Category Archives: beauty

Winter Skin Moisture Tips

Around this time of year I start to think about my skin again. How can I keep it soft and comfortable throughout the cold, dry winter?

Winter is pretty harsh on your skin. Whether you spend time outdoors and get wind chapped skin, or spend your time inside with the dry dry heat of the furnace, your skin takes a beating.

Winter is particularly bad for me. I have sensitive skin to begin with, and the changes between cold and hot make it worse. I often get very dry, tender skin that is itchy and flakes. Sometimes it even starts to crack in certain areas, and I develop eczema (characterized by rough, red patches).

So how do I combat dryness and keep my skin soft and happy-glowy?

I’ll share my tips with you!

dry-skin

Drink up! It is super-important to keep hydrated during the winter. The dry heat in our homes & offices leaches moisture from our skin. Ditch the coffee and sodas and opt for water or an herbal tea to stay hydrated throughout the day. I think everyone knows by now that great skin starts from the inside out, and that H20 is one of the building blocks.

Modify your shower habits. If you shower frequently and/or with hot water, you’re damaging your skin. Your skin requires certain levels of oil & sebum to hang around to protect itself. If you shower everyday you’re stripping away your skin’s natural protection. Try showering less frequently (if possible & realistic) during the winter, and turn the water to lukewarm instead of hot. While you’re in there, you might as well…

Exfoliate! Now this may sound a little contradictory to what I just said, but if you’re going for smooth, soft skin this step is a big one! Use a gentle exfoliation method, whether a body scrub, loofa, pouf or cloth with moisturizing bodywash you want to help your skin slough off the dead cells. This will help restore brightness as well as help the top layer of your skin to absorb the moisture from your body wash & lotion (I’ve been using the new Dove Deep Moisture bodywash with NutriumMoisture and it seems to help keep my skin soft!)

Moisturize! After you have gently toweled off your skin you should apply a healthy dose of lotion or oil to your skin while it is still a little damp. The exfoliation has prepped your skin and this application of moisturizer will sink in better, and also trap the leftover moisture in your skin. The type of lotion you use is up to you. You may want a lighter lotion if you shower in the morning, and a richer one in the evening when your body has more time to absorb it. Don’t forget to give some lovin’ to your face, feet & hands! (I’ve been using the new Vaseline Sheer Infusion with Stratys-3. I like the Botanical scented one!)

Protect & defend! Stay away from rough fabrics and harsh detergents; these will irritate your skin and can potentially cause a rash or other unpleasant reaction. I personally cannot wear anything wool, nor anything washed in Tide detergent (too harsh!). When washing your hands, try and use a soap with added lotion, and stay away from antibacterial soaps (unless you’re around immune-suppressed people, etc.). Not only are antibacterial soaps hard on your skin & very drying, they also contain triclosan, a chemical that has been linked to cancer and builds up in our environments with use.

“Triclosan is linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Wastewater treatment does not remove all of the chemical, which means it ends up in our lakes, rivers and water sources. Thatโ€™s especially unfortunate since triclosan is very toxic to aquatic life.”

Plain soap and water (with proper handwashing technique) has the same proven effectiveness in removing bacteria and icky stuff as antibacterial soap does.

These are the things that help me get through the winter; all the tips I have accumulated over the years from various doctors, dermatologists, estheticians and beauty gurus. Of course you should do what is right for your body and skin, and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.

The skin is your biggest organ in your body–it’s important to take care of it!

There’s no way I could fit all of my tips & tricks into this one post, so if you have any questions or want to know how I do something in particular, feel free to leave a comment and I will reply!

It puts the lotion on it’s skin or it gets the hose again!

Me-ow!

I just had to share with you the awesomeness that is my feet:

Don't mess with these babies
Don't mess with these babies

I went to my favourite spa that happens to be South African this weekend for a charity function. A couple of tickets got you a polish change so I opted for their signature look and let the girl “go wild”!

I think all my pedicures will be this awesome from now on. I’ve got to find those little nailpolishes with the fine tips so I can do this at home!

Next time I’m going with jaguar spots ๐Ÿ˜‰

Accutane Update


This morning I paid a visit to my dermatologist for my monthly checkup.

Bloodwork was good, skin was good, everything was good!

