Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Super Easy Nude Manicure: Essence Studio Nails Hardening Nail Base

   I'm not a huge nail polish fan since I find them rather high-maintenance, but I wanted to show you this product that stole my heart recently. A stylist did my nails for a no-makeup look recently, and instead of a nude nail colour she used the Essence Studio Nails Hardening Nail Base. The effect looks like a subtle french manicure, looks understatedly elegant and fits with all skin tones as it is translucent. After a week it was finally too chipped to wear (it would last longer it I would wear gloves while washing the dishes), so I ran around the city looking for a bottle. Apparently the Essence Studio Nails Hardening Nail Base is only available at the big Essence counters (in the bigger Müller drogeries), the smaller counters in the small Müllers and in the DM don't carry it.
   The Essence Studio Nails Hardening Nail Base goes on clear but turns lightly milky in a few minutes. I used two coats here. It is really easy to apply it evenly, even with your non-dominant hand, and best of all -- small chips aren't obvious.

    If you can't get Essence products where you live (find them near you here), you can try other nail bases to see if you can achieve a similar effect. You might want to be wary of the ones that promise whitening, since they are often rather blueish.

    That same stylist taught me a couple of cool things and the Essence Nails Hardening Base wasn't the only thing I had to have after spotting it in her kit. I'll write about the rest soon, so stay tuned!

   Do you have a favourite nude nail polish or nail base? Do share!

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

How To Dry Your Makeup Brushes: My Simple Trick

   It's pretty important to clean your brushes regularly, as they collect a mix of makeup, old skin cells and skin oils. Yuck. This can cause breakouts and other skin issues, and obviously dirty brushes will also make your makeup go on weird.
    I clean my most used brushes once a week. I wet the bristles, swirl them in soap, and use my fingers to lather the soap. Rinse, repeat. If you have acne or other skin problems, you might want to clean your brushes daily, or at least disinfect them with alcohol (which kills the bacteria but doesn't remove old makeup). All my brushes are synthetic and easy to clean, natural brushes require a bit more care.
    Drying the brushes can be tricky. I squeeze the excess water with a towel, and then try to find a place where I could lean my brushes to dry. It is important that the brushes dry bristles-down, otherwise the water goes inside the handle (which can loosen the glue). This is the classic way to do it, but some of my brushes landed up getting misshapen, not to mention that it took up quite a bit of space. This was always an annoying dilemma, until I tried this:

   I tie the brushes together with an elastic, and use a hook to then hang them onto something. This particular hook is from Ikea, I like it because it is flat so it stays put, but you could just bend a piece of wire or a paper clip. There are many other ways to do it, but I like mine since I don't need much space or equipement to do it.

   In the summer my brushes are dry the next day, but not in the winter. This doesn't bother me when it comes to my foundation brush, since I like to apply my foundation with a moist brush anyway. But it's really annoying when my powder brush doesn't dry! But it's not

   How often do you clean your brushes? How do you put them to dry?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why You Should Switch Up Your Natural Deodorants

Why you should switch up your natural deodorants 

   One important observation I have made is that natural deodorants sometimes stop working after some years. I am guessing that this is because the bacteria got resistant against them? (Anyone? Biology students?)

   However a break from a product for a couple of weeks is enough to get them to work again. Another good idea is to switch up products. Waldfussel deos are my choice for the winter, as I'm not wearing sleeveless clothes so the white cast doesn't matter. In the summer I use my trusty crystal deos, which are transparent and unscented. So far this has been working perfectly.

   This might sound like too much hassle, but it isn't: my cold season deodorant runs out by the time summer arrives, and has to be replaced anyway. 

   Of course a healthy diet with few processed foods also helps to keep the body to smell good, all over. If your body odour is strong, you should take a long, hard look at your eating habits.

