Less Toxic Nail Polish and Nail Care

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A few months ago on Instagram I asked in stories if people had suggestions for a more eco and health friendly nail polish. I think my nail polish query on Instagram was my most responded-to story to date. I had no idea that A) nails were such a hot topic and B) that there were so many nail polish companies out there using less toxic formulations.

Emphasis on less toxic, not non toxic. The standard for “green” nail polish is how many bad chemicals they’ve cut out, not what great, nourishing ingredients they contain. I have to separate it out from my standards of everything else I put on my body or else I would have to stop using nail polish all together. For instance, in one 8 Free formula there is a chemical called: polyethylene terephthalate. Personally, I just don’t trust a man made chemical I can’t pronounce. However, the Environmental Working Group says it has low toxicity. So, I guess this means, paint with abandon!

Below is the list of brands I compiled from all of the suggestions I received on Instagram stories. Some brands make it obvious what their “_ free” number is, so for those I put it next to the brand name.

Acquarelle

Butter London

Cote

Dazzle Dry

Flora 1761 8 Free

Gabriel Cosmetics 10 Free

Habit

J. Hannah 7 Free

Julep 5 Free

Londontown 9 Free

Miranda Bennet 7 Free

Odeme

Priti NYC

RMS

Sienna

Smith + Cult 8 Free

Spa Ritual 12 Free

Sundays 10 Free

TenoverTen 8 Free

Veque 9 Free

Zoya 10 Free

So many brands! I had no idea. I also stumbled across this article with even more brands not included here. With so many to choose from, and only so much time and money to paint my nails, I bought a couple colors from Flora1761 as my first foray into less toxic nails. I based my first “green” nail polish purchase on the pretty packaging, availability of colors I like (I pretty much just stick to reds and pinks) and the fact that they were having a holiday sale. The verdict: slightly less durable than the Essie I used to use, but it works! It also smells just like the conventional pharmacy nail polish, so I would suggest painting in a ventilated area. Again, you’re still putting unnatural chemicals on your nails, it’s just less bad. As with all things, do your research, weigh your options and choose what works for you!

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I paint my nails occasionally, and in between paintings, I like to keep them healthy with the following tips:

-Eat: Biotin in the form of foods including eggs, avocados, cauliflower.

-Use: Skin Food to moisturize hands and nails. You can also soak your nails in olive oil for 15 minutes a few nights in a row to give them extra TLC.

This is my favorite natural nail polish remover.

I learned a trick recently to whiten nails when I was having a serious day of dyeing without gloves and was asked last-minute to hand model for Wwake the next day: use a combination of hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, and baking soda all together in a bowl and it will magically whiten your nails naturally!

Sleep Tips from a Light Sleeper Living in NYC

I am a light sleeper. This is how I came about starting a company built on what seems to be a random item: the sleep mask.
It took 10 years of living in NYC to finally discover the fact that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. After yet another sleepless night because of my neighbors’ loud footsteps above us, I asked my boyfriend if he could hear what I heard. He could not. Somehow it took me until 2018 to classify myself as HSP. After living in probably 15 different apartments, I always wondered how I happened to choose the noisiest place to live. I finally started to wonder if the common denominator was me. I then went down a rabbit hole and discovered that Highly Sensitive People can literally see, hear, smell, taste things that other people can’t. This can be a wonderful gift, but in a place like NYC, it is a curse. 

I used to just call myself an indicator species (like frogs who are the first to show that there is an environmental issue), or canary in the coal mine. But now I know I actually have a genetic trait that makes me more physically sensitive, empathetic and attuned to my surroundings than 80-85% of the population. Knowing this only helps me feel less crazy when I experience things that most people do not. It certainly hasn’t helped me sleep better. Which is why I have so many great sleep tips. If something works for highly sensitive me living in NYC, it may just work for you!

I assume if you are reading this that you have some sort of trouble sleeping, so I will save all of the facts about how vital and amazing sleep is for a later post. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting sleep and not being able to get it. So many sleep articles are all about how great sleep is for you, as though most of us sleep-deprived people are purposely avoiding it and all of its wonderful benefits! I know it’s good for me—how to do I get more of it!?

