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Plastic 101: Microplastics and Pollution

Plastic has become a constant element in our lives, with billions of plastic items being created and briefly used daily. Our reliance on plastic has started the course of mass pollution, leading to an array of planetary issues; but the path we are currently on isn’t irreversible. Small, simple changes in our lifestyle can make leaps toward righting the ship, cleaning our oceans, and saving our planet.

With an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic ending up in our oceans annually, it’s important to know the “what, why, and how” of plastics so we can help each other lessen the impact we make. In this blog, we’ll discuss how plastic is made, the problem with microplastics, and tips for those who want to use less plastic, along with casting a spotlight on plastic-free brands with excellent products to make going zero-waste easier than ever.

How is Plastic Made?

To make plastic, scientists must take base materials, such as crude oil, and transform them with additives, heat, manipulation, and time into a workable polymer. Though the main component of most of these plastics is crude oil, other materials, such as salt, cellulose, natural gas, and coal are also sometimes used.1

Process of Plastic from Crude Oil

Pictured: The processing of plastic from crude oil   Source: Plastic Collectors

The base ingredients are refined during the plastic-making process into ethane and propane, which are heated in a process known as “cracking” until they transform into the monomers ethylene and propylene. As monomers, ethylene and propylene can then be converted into subsequent polymers via a catalyst.2

Transforming ethylene and propylene into polymers can release toxic emissions into the air and may include potentially dangerous chemical compounds like benzene, ethylene oxide, ethylbenzene, and nickel.3 

Two primary plastics come out of the plastic-making process: thermoplastics, which can be melted, cooled, and molded until they harden, and thermosets, which are not meltable once they have been cooled. Examples of thermosets are epoxy, polyurethane, silicone, and phenolic, while common examples of thermoplastics include acrylic, polyester, polypropylene, polystyrene, nylon, and Teflon.4

Thermoplastics vs. Thermosets

Pictured: Thermoplastics vs. thermosets   Source: Buzzle 

Despite popular belief, not all plastics are recyclable. The bulk of plastic recycling is downcycling, meaning plastic degrades with each turn through the recycling process. During this process, though, most thermoplastics break down into microplastics, which can cause an abundance of planetary and health issues.

For a more in-depth look at the plastic-making process, click here

The Problem With Microplastics

Microplastics, as the name implies, are tiny plastic particles. Officially, they are defined as plastics less than 0.2 inches in diameter, which is smaller than a standard pearl. There are two categories of microplastics known as primary and secondary.

Primary microplastics are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles. Secondary microplastics are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items like water bottles. This breakdown is caused by exposure to environmental factors like the sun’s radiation and ocean waves.6

Primary and Secondary Microplastics

Pictured: Primary and secondary microplastics    Source: The European Food Education Council

The problem with microplastics is that they don’t readily break down into harmless molecules. In fact, microplastics have been detected in marine organisms and our drinking water; standard water treatment facilities cannot remove all traces of microplastics. To further complicate matters, microplastics in the ocean can bind with other harmful chemicals before being ingested by marine organisms.7, 8

Many countries are taking action to reduce microplastics in the environment. A 2017 United Nations resolution discussed microplastics and the need for regulations to reduce this hazard.9 Additionally, going into 2022, the California Ocean Protection Council approved the first comprehensive microplastics strategy in the nation, which identifies early actions and research priorities to reduce microplastic pollution in California’s marine environment.

Plastic Stats and Facts

Undoubtedly, plastics have helped make a number of commodities more affordable, adding vitality to many economies, but the world’s plastic appreciation has turned into a reliance that’s damaging our planet. Here are a few interesting plastic stats and facts to take note of:

  • Nearly 380 million metric tons of plastic waste are produced yearly, which is equivalent to the weight of the human population.
  • Plastic waste is growing at an annual rate of 9%.
  • The US is the world’s top generator of plastic waste.
  • Around 70,000 microplastics are consumed by an average person each year.
  • One million marine animals die due to plastic pollution every year.
  • 75% of all plastic produced has become waste.
  • It takes around 500 to 1,000 years for plastics to decompose.
  • 73% of all litter on beaches worldwide is plastic.
  • About 91% of plastic is not recycled.10

Tips to Help You Use Less Plastic in Your Everyday Life

When we read about the scale of plastic waste in our landfills and oceans, it’s tempting to feel overwhelmed and question whether anything we can personally do would make a difference. However, the truth is that even the smallest changes of habit, accumulated over time, add up to a massive difference. Here are our top six tips for living with less plastic:

  • Try using a reusable produce bag, such as these from Purifyou, as a single plastic bag can take nearly 1,000 years to degrade. 
  • Try to avoid using plastic straws and instead purchase reusable stainless steel or bamboo ones. You can also try compostable straws like the EQUO Grass Straws.
  • Grab your own reusable water bottle, considering that plastic bottles are one of the most common sources of plastic pollution, and are frequently found on beach cleans globally. The Tree Tribe Stainless Steel Water Bottle, for example, is insulated, indestructible, and eco-friendly.
  • Composting is a great way to reduce your waste overall. When you throw away less food, you’ll use fewer plastic garbage bags and storage dishes. Check out this beginner’s guide to composting for tips, tricks, and an easy how-to.
  • You can reduce plastic waste by eliminating plastic bottles of body wash each month. Instead, try switching to soap bars wrapped in paper or cardboard, like these from ECO Amenities, for an easy zero-waste swap. 
  • Disposable plastic razors are not typically recyclable and therefore sit in landfills without ever completely decomposing. The good news is that there are plastic-free options, such as these from Preserve POPi.  

