By: Tina Davidson
Before my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, I paid more attention to fashion than myelination. Now, Alzheimer’s prevention is always on my mind and fuels most of what I write about and research.
When I think of my grandmother, the word “beautiful” always comes to mind. Not only do I consider her beautiful on the inside, with her generous, gentle, and joyful spirit, but she also always managed to look fabulous on the outside with her hair and make-up done.
I’m skeptical when it comes to applying the chemicals found in hair dyes and make-up to myself. It hasn’t been completely proven that these items are a direct link to Alzheimer’s, but I know my grandmother probably had accumulated many chemicals since she was sitting in a chair at the hair salon on a weekly basis for decades. I don’t think her era was concerned about researching natural beauty products. It was pretty much whatever the department store marketed best. I may never know for sure what brought about my grandmother’s disease or if her affinity for fashion contributed to her decline, but the questions remain: was her dementia due to genetics or environmental factors (including beauty regime).
I can’t do anything about my genetics, but I don’t want to take any chances on the things I have control over when it comes to my health.
Chemicals are Pain to my Brain
Not long ago, I had my hair done on a Sunday at a local salon. It wasn’t regular hours for them and it wasn’t a regular day for me. I was primping for a photo shoot to create my wedding photography work team’s holiday card. I arrived around 10:30 a.m. and left the salon close to 2 p.m.
As I chatted and watched everyone get their hair beautified, I had a sip of a mimosa and inhaled way too much hair spray and dry shampoo (just think of a cloud of baby powderish substance hovering over my head like a word bubble ). My brain began to hurt as I smelled dose after dose of sickly sweet hair spray, but I had no idea what chemicals were irritating my mucus membranes; this was not the best time to run anything thru the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep, as I blogged about previously.
Since it wasn’t the time to be too compulsive, I pushed the thoughts of toxins aside. After all, the dry shampoo was helping me achieve BIG hair.
Indeed, my hair was voluminous.
More tinges of guilt hit as I thought about what was still to come– the face paint, the sparkly dress, and the high-heels to match– all foreign to me. I spend most of my days in jeans, minimalist shoes, and if I remember, I apply Dr. Bronner’s “Naked” organic lip balm. I blend in quite well with the others who don this casual Central Coast style. As the day of glamour went by, I started to have a greater appreciation for the many brides whose wedding day memories I help capture. It is hard work prepping to be in front of the camera all day.
Our lovely and youthful make-up artist advised me to continue my glamorous look and wear make-up every day. I formed a smile with my bright red lips and pushed away the remembrances of all the time I spent researching toxins and the cosmetic industry. My look took on its final transformation with the fake eyelashes.
Who was this person?
Guilt and Your Brain
Throughout the day my brain kept sending me guilty reminders about the toxins linked to the beauty industry. I try to read labels, research, and avoid environmental toxins as much as possible. Sometimes I think my husband wishes I didn’t research food so much– he seems to like living in ignorance of what chemicals are added to his meals.
This year I epically ended See’s Candy and El Pollo Loco (those were just two of the big ones) for our household. And by “ended” I mean we can no longer partake of them because we steer clear of dyes, artificial colors/flavor, and preservatives. Some argue that if you don’t eat food containing these items all the time then you can splurge every once in a while– however, this is not the case with food and chemical sensitivities. You don’t want to mess around with a little here or there. There are some people who are so sensitive that just a little ingested brings on suicidal tendencies. Check out Dr. Doris Rapp’s book, “Is This Your Child? Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies in Children and Adults” for further reading on the subject.
Thankfully, I do not have extreme food/chemical sensitivities. I did justify sitting in poor indoor air quality and slathering my face with what I deemed toxins as it was “just one day” (not enough for bioaccumulation).
When the time came, I slipped into my high-heels shoes that I’d purchased for $5.95 from the Goodwill. I began to regret my frugal choice since I could barely walk without excruciating pain. I thought back to my days of tap dancing in high heels at Christine’s Dance Studio in Orange. How did I do it? In my younger years, I danced and performed without any second thoughts of pain or future foot damage.
Now, thanks to my affinity for research and in particular Katy Bowman’s book, “Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet,” I experienced guilt in my pretty shoes because I knew the damage I was doing to my feet. I felt like a hypocrite but at the same time, scarily, I loved being “glamorized.”
You are What Your Skin Eats
Most likely, I didn’t cause any lasting long term-health effects by putting on a ton of make-up, hair spray, and high-heels one day of the year. (Ok.. I have to admit I actually got dressed up (high-heels, hair, and make-up) twice this past year. Who knows what my record will be for 2015!
In the meantime, I find myself researching make-up companies that don’t use any harsh chemicals or synthetic dyes so I can put on lip-stick and not feel guilty (first world problems of women with brain blogs).
Did you know some natural products contain ground up insects, or carmine, for coloring? There is a whole wave of natural, do-it-yourself, and organic make-up products/sites (some are legit and some just want your money). You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want your products with chemicals, insect juice, or organic botanicals.
What will you be feeding your skin in the new year? Remember to take care of your body’s largest organ.
My initial interest in a smarter approach to beauty was inspired by Paula Begoun’s book, “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me” (2003, 6th edition).
Myelination in the New Year
Perhaps you are reading this and don’t share my struggle with guilt when it comes to wearing un-regulated make-up or shoes that are not recommended by a leading biomechanist.
Maybe you made a resolution for the new year to eat healthier, spend less, or exercise more? Maybe you make this resolution every year and fail.
Focusing on your brain’s process of myelination might be the key to your success this year. Myelination is the process that contributes to the overall health of your central nervous system thanks to the myelin that is wrapped to insulate your brain’s cell networks so they can communicate more efficiently.
I’ve been following Christine Comaford on twitter and recently read her article on Forbes.com, The Truth about How Your Brain Gets Smarter. She states:
Neuroscientists worldwide are increasingly studying myelin and its amazing impact on rapid learning, mastery, neuroplasticity.
Read her article to learn all the details on how to hard wire your brain to create smarter habits. I liked her emphasis on the myelination process and plan to study it as a way to help increase my creativity in the new year.
On the flip side, there is also a process called demyelination where the axons in the central nervous system lose their myelin sheath. Interestingly, demyelination doesn’t cause the dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. Scientists think the dementia is caused by amyloid [Beta] protein deposition and loss of neurons and synapses. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterized by demyelination.
Just like fashion trends, your brain can change– sometimes for the better and, sadly, sometimes for the worst.
I hope you’ll focus on ways to improve your brain, like the myelination process, and use your imagination in the new year!
Happy 2015 and here’s to a healthy central nervous system!
Let me know how you plan on helping your brain stay happy and healthy. Say hello on my facebook page or send me a tweet!
Sources & Interesting Reads:
Friedland, Robert P., and Barbara Krosner. “Managing Alzheimer’s Patients.” Science 282.5397 (1998): 2194. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.