It’s been 4 months and my skin is pretty much clear. There was only 1 tiny spot on my cheek that I know will go away once I put a special cream on it tonight, and assuming I don’t pick at it.

The things that have been bothering me the most lately about being on Accutane are actually taking the pills themselves (ugh I get tired of taking them!), the dryness I am experiencing (my eyes and lips are always super dry) and also my inability to heal well while on this drug.

Yeah, that part’s a bit scary, isn’t it? One of the side effects of Accutane is that it really reduces your ability to heal in general. You can’t wax anything while you’re on it, and you can’t have any kind of surgery for a year or two afterwards. I didn’t realize it would get that extreme.

I had what I thought was a bug bite on my chest and I scratched at it. I know I shouldn’t have, but it was itchy! Anyway it became one of those ugly red things, kinda crusty and such. That part was normal. What wasn’t normal is that it just sat with a weird white scab type thing for ages, and just didn’t heal.

It was painful if I tried to pick at it, and looked like a little red crater filled with white–strangely it was not pus as I had feared.

At first I thought I had gone and gotten myself infected, but none of the normal symptoms of an infection were present–it was so bizarre. Then I thought about it a little and similar to diabetics who can’t heal, I couldn’t heal either. THAT is where I had seen something like this before!

Anyway I just bandaged it with polysporin for a couple of nights and it was ok, but I was just stunned by how much my ability to heal had been reduced. I definitely won’t take it for granted any more!

So there’s my interesting little story. All my cuts, bug bites, blisters, etc. are taking forever to heal, but I’ve only got 1 month more of low-dose treatment and then hopefully everything will go back to normal.

My derm says there is an excellent chance that the Accutane “cured” my acne… however I also have rosacea which creates zits and cysts similar to acne. If it is the rosacea that was causing me such grief it may come back again. She said in order to combat this I should keep up with my rosacea creams and she will give me a vitamin A cream (in place of Accutane) to help me maintain my good skin. There is no cure for rosacea.

All in all I think I’ve had a better run of this drug than most people. All my bloodwork came back fine, my symptoms weren’t nearly as bad as some, and my skin responded incredibly well to the treatment, with no redness! My doc was pretty impressed that things went so well.

As for my mental state… Wow. Accutane has helped me in more than just one way. Similar to when I got laser eye surgery and lost my glasses, I feel SO much more confident. I don’t worry so much about how I look, and dare I say it, I may even feel a bit happier on the regular.

My skin is finally back to it’s natural and beauteous peaches & cream state and I feel so much better! I can go without makeup if I want to… I can just wash & go… my “face” doesn’t melt off quite so often and I don’t feel so self-conscious!

I feel it has made a big difference in my life. I didn’t realize how much my bad skin really bothered me, and how much time and attention I paid to it. Of course I will still take care of my skin, but now I’m not obsessing over it.

I also love that when I put makeup on now I can start with a truly blank canvas and focus my skills on more of the fun stuff like eyes and lips versus covering up zits.

I was really worried when I started Accutane. It is a monster of a drug with some terrible side-effects, but I’d say I had a pretty positive experience.

I think that if you’re considering Accutane for your acne it pays big time to do some research, talk to people who have been on it, etc. It helps you get mentally prepared and to manage your expectations.

If you have any questions/comments about my run with Accutane or my battle with acne, feel free to leave a comment! If you’re shy you can just email me too. That’s what most of ya did, anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, please excuse me while I recreate the story of Narcissus in my mirror… *LOL*

The Purge Project: Makeup Drawer


This is the next installment in what I hope will be an ongoing series of decluttering, paring down and organizing my life and belongings.

Earlier this week I decluttered my purse (which was very much needed!) and took a load off my shoulders.

This time around I went to work on my makeup drawer *shudder*

I didn’t remember to take a before photo… but it was getting pretty bad. At one point I tried to organize it a little by placing baskets in the drawer in an effort to wrangle in all my products… but at the time I didn’t really make much effort in going through everything or thinking out the most effective way to organize.

Not so, this time! My drawer went from mountains of makeup products and tools haphazardly strewn about to neat, clean and organized. I went through my collection of stuff and organized it into the three classic piles: Keep, Toss and Donate.

