Determining Your Ideal Wellness Routine—Through Your Blood
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Determining Your Ideal Wellness Routine—Through Your Blood

Can blood work help provide a road map for our beauty and lifestyle choices?

By Fiorella Valdesolo
Fri, Aug 27, 2021 10:02amGrey Clock 4 min

Blood work is a standard component of annual physicals, but what if it were also commonly done at facialist appointments? Such is the case when you book a session with Bay Area–based skin-care specialist Kristina Holey. The results of clients’ blood panels help Holey, who does all of her consultations in tandem with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner Justine Wenger, guide her choices for holistically treating their skin concerns.

The human blood system interacts with the entire body—organs, tissues and all. “It supplies nutrients and oxygen, removing CO2 and other waste products, and it’s also a medium through which all our tissues and cells communicate via a bewilderingly complex chemical cross-talk,” says Paul Clayton, a medical pharmacologist and fellow at the Institute of Food, Brain & Behaviour, affiliated with Oxford University. The most basic blood panels cover metabolic function, lipids (or cholesterols), iron, thyroid and, sometimes, vitamin D. But they can get far more granular and include a comprehensive thyroid, zinc, B vitamins and ferritin. If hormones are suspect, then Holey looks at a reproductive hormonal panel for any imbalances. Blood panels can also identify toxic exposures and markers for cellular function, which can give you an idea of your cell’s ability to repair damage, says Chika Okoli, a functional medicine physician at the New York City location of the Well, a wellness facility that consistently uses blood work.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF BASE

“During Covid consumers became more conscious of their health,” says Lola Priego, founder and CEO of Base, an at-home diagnostic system that relies on blood and saliva testing. A physician reviews all results before uploading them to the Base app, and the Base medical advisory board oversees the algorithms giving users nutritional, supplemental and lifestyle suggestions. In addition to finding conditions like hypo- or hyperthyroidism, elevated cholesterol and diabetes, looking at blood data can help to address issues like sleep quality and chronic fatigue, Priego says. The clinical laboratory market experienced growth throughout the pandemic. Base, for example, launched and raised a $3.4 million round of funding during this time, while London-based blood-testing brand Thriva raised a $4.8 million extension to its series A funding in May 2020. “The so-called ‘lab on a chip’ technology is developing rapidly,” says Clayton, adding that Theranos, the failed blood-testing company, is an example of how badly things can go wrong. “It’s eventually going to become something like what Theranos promised but couldn’t deliver,” says Clayton. For the time being, most of these companies outsource to established labs to get the results.

The state of our blood can also affect our skin. Without healthy circulation and microcirculation, the skin, like any other organ, doesn’t function as well. “It leads to accelerated aging of the skin and reduced elasticity, hydration capacity and probably immune function,” says Clayton. Holey frequently looks to blood tests for guidance when troubleshooting a skin symptom. She says she sees correlations between anemia and perioral dermatitis or rosacea, while low vitamin D levels sometimes connect with psoriasis and eczema, and high cholesterol and poor digestion with breakouts or seborrheic dermatitis. “I am not an M.D., so it is never about diagnosing,” says Holey, who studied engineering and cosmetic chemistry. “If what I am seeing topically lines up with my hypothesis given what I see from labs, then I can better direct to the most appropriate M.D. or specialist.” She encourages her skin clients to keep up with annual blood work. “You can start to see trends or catch low or high levels from year to year,” says Holey. “It’s like starting a library of your health.”

“The so-called ‘lab on a chip’ technology is developing rapidly.”

— Paul Clayton

In the practice of TCM, blood plays a critical role. “We are constantly thinking about how strong the quality of blood is and how well it moves throughout the body,” says Sandra Chiu, acupuncturist, herbalist and founder of Lanshin, a Chinese medicine clinic in Brooklyn. But the method by which blood is evaluated is radically different from Western medicine’s approach. “We often look at, or ‘read,’ the skin to ascertain the state of blood,” she adds. For example, says Chiu, in eczema when the skin is dry and itchy, that is considered excessive heat in the blood manifesting on the surface; when skin is dark red or almost violet, as is the case with rosacea or some types of cystic acne, that means there is significant stagnation. Looking at the blood, via the skin, helps guide Chiu’s treatment approach.

Getting the details of my own blood work served as a guide for me as well. After I submitted blood and saliva samples to Base, my results were transmitted a few weeks later via the company’s app, along with an invitation to set up a consultation to discuss them. Some of the information was unsurprising: My HbA1c (blood sugar) levels were elevated, which meant I should cut back on refined sugars and carbohydrates, and my cortisol levels were wreaking havoc on my sleep, so I needed to reduce my stress levels, relax and meditate. Discovering that I was low on vitamin D—and learning how to improve that score with exercise, diet and supplements—did pinpoint a possible source of fatigue, brain fog and dry, patchy skin. While blood work can certainly offer helpful data in regard to our health and beauty choices, Holey cautions against letting it be our only guide. “Take it all with a grain of salt,” she says. “What we have really learned is that blood work is just one piece of the puzzle.”



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Personal Wardrobe of the Iconic Late Fashion Designer Vivienne Westwood Goes up for Auction
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The personal wardrobe of the late fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who is credited for introducing punk to fashion and further developing the style, is headed to auction in June.

Christie’s will hold the live sale in London on June 25, while some of the pieces will be available in an online auction from June 14-28, according to a news release from the auction house on Monday.

Andreas Kronthaler, Westwood’s husband and the creative director for her eponymous fashion company, selected the clothing, jewellery, and accessories for the sale, and the auction will benefit charitable organisations The Vivienne Foundation, Amnesty International, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The more than 200 lots span four decades of Westwood’s fashion, dating to Autumn/Winter 1983-84, which was one of Westwood’s earliest collections. Titled “Witches,” the collection was inspired by witchcraft as well as Keith Haring’s “graphic code of magic symbols,” and the earliest piece being offered from it is a two-piece ensemble made of navy blue serge, according to the release.

“Vivienne Westwood’s sense of activism, art and style is embedded in each and every piece that she created,” said Adrian Hume-Sayer, the head of sale and director of Private & Iconic Collections at Christie’s.

A corset gown of taupe silk taffeta from “Dressed to Scale,” Autumn/Winter 1998-99, will also be included in the sale. The collection “referenced the fashions that were documented by the 18th century satirist James Gillray and were intended to attract as well as provoke thought and debate,” according to Christie’s.

Additionally, a dress with a blue and white striped blouse and a printed propaganda modesty panel and apron is a part of the wardrobe collection. The dress was a part of “Propaganda,” Autumn/Winter 2005-06, Westwood’s “most overtly political show” at the time. It referenced both her punk era and Aldous Huxley’s essay “Propaganda in a Democratic Society,” according to Christie’s.

The wardrobe collection will be publicly exhibited at Christie’s London from June 14-24.

“The pre-sale exhibition and auctions at Christie’s will celebrate her extraordinary vision with a selection of looks that mark significant moments not only in her career, but also in her personal life,” Hume-Sayer said. “This will be a unique opportunity for audiences to encounter both the public and the private world of the great Dame Vivienne Westwood and to raise funds for the causes in which she so ardently believed.”

Westwood died in December 2022 in London at the age of 81.

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