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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Oh Girlfriends, it is my firm belief that the age of a woman directly correlates to the price of her face cream. The older you are… the higher the price.

Here’s the deal...

When I was in my twenties- moisturizer was like a mother’s advice…. It was some I used when absolutely necessary and only if in a crisis. I would get a sunburn on my face and find myself at the pharmacy with a jar of “after sun/aloe vera” in my hands ready to lather rinse and repeat.

In my thirties- I began to dabble in moisturizers. I never really knew which one to buy. Do I need to regenerate or should I just use a regular day/night cream? Did cost really mean that I was getting a better product or was my money better spent on footwear? Which company should I choose? Do I go for a French made fancy name that I can have several pronunciations depending on whom you ask or should it be a straightforward Oil of Olay kind of product?

Finally my cybersisters....WHERE should this product be bought? Should I consult a fancy make up counter for advice from some lovely woman who was wearing far too much perfume and equally far too much make up or should I fend for myself in the cosmetics isle at the pharmacy?

Decisions loomed in the air as my thirties whizzed by. I dabbled in one cream or another feeling that time was on my side as promises were made all in the name of youth, beauty and a good few dollars spent.

And then came forty. At 40 I was no longer dabbling. I was not leaving my face’s texture or future to chance. I was spending no less than $100 on something French and something with a name that had both a clinical edge and a bunch of accents over its letter.

There would be Chanel’s REGENERISTE whose price is that of a car payment for 2 fluid ounces of hope in a bottle.

The jar that holds this precious serum (insert sarcasm here) is stunning. It is a champagne coloured glass square with a gold embossed top. It weighs as much as a watermelon and holds only 60ml of cream. My science brain knows that whatever is in this little jar/brick/paperweight of broken dreams really will not keep its promises.

That does not stop me. I happily hand over my credit card and let the dream begin.

There we are in Holt Renfrew at the scene of the crime. The woman helping me at the CHANEL counter is called Maria and she is lovely; sweet, considerate and kissing my ass just enough to make me feel special. She comments on my handbag and tells me I ‘ve lost weight. Yes, somewhere another fairy gets her wings and here I am the latest sucker to be born that minute.

After an obnoxious amount on money is spent, I am sent home with my new jar of REGENRISTE (insert French accent here) and the cycle of madness continues.

According to an expose in the British Daily Mail, a jar of Crème de la Mer which retails for 350 British pounds contains only 25 British pounds worth of materials.

The skin care market in the US is a $2 billion dollar annual industry. Sales in 2008 in the premium skin care lines (defined as products over $70 per unit) grew more than 8%. Recession? Not when it comes to the face….

According to Information Resources, Inc. in 2008, Americans spent a total of $605.7 million for facial anti-aging products, $569.6 million for facial cleansers, $345 million for acne treatments, $320.4 million for facial moisturizers and $27.8 million for body anti-aging products.

A study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 2010 looked at the ingredients of the high end face creams on the counters today.

Moisturizers are based on occlusive substances (petrolatum and dimethicone) and humectant substances (glycerin) with a variety of sunscreens and botanicals for added functionality and marketing impact.

Among the moisturizers examined (over 200 brands in total) 80 percent of the formulations had remarkably similar products regardless of what was added to the cream. The study found that regardless of whether the product is a facial foundation, an antiaging night cream, a sunscreen, a topical antioxidant, or a skin-lightening serum, the formulation is basically a moisturizer with some added botanicals and sunscreens.

There is no randomized trial in existence that compares one moisturizer to another.

And so my girlfriends this leaves me with my usual leap of faith…. Marketing. Am I weak? Perhaps. Easily influenced? Somewhat. I’m just a girl at the big 4-0 trying to find her way at the cosmetic counter. That being said as with most of my shopping endeavors I am always in search of a better way of life.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Sunshine State

Greetings from sunny Florida dear girlfriends…. I must admit, I did not think I’d ever find myself in Orlando anytime soon.

Afterall, I am nowhere near retirement (as a work-a-holic, perish the thought) and well, quite frankly, Disney gives me a rash so Florida was never really one of my travel destinations.

You do never know where life will take you and so when the Obesity 2011 conference is being held in the “happiest place on earth” I convinced myself that my Roberto Cavalli caftan needed one last spin before winter and here I am…poolside….learning.

Let’s be clear girlfriends- I’m not going to DisneyWorld. I realize it is not just for children but I’ve never been a big fan of Disney. Never mind the marketing and the weird twisty message (all those sad maidens cleaning houses waiting for their Princes) I just don’t get it. It really is not my scene.

