Sunday, May 31, 2015

 I realize that I've placed so much attention on finding the best deep conditioner that I've pretty much neglected a crucial wash day step.  Sure, the right deep conditioner can right a myriad of wrongs.  You can strengthen and moisturize your stressed tresses in one powerful step.  But, at the end of the day, the conditioner gets washed out and goes down the drain.  Then, we have the opportunity to "recondition" the hair in a lasting way.  But only if we have the absolute best leave in  we can get our hands on.

I've tried my share of leave-ins over the years.  But nothing can compare to this current line up.  I'm looking for products that can bring heavy moisture, detangle like no one's business, and protect the hair during the heavy manipulation that occurs post wash.  Here are my faves.
It's a 10 Leave In
Due to my own neglect, I'm often plagued with these massive, destructive knots which require lots of manpower to rectify.  When this happens, the man for the job is It's a 10!  Whenever I get an email from some poor soul who's contemplating chopping off her hair because of the sheer amount of knots she has to contend with, I instruct her to go out and by this leave-in.  It's like the go-to leave in whenever emergencies arise.  It's a 10 boast of giving the hair 10 benefits but, to me, the detangling power is unmatched.

Biolage Keratin Dose.
Well, almost unmatched.  Biolage stepped up it's game in a major way when it launched the Keratindose leave in.  This stuff had me signing it's praises.   Detangling and conditioning all in one magnificent package.  The actual product has the consistency of a creamy, hydrating conditioner but is applied using a spray bottle just like any other run of the mill leave-in.  I also give it extra points for being a powerful product on wet or dry hair.  I can literally use it as a moisturizer in the L.C.O process.  Oh, I should also mention that I'm picking up a box of the Biolage Keratindose concentrate. It comes in little tubes that is applied to the hair like an intensive treatment. It's formulated with silk amino acids and a "professional level of keratin."  Lookout for a review in the future.

Biolage Daily Leave-In Tonic
Although Keratindose is absolute perfection, I still love and will always reach for the daily leave in tonic when I rollerset.  In my humble opinion, Biolage Daily Leave in is the most moisturizing, watery leave in, I can get my hands on.  Just like the Keratindose, the actual product looks like a conditioner but in a lighter consistency.  There's nothing bad I can say about this leave-in.  It's absolutely the best light, conditioning leave-in that I've ever tried.
Grund Tiger Protein Reconstructor Leave-In Spray
I had a leave-in that softened the hair, and a couple that detangled, but I had nothing to reinforce my hair with additional strength.  I searched and searched until I somehow stumbled on Grund Tiger Protein Reconstructor.  Although I'd never heard of the brand before, I relied on the glowing reviews and the high price point as a sign that this could be a solid product.  And boy was I right.  What I love about this spray is that it does strengthen and reinforce the hair but without out none of the unwanted stiffness one might expect from spraying a protein laden product on the hair.  To me, Grund's protien spray is worth every single cent.   I don't use it all over but instead focus on weaker areas and on the ends.  It's darn good stuff.   They also have a protein moisture mist which also received great reviews from the people who've tried it.  I don't need another moisture leave-in but I'm so tempted to try it.  If it's as good as their protein spray with a boost of moisture, I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

Nexxus' Pro Mend Split End Binding Leave-In
Honorable mention goes to Nexxus' Pro Mend Split End Binding Leave-In Creme.  It's the heaviest of all the leave-ins I own.  I like a thicker product for when I'm deep into my stretch and need something a little heartier to manage my mane.  All though it's meant for split end repair, I use it all over.  I mean, the active ingredient alone should make you want to try it.  Seeing video of split ends sealing back up still brings chills down my spine.  Make sure to apply a watery leave-in underneath to add moisture then layer on the leave-in cream to seal it in.  This stuff will have your ends on point!  If frizzy, unruly ends are your issue, give this baby a try.  I also like how it provides a bit more sleekness to my hair, almost like it's sealing my cuticle layer while taking care of my damaged ends.

One realization I've made while writing this post is how I've neglected the proper use of leave-ins the last several months.  My plan is to organize them all together so I have the entire crew with me on wash day making sure I use the right one for the job depending on my hair's needs.  I've experimented with a post wash L.C.O using Aveda moisturizer on dripping wet hair (just out of the shower) and layering with oil.  This time, I'll utilize these leave-in moisturizers and layer with oil.  I suspect I'll get an even better result since these products are made for moisturizing already damp hair.

