particularly important that you know your stuff.

Some helpful resources are linked below, but honorable and respectful mention goes out to Paula’s Choice by Cosmetic Cop, it’s a great starting point for research. I will caution to never just take one resource and run with the information, always validate your findings with at least two-three credible resources. Seek out information from sites that are focused on education, and sites where the motivation for providing such information is not just to get into your wallet.

You can find Paula’s Choice here.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmeceutical, http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm074162.htm

The Best Au Gratin Potatoes

17 Feb

This is not a health food recipe but rather one you make once or twice a year provided that you eat good the other 363-364 days of the year. It is a family holiday favorite that I made out of the blue the other day, merely because we skipped Christmas this year (more about that another day).


1 cup sour cream

1 (10.75 ounce) condensed cream of mushroom soup

5 cups shredded frozen potatoes (no need to thaw)

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4 sprigs of green onion (about 1/2 cup)

1-1/2 cups of corn flakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 lb. bacon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9. inch baking dish with cooking spray or lightly grease .

Cook bacon through (optional). Chop finely and set aside. Combine sour cream, and soup. Add cheese, onions, bacon (optional) and potatoes. Mix well. Pour mixture into baking dish and cover with foil for first part of baking.

Bake 50 minutes (if frozen) or 40 minutes (if fresh). Product should be slightly bubbly and soft. Mix corn flakes with melted butter and spread on top of baked product.

Bake uncovered an additional 15-20 mins.

Should be nice and bubbly when done and potatoes should appear more transparent. You can garnish with fresh parsley if you like.

Top Tanning Tips

17 Feb

It may or may not be a widely know fact that tanning devices have been available in the US since the late 1970’s. With a rise in popularity during the late 1980’s and through today, regulation and information about the use of the beds and booths have been widely debated by the tan loving community.

Tanning Basics

Tanning beds or booths work through the use of bulbs that emit ultraviolet radiation (like the sun). The user will lay or stand depending on if it’s a bed or a booth (lay for a bed, stand in a booth). The user will have goggles on and the bed will be on a timer. With goggles firmly in place, the user starts up the bed and the timer counts down to a luscious golden tan. The time allowed for UV exposure depends on your current tolerance to sun exposure, how often you’ve been in the sun during a period of time (generally they will ask about the last year), and other factors. One such factor will be the strength of the bulb as they can vary in wattage and technology, a higher ratio of UVA for example will be considered stronger than a UVA/UVB mix (so they say). All that said, the concept is pretty basic. You get exposed to UV rays and you get a tan.

Tanning Risks

The health concerns associated with tanning are primarily based on the concept of negative affects of over exposure to the UV radiation emitted by the tanning lamps/bulbs. Such health concerns range from premature aging of the skin to skin cancer. Publicized health risks even include compromised immune systems, and damage to the eyes via cataracts and photokeratitis which is described as being corneal sunburn. Ultimately, the risks associated with the use of a tanning device are similar to that of the sun with one exception, when in a tanning device you use no SPF protection against the harmful and damaging rays thus, you are deliberately exposing yourself to elements that will age and damage your skin and could have other known and unknown risk factors. Aging is enough of a risk to me. Ultimately, whether you use a tanning bed or booth is entirely up to you and I’m not going to get on my soap box. Speaking from personal experience, I prefer not the have leather skin and brown blotchy patches on my face and I really would rather make all reasonable attempts to reduce my risk for skin cancer. That said, here are my top tanning tips!

Tip #1: If you are worried about getting cancer from a tanning device, don’t use one. We are exposed to enough environmental factors on a daily basis so if you are going to get skin cancer, at least try to control one factor!

Tip #2: If you are worried about damaging your eyes by using a tanning device, don’t use one. Always wear protective lenses that have UV protection qualities.

Tip #3: If you are concerned about compromising your immune system by using a tanning device, do not use one. Take your vitamins, eat right, and exercise. Minimize external environmental factors.

Tip #4: If you are concerned about prematurely aging your skin by using a tanning device, don’t use one. This is a big deal; you will notice that your skin is getting aged even after just a couple of uses of a tanning device. Your skin will become dryer, more leather like to the touch…remember that tanning is just skin damage.


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