Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How I stopped my latest eczema Flare-Up

Hey guys!

I am really excited about a natural healing agent that I recently tried to calm my skin inflammation on my fingers recently.  As a long-time sufferer, I am well aware that true eczema is not just dry skin.  It usually causes intermittent flares of hard, flaky, and/or crusty skin AND weepy, oozing red blistering skin.  My fingers are usually victims, especially my ring finger, so if you ever check me out and I don't have on my wedding ring, don't think there is any trouble in paradise. Ha ha!  I often have to remove them to allow the skin on my finger to heal, and for the swelling to diminish.

So what's the mystery cure?  It is a concoction using neem oil.  Neem oil is a vegetable oil mixed with the seeds and fruit of the Neem tree, which is native to India.  Neem is a very versatile oil, used in everything from natural insecticides to head lice treatments to soaps and body washes.  The oil has antiseptic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory qualities as well. I got my neem oil on ebay, but it can be purchased at natural and Indian stores too.

Now here's the downside!  Pure Neem STINKS!  It smalls like garlicy food and sulfur...really smelly on its own.  It is too potent to be used on it's own for the most part anyway, so I mixed it into my favorite argan Oil (see post on Exotic Argan Oil).  I added about 5 drop of Neem to about one teaspoon of argan oil and applied the mixture to my sore, flaking fingers.  Yes, I could have added some lavender or other fragrant essential oil to mask the stench.  But when dealing with eczema, you really don't want to add anything that could possibly irritate the already "angry" epidermis.  So I sucked it up and dealt with the aroma. I don't think anyone really noticed, or if they did they were too scared to say anything.

Guess what?  After applying the oil mixture three times in a day, I woke up the next morning with softer skin that was no longer itching and red.  As I continued to apply the oil on Day 2, I could see the inflammation waning.  Yeah!!!  Eczema is a very tough issue to deal with.  Often times, the only thing that really takes it away is a prescription cortecosteroid.  I have tried many non prescription cures with minimal success.  But I am a witness, the neem/argan mixture really took down the skin flare.  If you are a chronic skin sufferer like I am, it is worth a try.

* Neem Oil is for external use only.  Do not consume!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In Memory of Talia Castellano- Lil' Diva!

When I had heard the news today about the passing of one of the Beauty World's youngest stars, Talia Joy Castellano, I had to google her to find out more about her.  To be very honest, I hadn't heard of her before.  I watch many beauty VLogs on YouTube, but had not watched as many makeup tutorials lately as I have been watching hair tutorials and reviews of natural ethnic hair care products.  All I had known from the initial web news posting was that she was 13 years old, a makeup artist and honorary Cover Girl, and that she had been battling neuroblastoma for a few years.  I was saddened that such a young life (she was almost the same age as my own baby) had succumbed to such a nasty disease.  But I was intrigued by the description "makeup artist".

Really?  A 13 year old child?  Certainly, the media was just being kind.  A girl that age doing makeup artistry?  I am a makeup artist too, so I was really curious about this girl's skills.  So I looked her up on YouTube.

Talia was the real deal indeed!  She could wield a crease or angled brush as well as any MAC pro I've seen.  She discussed priming the eyes with Urban Decay eye primer, my personal favorite.  She blended colors on the eye with precision and talent, as if she had been in the business for decades. And those brows were on point!  I don't know if Brow Mogul Anastasia could do any better. The confidence and knowledge she exuded on camera at twelve years old was astounding!  I wanted to think that at her tender age there was no way she could be as skilled as her adult counterparts, but I was wrong.  She was a true beauty natural.

I also learned that she was not only designing a fashion line, but that she was a champion for childhood cancer research.  She participated in and hosted fundraisers to benefit further research so that other children might not have to suffer as she did.  Wow! This little girl was not only wise and talented beyond her age, but she was determined to make the world a better place for kids with cancer...all while dealing with her own immense suffering.

I do believe that often times young people who are terminally ill are blessed with maturity beyond their years.  It as if God gave them the ability to live vicariously in the adult world because He knew He would call them home before they actually became adults.  Talia certainly made her mark in the world.  Her story taught me a few lessons too--that I should not take time for granted and work toward fulfilling my dreams now.   And that tremendous gifts and talents are instilled in us at birth. I believe that time cannot erase them, either.   So never discount a person's eye for BEAUTY because of their age, whether young or old!