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Below are some products and practices that I have used that help me. A good night of sleep really starts when you wake up, so I’ve organized this list by time of day.

Starting in the Morning (7-12): 

-Get at least 15 mins of sunlight if you can when you first wake up or as soon as you can in the morning. This sets your circadian rhythm up for the day.

-Exercise in the morning or afternoon, not in the evening. I find that I sleep better on days I exercise, but not if I do it in the evening or at night.

-I stopped drinking all caffeine, but if you drink coffee or caffeinated tea, don’t drink anything after noon.

Afternoon (12-5)

-I like to eat my biggest meal at noon or 1, when digestion is naturally strongest, and then I have a smaller dinner.

Evening (5-8:30)

-I like to eat dinner as early as possible, like right when restaurants open early bird special style. Obviously this doesn’t happen every night. But ideally I am going to sleep at least 3-4 hours after I’ve eaten my evening meal. Sleeping with a full stomach can impede your sleep and the detoxing and regenerating that your body does while sleeping. 

-And then, to be extra annoying, contrary to the above, you don’t want to go to sleep starving either. It’s a delicate balance that you’ll have to find for yourself. According to Beekeeper’s Natural’s Founder Carly Stein, who recommends having some honey before bed: “Slow release of glycogen stores in your liver. A lot of people will wake up because glycogen stores are low or depleted and it disrupts their sleep cycle. Honey causes slow steady spike in insulin that allows triptophan to cross the blood brain barrier where it’s converted to seratonin and in the dark melatonin.” If I’m feeling slightly hungry I have a spoonful of almond butter and it does the trick for me.

-Use candles, amber bulbs and change your screens to warm setting. In a perfect world, my screen time would end when the sun goes down. But since we live in reality, a great alternative is to use the warm tone screen setting and be mindful of finishing all computer, phone and TV time at least an hour before you are trying to be asleep. The earlier you make your space dark, the more easily your body will produce sleep-inducing melatonin. I find this step to be the hardest for people to heed because we live in a culture with such a pill-popping mentality and we don’t think something as ethereal as light could be important. A lot of people actually take melatonin pills which are not great for you, instead of doing things which will help your body make it for itself. 

-I like to make a cup of tea after dinner. It signals to my nervous system that things are winding down and it’s time to relax. Some herbs that are helpful for sleep are Passionflower leaf (my fave for its effects, not flavor), Lemon Verbena, Peppermint, Lavender, Milky Oat Tops, Chamomile, and California Poppy.

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-Taking a bath is a wonderful way to relax your muscles, soothe your nervous system and unwind thoughts that may otherwise keep you up in bed.

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Getting Ready for Bed (8:30-9:30)

-I plug my cell phone in in the kitchen and turn it off. We got a battery powered alarm clock that we keep in the bedroom. Not having my cell phone in the bedroom has been a bedtime game changer,.

-I take a couple teaspoons of the Magnesium calm. I tend to get really tight muscles so this helps with that as well as with sleep. It relaxes the whole body.

-I also take CBD before bed. This has been a game changer for sleep and also for my often sore back and neck. I love Luce Farm Hemp Infused Oil because I can take it internally and can use it topically for aches and pains.

-If I’m going through a period of having extra trouble falling asleep, I use Hit the Hay which is a strong herbal cocktail that can really help

-I unplug the router which emits high EMFs (jury is still out about safety of EMFs, but I’ve read enough that I take this measure at bedtime). Our router is a few feet from our bed (small apartment problems) so I just feel better knowing I’m not being exposed to concentrated EMFs while I sleep.

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Bedtime (9:30-11)

-Once I get in bed, I like to give myself a foot massage with an herbal balm that I’ve made or this one from Free Verse Farms. This helps me seal the day and give thanks to my feet for getting me around all day. It’s a very soothing self care practice. 

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-Your bedroom should not be hot or even warm. The ideal sleep temperature is about 65 degrees. Sometimes I crack my window in the winter and it makes a big difference in my sleep.

-There should be no light or blinking lights from a computer or phone anywhere in your bedroom.

-I sleep with a sleep mask every night (duh)

-I keep ear plugs next to my bed so in case there is a noise disturbance I can use them without making a bunch of noise rummaging around trying to find them

-I love my silk pillowcases for their temperature regulating properties, as well as the feel and effects on my skin and hair. These are especially great if you are a side or stomach sleeper. Much less friction on your face = less wrinkles.