   Have deodorants ever stopped working for you? Also, this is the last post about deodorants that I'll be doing in a while, I am planning a post about care of the underarm area. Do you have any questions ? Do let me know in the comments and I'll address them in my post.
photo credit: Gabriela Camerotti via photopin cc

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Monday, September 22, 2014

My Favourite Apps That You Should Try

    I was really late to this whole smart phone thing, mainly because I was worried that instead of reading books on my commute I'd be stuck on my phone. Unfortunately I was right, but the smart phone also made up for that. I use it to organise my day, and I am really really greatful for Google Maps -- before that I was always phoning my husband asking for directions!

    Here are my favourite apps. Most of them are meant for Android (I use a Wiko Cink Peax), but many also work on iOS). Almost all are for free. Many people who switch from iPhone to Android find the latter a bit "clunky", because the apps bundled with most Android phone are usually less than stellar. But for every function you can choose from dozens of apps from the PlayStore -- for recommendations try the LifeHackers site, or brows through the PlayStore's Editors' Picks. Here are the apps I love and recommend to my friends:


   If you're always forgetting to silence your phone during appointments and to switch on the volume afterwards, you'll love this app. You can pre-program it to be silent for certain amounts of time. It can also pull appointments from Google Calendars. It also manages the behaviour of media, Wifi, etc.


    If you're not thrilled with WhatsApp crappy privacy policy, Threema is a great alternative. It has a very similar interface, but all your messages are encoded, and the app doesn't try to go through your address book and SMSes. At 1,80€ it's also really cheap.

GPS Status

   If your GPS seems to be off, it's probably because you have never calibrated it. Install GPS Status (you can also do it without this app, but it does help speed things up). Start the app and place your phone on a flat surface outdoors. There should be no roof or trees above, preferably no clouds either. Don't touch the phone until it has located the nearby GPS satellites -- this could take around 15 minutes. You only need to do this once, now the phone "knows" the satellites and can quickly find them each time you switch on your GPS.

Daily Art

    Each day you get a painting and a paragraph about the artist. This little dose of daily culture always brightens up my evenings.


   If you are looking for a minimalistic and easy-to-use interface for Google Calendars, try Cal. It's also beautifully designed and a pleasure to use. It does all the basic stuff, but "power-users" might miss some of the bells and whistles that other apps provide.


    The default Google address book is really horrible, but you should definitely be storing your contacts on google and not on a phone-only address book (if your phone gets lost or broken, lost contacts is the worst part). Contact+ is a really great app to manage your contacts, plus I love the interface with the photos -- great for visual people. Mine has sepia photos of all my friends!


   It's like the lightweight version of Evernote. The perfect place to store shopping lists, photos of a product you want to remember, voice memos and all the little bits of information you pick up during the day. Evernote is too bulky and slow for that, I prefer to use it for bigger projects. Google Keep is like that little pocket notebook to jot down things on the go. Downloading the app Sketch For Keep lets you draw notes.

Juice Defender

    This app really cuts down on battery use by managing battery-draining processes. You can really customise the stuff that it does.


    The best place to store your passwords. Recommended by my guy, who actually knows a great deal about this stuff.

   That's all for today, I think I have covered about half of my favourite apps, I'll write about the rest in my next post. Till then I'd love to know what your favourite apps are!

photo credit: 1Q78 via photopin cc

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

What To Do About Fine Hair On Cheeks And Jaw

    Have you ever wondered what to do about the fine hair on the sides of your face? On some women it is very fine and invisible, in this case please skip this post and do something better with your time, like looking up messy buns on Pinterest. However, if the hair on your cheeks, jaw area, forehead and chin annoys you, read on. This peach fuzz can be a bother when applying makeup: the hair makes it harder to blend the product in and powders settle on the down. The hair in those areas is often an issue for women with dark hair and strong hair growth patterns.
    I remember reading on a blog that shaving the down on the face makes the skin look a bit more glowy and less matte. The blogger was a woman in her 50s or older, and she felt that removing facial hair rejuvenated her face optically (if anyone remembers that post, do post the link in the comments. I couldn't find it).
    Even though nobody talks much about it, a lot of women remove the hair from those areas. Japanese women keep their face completely hair-free. Other cultures ignore the facial fuzz completely. My point being: you don't need to feel weird about shaving your cheeks, and you needn't feel weird about accepting your fuzz as it is. If the hair in those areas has never bothered you, don't start obsessing about this. However if you have been wanting to get rid of the hair, here are some tips that might be useful:

* Vellus hair vs Terminal hair:

  You have probably noticed that the fine down on your face is different from the thicker hair on the upper lips and eyebrows. This peach fuss is called Vellus hair, and it is much shorter and finer than Terminal hair (eyebrows, upper lip hair after puberty).

* Access the situation

    You will need two mirrors to take a good look at the sides of your face. You might discover moles with "witch hairs" that you have never seen before. Access the hair situation on your jawline, the chin, and even the tops of your cheeks.

* Shaving

    Use a normal razor and shave really gently in the direction of the hair growth. The razor should be new, and you should use very little pressure (the razor does the work, not you!). Any kind of razor is fine, though I prefer the ones with the thin moisturising strip because they glide better. If you like you can get one of the smaller razor means for the bikini area. You can also use a small electrical shaver meant for the face, these have the advantage of not scraping the face. But it's really fine to use the same razor that you'd use for your legs. Don  shave over blemishes or wounds, and disinfect the razor with alcohol if you are very prone to breakouts.
   Shaving in the direction of the hair means you kind of thin the hair out and don't shave it all off, which gives a more natural look (and means less upkeep). Remember that the razor also takes off the dead skin cells, so don't exfoliate the areas before or after shaving.
  Shaving doesn't make the hair grow faster, that is just a myth. Also, the Vellus hair should not grow back stubbly like Terminal hair would, because it is thin and fine. If your cheek and jaw hair is coarse and thick and you are a woman, you might have a hormone imbalance and should talk to a doctor.

* Waxing

   If your skin is not too sensitive, this might be a great solution for you as it is very quick and easy. But if your skin is delicate or prone to irritations, I'd suggest one of the other hair removal methods instead. You need small wax strips means especially for the face, and you can cut the strips to fit the areas that you want to work on. You can dust your face with talk (or any other powder), that makes the wax strips stick less to the skin. Remember to cleanse the face afterwards, to remove any wax residue.

* Epilation wand

   This is a gentler alternative to waxing, since you're not pulling the skin, just the hair. The wands are really cheap, but a bit more time taking than shaving. But then you need to do it once or twice a fortnight. An alternative to the classic epi wand are models that look like slingshots -- I have seen them on Asian sites like BuyInCoins but never tried one -- have you?

* Threading

   This is the preferred method in several parts of southeast Asia. It's easier than it sounds, there are plenty of videos on Youtube that explain it. It doesn't irritate the skin, and is pretty thorough. It's free, and surprisingly effective.

   Vellus hair is a bad candidate for laser, since it is very fine and not much pigment. I'm also not a fan of hair removal creams: you can give yourself a chemical burn, the chemicals are not kind to the skin, and the hair grows back just as fast as after shaving. Tweezing can be time-consuming for larger areas.

    Have I missed any other methods of dealing with facial fuzz? What is your preferred method? Or do you prefer to leave your down in peace? Do share.
photo credit: Bazule via photopin cc

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Monday, September 8, 2014

The Best Natural Alcohol-Free Deodorants That Work

  The armpits are connected to our lymphatic system, which is basically the way that our body disposes a lot of toxins. Conventional deodorants usually contain a lot of toxic ingredients, yet it is really difficult to find good natural deodorants. I'd say that deodorants and sunscreen are the two products where I have been really finicky and picky, and I have finally managed to find products that fit my pretty high standards (here is my perfect sunscreen, in case you're interested).