Plastic-Free Brands to Take Note Of

We all face slightly different obstacles when it comes to going zero-waste. Maybe you find it hard to kick the habit of getting your caffeine fix in a takeaway coffee cup? Or perhaps you tend to end up with excess food that finds its way into the trash? These plastic-free brands provide sustainable solutions to help you succeed on your zero-waste journey:

KeepCup

When siblings Abigail and Jamie Forsyth started a café business in Melbourne in 1998, disposable cups were being introduced into the public landscape; but as their business grew, so did their concerns about the volume of packaging being consumed, particularly disposable cups as they were lined with polyethylene and non-recyclable.

The first KeepCups were sold to in 2009 at an independent design market. People recognized KeepCup as the solution to single-use packaging and the volume of waste entering the environment. KeepCups are now used in more than 75 countries around the world and have been named a B-Corp company.

The KeepCup Reusable Tempered Glass Coffee Cup

The KeepCup Reusable Tempered Glass Coffee Cup

Made from durable tempered glass with a recovered corn band manufactured from agricultural waste in Portugal, the KeepCup Reusable Coffee Cup is designed to enjoy coffee’s craft and sensory pleasure on the go. It’s easy to pour with a press-fit sipper lid that can be removed.

To shop the KeepCup Reusable Tempered Glass Coffee Cup, click here

David’s 

After seeking out healthier alternatives for the everyday bathroom staple, Eric David Buss set out to create his line of premium, natural toothpaste made without fluoride, sulfates, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Instead, David’s toothpaste is formulated with locally-sourced, naturally-derived ingredients that safely and effectively keep your teeth healthy.

David’s, an EWG-Verified and Leaping Bunny Certified brand, is dedicated to sustainability and giving you an excellent toothbrushing experience. The brand’s toothpaste packaging comes in a recyclable metal tube that’s FSC certified. Additionally, its products are fluoride-free due to health concerns surrounding the ingredient.

David’s Natural Whitening Toothpaste

David's Natural Whitening ToothpasteDavid’s Toothpaste has eliminated many common toothpaste chemicals and replaced them with healthier high-performance ingredients to create a premium toothpaste that effectively removes plaque and naturally whitens and freshens breath. In addition, this product is formulated to restore a healthy PH balance and support your mouth’s natural oral microbiome.

To shop David’s Natural Whitening Toothpaste, click here

Pela Case

Pela Case began with Jeremy Lang, its founder, seeing firsthand the damage plastic was doing to our oceans while on a family vacation in Hawaii in 2008. Jeremy spent years experimenting with new materials to try and find an alternative to plastic that could be used in everyday products.

Pela Case has designed the world’s first 100% compostable phone case. Once they nailed down phone cases, they added AirPod cases, smartwatch bands, and other accessories. At the end of its life, no matter how short or long, you can toss your Pela accessory into the compost, and it will return to the earth. 

The Pela Phone Case for iPhone

Pela Phone CasePela cases are made from flax plants, which provide great protection from drops and scratches, as the flax creates a natural shock absorption. Additionally, when you no longer need your case, you can compost it or send it back to Pela, and the brand will turn it into a new Pela product. Pela also makes cases with cute designs to meet everything aesthetic.

To shop the Pela Phone Case for iPhone, click here

Suds & Co.

Suds & Co. carries all-natural shampoo and conditioner bars and accessories. A 3.5 oz Suds & Co.bar is equivalent to at least two plastic 16 oz shampoo bottles, and with several different types of scents and bars, you’ll be able to find one that works best for you.

Beautifully boxed with the minimalist in mind, each bar comes completely packaged in biodegradable and compostable materials. The brand has been featured in Buzzfeed, Going Zero Waste, Yahoo Lifestyle, and Health Magazine. 

Suds & Co. Solid Shampoo Bar

Suds & Co Solid Shampoo BarSuds & Co.’s shampoo bar hydrates all hair types with nutrient-rich ingredients, such as hemp seed oil and jojoba oil. The bars are always free from parabens, dyes, synthetic fragrance, SLS and GMOs; each bar delivers botanical nutrition to maximize hair’s growth, strength, and shine. 

To shop the Suds & Co. Solid Shampoo Bar, click herWe

Humanist Beauty Is Committed to Zero-Waste and Responsible, Plastic-Free Packaging

At Humanist Beauty, we believe that beauty should live forever – not its packaging, which is why we use the most environmentally conscientious packaging options we can. We’ve also committed to becoming a zero-waste brand through the help of TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box platform.

Most of Humanist Beauty’s packaging is made of glass and paperboard, which is recyclable. We only use post-consumer recycled paper-based packaging for our shipping materials with no plastic void fill or tape. Humanist Beauty also minimizes the use of virgin plastic while seeking to avoid virgin plastic componentry further as we grow.

To participate in our TerraCycle partnership, you can send us your bottles, tubes, and makeup palettes. The packaging doesn’t have to be from Humanist Beauty; it can be from any brand. We’ll even pay and provide your postage to make sending your empty packaging to us easy and seamless. Once we receive your packing, we’ll hand it to TerraCycle to be broken down, recycled, or repurposed.

To learn more about our pledge to go zero-waste, click here

Which tip mentioned above will you employ to reduce your plastic usage? Let us know in the comments!

