Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christmas Gift Ideas

I received the following products in exchange for an honest review on my blog. 

Christmas shopping is hard for me. I never know what to get, especially for those who re-gift or seem to have everything. Lately, I've received some great products to review that make me think, "Hey, this would be a good present for (insert)."

If you feel stuck and need some Christmas gift ideas, check out the following products:

Gifts for those who have Leather Furniture or Leather Car Seats

I have an old, medium-sized leather couch. I never knew how dirty it was until I cleaned it with the leather cleaners and conditioner from Leather Nova. The products are made with natural ingredients, so there aren't any harsh fumes, and come with their own application sponges. The cleaner and conditioner are simple to apply and dry quickly. I recommend apply each of the products in the order listed above.

Gifts for Techie People 

  • Portable charger: Lifeguard's portable cellphone charger is great when your phone is almost dead and you need to use it. The charger doesn't power a device quickly, but it will give it a good boost when the battery icon is yellow or red.
  • Rear view monitor mirror: Perfect for a cubicle worker, a computer-screen mounted rear view mirror lets you see who's coming your way without having to turn around. 

Gifts for Travelers, Gamers or Crafters

Image from Wikipedia.
  • Slim packing cubes: These luggage organizers by Dot&Dot are awesome. Mine are light blue and fit perfectly in my suitcase. I used one to corral my socks, another for scarves and one for toiletry items. I used the fourth for the knitting supplies that I took with me. My knitting needles fit well inside the cube.
  • Display-sheet makeup bag: The first thing I thought when I saw this makeup bag, which uses display sheet material, is that it would be great for my husband's dice. He has dozens of dice that of all shapes and sizes for gaming. This bag makes it simple for him to dump the dice out onto the display sheet and put them away quickly.

Gifts for Cooks

  • Lemon zester cheese grater: I've never owned a microplane grater until now and find it to be an essential tool in my kitchen. While I don't like citrus zest, I like using this grater for harder cheeses and herbs, like ginger and garlic.
  • Bitpsy professional jumbo lemon squeezer: My old hand-held lemon juicer was a plastic contraption made of plastic that I was always afraid of breaking. The juicer from Bitpsy is big and made of stainless. It extracts more juice from citrus in less time than my old juicer.  
  • Bee Sili silicone oven gloves: It's so annoying when pans feel hot through my oven mitts. The silicone gloves from Bee Sili eliminate this problem and come with a silicone basting brush. I've used the gloves to adjust hot oven racks, remove cookie sheets from the oven and cook pizzas. The heart-shaped texture on the gloves makes it simpler to grip the items I hold.

Home and Beauty Gifts  


  • Beautonics Derma Roller: Derma rollers are my new go-to beauty product. I think that anyone over 30 could benefit from using one. This roller from Beautonics works as well as others that I've tried. I'm happy with the results. Check out this post on how to use a derma roller. 
  • Pilates for Dancers: With New Year's resolutions just around the corner, help a friend achieve her health goal with a fun workout DVD. 
  • Dr Song Home Professional Teeth Whitening Kit: Out of the whitening kits that I've used, this one seems to have the fastest results. I used it daily for 45 minutes with the LED light, followed by the remineralization gel. The kit comes with a mold-able mouth tray and a small brush, so you always use the right amount of whitening gel. I just wish the kit came with instructions.
  • Old Factory candle gift set: I tried the "Romance" and Coffee House" sets of candles. The "Romance" set has scents like rose petals, champagne and dark chocolate. The only candle that smelled as it should was the the rose petal one. The champagne candle smells like perfume and the dark chocolate one smells like vanilla cake. After I told the company about this, they sent me the "Coffee House" set with scents like coffee, chai and almond. These candles smelled like the item indicated on the label. 
  • AlphaHealthy Probiotics: These are more like a stocking stuffer that you give to a person with "regularity" issues. They work well. I take two a day, which is particularly helpful on days when my diet is low in fiber. The capsule don't have any particular taste and they are simple to swallow. Since I have lactose issues, it's simpler for me to take probiotic pills than eat yogurt.  
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Do Derma Rollers Work?

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

The short answer to "Do derma rollers work?" is yes. 

Do they work right away? No.

The derma roller I use.
A few companies had given me the opportunity to try the derma roller, or microneedling roller, and I passed because it looked too crazy; like a gimmick. Then, after reading about it on several reputable websites, I had to check out what the derma roller craze was all about, so I tried out Petunia Skincare's Derma Roller with 540 needles that are 1-milimeter long.

