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Follow our journey as we build Puristics, a new brand of anti-aging skin care without harsh chemicals. For us, the past 3 years have been filled with "aha" moments as we educate consumers about label literacy - knowing the ingredients in your beauty products, since harsh chemicals can end up on your skin. We welcome you to learn from our experiences both as businesswomen and busy moms, and please share your own stories, too!

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Link between formaldehyde exposure and asthma in kids

An article in the March edition of Environmental Health Perspectives (vol. 118, #3) describes a study done which demonstrates a link between formaldehyde exposure and asthma in children.  For me, the mention of formaldehyde brings to mind high school biology class and the dissection of fetal pigs.  Surely, that finite exposure couldn’t have caused asthma in me or in my child (both of us have mild, manageable asthma).  However, formaldehyde is a staple chemical in the manufacturing industry and may be present in nursery furniture, carpeting or clothing.  Maybe it leached out of our household furnishings?  I’ll never really know.  The article admits that there were several limitations to the study, but we should not dismiss the larger point.  We are constantly and unknowingly exposing ourselves and our children to potentially harmful chemicals all the time.  We don’t always know where the threat is until we look in the rearview mirror.  I could choose to live in fear and make myself crazy.  Instead, I’m choosing to make changes that are within my control so when I discover all of the unknowns someday, the net effect won’t be that bad.  Maybe my past choices have lead to asthma and Crohn’s disease in my children, maybe not.  I won’t obsess about it but I will keep reading articles and labels and get rid of the offending toxins as I discover them.  What do you think?  Are these bits of news helpful guidance or just scary?  Let me know.

Link between formaldehyde exposure & asthma in children


I'll be your guinea pig!

Now that the weather in the Northeast is starting to perk up and feel a bit more like Spring, I’ve realized that I might actually shed my turtlenecks for short sleeves - - someday, maybe.  To that end, I’ve been thinking about changes that I can make in my personal care product choices for the warmer weather.  A change here and a change there will lead bit by bit to a healthier me, I hope (particularly if I add more treadmill miles and deduct a few cookies!).  I’ve been using our Puristics products as they come straight off the lab benches, and I’m incredibly excited about sharing them with everyone.  Because, Puristics doesn’t have products for every type of personal care need yet, I needed to do some research to find more ways of removing potentially harmful chemicals from my “get ready for summer” routine.  I test drove 3 types of products and am sharing my findings with you.

Change:  Switched from a national brand anti-perspirant/deodorant to an aluminum free, natural product.

Result:  Different but worth it.  I missed the “anti-perspirant” benefit (from the aluminum) during occasional stressful moments, but the deodorant seems to be functioning just fine.  And, it might not be a bad thing to let my body tell me when the stress response is kicking in, though it’s an adjustment.  Incidentally, my 12 year old daughter’s science class has been creating personal care products from natural ingredients this semester (she says her nail polish is a failure), and she told me that the aluminum is the ingredient that gives you those lovely yellow pit stains on white shirts.   If that’s true, I might be able to save a few of my white shirts this summer just by changing to a natural deodorant.

Change:  Tried “sugaring” or body sugar (natural, in-home process similar to waxing) instead of a chemical depilatory for my forearms and bikini area.

Result:  Definitely worth it.  The discomfort is the same as it would be for waxing at a salon, but the in-home set-up was more convenient.  Compared to a chemical depilatory, there’s no contest.  It’s no more difficult to use and is clearly less toxic.  There were no fumes, my skin didn’t become irritated, bumpy and itchy after use, and I knew that I wasn’t killing off hair with chemicals. 

Change:  Tried “less toxic” nail polish.

Result:  One brand wouldn’t stay on my nails at all.  The second brand performed great (No Miss), but I’m still confused by the category offerings.  I’m not sure, in the end, if the brand I chose was any better than the brand available in the salon (which it turned out also claimed to be free from formaldehyde, DBP and toluene).  This will take more investigating and shopping around, but I definitely think it’s worth the work so please check some out on your own and let me know.  Of course, the other big nasty in a pedicure is everything that goes on in a nail salon.  I truly would like to find a way to fix my “runner’s feet” without harmful chemicals in any part of the process.  So far though, my home pedicuring talent would give only a pre-schooler competition.

