What supplements should I take for beautiful skin?

I so wish there was a  nutritional supplement  I could take that would make my skin smooth, soft and radiant.   But the links between beautiful  skin and nutrition are more complex than that.  The NHANES study looked at the relationship between health and diet and found that people whose diets were higher in vitamin C, fiber,  protein and linoleic acid  looked  younger and had fewer wrinkles.  But these benefits  were only there  when  the nutrients were from actual food– not where people took supplements.   I know first hand  how hard it is to find healthy food in a world dominated by burgers, tacos, pizza and take-out chinese food.  At lunchtime, I’ve walked for blocks with a rumbling tummy  trying to find a quick bite that wouldn’t shorten my lifespan.   A multi-vitamin supplement can cover  my dietary shortfalls  but won’t really give me the  juice  I need to slow aging.

That being said there are two nutrients which are  vital to good health but are almost impossible to get the amount we need  just from food alone:

Vitamin D-  Repeated studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are linked  to a wide range of health problems including breast cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.   For years the recommended daily allowance  (RDA)   has been 800  mg./day, about two servings of dairy products.   We can  create  our own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but  our use of sunscreens have actually lowered  vitamin D levels in most Americans.

  A few years ago physicians started  prescribing  vitamin D supplements at a scary 50,000 units/week.  Current recommendations are scaling  back this number to about 3000-6000 units per day.  My recent blood test showed pretty low vitamin D levels but  I hate  BIG pills so I’ve been taking a daily petite gel cap  with 2000 units.  In a few months the  test will be repeated and we’ll see  if these supplements are working.

Calcium– this is arguably  the most important mineral in the body– and we need alot of it. Calcium is essential for strong bones and  teeth. Current recommendations are 1000-12000mg/day for adults and its actually pretty hard to reach that number without  taking in some serously large portions of dairy products.  For example one ounce of cheese has 200 mg, 1/2 cup of  yogurt offers 190mg and 1/2 cup milk clocks in at just 100 mg of calcium.  Reaching  the RDA can be especially difficult for the millions of people who are lactose intolerant.

Calcium supplements usually supply about 1000 mg of  which 400 are actually absorbed.   If you do the math, two ounces of cheese, 1/2 cup milk and a calcium supplement  will get you where you want to go.  However  a single 1000 mg supplement is a pretty big pill to swallow.  Chewable antacids like Tums contain calcium carbonate, one of the most easily absorbed forms of calcium.  Afforadable and convenient,  popping a few Tums during the day  are an easy way to raise your calcium levels to healthy numbers.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium which is why they are often combined  in a single supplement.  I find these large  pills daunting  and  stick to  small  vitamin D gel caps and Tums to  meet my nutritional goals.

Custom-Made Tri-luma for me– and you too

Tri-luma was a popular combination of tretinoin ( the generic name for Retin-A), hydroquinone  to lighten the skin and a medium strength steroid  by the name of flucinolone. The tretinoin  would hasten skin growth and exfoliation to shed darkened skin; the hydroquinone would  decease melanin production and the steroid would avoid redness and swelling from the other two turbo driven ingredients. It worked  well  for my under eye shadows and was the go to-product for brown patches  known as melasma.

It would take  at least three weeks  to see results  for Tri-luma, but when it worked, it WORKED.  You had to be complusive about sunscreen using at least a 30SPF during and after Tri-luma  since  the ingredients increased sun sensitivity to the sun.Then one  day Tri-luma seemed to disappear from pharmacy shelves.    THere was no FDA recall, no  clear statement from the manufacturer.  Nothing.

Then I started hearing rumors  on the web  that specialty  pharmacists could compound it individually for their customers who brought in a  prescription from their dermatologist. I asked my go-to dermatologist Dr Albert Lefkovits  about the idea and he was wonderfully supportive.  It turns out that the   Tri-luma formula was actually  developed by Albert Kligman, considered  by many  to be the father of cosmetic dermatology.

Dr Lefkovits made a slight change  in the Kligman formula substituting a  milder steroid called desononide.  One of the concerns about Tri-luma was  the strong steroid could cause  thinning of the skin and lead  to the development of rosecea.  Using desonide takes down the risk of these problems.

