Weekend Reads 18 November 2017

      Hi everyone, the weather has been really awful -- rainy and windy and dark, making me want to sleep and stay in bed for hours and watch a lot of movies. I really envy those of you living in sunnier climates!

Here are some cool links for this week:
* I started out my style journey by learning about proportions. Here is a great post about calculating your perfect skirt length.

* What do you do if you have only time to use one makeup product? Or three? Here is an experiment that helped one woman to decide which product makes the most difference.

* DIY: pantyhose headbands

* Death of the show off. (I'm also so happy about flats in the front row)

* Style: The perfect vs the must-have

* A manifesto for slow travel

* The great language game. I'm ridiculously proud of my scores.

Did you know that people walked differently in the medieval times?

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How I Deal With Dry Flaking Skin In The Winter

In the winter my skin changes from combination to Sahara. One of the most irritating things about this is that the skin often starts flaking. Sometimes I only realise it's doing this when I apply mineral makeup which really brings those patches of dry skin out.
These dry skin flakes are caused by the often quick changes between being out in the cold and in the warm. Many homes have very dry air (although I'd not be to quick to get a humidifier without getting a hygrometer, because many modern well-isolated homes tend to get too humid and develop mold without without proper airing.) Also I use hydroxy acids in the winter which really help with fine lines and discolourations but dry out the skin.

Another really important question us whether you are drinking enough water. It's easy do get dehydrated in the winter because the cold makes us feel less thirst. I also feel like eating healthy fats helps my skin look better in the winter.

The key to getting rid of dry skin flakes is switching to a more moisturising and less drying routine in the winter. 

How to exfoliate:

To remove the dry skin flakes I usually use a microfibre cloth or a Konjac sponge, because they are thorough but very gentle. You can also use a mechanical exfoliant (scrub) or a chemical one, however you need to be gentle. Don't do exfoliate more than twice a week, otherwise you will be stressing the skin. I feel like enzymatic peel are a great option for the winter, so is the almond gommage.

Speaking about chemical exfoliants, don't overdo these either. These days chemical exfoliants (alpha and bety hydroxy acids)and "in", which means that there are everywhere -- in cleansers, tones, moisturisers... Check your products for these ingredients, as overdoing on hydroxy acids stresses the skin. I prefer to use my hydroxy acids strategically, applying specific acids (mainly on areas with discolouration) and then waiting a couple of days for the skin to rebuild itself.

How to cleanse:

The Oil Cleansing method is great for the skin in the winter. Alternatively you can use a cleansing milk, or a Micellar cleanser free of alcohol. In the winter I always reach for either a microfibre cloth or a Konjac sponge to remove any flakes. 
Put away soaps and harsher cleansers away till the spring.

How to moisturise:

After cleansing I apply Aloe Vera rather than my usual hydrolates.  Finally I switch from light moisturisers to heavier creams with humectants and emolients. Some ingredients you migh look for are: shea butter, lanolin, beeswax, vitamind A and E, aloe vera, hialuron, urea, squalane, plant oils. I like the Martina Gebhart creams as well as Make Me Bio. I'll often use pure oils or butters in the winter, as a layer on top of the cream. My current favourites are rose hip oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil and murumuru butter. For very dry patches I use Weleda Skin Food, or a capsule of vitamins A+E.

Avoid ingredients that are harsh and/or drying: alcohol, sulfates and mineral oil.

How to apply foundation:

If your makeup is making your dry skin flakes more visible, you might want to switch. Usually lighter or more moisturing formulas are better. You can also try mixing your foundation with a moisturiser. Application is key -- pat the product in, don't rub. If like me you prefer mineral makeup, you might want to try applying it with a wet brush, and stippling instead of swirling the product on your face.

These are my tips for dealing with flaking skin in the cold season. How do you deal with skin flakes? Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones who doesn't have this problem?

Photo credit:  Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash

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Chesnut DIYs To Strenghten Veins And Capillaries

There are two kinds of chestnut -- sweet chestnut is the one you can roast and eat. Horse chestnut has many properties that are beneficial for the skin. It is a key ingredient in products for skin with weak capillaries, rosacea and varicose veins. The chestnut contains Beta-escine which is a mixture of saponins, it strengthens the veins and makes them more elastic, and fights the enzymes which causes the breakdown of the walls of the veins. It also has cleansing properties.
Chestnut also prevents the breakdown of hyaluron in the skin. A Japanese study showed that the horse chestnut extract was much more effective in absorbing free radicals than vitamin C or E.
Finally chestnut helps against cellulite.