The idea behind this type of product is that it creates micro-lesions. When you skin heals, it will contain more collagen and elastin, which helps reduce the appearance of scars, fine lines, wrinkles, pores and other imperfections.

I've used the Derma Roller for almost a month. It doesn't really hurt when I use it, but it sometimes causes a strange tingling or burning sensation that lasts a couple of seconds. And, yes, there is minimal bleeding involved, but not enough to need a bandage.

So far, I've noticed that my pores are smaller over the areas that I've used it. The fine lines that I'm working on are going to take some more time. One thing that you must consider is that your skin will continue to change over the next couple of months, so the results aren't always immediately apparent. However, if you use it regularly, you will see result. I use mine once or twice a week.

In this video, a dermatologist who explains how derma-rolling works:


Now, don't panic. I don't use anesthetic cream on my face when I use my derma roller, nor does my face bleed as much as this woman's face. When I use the roller, only a couple places on my forehead look like they received pin pricks. The dermatologist is using a roller that has thicker needles on it than the ones generally sold to the public and he is pushing the roller on to the lady's face pretty hard.

How to Use a Derma Roller

  1. Wash your face. It's important to remove the dead skin cells, bacteria, oil and other impurities on your face before using a derma roller. I apply the facial cleanser using one of those sonic-type facial brushes. Dry your face after you wash it.
  2. Disinfect the derma roller. I spray rubbing alcohol onto my roller. Let the alcohol evaporate. 
  3. Roll the derma roller on your skin, working a section at a time. I like to work in small sections instead of large sections and do the follow: 
    1. Roll side-to-side 10 times
    2. Roll up and down 10 time
    3. Roll diagonally to the left 10 times
    4. Roll diagonally to the right 10 times
  4. Apply toner to your skin. Spritz the toner onto a cotton ball or pad and swipe it over your skin to reduce your pores and (eek) wipe away any blood.
  5. Apply a serum to your skin (optional). If you use a vitamin C serum, retino or hyaluronic acid, this is the time to apply it. 
  6. Moisturize your skin. Use a deep-moisturizing product. During the day, use a moisturizer with SPF.
  7. Disinfect the derma roller again. Yes, again. 
This college-aged (I think) guy, Cory, has a good video about how to prepare your skin and use a derma roller.


In Cory's follow-up video, you can see how well the roller worked for him.



The Best Derma Roller

The derma roller I use is the one that Petunia Skincare sells on Amazon.com. I can't claim that it's the "best" derma roller in existence, but I'm happy with it. The roller is sturdy, the surgical-grad stainless steel needles are sturdy and the roller comes with a sleek case that helps it stay clean.

Please consult with a dermatologist to learn if an at-home derma roller is right for you before using one.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, November 3, 2014

How to Care for Curly Latina Hair

I received the following products in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. 

During the fall, my skin tends to get dry. If my skin is dry, there's a good chance that my curly Latina hair is dry, too. Since dry hair equals frizzy hair, it's to my advantage to keep it hydrated.

I recently had the opportunity to try a couple different brands of products. The Stephan Co. was kind enough to send me their entire line of Imágen Salon Formula Products for Latinas. I've used the products for about a week and this is what I think so far:

  • Moisturizing Shampoo and Strength Conditioner: The products work well together and have a fun turquoise color. I like that the scents match. The shampoo doesn't strip my hair of moisture and the conditioner does an adequate job of hydrating it.
  • Leave-In Conditioner: I use leave-in conditioner almost every day. The color and scent match those of the regular shampoo and conditioner, which I like. The leave-in conditioner doesn't leave my hair feeling greasy and it doesn't weigh it down.
  • Temporary Straightener: My hair hates being straightened. I straighten it maybe twice a year, so my locks aren't use to taking on a more lax form. When I use the Imágen straightener, I followed the directions exactly. After blow-drying my hair with the straightening product, I noticed that my hair had more volume than usual, but it was still frizzy. My curls returned within a few hours. On a side note, my hair tends to stay straight and less frizzy for a longer period when I use a flat iron after blow-drying my hair.
  • Anti-Frizz Serum: This product works just as well as my expensive products that do the same thing. I like how it smells, too. I used this with the leave-in conditioner to give my hair the extra moisture it needed.
  • Shine spray: This high-gloss spray was necessary after straightening my hair. The gloss brings dull hair back to life. The spray smells nice and it good for taming fly-aways.
At the time of publication, you can find the Imágen line of products at Target for $4.99 each. 


