Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. We all experience varying levels at different times and in many situations. Under these circumstances the brain’s hard-wiring system kicks in. When it perceives a threat, the brain signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response and is a normal bodily reaction that is meant to protect us. However, because we now live in a world of nonstop stress most of the time, our alarm systems rarely shuts off!
Without stress management and over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems including a myriad of skin issues.

How?
Hormones, neuropeptides and other signaling molecules released during stressful times may be second only to sunlight in aging the skin. And the really bad news? Women are more prone than men. That means wrinkling, loss of tone and increased levels of sensitivity, particularly as we age.
Additionally, proteins and DNA in the epidermis and dermis are broken down by prolonged periods of stress and this in turn can cause acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and hives.
Feeling bad about the way we look makes us less social and more isolated. This aloneness diminishes the production of Oxytocin, the bonding hormone.

What to do?
It is unrealistic to imagine we can ever live a stress free life but we can commit to developing coping skills that maintain balance, even at the worst of life’s moments.

Here are some of my favorites:
Getting outdoors and in touch with nature. Hiking, gardening, sitting on a park bench all reconnect us with our natural surroundings.
Breathing deeply and meditating. Not just when we are really stressed but at regular times throughout the day.
Disconnecting from social media for a day or if that sounds unimaginable, half a day!
Changing your mindset. When a challenge presents itself, think of it as an opportunity for personal growth.
Have a supportive tribe so you don’t waste time with negative or toxic people.
Sweat out tension with a workout.
Curl up with a good book.
Watch a comedy.
Play with a pet.
And of course, my favorite, get a massage and a regular facial at SkinSense.

Confucius once claimed: “True quality of life comes from lasting harmony between body and mind.” This is a goal worth aiming for.

A life without humor is no joking matter. We all love a good laugh and the feeling it gives us – and there is a reason – there are true health benefits to a good giggle or hearty chuckle that can be essential to our well-being. UCLA Medical School established a Humor Research Task Force after Norman Cousins managed his pain with laughter therapy and now there is actually an American Association of Therapeutic Humor. Babies begin to smile within the first few weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. Children laugh on average 200 times a day whereas adults only 26 times daily. Experts recommend that we get a good 15 minutes of deep belly laughter every day and here’s why.

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Laughter attracts us to one another and in turn makes us more attractive and sociable. Think of the feeling you get from telling a good joke and having people respond favorably.

Laughter is relaxing and relieves stress, tension, pain and conflict and inspires hope. It triggers the release of happy hormones – endorphins that activate the body’s opiate receptors causing an analgesic, calming effect. It also allows us to let go of inhibitions and defensiveness and as a result we feel more connected to each other. It can improve heart health and even help with weight loss.

Laughter can balance cortisol levels and reduce blood pressure too. This hormonal steroid produced in the adrenals helps us cope with stress but when over produced can make us susceptible to illness, weaken our immune systems, and interrupt our sleep.

So let’s consider ways to get a good dose of daily laughter.

Be social with fun people who don’t dwell on the negative.

Smile a lot.

Be prepared to laugh at yourself. It can shift your perspective and very often offer a solution where there was a problem.

Find a good comedy or sitcom and watch with friends.

Try laughter yoga.

The message here is laugh lots and live longer. Exercising those facial muscles regularly will also make you appear more youthful.

As Victor Hugo wisely quoted: “ Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Stress Basics and Coloring Books

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. We all experience varying levels at different times and in many situations. Under these circumstances the brain’s hard-wiring system kicks in. When it perceives a threat, the brain signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response and is a normal bodily reaction that is meant to protect us. However, because we now live in a world of nonstop stress most of the time, our alarm systems rarely shuts off!

Without stress management and over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems including a myriad of skin issues.

How?
Hormones, neuropeptides and other signaling molecules released during stressful times may be second only to sunlight in aging the skin. And the really bad news? Women are more prone than men. That means wrinkling, loss of tone and increased levels of sensitivity, particularly as we age.