I collect chestnuts from beer gardens (in Germany a beer garden must have a chestnut tree). I use them for my laundry (see this tutorial), they work really well.

DIY chestnut skin care:

In all of these recipes you can substitute chestnut bark for seeds, however remember to harvest is sustainably and not damage the trees. Chestnut trees are struggling against a deadly disease as it is.

All these treatments can be used on the entire face and body, or just on the spots with visible veins.

Chestnut cleansing toner / hair rinse:

Blend pieces of chestnut in a blender, or soak in a glass of water. Pass the mixture through a sieve. The liquid foams and be used as a cleanser (after removing makeups). I either apply it like a toner or dip a sheet mask in it and use in in the bathtub. It stays fresh for two weeks in the fridge.
The grits get used for a second batch -- they get soaked in a glass of water for a couple of hours, and again I filter out the liquid.
This also makes a great hair rinse, it leaves the hair really soft.

Chestnut bath:

The chestnut bath is a treatments against varicose veins and visible capillaries as well as cellulite. It also evens out the colour of the skin.
There are two ways you can make a chestnut bath. The first is exactly like the cleaning toner, but in a bigger quantity. I find that 10 chestnuts are the right amount for an average bathtub.
Another method is to boil the chestnuts for 15 minutes and then let them in the hot water for another 15 minutes, and then add to the bathtub.
You can also use the tree bark for this (ca 100 gm).


Chestnut scrub: 

Use the leftover grits as a scrub. I prefer to use the grits of chestnuts I have shelled for my face, since I'm afraid that the shells are too scratchy.

Chestnut face mask

It lightly tightens the skin, cleanses and minimises pores.
Cook small pieces or grated pieces of one chestnut in a little water on a low flame for two minutes. Don't let it boil. Once it has cooled down, it looks like pudding! Apply and leave on for ca 10 minutes.

Chestnut  Macerate:

This is a great way to use chestnut when it's out-of-season. You need a small jar with sunflower oil (or any oil that doesn't go rancid too fast). Put pieces of chestnut in it and store for at least two weeks before using. The macerate can be used for oil-cleansing, or to moisturise the body or the face

I usually make my laundry detergent and my chestnut skin care in one go. I cut the chestnuts in half with a knife and mix them in a blender with some water. For whites detergent I remove the shell. If you don't have a blender you can use a grinder, grate them, or cut them into small piece with a knife.
The mixture makes a nice froth. I pass it through a sieve, and get a milky liquid.
So now I have the chestnut liquid and the grits.
I dry the rest of the chestnuts in the oven and store them in a jar. 

If you don't have access to fresh chestnuts, you can find some online, for example on SkinActives,Zrob Sobie Krem, etc.

If you try these out, let me know how it goes for you.

Photo credit (top image): Kingston Chen on Unsplash

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Weekend Reads 27-10-2017

      Hi everyone, wishing you a lovely end of autumn! Here are some cool reads:
* Style: Tips on lingerie shopping from 50 experts. Including tips from me!

* Could I convince you to meditate with a single sentence?

* Home: A really interesting post about how a different way of organising the closet can change the way you build outfits.

* A ridiculously beautiful blog: Live Free

* On that note: I've got a Tumblr. The images are inspirations to live with the seasons.

* I loved this pieces on the costumes in Blade Runner.

* Bra Shopping: Haute Flair is offering 25% off lingerie till Cyber Monday with the Code: Expert50

The funniest wardrobe advertisement ever (switch on English captions).

Image credit: Christ Lawton

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How To Separate Your Lashes After Mascara With A Lash Comb

Clumpy vs separated lashes is a matter of personal taste, and I vote for the separated team. For me separated lashes look softer, more natural and neater. I can appreciate the look of clumpy lashes on others, but absolutely have to separate mine. 
After using a clean old mascara wand for that purpose for years, I finally got myself a proper lash comb. A beautiful one with metal teeth. A clean mascara wand wasn't doing exactly what I wanted it to do because the bristles were too short. Regular lash combs have plastic teeth and I was afraid that they have microscopic jagged edges from the mold (just like plastic hair combs) which will damage my lashes.

Then I discovered lash combs with metal teeth -- the teeth are slim and smooth so they don't mess with the hair scales. If you have access to Inglot, they have a lovely lash comb which is foldable (!!). Sephora also carries a nice one, so does Tweezermann. As I didn't find any metal eyelash comb in a brick-and-mortar store I went on Ebay and got this random comb for about 2€. I heard that it looks very much like the old discontinued Sephora platinum ones. I'm very happy with how it works, it combs through my lashes and separates them, without stripping them of mascara.

