Beauty Tips for Women with Red Hair

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Meet my good friend Idgy (the beauty in the photo above)! She is a lover of natural, cruelty-free beauty products. I have known Idgy for many years, and have adapted several of her beauty methods into my own regimen. Recently, a coworker of mine expressed some frustration in finding beauty products that work for her red hair,  so I referred to Idgy –  who was so gracious to put together some techniques that have worked well for her:

 

“Print and television advertisements for cosmetics invariably feature dramatic looks. Applied to someone with unusual coloring, these palettes can appear garish. There are some guidelines that can make choosing make-up and skin-care easier for redheads. Most of the products mentioned here are natural and/or organic; a few of them are not. NONE of them are from companies that allow testing on animals. To reliably locate cosmetics companies that are cruelty-free, mybeautybunny.com is very helpful. My favorite resource for product reviews is beautypedia.com

Skin Care

Beginning with skin (as all beauty routines should), it can be thin and delicate. There is also a tendency toward warm tones; this combination explains why the entire world knows when you blush or have been crying. The first tenet of skin care is to treat it gently. Look for products with soothing ingredients like green tea, honey, aloe, neem, lavender, and rosemary. Known irritants, such as alcohol, sulfur, cinnamon, and peppermint should be avoided. Keep in mind that any ingredient can potentially be irritating to any individual. If it turns your skin red, it’s not for you. One skin-care line worth consideration is all-natural Lotus Moon. The Amaranth Gentle Cleanse cleanser and the Organic Honey Purifying Mask are soothing for most skin types.

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Sun Protection

You already know sun protection is important, but two things worth mentioning are that many commercial sunscreens contain chemicals you may not want on your skin; and there is some controversy over whether sunscreens themselves are in fact harmful. I won’t enter into a debate, but will say that Lotus Moon makes an excellent, gentle sunscreen; and regardless of your stance on the sunscreen quandary, I advise a hat with a brim, and large sunglasses during the daytime. Sunscreen leads us to the next bone of contention: self-tanner.

A tanned redhead is typically an odd-looking creature; it’s been pointed out to me that a tan makes me rather resemble a large penny. The best approach is to embrace your pallor and eschew the self-tanner – with one exception. Pasty legs can benefit from a little color. There are several tanning products that are relatively easily applied, with some practice. Layering light, even coats over the course of a few days is the best method. The lotion can collect and turn quite dark in creases, but a cotton swab can take care of this. Nature’s Gate Sunless Tanner is an inexpensive option and available at a discount at vitacost.com.

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Make-up

When selecting make-up, the first decision regards foundation. Most do not need a full face of foundation, at least not for the daytime. A little finishing powder can tone down ruddiness. I like to use a powder that can double as foundation and have found natural, mineral-based products to be the most skin-friendly choice. Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation is an elegant and inexpensive option. I dust it on lightly with a large brush most of the time, and press it on with either a dry puff or a dampened sponge for more polish on special occasions. If your skin is quite dry, a liquid option or a BB cream might be a better choice.

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Concealer is an important item to have on hand. NARS Radiant Cream Concealer has a nice texture and is available in many shades. It works well on dark circles. For heavier coverage, or for oily skin, try Kat Von D’s Lock-it Tattoo Concealer. (Which actually won’t obscure a tattoo, but it’s great for imperfections.) Speaking of imperfections, see those broken capillaries at the base of your nostrils? Tap a little concealer there; it makes a difference.

Appropriate make-up colors can be described as warm and soft. Black eyeliner and mascara are not the best options: try brown mascara instead. Choose eyeliner colors to complement, but not match, eye color. Blue eyes are most flattered by browns and coppers. Green eyes benefit from plums and purples. Younique’s mineral eye pencils are a worthy product to try; Passionate is a nice mid-tone purple. Those with brown or gray eyes can opt for some fun colors: teal, violet, green. Keep in mind that the lighter your hair and skin are, the lighter and more blended your make-up palette should be. For example, a strawberry blonde would be better served by golden brown liner than chocolate, grass green over moss, turquoise instead of teal. Use a cotton swab or blending brush to blur the line for a softer effect. Kriss Cosmetics makes gel eyeliners that apply flawlessly. Black Cherry is a deep aubergine, with flecks of copper, that would be too harsh for strawberries, but it’s very flattering to darker auburns. Keep eye shadows warm or neutral: nudes, golds, browns, plums.

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Think about peach-based colors for cheeks and lips, instead of pinks. One of my favorite blushes is Mineral Blush in Kitten from Honeybee Gardens. Flattering lip colors will be peach instead of pink, coral rather than mauve, and tomato instead of burgundy. Do not take these colors too deep if you are paler. Stick to apricot, coral, and lighter red.

