Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is Your Sunscreen Giving You Enough UVA Protection?

   UVA rays is what causes ageing and skin cancer, yet many sunscreens don't provide any protection against it. Here I explain how to find out how much UVA protection a product offers.

   Basically, the sunlight that reaches the skin is made up of UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays burn the skin and the UVA rays age, tan the skin and cause cancer. UVB light is strongest at midday during summer, UVA rays are present equally all day, all year, and can penetrate clouds and glass. Tanning booths use mainly UVA light, that is why they are more harmful than tanning outdoors.
   The SPF label on the packaging only refers to the protection against UVB rays. In the EU a UVA symbol with a circle around it means that the product provides UVA protection that is at least one third of that of the UVB protection; however it is not specified whether the product protects from both UVA1 and UVA2. Some products are labelled as "full-spectrum protection". The UVA logo means that the product offers UVA protection that is at least one-third of its SPF. The "broad spectrum" label means that the product offers some UVA protection, but it can often be misleading.

   Japanese and Korean brands use the PA+, PA+++, PA+++ and PA++++to indicate how much UVA protection a product offers.This label says nothing about the UVB protection.

   Often  UVA protection is not mentioned on the label at all. If you are serious about protecting your skin from sun damage, you need to know whether your product protects you from the UVA rays. It's actually not that hard to find out, you just need to peek into the ingredient list.
    There are only a couple of sunscreen ingredients that protect the skin from UVA rays: Zinc oxide reflects the full range of UVA rays (UVA1 and UVA2) as well as UVB rays. It's the only true full-spectrum sunscreen ingredient, all the rest provide protection against only a part of the UV spectrum and need to be mixed and matched. Titanium oxide only protects from UVA2 and all UVB rays. Both the above mineral (physical) filters. Out of chemical filters, Avobenzone offers only UVA1 protection, while Dioxybenzone, Mexoryl XL, Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate), Trolamine Salicylate offer only UVA2 protection, and Trolamine Salicylate and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) offer UVA2 and UVB protection. Bizoctrisole (Tinosorb M) which is both physical and chemical protects against the full range of UVA and UVB, however it is almost always nano-sized.

   So as you see, zinc oxide is the only ingredient that reflects the whole range of UVA and UVB rays. It is anti-bacterial (good for acne) and doesn't cause allergies. It is effective immediately and doesn't need to be reapplied if it's not rubbed off. It would be the magical wonder ingredient, however it is notoriously white, so it is usually mixed with other anti-UV ingredients. The more zinc oxide you have in a product, the better UVA protection you get. 15% is really good, but most products contain 5-7%. Out of chemical filters Avobenzone is the most commonly used; with concentrations of up to 3%.

  Finally I'd like to say that from what I have read there is still not enough research and studies about sunscreen ingredients and in a decade many of the "facts" of today will be replaced by completely different information. Our generation is in a way the sunscreen guinea pig.

   Do you have a favourite sunscreen that provides good protection against UVA? Do share!

Photo credit: Andreas Moller

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Friday, July 24, 2015

When Self-Objectification Gets In The Way Of Living Life Fully

 photo 5196386817_6cc9c2db35_o.jpg

     I have a simple rule in life: look your best, as long as it doesn't get in the way of living.
     This means I take a few minutes to put on concealer and mascara on most days. It also means I don't have problems in going out completely barefaced if I'm in a rush (or lazy).
    It means that I wear pretty dresses everywhere, but I don't wear heels because I hate it when my feet are tired before the rest of me is.
     It means that I end up donating clothes that I can't move in comfortably.
    It means buying flattering workout clothes, but not wearing makeup to the gym and not caring about looking sweaty.
    I means that I invest quite a bit in a good hairdresser so that I can have a haircut that looks good when it's left to its own devices.
  It means saying "yes" to a spontaneous evening out even if I'm completely under-dressed. It also means always having an eyeliner pencil stub and facial blotting paper in my handbag for such moments.
    It means that I never let my nail polish stand between me and what I want to do.
    It means that I carefully choose the most flattering swimsuit in the store. But when my friend spontaneously invited me to jump into a deliciously cold river on a hot day and offered to lend me her very low-cut bikini, it took me just a moment to contemplate on displaying my postpartum lower belly and then to say "yes". And actually having fun and not caring, to my own surprise.
    It means appreciating a well though-out outfit, a good hair day or a good makeup look; but also being able to say "I'm not here to decorate the world" when I can't be bothered to do anything more than put on the first thing I see in my closet.
    It also means purging my closet so that the first thing I see is never looks too bad.