Afterall, the only fairytale character I could ever identify with was the witch in Hansel and Gretel. I know many of you are now horrified, but really… you build a dreamhouse out of gingerbread and some little bitch comes by and takes a bite out of it? Who among us would not stick the little shit in the basement and use her brother for bouille base?

No, this afternoon I will not be going to Epcot centre to tour the world…. If I want to see the world, I can be sure it will not find me in Florida. Florida is for sunworship and oranges. So here I sit pooliside (yes I was at the conference ALL day Sunday and Monday) with an orange Margharita , some sunblock and a very good book.

SO! I thought I’d take this break from learning for a little bit of my own research…

Do you ever notice dear girlfriends that at a pool or beach, you are never the one with that fabulous deep tan? Are you? No worries, I am not THAT one either. Make no mistake- I AM the one with the fabulous sunglasses and an unrealistic sense of self esteem when it comes to being in a bathing suit… (I blame my parents, by the by, for instilling in me too much of the “you can do anything” attitude- yes, that and the margarita I usually have on an empty stomach…. In a woman who has the alcohol tolerance of an eight year old…. Put it all together and I think I’m waaaaay too okay for being a chubby white girl in a bikini.)

But here’s the deal with tanning….

As I get older I’m starting to get just a little bit sun shy. Not enough “sun shy” to keep me out of the sun entirely… I am an ethnic girl after all and we do look better when our olive skin is in fact more olive. But I have noticed that once you start tanning- you find it a challenge to stop.

I had a wicked tan this summer. I did after all spend three weeks on a bike and sunscreen be damned I got me some colour. It is now almost a month since my “days in the sun” and I notice my healthy glow is starting to fade.

SO here I sit poolside…. On a mission. Darken it up one last time before I settle in for a long winter. It is like a Vitamin D binge fest before hybernation, No?

No. According to a study published in 2005 in the Journal of Addiction Biology… I may indeed have a problem. A substance abuse problem. And to think my shoe issue was not enough to handle.

The evidence suggests that frequent exposure to Ultraviolet radiation has the potential to become addictive. The researchers looked at Magnetic resonance Imagery and PET scans of people exposed to UV light through tanning bed before and after a treatment and found that the brain “lights up” in the reward centres of the brain in response to regular UV exposure. The results are similar to when a person is given a drug or a dessert.

The subjects in this study were repeated tanning bed users. The subjects were also subjected to study questionairres. Based on their answers more than 75% of the “frequent tanners” met criteria for a substance abuse disorder based on their answers. The investigators decided to go a step further.

They recruited a small group of people from tanning salons who frequent tanners (meaning they liked to go three times a week to maintain their tan… yes… think Jersey Shores). These subjects agreed to be injected with a radioisotope and then were subjected to both PET scans and MRI’s to look at where the brain activity was most stimulated after tanning. This allowed researchers to monitor how tanning affected their subjects’ brain activity.
On one occasion, the study subjects experienced a normal tanning session. But on another occasion, the researchers used a special filter that blocked only the UV light, although the tanners weren’t told of the change.

Brain images later showed that during regular tanning sessions, when the study subjects were exposed to UV rays, several key areas of the brain lighted up. Among those areas were the dorsal striatum, the left anterior insula and part of the orbitofrontal cortex – all areas that have been implicated in addiction. But when the UV light was filtered out, those areas of the brain showed far less activity.

The researchers also found evidence that the tanners appeared to know — on a subconscious level, at least — when they had undergone sham tanning sessions and not received their usual dose of UV rays. The tanners, questioned after each session, expressed less desire to tan after the real sessions, indicating they had gotten their fill. But on days when the tanners were unknowingly deprived of the UV rays, their desire to tan after the session remained as high as it was before the session began.
Where does that leave me? It leaves me poolside battling a new addiction that I am less than comfortable with. Never mind the skin cancer risks…. I’m forty for Shit’s sake. My skin can’t handle the pressure.

And so dear girlfriednds… figuring my Dorsal Striatum has enough to deal with and is already pre-conditioned, you will excuse me if I go upstairs to my room and change out of my Roberto Cavalli caftan and into my shoe shopping outfit…. I hear there is a fabulous outlet mall just a short cab ride away from my hotel that should do just fine to appease my midbrain’s need for addiction….. Screw Disneyworld, my cybersisters…. THAT mall is the happiest place on earth.