Thursday, December 18, 2014

How To Keep Your Feet Really Warm This Winter

How To Keep Your Feet Really Warm This Winter

   Last week a friend was complaining about how her feet get cold even inspite of wearing winter shoes with really thick soles. So I shared my method with her,  developed over years of being a person with low blood pressure who spends too much time waiting on bus stops in minus temperatures.

  First,  you need good shoes

    It's worth investing in something warm,  snow-proof and non-skid. Actually shoes like this should be the main investment piece in your entire wardrobe. If you live in a place that gets snow, you should own one pair of boots that gets you through snow, slush and polar temperatures.

Isolate the shoes with an insert

    Get a good insert, most of the regular ones I have tested don't make much difference when it gets really cold. If you want to experience foot heaven, get the kind that are lined with shearling, like the ones from LL Bean. Merino wool isolates really well, I have a pair of merino inserts from the DM Drogerie.

The two socks method

   The trick to this method is two layers of socks.  With just a single layer the feet sweat in the first minutes when you are still warm, and then get really cold in the moist socks. With two layers the sweat stays in inner layer and the outer layer stays dry. Plus two layers means more warmth. 

   For the inner layer regular thin socks are nice,  though if you have nice socks that breath bonus points for you. For the outer layer get long thick socks. I recommend Smartwool, or anything with a high percentage of Merino wool. or at least sheep wool. Polypropylene is really warm too which has the added advantage of wicking away sweat.  Your best bet here would be brands that make clothes for Alpinists,  like Ice Breaker. If you wash the socks with care,  and wear an inner layer to protect them from sweat and toenail snags,  they should last you years. My favorite warm socks were thrifted, I think they were big men's socks out of really nice merino wool that shrunk a bit in the wash. Obviously how thick the material is also makes a difference. Plus,  longer socks are always warmer,  so something that goes mid-calf is  great.

So,  to recap:  
    good shoes + really good isolating inserts + inner layer of thinner socks + outer layer of thick socks = cosy feet!

   Does it get really cold where you live? How do you stay warm?
photo credit: Lo& via photopin cc

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Beauty Tool: Spray Bottle

Spray bottle as a beauty tool

   I thought I'd share this haircare tip with you because even though I thought it's something that probably everybody does, but then a couple of my friends didn't know it and found it really useful.
   Hair masques or conditioners before shampooing are a very important part of my hair-care routine. Now, conditioner is best applied on wet hair, but not soaking wet. It's easier to apply the conditioner evenly is the hair is moist, the wetness of the hair keeps the conditioner from drying up. But if the hair is too wet the conditioners will run right off, plus nobody likes water dripping down their neck while they are doing whatever it is that they do when their hair is up in a plastic shower cap.
   I used to experiment with wetting my hair with a short burst of water and then toweling it off. It more or less worked. Then I started using the misting bottle to get my hair the exactly correct amount of wet. I think I picked this up from my hairdresser, he uses a misting bottle to keep my hair moist when he cuts it. You spray all over your hair till it is slightly wet, apply conditioner and voila! The gardening misting bottles are the best because you get the right amount of water out of the nozzle, and they are very comfortable to use. You can also spray your bathroom ferns with it.

   There is another use for the spray bottle: moistening face masks that are drying on your face. Face masks should always stay moist, once they dry they don't work, and they might even dry the skin. As soon as you feel the mask tightening, spray with the misting bottle.

   Have you tried something similar, or is this too gimmicky? Also, I'd really like to own some pretty spray bottles, anyone knows where to get some?

photo credit: Diego3336 via photopin cc

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Monday, December 1, 2014

My Beauty Basics -- I Get Interviewed By Biconi!

   Ever wondered how this blog came to be? A while back the folks at Biconi interviewed me as a part of their beauty expert series and asked me exactly that. I also share some of my best beauty tips, and talk about why taking care of your skin is not just about wanting to look pretty. You can read the interview here. Biconi is a Singapore-based brand that sells natural skin and hair care based on Noni and coconut oil.
     If you want to ask me anything else, I'll be happy to answer! Just comment with your questions, I'll do my best to answer (almost) everything.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weekend Reads 29-11-2014

      Hi everyone, have you been? I'm in the middle of a flu, and it's not fun, especially as kids don't let you have a day off.
   Autumn ends for me with the beginning of the first advent. I have been auditing my winter wardrobe, which is much smaller than my summer one -- commuting by bike and public transport means my winter clothes have to be really warm and comfortable. And it's not so easy to thrift sweaters that are made of nice wools and not acrylic or cotton.  

