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Saturday
Dec152012

The ancient Ayurveda practice of Oil Pulling to Naturally Whiten Teeth and Body Detox

In my travels working with Instituto Español I have come across so many ways people use our oils, some of them a bit different to the way I thought they were designed for: some surprising, some funny.   From adding Coca-Cola to our Coconut Oil to get a better tan, to putting a drop of our Aloe Vera oil on an insect bite to reduce the swelling, to using a drop of Aloe Vera oil in minor cuts to stop bleeding, to using our Coconut oil as part of a stimulating or sensual massage.

I hear Oil Pulling is back in vogue.  Oil Pulling is an Ayurveda traditional practice.  Ayurveda medicine is an ancient Hindu system of alternative medicine.  Oil Pulling is a very simple procedure intended to naturally whiten teeth, reduce gum inflammation and detoxify the body.

How does it work?

It is as simple as swishing one tablespoon full of vegetable oil in your mouth for 20 minutes, without swallowing it, and watch the magic happen.  You can use sesame oil, sunflower oil or our own Coconut oil or Aloe Vera oil with similar results. 

The idea is to continuously swish the oil in your mouth to draw saliva and activate digestion.  This action draws toxins from the body into the oil and saliva mix.   After 20 minutes you should spit the oil fully and brush your teeth immediately with a good toothpaste, preferably a natural one.   If you have a good salt such as Hymalayan salt or Celtic salt even better instead of the toothpaste.  It is recommended to use a different toothbrush than the one you use normally because of the amount of toxins generated through this process.

By doing Oil Pulling once or twice a day for 30 days the results can be incredible.  Besides teeth whitening, you can obtain life changing health benefits, including better breathing, alleviated migraines, tooth pains and bleeding gums, better sleep, detoxification of the body, healing inflammations and many more health improvements.

Friday
Dec142012

Oats: the dermatological wonder

At Instituto Español we have a large range of oats-based products which feel and smell fantastic.  This is our Avena range.  Avena means Oats in Spanish, by the way.  Besides the pleasentries of feeling the products on the skin, people ask me about the reason why oats is used in our skin care products. 

Some of the benefits of oats in the skin care world include:

Retaining Moisture

Oatmeal contains healthy lipids. When they come into contact with your skin, these fats help to retain moisture to soften and repair your skin.

Anti pollutant

Oatmeal helps to strengthen your skin's defenses so it can do a better job against pollutants or unhealthy agents, which can cause harm to your body.

Pores Cleansing

Certain compounds contained in oatmeal help to remove dirt from your pores. This effect, combined with oatmeal's moisture-retention properties, gives your skin that soft glow after an oatmeal cleanse.

Natural Cleansing

The saponins in oats help to remove dirt from your pores in a natural way.

Thursday
Dec132012

Foods for your skin

When we think about our skin and how to look after it, we tend to think about cosmetics, moisturisers and lotions, which is a good thing, but something we tend to put little thought into is the positive impact of a healthy and balanced diet and appropriate exercise can have.  Eating the right things, moisturising and protecting the skin from the outside and a moderate physical exercise routine combined are the winning formula to keep your skin at its best.

During Summer, we tend to get exposed a bit more to the Sun so we need to make sure we nurture our skin from the inside and from the outside.  In this post I will concentrate on the foods that nurture the skin from the inside:

Vitamin A 

Vitamin A is critical to fight wrinkles and fine lines, and it helps your skin to repair itself.  Foods high in vitamin A include liver, chilli, paprika, lettuce, rocket, carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, and spinach.  It is better to consume vitamin A from natural food sources rather than from supplements. Excessive amounts of vitamin A in your body can be harmful.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps reducing free radical damage, such as that caused by overexposure to the sun or pollution. Free radicals consume the flexible fibers that support the skin's structure and can cause premature ageing.  Foods high in vitamin C include capsicum, thyme, parsley, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, oranges, tangerines, strawberries and broccoli.  It is better to consume vitamin C from natural food sources.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that reduces the effects of sun exposure on the skin, but your body can't produce it, which means you have to make sure you are getting enough of it in your diet.  Vitamin E also reduces the appearance of wrinkles, and helps your skin stay healthier and more supple.  Food sources of vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds,  sunflower oil, spinach, peaches, prunes, tomatoes, cabbage, asparagus, and avocados.

Zinc

This mineral is very important for a healthy skin, especially for acne sufferers.  There is a correlation between Zinc deficiency and acne. Zinc acts as a catalyzer for the production of oil in the skin.  Excessive oil in the skin is one of the contributors of acne.  Foods rich in Zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger, pecans, oats, and eggs.

