• Aromatherapy: An Introduction

    Aromatherapy is a way to incorporate essential oils to promote physical or psychological healing using our sense of smell.  Essential oils are the concentrated liquid portion of aromatic plants.  Aromatherapy can be used to inspire or maintain moods, aid in pain relief, correct conditions or influence performance and productivity.  In this post, I’ll give some ideas about some simple and versatile oils to buy if you’re just starting your collection and easy ways to use them.

    I think the sense of smell is one of the most underutilized senses.  Other animals rely upon it so heavily but humans tend to think of it more like an accessory.  Aromatherapy is a simple way for us to boost this sense.

    How Aromatherapy Works

    The sense of smell is special because it is so often associated with the formation of memories and can instantly transport us back to how we felt at a certain time and place.  The reason this happens is the same reason that aromatherapy works.  Our olfactory nerves are located very close to both the amygdala and the hippocampus in our brains.  The amygdala processes emotion and the hippocampus is the area of our brain responsible for associative learning.  Each time we smell something new (which happens the highest concentration of times in our childhood) we begin to associate that certain smell with a particular person, place, or memory.

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    There are many ways to incorporate aromatherapy in to your life.   Essential oils can simply be inhaled or massaged (diluted) in to the skin for their healing properties.   Other ideas are below.

    Ways to Incorporate Aromatherapy

    Aromatherapy diffuser: These come in a variety of forms but my favorite one is this one that dissipates the oil with a fine mist of water.  You can also find ones that you light a tea candle underneath.  These are nice but you have to watch them closely so they don’t boil over.  You can also diffuse the scent in to the room by using a lamp ring (works especially well if you’re studying or working at a desk) or by sprinkling some essential oil on logs before you light a fire.

    Household cleaning: Essential oils can be incorporated in to natural cleaning products to make your home smell good as you freshen and cleanse it.  I’m working on a post about natural cleaners, but essential oils can be mixed with water as a counter spray or dropped in to a bucket with the mopping water.

    Personal Care:

    Aromatherapy can be incorporated in to any personal beauty or maintenance product you use as you’ll notice in almost all my kitchen beautician recipes.

    • Skin moisturizer: Try mixing a few drops of essential oil with organic fragrance-free body lotion like I talked about in the travel post.
    • Face masks: Included on this site are kitchen beautician recipes with a little bit of essential oil including the hydrating oatmeal banana mask, and a pumpkin facial for glowing skin.
    • Body scrubs: I have a few body scrub recipes I love including the tropical vanilla hydrating scrub with vanilla and bergamot essential oil and the epsom salt and ginger scrub with lime and ginger essential oils.
    • Body powder: Check out this recipe to make your own body powder.
    • Baths: Most of the bath recipes I have on this site (like the rose petal, spirulina sea salt detox, oatmeal milk and honey, drunken red wine baths) contain some essential oils.  Be mindful that if you have sensitive skin, some oils might irritate it, especially in the bath.  I love oils of bergamot (and other citrus scents), cinnamon, and peppermint but have found that these are better inhaled as they can be irritating to the skin.
    • Facial cleanser: I really like incorporating a couple drops of essential oil in to the oil cleansing method or using a few drops with witch hazel or rose water as a toner.  Rose, vanilla, carrot seed, or geranium oils are good choices.  A little bit of tea tree oil can help acneic skin.
    • Facial steam: Steaming your face using a towel as a tent over your head with a few essential oils can really open up the pores or can help during times of congestion.  I talk about this in my post on eucalyptus oil.
    • Massage: If you would like to use it in massage, try mixing it with almond oil or coconut oil for a nourishing skin treatment.  Don’t forget that giving a massage to someone with aromatherapy will provide the same benefits for you!  I love giving my baby a massage with jojoba oil mixed with a few drops of vanilla after her bath.

    Wellness: Essential oils can help during times of sickness to alleviate symptoms and help you feel better.  Some of the oils like cajeput, peppermint, and ginger specifically work really well on sore muscles or a congested body.  Most essential oils are naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral and can help keep your skin and home healthy.  Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil in a humidifier if suffering from a cough or congestion.

    Aromatherapy Benefits

    If you are just starting out with aromatherapy, sometimes the decision about which oils to purchase can be overwhelming so I’ve listed some of the basics both by mood a person is trying to achieve or just a good starter kit to make a lot of different types of blends with fairly inexpensive oils.

    Uplifting: bergamot, tangerine, grapefruit, vanilla

    Activating: lemon, lime, rosemary

    Strengthening: cedarwood, rose

    Warming: clove, cinnamon, nutmeg

    Sensual: ylang ylang, geranium, vanilla, patchouli

    Replenishing: eucalyptus, peppermint, carrot seed

    Meditative: sandalwood, frankincense, clove

    Balancing: clary sage, ginger, rose, geranium

    Relaxing: lavender, geranium, wild chamomile

    Recommended Starter Kit:

    Included in this starter kit are a list of inexpensive (with the exception of chamomile and vanilla) essential oils that will allow you to incorporate all the different types of benefits and properties of essential oils.  The vanilla and the rose oils often come blended in a jojoba carrier so they can be applied directly to the skin but are quite expensive.  I have always liked the Aura Cacia brand and it is easy to find in most natural health or grocery stores or on Amazon.  I also really like Mountain Rose Herbs and is one of the only places I have been able to find undiluted rose and vanilla essential oils.