If you have never used a lash comb, here is how it goes: use it on freshly applied mascara while it's still wet, if it dries you'll have to tug to get the clumps off and unglue stuck lashes. If you are doing several layers of mascara, comb after each application. I think it's best to comb the top lashes from below, to lift them instead of pulling them down. From time to time you might need o clean the comb, although I noticed that almost no mascara actually transfers to it.

If you'd like to read more about applying mascara, I wrote all about that here.

Are you on team clumpy lashes or separated lashes? If the latter, what do you use to separate them?

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How To Use Body Powder After Abhyanga Body Oil

I my last post about the Abhyanga oil massage I hinted at a way to get rid of the extra oiliness. So previously I'd use a body wash or soap to remove the excess oil, but often I'd feel that I was either stripping away too much of the oil or not removing enough. I really didn't want to spoil my towels or clothes with oil, but at the same time I didn't want to spend time oiling my skin just to strip it all off.

Then I discovered the powder massage -- it gets rid of excess oil on the surface of the skin -- the oil that didn't get absorbed. No more no less. So my clothes don't get stained, but my skin doesn't get stripped of the oil.
In Ayurveda the powder massage is also used on its own as an alternative to the oil massage for certain conditions. It is also a great replacement for soap. As a child I had a neighbour who used a chickpea flour and water paste to cleanse her entire body every Sunday, and she really glowed -- her skin was flawless and had an amazing glow to it. I saw her again around 10 years later, she must have been in her 50s, and her skin was a glowing as I remembered it.
According to Ayurveda you should use the (rather drying) legume flours only after oil massages, or if you have a very oily skin, or if you live in a very humid climate.

Personally I like using starch, because the silky feeling is really pleasant. I have a mixture of arrowroot and cornstarch with a drop or two of essential oil, which feels and smells amazing. However regular wheat or rice flour is fine too. The coarser types of flours will give you extra exfoliation.

To use, wet your entire body, then lightly massage a little bit of the powder onto your skin. Rinse off. I try not to do it immediately after I've finished Abhyanga so that the skin has a bit of time to absorb the oil -- I try to squeeze in a small task or two in between, like brushing my teeth or applying a face mask or something.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out for you!

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Aaand The Winners Of The HauteFlair Giveaway Are...

Sanam Hana
Stephanie LaPlante!

You've both got mail, check your spam boxes if you can't see it.
Image: Hugsdealer

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Autumn Abhyanga Body Oil Blend

Every time the air starts to get chilly I go back to doing regular Abhyanga. This practice of a pre-shower oil massage not only keeps my skin really moisturised but calms and grounds me. According to Ayurveda the autumn aggravates the Vata dosha which exacerbates dryness and restlessness, and that the best way to counter this is with things that are warm and moist.
Taking a couple of minutes to massage warm oil on the body is also about being aware of the body and giving it a little kindness and attention. This might sound a tad cheesy, but when you consider that a big part of the beauty routine is about criticising and fixing (whether directly or indirectly) you'll realise that Abhanga is one of the simplest ways to foster body acceptance.

A friend of mine who is a busy mom of three small kids says that on many days the Abhyanga is the only kind thing she manages to do for herself, and that her body cries out for it when she skips it.

My Abhyanga oil:

Last winter I mixed untoasted sesame oil with lighter oils, this year I finally tried out pure sesame oil and found that it is not at all heavy or sticky. I added just a bit of St John's Worth macerate that I made in the summer. Into the bottle I add a couple of chunks of ginger and a couple of cloves or their warming properties. Since I'm not such a huge fan of the smell of sesame oil, I added a bit of mandarin essential oil (orange-y scents lifts the mood).

You can use any oil you like, or you can use one that is good for your Dosha (Ayurvedic type). I like the Dosha quiz on the Banyan Botanicals blog, it's in line with what I have been told by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Also I found many of the blog articles really interesting reads.

Oils for Vata: Sesame (untoasted), almond, wheatgerm
Oils for Pitta: Sunflower, coconut, neem (especially after too much sun), almond
Oils for Kapha: Olive, sesame (untoasted), corn, coconut, safflower, mustard (great for joint pain but very stinky).
Oil for all three: Jojoba
Or you can use the one for the season, for example coconut oil is cooling and is great for the summer, sesame is warming.

I use an old Dr Hauschka bottle, but you can use a plastic squirt bottle -- the kind that sauces come in. DM has one for (I think) scalp treatments. I find that the DR Hauschka bottles are sturdy and don't break easily, also it has a press nozzle which means I don't have to unscrew any caps and this pretty much cuts down any risk of it slipping from my hands.
The advantage of glass is that I can easily warm up the oil -- I fill my sink with hot water and put the oil in it, the glass conducts the warmth well. In 10 minutes the oil is slightly warm. 

