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Did you hear the news? (Of course you did, it was the media equivalent of shock and awe.) On Friday, Oprah announced that her final show would be Sept. 2011, after 25 years on the air. So while the speculation about her reasons run rampant, now seems like the perfect time to talk about Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk.

Robyn Okrant spent a year doing absolutely everything Oprah recommended–purchasing Oprah endorsed fashion, cooking Oprah approved meals, reading Oprah endorsed books, finding Oprah approved spirituality. She chronicled her Oprah experiment on her blog, where readers can see what a monumental task this undertaking became. Between Oprah’s TV show, her magazine and her website, Robyn spent a whole lot of money and even more time to live an Oprah-approved “best life.”

I don’t really watch Oprah or read her magazine anymore. Personally, I find her out of touch. Larry King just had her BFF Gale on his show, asking Gale how Oprah “engaged with the everyday lady.” To which Gale responded that Oprah was “just like you.” Sorry, Gale, no she’s not.

Oprah is worth billions. She can’t walk down the street, take mass transit, or fly commercial without getting mobbed. She can find the absolute best pair of pants, no matter what the cost, and buy ten of them. She can work out with expensive trainers and consult with nutritionists. Oprah employs a lifestyle army. It’s much easier to live your best life when money is no object.

But is Oprah really living her best life? From what I have read, her work schedule is insane. She has no work-life balance. Her yo-yo dieting is another tip-off that there may be something gnawing away at her. So is the commercialism that surrounds this best life really just a band-aid for happiness? Can it really be found in the best pair of pants, the best ergonomic gardening set, or the best rolfing?

The book comes out on January 3, and I am going to try track Robyn down for a quick interview for this ol’ blog! I am in AWE of the discipline it must have taken to live this “best life.” And I have a lot of questions too. Did Robyn find her best life by Living Oprah? Does Robyn think Oprah is really living her best life? Is the Best Life found in those perfect pants, or did she somehow transcend these messages and find a spiritual epiphany?

InfantArmI was never a touchy person. My husband loves the hugs and the snuggles, and it took a long time for me to get comfortable with this. There was an invisible line drawn down the middle of the bed, and I was perfectly happy to stick to my side. The only time I enjoyed touch was with my pets. For whatever reason, the snuggly dog didn’t bug me as much as the snuggly husband, who smelled piles better than the pooch. (My dog is snuggling with my feet as I type this.)

So this touch-phobia made becoming an esthetician a bit challenging.  I spend hours touching people. And I will be honest, it really took a while to get used to touching a stranger and being OK with it. And I will also admit that there are moments when it can still be difficult for me. If I don’t connect immediately with the person on the table, I am much more tentative and it can take a while for the touch to feel comfortable.

Touch is a very powerful thing. So is a lack of touch. According to the massage magazine Body Sense, “So serious are the effects of touch deprivation, it’s considered by researchers to be worse than physical abuse.” I am not sure that I am comfortable going that far, but clearly touch (and lack of it) are important to the overall well being of our bodies and minds.

Body Sense cites a University of North Carolina study that found hugging reduced the body’s level of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone associated with weakening the immune system, anxiety, anger, not to mention, of course, acne. This same team of research scientists also observed that hugs boosted the levels the hormone oxytocin, which improves heart function.

Here in the US, we aren’t comfortable being touchy. There are a thousand reasons why–we’re litigious and touch can be misinterpreted; we are technology driven and have minimal interaction with live human beings. In a city like NY, where people are packed in so tightly, touch avoidance is a herculean effort, and getting off a subway without the brush of a stranger’s skin is worthy of an Olympic medal. Personal space is sacred, and this may be to the detriment of our health.

I pushed through my comfort zone and learned to appreciate and value touch. Where I once favored extractions (estheticians all love the goop removal), massage is now my favorite part of the treatment. When I feel the tension release, I know that the person on my table is mentally and physically detoxing. And going through my rituals of massage, the focus I need to perform them, and the warmth that touch brings, allows my brain to drain and relaxes me as well.

So take a minute, right now, to hug your significant other, your kid, your dog, your cat, your Mom, whoever is closest (OK, maybe not your boss). And I don’t mean that hug that’s akin to an air kiss. Hug it like you mean it!

teacherIt has been a whirlwind week at my house. My daughter started kindergarten on Tuesday and what should have been a tear filled, exciting day turned into a big old battle with The Man. For her very first teacher, my kid ended up with Mrs. McNasty.

