the secret skincare companies don’t want you to know

image from bottomoftheironingbasket.blogspot.com

Want better skin? Forget pricey lotions, potions and treatments, because when it comes to your face, you really are what you eat. Even celebrity dermatologist Dr. Perricone, who has every reason to push his uber expensive skincare line, admits that at the end of the day, your diet plays a crucial role in the look of your skin.

 A few months ago, after years of frustration and getting nowhere with dermatologists, prescriptions and treatments for acne, I began to incorporate some of Dr. P’s good old-fashioned advice about diet and lifestyle which he discusses in a Goop newsletter.

After I made the simple dietary adjustments, it didn’t take long for me to notice huge changes in my skin. Gone were the painful cysts that would pop up on my neck and along my jawline every week. Ditto for the wasteland of brail-like bumps that used to live on the planes of my forehead.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, my face is smooth. Friends ask me what I’m doing differently. So I tell them, and now I’ll tell you, because I believe these tips can save you hours of frustration and hundreds, if not thousands of dollars:

 1)    I started eating one green apple a day. Green apples contain the anti-inflammatory quercitin, which prevents acne, according to Dr. Perricone.

 2)    I boosted my Omega-3 intake, by eating fish (especially salmon) 3 times a week, purchasing Omega-3 eggs and taking an Omega 3 multivitamin. In her book The Natural Makeover Diet, Toronto dietician Joey Shulman raves about Omega-3s. She says they do wonders for hair, skin and nails, because they keep cells supple and help the body absorb nutrients from fruits and veggies. 

 3)    I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk. Studies show that reducing cow’s milk can help battle breakouts and almond milk is a great alternative, since the almonds provide extra Omega-3s. 

 4)    I stopped eating my daily afternoon snack of instant oatmeal. Dr. Perricone recommends eating the good old-fashioned slow cooked stuff instead, since instant oatmeal contributes to inflammation. 

 5)    I began eating more Vitamin A-rich leafy greens, especially spinach and collard greens. These help normalize oil production and help control acne, according to Dr. P.

So before you drop $60 on your next bottle of face cream, why not buy a bunch of spinach for $2? Or if you want to go all out, you can even try Dr. Perricone’s 3 Day Skincare Diet which has been called an at-home facelift. Or simply incorporate more skin-loving foods into your life. 

 What are your inexpensive beautiful skin secrets?

The Eastern Beauty Parlour

In Caramel (2007), Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki (left) is a Beirut esthetitian in a dead end relationship with a married man.

Staying fuzz free can be pricey – waxing services in salons often start at $20 per body part. Over the course of a year those bikini, underarm, eyebrow, and for boys – back and chest – waxes can really add up.

Years ago, when I was living back home in Vancouver, a friend of mine shared her little secret for staying beautiful without breaking the bank: Eastern beauty parlours. If you venture into your city’s Middle Eastern or Indian neighbourhoods, you can find great little esthetic shops that will take your from bushy Amazonian to groomed and glam for just a few bucks.

Here in Montreal, when I’m dangerously close to unibrow territory, I head to Dee’s in Little India. Here, for $3, I have my eyebrows threaded and biking line waxed for $10.

If you haven’t yet discovered threading, it’s a traditional Middle Eastern brow shaping technique where the esthetician wraps a double strand of thread around her fingers and pulls it taught along the unwanted hair, thus removing the hair from the follicle.

Threading takes about ten minutes, is surprisingly precise and doesn’t pull on the delicate skin around the eye area the way waxing does. This protects the skin from wrinkles and damage. Results last about six weeks.

Have you tried threading? How do you like it compared to waxing?

Cava, Spain’s champagne

'Young Wine' by batega on flickr. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

On a recent trip to Spain, while nibbling on tapas at Barcelona’s renowned eatery Tapas 24, I met and fell in love, with Cava, Spain’s Champagne. It was love at first crisp, bubbly sip, and as my boyfriend and I drank glass after heavenly glass from our eight euro (yes, eight euro) bottle, Champagne became a distant memory. I wondered, ‘Oh Cava, where have you been all of my life?’

Tapas 24, Barcelona, June 2011

Produced mainly in the Cataluña region of Spain, Cava is made from three indigenous Spanish grapes: Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Macabeo, using the same method in which champagne is produced. Only it’s not made with grapes from the Champagne region, which is why we don’t call it Champagne.

Like Champagne, Cava has a number of levels of sweetness:

Brut Nature – (no added sugar) up to 3 g per litre
Extra Brut – up to 6 g per litre
Brut – up to 15 g per litre
Extra seco – between 12 and 20 g per litre
Seco – between 17 and 35 g per litre
Semi-seco – between 33 and 50 g per litre
Dulce – more than 50 g per litre

In North America, while sparkling wine is considered to be the poor man’s Champagne, Cava  is tasty, exotic and sophisticated enough to offer as a holiday gift and even to ring in 2012 with. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. A bottle of good quality cava such as Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava mousseux (US $13.95), is one fifth of the price of a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut Champagne, $69 US.

Before you rush out to the wine shop to stock up for holidays, take note of these quality brands – the first two are institutional in Spain: Freixenet, Codorniu and Segura Viudas. Cava is best served ice cold, so pop a bottle and champagne glasses in the freezer for half an hour before serving.

Have you tried cava? If so, how do think it compares in terms of taste to Champagne?