skincare blog

Giant Hogweed – The Sunburn Plant

giant_hogweedIt may not be completely accurate to call the giant hogweed the “sunburn plant” but this highly invasive and dangerous member of the carrot and parsley family can cause third-degree burns due to its phototoxic sap.

Its official name is Heracleum mantegazzianum but is commonly called giant hogweed because it typically grows to heights between 6 and 18 feet. For such a toxic plant, it is surprisingly pretty with white flowers in the shape of an umbrella atop stems of green and purple, not unlike gigantic versions of Queen Anne’s lace. Originally brought over from Asia as an ornamental plant, the giant hogweed quickly spread to parts of the US, Canada and the UK. It can be found most often around waterways and edges of forests where its buoyant seeds take advantage of streams and rivers. It seems to have taken a particularly strong hold throughout Britain, in southeastern Canada, and in the northeast and northwest of the United States.

It is the sap of the giant hogweed that poses the threat to people. Contact with the sap and subsequent exposure to UV light, results in a hazardously sensitivity to sunlight, that can cause extreme irritation, scarring and third-degree burns. Even small amounts that come in contact with the eyes can cause temporary or permanent blindness. Burns from the giant hogweed are slow to heal and leave a lasting legacy: skin can become phytophotosensitive, developing burns or dermatitis upon re-exposure to sunlight. This hyper-sensitivity can last upwards of 10 years after initial contact.

As reactions can begin within 15 minutes of contact, it’s imperative to wash the skin with soap and water and get out of the sun, avoiding sunlight for 48 hours. If burns begin to develop, see a physician immediately for treatment. Encounters with the giant hogweed should be reported to local authorities in order for the plant to be safely removed.


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Jamieson Melatonin Strips for Jet Lag: New!

jamieson_melatonin_strips_3New Jamieson Melatonin-3 Strips may become your new BFF on that next long haul trip!

If you’ve ever taken a holiday that started with a long plane ride, you’ll know how much jet lag can affect your vacation. Starting your journey in one time zone and quickly ending up in another sets the body’s natural inner clock. When we experience day and night contrary to what our bodies are used to, our natural rhythms of waking, eating and sleeping become out of synch, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Insomnia, leaving us awake all night
  • Dizziness or a feeling that the ground is moving
  • Fatigue as we are unable to get adequate sleep
  • Irritability
  • Nausea or an unsettled stomach as we eat meals when our bodies are not sending our brains the signals that mean hunger.

Although the body naturally re-aligns with the new time zone over the space of a few days, discomfort during the adjustment period can put a hamper on your holiday. Cue Jamieson Melatonin-3 Strips.

Melatonin, a hormone naturally secreted by the pineal gland, helps regulate the body’s rhythms, particularly our wake/sleep cycles. A recent study published in 2009 found melatonin, taken at bedtime for the first few days, to be remarkably effective in reducing the symptoms most commonly associated with jet lag. As natural levels of melatonin are highest at night, it is believed that doses of up to 5mg of the hormone taken at night help people fall asleep faster and sleep better, thus adjusting more quickly to the local time zone.

What else can you do to help minimize the effects of jet lag?

  • Expose yourself to as much bright morning light as possible. Much of the body’s natural circadian rhythm or 24-hour cycle is regulated by light. (Just make sure you apply sunscreen if you’re outside!)
  • Get some exercise. Whether you stick to your usual morning run or a 30 minute walk after dinner, getting some exercise, preferably outdoors, will help you sleep better and expose your senses to your new environment’s sunrise and sunset cues.
  • Eat when the locals eat, thus “rescheduling” the body’s hunger times.
  • Avoid napping as this will hinder the body’s efforts to anchor itself in the new time zone.

Finally, take it easy for the first few days after arriving at your destination. After all, it’s a holiday, isn’t it?

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Antioxidants: Why Two (or More) Are Better Than One

serum faceIf you’re serious about skin care, you know that antioxidants are one of the cornerstones of a good regimen. And while most antioxidants can be used as a single agent, studies have shown that they work best as a team. You only have to look to nature to see that plants, including fruits and vegetables, contain many different phytonutrients—the source of antioxidants. These phytonutrients serve various functions in plants – some protect against UV radiation while others protect it from insects—all of which work together to protect the plant’s vitality.

