Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spa Girls top three favourite hand creams

Every Spa Girl wants smooth, hydrated, soft hands, but finding the right hand cream that works for you and your skin type is no exercise for the faint of heart. 

If you enter hand creams into your search engine thousands of sites come up extolling their virtues and claiming to be the best hand cream on the market.  They say their product will absorb quickly and promise to deliver youthful-looking, soft hands almost overnight. And these products come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, a variety of gels, serums, lotions, and creams with, in some cases, price tags the size of small mortgages.

What is important to know when selecting any skin care product is that skin requires collagen in order to stay firm and looking healthy. A hand cream that contains antioxidants which nourish the skin and fight free radicals will also go a long way to smoothing, hydrating and soften your hands. When choosing a hand cream also look for natural ingredients.

After many trials and errors, I have found three hand creams that I use on a regular basis. It might just help you narrow down that search for the perfect hand cream.

Pre de Provence
After studying in the south of France, almost anything French captures my heart, so when I discovered this amazing hand cream that worked wonders on my skin, I immediately bought several tubes and then blogged on this fabulous hand cream.

Here is what I had to say...

What they have to say...

In Provence, everything is influenced by herbs and flowers- from the fresh rosemary in their cuisine, to the petals blended in their perfumes. It is easy to understand why the Provencal way of health and beauty is commonly based on the ancient art of aroma therapy- the use of specially selected essential oils extracted from plants for the purposes of Homeopathic medicine and spiritual balance. Pre de Provence products reflect this ancient art.The Pre de Provence selection of products are produced from the purist botanical essences harvested in Provence using the aromachology principle.. These products are for those who appreciate the quality of these refined products and require the purist and finest in bath and hair preparations.
Perlier Olivarium Emollient Hand Cream with Pure Olive Oil
Produced in Italy this rich hand cream is made with pure olive oil from the Mediterranean.  Its rich emollient formula makes for a great non-greasy moisturizer leaving your hands velvety soft and smooth.  I love this product!

What they have to say...

With over 80 years experience in the area of scientific research, Italian manufacturing giant Perlier has long specialized in the development of therapeutic products derived from natural ingredients. However it wasn't until an expansion in 1972 that the company saw the introduction of their bath and body line, developed specifically to provide women with "high quality, functional and efficient products" that would address their individual skincare needs. The concept soared and helped the brand become the number one cosmetics company in Italy.
Located in Turin, their corporate offices, research lab, and experiment centre sit on 150 acres of land, free of pesticides and insecticides, where they cultivate all the plants, flowers, and honey from which their ingredients derive. The result is pure, scientifically formulated products whose results and effects can actually be measured.
Uniquely marketed in a straightforward manner, Perlier makes no promises of "miracles" to their customer but instead simply guarantees efficient results.

Adovia Mineral Hand Cream
Enriched with Dead Sea Minerals and Shea Butter this rich hand cream is formulated with natural oils including Calendula Oil, vitamins and essential minerals.  Like all my three favorite hand creams this product absorbs quickly into the skin leaving your hands feeling silky soft and smooth.

What they have to say...

Established in 2005, ADOVIA is the first skin care line to combine Dead Sea Minerals with the finest Natural Herbal ingredients nature has to offer to create a nutritious cocktail for your skin. ADOVIA's mineral-based products work to restore your skin's natural inner balance, allowing it to renew and rebuild itself to achieve visibly smoother, healthier and younger looking skin. Your skin cells are replenished with vital nutrients, resulting in a naturally smooth, rejuvenated and healthy complexion. Take your skin and soul on a journey to the world's oldest and largest natural spa - The Dead Sea - with ADOVIA Mineral Skin Care.

The next time you extend your hand out to someone make sure it is well cared for, soft and smooth, it will send out an important message, that you care about your own well-being!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spa Girl says bring on the tomatoes, heirloom of course!

It's tomato season, one of my favourite times of the year.  Slowly each week at the market in my hometown the tomatoes are starting to appear, red ones, yellow, purple, black, green, all those delightful heirloom colours.  They were slow this year due to our chilly wet start to summer, but once again we are witness to a tomato renaissance.

Tomatoes are well known for their anti-oxidants, helping us to age more gracefully as they reduce the number of free radicals in our bodies. Tomatoes are great for both the skin and the hair, and there are many wonderful tomato facial masks and scrubs that balance soothe, refresh and brighten the skin.  They also help to preserve moisture levels in the body!

