skincare blog

Keeping Your Immune System Strong

coffee-in-handEvery year, December seems to creep up on us and we find ourselves rushing around, trying to make the holidays just perfect for our families. With all the extra pressure we place on ourselves, it’s no wonder we tire ourselves out and end up feeling run down and sick. Throw in all the extra socializing during winter’s classic cold and flu season and the odds are stacked against getting to the end of the year in good health.


Happily, there are steps that we can take to keep our immune system strong:

  • Wash your hands. This may be basic information but Mom was right: washing your hands with soap and water helps prevent spreading the cold or flu virus. Aim to scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. And contrary to what is generally believed, hotter water doesn’t kill germs and bacteria better than cooler water. A recent study by Vanderbilt University found that washing hands well and often is more important than the temperature of the water used.
  • Don’t forget the vitamins. Eating well is tough at the best of times but throw in the endless errands that are part-and-parcel of the holiday season and it’s easy to find ourselves missing dinner and staring into an empty fridge at 10 o’clock at night. Now’s the time to keep up with your regular supplements, including vitamin D, the “liquid sunshine” that has been shown to enhance the body’s immune responses.
  • Find the time to exercise. Not only will regular exercise help balance out the extra calories that we are bound to consume over the next few weeks but staying active also improves overall health and the ability to fight off germs. The theory is that regular exercise stimulates circulation and blood flow, thus increasing the movement of immune cells within the body. This allows them to better search and destroy invading germs and viruses.
  • Get more sleep. Think of this as preventive medicine. Allowing ourselves to get run down lowers your ability to fight off illness. Many studies have indicated that sleep deprivation lowers the production of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that searches out cellular abnormalities and infections. In fact, a 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that poor sleep habits lower our resistance to fighting off the common cold. The subjects who averaged less than 7 hours of sleep every night were almost 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who averaged at least 8 hours of snooze time.
  • Relax. Chronic stress leaves the immune system unable to respond normally, producing levels of inflammation that allow illness to flourish. One way to lower stress levels is by treating yourself to a massage. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles discovered that even a single Swedish massage can have profound effects: a decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) and an increase in lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the immune system).

So, take a deep breath this holiday, relax and stay strong. Realize that not everything has to be perfect. Family and friends will remember the time spent together and not necessarily the food, decorations or gifts.

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Acne in the Ears

cell-phoneIf you’ve noticed that acne in the ears has become a more common occurrence lately, you’re not the only one. With the proliferation of ear bud, headphone and cell phone usage, it’s no wonder that pimples in the outer ear and ear canal have become an issue that more of us are dealing with.

Like anywhere else on the body, the ears have skin with pores that are not immune to becoming clogged by dirt, sweat, oil and dead skin cells. Just like on the face, whiteheads and blackheads can develop in the ears. If not treated properly, these blemishes are also susceptible to becoming infected. And because the skin in the ears is quite thin, acne here can seem disproportionately painful.

Luckily, acne in the ears can be treated in the same way as that on the face. Using a salicylic acid treatment like Neostrata Blemish Spot Gel or even a retinoid like Apothekari A is for Anti-Aging Retinal Serum will help unclog pores. Retinoids also have the bonus of being able to decrease production of the sebum (oil) involved in acne breakouts.

The best medicine is, of course, prevention. Lifestyle and nutrition factors play a role in acne as well, including hormones, hygiene, products such as shampoos and hair sprays, and a diet high in sugar.

Other steps we can take to minimize occurrence:

  1. Refrain from touching the ears or placing fingers in the ear canals. Our skin, including that on our hands, is teeming with bacteria (some good, some bad).
  2. Clean the ears with a soft wash cloth and warm water. This will help remove excess oil and dead skin cells that lead to clogging.
  3. Consider using naturally astringent witch hazel on a cotton pad once or twice a week to help remove surface oils.
  4. Give your earbuds a daily wipe with a soft, non-abrasive cloth spritzed with diluted rubbing alcohol. The amount of germs would horrify you. Due to the sensitivity of the touch screen, cleaning a cell phone should be limited to a slightly damp soft, lint-free cloth.
  5. Lastly, no sharing! The very idea of putting something in my ear that’s been in someone else’s ear…enough said.

