Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Care for a Beard + DIY Beard Oil


I received the products mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. (Well, today they are my husband's.)

Beard care tips
Today, the beard is about 2 inches longer
My husband has a BIG beard and it brings him great pride. Not only is he keeping up with Pacific Northwest Fashion, he never has to shave. (This is a bonus for him because he hates shaving.) People ask him about how he cares for his beard and learn that it's not that hard. Here are some tips that he offers for awesome beard care:

1. Wash It

Like the hair on your head, you have to wash the hair on your face. My husband uses regular shampoo for his beard. If you have sensitive skin, a baby shampoo will be better.

2. Condition It

Beard hair is naturally coarse and wiry. My husband used my hair conditioner until he received Smooth Viking’s Beard Conditioner, which he liked. He said that it’s like a balm or soft wax with a light scent that you can’t even feel when you apply lit. He thinks that it’s a good product to use every day if you’re not using beard oil.

3. Oil It

If you don’t want to use a beard conditioner, beard oil is a good substitute. My husband recently tried and reviewed three different oils:
  • RealMan Company Beard Oil: My husband was surprised by the oil’s scent because it smells like coffee. He likes that it’s an all-natural product and that it comes with a dropper for easy application. He hates pouring beard oil into his hand.
  • CanYou Handlebar Beard Oil: This was my husband’s least favorite of the three oils that he tried. While the oil comes in a cool-looking flask, the container is the product’s flaw. When you pour out the oil, it collects around the flask’s mouth, forming a gum. When this happens, the lid doesn’t close tightly. So, if the flask tips over, the oil spills. He also said the oil’s scent is “interesting” and lingers for most of the day.
  • SmoothViking Beard Oil: My husband thinks this is a good beard oil for everyday use. It does not have a strong scent and it comes with a dropper.

4. Shape It

Most guys don’t use hair gel or mousse in their beards. Instead, they use a balm. My husband used Smooth Viking’s Beard Balm, which is like a slightly stiff wax. He says that it’s “Really nice if you want to keep part or most of your beard from moving around as much as it does normally.”

5. Wax It

If you feel like getting fancy, you may choose to give your mustache a particular shape. My husband likes to have a handlebar mustache sometimes and uses mustache wax for this. He tried Can You Handlebar’s Moustache Wax, which he says has a light tobacco-like scent. While the wax held all day, my husband said that it wasn’t as good as a different brand he tried. 

How to Make Beard Oil

If you’re on a budget, you may have the ingredients necessary to make beard oil at home. Otherwise, a small investment in the items necessary will last you a long time.

What You Need

  • Carrier oil, I like the fractionated coconut oil from goPure Naturals
  • Essential oils in the scents that you like
  • A small glass jar that’s tinted (tinted is best because light exposure degrades some oils)
  • Funnel

What to Do

1. Pour the carrier oil into the small jar until it’s ¾ of the way full. In addition to fractionated coconut oil, rosehip seed oil is another great option because it won’t cause your skin to break-out. 

2. Add two or three drops of essential oil into the jar. Feel free to mix the oils to create a blend that you like. Some ideas for manly smelling oils include:
  • Tea tree oil
  • Peppermint oil 
  • Lemon oil
  • Orange oil 
  • Anise oil 
  • Bay oil 
  • Cedarwood oil 
  • Cinnamon oil 
  • Frankincense oil 
  • Lavender oil 
  • Eucalyptus oil 
  • Juniper oil 
  • Sandlewood oil 
  • Rosewood oil 
  • Sage oil 
  • Vanilla oil 
  • Rose oil 
  • Lilac oil 
While rose, lilac and vanilla don't seem like manly scents, they smell nice when mixed with other oils. Some ideas for combinations are rosewood oil with rose oil or sandlewood oil with orange. Keep in mind that a drop or two of essential oils go a long way, so you don't need much. 

3. Put the lid on the bottle and shake to blend. If the scent of the oils is too strong, add more of the carrier oil to the bottle.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Make Your Own Bath Salts

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

Bath salt recipes
While I'm not a person who soaks in the bathtub for hours, I do enjoy the occasional spa day at home. When I do feel like lounging in the tub, I like to add bath salts to the water because of the nice scents. They also help exfoliate and purify my skin and relax my muscles. Adovia Mineral Skin Care sent me a package of its Adovia Dead Sea Bath Salts that are 100 percent pure.