I explained how to do Abhyanga in this post.  In the next post I'll talk about a special trick I discovered to remove the excess oil from the skin!

Also tomorrow I'll be announcing the winners of the Haute Flair Parfait Affinitas giveaway, so stay tuned!

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DIY Quince Moisturising Gel And Face Mask

Quince are rather uncommon these days, but if you get your hands on them you can make tasty marmalade from the flesh, tea from the peels and use the seed to moisturise your face. Here in Germany it's very hard to find quince in a store, but last year a good friend brought me some from their farm and told me that it can be used in skin care.
If you can't get your hands on fresh quince, you can look in health food stores for quince juice or dried quince (often sold as a tea).

Quince Seed Gel

The quince looks like a pear, and in the middle are seeds similar to those of a pear. If you soak a couple of seeds in a tablespoon of hot water for a few hours, you get a clear gel similar to hialuron. I like to use the gel directly on my face, and layer an oil or a moisturiser on top. I found that I can soak the seeds 2-3 times.

This quince macerate not only hydrates the skin but is also anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and astringent. This macerate has been traditionally used for soothing the nipples by nursing women.

A very interesting thing about quince is that it does not absorb pollution from the environment, it remains "clean". It is full of several hydroxy acids, minerals like potassium, calcium, iron and vitamins B, A and C. The zinc helps wounds to heal faster. It is anti-ageing when used regularly. It is a great cleanser for skin with acne or skin that is irritated.

Quince Face Mask:

Mix 2-3 spoons of blended or grated quince flesh with a spoon of honey. If your skin is oily add a dash of cider vinegar. Apply on the face and wash off after 5-10 minutes.
If you can only get your hands on quince juice, mix it with clay or soak a sheet mask in it.

The fresh or dried pieces of quince can be made into an infusion simply by pouring boiling water on it. This can be used as a toner.

Have you ever tried quince? Or quince jam? Let me know if you try any of the above recipes!

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Cosmetics From Poland: What's Worth Buying Or Ordering?

I loved the Top-10 display in Helfy, Krakow

During my trip to Poland (which I was erratically documenting on my instagram) I was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of amazing cosmetics just about everywhere. A couple of years back I had to look for a tiny natural food store in a back alley just to get my hands on a Sylveco moisturiser, this time shelves of regular stores were chock-full of beautifully-packaged natural cosmetics, oils, soaps, and everything I could possibly wish for. Here is a brief primer on what is worth buying, plus how to shop if you don't speak polish.

First, if you don't like anywhere near Poland, I have seen at least Sylveco and Vianek online on Notino.

The best one-stop place to go in Poland to is the Pigment Drogerie, almost every big city has a branch. A similar assortment is to be found at the Kosmyk. Then most cities have a kind of store called a Mydlarnia which translates as the soapery, they specialise in soaps, as well as clays and oils. Finally, most places will have natural food stores which have an organic cosmetic section, search on google maps for "sklep ekologiczny".

Most younger employees do speak english, and are pretty knowledgeable about the products they carry. However they might not know all the english names of the herbs and the ingredients, so it's worth having a translation app.

What to buy:

Interestingly many polish brands don't carry an organic certificate like Ecocert (probably because these are very expensive). So I usually checked the website of the manufacturers to see if the product was organic.

Divide by 4 to get the approximate price in Euro.

Sylveco is the mother-brand of polish cosmetics, and is based on birch extracts. The products that contain the healing betuin (birch extract) have a heavier consistency, which may not suit everyone. The products without this ingredient are labeled as "lekkie" (light). 
Sylveco is amazing for those with anyone that suffers from serious skin problems such as dermatitis, acne, highly sensitive skin, dandruff etc. Most product are unscented. They can be used on skin that is irritated, or damaged in some way (look for the "Hypoallergic" label on them).
Sylveco carries a really good alcohol-free micellar cleanser. Their cleansing milk is based on the oil-cleansing principle and doesn't contain detergents. Their moisturiser (lekki krem brzozowy) is a great choice if you are looking for a light day cream.
Vianek and Biolaven are both daughter-brands of Sylveco. All three have really great ingredients, are free from animal-testing.

Biolaven is based on Lavender oil and Grapeseed oil. Their products are formulated to work with most kinds of skin, so if you want to make someone a gift you should pick this brand.
Vianek carries several lines for different types of skin: orange is nourishing, red is firming and anti-aging, blue is moisturising, green is cleansing, dark pink is soothing and relaxing, violet is strengthening and calming.