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with-vitamin2Eating your way to healthy skin is not a new idea but nutricosmetics is a relatively new term for dietary anti-aging supplements that target the skin. Helping to promote this seemingly easy path to the fountain of youth is the current wave of popularity that Asian beauty and skincare products is enjoying. More specifically, Korean treatments seem to have hit the mainstream and are giving the more traditional French companies a run for our money.

Although nutricosmetics are not formally a part of the legendary 10-step Korean skin care routine, supplements that claim to target the skin can now be found alongside cutting-edge topical treatments. And as much as we have embraced BB creams, oil cleansers and masks of all shapes and forms, beauty supplements haven’t quite taken off in the same way.

Several factors come into play, including the North American attitude of waiting until something is broken before fixing it, whereas in Asia, prevention has long been the norm. The high cost of these supplements may also discourage consumers from jumping on the bandwagon. Many of us hesitate to financially commit long term to yet another vitamin without solid proof.

It’s difficult to know whether these new nutricosmetics are actually effective. In Canada, nutricosmetics fall under the Natural Health Products category and must meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards. Those standards, however, are fluid and can be less stringent when it comes to claims that do not inherently involve high risk to health. A product promoting healthy skin will not necessarily invite the same level of scrutiny by Health Canada as, for example, a supplement that claims to kill cancer cells. In the United States, claims made by nutricosmetics are not regulated by the FDA at all. Evaluating the efficacy of beauty supplements is the sole responsibility of the manufacturers themselves and not all claims are supported by independent, reliable studies.

Before forking over your hard-earned cash, keep in mind that no matter how many supplements you consume, only a small fraction will benefit the skin. Oral collagen supplements, multivitamins, antioxidants like vitamin C and EFA omega-3 oils can increase skin fitness but they also improve overall health of the body. Because nutricosmetics are never directly applied just to the skin, serums and creams may have an advantage over anti-aging pills. Like topical treatments, results from daily nutricosmetics may take one or two months before becoming evident, and effects will wear off if you stop taking them.

Until the science is there, I know where I’ll be putting my money.

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Things to be Thankful for in 2016

candles2016 has seen its share of turmoil and tragedy, close to home and far away, and so it is with a sigh of relief that we look forward to Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season.

Instead of focusing on the negative, we’ve made a conscious decision to look at the sunny side and have come up with a few things, big and small, to be thankful for:

1. Apothekari Bespoke Vitamin C+++ 10% and 15% Serums are available again! After dealing with a small hiccup in the formulation, we’re pleased to be able to offer our made-to-order, high potency vitamin C serum. A free radical-fighting antioxidant treatment forms the basis of our anti-aging routine and it’s no exaggeration to say that our skin felt naked without it. We’re also happy that the Bamboo Lemongrass Foaming Body Polish has been so well-received by our customers and we’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback on it.

2. Our Anthelios stock is almost full. If you’re a regular with us, you’ll know that we’ve been having some issues with keeping customer favorites in stock but we’ve been working hard to ensure we have enough to meet demand. We’re so happy to report that our shelves have been replenished and almost all our customers on our waiting lists have been able to order their sunscreen of choice again. Just this week, we’ve received a new shipment of Anthelios KA SPF 50+ moisturizer and the ever-popular Anthelios untinted Ultrafluide Extreme SPF 50+. Both are great options for winter.

3. We’re so thankful that the Canada Post service interruption this past summer was short-lived. Using an alternate delivery service, we were still able to ship out orders to our loyal customers. Thank you for sticking with us!

4. I’m grateful that I get to worry about wrinkles and dark spots instead of where I’ll sleep tonight. It’s easy to take for granted a safe and warm place to rest our head every night. We forget that it’s not the case for everyone.

5. Lastly, I’m so thankful for the loving and supportive people in my life. This includes family, friends, colleagues and loyal customers. I’ve said it before: we’ve got the best customers. Whether by phone or email, we cross paths with friendly, kind people from all over the world. It makes coming into work such a pleasure.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and here’s to a peaceful holiday season and hopeful year to come.

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