LaVie Organique Skincare Blog

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‘Tis the Season for Intensive Skincare

December can be the cruelest month of all for your complexion. Just when it’s your time to shine at holiday parties and family gatherings, your skin turns dull and lifeless. As dry, frigid weather sets in, the superficial lines you barely noticed in the fall start to deepen. In a matter of weeks, this environmental assault on your skin can add years to your appearance.

As the toll of wintertime stresses on your complexion mounts, the temptation to fight back with drastic measures can become hard to resist. But if you’re on the verge of submitting to radical cosmetic procedures, I urge you to wait and consider a safer, more sustainable approach. Rather than investing in a potentially hazardous quick fix, commit your time and attention to creating the conditions for naturally beautiful skin.

wintertime skin

Wintertime skin needs multilevel care

Beauty and Health: Make the Connection
In the coming weeks, I’ll introduce you to a comprehensive wintertime skincare program based on the wellness practices developed in Romania’s world-renowned Black Sea spas. The centuries-old holistic philosophy behind these practices teaches that every aspect of our selves-including our outward appearance-is a reflection of our total well-being.

Holistic Life Support to the Rescue
The holistic skincare practices I learned from my Romanian mother and grandmother offer an intuitively wise and scientifically valid alternative to invasive anti-aging methods. Instead of attacking ailing complexions with scalpels or deep laser or chemical burns, this wellness-based skincare approach strives to nurse fragile, damaged skin back to health by restoring and sustaining its natural ability to repair and renew itself.

A Top-Down Approach to Cold-Weather Complexion Care
Just as we insulate our bodies from the elements by layering sweaters, shirts, and long johns under our winter coats, our skin shields the tissues and organ systems underneath it with multiple layers. From the five strata of the epidermis to the underlying dermis and subcutaneous tissues, every cell layer of this complex vital organ needs proper care, feeding, and protection to survive and flourish. But the benefits of a truly holistic skincare regime go deeper still. By providing equal support for the microcirculatory system, underlying musculature, and internal organ systems that maintain the health and youthful appearance of our skin, this multilevel skincare program safely achieves beautiful, lasting results.

In my next blog, I’ll start outlining the steps to keeping your skin health and beautiful all winter long–and beyond.

Choosing Organic Skin and Beauty Products 101

Green, organic, 100% natural… The Earth-friendly words on the labels of many popular skincare brands have a comforting ring, but what do they really mean? If you’re confused about how to tell genuinely safe, sustainable choices from potentially toxic imposters, this brief video will provide with some basic guidance.

In today’s expanding green marketplace, it pays to become an educated consumer. For more details on protecting your skin from risky ingredients, visit the Skin Safety Update post.

5 Reasons to Add Pink Grapefruit to Your Wintertime Health and Beauty Regime

As colder weather sets in, our natural urge to curl up on the sofa with a big dish of our favorite comfort food can often become overwhelming. One of the easiest and most delightful ways to fight off a case of the winter blahs is to add a healthy serving of pink grapefruit  (Citrus grandis) to your diet and your skincare regime.

Pink Grapefruit: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Get a jump on seasonal stresses this November with the perfect fruit.

Pink grapefruit is a delicious way to consume essential vitamins and minerals and to increase your intake of flavonoids, cartenoids, and other potent disease-fighting phytonutrients. To get these nutrients into your bloodstream without delay, you should eat pink grapefruit (and other fruits, too) at least two hours before or after a meal. While eating this wonderful fruit first thing in the morning is optimal, its healing powers aren’t confined to the breakfast table.

Both the fruit and the essential oil derived from the pink grapefruit’s peel offer a range of therapeutic benefits, including:

  1. A mood-lifting scent—The refreshing fragrance of pink grapefruit peel essential oil helps banish the seasonal blues.
  2. An immune system booster—The high vitamin C content of this nourishing citrus fruit strengthens resistance against colds and flu.
  3. Anti-aging and health benefits—Grapefruit’s antioxidant properties help repair free radical damage, detoxify cells, and improve cardiovascular health. In addition to its potassium soluble and fiber (pectin) content, the pink variety contains lycopene, a vitamin A precursor that according to a Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study may not only help protect artery walls from the damaging effects of cholesterol, but also reduce the risk of stomach, throat, and several other cancers.
  4. A safe, gentle skin toner and blemish fighter—A plant-derived antiseptic, pink grapefruit oil helps control the bacteria and excess oil that promote acne breakouts.
  5. Cellulite relief—In your diet and as a topical skincare treatment, pink grapefruit stimulates lymphatic drainage, reducing the orange peel look of congested tissues.

The Perfect November Pick-Me-Up—Any Way You Slice It

This month is the ideal time to start enjoying the multiple mental and physical benefits of pink grapefruit. As a health food, skincare ingredient, and aromatherapy treatment, it’s an all-natural prescription for a happier and healthier winter.

Add pink grapefruit essential oil to your facial care regime to control sebum without drying your skin.

Image: Suat Eman /

Relax Your Wrinkles From the Inside Out

The latest research into the mind-body connection is giving the old expression “beauty comes from within” a new meaning. According to today’s anti-aging researchers, meditation and other relaxation techniques can actually slow physical aging by reducing the harmful effects of stress on our bodies and strengthening our immune systems. While it takes time and regular practice to reap the full physiological benefits of a calm mind, you can observe the rejuvenating effects of meditation on your face almost immediately.

Tranquility Is Beautiful

A serene expression and an exceptionally youthful appearance go hand and hand. If you’ve ever noticed the peaceful yet radiantly alive of an aged Zen Buddhist or a lifetime yoga or tai chi practitioner, you know what I mean. Although the ultimate goals of these practices may be spiritual rather than cosmetic transformation, meditative techniques do in fact help prevent what plastic surgeons call dynamic wrinkling. Dynamic wrinkles are the crow’s-feet, worry lines, and other facial creases caused by repetitive muscle contractions. Unlike Botox, which paralyzes facial muscles, meditation truly relaxes lines and wrinkles by relieving facial tension. Meditating in lotus pose offers mental, spiritual, and physical benefits.

Finding Your Own Personal Bliss

Eastern meditative traditions can do wonders for your body, mind, and spirit, but their particular rules and requirements can be daunting for Westerners to master. For instance, many Americans and Europeans are too distracted by the physical discomfort of sitting cross-legged on the floor to achieve a state of relaxation—or they may find that lying in corpse pose at the end of yoga class quickly puts them to sleep.

To fully benefit from meditation, your inner and outer being needs to find the ideal balance between relaxation and alertness. So if counting your breath or chanting om makes you bored or nervous, you’ll be better served by a more personalized approach to meditation. A simplified form of the biofeedback employed by many clinical psychologists and other therapists is a good choice for some individuals. You can buy tapes that guide you through this process or simply rest in a comfortable position while you visualize a peaceful setting such as a beach or a mountaintop. Every time a distracting thought intrudes, return your attention to this mental image. Visualization techniques offer an alternative path to a harmonious mental state.

Smooth Your Wrinkles by Soothing Your Soul

My own approach to meditation is even simpler. I put on some beautiful music and allow myself to melt into its rhythmic flow for 20 to 30 minutes each day. The trick is to really concentrate on listening and feeling the music. As thoughts and worries begin to arise, simply observe them as if they were white clouds drifting across the sky and then refocus on the music. I find that learning to avoid dwelling on daily events and preoccupations comes much easier than trying force a busy mind to go blank.

This routine can be customized to suit your own tastes. While listening to classical music works best for me, you can choose any type of  “sound environment” that promotes deep relaxation without causing drowsiness. The rhythmic patterns of African drumming, Tibetan Buddhist chants, and certain types of New Age music, for example, are believed to release endorphins and induce a restful mental state. Like any new discipline, meditation takes practice. So if you can’t sit still for ten minutes, don’t get discouraged. Do what you can each day and the process will gradually become easier. Eventually you’ll find that your sessions transport you to another world where time and your everyday cares disappear. When you return from your mental vacation, take a look in the mirror. I guarantee you’ll see a younger, more beautiful face looking back!

A calm mind is fundamental to total wellness and lasting natural beauty.

Image: federico stevanin /

Botox May Come with an Emotional Price

A recent scientific study suggests that by freezing the muscles that create smiles and frowns, Botox injections may actually block the feelings associated with these and other facial expressions. You can read about Botox in Newsweek’s fascinating mind-body article.

Are risks of Botox more than skin-deep?

There’s a world of difference between the “stone face” look created by radical cosmetic procedures and the vibrant, youthful appearance achieved through natural wellness practices. I’ll share one of my favorite all-natural wrinkle relaxers in my next post.

Image: healingdream /

Lavie Organique in STUFF Boston Magazine!

Natural Beauties

by Cheryl Fenton
October 04, 2010

You are what you eat, so they say. But you’ve that got covered, right? From your daily 64 ounces of water (sipped from a BPA-free bottle, of course) to the organic fruits and veggies you stock as snacks, you’re a walking poster child for healthy living.

But what about your largest organ, your skin? Is it really covered – with the right products, that is?

Though skin is an effective barrier in many ways, some substances can penetrate it, and many can irritate it (as sensitive types know all too well). And people are increasingly thinking not just about what they put in their bodies, but what they put on them – leading some to shun skincare products filled with chemicals whose names have five syllables, “fragrances” whose component ingredients are a total mystery, and substances grown with potentially environmentally hazardous pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. “If you’re choosing to eat the best natural and organic foods available, then you should also be choosing the best natural and organic skincare products to put on your body,” says Noah Solomon of Whole Body, Whole Foods’ division devoted to personal-care products. That way, continues Solomon, “You’re not putting chemicals, harsh preservatives, artificial colors, or fragrances into your body that it needs to process.”

Photo: Michael Diskin

His point of view is catching on. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, organic and natural products accounted for nearly 10 percent of all beauty and personal-care product launches through 2008 and 2009, compared to 5 percent in 2006.

Right in our own backyard (for you Foursquare folks, that’s Brookline) are two fantastic natural skincare lines; both are the creations of Eastern European women with heritages steeped in skincare savvy.

The recently launched LaVie Organique is a line born from time-tested secrets from founder Lavinia Borcau’s native Romania, a region long renowned for its spas and treatments. Through her namesake day spa, Lavinia Borcau Skin Care (29 Harvard Street, Brookline, 617.734.5523), Borcau created these formulas using certified-organic and plant-derived ingredients and vitamins – not to mention her own 20 years of skincare expertise and a little of her grandma’s know-how about Mother Nature’s gifts.

“I chose every ingredient in my formulas, including the natural preservatives and fragrances, not only for safety, but also health benefits,” she says. The ingredients read more like a tasty recipe – think apples, chili peppers, and grapefruit – than the unpronounceable stuff of a science experiment.

Cheryl Fenton is a freelance writer in Boston who also blogs at Read more about Natural Beauties at

Relax Your Wrinkles Away, Part 2: A Return to the Basics

Although stronger support for the anti-aging benefits of Botox alternatives may emerge over time, one question is hard to dismiss. Is blocking the release of the brain chemicals that drive essential bodily functions a smart approach to a cosmetic problem?

Why New and Improved Isn’t Always Better

Luckily, you don’t need to put your long-term health at risk to look a little younger. Or spend hundreds of dollars. In fact, many critics of topical wrinkle-relaxing creams suspect they have no significant effect on facial muscles, and that any “measurable improvements” observed in clinical trials are actually produced by one of the world’s oldest and simplest anti-wrinkle ingredients: water.

Whether or not synthetic peptides actually prevent muscle contractions strikes me as beside the point. What matters is that you can achieve very similar results without them. Any decent moisturizer will help plump up lines and furrows simply by binding water to thirsty skin cells.

Valid Science + Living Proof=The Highest Standard of Skincare

My own research and professional experience have taught me that one of the simplest and best ways to soften and smooth wrinkles is to hydrate and nourish your skin with plant-derived moisturizers and emollients such as aloe vera, vegetable glycerin, and shea butter.

A growing number of published scientific studies have verified the superior moisture-binding capacity, absorbability, and healing properties of these and other botanical extracts that traditional cultures have relied on for thousands of years. As I see it, when a natural treatment with that kind of track record gains scientific support, it’s won the kind of endorsement you can trust.

And remember: An ounce of wrinkle prevention is worth a ton of expensive bioengineered neuro-peptides. So use sun protection every day, and don’t smoke. Ultimately, the power to delay the effects of aging is your hands. Stay tuned for more tips about intelligent lifestyle choices that can help keep lines and wrinkles under control.

Image: Paul /

Relax Your Wrinkles Away, Part 1: The Truth About Topical Botox

In theory at least, argireline, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), and other so-called “wrinkle relaxers” smooth and soften crow’s-feet and smile lines by inhibiting muscle contractions. Heralded by some members of the beauty industry as a major breakthrough in anti-aging science, these topical Botox alternatives command a hefty price.

But are they worth it? That depends on whom you believe. Manufacturers of these anti-wrinkle products cite clinical studies that show “a reduction in wrinkle depth of up to 60% in one month” or  “an increase in firmness by as much as 40%.” But what do these scientific-sounding statistics actually mean?

The Science of Beauty

The truth is, a cosmetic manufacturer’s “hard data” can mean almost anything. Even the definition of the term clinical study is open to question. In the case of wrinkle relaxers, virtually all evidence of their effectiveness comes from studies conducted or paid for by the manufacturers. The only third-party research I could find on argireline, for instance, was a single report published in a cosmetic industry journal—evidence that falls far short of “scientific proof.”