   My criteria: the deodorant must keep me smelling fresh for 24 hours, I should not have to worry about reapplying if I'm out late. It should not dry my skin, seriously I don't want to have to add "moisturise my armpits" to my daily routine. It should not block pores, I mean, who wants armpit pimples? And of course it should not contain aluminium, synthetic perfume, and other toxic ingredients.
   I prefer deodorants without alcohol, since alcohol dries out the area and makes the skin look flaky. For that reason all of the deodorants listed here are solid, since most of the liquid ones are based on alcohol.

  I do not recommend antiperspirants as they disturb the natural detoxification of the body. The lymphatic system pushes out toxins though the sweat glands in the armpits, and using an anti-perspirant every day really messes with that. You can use an antiperspirant occasionally, for special occasions (going out dancing, job interviews, on stage), but definitely not daily. 
    Here are my favourite deodorants:

Crystal Deodorants

  These are clearly the winners: clear, no smell. They last for ages, making them by far the most economical option on the list. The only negative thing is that they shatter when they fall on the floor.


   These are based on baking soda, but don't dry out my skin so much as the DIY baking soda deodorant. The deodorant is in the form of a paste that you apply with your fingers, and it comes in many different scents. I chose the Celtic (very herbal), and the Sage. The scent is very delicate, so it isn't really important which one you pick. The only downside is that the deodorant leaves a light white cast on the skin, so I don't use it when wearing sleeveless clothes. Tip: subscribe to their newsletters to get alerts about discounts, free shipping and other offers.
    Those in the US might want to try the Soapwalla deodorant creams, which are quite similar.
   A very similar product is Wolkenseifen, with the difference that Wolkenseifen uses chemical perfumes (with the exception of one or two products), which can be problematic because the ingredients of perfumes are not disclosed and often toxic.

Speick stick deodorants

  This is a tad less effective that the above choices, but is cheap and easily available. The fragrances are herbal and might not be everybody's cup of tea.

Lush Solid Deodorants

   These are surprisingly effective, smell good, and don't dry out the skin. The downside is the price, and propylene glycol and perfume (which is at least 40% chemical, according to Lush). So, not exactly natural, but I still wanted to mention them as they are free from aluminium and alcohol.
   Here are a couple of other natural deodorant recommendations from Garance Dore and from NY Mag.

    Those are the deodorants that I have personal experience with. What are your favourites? And which ones didn't work for you at all? (For me the fails were all the ones from Alverde and Alterra).

photo credit: lanuiop via photopin cc

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Monday, September 1, 2014

How To Care For Your Eyes And Contact Lenses

   I wear contact lenses since many years, but it took a long time till I actually learned to do it right. Now I find contacts much more comfortable and don't get any dryness or redness anymore. Many people never get informed about how they should be taking care of their lenses and their eyes. Here are some tips:

Cleaning your lenses:

* Clean your hands really well before handling your lenses. This means taking more than just two seconds to rub the palms and fingers with soap. I swear that since I started doing this my lenses have become much more comfortable to wear.

* Keep the contact lenses case clean. I throw out the old liquid everyday and let the case air dry, and every time I get new monthly lenses I disinfect the case with boiling water. When I get new lens cleaning liquid, I use the new case that comes with it.

* You need a protein remover. This maybe a separate solution, or an all-in-one. It removes the protein buildup that the regular lens solution doesn't remove.

* To clean and disinfect the lenses properly get a solution that contains hydrogen peroxide and use it once a week. Don't forget to add the neutralising tablets! A solution with enzymes is another good option.

* Get used to always applying and removing the right lens first (or the left, if you prefer). That way you are less likely to get your lenses mixed up if you wear a different strength in each eye. Even if the strength of both your lenses are the same, this habit will be very useful if this changes in the future. Or if one of your eyes gets infected.