-In terms of bedding and mattress—I need to do more research because what we have going on is not ideal. We currently have a V1 Casper mattress that I think is slowly breaking my body. It is so soft and comfy when you first get on it but I often wake up in pain. It gives no support. For bedding we have a thin quilt (my boyfriend calls it a Moving Blanket, like what gets wrapped around furniture, to give you an idea of how comfortable it is...), and two old down comforters. One is way too hot and the other is mildly too hot. Bedding, and mattresses, are serious investments and I am a deep researcher, so they are in the works. Recommendations welcome! And obviously blog post once I’ve figured it all out!

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Sweet dreams, friends! I hope this helps anyone who is looking for to get more sleep or better quality sleep. And please feel encouraged to share other things that work for you or any sleep struggles you have in the comments!

XO,

Susanna

Chemicals In My Deodorant: It's The Pits!

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The other day I discovered that there was an insidious chemical in my “natural” deodorant called Cyclotetrasiloxane or “D4.” It’s used to help things like deodorant slide on the skin and is often used in conditioners to make your hair feel moisturized and healthy when it’s really just a chemical sitting on your hair shaft.
I’ve been using this deodorant for as long as I can remember, so was really dismayed when I read that siloxanes like D4 and D5 have “long half-lives in people. The weak estrogenic activity of D4, in combination with its long half-life, poses potential concerns for exposed individuals.” Umm ok, great. It is a hormone disruptor, among other things. I wonder if this has any effect on my ovaries (see previous post).

I bought it at Whole Foods, it’s the Earth Science brand, and aside from D4 all the ingredients are botanicals I know and love like mint and rosemary. This is a really good reminder to vet all of the products you use: who makes them, what are their standards and what is each and every ingredient?
Naturally, the next step after finding out that there was poison in my deodorant was to get to work finding a new, actually natural one! After this discovery, I will only be buying products from people who’s faces I know and who will stand behind every ingredient.

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The two that I’m starting with are both women-led brands who extensively research every ingredient and their products are designed with your whole body system in mind. Mother Mountain Herbals Mermaid Mist Deodorant and Agent Nateur Holi (Man) No. 5 that I found at CAP Beauty. Mother Mountain Herbals uses magnesium in her formulation instead of potentially irritating baking soda. In the listing it says, “Magnesium neutralizes odors, while therapeutic grade essential oils provide a fresh scent and keep bacteria at bay.” Agent Nateur’s uses a small amount of baking soda that I have not found irritating and the smell is divine! Despite the fact that it is branded for men, I love the earthy scent of this and think it’s a great unisex option. All of the ingredients in both formulations are completely natural and both are made with just a handful of ingredients. I also love the packaging on both!

Now, if you just came here to learn which deodorants I switched to, the above will suffice. If you want to know more about armpit health, and how it relates to your whole body, keep reading!

Who knew there was so much to know about armpits! There are two important clusters of lymph nodes residing in the armpit-called the Axillary Lymph Nodes. They filtrate and conduct lymph from the upper limbs, pectoral region and upper back. The lymph system is as important as the blood circulatory system, but much less talked about and performs very different functions. It does not have a pump like the heart to keep things moving, so it can easily become stagnant due to chemicals (like the ones in my old deodorant). The lymphatic system helps to detox the spaces between the cells, lymph fluid races to an infection site to help repair and bring healing, and it plays a huge role in the functioning of our immune system.

It is not sweat that makes our pits smell, it is bacteria. Everyone has a different mix of good and bad bacteria in and around their body, and this includes the armpit area. I personally do not have a problem with excessive sweat which can often be a genetic trait (or caused by coffee which I no longer drink), and because I eat a healthy diet, I find my armpits are pretty low maintenance. If you are using a chemical deodorant and want to switch to a natural one, you can try this armpit detox to help ease the transition if you are worried about smell or sweat.