Here is a treat to get started...
Step 1Finely dice the tomato, using the knife and cutting board. Transfer the diced tomato to a bowl.Step 2Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl with the chopped tomato.Step 3Measure 2 tbsp. oats into the blender. Blend until the oatmeal is reduced to a fine powder. Stir the oatmeal powder into the tomato and lemon juice mixture. Mix well.Step 4Smooth the tomato, lemon and oat mixture onto a clean face. Avoid getting the mixture into your eyes. Lie back and relax and allow the mask to dry, 15 to 20 minutes.Step 5Rinse off the facial mask with warm water. Pat your face dry with a linen towel. 
Read more:
Over the last few years heirloom tomatoes have become the star of the culinary world, both for their amazing complex flavour and their beauty; and farmers are responding growing over 600+ varieties of these knobby multicoloured/multi floured gems.

This is a welcome reprieve from the large-scale commercial hybrid tomato breeding that took place after WWII which changed the face of the industry as they sought to create the "perfect" tomato for the mass market--large, red, disease-resistant and thick skinned.  Most of these tomatoes were picked early and force-ripened with ethylene gas.

So what is an heirloom tomato?

Pinning down an exact definition for what makes an "heirloom" can be tricky, especially as the tag heirloom becomes a marketing tool. Large seed companies have been known to "borrow" heirloom names (or at least something very close) to increase sales of hybrid. Most heirlooms have been passed down in families or communities, until they were discovered by the tomato community and preserved. The Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit organization created in 1975 in Iowa, has dedicated itself to preserving America's heirloom and heritage vegetable varieties. Similar seed exchanges operate throughout the tomato-growing world, and tomato growers regularly and enthusiastically trade seeds. Lately, commercial seed companies have also dramatically expanded their offerings of heirloom seeds—so it can be a bit confusing where the line between "hybrid" and "heirloom" cuts off. One good definition was offered by heirloom expert Carolyn Male in her book 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden:
  • Commercial heirlooms: Open-pollinated plants introduced before 1940 or tomatoes varieties that are more than 50 years old
  • Family heirlooms: Tomatoes that have been passed down through a family for several generations
  • Created heirlooms: Created by crossing two known parents (such as two heirlooms or a hybrid and an heirloom) and stabilizing the resulting offspring until they consistently reproduce true from seed
  • Mystery heirlooms: Unknown heirlooms, often created by natural cross-pollination in the field
Spa Girl Tip:  pick your tomatoes carefully, handle them with tender loving care (heirloom varieties tend to be quite fragile) and above all never, ever refrigerate them!

Tomatoes have long been used in home remedies for oily and blemish-prone skin. They contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as A, C, E, iron and potassium, which help nourish the skin. Tomatoes also provide an astringent effect on the skin to help remove excess oil and refine the pores.  Here are a few great sites to explore:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spa Girl on brewing herbal tea...

On my last spa visit I had the most heavenly cup of tea which added to the overall relaxing atmosphere of the spa environment.

Brewing tea is definitely an art form, and this summer I have been practicing.  I have mastered a heavenly iced matcha latté, and an herbal infusion of dried apple, hibiscus, rosehip, and oranges which I add lemon slices and a few mint leaves from my garden.  In both cases, because I don't like to use sugar, I sweeten ever so slightly with Agave.

When harvesting herbs from your garden make sure they are rinsed and insect-free. The best time to cut your herbs is mid-morning before the sun becomes to strong and wilts the leaves.  Carefully rinsing rather than washing your herbs will help retain the plants natural oils, which carry a lot of the flavour.

Infusions require more leaves, and as a general rule of thumb I use one good teaspoon of dried herbs for each cup of boiling water and two teaspoons for fresh herbs. I also slightly bruise the fresh herbs to ensure they release most of their natural oils and I let it steep in a six cup infuser for fifteen minutes before popping  in the fridge to chill.  To serve I pour over a glass filled with ice, a slice of lemon and a mint leaf for a refreshing iced tea on a hot sunny day. 

For  iced matcha lattés I use one teaspoon of first harvest matcha in one cup of skim milk, sweeten to taste with Agave, mix thoroughly and chill.  For the best results, I mix the matcha in a quarter cup of hot water then add to the milk. To serve, I pour over a glass filled with ice.  I have to caution, this is such a fabulous drink, it is addictive!

There are many herbs from your garden that can be used in an herbal infusion, here are a few suggestions:

Lemon verbena: Lemon verbena provides the strongest lemon scent and flavour outside the citrus family. You won’t believe this light, bright tea doesn’t contain a slice of lemon. Try adding some lemon verbena to your favourite green tea.

