• Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil

    Eucalyptus oil is one of my favorite inexpensive products to transform my day.  I use it for a bunch of different things and have listed some ideas below.  Eucalyptus oil is distilled from the leaves and branch tips of the eucalyptus tree from Australia.  It has been highly prized over the centuries for its medicinal and aromatherapeutic properties.  Here are some of my favorite ways to use it.

    This photo belongs to And all that Malarkays from Flickr

    • Every day when I wake up, right after I’ve rinsed my face with water, I like to shake a couple drops of eucalyptus oil on to the end of a cotton swab and inhale the scent.   I exhale everything out and then place it in one nostril and rub it near the rim of my nose as I inhale deeply.  I then exhale sharply and repeat on the other side.  The exhilarating smell wakes me up, allows a brief 10 seconds of meditation and clears my sinuses.  If you’re in to this kind of thing, I also like to say a quick little mantra as I do this.  Some of my favorites are, “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better,” or “Today I am excited about everything.” If you shower in the morning, it’s also nice to place a couple drops in the base of the shower where the water won’t wash it away immediately.  It provides a spa shower sort of feel.
    • Eucalyptus oil is really good for the days that you are experiencing sinus problems or have a head cold.  I use it when I want to steam my face and get my sinuses clear. To do that, I boil a potful of water.  Once it comes to a boil, I remove it from the heat, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, and then put my face over the bowl with a towel around my head to form a tent.  I spend the time inhaling and exhaling deeply.  After this is completed, everything becomes clear and is a good time to blow your nose.  This has the added benefit of being really good for opening up pores and clearing them out so you may want to try putting a face mask on after.  Try a moisturizing mask, especially if your skin is bothering you from excessive blowing of the nose, etc.  Putting eucalyptus oil in a humidifier has a similar effect.  My parents live at high altitude and every time I go to their house, my nasal passages suffer from the lack of moisture.  This is a great way to lubricate and open them and would also work really well if you have a humidifier running for your sick child and want to purify the air.
    • Every morning when I get to work, I add five drops of eucalyptus oil to my aromatherapy diffuser.  The invigorating smell really motivates me for the day and I like having the little bit of extra humidity in that dry office environment and to clear any negative energy.
    • Eucalyptus oil can be very revitalizing after a good hard workout.  I love to bike everywhere and the Houston summer can be brutally hot.  As sort of a shower on the go, I fill a basin of water and add about 5-6 drops of eucalyptus oil.  Then I dip in five small washcloths in the water-oil mixture.  A couple drops of peppermint or citrus oil also work well in this mixture.  Then I gently wring out the cloths and roll them up and place them in plastic bags that I keep in the refrigerator or freezer.  It feels amazing to lay this on your face after a brutal workout.  If I’m going on a long bike ride, I might add some ice cubes at the start and double bag them or put in a container so I can freshen and cool myself after.  It feels really good after hot yoga too.  I’m sure kids would love it after a hot sports practice as well.  Put the eucalyptus oil in with a light hand until you know if your skin will react to it.  Eucalyptus oil can be slightly irritating if it’s too concentrated.  The oil also soothes aching muscles so sometimes it’s nice to put the cloth around the back of your neck if you have sore shoulders and upper back muscles.

    You can find eucalyptus oil very easily at any health food store.  The Aura Cacia brand has worked really well for me.

  • Eyelash Dye

    Eyelash dyes are a really simple way to dramatically affect your look if you have somewhat light lashes.  They’re especially wonderful if you have an event coming up that you know you don’t want to wear make-up at, yet still want your eyes to pop.  I love getting them before I go on any trip that involves a lot of water, camping, or exercise or if I’m just in a make-up free mode.

    I got lucky enough to get  long lashes, but the tips are blonde, so it’s not especially apparent when I don’t have on mascara or have them dyed.  Once I get it done both the top and bottom lashes look really long and the darkness of the dye dramatizes them as mascara would.  All my friends that have done it love the results.

    Just find a salon and an esthetician experienced in this procedure that you trust (this is not FDA-approved) and the process can be completed in about 15 minutes for around $25.  Alisa at Spalon in Houston is amazing.