    • Peppermint
    • Eucalyptus
    • Lavender
    • Grapefruit
    • Tea tree
    • Lemon
    • Ylang ylang
    • Geranium
    • Tangerine
    • Vanilla
    • Rosemary
    • Cedarwood
    • Rose absolute
    • Chamomile

    References

    I really like the AuraCacia app that is available for iPad.  It gives lots of ideas for recipes, talks about the properties of many oils, and says what it mixes well with.

    The Mountain Rose Herbs website is great for listing the origin of essential oils, properties, uses, contradictions and indications on what blends well together.

  • The Oil Cleansing Method For Clear, Radiant Skin

    Oil cleansing is a way to cleanse your face with oil.

    Wait…what?

    Yep, that’s right…problem skin can be combated with oil whether the problem is acne, sensitivity, or dryness.  I have been wanting to write a post about the oil cleansing method for facial cleansing for a long time.  I was determined to make it work because I love how natural, minimalist and organic it is.  Plus, I had heard amazing things about how it left skin clear, radiant, and dewy and got rid of acne.  I tried this method for a few weeks a couple years ago and it didn’t work very well during that first attempt, so I gave up.  I was really excited about it though, so I knew I needed to try it again and troubleshoot because I felt confident this was the best method/product out there.

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    Why?

    My favorite thing about this method is how simplified the routine is – it eliminates the need for eye makeup remover, toner, moisturizer, and cleanser.  That translates to a lot of dollars saved and a lot of steps eliminated.

    My skin has always been pretty normal.  I have gone through some periods where I was really prone to spots, generally during times I was under a lot of stress or my hormones were haywire.  I blogged about that in this post.  I finally used Accutane (isotretinoin) to clear it up because I was so fed up but if you’ve read any of my blog, you know important natural methods are to me.  I kind of wish I would have tried the oil cleansing method as a last-ditch effort before doing Accutane.

    How does it work?

    So the premise behind using straight oil to cleanse your face is pretty simple.  The idea is that by using harsh and artificial cleansers to clean out your pores, you basically just end up stripping the skin, making it produce more oil to compensate, setting up a negative feedback loop. A person then tends to wash even more and be more harsh on spots or conditions that result from these methods.  The abrasiveness of some of these usual facial cleansing products (whether chemical or physical) can also aggravate skin.

    The oil cleansing method is based on the simple chemical phenomena that oil dissolves oil.  For that reason, oil is the constituent used to dissolve excess oil in pores and and loosen it along with impurities from the skin in this method.  There are different combinations of oils that can be used depending on your skin type and I like the added benefit that it’s very easy to find organic oils at affordable prices.  Trying to find organic cleansers to buy is extremely expensive.

    The oil that is most often touted as the base oil for this method is castor oil because it has somewhat toning and anti-inflammatory properties.  I generally avoid this oil because it cannot be produced without workers involved in its refinement being exposed to some level of toxicity.  It also requires  chemical extraction from solvents, deodorization, stabilizers etc., which concerns me (and is the same reason I avoid canola or corn oil in my food).  I prefer something than can be processed with a simple cold-press process.

    Instead, I recommend finding an oil or mixture of oils (below) that works for your skin and is easy enough for you to obtain.  Here are generally the oils that are used for different skin types (from the Crunchy Betty blog):

    • Hazelnut or sunflower oil (for typically acneic skin)
    • Sunflower, grapeseed, or sweet almond oil (for oily to normal skin)
    • Jojoba, grapeseed, or apricot kernel oil (for normal to dry skin)
    • Avocado or apricot kernel oil (for dry skin)

    Olive oil and coconut oil are also mentioned a lot when referring to this method.  I have not carefully tested them myself but I have heard anecdotal evidence that they can be somewhat comedogenic (pore-clogging) so I have generally avoided them unless I’m in a pinch.  I would definitely recommend trying this method with some of the other oils first and then doing a more of a scientific test with these more common oils to see if changing the oil changed the outcome.  I’d hate for you to give up too soon because you started with the wrong oils like I did.

    When I first tried this method, it didn’t really work for me and left my skin prone to breakouts.  I think there are a couple reasons for this and I’m glad I went back and gave it another try.  The first was that I was using a cleansing oil I bought online – Deep Cleansing Oil by DHC.  It seemed to be good from the reviews but was an olive oil base and also had some ingredients in it that I didn’t know what they were (preservatives, etc.).  I think the other reason it didn’t work was because of the way in which I was doing it.  I was basically just using the oil to wash my face and then wiping it off.  As I later came to find out, giving the face a little steam is the best way to loosen anything from the pores after cleansing.

