Krakow Guide: What To See, Where To Eat, From A Real Krakowianka

Krakow is a place I come back to again and again. I love the vibe, the small-town cozy feeling combined with big-town culture, the endless choice of gorgeous Cafés. I want to share my Krakow recommendations with you.

What to see:

* Old town: But not just any way, enter it as you would in the middle ages: Walk from the Barbakan through the Florianska gate, to the Rynek square. Listen to the Hejnał (every full hour). Then go down Grodzka and continue till the river.

* Kazimierz: start at the and explore what was the Jewish district. This is my favourite part of town with lovely cafés, handmade shops. There is often a market on the Novy Square, depending on the day it can be clothes or vegetables or handicraft. 

* Wawel Castle: See the cathedral and go up the bell tower, all with an audio guide. Wander around the courtyards and take a while to sit with your back to the wall next to the Chapel of St Gideon - - that's where the earth Chakra is supposed to be. I always experience a lovely stillness in this place. 

For these two things the best day is on Monday because the rest of the castle attractions are closed, so it's very quiet. On another day see the royal Chambers (the Chakra is supposed to be below the Ball Hall, the last room). The treasuries are also really cool. Avoid weekends especially the afternoons.

* University: beautiful renaissance style courtyard is open all day, the inside is like Hogwarts.

* A less touristy track: Walk along the Kładka Ojca Bernatka to Podgórze, there are lovely cafés on both ends of the bridge. Walk on to the King Krak Mound, it's a lovely green quiet place with a great view of Krakow, and you can alao see into the small Plashow

* Another lovely place if you need more green is the Skałki Twardowskiego, a quarry turned stunning artificial lake. You can take a long walk in the surroundings, but if you want to sit at the lake's edge remember that the decent is adventurous and can be dangerous for children. Definitely worth it if you are an able bodied adult though.


Eat, drink:
Recommend: 

Cafés:
Old Town:
* Camelot: ridiculously pretty, rooms ranging from cottage style to moody. I love the cupboard doors, outdoor seating both outside and in the courtyard is dope too. 
* Wedel: for chocolate lovers. Best hot chocolate from the famous chocolate factory. 

Kazimierz 
* KawaLerka: Small and moody, really good coffee. 
* Cytat for book lovers. The toilets are Harry Potter and Star Wars themed. Their lemonades are really good. 
*..... Plants, cakes and coffee. Enjoy the green decor that you can also buy. 
*... In the botanical garden. Lovely location, tasty coffee and cakes. Downside is that you need to buy a ticket for the botanical Gardens, also thw service is slow. 

Podgórze:
*... For serious coffee geeks. These guys have things like aerolress, plus you can also choose your beans. 



Restaurants:
* For vegan options, go to nnnmmmmm qhich has several dedicated places. 

* Prima on Podgórze for really amazing pizza, probably the best I've ever had. 

* Chader, Kazimierz : run with the support of a jewish cultural institute, this restaurant has amazing middle-eastern dishes, and a very atmospheric interior with books about jewish culture and some cool floor seating. 

Quick bites:

Indian food in Podgórze: tasty, authentic, inexpensive. 
Mazaya Falafel: inexpensive middle-eastern food.
Obwarzanki from any little stand in the old town. 


BARS:
I recommend picking one area and going from place to place:

Old Town:


Kazimierz:
You can't go wrong here, the place is full of amazing bars. Here are my favourites:

*?    Atmosperic, with old paintings on the walls. I live how so many bars here are pretty much lit be candlelight. 
* Eszejwera: dark, atmospheric. 

* Absynt: for a great selection of good Absynth. 
*...... Communism-style bar, with it's decor, propaganda posters and the choice of drinks. 
* Hevre: my jaw dropped when I walked in, 
* Singer


* Drukarnia 

Why You Need To Exfoliate Your Scalp


Do you exfoliate your scalp regularly?
Here is why you should:
* Exfoliation removes product buikdup and dead skin
* This makes it easier for active ingredients (for eg scalp treatments for hair growth) to penetrate the skin.
* The hair roots are lifted
* Your hair looks and smells fresh longer 
* It helps with itching and dryness in this area 

I recommend scalp exfoliation for everyone, once or twice a week, unless you have dandruff, wounds, sores or another severe issue on your scalp.
You can chose between physical and chemical exfoliation. Physical exfoliation means there are actual particles that scrub, whereas chemical peels contain enzymes or acids that have a gentler effect. If you have dandruff, physical exfoliation causes microtears that cat worsen the issues, so you need to deal with the dandruff first. You can however use chemical /enzymatic exfoliants. 