Caring for your eyes:

* Have lens-free evenings and days. Since lenses (especially the soft ones) limit the flow of oxygen to the eye, it is really important to have times where you are not wearing lenses and let your eyes breathe. If you own nice glasses that you like to wear, you could have a glasses day once a week. If like me you don't like wearing or being seen in glasses very much, you could wear them during weekday evenings when you are at home, or a day on the weekend. In this case you can have a cheapo pair of glasses for home wear, if you are in the US or somewhere where glasses are really expensive, online can be a place to find something reasonable. Don't read without lenses and glasses, as this actually worsens the eyesight.

* Be really careful with eye problems. If I see that my eye is irritated, if I have been crying hard, or if I notice that something is not right with my eyes, I don't wear lenses till it calms down.

* If your eyes are dry, eye drops can be nice. Personally I like anything with Euphrasia. I don't use them regularly, but I have a couple of tiny ampoules for late nights and parties.

* Get your power checked regularly, especially if you are younger or have recently been pregnant. You can develop a self-test, for example if I can't read the numbers on the bus stop display from a certain distance, I know that my strength has changed again and it's time for a check-up.

* If you have an eye infection, do see a doctor. Or, even your local apothecary, they are usually pretty good at telling a simple case of conjunctivitis apart from something more serious, and prescribing you the right thing.
Don't forget to chuck out the lenses and get fresh, bacteria-free ones; or you may reinfect yourself (been there, done that).

* Get your eyes checked regularly if you wear contact lenses. If you don't live in a country that provides free healthcare, be even more diligent about caring for your eyes and lenses. And teeth.


* Apply the lenses before you do your makeup.

* Remove the lenses before taking off your makeup. Always.

* If you have trouble wearing mascara with contact lenses, there are some opthamological mascaras out there, these are mascaras developed especially for contact lens wearers. Opticians often carry those. Otherwise, try tightlining.

* Try not to go to sleep with your eye makeup on. If you do, do a glasses-only day afterwards to helps the eye flush out the bits of makeup that got into your eye.

When out and about:

* Wear your glasses instead of contact lenses if there is a lot of dust around. Bits of dirt trapped between the lenses and the eye are not nice.

* Sunglasses are a great protection against dust, sand and kamikaze insects. Especially when bicycling.

* I like to have a mirror in my bag at all times, because of said kamikaze insects and stray lashes. I also used to carry a small ampoule of contact-lenses cleaning liquid when I was new to lenses, just in case I needed to clean and reapply the lens.

How long do monthly contact lenses last?

   A very common question: can you wear your monthly lenses for longer than a month? The problem is not that contact lenses expire after one month, it's that the protein buildup and bacteria cultures make the lenses hard to tolerate. If you wear your lenses only occasionally you could wear them a little longer than a calendar month without problems, as opposed to someone who wears their lenses for many hours every day. Either way, it is really important to keep your lenses really clean, as I've explained above. One bad eye infection or even the corneas getting oversensitive can mean not being able to wear lenses for a year, if not worse. Sometimes people get away with not taking out their monthly contact lenses for years, and then suddenly develop a nasty infection.

    I have often wondered which lenses are the best. I have used several, and noticed that the comfort differs very much from brand to brand, but not necessarily according to the price tag. Right now I am wearing the ones from DM (the German drugstore) because they are a tad more comfortable than the ones from Air Optix, and much more cheaper; plus they seem to not have a right and wrong side. I haven't tested a lot of lenses though, so I'd love to know which stand out for you!

photo credit: Dennis Larson via photopin cc

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Create An Express Makeup Station

  A neighbour of mine works as a nurse and has a crazy schedule. She likes to always wear makeup and to style her hair, as it makes her feel pulled-together. Often she has to get up and get ready in the middle of the night. To make the process faster, she uses a simple system that she showed me.

   She puts her everyday makeup and hair products on a tray, which she places on her living room table every evening (that's where it's convenient for her to do her makeup at night). On that tray is everything she needs to use to get ready for work: moisturiser, mascara, hair spray, hair brush, mirror. She doesn't have to rummage for her stuff, it's all there in one place.

   I adopted this system from her. When you own quite a few makeup products, it is nice to have the basics in one place when I just have a few minutes to get ready. It also actively reminds me to put on my makeup -- yes, this is a habit I have adopted only recently.