About Dead Sea Salt

Sea salts are distilled from sea water and contain trace minerals. They also contain no additives. According to Adovia, Dead Sea salts have more minerals in them than Epsom salt. They naturally contain higher levels of magnesium, potassium and sulfates, and only have 8 percent sodium chloride. Unlike other bath salts, Adovia's has a finer grain, so it dissolves faster in the water. (I don't like sitting on rocky bath salts). I like that it doesn't have any additives or scents.

Bath Salt Recipes

Bath salt recipes
I received my package of Dead Sea salts just after I broke my foot, so I haven't had the chance to have a proper, full-body soak. When you have a broken bone, you aren't supposed to soak the affected area because the warm water encourages extra blood flow in the injured area, which results in swelling. I have, however, soaked my healthy foot, as it gets tired from bearing extra weight.

To make the most of the bath salts I received, I made my own scented bath salts. They're simple to make using essential oils. When you make the homemade bath salts, be sure to store them in an air-tight container (like this) so you don't expose them to extra humidity. Here are some of my favorite bath salt recipes:
  • Relaxing bath salts: Add a few drops of lavender oil to a 1/2 cup of Dead Sea salts. For a nice effect, add about three drops of purple food coloring.
  • Vanilla bath salts: Add a drop of vanilla extract and a whole vanilla bean to 1 cup of sea salt.
  • Energizing bath salts: Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to the sea salt. Place a small sprig of fresh rosemary in the jar for a luxurious look. For a boost, as one drop of lemon essential oil to the mix.
  • Soothing bath salts: Add a couple drops of rose essential oil and a drop of lemon essential oil to 1/2 cup of sea salt. Color it however you please. For a special look, add bits of rose petals to the mix.
  • Perk-me-up bath salts: Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a 1/2 cup of sea salt. Use a couple drops of red food coloring to give it a nice look.
  • Mojito bath salts: Add three drops of lemon essential oil and one or two drops of peppermint essential oil to a 1/2 cup of sea salt.
  • Orange dreamcicle bath salt: Add two drops of orange extract to 1/4 cup of bath salts. Use two drops of orange food color, if you wish. In another bowl, add two drops of vanilla extract to a 1/4 cup of bath salts. Layer the different salts in an air-tight jar, alternating between orange and white. If you don't want to add colors, you can make the concoction in one bowl instead of two.
  • Foot soak bath salt: Add two drops of lavender essential oil and tea tree oil, along with one drop of peppermint essential oil to a 1/2 cup of sea salt. 

In place of food coloring, you may use mica powder or liquid soap colors. If you prefer a stronger scent, feel free to add more essential oil or extracts to the salts. For the best results, shake the jar of bath salts before using them.

Photo source: Adovia Mineral Skincare

Monday, February 23, 2015

Adding Convenience to My Life and Other Life Hacks

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

Ever since I broke my foot, I've been extra kind to myself by staying off my feet as much as possible. While doing so can make life seem a little boring at times, I've learned to be more creative. Here's how.

Quick Touch-Ups with Blotting Paper

When someone comes over to visit, my first instinct is to head to my vanity to put on makeup--at least concealer and mascara. When that visit is last-minute, I can't exactly run upstairs to do my makeup. This is where Day by Day Beauty saves the day. Their blotting papers do a good job of de-shining my face, giving me the appearance of using light powder. While it doesn't erase my blemishes, the blotting papers help me look a little more put together. The packet is small and fits in the little bag in which I keep my cell phone charger, so it works out well.

Quick Perk-Up with an Eyelash Curler

When I am able to use mascara, I use an eyelash curler and mascara to make my eyes look livelier. LiveWIRE Beauty's eyelash curler has replaced my old eyelash curler. It has the classic metal, scissor-like design, but the pad is made from a rubbery material, not foam. This means that you never need to replace the pad. When I use the curler, it doesn't pull on my lashes at all. I give it bonus points, too, because it curls my lashes correctly on the first try. My old curler sometimes made my lashes bend at a 90-degree angle.

Cell Phone Arm Band

Now that I can't carry anything around because of my crutches, I am eternally grateful for pockets and small backpacks. One of the essentials that I carry with me all the time is my phone. In addition to making calls, I often use to check my email, take pictures and start blog posts. If I don't have a pocket, the cell phone armband from Red Star Tec is great. My phone fits perfectly in the pocket, which has a hole for a headphone jack. The band also has a small pocket for a house key (not a big car key). Right now, I use it to tuck in my ear buds. The plastic over the screen doesn't interfere with the phone's touchscreen capabilities. 