In this post I'll talk about physical scrubs. These are really easy to make at home, you just add the exfoliating ingredient to a gentle shampoo or conditioner, gel like aloe vera, or even a face cleansing gel. These products are gentle and provide slip. 

What to use for DIY scalp scrubs

* Sugar: I posted about the DIY sugar scalp scrub a while ago. It has the advantage of dissolvibg, which means that it's impossible to harm your scalp. 
* Salt: it's antibacterial, make sure it doesn't contain any chemicals that keep it dry and loose. 
* Clays: really good for all kinds of skin, keeps oiliness under control. Very gentle exfoliation. Here is a post about the different properties of different coloured clays, and also rhassoul clay.

I recommend these scrub ingredients because they are easy to wash out unlike other ingredients like coffee grounds, ground nuts, etc. 

How to use scalp scrubs

Take 1-2 minutes to scrub gently, using the pads of your fingernails. Never scratch or be rough. Rinse very thoroughly, as residue can make your hair unmanageable.


In my next post I'll be writing about chemical exfoliation, so stay tuned.


Ps I'm writing this post on a phone app as I'm traveling. It doesn't allow me to edit html, so please excuse any issues with formatting. 



Are Self-Tanning Concentrate Serums -- An Alternative To Regular Self-Tanners





I like using self-tanner all year round. It's a bit like makeup for the body, it smoothens things out a bit. Plus it makes my winter skin look like it's summer outside, which just puts me in a good mood. Also I'm actually more responsible about not overexposing my skin to the sun if I already got my tan from a tube.

This spring I switched from a self-tanning cream to a concentrate. I had a slight mishap in the beginning and looked like a certain ex-presiden of the US for a few days. But now I really love it.
You mix a couple of drops into your regular skin care, apply it on your skin, and wait till the next day for the colour to develop.

The advantages of a self-tanning concentrate:

* You can control the intensity of the tanning. You can gradually layer for the streak-free effect. Just add the smallest amount to your skin care product each day for a few days. If you want to get a more intensive colour, fast, you can use more product.
* It's a tiny amount of a serum, so it won't clog your pores.
* The self-tanner smell gets masked by the scent of the product you mix it with. It's not completely gone, but it's much less.
* It takes up less space in your bathroom or travel bag.
* You don't have to choose between skincare and self-tanning. I can add the self-tanner concentrate to a very rich body moisturiser when my skin is dry, or to a vit C serum on my face.

Which self-tanning serum do I use?

I use the ones from Lavozon (Rossmann) and SunOzone (Müller). The issue with DHA-based tanners (the kind that gradually develop over time and doesn't rub off on clothes) is than in a badly formulated product the DHA is unstable and gives off formaldehyde. In the ÖkoTest lab tests, the self-tanners from Lavozon and SunOzone were almost the only ones that didn't start giving off formaldehyde over time. Most of the other tested products (organic brands as well as conventional) failed the test. Ökotest did test only the cream self-tanner version though, so I'm hoping and taking the risk that their concentrate formulation is not too different. Another thing I'm doing is storing the concentrate in the fridge, as it is heat that destabilises DHA.
 
The caveat is the packaging of the Lavozon and SunOzone products (I'm pretty sure these brands come from the exact same factory, as they have the same ingredient list and even the packaging is the same). The packaging tells you to use just a few drops, but the consistency and the pump are such that you have to press gently to get drops. The first time I used the product I pressed hard and got a squirt, and I assumed it was the drop they were talking about. Well, that's how I ended overdoing it on the self-tan.
       
Zeta
 Photo credit: VenusianGlow


How To Protect Your Hair From The Sun


 

I already posted about me frying my hair last summer due to bicycling around town without a hat. Hair, especially greying hair, is highly susceptible to UV damage. Note that I live in a relatively cold climate and we don't even get that much sun.

