Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You want me to rub WHAT over my body? WHY?

No, it’s not just a girl-thing and no, it’s not about just looking lovely and having glowing skin, although that’s a pleasant side effect. What are we talking about? Exfoliating. Ex… what? Exfoliating. The process of rubbing something mildly abrasive over your skin to remove dead skin cells and improve circulation. “Don’t dead skins cells fall off all by themselves?” I hear you asking. Well yes, they do. Eventually. But before they do they clog up the skin’s natural elimination processes and reduce the body’s ability to sweat effectively and release toxins.

The skin we’re in isn’t just a wrapper to hold all the bits together. Our skin is involved in a huge range of bodily processes that all combine for good health. Our skin is the largest elimination organ in the body, efficiently removing waste; it regulates body temperature, engages us with the world around us through touch, prevents infection and enables our bodies to absorb sunlight and produce important nutrients like Vitamin D. Making sure your skin functions at its best means that all those bodily functions will also function at their best.

In many ancient cultures, coarse salt or sand are used for exfoliation. Both are great but in the modern bathroom tend to play havoc with your drainage. If you do use coarse salt, you’ll need to pour a lot of hot water down the drains afterward to make sure it dissolves fully and doesn’t form a solid layer in your pipes.

If you use one of the many loofahs, mits or scrubbers on the market, please be aware that they bring a hygiene risk after the first use unless you boil them. Sitting damp in your bathroom for days on end and being full of dead skin cells and bacteria isn’t so great - the next time you use it, if you have even the slightest nick or cut on your skin, you risk infection. Brushes are good and can be used on the skin wet or dry, but also need cleaning after each use like a loofah or mit. Or you can use our new Clay Exfoliating Tablet – a bit like a big piece of soap but made from fine white unfired clay. It exfoliates gently and you also have the benefit of the clay helping to draw impurities out of the skin.

How hard should you scrub? Definitely you are aiming for nothing more than the slightest pink glow afterwards. Exfoliating is much easier after a soak in the bath or a longish shower, which softens the dead skin cells and makes them easier to remove. Be aware that areas of the body with poorer blood circulation, like outer thighs, knees, elbows, buttocks, feet etc, tend to have greater dead-skin build up and need exfoliating more often.

After exfoliating, dry yourself off and apply a natural plant-based oil all over. Why? The plant-based oil will nourish new skin, hopefully (depending on oil quality) add antioxidants and natural vitamin E to your skin and help to keep it soft, moisturized and also offset any dryness or irritation.

Think about adding regular exfoliation to your normal self-care regime for better health. Guys, that means you too! Stimulating your skin’s blood circulation and cleaning away the old dead skin cells is not unlike cleaning the filtration in your swimming pool or airconditoner. Everything works more efficiently afterwards, and you have the added benefit of glowing, smooth skin that is a pleasure for you, and others, to touch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Toxic Romance?

Picture this…. It’s the ultimate evening after a nice intimate meal, cooked together and shared. You wander slowly upstairs and pause for a smooch on the landing. You take your time undressing and playfully quibbling about whose turn it is to be massaged. The massage oil is ready and you lean over to light the candle.

STOP. At this point the romantic evening has the potential to become very, very toxic.

How? Firstly, your massage oil. Unless you are using a premium, natural massage oil that has been correctly stored, chances are the stuff you’re about to slather on with such loving strokes will harm both you and your partner as it is absorbed into your skin. Synthetically fragranced oil is made using cheap, nasty and toxic chemicals. Lots of people don’t even know the oil they are using is synthetic. Rule of thumb? Unless it specifically says “essential oil” on the bottle, it’s a 99% chance to contain synthetic fragrance. A key word to be aware of is “fragrance”. In the cosmetic labeling industry, “fragrance” oil is synthetic. Also, the base oil. Most plant oils from cooler countries, like almond or olive, need to be refrigerated or stored under 30C and become rancid quickly. If they have not been correctly stored, they contain huge amounts of damaged fatty-acid molecules which are absorbed into your skin and then happily travel about inside your body through your blood and vital organs, creating havoc.

