All posts filed under: Beauty

Ten ways to love the cold

Yes, it’s freezing out there but, while it’s tempting to turn up the heat and huddle by the fire, maybe we’re missing a trick. There’s been a sudden plunge in temperature in the world of health and beauty as therapists, doctors and surgeons are increasingly discovering the therapeutic power of cold. Actually it’s nothing new. People have believed in the health-giving properties  of cold temperatures since classical times. Plato, Hippocrates and Avicena all recommended cold water treatments as a vital part of medicine.  In Russia and northern Europe, the therapeutic use of snow, cold and ice are legendary. There is even a specific word in Russian – which translates as tempering – which means to toughen and strengthen the body through the use of cold and ice. ‘Cold makes skin and blood vessels contract,’ explains Alla Svirinskaya, a medically trained healer and a firm advocate of cold and ice therapy.  ‘Cold is energizing, reducing fatigue, both mental and physical.  It also gives an emotional boost because our blood receives increased levels of endorphins.  Cold can …

Ayurvedic healing at Austria’s Schloss Pichlarn

I love ayurveda, the 5,000 year old system of Indian mind-body spirit medicine.  In fact, I love it so much I wrote an entire book about it.  Yet I hadn’t had a dose of ayurvedic cleansing for many years and was yearning for some of its deep pampering treatments.  Would I have to trek over to India or Sri Lanka to get my abhyanga and shirodhara fix?  It seemed not.  I could fly to Saltzburg and be at Schloss Pichlarn less than two hours later.  No jet lag,  no sirree.   Saltzburg?  The Austrian mountains seem an unlikely venue for exotic ayurveda but, in fact, it’s not as strange as it sounds.  Ayurveda became very popular in Germany and Austria in the 90s and there is a wide choice of ayurvedic spas in these most firmly western countries.  Schloss Pichlarn has been developed around an old castle (complete with turrets) with a vast slab of mountain behind.  It’s big and grand (but not remotely stuffy) with all you’d expect from a large luxury hotel (there’s a …

Juice fasting – yes or no?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a celebrity nowadays who isn’t sipping freshly pressed juice.  Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Cattrall, Demi Moore, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Nichole Ritchie, Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Silverstone, Colin Farrell…the list goes on and on.  It’s not hard to see why – juicing is touted as the elixir of youth, a magic bullet for preventing or curing disease and the holy grail of weight loss all squeezed into one glass.  In Hollywood juice cafes are virtually considered temples. You can simply incorporate the odd glass of juice into your daily diet or, as many of the A-listers do, give yourself the occasional juice ‘detox’, drinking nothing but juice for a few days or even a few weeks. ‘Juicing is great because you can take concentrated nutrients from a whole lot of fruits and vegetables,’ says Erica D’Angelo, who runs juice retreats at the Ti Sana spa in northern Italy.  ‘Normally you simply wouldn’t be able to eat that amount at once. You’re consuming a substantial quantity of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help …

Superfoods – safer than supplements?

A new book is warning that vitamins might not be as healthy as we think: they could even be causing us harm.  Dr Paul Offit, author of Killing Us Softly (Fourth Estate) claims that vitamin supplements can actually increase our risk of heart disease and cancer. While that may come as a shock to most of us, many naturopaths and, in particular, raw food advocates, are not so surprised.  They have been saying for years that the best way to supercharge our diet is not with manufactured supplements but with foods dense in natural nutrients – the so-called ‘superfoods’. In fact, many nutritional experts are now eschewing supplements altogether, claiming that foods like acai, maca and chia are better, healthier and much safer than synthetic vitamins and nutritional supplements. ‘Superfoods are holistic health supplements that contain more nutrients per calorie than most other foods,’ says naturopath Veronika  Poola from Kaliyoga Retreats in Spain.   ‘They are especially high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Unlike synthetic supplements, they are foods and therefore come in a form …

The rise and rise of the serious medical spa

Spas have become so commonplace now that it’s unusual to find a smart hotel that doesn’t have one.  The word spa has become synonymous with pampering, with elaborate ‘rituals’ and esoteric beauty treatments.  But it wasn’t always so. The original spas were built with serious healing in mind.  They were usually sited in places with natural springs where people would ‘take the waters’ – drinking or bathing in water rich in minerals, or being daubed with its mud.   Far from being ‘feelgood’ places, they were often quite draconian in their treatments. I clearly remember enduring all kinds of torture (including freezing showers and being wrapped in wet bandages) at Tyringham Hall, an erstwhile naturopathic spa.  There was no concept of picking and choosing your treatments – you were given what the doctor thought you needed, no more, no less. Now we’re seeing a move back to this more focused therapeutic function with some spas building up impressive reputations for treating specific problems.  People flock to them, not for sybaritic pampering but to get to the …

Fasting – the ultimate weight-loss plan?