    So, all this background – now how is it done?  First decide which oils you are going to use.  Some people like to make a mixture in a small bottle and add a couple drops of essential oil.  I have sort of normal/combination skin so I just use whichever oil I have on hand, usually almond or grapeseed and then I add in apricot kernel or argan oil if it’s during a time of the year my skin is prone to dryness.  I also really like Jason’s Vitamin E Oil (5000 i.u.), which can be found online if you’re an Amazon junkie like me or at a natural grocers.  It is a pre-made mixture of safflower, sunflower, rice bran, avocado, wheat germ, apricot kernel, and almond oils.  It can be used straight out of the bottle for this method and travels really well.  Most people do oil cleansing as part of a bedtime routine.  I do it every night.

    This is generally the method I follow:

    1. There is no need to remove eye-make up first but if you have a lot on, you may try putting some coconut oil on a cotton ball and removing it so it doesn’t smear all over your face.
    2. Get warm water running from the faucet.
    3. Splash some warm water over the face.
    4. Thoroughly wet and mostly wring a washcloth (nothing too abrasive).
    5. Put the washcloth in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
    6. While the washcloth is in the microwave, begin massaging about one tablespoon of oil (or a quarter size amount) in upward, circular motions in to damp skin.  There is no reason to avoid the eyes like with other cleansers.
    7. While you are massaging, really take the time to envision the best skin you can imagine.  This massaging motion helps bring blood to the surface and will result in a nice glow, like after a facial.  Pay special attention to problem areas.  Use this same oil to remove any eye make-up (assuming you haven’t put in any irritating essential oils).  Try using affirmations during this part, e.g. “I deserve beautiful skin.”  “I take gentle, loving care of myself.”
    8. Remove the washcloth from the microwave and drape it over the face at the temperature at which it’s just cool enough that it can be tolerated without burning your skin.  The steam will loosen any impurities and oil from your skin.
    9. Lie down with the washcloth on your face for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  For many of you, you may find this is the first time during the day you have had one minute to yourself so use it as a minute long meditation and a chance to get off your feet and begin preparing yourself for winding down for bedtime.
    10. Once the washcloth has cooled off, gently wipe down the skin.
    11. Rinse the washcloth and repeat steaming the face (microwave again).

    You can skip the microwave step, but I find I like the washcloth really hot and can’t get it to the temperature I want without burning my hands when I wring the cloth.  I really like this video from Mommypotamus that describes the method.  I don’t use the two cloths likes she does just because I don’t have enough washcloths or do laundry frequently enough to warrant it (though I suspect this will change when my infant arrives in a couple months).  I just rinse and re-use the original washcloth, trying to use the opposite side if I remember.

    Your skin may go through an adjustment period when you start this method though mine didn’t.  You may be unblocking some clogged pores the first few days so if it starts with a bit of a breakout, just stick with it and see how it is working after a week or so.  Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to return to a regular cleanser during this adjustment period.

    You might be surprised when I tell you that your skin may feel dry as a result of cleansing with oil.  If so, add a good nighttime moisturizer (or just a bit of oil) or do whatever other skincare routine you follow at night.  You may not need any extra moisturizer, or can adjust to one of the less drying oils if you do.  I like to dot some organic argan oil around my eyes after cleansing as an eye cream but find I don’t need any moisturizer.

    Your face will probably be neither dry nor oily in the morning with this method so there is no need to wash it when you wake up.  Usually I just rinse my face with water and/or wipe it with the Aveda shammy cloth.

    Other resources
    http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/
    http://www.crunchybetty.com/nitty-gritty-on-the-oil-cleansing-method
    http://wellnessmama.com/7569/oil-cleansing-for-naturally-perfect-skin/

     

  • Packing a Toiletry Bag – with Video and List

    I travel a lot and if I don’t have my toiletry bag all ready to go, it only adds to the stress of trying to get everything done and get out of town.  To counteract that, I keep my toiletry bag fully packed and stocked and separate from my everyday routine.  It costs a little bit more up front, but the hassle it saves later is really valuable.

    I have two kits for travel.  One is my liquids which all have to be less than 3 ounces and fit in a quart-sized plastic bag and the other kit has all my other stuff.  Inside the second kit, I keep a pouch with all my make-up brushes and other long, skinny things like eyeliners, mascara, concealer and lipstick.  I have the contents of each listed below where I give the nitty gritty and a packing list PDF at the end if you don’t want the details.

