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In Part 1 of our article on breathing, we discussed why most of us suck at this oh-so-vital part of our lives and the negative consequences it’s likely having on our health. Now, we look at what we can do about it.

So, How Do I Breathe Properly?
A good place to start is to make breathing a conscious action (at least occasionally!). We need to be aware, first of all, of how we breathe and, on the back of that, what we can do breathe better.
For most of us, the problem is that we breathe from our chest, rather than our abdomen. We need to learn to breathe more deeply, bringing our diaphragm into play and pulling more air into our lungs.
There are all sorts of breathing techniques which will help us do this (sooo many books and videos on this topic, should you care to look for them!), but like any new skill, it’s best to start with the basics and work from there. Here’s an easy-to-follow, 5-minute breathing exercise that we can all benefit from:

* To begin, lie down on a blanket or rug, legs straight and slightly apart, arms relaxed at the sides, palms facing the air. Alternatively, sit up straight, back upright and spine lengthened.

* Once comfortable, make a conscious effort to breathe through the nose, mouth closed. This allows the tiny hairs and the mucus membranes in the nose to do their job and filter out dust and toxins, something which simply doesn’t happen if we breathe through our mouths.

* Inhale deeply, making sure that the abdomen rises along with the chest, as though the stomach is a balloon filling with air.

* Retain the breath, even if for only a second. Properly performed, even brief retention of breath provides profound therapeutic benefits to every organ, gland and functional system in the body. In actual breathing exercises, breath retention for 3-4 seconds helps slow down heartbeat, reduce blood pressure, and trigger cellular respiration.

* After inhaling for 3 to 4 seconds, exhale slowly for up to 7 to 8 seconds (it may take a while to get the hang of this, so just go with what you can, initially), ensuring as much air as possible is released. Repeat for approximately five minutes, remaining completely relaxed and engaged in the simple process of breathing properly.

After a while, this kind of breathing will not only seem natural to you but will bring with it a sharp increase in your sense of vitality and wellbeing. You’ll become more conscious of how you should be breathing, you’ll start to fix your posture (less slouching in front of your computer or on your sofa is a good thing!), and you’ll be better equipped to handle stress.

Given time, you might also choose to discover more advanced breathing techniques, or even take up yoga, which places a great deal of focus on proper breathing and the benefits it can provide. Yoga is, in fact, integrally linked with the yogic science of Pranayama. Prānāyām is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the prāṇ or breath” or, “extension of the life force”.
Breathing. It’s something we do a lot. It makes sense then, that we should do it well.

Breathing. It’s one of the few things that all of us who are interested in the business of living must do. And we do it a lot.
16 breaths per minute, on average. That 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 a day, 8,409,600 a year and 672,768,000 breaths over the course of an average lifetime.
You’d think, with all that practice, that we’d be good at it. But we’re not. When it comes to breathing, most of us are hopeless and it’s making us sick.

How Come We Suck at Breathing?
Our modern lifestyle has a lot to do with it. Stress is a constant factor and a lot of us spend our days busily sitting still. We park up at our desks, hunch over our computers, and take short, sharp sips of breath as we try to navigate a path through our work and our personal lives.
Even worse, we breathe unconsciously. With so much else to think about, something which takes so little effort and absolutely no thought is to be celebrated. We can put it to one side, not worry about it.
Trouble is, proper, healthy breathing requires conscious effort.

Why Does Poor Breathing Contribute to Poor Health?
Most of us only use one third of our natural lung capacity. Instead of using our diaphragms as our main breathing muscle, we rely on the weaker intercostal muscles in our rib cage. The result is that we breathe too shallow and too quick. We’re not drinking in the amount of oxygen that we should and we’re not ridding ourselves of sufficient carbon dioxide.
And so we become subject to ill health. Starved of oxygen, which is vital for the production of energy and for the maintenance of healthy cells, our bodies experience a toxic build-up. This not only reduces our levels of vitality, but also lowers our ability to resist disease. As a result, we become susceptible to a whole host of problems, including fatigue, chest and back pain, sleep disorders and stomach upsets, whilst other conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and hypertension can be exacerbated.
If we want to protect ourselves against ill health (and that’s a given for all of us), then proper, conscious breathing is a good place to start. In Part 2 of this article, we look at exactly how we can go about this.

In our short series on the art of eye maintenance, we’ve looked at how we can exercise our eyes to keep them working like they should and discussed how diet plays a role in keeping them healthy.

Now, we get to the really good part. How, exactly, can we keep our eyes looking beautiful?

Let’s start with what we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t pickle the skin around the eyes with toxic chemicals, that’s what! And yet, this is exactly what we do, mainly because they’re found in a lot of eye creams and moisturizers, as well as most of the eye makeup currently on the market.

We need to stop. These chemicals can lead to a variety of conditions ranging from red, scaly eyelids to serious long-term health conditions. Benzalkonium chloride, for example (otherwise known as BAK) is well documented to be toxic to the epithelial cells of the eyes, which not only help protect the eyes from environmental irritants but also help them absorb and distribute nutrients. Given that BAK is a preservative commonly found in eyeliner, mascara, and makeup remover, this is a major concern. Likewise, ingredients that have been linked to cancer like formaldehyde, parabens, and retinyl acetate are still found in too many eye products.