* Style: This post really showcases the power of alterations.

* Bras: or rather breasts. An photographer interviews women (from lap dancer to priest) and asks them how their feel about their breasts. The photos are NSFW. Also, the 101-year-old Jewish lady is seriously badass.

* Travel: "It is forbidden to take photos of soldiers relaxing", and other unexpected images from North Korea.

* Body: Renee Zellweger had plastic surgery done, which I normally don't judge. However, it pained me that the work done to her epicanthic eye folds seems to have been done to get closer to stereotypical north european woman look. Renees original eye shape is a characteristic of her Kven/Sami heritage. For me, they were a reminder that what is unromantically called hooded eyes can be really charming.

* Food: This pumpkin mousse is amazing, and easy to make. You can store it for a pretty long time if you pour it directly into airtight jars (I get mine from Ikea) that you have thoroughly sterilised with boiling water. Make a double batch, it's a great gift!

* Funny: This guy experiences a $24,000 flight.

* Inspiration: This amazingly shot editorial makes me want to go o Italy next summer. Or at least do my eyes like her.

* Movie of the week: Speaking of Italy, this is one of the most beautiful films I  have sen this year is La Grande Belazza (The Great Beauty). Every shot is mesmerising, and I love the touch of surrealism. For best results watch in original Italian with subtitles. Dubbing takes away one-third of the film's beauty.

Speaking of Italy, this is one of the most beautiful

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Keep Gift Wrapping Hassle-Free With These Versatile Gift-Wrapping Supplies

DIY Gift Wrap
via Vorstellung Von Schön

    Gift wrapping supplies are a pain to store and organise. Instead of going all Pinterest-y on you and telling you how to make a gift-wrapping station, I'd like to propose a simpler approach: a couple of supplies that take up few space and are multi purpose. These days a lot of stores will gift-wrap your purchases for you, and that is the most hassle-free way. However if that is not an option or maybe you want to put more thought into the packaging, you should have a couple of versatile supplies at home:

Silver Wrapping Paper

   It is right for every occasion: birthday, wedding, christmas, office celebration and even kids love it.

Kraft paper

     Simple and minimal. You can also easily customise its look completely with washi tape, twine and winter greenery, stamps, gold or lack marker, whatever else you have on hand. The image on the top of the post is a beautiful example, you can find the full tutorial at Vorstellung Von Schön (you should totally check out the whole blog, it's full of very doable DIYs).  It is also beautiful enough on it's own, just tied with twine. You can also make bags out of brown paper, for example if you need something to pack homemade cookies that you want to gift someone.

Washi tape

    To decorate and to label. Be sure to get quality ones, since the really cheap ones tend to tear really easily and are a pain to work with. Washi tape is extremely useful around the house, so you'll never regret buying it.

Twine / baker's twine / ribbons

    Buy one or two rolls. If you pick ribbon, make sure it is in a versatile colour or pattern (holiday-specific or too girly ones should be avoided).


   I'm a huge fan of this Japanese gift wrapping technique and I collect thrift-store scarves for this purpose. Even ten scarves can be folded really small and tucked away into a drawer.

Metallic markers

    Use them to draw or write on the craft paper, and make your card pretty. I still remember how as a child how beautiful I found the first card that I got that was written with a golden pen. 

Save what you get

     When I get a gift, I like to save the little decorations like ribbon roses, feathers, decorative tags. They all go into a small box and are used to decorate the simple brow paper packages. Greeting cards can also be cut up and used for scrap. Leftovers from other crafts can also be used: fabric or leather or any other flat material can be cut into a star, beads can be strung onto twine,

Don't forget the card

    In my opinion a well-written heartfelt card is much more important than the packaging! Wrapping gets admired for a few seconds and then torn off while cards are kept for a long time, sometimes even decades. Take a few minutes to write something personal to the receiver. If it's a birthday you can go all creative and random and write just about anything --- what you like about them, an inside joke, your favourite memory. When wishing someone it's nice to make at least some of the wishes specific (as in I hope you finally find your little dream apartment with the balcony instead of I wish you health and happiness).
   And here is a tip for simplifying cards: instead of stocking up on occasion-specific cards, get some that can be used for almost any occasion. I have been given several picture-postcards with either art on them or funny / wise quotes. Alternative stores or stores with handmade stuff sometimes sell cards with photos or art that aren't occasion-specific.

