My après-work wind-down beverage isn’t a clichéd ad man’s whisky or a female founder’s chardonnay. It’s something that’s perhaps slightly less elegant, but—I’d contend—is just as satisfying: lemon-flavoured sparkling water. And it’s also the go-to beverage for many millennials like me.

In 2022, more than 1 billion U.S. dollars in sales of sparkling water were projected for Canada. That’s more than Canadians typically spend on sparkling wine each year, and potentially an explanation for the decrease in the country’s pop sales, compared to just under a decade ago.

LaCroix is, arguably, the trendiest and most popular flavoured sparkling water brand in Canada. (And yes, the company pronounces their brand name as “la croy,” which is maddening for anyone who has studied French.) Despite having been founded back in the 1980s (in La Crosse, Wisconsin, near the St. Croix River), the brand did not come to Canada until 2017, following a brand resurgence stateside.

Bubly, by PepsiCo, was launched in 2018 with the Canadian crooner Michael Bublé as a brand spokesman. Around the same time, the more traditional, green-glass brands Perrier and San Pellegrino soon came out with two new flavours of their popular fizzy waters (in 2017 and 2018, respectively). Then there’s Aha by Coca-Cola, which just launched in 2020. But no matter the brand, the offering is the same: seltzer with hints of a simple fruity flavour, made with zero calories and zero sugar.

These beverages have a suspiciously short list of very pronounceable ingredients, and they’re also a refreshing non-alcoholic drink option, which is alluring to the sober-by-choice set and anyone looking to cut back. (Which, it needs to be said, should be more of us than ever, now that the newest Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, encourage Canadians to limit their alcohol consumption  to two drinks a week or less.) In other words, now’s the best time to swap your bubbly for Bubly—or any of the many options on the market today.

As the empties pile up in the blue bin, though, it’s hard not to wonder whether this much sparkling water can possibly be as healthy, low-calorie and guilt-free as we’d like to believe. Is it too good to be true? We asked Tracey Frimpong, a registered dietitian in Toronto, to help us determine whether this theory holds, er, water.

The verdict on still versus sparkling

Carbonated water is just as hydrating—it can contribute to your daily recommended amount of H2O, says Frimpong. And “there is no evidence to say that carbonated water is unhealthy,” she says. “Carbonated water is similar to having a glass of water with your meal, which, as dietitians, we promote, since it’s important for overall health.” It’s definitely the healthier option when comparing it to other drinks, like pop, wine and juice, which can be high in sugars, sodium, calories and even saturated fats.

Seltzer has a similar nutritional profile to flat or still water, although it can contain some sodium to boost its taste. Frimpong says the sodium levels are not typically a big cause for concern. “One can or bottle of carbonated water may contain less than 100 mg of sodium,” she says—this is equivalent to about a dozen Kettle Brand potato chips. (This amount is even okay for those who have hypertension and must follow a DASH or low-sodium diet, she says.)

LaCroix and Bubly contain zero sodium, and Perrier’s sparkling waters contain a very minimal amount. San Pellegrino’s sparkling water, called Essenza, contains just 10 mg per 330 mL can, and AHA contains 5 mg per 355 mL can—the same amount in about half of a single kettle chip. (Cans of club soda are usually about 75 mg.)

When shopping for carbonated water, be on the lookout for posers in equally attractive packaging. There are many new trendy cans on store shelves that look like fruity bubbly water (they’re delicious, and often infused with buzzy ingredients like collagen and adaptogens), but are actually just made with carbonated water, so they could also contain a fair amount of sugar. If you’re looking to reduce your sugar intake, particularly if you’re living with diabetes, Frimpong says it’s best to avoid these.

Watch your daily dose

Frimpong recommends having just one or two servings a day. Sparkling water contains carbon dioxide, and when that meets saliva, it transforms into carbonic acid and lowers the pH level of your mouth—which can be somewhat erosive to teeth (more on that below).

Speaking of carbon dioxide: There’s a big misconception that carbonated water, which is acidic, can cause ulcers or change your blood pH. Again, not a concern: “If there is too much carbon dioxide in the body, our lungs and kidneys filter out the excess,” says Frimpong.

Mind the ingredient list

Flavoured sparkling water typically includes “natural flavours,” a term with a definition that’s actually a little murky. We know that natural flavours are obtained from natural essences or extracts such as fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, but they could also include preservatives and other additives. This doesn’t necessarily make natural flavours a concern, we just don’t know enough about them yet.

Another question stems from a 2020 Consumer Reports analysis that found many carbonated beverages contain “measurable amounts of PFAS,” which stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are synthetic chemicals added to tons of products (like non-stick pans) and they’ve been found to affect the body’s natural hormone production and potentially contribute to cancer. Frimpong isn’t raising the alarm, though. “One study is not able to provide enough direction in terms of consumption of PFAS,” she says. She points out that the Consumer Reports study was what’s called “simple testing,” which means it was executed by researchers who may not have been formally trained, and therefore may not be accurate.