    I was a bit of a tomboy when growing up, I wore trousers and didn't brush my hair and I enjoyed wrestling with my brother's friends just as much as sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls. For many years, well into my teens, I didn't give much thought into what I looked like while doing stuff. I think that this means I never really minded getting my hands dirty and my hair messy, and doing stuff was usually more important than looking good.

   It breaks my heart when I see people (no, not just women), denying themselves experiences because of their insecurity about their looks. Like not going to swim because they put on weight. It's not your job to be decorative! I want to scream.
   This video gave me a word to use for this attitude -- self-objectification:

     It's saying "I can't (...) because I look (...)". In the west it is the norm to talk about how women look when doing stuff, even if the stuff they are doing is so awesome that nothing else should matter, like winning the Nobel Prize or the Olympics or running for office. A lot of money can be made off teaching women to self-objectify and to fix their appearance. I still remember as a teen reading in a fashion magazine that "all women hate their hips"; until then I had never given a thought to how my hips look like. After that I spent too much time scrutinising and criticising bits of myself, until I stumbled onto the positive body-image movement that helped me to turn this around.

    It's not like I don't have insecurities and issues with my body image any more, I definitely do. I just make sure those voices don't dominate the conversations inside my head. I try to keep things in perspective, that my looks are by far not the most important thing about me or my life. Down the line it's experiences that are the most precious things in life, and I don't want anything getting between them and me.

   The next time you are in a situation where your body-image is getting in the way of an experience, take a moment to ask yourself: this time next year, what will I remember about this experience -- how amazing it was or what I looked like? Whose judgement am I afraid of anyway, and why? Will I regret not looking my best as much as I will regret missing out on this experience altogether?

Photo credit: KayVee.INC

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Found: Great Tweezers For Next To Nothing

   If you tweeze your own brows or upper lips, you know how hard it is to find really good tweezers that grab even the shortest hair the first time around. I can't understand why so many brands make tweezers with thick edges that don't really fit smoothly together. Of course there are some good ones around: the famous Tweezermann and the less pricey Mörser that I use (I get them at the Reformhaus). However they are all rather pricey, especially if you keep on loosing them like I do.
    The last time I couldn't find my Mörser tweezers, I grabbed the ones in my Swiss army Victorinox penknife. I had always thought they looked primitive, but I was desperate. To my surprise, they are actually really good! It is really easy to grap even small hairs, and the grip is tight. And best of all, they are ridiculously cheap! The small one that fits into my penknife cost me 0,50€ (I lost the first one so I had to replace it). It is tiny though, so you might prefer to get the larger size. They are slightly less comfortable to use than regular tweezers because they are so thin and light, but you can't beat them at price vs quality

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Nifty Manicure Tool: Rossman Ideenwelt Manicure-Pedicure-Set Review

    More than a year ago I bought this little gadget from Rossmann and it has served me well. If you have nails that need more than just a nail file and a cuticle stick, you will find that a pedicure gadget like this one is very helpful. While my fingernails are relatively unproblematic with perfectly-behaved cuticles, my toenails are complicated: layers and layers of cuticle, uneven nail surface, hard and snagged skin around the nail and weird hard edges below the toes. So I decided to try out an electric pedicure tool.
    The one from Rossmann is a mini-sized one, and not as powerful as a professional tool. It is also much cheaper, it cost me around 5€.

   The machine is not very powerful, which also means that you can't harm yourself even if you are a total newbie at pedicures. But if you do your nails regularly and are looking for a powerful tool, you'll be disappointed.
   You get seven attachments, a nail clipper and a cuticle stick. The attachments are pretty intuitive to use, don't worry too much what is meant for what. I didn't get much use out of the flatter plate-shaped ones, which are supposed to be for shortening acrylic nails (and not filing the heels). The rest of them are pretty nifty though. I really like the brush, it is great as the last step to get rid of any remaining dust and skin flakes.