    Liquids
    – Shampoo and conditioner.  If you don’t already have travel-size containers, Pureology or Aveda make great shampoos and conditioners in travel sizes.  Aveda sends free samples with shipping which are nice for travel too.
    – Facial Cleanser – Aveda and Eminence Organic make great travel sizes.  Lately I’ve been doing the oil cleansing method so I just bring a small bottle of oil.
    – Moisturizer.  Consider asking Sephora for a sample and try a fancy new one in a small size at no cost!  Any time I need something from Sephora, I mail order it because then I get the samples (and I have a mall phobia, shudder).
    Dr Bronner’s Soap.  This can do duty as cleanser, shaving cream, clothing detergent, or shampoo.  If all else fails, bring this one thing!
    – Lotion.  I never trust the nasty scented stuff in hotels.  I’ll often mix a fragrance free organic one with vanilla oil.
    – Sunscreen (Bring a lotion with sunscreen to further limit products.)  I also love this Colorscience powder SPF and keep it in my purse to apply to my face.  I can also apply it to Chief to protect his face as he sits patiently and curious onlookers giggle as he begins to sparkle like a teenage vampire.
    – Eye drops – this is a lifesaver after traveling!
    Morrocanoil Hair Oil This stuff is great for keeping hair silky without adding weight.  You may also want to get a travel-sized container of whatever mousse or finishing product you use.  Pure argan oil works great too and can double as night eye cream, as pomade for hair, or can be added to your cleansing oil.
    – Travel size perfume.  Ask at Sephora or a department store for your favorite scent. The vanilla oil below can also work as a subtle perfume.
    Vanilla oil in jojoba oil (for moisturizing, eye cream, perfume, taming flyaways or frizzies and eye-makeup removal) or to add to your cleansing oil.
    – Toothpaste.  Chief recently discovered you could refill the small tubes by “kissing” the big tube to it.
    Coconut oil.  I have lately been packing it in to a small glass jar I had leftover.  It works great for the beach (for body or for putting in your hair and braiding), moisturizing (instead of lotion), or as a personal lubricant.
    – Egyptian Magic Skin Cream in a small container.  I just scoop some out of the regular full-size jar and put it in a travel container.  This stuff is amazing for a night cream and can be smeared over the whole face to moisturize eyes and lips as well.  It also works as a pomade or body moisturizer.

    Other items:
    – Baby powder or dry shampoo.  I like to keep the powder I make in a brush with a refillable base.
    – Venus razor with cartridge.  No shaving cream is needed.
    Smile’s PRID Drawing Salve.  This stuff is great for scrapes or surprise blemishes.  It’s antibacterial.
    – C.O. Bigelow’s Rose Salve.  This can be used for a unisex lip balm, for chapped faces, for a dewy glow, or for eye make-up removal.  I talk about using it on the eyes in this post.
    Ceramic Velcro rollers.  I assume wherever I’m traveling will have a hair dryer.  If not, go natural or twist hair in small sections and pin up with bobby pins until it dries.
    – Brush.  I was extravagant and made this purchase about 6 years ago, assuming I will have it forever.
    – Small wide-tooth comb for wet hair
    – Rubber bands and bobby pins.  These can be lifesavers when hair is wacky from traveling.
    – Toothbrush
    – Floss
    – Deodorant.  I really like the LaVanilla mini deodorant trio while I’m still perfecting my homemade deodorant recipe.
    Body brushBody brushing really helps to invigorate you after a travel and helps fight off some of the infections that can result from lack of sleep or germs in the airplane.
    – Empty spray bottle.  You can fill this with water later and a couple drops of essential oil to get wrinkles/smells out of clothes, hydrate your face, or spritz flowers for macro shots!

    Make-up
    – Beauty Balm for moisturizing, light coverage, and sun protection.  I really like Stila tinted moisturizer and Origins VitaZing cream and have recently been introduced to an obscure brand called Elisha Coy that has an SPF of 30.
    – Double-duty foundation/powder.  I have been using Clinique’s  Superpowderfor literally 20 years.
    – Stain for lips and cheeks.  Sephora brand and Benefit make good ones.  There are probably some great ones on the market I haven’t tried.  Lipgloss or lipstick can also work as blush.
    – Eye shadow palette including neutrals and dark/smoky colors and one bright color if you like.  I had a palette made up at MAC that includes my tried and true favorite colors: Vanilla (for highlighting or sweeping across the whole eyelid), Shroom (for the crease) Black Tied (for smoky eyes or liner) and Atlantic Blue (blue wakes up a tired eye and makes the whites look more white).  I also travel with this Coastal Scents palette (it’s very affordable and has a wide range of colors).
    – Blush (if stain won’t work for you).  Nars Orgasm is a great color that works on almost everyone.
    – Mascara.  I religiously use MAC’s Zoomlash in black.
    – Black eyeliner.  Rimming the inner part of the lower lids is an easy way to glam it up.
    – Concealer.  I love MAC’s Moisturecover.  It draws in and maintains moisture which is key if you’ve been traveling by air or partying at night!
    – Any other lipstick or gloss.  I try to bring my favorite red, pink, and neutral.
    – Make-up brushes.  MAC makes good travel sets but they are only available around the holidays generally.  You can find them at Cosmetics Company Stores at outlet malls in the off-season.  I would recommend the following brushes: Powder brush, blush brush, eye shadow brush, eyebrow brush, blending brush and eyeliner brush.  For a more in-depth tutorial on these, see my blog post on make-up brushes and the tutorial video.

    This list looks like a lot but it is all really compact.  You’ll see on the attached PDF that is is not a lot when broken down without the detail.  I almost never check a bag (carry-on only packing) and it always fits on my person.