These are my absolute faves. If you have a leave in that works magic on your hair, leave a comment below.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

...a hint of understated sensuality with minimal effort.
You know how everyone has their favorite and most flattering body part?  It could be your ultra toned legs, curvaceous back, or tiny waist.  Or, maybe you're going through that phase in life where you favorite parts aren't as show stopping as they used to be.  No worries, there's one part on everyone's body that is undeniably feminine yet rarely gets it's props.

I'm referring to the oh so subtle "off the shoulder." I've always stayed away from wearing this look because, to me, peek a boo shoulders were even more risque than a tiny skirt.  A woman with an exposed shoulder is confident in herself while appearing ultra casual and nonchalant.  She's not trying to be sexy.....she just is.

In my dresser lies a heap of old, unattractive t-shirts.  In their present form, they instantly rob me of any sex appeal or style.  But, if I were to get a little creative, those homely t-shirts can easily be transformed to stylish casual wear that I'd actually want to wear even in public.

Now, I know for some of us, walking around with shoulders exposed might feel a bit much. I'm one of those people who's always wearing a bra 24/7.  In order to partake in the shoulder revealing trend, I've amassed a small collection of bandeaus for added support without having to worry about cumbersome straps.  But, in all honestly, the "off the shoulder" can also be executed with a little peak-a-boo strap.  Just make sure it's not an actual bra strap.  Your other options are a bathing suit strap (for those hot summer days) or a super cute cami.

One of my weekend projects will be to transform several of my frumpy tees into flattering tops.  I'm looking forward to accessorizing my exposed neck and shoulders with dainty necklaces and finishing off with a flirty fragrance.

Friday, May 29, 2015

My current wish list is pretty short.  And on top of that list is an new and better sunscreen.  You see, ever since I've been practicing the Korean layering regimen, come to expect quite a lot from each product in my routine.  All the serums are doing a bang up job of addressing my various skin issues.  But I feel like my sunscreen needs to work a little harder to contribute to my overall goals.

Sure, the one I currently use is high SPF and does a decent job at blocking out the harmful rays (I suppose), but I'm ready for the next level of sun protection that addresses uneven skin tone.  I know that the simple act of wearing sun protection daily does have positive effect on managing dark marks. Yes, I understand that sunscreen is vital to helping promote perfectly even skin.  But, now that we've ventured into the world of BB & CC creams that boast of having multi-level benefits, I expect my sun protection to do the same.
Which is why I have my eyes set on Dr. Dennis Gross' Dark Spot Defense SPF 50.  It's a paraben free sunscreen that claims to moisturize, prevent and minimize hyperpigmentation while loading the skin with beneficial antioxidants.  I'd love to complete my skin care routine with a product with multi-level benefits.  It appears to be a fairly new product because there aren't that many reviews online.   This one is from a happy customer.

5 out of 5

I have been looking for a face lotion with high SPF and this does above and beyond that. Not only does it not leave a greasy mess on your face after you apply it or if you start to sweat, it has vitamin c and e which is vital for your skin in order to prevent signs of aging. I would recommend this product!
I'm not an expert in ingredients but I saw a few things that caught my eye. Glycolic acid to help lighten dark spots via exfoliating the dead skin cells.  This super sunscreen contains plant oils such as  olive, evening primrose,  and echium oil (which boasts of omega 3,6, &9).  Not to mention vitamins C + E which load your skin with antioxidants and black rice extract which is also rich in antioxidants. I also appreciate that it contains glycerine which I suspect will help provide a moisturizing quality to the formula.  My current line up of sunscreens are too drying for my taste. After reviewing all this sunscreen has to offer, I just don't get that excited about what I currently use.  I need something that compliments this new skin care regimen and helps take my skin to the next level.

I suspect it won't be long until I have this product sitting on my dresser.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I recall a time when I worked with a supervisor to create a 30 day action plan for one of her lower performing managers.  We discussed all of the actions and goals that needed to be met within the 30 day timeline.  A little time passed and the supervisor reached out to me to provide a status update on the progress made within the past 30 days.  I could hardly believe that 30 days went by so quickly.  While she was going over her manager's metrics and results with me, all I could think about is how little I accomplished within that 30 days.