Factor in burps and bloating

“Any carbonated beverage is capable of causing bloating and gas because carbon dioxide is in the digestive tract,” says Frimpong. This could be particularly unappealing for people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as it can increase the amount of gas, causing discomfort and even pain in the abdominal area.

You may also notice an increase in burps or hiccups while consuming sparkling water. Frimpong says the carbonation can also help keep things moving, which might be uncomfortable, but is ultimately good for your system.

A drink that boosts digestive health? Can’t get more millennial than that.

Consider your teeth

Good news: Carbonated water isn’t as bad for your teeth as you may think, says Toronto dentist Deirdre Denis. Compared to pop, sparkling water is minimally erosive, and it doesn’t contain sugar, which causes tooth decay.

Denis explains that your can of fizzy water is made by adding pressurized carbon dioxide into water, which does make seltzer somewhat acidic. “It would be logical to assume that more acid means more erosion to enamel and damage to teeth,” says Denis. “However, research shows that the average pH of nine different brands of sparkling water has an average pH of 4.5, which is less than other carbonated beverages.” (Flat or still water has a pH of 6.5-8.5, on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as a neutral midpoint.)

It’s true that the citrus flavours of seltzer will have a higher acidic level than non-citrus, says Denis. That doesn’t mean you have to choose a sub-par flavour (back off, cranberry), but you might opt for a reusable straw if you’re consuming multiple cans a day.

Drinking plenty of normal old tap water will also help, says Denis. In fact, increasing your daily intake of water helps keep teeth and gums healthy, as it moistens your mouth and helps flush down gunk and bacteria. If you have fluoridated water, that’s even better, says Denis, as it can help fight against cavities.

Denis also recommends using an enamel-strengthening toothpaste and going for routine dental check-ups and cleanings.

Next: Is Drinking Your Greens as Healthy as Eating Them?

Sleep Products Sound Machine

A Sound Machine & Sunrise Alarm Clock

First things first: Replace your jarring phone alarm with this all-in-one gadget. At night, it’s a sound machine and meditation guide to help you fall asleep fast, and in the a.m., it’s a gentle alarm clock that uses gradual light to mimic a sunrise and help you wake up naturally. Best of all, it keeps your phone out of the bedroom—which means you’ll be less likely to start (and end) the day with doomscrolling.

Hatch Restore, from $179, bedbathandbeyond.ca 

Sleep Products Tea

Calming Tea

Ease yourself into bed by sipping a soothing tea. This nighttime variety pack by Canadian brand Firebelly includes a mint tea blend for relaxation, a ginger blend to tame post-meal digestive woes and a lemon-chamomile blend to encourage calmness.

Downers Variety Pack, $20, firebellytea.ca

Sleep Products Bath Salts

Soothing Bath Salts

Pour a scoop of these Himalayan crystal salts into the tub and ditch the day’s stress. Studies show that a steamy bath can help promote mindfulness (as long as you can keep the tech away from the tub), relax the body, boost blood circulation and aid healing.

Odacité Mood Cleansing Ayurvedic Bath Soak, $37, nordstrom.ca

Sleep Products Pillows

The Perfect Pillow

Side sleepers, back sleepers, stomach sleepers, unite. This pillow is filled with pieces of memory foam that can be scooped out for just the right height and level of softness or firmness, depending on how you like to sleep. The cover is machine washable and easy slips off on laundry day.

Customizable Pillow, $85, endy.com

Sleep Products Sheets

Cool and Crisp Sheets

Made in Portugal, this duvet set by Canadian company Envello is cut from cotton percale, a luxurious weave that feels delightfully cool and crisp. We love that the materials are sourced responsibly and made without potentially harmful chemicals, and the set is delivered in recyclable packaging.

Dottie Duvet Set, starting at $200, envello.com

Sleep Products Cbd Gummies

Cannabis Gummies

Pop one of these soft gummies, which come in fruity flavours like blue raspberry, sour cherry and watermelon lemonade, when you need to mellow out. Formulated with a cannabis blend of 10mg CBD and 1mg THC in each chew, they’ll help you relax.

Sunshower Fruit Stand Variety Pack 10:1 Soft Chews, $13, ocs.ca

Sleep Products Knix Pjs

Soft & Warm PJs

You’ll reach for these PJs from Toronto-based Knix night after night. They’re made from super-soft, eco-friendly Modal fabric that’s warm but breathable (Hi, hot flashes). The fabric is also wrinkle-proof and pilling-resistant, so it can be worn for years to come.