    That’s the details that I have also chatted about in this YouTube Video, but I have also made a link to a simple packing list that you can print and/or modify:

    Toiletry Bag Packing List

  • Revitalizing Epsom Salt and Ginger Lime Body Scrub

    This is an amazing scrub to do when you have tired or achy muscles.  Sore muscles could be from over-exertion in physical activities or because of flu-like sicknesses.  The magnesium helps to soothe the aches and the ginger warms muscles and relieves muscle pain.  The vitamin C from the lime will help act as a mild fruit acid to smooth the skin.

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    In a microwave-proof container, combine the following:

    • 1/3 cup Epsom salt
    • 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped ginger
    • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil (jojoba, almond, or olive oil would work too)
    • Juice of half a lime
    • 2 drops each of lime and ginger essential oil (optional)

    Once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, heat the mixture in the microwave at 15-second intervals until it becomes very warm but not hot.

    Take the mixture in to the shower and apply to wet or dry skin in a gentle circular motion or with exfoliating gloves.  Applying to dry skin will result in a more intense exfoliation.  Rinse and pat skin dry.

    If you don’t have any Epsom salt on hand, sea salt could be a good substitute.

  • Spirulina & Sea Salt Detox Bath

    This is a great bath to do when you are starting to do any sort of cleanse or need to detoxify the body.  If you wake up with a wee hangover, or have overindulged in unhealthy food, soaking in this bath can help you eliminate toxins and put you in the right frame of mind to begin doing good things for yourself in order to mentally and physically right any damage.  I like taking this bath early in the morning on weekends when I’m trying to “turn over a new leaf.”

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    Spirulina is a blue-green algae.  It’s full of minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and amino acids.  Bathing in spirulina helps revitalize, nourish and soften the skin.  It is thought to usher along detoxification by flushing fluids from the cells and replacing them with all this good stuff in spirulina.  For that reason, it can also help with muscle aches and fatigue like if you feel like you are coming down with a flu or have built up lactic acid in your muscles from overuse (or from too much getting low on the dance floor while you slopped around Champagne at a wedding).

    The addition of the sea salt (or Epsom salt) adds additional minerals like I discussed in this post.  It’s a great purifier and increases circulation for a healthy glow.  Like the spirulina, salt helps promotes physical pain relief in the muscles or from arthritis.

    Add the following to a warm bath:

    • ½ cup spirulina, mixed in a pitcher of warm water
    • ½ cup sea salt
    • 5 drops essential oil (I like to use a mixture of lime, bergamot and grapefruit).  If you don’t have essential oils, you could also squeeze in some lime, lemon or orange juice
    • Fresh flowers to float (optional for a pampering spa-like feel)

    Spirulina can be found in the supplements section of any natural grocery store.  I like to buy sea salt in bulk and keep it in a glass jar by my bath.  I have been absolutely obsessed with baths lately and I love this one for its relaxing and restorative properties.

     

  • Tropical Vanilla Hydrating Sugar Scrub

    I love doing scrubs on days I have a little bit of extra time when getting ready or before an event.  Scrubs smooth and deeply moisturize the skin and impart a healthy glow.  It baffles me why anyone would go out and pay $65 for scrubs sold in beauty stores when we can make better ones with organic ingredients and no preservatives for under $1 in our own kitchens.  Scrubs can be applied to wet or dry skin (for deeper exfoliation).  You could also apply the scrub before sinking in to the bath and then let the components dissipate in to the bath water.  Ingredients are as follows:

    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • ¼ cup coconut oil (almond oil could work too)
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 3 drops bergamot essential oil (or sweet orange or tangerine)
    • 3 drops vanilla essential oil (usually in a jojoba oil carrier)

    Sugar is a great gentle exfoliator.  Just be sure to use somewhat finely ground stuff.  If you have really sensitive skin, brown sugar works well too.  Really any oil (jojoba, almond, olive, grapeseed) would work in this recipe but the coconut oil gives a really nice scent and has the added benefits of being naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Coconut oil is one of the products I always recommend having on hand for kitchen beautician recipes anyway.  The bergamot and vanilla mixed together give this scrub sort of a creamsicle smell and make you instantly feel like you have been transported to someplace tropical.  If you don’t have essential oils, don’t worry about it.  You could also try putting in a teaspoon of orange juice.

    If you do this scrub in the shower, take care because the oil can make the shower floor a little bit slippery.  This recipe should make enough scrub for about three uses.

  • My Favorite Make-up Brushes

    In this post I highlight my favorite make-up brushes and provide a brief description about how to use them.  I used to be completely clueless as to how to do make-up and use brushes until I went to a MAC store for a lesson about 7 years ago.  It was a lot of fun and though I hardly wear any make-up these days, I’m glad I learned how to do it so I have the foundation for creating looks if the mood strikes me.  Because I started with them, I am most familiar with MAC make-up brushes, so those are the ones I refer to in this post.  There are probably other brands that make great brushes too, but this list can help give you an idea of the shape and density you are looking for.

    Check out my video (that I will probably update with an HD version) to see how I use these for a simple contoured eye look.  And for Pete’s sake, please blend your eye make-up better…I got distracted and accidentally skipped that step in this video!