Finally, a somewhat separate and unrelated beef . . . . I reached for a new brand of hair conditioner this morning and noticed a “100% natural” claim in a bullseye on the front of the bottle.  Looking closer, I saw that the 100% natural referred only to 2 ingredients - - the complete ingredient list had plenty of nasties in it!  You would think I’d be better at checking out labels by now.  I hope you’ll help me as I continue to search for better solutions in the personal care space and elsewhere.  I promise to pass on helpful information as I come across it as well.  If we all make small, simple changes bit by bit, we’re sure to do better for ourselves, our families and our futures.


Compressing morbidity through skin lotion?

 I was watching a short video I took last summer of my kids trying to explain how I spend my days (  Next time, I’ll have to let them know that I’m going to ask questions before I turn the camera on and make sure they’re not eating donuts - - proof positive that I’m a real human being living in the real world who lets her kids have occasional treats!  This was over 6 months ago and while we’ve made a lot of progress with the business since then, the essence hasn’t changed since the kids explained it, somewhat ineloquently.  My older daughter said it best when she said “you’re all about compressing morbidity” (a line I borrowed from Dr. Andrew Weil’s books).  She’s right.  I plan to be healthy until the bitter end (so avoid the donuts, right?!).  

If you haven’t seen it, check out Patty James’ list of 52 things to do for a healthier year (add one per week, I guess). She’s a health and nutrition professional with lots of good, common sense.  Even though 52 is a tidy number when making plans for the year, it’s far more than I can contemplate at any one time.  As I said in my last post, simple changes, made one by one are the way to go for me.  I’ve made the following changes in the last year in order to take bite-sized pieces out of my own list and to “compress my morbidity”.   Maybe some will work for you.

  1. I drink a lot of water.  My refillable water bottle goes everywhere with me, and I always fill with tap water.  Hopefully, I’ve finally gotten bottles that are truly “BPA free”.
  2. I don’t go to sleep without washing my face and putting on my night cream and eye cream
  3. I eat 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day (including spinach at breakfast - - a topic for another post).  Try it for a while.  You’ll be amazed at how good you feel and how infrequently you’ll get sick.
  4. I try to “do cardio” 5 days a week.  A struggle at first, but now, it’s become a necessary part of maintaining both my physical and mental well-being.  I sign up for races so that I can put my competitive streak to work by giving myself a goal.  When I lose my temper, the kids inevitably say, “I guess Mom didn’t run today”
  5. I drink a little coffee and a little wine (probably a bit too much of the former and not enough of the latter if the experts are to be believed)
  6. I know my BMI and cholesterol levels and get a mammogram and pelvic ultrasound each year (my mom had ovarian cancer)
  7. I start every day on my terms:  spending 20 minutes each morning by myself, with my own thoughts before the rest of the world intrudes (definitely try this one)
  8. I floss daily (working on the Listerine business teaches you a thing or 2 about gum disease).    

So what’s left on my list for this year?

  1. I drive too fast.  Even though I joke that the speed signs are targets and I like to exceed expectations, I really need to slow it down
  2. I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like.  This is the glaring weakness in my nutrition plan
  3. I don’t lock my cell phone away while I’m driving.  I think I’m going to take Oprah’s “no cell zone” pledge.
  4. I don’t sleep enough.   Maybe I’ll get a full 8 when the kids are grown, and I retire.
  5. I say “yes” to too many people.  Hopefully, some of those people are reading and will help me out on this one.

And now my big, recent failure . . .while I’m spending my days trying to find ways to create great personal care products that don’t contain potentially harmful chemicals, I reached for the most potent (maybe noxious) thing I could find when my daughter was sent home from school with head lice this week (at least a third of her school was affected).  I’ll research the best path forward after I get these tiny bugs out of our lives.

That’s what’s worked for me and what I’ll be working on in 2010.  If you have any tips to pass on, please do.  Are there any ingredients or activities you’re trying to live with or live without?  Let me know.