If you want a good alcohol-free natural micellar cleanser, you'll be spoilt for choice. If you wear waterproof makeup go for the one from Biolaven, for dry skin the blue Vianek, for sensitive skin the Sylveco linden (lipa) is perfect. Finally the orange Vianek has a 2in1 micellar solution and toner -- it contains a lot of nourishing ingredients like Calendula extract and almond oil and sea-buckthorn oil.

Make Me Bio is probably one of the best organic brands I have ever tried, their moisturising creams are legendary.

A very interesting brand that caught my eye is Orientana. Both the ingredients and scents are heavily inspired by South-East Asian as well as middle-eastern beauty. A lot of their hair care are based on Ayurveda and traditional Indian herbs, with the advantage of being free from mineral oils and generally up to organic cosmetic standards.
All the Orientana skin and body products smell amazing, with scents like mango, sandalwood. A very interesting produc is the enzymatic peeling based on enzymes from Papaya: Naturalny kremowy peeling do twarzy Papaja i żeń - szeń indyjski.

The Pigment drogerie has an entire cupboard with quite an impressive selection of cosmetic ingredients from ZrobSobieKrem. Here you can choose from several different kinds of hyaluron, a couple of different hydrolates, clays and active ingredients -- all for very low prices. The containers are pretty small which makes them perfect for the traveler. However if you are more serious about DIY cosmetics, it might be worth ordering from the website, also because of the exhaustive product descriptions.

Most of the Mydlarnia store that I saw carried all of the Wardi-shan soaps which are my favourite cleaning soap; as well as a very good selection of Aleppo soaps, African soaps, and more.

Clays is also something always worth picking up, as they are inexpensive and don't expire. White or blue or pink are gentler, green is the most cleansing one. The blue one looks really otherworldly.

The Polny Warkocz products draw upon Poland's Slavic traditions both in their aesthetics and their ingredients.
 If you are looking for something very moisturising and soothing or if you have problems with visible capillaries, the Mazidlo z Skrzypu (horsetail cream) from Polny Warkocz might be a good fit.

A must buy is at least one of the big array of oils from Your Natural Side. You can find just about everything from Argan oil (in a small affordable size!) to oils I haven't heard of before. It's worth to do a bit of research beforehand since the packaging doesn't say much about the properties of the oil. The same goes for the amazing array of hydrolates. I always stock up on hydrolates since it's normally really hard to find anything other than rosewater. Here I could pick between salvia, cystus, jasmine, chamomille and many more.

For the hair most places carried Khadi Henna as well as Orientana Henna, so there was a huge choice of available colours. Then there is the plant-based(ish) Tints Of Nature hair colour. You can find a selection of original Indian hair shampoos and oils as well as organic quality ones from Orientana and Khadi. Both brands also offer colourless Henna which gives the hair volume and luster.

Dermacol originally developed their products for stage makeup.

From coloured cosmetics, the small Dermacol foundation tubes make really amazing concealer that is extremely high-coverage and doesn't budge. For highly-pigmented eyeshadow you can't beat Nabla. If you find a place that carries the Danish brand Gosh, you might want to pick up their concealer.

Also really worth a glance is the selection of natural toothpaste. I have heard that the charcoal ones are really good for whitening.

Helfy carries a really interesting collection of oriental perfumes. I was especially fascinated by the solid ones in little jars (you can see them on the lowest shelf in the photo above). If you are interested in organic perfume, the brand Acorelle is worth a sniff. They also have a very interesting selection of herbal teas, I got one with Soapwort which I plan to experiment with as a cleaners, as well as a traditional Slavic tea. If you are looking for something for hair or nails I can recommend Nettle (pokrzywa), Horsetail (skrzyp), for skin problems cystus (czystek).

Apart from Polish cosmetics, there are a lot of imported products that are worth a look. First, you can find quite a bit of German brands such as Weleda, Dr Hauschka and Eco Cosmetics, then the amazing (but pricey) Madara, whose Sun Flower / Moon Flower moisturiser I'm a huge fan of. Then the Bania Agafii products from Russia, which are a tad tricky for me because I can't read Cyrillic.
Finally I spotted the beautifully packaged Whamisa Organic Flowers  which is an organic Korean brand which are based on fermentation -- I'd really love to try this buy my budget was already strained and this brand isn't exactly cheap.

I have to say I ware really really tempted to move to Poland just to have access to all those goodies. I shopped quite a bit, so expect to see my favourite products in future reviews.

I know I have some readers from Poland, let me know what your favourite products are! What do I absolutely have to try when I'm there again?

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