Sleep Top, $65, Sleep Pant, $65, knix.ca

Sleep Products Eye Mask

A Light Shield

Sleep masks may be a glam bedtime accessory, but they help you get a good night’s sleep, too. Darkness cues the body to produce melatonin, the natural hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm. Any light exposure can impede that process, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. A sleep mask creates the dark environment your body needs.

Detox Mode Sleep Mask, $36, thedetoxmarket.ca

Next: How to Stop Committing Sleep Sabotage

Two drinks per week. That’s the maximum number that the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction now recommends adults consume to avoid “negative alcohol consequences.” And by consequences, they do not mean merely hangovers. It’s actually extremely dire: Drink and your risk for developing all kinds of cancers (head and neck, stomach, pancreatic, liver, colorectal and, most significantly for women, breast) increases, as does your risk for heart disease and liver cirrhosis.

But hold on. Let that sink in. Two drinks. Per week. In 2011, the guidelines for low-risk drinking allowed 10 drinks total per week for women, recommending no more than two a day (and up to three a day for men). How did we go from it being generally acceptable to knock back a bit of booze several times a week—especially healthy red wine!—to…this?

Let’s be clear: we’ve known that alcohol is bad for our health for decades. The World Health Organization sounded the alarm way back in 1988, when it declared alcohol a Group 1 carcinogen. And the research linking alcohol to breast cancer in particular is indisputable. More than 100 studies over several decades have consistently reaffirmed it. But up until about 20 years ago, most research on alcohol’s effects focused on men. Now, as women approach equality in terms of drinking habits (hooray?), scientists are learning more about the unequal damage that booze causes to our bodies. Women generally have five percent less body water, which dissolves alcohol, than men of the same weight. That means the same number of drinks leads them to have higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood, and their body tissues are exposed to more alcohol per drink. The result? Women get sicker from alcohol faster. Booze also cumulatively increases the level of estrogen in a woman’s body, which prompts faster cell division in the breast, which over time can lead to mutations and potentially tumors.

OK, so…what do we mean by one drink?

What matters is how much pure alcohol you’re ingesting, and it varies based on the concentration of alcohol (or APV— alcohol per volume) in a beverage. Canada defines one standard drink as having 13.45 grams of pure alcohol, which means:

  • 5 oz. for wine (12% ABV)
  • 12 oz. for beer or cider (5% ABV)*
  • 1.5 oz. for a shot of spirits, neat or in a cocktail (40% ABV)

Is it all bad news?

Uh, yes: the numbers don’t lie:

  • Three to six drinks per week increases your risk of developing certain cancers, including breast cancer and colon, and if you have more than seven drinks per week, your risk of heart disease, several more types of cancer and liver cirrhosis, among other illnesses, exponentially increases.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimates that for every drink consumed daily, women’s risk of developing breast cancer goes up 7 percent. This means that if you’re a one-drink-a-day imbiber, your risk is 7 percent higher than a complete teetotaler. If you’re a two-drinks-a-day person, your risk is 14 percent higher.
  • Just a drink or two a day may be just as hard on your health as binge drinking. New research by the IARC shows that one out of seven of newly diagnosed cancers in 2020 were linked to light to moderate alcohol consumption.
  • Women are more likely to drink to cope—as opposed to drinking for pleasure—than men, according to several studies. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, of which women bore the brunt with job loss and child-care pressures, has only exacerbated these trends. For women in mid-life, the problem can sometimes snowball, coinciding with marriage strain, increasing care for elders, kids moving out or careers slowing down.
  • One American study found alcohol-related visits to the emergency room from 2006 to 2014 increased by 47 percent overall, with the rate for females increasing at 5.3 percent annually (versus 4 percent annually for men).
  • A 2020 study from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. revealed that while men continue to die at higher overall rates from alcohol, alcohol-related death rates grew by 85 percent for women between 1999 and 2017, compared to men’s 35 percent increase during that same period. Researchers also found that alcohol-related death rates in women were highest for those ages 55 to 64, followed closely by those ages 45 to 54.

But the data also allow us to make informed, intentional choices about when, if and how much we choose to drink. And the low-to-zero-alcohol options on grocery shelves keep getting better. Take, for example, the non-alcoholic beers and the alcohol-free wines now available.

Next: Not Drinking Alcohol? No Problem. Add These Drinks to Your Bar Cart

When my two toddlers had itchy rashes on their chests, my doctor diagnosed eczema. The cure: no more bubble baths, and plenty of thick, perfume-free moisturizer. “The best thing you can use is good old Vaseline,” she said.

Doctors like mine have been recommending petroleum jelly (also called petrolatum) for more than 100 years. In the 1850s, chemist Robert Chesebrough started the process of distilling and cleaning the thick gel found on oil wells. By 1870, Vaseline was being sold in the United States.