  Filing your nails with this manicure machine is as easy as with a glass file, but additionally you can easily reach the sides of the nails. It makes removing the cuticles in my toes a breeze, even in areas where they are thick and attached to the nail. I also use the attachments to file down the skin on the sides of the nail which is weirdly thick. This works much better than cutting it off.
   The machine has a little lamp which lights up the area you are working on.

   Unfortunately, while looking through reviews I found several that said that the product didn't work at all -- assuming this isn't a case of the user doing something wrong, I assume that they chanced upon a faulty piece. In this case hang on to your receipt and exchange the gadget. Mine works without problems.

   Bottom line: if you are a nail novice, you should definitely get this little gadget! More experienced users might want to look for something more powerful. As I just do a very basic manicure once in a while, this little electric tool is perfect for my needs, plus it is really affordable.

   Have you ever used an electric manicure set? What do you recommend? Or do you prefer do do it the regular way? Let me know!

Photo credit

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sunshine Body Oil : DIY Recipe For A Tinted Body Oil With SPF

Sunshine Body Oil : DIY Recipe For A Tinted Body Oil With SPF

   I massage in this body oil before a warm shower several times a week, and it keeps my skin smooth and moisturised. I have used body oils since years, but this mix is my favourite because of the carrot oil and berry seed oil.

You need:
Raspberry seed oil
Carrot oil
Carrier oil(s) of your choice
Essential oil of your choice
    I basically eye-balled the proportions. The carrier oil is the base and you'll want to use a lot of it. Then, add as much raspberry seed oil as you can afford. You need to experiment a bit with the carrot see oil to see how much of it makes your skin golden but not orange -- this will depend on your own skin tone. Then add a couple of drops of essential oil, shake, and you're done!
   If you have some sparkly mineral make-up lying around, like a highlighter that is too much for your face, you could add it to the oil to transform this into a shimmer body oil. Do experiment on a small quantity first, as every mineral highlighter has a different formula and might interact differently with oil.

   Raspberry seed oil provides sun protection as high as that of Titanium Dioxide, so it's perfect for adding into everything in the summer. It is rather pricey, otherwise I'd have used much more of it and skipped the carrier oils. Obviously when it's diluted it doesn't provide that much sun protection and you need to use a sunscreen on top, but hey, every bit of extra SPF helps.
   The carrot oil was something I bought on the recommendation of a blogger, and when it arrived I realised that it's bright orange so I can't apply it solo. When thinned with other oils it gives a nice warm tint to the skin, and it also provides some sun protection.Alternatively you could also use red palm oil.
  For carrier oil I used sesame oil which is grounding for Vata types (knowing my Ayurvedic dosha is helping me very much to balance my skin and my life). Since it is heavy and sticky I mixed it with the light jojoba oil, threw in some grape seed oil which I want to use up and a bit of wheat-germ oil which provides quite a bit of sun protection. You could also use sunflower oil, almond oil, avocado oil, coconut oil or even a ready-made plant oil mix like Babydream from Rossman or Alverde from DM. Also: a single carrier oil is fine, you don't have to mix several like I did.
  Essential oils are nice if you want your oil mix to smell good. I added a bit of rose, patchouli and sandalwood, which are my favourite scents at the moment. Avoid anything from the citrus family since it will make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

   So there you go, and quick and easy body oil, perfect for the summer! I found the cute bottle at a flea market, but you could also use a squeeze bottle from a shampoo (not so pretty but very practical) or even a condiment bottle. Keep the oil mix away from strong light.
  This oil mix paired with exfoliation (dry brushing or Kessa glove) and the Lavera tanning lotion is my go-to body routine for the summer.

   What is your summer go-to body routine? Let me know in the comments.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

How To Choose Lipliners: Nude, Clear and Colourful

I always mix up the clear Art Deco lip liner with my beige Kajal.

  I talked about how to apply lip liner in my last post, and today I want to cover shopping for liners: colours and types of liners.

Which colours to buy:

 In your natural lip colour

  A lip pencil that perfectly matches your lips is the best secret weapon a girl can have. It can be worn on its own for a perfectly no-makeup makeup, it looks like your own lips but better. It is especially useful if your own lip line is fading, or if it is broken due to cold sores, or the colour is uneven. It defines the shape of the lips and correct it. Of course it can also be worn as a base for lipstick in any colour. Look for a pinkish-brown shade if you are Caucasian (Holly Rose Wood and Rosy Brown from Catrice work for many girls). Finding the perfect shade might take a while, but believe me -- it is worth it.