Reflective Safety Vest

Because of my crutches, I am a slow walker. I mean s-l-o-w. In the little group of townhouses where I live, people aren't always as careful as they should be when they drive, especially at night. If I have to go out to get the mail at night, I wear V-Line Products' reflective vest. The genius of the vest is that it isn't a traditional vest. It's a series of reflective ribbons sewed together, so they appear more like suspenders with a belt. This takes away the bulk that comes with other safety vests. It fits perfectly over my big sweaters and coats, and makes me feel safer when I'm out at night.

Secret Body Pouch

I LOVE to travel. I am also paranoid about people stealing things from me. Gateway Ventures sent me a Secret Body Pouch to review, as it's a travel essential (according to some) and I didn't already own one. The fabric on the pouch is light and breathable. The straps are accommodating in that you can stretch them to a great length to fit around your body.

Why does a person like me need a secret pouch right now? Remember my love for pockets? Well, the pouch is my go to item when I need to carry small things around the house. The problem with regular bags or cross-body purses is that they dangle too much and get in the way while using crutches. The pouch stays close to my body and the straps extend long enough to fit around my sweaters. The little pockets inside the pouches are great for small items, like lip gloss, a pen, slips of paper and so on.

One feature that I don't understand about the pouch is the way that you're supposed to wear it when you travel. One strap goes around your waist and the other crosses your body, so it's around your neck and under an arm. When you wear it properly, you can totally see the strap. This feature isn't very "secret" unless you're wearing a turtle neck.                                               

New Hair Brushes

I'm pampering myself. Remember? I've had the hair brushes in my drawer since college, making them over 10 years old. They were clean and in good condition, but really old. It was time for a change and Hair Symphony was kind enough to send me their detangling and soft hair brushes in a cosmetics bag. The black hair brush is the detangling brush, as the bristles are stiffer. It works well and the handle feels strong. The pink brush is the styling brush. It fits in the palm of your hand and the soft bristles feel heavenly. I brush my hair for no reason now because the bristles feel so good, like a head massage. The cosmetics bag is a nice touch because it's large enough to fit both brushes, making it ideal for traveling.

One Hack that Does Not Work

Long lashes are something I covet. While I don't use false eyelashes (I don't even know how to apply them), I did try the eyelash growth serum from LashIQ. This serum does not contain any sulfates, parabens or chemical preservatives. The company states that it will increase my eyelash density by up to 82 percent in four weeks. I used the serum every day for four weeks and nothing. I did not notice any difference in the thickness or length of my lashes. The serum also made my skin feel a bit itchy. Unfortunately, this product is a no-go.

What gadgets do you use to simplify your life?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Decorate Your Waking Cast

I received some of the products mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All the opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. 

I broke my foot and sprained my ankle a few weeks ago. To help keep my foot immobilized while it heals, the doctor gave me a walking cast to wear for at least six weeks. While some people hate the thought of wearing "the boot," I like it. It's a lot more comfortable than the splint that the ER gave me and it provides better stability. 

Since I have to look at it boot for several weeks, I wanted to decorate my walking cast. I first tried some rub-on transfer things from the craft store. I ended up taking them off because I got tired of them and they started to look worn. Then I experimented with the temporary tattoos that Voodoo Tattoo sent me to try. I received the "Petra" set, but I think the "Aphrodite" set has cuter tattoos for casts.

At first, I wasn't sure if the temporary tattoos would stick to the plastic, so I sent a message to the company. After not hearing back from them for more than a week, I went for it. This is the result: 


 
Decorate walking cast
A close-up of the embellishments
After decorating the front of the walking cast, I couldn't neglect the back. With the chalkboard label that KANAS sent me, I wrote, "Out of order," using a white Sharpie oil paint pen. The sticker has been on my boot for a couple of a weeks. There is minimal peeling in one of the top corners.

The bandaged foot you see in the background is mine. I use the splint that the ER gave me when I sleep because it's a lot more comfortable, lighter and softer than the walking cast.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Use Lemmon Essential Oil

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

lemon oil
Source: Wikipedia
I'm growing my little at-home apothecary and recently added lemon essential oil from Majestic Pure Cosmeceutcials, who recently hooked me up with peppermint essential oil. It takes about 3,000 lemons to make one kilogram of  citrus limon. People have used it for centuries to fight diseases, boost immune systems, clear complexions, kill fungus and feel refreshed.

