6 Winter Hair Care Tips

Just like your skin, your hair is faced with a new set of trauma in the winter months – with blustery winds that can tangle, and cold temperatures that can make the hair brittle and dry, not to mention damaging indoor heating that can lead to dry frizz and split ends. To make sure your hair does not suffer intense damage, follow these tips:

ImagePhoto courtesy of Yahoo Lifestyle

1. Wash your hair less often, and make sure you condition each time you do. This way, you’ll avoid that static frizz you get from over-washing and from drying your hair out. If you have hair that tends to get greasy when you don’t wash it often, use dry shampoo like Dove’s Refresh+Care Invigorating Dry Shampoo on days when you don’t wash – it will leave your hair clean and give it some extra volume that is great for styling.

2. Use deep conditioner treatments on your hair once a week to hydrate your locks. I use Organix Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Intensive Moisturizing Treatment, which I apply to damp hair by applying a small amount into my hands and running my fingers through my hair. I then leave it in for about 3-5 minutes before rinsing it out with mild to cool water. Deep conditioning treatments will leave your hair moisturized, strengthened and soft during the winter when your hair can tend to get dry and brittle.

3. Don’t leave the house with wet hair. When the temperatures drop, wet hair can freeze and break off. To avoid this, you should preferably let your hair air dry to prevent heat damage. However, depending on your hair type, you may not be able to do this in the morning. If you must use a blow dryer, spray heat protectant like Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray through your hair or use leave-in conditioner first and turn your heat setting to cool to avoid less damage.

4. Regular hair trims every 8-10 weeks will keep your hair feeling fresh while getting rid of split ends and parched ends, in addition to giving your hair it’s bounce back. If you are trying to grow your hair out, trim it about a half inch every other month during the cold months to prevent breakage from moving up the hair shaft and causing you trouble later.

5. Avoid using excessively hot water when you wash your hair, which is drying to the hair as well as the skin. Rinse in warm or (even better!) cool water for smooth, shiny, hair all year ’round!

6. Try different updo’s and braids in your hair during the winter months. Not only is it pretty and festive, it will limit your hair’s exposure to the elements and and dry air. Additionally, wearing scarves or hats will protect your hair from the cold and wind.

How to Eat For Clear Skin

Any artist begins with a clean canvas. In a similar way, we want to start with a clean, healthy canvas – our skin! – before we start creating a masterpiece. But “pretty” is more than just skin-deep; rather, it starts with what we put into our bodies. Nutrition plays a key role in the health of our skin. Most experts say eating a balanced diet is the best way to get your share of good food for healthy skin. Here are a few specific foods that are more likely than others to add a dose of glowing good health to your complexion:

1. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and plums. What is in common with these four fruits? They all have a high antioxidant content, which have plenty of benefits for your skin. According to Dr. Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a clinical nutritionist at NYU Medical Center, “free radicals — like the kind formed from sun exposure — damage the membrane of skin cells, potentially allowing damage to the DNA of that cell. The antioxidants and other phytochemicals in these fruits can protect the cell, so there is less chance for damage.”

“When you help protect the cells from damage and disintegration, you also guard against premature aging. In this respect, these fruits may very well help keep your skin younger looking longer,” says Heller. Eat blueberries to prevent premature aging? Yes please!

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Photo courtesy of Wishful Thinking

2. Salmon, Walnuts, Canola Oil, and Flax Seed. Fatty acids are essential to keep cells healthy and the membrane functioning. Healthy skin cells have healthy membranes, which keep good things in (i.e. water and nutrients) and allows waste products to pass out. It is a fatty acid’s job to keep those cells healthy. Not getting enough essential amino acids results in unstable membranes that can’t keep their buoyant shape, which results in saggy, aged skin. The best-known essential fatty acids are omega 3 and omega 6, which can be found in the foods listed above.

3. Whole Grains carry a lot of antioxidants, which as we touched before, is great for the skin. They also stabilize blood sugar, prevent insulin spikes and help fight acne. Check to make sure a product is high in fiber and low in sugar when you’re perusing the grocery store aisles for whole grain products, like cereals and breads. Also, opting for ancient grains like quinoa is a healthy option that will keep your body healthy and your skin glowing.