    I used to love playing with makeup  but I’ve become such a homebody nowadays and very rarely go out.  When I do head out, I generally end up running out with wet hair and no make-up to have a pint at the dive bar down the street!  Nevertheless, I still like having all the tools in case I feel like being artistic or playing around and getting glammed up.  I feel like make-up, clothes, and nail polish are easy fixes to totally change your look for a day or night and then you can always revert to your “regular old self” when the fun wears off.  I like not having to make drastic permanent changes.

    It took me years to complete my brush collection as these aren’t inexpensive brushes, but they last forever.  I have bolded the ones I couldn’t do without for everyday makeup (Total = $225) and then listed the other ones I love having in order of importance (Total = $600).  As I said, my collection took years of spending about $25/month on makeup brushes and I baby them.  There are lots of collections out there that sell brushes in a bundle, but I find the collections rarely have everything I want and often are filled with a lot of things I don’t need.  All the brushes listed are linked to the MAC page if you click on the name of the brush.

    Face

    • Large Powder Brush – #134 $53 This brush is for application of powder.  It is a paddle-shaped brush with a fluffed rounded tip.  I generally use it for applying my BareMinerals powder foundation and all-over bronzer.
    • Powder/blush Brush – #129  $35 This brush is all-purpose brush for blush or face powder.  It works well for both blush and bronzer.
    • Duo Fibre Face Brush – #187 $42  I use this brush for blending and applying cream blushes.  It is generally used to create soft layers or add textures.  It’s a blend of goat and synthetic fibers.
    • Blush Brush – #116 $35 This brush is for shading and highlighting.  It’s somewhat redundant with #129 but allows for more precise application.
    • Shader Brush – #242 $25 This brush is listed under eye brushes but I like it for concealer. It is a flat brush made of synthetic fibre.  I tend to like the synthetic brushes for anything emollient.
    • Buffer Brush – #182 $53 This is a full dome-shaped brush of goat hair for blending powder and giving an immaculate polished finish.  I like to use this brush for finishing powder or for applying something like the BareMinerals Pure Radiance or Mineral Veil.
    • Foundation Brush – #190 $33 Synthetic brush for applying, distributing and blending liquid foundation.  I love the way this one feels on my face!  It makes me feel like one of the fur-covered seal-like species that evolves in Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos novel.  But I digress…
    • Small Duo Fibre Face Brush -#188 $35 This brush is for lightweight application and blending of any fluid cream, or powder.  I especially like to use it for applying liquid highlighter to the top of my cheekbones and just above my brows.
    • Duo Fibre Fan Brush – #184 $23  This brush is a blend of synthetic fibre and goat hair.  It gives a featherweight application and works to blend powders or as a tool to gently clear the skin of any excess product.  I also really like it to apply a very subtle shimmery powder on the top of my cheekbones.  It also works well for brushing off any fibres from other brushes that stick to your face.  That’s not reason enough to buy it, but an added bonus!
    • Large Angled Contour Brush – #168 $35 This brush works best for cheek contouring.  I usually use it to apply a little bit of bronzer under my cheekbones.  Use contouring to apply darker colors where you want a feature to recede.

    Eye

    • Eye Shader Brush – #239 $25 Soft and dense brush for shading with eye shadow.  I use this brush every day and it works well for building color if you want to make it intense.
    • Small Angle Brush – #263 $19 This brush is a firm, flat- shaped and angled brush for lining and shading.  It is made of synthetic fibre.  It makes a precise line and works especially well for dense application if it is spritzed with water or MAC’s Fix Plus.
    • Lash Brush – #204 $14 This brush can be used for grooming the eyebrows and separating the eyelashes.
    • Blending Brush – #217 $23 I love this brush for shading and blending.  Use it to add depth to contoured eyes or use it at the end of eyeshadow application for blending all colors together.
    • Pencil Brush – #219 $25  For precision shading and blending eyeliner.  It helps give a very nice smudged look and works great for doing sort of a sexy smoky eye.
    • Large Fluff Brush – #227 $31 Paddle-shaped dense brush for defining the eye with color.  This is the perfect brush for applying eye color in a quick all-over stroke.  I especially like to use it to apply a light color like MAC’s creme brulee or vanilla all over the eyelid.
    • Mini Shader Brush – #228 $20 This brush is round-tipped and firm and I really like it for applying a slight shimmer just under my eyebrows and around the tear duct to open the eyes up.

    I don’t usually use much in the way of lipstick brushes because I am more of a gloss kind of gal but I have had luck with MAC’s retractable lip brush when I have used it.  A great resource for trying make-up looks is the YouTube channel AllThatGlitters21.  She does a lot of good make-up tutorials and you can pretty easily accomplish a lot of the looks with just a couple of palettes.

    Happy make-up artistry!

     

     

     

     

  • Kitchen Beautician Shopping List

    Below I have listed some of my favorite natural beauty/health products that can be found at Whole Foods or ordered online if you don’t have access to a natural supermarket.  A lot of the items are components for many of the kitchen beautician recipes I have listed on this site.  Some of the items are useful to have in any kitchen too.