In industry, petrolatum acts as a lubricant for machinery. Today, we also use it to relieve diaper rash, heal raw noses and soothe chapped lips. (Some people also use it as a sexual lubricant, but it weakens latex condoms.) It’s also an ingredi­ent in a variety of moisturizing products. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a U.S. non-profit organization that does environmental and safety studies, says there’s petrolatum in one out of every 14 cosmetic products on the market, including 15 percent of lipsticks and 40 percent of baby lotions and oils. Plus, it’s used as an active ingredi­ent for healing cuts and burns.

So why are a host of new cosmetic products—many of them organic or natural—promoting themselves as “petrolatum free”? It raises a host of questions: Is petrolatum safe? Should we only be buying products that are petrolatum-free?

Is petrolatum safe?

Health Canada considers petrolatum non-toxic. As for the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA), a trade organization that consults with the government on ingredients, its stand is that “it’s pretty much as universally safe as any substance could possibly be,” says spokesperson Mike Patton. However, the EWG gives it a “moderate hazard” safety rating and says cosmetics that use petrolatum need more study for safety.

Why? The EWG says—and governments and the CCTFA acknowledge—there is a risk of contamination from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cancer-causing chemicals found in crude oil and its by-products. While no studies have ever shown a direct link between petrolatum and cancer, the European Union put numerous grades of petrolatum on a list of dangerous substances. Only highly refined petrolatum can be used in cosmetics there. It’s for these reasons that the David Suzuki Foundation includes petrolatum on its Dirty Dozen list of cosmetic ingredients. But how much do you need to worry?

Petrolatum use in Canada

Petrolatum used in cosmetic and personal care products sold in Canada is also a highly refined grade and must meet all of the standards set by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), including limits for PAHs. Petrolatum used as an active ingredient in over-the-counter drugs goes through even stricter regulatory control.

Is there a chance toxins could be missed during processing and testing? Companies that produce petrolatum products say no. “Our personal care products are tested and meet all of the safety and regulatory requirements as set by Health Canada,” says Paul Hughes, technical manager for Unilever Canada, maker of Vaseline. “Some people are creating fear among consumers by telling only part of the story.”

Does petrolatum heal skin?

While some beauty companies are promoting petrolatum alternatives, other manufacturers swear by its ability to moisturize and heal. Petrolatum seals off the skin from water and air, and “it allows the skin to heal itself,” says Calgary pharmacist Skip Gibson. He’s vice-president of sales and marketing for George’s Special Dry Skin Cream, a petroleum jelly-based cream that he helped create.

“Petroleum jelly is the most effective moisturizer available,” says Vancouver dermatologist Dr. Richard Thomas. “The reduction in water loss makes it easier for the epidermis to continue normal function.”

Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, a Toronto-based dermatologist and skin allergy expert agrees with the efficacy of petroleum jelly. In her 2018 book, Beyond Soap, she writes: “I’ve seen studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of everything from plain old Vaseline to sunflower oil.” She includes a list of recommended moisturizers for babies and children, which includes, in addition to Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and sunflower oil, suggestions like Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, and more.

But there is a potential downside to the effectiveness of petroleum jelly. A study that was published in Pediatrics in 2000 found that extremely-low-birth-weight infants treated with petroleum jelly were more likely to develop systemic candidiasis; it created a warm, moist place for fungi to grow. “Sometimes you want the skin to breathe more,” says Celeste Lutrario, vice president of research and development for Burt’s Bees, which does not use petrolatum in its products. She says petrolatum is an occlusive barrier, locking in moisture—but it does not allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmos­phere. For example, lip balms with petrolatum and other petrochemicals can be less moisturizing than those with emollients that enable moisture exchange, contends Lutrario.

Is there an environmental impact?

Petrolatum comes from crude oil, and as such is not a renewable resource. Of course, the volume of the ingredients in one jar of petroleum jelly or a bottle of body moisturizer doesn’t come close to that used to fuel cars or run fac­tories. Still, Health Canada is still investigating the environmental impact of petrolatum in cosmetics.

Concern for our planet and its resources is another reason why some companies are using oils from coconuts, sunflowers and olives in the formulation of their products. But these oils have an environmental footprint, too: They come from farmland, potentially displacing food crops.

Alternatives to petrolatum in cosmetics are more expensive and trickier to formulate. Right now, petrolatum is cheap, plentiful and generally safe, and it mixes up easily in the lab to create the products we use every day—it’s not going anywhere soon.

Next: Why You Might Want to Stop Using Beauty Products With Talc

Shopping for coffee can be a daunting task. Most of us just want something tasty that perks us up on dark winter mornings, but not only are you picking between roasts, flavours, brands and format (whole bean vs. pre-ground, the eternal question), there are also ecological considerations. Because coffee is one of the biggest tradable commodities in the world, the environmental footprint is massive, and how it’s farmed really matters. This is why deciphering ecolabels is important.