   Pairing a lipstick with a colour lip pencil in the same colour makes  the shade of the lippie look intensive and helps it wear off evenly. You might not want to own a lip liner that matches every lipstick you own, but definitely get one that matches your favourite red! Red lipstick is much easier to wear with lip-liner. If you want to rock lip liner solo, you might also want to check out the chubby lip pencils that are quite popular now, they are softer and creamier than a lip-liner which makes them less precise but easier to swipe on.


  A colour close to your skin tone is useful if you really want a blank canvas for your lip colour to pop. This is especially useful if your lips are naturally highly tinted or dark, but you want to rock lighter shades of lip colour.


  An invisible (clear) lip liner can be used on the outside of the lip contours (as well as the regular way). Lining outside the lip line prevents the lipstick from bleeding. The right shade should look clear on your skin and not like whitish wax.

What kind of lip liner to buy?

   Go for harder liners rather than too soft ones, as they have more staying power. The automatic ones have the disadvantage that they can't be sharpened, and are usually very soft -- except the long stay ones which however have to be applied quickly before they dry, otherwise they get a crumbly texture.

   What's your favourite lip-liner? Do you prefer pencil or automatic? 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How To Use A Lip Liner? The Basics + Some Tips

  Lip liner can be confusing, in fact I figured it out only last year. I wanted to talk about it today because it's a very interesting and versatile product. You should definitely give it a try! Lip liner gives you a lot of control over the shape of the lips, which can lightly change the proportions of your face and even the perceived shape of your nose.
    Lip liner may feel weird and dry, but it doesn't actually dry out the lips.

Two ways to wear a lip liner:

Wear the lip liner instead of a lipstick

   Lip liner is the best matte lipstick you'll ever find. It looks more natural, stays on longer, and it wears off much more evenly than lipstick. You can always finish it off with a dab of gloss or balm for a bit of shine.

Below a lipstick

   Lip liner keeps the lipstick from bleeding and locks it onto the lips. It also makes the lipstick colour pop. It's a must with strong reds and dark colours as it helps them to wear off evenly, as well as with soft lipsticks that bleed.
   Also, if you want to achieve that crisp, clear lip contour then lip liner is the way to do it.

How To Apply Lip Liner

Basic lining

  Start but outlining the V in the middle, and slightly exaggerate the bows (or not, if you prefer the Angelina Jolie look). Continue to the lip corners. This will give you a crisp line, if you want a softer effect you can gently blur it with a q-tip. Make the line thicker, and blend inwards -- this prevents the weird ring around the lipstick effect.
  You can fill in the entire lips with the liner if you want to.


   You can use lip liner to enhance and lightly exaggerate the shape of your lips. First, take a good look at your lips in the mirror. You might see that the coloured part of the lips doesn't fill the lips out all the way. If you want, you can draw in the extra "shelf" and it will look natural, any more outside the contour and it will be look really off. It's just an extra half millimetre, but it can make a lot of difference visually. I've done it on the photo on the top.

   Of course these are just the basics. You can try experimenting with combining products, I especially like layering gloss over lip-liner.

   Do you use a lip liner? Or do you wear your lipstick commando?

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Weekend Reads 13-06-2015

   Hey everyone, above is a photo from a hike in the Alps that we did last week. The Alps are pretty much like you'd imagine them to be, with cows and bells and cheese and the most amazing beer. I tried out hiking in a dress, and it was amazing. The dress was sleeveless, knee-length and cotton and it kept me cool and comfortable throughout the very hot day. Just don't pick a dress with spaghetti-straps, as the straps of the backpack will rub the skin on your shoulders.
   If you are looking for easy trips, especially ones that are doable with small kids / people who can't walk too far, I recommend the book series by J. Berg which feature several books about fun and easy trips in the German Alps. We have  Erlebnistouren für Zwergerl and a couple of others that I can't locate at the moment.

Onto the links for today:

 * Photography: The exposure lock button.

* I love discovering English-language beauty blogs from non english-speaking countries. Daily Curlz is a blog of a black latina from the Dominican republic, and I absolutely love her posts about hair care.

* Apartment Therapy tested all the methods of keeping cut flowers fresh.