The same applies to skin care where antioxidants combat the free-radical damage that is responsible for the visible (and hidden) signs of aging, but also enhance the effectiveness of sunscreens in preventing sun damage. Indeed, during the day, combining antioxidants with sun protection is a strong defense against many signs of aging, including wrinkles, dullness, and discoloration. At night, dosing your skin with a range of antioxidants can promote cellular repair and healing.

Many trendy antioxidants show up in skin-care lines, but they don’t need to be exotic or have a good marketing story to work well. Roots used by the ancient Aztecs or berries from the Amazonian rain forest aren’t the only effective ingredients. What matters most is treating your skin to a variety of antioxidants that are potent, stable and well-researched. Skin benefits most when several antioxidants are applied together, much the same way that eating a varied diet filled with a range of fruits and vegetables is better for you than eating only kale.

While it’s clear that there are many effective antioxidants, some have more research to back up their use:

  1. Vitamin E. Often listed as tocopherol or tocotrienols, Vitamin E is one of the most well-known antioxidants, available in both natural and synthetic forms. Research shows that both the tocopherol or tocotrienol form provides significant antioxidant benefits to skin, but that the natural forms are more potent and are better absorbed better by skin than the synthetic forms.   Vitamin E works in several different ways to protect cell membranes from oxidative damage and from the early stages of ultraviolet light damage. It is very powerful when combined with vitamin C.   We like Apothekari Undercover Agent.
  2. Vitamin C. Listed as ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, amongst others, it’s a potent antioxidant that is very useful for treating wrinkles, dullness, and brown spots. It can strengthen the skin’s barrier response and reduce inflammation.   It is highly susceptible to degradation upon exposure to light and air so should be packaged appropriately.   Try Apothekari Super C Serum.
  3. Resveratrol. This potent antioxidant is found in red grapes, red wine, nuts, and fruits such as blueberries and cranberries.   When applied topically, resveratrol protects against sun damage, improves collagen production, and reduces cell damage. It also is anti-inflammatory properties making it useful in skin issues including acne, rosacea and eczema.
  4. Retinoids. Oh how we love retinoids (retinaldehyde, retinol and prescription retinoic acids) and all things Vitamin A for the skin! This long established ingredient is not only an antioxidant but also helps create better, healthier skin cells and increase the production of skin-support substances such as collagen, ceramides and glycosaminoglycans (a skin-protecting substance found in young skin). The regular use of retinoids results in in firmer skin with an improved texture and enhanced barrier function.   Our top selling Apothekari A is for Anti-Aging and Green Cream are both high potency and effective retinoid formulations.
  5. Green Tea. This potent antioxidant comes with a range of health benefits, including anti-aging benefits due to its epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG) content.  EGCG extract has been shown to prevent collagen breakdown and reduce UV damage to the skin when applied topically. It is also very effective at reducing inflammation. The benefits of green tea also apply to black and white tea.

When it comes to using antioxidants on your skin, applying a combination of these skin beneficial ingredients along with sunscreen can deliver significant results. Sure, they’re not as sexy as French melons harvested at dawn, but research shows that they work!

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Sunburn Tatoos

sunburn_tattooIf you’re a follower of social media, you’ve no doubt noticed a growing and disturbing fad called sunburn tattoos which involves applying sunscreen in the shape of an image or pattern, either freehand or with the help of a stencil, then exposing the body to the sun without any additional sun protection. While the end result can be visually stunning, what’s even more stunning is that, despite the reams of information available regarding the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, people continue to put themselves at risk for long-term detrimental health effects.

The popularity of this trend has prompted the Skin Cancer Foundation to adopt an official position on sunburn art. Basically, don’t.

Encouraging sun damage for the sake of “art” results in more than just red skin. Serious sunburns can go beyond general discomfort resulting in skin that’s hot and sensitive to the touch. This can often lead to blistering, fainting, fever, chills and nausea that require medical attention. In fact, research has shown that experiencing five or more sunburns doubles a person’s risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Additional consequences of unprotected sun exposure include premature signs of aging, wrinkles, skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation.

Although doctors, health professionals and scientists still cannot conclusively determine what is considered a “safe” amount of sun exposure, it’s a sure bet that getting a sunburn tattoo grossly exceeds any possible limit. A better idea? Applying a spray tan over a paper template.

While a sunburn tattoo may be temporary, the sun damage and increased risk of melanoma and skin cancer that accompany it definitely are not. All I can think when I see images of sunburn tattoos is: Ouch!

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