I absolutely love Neem oil. It is my bathroom cabinet saviour oil; my son’s eczema saviour oil and my daughters saviour oil for her teenage hormonal acne. When I was first introduced to neem oil I couldn’t believe how quickly my son’s painful and itchy eczema flare up was calmed and controlled. Knowing that his prescribed steroid cream didn’t ease his itch, or work quickly on his eczema I was advised by a family member to try neem diluted with another carrier oil. I’m so glad I listened to their advice.
My son’s eczema itch stopped and within 2 days his eczema was noticeably calmer. Within 2 weeks it was completely gone from his elbow, neck and knee joints.
Now…I have to admit that at this point we had already eliminated milk and sugar from my sons diet. His eczema flare up was however triggered when he accidentally ate a pancake that had cow milk as an ingredient. The difference this time was that I didn’t panic and use a steroid cream or his usual prescribed dry skin creams, like I had during his previous flare ups. Instead I continued with his 100% natural Tigs & Moo Naked Body Butter and simply mixed several drops of neem oil in with it, into the palms of my hands.
Even the nutty smell pungent smell of the neem oil could be forgiven, as we watched the eczema fade away without needing yet another trip to the doctor.
That was four and a half years ago and I haven’t used a steroid cream ever since…despite the conventional dermatologist telling me that I should. It is amazing how many doctors are still unwilling to try a more Homeopathic or Ayurvedic remedy over something like a topical steroid cream which at some point, with long-term use will cause damage to the skin, as is the case for my mum. Topical Steroid Withdrawal is hell to go through for anyone let alone a child.
Neem, combined with my own body butter was and still is a little miracle dream team.
Like many other natural oils and butters, neem has absolutely fantastic anti-inflammatory compounds that can soothe the skin and reduce the dreaded eczema itch and irritation. Some of these amazing anti-inflammatory properties are three compounds called nimbidin, nimbin and quercetin.
Now, I’m no scientist, but I believe it works so well because neem also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. I have even used this as a natural insect repellent when added to another carrier oil.
Neem only has a comedogenic rating of 1 – 2 meaning it is less likely to block pores, making it a good choice for acne sufferers. For those who want an oil that can aid collagen production, dry skin and wrinkles, neem also has an absorbency rating of 5, making it an oil that slowly absorbs into the skin and therefore offers a protective barrier. Some of its other benefits also include properties such as fatty acids, antioxidants and Vitamin E.
When it comes to the smell, like Marmite, you either love it or hate it, but that is why diluting neem with another carrier oil is something I do, unless I am dabbing it directly onto acne. My kids love the smell, I don’t! But as I have seen the benefits of this oil first hand, I do add a couple drops to my daily facial moisturiser.
As always, test anything new on the inner part of your elbow and wait 48 hours. If you’re going to give it a try, go for Organic Cold Pressed Virgin Neem Oil.
My skin tone, eczema, adult acne and fine lines salute this oil with the most respect!
Firstly, and very important, anyone with a nut allergy should not use almond oil. And, as with any type of new skincare product, you should always do a patch test first…especially if you have sensitive eczema prone skin.
Now that we have said that, it is good to know that almond oil is classed as both a moisturiser and an emollient, which is a double bonus for those who want to give it a go. It is a vegetable oil, obtained from the dried kernels of the almond tree, it can be applied directly to the skin and hair, or used as an active ingredient or carrier oil.
As an emollient it smooths the skin, filling in little gaps, which helps the skin retain moisture by improving its barrier function. As a moisturiser it supplies water to the skin and holds it in with an oily substance.
With its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and even anticarcinogenic properties, many people use almond oil as a natural skincare ingredient to help treat common skin conditions, such as dermatitis and eczema. There is good evidence that this natural moisturiser improves eczema when used regularly, and I myself add almond oil to my skincare routine regularly.
Almond oil includes B vitamins, vitamins A, D and E and also includes fatty acids such as oleic acid, which help cells to function normally.
With an absorption rate of 3, it mostly sits on the skin and leaves a satiny silky look
It also has a comedogenic rating of 2 which means that it won’t cog the pores of most people, but may potentially block the pores of some.
Also known as Rosehip oil, the colour of Rosehip seed oil ranges from a beautiful deep golden tone to a rich orange-red. If it looks more yellow in colour this means it has been more processed and refined, which removes many of its original properties and benefits. It is also advantageous to know that when it is 100% pure it has a nutty toasty aroma due to the grinding process of the seeds.
