Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tanning Secrets of the Med

Ever wondered how the beach goers of the Med turn that golden bronzed colour? It not only has something to do with the sun and mild UV (apart from August where you may feel the need the for higher spf  protection).

Husk of Walnut Oil aka Olio Mallo di Noce.
The husk is the fleshy part produced by the  plant which is covering the fruit itself. The nuts we commonly buy at the supermarket are not quite how you would find them on the trees - they have been stripped from the husk and dried, roasted or salted. The true walnut (or endocarp) is in fact wrapped by a layer pulposus, the husk (or mesocarp), in turn covered by a peel (or exocarp).

The walnut is traditionally used as a colouring and flavouring in the production of liqueurs (walnut liqueur). Interesting however are the health benefits stemming from this natural colourant and the structures of the oils. The oil extracted from the husk has been traditionally used in protecting the skin from the sun as well as to promote tanning. The extent to which the oil is able to perform these functions relies on the natural compounds naphthoquinones (Vitamin K compound) and juglone (aromatic compound present in naphthoquinones) found present in the cells which make up the husk. When applied these substances react with the keratin present in hair and epidermis of the skin, creating a complex brown pigmentation, explaining the use of walnut shells as a hair dye for red-brown reflections.

Immediately after application your skin will begin to look tanned purely due to the pigmenting effects of the oil properties. Once in the presence of ultraviolet radiation, the chemical complex naphthoquinone - keratin  acts as selective filter, helping  to shield the skin from the UVB rays as well as accelerating the melanogenesis (production of melanin) induced by UVA rays. For this reason the walnut oil is extensively used in the formulation of suncare products.

The juglone present in the walnut husk and leaves of the tree is equipped with allelopathic properties (a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals that influence the growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms - wikipedia), and thus is able to condition the growth and development of other living organisms; in particular, the juglone prevents the growth of the other botanical species with which it comes into contact, for instance: juglone is also able to inhibit fungal growth as well as exhibit antibacterial properties. And so in addition to its pigmenting properties, the walnut husks are recognized as an antiseptic, vermifuge and keratinizing.

So now you know!

My recommendation: Kodrap Olio al mallo di noce - approx. 4euro a bottle in stores.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Best Beaches

Ischia Island boasts some of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the Italy. Clean, white, soft sand, calm sea waters, fresh water with temps ranging between 21 and 24 degrees celcius (70 farenheit). Most bays are secluded and often you can scout around for the smaller, more private ones if you are looking to get away from the crowds. Beaches are public, however there are a few spots where locals rent parts of the beach and hire out lounge chairs and umbrellas (prices start at 10euro for the day). Its well worth it if you plan to spend the day as there are ablutions provided such as showers, toilets and changing cubicles, and your umbrella will provide some much needed shade. By law, each beach on the island offers public sections where the beach is free for all.

First off, we have the beaches of Forio. The west coast beaches begin filling up around 10am so I recommend heading down around 9.30 to grab your chairs and umbrellas. The beach of Chiaia is very popular with families and parents of small children. The bay is protected by rocky barriers making the shoreline even calmer. The shoreline is rather shallow and you'll find women and kids sitting on the edge in the lapping waters. There are restaurants lining the boardwalk and takeaway kiosks on either end selling wonderfully refreshing granita (try the famous limone - made with freshly squeezed lemons) and paninis. Further on towards the cliff-side of the bay lies the beach of San Francesco (named so after the Saint Francesco of whose church sits perched up on the hillside overlooking the bay). Quaint and much quieter than the Chiaia, San Francesco bay is lined with many 4 to 5 star hotels and resorts. The snorkeling is wonderful along the cliff side.

Note: August is peak season and the national summer holidays. I would recommend working around this time when planning your visit to Ischia to avoid the crowds and the intense heat.