  That's it folks! What do you use to wrap gifts?

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Learn How To Highlight Your Face From Celeb Flashback Makeup Malfunction Photos

   You have probably seen the very weird photos of weird white powder on celebrities? Their makeup artist used a product that is prone to "flashback", which means that that the product contained ingredients that reflect strong light -- usually titanium dioxide. Of course in normal light the highlighting powder doesn't look at all powdery, it's only strong camera flashes that make it look weird. The photo of Rihanna on the left is in regular light and the one the right is with flash. While the gossip sites are having a field day and saying things like "didn't they check the mirror before going out?", you can use these photos to analyse the highlighting techniques that the star makeup artists used.

   I wrote about highlighters here, but to refresh: highlighting products are light-coloured and catch light, and the part of the face they are applied on is optically brought forward and also softened.

  There are some parts of the face where highlighter always looks good. But you can take it a step further and use highlighters to balance out your face shape and draw attention to your best features. The flashback photos reveal where the celeb's makeup artists have used highlighting products, so let's try to analyse them.

   Rihanna's highlighter draws attention the eyes and the top of her cheekbones. She also highlighted the corners of her mouth to bring attention to her lips and slightly widen her pointed chin. There is a touch of highlighter under the arch of the eyebrows.

Angelina Jolie has highlighter applied to her jawline to soften and fill out her jawbones.

Nicole Kidman's highlighter lengthens and softens her tiny sharp nose, and the eye area got brightened up as well.

Eva Longoria's highlighter widens her face in the most flattering place and draws attention to her eyes.

Miley Cyrus brings attention to her lips and slender jawline with highlighter applied in an inverted-triangle shape. For a slimming effect the product has been dusted on only in the front and not on her jawline, as you can see here.

   I hope that this posts gave you some ideas! There are many other celeb-with-white-powder photos on the internet, and with luck you'll find someone with features that are similar to yours. If you have any questions about highlighting or highlighters, let me know.
   I have written another post on avoiding flashback, so watch out for that in the next few days.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cosmetic Favourites: Highlighters / Illuminators

Naomie Harris' perfect highlighter, via

   I love highlighting! It sculpts the face and makes the skin glow --  important if you use matte foundation. They soften the features and diffuse minor imperfections. The make the complexion look rested and younger.

What is a highlighter:
A product that is a few shades lighter than your skin tone, slightly shimmery.
Synonyms: luminiser, illuminator, radiance, glow, shimmer.

How to use:
Apply the highlighting product under and around the eyes, on the tops of the cheeks, above the lips and the chin. Here is my guide on using highlighters. Or apply a very light layer under the foundation. Or mix it with the foundation.

   There are different types of highlighters out there, from barely-there to full-on disco glitter. The very subtle highlighters are perfect for contouring the face, and can be worn during the day. The ones with a bit more shimmer are great for the tops of the cheekbones below the brow bone, above the lips. The highlighters with very visible shimmer should be reserved for going out at night -- if glitter is your thing. Most of the highlighters in stores are too heavy on the shimmer, so today I wanted to talk about a couple of the subtler products.

    The perfect highlighting product is something with a very very subtle glow -- you can use just a touch or layer on some more for the evening. The shimmer particles should be very fine, and closer to the skin tone (not too silver and not too gold). The perfect highlighter is invisible on the skin, yet gives an effect of fresh, glowy skin and a 3-D face (not flat).
   Unfortunately a lot of highlighting products are really heavy-handed: big pieces of glitter, or shimmer that looks appropriate only around christmas. Highlighters with big, bright sparkly particles are difficult to use and look overdone.
   If you have a dark skin tone, you will find many conventional highlighters much too light for you. If your skin tone is warm, you should looks for bronzers with shimmer. If your skin tone is dark and cool, you will have a hard time finding a bronzer that is not warm -- you will have much more luck with shimmery eyeshadow in cooler shades.