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Once you are comfortable with the colors that are best for you, feel free to branch out and have some fun. A bright berry lipstick may work, if the rest of your make-up is warm/neutral and minimal. You can still do a smoky eye design, but use mid-tone brown or plum shadows, instead of gray and black. If it looks harsh, try softer, lighter colors, and blend, blend, blend. Emphasize only one feature at a time: a bold lip OR a smoky eye OR bright blush. Apply muted shades sparingly to the rest of the face.”

 

 

Have you tried any of these products? What are your favorite beauty tips for redheads?

 

Best Mascara for Contact Lens Wearers

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For anyone who has made the transition from wearing mainstream mascara to natural alternatives, you know that finding a mascara that performs as well as it’s toxic-counterparts is no easy task.

To make things even more tricky, I wear contact lenses nearly every day. Because my eyesight is so challenged, I am not able to wear the soft lenses that most people who use contacts are able to wear. Instead I wear rigid, “bitoric” lenses. These are about the size of my fingertip and feel like glass to the touch. Although I am forever thankful to have corrective lenses that allow me to see, wearing eye makeup can be problematic. If mascara flakes or runs into my eye, it literally feels like a needle repeatedly piercing my eye (the worst is when this happens while driving)! I call this a “contact-attack!”

I also cannot rub my eyes, because the contact lenses could potentially tear my cornea. Therefore, I can’t easily wash or wipe away eye makeup without having to take my contacts out.

Here is what I typically look for in mascara:

  • Glides on easily without being too runny
  • Lasts all day without drying up and flaking
  • Extends my lashes while also giving volume and a “feathery” look

I am elated to report that I have finally found a mascara COMBINATION that has worked wonders for me. Ilia Beauty Mascara and Jane Iredale Purelash Lash Extender and Conditioner come to the rescue!

The lash conditioner is the secret to preventing flakes and keeping my lashes soft all day. I apply a couple coats right before I apply mascara. The conditioner thickens my lashes, really enhancing the effects of mascara.

Ilia’s mascara glides on easily over the conditioner, and really separates my lashes, giving great volume! It truly performs just as well as commercial mascaras I have used. With the lash conditioner, there is no need for a second coat. This also helps prevent build-up and flaking.

The best part is that it’s not messy. Some of my other favorite natural mascaras look great, but are really runny and messy to apply. I always needed to use a q-tip to clean up the stray marks around my eyes – but not with Ilia! Less clean up = faster morning routine.

It gives my lashes that thick, feathery look I aim for. Ilia’s mascara comes in several colors as well – all great options for ladies of varying skin tones and eye colors!

Ilia mascara is vegan and gluten-free. Jane Iredale lash conditioner is not contains beeswax and wheat, so those who want a vegan product or are gluten free, may want to seek an alternative product.

There you have it – soft, thick lashes that last all day without any flaking! What is your favorite mascara? Have you tried using a lash conditioner? Please share!

 

 

Why You Don’t Need to Eat Salad

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 “Rabbit” by Teresa Shen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Don’t get me wrong, you still need to eat plenty of leafy greens (sorry to disappoint if you were hoping that I would suggest never eating vegetables again).

Here is why eating a salad of greens is not as nutritious as you may have thought:

Fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, contain cellulose. Cellulose is what makes up the plant cell walls. It gives the cell structure, and protects the nutrients and energy stored in the cell. In order to digest cellulose and access all those vitamins and minerals, cellulose must be broken down. Most herbivores have cellulase within their digestive system – an enzyme required to break down cellulose. Other animals, such as cows, also have more than one stomach to aid in breaking down cellulose. Unfortunately humans do not have cellulase or more than one stomach.

Therefore, humans cannot access the nutrients and energy stored in greens. The greens will only act as fiber, and pass through the body.

So why should we try to access the nutrients in greens? Well, they are super-foods – the vegetables that will give you “the most bang for your buck.” They contain vitamins A, C and K, magnesium, iron, and calcium. They remove free radicals in the body and decrease the risk of cancer. Leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and will reduce cholesterol.

There is hope! There are ways to break down cellulose. You can blend greens into a smoothie using a high-speed blender such as Vitamix or Ninja. Steaming or sautéing your greens can also help break down cellulose.

My favorite way to get more greens in my diet is by making a green smoothie. They are really really simple, and you can change the ingredients so you don’t get bored.


