10/13/2015 12:10 EDT | Updated 10/13/2016 05:12 EDT

Why I Started Seeking Natural Alternatives to Anti-Aging Treatments

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USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Portrait of senior woman applying moisturizer

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see my client, physiologist and sports television commentator Dr. Greg Wells, who offered me a glass of wine. I asked for a small pour and told him that if I have more than one glass of red wine, I feel as though I've had 10, and wondered aloud if I had developed an allergy.

"No, it's the chemicals," he said. "There are chemicals in everything now and our bodies can have adverse reactions to them. That's why you feel drunk after a glass of red."

Have you noticed how many people now have sensitivities and allergies? Sometimes they're food-borne, sometimes booze-borne and sometimes chemicals are concentrated in the personal care products we use. The vast majority of commercial grooming products, including skin care, consist of mostly water and chemicals. In fact, most of these mass-produced personal care products are made by chemical companies and the chemicals in their products can cause reactions in us like the red wine caused a reaction in me.

Obsessed with aging

When I turned 40, my body started to do weird things. Hair growth patterns started to change, my energy levels changed, and most notably, my skin changed. Aging is a part of life but it can be shocking and disconcerting, so much so that people resort to all kinds of odd things to stave off wrinkles.

According to Victoria Sherrow in For Appearance' Sake, the Elizabethans laid raw meat on the face to minimize wrinkles, ancient Egyptians used oil of fenugreek on wrinkled skin, and a face cream made with pulverized pearl, jade and ginseng was developed in China at the turn of the last century to keep wrinkles and sagging skin at bay.

These may seem strange to the modern reader, but we resort to even stranger practices to stave off the visible signs of aging. To achieve unwrinkled skin, some people inject food poison bacteria into their face; we do chemical peels that make our skin burn and increase our sensitivity to sunlight, and we continue to invest in commercial creams and lotions that claim to reverse aging, but just leave us with that much less money in our pockets. We've been whipped up into a beauty and youth-obsessed frenzy.

I`m certainly not going to judge anyone for wanting to retain their youth, but I believe there have to be better options like natural, effective, cruelty-free alternatives to costly and possibly dodgy chemical concoctions.

Facial acupuncture

Facial acupuncture is an uncommon practice and requires extra accreditation. Compared to injectable facial cosmetics, facial rejuvenation acupuncture is a non-toxic method of reducing wrinkles and signs of aging, and you won't look wax-faced. I made an appointment to see Dr. Hilary Booth, naturopathic doctor at Toronto's Darou Wellness to check out the procedure. Dr. Booth's literature states that "this treatment promotes a more youthful, glowing appearance by encouraging natural collagen production, increased circulation and improved skin elasticity... and is noticeable after your first visit." Indeed, my skin was noticeably smoother, tighter and spongier after my first visit.

But like injectable cosmetics and facial fillers, the acupuncture is not permanent, nor is it cheap. The first acupuncture treatment ($200) lasts a mere 24 to 72 hours (I was sad to see my chin droop after a couple of days). After that, Dr. Booth recommends patients come in for one to two shorter treatments per week ($130 per treatment) for four to six weeks, then wean down to twice a month, then maintenance once a month.

Like all treatments, needs and results will vary from person to person, skin condition to skin condition, and age, but some form of maintenance will have to continue. If a person came in with deeply-lined skin and did the full facial acupuncture treatment and monthly maintenance for a year, they would pay around $3,250. Less than a full round of injectables, effective, non-toxic, and no side effects.

The facial acupunture treatment was actually quite gentle; Dr. Booth says that some of her clients choose the acupuncture for relaxation instead of a massage. Apparently, men do better with the facial acupuncture because their skin is thicker than women's (which explains why men don't have the tiny wrinkles that women get). Men also don't experience the loss of collagen like aging and post-menopausal women do, so they're already in better shape than we are when it comes to visible aging.

Skin care: Your first line of defence

A few years ago, I had a chance meeting with David Brooke, a partner at Skin Essence, an organic Canadian skin care company. David scheduled a demonstration of his products with me and I learned that Skin Essence products are cruelty-free, completely organic and made of natural extracts, oils and minerals, as well as free of all parabens, carcinogens and sodium lauryl sulfate (chemicals often found in drug store personal care products). Skin Essence products are stored in tinted glass bottles to protect from UV light damage (as opposed to plastic containers which can leach chemicals into products), and their packaging is completely recyclable. They do specific products for dry, sensitive and aging skin.

I've tried it and I like it. In fact, my skin has greatly improved over time while using their products. For a woman over 40, this is good news, but what about the gents? One of my environmentally conscious clients started using the eye serum and facial moisturizer and he says he feels like a movie star every day.

Skin Essence is one of a number of organic Canadian skin care lines (also see organic, handmade Belmondo and Seaflora, a skin care line that uses seaweed as its main ingredient) that help to grow the green economy and keep our skin in good shape.

For people thinking of moving over to the natural side of skin care, be aware that organics and natural products are not quick-fix and they may take longer to show results. Also be aware that natural skin care tends to be costlier than drug store brands, and that's because you're paying for purity, not fillers.

We've been conditioned to expect instant gratification, but with natural stuff, good things come to those who wait. No side effects either.

Note: All parties in this piece have given their consent to be mentioned/quoted.


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