* Eyebrows can change your entire face.

* Ever wondered what happens to all those amazing costumes from TV shows?

* A few bra-fitting tips for transwomen.

* I'm currently watching Masters Of Sex and in love with it. The series is about the pioneers of research in human sexuality in the 60s. It's brilliantly written with plenty of interesting and strong female characters, great acting, and a dry humour. NSFW trailer, of course.  And a small peek behind the scenes.

I love the song, and the video is breathtakingly surrealistic:

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I Threw Out Half Of My Clothes, aka Review Of The Magic Of Tidying Up By Marie Kondo + Extra Tips!

   Last year I was singing the praises of having a plentiful wardrobe, my summer closet was bursting at its seams with pretty stuff, I was regularly editing out items that I didn't like or that didn't fit and I had a well-curated wish-list that would bridge the gaps in my wardrobe.. I wanted a bigger closet and more hangers for my summer stuff, and I definitely had too few winter clothes. I thought that once I fulfilled these wishes, I would have the perfect effortless, practical and stylish wardrobe.
   Then I read The Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, a small tome written by a pint-sized soft spoken cross between a fairy godmother and a dominatrix. Since then half of my clothes have been sold or donated, my closet is beautifully arranged with items that I love, there is plenty of free space and I even have the luxury of keeping some cold-weather clothing there for chillier days (it's normally stored in the attic). I also got rid of half of my (already slim) winter wardrobe. Shockingly, I almost always have the right thing to wear, it takes me minutes to pick out an outfit, and it gives me joy to see my closet with lovingly-arranged pieces that I love. I still can't get over the surprise. Marie Kondo's method is like peeling away layers of everything that was weighing me down, what is now left are all the pieces that are right for me, and surprisingly (or not) they all match and flow together. I actually deleted my wishlist since after some months I noticed that I didn't need most of those items any more.

   If I were to recommend just one book on taking care of your home, your wardrobe or any other possessions, The Magic Of Tidying Up would be it. It is very different from other uncluttering and organising books I have read, it changed my approach to my belongings. The book is written simply and gracefully and reads really smoothly. It's Japanese-ness and her Shinto background makes it quirky, at least to westerners -- but I find it delightful.

   What I like best about the Kondo method is the feeling I get afterwards -- a feeling of lightness and happiness, like a pleasant after-taste. Her method puts you into a happy and grounded happy mental space and doesn't stir up guilt or fear.  And from what I have I have seen, other people also report getting a Kondo-ing high.
  And this feeling and her methods spill over to other areas of life -- I have very few urges to shop, I rarely buy things unless they are just right, and I have a much better radar for what "just right" means. I feel a quiet satisfaction from the things that I already own, at least in the categories that i have already Kondo-ed.

by Carli Jean

   What's so special about The Magic Of Tidying Up? Marie Kondo's method connects you to your actual desires. Asking "does it spark joy" is a simple yes or no question which connects us with our actual desires, and bypasses the whole guilt and backward-logic of the brain. If you use the regular approach while uncluttering and organising, your logical mind will remind you that you should be wearing those shoes even if you aren't yet, that they cost you good money, and that black pumps are a classic and versatile basic that every woman should own. With Marie Kondo's method, your emotional response will go "I don't actually even like these shoes. They feel uncomfortable." And you are free to let them go, even if they cost a lot or are a present from your best friend.

   Also, Marie does not tell you what you should and shouldn't keep -- if a collection of rubber ducks or pink crocs bring you joy, you keep them. She just tells you that if something is in your home, it should be because it gives you joy or makes your life meaningful in some way. When you own what you love and love what you own, your surroundings are an expression of yourself and you live intentionally.

"The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job."

Marie Kondo recommends a very specific way of folding clothes, which saves a LOT of space and is surprisingly easy to maintain. This is the drawer from the bloggers of AsianCajuns, who have done the whole Konmari cure!

   The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up taught me about that Japanese way of being mindful towards material objects. I am often careless and unmindful with my things and then get upset that they get damaged or misplaced. But I was fascinated by glimpses of the deliberate, simple and mindful Japanese approach: the concept of Wabi Sabi, the sparsely elegant aesthetics of their products, the way my Aikido teacher smooths and folds his Hakama, the slow movements of the tea ceremony I watched at a Japanese cherry-blossom festival, the beauty of the endlessly patched Boro. The Magic Of Tidying Up is a beautifully simple introduction to this way of life.