I avoid using heat on my curly hair as much as possible because it can damage it and cause it to get even more dry. After trying to straighten my hair with the blow dryer, I used Instanatural's Argan Oil Hair Mask the next day in the shower to restore any of the moisture that it lost. I love how the hair mask makes my hair feel soft, silky and manageable. The funny thing about it is that it smells like bubble gum.

If you were add anything to your hair care collection, I'd recommend a leave-in conditioner or hair mask.  

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com and from the Stephen Co. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How to Eat Spirulina

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for my honest review. 

Please talk to your doctor before you eat spirulina, especially if you have a medical condition or take prescription medications.

Spirulina is a blueish-green algae that's full of almost all the nutrients that a body needs, such as protein, minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and essential fatty acids. As a dietary supplement, you can find spirulina in tablet, powder or flake form.

How to Use Spirulina


Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of spirulina in the following to boost its nutritional value:
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces, like spaghetti sauce
  • Pesto
  • Yogurt
  • Smoothies
  • Homemade ice cream
  • Juices
  • Batter, such as pancake or cake batter
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
From what I've read, there is no right or wrong way to eat spirulina. The NYU Langone Medical Center states that doses generally range between 1 to 8.4 grams per day.

While the natural medical community boasts that spirulina can help with various ailments, the Langone Medical center states that evidence that supports such claims is still "preliminary."

Spirulina Precautions

Spirulina is not appropriate for everyone. WebMD states that spirulina may not be appropriate for:
  • Those with autoimmune diseases
  • Individuals with phenylketonuria
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Infants and children
  • Individuals taking immuno-suppressant medications
  • Those on a neutropenic diet

Spirulina Powder

One of the simplest ways to eat spirulina is in powder form, like the USDA-certified organic spirulina powder by the Sari Foods Company. According to the company, it harvests its spirulina from lakes in rural Mongolia.

When I first opened the bag of spirulina, the smell immediately hit me. It reminded me of those fried shrimp chips that you buy at Asian supermarkets. My husband said that it smells like a lake full of algae and plant life.

When you put a bit of the spirulina in a glass of water, the water gets a wonderful dark turquoise hue. The taste is much like lake water...without the boat motor oil or duck poo. The taste isn't noticeable when you mix the algae with other foods and flavors.

It's always a good idea to get your nutrients from food whenever possible. When you purchase spirulina, make sure that it doesn't contain toxins or contaminants. Sari Foods states that its spirulina comes from soda lakes that's free of pollution. They also state that they regularly test the product for heavy metals, pesticides, mold, yeast, E. coli,k and other contaminants.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Moisturize Dry Skin When the Weather is Cold

The following is an advertorial. I received the products mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. 

I have no idea what the future has in store for me. But, when the weather starts to get chilly, I know one thing for sure: cold weather = dry skin. For years, I used to just slather moisturizer all over my face and hands without a second thought. This year, I'm more thoughtful about my approach to keep my complexion clear and my skin hydrated and glowing.

How to Moisturize Dry Skin


1. Drink

Moisturized skin starts from the inside of your body. Drink at least 8 cups of water a day to keep your body and skin -- the body's largest organ -- hydrated. While this step may seem way too simplistic, it's one of the most vital.

2. Prep

Before moisturizing your skin, you must prepare it by getting rid of excess dirt, oil and bacteria. Vivant Skin Care's Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Wash. The wash helps rejuvenate the skin, as well as treat acne, hyper-pigmentation (discoloration). In addition to using it on your face, you can use the wash on your body and hair.  

Because I have sensitive skin, I like that the wash contains acids derived from natural sources (i.e., almonds, grape seed, kiwi fruit and green tea) instead of harsh benzoyl peroxide. The product's scent reminds me of a gentle shampoo and it has a great lather. I use the wash day and night and recommend it if you want to prevent acne or minimize your pores.

Another product I use is InstaNatural's Deep Cleansing Facial Oil. You may think, "Wash your face with oil?! What the..." But, yes, you can wash your face with oil. This deep cleansing oil is a dry oil, so it cleans and moisturizes at the same time.