When it comes to benefits to the skin there are lots of good reasons for using this natural oil.
First of all, and one which is massively important for those with sensitive skin or for those who are acne prone, rosehip seed oil only has a comedogenic rating of one. This means it is highly unlikely to block pores
It also has a absorbency rating of one which makes it a dry oil that is absorbed quickly by the skin, without leaving that oily feeling.
If you are someone who shy’s away from the oily feeling, then this will definitely be an ideal oil for you. There are many properties to rosehip oil that make it an ideal candidate for natural beauty warriors.
As well as fatty acids like linoleic and linoleic acid, which those with dry skin should use as part of their beauty routine to help prevent water loss, other benefits include that is has natural antioxidant properties.
All you natural beauty warriors by now will know that antioxidants are needed to help reduce inflammation in the body and skin. By reducing inflammation and neutralising free radicals, our skin can help to repair itself from damage such as those caused by the UV rays of the sun, pollution, our diet and even some of the synthetic skincare we use which includes those artificial chemical fragrances. Antioxidants can also aid in the production of collagen which is massively beneficial to those who want to prevent, slow down or reduce signs of premature ageing.
Did I also mention that rosehip seed oil is also a natural exfoliator?
Then apologies, because it is!
It is naturally high in vitamins A (retinol) and C which encourages skin cell turnover which means brighter, glowing, vibrant skin.
And for those with inflamed skin or skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis or rosacea, rosehip seed oil is rich with anti-inflammatory properties like vitamin E, anythocyanin and polyphenols. Those words may be a bit of a mouthful but rest assured, when simply put, it means you are treating your skin with love.
Included in rosehip’s many benefits is its use for those with hyperpigmentation. As a person who has used this oil before, I know that although my face didn’t seem to like this drier oil, my body did reap the benefits. When I mixed this with other carrier oils and used in regularly on my imperfections i.e. hyperpigmented areas of my body, after several months I did start to notice a difference to my uneven skin tone.
I learned later on that rosehip seed oil contains beta carotene and lycopene. Both of these have skin lightening properties.
When I mentioned previously that it didn’t agree with my face, this was because it worked perfectly on my body during the 48 hour patch test, but when I made the mistake of using it on my face without diluting it with another carrier oil I did get a slight rash…oh to having super sensitive skin!!!!
So…the moral of this story is do that all important patch test and if you are still unsure, dilute it with another oil you are certain you don’t react to
Before I leave you I should also say that this is another oil that is easy to get hold of in wholefood and health shops, or online.
As we find ourselves in this surreal lockdown situation, with all the uncertainty in the world, not knowing what’s going to happen from one day to the next, it is going to take a toll on our Mental Health.
Stress is the body’s reaction to a threat, and anxiety is the body’s reaction to the stress. Stress can have many different drivers but a major factor can be the brain’s primary function, that of survival. Part of that survival role is the ability of prediction. The brain is constantly making predictions about both our internal and external environments, every microsecond of every day.
Enter a worldwide virus that affects every aspect of our lives which you have no control over, and that prediction ability is now compromised, leading to uncertainty. The brain doesn’t like uncertainty, and perceives this as a threat and heightens the activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System, our alarm fight or flight system. Our body is regulated by the Autonomic Nervous System, and this system is always on. Like everything in nature, a balance (homeostasis) is required and it’s the Autonomic Nervous System’s job to balance out our physiology between stressful and calm states of being.
We have two distinct branches of the autonomic nervous system:
Parasympathetic State: Rest and Digest. This is when we are calm and at rest. Where we need to be most of the time.
Sympathetic State: This is our fight or flight response, which is when we are in a state of threat (stress). Now not all stress is bad. The problem arises when we are in heightened states of stress for long periods of time. Stress is crucial for your body’s normal functions, in controlled amounts it helps with a whole host of functions in the body. It helps with keeping our mind focused, helps us to learn, wakes us up in the morning as part of the Circadian rhythm cycle and drives adaption in the gym with fitness, strength and hypertrophy amongst other functions.
However we do not want to live in a sympathetic state. We want to enter into it when we need to, when we train for example, then immediately get out and return to a parasympathetic state when we are finished.
In today’s world, more so than ever experienced before, we are exposed to constant stress, the issue is that we spend too much time in a sympathetic state. Now, what defines stress? Anything and everything! In reality it all depends on you.