   You need to read the whole book to understand the method, as there is much more to it than just "does it spark joy". I have noticed that people online who just read an article about the method often misinterpreted the instructions and were missing a lot of information. The book has a lot of big and little tips, for example little rituals to help you let things go, a really great approach to gifts, and most importantly the explanation of how some things have already fulfilled their purpose the moment they are received or bought.

A couple of tips for those that have read the book and are Kondo-ing their life:

* "Spark of joy" can also mean a quiet satisfaction, or thankfulness for the work the item does. For example you might not exclaim with joy when you see your ugly juicer but drinking fresh carrot juice every Saturday is something you really enjoy.
* It really helps to take a moment to "warm up" before discarding, to get into the right frame of mind. Marie Kondo greets her apartment and claps, but you can do whatever you like, for example taking a moment to imagine how you want your home to feel like; simply breathe in and out for a moment, play with your wind chimes, whatever calms you and helps you to concentrate.
* I like to start the tidying session with an item I really love. As I take it into my hands, caress it and smile, I immediately get a "reading" on what the "spark of joy" feels like.
* It's ok to have a "maybe" pile. However I strongly suggest dealing with it at the end of the uncluttering session and not leaving it till another day. At the end of the session you are in a flow and will make better decisions, if you leave the pile till the next day it's just a fear of dealing with the stuff, plus the pile will just bug you and make you feel guilty.
* The sushi rolling method is easy for kids to do, and they rummage less when they can see everything
* Her rule of decluttering by category and not by space is also genius, since otherwise I would never have realised that I own over twenty votive holders that were scattered all over the place. Don't ignore that rule.
* She is right about the socks. Two of my friends who knit their own socks tell me that they would never ball up the socks because it loosens up the tops, so there is something in that.
* Kids can learn to Kondo too, in fact my daughter is much better at it than I am. I think it's a valuable tool to teach them!

    For those of you who have already read the book, you'll be happy to know that at least one more book will be available in English soon. Meanwhile you might like her talk as well as her Reddit AmA, both have some extra tips and answer some questions. Oh, and here is how she shops.

   Any other Marie Kondo fans out there? Did you like the book? How much did you purge? What is your favourite bit of Konmari advice?

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: Smile Brilliant At-Home Teeth Whitening

    Today I want to write about my experiences with whitening my teeth at home!
    Europe isn't as obsessed with straight, white teeth as the USA, which I'm thankful for -- even after years with braces my teeth look nothing like a string of pearls, and fortunately it's not something I learned to feel self-conscious about. I'm more concerned about keeping them healthy. However I did want to do something about the colour -- genetics didn't give me pearls, and the coffee habit I picked up in France definitely made the situation worse. I needed something stronger than the regular whitening toothpaste. I love to smile, it's one of my favourite things in the world, and I do think that a white smile is pretty.

    I have tried at-home bleaching with the custom teeth whitening trays by Smile Brilliant . I had misgivings that I wasn't the ideal subject for this -- I have sensitive teeth, according to my dentist I produce a huge amounts of saliva, and I absolutely hate the taste of hydrogen peroxide. Still, encouraged by the great reviews on Amazon, I decided to go for it, and I'm happy I did!

    Full disclosure: Smile Brilliant provided the whitening kit for me free of cost. The opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine!
    Disclaimer: I am obviously not a dentist, so do your research! Also, if you have any teeth issues, get them fixed before you whiten them.

    The Smile Brilliant teeth whitening gel is made up of Carbamide Peroxide which is basically stabilised hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide at harmless concentrations is not toxic and can even be used as a mouthwash.

   The Smile Brilliant method works like this: you get a kit with blue putty to make impressions of your teeth. You send those back, and you get custom trays that fit your teeth perfectly. Along with that you get your whitening gel, and if your teeth are sensitive, a desensitising gel. You use this on your teeth for a couple of times and see them getting whiter!