It’s the dead of winter and freezing cold here in the Northeast.  Every year at this time, I do a post-mortem on the prior year and particularly the recent holiday season.  (I’m a type A and a Leo, o.k??)  I’ve been making small changes for myself and my family throughout the year in order to be just a bit healthier and to leave a slightly smaller footprint on our planet (tall order for a woman who wears a size 11 shoe!).  During the holidays, I struggled with the pros and cons of e-shopping (is the carbon footprint of the shipping a reasonable trade-off for not spending hours in my car going from store to store in search of the perfect gifts?), the indulgent food consumed and offered to others, the lack of exercise and the general waste disguised as a showing of love to my friends and family.  If I eliminated Christmas celebrations and donated all the money to charity, how would my family and friends react?  Teenagers seem to understand generosity in a theoretical rather than personal sense.   Ultimately, I celebrated Christmas in much the same way as I do every year but made small, manageable choices to try to reduce the insanity and waste and to improve the total holiday experience.  It seemed to work, and next year, I’ll make a few more small changes (copious amounts of butter, however, will remain a constant in my holiday cooking).

“Make small changes” is my new mantra.  I have lofty goals for 2010 but I’ve broken them down into small pieces - - small changes that I can make day by day.  This morning, I spent 10 minutes taking my name off the mailing list for catalogs (  I can see all the items on the web and don’t really need the printed catalog.  I’ve also started holding a particular friend in my thoughts each day.  Over the year, I’ll cycle through all my friends, some a few times, and I know it will help me to strengthen my friendship connections, reestablish lapsed connections and maybe even make someone else feel good from time to time. 

I won’t win a Nobel Prize, live off the grid, or personally mend the hole in the ozone layer.  But I know my small, manageable changes will add to a better future for me, my family and the planet.  Small steps, taken one by one - - very little pain but a lot to gain.


Welcome... let's get started.

I’m a talker.  I always have been.  So it’s been really tough to keep quiet about the work we’ve been doing at Scerene Healthcare this year.  Bob (my co-founder) and I started working at our kitchen tables a little over a year ago, and I’ve had to be relatively quiet the whole time.  Well, we’ve finally reached the point where I can introduce myself and Scerene Healthcare so that we can begin a proper conversation. 

While this blog will be about our business, trends I see in the marketplace, interesting topics in the news, it’s always going to come through me.  So I think it’s important that you know a bit about me so that you can read the blog, gather the information and draw the right conclusions for you and your family.  I also want to hear from you and learn what changes you’re making for yourself and others in your life. 

First and foremost, I’m a mom.  I have 4 children aged 17, 14 and 12 (times 2).  I’m a working mom so even though my kids are the most important part of my world, I don’t have time to sweat absolutely every detail in our lives.  I want to make the right changes in our home, but they can’t be really difficult ones.  My awareness of environmental concerns, chemical hazards and issues in our food supply has grown slowly and steadily over the years.  I was raised with all the usual processed foods and “modern” technology products but have become increasingly focused on what I eat, what I feed to my children, what we put on our bodies and what we’re doing to the planet (read Michael Pollan if you want an eye-opening view of our food supply).  Out of this growing awareness came a desire to do something about it.  Luckily, both my co-founder Bob and I have years of experience developing products and marketing brands so we knew some people who knew some people who could help us get started. 

And now, here we are - -at the start.  We’re about to launch a new brand of personal care products that are every bit as effective as the “big brand names” you know.  But our products are free from harmful chemicals.  We’ve made them all very effective and very pure.  We also made our creams and lotions feel very similar to the ones you’ve used in the past - - no strange smells, oily separations or suspicious colors.  We didn’t think you should have to compromise to switch to a product that is as pure as it can be.  We haven’t shipped our products yet (soon!), so some of the exciting news has to wait.  Until then, follow the blog to follow our development path and read about all the things I continue to learn along the way.  I’ll blog about hot topics in the healthy living space, share some of the ways that I’m trying to make changes and maybe share with you some of the challenges I face getting teenagers to change their ways.  For all you new moms, lay down the healthy habits early.  It’s got to be easier to change a face on Mount Rushmore than it is to get a teenager to make healthier choices!

Thanks for reading.  I hope to hear from you.

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