Have you had your smoothie today?

Posted by Toby Tan on

Festive eating can have a negative effect on your skin (psst read more on this in our past post here), and we get how hard it is to bounce back! So, we have come up with suggestions of how you can atone for your bingeing sins through exercise, diet and skincare. First off, exercise is the best way to detox and also lose weight at the same time. Getting your heart rate up will get your blood moving faster through your body, which in turn will mean that more blood flows through important detoxification organs such as the liver and the lymph nodes. These organs can then function more efficiently in purifying and detoxifying your body of foods like alcohol. Moreover, you also take in more oxygen when your heart rate increases, and you perspire, which gets rid of toxins from within through sweat. Choose workouts that increase your heart rate (like swimming) and encourages sweat production (like hot yoga or Bikram Yoga).

On top of exercise, you can also make healthier choices in your diet in order to detox from within. Make small changes like nomming on the leftover oranges that people bring over or that you didn’t manage to give away. Oranges are a great source of vitamin C to boost your immunity as well as to recover from that pesky hangover! You can reboot your body by committing to drinking 8 glasses of water (2L) everyday, which will not only help replenish lost fluids from alcohol consumption, but will give you hydrated glowy skin.

Another secret to successfully cleanse is to take care of your gut health which will improve overall skin health, since the gastrointestinal tract is also a detoxification organ! Peppermint tea can reduce bloating and indigestion after a heavy meal, and probiotics can increase good bacteria in the gut, which can reduce skin inflammations like acne (source).

Another one of my favourite ways to kick off a cleanse is to replace my breakfast with a smoothie. Blend bananas, frozen blueberries, oats and almond or soy milk to make a creamy, vegan friendly smoothie that is easy to make and fills you up till lunch.

Most importantly, you must also take care of your skin after your days of celebration. No matter how tired you are, it is important to cleanse off make up properly and exfoliate thoroughly before going to bed. This helps reduce the number of clogged pores that come from wearing make-up all day and will reduce the potential of having a pesky zit or a breakout in the morning. If you consumed a lot of oily, fried or heaty snacks, you might experience breakouts. Use a clay mask to absorb sebum and purify the skin. If you also consumed alcohol, you can use a hydrating mask and also an eye mask to prevent your eye area from drying out and increasing the risk of having crow’s feet. So here you go. Here are some tips from Balm Kitchen to ensure you get a holistic cleanse after your festive eating.

The easiest way to kick-off your post-festivities detox is to make it a habit to properly remove your makeup at the end of your day. Do this with Balm Kitchen’s Cleanse combo. The power trio are the Floral Cleansing Water, Rejuvenate Cleansing Balm & Mask and the Bamboo Facial Polish. These superheroes work in combination to remove makeup, sunscreen, excessive sebum, pollutants and dry skin.

(photos courtesy of Toby Tan)

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Multi-mask me!

Posted by Toby Tan on

Multi-mask your way to great skin!
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Scents and sensibility

Posted by Teresa Foo seet Wei on

Babies start to develop sense of smell at around 10 weeks old in the mother's womb and that is quite an amazing development. As babies grow from toddler to teens, teenager to adulthood, the development of smell can be quite profound.

We learnt that some scents smell better than others and sometimes just by looking at the object, we can visualise how it will smell. Have you also noticed that our body scent changes with our mood? We can even detect if someone smells angry or dangerous (source). 

So how does scents affect us in our daily lives?

We know what to expect when a festive holiday is about to begin as our brains have grown to accustom scents during the season and make associations with it. We will expect to smell lots of mandarin oranges, pineapple tarts, Nian gao (glutinous rice cakes), Ang bao (smell of money!) and not forgetting new sets of clothes and accessories. We can also smell rain before it happens (chemical compounds of smell travel fast). 

We feel happy when we smell something that is familiar like our mother's cooking, our favourite cup of coffee or tea, our favourite flowers, perfume and even people we love. Why we avoid smells or odours that turn us off may be due to a few reasons. It could be the scent/odour is naturally awful or it could be the scent/odour was present in the event of an incident or situation that has caused us unhappiness and our brain has registered it permanently in the hardware. 