                                                                 RIP Talia Joy

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Vitamix--The King of Blenders!! But is it worth the $?

About two months ago, I broke down and purchased a Vitamix Blender.  I had dealt with sub par blenders all my life, not knowing how efficient and powerful they actually could be.  When I got married and moved in with my hubby, we used the blender that he had gotten as a staple.  It likely was a  hand-me-down from a sibling.  We really didn't use it much, and when the blades dulled on it, I was happy to toss it and get a new one.  I don't remember what I replaced it with.  I think it was a bottom of the line Oster from Target.  I mainly had it in the house just in case.  We rarely used it--hardly ever made smoothies.  I used it to make milkshakes (which I still love but can't drink as often due to the high caloric factor and my much slower "aging diva" metabolism), but it was a lot of work for a dessert that I could get in a jiffy at Friendly's.

Fast forward to now.  I am attempting to stay healthier by adding antioxidants to my diet.  They are the free radical scavengers that help to combat cancer and other health issues.  I planted both raspberry and blueberry bushes in my yard. (Let's not talk about my battle with the wildlife this summer; as they have been the victors thus far!)  And for the past six months or so, I have been drinking smoothies as a means of getting those nourishing vitamins and antioxidants into my system, and those of my family.  My 12 year old son is quite proficient, and has become a "Smoothie Master" in his own right.

The last blender we owned before the Vitamix was a Ninja.   The Ninja was a hyped up contraption "As Seen On TV".  It cost me under $40 with the coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond.  It was very unusual (the motor was on top) and came with many extras that I didn't think were of any use.  But in the beginning, it crushed ice like, well, a Ninja.  We used it as directed and were happy for about a year.  But then, as all cheap blenders do, the blades got dull--very dull.  Our smoothies were very crunchy and the fruit was not fully blended. Yuck! I had heard a few friends mention the mighty Vitamix and I looked into it as a replacement, but all the models were soooo expensive--running from $449 to $689!!! How could I justify spending that much on a blender when I only used it to make occasional smoothies? 

Still determined to get healthier and add more fruits and veggies to my diet, I kept researching other brands.  Some seemed like notably better blenders than I was used to, but had mixed reviews.  About this time I began to incorporate whey protein into my smoothies.  I wanted to make them into a meal.  I also begin collecting recipes for smoothies using all kinds of fruits and even some veggies. It was then I realized that I could justify the sale.  To have a blender that whirls kale, apple, blueberries, and even whole frozen strawberries into oblivion was worth it's weight in green!  And it would save money as I wouldn't have to make as many drives to Smoothie King to spend a small fortune on a small smoothie because they are the only ones whose smoothies aren't with high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors.  And guess what, Vitamix is the official manufacturer of the commercial blenders in Smoothie King!  I looked closely one day when I was waiting for my Pineapple Surf.

So I found a compromise of sorts.  I purchased a certified factory recon 5200 model directly from the Vitamix site for $329.00.  Sure it was reconditioned, but Vitamix stands behind their recons and  gives them a 5-year warrantee.  And my Vitamix has been great from the moment my son unboxed it and made the first concoction. It's like nothing I've ever had before; it's on a whole new level!  It looks and feels like a commercial grade blender, even though my 5200 is not.  It not only handles whole fresh and frozen fruit like a champ, it goes beyond frozen drinks--making soy and rice milk and it even creams nuts into nut butter.  They have a "buy-up" program, so when I am ready for a newer model (probably never), I can get a credit toward it.  I would not recommend buying a recon or a used blender on ebay ( and oh how I love my ebay!).  Get one directly from vitamix.com. Recons from $319.  Believe me, if it enables you to eat healthier, it is so worth it.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Exotic Argan Oil-Yea or Nay?

New attention has been given over the past few years to oil as skin care and hair care treatments.  And before you raid your pantry for the bottle of canola oil, hold up!  The types of oils that have been most widely talked about are not sold at your local supermarket. These oils are much more exotic.

I am currently on my second bottle of the most popular exotic oil in recent times--argan oil.  Although argan oil is found in products all over the place, the oil I am using is 100% pure.  There are no silicones added as in the top selling Moroccan Oil hair product.  I bought my oil from an ebay store, Sweet Essentials.  It's cold pressed oil imported from Morocco, the country of origin for the argan tree.