From that moment, I decided that at the start of each month, I too would create a few small personal goals instead of letting 30 days just slip away.  A new month is basically a fresh start.  A new opportunity to cause something new & different to appear into my life.  Since were only a few days away I thought it would be a good time  to create the month ahead.

I believe there's power in having a clear, organized space.  The more time I invest in creating my ideal environment, the more benefits I get to enjoy.  This month, I'd like to target the little pockets of clutter that I have in certain areas around my home.  I'd really like to build a solid foundation from which all of the other goals I have can be easily accomplished.  Creating that ideal environment will strengthen my foundation by raising my energy levels and focus.  It makes everything else I do just a bit more powerful. Simply put, I will clear and organize my workspace before beginning my day and eliminate at least three areas of clutter in the month of June.

A start of a new month is the perfect opportunity to create and strengthen new routines.  One habit I'm currently cultivating is consistent work outs.  Days ago, I purchased a membership to a small gym located within walking distance from my home.  I call this the "no excuse" gym 'cause I literally can be there within 2-3 minutes.  So far, this has been working out great. Fitting in daily workouts have never been easier.

Another routine I'd like to build is waking up and working early.  Years ago, I was diligent about this practice.  The earlier I woke up, the better.  With extra time in the day, I worked on my master plan, watched motivational videos, meditated, learned new skills, etc.  I can't tell you how much value I received in return from the extra time investment.  Now that I have no where to be at a certain time, I've been waking up around 7:00 am.  For some, that's still early but truthfully, it's not early enough.  There's not enough time to work on life investment activities.  In the month ahead, I'm going to experiment with early rising (between 4:00 am and 5:00 am), once again, for the purpose of building momentum in reaching my goals.  I had a remarkable day last week when I started my day at 5:00 am.   I was ultra productive from morning to night.  It was incredible.  I definitely want to recreate this day over and over again.

When I fantasized about having time freedom, I painted a picture of what this ideal life would be.  What I realize is that this ideal life doesn't just happen.  I have to schedule these moments otherwise, they don't happen.  This upcoming month I'll carve out time for social interactions, plan travel, and schedule other things that usually get placed on the back burner if I'm not careful. One area I've been consistent in is booking appointments for stress relieving massages.  I purchase a package of 4 sessions and schedule them in advance.  Those 90 minute massages mean the world to me.  I'd like to replicate the system of prescheduling beneficial activities in all areas of my life.

Every month, I'd like to invest a certain amount of time to building/creating/nurturing a project that will create results for years to come.  Examples of this could be developing new products, purchasing a program to help improve my business results, working with a coach/mentor.  This month, I accomplished one objective which should have long term impact in my business.  Next month, I'd like to do that again, and again, and again.  Essentially, I'm creating a snow ball effect of positive momentum.  If I replicate this month after month, the results at the end of the year will be undeniable.  My goal this week is to identify that high impact action for June and implement ASAP.

Just a few small actions to transform the month ahead.  My future self will be very grateful.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

After discovering the amazing Korean Skin Care regimen, my skin hasn't been the same.  But deep down I knew, without a facial essence,  I was missing out on one of the most important steps of this skin transforming routine. Since  facial essences were a bit foreign to me, I did a little research to uncover what made 'em so special.

Facial essences draw their potency from fermented yeast.  What I appreciate about these products are that the active yeast makes up a very large percentage of the total ingredients (80-90%).  SK II patented their fermented yeast formula after discovering elderly brewery workers with youthful , well preserved hands.  After digging into it further, they attributed the eternally young hands to the active fermented yeast.  The formula was patented and the rest is history.    
Multitudes rave about SK II.  I've read various accounts of how people's swear their skin will never be the same after coming into contact with the magical essence.  I've always wanted to try it but the $150.00 price tag freaked me out a bit.  Then I just so happened to stumble on an SK dupe by the name of Missha First Treatment Essence.  I couldn't believe how affordable this was compared to it's counterpart.  My first thought is because the ingredients probably sucked.  But, in actuality, Missha is also filled with fermented yeast, just a different variety (from the same family).  Missha's yeast comprises 80% of the ingredients unlike SK II which boasts of being comprised of  90% active yeast.  It sounds like SK II may have the upper hand but, if you look a bit more closely, Misha's ingredients also include natural extracts like beet root, rosemary, and other botanicals that could have soothing and anti-inflammatory qualities.  
What really made me take the leap was Missha's social proof in the form of a higher review rating on Amazon.  No more excuses.  A couple of days later, my package arrived.  First impressions--the bottle was much larger than I expected.  Enough to last quite a while.  Facial essence application comes immediately after washing so it's essentially a toner.  Toners, as many of us in America know it, can have a drying effect. But Asian facial essences remind us that layering a hydrating miracle water, after cleansing to seal in moisture, is logical.  Why did we ever think it was ok to strip the skin of moisture immediately after washing?  Actually, I apply a coconut based vinegar to my skin directly after washing my face because I have to. Without it my dermatitis would flare up.  Apply this directly after toning bring all the balance back to my skin.  And it happens instantly! The watery consistency makes it really easy to apply by hand.  Another option is to apply with a cotton pad, but I'd feel bad throwing away a cotton ball soaked with youth promoting active yeast.  Nope, I want every ounce of that stuff on my skin.

Of all the products in my multi step routine, this is my absolute favorite.  I layer all the serums and creams  out of obligation. Missha's Facial Essence is the only one that I look forward to applying.  I absolutely love how my skin feels immediately after application.  Moisture levels are instantly regained.  Interestingly enough, I actually have a watery "hydrating lotion" with the same consistency as Missha's Essence but doesn't compare in the level of moisture it imparts. It's not just moisture, I feel like the treatment essence improves the overall appearance of my skin.  I absolutely adore this product.  It's just so calming, hydrating and nourishing. And the price point is so right (I'd actually pay more for it).

I'm really looking forward to experiencing long term benefits from applying this on a daily basis.  In the back on my mind, I wonder if I should still try the SK II just to make sure I'm not missing out.  Maybe I'll experience SK II one day but just to put my mind at ease but, honestly, I can't see how it can be any more amazing than this.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

If you've been a follower of this blog a while, you know that every so often I like to introduce unconventional ideas when it comes to healthy hair.  We've talked about nail rubbing, cutting our hair based on moon cycles and even learned from a 72 year old man's hair journey.  Today I'm brining you another unique way to inspire hair growth.  You may know that I like to discuss the benefits of meditation.  Often times, I head over to Youtube and select meditation music to quietly play in the background during my sessions.Well, the other day I stumbled upon meditation videos that claim to promote hair growth.

Yes, that's right.  But this isn't your typical music.  It uses the power of binaural beats to bring the mind into a deeper state of awareness.  This could allow the brain and subconscious mind to influence the body in a way the promotes healthy hair growth.  Now, I know this sounds crazy, and it probably is, but in each hair growth meditation video I visited, there was at least one person sharing their feedback of how practice has helped them produce real results.  In some cases, people have mentioned that even their family members made comments on the look of their hair.

Then I asked myself, "how could this practice benefit hair growth?"  I thought about it for a little while and came up with some unscientific theories.  Perhaps watching a video that claims to promote hair growth can incite the placebo effect.  Meaning that people are experiencing positive results because they are in expectation that this brainwave music will work for them.  That could be why several commenters mentioned experiencing an itching sensation on the the scalp, as a sign of increased blood flow, while watching the video.

Another consideration is that we tend to pair meditation with visualization. So it might be possible that listeners are also imagining themselves experiencing thicker, healthier, longer hair.  Visualization is powerful because the mind can hardly tell the difference between what we imagine and what happens in reality.  Track athletes who visualized their races stimulated the same muscles that they'd use if in a real race (even though they were sitting in a chair).  In their minds, they were really running a race.  Maybe if we really believe that our hair is at a certain length, the mind begins to influence the body in a way that aligns with that belief.  This reminds me of our feature who employed the law of attraction to help her achieve her hair goals.  In the same token, if you have a severe case of hair anorexia (where you believe your hair is shorter than what it actually is), your mind might influence the body to ensure what you envision becomes reality.

Listening to a lengthy video that allegedly impacts hair growth elevates your awareness.  Although the video itself may not directly grow the hair, it may impact your behaviors long afterwards.  Meaning, you might be more careful while combing, etc.  That heightened state of mindfulness alone could have a positive impact on the health of your hair.  Mindfulness causes us to make different choices than if we were operating from old routines and patterns.  And choices are what make up the fabric of our lives.

Enough of my yapping, check out the Hair Growth meditation videos for yourself. If the vibrations of the binaural beats are too much for you, try letting it play before bed while you drift off to sleep.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Are you one of those people who have big dreams and ideas, but seem to have difficulty in moving from intention to action?  If you find yourself making commitments to change your current situations but stop short when it's time to take consistent action, then you've come to the right place.  Today we'll discuss a few of the barriers and how to eliminate them.

Old Programming 
How many of us received a spark of motivation to start something new.  A new diet, a new project, business, a 30 day challenge.  We're full of adrenaline as we think about the possibilities that lay ahead.  We're ready to take on the world.  Then, the next day rolls around and that spark of inspiration seems to fade a little.  I'm reminded of a scene from the movie Limitless when Eddie Mora wakes us the next morning after consuming the "Limitless pill." The day before, he decluttered his entire home and completed a novel for his publisher in one afternoon.  The next morning, he was back to his old self.  The old habits, once again, took over his life.

That is exactly what happens to us.  It's silly for us to think that a feeling of inspiration is enough to move us into action day after day.  Even if you take massive action when inspiration first strikes (like Eddie did) you still have to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.  The only problem is, you probably won't feel like doing it again.  Chances are, you'll default back to your old self.  Eddie, had to take a pill each day to reenergize.  Like Eddie, we need something to break us out of our old habits on a daily basis.  That's why it's important to create a morning routine that gets you in that right state of mind day after day.  Otherwise, your subconscious mind takes over and brings you back to the dreaded comfort zone.

When we've decided to take on something new, we tell ourselves that our ideas are genius, our goals are worth it, our new life will be amazing!  But, at time moves forward, our self talk changes.  Now we start to talk about the obstacles, the things that can/will go wrong, the reasons why not...... And of course, when we focus our attention on the reasons why not, our actions will follow accordingly.   That process of allowing fear to set in doesn't have to be all dramatic. It could be as simple as you convincing yourself that there isn't enough time to work out.  Heck, I did that last week.  On Sunday, I vowed to get a certain number of daily steps in each day.  The first couple of days went really well. Then I allowed a tiny little excuse to change everything.  But, in reality, I could have kept the promise to myself if I valued my promise more than I value the excuses.

When Eddie returned home after consuming the Limitless pill, the first thing he did was to completely declutter his home.  He didn't just clean it, he also threw out a bunch of stuff.  By the time he finished, his home was clear and free of distractions.  Steve Jobs requested that his office environment be all white so there would be nothing to distract his creative process.  When we first commit to something new, everything seems so clear and simple. Then suddenly we're surrounded by a world of distractions.  You have to do whatever it takes to eliminate distractions from your life (even if it's for short bursts of time). This includes both physical and mental obstacles.  Another way of saying it is increasing your focus.   When you're focused, there's nothing else but the goal in front of you.  Nothing stands in your way.

If there's anything that's helped me achieve my goals it's focusing on my focus.  Naturally, I'm a bit of a scatter brain.  I jump from task to task and always have a bunch of thoughts running through my mind at once.  I can never sit still and often start things without finishing.  But.......when I invest time in meditation (focusing on my breath as a daily practice), I turn into a ninja.  My mind is clear and still. I latch onto a task and work diligently until it's completed.  Everything is different.  It's like I have superpowers.  If going to the gym strengthens the body, then meditation is like exercising the mind.  It gets rid of the "excess fat" aka mental blockage.  You end up feeling like you can do anything and nothing is going to stand in your way.

When the mind is focused and clear, there are no obstacles.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sundays used to be a mixed experience for me.  On the one hand, enjoyed the day off which allowed time to spend with my family. On the other hand, I would often experience anxiety on Sundays as I thought about the week ahead. The stress levels became too much.  That's when I decided to do something.  After a little bit of experimenting, I realized that I could shift the course of the entire week with just a few small tweaks to my Sunday afternoons.