To be honest, I had never hear of lemon oil until now. The first thing I did when I received it was take a big whiff. It smelled so fresh and natural. After doing some research, I found that lemon essential oil has a variety of uses, making a good addition to your natural remedy and cleaning collection.

Uses for Lemon Essential Oil

lemon essential oilCleaning

  • Natural laundry scent: I hate using unscented detergents, even though they're probably better for me, because my clothes smell grimy afterward. The fix is to add a couple drops of lemon oil into the water. 
  • Sap remover: If your hands are sticky after touching a tree, use lemon oil to fix the problem
  • De-grease: Instead of using those strong-scented orange-smelling towels, place a couple drops of lemon oil in your hands along with hand soap.
  • Clean your home: Place a couple of drops in a spray bottle filled with water to clean the grease in your kitchen. Then head to the bathroom to get ride of hard water buildup and mildew. The oil also works great on stainless steel and stone countertops.
  • Remove tarnish: Place a few drops of the oil on a microfiber cloth to clean silver when it begins to tarnish
  • Polish and moisturize furniture: Place a bit of lemon essential oil on a rag to moisturize, clean and polish wood and leather.
  • Remove scuff marks: When you think all hope is lost, use lemon oil to gently scuff marks.

Garden

  • Natural insecticide:  Place a couple of drops in a spray bottle filled with water to repel garden pests, such as aphids and fungus gnats. 

Cooking (yes, you can eat lemon essential oil)

  • Make water more interesting: Add a drop or two of the oil to your water to give it a fresh taste. 
  • Preserve fruit: Spray a bit of the oil onto cut fruit to keep from oxidizing.
  • Zest up your dishes: From sweet to savory, a couple drops of lemon oil can give your dishes a new taste.
Make a diffuser with lemon oil
and fractionated coconut oil

Health  

  • For colds and coughs: Add a couple drops of lemon essential oil to a dehumidifier (if the manufacturer says that it's okay to do this) to help ease upper respiratory ailments. 
  • Sore throats: Add a couple drops of the oil to hot water and honey to make a soothing drink. 
  • Nail fungus: Add a drop of the oil to infected nails to ward off fungus.
  • Mood booster: Diffuse the oil using a carrier oil, like fractionated coconut oil, to help fix a case of the blahs or to help keep you focused.
  • Relieve cold sores: Place a drop of lemon oil on cold sores to help ease the pain.
  • Homemade astringent: Use lemon essential oil and water to make an astringent that helps clean and close pores, and gets rid of dirt and dead skin cells. 
  • Energizing massage oil: Use a few drops of lemon essential oil in a small jar of fractionated coconut oil to make a massage oil. One of my favorite fractionated coconut oils is Invivo Essential Fractionated Coconut Oil from 5 Mediums. 
How do you use lemon essential oil?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Should I Take Probiotics?

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

Lactobacillus rods (source: Wikipedia)
Your body has over a trillion bacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract. Of the trillions, about 90 percent are "good." These good bacteria are called probiotics. The more probiotics you have, the healthier your gut is, according to a February 2015 article in Time. Among the healthy types of bacteria are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus, in fact, has proven to combat the insulin resistance seen in type 2 diabetes and some who are obese in early studies. While the particular gut flora isn't a cure for the conditions, the findings are positive. 

Benefits of Probiotics

While scientists are still studying how probiotics help the body, the American Gastroenterological Association states that they may:
  • Help prevent infections
  • Boost your immune system
  • Prevent bad bacteria from attaching to the lining of your gut
  • Destroy toxins that bad bacteria release
  • Help produce vitamin B, which you need to metabolize food
  • Treat diarrhea
  • Ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Help maintain a healthy mouth
  • Promote urinary tract health
  • Treat certain skin conditions, such as eczema
  • Prevent allergies
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of the flu and colds

Consuming Probiotics

One of the simplest ways to consume probiotics is by eating yogurt (any yogurt) and kefir. Since I'm more on the lactose-intolerant side, I'd go for keifir or full-fat yogurt. In Time, Shekhar Challa, a gastroenterologist and author of Probiotics for Dummies, states that eating foods that naturally contain probiotics may not be enough because the acid in your stomach may kill some of them.