Green Smoothie:

2/3 Fruits (I like blueberries, blackberries, cherries, mangos, peaches, apples, bananas, avocado etc.)

1/3 Leafy Greens (kale, spinach, collards, romaine, baby greens)

I sometimes add rice protein powder such as Metagenics or a large spoonful of cashew butter for protein

Blend with water and you’re done!


The sweetness from fruit masks the taste of the greens – definitely more yummy than a salad!

Word of caution: be prepared to get strange looks from people at work, asking why you are drinking something as green as Shrek.

So if you’re like me and don’t care for eating salad – don’t! Make a green smoothie instead!

8 Tricks to Make Waking Up Easier

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 “Waking Up” by Vgiie is licensed under CC BY 3.0

I never have considered myself a “morning person.” Most of my adolescence and adulthood involved staying up late (sometimes until the wee hours of the morning), sleeping in whenever I could, and dreading early mornings. I started out in college going to night school, and most of my shifts for work began later in the afternoon. I took pride in considering myself a “night owl.”

During the past year, I started a new job that required me to start my shift at 7am. Needless to say, the transition was challenging! Here are some tricks that have helped me wake up easier, feeling energized and refreshed:

1. Go to Bed Early

This seems like a no-brainer, but there are reasons why going to sleep early can be beneficial to your health. Your body has a natural detoxification process during a 24 hour period. Here is how your body is working to cleanse during the night and early morning:

9pm and 11pm: Lymph nodes and blood vessels.

11pm and 1am: Liver

1am to 3am: Gall bladder

3am to 5am: Lungs

5am-7am: Colon (you should empty your bowel during this time – which means you will need to be awake!)

In order for your body to get the full benefits of natural detoxification, you need to be sleeping in order to spend the maximum amount of energy for cleansing. When our bodies are allowed to care for itself the way nature intended, we feel more energized and positive in the morning.

2. Turn Off Electronics

The National Sleep Foundation reports that electronics are being shown to tamper with our natural circadian rhythm. Our bodies naturally wind down and prepare for sleep when the sun goes down, and we become energized with the sun rising. When we spend a lot of time in the evening staring at lit-up electronics, our bodies confuse it with UV sunlight, and we aren’t able to easily prepare for sleep. Eliminating electronics about an hour before bed can really help us get to sleep faster.

You may wonder – what should you do with an entire hour without electronics?? I enjoy reading. There are so many incredibly-gifted writers. Getting lost in a story also helps me get my mind off whatever anxieties from the day are still floating around. You could also take a relaxing bath, listen to soothing music, talk with a loved one, or cuddle with your dog!

3. Drown Out Sound

I am a VERY light sleeper. Every little creak and noise is likely to wake me. I have found using white noise to be very effective in helping with sleep. Some people leave a fan on, purchase a white noise machine, or download a white noise app on their phones. I use an air purifier and turn it all the way up. A loud murmuring noise can resemble the sounds from being in the womb, and can be very relaxing (ever notice how a baby can sleep through the loudest noise, and tend to like the sound of vacuums, lawn mowers, dryers, etc?). For those of you sensitive to sound – give it a try!

4. Take Some Magnesium

Magnesium deficiencies are one of the most common deficiencies in the U.S. The average American diet contains little to no magnesium. Do you have muscle tightness in your back, neck, or shoulders? Cold hands and feet? Muscle twitches? I do – and if you do too – you are probably deficient in magnesium. Magnesium deficiencies include symptoms such as migraines, muscle cramps, fatigue, asthma, anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual cramps, and several others.

Magnesium plays a role in staying hydrated, energy production, and – most importantly – the deactivation of adrenaline.  This wonder-mineral helps our GABA receptors (calming neurotransmitters) to function properly. Without GABA working efficiently, we tend to feel anxious, experience racing thoughts, and have difficulty sleeping. It essentially helps our brains to shut-off.

The best part about magnesium? It practically works instantly! Take some magnesium before bed, and you will feel the difference – I promise! My favorite magnesium supplement Natural Calm by Natural Vitality drink powder. It supplies magnesium citrate – one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium. You can also take a bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). Also try to eat more foods with magnesium such as nuts, collard greens, beans, and sea kelp.

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5. Use Aromatherapy

I strongly believe that our environment plays a large role in how secure, comfortable, and grounded we feel. Colors, textures, scents, sounds, lighting, and the images we surround ourselves with can make us feel energized, calm, confident, etc. Essential oils can greatly affect our moods, including helping us to feel relaxed and at ease. I speak about the dangers of synthetic fragrance here, as well as the health benefits to essential oils. One of my favorite natural oil blends for sleep is Sleep by Essence of Vali. It truly smells incredible, and immediately puts me in a pleasant, easy mood. After using it for several nights, it’s as though I’ve been conditioned to feel sleepy when I use it!