Lack of sleep
Poor quality food
Smoking, alcohol and drugs
Constant exposure to blue light devices
Long hours indoors
In the world we live in today, our stress is vastly different. It is less physical, and much more emotional. Every day we encounter small stresses from our partners, colleagues, boss, social media, environment and basically anything else. Every time these small stresses occur, the body believes we are in danger.
Get your body into a Parasympathetic State!!
This is where we want to be ‘living’. Below are some tips I use with my clients to help manage their stress levels
Sleep is the most bang-for-your-buck tool to decrease stress and promote recovery. Most people, a) don’t sleep enough and/ or, b) have poor quality sleep.
One of the reasons people have so much trouble with sleep is the inability to simply “switch off”.
Here we need to create an evening with some structure to help us get into a parasympathetic state.
Step 1 @ 8pm Turn off your smartphone/laptop/electronic tablet. This is hard for a lot of people, but it is a crucial step to reclaiming your sleep back. Phones and laptops have blue lights on their screens. Blue light signals to your brain that it is day time, which turns down melatonin production. Melatonin is the key hormone that regulates our sleep, and starts secreting into our system around 9pm, so we don’t want to turn it off.
Step 2 According to 2009 study at the University of Sussex, 6 minutes of reading each day can reduce a person’s stress levels by 68%, thereby helping individuals clear their minds and minimise bodily tension. For this reason, I advocate reading a book in bed until your eyes feel heavy.
Step 3 Nose breathe. Finish with a couple of minutes of nose breathing. When you breathe through your nose you produce a molecule called Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide is a Vasodilator and helps decreases blood pressure and heightens the parasympathetic nervous system. Rest and digest.
Step 4 Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time. Keep to a routine. As already mentioned, the brain likes predictability.
2. Morning sunlight
Seeing the natural light of the sun helps the brain work better. We’re not talking about staring at the sun, but allowing the eyes to be exposed to natural outdoor light free from contact lenses, sunglasses and windows etc. The free Vitamin D you get from sunlight, has powerful effects throughout the body, notably on the immune system. The sun also unlocks the brain’s natural pharmacy which helps the nervous system, hormonal regulation (happy hormones), muscle function and Circadian Rhythm (sleep).
3. Forest Bathing
Research has shown exposure to the natural environment is highly beneficial to human health, especially Mental Health. When taking a walk through woodland you breathe in the naturally occurring chemicals produced mainly by trees but also plants. These natural chemicals have been shown to have a direct physiological effect on the body which have a calming and mood elevating effect.
4. Take time to Breathe
Our Autonomic Nervous System regulates the rate we breathe. That means it just automatically happens under our unconscious awareness. We don’t think too much about it. When calm and relaxed we generally take 9-15 breaths per minute. However, if we are feeling stressed, anxious or scared, you will become very aware of your breathing and your breathing rate will increase. Again, this is your threat response activating your Sympathetic Nervous System. By simply taking turns in blocking one nostril and breathing in through the other at roughly a 5 second inhalation and then breathing out through pursed lips at a 10-15 second exhalation you will help to balance out your stress and calm systems. Try this for 5-8 minutes spread out through the day.
5. Fasted morning slow steady state cardio
Not all cardio will have the the same effect on the body. HIIT or interval sessions are fun and a great tool to use for increased levels of fitness, etc. but ultimately causes a stress response in order for the body to adapt and get fitter.
If we are trying to keep our stress levels down, this type of training will just add to an already highly stressed state and should be kept to once or twice a week. I have found morning steady state cardio to be brilliant for the management of stress. Steady state is determined at an intensity level you could maintain a conversation. I usually program 3-5 morning sessions per week, each lasting between 20-30 minutes.
Here’s why: the brain lives on aerobic respiration, and therefore promotes brain growth (oxygen); it up regulates happy hormones (neurotransmitters) in balance with the stress ones; helps protect against the corrosive effects on the brain from cortisol (stress hormone); it balances neurotransmitters (hormones) in the brain that promote focus; it regulates all the neurotransmitters targeted by antidepressants, thus waking the brain and improving self-esteem. You feel awake and ready to rock on with your day.
I prefer to do this in the morning on an empty stomach because of the anti-inflammatory effect fasting has. During a fasted state, the central nervous system and immune system activates its regeneration phase, reduces oxidative stress (inflammation) and improves mitochondrial function (energy levels), amongst other benefits.