Additionally, proteins and DNA in the epidermis and dermis urn can cause acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and hives.

Feeling bad about the way we look makes us less social and more isolated. This aloneness diminishes the production of Oxytocin, the bonding hormone. And as I mentioned in my last post, encourages compulsive picking and other bad habits.

What to do?
It is unrealistic to imagine we can ever live a stress free life but we can commit to developing coping skills that maintain balance, even at the worst of life’s moments.

Here are six of my favorites:
Getting outdoors and in touch with nature. Hiking, gardening, sitting on a park bench all reconnect us with our natural surroundings.

Breathing deeply. Not just when we are really stressed but at regular times throughout the day.

Disconnecting from social media for a day or if that sounds unimaginable, half a day!

Changing your mindset. When a challenge presents itself, think of it as an opportunity for personal growth.

Have a supportive tribe so you don’t waste time with negative or toxic people.

And finally, my new favorite, get out your colored pencils! Adult coloring books are all the craze right now. They can relief stress and anxiety as well as reconnecting you with your inner child. Check out “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book” or “Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book”. They are great fun and thoroughly engrossing.

Confucius once claimed: “True quality of life comes from lasting harmony between body and mind.” This is a goal worth aiming for.

Real Simple magazine has just published a very interesting article on skin cancer. Primarily focused on Squamous cell carcinoma, (SCC), and Basal cell carcinoma, (BCC), the publication quoted some pretty alarming statistics about these close cousins to Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, SCC makes up about 20 per cent of skin cancer diagnoses in America, and BCC accounts for almost 80 percent, making it the most common form of skin cancer for both men and women.

The good news is that these cancers tend to grow slowly so as long as you go for regular (at least once a year) check-ups with your dermatologist, you are very likely to catch any problems in the early stages before anything becomes difficult to remove and requires extensive surgery.

Most often Moh’s micrographic surgery is used to remove trouble spots. This is where one thin layer is removed at a time until the tissue shows no sign of containing any cancerous cells. This is done as an outpatient procedure and once the tissue is clear, the procedure is complete. The great news is that Moh’s surgery is 98% successful. Once the site has healed there is very little sign that anything was ever amiss.

It really all starts with early sun protection and regular self examinations at home every month. The occurrence BCC’s and SCC’s has risen significantly in women under the age of 40. Indoor tanning is the biggest culprit but also incidental sun exposure on a daily basis. (Running errands, driving, walking short distances.) Another factor is the misconception that a covering of tinted moisturizer or make-up with an SPF15 will do the trick. Not even close. An SPF of at least 30 is an absolute must, regardless of weather and climate, and make-up, tinted or full, needs to be applied on top. Don’t forget the ears, back of the neck and chest. Very high SPF’s can irritate the skin and don’t offer a significant amount of extra protection but up to factor 45 works well and if you have sensitive skin, try a physical block that only contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
It is very easy to mistake these skin cancers for pimples, so here is what to look for. Painful or itchy lesions, pimples that erupt, bleed, heal and then return. Crusty patches that look like dry skin, are waxy or pearly in appearance, growths with elevated borders and indented centers. Bear in mind that no matter what your race or skin color, you have upwards of a 40 per cent chance of developing one of these cancers by the age of 65. And they do reoccur.mole checks

The other advantage of regular check-ups is that it will allow the dermatologist to keep an eye out for melanoma as well. All this scary stuff is so preventable. Always keep a large brimmed hat in the car and when driving, wear lightweight gloves to protect the hands and a sun-proofed scarf to protect the chest. Any time something looks suspicious, don’t wait to get it checked. It is worth that extra doctor’s visit to be on the safe side.

We are all familiar with commercials that show startlingly beautiful models with perfect bodies and flawless skin. Most of the time we are aware these images promote an unattainable standard of beauty but there is danger in the representation that this is the  only type of beauty that is desirable. Dangerous because for all women – young and old – this can seriously affect their self esteem and unrealistic because  there is no preordained standard of beauty, especially the cookie cutter version of the commercial world. In reality, beauty is everywhere. It is diverse, interesting and individual and an essential part of our humanity.

