Thursday, May 21, 2015

Two Years Of Using Henna: Brand Comparision, Herbatint, Tips n Tricks.

   I have quite a lot of grey hair since I was 25, and have been using Henna to cover them up and to enhance my natural hair colour. Today I wanted to talk about all the brands that I have tried, and share a few tips for using Henna. Oh, and a few words about the "natural" dye Herbatint.

   Here is how my hair looked like two years ago before I started Henna-ing it. I had a rather cool hair colour which didn't really compliment my warm skin tone, and quite a bit of grays which were very visible since they were wiry and stuck out at weird angles. Since that time I'd say the amount of greys I have has tripled.

This was after the first Henna, I used Logona Hair Color Powder which is Henna with some other plant-based ingredients. I think I used the chocolate brown shade:

  After that I started using red shades, since they make my hair House Tully auburn. I loved the shade I got from Henne Color Paris, but stopped using it because of the Sodium Picramate:

Then I tried several brands of pure Henna, including the one from Hobbythek and Waldfussel, however nothing compares to Khadi when it comes to the ease of application. I also tried Sante Henna in red:

Why I love Henna:

* It gives a beautiful 3D effect. The colour is not flat, I get gradations of the colour. On me it usually looks like a very expensive lowlight-highlight job.
* Volume and lift! The Henna particles fill the missing gaps in the hair shaft, and make the hair look shiny and full. Blondes can try the colourless Cassia Henna to get this effect.
* No unwanted toxic chemicals.
* No damage to the hair.


* It can stain the bathtub and takes a bit of scrubbing to get off
* Is time consuming
* Limited choice of colours.

    When I don't have the time for Henna, I use Herbatint just on my roots. The advantages are that it takes just 30 minutes and is much less messy. Herbatint formula is made in such a ways that it is easy to prepare small amounts at a time and store the rest. So one box lasts me for a year. The coverage is good, but I don't get that wow effect that I get from Henna. The ingredients aren't exactly perfect, Skin Deep gives it a score of 4.

   With both Henna and Herbatint I use very bright red, and it turns to copper on my hair. The grey hairs take on a lighter shade of the colour, it's almost amber, and rather translucent. I like the effect especially when they catch the sun, but I imagine that if I had more greys than dark hair the effect might be too orange. When that happens I might switch to darker shades.

My tips and tricks for using Henna

   You'll find the basic instructions in this post. Here are some additional tricks I have:

* Khadi henna is the brand I prefer. The Henna is ground really fine which makes it easy to apply and stay on longer.
* If you have a more coarse formula, a dollop of conditioner added to the henna paste makes it easier to apply.
* A dash of vinegar or lemon juice added to the paste helps the colour to be more vibrant.
* Apply Henna on moist hair. For best results, wash hair with a strong shampoo with SLS to get rid of any products from the hair.
* After applying it evenly, work the henna into the hair with your fingers. Massage the scalp with your fingers to make sure that the henna gets to the bottom of the roots.
* Latex gloves are the best.
* Henna needs heat to work. Pack your head in cling-film, and wrap a towel over it. Blast with a hair dryer every now and then, or sit in the sun.
* When rinsing the henna out, it kind of sticks onto the hair and can be hard to wash off. So, just skip ahead to the conditioning, the conditioner will add slip and make it easier to wash it all out.
* Conditioner is mandatory, otherwise the hair will feel coarse and stiff, like after a protein treatment.
* Don't shampoo your hair for the next 3 days. This is not hard, since freshly hennaed hair stays fresh and oil-free for a surprising amount of days.
* A bit of oil on the freshly hennaed hair makes the colour a bit darker and more intensive. When I had hennaed my hands we had to oil the skin twice a day to help the colour develop and get deeper.