    Making the teeth moulds was fun, and I was so surprised that I didn't mess it up. The whole kit is really easy to use and the instructions are clear. You do get an extra set of material if you do mess things up -- I didn't need it and am wondering what cool thing I could make with it.
   Sending back the impressions and getting the next package went really smoothly and quickly, considering that it was from across the Atlantic. In it were the whitening trays that were custom-made from my teeth impressions. They are made of some kind of clear plastic and fit snugly over my own teeth. I also got the desensitising gel, the whitening gel, and a box for the trays. Also in the box were my plaster teeth impressions, which have now joined the collection of Cool Things I Own. #bloggerperk

     So, onto the whitening: You pour the gels into the trays and pop them onto your teeth. Then the whitening gel for 1-3 hours. 
 For sensitive teeth, you can use the desensitising gel for 15 minutes before and / or after whitening. If you teeth are only slightly sensitive, you can use this gel only after. If they are highly sensitive, you can also use it before, however this slows down the whitening process. The desensitising gel can also be used on it's own.
  At the end the desensitising gel again. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, with good photos. Additionally there is plenty of material on the Smile Brilliant site, so you can't really go wrong.
    I was happy to see that I only needed 1/6 of a syringe, which means the product is actually inexpensive. I thought that one syringe would be for only one session. Actually each syringe gets you at least 3 sessions!

    The custom trays fit on really snugly and feel comfortable. I could speak and nap in them, and they are quite discreet so I wouldn't mind shopping for groceries or talking to the postman in them. That is a blessing, since you need to have them on for quite a bit of time.

A couple of extra tips:

   Eat something and drink a lot before the treatment. You can't eat or drink when the trays are in, although you could experiment with a straw if you are desperately thirsty.
   Drying the teeth before inserting the trays is the hardest part. A small cotton handkerchief or towel does it pretty well.
    Use the trays after your dentist has done your yearly plaque removal.
    Less gel is more, you don't want it to get to your gums. The trays are perfectly moulded to your teeth, so the gel shoots up.
    If the gel keeps on getting to your gums, one Amazon review suggested trimming the top of the trays, or protecting your gums with Vaseline.
    Because I have crowded teeth, the crevasses between the teeth didn't get bleached that easily. I found that you can paint on the gel on your teeth with a brush for more control, and then use the tray the regular way. 
   Doing the treatment before bed time makes it easy to not eat and drink afterwards, which gives you better results. 
   You can sleep with the trays, and set an alarm for when you want to take them off. This works really well if you don't have much time during the day.

Effects after three sessions

   So, what about the results? I was quite impressed with how much whiter my teeth got. Each session left my teeth less yellow, and after the third time the difference was quite noticeable. Of course the final result depends upon genetics -- some people have naturally whiter teeth than others. Hydrogen peroxide will not lighten your original tooth colour, but it will lift off discolouration from food, drinks and cigarettes.
   When I used the desensitising gel before the treatment, I did experience some sensitivity afterwards, but it was quite slight -- I could "feel" my teeth which was unusual, but it wasn't a painful sensation. Once I skipped the desensitising gel before the whitening and used it only afterwards, and that left my front teeth unpleasantly sensitive. If your teeth are quite sensitive, I strongly recommend using the desensitising gel before, and keeping the first few whitening sessions short.
   To keep the teeth white you need to avoid foods that stain the teeth -- that would be anything that would be hard to wash off a cotton Tshirt, like red wine, black coffee. A whitening toothpaste helps with the upkeep. Depending on what you eat and drink, you will have to do a couple of whitening sessions in a year or two.

What I liked about Smile Brilliant At-Home Teeth Whitening:

  • Clear and well-written instructions, with additional material on the site
  • Amazing customer service, ready to answer all your questions.
  • A little of the product goes a long way, so you get quite a bang for your money. 
  • Works really well!
  • Desensitising gel can be used any time your teeth get too sensitive, independently of bleaching
  • Worldwide shipping!

  I'm very pleased with the product, and would definitely want to re-order when I run of the whitening gel. However I would really like to have the option to pay with Paypal, as it is quite common in Europe to not have a credit card.
   And what is the difference between doing this with your dentist? For one, drying your own teeth is not as easy as the dentist's blowing instrument. Also, you are pretty much in charge of the whole thing so read the instructions carefully and don't forget to set alarms.

   Another shout out to the Smile Brilliant staff, co-operations between brands and blogs can be so frustrating sometimes, but Smile Brilliant kept everything nicely transparent and pleasant.
   Have you ever had you teeth whitened? What was the experience like?

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