Another bit of terminology to be aware of is “mineral oil”. Basically it means “petrochemical waste that has been tidied up a bit”. Your kidneys and liver do not need little bits of bio-diesel waste ending up clogging your body’s filtration and waste management system! And the third thing you need to be aware of with commercial massage oils is that most mass produced vegetable base oils come from genetically modified crops. We do not yet know what this will do to our chromosomes or the DNA of our children’s children.

The other big romance killer – literally – is probably the candle. The lead-dipping of candle wicks encourages slow, steady burning and is still commonly practiced. Lead or chemically treated wicks are often quite thin in relation to the candle, whereas in a natural beeswax candle, an untreated cotton wick gets progressively thicker as the candle does. It has to, so that the wick is able to consume the greater volume of melted wax. If your candle is synthetically colored or artificially scented, the burning process will release those volatile chemicals into the air of your boudoir and they will end up in the lungs and bloodstream of you and your beloved.

But even more significantly, most commercially produced candles are made either largely or solely from paraffin. Why? Because it is the cheapest wax. What does burning paraffin discharge into the air? The smoke from paraffin wax emits significant doses of pollutants including benzene, toluene and ketones, which have been linked to cancer, asthma and birth defects. Suddenly I’m not feeling so romantic anymore. Even so-called beeswax candles are often blended with paraffin to reduce production costs.

So, what to do? Cancel the romance and soak up a bit of radiation and “dirty electricity” in front of the television? Heavens no! We all need romance and the healing energy of shared touch.

Make sure that your massage oil is produced from high quality plant oil with good shelf life that does not require refrigeration. ~ Shudder ~ … at the thought of cold oil being dropped onto my warm skin. Make sure it is not synthetically fragranced and contains no coloring agents. Arun Thai Natural Aroma Body Oils are made from rice bran oil, which is the most stable oil under heat of all known plant oils and has a shelf life of 18+ months without refrigeration. We make our oils using only 100% natural, pure essential oils and we use no coloring agents whatsoever.

Look for 100% pure beeswax candles, preferably in flame-proof containers. The amazing thing about burning a beeswax candle is it actually purifies the air while you burn it. Make sure it has a substantial, thick non-treated cotton wick and ensure you buy only candles that are fragranced with 100% pure essential oils. Arun Thai Natural will be releasing pure 100% beeswax candles in the coming weeks to add to your natural massage and natural romance experience.

Bring back the romance in your life… and in that process, make sure you are protecting your health and the health of your loved one. Cuddle. Massage. Snuggle away. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ingredient Insight: Menthol

We can mostly all conjure up the smell of menthol, or its taste, but do we really know what it is or what it looks like in its natural form?

Menthol is an organic compound extracted from peppermint or other mint oils. It is sold in its crystalline form and melts just slightly above room temperature (ie when you touch it). It looks like shards of glass or broken crystal and has the most beautiful fragile tinkling sound when you shake it out of the bag. Mentha arvensis is the primary species of mint used to make natural menthol crystals. It was first isolated from peppermint oil in 1771 in the West, but has been widely known and used in Asian medicine for far longer.

Menthol is to the cold sensation what capsaicin (extracted from chilies) is to hot. It triggers cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors in the skin which gives a cooling sensation when inhaled, eaten or applied to the skin, without causing an actual change in temperature.

Menthol has analgesic (pain relieving) properties and helps to relieve skin irritations, sore throats and nasal congestion. It is also used to treat sunburn, fever and muscle aches. When menthol is used orally, it is used in the form of peppermint oil, and is widely used in toothpastes, cough medicines, lip balms, mouthwashes, chewing gum and cigarettes.

In traditional Thai and Asian medicine, menthol is used for nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, headache, colds, sore throat and muscle pain. Commonly in Traditional Thai Massage, menthol is used in conjunction with camphor.

Arun Thai Natural uses menthol in Phlai Traditional Thai Massage Oil and Beeswax Balm (warming) and Ginger Cassia Traditional Thai Massage Oil and Beeswax Balm (cooling).