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Aside from what you are putting on your body, what you are putting in your body matters when it comes to your pits too. Drinking chlorophyll, eating mostly vegetables, and taking probiotics can help you smell better! Modern medicine is only now starting to understand the human microbiome and the importance that it plays in overall health. Western medicine tends towards the inclination that our body systems function independently of one another, but in truth, your body is an ecosystem and everything is intricately connected. Your diet and overall health play into the health, and smell, of your pits!

There has been no conclusive evidence when it comes to that often talked about link between aluminum in antiperspirants, and breast cancer. But if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is not to wait until a study, or the FDA (which still allows D4 to be put into products), says something is good or bad for your health. If you have a reasonable understanding about how the body works, then it would follow that putting something potentially harmful on a vital fluid-producing, circulating part of the body is not a good idea.

Know your ingredients and know your makers and we will all be happier and healthier for it.

Sources (not included in links):

https://www.annmariegianni.com/ingredient-watch-list-cyclotetrasiloxane-the-hair-conditioner-that-may-harm-our-waterways/

https://www.innerbody.com/image_lympov/lymp05-new.html

Energy Medicine, Donna Eden

Why I Quit Coffee and What I Drink Now!

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I love coffee. As a New Yorker trying to keep up with it all, it always felt like a necessary ally. There aren’t that many memes dedicated to it for nothing. However...

At the beginning of 2018 I set out to once and for all get to the bottom of my lifelong abdominal pain and menstruation woes. I, like almost every woman I’ve talked to about this, have ovarian cysts and fibroids. I think it’s important to share about this intimate detail of my physical body because so many of us suffer in silence thinking that the doctor’s lack of answers or advice is the be all end all. I’m here to tell you that it’s the opposite. If you care to go deeper, that feeling of hopelessness at the doctor’s office can actually be the beginning of understanding so much more about yourself and the universe than you thought possible (lots more on this in later posts). I’m thankful that I grew up with parents who were open minded and thus I didn’t feel any ideological resistance on my journey into “alternative” medicine, foods, and ways of being. My first step in trying to heal myself was to cut out coffee.  Coffee and caffeine are metabolized differently by men and women and can adversely affect hormone levels in women. Coffee use is scientifically linked to breast and ovarian cysts and fibroids. This enlightening article from FloLiving is a must-read if you have any of these issues. It’s shocking to me that I had to stop and dedicate my life to working out this health puzzle to find this simple and important piece of information. I’m not saying this is 100% what caused my, or anybody else’s, issues. It’s impossible to know in each specific case. But if there’s something that can help, why not give it a try?

I soon discovered that I couldn’t just replace coffee with other caffeine like matcha or black tea to get that morning jolt. Caffeine in general just doesn’t seem to make me feel great, and as mentioned in the above article, caffeine can contribute to the hormone imbalances that cause cysts and fibroids. Cacao, on the other hand, is my best friend. That is the base for my main morning drink. Most people think there is caffeine in chocolate but it’s actually something called theobromine, a sort of alkaloid cousin to caffeine. 

Here is one version of what I drink instead of coffee:

-1 TBSP organic cacao (delicious, slight buzz)

-1 tsp Anima Mundi maca or 1/2 tsp mucuna (pizazz! Like caffeine but sustained energy and no crash. Both of these have so many other health properties I’ll go into in another post)

-1 tsp Anima Mundi Vegan Collagen (for skin, hair, nails and gut lining...contains powerhouses like he shou wu and nettles)

-A couple shakes of cinnamon (yum and also good for blood pressure)

-1 1/2 TBSP Anima Mundi Coconut Cream Powder OR 1/2 cup fresh almond milk (I like these two as cream options because they are #plantparadox friendly and they don’t contain any guar, xanthan or other gums like packaged nut/seed/oat milks)

-1/2 tsp Luce Farms CBD Honey (honey for sweetness and cbd for evening out my fast-paced brain which can sometimes veer over into anxiety territory)

-Sprinkle of salt to round out flavors

Boil water in kettle, add everything together in blender and mix for a couple seconds. Done!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my health journey it is that every single person is so different. I’ve found through almost a year of trial and error that this is what works for me right now. If you’re curious—give it a try and see how it makes you feel! If it seems daunting/expensive you can just try part of it and see what you like. I find that Anima Mundi and Luce Farms are a good price point for such high quality for most of the above ingredients. They are small businesses doing good and making great products.

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