July 20th, 2019
THREE CHILL WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR SKIN IN THE SUN
Hello Summer Sun! So good to see you again. We love you Sun, we really do, but every good relationship needs boundaries. Preferably natural and non-toxic ones.
Think of natural sun protection in terms of shielding your skin from the sun. Well, how do you do that? Here are some basic tips from the Environmental Working Group to consider doing before you hit the sunscreen.
TIP #1: COVER UP
Shirts, hats, shorts, long dresses, skirts, pants--these provide the best protection from UV rays. Cover up as much skin as you can without getting uncomfortable. That ideally means from head to toe! But that is not everyone's comfort zone. So just go for as long a sleeve and pant/skirt length as you can tolerate.
Form fitting garments tend to hold both heat and sweat to your skin. Looser ones can provide some much needed, cooling air flow. Tightly woven or knitted, but lightweight fabrics like natural silk, cottons, t-shirting, or synthetic materials like rayon can all shade your skin beautifully, while letting the air flow through. Wearing bright or dark colours can also help. For example, a black T will absorb more UV rays than a white one.
Natural or synthetic fabrics? Choose what feels right for you. Have fun with it and don't forget the wide brimmed hat and sunglasses! Good shades protect your eyes from UV radiation that can cause cataracts.
In my wanderings on the net, I ran into Coolibar. If you need sun protective clothing for specific activities, they might be able to help you out. They have spent 20 years developing specialized UV protective fabrics and clothing. like long sleeved swimwear. In their words:
"Because Coolibar is a product with a purpose, we work closely with outdoor athletes, cancer survivors, dermatologists, medical advisors and organizations like the Melanoma Research Foundation, The Skin Cancer Foundation and the Lupus Foundation of America for additional design insight and technical expertise. The result is a new "user group strategy with product groupings around seven activities...designed to provide maximum comfort, coverage and UV protection for the whole family."
TIP #2: FIND SHADE OR MAKE IT
While you're out and about this summer, look for shade and spend some cooling time under it. Read a book under that big old oak tree, followed by a relaxing picnic. Keep the babies in the shade wherever you are. They are still developing the tanning pigments, known as melanin, that protect skin. If you have a canopy, or large umbrella, set it up on the beach or in the back yard.
Or take an umbrella parasol with you. Traditionally and currently, parasols are the personal sun shade of choice in Japan, China and surrounding countries. In Europe and North America, it had its moments but fell out of fashion in the 1920's as constructions of womanhood and beauty changed to adapt to more active lifestyles for women.
Jump cut to today. With the increasing concern about UV radiation, parasols have made a come back. If you are looking for a fashionable, artisan made parasol, Lily-Lark, based in New York, can definitely help. The fabrics are unique for parasols--playful and painterly, a fun twist on a traditional fashion accessory. The parasols are made by artisans in Bali (it looks like to me). It's my hope they are paid well for the lovely work they do. In the founder of Lily-Lark's words:
"Umbrellas have emerged as the latest go-to sun protection option for women. But most umbrellas are made of cheap nylon, metal and a whole lot of boring. Something more eleant than an umbrella was called for, which is why we've created chic, handcrafted parasols with a UPF 50+ coating that protects from over 98% of UV rays. Our Asian-inspired bamboo frames are topped by soft fabric canopies printed with exclusive contemporary fine art."
TIP #3: PLAN AROUND THE SUN AND SIESTA
Ever wonder why siesta time is in the middle of the day? Well, the sun is its hottest then and a great way to beat the heat is to be out of it. Many sun cultures plan their days to avoid being out and about when the sun is at its hottest. Work activities happen early in the morning, there is a pause, and then things resume again when the sun is cooler. But there is a little more to it than that. Studies have shown that a half hour siesta can help reduce both stress and blood pressure, increase productivity and improve alertness and memory. So millions of people around the world who siesta can't be wrong!
If you're looking for a hammock for the back yard, your balcony or a travel sized one, La Siesta has you covered. The family-run company has a strong commitment to ethical practices, taking their responsibility to "creating a better world for our children and grandchildren" very seriously. To them a hammock is more than just furniture; it's a cultural asset that reflects a way of life. Their hammocks are artisan made in South America. In their words:
"The hammock’s message is very near and dear to our hearts, which is why we also want to support the people who make them. LA SIESTA has made a social commitment to many local projects in South America and in doing so we support, among other things, the use of high-quality and ecological materials like organic cotton and FSC-certified wood, in order to constantly improve the quality of our products and the living conditions of the people who make them."
How do you shade yourself from the sun? What are your favourite sun protective fashionables?
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion
Disclosure-The websites in this blog are provided as information only. I am not affiliated with them, nor do I get paid for advertising them. If you buy from them or have tried their products, please let me know how their products worked for you.
April 25th, 2017
A SHORT HISTORY OF PERFUME
Flowers and Fragrance are an evolutionary thing—attractive smells attract bees and other pollinators, ensuring the survival of a species. Over centuries, these fragrances have attracted humans, too and over time we have made the connection between good smells and good health, and spiritual peace. In today’s deodorized world, where chemical sensitivities lead to bans on fragrance, we assume that to be without smell is to be clean, wholesome and pure. But are we losing something really important to the human experience in banishing scent?
