We are but, three odd weeks into 2017 and it's pretty safe to say that inflammation and cellular distress are going to be big words in the beauty and wellness space this year. Seriously, if they made a splashy debut last year, 2017 is going to be their moment. Which, of course, is great for the likes of all of us because those two words can manifest themselves in some pretty unpleasant ways in real life.
However, buzzwords aren't so helpful, if you really don't know what they mean. Specifically inflammation: you know it's not good, but do you really know if you have it? When it comes to inflammation, (especially as it relates to fertility), Dr. Julie Von, a Manhattan-based holistic doctor, is the woman you want to turn to. Not only do all of us have a certain degree of inflammation, she explains, but because the skin is a major detox organ, oftentimes skin disorders reflect internal inflammation. You might find that inflammation is manifested in hives, rosacea, eczema or acne.
According to Dr. Von, the simplest way to treat inflammation is by making wiser decisions about the food we eat, "Eating whole, non-GMO foods is a simple way to lower overall inflammation,” however, if you want to take this a step further, adaptogens are a great place to start. What are adaptogens, you ask? "An adaptogen is essentially a plant-based substance which balances your body's adrenals and stress hormones," says Von, " It acts as a re-calibrator and either increases or decreases the balance of hormones in your body.” So, if you are looking to reduce inflammation and you suspect your hormones might be out of whack because your daily intake of sugar, which is known to raise cortisol levels, is way out of line, an adaptogen might be helpful for you.
Nicolas Travis, the founder of Allies of Skin, further explains how gut inflammation manifests itself in your largest organ: the skin. "Refined sugar and processed foods can alter the gut flora composition of your body. When the gut flora composition is compromised, the body is more susceptible to inflammation and free radical damage. The skin is the largest organ we have and when the body is out of sorts, it shows up on the skin via acne (which is an inflammatory disease). Often, many develop allergies later in life which can sometimes explain why people suddenly develop adult acne that doesn't seem to go away. "
But where can you find adaptogens? Dr. Von suggests maca, goji berries and licorice as her go-to adaptogenic foods. I was pretty skeptical about this to be honest. For the last 6 months, my skin had been going nuts, despite my attempts to take greater steps at taking care of myself. I'd say in the last 3 months, the temper tantrum my body was throwing was winding down, but definitely not over. And yet, I have added maca to my smoothies over the last month, and have noticed a palpable difference in my skin. Especially in the area of my chin. This is of note, because around the end of my cycle, I typically breakout along my jawline -- and this month? Nada.
I bring this up, mostly because, in spite of the fact that I spent the majority of the holidays over-imbibing, over-indulging, under-sleeping and definitely not getting my fair share of daily greens, my skin looks pretty darn good. Dare I say it, the best it's looked in a very long time. Normally this lifestyle would manifest itself in skin blotchiness, breakouts -- the whole 9 yards, because that is literally a recipe for cellular distress. Curiously, I woke up on New Year's Day hideously hungover, and to be honest, feeling a little blue, but my skin looked bloomin' fantastic. Three weeks later, same deal. I've had maybe on pimple in the last few weeks.
This I attribute, not only to my newfound obsession with maca, but also my new skincare besties, from Allies of Skin, specifically in their 1A Masks -- There are two to cover your bases, AM and PM to topically treat inflammation in your skin. Everything you need to know about this line lies within the name, but if you want to know more, we'll start with the basics. With Allies you get 24/7 skincare that helps your body adapt to stressors and transgressions of day to day life, and assist in maintaining equilibrium. According to Nicholas Travis, "The 1A Masks, function as nutrient reservoirs for the skin; supplementing the skin with all the nutrients it needs to regenerate and repair itself. It works the same way as a multi-vitamin supplement; the body takes what it needs from it." Travis explains that the skin is smart enough to do the same: if your skin is dehydrated, the hydrators and moisture-magnets will be activated. If you're in a polluted city, the antioxidants will kick in to protect from free radical damage.
In other words, these masks have been formulated to adapt to stressing conditions that would otherwise lead to premature aging, such as loss of radiance, loss of elasticity, fine lines and the ability to properly maintain moisture. Given that I haven't done much to change my behavior aside from adding maca to my weekly supplements, and I have engaged in a Cleopatra level of indulgence, you'd think my skin would at least be showing some of the evidence that I've had one too many glasses of wine in the last month. But no. It's like I have an invisibility cloak for my bad habits.
This comes down to the magical adaptogenic ingredients that Allies of Skin have so innovatively formulated together. It should be noted, according to Travis, that a lot of traditional supplements like maca and rhodiola are great as supplements, but they aren't proven to have efficacy when it comes to the skin when used topically. Instead, the Allies of Skin formulations combine proven adaptogens like Moringa (anti-pollution and anti-inflammatory) and Licorice Root (anti-inflammatory, brightening and anti-bacterial) with powerful antioxidants like Spin Trap, Glutathione, Ergothioneine, Pterostilbene, Vitamin C and E. "This two-pronged approach ensures that all boxes are checked. They have the added benefit of working symbiotically -- for example, glutathione recycles vitamin C and prolongs its potency."
With the All Day Mask and the Overnight Mask, I have two bookends to my skincare routine that keep all of my bases covered no matter day or night, whether I've pulled an all-nighter, or actually slept a full 8 hours. It's remarkable how consistently great my skin looks. It's not just breakout free -- it's less blotchy, and pigmentation has started to fade. I've all but stopped using foundation except for special occasions. All of this to say: adaptogens are a powerhouse tool that you have in your arsenal, if you so choose to use them. Balanced hormones and balanced skin are where it's at for 2017, that's for sure.