Photo credit

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Ways To Apply A Scalp Treatment

  Most scalp treatments are liquid, like the DIY tisanes or birch water. I used to apply them with my fingers but it was messy and I had a hard time doing the back of my head. Then I remembered how a girl I knew a long time back had done it. She was applying a solution of apple cider vinegar and water to help against dandruff.
   You take a cotton pad, a small sponge, or even a small rag. You dip it into the solution and systematically apply onto the scalp, squeezing lightly. I like to do my hairline first, then part my hair inch by inch. Don't forget the back of the head and behind the ears!

  Another alternative is to transfer the product into a small spray-pump bottle. These are usually available in DIY stores, you can save bottles from used-up cosmetics. I have also spotted Dr Hauschka pump tops which fit over their bottles. It is important that the pump is just right, some shoot out an annoying jet while other shoot out a very fine mist, you want something in between.
  The third option would be a squeeze bottle, but here it is really hard to find something that will work with liquids. They work best for oils.

   How do you apply hair treatments? Do share.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Two Ways To To Apply Conditioner For Faster And Better Penetration Of The Hair Shaft

   I advocate using conditioner after every wash, and a conditioner / masque before at least once a week. Ideally the conditioner should be on the hair for 20-30 minutes. I wanted to share with you how you can make the conditioner work better for you. These two techniques allow the conditioner to penetrate the hair shaft better, which will make you hair look and feel healthier. They will also save you time, as you won't have to keep the conditioner on the hair for so long. Finally, they can help influence the hair texture a bit.
  First, spread out the conditioner evenly on towel-dried (moist, not wet) hair.Then try one of these two methods:


   This method is best for curly / wavy hair, as it will accentuate the curls and keep frizz at bay. Gather a section of hair with your hand from below, lift it towards your scalp. Your hair should coil into your palm. Pump and squish the hair with your hand several times, before moving onto the next section. This method is very popular among the curly-girl community.

Palm ironing

   This is great for straight hair. Imagine your palms are a flat iron. Place a section of hair close to your scalp between your palms, press your palms together and "iron" the hair down towards the roots. Do a gentle rubbing motion with your palms. If you end up with all the conditioner escaping, that means your hair was too wet to start with. You can find a more detailed explanation on Henrietta's blog.

  You should spend around 5 minutes on your method of choice. You will notice that you need to use more conditioner than usual, however you will be getting more effect out of your conditioner. You are using your hands to warm up the conditioner and mechanically help it to penetrate the hair cuticles. Your hair will end up shinier, softer and more manageable!

  If you try this out, let me know how it works for you, especially how it affects your hair texture and curl / straightness.

Photo credit: Eternalvoyageur

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

DIY Anti-Dandruff Herbal Scalp Treatment

            A couple of days back I discovered that my dandruff had come back after a hiatus of several years. So I mixed up this little treatment that is an old stand-by. A couple of applications and my dandruff is almost gone!

   What you are making is basically a tisane. You pour a cup of boiling water over the herbs and let them steep. I used a teaspoon each of the following herbs:
* Bay
* Basil
* Rosemary

   Other herbs that work against dandruff are rosemary, liquorice, ivy, horsetail, nettles, burdock and silver birch. If you live in a completely different climate zone, I encourage you to research into the traditional remedies for dandruff.

   I recommend using maximum three herbs at a time, so that in case on of them has unwanted side-effects you can easily single out the culprit.

   After the tisane had cooled down I wanted to make make the mixture more acidic. I used cider apple vinegar, but you could also use water kefir or kombucha or lemon juice -- just a dash.    I apply this anti-dandruff treatment on my scalp overnight or at least 30 minutes before washing my hair. It doesn't have a scent or make my hair look any different.  The mixture keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Let me know if these work for you. If you have questions, I'm happy to answer!

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Thrifty Beauty: Cut Open Empty Product Tubes

  Even if you really try to squeeze your tubes to get the last bit of the product out, you should still try cutting them open. You'll find that there is a surprising amount of product still in there.