I use the argan oil to seal the cuticle on the strands of my hair after I shampoo and condition.  Because my hair is naturally kinky-curly, it has a tendency to be dry and fragile.  Color treated hair is also prone to dryness and damage to the cuticle.  Argan oil applied on wet hair keeps the moisture from the water in the strand.  It is naturally rich in the anti-oxidant Vitamin E .  The serums sold in Sephora and other BSS normally add silicones and other ingredients.  So the effectiveness of Argan is diminished. And some people's hair dislikes"cones", and behaves poorly as a result. 100% Argan Oil can also be used as a pre-shampoo treatment, just as the Big Name serums can.  To save money, I mix my argan in with olive oil, coconut oil, or black castor oil to seal and as a pre-treatment.

Pure argan oil is also a nice, lighter-weight oil to be used to seal moisture into the skin.  I use it on my face at night every so often, and I wake up to smoother skin.  Those with drier skin or more mature skin can use it every night.  Argan oil is also special because it is not comedogenic (does not clog pores and cause acne).  In fact, many acne sufferers report that their acne is diminished as a result of using this oil on the skin. I am betting that the good stuff in this exotic oil helps to regulate our skin's own oil and decreasing inflammation!! I have even used argan oil straight from the bottle on my baby nephew's skin  just after a bath (to seal in moisture) and it relieved a stubborn patch of eczema from his back. Just don't use the hair serum on the skin.  Those "cones" will do more harm than good.  Go pure!

So I am convinced it's worth it.  Give 100% Argan Oil a try!

Ebay Store-Sweet Essentials-- 4 oz. of Organic Cold Pressed Oil for $17.99.  This is a reputable and trustworthy ebay store IMO.

if you must have it TODAY, you can splurge on Josie Moran Pure Organic Argan Oil at Sephora stores. 4 oz. will run you $96.  Although Josie makes some quality stuff, probably more quality than the Sweet Essentials, it is not worth to pay such a mark-up for the pure oil.  In my opinion, the high price tag is for the celeb label (Josie is a former model and eco-conscience celeb cosmetics maker) and the fancier packaging. www.sephora.com

Until next time,

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BB's for Dummies ;-)

Let me begin by saying that I don't really think any of my readers are dummies.  Uninformed, maybe.  Please don't get uptight.  It's just a saying!  So, have you noticed the term BB being thrown around in the beauty advertising world? 
Can ONE product do it all???

Within the past year, the term "BB", or Beauty Balm, has gotten VERY popular in the beauty industry.  There are an abundance of BB's on the market, from the higher end cosmetics lines to the drugstore staple brands.  So what is the big deal with all of these new products?

Well before I elaborate, I'd like to state, BB's are really nothing new.  They are essentially what used to be called tinted moisturizers, repackaged and spruced up.  Tinted moisturizers were always popular with the active crowd, with the oily skinned ladies, and with the women who didn't like the feel of makeup on their faces.  They were summertime staples for women who didn't want a heavy liquid foundation, or a thick solid stick foundation that melted in the heat and that looked very conspicuous as it slid down their faces as they perspired.

Then came the advent of mineral makeup, most notably Bare Escentuals.  Mineral foundation cornered the foundation/makeup base market very quickly, and soon every company was clamoring to put out a powdered mineral product that could be swirled on with a kabuki brush. 

Now I really like mineral foundation, but the "fad" has waned, and the fickle beauty market went on to look for the next big thing.  Today, it is the Beauty Balm, which as I said is a tinted moisturizer--a regular facial moisturizer + a foundation like tint.  Many of todays BB's have added sunscreens, which further simplify the morning routines of busy women.  I like this, as anything that will keep a lady from complaining about the extra step of applying sunscreen is a big + in my book.  BB's may also add other ingredients to help with firming or mattifying depending on the skin it is indicated for.

Why have I not run out and bought a BB yet?  Well, my regimen is way too complicated (and satisfyingly so) for me to be satisfied with a BB.  I switch up my products on a day-to-day basis, and usually use a serum, a moisturizer, and a makeup primer with SPF.  But I think they are nice products IF and ONLY IF you can find one to match your skin color and undertone.