In the end, we have a choice when it comes to the products we use to enhance our eyes. Either we learn about the ingredients that are linked to detrimental effects to our health (and slavishly read every single ingredient list we come across), or we buy natural and organic eye products.

The second option is undoubtedly easier, especially since a number of great organic eye creams are now on the market, as well as an increasing number of natural makeup products for our eyes.

At The Organic Skin Co. we strive to create makeup that not only helps you look good but which is also good for you and your skin. That means, in the place of toxic chemicals, we use super-hydrating, skin nourishing ingredients like organic castor oil (check out our The Eyes Have It range) and organic aloe vera (which you’ll find in both our eyeliners and our mascara). And we also make extensive use of replenishing, regenerative supercritical extracts in all our eye products, to add a real splash of goodness (these extracts are what makes our Meet the Press range so good).

And the really, really good news? The addition of these ingredients doesn’t come at the expense of color payoff or efficacy. Our eye products deliver everything you need to get the look you want, with the added benefit that they care for your skin at the same time.

So, if it’s beautiful eyes you’re looking for, it pays to think natural!

In Part 1 of our series on eye health and beauty, we looked at how we can exercise our eyes, to give them the best chance of functioning like they should. In Part 2, we examine the importance of diet.

Eat the Right Foods

We all know how important our diet is if we want to keep our weight down or even care for our skin, but eating the right foods also plays a role in eye health. Here’s some important nutrients and supplements we should (haha!) keep an eye out for:

  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin are important nutrients that help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. They can be found in green vegetables like kale and spinach, as well as in eggs and oranges
  • Vitamin C is similarly important for our eyes, especially when it comes to supporting the health of blood vessels in the eye. Grapefruit juice can be a good choice here, although vegetables like broccoli, green and red peppers and leafy greens are a better bet if you are looking to minimize your sugar intake (but remember – when it comes to fruit and vegetables, and particularly those where you eat the skin, eat organic if you can, to minimise exposure to chemical pesticides!).
  • A number of studies have shown that Vitamin E plays a positive role in improving vision. This is because it protects eye cells from unstable molecules called free radicals, which break down healthy eye tissue. Nuts, avocado and spinach are all good sources of Vitamin E.
  • Essential fatty acids, which can be found in fish or walnuts, can help preserve vision, as well as relieving dry eye and chronic inflammation of the eyelids.
  • Zinc has been shown to protect against macular degeneration and night blindness. Good food sources of zinc include oysters and other seafood, beef, eggs, black-eyed peas, tofu and wheat germ.
  • And finally, it seems mom knew a thing or two after all! Beta-carotene really is good for our eyes. Our bodies transform it into Vitamin A and this helps with night vision and sensitivity to light. We all know it can be found in carrots, but other sources include spinach, broccoli, raspberries, and apricots.

 

Oh, and what about foods we should avoid? Are there any types of food that can actively damage our eyes? Sadly, the answer is yes. In particular, studies have shown that diets high in sugar, polyunsaturated fats, and even salt, can harm our eyes. If you really want to care for your eyes (and your general health, in truth), then try to reduce your consumption of fried foods, soft drinks, sugary sauces, processed meats, and ready meals.

In the end, it’s all about common sense. Eat well for your wellbeing. Eat well for your eyes.

Unless we’re having a really bad spelling day, there’s no ‘i’ in beauty. But there’s certainly a lot of beauty in the eye. Studies show that our eyes are the first thing someone looks at when measuring how attractive we are, whether they can trust us, or want us as a mate.

Putting aside for one moment any thoughts about just how shallow that makes us, what this small truth says is this: if we care about how we look and how others see us, as well as our general eye health, then we need to take care of our eyes, inside and out.

In all, there are 3 key areas we should attend to if we want to keep our eyes healthy and looking good. In Part 1 of this article, we look at how we can exercise our eyes, so that they’ve got a chance to function like they should.

The 20/20/20 Rule for Eye Health

As impossible as it might seem, for hundreds of thousands of years we got by without staring for hours on end at a mobile phone or a television. During this time, our eyes developed to work in a certain way, never focused for too long on one thing, always moving between the close up and the far away.

Now though, things are different. Because, technology. Mobile phones, laptops, televisions, gaming consoles. We spend our lives staring at screens for work and pleasure. And the problem with that? Eye strain, that’s what, as well as its consequences, which include dry eyes, headaches, deteriorating vision, and neck, back and shoulder pain.

Like the rest of our body, our eyes need exercise. And they’re simply not getting it; not if we spend most of our day locked into our mobile phone or our laptop. Time then, to start exercising.

The best place to start is with the 20/20/20 rule, which involves giving our eyes a break every 20 minutes. We need to drag them away from our screens (honestly, it’s possible!) and focus on another object roughly 20 feet away, for 20 seconds, before going back to whatever close-up activity we were doing. This will not only give our eyes the exercise they need, but also help them relax and lessen strain.

Every hour or so, we should also get up from our desk or sofa and go stand by a window filled with natural light, or even head outside for 5 minutes. This helps give our eyes a real break, especially if, as we soak in the world around us (something that’s good for our soul, as well as our vision), we make a conscious effort to exercise our eyes by focusing on objects that are near to us, then far away.

We should all remember though, if we’re out in the sunlight for an extended time, to wear sunglasses with polarized lenses. Sunlight can be good for us in small doses (Vitamin D, baby!) but prolonged exposure to UV rays can harm our eyesight and has been linked to conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.