   I thought that I was really good at shaking and squeezing out the tubes, but turns out there are always rests of the product that stubbornly stick to the sides. Cutting open my Lavera Self Tanning Lotion gives me enough for two whole-body applications, while the organic toothpastes last an extra four days.
   I "close" the cut tube by inserting one part of the tube into the other. You could also use clips.
   If a bottle has a pump dispenser, a lot of product usually clings to the tube even after the bottle appears to be empty.

   Do you also cut open tubes of products that you like? Let me know!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tips For Living With Low Blood Pressure

How To Survive Living With A Low Blood Pressure

   A lot of women have low blood pressure. It's not dangerous, but can influence your life a lot -- from feeling sluggish to overeating. Mine is super low, still it took me years to realise all the little ways it has been impacting my life. So I wanted to share some tips about dealing with it!

Symptoms of low blood pressure:

   "Most women have cold hands and feet" said my doctor. "And a cold butt" added my husband. We laughed. Whenever I get my blood pressure checked at a new place, I get horrified questions like "are you even alive?" Older, more experienced doctors just smile and say "oh, hypothermia is really common among women." Many of my female friends have it, and I am surprise that many of them don't link many of the symptoms back to it.
  You can ask for a blood pressure test the next time you are at your doctor. At least in Germany most Apothecaries are happy to do it for free.
   Doctors often don't bother telling you about the effects of a LBP and what to do about them. It's a bit of a luxury disease, it's not dangerous like high pressure can be. However it can  influence the quality of your life, and cause stuff like:

Always feeling cold:

   Cold hands, cold feet, freezing really quickly. Sometimes I even feel cold when I'm in a bathtub full of hot water.

Being sluggish in the morning:

   Your blood pressure is at its lowest when you have just spend hours sleeping in the bed. I can't even close my fists tight in the morning, and it takes a while to get the blood circulating in my veins.


   "When I'm cold, I'll go to the fridge" -- said a friend with low blood pressure, and this was a huge revelation to be. Digestion creates heat in the body, and so the snacking starts as soon as you feel cold.

Feeling faint:

  I always thought this had something to do with my iron levels (I'm a vegetarian), till a doc sat me down and told me that my iron levels are perfectly fine (probably thanks to all the beets and nettles that I eat). It's the blood pressure that causes the dizziness, especially when I stand up quickly.


   When my blood pressure drops really low (usually because I haven't been drinking enough water), I get splitting headaches.

    All these things mean that I really hate the cold early mornings, and I suffer a lot in the winter. It's also harder to get me up and running!

How to cope with low blood pressure:

Drink plenty of water:

   This is crucial! Your blood pressure drops when you are dehydrated, leading to nasty headaches. I read recently is that the body can cope only with about a cupful of water at a time (drink more than that and it just passes through you), so it's important to keep drinking throughout the day. I usually carry a 300ml Sigg bottle in my bag at all times and refill it throughout the day. And I use the Drinkly app to remind me to drink it.

Kneipp baths:

   This has been recommended to me by almost every German doctor I have seen to stimulate my blood circulation. Kneipp developed many different types of water treatments for different types of aliments, and the one recommended for hypothermia is alternating low and cold water on the arms and legs. You start with warm water (as warm as you can tolerate), going from your palms up to your upper arms and from your feet till your thighs. After a few minutes you switch to cold water (as cold as you can tolerate) and again work your was from the feet and palms to the entire arms and legs. Alternate a couple of times to really get the circulation going!


    Raises the blood pressure and generally keeps you warmer! Ideally you should move for at least 30 mins very day, whether it is vigorous dancing, bicycling, walking at a brisk pace, or some kind of sport.

Dressed warmly:

   In the winter you might want to invest in one really good coat and warm shoes. Thermal underwear is amazing. I always wear thermal leggings under my trousers all winter (synthetic leggings are way warmer than cotton). Wool is much warmer than synthetics when it comes to sweaters and scarves. I own and wear thick wollen socks, wristwarmers, earwarmers, really warm scarves and caps, and of course gloves. I can't imagine surviving the winters without them.