    Read more

  • Rose Petal Bath

    If you want to feel luxurious or create a romantic feeling, try making a rejuvenating rose bath.  Go ahead and have your own little American Beauty moment 😉 You will need the following ingredients:

    Rose essential oil: 10-20 drops
    1 tablespoon sweet almond oil
    1/4 cup rose water
    1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
    1 large handful of rose petals (the more petals, the more lovely the bath is)

    To make the bath, fill the tub and then drizzle the rose and almond oils in to the water.  Most rose essential oil is sold blended with jojoba oil, so put in about 20 drops to fragrance the water appropriately.  I’ve also discovered palmarosa oil which can be obtained from Mountain Rose Herbs pretty inexpensively and has a similar rose scent.   Then add the rose water and vinegar and gently drop in the rose petals.

    Read more

  • Accutane

    I am listing Accutane under the “Beauty” tab but the path to considering it and doing it is anything but beautiful!  If this is a post you care to read about, let me offer you my greatest sympathies for what I know has been an endless and frustrating struggle with bad skin.  While I am generally all about anything natural, I did a four-month treatment with Accutane for acne and it is an extremely powerful and effective drug.  It was grueling at the time but now, nearly two years since my treatment, I don’t regret my choice.

    Read more

  • The 1 Cent Baking Soda Facial

    I have an interest in baking soda that kind of borders on obsession.  I guarantee this isn’t the last time you’ll see it appear in my blog!  It has so many practical purposes for cleaning up around the house and for beauty.  It’s a fantastic all-natural and inexpensive solution to a host of problems.  Regarding beauty, I recently discovered that baking soda makes a great gentle exfoliant, especially for those with dry or sensitive skin that don’t want to use other harsh products.  Alisa at Spalon in Houston gives the the most amazing microdermabrasions but times I can’t get in to see her or need a little pick me up in between visits, I make a scrub with baking soda.  This is also a fantastic scrub to do when your bank account is feeling a little deflated as all of us are probably feeling with the holiday season having just passed us by.

    To make the scrub, all you do is simply make a paste by mixing baking soda (about 1 tablespoon) with a little bit of water.   A ratio of three parts baking soda to one part water seems to work pretty well.  The more watery the paste is, the less abrasive the scrub will be.  Then rub it on your face and neck in gentle circular motions.  Do this with a light hand until you’re more familiar with how your skin will respond.  This is a great way to give yourself similar results to a facial and nearly everyone has baking soda on hand.  The same scrub can also be used on the body.  Baking soda can also help remove built up styling products from your hair so I will often just bring the box in to the shower with me and add a little bit to the shampoo in my palm (1 teaspoon) on the days I do the scrub.  Have a glowing new year!

  • Hydrating Oatmeal Banana Mask

    My skin was really dry the other night so I created a mask using some of the good hydrating items I had at home.  My skin looked incredible afterward and I promise I didn’t lick any off my face while I was in the bath 😉  This is a great mask to use in the winter to counteract chapped skin or skin that has been exposed to overly dry indoor air.  There are also some great ingredients in here that help acne-prone skin.  Sometimes even blemished skin is dry from the use of harsh products.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 banana, mashed
    • 1/2 packet Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    •  2 Tbsp full fat plain yogurt or 1 Tbsp whole milk

     Mix together in a small bowl and apply to a clean face for approximately 15 minutes.  Remove gently with warm water and moisturize afterward.

    This is a good way to use up a banana that has just turned over-ripe. The Aveeno bath treatment is just colloidal oatmeal so you could also mill 1/2 cup rolled oats in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle.  If you have blemished or problem skin, try using the manuka honey I referenced in this post. 

    Bananas are moisturizing.  Honey is a humectant and has antibacterial properties.  The oatmeal helps to soothe the skin and also exfoliates to get rid of any flaky skin or dead skin cells.  Yogurt and whole milk both have lactic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid.  This is a very gentle acid which helps to exfoliate the skin and reveal new fresh skin underneath.  The live bacteria cultures in the yogurt keep the bad bacteria that lives in your skin in check and really helps brighten up skin.

  • Pumpkin Facial For Glowing Skin

    I thought this post would be timely with all the pumpkin we are likely to have around the house for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.  Resist the ridiculousness of consumerism that has smeared Black Friday into Thanksgiving night and hang out and do home spa treatments with your family and friends!

    This homemade mask is one of the few “products” I have ever used that literally left my skin radiant and visibly improved upon rinsing and for hours afterward.  The pumpkin is hydrating and contains antioxidants A, C, and E, which keep the skin looking youthful.  The pumpkin’s phytonutrients like cartenoids neutralize free radicals in the skin.  The cinnamon increases circulation, the clay draws out impurities, and the honey and oil moisturize.  It’s the perfect combination for beautiful skin, really.

    Mix the following ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup canned or fresh pumpkin
    • 1/4 cup bentonite clay
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    • 2 Tbsp water
    • 1 Tbsp almond oil
    • 2 Tsp cinnamon

    An amazing product to use for the bentonite clay is Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, which is basically pure bentonite.  It’s really hard for the geologist in me to resist talking about clay mineralogy here but I will restrain myself! The clay also works incredibly well for blackheads, pore clearing, and acne as a mask when mixed in to a paste with water or apple cider vinegar.

    If you have access to manuka honey, I would highly recommend using that as a portion of the honey required for this mask.  Manuka honey is a special honey from New Zealand.  It is a monofloral honey so the bees only visit the flower of the manuka tree.  This tree is otherwise known as tea tree, which is well-renowned for its antibacterial and antifungal properties.  If you have problem skin, this is a wonderful way to harness the naturally antiseptic qualities of the tea tree through the honey.  I’ll reference manuka a lot on this site because I am pretty obsessed with it.  Manuka honey is now available at some Whole Foods markets and can also be found on Amazon.

    Leave the mask on for about 15 minutes, and be ready for quite the rinse when it’s time to remove it as the clay is super sticky and hardens.  Note that your face may be slightly reddened after removing this mask, so be sure to test out how your skin will react before applying this before an event.  The redness generally fades within an hour. Any extra mask can be saved in the fridge for about a week.  I like to wrap up the extra in wax paper.

  • Oatmeal Milk & Honey Bath

    Feel like Cleopatra for a day…

    This bath is a sensual delight and does wonderful things for your skin.  Whole milk contains lactic acid, which softens the skin. Honey moisturizes and oatmeal calms and soothes the skin.

    Ingredients for this bath are as follows:

    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1 packet Aveeno colloidal oatmeal (or use a food processor with whole oats)
    • 10 drops essential oil

    Read more

  • Make your own body powder

    Kitchen Beautician: Make your own body powderYou can make your own body powder using very inexpensive ingredients that won’t irritate your lungs like talc can.  The best bases include arrowroot, white clay, rice flour or cornstarch.  For everyday use, I like to use a mixture of half a cup or cornstarch with half a cup of arrowroot (available at Whole Foods or somewhere similar).  Simply add 10-12 drops of your favorite essential oil and cover lightly and let stand 24 hours.  If you are going to be using the powder someplace where you want to absorb oil or odor (oily face, feet, or armpits- white clay or rice flour are slightly more absorbent).  Some ideas are listed below:Gym bag: Create a singular fragrance or a combination of peppermint, eucalyptus or an uplifting citrus scent (tangerine, lime, grapefruit, bergamot or some combination).  Try storing it in the Bare Escentuals travel case or something similar http://tinyurl.com/23xfztyIt’s nice to put on your skin after you’ve showered but are still warm from your workout or to put in your shoes after you remove them, or on your feet.Bedsheets: Add some of your favorite oils to a pretty glass jar and keep it by the bed to keep your sheets fresh and cool, especially during the summer months.  Cater your scent to whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish in your bed.  If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, try a very relaxing and comforting potion of lavender, chamomile, neroli and geranium or any of these fragrances by themselves.  If you are trying to spice up your love life, add jasmine, ylang ylang, patchouli, and rose.  Note to men: women come most alive when they are relaxed so use the relaxing and comforting oils in addition to the sensualizing oils.  Note to women: Men get most in the mood when they feel they are being cared for and pampered and cinnamon and vanilla usually reminds them of being spoiled and baked cookies when they were little so try that!Mothers: If you look at your baby powder, you’ll see the ingredients is simply cornstarch and fragrance, so if you run out, or want to save some money, try making your own.  Children tend to love tangerine scent and you can find this essential oil for only a few dollars.  It’s also a nice fragrance to add to the bath at the end of the day and has the aromatherapeutic property of being “cheering.”  What mother doesn’t appreciate that?!  Of course, calming lavender and chamomile are always good bets too.

    You can make your own body powder using very inexpensive ingredients that won’t irritate your lungs like talc can. The best bases include arrowroot, white clay, rice flour or cornstarch. For everyday use, I like to use a mixture of half a cup or cornstarch with half a cup of arrowroot (available at Whole Foods or somewhere similar). Simply add 10-12 drops of your favorite essential oil and cover lightly and let stand 24 hours. If you are going to be using the powder someplace where you want to absorb oil or odor (oily face, feet, or armpits- white clay or rice flour are slightly more absorbent). Some ideas are listed below:
    Read more