With certainty, I can predict the type of week I'd have if I made the most out of Sunday.  At first I thought that Sunday night anxiety was just something that happened to me.  Turns out that Sunday night anxiety or sunday night blues, is a real issue for  many of us.   But don't worry,  you can overcome the Sunday night blues with just a few small changes.
Taking 15-20 minutes on Sunday to plan out your entire week is probably the most effective strategy there is to alleviate stress from the week ahead.  I first heard of this technique from Steven Covey or David Allen.  Basically, you take a little time to review the results of the current week and set up new goals/actions for the week ahead.  You write down your wins, your losses and what you will do differently next week.  Planning on a Sunday is powerful.  You're doing at a time when there are no deadlines, no emails coming in, no phone calls.  You can get as detailed as you want or you can plan at a high level.  It's really up to you.  This process of unloading everything from your head and putting it down on paper is a such a stress reliever.  Your mind can rest at ease because it doesn't have to constantly remind you of what you need to-do.  Every time you are reminded of something that you can't do anything about (at that moment), it causes you stress.  When I plan my week, I'll start with a list of random things I want to do, then I calendar that list so it's scheduled.  It's rare that I do everything thing on my weekly plan but I can guarantee that I accomplish much more than if I operate without one. A written weekly plan pretty much secures the success of my week.
Once you have a plan on paper, you can take it to the next level by taking a few minutes to envision everything on your list.  See yourself being productive, confident, and whatever else constitutes your ideal outcome for the week.  By envisioning your week, you work towards removing mental barriers that can sometimes stop you from taking the action you want.  There's much less resistance and the actions come easily.  Creating a mental picture is probably my most effective strategy at overcoming procrastination.  It's like once I create a mental picture, my mind wants to carry it out in reality.  Make things much easier for me.
Subconsciously, one concern I have about starting a new work week is that I feel I've neglected myself all week. Once Monday comes, I'm back to the grind of doing tasks for other people.  Deep down, I resent that fact that my needs are put on the back burner which leaves me feeling that I need more time before Monday rolls around.  Before the new week begins, it's important that you carve out a little time to pour back into yourself.  Which makes Sunday a perfect day to conduct your beauty rituals or do anything else that brings you personal joy.
Hair Tonic Tea | Bamboo Tea + Ginger + Cayenne Pepper
Maybe that means going for a leisurely walk, or fixing a warm cup of soothing tea while while flipping through your favorite magazine.  Maybe you allow a few minutes to meditate, allowing negative thoughts to leave you.  When I used to counsel people in my previous role, one of the questions that I'd often ask over-stressed employees is what they did to pour back into themselves.  The more stressed out they were, the less they poured back into themselves.  The best thing I can do  on a Sunday evening is to conduct a ritual to bring balance to my stress levels.  I'll light my favorite scented candle, play calming music in the background, take deep breaths, and allow the stress to float away.  By the time I head to bed, I'm whole again and ready to take on the new week ahead.

Then there's that heaviness you feel from having to go to a job where you no longer find joy.  If you dread Mondays because of having to return to a job you dislike than a weekly plan is even more critical.  The plan, my friends, is the key to you making progress on your path to freedom.  Freedom can mean finding another place of employment, getting a promotion, or working for yourself.  If you don't block out time during the week to work on your freedom plan, you prolong the experience that you dread.  Without intervention, you are doomed to repeat the same week over and over again.  Even if you are taking tiny steps each week, it's better than standing still. Nothing changes when you stand still.    We have 52 Sunday Nights in a week. Each Sunday is an opportunity to create a fresh start for the week ahead.  Before you know it, enough Mondays pass for you to actually experience your freedom you long for.  Then you'll truly know what it's like to have stress free Sundays.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The last few weeks, I haven't been myself.  My energy levels are not where they used to be and I even caught a small cold for the first time in years.  I've also noticed a reduction in my sharpness & focus.  Worst of all, my belly is protruding more than normal.  Sure, I might have gained a little weight while taking a mini-vaycay recently. And I didn't do much moving around while I was sick, but that still doesn't explain the extra weight (bloat) that I was carrying in my midsection.

