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Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.


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Illustration: Matija Medved for Elemental

The truth about the new class of hair care products

In 2006, Sachajuan, the cult Stockholm hair care brand, debuted a scalp shampoo, expecting it to be a niche product. But in recent years, the shampoo — made with a scalp-tingling peppermint and packaged in an apothecary-like bottle to evoke medicine for hair — has become the brand’s top seller, says co-founder Sacha Mitic. Little wonder, then, that Sachajuan subsequently released a scalp treatment, a scalp conditioner, and, last month, a scalp scrub and scalp brush, the latter of which sold out almost instantly.

“It’s very important to clean the scalp,” says Mitic, who has also been a hairdresser since…


Probably. But first, consider the risks.

Photo illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Karsten Jipp/EyeEm/Getty Images

The internet makes quite a fuss about the ways we arrange our bodies in repose.

Googling “best sleep position” turns up a cool 765 million results, and some of the top hits maintain that how you sleep — back, stomach, left or right side, fetal — has profound implications for your spine, heart, breathing, appearance, and much else. There’s even some Freudian pseudoscience linking certain sleep positions to personality traits, which seems to have about as much solid scientific backing as palmistry.

All of these claims are somewhat confounded by the fact that we all tend to sleep in a…

How pharma weaseled its way into the bedroom and left us wanting

Animation: Julia Moburg/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Female sexual desire has always been suspended on a tricky societal tightrope. In the past, it was something to be repressed and undiscussed. Violate these norms — or just appear to — and the consequences were grim. Today, for many women, the pendulum has swung in the other direction: Wanting and having a lot of sex is frequently portrayed as an integral part of leading a healthy, balanced, modern life.

Despite these complex expectations, female sexuality remains under-researched and little-understood. This extends to common sexual issues, including a drop-off or complete disappearance of sexual desire, which most women experience at…

Observations from a reluctant exerciser, in a pandemic

Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

I have always been a sporadic exerciser. And, yes, that’s euphemistic. My periods of regular exercise historically come in fits and starts, then disappear as quickly as they arrive — replaced with dark chocolate and binge-watching.

In fact, years ago, I pitched and was hired to write a “reluctant exerciser” column for a popular women’s magazine, which wound up being a bit more reluctant than the editors had hoped. Sure enough, the stories quickly became about what lipgloss and cute headbands to wear while hiking, instead of about climbing mountains.

Most of the times when I’ve successfully maintained an exercise…

Experiment with props, try new classes, and maybe even ditch your screen

Photo courtesy of the author

Yoga is an ever-evolving, ancient practice with South Asian origins. But for many people living in the West, yoga has meant something very specific for the past several decades: thin, lithe, usually white women bending in spandex in a minimalist hardwood floor studio.

The past year has thankfully changed some of that perception.

For the first time, people who want to practice yoga have had no choice but to do so from home. Luckily, there has been no shortage of Zoom classes, YouTube videos, and fitness apps for both experienced practitioners and eager pandemic beginners. And beautifully, many people have…


You’ll be so glad you tried this

Photography: Andi Elloway

I was not an active kid — always picked last for dodgeball teams, terribly uncoordinated, self-conscious about my knobbly knees in gym shorts. In eighth grade, I broke my pinkie finger playing kickball (figure that one out). But in my twenties, a pathetic-sounding reason arose to kickstart me into a regular exercise routine: I kept throwing out my back. A weird stretch after too much time on the couch, a sudden turn of the head, even a sneeze could do it. …

My Therapist Says

After receiving a reading that sent me spiraling, my therapist reminded me that I need to learn to trust myself

Illustration by Kate Dehler for Elemental

The astrologer appeared stricken as she looked at the zodiac-based tarot card before her. After pausing to digest it, she told me, “There are many people who enjoy it when you fail.”

At the time of that astrology session, which was several years ago, I had just broken up with a girlfriend. I was in court with business partners, navigating a stalled career and watching my savings dwindle. The reading was an impulsive visit I made while walking up Amsterdam Avenue in New York City one night after a first date that wasn’t going to lead to another.

An elderly…

Why emulating your younger self could help you move better

Photo: Ivan De Sousa/EyeEm/Getty Images

After a certain age, balance no longer comes naturally and requires more cognition and awareness for its preservation. Moreover, the mind-body connection is central to one’s equilibrium, with lack of poise suggesting balance issues may be present. Brad Manor, PhD, associate director of the Mobility and Falls Translational Research Center with Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife, calls balance “a complex system” involving many factors. “As people age, changes in flexibility, muscle strength and power, body sensation, reflexes, and even mental function all contribute to declining balance.”

Conversely, small children exemplify balance and poise effortlessly. They can run, play, get up, sit back…

Pandemic Winter Health Hacks

Get to know it and nurture it

As can happen, my life went haywire for a few harried years. While navigating divorce with young kids in the mix, it wasn’t uncommon to notice my heart rate escalate into weirdly rapid territory. This was new. I chalked it up to circumstance-driven anxiety, but I never got used to the sensation. So I bought a Fitbit to track my resting heart rate — and hopefully dial it back.

I hadn’t previously thought much of wearable devices. To my mind, watches, rings, brain sensors, and heart monitors strapped on in the name of health all seemed a bit excessive and…

People who are rarely bored seem to have an easier time sticking to social distancing behaviors, new research suggests

Illustration: Adrian Forrow

This past spring, as art museums across the country were shuttering to help slow the spread of Covid-19, the Ryland Museum was opening up. The socially distanced museum launched in April in the hallway of a San Jose apartment building. Its first exhibition, open to a select audience — the building’s residents — was an adaptation of the artist Brian D. Collier’s work Very Small Objects and featured humdrum items such as a bit of lint, an old beam, and a piece of glass.

The co-curator was a grade-school-aged child named Erik whom the museum’s founder, his neighbor Amy Brown…

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