Our culture is obsessed with anti-aging everything and in so many ways this is sad. When I was studying anthropology, I was fascinated by cultures who revere their elders – where each year you grow older, you’re considered to be more valuable because of the wisdom you’ve gathered on your journey. In these kind of cultures, there’s no such thing as a retirement home because the elderly are kept close at hand, where they can be doted on. They are pro-aging! As I started writing this piece on an organic anti-aging regimen, I stopped dead in my tracks to consider that the women who I most admire in my life, who literally hold a torch up for me – my mentors and spiritual advisers – women who have got what I want, are not chronologically young. All of these women are in their late 70′s. None of them have had any cosmetic surgery, all of them take care of themselves beautifully with natural products, but the absolute gorgeousness that emanates from all 3 women is that they are all happy, joyous and free in spirit. I’m sure we can all think of women who have aged with grace and beauty: Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Hutton and Maya Angelou are just a few that spring to mind.- phew – needed to get that out before I jump into my 8 Steps to an Organic Anti-aging regimen.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a girl who’ll let her hair go gray, her toe nails go unpainted, and who won’t try to slow down the ticking of the clock where possible. I’m a product queen of the worst order (hair styling products being my biggest downfall), and I LOVE LOVE to shop for cosmetics. However, since jumping head-first into the green space a few years back, I’ve come to understand a few simple home truths about beauty products, which have not only saved me a lot of my hard-earned cash, but have also helped me to develop a holistic approach to my beauty.
My understanding now is that my skin is the largest organ of my body, it acts as a protective barrier, but also absorbs over 60% of what I put on it. Whatever is absorbed by my skin, directly affects my endocrine system, which in turn governs the entire way in which my body functions. So my primary job is to make sure that whatever I put on my body, heals and nourishes, rather than harms me. Toxic chemicals in skin care products, food or our environment are aging because they interfere with our natural physiological balance, the way our body is supposed to function. So I would say that the first component to an anti-aging strategy would be to minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals and environmental pollutants – easier said than done I know!
Moving on to my 10 steps, which I think can be helpful when taking a more holistic approach to your beauty routine, and frankly are the only things that really work. Having studied numerous peer-reviewed articles, scientific and medical reports before writing my latest book, Do It Gorgeously, I found that there are only 3 anti-aging products that have been clinically proven to improve the skin and in some cases make it look younger. They are: Vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids, and retinol. However, it’s vitally important to realize that these ingredients have to be present in high enough concentrations to really make a difference, and they usually aren’t. More than anything use organic plant and essential oils, as they contain the highest concentration of all the nutrients that you need for supple, glowing skin.
1.Sunscreen: This old chestnut I know- but given the fact that UV rays destroy collagen and elastin fibers, burst tiny blood vessels and create brown spots/pigmentation, it makes sense to use a good broad-spectrum sun block. With all the controversy online about how some sunscreens are useless and others are toxic, here are my tried and tested favorites that are effective as well as safe:
2. Exfoliate: This is a vital step in your beauty routine. If you don’t exfoliate regularly, you are simply sticking dead skin cells back onto your skin with products. You can make the Gentle Exfoliating Scrub from Do It Gorgeously for pennies instead of dollars, and its gentle enough to use at least three times per week.
3. Don’t Smoke: This includes passive smoking. The toxic smoke can provoke free-radical formation and promote aging in a plethora of other ways too.
4. Cut Down on Alcohol: This seems obvious but it’s really important as alcohol floods your body with free-radicals, dehydrates you, slows down your circulation, and packs on the pounds. 2 or 3 glasses of wine a week should be your max.
5.Retinol: Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is extremely effective at resurfacing the skin in a gentle and gradual way. You need to find a concentration of at least 1.0%. Use a product with this concentration every other night to begin with and slowly increase to every night. A pea-sized drop of product will suffice. Make sure the product you buy is non-toxic.
6. Vitamin C: I’m huge on topical Vitamin C, because it helps build collagen. Remember that if vitamin C sits in a lotion or creme it becomes inactive or can even promote free-radical formation. It’s best to get it in its powdered form onto your skin as best you can. Either consider Cosmedix Mixing Crystals or making your own Vitamin C serum at home, which you’ll find in Do It Gorgeously.
7.Alpha Hydroxy Acids: You can strip away the first few layers of dead skin very effectively by using an Alpha Hydroxy Acid AKA fruit acid. Many commercial products contain AHA’s but honestly, not in a high enough concentration to do the job. Try making the homemade AHA mask from papaya and pineapple, in Do It Gorgeously.
8. Diet: A good diet cannot be overstated. You simply cannot expect to have beautiful, glowing skin if you eat too much convenience/junk food. The simple truth is that you need to eat foods that contain anti-oxidants everyday. I eat berries every morning. If I can get fresh, organic berries, I eat them with granola or homemade yogurt. If they’re not in season, I make smoothies with organic frozen berries. I also make sure I get more than my quota of daily greens by adding a scoop of New Chapter’s Berry Greens to a glass of Pomegranate juice daily. Finally make sure you take a good Probiotic – I love Ultimate Flora by Renew life.
9.Exercise: Don’t want to harp on about this one – we ALL KNOW that we gotta exercise thank you!!! If you dont’ have much time like me, find quick fun workouts that you can do at home. I love my Kettleworx 10 minute workouts (they’re killer), The Bar Method DVD’s (when I can carve out half and hour), and a little home yoga 3 times a week – literally if you’ve got 5 minutes to do it, it’s better than nothing. The important thing is that you do something every single day.
10 Gratitude: I find that all of the women I know who have a youthful spirit regardless of their age, almost always find something to be grateful about. An attitude of gratitude engenders joy and a face that is joyful is ageless.
Finally - I’ll leave you with this stanza from Maya Angelou’s “Imagine A Woman”
Imagine a woman who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her body and her life.
Imagine yourself as this woman