These are just some of the strategies I use. The biggest take home is to keep to a routine, get outside in the sun and amongst nature, move more, move in novel ways (mobility, yoga, learn to handstand, etc.) make time to spend more time with loved ones, listen to music and watch your favourite funny films. Smile!
Is ‘thick and hard to manage’ a part of that dialogue?
If so…please allow this blog to encourage, empower and inspire you.
I believe that not only is the crown on your head beautiful! It is also “waiting” to be worn in its full beauty! Even though it is thick, it is manageable! Even though it is “hard to manage”, it is manageable! Even if your life history has delivered a message of mistruth…your hair can be worn well……it is manageable!!!!!!
Part of the key to “managing” your natural hair is in your own self truth, your hair maintenance and an understanding of how to “listen” to what your hair is “saying”
– Your hair is beautiful no matter it’s length, texture or density! – You are beautiful! – You can learn how to develop and maintain your hair – You can empower yourself with knowledge about nourishing ingredients and also in the benefit of reading product labels before you bu.
– Our (yes I am including myself) hair needs moisture! – Our scalp needs to be healthy in order to promote hair growth! – Our hair strands need to be nourished! AND – The ends of our hair need to be protected in order to prevent breakage and have length retention! (aka: long hair)
How can this be accomplished? ️
– By developing a daily/weekly/monthly haircare routine that will help our hair become manageable – By having a healthy scalp which will promote hair growth – By understanding that the routine doesn’t have to be complicated, it just needs a commitment to learning as well as the space to implement
Where to start
– Moisture: 100% Water is the first stop. Aloe Vera Juice (AV Juice) is great. You can mix 50% AV juice with 50% water. You can also use 100% AV Juice. I have been exploring floral water (Hydrosols) and I have to say my hair is responding nicely! It stays moisturized longer and is even softer than by just using AV Juice
Does your hair need a lot of liquids to stay hydrated or not so much?
– Some Oils & Butters such as Jojoba, Olive, Sweet Almond, Flaxseed, Shea, Cocoa, Mango will penetrate and the hair shafts as well as coat the strands to help lock in moisture
– Washing hair weekly will help keep a healthy scalp. If you live in a hard water area a chelating agent will be part of your monthly wash
– Deep Conditioning will help with softness and detangling
– Read and understand the ingredients on the product labels before you buy
– Do your own research
When I started my own natural hair journey, I used the words ‘thick’ and ‘hard’ to manage as descriptors for my hair
Pilates was pioneered by German born Joseph Hubertus Pilates in the early 20th century. During childhood he was afflicted with many conditions such as asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. The prognosis for Joseph was not good but he was determined to return his body to peak physical condition. He believed mental and physical health were closely connected. Through this determination he became a competent gymnast, diver, skier and boxer. He devised a series of exercises and training techniques, and engineered all the equipment specifications required to teach his methods properly. These are still the inspiration for the modern day reformer! In the 1920s Pilates emigrated to the U.S and opened a studio in New York where he taught his method of ‘contrology’ for many decades.
There are different types of pilates now from classical and mat pilates to reformer and Stott Pilates which may sound confusing if you haven’t tried them? Whatever pilates class you choose they should all focus on breathing, control, centring and flow. They maybe on a mat or using other equipment such as a reformer machine, and have different styles and influences. These types are also growing now incorporating for example barre or yoga.
Pilates is a great way to strengthen the body so find one that suits you and is right for the goals you want to achieve. Pilates uses a series of exercises designed to engage your core and lower back to improve posture, flexibility, stamina and strength. It is also used a lot to help reduce injuries such as back and neck pain and for general rehabilitation. It helps to get the body back in balance by a series of exact, controlled movements, targeting specific muscle groups and helping to identify where stronger or weaker areas are.
Pilates can be used for all ages and levels of fitness and ability as all the exercises can be progressed or regressed (modified) for each individual. It is great for toning the body by combining exercise and stretching into routines. This type of exercise is even more relevant due to lifestyle factors such as long working hours, being seated for long periods of times and for mental health aspects to name a few. It is important to find a certified instructor with a good qualification, someone who you enjoy working with. If you are very new to pilates or have specific injuries I would recommend either someone that specialises in your area of concern or find a small group class or one to one session to begin with.
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