   If you are often in a rush, or are trying to remember to use makeup, you can easily create something an Express Makeup Station. Use a pretty tablet, bowl or box; and put the stuff you use everyday in there. It can be just two or three products and a mirror, in fact the less you have the less overwhelmed you will be. It can be just makeup, or you can add skin or hair products.Keep the tablet wherever it is convenient for you to apply your makeup in the morning -- if using your regular spot wakes your spouse, you can take your little tray to another place in the house. You can also keep other essentials on your tray: medicine or supplements that you take in the morning, jewelry or keys.

   Here is my daily makeup tray:

  On the tray are my tried-and-tested products. Depending on how much time I have, I might just use hide-a-pore + mascara + perfume, or all of them. I keep my skin and hair care products in the bathroom, so I use my Express Makeup Station after I have applied my sunscreen and done something with my hair in the bathroom. Here is a breakdown of what is on the picture:
* Sweetscents hide-a-pore: sometimes it's the only thing I use, when I just want to matte my sunscreen. Otherwise it is my primer and my last coat.

* Catrice concealer: Best concealer I've had so far.

* Makeup Egg from Ebelin: I apply the concealer with it, it's the best dupe to the original Beauty Blender.

* Alverde False Lashes Mascara: I love it for it's silicone brush. I almost always wear mascara, as my lashes are one of my favourite features.

* Alverde Eyebrow Gel:  I wear this almost daily because not only are my eyebrows unruly, they look weird when they don't match neither my hennaed hair nor my lashes.

* Mineral foundation from Lumiere: I reach for this when I have a bit more time.

* Kabuki brush from Lumiere Minerals. It's too small and chubby it fit in the glass where I store my brushes. I use it to apply the mineral foundation.

* Green mineral corrector from Lumiere minerals: I use this if I have a bit more time

* Ambrozia Bronzer from Lumiere: I use this as a bronzer and to contour my face.

* Perfume: Fleur For Women from Hobbythek. More on this soon!

* Lip Gloss: I rotate the lip products on the tray. At the moment I use Couture Lip Polish Stain from P2. It's a nice bright shade, great for women with a warm colouring.

* Mirror (not shown): with a 3x magnification on the other side

* Makeup fixing spray or thermal water (not shown).

  My tray lives on the dresser which doubles as my vanity table.

    Do you have an express makeup station? What's on it?

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Monday, August 25, 2014

How To Keep Your Ears Clean + Tips

  Because we see ourselves from the front in mirrors, we often neglect the care of certain body parts. Today I'll talk about the ears, and behind the ears.

   I can't tell you how many well put-together women (and guys) with icky ears I've seen. Most of the time we can't see what our ear area looks like, but others do. For example when someone stands behind you when you are showing them something on a computer.
   Depending on your wax situation, you might need to clean your ears anywhere from twice a week to once a fortnight. I like to clean my ears every time I wash my hair, since I really really hate wet ears.

   You have probably heard that Q-tips aren't very good for your ears. This is because most people clean too deep, and end up pushing the wax back into the ears. This can cause really painful infections! Aggressive cleaning inside the ear canal can also increase the production of wax, and scratch the ear canal or ear drum. The solution? Buy the thick Q-tips meant for kids which will let you clean the outside of the ear tunnel but not the inside. Or pour a bit of warm water onto a muslin cloth, add a bit of cleanser or soap (if you want to), wrap it around the small finger and clean the outside of the ear canal.
   A nice way to get a deep-clean is to put a few drops of oil into one ear and lie down with this ear up for 1-15 minutes. You can use a plant-based oil or mineral oil. Then, tave a warm shower. The warmth of the shower and the oil will help the wax to dissolve and flow out of the ear. Next day, do the other ear.
    If you have a lot of ear wax coming out, don't worry about it too much. Better out than in. Do clean the outside of the ear canal regularly, and you're set.
   If you have really dry ear wax (usually east Asians), you might want to wet your Q-tip, or wax-dissolving ear-drops, or try one of those ear-picks (again, only on the outside!).