It’s a long story, but needless to say Mrs. McNasty messed with the wrong Mom. Manly Man Husband and I marched our asses straight to the Principal’s office and had a showdown. What followed was hours of phone calls that lead straight to the top of educational food chain to pull my kid away from that craptastic teacher.

Here’s why I went mental. My kid is bright, curious and full of spunk and one lousy teacher can take all of that away quickly. I had horrendous teachers in my early school years, and until I hit college, there was absolutely no joy in learning. School was a loathsome task and one that I feared every morning. So to have Mrs. McNasty at the age of 5, her introduction to real school, was just not going to fly.

When my daughter came home that afternoon and said she was afraid to ask to use the bathroom, I knew for certain that we had done the right thing by intervening immediately.

Here’s my admittedly tenuous beauty connection. Imagine my shock when I ended up in esthy school, learning chemistry, biology and anatomy (subjects I ran from throughout my school years) and found that not only did I enjoy learning them, I was pretty damn good at them. If I did not have a fear of school, who knows what I could have achieved.

That, and I expect a case of stress-induced acne to explode any day now.

9258zombiessmall
A new post over at the Lucky Magazine Beauty Blog caught my
eye. Apparently, an editor over there is having great luck with a skin care
regime that, she says, completely cleared up her acne.  On first glance, it looked ok.  I felt like she was over-exfoliating a
bit, between a mechanical method (i.e. a scrub) at night and a chemical method
(peeling agent) in the morning. But to each her own, some skin can handle a
little roughing up.  Mine,
personally, cannot.

But then I caught her caution that one of the products she
uses has a tendency to “eat your face off.”  TheSkinReport is not a fan of face eating products!

Read the rest of this entry »

After over two months of studying anatomy, chemistry, cosmetic chemistry and skin disorders, I am finally into my practical program at school. Which means less homework! Now I can (hopefully) keep up with the blogging.

Since I am finally back after a hiatus, I thought it would be apropos to discuss… Backs! Specifically back breakouts.

Back acne literally sneaks up behind you. Since we are usually blissfully ignorant of our rear view, it’s an area that tends to get neglected. Until you start digging out the summer tank tops and camis and realize that you have an acne explosion. A few weeks ago, I noticed that my upper back was covered with those nasty little eruptions.

Back breakouts are most likely a combination of two things: lack of exfoliation and cleanser—either in the form of soap or shampoo run off—reacting with the skin.

Armed with an exfoliating bath towel from the Asian supermarket (and for 2 bucks, those things rock!) and my daughter’s California Baby Shampoo and Body Wash, I faithfully scrubbed my back after I was done washing and conditioning my hair.

Yhst83878190403399_2001_8918891 Now if shampoo was the culprit, why use more shampoo on the affected area? Because baby shampoo is formulated for “no more tears,” which means that its pH is as close to neutral as possible to keep from burning the eyes. Shampoos, soaps and cleansers are detergents (with a more alkaline pH), which strip away the skin’s natural oil in addition to the dirt and grime. If we over strip the oil from our skin, acne can form.

Within a week, the acne began to dry out. By the end of week two, the acne explosion was finally under control.

Electricity

For the past two weeks we have been studying electricity and its applications for skin. It’s ranged from pretty boring–anyone want to give me the dictionary definition of plug–to downright fascinating. The beauty-speak of ions and electrolytes meant nothing to me all these years–it was just jargon to make something SOUND impressive. But, electricity does have meaning to the body and the skin. Electrolytes, which are made up of ions, regulate the pH levels of the body, and they are extremely important in hydration (this is where osmosis comes in–making sure intracellular and extracellular fluids are balanced). They also play a role in the body’s muscular and nervous systems (which I will be covering in a few weeks).

In terms of beauty treatments, some are more effective than others but each serves a certain purpose and it is not simply snake oil. High frequency machines are germicidal, and perfect for zapping acne post-extractions (to keep post-facial breakouts from occurring). Galvanic currents help with product penetration. Faradic currents (such as those silly “shock” belts that you see on info-mercials that tout a no-exercise solution to weight loss) actually DO exercise the muscles, thereby increasing muscle tone, but you have to use them daily to see any sort of results.

I get to play with some of the machines at school tonight! Fun!