In the realm of health, the desire to surround oneself with pungent fragrances traces directly to the rank odour of the unwashed human, a story that starts with sweat. Human sweat by itself barely smells at all. But the symbiotic bacteria that lives all over our bodies finds our sweat a yummy meal. Post feast, the bacteria releases molecules that we recognize as body odour. Yup. We’re smelling of bacteria poop.
Throughout human history, we weren’t aware of the bacterial cause of body odor. But we sure could smell it. And so the art of extracting fragrance from plant materials began centuries ago in ancient times in different cultures all over the world. When early alchemists began extract the “essence” of a plant (or its fragrance) into oils, they believed that these concentrated extractions were a spiritual embodiment of nature, a plant’s soul, if you like.
In Ancient China, India, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, fragrances were primarily processed in oil-based infusions. Oil was pressed first from ingredients like olives. Then plants and woods were added to the oil using meticulous scale measurements and left to steep. This process is still used today by many body care makers, ourselves included. Another process used was maceration, meaning plant material was pressed to remove oils and then ground into powders which could be used on their own or combined with other ingredients to create a paste. Or there was enfleurage, in which leaves or petals were placed in a thin layer of solid fat, usually animal, which absorbed the plant’s essential oils. This was the process probably used to produce the spikenard used in the Bible to anoint Jesus.
Early fragrance concoctions incorporated floral scents like jasmine, rose, lavender, violet, chamomile as well as spicy smells from materials like amber, cinnamon, camphor and cloves and musky smells from animals, thought to be aphrodisiacs. These were carried in ceramic jars, bottles or jewelry. Complex scents weren’t only intended for wear directly on the body. Besides direct application of fragrance on the skin, people burned fragrant materials as incense, believing the smoke carried prayers to the gods. Fragrant materials were also burned for medicinal purposes, to clear an infection or purify a room. Powders were also made, carried in fabric sachets; hardened pastes were made into beads and worn as jewelry and garments were sewn from fabrics soaked in perfume.
Europe became a huge market for fragrance products primarily because of the belief that bathing was bad and dangerous to the health. Yup. Not making that up. It was wildly held that water’s ability to soften skin and open pores actually weakened the flesh, making it more susceptible to sickness. One of the side effects of this belief system was the development of more complex methods of perfume production, ingredients and scent dissemination. Ornamental devices continued to be developed that would mask unseemly odours, like the pomander, a spherical pendent that acted as a scent diffuser worn to purify the air wherever one walked.
In Renaissance Venice a serious breakthrough in perfume production came when they discovered how to create a clear substance make of 95 percent alcohol imbued with a strong scent. The process can give thanks to the work of Islamic scholars who progressed such knowledge while Europe went through the Dark Ages. Many believe that the invention of the distillation process that led to the discover of base alcohol is due to Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in the West), the Persian doctor, chemist and philosopher, who experimented extensively with distillation to try and make better scents and figure out the chemistry behind non-oil based perfumes.
Liquid perfume was brought to France by Catherine de Medici. Gradually, France came to dominate the perfume industry in Europe, supported by an increasingly extravagant Royal class who still did not believe in bathing. There are accounts of the fetid stench that proliferated the Versailles court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette where courtiers would relieve themselves wherever they felt like it. Which gave rise to more scent devices. Decorative filigreed scent smelling boxes, or “vinaigrettes” were designed to hold liquid perfumes in small sponges or fabric swatches. They were often attached to chains at the waist of a woman’s dress. Perfume was also worn in rings, lockets or in pendent vials worn as necklaces.
The swing towards deodorizing and disinfecting came once science began to show that filth was not good and baths were not bad. Studies of epidemics and germs in the following centuries showed the importance of clean water and sanitation to health. As better hygiene took over, strong perfumes were needed less and became more aligned with fashion and cosmetics. These ideas were exported to the Americas, where the tools of personal hygiene became integrated into living environments via indoor plumbing and garbage removal. Personal hygiene standards changed, and daily bathing was encouraged. Products were developed to disinfect and deodorise. Manufactured scents were no longer bound to the natural world of essential oils as chemists developed entirely new, man-made compounds. The side effects and dangers of many of these to human health were not adequately known or explained, or they were disregarded altogether, landing us where we are now in the place of increased allergies and sensitivities—and a move back towards Nature.
Aroma jewelry is back, too, in answer to the scent sensitivity problem. Paired with fragrance oils, the jewelry brings flexibility to fragrance wearing. You can keep your scent very personal, experiencing it when you want. You can control how much fragrance you want to wear. You can still wear fragrances you love without irritating your sensitive skin. Wearing your Aroma jewelry allows you to move freely from scent-allowed to scent-free environments—just put your locket in your pocket. And should you have an aromatherapy blend that helps you stay calm, or ease a headache, this is a great way to have it quickly on hand.
Fragrance is still a significant part of the human experience. The nose is thought of as the gateway to consciousness through which the breath, the energy of life passes. It is tied to memory, transporting us to moments in time where those smells made their first impressions. Aroma can release emotions and awaken joy. They can bewitch, soothe, inspire, relax, liberate and uplift. Feeling emotionally uplifted can, in turn, improve our physical wellbeing. To ban this potential from our experience now seems like a counterintuitive step backwards—like saying, “bathing is bad” again. Our world now is a complex mix of chemicals, natural and synthetic. The trick is trying to choose what’s most effective and safe for us from both these sources. We have the possibility to pick the best of both worlds and hopefully find our way to some form of balance that honours both the gifts of Nature and the ingenuity of Science.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team