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6. Try a Guided Meditation

Meditation is known for helping with relaxation, quieting the mind, and decrease insomnia. There are several apps you can download that provide a guided meditation. My favorite is iSleep Easy. With this app, a soothing female voice guides you through breathing, muscle relaxation, and visualization exercises while in bed to help you sleep. You can customize the volume of her voice, the background noise (ocean, rain, stream, lake, forest, birds, music), and how long you want the meditation to continue. There is also a brief guided meditation for the “wee hours” in case you wake up in the middle of the night.

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7. Wake Up Gently

The sound of a loud, obnoxious alarm clock is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Being jolted awake by a horrible noise seems to put me in a bad mood first thing in the morning. I have not used a traditional alarm clock for several years. I was thrilled to discover Zen Awake iPhone alarm clock app a couple of years ago. It works to gradually wake you up, as if you were naturally waking up on your own. It plays a series of peaceful chimes, starting about ten minutes before you intend to wake up. The chimes progressively get louder and closer together as the time for you to get up approaches. When you go to turn off the alarm, you are greeted with an inspirational quote for the day, and with one click you can share the quote to your Facebook page. How neat is that?

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8. Quit Caffeine

Ok, so the thought of quitting your morning coffee may seem nearly impossible for you. It was hard for me too – but hear me out. If you are relying on caffeine to give you energy in the morning, you are robbing your body’s natural ability to produce its own energy.

How do you know if you are relying on caffeine too much? Ask yourself: are you drinking caffeine daily (coffee, energy drinks, soda, etc)? Are you nearly late for work in an attempt to get that morning cup of coffee while on the road? Are you overspending in order to get your caffeine fix? Do others not want to be around you in the morning until you’ve had your coffee? Are you feeling tired, cranky, or experience headaches if your caffeine schedule is altered? If the answer to any of these questions are yes, then you may need to consider decreasing your caffeine intake or quitting altogether.

Caffeine, like any addictive substance, alters the brain. When we alter our brain, we are putting our bodies in a state of imbalance. Our bodies will eventually become reliant on coffee to feel awake and energized rather than naturally producing the energy we need to function. Caffeine also dehydrates us, eventually causing us to feel more tired. So swap out that cup of coffee for a glass of water!

Since I have quit caffeine, I have felt much more energized yet calm and focused, without the anxiety-jitters I typically experienced with coffee. Although I miss the taste of coffee, I love my sense of balance even more!


Since I have made these changes, my mornings are much more pleasant. I actually enjoy going to bed earlier and waking up sooner. I simply feel better. Sometimes I miss being a night-owl. However, I still get that quiet, peaceful feeling (as if I’m the only one awake when the world is sleeping) being up early in the morning. I often get to see the sunrise while driving to work. I enjoy longer days at the beach or have more energy for hiking. My days feel longer (in a good way), and I have more time to enjoy the sunshine!

Have you tried any of these strategies? What makes you feel energized in the morning? Please share!

Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation Review

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Finding the right foundation can certainly be a challenge. My skin is very fair, so finding a color that is light enough has been a longtime struggle. I prefer a more natural coverage with my foundation that I can wear daily without looking too done-up. I have generally stuck to mineral powder foundations for the last several years. I like how they are easy to apply and do not look too heavy. However, I found my skin looking a little too dry during the winter months. Liquid and stick foundations sometimes feel too thick to wear everyday, so I reserve such foundations for more special occasions. Tinted moisturizers tend to make my face look greasy, and typically don’t provide enough coverage.

Finding an everyday foundation that provides enough coverage without being “cakey,” works for my fair skin, and has organic ingredients is a lot to ask for!

I read some online reviews for Gressa Skin Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation, and decided to give it a try. It seems to be the perfect blend between a powder and liquid foundation. It goes on like liquid, and quickly dries to a powder-finish. The consistency is vey runny (be careful you don’t accidentally spill it like I did – it will run out quickly!). It comes with an eyedropper-applicator. I dab the applicator on my fingertips and blend in circular motions. It feels more like a moisturizing serum than a liquid foundation, yet it provides a surprising amount of pigment. I only use about four or five drops for my entire face. What I like most about this foundation is that it gives the perfect amount of coverage (medium) and yet feels very light and airy on my skin. Not too matte and not too greasy – just a gorgeous glow!

This foundation not only provides impressive coverage, but it is packed with nutrients for your skin: milk thistle, neem, horsetail, barberry, sea buckthorn, elder flower, CoQ10, and vitamin C.

This foundation simply makes me smile! It truly is “Nontoxic Glamour!”

Have you tried Gressa? What is your favorite natural foundation?

Your Guide to Gorgeous, Clear Skin

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Having struggled with years of acne, I tried many products and prescriptions, and spent countless dollars trying to clear my skin. I finally got to the point where I needed to try a new strategy. There has been a wave of men and women on the internet discussing their success in healing their acne through the power of nutrition. Increasing my knowledge in how diet is connected with acne has empowered me to make lasting changes that brought real results.

Food is your medicine.

Acne is primarily a direct result of your digestion, balance in hormones, and level of stress. When we eat unhealthy foods, our digestive system becomes irritable, increasing inflammation and weakening the immune system. Our bodies becomes stressed, trying to function properly without the sufficient nutrients it needs. Certain foods can also affect hormonal balances. Depending on the person, our bodies may react differently when their is a lack of nutrition. Some people may gain weight, some may find themselves feeling sick frequently, and others may develop acne. There is a lot of advise out there – and it can be incredibly overwhelming! I have spent hours of research, and tried numerous approaches. The truth is that you need to heal from the inside out. There is no magical cleanser or prescription. You need to address the root of the problem: your health. Here is what has worked for me:

What foods to avoid:

  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Heated oils
  • Legumes (beans, peanuts)
  • Processed foods

These foods, such as gluten and dairy, can increase inflammation – which can cause acne as well as other health problems such as fatigue, emotional stress, and immune deficiencies. Dairy also contains natural growth hormones (intended to help baby cows grow) which can disrupt our natural hormone balance.

Soy and legumes are common food sensitivities that contribute to irritating the digestive system. Soy acts like the hormone estrogen, which many people (including women) already have an overload of within their bodies due to various environmental reasons (such as drinking and eating out of plastic containers).  Therefore, soy can cause hormones to be out of balance. An imbalance of hormones can also lead to acne.

Sugar has no nutritional value, and gives the body large amounts of calories, causing blood sugar to spike and the liver to work overtime. When the liver cannot flush sugar quick enough, the body will store sugar as fat or produce mucus to protect the body. Therefore, too much sugar will cause you to gain weight or lead to illness and allergies. Sugar also feeds the bad bacteria in the gut. We all have a little bit of bad bacteria, but when we have too much of the bad bacteria, the immune system suffers and we end up with too much yeast.

Most oils such as corn oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, and even olive oil become rancid when heated. This is one of the main reasons why fried foods are so unhealthy. Rancid oils entering your body will cause your body to work hard to eliminate the toxins. I typically only cook with coconut oil since it is one of the rare oils that holds integrity when facing high temperatures.

Processed foods (from boxes, cans, and other packages) are typically stripped of natural nutrients. Many processed foods contain synthetic ingredients – you know, those ingredients you can’t even pronounce! They make your body work harder to filter out the toxins and keep your body feeling hungry since your body is not getting the nutrition it needs.

Avoiding all of these ingredients in your diet will not only help clear your acne, but will improve your overall health.

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Creative Commons Purple Cauliflowers at Hollywood Farmers Market” by Experience LA is licensed under CC BY 2.5

Foods that heal:

  • Whole foods
  • Dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, romaine, collards)
  • Healthy fats (good quality meats, unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts)
  • A variety of seasonal vegetables
  • Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt)
  • Plenty of water (filtered or spring)

Eating whole foods is the key to getting as much nutrition and healing power for your body. Our bodies are intended to eat a hunter/gatherer diet. Due to our history and evolution, our digestive system is best designed to consume animal protein and farmed fruits and vegetables. Foods that require processing (such as grains and processed food) can be taxing on our digestive system. Eating whole foods (foods in their natural state) will allow your body to best absorb nutrients. A good way to make sure you are eating a whole-food diet is to ask yourself, “Is the meat I am eating in an edible form as if it were hunted? Could I have picked these fruits and vegetables, gathered these nuts, etc?” Getting back to nature is key!

Dark, leafy greens is where you will get the most nutritional value for healing your acne. I typically eat a handful of greens blended with my morning smoothie for breakfast. Salads, stir-fries, and baked loafs (quiche, meatloaf, etc) are good methods of getting your greens as well.

Healthy sources of fat will give your body omegas, keeping your skin supple and glowing. Healthy fats keep you feeling full, and give you energy. I am a believer in eating good quality meats. This means that the quality of the animal’s diet as well as how they were treated impacts the quality of nutrition in the meat. When animals are not fed their natural diet, they become unhealthy. For example, when cows are fed corn, risk for ecoli is increased. When cows are fed grass, omegas are present in the meat. Contrary to popular beliefs, grass-fed beef can be more nutritious than poultry! Poorly treated animals produce stress hormones that stay present in the meat after they are processed. You end up ingesting all those stress hormones! I am a strong believer in buying meat from local farms that provide good quality of life for their animals. I suggest purchasing meat at a natural food market or the farmer’s market.

Vegetables that are in season, local, and organic will have the most nutrition. Produce that has traveled far before it reaches the grocery store will have depleted nutrients by the time it ends up on your dinner plate. Buy local and fresh whenever possible!

Fermented foods have natural probiotics in them. Probiotics are the key to increasing the good bacteria in your gut and strengthening your immune system. They also help reduce the effects of eating too much sugar. Super important!

Water, water, water! Keeping hydrated allows your body to cleanse itself. It keeps your skin elastic, helps decrease signs of aging, and keeps your pores naturally clean. If you are not staying hydrated, your pores are not able to easily flush toxins through your pores, thus clogging your pores. I try to drink at least 3/4 of a gallon per day. Drink natural spring water or filtered water.


For me, the trick to making changes to my diet came more easily when I focused on what I should be eating more of – versus worrying all the time about what not to eat. I tend to follow these guidelines 80% of the time, and the rest of the time I allow myself to “cheat” such as when I’m out to dinner, at the movies, or visiting friends who do not follow my choice of diet. Being too restrictive with your diet can cause stress – which will increase cortisol in your body and cause an imbalance in hormones – so don’t take yourself too seriously! Take small steps and give yourself the credit you deserve!

This is more than a change in diet – it is a change in lifestyle. Keep in mind that seeing results may take some time. Allow for at least a full month before seeing a decrease in acne. It took a long time for your skin to become the way it is, so it will take some time for it to heal. Stay strong!

Homemade Flaxseed Hair Gel for Perfect Curls

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The is a post for my fellow curlies! Do you want well-defined, frizz-free curls that will make others ask you with surprise, “Is that your natural curl?” Since I have been using my homemade hair gel recipe, I am asked that question all the time. This recipe is very easy to make, and gives me my best curls yet – even when compared to store-bought gels (and believe me, I’ve tried MANY). There are several variations of this recipe available on the internet. Here is what has worked for me:

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of flax seeds
  • 2 cups of distilled water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of magnesium oil (optional, for curl enhancement)
  • Fine mesh wire strainer
  • Glass container

Directions:

Place water and flax seeds in a saucepan and set stovetop to medium-high. When the water starts to bubble, turn the heat down to a simmer, stirring the seeds occasionally. The water will start to become white and frothy with the consistency of an egg-white. The longer you cook the seeds, the thicker the gel will be. I usually let it simmer for about ten minutes.

Pour the water and flax seeds through the mesh strainer, into your container. It may take some time to strain if the gel is thick. While the gel is still hot, pour in the magnesium oil and mix with an electric mixer or frother. The consistency of the gel will be “goopy” or “snotty” – like Nickelodeon slime! Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Here is how I use it:

I take globs of gel and finger-comb it through my sopping wet hair. Then I comb my hair upside-down for better volume and distribution of the gel. While my head is still upside-down, I scrunch in a little bit (nickel-size amount) of organic hair gel for some extra hold like Kinky-Curly Curling Custard. I plop my hair in an old t-shirt for about 15 minutes. I diffuse upside-down until it it 80% dry. I use jaw clips to lift my hair at the roots for volume until my hair is completely dry. Then I shake my hair, fluff at the roots, and scrunch out any “crunch” left in my hair. 


What I love about this gel is how it clumps curls, and gives superb definition! It it also really affordable and free of toxins. The gel is very light, so it will not weigh down your curls. Some curlies can use this without another gel over it, especially if they already have tight curls. I need a little extra hold, so using another gel in conjunction with my flaxseed gel works well for me.

I like to use magnesium oil in this recipe for extra curl enhancement. I previously used store-bought gel with magnesium sulphate (a.k.a epsom salt). I found that it really enhanced my curls (like after a day at the beach). However, by the end of the day, my hair would feel and look brittle. As we know, salt can be very drying. Thankfully, I discovered magnesium oil (which is actually magnesium chloride). It makes my curls really spring up, but is much less drying than magnesium sulphate. Win!