This winter I was diagnosed with eczema and after a couple of different treatments the one that was most effective was UV light on the scalp. After a while I noticed damage -- my hair was dry and coarse. 

If you have greying hair (doesn't matter if you dye it), your hair is bleached or damaged, or if you live anywhere with a lot of sun, or spend a lot of time outdoors, this post is for you. 

Do hair products with SPF work? 

The answer is -- not well enough. It's pretty much impossible to coat every single strand of hair, and if you somehow did manage to, you'd look like you dipped it in an oil slick. 
So if you want you can use it as an additional help, but you really need to rely on physical protection.
 
What does help a bit is oil -- I have seen as well tested how hair reacts to the sun with vs without a coating of oil, and can really recommend it.
So we are back to using traditional ways.

Hats:

I love hats, and I believe that there is one out there for every person. My go-to place is TKMaxx, I find the best ones there every summer, often made out of UV-reflecting fabric. Another go-to place is Bijour Brigitte, and of course flea markets. (Yes, this does mean I lose at least one hat per summer). Here is a hack on how to make a loose-fitting hat fit better.

Scarves: 

The key here is to find a scarf that really really goes with your face or your style, otherwise it can look quite matronly. Pay attention to the fabric weight and stiffness as well to the pattern. I think you also need to experiment with many ways of tying it, to find what works for you.
 
Protective Updos 

Braids and buns protect at least the lenght and ends of the hair from the sun.
 

The total protection dork 'do

My bicycle commute hair solution is, well, rather dorky. I plop my hair with a scarf to protect my waves, and over that I put on a visor to protect my skin (imagine only the brim of a hat, without the top part). This stays on securely even if there is wind, and my waves don't get flattened. I take it off when I reach my destination, and nine times out of ten I have voluminous waves. Here is the scarf wrapping style I use:
 


 
Finally, remember that it's all about balance. I would not forgo having fun experiences because my hair might suffer, but I do try to be good about wearing a hat when possible.
alias            
Zeta


My Guide For Solid Cosmetic Products





Solid products have moved from the hardcore backpacker/environmentalist niche to being the new hot thing, so I wanted to write a little about my experience with them. 

The big plus point for solid bar products is their lower environmental impact-- low to no packaging, instead of a big plastic bottle, half of which is water that is transported halfway around the globe, you get a little bar in a cardboard box. Solid beauty products are dry and concentrated, this imo justifies the often slightly higher cost-- they usually last longer, volume-wise.

But lets talk about ingredients. Solid products usually don't need preservatives, because they are dry. Other than that, the formulations are often very different than those of conventional products. It's also important to note that a solid product is not automatically natural -- seem of them contain ingredients like SLS so make sure you check the ingredient list or look for products organic certificates.

Solid shower gel

I love these so much. While regular soaps are formulated to get heavier dirt off your hands (from cooking, cleaning, etc), solid bath gels are much gentler and usually have a neutral pH level. Unlike soap, they don't dry your skin and feel pretty much like regular shower gel when you wet them. They feel luxurious and creamy, just like shower gels. I love them so much that I don't think I'll be switching back to regular soap for my body again.

Solid body moisturisers aka lotion bars:

Lotion bars are very moisturising and you should absolutely try them if your skin is dry. They are best used after showering or while actually in the shower. Combined with heat and water they go on easily and seal in the moisture. I like to rub the block in my hands as if I were lathering soap, this makes the bar melt. Then I apply as usual. I feel like the lotion bars seal in the moisture very effectively, and in the winter I feel like they keep me warmer. This might sound weird but someone pointed out that when your lips are cold and you apply balm, they stop feeling cold. So it's kind of like that. The downside is that the application does take a couple of extra minutes, and is not so nice if your skin isn't wet. Anyway, I don't think my skin has ever been so moisturized as it has been this winter.

Solid hair soaps and shampoos

These are actually two very different products. Hair soap is soap, it has a basic pH level and honestly I haven't met any hair-care addict who was happy with it. As it raises the pH level of the hair, you need to  rinse your hair with vinegar to neutralise the pH level. This shifting pf pH levels isn't kind to the hair long-term. Hair soap also performs really badly with hard water.