4. Green Tea has tons of great benefits for the skin! Green tea has anti-inflammatory properties that helps pimples from popping out, along with overall skin health. Green tea can also reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet light (like the burning rays of the sun), which thus reduces the risk of skin cancer. So drink up!

5. Red and Green Vegetables. It would make sense that what is good for your overall body and health is good for your skin too. Red-hued veggies are full of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant, which prevents cell damage and premature aging. It also helps fight acne. Green, leafy foods like spinach provide tons of vitamin A as well, and helps your skin produce more new cells and remove old ones, which reduces dryness and keeps your face glowing and youthful.

In Defense of Fairy Tales

ImageDesign by kensie kate

Fairy tales are more than true! Dragons come in all shapes and sizes in our lives – no one was dealt with the same hand in life, but that doesn’t mean we can’t conquer those dragons. At a young age, we hear about how “the little guy” can turn out to be the hero, despite the expectations (or lack there of) of other people – think of David and Goliath! These are the type of lessons we can take from fairy tales, young and old.

However, as we all know, fairy tales sometimes get a bad rap. Some say that women are always looking for their “knight in shining armour,” as presented to them in youth, and their life won’t be complete until there is a man in their life that fulfills it. This past week, there was an interesting article about Mercy Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in Louisville, Kentucky that launched a new ad campaign that bashes fairy tales pretty harshly, in order to promote its mission of helping its students become independent, productive women in the real world. Ads like “You’re not a princess…but you can still rule the world,” “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Be more than just the fairest of them all,” or “Don’t wait for a prince. Be able to rescue yourself” all may be very empowering for young women of our age, but I sentimentally wonder, what about the dragons? 

Sorry ladies, I have to agree with G.K. Chesterton on this one. Great lessons can be learned from fairy tales. Women face dragons in those stories too – and learn how to battle them. They may struggle in different ways than men, but isn’t that just like real life? I don’t believe the majority of little girls grow up thinking they are pampered princesses and expect to be rescued by men. What I do think fairy tales teach is that you deserve to have someone fight for you.

Far too many modern messages echo the ads of Mercy Academy, telling women to just get a grip and be independent. But what are these messages really saying? Of course it’s important for women to learn how to take care of themselves independent from the fact they are in a relationship or not, but how far is too far? If we feed young girls with slogans bashing men, then they are going to, in turn, treat men – especially gentlemen – as enemies trying to prey on their weakness and deprive them of their “independence,” which has become the ultimate symbol of freedom. They will fail to see that having someone stand up for and fight for her – even if she could really do it herself – is actually the highest compliment that anyone could have paid her.

Instead of faulting fairy tales with the problems of women, let’s take a closer look on the lessons we can gain from these stories. After all, fairy tales are real, because they teach us that dragons can be defeated.

3 Easy Steps to Nicely Groomed Eyebrows

 This may sound a little bizarre, but I love the feeling of freshly waxed eyebrows – nothing beats it! I usually avoid touch-up tweezing leading up to my self-appointed quarterly appointment so I can get the biggest bang for my buck when I walk into the salon (side note: I apologize for the untamed looks of mine in recent posts).

Many makeup artists swear on the transformations that properly-groomed brows can make on a person. Truthfully, brows can make a big difference in framing your face and (sometimes) make a statement. Take “famous” brows like my list of the top 5 celebrity brows:

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1. Camilla Belle – thick arches that are styled and well-groomed

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2. Audrey Hepburn – thick and tamed for an awesomely defined arch

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3. Charlize Theron – thinner than the other two, with a nice arch and face frame

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4. Rihanna – beautiful shape and arch

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5. Emma Watson – slightly untamed, but still chic and beautiful

3 Steps to Nicely Groomed Brows:

1. Go to an eyebrow specialist to initially shape your brows. An aesthetician at your salon may be a good choice – just make sure that you look at the person’s brows who is shaping yours, as it may be a good indicator of her work. A professional with experience in brow design will help you find the best look for your own brow shape and natural arch, and you don’t have to break the bank either – I’ve found you can find someone to wax your brows nicely for as little as $15! Schedule an appointment for brow waxing every 3-4 months to cleanup and maintain your eyebrow shape.

2. Tweeze stray hairs below your brows to maintain their shape and keep it “clean” whenever you feel it’s necessary. Never tweeze above the eyebrows, because you can easily over-do it and create holes and uneven spots – leave that to the professionals when you schedule a clean-up every fews months.

3. Use a brow pencil, eyeshadow, or a wax/powder combo (like Benefit’s Brow Zings brow shaping kit) with a slanted brow brush (like Sephora’s Pro Brow Brush #20) to fill in the gaps and define and frame your brows. Choose a powder or pencil one shade lighter than your brow color, unless your hair is light blonde – in which case, try one shade darker.

Here’s to show what a big difference nicely groomed brows make:

Me pre-brow wax “cleanup” (Yikes!):

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Me post-brow wax:

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Me post-wax using Benefit “Brow-zings” brow shaping kit (wax and powder) to define and frame:

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As you can see, brows make a big difference! Below is another before and after view to illustrate what a nice, sharp effect a clean brow can have.

PicMonkey Collage

Mascara Lash-Off

Shopping for mascara can be overwhelming, with so many different brands and formulas to choose from. Who’s to say what actually works? I confess, I’ve been buying the same mascara for the last few years, mainly because it’s a great mascara, and it really seems to do the job for me!  However, instead of just going with what I know and like, I think it’s important that I do a thorough study of mascara and what options are available to me and my readers, so I’ve decided to compile a series of “duals” by comparing 2 mascaras side by side under the same categories and discovering which formula/brush combo emerges victorious.

Mascara is a very short-lived product – most formulas start to dry up and clump after only 3 months of use. For this reason, it’s ideal to stick with drugstore brands, since it’s easier to justify spending under $10 every few months than some of the higher price points found at the makeup counters, and I’ve found the quality of drugstore brands is just as effective.

For today’s “Lash-Off,” I’ve decided to compare two Maybelline varieties in the Volume category. Maybelline has a ton of great mascaras, but what really is the difference beyond the pretty packaging? Let’s take a closer look at two of their mascaras, “The Falsies,” and “The Colassol.”

First, here’s a no-mascara benchmark:

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Maybelline Volum’Express “The Falsies”:

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What It Claims to Do: Unique flexible wand helps to lift and separate lashes to provide the look of more lashes. The Patented Spoon Curler brush loads every lash with flexible hold formula to instantly build volume that goes up and out at the corners.

Actual Results: 

Volume: Not bad! I felt like it was successful in adding some “umph” and creating long, thick lashes.

Clumpiness: Slight clumpiness factor, but easily combed out with the brush. However, after more than a week of being opened, this clumpiness is harder to comb through and doesn’t go away like I’d like.

Excess Product on Eyelid: Requires careful application, because excess product is prone to get on the area above your lashline. Definitely wear eyeliner with this mascara to cover the tracks easily.

Other Notes: I love the “false lash” effect of this mascara! Only bad thing about it is the smell! Kind of like play-dough…

Maybelline Volum’Express “The Colossal”:

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What It Claims to Do: Mega Brush instantly zooms on 9X the volume, without clumps. Volume-pumping formula contains collagen.

Actual Results: 

Volume: I love the way that this mascara effectively separates and elongates the lashes to create volume. The formula isn’t quite as thick as “The Falsies.”

Clumpiness: I didn’t notice it on the first coat, but the second coat produced some slight clumping that was easily brushed away. Once again, this product shows more clumpiness after the first week of being opened.

Excess Product on Eyelid: There was also a slight amount of unwanted mascara on the upper lid upon application; once again, I would be careful applying and wear eyeliner to cover it up.

Other Notes: Like I mentioned, I like the detailed separation of lashes with this mascara. Like “The Falsies,” however, it also has a bad smell!

And here’s a view of the two mascaras side-by-side:

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The Verdict: Both mascaras score a 3.5/5 overall for their performance. This is a tough decision to make, and I’ve waivered back and forth all day! I think it ultimately comes down to preference and the look you are looking for, because these are two excellent mascaras. “The Falsies” created a thicker lash, with a softer effect, while the “The Colossal” defines the lashes by separating them effectively to produce a more intense look, with less thickness than the first. However, someone has to win this dual, so for today, I’ll choose my preference. The winner is “The Falsies” for a soft, full lash look!

What do you think? Which of the two mascaras do you prefer?