Here are a couple of subtle highlighting products I love:

Mineral foundations and highlighters

  If you are looking for very subtle highlighting, you can't beat mineral makeup. Nowhere else have I found such a big selection of shades. Also it's extremely versatile -- you can mix the mineral highlighters with each other of with mineral foundation to create custom shades. They are also pretty affordable, considering that a teaspoon-sized sample can last me for a very very long time. That's because mineral makeup doesn't contain fillers, it's pure pigment so you need to use just the tiniest amount.

   Bigger mineral makeup brands carry highlighters, usually called 'glows or finishing veils. Lumiere used to have a nice selection and their Bare Skin was perfection. SunCat, Bare Escentuals and Silk Naturals (image above) each offer several highlighters, and of course there are tons of other mineral makeup brands online! (Most mineral-makeup in stores isn't real mineral makeup).
   Many mineral makeup brands also carry foundation in a non-matte satin / glow finish, and you can order it two shades lighter than your skin tone and it will be your perfect subtle highlighter (I do this with Annabelle Minerals, you can also go for SunCat minerals). 


    Especially baked eyeshadows, as their shimmer particles are really subtle. Also, you probably have eye shadows at home, and you can play with them if you have never tried highlighting yet.

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Makeup Factory Illuminating Skin Perfector

  I don't own this myself, but had a makeup artist use it on me as a highlighter, on top of foundation. Which brings me to the point -- many primers can be used as highlighters.
   It can be bought in Müller Drogerie.
 photo madara_tinting20fluid_sun20flower-ians-1.jpg

Madara Tinted Fluid

   This is actually a tinted cream / foundation, but it has the subtlest shimmer. It comes in two versions: sunflower for warmer tones, and moonflower for cooler or for the very pale. I use the sunflower on the entire face if I want an overall glow, or under a sheerer foundation for a subtle hind of a glow. I have also used this just on my cheekbones and under the eyebrows. I also love how it smells, like a freshly mowed herbal meadow. The Madara --- is certified organic and vegan.

Catrice Retouch Light Reflecting Concealer

   Very light coverage, no shimmer, but it catches the light in a beautiful way. It will not cover imperfections, but it does a great job at lightening up the eye area, or around the lips.

 photo alverde_Sun_Kiss_Highlighter.png

Alverde Sun Kissed / Moon Kissed Highlighter

   This products is pearly, with very finely ground particles. Really easy to apply and blend in. It comes in two shades: the Sun Kissed is very warm and a tad orange, and will suit warm skin tones that are not too pale. On my skin it is too dark to highlight, it works a bit like a bronze shimmer. But I'd love to dry it on warm, dark-coloured skin as a highlighter. I use the Alverde Sun-Kissed Highlighter on my eyes (like eyeshadow) and cheekbones.
   The Moon Kissed Highlighter is silvery and lighter, and works for both cool and warm skin tones. It blends harmoniously with cool skin tones, for warm skin it pops a bit more.

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Guerlain Meteorites

   Based on Alina's post, these are the best pearls around; and on of the very few conventional highlighters that are really subtle. You can also remove pears of a certain shade to customise the colour. However if you have been using mineral makeup products, you will not be impressed -- especially not with the price.

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector

   A very subtle highlighter suitable for all undertones.

  That's the end of the subtle highlighter roundup. Staye tuned for a very weird cheat tip on highlighting for your face shape. I'd love to know which highlighting products do you swear by? I'd love to add more low-budget and natural options to the list.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

DIY AHA Chemical Peel With Kombucha {Vegan}

DIY Kombucha chemical peel AHA

   I've already talked here and here about how AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) peels are some of the most effective cosmetic treatments out there. You can get them done at a cosmetician, buy products with AHAs or (my favourite) mix simple ones by yourself. But for those of you who can't get their hands on AHAs, or want to save some money, or prefer the most natural solution, here is an idea: the Kombucha scoby face mask.

    Kombucha contains several acids including lactic acid and vitamin C, which means you can expect it to exfoliate old skin cells, lighten discolourations, brighten the skin and help with fine lines. Fermented stuff is generally good for the face and body. Kombucha is an active ingredient in many anti-aging skin products.