A hot water bottle:

  I sleep with one most of the year. I recently got one with a felted wool cover as a present and it is amazing -- it doesn't feel too hot or icky cold.


   This does raise the blood pressure, but be careful as this also dehydrates!

Watch out with herbs and medicaments

    Some lower the blood pressure.


   Eating warm food helps. Ginger, cinnamon, etc make me feel warmer.

Short naps

   Anything over 30 mins and my circulation slows down and leave me feeling really sluggish for hours. 20 minute naps are the perfect length as I can just get up and go on with my day.

  Anyone of you has low blood pressure? How do you cope? Do share your tips in the comments.

Photo by Christophe Maclaren

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How To Make Your Hair Grow Faster

   Hair growth was something I have never had problems with. Until the time I followed some really bad advice and applied very hot henna on my scalp. I only realised my stupidity when my hair started coming out in handfuls a few days later. I spent the next weeks researching ways to speed up hair growth, and trying them out. It took a while, and now my hair is back to its full thickness. I know that many of you struggle with hair loss or hair that grows too slow so I wanted to share some tried-and-tested methods with you.

Causes of hair loss

   Hair loss can be caused by stress upon the body such as sickness, pharmaceuticals, ageing, hormonal problems, pregnancy and giving birth -- these factors are often not entirely under our control but it still makes sense to take a bit of extra care of the hair and scalp and try to reverse the hair loss. Other causes for losing hair are things that we can try to manage, like a bad diet (both unhealthy eating as well as drastic weight-loss diets), psychological stress or aggressive hair treatments. In these cases you need to address these causes (for example by finding methods to channel the stress) as well as using the cosmetic methods that I describe in this post.

   So, here are some tricks to stimulate hair growth. Patience and consistency is the key, and if you stick to it you will start seeing results.

Scalp treatments 

   These are products that you massage into the scalp, either after washing the hair, or an hour before (if they smell weird or have a heavy consistency). One of the most effective hair-growth method is a Fenugreek scalp treatment. To make it pour boiling water over Fenugreek seeds, let steep for 10 minutes, then let the mixture cool down. Rub in into the scalp and leave on for at least an hour. Another really effective herb for this is nettles, Birch water (Rossmann) works well too but contains alcohol and can be drying for some people.

Scalp massage 

 Stimulate the blood circulation in the scalp by gently massaging it. Use your fingertips, press, and move the skin of the scalp. 1-2 minutes twice a day would be ideal, you can do it while watching TV, or waiting for your coffee to boil.

Diet fixes 

   If your diet is full of processed food, there simply isn't enough of the good stuff left over for your hair (which from the point of view of the body is a non vital organ and is at the end of the queue). Add more vegetables and fruits into your diet. A handful of nuts and seeds everyday is something you absolutely should be eating each day, as they contain several nutrients that your veggies and fruit might be missing. A brewers yeast supplement for the B vitamins can also be really good, as well as flax seeds for the Omegas. Sea weed is also good for hair growth, so if you need an excuse to eat sushi, there you go.

Stimulating the circulation

    Positions where the head is at the level of or lower than the heart increase the blood flow in the scalp. A comfortable position for this is the Viparita Karani. It's also good for the skin, it's a restorative pose which will help you when you are feeling stressed or tired. And yes, you can totally read a book while you're laying like that.


   Rosemary oil and stinging nettle oil both stimulate hair growth when applied on the scalp, but you need to dilute them with another oil first. You can also harvest these plants first and submerge in oil for a week or two to make an infusion (the oils that would work well are extra virgin olive oil,  sunflower, flax seed or grape-seed).

Indian Herbs

  Amla, Brahmi and Bhringraj are the trio most used to stimulate hair growth and improve the condition of the hair. They are available as oil, tonics or powders. Khadi carries a nice pure Amla hair oil.