What is the difference between natural and synthetic scents?

Natural scents are derived from plants or animals (such as musks). The chemical compounds found in natural scents are complex and never the same. Take a batch of Lavender flowers grown two years ago and the current year, and both will smell somewhat the same (with regular noses) but well-trained noses will be able to detect the slight nuances in the scent of the flowers. A lab analysis will also display that the chemical compounds found in the two batches will differ. This is because the health of the Lavender flowers, conditions of water, soil, air, etc all have an effect on the growth of the plants.

Synthetic scents on the other hand are chemically created (mostly from petroleum) or may have started from naturals but have been chemically modified in a lab to recreate a natural scent such as musks, food and even human body odour. Some synthetic scents or fragrances contain phthalates such as Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate that is listed as a "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program (source). Phthalates can be found in the wall papers, flooring, household cleaning agents and even children's chewing toys. Ongoing tests are being carried out to determine how toxic phthalates can have on our lives. 

Can you be addicted to scents?

There may not be a conclusive study to show how we are addicted to scents but everyone does like to smell good scents. Do you feel uneasy or out of sorts if you have forgotten to spray your favourite perfume before you leave your home? Does that make you self-conscious that you may smell awful? Most often, it can be our mind playing tricks. Indeed some people may have particularly stronger body odour than others and that can be resolved with proper hygiene and also healthier food choices. The food that we consume does affect how our body emits odour (source). 

Sometimes getting to work in the morning can be quite stressful to me as I am constantly bombarded with bodies heavily scented in perfumes which can give me headaches. Have you felt that way too?

I have been on a 'scent detox' every now and then where I do not wear any perfume or use unscented body products. I do not diffuse essential oils, burn candles at home, at the studio or in the car. When I free my nose from all the onslaughts of smells whether the source is synthetic or natural, I feel that my nose is able to work better. I can smell better and able to detect what is natural or synthetic. Maybe you should give it a try and go body, home, office and car-scent free. I would love to hear about your experiences. 

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Up to 100% of cosmetic ingredients will be absorbed into your skin, for real?

Posted by Teresa Foo seet Wei on

I am sure you will be shocked when you read any articles or blogs on how cosmetic ingredients can get absorbed into your skin. Up to 100% of cosmetic ingredients or to add fuel to fire, many will use the word "Chemicals", will get absorbed into your skin. The scientific chemical name for the most common chemicals that we come in contact everyday are as follows:

• Water - Dihydrogen monoxide
• Air we breathe comprises of Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen, etc.
• Salt - Sodium chloride
• Sugar - Sucrose
And so many more and I'm sure you get the idea. So a little less fear mongering about chemicals and more about facts.

How ingredients permeate into the skin really depends on many factors. Our skin is a barrier and that itself already has an impact how ingredients 'travel' into the skin. Let's take a look at how the skin looks like.

The skin, your skin, my skin, is made up of three layers. Epidermis being the top most where you can see and come in contact with skincare products, bacteria, allergens, etc. This layer is made up of sebaceous lipids and epidermal lipids that contain triglycerides, wax esters, squalene, mixture of ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol. The epidermis acts as a barrier to protect our body from getting viral or bacteria infection. It regularly sheds dead skin cells called Keratinocytes and reveal new cells. It contains melanin that protect the skin from UV damage. 

The dermis is the middle portion where you can find all the blood and lymph vessels, nerves, hair follicles and sweat glands. 

The last layer is called the Subcutaneous tissue or Hypodermis which compromises mostly of fats (decreases as age goes up) and acts as an insulation and cushioning to prevent injuries to our muscles.

Most cosmetics or skincare are meant to beautify or improve the skin barrier and hence the ingredients usually stays on top of the skin, I repeat usually. The top most layer i.e. Epidermis looks like cement blocks or bricks that are stacked together. Imagine a product that has been applied to the skin and the ingredients will have to make it's way in to perform it's function to moisturise, hydrate, soothe, calm, reduce inflammation, etc. How much of these ingredients get absorbed into the skin is what most of us are interested in and are based on these few factors:

• molecular size of the ingredients
• integrity of the skin
• location of the skin where ingredients come in contact
• age of the skin
• contact time of ingredients on the skin
I understand most people, even myself are not equipped with a scientific background but I will use my graphic visualisation skills to explain it as much as I can in layman terms .