Solid shampoo is formulated much closer to shampoo. There are a lot of very different formulations out there, so it might take some testing to find one your hair likes. Most of them give the hair more texture than slip, and can leave the hair a bit matte and cause build-up over time. However there are plenty of people who swear by shampoo bars, so if you feel like giving them a try, do! Pick ones without sulfates or sodium bicarbonate. Other ingredients to look out for is protein -- some hair types love it some hat it, I wrote more about that here. In the German-speaking market the


Solid hair conditioners

These are formulated with solid ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter or stearyl alcohol, which makes them heavy. To solve this, some manufacturers add ingredients such as sulfates to make the bar lather, which is not very kind to the hair. I feel that if your hair is very dry, you can try out hair conditioners in a bar. If your hair is easily weighed down, skip this category.


Solid Deodorant

This is a very individual product -- I find that natural deodorants are so personal, what one person swears by may not work for another person at all. Personally I have had a lot of success with the solid deodorants from Lush.


Solid toothpaste

Fun! There are a couple of kinds out there -- while for travelers the little tablets are the most practical, I personally like powders a lot. There is also tooth soap, and while it tastes disgusting it has helped me with some gum issues. I don't really want to give out much advice here as this is more of a medical product than a beauty product, but I really encourage you to explore low-waste tooth care.

alias            
Zeta
 
Photo credit: VenusianGlow


My Simple Wavy Hair Styling Routine With Only Three Natural Products




I am more likely to be consistent when things aren't too complicated. The more steps in my hair styling routine, the more likely I am to just shampoo and condition and then regret it. I love seeing other people's elaborate routines, but they aren't for me.
 
Right now I am sticking to a very simple routine to style my waves. I base myself on the curly-girl routine modified for wavy hair, which gives me nice defined waves and volume. I use just three product most days: flaxseed gel, aloe vera gel and shea butter or some other oil.
 
My simple wavy hair routine:
  • My baseline is shampooing my scalp, and condition while scrunching my hair.
  • Use DIY flax seed gel as a leave-in conditioner. 
  • I gently towel dry my hair, then apply a dollop of aloe vera gel in my hair, then scrunch again.
  • I spread a tiny amount of shea butter (or another fat or oil) in my palms, and scrunch into the ends to seal and protect them.
  • Finally I plop my hair for 15 minutes. Sometimes I do it with a claw clip like this. I used to plop longer but keeping my scalp hot and moist for too long triggers scalp issues. 
  • Finally I clip my hair to make sure my roots are lifted when they dry.

I always air dry unless it's an emergency, because heat is one of the biggest causes of damage. 

 


 

The three techniques -- scrunching, plopping and clipping give me curls and lift, while the other products prevent frizz and maintain the curl.

Of course when I have time I add extra products and steps like acidic rinses and scalp treatments. But it's really nice to have a barebones routine that doesn't take up much time and pretty much always works.

Your mileage may vary, based on your hair type and climate. I have super healthy coarse, textured hair with medium porousity (used to be high but I fixed it with lots of care), and get haircuts to thin out my hair and bring out the curl. I live in a  moderate continental climate. So this post is not a prescription, but an invitation to find your own basic routine.

Zeta
 Photo credit: VenusianGlow


Skin Care Favourites Spring 2021

Skin Care Favourites



Hey everyone, today I have a couple of products that I'm really excited to talk about, because they are huge favourites of mine.


E-fiore Algae Peel-Off Moisturizing Mask

You know those peel-off strips for the nose? This clay mask is like one of those, but for the whole face. It leaves my pores looking so small and my entire face simply clean and glowing. The main ingredients are Diatomacecous earth and algae.
You need to apply a thicker layer so that you can peel it off afterwards. Avoid the eye area. It takes a bit of time for that thick layer to dry. The actual peeling off takes a bit of time since the whole thing doesn't come off in one go, but it is so so satisfying! You see the pore gunk come off on the mask. I'd say that the time it takes is annoying, but it cleans my pores much more effectively than regular peel-off masks. I use it only on my T-zone.

Available in many European countries via the Makeupstore online shop as well as the Makeup stores (Makeup.uk, Makeup.cz ... you get the idea). The e-fiore has an entire series of masks, and I want to try the other ones too.
 