So I thought about it for a while and, like a flash of lightning, the answer came to me. Wheat gluten!  Years ago, my face was plagued with cystic acne, my scalp was in a constant state of inflammation and I carried extra weight in my midsection.  It was a bad time.  Then I was reminded of how food sensitivities show up on our skin.  After a little research and reflection, I came to the conclusion that eliminating wheat from my diet might make a difference.
So I did it.  Then everything changed.  My skin cleared, the dermatitis on my scalp subsided, I lost weight easily, and my stomach was flatter than it had ever been.  I couldn't believe how great this new diet was. So I went without gluten and reaped the benefits.  Then, years later, gluten crept into my life in small amounts. For example, most sushi restaurants don't carry gluten free versions of soy sauce.  I realized that my body could tolerate it in small amounts without adverse effects.

One thing led to another and somehow wheat products came back into my life.  Not on a full scale but enough to make an impact.  The itchy scalp came back, my skin is still calm but I can tell there's something going on beneath the surface.  Now that I've realized the error in my ways, it's time to take immediate action.  For those of you wondering about what's so bad about wheat. Long story short, it can be hard to digest. Gluten, they say, acts like a glue in the intestines messing with the integrity of our digestive system.  It's also said that wheat increases our appetite causing weight gain.  And when you eat it, your blood sugar spikes quickly.  When I removed wheat completely from my life, I became less hungry even though my diet was loaded with fruits and vegetables.  Those insane hunger cravings just left me.  Now I'm bombarded with cravings of gluten rich foods on a daily basis.

Not everyone reacts to wheat the same.  You might be one of those people who have no issues with wheat whatsoever.   But even if you feel fine consuming gluten on a daily basis, I invite you to try reducing/eliminating wheat for a couple of weeks and see if you experience even better results.  I look forward to seeing my stomach go down again, experiencing an increase in energy levels.

To kick start recovery, I'm focusing on fortifying my intestinal flora.  For instance, I want to increase my prebiotics levels.  Prebiotics are different from probiotics.  Prebiotics are essentially the food for probiotics.  One good source of prebiotics is with apple cider vinegar and coconut vinegar.  Luckily, I have some coconut vinegar on hand which I decided to mix with a cup of bamboo tea because I can not stand the tasted of coconut vinegar alone.  But coconut vinegar and tea is a wonderful combination.  I found myself enjoying every sip.
I'm not saying that I'll never eat wheat again. But I do know how it affects me and I'll go in with my eyes open.  I'll counteract my actions with measure that rebuild what wheat destroys.   I won't fool myself into thinking I'm free of negative side effects because it doesn't happen right away.  But that's how life is. We do (or don't do) something, and nothing bad happens, so we assume our actions have no repercussions.  But the good news is that everything is pretty much reversible.  So in a few weeks from now, I'll be a different person.  And best of all, I'll be a bit wiser because of having gone through this experience.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

By far, the favorite items in the closet are my denim.  I have jeans from years ago that I still rock even today.  I love my flared jeans, boot cut, skinny, shredded, all of it!  I am patiently awaiting for denim dresses to make a come back. But until then, I'll layer my denim to achieve that head to toe look.
Pairing a denim top with your favorite pair of jeans seems like a no brainer.  The option are limitless. You can opt to match the shades of denim or you can go for contrast.  We typically consider jeans to be the ultimate in dressing down but when you pair your denim with nude heels and a statement bag, all of that dressing down stuff goes out the window.

To me, double denim is the perfect outfit that allows your accessories to shine.  On it's own, a pair of jeans is a pair of jeans. But when paired with a denim top, suddenly you've got a striking and stylish look.  The double denim outfit transitions from casual to night time chic simply by tucking in the top and opting for a more overstated handbag.  Everyone  reading this who haven't experimented with double denim has some homework to do.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Picture this.  You and your beau have taken a trip to the beach. After an afternoon of lounging and frolicking by the water, he spots a seaside restaurant that boasts of the freshest seafood in town.  You've developed a hunger and are ready to eat, but feel slightly uncomfortable because you haven't showered in hours.  If only you had a quick kit that you can use to refresh yourself on days like this.