 

References

https://plasticseurope.org/plastics-explained/how-plastics-are-made/#:~:text=Plastics%20are%20made%20from%20natural,%2C%20of%20course%2C%20crude%20oil. [1]

https://www.britannica.com/science/ethylene-propylene-copolymer [2]

https://www.aiche.org/resources/publications/cep/2015/september/making-plastics-monomer-polymer [3]

https://www.woodlandplastics.com/understanding-thermoset-plastics.html [4]

https://romeorim.com/thermoset-vs-thermoplastics/#:~:text=Common%20examples%20of%20thermoplastics%20include,to%20carpets%20and%20laboratory%20equipment. [5]

https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/discover/are-microplastics-a-big-problem#:~:text=Microplastics%20are%20of%20concern%20because,small%20invertebrates%20to%20large%20mammals. [6][7][8]

https://news.un.org/en/story/2017/02/552052-turn-tide-plastic-urges-un-microplastics-seas-now-outnumber-stars-our-galaxy [9]

https://seedscientific.com/plastic-waste-statistics/ [10]

Gotu Kola: The Herb of Longevity

Centella asiatica, commonly known as Gotu Kola, is often pegged as the “herb of longevity,” and is a staple in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine. Many practitioners claim that Gotu Kola has the power to boost brainpower, promote liver and kidney health, and target an array of skin concerns. In this blog, we will explore the origins of Gotu Kola in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, along with its vast lineup of medicinal and skincare benefits.

All About Gotu Kola

Gota Kola

Pictured: Gota Kola    Source: Healthline

Gotu Kola is a perennial member of the parsley family, characterized by its small round leaves. The largest populations of this wetland herb are in the East and South Asian countries of China, Indonesia, and Japan, but it has started to populate other areas of the globe as well. 

In Southeast Asia, Gotu Kola is used as much for food as it is for medicinal purposes due to providing an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals needed to maintain optimal health. It has a distinct bittersweet flavor and a slightly grassy scent.1

A review in the International Food Research Journal mentions that 100 grams of fresh Gotu Kola delivers the following nutrients and meets the following recommended dietary intake (RDI) needs:

  • Calcium: 171 milligrams (17% RDI)
  • Iron: 5.6 milligrams (31% RDI)
  • Potassium: 391 milligrams (11% RDI)
  • Vitamin A: 442 micrograms (49% RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 48.5 milligrams (81% RDI)
  • Vitamin B2: 0.19 milligrams (9% RDI)

According to a review of studies, Gotu Kola contains compounds such as triterpenoid saponins, which researchers believe may be largely responsible for the plant’s purported benefits. These studies have been major contributors to why this substance continues to gain more acceptance around the world.

Gotu Kola in Ayurveda 

Gotu Kola is considered to be the plant of knowledge and is highly regarded in Ayurveda as the herb of longevity and anti-aging. The system of Ayurveda reaches back to the period of the Indus Valley Civilization (about 3000 B.C.E) and has been passed down as a healing system through generations.

The Sanskrit word for Gotu Kola is “Brahmi,” which means “knowledge;” and is a derivative of Lord Brahma (or Brahman). Lord Brahma is the deity responsible for the world’s creative forces, and the Hindu name “Brahman” refers to universal consciousness. 2

Lod Brahma

Pictured: Lord Brahma    Source: Vedicfeed

The herb is used in Ayurvedic healing to balance all three doshas, which are the energies believed to circulate in the body and govern physiological activity — Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Gotu Kola is said to be relaxing for Pitta, calming for Vata in the mind, and beneficial in reducing excess Kapha in the body.3

Ayurvedic doctors Abhishek Joshi and Aparna explain that “The leaves of Gotu Kola resemble the hemispheres of the brain and are used in Ayurveda to boost brain functions. It’s been mentioned as one of the best Medhya Rasayana (brain nootropics), which can enhance cognition, memory, intelligence, creativity, learning skills, and executive functions.”4

Ayurvedic medicine is a personalized system of medicine native to India and is loyal to the holistic view of treatment. Gotu Kola is one of the many health-enriching herbs in the Ayurvedic medicine cabinet, whose value extends beyond one-dimensional, modern medical treatment for issues relating to the mind, brain, and nervous system.

To learn more about Ayurveda, click here

Gotu Kola in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Gotu Kola, or Ji Xue Cao, is used to soothe inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as “Internal Heat.” Those who have too much “heat” in their body are said to either have a Yang excess or a Yin deficiency. Depending on an individual’s condition, TCM practitioners use Gotu Kola to help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.5

Additionally, “The Five Element Theory” in TCM states that the taste of ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body and what organs and meridians they target. Bitter ingredients like Gotu Kola tend to have a cleansing action on the body and can promote the circulation of Qi, which is one of the building blocks of TCM.6

Gotu Kola is thought to target the spleen, kidney, and liver. In TCM, the spleen assists with digestion and blood coagulation, while the kidneys play a crucial role in the reproductive system and aging process of the body. The liver is often referred to as the body’s “general” as it’s in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.7

The Five Element Theory

Pictured: The Five Element Theory   Source: Earthway

Gotu Kola’s use in TCM is mentioned in the Chinese Shennong Herbal, which was written around the 1st century CE. It’s been called one of the “miracle elixirs of life,” especially by Chinese herbalist Li Ching-Yun, who some believe lived to the age of 197 and reportedly used Gotu Kola regularly. Today, the herb is still widely used by many TCM practitioners.

To learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine, click here

The Benefits of Gotu Kola

Due to Gotu Kola’s anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as its ability to promote overall mental and physical health, Gotu Kola has been a staple in traditional systems of medicine for millennia. Here’s a deeper look into the science-backed benefits of Gotu Kola:

Gotu Kola May Help Boost Cognitive Function and Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

A small 2016 study compared the effects of Gotu Kola extract and folic acid in boosting cognitive function after a stroke. This small study assessed the impact on three groups of participants taking different milligram doses of Gotu Kola daily. Although Gotu Kola and folic acid were equally beneficial in improving overall cognition, Gotu Kola was more effective in improving the memory domain.8, 9

Gotu Kola’s ability to enhance memory and nerve function gives it potential in treating Alzheimer’s disease. One 2012 study found that Gotu Kola extract had a positive effect on behavioral abnormalities in those with Alzheimer’s disease.10 The extract was also shown to have a modest effect on protecting brain cells from toxicity, which could potentially protect the cells from forming the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s. 

Gotu Kola May Help Reduce Anxiety and Stress

A 2016 study found that Gotu Kola had an anti-anxiety effect on participants that were sleep deprived for 72 hours. Sleep deprivation can potentially lead to anxiety, oxidative damage, and neuroinflammation.11 Those that were given Gotu Kola for five consecutive days before undergoing sleep deprivation experienced significantly less anxiety-like behavior, along with improved locomotor activity and less oxidative damage.

Additionally, Gotu Kola protects the brain from inflammation, which is thought to be an underlying cause of depression. Studies have found that Gotu Kola increased participants’ calmness, contentedness, and alertness, thus reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.12, 13

Gotu Kola May Improve Circulation and Reduce Swelling

Another benefit that Gotu Kola is most known for is its ability to improve blood circulation, which can speed up the skin’s healing process and make it effective in treating varicose veins, broken capillaries, and cellulite. This also can aid individuals struggling with hair loss as better circulation means improved delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the scalp.14

Research from 2001 found that Gotu Kola can also reduce fluid retention and ankle swelling. Participants who experienced mild-to-moderate superficial venous disease with varicose veins were asked to take Gotu Kola two days before taking a flight. Researchers found that participants who took Gotu Kola experienced significantly less fluid retention and ankle swelling than those who didn’t.15

Gotu Kola May Reduce the Signs of Aging and Promote Hydration

Gotu Kola is rich in triterpene saponins, which is a compound that helps keep skin tighter and firmer, and is also a great source of phytonutrients called flavonoids that act as antioxidants and fight off free radical damage. As such, Gotu Kola can boost the formation of collagen and skin tissue, which is crucial in maintaining the skin’s elasticity and youthful glow. 

In one study, published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigation Dermatology in 2017, researchers tested out a fluid containing hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and Gotu Kola extract on 20 women’s forearms over the course of one day. One arm got the fluid while the other forearm got a control cream. 

The researchers measured the hydration level and the amount of water lost throughout the day. Results showed that the arm that got the Gotu Kola fluid showed significantly more hydration and less water loss compared to both the participants’ baseline measurements and the control.16

Gotu Kola May Promote Wound Healing and Reduce the Appearance of Stretch Marks

In a 2015 study, researchers found that wound dressings containing Gotu Kola had healing effects on multiple types of wounds, including burns, clean cuts by sharp objects, irregular tears caused by blunt-force trauma, and infected tissue.17 

According to a 2013 review, Gotu Kola can also reduce the appearance of stretch marks. It’s thought that the terpenoids found in Gotu Kola can increase collagen production in the body, which may prevent new marks from forming, as well as help fade any existing marks.18

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream

Herban Wisdom Eye Cream EWG

Gotu Kola is integrated into the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream for its antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, anxiolytic, and circulatory stimulating properties. Its ability to calm inflammation and swelling, speed up wound healing, stimulate new cell growth, improve circulation, and increase collagen production make it a vital ingredient in the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream.

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream here.

 

 

References:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/gotu_kola_sambol_27863 [1]

https://www.ayurvedacollege.com/blog/brahmi/ [2]

https://doshaguru.com/gotukola/ [3]

https://ayurvedaexpert.in/about-us/ [4]

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/338797 [5]

https://www.mosherhealth.com/mosher-health-system/chinese-medicine/yin-yang#:~:text=The%20Five%20Phases%3A%20Wood%2C%20Fire,%2C%20Earth%2C%20Metal%2C%20and%20Water&text=These%20elements%20correspond%20with%20the,and%20the%20human%20internal%20environment. [6]

https://www.tcmworld.org/what-is-tcm/the-five-major-organ-systems/ [7]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4908235/ [8]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4764102/ [9]

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijad/2012/381974/ [10]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26848139/ [11]

https://bebrainfit.com/gotu-kola-benefits-brain/#:~:text=Additionally%2C%20gotu%20kola%20protects%20the,symptoms%20of%20anxiety%20and%20depression. [12]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23653088/ [13]

https://www.sundari.com/blogs/wellness-tips/gotu-kola-the-anti-aging-skincare-elixir#:~:text=The%20use%20of%20Gotu%20Kola,fight%20off%20free%20radical%20damage.[14]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11666121/ [15]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834700/ [16]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S037851731500486X?via%3Dihub [17]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834700/ [18]

What Is A Serum?