What to avoid:

    Shampoos with sulfates, harsh hair dyes, drying your heat with the dryer at the hottest setting, Overheating or freezing the scalp (protect your head with hats or caps)

    With all of these methods you have to give them at least 4-6 weeks to work. With a bit of consistency you should soon be rewarded with a crop of "baby hair".

   Do you have any tips for stimulating hair growth? Do share. Also, I'd love to know if it was a certain diet and lifestyle changes caused your hair loss (or, helped with hair growth).

Photo credit: me

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weekend Reads 18-04-2014

Spring feels

   Hello everyone, it's officially spring when the forsythia bushes bloom. I love the beginning of the warm season, and have a couple of rituals: I buy a hyacinth flower for the home, then comes the first ice-cream of the year, right before the first time it's warm enough to go out with bare legs. Even the household tasks are more fun  in the spring -- laundering all my woollens, my heavy winter coats and thermals and switching them for spring clothes. Laundering all the curtains and pillow covers and rugs and hanging them up in the sun. Repotting indoor plants and sprucing up the garden. But the best part of course are the walks with the family, picnics with friends, biking everywhere, hooping on the grass in warm afternoons. What is your favourite part of the spring? Do you have some special spring rituals?

* If you ever need "eye bleach" after watching something depressing on the net, try this little game.

* I have been using Google translate to brows through La Clee Privee, I love how this blog illustrates trends with examples of very pretty and very wearable outfits. It gives me plenty of inspiration on how to style pieces I own (which I collect here).

* Film of the week: Only Lovers Left Alive left me stunned, wanting to re-watch it right away. It's a very atmospheric vampire film with the amazing Tilda Swinton, haunting music and a sensually languid pace. This was the only trailer I found that doesn't reveal the whole plot, but I suggest you don't watch it and just enjoy the little surprises in the film. I really hate the trend of revealing most of the plotline in the movie trailers.

* Want to make the world a better place but don´t know where to start? Pick a quest!

* This is what your upstairs neighbours are really up to.

* Have I mentioned that Dress Like A Parisian is my go-to blog when it comes to creating outfits?

Favourite Video:
 This video is just magical (wait for it). Also, Marion Cotillard has sung the song herself.

Photo credit: Eternalvoyageur

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Friday, April 17, 2015

How To Go Sockless -- Tips On Wearing Shoes With Bare Feet

How To Wear Shoes Without Socks In Summer

   I figured out how to wear shoes without socks just this year, and I'm 31. I thought that I'd talk a bit about it, because it seems to be a tricky topic. Sometimes sandals are just not right, either it's too cold, or your toenails look awful, or you need some protection from the dirt. Or you just want to wear ballet flats. I always thought that going barefoot in shoes is just gross, but socks often just look wrong with certain shoes and dresses. So, finally, I have figured out how to do this:

Washable frottee shoe inserts:

   The key here is washable. There are many barefoot insoles out there, but if they aren't washable they'll get gross in no time. Anything with leader is usually not washable, the frottee ones can be hand-washed or even machine washed. Check the packaging for laundering instructions. I got one pair of washable frottee insoles from the Müller and they do the job well. If you can find it, a dark colour is more practical. The inserts not only soak up the sweat and prevent it from touching the shoe, they also prevent bare feet from slipping inside the shoes. If they are thicker, they provide a bit of cushioning and make the shoes more comfortable.

Foot deodorant

   I just use my regular deodorants on my feet (especially the liquid version of the crystal deo) because I don't like to have too many products. A dash of talcum powder can also keep things dryer. I strongly suggest that you use a deodorant with no toxic ingredient for your feet, since the feet absorb stuff easily -- that's the reason natural medicines in balm form are often massaged into the feet. Also, cleaning well between and below the toes helps to keep the feet from smelling.