I never had a personally compounded product before  and I was excited to pick it up at Caligor pharmacy in NYC near Bloomingdales.   The small elegant store  had  it ready for me.  Rahter than a tube, the custom compound was in a small jar.  The pharmacist suggested that I keep it in the frig  to maintain potency.  What a good idea. I had noticed that my $300 tube of Tei-luma soon turned yellow and started to small like rotten eggs. 

The strange smell  was due to the deterioration of the sulfite preservative  and was so aunappealing I stopped using  the tube when it was still half full.  Refrigeration will stabilize  the formula so I’m hoping to be able to use it to the last drop.  Oh, and the best part?  My own personal Tri-luma like cream was more than $100 less than  the brand name product. Let the bleaching games begin.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Its Fashion Flash Monday and this week the Glam Gals at Fabulous After 40 are hosting.  What I especially love  about this site is the sense of detail.   For example, stripes are a big trend  for spring, but can be challenging to wear.  Fabulous After 40 found stripes not only  in a range of  tops and dresses, the Glam Gals also showed how to use the look in shoes and bags. This week  Fabulous After 40  explores Missoni style patterns  and showed how to create a long lean line  with this bold pattern.   They even found a Missoni patterned bangle to take  baby steps into this bold look.  Most fashion sites  just show images for beautiful bone thin women in expensive clothing.  Nice  but  not that helpful. Fabulous Over  40 drills down into  every look and style to  explain how to actually use  it in daily life.  The Glam Gals of Fabulous After 40  believe  that fashion is not  just a spectator  sport.  They are committed to blasting  women like me out of their fashion comfort zone and  getting us to enjoy  new  styles and colors.    And don’t forget to sign up  for their free webinar on April 3  that deals with the best ways to  hide  a less than perfect, flat tummy.

And when you’ve finished  reading through all the info packed Fashion Flash sites, check out  The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose.  This  just published novel combines three of my favorite themes– beauty, history, and mystery.  I was hooked at the first scene where Napoleon and his aide  are entering the long lost tomb of an ancient Egyprian perfumer.  Then  the scene jumps to present day New YorK City  where the daughter of the aide is about to become embroiled in  an adventure to  find the long lost fragrance.   The  fast  paced plot blends mythology, reincarnation and a love story that  endures across time.  And at the very satisfying ending, there is another  short chapter that  provides background facts and illustrations behind the novel.  It’s like Harry Potter for women!

Meet the Anti-aging, Antioxidant Beauty Food– Spinach

When I was a child the only spinach I knew was the droopy olive green strands that came in a can.   Then one night I went out to steak house with  my friend Kim and her parents.   I was  thinking only of a juicy filet and hash browns and my heart sank as Kim’s mother also ordered a spinach and bacon salad.   Still cringing I dug  in my fork and pulled out the tinest bit of bacon drenched  leaf.  It was love at first bite. I ate every morsel of that salad and every time I went to a  restaurant I scanned the menu for a similar dish.

But more than delicious and versatile,  spinach  is  a nutritious anti-aging, antioxidant  rock star.  Raw or cooked, its packed with antioxidants like vitamin A ( 168% of RDA), leutin, vitamin C vitamin E, vitamin B6, and  folic acid.  Spinach also packs a payload of anti-aging minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium.  Last but not least spinach is  fat -free, low in carbs and offers both fiber and protein.  Seriously, its that good.

When I first started to cook, spinach with bacon sald was one of the first dishes I mastered.  And like so  many  young brides of the time  I worked  my  way through Julia Child and learned how to saute fresh spinach with olive oil and garlic –  equally delicious without  the calories , fat and salt of  my first spinach favorite.

There are four basic types of spinach in the  markets these days:

1.  Curly spinach– can be a bit tough and its hard to get the dirt and sand out of its grooves.  Its been said that curly spinach  gave this gorgeous green a bad rep for a gritty texture.

2. Flat or smooth spinach– are tender and much easier to clean throughly of all the grit that clings to the leaves.  You can eat the whole thing, but the stem if they are long can be a bit untidy.  I take off half the stems so that the dish  looks  nice and leafy rather than stringy.