A serum is a skincare product that you can apply to your skin after cleansing but before moisturizing with the intent of delivering powerful ingredients directly into the skin. Serums are particularly suited to this task as they’re made up of small molecules that can penetrate deeply into the skin to deliver a very high concentration of active ingredients, which makes them a great tool for targeting specific skincare concerns like wrinkles and dark spots. In this blog, we will explore serums, their benefits, and how to use them, along with spotlighting EWG-Verified serums that may be perfect for your skin type.

A Look At Serums

A serum is a lightweight, quick-absorbing skincare product that contains a large amount of active ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, or vitamin C. Due to their concentration, serums are typically the most effective and fast-acting skincare products available.

Well-designed face serums are lightly viscous, which means they have a thinner consistency than creams and lotions, to absorb into the skin quickly, delivering beneficial nutrients and hydration at the cellular level. They also contain fewer fillers, thickeners, and lubricating agents than moisturizers, so the beneficial ingredients can absorb faster to optimize performance.

“Often, a serum can hydrate more effectively than even the heaviest creams. The molecules can truly penetrate the skin and hydrate on the deepest level, while the heavier creams more so sit on those top layers.” says celebrity esthetician Karee Hays. “Serums do not necessarily replace your moisturizer, but can boost the hydrating effects of your moisturizer.”

In fact, a study featuring thirty-two women aged 25 to 55 years with Fitzpatrick skin types I to V and normal or self-perceived dry skin, found that layering facial serum with a moisturizer provided rapid and long-lasting benefits in maintaining skin hydration. Additionally, 82% of the participants believed that the serum and moisturizer combo improved the appearance of their skin overall.1

A participant before trying the serum layered with moisturizer (left) and after two weeks of treatment (right)

Pictured: A participant before trying the serum layered with moisturizer (left) and after two weeks of treatment (right)  Source: National Library of Medicine

Reductions in investigator-graded dryness

Pictured: Reductions in investigator-graded dryness Source: Source: National Library of Medicine

The Benefits of Serums

When you use a serum that’s well suited for your skin, it can have numerous benefits. Here’s a closer look at some of the key benefits of adding a serum to your skincare routine:

Serums Can Deliver Vitamins and Nutrients

For starters, a face serum, by definition, is a skincare solution that includes core vitamins and nutrients your skin cells can use to thrive. The exact ingredient make up of a given face serum will vary from product to product, but most face serums use these common ingredients:

  • Vitamin C and E are antioxidants and may contribute to long-term skin health, especially protection from free radicals.2
  • Niacinamide reduces inflammation, which may help ease redness from eczema, acne, and other inflammatory skin conditions. It also minimizes pore appearance and keeps skin smooth and moisturized.3,4
  • Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is a gold-standard ingredient in skincare as can increase production of collagen in the skin. This results in a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles by improving elasticy.5,6
  • Glycolic acid stimulates fibroblasts in the dermis to produce increased amounts of collagen. Additionally, its small molecular makeup also allows it to penetrate the skin and treat acne and other skin concerns.7,8,9
  • Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant commonly found in face moisturizers. It helps hydrate the outer layers of skin, thereby improving the skin’s appearance.10,11

While our skin cells get a lot of nutrients from our diets and sunshine, as in the case of vitamin D, giving your skin cells additional nutrients through topical absorption may allow those vitamins to be more directly usable by those cells.

In other words, a face serum directly provides your skin cells with core nutrients without those nutrients being absorbed by other bodily tissues first. Plus, since serums are applied topically, your skin cells may receive those benefits more quickly.

Serums Can Improve Hydration

With the use of cleansers and exfoliators, your skin can easily dry out, leaving your face more susceptible to wrinkles and dehydration. Many serums are formulated to improve hydration, and by using them, they can potentially alleviate these side effects or prevent them from happening all together.

Serums with hyaluronic acid, for example, can help your skin’s hydration level. “Hyaluronic acid can draw moisture from the air and keep your skin moist, holding almost 1000 times its weight in water,” explained Kerry Benjamin, esthetician and the founder of best-selling hyaluronic acid serum creator, Stacked Skincare

Serums May Reduce Acne Flare-Ups

Serums could contribute to a long-term solution if you suffer from regular acne flare-ups, which result from hormonal shifts or an overproduction of sebum. When your skin produces too much sebum, it can collect debris and clog your skin’s pores. Over time, this can form blemishes like pimples and pustules. However, the right serum could prevent your skin from producing too much sebum.

Serums formulated with retinol, for example, can reduce acne flare-ups by literally getting under your skin as retinol consists of tiny molecules that penetrate the middle layer of your skin and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. Both of these compounds reduce the appearance of pores and acne scarring over time.

Serums May Protect Skin from Certain Damage

Many of the core ingredients in serums are antioxidants, which are known to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can damage skin cells and other tissues as they bounce around in your body.

Antioxidants like CoQ10 can stabilize those free radicals by donating an electron, preventing them from causing damage. Free radicals are responsible for skin irritations and may contribute to many signs of aging or general skin cell degradation.

Some serums may also provide ancillary protective benefits against harm from toxins, environmental pollutants, and even UV radiation from the sun. If you use a face serum, you may be at less risk of sun damage to your skin, including burning, but you should always read the label of your specific product to confirm this.

Serums May Reduce Signs of Aging

Many signs of aging, including wrinkles, aging spots, and sagging skin, result from long-term skin cell degradation and dryness. While face serums can’t prevent your skin from aging overall, they may help to reduce the severity of some of those symptoms. Serums that contain vitamins C, B, and E with ferulic acid and hyaluronic acid, especially, can help to deeply hydrate skin and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

How to Apply Serum

Everyone’s skin is different, but on average, you should use a serum for about seven weeks to see how your skin responds. Depending on the serum and the current state of your skin, you might see initial results — like slightly more hydrated skin — in just a few days, according to Dr. Craig Kraffert, a board-certified dermatologist.

It’s important to note that before applying a new product, you should perform a patch test. Try the product on a small area of your skin to see how it reacts, such as the inside of your elbow. Keep in mind that some serums will naturally leave your face slightly pink, but this should subside after about 10-15 minutes. If you’re having a reaction, consult your doctor.

 Pictured: How to perform a patch test   Source: Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve

Step 1: Cleanse

To allow the key ingredients to be effectively absorbed, a serum should always be applied to clean skin. Before applying serum, cleanse with a gentle face wash to help dissolve makeup, impurities, and pollutants.

Step 2: Tone

A facial toner plays an important role in preparing the skin for serum application. Not only will it help to rebalance the skin after cleansing, but it can help sweep away remaining traces of dirt and makeup, removing all barriers on the skin’s surface, and allowing the serum to effectively penetrate the different layers of the epidermis.  

Apply the toner onto a cotton pad, then sweep it over your skin in an upward motion. Toners can also help reduce the appearance of pores and even out skin tone. 

Step 3: Apply Serum

Dispense a pea-sized amount of serum into your palms, then gently rub your hands together to warm and activate the serum. Lightly press your palms onto your skin and pat in outward and upward motions until fully applied to your face and neck.

Step 4: Moisturize 

Allow the serum to absorb into your skin for at least 90 seconds, then massage a moisturizer over your face and neck to lock in those key ingredients. This also helps protect and hydrate the skin’s surface. 

Serum Spotlight

From fine lines to the most sensitive skin types, adding a potent serum before your moisturizer can help boost the healthy look and feel of your skin. However, there are hundreds — if not thousands — of different serum types on the market, making choosing a single one for your skincare routine a daunting task. 

“The key is to look for serums that deliver a ton of botanicals, antioxidants, and hydration — they can deliver a concentrated dose of nutrients, and when applied on just-cleaned skin, the serum will penetrate more deeply,” said Dr. Kraffert.

To make choosing a serum easier, check out these EWG-Verified, nutrient-rich serums that’ll make an excellent addition to your skincare regime:

Be Natural Organics Hyaluronic Serum:Created for all skin types, this product is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which can offer a more immediate visual effect on the complexion as it hydrates and softens lines. It can improve the look of skin’s texture, firmness, and suppleness, while also providing high-performance hydration for problematic skin without clogging pores.

To shop the Be Natural Organics Hyaluronic Serum, click here

Live Ultimate Camu Advanced Youth Recovery Facial Serum:Perfect for all skin types, this lightweight, fast-absorbing, and nutrient-rich formula of superfruit antioxidants, rejuvenating plant stem cells, wrinkle-smoothing peptides, vitamins, and skin brightening botanicals is designed to soak deep into the cellular level where it nourishes, heals, and strengthens the skin from the outside in for a more youthful and radiant look.

To shop the Live Ultimate Camu Advanced Youth Recovery Facial Serum, click here

Sea Kind Elysium Perfecting Facial Serum: Formulated for all skin types, this serum has the highest concentration available today of marine actives extracts derived from algae, micro-nutrients, and sea plants fermented to provide unmatched restorative powers. Both laboratory and volunteer tests confirm that this product can improve skin hydration, firmness, resilience, complexion, and smoothness.

To shop the Sea Kind Elysium Perfecting Facial Serum, click here.

To shop Sally B’s Peptide Collagen Booster Serum, click here

Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Serum: Ideal for all skin types, this antioxidant oil-serum hybrid can strengthen the skin’s barrier, moisturize, and deliver an all-day glow. Chamomile extract, vitamin E, and sodium hyaluronate help to keep skin hydrated and calm. For an added glow that's never greasy, this serum can also double as a subtle, moisturizing highlighter.

To shop the Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Serum, click here

In Conclusion

Serums are lightweight products that contain a high concentration of active ingredients. They are often seen as one of the more rewarding steps in your beauty routine as they come with major skin benefits and absorb quickly into your skin . If you’re not sure if a face serum is right for you, or which type to use for your skin, talk to a board certified dermatologist for more information.

What’s your favorite serum? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050617/ [1]

https://www.webmd.com/beauty/skin-care-guide#:~:text=Vitamins%20C%20and%20E%2C%20and,protect%20skin%20from%20sun%20damage.&text=Vitamin%20A%2C%20also%20known%20as,as%20a%20topical%20antiaging%20treatment.&text=Coenzyme%20Q10%2C%20also%20known%20as,helps%20protect%20cells%20from%20damage. [2]

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/vitamin-b3-in-topical-skin-care [3]

https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/niacinamide#:~:text=Niacinamide%20reduces%20inflammation%20%2C%20which%20may,in%20pore%20size%20over%20time. [4]

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-retinoids-really-reduce-wrinkles [5]

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23293-retinol#:~:text=What%20does%20retinol%20do%20for,skin%20a%20fresher%2C%20plump%20appearance. [6]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3875240/ [7]

https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/glycolic-acid-for-acne#:~:text=Glycolic%20acid%3A%20a%20type%20of,for%20new%20skin%20cell%20generation. [8]

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen [9]

https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/hyaluronic-acid#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIn%20skin%20care%20products%2C%20hyaluronic,more%20radiant%20and%20youthful%2Dlooking [10]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583886/ [11]

Achieving Balance With Taoism

Taoism, also spelled Daoism, is a religion and a philosophy from ancient China that has influenced folk and national belief for millennia. Taoism has been connected to the philosopher Lao-Tzu who around 500 B.C.E. is thought to have written the main book of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching. Taoism holds that humans and animals should live in balance with the Tao, or the way of the universe, and that spiritual immortality is where the spirit of the body joins the universe after death. In this blog, we will explore the origins of Taoism and its main concepts, along with the eight immortals of Taoism and a few teachings that can help you navigate life.

Lao-Tzu and the Origins of Taoism

Lao-Tzu

Pictured: Lao-Tzu    Source: Famous Philosophers

The historian Sima Qian (145-86 BCE) told the story of Lao-Tzu, a curator at the Royal Library in the state of Chu, who was a philosopher. Lao-Tzu believed in the harmony of all things and that people could live easily together if they only considered each other’s feelings and recognized that their self-interest was not always in the interest of others. 

Lao-Tzu grew impatient with the corruption he saw within people and in the government, so he decided to go into exile. As Lao-Tzu was leaving China, a gatekeeper, Yin Hsi, recognized him and asked him to write a book before he left. Lao-Tzu sat down on a rock beside the gatekeeper and wrote the Tao Te Ching, which translates to The Book of the Way.

Lao-Tzu stopped writing when he felt he was finished, handed the book to Yin Hsi, and vanished, never to be seen again. The Tao Te Ching is not looked at as scripture in Taoism; instead, it’s seen as a book of poetry presenting the simple way of living life at peace with one’s self, others, and the world of changes. 

While the author is traditionally believed to be Lao-Tzu, some question his hand in the book as there is little evidence that Lao-Tzu existed. Some believe instead that the Tao Te Ching is a gathering of earlier sayings from many authors. However, Lao-Tzu is sometimes understood as the image of the Tao and given legendary status.

Tao Te ChingPictured: Tao Te Ching    Source: The Flerlage Twins

A Breakdown of Taoism

Taoism is a Chinese philosophy that developed from the folk religion of the people primarily in the rural areas of China; it became the official religion of the country under the Tang Dynasty. Taoism is therefore both a philosophy and a religion.

Taoism has provided an alternative to the Confucian tradition in China, coexisting in the country, regions, and even within the same individual. In Taoism, Confucian gods are seen as manifestations of the one Tao, which is not represented as an image or a particular thing.

The concept of a personified deity who created the universe is foreign to Taoists. This results in their form of prayer being different than Christian religions. Instead, they seek answers to life’s problems through inner meditation and outer observation.

Some of the basic tenets of Taoism are the following:

  • Time is cyclical, not linear as in Western thinking.
  • One should plan in advance and consider carefully each action before making it.
  • Taoists follow the art of “wu wei,” which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam that would interfere with its natural flow.
  • Taoists strongly promote health and vitality.
  • The five main organs and orifices of the body correspond to the five elements: water, fire, wood, metal, and earth.
  • Development of virtue is one’s chief task. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation, and humility.

A Look at Wu Wei in Taoism

In Chinese, wu wei translates to “non-doing or doing nothing;” this concept is key to the noblest kind of action, according to the philosophy of Taoism, and is at the heart of what it means to follow the Tao.

According to the Tao Te Ching: “The Tao never acts yet nothing is left undone.” This is the paradox of wu wei; it doesn’t mean not acting, it means “effortless action” or “actionless action.” Simply put, this means being in a state of peace while engaged in even the most frantic task can allow one to carry it out with maximum skill and efficiency.

The meaning of wu wei is captured when we talk of being “in the zone,” or at one with what we are doing and in a state of flow. It’s also closely connected to the Taoist reverence for the natural world, for it means striving to make our behavior as spontaneous and inevitable as certain natural processes. 

Wu wei involves letting go of thoughts or ideals that we may otherwise try to force too violently onto things. Instead, it invites us to respond to the true demands of situations by putting our ego-driven plans aside. What can follow is a loss of self-consciousness; a new unity between the self and its environment. This change in state unleashes energy that’s normally held back by an overly aggressive, willful style of thinking.

The Tao Te Ching points out that to achieve wu wei we should be like water, which is “submissive and weak and yet which can’t be surpassed for attacking what is hard and strong.” Through gentle persistence and compliance with the specific shape of a problem, an obstacle can be worked around and gradually eroded.

Yin and Yang in Taoism

Taoism’s purpose is to assist individuals in experiencing their essential nature as inseparable from that of the cosmos and to be part of the flow of life. An important first step toward attaining this experience of interconnectedness is by learning to recognize and align ourselves with the movement of life itself, which can be achieved through an understanding of Yin and Yang. 

Yin and Yang, the two essential and interdependent energies of life, describe the underlying unity of life through the interplay of two primal forces. Though opposite in nature, Yin and Yang are not diametrically opposed, but rather complementary and relative to one another. 

Yang is characterized as creative, assertive, and light, while Yin is receptive, yielding, and dark. It’s important to note that these attributes are only descriptive and do not carry any moral value. The interaction between Yin and Yang creates all manifestations, and it’s through them that the Tao reveals itself.