This oil is my go-to eye makeup remover. I have some mascara that's impossible to remove with regular eye makeup removers, but the Deep Cleansing Facial Oil does the trick. It completely dissolves the mascara, something that other oils I tried couldn't do. It also doesn't dry out the skin around your eyes when you use it.

Another thing that I like about the cleansing oil is its floral smell. It reminds me of Rodin's Olio Lusso, a similar facial oil that my skin likes, but is out of my price range. When I use InstaNatural's oil, I experience the same benefits as the luxury product, but at a fraction of the price.

3. Mask

Every once in a while, I like to use a facial mask to help remove dead skin cells and impurities from my skin. Azara Organics' Seaweed Facial Mask and Body Wrap does just that without drying out my skin. Harvested from the Atlantic Ocean and tested for quality, the seaweed mask naturally helps reduce inflammation and remove toxins.

The smell of the seaweed powder reminds of an aquarium. It doesn't smell fishy; it smells like the beach. I had a bit of trouble getting the powder-to-water ratio just right at first. After I figured it out, I left the mask on for about 15 minutes. When I washed it off, my skin felt soft and smooth. If you like natural masks, this is a good one.

4. Tone

When you wash your face with warm water, the pores on your face naturally open up more. A toner helps minimize your pores and clear out excess dirt and bacteria. I also like to use it when the skin on my face feels gross.

InstaNatural offers a Vitamin C Facial Toner that you can spray directly onto your face or onto a cotton ball (to wipe on your face). The toner has a nice citrus smell, moisturizes your skin and prepares it to absorb serums and moisturizers.

I thought the Vitamin C toner was the best I had ever used until InstaNatural sent me a toner made from Moroccan Rose Water. I love its smell! I can't decide which toner I like better, but I do wish the rose water toner had a spray pump on the bottle.

5. Nourish

Before I moisturize my skin, I apply serums that  help nourish it. Two that I recently used are hyaluronic acid serums with vitamin C and green tea from Morea Naturals and Body Merry. While both serums performed equally well, the serum by Morea Naturals seemed a bit silkier. It also comes in a pump bottle instead of a bottle with a pipette.

Body Merry also makes a Pro-A Serum that you can use in combination with its hyaluronic acid serum. Derived from vitamin A, the retinol serum helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. What I like best about it, though, is that it helps keep my skin clear.

Foxbrim sells a Complete Anti-Aging Moisturizer with vitamin A (retinol) and antioxidants. I'm all for products with retinol (I can't get enough). I feel, however, that this product doesn't deliver enough moisture to my skin, so I use it as a serum. The product feels nice on my face and my skin absorbs it quickly. 

InstaNatural sells the Age-Defying Skin Clearing Serum, which contains retinol, vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin C. Who knew that you could absorb so many vitamins through the skin? It also contain salicylic acid, which helps keep your complexion clear. This product blends my favorite skin-nourishing ingredients, eliminating the need to have a bunch of little bottles.

InstaNatural also let me try its Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) Anti-Aging & Skin-Lightening Serum. The serum is great for all skin types and gives your skin a boost of moisture before you apply a facial moisturizer. The nice thing about this product is that you only need a tiny squirt of it for your entire face, and the anti-aging properties also help you maintain a clear complexion.

6. Moisturize

My skin cries out for moisture after I wash it. Adovia has a great line of skin and hair care products, including its Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Cream. This product is a rich moisturizer that has ingredients like Dead Sea salt, vitamin C, collagen and lactic acid. While I like how the cream feels, its scent is a little too strong; it reminds me of soap. The smell, however, isn't so bad that I won't use the product.

Foxbrim has a nice Vitamin C Lotion that complements its anti-aging moisturizer. The product contains ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, green tea and MSM. I like to use this lotion when I need a light moisturizer, like on warmer days, or if I plan to use supplemental moisturizing products.

Right now my favorite moisturizer to use is the Dr. Song Organic Rosehip Oil. I use it day and night and on my face, hands and feet. Rosehip seed oil is a dry oil, so it doesn't clog your pores or leave your skin feeling greasy. One aspect that I like is that you only need two or three drops of oil for your entire face, so the bottle will last you a long time.

7. Treat

Despite all the moisturizer and serums that I use, I sometimes need some extra oomph in areas where my skin is particularly sensitive or delicate, like around my eyes. Yalmeh offers the Super Youth Eye Cream and Glory Eye Bright Gel. Both product combat dark under-eye circles, puffiness and fine lines using natural ingredients, such as aloe vera.