Note: I’ve found that after about 3 weeks of using both of these mascaras, I like them less than I though – my origin 4/5 score for both I downgraded to a 3.5 score. After about the first week of “freshness,” The Falsies gets noticeably clumpier upon application, and The Colossal has less of a volumizing factor than I’d like, with additional clumpiness. 

How Psychology, Biology, and Modern Society Relate to Our Perception of Beauty

Beauty is an ingrained desire that all humans crave – both men and women alike. While it may be a noble endeavor to ignore the impact that beauty has on our everyday interactions, the reality stands that beauty affects us as humans at very real psychological and biological levels, and our modern society takes a huge role into how we perceive and mold those standards for beauty.

The Psychology of Beauty

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well that may sound like very fair and just advice, but unfortunately, we instinctively act contradictory to that maxim. Consciously or not, we react to to way that someone looks when first encounter him or her, as a result of both societal standards and biological instincts. Among its other functions, the brain acts as a beauty detector. The brain almost immediately sizes up a face as attractive or unattractive when a person first meets someone new, even though he or she may not be consciously aware of this evaluation. The “beauty bias” exists even in infants – six-month-olds also prefer to look at the same relatively attractive faces that adults do.

At all walks of life, people that are perceived as attractive or good-looking are judged more favorably in terms of employment or social opportunities, friendship, and not to mention sex appeal. Mothers give more affection to attractive babies, teachers favor more attractive students and judge them as smarter, and attractive adults get paid more for their work and have better success in romantic relationships. All of this is known as the “halo effect,” with the perception that attractive people tend to be more intelligent, better adjusted, and more popular. Seem fair? Definitely not!

The Biology of Beauty

Since beauty obviously comes with many perks, who decides what beauty is anyway? Some of it is hard-wired biologically. Scientists have found that symmetry and scent are two things that play a big role in defining human attractiveness.

Just as no two faces are alike, no two halves of a face are alike. Countless small variables make faces somewhat asymmetrical – a dimple on one cheek, one ear a fraction of an inch lower than the other, a scar on one side, etc. You may have even heard an esthetician say that your eyebrows are “sisters, not twins” while shaping your brows. Numerous studies have found that when men and women are asked to rate versions of faces that are more versus less symmetrical, the symmetrical one gains significantly higher ratings of attractiveness, dominance, sexiness, and health. In a sense, when we identify a beautiful face, we are really seeing the artistry of good genes.

Another factor involved in attractiveness is scent, and more specifically pheromones. Pheromones are naturally occurring odorless chemical substances produced by the body to convey an airborne signal that communicates reproductive quality to members of the opposite sex. While this intake of human scent is completely unconscious, it seems to have a positive impact on beauty and attractiveness.

The Idea of Beauty Created by Modern Society

Aside from these built-in reactions to beauty, modern society and the media seems to have warped our perceptions of beauty by attempting to dictate the terms for beauty and how to achieve it. Unfortunately, as women, we tend to be caught in a trap with pressure to try to fit in the mold set for us by society.

The media at large portrays females in unrealistic ways – looks, clothing, sexuality, body type, actions, etc. – and most of these women are manipulated through airbrushing before we get to see the final product. This has created a standard of femininity that is impossible to attain by real women, and harmful to our self-esteems. The message is clear – “you are not pretty enough, thin enough, good enough.” Women learn to compare themselves to other women at a young age, and compete for male attention. The media puts pressure on all people, especially women, to look “beautiful” by their standards. It maintains that if women don’t meet that ideal, there must be something wrong with them.

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How Beauty Relates to You and Me

Is is wrong to want to be beautiful, or try to improve our appearances for fear of playing into the cruel whims of modern society? I would argue, no. For better or worse, the bottom line is that research shows beauty matters; both psychologically and biologically, we are hard-wired for it. I think the key is to finding balance when it comes to society’s demands on feminine beauty. Living in our modern world, it’s hard not to feel the pressure that women have to look a certain way that fits into a cookie-cutter mold. We need to encourage each other to celebrate our individuality and unique beauty. You should enjoy the time you spend beautifying with makeup and clothes (after all, we are girls!); but the moment you stop doing it for yourself and start doing for other people is when you should step back and re-evaluate.

So after all, striving to appear attractive may not be such a vain endeavor after all, within moderation.