Are Botox  creams more hype than help?

The Beauty of Common Sense

To reach a balanced judgment on skincare alternatives, I’ve always relied on sources I trust:  scientific evidence, gut instinct, and what I can see with my own eyes. When I applied this approach to wrinkle relaxers, the sketchy scientific research and my woman’s intuition pointed to an obvious question: If topical Botox really works, why are people still lining up for injections and cosmetic surgery?

Nevertheless, seeing is believing. So I treated my complexion with a top-selling GABA-based brand for a month. From the first application to the last, the mirror told me the truth: Scientists have yet to discover a “facelift in a jar.”

Until that happens, a holistic, health-based skincare routine remains the safest, most effective method of delaying the signs of aging and minimizing the appearance of wrinkles. I’ll explain more about this noninvasive approach in upcoming posts.

Image: br3akthru /

Squalane Body Scrub Delivers Powerful First Aid to Thirsty Skin

Even with the best sunscreen, long hours under the blazing summer sun can really take a toll on the exposed skin of our bodies. With colder weather on the way, the last thing you need is parched, itchy skin. To restore moisture and resilience before winter sets in, I advise treating your skin to a series of weekly exfoliation treatments.

Avoid a Dry Skin Emergency with Early Intervention

My own personal recipe (see below) is an “Americanized” version of an ancient Ayurvedic treatment. Although the sesame oil in the original recipe is also an excellent natural emollient, using olive oil as a replacement is a good option for people who prefer to avoid sesame’s strong “nutty” aroma—and it delivers the added benefits of squalane (see previous post).

Like the chickpea flour in the Ayurvedic version, whole grain cornmeal is a gentle and effective exfoliant. Both grains contain beneficial micronutrients such as manganese, an essential cofactor in several important enzyme and antioxidant functions—but cornmeal is generally easier to find in grocery stores.

Super-moisturizing Squalane Body Scrub
¼ cup cornmeal
Olive oil as needed

Wash in a warm shower using a gentle natural cleanser. Apply cornmeal to wet skin and massage it into your skin using a large circular motions and firm, even pressure. Rinse. Apply olive oil. Do not rinse off. Pat dry with a towel. Put on an old robe and some comfy socks and let the oil soak into your skin (at least ½ hour). In most cases additional rinsing will be unnecessary.

Image: Suvro Datta /

Image: Suat Eman /

Promises, Promises Part 2: The Squalane Story

Look 10 years younger overnight! Who can resist a pitch like that—especially when the pitch letter comes with a free sample? So it’s only human to give the latest miracle ingredient a try—and to be disappointed when you look exactly the same the next day.

Squalane: Hope or Hype?

The natural emollient squalane is one of the latest examples of a skincare ingredient that cosmetics manufacturers love to hype. So, if you’ve been under-whelmed by the results achieved after a week or two of using a good-quality natural squalane cream you may already be suffering “buyer’s remorse.”

In cases like this, however, the real problem usually lies not in the ingredient itself, but in the manufacturer’s false product claims. My experience as an aesthetician and lifetime user of plant-derived oils and emollients has taught me that improving the appearance of a damaged, aging complexion takes time and a long-term commitment to protecting and nourishing your skin’s health.

What’s So Special About Squalane?

So before you abandon this natural moisturizer for a cheaper petroleum derivative such as mineral oil, let’s look at the facts about squalane.

1.    Safety and Effectiveness Squalane is a stabilized version of squalene, one of the natural moisturizing factors (NMFs),  found in the stratum corneum, or outer layer of human skin.  Squalane’s close resemblance to human sebum ensures our skin is able to quickly absorb this natural oil and to benefit from its ability to keep our complexions soft, moist, and supple with minimal chance of negative side effects.

2.    Antioxidant Power A recent study on the environmental pollutant ozone by Charles Weschler of New Jersey Environmental and Occupational Health Institute suggests that squalene is the primary antioxidant in our skin that protects against ozone’s harmful effects.

3.  Green Goodness The plant-derived squalane in all-natural skincare products is a safe, eco-friendly ingredient. Squalane sources such as olive oil, olive leaf, and rice bran are environmentally responsible alternatives to shark’s livers that avoid further depleting the world’s overfished oceans.

Reality Check

When it comes to evaluating skincare products, a little fact checking can save you a lot of money and disappointment—but don’t forget to check your expectations first.

Image: Andy Newson /