Whole Living Daily

Natural Beauty Gurus: The 10 Questions I Always Ask

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Name: Jill Blakeway
Occupation: Acupuncturist and herbalist, founder of the Yin Ova Center
Location: New York City

Who is your beauty inspiration? I'm inspired by older women who embrace their age authentically and aren't trying to look like they did when they were 20. Our faces get more interesting as we get older and I think people who have lived their lives passionately look wonderful in their sixties and seventies. Dame Helen Mirren is aging beautifully and I admire her for not succumbing to the over-botoxed look, which is so popular in her industry. Gloria Steinem, who has always advocated a more realistic body image, looks stunning in her seventies and Jane Goodall has a radiance that I think reflects a life spent making a difference.

What product/ treatment/ beauty indulgence do you spend the most on? I'm happy to spend more on natural skin care products because the skin is the body's largest organ and it absorbs what is applied to it. I don't want my skin to absorb parabens, sulfites, or any petroleum-derived chemicals, and I believe that repeated exposure to industrial chemicals is contributing to many of the health issues I see every day in my clinic. My mother died of breast cancer so I took notice, in 2004, when the "Journal of Applied Toxicology" published a study called Concentrations of Parabens in Human Breast Tumors where researchers looked at breast tumors and found parabens in 18 of the 20 samples. It is the first time parabens were detected within tumors, suggesting that chemicals accumulate in the breast tissue and are being absorbed through the skin. Natural products cost a bit more and have a shorter shelf life but they are so much better for your skin and for your general health. My favorite skin care products are designed by holistic aesthetician Evan Healy and are very reasonably priced for a skin care line that is plant based and made from certified organic ingredients.

What do you spend the least on? My life is very hectic so I prefer a beauty regimen that I can follow on the run. For that reason I rarely get a facial or any other kind of spa treatment.

What does age mean to you? I'm 47 and have enjoyed my forties much more than I thought I would. In fact, I feel as if my life took off at 40 because I became less fearful and less likely to be paralyzed by self-doubt. I'm more inclined to do what I think is right and less inclined to worry about what other people think of me. The confidence that aging gave me has meant that in the last seven years I've built a thriving alternative medicine clinic and written two books (one is coming out in 2012). I have much more I'd like to do and I feel as if I'm just hitting my stride so I'm anticipating my fifties with relish. If you base your self-worth on looking youthful then aging can be very painful, but if you value yourself for what you can contribute then aging means that you have more experience and more compassion which makes you a more useful member of society.

What's the most interesting thing you have learned about skin/ hair/ nails/ beauty this year? Like many women in their forties my skin is getting drier. External moisturizers help, but as an herbalist I wanted to find an internal solution as well. In Chinese medicine dryness is caused by lack of yin and we all lose yin as we age. So I made myself a concoction of yin-nourishing herbs and found my skin responded immediately by becoming more supple and hydrated.

What's the one thing you do (not product based) that you think affects your appearance more than anything else? I garden, which means I get to spend a lot of time outdoors, and I grow my own vegetables -- both of which have had a positive effect on my appearance. Having a plentiful and cheap supply of organic vegetables has noticeably affected my skin. The work I've done in my garden this summer has made me feel strong and alive.

Why naturals? My friend Penelope Jagessar Chaffer really opened my eyes to how much pollution our bodies take in through our skin. Penny is an award-winning film maker and activist who has spent the past few years working on a documentary called Toxic Baby which will be released next year. The film explores what happens to a baby in the uterus when a pregnant woman is exposed to the kind of chemical cocktail, which is quite routine in our society. What she found was truly frightening and led her to pose the question, “Are we raising the most polluted generation in the history of the planet?” Penny has had a huge influence on the kinds of beauty products I'm willing to use, and this was the year I finally understood the importance of reducing toxic overload and switched completely to natural cosmetics.

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