3.  Baby spinach– smooth tender  little leaves  are perfect for salds and can be be used in sandwiches in place of lettuce.

4.  Frozen spinach–  these lumpy green blocks preserve the antioxidants beautifully.   They are  an inexpensive  choice  where spinach is an ingredient in a soup, frittata,  quiche or stuffed mushroom.

One final thought.  While on paper spinach is high in both iron and calcium, these anti-aging minerals are in a form that is not easily available to the body. That’s the bad news. The good news? Serving and or cooking spinach with lemon juice or dairy increase absorption for both minerals. Squeezing lemon on sauteed spinach or mixing Greek yogurt into chopped cooked spinach are delicious ways to increase nutritional availability. FYI the antioxidant vitamins are available whether spinach is frozen, raw or cooked. Nice.

Its Anti-Aging Week on Fashion Flash!

This week the host of Fashion Flash is Jackie of Aging Backwards.  What I think makes Jackie unique  is that she looks at the whole self– body, mind and spirit.  Her mission  is to  share ways to have a long  happy life and she does it with  a passion that’s contagious.  Check out her recent posts to learn the stay slim secrets of supermodels  and the best ways to get the anti-aging benefits of fruits and vegetables.

To get the latest anti-aging news make a  date to attend the ” Face to Face” lecture at the 92nd Street Y on March 27 in NYC.  Dr Ellen Marmur, my anti-aging miracle worker, will be sharing her approach to skin care strategies for a radiant, youthful appearance.  From the best and affordable  skin care moisturizers and bleaching creams that you can buy  in drugstores to the latest  high tech  anti aging lasers, Dr Marmur will  give you tools to take  care of your skin safely and affordably.  And  I think the best part of the evening will be the opportunity to  ask her questions.  She has such a seamless  knowledge of anti aging tools and techniques that  her answers are always packed  with useful specific infomation.   For example, when  I wanted to use Retin A for six months and then laser-off  the big freckles, she explained that lasers  work best on darker spots and then I should use the laser first.  Retin A  lightens  irregular  pigments she explained, and the laser will be more effective  if used  when the spots are most prominent.  When my skin healed from the laser ( in about a week)  I could start using Retin A for maximum effect.   To see these results go to my Facebook Fan Page  and click on photos.  

I  will be there on March 27th  and  plan to ask  a question about the difference between serums and moisturizers– besides the price of course.  For more ticket info about the event  you can call  212-415-5500.  I hope to see you there!

What’s Wrong With My Skin?

I get interesting questions every week, but recently a question included a great  photo.  A women I’ll call Tracy (she asked that her identity stayed private)  asked me  for a recommendation for dry,  red flaking skin around  her eyes.  She had already tried washing with baby shampoo and applied both vasaline and Gold Bond and nothing seemed to help.  To get the best answer I went to  New York dermatologist, Dr Albert Lefkovits  to take a look.While its not really possible to make an absolute diagnosis  from a  photo, Dr L came back with an impressive comment

The online diagnosis? Not simple dry skin, but   Contact dermatitis,  caused by something Tracy was using in her personal care.  Most likely culprit  was nail polish  or a  shampoo  with ingredients that  her skin found unfriendly.  Tracy did not want to use steroid cream, so the good doctor  suggested that she wash the skin with Cetaphil  and apply a room temperature compress made of equal parts of water and  milk.  The lactic acid inthe milk will gently lift the flaky skin and reduce inflammation.  She was to use  the compresses  for 3-5 minutes,  3X a day. 

Dr Lefkovits said that its  also important for  Tracy to try to identify  what is causing her problems.  She should stop using her regular  skin and hair care products for a few days and then re- introduce them one at a time.   If the flakiness continues, Tracy needed to go to a dermatologist for a closer  look– and a prescription  for a mild steroid cream.

Tract found that the dry skin patches  was spreading and decided to see  a doctor in her community.  She confirmed that it was dermatitis and prescribed – wait  for  it- a mild steroid cream.   In addition, Tracy was told to apply Aquaphor at night over the steroid.  In a few days  it cleared up.  She still hasn’t  figured out what  caused  the problem, but she’s  glad it’s under control and she  has an effective remedy  if  it returns.  The take away here is  that  not all dry  skin problems are the same.

