Tag: Guide

A Guide to Balancing “Clean Beauty” With Science

When you read about the problems caused by “everywhere chemicals” like BPA and phthalates, it can be tempting to chuck everything, buy a mud-colored hemp outfit, and move to an off-the-grid commune for a life of hammock weaving. But if you’re someone who loves beauty products (and all that they promise), it can also tempting to just… shrug the whole thing off. Sure, every cosmetic ingredient will probably cause cancer or infertility—but not before the world ends, right?

Perhaps there’s a happy medium between knee-jerk fear and sheer nihilism, however. Maybe we don’t have to buy all our beauty products from companies like Goop and Whole Foods and can still live to tell the tale. Maybe Goop and Whole Foods shill products that are no healthier for you than the products you buy anywhere else, many of which are products made in factories that make no effort toward sustainability or waste reduction and cost five times as much as the perfectly safe products you’d find at a Walgreens. After all, it’s 2019, and there’s big money to be made by simply feeling green.

This won’t be an exact science, but here are our thoughts on how to try to find a reasonable “clean beauty” balance:

1. Follow the Watchdogs

One of the first places you can turn for information is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database, which rates almost 70,000 products based on their ingredients. Enter the name of a lotion you’re about to buy, and the search will tell you whether any of its ingredients are known to cause problems, or if they’re still in question. (Although we recommend Googling the name of the product and “EWG”—the internal search is not amazing.)

“One of the biggest problems is that many of these ingredients have never been tested,” says EWG’s director of healthy living science, Nneka Leiba. Unlike with pharmaceuticals, the ingredients in beauty products don’t have to proven completely safe before they hit shelves. “What we’re saying to the consumer is, if there is no science on something, you shouldn’t assume it’s safe.”

Basically, when there’s not enough information, EWG will sound the alarm—which does mean they can sometimes be, well, rather alarmist about ingredients that aren’t known to cause harm. So it’s up to the consumer to take a look through the flags EWG raises and see if they seem relevant.

The group also issues an EWG-verified seal to certain products that meet its high standards of safety (though these seals have nothing to do with how effective the products are—just how safe they’ve been shown to be).

“Under that seal, we’ve already looked for ingredients of concern to make sure that they’re fully transparent to the consumer,” Leiba says. “That they’re not hiding harmful ingredients under the term ‘fragrance,’ for example.”

Other groups, like Made Safe, also have a nontoxic seal for approved products. This system can help you choose products in a wide variety of categories. Yes, using these systems may mean you’ll miss out on some potentially safe, effective products, but if you want to avoid doing a bunch of research into cosmetics and personal care, they can be a good solution.

2. Ask Your Dermatologist

On the other hand, you could take the watchdogs’ warnings with a grain of salt. There are a lot of products that dermatologists regularly recommend to their patients that carry moderate or high hazard ratings from EWG.

For example, CeraVe moisturizer, which many dermatologists love, has a score of 4 (moderate hazard). Among the ingredients EWG finds hazardous is the preservative propylparaben, a long-chain paraben that can bind to estrogen receptors in the body. It has been difficult to prove causal relationships between long-chain parabens and cancer, but groups like EWG and the European Union believe there is enough cause for concern. (Short-chain parabens such as methylparaben are thought to be safe by both groups.)

“It’s really hard to find products that are completely paraben-free, but every week there are more and more that are available,” says dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D. He doesn’t yet specifically advise his patients against using products with parabens, but he is pleased that patients are able to find alternatives.

Another discrepancy is in retinoid products, which have a 9 rating (high hazard) from EWG because of the way they caused more tumors to grow in mice exposed to the sun. Dermatologists agree that retinoids increase sun sensitivity but simply recommend using it at night or with sunscreen.

This is why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to bring your own list of concerns to your dermatologist—there’s only so much you can learn from Dr. Google, after all.

“People come in with their long list of craziness: ‘Can I use this? Can I not use that?'” says dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Michele Green, M.D. But both she and Mudgil certainly don’t seem to mind that their patients are keeping them on their toes.

3. Go Natural—to a Point

Green finds that some patients do feel more comfortable when they mix up their own DIY skin care—”You know exactly what’s being put into them”—and isn’t opposed to the practice, as long as it’s done well.

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But the truth is, some natural ingredients are just as bad for your skin as the man-made kind—even formaldehyde comes from trees, after all. The biggest problem with plant-derived ingredients like essential oils is that they’re potential allergens.