   If you really don't want to go barefoot, socklets give you the sockless look wile providing the traction and the absorption. These can be a pain in the butt, but hear me out. There are three kinds out there: sneaker footlets go up a bit higher and stay put, they are perfect for shoes with a higher vamp and booties. The lower-cut footlets are supposed to be invisible but it's pretty hard to find ones that don't slip off. I have tested out several brands, and annoyingly I have completely forgotten where I have bought the ones I like best. Any recommendations from you? Ballet flats are usually so low-cut that even these low-cut footlets are visible, and in my opinion this looks really tacky. The only solution here is to get decorative footlets with a pretty lace edge and make it look intentional. Black footlets work with black shoes or shoes that have black on them somewhere, otherwise the best colour is something that is close to your skin tone in intensity -- so if you are white you might want to go for pink or coral, or even grey or sky blue. White looks tacky with shoes that are not white. Beige only looks good if it is really lacey and is not too greyish. Of course footlets in the colour of the shoe always work.

   Over to you: do you ever wear shoes without socks? Could anyone recommend me a good brand of footles? What is your favourite foot deodorant?

Photo credit: Toffee Maky / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How To Add Probiotics To Your Diet

Probiotic yogurt

  I firmly believe that beautiful skin is a sign of a healthy body, and that a lot of skin problems are connected to digestive problems. A lot of us have a very imbalanced gut flora -- too much of the bad bacteria and yeast and not enough of the good ones, which is caused by antibiotics, a diet rich in sugar and processed food, alcohol, stress and age.
   One thing that we can do to restore the gut flora is eat food that contains probiotics. Probiotics are cultures of bacteria and yeasts that help with digestion and keep the population of the bad bacteria and yeast down. There are lots of different kinds of foods that contain probiotics -- most countries have their traditional probiotics.
  Adding probiotics to your diet is super easy and tasty! I always drink some in the morning on an empty stomach, and add them to my food a couple of times a week. You can make them or buy them (check the labels to make sure you are buying them with live cultures and not a pasteurised / cooked version. Your best bet are health food shops.) Here are some great probiotics you should try:

Water Kefir (Tibicos) and Kombucha

  These are on top of my list because they each contain several different bacteria and yeasts. Both also make excellent toners, and the scoby can be used as a mask -- the Alpha Hydroxy Acids brighten the skin. Commercial kombucha is usually not ripe and contain too much sugar (and are often not alive anymore), but it's pretty easy to brew it at home. I love water kefir more, when brewed perfectly it tastes dry and fizzy, almost like soda, and I love adding strawberries or peaches to it.


   Tasty, fermented cabbage, also a great source of vitamin C. I always crave it in the winter and add it to my salads. There is also Sauerkraut juice available in German health food stores, which tastes exactly like sauerkraut. It's the traditional German hangover remedy.


  It's full of Lactobacillus reuteri. It tastes really vile but I wanted to mentioned it because a friend with neurodermitis says it helps her with her condition (she drinks it and applies it externally).

Apple Cider Vinegar

  Make sure you are buying the unfiltered "alive" one, there should be some brown stuff, drink a spoonful with water in the morning. It's not exactly a probiotic, but it supports the good bacteria in your gut.


   Different kinds have different bacteria cultures, that is why there are so many different tasting yoghurts all over the world!

Home-made ferments

   You can have a lot of fun fermenting stuff at home -- it's easy, inexpensive, and a lot of fun. It's also a great way to preserve a bigger amount of produce -- you can ferment most vegetables and many kinds of fruit! Ferments are made by adding starter, salt and water to the produce. If there is vinegar inside it's not a ferment but a pickle, and it doesn't contain the enzymes and probiotics that a ferment does.

Sourdough products

   Some kinds of bread and even pizza contain sourdough. It's not the same as regular yeast from the store!

  Most of the probiotic-containing foods that are popular in the western world are diary-based. Other parts of the world have their own probiotic foods, often non-diary, like tempeh or togwa. Then there are probiotic supplements which can be really helpful if you have just completed a course of antibiotics.

Do you like to eat fermented stuff? Any other sauerkraut lovers out there?

Photo credit: Foodiesfeed

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