Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seth's Beauty Secrets Revealed!

My wife fears this post. Perhaps she just doesn't want me to expose my beauty secrets. Perhaps she just doesn't want me to expose my vanity. Perhaps she fears what my friends call "Seth's femininity." That phrase has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Seth's Femininity.

Of course, my friends do not use this exact phrase. What my friends do call me, say, when I pop out of the bathroom wearing a yogurt mask, or when I sport my short swimsuit on the beach, or when I show up at the bar, my hair slicked with avocado butter, is unmentionable. Perhaps this is what my wife fears: the ammunition I might be giving my friends right now, as I type.

I'm thinking, specifically, of Brad Kramer; of Cogan, Jacquette, and Charlie, of Matt Prince, also known by his ring name, The Wifebeater--the guys who went on the yearly "all guy" fishing trip this weekend. I missed the trip. I've missed it every year. This year, I had dinner plans: for my wife and our mutual friend, Kelly--a woman we met on Myspace and, until last night, had never actually met in person. She came over with her daughter, Amelia. We had a lovely, gentle evening. A far cry, I'm sure, from the scene on that boat: six or seven guys out to sea, curses and testosterone flying, the waves slamming against the prow. The very thought of it drives me to Dramamine.

So let's just make a little pact: If you see one of the guys, please do not mention this post. I'll never hear the end of it.

Yogurt mask!

I adore yogurt masks! Since discovering yogurt masks, in January, I've applied one or two to my face every day, and, let me tell you: My complexion has never been better! My skin is smooth and, for the first time in my life, blemish-free.

Regular readers might remember my post: What This Hideous Rash on my Face Taught Me. I talked about a rash--what I had thought was seborrheic dermatitis. Taking steroids to treat that rash, I inadvertently created another problem: perioral dermatitis--an angry, hard-to-treat red rash seething around my nose and mouth. It lasted three months, and it seriously undermined my sense of self-confidence.

When faced with a health challenge, I read every bit of information available on-line and in print. (Hypochondria? Or supreme attentiveness?) What I learned about POD, as it's so referred to by the woman who suffer it (women suffer POD in much greater numbers than men), is that it's often a result of skin sensitivities. On my favored message board, Earth Clinic, many people suggested a simple cure for POD: Don't do anything. Don't use any soap. Don't use anything. Maybe just a little apple cider vinegar. Or yogurt.

Now I had been using Mychelle Dermacueticals for years with great success. I trusted these plant-based products. (Still do). And yet, I spent about $25-$30 a month on my skin and I was still having major problems. So I stopped. I stopped washing my face. I stopped everything. I haven't touched one skin-care product in six months. Except yogurt.

I now spend maybe $2 a week on skin care. I slather yogurt on my face everyday; sometimes, I slather it on my body. I believe anyone could benefit form this mask--it's gentle, yet effective. Milk has been used for thousands of years as a skin softener and nourishing agent; and the good bacteria in yogurt fight the bad bacteria that cause blemishes. Simple, right?

Try it. I think you'll love it!

Seth's Yogurt Mask
I add probiotics to the yogurt to amplify the effects of the good bacteria. Full-fat yogurt is best. And Greek yogurt is a must--other, less thick yogurts, sort of just slide off your face. This recipe is good for a week's supply.

1 7 oz. container Fage Total Yogurt (full fat Greek Yogurt is best)
1-2 probiotic capsules, such as Primal Defense Ultra

Place yogurt in a small bowl or Pyrex container. Empty probiotic capsules into yogurt and stir to combine. Refrigerate. Lasts about two weeks.


I LOVE sunbathing, and I truly believe safe sun exposure is one of the best things you can do for your inner and outer beauty. I know this is a contentious subject. Sunbathing is a leading cause of skin cancer. More to the point of this post, sunbathing causes wrinkles.

First, to the people who deny any benefit from sun exposure, let me ask you a question: Have you ever heard of photosynthesis? It's an obnoxious question, I know, but seriously, how could the very object that gives life to everything on earth be inherently harmful to humans?

The answer is complicated. Because, really, the sun can be very harmful to humans. The sun is powerful. I think we all know what Walt Whitman is talking about when he writes, "Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me."

That's why safe sun exposure makes sense. The point in sunbathing is to NOT burn; the point is to color, slowly. Sunburn looks atrocious and is atrocious for your health.