As a final skin care point, be sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30+ every day even if you are not outdoors all the time in Summer.   Make sure you use "broad-spectrum" sunscreen meaning that it protects you against ultra violet radiation A and B.  If you're spending most of the day outdoors, reapply sunscreen every few hours and wear UV-blocking sunglasses.

Wednesday
Dec122012

Fragrances and your personality

OK, in the last couple of posts I wrote about the theory and technical side of fragrances, top, middle and base notes and perfume types.  Hopefully we learned something, but what does this mean in practical terms?

Ideally, we should be able to use this knowledge to organise our thoughts around fragrances, to be able to pick the right perfume for the right occasion.  Some people go to the effort of identifying a signature fragrance that may go with their personality.  I am not opposed to this concept; since it has been scientifically proven that olfactory centres are intimately linked to the areas of the brain that deal with emotion, fear and memory. That suggests a link between smell and the way we think, and behave.

The right fragrances therefore are able to help us connect with feelings and emotions and with the makings of our personality.  Given the almost infinite array of perfumes and fragrances out there, selecting the right one may be seen as a huge task.  It all depends on the way we look at it.  We are not embarking in finding the perfect song among the whole corpus of music produced over the last few centuries.  We are embarking in something a bit more tenable, like finding the type of music we like and being able to recognise genres and rhythms that we connect with. 

An obvious starting point is to work with fragrances that we like, and with a bit more effort we can then start associating the right fragrances with the right feelings and personality traits.  This association system is similar to the process by which music can make us feel in certain way, and can help us consolidate and retrieve memories.

Let’s get into particular smells and try to associate them with emotions and personality traits;  the traditional classification system for fragrances includes the following categories:

Category

Description

Emotion, personality trait

Floral

This is the largest category, probably the most popular scent option.  It contains the scent of one or more flowers, typically rose, lavender, gardenia, carnation and other varieties.

Feminine and romantic.

Evokes Spring.

Oriental or Amber

This category includes a mix of amber, balsams and resins.  It tends to be muskier, spicy with hints of vanilla, cinnamon and clove. 

Sophistication, mysteriousnesss and prominence.

Very sensual.  Evokes the evening feeling or Winter weather.

Citrus

This category is derived from citrus fruits aromas from lime, lemon and mandarin.  This fragrance is sharp and tangy.

Sporty, energetic, enthusiastic, vigorous.  Naturally refreshing and uplifting, but not overpowering.  Freewill and freedom.

Evokes warm and humid summer days.

Green

This category brings to mind fresh cut grass and crushed leaves.  It evokes the outdoors and open spaces.

Sporty and brisk, the outdoors.

Evokes Autumn.

Fougere

Fougere means fern in French.  Fougere scents are stronger and often used in men's fragrances. They incorporate notes of oakmoss, herbs and lavender.

Ambicious, powerful, adventurous, exotic.

 

Wood

This category evokes the forest experience. Think pine, cedar, sandalwood - scents that are earthy and musky.

Distinguished, masculine energy, elegant and dominant.

Tuesday
Dec112012

More on the art and science of fragrances: perfume types

Perfumes and skincareFollowing on my previous post:  The beginner’s tour through the world of fragrances, in which we learned about top, middle and base notes, I decided to go a bit deeper and further into the topic. 

Besides the mixture of essential oils and aroma compounds, perfume makers need to use fixatives and solvents to get the right effect.  Perhaps the most common solvent for perfume dilution is ethanol or a mixture of ethanol and water. In perfumery, a fixative is a substance used to reduce the evaporation rate, which allows the final product to keep its original fragrance for longer.

When we think about perfume concentration, typically the denomination of perfume types is in French. Perfumes are not necessarily originated in France, but France’s colourful and exhuberant history of passion and excesses around expensive perfumes during the 18th century in particular, when perfume was first bottled and mass produced, made France the centre of the fragrances universe.  This is again not necessarily the case any more, but the naming classification remains and it is widely used. The classification of perfumes reflects the intensity, concentration and longevity of perfumes.  As the percentage of aromatic compounds increases, so does the intensity and longevity of the scent created.  Even though here are different opinions when it comes to the definition of perfume types, one classification that I find useful to describe a fragrance's approximate concentration by percent/volume of perfume oil includes:

  • Eau de Parfum (EdP) also known as Parfum de Toilette (PdT).  Typically contains 12-20% aromatic compounds.
  • Eau de Toilette (EdT).  Typically contains 6-12% aromatic compounds.
  • Eau de Cologne (EdC): Typically contains 3-6% aromatic compounds.
  • Perfume mist: Alcohol-free, 3-8% aromatic compounds.
  • Splash (EdS) and aftershave:  Typically contain 1-3% aromatic compounds.

 

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