Coffea arabica, one of the main (and original) species of coffee cultivated, is native to Ethiopia, and has typically been grown within rainforests, shaded by the tree canopy. More recently, however, farmers worldwide have switched over to cultivating species that can be grown in the sun, like Coffea canephora, or robusta. These varieties are more resistant to crop-killing diseases and produce more coffee. It has been estimated that about three-quarters of the world’s coffee is no longer shade-grown. More than 2.5 million acres of forest have been permanently cleared in Central America to make way for coffee farms, contributing to deforestation. This causes soil erosion, threatens biodiversity and tropical forest animal habitats and contributes to climate change.

To pick products that are sustainably and ethically sourced, look for coffee brands with ecolabels on their packaging. Sometimes, consumers are rightfully skeptical of companies’ self-declared claims, but ecolabels really do help us verify before we buy. Also called standards or certifications, an ecolabel “is a visible sign from some independent organization that a particular coffee producer or batch of coffee has followed an independently created set of rules or standards that are designed to reduce their environmental impact,” says Hamish van der Ven, an assistant professor of sustainable business management of natural resources at the University of British Columbia.

Of course, ecolabels aren’t perfect. There is such a large amount of coffee grown around the world, and operations can span continents and oceans (like a Canadian roaster sourcing beans from Ethiopia), that sometimes it’s impossible for auditors to spot everything.

At the end of the day, however, “looking for a third-party certification is still better than no certification,” says van der Ven.

Here are a few commonly found ecolabels and what they mean.

Bird Friendly certifies beans that are both organic and shade-grown. This certification ensures that coffee is farmed in such a way that the foliage cover, tree height and biodiversity in the target area create a quality habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. This is super important for Canada, since many species of birds that breed in Canada (and consume insects, helping Canadian trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon) have also been observed at these shade-grown coffee plantations.

 Fairtrade ensures that the coffee farmers and workers have decent working conditions and are paid fairly for their labour. Small-scale farmers, which Fairtrade (the organization that gives out Fairtrade certifications) says they protect, are bearing the brunt of climate change because of where they live and their role in global coffee trade. Fairtrade also promotes sustainable growing techniques (like planting shade trees and collecting rainwater to reuse).

Canada Organic certifies coffee grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which decrease soil biodiversity and destabilize local ecology. Instead, organic farmers promote soil fertility and manage weeds, pests and diseases using biological and mechanical methods such as rotating crops, composting and introducing beneficial, pest-eating insects.

Rainforest Alliance is one of the most common ecolabels you’ll see, and certifies farms that follow their sustainable agricultural standards, but some experts believe its criteria are not stringent enough. (Farms must maintain and increase the diversity of natural vegetation and take steps to support the ecosystem, and farms that have destroyed natural ecosystems since 2014 cannot be certified.)

Shop Our Picks:

Canadian Heritage Roasting Company Grizzly
This whole bean medium roast has rich dark chocolate notes and is certified Canada Organic as well as USDA Organic. Eco-bonus: for every bag soldRoasting plants a tree on Canadian soil.
$18 for 340g, calgaryheritageroastingco.com

Aves Yellow-breasted Chat
Aves is an Oshawa, Ont.-based company that prioritizes Bird Friendly coffees with appropriately named blends. Their Yellow-breasted Chat whole bean coffee comes from a farm in El Salvador that also carries the Rainforest Alliance certification.
$19 for 340g, avescoffeeco.com

Balzac’s Atwood Blend
The Atwood blend, named after the iconic Canadian writer, is a certified Canada Organic and Bird Friendly blend with notes of caramel and cocoa. Balzac’s also donates a dollar of each pound of this coffee sold to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory in southern Ontario, which is devoted to the study and conservation of migratory birds.
$17 for 340g, shop.balzacs.com

President’s Choice Costa Rica
This medium roast has a sweet aroma and balanced body and acidity. Grown in Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest, this coffee is Rainforest Alliance certified. Plus, it comes in recyclable containers.
$8 for 340g, loblaws.ca

 Café Avia Bird Friendly
Based in Québec, Café Avia’s Bird Friendly coffee contains 100 percent Bird Friendly, Canada Organic and Fairtrade coffee. Each purchase supports Nature Canada’s Bird Friendly City program.
$17 for 342g, cafebirdfriendly.org

Next: Are High-Tech At-Home Composters Actually Beneficial?

Back in 6,000 B.C., Cleopatra helped establish makeup as a signal of wealth. In the 1920s, cosmetics brands used advertisements to encourage women to deem makeup a necessity. But a hundred years later, wearing as little makeup as possible has become a status symbol.

The idea behind this trend is to wear just enough makeup to look like the naturally best version of yourself—and create the look in just a few minutes. There are almost 100 million views of TikTok makeup tutorials tagged with variations of “Five-Minute Face,” each one touting minor spins on the same message: You don’t need a lengthy makeup routine or dozens of products—all you need is a handful to look this fresh-faced! 