At SkinSense, this beauty starts with the skin. The skin is the backdrop, canvas and stage on which all our features and our body image are projected. We also appreciate that when we are counseling a client it is important to create a safe and comfortable environment for sharing concerns and expectations. We are all our own worst critics and our role as skin care professionals is to listen before we start coming up with solutions and recommendations. With the advent of social media we are all even more aware of how we look. In fact according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, increased photo-sharing has resulted in a higher demand for rhinoplasty, hair transplants and eye surgery, also injectables and Botox.

At SkinSense, we work with doctors who we can confidently refer to when clients ask about these procedures but equally as important, we offer extensive customized facials and body treatments that utilize the latest in electrotherapy and cosmetic chemistry that guarantee results for every skin condition without causing trauma or using extreme measures.

In 1900, the average life expectancy of a woman was 48 years and a man, 46 years. Currently, the average life expectancy of a woman is 78 years and a man 75 years. My point being we are all living a lot longer and need to maintain our skins to stay youthful, competitive in the work place and in society. This is not vanity. It is a healthy choice. People notice good skin – it exhibits confidence, well-being and self acceptance. Our form of photoshop takes longer but it is sustainable. It celebrates the authentic self and that is beautiful. It also guarantees great selfies!

Marion Simms_03We are all punishing critics when it comes to our own bodies and appearance, particularly as we age. Remember those days when we could jump out of bed, shower, grab breakfast, slap on some make-up and be on our way to work in thirty minutes? The older we get it seems to take longer and longer to make ourselves look presentable in the morning, so I thought I would share a few tricks that I use and that clients have shared with me to enhance and speed up the process.

1. Early morning  mask treatments – when you first get out of bed, splash your face with tepid water and apply both an eye and face mask. (Keep the eye mask in the fridge for extra de-puffing benefits). Then you can go about your normal early morning rituals and be getting a mini facial at the same time. 15 minutes is all it takes. You might even want to dampen your hair and apply a mask if you are planning to wash it.

2. Lash and Brow tinting – tint lashes and brows every month to save using mascara and eyebrow pencils.

3. Have a fast way to deal with hair on the days you have no time to style – hats, hair pieces and hair ties are all great accessories to have on hand. Also having an manageable cut that matches your hair type – straight or curly – saves having to fuss or curl.

4. Select what you are planning to wear the night before including accessories.

5. In a real crunch, shower the night before and even make your breakfast smoothie.

6. Keep make-up simple. Moisturizer, mineral powder with SPF, and lipstick. You can always embellish later in the day.

Like many things in life, being beautiful and confident every day and at any age takes planning.

IMG_0499I have been part of the skin care industry for a long time. When I first trained as a facialist, the products and protocols we learned were a lot less sophisticated than they are today. Even though we had botanicals and essential oils to work with and some of the electrotherapy that is still being used currently, the ingredients were not as advanced and the machines not as various or highly calibrated.

I have a lot more tools in my tool box these days which makes my work even more rewarding than ever. My favorite anti-aging stars include peptides, ATP, oxygen, stem cell extract, hyaluronic acid  and the old favorites, Retin-A, collagen and elastin. Ultrasound and microcurrent have also reaped great benefits for many of my clients along with galvanic and high frequency that work with even the most sensitive of skins. It is all about getting the skin, by stimulating its natural physiology and chemistry, to produce new cells, amino acids and proteins in larger quantities over longer periods of time than is normal with intrinsic aging. In other words, younger looking skin that defies our chronological age!

Good news indeed. What this requires however, is a balanced and judicious approach to just how much stimulation you subject the skin to and who is advising you about the different methods. Constant abrasion with lasers, aggressive topicals and peeling agents creates too much trauma, can damage the skin and increase sensitivity and pigmentation. Protocols have to be mixed and alternated in order to achieve optimum results and we have a  lot of ‘smart’ skin care formulas today that can send messages to cell receptors in the skin which makes aggressive topical treatments unnecessary. WE need to respect the skin as a fully functional and self regulating organ. For example, using microcurrent and galvanic electrotherapy with oxygen, peptides and hyaluronic acid during the summer months, coupled with anti-oxidant serums/cremes and sunscreen at home can prepare the skin for winter peeling protocols that would repair sun damage AND boost cell production.