The bigger the molecular size of the ingredients, the harder it is for them to get penetrated into the deeper layers of the skin. It has to 'fight' through the 'brick layers' and may get stopped there as it's too big to travel further. So if you smear pizza on your skin, do you think it will get absorbed? I'm sure you know the answer. The top layer, Epidermis, has an affinity with oils since it is made up of lipids. Have you also noticed that when you wash yourself, your skin repels water instead of absorbing it? Can you imagine what will happen to us if our skin absorbs 100% of what is put on top of it when we take our daily twice or thrice daily showers?!

Most ingredients such as oils, butters, Hyaluronic acid, humectants get absorbed into the epidermis layer but not penetrated further because of the big molecular sizes. Waxes do not get absorbed at all and stays on top of the skin acting as an occlusive barrier to prevent water loss.

There are ingredients that do penetrate deep into the layers of the skin and to the blood stream, and they usually have smaller molecular sizes. They are able to 'wriggle' their way pass the 'brick walls' of the epidermis and into the dermis where eventually it can end up in the blood stream. Essential oils are such ingredients that have smaller molecular sizes and are very potent too. Hence they are to be used with safety in mind (safety dermal limits according to Cosmetic Products Safety Assessor and International Fragrance Association, IFRA).

Younger skin such as babies, children, young people will react well to topical applications from skincare far better than adults and older people (age factor). The skin on our buttocks and feet are much thicker as compared to our face. Therefore the skin on our face and body is able to absorb cosmetic ingredients better than our buttocks and feet (location of the skin). Someone who has sensitive skin or problematic skin usually have compromised skin barrier (skin is not functioning normally). That can lead them to experience greater sensation when products are applied onto their skin. It is also the reason why sensitive skin reacts easily to cosmetics or skincare (integrity of the skin).

The duration of contact from cosmetic ingredients can also determine how much it gets absorbed into the skin (contact time). Let's say you mist your face with spring water, the water will not be absorbed into the epidermis (remember the epidermis is a barrier and repels water). Water evaporates. What you are essentially doing is to freshen your skin with the spring water, that's all. When you apply a facial moisturiser or a facial oil, the product will include some type of oils, butters, waxes, humectants that will stay on your skin for a certain amount of time. During this duration, some of the ingredients will get absorbed into the epidermis and some into the blood stream (those with smaller molecular sizes). 

I hope I have made it a bit easier for you to understand better that how ingredients are absorbed into the skin and it all depends on the factors that I have listed above. 

For more readings on Anatomy and Physiology of the skin:
• https://opentextbc.ca/anatomyandphysiology/chapter/5-1-layers-of-the-skin/
• https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835894/

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What does natural, organic skincare means to me?

Posted by Teresa Foo seet Wei on

I have many customers asking me what does natural organic means to them and why they should buy these products over conventional skincare with synthetic ingredients. I will do my best to help you understand this niche and growing market better.

I am sure many of you are still very confused about what makes a natural and/or organic skincare. It's no wonder consumers are confused about natural organic skincare when there is so much Greenwashing in Asia. Or even worse, you can't even see any list of ingredients on their labels and have no way to find out what ingredients are in the products except the common "No parabens, No SLS, No EDTA, etc". (It's against the cosmetics regulations not to list ingredients on product labels according to ASEAN Cosmetics Directives).

According to Greenwashing index: "It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimise environmental impact." (source)

You may find personal care products that are labelled as natural, naturel, au naturel, naturals, organic, organics, etc under the brand name. Technically speaking, it does not mean much especially if it is used mainly for marketing and sales purposes. Most often, you will find there are only a few natural or organic ingredients on the label and the entire product or brand will claim that it is a natural organic brand.