Chocolate mint: This mint cultivar (Chocolate' Mentha x piperita f. citrata) has an unusual red stem but a familiar taste. Sweet woodruff: Also known as galium, this pretty but common ground cover makes a not-so-common herbal tea. Expect hints of vanilla and almonds. For an authentic Tibetan-style refreshment, brew a trio of sweet woodruff, basil and mint. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spa Girl says new research suggests that Cherries are the ultimate antioxidant

Its cherry season in the Okanagan, and this year because of the unseasonal cool weather  the cherries are big and sweet and very juicy...YUM!

This past weekend I attended a fabulous Farms2Chefs "grazing event".  Twenty top chefs in our area teamed up with local farmers and provided an afternoon of delectable eatables that put a smile on every locavores face.  And given it is cherry season there were a number of goodies dedicated to this amazing little fruit.

I don't know many people who don't love cherries; eaten by the handful, fresh or dried, in pies, as a drink or a thousand other creative ways, cherries are packed with powerful disease-fighting antioxidants called anthocyanins that provide their distinctive red colour. The red pigments that give cherries their wonderful colour are a type of phytonutrient known as flavonoids, which have been linked to a variety of health benefits.  Cherries also contain beta carotene vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fibre and foliate.

Besides tasting good, top researchers indicate that cherries help to ease the pain of arthritis and gout, reduce the risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, prevent memory loss and contain high levels of melatonin, which help us sleep better, and who doesn't love that!  Oh yes, and a recent study from the University of Michigan found that a cherry-enriched diet helped to reduce body fat, especially stubborn “belly” fat. 

Nutritionists suggest that people consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day to have an impact on their health. Just one ounce of cherry juice concentrate supplies 3,622 ORAC units, about an entire day's recommendation.

Did you know that the top cherry producing nations are Turkey, the United States followed by Iran, but I'm sure if you check your GPS there is a cherry orchard near you.  Consider a lovely day in the country and pick your own!

Dr Oz on the benefits of Cherries...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Spa Girl says consider giving your hair a spa treatment

Its finally summer where I live, it took a long time coming this year!  It's hot, and I mean hot, over 30 degrees, sunny and a glorious time to enjoy the outdoors, go to the beach, or the pool and cool off.   Hot summer weather however can also mean the natural moisture in your hair can disperse leaving your hair straw-like and brittle and salt and chlorine can cause damage if you are not careful.

The best way to help restore, condition and bring back the shine to your dry hair is to massage rich emollient oils such as olive oil, a much- loved Mediterranean remedy, or jojoba oil into your hair. 

There are also a few delightful blended oils available such as Philip B. Rejuvenating Oil, Aeto Botanica Fortifying Oil, Better Botanicals Herbal Hair Oil, and  L'Occitane Olive Hair Care Oil.

Oils will penetrate dry, thirsty hair, so don't wash your hair before applying the oil and make sure to brush it first to evenly distributing all of your natural oil.  Then work the oil into your hair one section at a time making sure it is thoroughly saturated, stopping just  before  the scalp. Once you have your entire head soaked in these heavenly oils use a blow dryer to direct the heat down the hair shaft, away from your scalp or heat your oil beforehand as heating will help the oil penetrate the hair shaft.  Wrap your head and leave on for 30 minutes, or for a deep conditioning treatment leave on overnight.  Shampoo your hair without getting it wet working it into your hair and scalp for a good 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water and apply a light conditioner, preferably one with sun block. 

Spa Girl Tip:  Washing your hair once every two days is enough even for the oiliest of scalps as too much washing and shampooing will do more harm than good.

Hair can define your looks and is definitely a reflection of your good health.  Having healthy hair is all about two things, a combination of caring for it on the outside and nurturing it from the inside with a well-balanced diet.
Here are some suggestions to help make the selection of aromatherapy oils to add to your base oil.
Oils for Dry Hair: rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, lavender, geranium. Oils for Greasy Hair: basil, eucalyptus, cedar wood, chamomile, lemongrass, cypress, sage, rosemary.  Oils for Normal Hair: lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, geranium. 
Choose three essential oils for your hair type and mix five drops of each aromatherapy oil into a base oil, such as olive, coconut, castor, mustard, sweet almond, jojoba, evening primrose or sunflower oil and apply to hair. 
Enjoy your summer, and remember it's all about sun screen and taking care of your hair.