One final and very important tip: avoid any products that combine any form of Retin A with sunscreen. ALL Retin-A products (this includes, Tazarac and Differin) must only be applied at night.

Take a look at what you have in your bathroom and on your next spa visit, review your home care routine with your facialist. Effective skin care requires discipline, planning and commitment – it is a habit that has to be repeated every day at home and every month at the spa to reap the rewards. Luckily, the rewards show up much more quickly today because of the technology and expanded knowledge we now have about the anatomy and physiology of the skin. And other people will notice the improvement in your skin too – I promise!

Peace and tranquility – such hard things to find these days. And I have witnessed so much crazy behavior recently, it has got me thinking about the culprits and how I can develop better coping methods.

Have we reached  fever pitch with the stressful and continual news we listen to and read every day? I do find the coverage of just about every news worthy, and not so news worthy item, over sensationalized. Not that such awful occurrences like the Boston bombing and the NewTown shootings are not news worthy or important. They are terrible tragedies that need our attention.

But many stories we end up watching are used to simply fill air time, are shown repeatedly and are of no great significance. Look at the way every political move is a crisis – nothing gets solved, if at all, until the very last minute and I think this approach tends to bleed out into our own lives. Or it can if we don’t pay attention to how we react and handle our everyday activities.

And as much as I love my computer and i-Phone, I do think we are over stimulated by all the information that is continually being pinged, messaged and streamed at us. Our attention is continuously being pulled in a million different directions.

Even information about diet, exercise and vitamins can be confusing. I often read conflicting reports about all these topics. It is easy to get sucked in but really more important than ever to take a step back from it all.

I have spoken in previous blogs about developing great habits to sustain a level of happiness and wellbeing in our lives and have just encountered a really good article with some great tips on how to do this. 25 of them actually. Some you have heard before, from me and many other sources, but they all bear reading and hearing again. The article appeared on a wonderful website called www.MindBodyGreen.com and was written by Kristy Rao.

Read on. Maybe there are some extra steps you can take to stay grounded and content in this wonderful but often crazy world. The title of the article is: “25 Habits of people who are Happy, Healthy and Successful.”

1. They don’t hold grudges.
2. They think outside of the box.
3. They go by a routine and make exercise a part of it. It takes practice to develop healthy habits and stick with them. Once you do, your internal foundation will be strong.
4. They have a supportive tribe, thereby not wasting time with negative or toxic people.
5. They don’t care about what other people think. Does a tiger lose sleep over the opinion of sheep?
6. They don’t people please.
7. They see difficult and challenging situations as opportunities for personal growth.
8. They consider handling rejection a skill and are resilient.
9. They make time for themselves. Whether it’s getting eight hours of sleep every night, finding 15 minutes to read the newspaper in peace or an hour to go to the gym, they make it a priority — just like everything else. When you take care of yourself, you have a bigger impact on others.
10. They are spiritual. This doesn’t necessarily mean religious. It could mean setting aside time for reflection through yoga or meditation.
11. They practice deep breathing.
12. They know there isn’t such a thing as “having it all,” and they’re happy about that. Wouldn’t the world be a boring place for them otherwise?
13. Fear doesn’t hold them back. They’re ready to take risks.
14. They know how to say “NO,” and don’t hold back. These people have learned to set boundaries. Plenty of them.
15. They learned a great deal from other people whom they admire. Either they had a great mentor, or they took note of how those they aspired to be like handled various situations.
16. They follow their inner guidance. Not only do they have a vision, but they follow it.
17. They give without expecting anything in return.
18. They aren’t pretentious or conceited.
19. Passion is what drives them. They authentically believe in what they’re doing.
20. They don’t complain.
21. They live by their core values in both their professional and personal lives.
22. They’re happy to swim against the tide.
23. They finish what they start.
24. They don’t compare themselves to other people.
25. They want you to succeed, too.