  Don't forget the folds of the outside ear. Use a Q-tip, cotton swab or a corner of a washcloth or microfibre cloth or towel. Wet it, and if your ears tend to be greasy you can use a dash of face cleanser. I like to use my micellar cleanser for this. Don't forget to clean behind the ear! The area is not as hidden as you think, especially if you have short hair or wear your hair up.

  If you have piercings, it is really important to remove them regularly and really clean the hole. Dead skin and grease builds up there. Use moist cotton-wool or a washcloth for the skin (you can add a dash of soap or cleanser). Give your piercings a clean as well: soak them in alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, and brush of the gunk with an old toothbrush.

  If you tend to have a sticky-wound situation in the folds of your outer ear or behind the ear, you need to be extra careful. This usually means that the folds are "closed" (unlike those of the girl in the photo on top), and things have to be kept clean and dry. The best time to clean is after taking a shower, when the skin is soaked. Dip a cotton wool or Q-tip in oil, and very gently remove the scabby skin. A drop of an antiseptic oil (tea-tree, manuka or tamanu) mixed with a regular oil can help the skin to heal faster, or Homeoplasmine or any other balm meant for wounds or irritated skin. Always dry those areas after showers.

  And a last small tip: if you are sensitive to earrings made of non-noble metals, you don't have to be limited to pricier earrings. Here is what I do: buy earring hooks and small pliers from a hobby store and swap the allergy causing hooks on your old earrings. Depending on how sensitive your skin is you can decide between simply zinc-free, or silver coated, or silver. Switching the hooks takes just a minute!

   How do you clean your ears? Do share your tips! I was thinking to do a couple of posts to cover other neglected body parts: elbows, bikini line, back. Is there any other body part you'd like me to cover?
photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer via photopin cc

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Monday, August 18, 2014

3 (Non-Fat) Reasons You Might Have A Big Tum

This post will cover three reasons someone might have a disproportionally bloated / big belly, even though they are not overweight.

   So sorry about the radio silence. Life has had rather big ups and downs, and I needed time off to deal with them. I couldn't bring myself to churn out content when my heart wasn't in it.

   So, today I wanted to talk about "fat" bellies, that aren't actually fat. A lot of people attack their abdominal regions with crunches (or simply hatred), when very often the problem is a different one.

Food Intolerance

     If you wake up with a flatter belly but bloat over the day, or if your belly seems to change size from day to day, your body might have trouble digesting some kinds of food. Basically, your digestive lacks the chemicals to digest certain parts of the food, and so it lands up undigested in the intestine, and there certain bacteria cause the bloating. And gasses. Other symptoms may include skin problems (I know several people whose acne or dermatitis cleared up after they quit diary or gluten), sluggishness and lack of energy, constipation, headache and even mood swings.
    I realised that something wasn't right when I noticed instant bloat after eating yoghurts. When I ate a cheese raclette and new year's eve, I looked more pregnant than my then 7-month-pregnant friend. I decided that I was lactose intolerant, but was confused that lactose-free milk caused bloating too. So I got myself tested (a quick test where you take a dose of lactose and blow into little containers), and it turned out that I can digest lactose, but I have a hard time digesting milk proteins. And eggs.
    If you live in a place without free health care and can't afford to get tested, you need to try to watch how your body reacts to what you eat. Try removing a suspect food for a couple of days from your diet and see what happens. People are often intolerant against lactose, gluten, eggs and soy, so you might start here first.


Anterior Pelvic Tilt

   Or what I call the Strippers Posture. The lower back is too arched, the butt is too far back, the belly sticks out in the front and the abdominal muscles are usually not engaged at all. Not only does the belly look bigger in this position, the posture can cause back pain. The upper body bosture is thrown off balance as well. Persons especially prone to the anterior pelvic tilt are women who wear high heels (which push your spine into this position) and women who have been pregnant (the big belly means that the gravity point of the body is further in the front), and overweight people.