    Hyland’s Homeopathic Smile PRID Drawing Salve : I love this homeopathic drawing salve in the orange tin for two things: 1) first aid and 2) blemishes.  It’s an all-natural salve with sulfur for antibacterial properties.  It is great for applying to any scrapes or cuts.  It also works really well for healing blemishes or ingrown hairs because it helps draw anything out from below the surface of the skin.

    Vanilla Oil in Jojoba Oil – I love this for multi-tasking and always keep some in my travel bag.  It can be added to bathwater or you can add a few drops to a fragrance free moisturizer to scent it naturally.  This also works great to use as an eye cream at night.  The aromatherapeutic property of vanilla is uplifting.  It’s kind of a nice unisex smell that I think both genders find comforting and sexy.  You can even use it as a perfume, dabbing it on pulse points.  Because it comes in a jojoba oil carrier, you can also use it to remove eye make-up in a pinch but it might be too expensive to do that every day.

    Egyptian Magic Skin Cream – I love the ingredients in this skin cream – olive oil, beeswax, honey, bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.  It is an amazing night cream but also can be used as a body moisturizer, eye cream, or like a pomade to smooth flyaways or the ends of hair.  A little goes a long way.

    Body Brush – Body brushing feels so amazing and is great for your health and skin.  I have the details in this post.  I like to keep one next to my shower and also keep a small travel one in my toiletry bag.

    Sore No More – I was first introduced to this botanical formulation when a Jivamukti Yoga instructor applied it on our backs when we were in downward dog.  It really helps to ease sore muscles and brings a pleasant warming tingle to any particular area.  The menthol and camphor also really help to keep sinuses clear so this could be used as sort of an all-natural Vick’s Vapo Rub type of thing.  It’s a wonderful thing to give someone you love a quick rub on the shoulders and neck with.  It has capsaicin from peppers in it for the warming effect so do a test spot first to make sure your skin isn’t sensitive to it.

    Almond Oil – I use almond oil in a bunch of my kitchen beautician recipes including the pumpkin and honey mask and the rose petal bath.  You can also use it to wash your face if you are doing the oil cleansing method.  It’s also a great oil to make a quick scrub out of by combining it with sugar or sea salt and a couple drops of essential oil.

    Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay – This calcium bentonite clay is amazing for drawing out blackheads and just really refining the skin.  You can see how I’ve used it in the pumpkin and honey mask.  I also did an iteration of the same mask the other day when I didn’t have pumpkin at home.  I put in a little bit of vinegar instead and had amazing results with that too.

    Honey (or manuka honey) – Honey is awesome for its antibacterial and moisturizing properties.  I’ve mentioned using it in a milk and honey bath, in various masks, and mixing with vinegar if consuming for getting beautiful from the inside out.  I just keep a bottle next to my bath.  I’ll often just squirt some in to soften and moisturize my skin or smear it straight on my face as a mask on its own.  The bottle I have has become granulated which is kind of perfect because then it does a bit of exfoliation as well as moisturize the rest of the time I sit in the bath.

    Baking soda – I love baking soda for dumping in to the bath (for softness and detoxing) as well as using it as a really simple exfoliator as I described here.  It also works great to dump a bit on your toothbrush after you’ve put the paste on to help polish and whiten teeth.  I also occasionally use it to remove product build-up from hair.

    Vinegar – I’m sorry.  You all know my obsession with vinegar by this point.  It can be used as a hair rinse for shine and in the bath to neutralize pH’s.  I also like using it mixed with the Aztec clay for a clarifying mask or you can dilute it and use it as a toner.

    Sea Salt – I love sea salt for putting in the bath (like the red wine bath) as well as for making scrubs.  I will eventually add some more recipes in the beauty section of the blog for specific recipes but you can generally mix it with a little bit of oil (grape seed or almond) as well as essential oils for a good body scrub to do in the shower.

    Whole milk – Whole milk works great as a moisturizer and also has lactic acid, which helps to exfoliate.  I’ve mentioned using it for the milk and honey bath.  The other thing I really like to do with it is to soak cotton balls in milk and then place them over the eye area to restore moisture.  The coolness of the milk also helps to reduce puffiness.

    Coconut Oil – Coconut oil has wonderful benefits for both internal and external consumption.  It has antibacterial and antifungal properties.  It works great as a body moisturizer all on its own, especially after a day at the beach.  I also love using it as a hair mask.  I just apply it to my hair and then make a hair towel out of cling wrap and put a towel over that and add some heat with a blowdryer or the sun.  You can rinse it out after 20 minutes to an hour (or sleep in it with a shower cap on) and shampoo and condition as usual.  If you’re going to be beachy all day too, it’s kind of nice to apply it to the ends of hair and put it in a loose braid to keep everything hydrated.  It’s also a great natural personal lubricant.

    Rose Water – Rose water works as a toner for slightly dry skin and can also be used as described in the rose petal bath.  I like to keep it in the refrigerator and use it as a really refreshing mist on a hot day or after a good workout.  Orange water works great too and has more astringent properties.  The rose water can also be used in recipes.  The other day we mixed it with sugar to make a simple syrup and then made strawberry rose gimlets with muddled strawberries and gin.