Our entire physical reality is based on the interplay of both Yin and Yang energies. Whether it’s the structure of DNA, with its positive and negative strands, the transmission of neurons in our brains, or the makeup of electricity with its positive and negative currents — all of these processes take place because of these two opposing energies. 

The original meaning of the term “Yin-Yang” signified the dark (Yin) and light (Yang) sides of a mountain. Early in the day, the sun would illuminate one part of the mountain while the other side would remain dark. As the sun moved across the sky, it gradually began to light the opposite side while the earlier sunlit face became dark. Light and dark were not static but interacted with one another, defined one another, and actually assumed each other’s roles in the process of change. This describes the interplay of Yin and Yang within Taoism.

YinAndYang

Pictured: Yin and Yang characteristics    Source: The Lazy Taoist

The Eight Immortals Of Taoism

For devout believers, a central tenet of Taoism is the idea that adhering to certain beliefs and practices can potentially lead to immortality. It’s unknown just how many Taoist practitioners have achieved immortality, but the founder of Taoism, Lao-Tzu, is thought to be immortal.

The religious tradition of Taoism venerates a group of eight xian, or immortals, who offer a concrete symbol of this ability to transcend the limitations of ordinary human life through the beliefs and practices of Taoism. They serve as mythological archetypes of immortality achieved through practice.

Here’s a breakdown of the eight immortals of Taoism:

  • He Xian Gu: Often considered the only woman among the Immortals. He Xian Gu is usually depicted carrying a lotus flower, which is said to improve one’s mental and physical health.
  • Cao Guo Jiu: As a member of the royal family in the Song Dynasty, Cao Guo Jiu is often shown dressed in official robes and holding a jade tablet. He’s commonly regarded as the patron of actors and the theater.
  • Lan Caihe: Sometimes depicted as a male but other times as a female. Lan Caihe is often shown carrying a bamboo flower basket and a pair of bamboo castanets. They’re known to be eccentric, serving to symbolize a carefree life devoid of the concerns and responsibilities of ordinary life.
  • Lu Dongbin (also spelled Lu Tung Pin): Believed to be a scholar and poet that lived during the Tang Dynasty. Lu Dongbin’s symbol is a magic sword that dispels evil spirits and provides him with invisibility. He’s regarded as a patron deity for highly literate people; some also see him as a champion of the medical profession.
  • Han Xiang Zi: Thought to be related to a Confucian scholar. Han Xiang Zi is often depicted carrying a flute and is regarded as a patron deity of musicians. 
  • Zhang Guo Lao: Lived from approximately the middle of the 7th century into the 8th century, practicing as a Taoist hermit in the mountains of east-central China. Zhang Guo Lao is typically shown seated on a white mule, often facing backward. For Taoists, he is regarded as a protector of children and a patron of wine and the good life.
  • Zhongli Quan: Usually shown with his chest exposed and holding a fan with which he can resurrect the dead and transform stones into precious metals. Zhongli Quan is usually featured with a long beard and a glass of wine.

Left; Zhongli Quan , Top Right; He Xian Gu , Bottom Right; Lan Caihe

Pictured: Left; Zhongli Quan (Three Stars), Top Right; He Xian Gu (Tsingtao), Bottom Right; Lan Caihe (Ferre Beekeeper)

Teachings of Taoism to Help You Navigate Life

In a modern world that never sleeps, anyone could benefit from the simplicity found in Taoism. You can grasp some of its key concepts with a few quotes from Taoism’s most important book, the Tao Te Ching. This wisdom lays a simple framework for achieving harmony, which may help you navigate life with ease.

Simplicity, Compassion, and Patience

“Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

The Lesson: Life can get complicated, but sometimes all we need to do is get back to the basics. When feeling overwhelmed, these guidelines present essential rules on how to manage actions, relationships, and self-worth in a few concise sentences.

Letting Go

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”

The Lesson: Many Eastern philosophies remind us of the only true constants in life: change and death. While not an easy thing to do, accepting these facts of life can release you from suffering and bring greater freedom into your life. We must remember to let go, and allow life to take its course.

Harmony

“Tao engenders One; One engenders Two; Two engenders Three; Three engenders all things. All things carry the Yin (femininity) while embracing the Yang (masculinity). Neutralizing energy brings them into harmony.”

The Lesson: The Chinese concept of Yin and Yang describes nature in dualities with two opposite, complementary, and interdependent forces. In other words, two halves balancing together to make a whole; one aspect increases as the other decreases, and this balance continues as a pattern in nature.

Examining and understanding these patterns in ourselves and around us brings more balance in life. For example, a person that becomes too rigid may break under pressure. Instead, they should try to become softer and more flexible to restore the balance of Yin to Yang.

Going With the Flow

“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

The Lesson: This quote explains the concept of wu wei, uncontrived action or natural non-intervention. In life, rather than fighting against the conditions in our lives, we can allow things to take their natural course. This can also mean that when you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Instead, look inward and outward in your life, ponder the potential courses of action, and only jump at opportunities when you feel ready.

In Conclusion

The Tao Te Ching, a two and half thousand-year text credited to Lao-Tzu and the second most translated book in world literature, forms the basis of Taoism. Gaining knowledge of the main principles of Taoism allows us to cultivate and strengthen our own process of self-exploration, growth, and transformation, and it helps to connect us deeply to our inner nature and to the world around us. 

Which teaching of Taoism resonated the most with you? Let us know in the comments!