Do you have a skin or hair problem that refuses to go away?   Send  me a photo and I’ll try to get some answers for  you.  When it comes to beauty, the truth is out there.

Bella Contour- A Fat Buster that Really Works

I have to admit that I’m naturally skeptical about machines that claim  to promote weight  loss and reduce inches.  Maybe it was the Jack Lalanne  gyms that I went to with my Mom.  We stood there while we were jiggled with belts or massaged with what looked like large pink rolling pins.  It was a nice mother-daughter bonding time, but we never lost an ounce.

I’ve turned down most offers  of body shaping but when Dr Albert Lefkovits, one of my all time favorite physicians asked me  to try  his new Bella Contour machine, I couldn’t say no.   This is the dermatologist who picked up my diabetes from subtle skin changes and if  he thought this machine had merit , I was in.

Bella Contour is a non-invasive body shaping treatment that uses a combination of ultrasound and electrical currents.  It vibrates the fat  cells to empty them and then the lymph system drains the fat away.  It is approved by the FDA for cellulite reduction and best of all, it doesn’t hurt. It can be used on hips, stomach area,  and thighs.

To get started I stripped down to  my bra and panties and was carefully photographed and measured.  We decided to focus on my waist, diaphragm,  and belly area.  This is where I keep my fat that seems resistant  to diet and exerrcise.  During the hour long treatment,  I felt a bit of tingling and some  warmth– but absolutely no discomfort.  So far, so good, but did it work?

The tape measure showed a loss of 1/2-3/4 inch in each of the three target areas.   But are these numbers significant?  When I got dressed the nurse and I stared at each other  in amazement at the very loose waistband  of my  pants.  In fact the changes in body contouring were so  significant that my once ankle length skinny pants, now were puddling at my feet.   My before and after pix were equally impressive, but I’m not going to post pix in  my underwear no matter how  cool they are. Bella Contour delievered on its promise and the change  is permanent– as long as I don’t gain weight. 

Bella Contour is best if you’ve got specific areas of extra fat and are not significantly overweight.  Its also terriffic for new Moms to get back  to their prepregnancy shapes — a great  “push present.” Dr Lefkovits recommends 3-5 treatments for maximum results.  Bella Contour is painless and effective and I’m going back  for more.  Its that good.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

This week Geri of Fab Over 50 is hosting Fashion Flash.  What other site  has giveaways that include weekend vacations to beautiful resorts,  group  product testing that yields real answers  and a panal of stylists that offer their individual opinions on the same  outfit?  I am also a huge fan of FOF  personal stories which recently included  the sobering tale of a successful decorator  who through a series of  financial mishaps found herself  homeless.  You don’t have to be over 50 to love this site!

I am not ashamed to  admit that I am a foodie.  I love trying new restaurants, collecting collecting cookbooks  and  finding the best  brie in the neighborhood.  But when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had to change  the way I cooked and ate.   Simply eliminating salt, fat and sugar from a standard recipe often  produced something that just was not worth eating.    I am  always looking for  great healthy cookbooks, but usually I end up disappointed. 

When I started  thumbing through 5 Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking by Camilla  Saulsbury, I quickly became hooked.  With more than 500  pages that feature 500 recipes, ths big book includes breakfasts, salads, meats and vegetables.  Her awesome chapter on soups that offers more than 40 vegetable- packed options  is alone worth the price of the  book. 

Rather than relying on fat and sugar for texture and flavor,  “5 Easy”  adds layers of taste with seasonings  like  Asian garlic chile sauce, brown rice syrup, smoked paprika and fresh mint.   I tried three recipes– Minestrone with kale soup, greek shrimp with feta and mint  and green beans with ginger.  Not only are they healthy and delicious, the ingredients were  affordable and easy to prepare. 

The authors’ background is both unusual and impressive. Camilla Saulsbury  has been a recipe developer, cooking instructor  and a Top Chef winner ( for cookies for all things).  She is equally passionate about health  and is  a  lisenced personal   trainer certified  by both the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and  a certified Pilates instructor.   5 Easy Steps  to Healthy Cooking published by Robert Rose of  Toronto  now has a permanent  spot in my kitchen.