Most mainstream brands make a Light, Medium, and Dark formula.  This is a pet peeve for me!  If someone like Katherine Zeta-Jones is considered Dark skinned, then what about the rest of us!  This leaves out the Diva and those with even deeper tones.  Boo!!  Yes, most mainstream brands are made for people of European descent.  But if you look hard, you can find some good ones that work for darker skin tones.  And just because a formula says Medium doesn't mean it will work for every medium-hued Caucasian sister.  If you have a warm undertone, a peach or rosy toned color will not do you any good.  Just keep in mind, we are not cookies, so no there is no cookie-cutter formula to fit us.
I will be on the lookout for the best Beauty Balms in my next post.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Breaking In: How to break in Birkenstocks

"Ehh, Doc, I told you to break in your Stocks before you go hoppin' around all day!"

Lately I've been raving about the comfort of the Birkenstock cork orthopedic footbed.  The footbed is designed to mold to your own feet for a customized fit, like the custom orthotics you get at a podiatrist's office.  Those orthotics will run you a pretty penny.  I once paid $300 for a pair that my son refused to wear.  Yes, this is why Birkenstocks (and Birkenstock like cork sandals) are so expensive, they are doctor developed for the best environment for your tootsies.  And this is why they can be so comfortable.

The one caveat, they are not ready to go once you take them out of the box.  You need to break them in so that while they are molding to the contours of your feet, they are not making them sore in the process. So eager to wear my new Bionaturas, I didn't follow this rule when breaking in my own  sandals. ( Bionaturas are yet another brand, but with the similar orthotic footbed! Check out the clearance page at clogoutlet.com)  Even if you get the Stocks with the padded footbed, you still need to follow these steps for breaking them in:

1. Out of the Box--First of all, wear the shoes for about 15 minutes INSIDE your house.  This is to ensure that the size is correct and that you like the look of the shoes before you scuff the soles.  Many stores will not take them back if they look like you wore them outside. (If you had them properly fitted by a salesperson at a full service shoe store, you may skip this step).

2.  Day One--Wear the shoes for about 45 mins. to an hour--NO MORE!  You can wear them to the grocery store or to run some errands that won't take much time.

3. Day Two (doesn't have to be the very next day, but don't wait too long)--Wear them for about  2-3 hours max.  If you feel your feet start to hurt or feel fatigued, switch shoes.  That means you should bring another pair of shoes if you are going to be walking a lot.

4.  Day Three (again, don't wait too long between)--Try wearing them for a half of your average day out. 

5. Subsequent Days--Build up to a full day of light to average walking.  If you plan on doing a lot of walking, bring another pair of shoes just in case.

Once you've broken them in, you should see a slight imprint of your foot in the sandal footbed.  This is good; it means they are molding to your feet.  After this point, go to the mall, light hiking (they are not like hiking boots) or for long walks in the park.  You will love the way the shoes conform to your feet and feel great!

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Few More Good Sandals: Part 3- Othaheels by Dr. Andrew Weil

Last week we looked at the Birkenstock brand of sandal and a few others licensed by the Birkenstock company.  Birkenstocks are the "cadillac" of orthopedic sandals.  And if you look for some of the brands they license like Betulas and World Walkers, you can save a bunch for the same footbed

One downside to 'Stocks, they are not waterproof.  Sure some people wear theirs at the beach and even get them get them wet, I wouldn't recommend it. I like the ease of a flip flop on the beach and poolside.  But most flip flops are very flimsy and offer no support and no shock absorbtion.

I bought a pair of Orthaheel flip flops for my kid Lena about three years ago.  She has very flat feet and needs more support than most sandals made for teens could offer.  They were on sale for $29.99 in the Herrington catalog.  They are regularly $44.95 and up .  The whole line of sandals, slippers, clogs, and orthotics were created from a design by Dr. Andrew Weil, whose name is on the brand.  The flip flops are made of  rubberized material,which makes it water-friendly, and they have an orthotic footbed with a nice arch support.  They are made for those who have plantar faciitis and flat feet, but I started wearing Lena's pair and realized they offer much comfort for anyone who wants the ease of wear of a flip flop and a well constructed shoe.  I have since bought my own pair.   I always get them on sale online (either try the orthaheel site, Zappos, or ebay), at a cheaper price than their MSRP.    They arent't super stylish or flashy, but they aren't old-fashioned or weird looking either.  They usually come in different colors.  They are for men and women.  And they are true to size.  Unlike classic flip flops, they last more than a few seasons.  And for serious flip flop wearers who like to wear them year round, they keep you supported as if you have good a good pair of shoes while allowing you to feel like you are wearing next to nothing on your feet.  A true win-win!!

Orthaheel Tide Flip Flop (orthaheel.com)