Natural can mean using ingredients that are obtained from nature or naturally derived (such as an emulsifier that is derived from Olive oil, Sugar, Coconut oil, Palm oil, Rapeseed oil, etc). Organic includes those raw cosmetic ingredients that are certified organic by various organic certifying bodies such as ACO (Australian Certified Organic), USDA Organic (United States Department of Agriculture), Soil Association (UK), ECOCERT (EU), COSMOS (EU), etc or the brand has obtained organic certifications. To add to the confusion, these organic certifying bodies have their own sets of accepted raw cosmetic ingredients.

A personal care brand can claim to be certified organic only when they have obtained certification by these various certifying bodies (listed above). Otherwise using certified ingredients in the products do not make the brand a certified organic brand. (At Balm Kitchen, we use certified organic ingredients but we do not claim we are a certified organic brand as we did not pay for those licenses). Also if businesses claiming they are an organic brand without license can get themselves into deep trouble with the relevant certifying organic bodies or cosmetic regulatory bodies.

Why choose natural organic skincare over a conventional skincare with predominantly synthetic ingredients? Let's look at the Argan hair oil treatment as an example.

You can see from the chart that the natural organic Argan hair oil treatment only comprises of botanical oils, vitamin and essential oils while the conventional product contains synthetic ingredients with three at the top of the list. Those three ingredients are synthetic silicones and silicon based polymer. They coat the hair shaft and make the hair feels smooth. You will also find these synthetic ingredients in many shampoos. That is why when you use hair products loaded with synthetic silicones or polymers, you will have 'perfect hair' that falls flat and feels smooth and silky to the touch.

The difference between natural organic ingredients such as using just botanical oils in a hair oil treatment is that the ingredients not only provide moisturisation and hair smoothing properties to the hair shafts, the oils contain vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and fatty acids. These properties will not be found in synthetic ingredients such as silicones, polymers or mineral oils. 

[ How to read a product label: The percentage of ingredients are written on product labels with the highest at the top to the lowest at the bottom. ]

Most often, you will also find brands stating their products are natural or even organic but the products contain ingredients that are not accepted in organic skincare (some ingredients are accepted in natural skincare).

Take a body shower gel for example, the word natural, organic is displayed prominently on the label and it caught your attention and you picked up the item. When you turned the product around to look at the list of ingredients and you see: "Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Propylene glycol, PEG-7, Phenoxyethanol, Ceteareth-20, methylchloroisothiazolinone, PEG-40 Hydrogenated castor oil, Polysorbates 20/80, etc, these ingredients certainly are not natural nor organic. These ingredients are not accepted in organic skincare formulations by the organic certifying bodies because these synthetics are derived from petroleum (Propylene glycols), toxic method of manufacturing is used to process the raw ingredient (PEGs, Polysorbates), and can cause allergic reactions (methylchloroisothiazolinone - banned in Europe). However some of these ingredients can be found in natural skincare and that is due to the fact that natural have 50 shades of gray. Some brands claim that Polysorbates are derived from natural ingredients but the process of manufacturing does not make it all that natural (PEGs are byproducts of the ethoxylation process, "1,4-Dioxane" which is a known carcinogen. They are usually filtered out of the final product during the ethoxylation process).

Do take a closer look at the list of ingredients the next time you pick up a personal care product and you may try to identify if the above ingredients are in them which can tell what type of product it is. 

The decision to switch to Clean and Green personal care products is a conscious choice in wanting to be part of a movement to be environmentally responsible, using true natural and/or organic ingredients to beautify our skin, and harnessing the power of botanical ingredients for our skincare solutions.

We do hope that more natural organic skincare brands would declare the list of ingredients on the product labels (not only necessary for the consumers but also a legal requirement) and also not use fear mongering tactics such as 'No chemicals in our products' when everything is a chemical whether it is made synthetically or from nature ( do read our earlier blog post on Chemophobia). Do join us in our journey to help spread Clean and Green beauty to everyone and share the benefits of using natural organic skincare to maintain healthy skin barrier.

Have you made your switch to Clean and Green Beauty yet? We would love to hear your experiences. 


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