Cosmetic companies like the new-ish makeup brand Merit have responded to this demand with a “Five-Minute Morning” collection. The kit includes seven “core” products, the same ones that can be found in most “Five-Minute Face” kits by other brands, including a concealer, brow gel, mascara and a lip tint. The products were created to emphasize your assets, not hide who you are. “Get compliments on your skin, not your makeup,” reads the marketing copy.

Although mastering the look may seem effortless, it’s anything but: Most of the women on social media boasting about wearing only a few makeup products don’t reveal the full picture—specifically, the considerable time and resources they’ve poured into the treatments to achieve it.

“Today’s five-minute face—as modelled by beauty influencers, editors and entrepreneurs—is predicated on the behind-the-scenes beauty work of skin care products, cosmetic procedures and plastic surgeries,” argued journalist Jessica DeFino in “How the ‘5-Minute Face’ Became the $5,000 Face,” which she published on Substack last May. “These days, even injectable procedures like Botox and Juvéderm are marketed as self-care. Minimal makeup, then, is maximal everything else. It’s more masquerading as less.”

Pricey dermatologist visits make the “Five-Minute Face” possible: Laser treatments lighten dark spots, so only a touch of concealer is needed to achieve a clear complexion. Botox lifts the brows, so they’re perfectly shaped long before an eyebrow pencil even approaches them. Lip filler plumps the pout before the lightest swipe of tinted lip oil completes the look. Like Instagram photos that have been doctored by skin-smoothing filters, this sleight-of-hand can be damaging to anyone’s self-confidence.

“It doesn’t do society any good when people aren’t accurately portraying everything that has gone into getting a look,” says Catherine Sabiston, a professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in body image, mental health and physical activity. Plus, she says, “most of the people displayed are already perpetuating the idealized standards of attractiveness,” meaning they’re youthful, they have symmetrical features and they’re predominantly white.

Case in point: This fall, Melisa Raouf, a 20-year-old contestant in the 2022 Miss England beauty pageant, made headlines for being the first makeup-free participant in the competition’s 94 years. She told the Washington Post she wanted to challenge unrealistic beauty standards. That’s admirable, but Raouf already has the advantages of youth and seemingly flawless skin, so how much is she really pushing back?

Sabiston is passionate about freeing us from the pressure to have a specific face, so we can genuinely appreciate our differences. “If we can challenge those stereotypes,” she says, “we’ll see little shifts in what is considered to be attractive.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to stop wearing makeup if you don’t want to. But instead of aiming for the “Five-Minute Face,” a more attainable option is to use a light hand with makeup to embrace your uniqueness. “It’s really nice to see actual features,” says Simone Otis, a Toronto-based makeup artist. You could play up the features you have by providing a little extra glow and a little extra definition—no dermatological procedures required. This look “is very democratic,” she says. “Everyone could do it.”

Otis likes starting with a tinted moisturizer or serum, as it offers sheer coverage that can help you “look a bit groomed and polished and feel your best,” she says. “I love the idea of a product that has a bit of colour and that will give you warmth, plus has all those good ingredients that can help skin.”

Look for tinted moisturizers or serums with beneficial ingredients, says Otis, such as sunscreen, hyaluronic acid (which can boost skin’s hydration), and vitamin C (which can help brighten skin tone over time). These products will give you some coverage without fully concealing spots or blemishes. And then if you’d like, add whatever else you’d like—brush, brow pencil, tinted lip balm.

Otis believes we’re headed in a promising direction. Companies like 19/99 Beauty, for which Otis works as a makeup artist, feature models with “real” skin, meaning fine lines and wrinkles. What’s more, there are influencers who call themselves “acne-positive” and share photos of their unfiltered, uncovered blemished skin. And, at the Khaite show during New York Fashion Week in September, models were sent down the runway with their dark circles intentionally unconcealed. “It’s as if the brand is saying there’s nothing wrong with dark circles and, actually, there’s almost a mysterious beauty to them,” says Otis.

Does that mean you should stop concealing your dark circles? Not if you don’t want to. But it’s certainly nice to see this shift in the beauty world.

