Many of the most common long-term stressors—family illness, recovery after injury, career pressures—often arise without warning and simultaneously. Stress management is particularly valuable if your family has a history of hypertension and other forms of heart disease.
Identify the cause.You may find that your stress arises from something that’s easy to correct. A psychologist can help you define and analyze these stressors, and develop action plans for dealing with them.
Monitor your moods. If you feel stressed during the day, write down what caused it along your thoughts and moods. Again, you may find the cause to be less serious than you first thought.
Make time for yourself at least two or three times a week. Even ten minutes a day of “personal time” can help refresh your mental outlook and slow down your body’s stress response systems. Turn off the phone, spend time alone in your room, exercise, or meditate to your favorite music.
Walk away when you’re angry.Before you react, take time to mentally regroup by counting to 10. Then look at the situation again. Walking or other physical activities will also help you work off steam.
Analyze your schedule. Assess your priorities and delegate whatever tasks you can (e.g., order out dinner after a busy day, share household responsibilities). Eliminate tasks that are “shoulds” but not “musts.”
Set reasonable standards for yourself and others. Don’t expect perfection.
Like the products you use on your fingertips, the nail file you choose can have direct impact on the health and look of your next manicure. We tracked down Manhattan-based nail goddess Jin Soon Choi for even more filing know-how.
ROCK VS. PAPER
With glass and ceramic materials gaining in popularity, what’s really the distinction between these delicate files and the sandpapered norm? “The biggest difference is that emery nail files can’t be sterilized, while ceramic and glass files can be washed and soaked in a liquid solution,” explains Jin, who works backstage with Revlon at Fashion Week. Emery files work faster—conversely, you can’t work with ceramic files as quickly, and they can break easily. “I’m used to using emery nail files because they’re so diverse: size, thickness, degree of grain—so I can select the best one for the nail I’m working with, which ranges from real to fake,” admits Jin. “But because glass and ceramic nail files are the least abrasive, I use them on very thin and weak nails.”
THE GRITTY TRUTH
Emery boards are not all created equal, as grit sizes range from ultra-fine to coarse. “Stick with a grit size of 180 to 280 [the higher, the finer]—it’s best for basic filing and shaping on natural nails,” suggests Jin. Whenever possible, use a long nail file for extra dexterity—mini files are handy for purse touch-ups, but a long nail file is much easier to use. And what about buffing? Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to erase obvious ridges and an uneven surface texture using the first filer you find, but is it doing more harm than good? “If you buff, use the finest grain [900 to 12000 grit size] and rub gently—a hard, coarse-grained buffer will destroy your nails,” advises Jin.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS
“Filing nails one direction to the other used to be the nail school standard, but it’s okay to gently rock back and forth from corner to corner using a very fine-grain nail file,” says Jin. It’s a pressure balance, however, and with too much force you risk splitting the nail at the tip.
“For a square shape, I like to file the tip of the nail first; this establishes the final length of the nail,” explains Jin. “Then I continue on to the edges of the nail to balance out the square.” For a round shape, Jin starts at the sides, gradually segueing to the tip because a round shape nail is more of a gradual taper. “The key is not to rush,” she adds. “If you try to work too fast, you risk removing too much nail material on one side which forces you to remove a matching amount on the other side. Filing nails is not much different from cutting hair.”
- Simplify: Don’t be fooled by cosmetic advertising: Myriad creams, lotions, and potions at the drugstore and cosmetics counter make promises they could never deliver on. (Trust us, all the fancy products in the world will never turn the tide of aging.) Eye creams, for instance, rarely vary in formulation from your basic facial moisturizer. Our recommendation is to keep it simple: All you need is a basic cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and broad-spectrum sunscreen to keep your skin in tip-top shape. Everything else is just dressing.
- Make Sure “Natural” Is Really Natural: Toxic synthetic chemicals are the biggest issue in the beauty industry today, so it pays to hone a keen eye when it comes to examining product labels. For example, it’s counter-intuitive, but unfortunately, the words “natural” and “all-natural” are not regulated labeling terms. Another great resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database site, which rates popular cosmetics and personal-care products with hazard scores on a scale of 0 to 10, depending on their toxicity.
- Say No to Fragrance: A loophole in federal law doesn’t require companies to declare any of the dozens of toxic chemicals that a single product’s fragrance mixture could contain. Artificial fragrances, which frequently contain phthalates, can also trigger allergic reactions and other health problems. Be mindful of the hidden dangers that “fragrance” or “parfum” listed on ingredients labels can pose, and always choose fragrance-free products.
- Choose Nontoxic, Recyclable Packaging: You can never go wrong with glass because it’s recyclable and has no danger of leaching toxins into the product contained within. As far as plastics go, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also known by the recycling code #1, and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), #2, are most frequently accepted by municipal curbside recycling programs and are considered safe; polycarbonate (#7), may leach the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A, or BPA. Polypropylene (#5), another food-safe plastic, is also a good alternative, though less easily recycled. Avoid containers that bear recycling code #3 and the letter “V”, which refers to polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Dubbed “the poison plastic,” PVC poses great environmental and health hazards from manufacture to disposal. In addition to releasing hydrochloric acid, cancer-causing dioxins, and other persistent pollutants into the air, water, and land during its production, PVC also contains additives and chemical stabilizers–such as lead, cadmium, and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (a suspected carcinogen that is known to cause a host of reproductive and developmental defects)–that can leach, flake, or off-gas from the plastic throughout its life.
- Ask How Company Values Stack Up: A skincare company is more than the sum of its products. What about its philosophy and values?
- Choose Organic Beauty and Grooming Products: Organic ingredients are those grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, which is healthier for the planet and healthier for our bodies. Better yet are botanicals grown using biodynamic farming methods, which go beyond organic by emphasizing an even more holistic relationship between the soil, plants, and animals. The USDA National Organic Program has been certifying personal-care products since 2003, and an increasing number of organic skincare products now bear the USDA organic seal. To tell if a product is biodynamic-certified, look for Demeter U.S.A.’s stamp of approval on the label.
- Sidestep the Petrochemicals: Used to make emollients for face cream or found in the form of coal tar for scalp-treatment shampoos, petroleum byproducts can be contaminated by cancer-containing impurities. A nonrenewable and environmentally unfriendly resource, petroleum barely belong in your car, let alone on your skin. Identify it on labels as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin.
- Make Your Own Green Skin Care Treatments: The best way to know exactly what goes into your skincare products? Make your own. Not only will you save money and packaging, but you’ll also get the satisfaction that no preservatives or toxic chemicals were used in the process. You can whip up a simple, effective face mask using little more than bananas and powdered oats, make a antioxidant-rich tomato-and-yogurt cleanser, or create a acne-fighting toner with green tea. And that’s just for starters.
- Stay Beautiful Inside and Out by Being Healthy: You don’t have to resort to a flurry of potions and lotions, chemical peels, or surgical face-lifts to get fresh, glowing skin. Diet and exercise should play vital roles in your skincare regimen, as well. Besides working up a good sweat to keep nutrient-carrying blood circulating throughout your body, be sure to feed yourself plenty of protein, healthy fats (such as omega-3 fish oils or flaxseed oils), complex carbohydrates, and fruit. Drinking six to eight glasses of water is also a boon for flushing out toxins that might otherwise show up on your skin.
- Don’t fall for exotic trends: Every now and then, a bizarre new trend promises to be the magic bullet for all your skin care woes but ends up being downright cruel, whether to you or the planet. The use of human and cow placenta extracts is at the top of our list for being kooky and just plain crazy, especially since they contain a raft of hormones that could potentially result in breast growth in toddlers, breast cancer, and other severe health issues. Another weird practice du jour is the fish pedicure, which involves having dozens of tiny nibbling carp exfoliate your feet in 94-degree Fahrenheit chemical-packed water, a procedure we’re sure is not PETA-approved.