Obviously all the old opened stuff hit the circular file, but anything that was only gently used (still safe to use) or unopened is going to go to the Need Table at one of my monthly Pagan pub moots (it’s a table where you can place donations of anything and folks have the opportunity to take what they need for themselves or others) and also to one of my friends who is going through a tough financial time right now but loves makeup.

Knowing that all my lovely products may be going to someone who would appreciate them really helped me get through it all. I am loathe to throw things out, but with this goal in my mind I was able to be ruthless.

I still have quite a bit of stuff, but now I have it organized into 6 baskets: stuff I use everyday, lip products, eyeliners, loose eyeshadows and other miscellaneous pots and finally a basket in the back for random stuff that needs a home. I use MAC eyeshadows almost exclusively so I keep the majority of them in a professional palette which sits on the side of the drawer. As for all my brushes and other tools, I have a pro roll-up case for them I keep elsewhere. The brushes I use regularly are in a cup on top of my desk for easy access.


It’s been a week since I organized this and so far its working really well for me. Before the basket for everyday stuff was too small, so things overflowed. Now that I’ve upgraded it to a large basket everything stays in its proper place.

Now I just need to stop collecting makeup!

Bonus makeup tip: Did you know that you are allowed to request up to 2 samples of any product at MAC to take home with you? It’s a great way to try out their pigment collection–I’ve got about half of the colours now! LOL

The Nicest Comment

I’ve been meaning to write about for this for a while, but I’ve been having quite a busy week!

I wanted to talk about something just wonderful that happened to me about 2 weeks ago.

I was on the subway, heading to the train station so I could go home to my parents’ for a doc appt and pick up the car for my drive to the festival I was attending that week. I had just gotten out of a big long meeting at a partner company’s so I had a dress and my cute flowery wedge sandals on. I don’t think this really has anything to do with what comes next… but enh.

Anyway, I got on the subway car and found a seat and was just minding my own business; I was a bit tired from the long meeting. At the next stop a bunch of people got in the car, one of them (I guess) was this sort of nerdy, sweet-looking guy (Think Elijah Wood as Frodo in LOTR). He was hanging onto the pole in front of my seat as the subway pulled out of the station.

As the subway was slowing down before the next stop, he looked at me and engaged me thus:

Him: Excuse me, but I just wanted to say that I think you’re incredibly beautiful.
Me: *blink blink* Uhhh… thank you? (I was kind of stunned by this of course)
Him: Have a nice day (as he exited the subway car)

The thing that struck me the most was that I believe he was completely sincere in his comments. Genuine, not a lick of scumbag-behaviour.

Wow. How often does something like that happen? It was totally out of the blue, and while it caught me off guard it didn’t creep me out or anything, because it was the real deal.

And let me tell you that it really meant something to me. To have this confident-yet-not-a-jerk guy give me, a complete stranger such a wonderful, well timed and much-needed compliment was a huge pick me up. I’ve written before about my lack of lovelife and dates, and some of my self-image issues, so this unsolicited comment really made like, my whole week! I think it was a gift from the Gods as this was not the first time messages come to me in this way.

I’m sort of keeping it my mind like a tiny little jewel that I can bring back out to look at when I’m feeling sad. Writing this entry will help me remember it even more.

So thank you, random sweet guy on the subway. You really did a good thing for me and I appreciate it.

To my readers: has anything like this ever happened to you before? I would love to hear your heartwarming story in the comments.

It’s Pedicure Season!

The sun is out, the weather is warm and our feet are exposed to the masses. This time of year it is high season for the pedicure.

Whether you prefer hot pink, French or natural, most of us are getting our hobbit feet cleaned up, if they haven’t been already!

But did you bargain for that foot fungus with your new feet?

Aside from swimming pools and locker rooms, nail bars and spas are a common place to pick up foot infections. This includes bacterial and viral infections, fungi and warts (common and plantar).

How do you avoid bringing something nasty home with you on your feet? It’s pretty easy.

I’m a spa junkie, and over the years I have picked up some tips from spa professionals as well as doctors and nurses on how to protect yourself from infections at these types of places. I’ve compiled a list for you to use as a guide. Ain’t I great?

Do a visual check

Does the shop look clean and tidy? Are the bathrooms well-kept? They’re a great indicator of how well a spa maintains it’s footbaths and tools.

Inspect the foot baths/whirlpools

This is a major area of concern– footbaths are the pefect breeding ground for all sorts of nasty things. They’re warm, moist and have dark hidden places (like the drain or filter) that allow bacteria and fungi to thrive.

Check to make sure that they are well-sanitized in between uses; the technician should be using an antibacterial solution to wipe them down in between uses, and the tubs should also be rinsed thoroughly. Each night they should also be deep cleaned and disinfected.

Inspect the tools

Any tools used on your feet should be sanitized beforehand in a special sanitizing solution or in an autoclave. Autoclaves are the little boxes that look like microwaves or toaster ovens in the spa. Check to ensure that they’re actually being used. If the tools are soaked in a solution, check to make sure that the solution itself looks ok–it should not be cloudy or have bits floating about inside.

If in doubt you can always ask the spa about their process for sanitizing tools and footbaths.

Some spas will have single-use emery boards, orange sticks, etc. for each client. This is a great way to cut down on infection transmission. You can also bring in your own pedicure tools and request that the technician use those instead.


Communicate with your technician

They’re human too! A little smile goes a long way. Talk to them and don’t be afraid to speak up if something they’re doing is uncomfortable. Some techs use a small blade to scrape off excess callous from your heels. Ensure that they open a fresh blade for you and insert it in a freshly sterilized tool; or better yet, forgo getting the blade as it can cause small cuts in your skin which will increase your chances of getting an infection.

Techs should also be washing their hands inbetween clients, and/or wearing disposable gloves during your pedicure. This protects you AND them!

Additional Tips
  • Don’t shave, wax, or otherwise epilate your legs for 48 hours before getting a pedicure. These procedures can cause small cuts and tears in the skin, and when you’re soaking in the footbath and getting that leg massage, microorganisms can be introduced to those openings.
  • Same idea: if you’ve got an existing cut, bug bite or scratch on your legs or feet you shouldn’t be getting a pedicure
  • A lot of technicians will try and trim your cuticles, but this is also risky business. Littls slips of the snippers happen quite often, which can again leave you with small (and sometimes large, ugh!) cuts in your toes. Nobody wants that!
  • Your toenails should also always be cut and filed straight across–this will prevent ingrown toenails (it happens on the sides a lot!)
  • If you have diabetes, you need to be extra careful of the massages and any type of cutting tool used around your feet. Speak with the technician beforehand about your condition
  • Don’t get a pedicure if you’ve already got some sort of infection! Warts count too, ladies! You don’t want to catch anything, so why would you subject some other innocent woman to your virus? lol
  • Never allow your nails to be cleaned out with a sharp instrument that may puncture your skin. Duh.
  • Make sure your toes are completely dry before you leave, extra moisture can cause fungal growth
  • It’s always ok for you to bring your own tools, and even your own polish! Better safe than sorry!

Now, looking back it seems like there might be a lot to be worried about when you go to get your feet done. But really, it’s not that bad! Much like any situation, use your common sense. Most nail bars and spas are happy to answer any questions you have about their maintenance or procedures; and want to make your experience as enjoyable as possible!

I personally love getting my feet done and with a little common sense and the tips above I have avoided getting any kind of infection from the spas I frequent.

With that said… Get out there and beautify yourselves, ladies!!!!

Adventures with Accutane: A Follow-Up

Wow. Today is officially the first day that my skin has been clear enough for me to go without makeup.

I spent a good 5 minutes this morning debating whether I should put a little makeup on or not. It was a bit of a surreal experience.

I’ve written before on how my skin has been persistently bad since I hit puberty. My derm recently put me on Accutane as a last resort. Thank the Gods, it’s actually working!

After one month on it the clarity of my skin really improved. I still had the occasional spot or two, but they were showing up less and were decidedly smaller than before. After the second month my derm bumped me up to a slightly higher dose, which I am on right now, and my face is finally clear!

I can’t say I enjoy the chapped lips, dry eyes, monthly blood & urine tests or the stress this is putting on my liver, but I am definitely loving my baby-soft face that doesn’t have a single spot on it! It’s just…incredible!

Anyway, I don’t want to sound like an ad for Accutane, but I am SO glad that it’s working. If this didn’t work, then nothing would and I’d be stuck with terrible skin for the rest of my life. I still need to deal with some of the redness from rosacea but overall I’ve had a huge improvement.

Next up (and the final task!) on my list of physical self-improvements: lose some weight!