According to Challa, a better alternative is to take probiotic supplements because their coating or the ingredients in them provide protection from the acid in your stomach. Challa recommends using a probiotic supplement and eating foods that naturally contain the healthy flora everyday.

Since I don't eat a lot of yogurt or keifir, I take probiotic supplements daily to promote digestive health. I decided to do this when I decided that I was taking a ridiculous amount of fiber caplets every day. Depending on the probiotic supplement, I found that they replaced the fiber caplets. Over the past few months, I've tried products by Hyperbiotics and Micropharma Limited. Here's a rundown of what I thought:

Probiotics: The winner in my test
  • Hyperbiotics Pro-Women: "Promotes healthy flora and yeast balance"; This product contains six targeted probiotic strains and prebiotics, which promote the growth of probiotics. The product looks and smells like a vitamin and replaced my fiber supplement.
  • Hyperbiotics Pro-Immune: "Targeted probiotic support" with bioavailable vitamin C, zinc and echinacea; This product contains five probiotic strains and prebiotics. The caplets smell like vitamin C and are slightly powdery. This product has helped me the most of the the three listed in regards to gut health.
  • Microbiome Plus + Gastrointestinal: Probiotics and prebiotic fiber; The product comes in a blister pack with separate prebiotics and probiotics. You take the supplements twice a day with food. One of the pills has a sticky coating that sometimes left my hand sticky, which I didn't like. I also often forgot to take the second set of supplements in the evening. While I took the supplements, I caught a nasty cold that lasted two weeks. I can't say that I'd recommend this product. 
Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional. Please consult a physician about gut health and taking probiotics. 


Friday, February 13, 2015

How to Water Succulents


I received a product in exchange for an honest review on my blog. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own .

I always had a black thumb until I discovered succulents. For many years, I killed plants because I always forgot to water them. This neglect is what made me successful in regards to caring for succulents. As I read succulent-related boards and group discussions, this usually comes up: "My succulent looks horrible. I don't know what I'm doing wrong." A picture of a drooping plant with translucent leaves usually accompanies the statement. It seems as if the main reason that people fail at succulents is because they over-water them.

How to Water Succulents

Not all succulents have the same watering needs. Watering depends on factors such as:
I've been growing succulents for about a year. My number one, go-to source for information about most of the plants I have is Dave's Garden. The site tells you about a plant's watering needs, space requirements, hardiness zone and when it blossoms. Users also leave comments about their experience with specific plants.

After I learn about a plant's watering needs, I use a simple moisture meter that tells me how wet the soil is. This gadget has saved a lot of succulent lives.

In general, I soak plants about once a week in the spring and summer. If the plants are young, I mist them with water daily so the roots don't get too dry.

In the winter and fall, I water my succulents weekly, but don't soak them. Because I live in an area that gets cold, I bring the tender succulents inside my home, but leave the cold-hardy ones outside. Among my tender succulents is my jade plant collection.  

'Hobbit' jade with sedum
'Ripple' jade with sedum
'Tri Color' jade with sedum
Variegated jade with moss
When watering succulents, it's important that some are dormant during the winter, so they require little watering. Adenium, or dessert rose, is dormant during this time. It's leaves fall and needs watering about once a month. Conversely, aeonium are dormant during the summer. 


To water the plants in my home, I used a two-gallon garden pump sprayer that Get Bats Out sent me to test and review. The pump comes with a extension nozzle that is helpful for reaching plants that I keep on tables and windowsills. I like that you can adjust the spray to avoid getting water all over furniture. By twisting the pump handle into place, you can carry the sprayer around with you.  The instructions say to lay the sprayer on its side and depress the handle to release the pressure in it. I just un-twist the cap to do this because it's simpler.

The sprayer has slots where you can attach a strap. Now that I have to use crutches, I wish the sprayer came with a strap so I could carry it by myself.

During the summer, I like to water the plants outside with the garden hose. OT-Online sent me a sweet nozzle for my hose that it calls a Hozzle. By twisting the bezel, I can adjust the flow of water. I like to use a mist-like spray for the succulents because I can water a lot of plants at the same time. The only thing that I don't like about the Hozzle is that the O-ring falls out, so you have to pay attention when you install and remove it from the end of the hose.

What watering routine do you use for your succulents?