The very latest eating plan is simplicity itself.  It requires no fiddly recipes, no special equipment and no complicated rules.  You don’t need to combine anything, count anything or measure anything simply because there are no foods to combine, no calories to count and no ingredients to measure.  This is the lean world of fasting which makes the most draconian diet look generous. It involves ingesting nothing more than water for upwards of a day and it is gaining in popularity virtually by the minute. It’s certainly not a new concept – back in medieval times, fasting was a way of life and all over the world religions have espoused the spiritual benefits of purifying and castigating the body by withholding food.  Nowadays, however, few think of fasting as a solely religious experience and it certainly isn’t regarded as punishment: fasters are simply looking for a healthier body, a brighter mind and clearer emotions. Amidst healthy scepticism there is evidence backing periodic, sensible fasting.  Research has been carried out since 1880 and since then medical …

Adult acne? New laser hits the spot

It’s not just the young stars of the Harry Potter movies who’re plagued by zits – a huge number of more mature celebrities are cursed with problematic skin. Kate Moss, Cameron Diaz, Madonna, Uma Thurman, Billie Piper and Victoria Beckham (see pic, left) have all been spotted (sorry) with acne. It’s a common misconception that acne is only for adolescents: adult acne is increasing and a recent study in the US showed that 25 percent of women aged 30-40 years will suffer from the condition.  And it’s not just a female issue – Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and John Cusack aren’t blemish-free either.  ‘It’s a major psychological problem,’ says Tony Chu, professor of dermatology and medical director of the West London Dermatology Centre. ‘People feel they cannot plan their lives as they never know what they will look like. I have had women patients who have cancelled their weddings as the stress made their skin so much worse.’ So is stress the major cause of the spot epidemic?  In a nutshell, yes, says …

Mineral Make-up – foundation’s holy grail?

Finding the perfect foundation is the holy grail of make-up.   Get the wrong shade and you end up looking more ghoulish than groomed.  I’ve wasted a small fortune over the years on products that either turn me Tango-ed or morph me into a bit-part actor from Twilight.  But now I’ve discovered mineral make-up and I’m all aglow.  Mineral make-up isn’t new – if you’re an avid beauty hound you’ll have seen it advertised in the glossies.  But if, like me, you flip over the beauty pages and are allergic to department stores, it probably passed you by.  ‘Mineral make-up is literally made from crushed mined minerals,’ says Sarah Stacey, co-author of The Green Beauty Bible (Kyle Cathie). ‘Titanium dioxide, mica, iron oxides, pearl and even gold.’  She explains that blends of these all-natural minerals and crystals are ‘micro-pulverised’ to form microscopic flat crystals which overlap each other on the skin, allowing ‘skin to breathe and function normally’. The pioneers in the field worked with cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists because, not only was the make-up very …

Green tea – the wonder stuff

Is there anything green tea can’t do?  It’s been feted as a weight loss miracle, melting away the pounds.   Research suggests it might lower the risk of heart disease and prevent certain types of cancer.  Acne sufferers daub it on their skin while others swear it works a treat as a mouthwash.  Just recently it was reported that drinking green tea could even protect us from glaucoma and other eye diseases.  Its celebrity following is vast – from Oprah Winfrey through Jennifer Lopez and Lindsay Lohan to Courtney Love and (inevitably) Gwyneth Paltrow.  But is it just another over-hyped fad or should we really be ditching our mugs of builders’ finest and playing green tea ceremonies instead?  ‘Green tea has become a ‘must have’ drink with its own fashion status,’ says Ross Hutchison, MD of The Teahouse (www.theteahouse.co.uk), speaking from a tea garden in China.  He points out that green tea isn’t actually that mysterious.  ‘All the major types of tea (white, green, oolong, black) all originate from the Camellia Sinensis tea bush. The difference …

Are lava shells the new hot stones? No, they’re much better

Nothing much surprises me when it comes to massage. I’ve been pummelled with hands, elbows, feet; on the floor, in swimming pools, on beds of hay.  But when I heard about a new massage using hot tiger striped clam shells I rolled my eyes.  The Lava Shells massage sounded perilously like the ‘next hot stones’ – and, if I’m brutally frank, hot stones just never really set me on fire.  So I had my cynical hat rammed firmly onto my head when I walked into Body Image in Taunton.  ‘Oh, you’re in for a treat,’ said the owner, Richard Butt.  ‘It’s absolutely amazing.’  Yes, but he would say that, wouldn’t he?  My therapist, Gemma Impey, took a brief case history (the treatment is not suitable for pregnant women, anyone who’s recently had an operation and  anyone with active cancer) and explained about the shells which were sitting, looking pretty unprepossessing, on a small table.  Palm-sized, they come from villages in the Philippines where the tiger clam is part of the daily diet (so effectively they’re …