     

  • Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse for Hair

    To make your hair soft and shiny, try rinsing it with 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 cup of cold water.  Apply the solution by pouring it over the hair after conditioning and then rinse with cold water to help seal the cuticle.  Take care to avoid your eyes.  This is a really inexpensive way to clarify the hair and make it silky-looking.  Add a few drops of any essential oil if you like to help eliminate the vinegar smell, though it mostly evaporates after the rinse.  My favorite oils to use in the solution are either rosemary, lavender, or bergamot.  Try using a few drops of tea tree oil if you have any problems with dandruff.  You may find you don’t need to use conditioner on the days you do this.

    This is a trick I have been using for some time and my mom recently told me my grandmother used to use it as well.  She would wash her girls’ hair in the kitchen sink and rinse it with a vinegar water solution.  I love hearing about these tried and true simple tricks that have been passed down through the ages.  Apparently the hair and scalp are both slightly acidic so this rinse just helps to balance the hair to its natural pH.  Not to mention, you all know how much I love vinegar for consuming and for beauty!

    While I’m talking about hair and vinegar, I’ll use this post to tell you that I did try using the whole “no ‘poo” method.  Besides the name “no ‘poo” which really annoyed me, this method just didn’t work for me.  It basically consists of washing hair with a solution of baking soda diluted in water and using a vinegar solution as the conditioner.  If you try Googling this, you will see what a craze it is.  A lot of the people that have tried the method really rave about it.

    I loved the idea and always appreciate resourcefulness and anything that applies to the whole “want not, waste not” philosophy but I just couldn’t get this one to work.  I tried tweaking a lot of things throughout the process including the type of vinegar, the ratios, and the frequency but absolutely nothing worked.

    I feel like I gave it an honest try because I spent five weeks doing the method during which time I basically looked like a greasy drowned rat.  Normally I consider natural to be beautiful, but I felt like a little misfit throughout this whole experiment.  I think the way I felt was reflected in the way I interacted with the world and I was kind of moping around.  Even my mom admitted it looked terrible!  When your mom tells you a look/practice isn’t working, listen up people!

    The whole concept still makes a lot of sense to me.  That is, our hair produces extra oil to compensate from it being stripped of shampoo and that many of the ingredients in shampoos and conditioners are bad for the environment and unhealthy for us to absorb through our skin.  But I just wasn’t looking professional or feeling like a sexy bitch walking around looking like a well-fed meth head.  I am thinking I might give it a try one of these days again, especially if I go hang out in the wilderness for a couple of months!  I suspect I would have adjusted more quickly had I just completely quit washing my hair for a month and hardly used the baking soda shampoo.

    After the failed experiment, I did go out and find some sulfate-free, all-natural shampoo with argan oil and seaweed extract by the Seawood Bath Company that has a eucalyptus and peppermint scent that I am really loving.  Actually Chief found it at Whole Foods since I didn’t have any shampoo or conditioner in the shower for him.  I don’t think my hair has every looked better since I started using this shampoo and conditioner.  Walking around with it doused in natural oils for five weeks may have helped my cause though!  I am using the apple cider vinegar rinse 1-2 times per week.

  • Drunken Red Wine Bath

    Chief has been out of town most of this month so I have been faced with my usual dilemma…what to do with the bottles of red wine that I can’t finish before they start to turn.  This bath is the perfect way to enjoy a glass and not feel compelled to finish the rest of the bottle by oneself!  If you want an excuse to throw it back, just forget you ever read this post. 😉  This is also a good opportunity to use up leftover wine after a party.

    Bath Recipe

    • 20 drops of jasmine essential oil (it usually comes blended in jojoba oil)
    • 1/4 cup grape seed oil
    • 1 cup of Epsom salt or sea salt or a combination
    • 1/2 bottle red wine

    The antioxidants in the wine and grape seed oil help to heal damaged skin.  The jasmine provides a sensual scent.  The grape seed, jojoba and jasmine oils moisturize and nourish the skin.

    I am addicted to Epsom salts for the way in which they soothe aches and pains in muscles and joints and reduce inflammation as a result of overuse, injury or arthritis.  It seriously feels like you have had a massage after soaking in Epsom salts – pretty fantastic for a fraction of the cost!

    Epsom salts are basically just magnesium sulfate named after a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England.  By soaking in them, your body absorbs these nutrients through the porous membrane of the skin organ.  The magnesium helps regulate enzyme activity for biochemical reactions in the body, maintain muscle and nerve function, and regulate blood pressure.  Sulfate helps to flush toxins and other salts from the body by the process of reverse osmosis.

    The sea salt has the same theory.  It contains mostly sodium chloride, but also has macro-minerals (including magnesium) and nearly 80 trace minerals that are beneficial for our bodies.

    I like to keep both my Epsom salts and sea salt that I buy in bulk in glass jars near the bathtub.  It’s sexier looking than the Walgreen’s Epsom salt bag!

    The red wine won’t stain your tub, but sparkling wine also works.  It might be nice for the morning after a celebration with some citrus oils like grapefruit, tangerine, or bergamot.

    Soak for 20 minutes.   Maybe for once soaking yourself in wine WILL solve your troubles!