“Repeated exposure to a potential allergen can cause allergies,” Mudgil warns, so even if you don’t think you’re allergic to the latest trendy natural ingredient, like coconut oil, using it every single day might make you allergic to it. Before you go mixing your own cleansers and masks, read about which ingredients dermatologists think are actually effective and which may actually make your skin worse.

When you do use natural products, pay attention to your reaction to them and avoid anything with that vague label “fragrance,” because it could still be hiding toxins and allergens.

4. Vote With Your Wallet

For years, Congress has been sitting around not voting on a bill that could expand the FDA’s authority over personal care products and force manufacturers to be transparent about all their ingredients. We’re not holding our breath on that one, but in the meantime, this might be a situation in which capitalism is working in our favor. And all those new products screaming “paraben-free!” is a prime example.

“Companies are being forced to test their products more because consumers are asking for those scientific studies,” Leiba says. “The companies are doing what the consumers demand because the consumers voted with their wallet. They have choices—and they’re not choosing companies that are hiding things from them.”

Sabrina Rojas Weiss lives in Brooklyn, surrounded by her fellow freelance writers and competitive stroller-pushers. Her work has appeared on Refinery29, Yahoo, MTV News, and Glamour.com. The views expressed herein are her own and are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Follow her on Twitter @shalapitcher.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep

If finding the time to pack lunch every morning or cook dinner every night is impossible, or you’re relying on takeout more than you want to, you’re probably ready to jump on the meal-prep train. As you should! Except, um, how do you get started? If you’ve never done it before, meal-prepping can feel overwhelming. But it’s not, really. Here’s everything you need to know to succeed.

What is meal prep, and why should I try it?

Meal prep is exactly what it sounds like: prepping your meals (or meal components) ahead of time so your food is ready to eat whenever you are. The easiest way to do it? Pick a day when you’re free—usually a Saturday or Sunday—to prep enough food to get you through the upcoming week.

People love meal-prepping because it makes life easy. Trying to figure out what to make for dinner every night can be stressful, and finding the time to make it can be even more so. Meal-prepping means you get all the work out of the way ahead of time. Instead of taking time to think about food and cooking during the week, everything’s already there.

Planning your meals ahead of time can make it easier to eat healthier too. “We tend to make better choices for our future selves than we do for our current selves,” says Georgie Fear, RD, CSSD, author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. It’s easy to succumb to takeout or frozen pizza when you’re exhausted after a long day. But you’ll probably be motivated to make better choices—say, salmon and quinoa or chicken and pepper fajitas—when you map out your menu in advance.

How to Meal-Prep

Prepping several days’ worth of food all at once might seem like an overwhelming task. But it’s actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started.

1. Gear up.

Despite what some meal-prep guides might say, you don’t need to shell out for tons of new products before beginning. That said, having the right tools can be pretty helpful. Consider stocking up on these items, if you don’t already have them on hand.

  • One or two large sheet pans. Use them to roast veggies, proteins, or full sheet-pan meals.
  • A big stockpot. It’s key for one-pot meals like soups, stews, curry, or chili.
  • A medium sauce pot. Use it for cooking whole grains or making hard-boiled eggs.
  • Glass storage containers with sturdy lids. They’re your best options for storing prepped food. (And, unlike plastic, they won’t leach chemicals into your food.) Aim to have a variety of sizes for storing big and small batches of prepped items.
  • Zip-top bags. Small ones are great for portioning out snacks like nuts or sliced veggies. Bigger ones are good for storing whole meals or individual components if you run out of storage containers (or run out of room for more containers in your fridge).

2. Plan your menu.

Before you begin cooking, you need to figure out what you’re going to make. Aim to have a protein, a vegetable, and a starch for each meal—the combo will help you stay satisfied, says nutrition expert Kelly Jones, MS, RD. As for what to cook, exactly? The sky’s the limit, but in general, the most successful meal-prep meals fall into one of these categories:

  • One-pot or one-pan meals: Think soups, curry, chili, oatmeal, or anything else that you can cook in a single pot or Crock-Pot. “They’re always a great option because you don’t need to add anything to the meal other than condiments,” Jones says. Sheet-pan meals and frittatas (bake them in a big pan and cut into slices, or make individual servings in muffin tins) work here too. If you want simplicity to the max, this is the route to go, Fear says.
  • Component-based meals: Want a little more variety? Try prepping proteins, vegetables, and starches individually for mixing and matching. For instance, pre-chopped veggies can top a pizza on Monday, be mixed into pasta sauce on Tuesday, and folded into tacos on Wednesday, Fear says. And since a plain bowl of quinoa, veggies, and chicken or tempeh can get kind of boring, plan to make a few sauces, dressings, or toppings to keep things interesting from a flavor perspective, Jones says.

Do you have to map out every single thing you’re going to eat for the entire week? Nope. “Having a plan for most meals may be helpful for some people, but it’s important, especially when starting to meal-prep, that you start small,” Jones says.

So if tackling five or even seven days seems like way too much, start by prepping just two dinners. Double the ingredients so you can eat each dinner twice, and bam! You’ve got four nights covered.

3. Shop and cook.

With your menu planned, it’s time to make a grocery list and go shopping. Think through all the items you’ll be cooking and write down all the ingredients you’ll need. This is key! Having an actual list (versus trying to keep track of everything in your head) ups the odds that you’ll actually come home with everything you need—and won’t waste time running back to the store later on.

When it’s time to cook, think about ways to maximize your efficiency as much as possible. “Meal-prepping shouldn’t take more than one to two hours if you multitask the right way,” Jones says. (These recipes only take 15 minutes from start to finish!) If you’re firing up the oven, roast vegetables and bake chicken or tofu at the same time. Then start a pot of quinoa or soup on the stovetop. While that simmers, pre-chop fruits or veggies or whip up a batch of hummus for snacking, she suggests.

4. Pack it up.

Got your food all prepped? Congrats! Now it’s time to store everything so you’ll have easy access to your meals and ingredients throughout the week. Three important tips to keep in mind:

  1. Utilize the right containers. Portion out single servings into small individual containers, which are easy to grab and go, Jones says. Dinners you’ll serve in one big batch can go in bigger containers.
  2. Keep salads and dressings separate. Storing already-dressed salad is a recipe for a soggy, wilted mess, Fear says. Keep everything fresh by packing chopped salad veggies in one container and dressing in another.
  3. Cool before refrigerating. It’s fine to transfer hot food straight to your glass storage vessels. But let the food come to room temperature before moving it to the fridge—especially when it comes to big batches. Popping a family-size serving of, say, piping hot chili into the fridge will warm up everything that’s already in there, Fear says. That could potentially set the stage for spoilage and food poisoning.

5. Eat strategically.

You’ve got all this delicious food at the ready—so what should you eat first? “Most things can be prepared in advance and stay safe to eat for five days,” Fear says. Still, animal-based proteins often tend to lose their luster the quickest. So consider eating your meatier meals earlier in the week and saving plant-based proteins for later on, Jones recommends.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to use your judgment. If something looks or smells suspect, don’t eat it—even if it’s only been sitting in the fridge for a day or two. Use this guide to determine how long food really lasts.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Wrapping Your Hands for Boxing

If you thought boxing was a sport best left to the pros, think again. With the rise of boutique fitness and memberships like ClassPass and FitReserve, boxing is moving from the underground gym scene and into popular studios everywhere. Plus, training like a Million Dollar Baby is a killer workout for cardio endurance, strength, power, and agility. You don’t even need to fight anyone to reap the benefits (whew!). But before you slip on a pair of gloves, start with some hand wraps.

Wrapping your hands provides extra padding around your knuckles and some support for your wrists, so you can throw every punch with confidence. Most boxing gyms and studios will provide gloves but not wraps, so it’s best to buy your own before heading to your first training session or class. We like Everlast Hand Wraps ($ 6.99, everlast.com). After sweaty sessions, just toss them in the washer with your laundry and hang dry. Check out the video below to learn the proper technique for wrapping, demonstrated by Tatiana Firpo, group fitness manager and trainer at Gotham Gym in New York City. 

To recap:
1. Spread fingers. 
2. Place thumb through loop. 
3. Wrap over top of hand and 3 times around wrist. 
4. Wrap knuckles 3 times. 
5. Then bring wrap under thumb and thread between each finger. 
6. Wrap once around wrist to secure finger straps then once around thumb.
7. Wrap knucles 3 more times and then again around wrist. 
8. Velcro to secure. 

Video: Jenna Haufler

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