    You should maintain a neutral pelvis at all times. Tuck your tailbone in, pull your navel towards your spine, and lift your torso from the navel up. You will look slimmer, and your butt will look tighter, and you will protect yourself from back pain.
     To find your neutral pelvis position, try this Pilates exercise: stand with feet shoulder width part, knees slightly bent and soft. Imagine you have a pendulum or a bell attached to your perineum. Now, slowly tilt your pelvis back and forth, imagine you are swinging the pedulum. After doing this a couple of times, stop in the position where the pendulum would be hanging straight down. Now, tuck your tailbone in an extra inch, and stand up straight. This is your neutral pelvis position.
     I really recommend a couple of Pilates classes, they will teach you o automatically adopt the right posture. Some usefull exercises that you can do at home to correct the anterior plvic tils are the teacup exercise, back to wall,
Yogis will love this page that explains how the wrong pelvic tilt throws the whole Asana out of alignment.


Diastasi Recti or Abdominal Muscle Separation

    If you've been pregnant, chances are you might still have an abdominal muscle separation. Basically, muscles separate to make place for the growing bump, and don't always get together again. This means the abdominal "corset" doesn't keep things in place anymore, also your abdominal muscles are weakened and chances are you are using your back muscles to compensate for that.
   In many countries women aren't checked for diastasis recti. I remember writing about in once on a Polish forum, because I didn't find anything about diastasis recti in Polish on the entire Internet. A couple of years later I googled again, and I found lots of hits -- most were copy-pasted from my forum post!

   Here is how to check for diastasis recti.

   If you do have diastasis recti, I highly recommend the book Lose Your Mummy Tummy by Julie Tupler. If you recently gave birth, it is imperative that you first deal with your abdominal muscle separation before you attempt any kind of ab exercises! And you must get the Mummy Tummy book!

Abdominal Fat

  Now that we have covered the non-obvious causes of a big belly, here is the obvious one: you might have fat stored there. You can check by pinching your skin on your abs and other body parts, and comparing the thickness (the layer of fat attached to it). What is not so obvious is that belly fat does not go away with crunches and other ab exercises -- these create muscles that will still be hidden under that fat. The simple truth here is that abs are made in the kitchen. Nutrition is the key here -- a clean diet.
   Of course some kind of exercise is necessary too, and here is an observation -- crunches and exercises meant specifically for the abs are thankless exercises, most people tend to focus too much on them. If you want to invest your time and energy better, try limiting your crunches to a max of 100 and instead focus on engaging (lightly flexing) your abs during your entire exercise routine, or when you are running or riding your bike. (This is especially important for women with kids, as often we unlearn to use our abs during pregnancy). A lot of exercises mean for other body parts involve the abs as well. At the gym, your ab muscles should be engaged during every exercise. This also protects the lower back. As my Pilates teacher told us before starting every set: "pelvic floor up, pull navel towards spine!", and only then would we start.

    I am not a doctor and the stuff I shared in this post is a result of my own research to solve my own problems. I'd like to encourage you to use this as a springboard for your own research.

   I hope that this posts inspires you to research more and tweak your habits if necessary. And always remember that changes are easiest to implement if they come from a place of acceptance and positivity. By that I mean an attitude of positive feelings towards your body (it is, after all, your home during this lifetime), while at the same time deciding to work on things that could be improved. It's like renovating your home because you like it and want to make it nicer (much more rewarding than renovating a home that you hate), or helping a kid to learn new habits (much easier if you both like each other).
   And if all fails, shapewear is a girls best friend!

   In case you are wondering, I am stuggling with all of the four problems that I described here! How about you? Also, if you have any interesting resources that could help me or other readers, like books, websites, apps, or advice from your mom, do share!
photo credit: !ºrobodot via photopin cc

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