The eye cream is much richer than the gel. I think I prefer it over the gel, but I like the gel's packaging better, as it comes in a tube. The gel smells nice and works as a light moisturizer. One thing I noticed, however, is that the gel smells just like Foxbrim's eye gel, which I reviewed several months ago.   


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

An Easy Way to Drink 8 Cups of Water a Day

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons
For a long time, nutrition experts advised us to drink 8 cups of water a day; that's 2 liters (64 ounces) (the size of a large soda bottle). The Institute of Medicine states that men should consume 13 cups of water a day (3 liters) and women should drink 9 cups (2.2 liters).

In addition to plain H2O, other sources of water include:
  • Milk
  • Tea
  • Other beverages, which you should consume in moderation
  •  Fruits and vegetables, which are up to 90 percent water

Tricks to Drink 8 Glasses of  Water a Day


Problem:

Part of the reason that it can be difficult to drink 8 glasses of water a day is that it can be hard to keep track of how much water you drink.

Solution:

Use a big 64-ounce cup instead of trying to count how many smaller glasses of water you drank. You can find a big cup like this at a mini-mart, like the kind at a gas station. I use a large cup like this at home.

Alternatively, fill up a 1-liter bottle twice a day. Some sodas come in 1 liter-sized bottles. This is a good option if you're traveling. If you work outside of the home, use two 1-liter bottles: finish a bottle while you're at home and one while you're at work.

Problem:

Even though people say it has no taste, water seems to taste gross to me after I drink so much of it.

 

Solution:

I use 0-calorie drink mixes. The larger packets flavors 2 liters of water. When I travel, I like to use the water flavor enhancers that you squirt into the water. Alternatively, you can use the smaller packets of drink mixes.

I recently tried the lemon-flavored Vacay Water Enhancer. It comes with 10 servings in one packet. The company states that Vacay has a calming effect with ingredients like chamomile, passion flower and l-theanine.

Unless you like the taste of stevia, Vacay is not for you. I liked the lemon taste, but the taste of stevia was too overwhelming for me. In addition, I can't say that it made me feel more noticeably relaxed or helped me sleep better. This drink mix is a nice try on Vacay's behalf, but I can't get over the stevia flavor issue. 


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Information about Vitamin D

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

Vitamin D is a hot topic today. The fat-soluble vitamin helps your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus in its bones. Too much of it can cause problems with your heart, kidneys or lungs, while a deficiency can make your bones weak or lead to other problems. According to a 2008 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin D deficiency is a pandemic.

Image: U.S. National Library of Medicine

This summer, I learned that I had a vitamin D deficiency after a yearly checkup with my physician. She determined this after seeing the results of a blood test she ordered. My doctor instructed me to take 6,000 international units (IU) of a vitamin D3 supplement for three months, followed by 2,000 to 4,000 IU of the supplement for the rest of my life.

For the rest of my life?! What the... My doctor said that some people don't produce or absorb the vitamin on their own as well as others. While my doctor doesn't know why I have this problem, it may have something to do with my thyroid.

In general, causes of vitamin D deficiency include:
  • Thyroid problems
  • Having darker skin
  • Living in a place that doesn't receive a lot of sunlight (the sun can help the body produce the vitamin naturally)
  • Never going outside
  • Certain medications
  • Some herbal supplements
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Malabsorption-related diseases
  • Obesity
Image: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Vitamin D3 Supplements

When we discussed vitamin D3 supplements, my doctor warned me to make sure they were of good quality. When DSpeed offered the chance to try its Fast-Melt Vitamin D3, I was definitely interested.


The DSpeed supplement is round tablet that melts in your mouth. I like that feature because I don't have to worry about having water to take it. The tablet has a peach flavor. I like the taste, but I'm also not opposed to the taste of sugar substitutes. 

My one gripe about the supplement is that it's only available in 1,000 IU. Since I was taking 6,000 IU a day, I would have been out of supplements in 10 days. Now that I'm taking 3,000 IU a day, I take a Fast-Melt and a 2,000 IU tablet by a different company.

If you need to take a vitamin D supplement (talk to your doctor about this), and you hate swallowing pills, I recommend the Fast-Melt Vitamin D3, which you can find on Amazon.com.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.