No Makeup Makeup Tinted Serums

Our favourite base for a no-makeup makeup look is one of the buzziest products on store shelves today, tinted serum. It offers a sheerer, more natural look than a tinted moisturizer and is typically made with ingredients that are beneficial to skin. Here are our top five picks:

This clean beauty pick by celebrity makeup artist Gucci Westman comes in 20 shades and can help boost hydration, even out skin texture and promote firmness.
Westman Atelier Vital Skincare Complexion Drops, $68 USD, sephora.com

Available in four shades, this drugstore tinted serum is formulated with hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated and looking radiant.
True Match Nude Hyaluronic Tinted Serum, $27, shoppersdrugmart.ca

Squalane and hyaluronic acid are the star ingredients in this new tinted serum, which keeps skin from drying out while giving it a little warmth through 10 different shades.
Summer Fridays Sheer Skin Tint with Hyaluronic Acid + Squalane, $55, sephora.com

For a tinted serum that provides light coverage and a natural-looking finish, try this squalene-rich option from Rose Inc, founded by model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. It comes in 14 shades.
Rose Inc Skin Enhance Luminous Skin Tint Serum Foundation, $65, sephora.com

Available in 30 shades, this pick provides light and dewy coverage that leaves skin glowing without any harmful chemicals. It’s formulated with SPF 40 to offer extra protection against the sun.
ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation, $62, sephora.com

Next: The Best Skin Care Routine for Your Age, According to Dermatologists

My mother’s go-to road-trip food is this savory potato recipe served with chapatis, homemade yogurt, and pickles. I remember stopping off, during road trips, in parks for lunch and having aloo methi alongside homemade sandwiches instead of rest-stop takeout. What makes aloo methi such a good road-trip food is that it packs well, does not require heating to taste great, and is absolutely delicious thanks to the bold fenugreek leaves. When eaten with chapatis and yogurt, the meal is satiating and definitely hits the spot. If no road trip is pending, not to worry, as this potato side dish will go with any dal or rustic Indian meal. I like to cook the potatoes a little longer on medium-high heat so they sear and turn golden brown, leaving crispy bits at the bottom of the pan. If you’re anything like us, fighting over who gets the crispy potatoes always seems to be a thing!

Aloo Methi

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large or 4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh fenugreek leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Indian chili powder (add up to ½ teaspoon for more heat)
  • 1¼ teaspoons sea salt, or to taste

Directions

  1. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, then continue to thinly slice in ⅛- to ¼-inch thick slices. Be sure that all the potatoes are of the same thickness so they cook at the same rate.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the potatoes and fenugreek. Sprinkle in the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder, distributing the spices evenly over the potatoes. With a wide utensil or spatula, fold the potatoes so they are evenly coated with the spices and oil. Sprinkle in the salt and fold again.
  3.  Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are softened, occasionally turning so they don’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. If you want the potatoes to be slightly crispy, adjust the heat to medium-high toward the end of cooking and allow the potatoes to get golden brown. Serve with chapatis and dahi.

New Indian Basics

Excerpted from New Indian Basics, by Arvina Chauhan and Preena Chauhan. Copyright © 2022, Arvina Chauhan and Preena Chauhan. Published by Appetite, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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Taking care of our health and well-being is important. But the cost of a gym membership or meditation app subscription probably feels expendable when a regular trip to the grocery store is getting more and more expensive. Rising prices, the skyrocketing cost of living and a crisis in affordability for just about everything mean we’re all making difficult choices about how to spend our money.

When you’re stressed and anxious about the prospect of a recession, prioritizing wellness is actually prudent, as long as you’re able to recognize what a necessary wellness investment means for you. “Remember greenwashing? Well, everything now is wellness-washed,” says Janet Gray, a certified financial planner and long-time coach at Money Coaches Canada. “You do this for your wellness, you do that for your wellness. But wait, what really is your wellness?” She has a point—it can be hard to disentangle what’s vital to your health and happiness from clever product marketing, or a need to keep up with your Peloton-owning peers or favourite social media stars. Do that, though, and Gray believes it is possible to balance financial, physical and emotional wellness all at once.

First, understand what financial wellness means

There’s no getting around the fact that financial wellness is having more cash coming in than what you’re spending. It’s incredibly hard, but it’s liberating. “Because then you have options available to you,” says Gray. “That might include additional savings, or not creating additional debt. And that’s life affirming, really. It leads you to achieving your goals, to freedom from toxic interest rates, and it creates less panic, less stress, which ultimately links to your mental and physical well-being, too.”

Then, prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

That’s the key to any type of financial plan. To start, look at what resources you currently have, what expenses are fixed and what your goals are. “Map it out,” says Gray. Literally: pull out a piece of paper or fire up a simple spreadsheet and list your current incomes and all the things you have to pay out: rent, mortgage, strata fees, car insurance, groceries, bills, loan payments, everything. And then, include a line item called wellness. Allow yourself the flexibility to spend it however best suits your needs at that time, but make it a fixed expense. “For me, it’s my yoga class,” says Gray. “That’s non-negotiable.” For you, it could be going out to have coffee twice a week with a friend, or a monthly check-in with a therapist, or getting the newspaper delivered in the morning. You might feel like these are luxuries that should be trimmed from your budget in recessionary times, but sometimes a little goes a long way. “If you’ve got one little spark of light in your week or your month, then it’s worth it,” she says.

Look (again) at your resources

What benefits are available through your employer, and do they offer a health spending account or some money tied to a wellness program? Chiropractors, podiatrists and physiotherapist visits might be reimbursable, depending on your benefits plan. “So many people don’t take advantage of that,” says Gray. “Yes, it’ll still cost money. But wow, if for every $60 massage I might get $45 back…who doesn’t want a $15 massage?” You could also use it to supplement your gym membership or help purchase a bike, or to pay for a fitness app, she adds. A lot of group plans also have an employee assistance program (EAP) that provides free, short-term mental health counselling, and an opportunity to test out whether therapy is right for you.

Dial in to the freebies, or near-freebie

Group exercise classes in community settings are often gratis or deeply discounted. In the warmer months, many communities host yoga in the park. In larger office buildings or business parks, landlords sometimes offer cheap lunchtime workout classes in common areas. If you’re working from home, employers may offer free online meditation classes or guided stretch breaks on Zoom. Look for second-hand fitness equipment selling for a deep discount on sites like Kijiji. And Gray also recommends looking into your community resource centre. Many offer counselling services, resources and support for mental health, employment, healthy eating and more.

Find that happy money

We all need to feel at certain points that our money is bringing us happiness. And sometimes physical and mental health investments are a slow build. That’s what makes retail therapy so powerful, says Gray. You get the dopamine hit when you make an impulse purchase, and it’s pretty unrealistic to think we can, or should, eliminate that spending entirely. So instead, plan for it. “Consider a line item called happy money, and it’s there to be spent or not. Don’t deny yourself the resources,” says Gray. “Acknowledge it and limit it so it becomes spending on a meaningful level rather than just impulsive.”

Next: How Important Is It to Buy *Only* Organic Foods?

The first thing you need to know is that “organic” is a description of how food is produced, not necessarily how healthy it is, says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, a registered dietitian and an advisor for Smart Healthy Living. The biggest factor in the organic label is whether or not certain pesticides and chemicals were used during the farming or harvesting process. So if you’re concerned about toxins in your food, it makes sense to buy organic—at least in some cases.

What’s more, organic meat and organic dairy could have more healthy fats, according to a pair of studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition. And organic produce has more antioxidants than conventional varieties, according to a separate study published in the same journal. But nutrition varies greatly between foods and while it might be worth it to buy organic for foods appearing on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, there are plenty of foods where conventional is just as good as organic, Kostro Miller says.

(Related: 8 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic)

SKIP: Organic macaroni and cheese

White pasta doesn’t need to be organic because it’s so highly processed that the outer layers of the wheat—the part that pesticides adhere to—are stripped off, making pesticide residue of little concern, says Jodi Greebel, a registered dietitian and school and camp nutrition consultant with Citrition.

SKIP: Organic seed butters

Going organic for peanut butter is a good idea, but save your money when it comes to seed butter, Greebel says. “Sunflower seeds, for example, generally don’t have quite as high a pesticide residue,” she explains.

SKIP: Organic olive oil

The sourcing and quality of the olive oil variety you choose are far more important than whether or not it’s organic, says Jennifer Lease, a chef and registered dietitian nutritionist. “You want extra-virgin olive oil because it is the first press of the olives and has not been refined or treated chemically,” she explains. “Pay attention to the packaging and label of the oil, as well. It should be in a dark or opaque bottle to avoid contact with light [which degrades the quality], and the label should identify the country of origin and harvest date and ensure that it is truly extra virgin.”

SKIP: Organic fish

If you see “organic” on a fish or seafood label, be very wary, says Lease—there is no official standard for organic seafood, making the word meaningless in this case. “The aquatic environment where wild fish live cannot be controlled and therefore we simply don’t know their feed or potential contact with environmental toxins and debris,” she explains. Instead, the most important quality to look for is how the seafood is sourced. “Choose local fish when you can, and wild over farmed,” she says. Eating smaller fish, like sardines [versus something larger and higher up in the food chain, like tuna], can also help you avoid toxins.

SKIP: Organic avocados

Your homemade guac is safe, regardless of whether you used organic or conventional avocados. “I worked with an avocado company that grew both conventional and organic and learned that avocados are only sprayed every seven years, and even then, the pesticide for organic versus conventional is similar—it’s just the application method that’s different,” explains Ariane Resnick, a certified nutritionist, chef and author.

SKIP: Organic citrus fruits

Similar to melons, citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges have thick enough skins to deter bugs, meaning they have less need for pesticides, and when they are sprayed, the chemicals stay on the peel, says Kelly Kennedy, a registered dietitian. “Since you’ll be peeling it off and throwing it away anyway, buying organic oranges isn’t the best bang for your buck,” she says. “But I do recommend thoroughly washing the skin of any fruit or vegetable before you cut into it to remove any dirt, germs and so on, so that you’re not pulling those through the flesh of the produce as you cut.”

Next: How Do I Budget for Wellness When I’m Trying to Cut Back on Everything?