But what about a suntan? How could something that makes you feel and look good be inherently bad? The second part of that Whitman quote is telling: "If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me."

What is he talking about if not a suntan?

The benefits of safe sun-exposure are supported by a valid scientific point: Vitamin D, absorbed from the sun, is a major factor in almost every health process. Most people in this country are vitamin D deficient--and some worry that, in fact, the real problem behind our excessive cancer rates is lack of vitamin D.

Optimizing my vitamin D levels has enabled me to maintain what my doctors have assumed is impossible: As a type-1 diabetic, I've sustained my "honeymoon period" for six years. Nothing--nothing--has improved my health over the years more than optimizing my vitamin D levels.

What does the National Cancer Institute recommend? Sunscreen. Yet sunscreen blocks vitamin-D absorption. Also, most sunscreens contain toxic ingredients. And, in recommending sunscreen for sun exposure, the NCI makes no distinction between toxic and non-toxic sunscreens. The rationale, of course, is that any sunscreen is better than sun exposure. Nonsense! This, to me, is malpractice.

Suntans look beautiful. We desperately need Vitamin D. Yet, sun exposure certainly causes wrinkles, and might even be responsible for an increase in cancer. What to do?

I like Dr. Mercola's advice. He makes interesting and common-sense points. For example, photo-aging is essentially a process of oxidation: the body's skin cells dying. We know one of the best ways to fight the process of oxidation is by consuming antioxidants, like those found in summer's fruits and vegetables: fresh blueberries, tomatoes, and greens. So, if you're out in the sun, make sure you're consuming plenty of fresh, preferably local, fruits and vegetables.

If you live in Philly, just stop at the farmer's market for some fresh Jersey blueberries on your way down the Shore. I urge you to read Dr. Mercola's report on sun exposure. It might be the best thing you do for your health.

My wife!

The picture above was taken at a little boutique in Brigantine. I popped in on Karen in the dressing-room and she mugged for the camera. The sultry expression on her face is almost completely at odds with the mischievousness in her heart. As usual, whenever Karen and I hang out, we were trying to make each other laugh.

There's something else about this picture, though, something, to me, that defines my wife's beauty. Karen suffers from psoriasis. Perhaps you remember commercial: The heartbreak of psoriasis. Each summer, as the world sheds its clothes, and I adopt my new, revealing, summer outfit--tank-top and short shorts--my wife experiences a crisis of confidence. She desperately wants to wear her own tank-top, her own short shorts, but she worries about exposure.

What will people think of her psoriasis?

Happily, she gets over it. And this is always an event for both us. Somehow, each summer, Karen decides, anew, to expose herself. She sports her tank-top, revealing what it may. And here's the beauty, to me: Her skin suddenly exposed, I hardly notice Karen's psoriasis. I notice her light, yet determined expression.

This is true beauty: taking what you got, accepting it, owning it, flaunting it, celebrating it.

This is why the very term "beauty regime" is so absurd: "regime" implies regimentation, rules. Celebration is impulsive, anarchic, and goofy.

To wear a tank-top: this is nothing to me. To my wife, it's a triumph. And I adore her for it. I adore her strength, her willingness to not take herself so seriously.

This, to me, is beauty.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tu Fu's "By the Winding River"

This is from Kenneth Rexroth's wonderful book of translations, One Hundred Poems From the Chinese. I keep the book around like a talisman, and take it out when I feel lonesome. Something about Tu Fu, the way he celebrates sadness--something about his joyful melancholy speaks to me, especially now, as I struggle to maintain my health in the face of illness.

I've discovered that my illness speaks, if I let it. What does my illness say? It issues a challenge: to live, even as I feel death; to try, as hard as I can, to feel joy--a joy that maintains sadness, even as it yearns to for happiness.

By the Winding River

Every day on the way home from
My office I pawn another
Of my Spring clothes. Every day
I come home from the river bank
Drunk. Everywhere I go, I owe
Money for wine. History
Records few men who have lived to be
Seventy. I watch the yellow
Butterflies drink deep of the
Flowers, and the dragonflies
Dipping the surface of the
Water again and again.
I cry out to the Spring wind,
And the light and the passing hours.
We enjoy life such a little
While, why should men cross each other?

~Tu Fu