The Health & Beauty Buzz

From eyelash extensions to a miracle African oil, check out what’s new in the region.

The Eyes Have   It

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Madonna wears them  (and they reportedly cost $10,000 and are studded with diamonds). J.Lo has them (and they’re reportedly made of mink). So what’s this accessory du jour? Eyelash extensions.

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But they’re not just for celebrities anymore. Top New York City salons are reportedly booked months in advance with every Tina, Dina and Heloise longing for these long, luscious lashes. Unlike the false lashes of yesteryear, which last only a day and are applied as a strip, eyelash extensions are glued to existing eyelash hairs one by one with tweezers. (Kids, don’t try this at home. Only a licensed, trained technician should perform this feat, and dermatologists say only a U.S.-made glue should be used.)

The procedure takes about 90 minutes and costs on average $300-$500. The lash extensions should last up to two months, but may require touch-ups every two to three weeks. Meanwhile, the wearer will be able to swim, shower, and bat her eyes seductively — all without the benefit of mascara. 

Here in the Valley, at least two salons now offer eyelash extensions: Hudson Valley Electrolysis and Permanent Cosmetics in Poughkeepsie (845-473-4747); and Scrapbooks and Good Looks in Newburgh (845-567-7717). Both salons have technicians trained by NovaLash, a Houston-based company that says it sells “the only lash extension product that is U.S. Pharmaceutical Grade.” Yolanda de Felice Henry of the Poughkeepsie salon says that all types of people are getting the extensions, and although the effect is meant to be natural, she insists she can spot users. “Katie Couric — I’d bet on it.” — A. J. Loftin

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That Magical Marula Oil

            “It’s a wonderful moisturizer,” says Cecilia Dinio Durkin about marula oil, a nut-based emollient just bursting with vitamins C and D, as well as antioxidants and oleic acid. “It also has fabulous healing properties. Someone I know applied it to her burnt arm where terrible blisters were forming, and it didn’t end up scarring at all.”

Durkin knows all about the magical marula nut. For three years she lived in Botswana, where she learned about a woman’s cooperative that gathers the nuts (which are native to southern Africa), cracks them by hand, and presses them to extract the precious oil. The Body Shop now uses marula oil in all it’s cosmetics. But Durkin imports the oil directly from this women’s group, and sells it in two- and four-ounce bottles ($15 and $25) at Women’s Work, her new Cold Spring, Putnam County shop that features a wide variety of hand-crafted items from Africa. But her best-seller? It’s the marula oil. “I have trouble keeping it on the shelf.”

Women’s Work, 845-809-5299 or


Winning theWeight-Loss War


With more than 60 percent of adults classified as overweight — and close to one-third of us obese — America’s battle of the bulge has turned into all-out war. One of the fastest-growing weapons in our arsenal: bariatric surgery. The number of these procedures has grown 600 percent in recent years, according to the American Journal of Public Health. These surgeries — which include gastric bypass and gastric banding — work by closing off or removing parts of the stomach, thereby restricting the amount of food that can be ingested. But those who undergo the procedure continue to face challenges post-op:  diet and exercise requirements change dramatically, which can lead to physical and emotional difficulties for some people.

Lisa Megna had a gastric bypass operation in December 2005. Since then, the Hopewell Junction resident has lost 100 pounds — and completed a marathon in Kona, Hawaii. In October, she opened Choose 2 Lose Bariatric Center, a one-stop shop for weight-loss related products, along with co-owner Robin Zinaman (who has also had the surgery). “Our target market is people who have had or will have weight- loss surgery,” says Megna, “but we cater to anyone who just wants to be healthy.”

After her operation, Megna found it difficult to buy the special nutritional supplements that all bariatric patients need to take daily. So she stocks protein powders and shakes; specially formulated vitamins (no fillers added); healthy snacks with low or no carbs, sugar or fat; and gluten- and sugar-free foods; you’ll also find cookbooks and motivational CDs, kitchen utensils and small appliances, and bathroom scales that hold up to 400 pounds. Most importantly, “we have a section of the store where people can just come and hang out,” says Megna. “They can stop in if they need a pep talk or to meet a friend, because support is one of the most important things in this journey.”

An experienced counselor, Megna also runs a weekly bariatric support group at AllSport in Fishkill. “This is a whole different life,” she explains. “It’s important to have people around you who understand.”  — Polly Sparling


Choose 2 Lose Bariatric Center, Hopewell Junction, 845-227-1949 or For the support group, contact Lisa Megna at 845-464-9137



Breast Cancer Prevention: A New CD





Young ladies (and men too)take note: some of the everyday products in your home — including your shampoo and skin lotions, laundry detergents, buffered aspirin, and aluminum foil — could be increasing the likelihood that you’ll develop breast cancer. And if you are a teenage girl, you are especially vulnerable.

These are the main points explored in “Environmental Risks and Breast Cancer,” a free CD-ROM produced by Vassar College in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. The multimedia disc summarizes (in both English and Spanish) scientific research from close to 200 sources.

The idea for the project came from Professor Janet Gray, director of the college’s Science, Technology and Society program, who, along with five students, spent over 100 hours reviewing the research findings. “A lot of the synthetic substances to which we are exposed on a daily basis may have effects” on our breast cancer risk, according to Gray. “Most importantly, the literature suggests that there may be increased vulnerability for very young children and teenagers.”

The CD spells out how each of 11 substances affects the body. For example, research indicates that chemicals contained in some shampoos and lotions can interfere with the body’s estrogen levels; the ubiquitous metal aluminum, found in everything from cooking utensils to antiperspirants, may be a source of DNA damage in human cells. The CD provides summaries of the relevant studies on each topic, while original animations, with both audio and video captions, explain breast anatomy and other basic scientific concepts in a lively format.

Each section ends with “practical suggestions of ways individuals can, if not eliminate, at least decrease their exposure to some of these chemicals,” says Gray. “The simplest is: be careful what you put on your body and in your mouth. It sounds silly, but people chew on plastic, and drink out of smelly plastic bottles — if it smells plastic-y, don’t drink it. And don’t heat plastic in the microwave.”

Gray doesn’t want to scare viewers, but hopes that they will become aware of the impact of environmental factors on their own health — and that of their families.  “Hopefully this may help them make changes that might actually begin to stem the rise of breast cancer in future generations.” — Polly Sparling


To get a free copy of “Environmental Risks and Breast Cancer,” visit



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