Spirulina Algae Mask from Zrob Sobie Krem

I apply this on the dryer areas of my skin, especially the forehead and the eye area. Spirulina is very very moisturising and smoothens out fine lines. This product is simply powdered spirulina, so I can imagine ones from other brands or spirulina that you ground yourself would work just as well. On a side note is that I absolutely love the colour, a brilliant blue-green.
 
 
 

Beauty Glam Clear Skin Roll On

This is 2% BHA (salicylic acid) in a roll-on form. The applicator makes it really fun to apply, especially if you want to concentrate on small areas like the chin or the nose or just on breakouts. 2% is quite a potent amount for salicylic acid. The panthenol and hyaluron in the formula prevents it from being drying. 
 
 


Isana Pigment Spots Whitener Care Cream (Rossmann)

I got this because I was curious about the polysaccharide whitening molecule which is apparently very effective in reducting discolouration. I used it only on my discolourated areas all winter and noticed that they got lighter. Discolourations are hard to get rid of so I'm going to keep this one in my arsenal of lightening products. 
One negative is that I didn't care for the smell of this cream.
 
 


#beRoutine Enzyme Peeling

This is a lot of fun to use! It's a delicate enzymatic + physical scrub, I'd call it a polishing scrub because it is really fine and smoothens everything. The product is a powder made of extremely finely ground epsom salt, talc and pumice. Add water and the mild surfactant makes a little foam. The two enzymes gently exfoliate things chemically.
I love using this on my arms and legs to smoothen things out. One sachet lasts for several uses. I hope that this will come in bigger containers, because sachets aren't the most ecological solution.
 
That's all for now. I'm curious about the other roll-ons from Beauty Glam, I think it's such a nice way to apply product. Also I'm embracing the way German brands are starting to finally create products around ingredients and advertising them as such. Consumers today are savvy enough to want products with specific ingredients and want to know the exact concentration.
Zeta
 
Photo credit: VenusianGlow


Can Double Cleansing Work For Dry Skin? + Which Products Not To Use

You've probably heard that over-cleansing dries out the skin. And but what if I told you that cleansing in two steps can work really well for those of you with dry skin? Read on to find out why double cleansing can actually make the skin less dry, and what common product not to use.

How two-step cleansing can benefit dry skin:

* You get a thorough but gentle cleanse by using two super gentle cleansing products that don't strip the skin instead of one harsher one.

* You'll need less active ingredients (that are often drying) in the rest of your skin care, because double cleansing reduces clogged pores, cysts, blackheads and general skin tone.

* Double cleansing removes residue of makeup and sunscreen, which often contains drying ingredients. 


How To Clip Hair Roots For Lift And Volume


Hey everyone, this post is filed under "I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet". 

Clipping is my favourite way to get volume at the roots without using heat (my second-favourite being going to sleep with wet hair spread behind me on my pillow, which unfortunately gives me a slight cold). 



A Throrough Guide To Two-Step Cleansing



One of the best things I have done for my skin is double cleansing. The science behind is that some impurities are better dissolved in oil, and others in water.

Unless you live in place with pollution-free air and use no products on your face whatsoever, I recommend trying it out. If you already have tried double cleansing and weren't excited, I still invite you to read this post and see double-check if you have done it correctly.

Before I get to the how, here are a couple of reasons double cleansing is important:



Sunscreen vs Moisturiser With SPF -- Which Should You Use?



Some of you might be using only sunscreen, or only moisturiser with SPF, some of you might be layering both. What is better, and is there a difference?

The answer is that there are several reasons why you should be using separate, specialised products instead of a two-in-one:

 

 


How To Care For Very Dry Hands



Hello everyone,
 
With all the hand washing and disinfecting a lot of us are dealing with very dry hands. It's not just an issue of aesthetic and comfort -- cracked and wounded skin is much harder to clean and disinfect,
Today I'm going to talk about not just about products, but about other factors that can influence the skin of your hands.

Bring your own disinfection:


The free disinfection sprays that stand in stores are mostly cheap and very drying, so I usually bring a nicer one and use that. Look for Ethanol rather than isopropyl alcohol, fragrance-free, ideally with a moisturising ingredient like glycerin.
I have and can highly recommend Sterilium (especially Sterillium Pure). It's highly effective but not harsh on the skin. I decant it into little bottles to use on the go. It's apparently a favourite among health workers in Germany.


Check these out: