The start of every year should be a joyous occasion—uh, we lived!—but instead we’re suddenly bombarded with news items and press releases about detoxing. Juice cleanses, insanely restrictive diets, more exercise than we’ve ever done in our lives packed into a single week—these are the types of things we face immediately following the new year. Say it with us: No. Fun. At. All.
Instead of suddenly losing our minds in a frenzied attempt to lose the five pounds we gained in between Thanksgiving and New Years, let’s think short-term. Let’s think realistic. We asked four experts—one skin pro, one hair pro, one nail pro, and one yoga pro—what we can do now to make healthier moves and, yes, detox our beat-up bods without being totally ridiculous. One does not simply become yoga-doing, guitar-playing, coffee-sipping Gisele Bündchen overnight, you know.
Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salon and Skincare Collection
“A green juice a day definitely keeps the skin clean and glowing. Eating healthy is obviously good for many things, but if you want glowing skin, it’s more important to have a good diet than you might think. I find that the best skin diet is one that involves eating veggies of different colors for every meal and sipping a green juice every day. There is really no substitute and it works for everyone.
If I have a client who doesn’t eat salad or drink green juices, I direct them to [an organic food store] to buy liquid chlorophyll. It tastes like mint, and it oxygenates and cleans the skin. You’ll see a huge difference in your skin in a matter of days.
You can also try making a detox facial mask at home by mixing one mashed ruby red grapefruit with cooled, cooked oatmeal and a cup of milk. This treatment is loaded with antioxidants, and the grapefruit helps purge toxins to stimulate skin renewal while the oatmeal, which is packed with vital minerals, helps replenish skin and calm inflammation. The milk is dual purpose: the lactic acid exfoliates and it soothes.”
Corey Powell, colorist at Sally Hershberger Los Angeles
“Hair toxicity starts with the elements like smog and air pollution, but water makes a big difference. Your shower has plenty of chlorine in it, and that’s not great for your hair. Styling products and certain shampoos can leave behind toxins in the hair and scalp. Also, if you have a poor diet (lots of fried foods, not enough vegetables or water) or if you’re on medications (like thyroid meds), it can add to toxicity in the body, which most definitely affects the hair.
You can tell your hair is toxic because it lacks elasticity: It’s brittle, lacks flexibility, and just doesn’t bend as easily, or at all. Other signs are dullness and a lack of shine, lots of flyways, and just general lack of softness and manageability.
In order to ‘detox’ your hair, you’ll want to remove the residues and toxins that are causing distress. There are certain shampoos that are great for that, like Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo ($57). Also, if you want to go the natural route, create a detoxifying hair treatment at home by mixing equal parts lemon and aloe vera and smooth it on your hair before you shampoo. It helps to alkalize your hair, which resets [the pH balance].
Also, oil treatments once a week are absolutely vital; they help force toxins out of your hair and replace it with nourishment. Just remember, you need to actually open the cuticle so the hair can receive the nutrients you’re placing on the strands, so work it in with a boar-bristle brush. Then just use the aloe vera and lemon mixture to remove the oil treatment and you’ve got a full hair detox that really works wonders.”
Nadine Abramcyk, cofounder of NYC-based nail salon and boutique tenoverten
“It’s very important to pay attention to the ingredients in your nail polish. The three most dangerous chemicals are formaldehyde, DBP, and toulene, all of which can have a dangerous effect. Formaldehyde is linked to cancer, DBP is unsafe for pregnant women, and toulene can affect the central nervous system. It’s not worth exposing yourself to these toxins for the perfect manicure, especially since there are amazing products that have stripped these ingredients (‘3-free’), all of which can still result in a long-lasting manicure. The most important product in your nail care steps is the base coat since that sits directly on the nail, seeping into the nail bed skin.”
Many people come into nail salons to detox from all of the gel manicure options out there. Some are worse than others, but many over time experience bad, long-term affects on their nail health. The good news is that it can be reversed with good nail care habits. Be sure to have gels removed by a professional so that the process poses the least threat of damage possible to your nails. If removed incorrectly, gels can cause deep ridges in your nails. Secondly, give your nails a breather after removing gels so they can get oxygen. Nails also need air, so avoid putting anything on the nail for at least a week after removing gels.
Another tip is that nail hardeners and neon polish colors often use formaldehyde, so avoid those products when possible. There are some amazing soy-based removers that are much better for your nail health than using acetone remover. Once you realize that you aren’t compromising the quality of your manicure by extracting these chemicals from the process, I promise you’ll never look back.”
Mimi Chen, yoga instructor at Jivamukti Yoga NYC
“There’s never really one definition of toxicity. How I’ve come to understand toxicity is as a stagnation in the body, rooted in a digestive fire that isn’t working properly: the digestive system is sluggish, we’re not moving enough, etc. It manifests as a whole host of disorders and can exhibit in a multitude of different ways, from physical to psychological and anything in between. The process of yoga helps us free ourselves from that stagnation into a healthier, cleaner state by movement.
Ultimately, toxicity starts with a combination of emotions and actions. You may be eating poorly, which creates a physically irritated state, but the reasons behind why you’re eating that way are due to a toxicity of your emotions; you’re out of homeostasis. You have to settle on the root causes of both before the ‘toxins’ can be removed.
Part of looking and feeling good is about avoiding toxic things, so while eating well is vital to the health of the skin and the body, you’ll want to consider removing other harmful things from your life: negative thoughts and people, watching upsetting movies or TV right before bed, taking in harmful energy from the people around you. These things are just as toxic and can cause harm. Otherwise, you’re just going to the mat and doing physical movement without it helping you on a deeper level.
Yoga is an amazing way to wring the body out through movement and sweat, helping to balance the body and mind as well as remove harmful items from the body. If you ask any yoga instructor, they’ll tell you that the best ways to release toxins is through seated twists (Seated Spinal Twists, Side Crow) and standing twists (like Eagle pose). These are all important because they stoke the digestive fire and compress the midsection, so it helps to literally ‘squeeze you out.’ I’d also add seated forward folds, where you’re reaching for your toes and lengthening the spine, like in Cobbler’s pose, and inversions. Going upside down really shakes things up and helps to purify the mind and body.”