I also love using this gel on second-day, dry hair. It smoothes any frizz and re-clumps my curls. The only downside to using this gel is that it needs to be kept in the fridge unless you plan to add a preservative (like vitamin e), therefore it is not as convenient for travel. However, the results far out way any inconvenience!

You can add other ingredients to customize this gel to meet your hair needs such as essential oils, shea butter, or your favorite conditioner.

Have you tried flaxseed hair gel? What works for your curls?

Treating Yourself to an At-Home Facial

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Jurlique Organic Facial 2” by FoundryParkInn is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’m a firm believer in taking time to engage in self-care rituals that help me to slow down and enjoy the little pleasures in life. I usually give myself a facial every Sunday evening. There’s something about that deep-skin-clean feeling that gives me a little boost of confidence and prepares me to face the workweek ahead. If I find myself eating a little too much sugar or sodium, or perhaps having a few too many glasses of wine, my skin starts appearing dehydrated, dull, and more prone to blemishes. There’s nothing like a facial to jumpstart my skin and give me that little bit of motivation I need to get back on the healthy bandwagon. Beautiful, healthy skin comes from the inside out! Nothing helps me look more radiant than a clean diet, lots of water, and plenty of sleep.

Here’s how to give yourself an at-home facial:

Step 1: Double cleanse

Use an oil cleanser like Vitamin B One Love Organics and massage into face and eyes while skin is dry to loosen any makeup, oil, and dirt. The oil in the cleanser works with the your skin’s natural oil to dissolve clogged pores. Take a hot washcloth and wipe away the cleanser. Then use a second cleaner such as my favorite Shamanuti charcoal cleanser on wet skin. Using a second cleanser further helps deep clean into your pores.

Step 2: Manual Exfoliation

While your skin is still sopping wet, use a facial-scrub such as my personal favorite Brand New Day by One Love Organics. I love this scrub because it is super gentle. You want to scrub VERY gently in circular motions. Scrubbing too harshly can damage your skin’s acid mantle, causing it to become more vulnerable and irritated. You want to scrub just enough to remove any dead skin that can contribute to clogged pores. Rinse and pat dry.

*If you have active acne, you may want to skip this step since scrubbing blemishes can open up them up, and intereferes with your natural healing. It’s the same as picking a pimple – which can lead to scars!

Step 3: Steam

Use a facial steamer such as this one by Conair or heat up some water in a pot over the stove. Not only will the steam help clear your pores, but its great for clearing sinuses! Sit with your face over the steamer and a towel over your head to trap all the steam. Steam for at least ten minutes to give the steam enough time to open your pores. You can get creative by putting some rose water, a few drops of lavender essential oil, or green tea in the hot water to infuse the steam. Breathe in slowly and deeply – and relax!

Step 4: Facial Mask

Use a facial mask to further chemically exfoliate your skin and provide it with skin-happy ingredients! Chemical exfoliation occurs when natural acids or enzymes loosen dead skin cells so that they can be easily removed. Some masks can be quite harsh so be careful and test a small patch of skin before applying it to your face. My skin does not always react well to stronger masks or peels. I have tried many masks and finally found one that is both gentle and very effective in cleaning deep into pores, exfoliating, and healing blemishes. I really like using Refine clay mask by Blissoma. You can also use organic yogurt or sour cream. The lactic acid in the dairy will exfoliate and make your skin glow!

Step 5: Tone

Use an organic toner to remove any remaining bits of your face mask and tighten up your pores. I use a homemade toner with one-third apple cider vinegar and two-thirds rose water. No other toner has worked better for my skin!

Step 6: Moisturize

While skin is still a little damp, use your favorite moisturizer, balm, or oil to seal in moisture. I use rosehip seed oil by Pai. Rosehip seed oil is excellent for diminishing the appearance of discoloration or scarring left from acne.

And voila – Gorgeous, healthy skin is revealed! I have had facials at salons in the past – even ones considered to be organic and for sensitive skin. I always left feeling like my skin was attacked – feeling irritated and raw. Doing at-home facials has given me far better results than any salon I have been to. I hope you find these tips helpful!

 

 

A Healthy Alternative to Synthetic Perfume

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Dandelions Sophie Perfume” by foxandfeathers is licensed under CC BY 2.5

For several years now I have converted from wearing synthetic fragrance to organic perfumes that utilize essential oils. I have always been a lover of all things sweet-smelling, and was an avid wearer of Miss Cherie by Dior for many years. I frequently got compliments on how good I smelled, and my perfume lasted nearly the entire day. However, in an effort to reduce the level of toxins I subject my body to daily, I have come to recognize that traditional perfume is hazardous to my health and wellbeing.