   To those of you who haven't had a taste of kombucha yet: it is a probiotic culture, a symbiosis of good bacteria and yeast. It looks like a very slimy pancake (the scoby), floating on top of the kombucha. Kombucha is extremely healthy, populating your digestive system with all of the good bacteria and reducing the acidity of your body. I like to drink a little bit of kombucha every day in the morning (alternating it with cider apple vinegar, thinned with water, of course). Cosmetically, kombucha can replace acid cider vinegar for things like hair rinses or toners.

   Since scobys multiply, it should be really easy to get one for free or for a few cents. Start by asking on facebook, chances are someone you know brews kombucha.    If you can't get your hands on kombucha, you can also use water kefir crystals, which have very similar properties. I got my kombucha scoby and water kefir crystals off ebay. Water kefir is often available in Latin or Mexican stores. I don't recommend commercially sold kombucha drinks, since the kombucha is usually not "ripe" enough and most probably not living. If you can't find a scoby, you can grow one if you have some pre-made kombucha. Here is a nice guide to brewing your own kombucha.
    Once your scoby has created another layer, you can use the old one for a face mask. The easiest method is to blend it with a mixer and apply on the face, neck and decollete, however you can also plonk the entire scoby on your face. Keep on for 15 minutes then wash off.
   If you feel that the kombucha scoby is too acidic, you can mix the blended scoby with yoghurt.
  For a whole body treatment, add half a litre of kombucha in a bathtub. If you don't have a bathtub, dip a sponge in a diluted kombucha and rub your body with it.

   The kombucha can be used for all skin types, including acne. Apply the kombucha mask once a week or two.

      Any kombucha / water kefir fans out there? Have you ever tried using them on your face? Also, my favourite mix (to drink) is with peaches, what's yours?
photo credit: Nomadic Lass via photopin cc

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Cosmetic Favourites {October 2014} Herbatint, Khadi Henna, Lumene

  Hello everyone! Above you see some of the products I have been using in the past few months:

Shea Butter

This is a must-have for the winter. I use Shea butter on my lips, hands, cuticles, heels and hair ends. I also like dabbing some on top of lipstick for a soft dewy look. It also works on cracked nostrils if you have a running nose in the dead of winter. The one I have happens to be from Finigrana and it's certified organic, but I'm not terribly picky about the brand. Shea butter is scentless and it has an amazing texture.

Herbatint Permanent Haircolor Gel

   I bought this natural-ish Italian hair dye during my last trip to Poland. You mix two liquids in a bowl, apply with a tinting brush (you need to buy this separately), wash off after 30 minutes. The mixture is like a gel, and I find it really easy to apply. If you prefer, you can mix the whole thing in an empty hair colour bottle. The colour is quite vivid and glossy, and it covered my greys quite well, though not completely (which is fine by me, since I hate a flat wall of colour). I love it for the quick and easy application as compared to henna. And there is no run-off when I wash my hair. Also -- the two bottles have caps which means you don't have to use up the whole product at a time. I usually prepare small quantities and use them for emergency touch-ups around the hairline and my parting. The reason I still use henna most of the time is the volume it gives me plus the amazing natural highlights/lowlights. Plus, Herbatint isn't completely natural, 
   The colours tend to run dark, so go two shades lighter! It is important to really condition your hair after rinsing out the dye, since it can be drying, and the sachet that comes with the dye does a pretty good job. In fact, it is amazing, and I have been considering buying a bigger bottle of it.

My hair on Khadi Henna. You can see the natural highlights I'mtalking about.

Khadi Henna

    This is probably the best Henna I have ever used, and the storekeeper that I bought it from told me it's been getting rave reviews from her customers as well. It is ground to a really fine powder which makes it easy to apply -- I didn't even have to mix in conditioner to get some kind of workable texture. The colour comes out pretty vibrant and stays on for a decent amount of time. One package contains enough Henna for two applications (my hair goes till by bra band, and I have a lot of it). Five stars, will definitely repurchase. I got mine at the amazing Beauty and Nature store in Munich, it's got a ton of interesting natural cosmetics in different price ranges, plus knowledgeable salespeople.

Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C Day Cream and Eye Cream

   This and the Lumene eye cream were gifts from a Finnish bra-blogger Secret Santa round. It is made with the Arctic cloudberry -- a Finnish friend of mine once brought some from Finland and told me it's great delicacy, and if a Fin finds some Arctic cloudberies in the forest they will keep the spot secret! The cream is one of those rare rich-but-not-greasy products, it really moisturises and didn't clog up my skin one bit. I've also heard that people with skin prone to breakouts love it.

Lavera Self Tanning Face Cream

   I own and love the Lavera self-tanner for the body, so I was pretty excited when this came out. Except that... it doesn't really do much. The effect is much lighter than that of the body tanner, and the formula is lighter too, so I'm guessing that it is targeted at those that are paler than me and have had issues with using the body tanner on their face. The Lavera self tanners don't wash off the skin, they basically dye the skin.

  Out of all the products I have mentioned, the Khadi Henna is definitely the favourite one, and will be a staple in my hair care routine.

  Let me know if you have questions, and if you have ever used any of the above products let me know how they worked for you.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

How To Take Care Of Your Hands In The Winter

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  Come winter, and a lot of people complain about dry hands. Sometimes it's just a slight discomfort and flaky skin, sometimes the skin cracks and is pretty painful. 

* Protect your hands while cleaning

     Most detergents are really harsh on the skin. I used to have cracking skin in the creases between the thumb and pointer, and they went away only when I completely switched to natural cleaning products. Using microfiber cloths often eliminates the need for cleaning products when doing light cleaning. It also makes sense to invest in a pair of cleaning gloves. I really recommend investing a bit more in a pair that is comfortable and cute, then you'll probably actually wear them. Same goes for gardening gloves. Ökotest recommends latex-free cleaning gloves (the Vileda ones tested good).

* Keep a hand cream in strategic places

   Near the sink in the bathroom and in the kitchen, where it is visible. Pump dispensers are the easiest to use. For best results, apply on wet skin. The best kind of hand cream is one that contains moisturising ingredients as well as occlusives (oils or butters). Silicones give a misleading feeling of smoothness but don't actually do anything for the skin. You can also use body lotions -- I often have a sample-sized Lavera body-lotion tube in my bag because the size is really convenient, and I haven't yet found a hand cream in a tiny tube yet.

* Products for extremely dry hands:

   I highly recommend creams with Urea (at least 5%), I think in Germany you can get one from Isana (Rossman), Balea (DM), Kneipp, Sebamed and Eucerin (10%) and Numis (10%). Apothecaries usually carry creams with Urea, or you can buy your own Urea online (it's really cheap), and add it to whatever cream you already have. Often the creams meant for the feet have more Urea in them, and of course you can use them for your hands. Weleda Skin Food is also amazing, and so is Homeoplasmine.

* Treat your hands to a hand spa

    You can make a simple scrub out of sugar / salt and oil. Then apply a thick layer of a very moisturising cream or oil and put on gloves (I have seen cotton gloves for this purpose in Müller and Rossmann).

* Switch to a gentler soap

    Avoid anything with SLS or other sulfates. I like the soaps from Alverde or Alterra. Look for soaps that are made of vegetable oils.

* Wear gloves, and put them on in time

    Temperatures around freezing point or colder are really harsh on the skin. Gloves protect your skin, and you should put them before you go out and not wait till your hands freeze. In my experience the most practical gloves are either ones that roll up small and can be stored in your jacket pocket so that you never forget them, and the ones with cut-off fingers that can be covered with a kind of hood -- so that you can use your phone without removing your gloves. There are also those tiny pen thingies that you can use for your hone, I have one that  can attach to the earphone outlet when I am not using it.

* Avoid hot water

   Hot water strips your skin of oils. Wash your hands with lukewarm water. If you must clean with hot water, put on a moisturising cream and gloves, the gloves will partially isolate your skin and the warmth will help the product to sink in.

* Give extra attention to your cuticles

    Cut off only the ones that stand away. Push them back gently with an orangewood stick if necessary. Give them an extra dose of cream. I like to use my lip balms on them.

   What are your tips with preventing dry skin on your hands? What are your favourite hand creams? Do you also forget to wear gloves while cleaning and gardening?

photo credit: ArTeTeTrA via photopin cc

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