It’s a lot to aspire to but worth the effort.

When we go to the doctor and are told  that whatever ails us is triggered by stress, it is always a frustrating diagnosis. Too vague somehow. We want something more concrete.

I recently asked a client who is a gastroenterologist what, in her opinion, is the main cause of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and her answer was stress. In fact she told me that most of the medications prescribed for IBS are for anxiety.

With all that is going on in our world right now, how can we keep our stress levels under control to avoid developing chronic illness and without devoting hours to meditation or moving to some remote island without electricity.

Maybe one way to stay calm would be to take our hobbies to a new level. I know many of you already have interests outside of work because they come up a lot in conversation during spa visits. And I also know many of you will react with the question “Who has the time?” But gardening, games, puzzles (not all online and using an electronic device), photography, reading, and cooking are all hobbies that can provide endless pleasure and get us to relax and concentrate on lighter pursuits.

Take gardening for example. Many people now grow some if not many of their own vegetables. A study in the Netherlands compared reduced cortisol levels after one random group read for 30 minutes and another gardened for the same amount of time. The gardeners’ cortisol levels were the lowest. Not that I am against reading. I read a lot and belong to a book club that I find really interesting, but being in touch with nature connects us to the earth and that has a very comforting effect on us all.

Cooking is another great way to relax, especially if you have some favourite background music playing while you prepare your food. Maybe take a cooking class before the Holidays and surprise your family and friends with some new recipes or exchange recipes with friends?

Several of my clients are also making their own Holiday cards this year. We have a newly opened Paper Source in our neighbourhood that offers evening classes in all kinds of crafts. Sending cards that are hand-made adds a very personal touch, allows you to be creative and saves money. Many of us underestimate our creative talents both in the garden and arts arena.

Photography is another hobby that can bring endless pleasure. Our phones now take great pictures as we go about our daily lives, but take it one step further and carry a camera on you every day to capture images you may want to re-produce for that gallery at home.

Finally, get together with friends and family as much as possible and laugh. It really is the best medicine and exercises all those facial muscles in the best possible way!!

These are just a few ideas that may help you unwind and keep those stress levels under control. If you would like to share some other ways that you enjoy, please e-mail me at msimms {at} skinsensewellness.com. I would love to hear from you.

Over the many years I have traveled back and forth to London I have tried many things to keep my skin looking fresh when I arrive. So here are a few ideas you might like to try on your next journey.

Taking a flying trip this summer? Fun, but oh, those plane rides and what they can do to the skin! Stale, recycled air, 10% humidity, poor lighting and extra exposure to UV rays with no atmospheric protection, not to mention very little or no sleep!!

Here are a few tips to help your skin glow on arrival.

Get a really deep cleansing, hydrating facial 3-5 days before you leave. At SkinSense we offer the Hydradermie, Guinot’s signature galvanic treatment that does it all.

The night before the flight, treat your skin to a hydrating mask. Slather on body lotion and condition your hair. Do the same thing the night of your arrival and if the skin has become cranky during the flight, apply a clay mask that has a corrective, rebalancing formula.

Before boarding, make sure your skin is super hydrated – eye creme, serum, moisturizer and sunscreen and if you use mineral cosmetics, a light dusting will add extra protection.

If you have oilier skin, just use a serum after cleansing and toning, and add topicals before sunscreen and mineral powder.

TIP: Spraying water on the skin during a flight may feel refreshing but it dehydrates the skin surface. We recommend 302 Calming Mist which contains botanicals that hydrate and tone continuously.

DON’T FORGET: drink plenty of water. Hydrate from the inside out as well as the outside in. Avoid alcohol, tea and coffee during the flight and pack a few healthy snacks – fruit, nuts, energy bars – edibles that are light and easy to digest. Sitting for a length of time can cramp the system so remember to walk around from time to time and stretch your body.

Happy Trails!!