The Beauty of Artichokes

With spring just weeks away, the vegestable stands are piled high with perfect green artichokes.  These round petaled beauties are one  of the oldest cultivated vegetables.  For centuries most Europeans viewed green foods as poisonous but arichokes were already popular in 15th century Italy and France. In the 19th century,  European immigrants brought them to Northern California  where they flourished in the cool, foggy climate.

I love artichokes and was delighted to learn   they are nutritional superstars.  Rich in vitamin C ( the anti-wrinkle vitamin) folacin, and magnesium, a big beautiful artichoke has just 60 calories.  But   their real  payload is fiber with  one whole artichoke clocking in at 6.5 grams of fiber at  just 60 calories.  Awesome!  By comparison, 1/2 cup of cooked beans has more than  triple  the calories ( 150) for the same amount of fiber.

Raw artichokes are salt free,  fat free and super low in calories– so its a pity that many recipes  drench  them in butter and cheese.  I devour steamed artichokes with a mustard  yogurt dip, add a box of frozen artichokes  halves to sauteed chicken and  of course, toss them into a big salad.  Currently my favorite way to eat artichokes is a great recipe from a new cookbook  5 Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking by Camilla Saulsbury.  I’m doing a full review of her  book  on Monday, but here is one of the recipes that made me such a fan.

Prevencal Chicken Orzo Salad

Ingredients:  1 cup whole what orzo, 1 jar  of marinated artichoke hearts, 3 cups diced cooked chicken breast, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, 1/2 cup black olives, chopped, 1/4 cup raisins, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tsp Dijon mustard

Instructions:  In a large pot of water cook the orzo according to directions.  Drain, rinse and cool.  Drain artichoke hearts and reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade.  Roughly chop the artichoke hearts and add to orzo along with chicken, olives, tomatoes and raisins.  In a small bowl wisk together reserved marinade vinegar and mustard.  Add to orzo mixture and toss gently.

The whole what pasta and artichokes  deliver fiber and vitamins.  The olives  provide  heart healthy mono-unsaturated fat, the chicken constributes low fat protein and the cherry tomatoes bring in more vitamin C and and  cancer fighting leutin.  At  just 236 calories per serving, you will walk away from the table  healthy and satisfied.

Invisalign- Visible Results After Just Six Weeks

I was really looking forward to my six week appointment with Invisalign.  I had gone through three sets of aligners and  felt a definate change in my bite.  The first set of aligners were super easy to wear.  Not only were they totally comfortable, they kept me from snacking.  Without aligners, I would  reach for a random cookie or chunk of cheese– but with Invisalign eating even one bite meant taking it out, scarfing down the food,  a trip to the sink to brush my teeth and replacing the aligner.  Few foods now seem worth the trouble.  I also noticed that my teeth were much whiter  because I could not drink tea and coffee while wearing Invisalign.  Cutting back on  my 5-6 cups of tea and coffee certainly kept  my smile  brighter. 

The second pair of  aligners were  pretty snug.  And walking in cold windy weather seemed to make them feel even tighter.   I was a little concerned that things were going to get tougher but the next two sets  were as comfortable as the first one.

Dr Jackie started this visit by announcing she was going to  make me look like Madonna.  I wondered what she meant.  Would I get blonde wavy hair?  Skinny arms?  Then I got it.  Dr Jackie   treated my teeth with IPR or Interproximal Reduction.  IPR is an important of most Invisalign treatment plans.  Using a rotating disk Dr Jackie recontoured my teeth to create a  tiny  bit of extra space between my teeth and reshape them for better alignment.   It’s a much less invasive and expensive option than extracting 4-6 teeth entirely.

In addition to having an  overbite on top and crooked teeth on the bottom, my teeth had a masculine, awkward shape. ( Top photo) My teeth were significantly wider at the bottom than the top and lets face it you can’t line up two slanting lines.  By rounding off jagged  and boxy edges, IPR made  my teeth prettier and more feminine. ( Bottom photo)  In less than a week, the space has closed up as the teeth moved naturally into a better position.

When I started Invisalign, I just wanted to reduce the overbite.  The subtle reshaping that is part of  the Invisalign program is such a welcome bonus.  So far, Invisalign has exceeded  my expectations.