Most common perfumes are made up of “fragrance.” Fragrance is generally created by using a chemical formulation of petroleum, motor oil, or coal tar. These chemicals are comparable to what is used in smoking tobacco, and are considered carcinogenic. It is a serious public health concern for those who wear synthetic perfume as well as others who are subjected to second-hand fragrance. Read more about the health hazards of synthetic fragrance here.

You may be wondering – what will I do without my favorite perfume? Enter the world of essential oils! Not only does the right combination of essential oils smell divine, but many essential oils have healing properties and can cure disease. Essential oils are extracted from plants such as flowers, herbs, bark, etc. through a process called steam distillation. The oils enter your body through inhalation, oral ingestion, or through contact with skin. They work to clean out our cells by bringing oxygen to the cells, thus maximizing our bodies’ natural detoxification. In order to work properly, essential oils need to be of high quality without added fillers.

Essential oils can address physical ailments as well as ease emotional problems. For example, roman chamomile can heal allergies, arthritis, headaches, inflamed skin and PMS as well as reduce anger, depression, loneliness, fear, and stress. Lemongrass can heal acne, athlete’s foot, excessive perspiration, and muscle aches as well as fatigue and mental confusion. Learn more here.

Who would have thought that something that smells so good could do so much? Here are some of my favorite perfumes that utilize pure essential oils:

 

Misaki by Tsi-La: This perfume is unique in that is comes in a spray bottle like most traditional perfumes, utilizing food grade sugar cane alcohol. I find the scent to be light and floral, with notes of warmth – sweet and seductive. The perfume is intended to be unisex, but I find it to be more lady-like. Ingredients include French lavender, red tea, vanilla, bergamot, honey, and other wild flower extracts – think “French countryside.” Although it’s not listed in the ingredients, I swear I can detect cinnamon – It truly smells good enough to eat!

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Aromatic Irritability Treatment by Tata Harper: This is my all-time favorite perfume to wear. It is intended to be an aromatherapy treatment, however I wear it as a perfume. The scent is intended to reduce moods of irritability, and the scent is incredibly intoxicating. I typically get many compliments when I wear this perfume. It has an herbal, complex fragrance with ingredients including chamomile, bergamot, grass, rose, and patchouli. I consider this my confidence-booster! It helps me to feel more grounded and at ease. This perfume comes with a roller-ball application, and the essential oils are combined with carrier oil that is applied directly to pulse points on the skin.

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Nu Green Verrine by Honore Des Pres: This perfume also comes in a traditional spray bottle. The name says is all – it truly smells “green” – as if you are in a springtime meadow after a rainfall. Ingredients include grass, mint, musk, tarragon, and cedar wood. This fragrance is incredibly easy on the nose. It is light and sweet with earthy undertones. It seems like the perfect fragrance for all you earthy, crunchy, yogi ladies!

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Yiska by Tallulah Jane: This perfume comes in a spray bottle, and is intended for men. I absolutely fell in love with this fragrance, and bought it for my husband as a birthday gift. For those of you who love the smell of men’s cologne, this may be the perfect gift for the men you care about – or even for yourself! Who says women can’t rock an arousing, masculine perfume? Ingredients include notes of citrus, floral, tea, woods, and leather – ooh la la!

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There you have it – clean, healthy fragrances that are as complex and beautiful as you!

Have you tried any of these perfumes? What are your favorite organic fragrances?

Shamanuti – My Holy Grail Cleanser


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I have been using Shamanuti’s Activated Charcoal Cleanser for several months now, and it is by far the best cleanser I have used to date (and believe me, I’ve tried many cleansers – both mainstream and organic). It provides a deep, powerful clean yet somehow remains incredibly gentle on my skin. I have a history of combination, blemish-prone skin, and this cleanser has helped my skin remain clear while reducing redness and irritation. I tend to get breakouts around the time of my monthly cycle, but after using this gem of a cleanser, my breakouts have significantly reduced! I am convinced it has also helped minimize the appearance of my pores – no more blackheads!

The cleanser provides a gel-like consistency with a light lather. It does not leave my skin tight and dry like previous store-bought cleansers I used to use with harsh sulfates. This cleanser does not strip my natural oils. The scent is hard to describe – “perfumey” yet subtle. The scent must come from a combination of the sweet orange and chamomile ingredients. I use this cleanser every morning, and couldn’t be happier with the results I’m getting!

Have you tried Shamanuti’s cleanser? What is your holy grail cleanser?

 

 

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