It's unseasonably warm in my part of town.  I could take a shower in the morning, and be sweaty/sticky hours later.  So I decided to take a proactive approach and build a Summer Refreshment kit for those moments when I need a little mid-day refreshing in between showers.
The first area I'm most concerned about is my face.  If sweat beads start to form, I can almost guarantee that dirt, oil and bacteria are invading my skin.  I would be doing myself a disservice by allowing my skin to remain in that state until evening.    The solution?  For now, I'm turning to Aveda's Botanical Kinetics.  This stuff is amazing. Simply put.  It has a pH of 3 which will help calm and bring balance back to the skin.  It's technically an exfoliant which means that Botanical Kinetics effectively removes surface dirt and oil with ease.  Best of all, it's super refreshing.  The scent reminds me a trip to the spa and it leaves my skin with a clean (but not over-stripped) feeling with each use.  I have a full + travel size bottle of this stuff, that's how much I adore it.

Next in my tool kit are facial mists which are an absolute must.  After your face has been cleansed with the gentle exfoliating toner, a few pumps of cooling mist can help prevent further sweating.   This summer I will never be without a facial mist. Whether it's my DIY version, Aveda Toning Mist or Evian Facial spray.  They're all perfect in their own way.

Summer is made for light fruity scents.  Especially for those times when you're not sure if smelling as fresh as you did hours ago.  I've amassed a small collection of Dove's Go Fresh Mist which are small enough to fit in any bag. These high potency scents are exceptionally sweet and slightly overpowering.  I guess the intent is to make them long lasting. So as time passes, some of the fragrance subsides.  I think the line is being (or has been) discontinued. I've been on the hunt for the cucumber + green tea scented version but they're selling for $20.00 or more.  It might still be worth it, though, because all you need is just a couple of pumps are you're good to go.  One small bottle lasts quite a while.

Then there's the most important type of refreshment...the underarms.  Years ago, I gave up traditional deodorants for fear that the aluminum content would one day cause the onset of Alzheimer's.  So I turned to more natural alternatives which make me feel better about my choices, but they perform poorly in keeping sweating at bay.  The solution, for me comes in the form Neutrogena's hydrating makeup wipes.  I don't wear enough makeup during the day to use these regularly but they are AMAZING at cleansing the underarms. Not only do they remove the sweat, but they actually cleanse, removing dirt, leaving you a little fresher in the process.

That's what I got so far.  If anyone has suggestions on a decent all natural deodorant or an amazing body mist, leave a comment below.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A while back, Instragram suggested that I take a look at a recent picture posted by actress Taylour Paige.  I had no idea who she was at the time, I just saw her as a beautiful person with super-amazing skin.
I was hungry to learn more about her skin care routine.  Was she one of these women who just has naturally flawless skin or did she conduct any specific ritual(s) to contribute to her even-toned skin and healthy glow?

Her Instagram page didn't provide any clues so I dug a little further.  Lucky for us, StyleBlazer sat her down and asked for the details (video below).  When asked what her favorite hair product was, she mentioned a brand (WEN). When asked about her favorite skin care product, she shares a process (exfoliation).  
We can now officially add Taylour to the list of flawless skinned people who exfoliate everyday along with Chilli formerly of TLC,  Atlanta Housewife Cynthia Rowland, and probably countless others who have perfect skin but haven't publicly disclosed their routines. 

 If you voyage through Taylour's Instagram feed, you see a pic of her as a child in which she appears to have beautiful skin.  The first self defeating thought that flashed through my mind was "she's always had good skin, it's genetic."  Perhaps, but if I remained satisfied with that flimsy explanation, maybe I wouldn't have come across the video where homegirl says it with her own mouth that she exfoliates daily.  I mean, we all had great skin when we were in elementary school. But as adults, we gotta take things more seriously.  

In exfoliating daily, Taylour is showing off fresh healthy skin.  It glows naturally because, without dry skin covering the surface, it easily reflects light.  I've also learned that she's a professional dancer which probably means that she sweats frequently and drinks a ton of water.  Exfoliation, sweating and hydration are the cornerstone of beautiful skin.  

After watching the video, I reached for my jar of Fresh's Sugar Facial Scrub.  Once the exfoliation session was completed, I proceeded with the multi-step Korean Skin Care routine.  This time, there was a huge difference.  Suddenly, I could feel tingling when I applied the glycolic/hyaluronic serum. Why? Because the dead layer of skin that blocked my products from penetrating the healthy cells was no longer an issue.  Instantly, my skin care products became more effective and my skin hasn't been the same since.  

If you don't have a kick-butt exfoliator that does wonders for your skin, put that on your to-do list.  Fresh's sugar scrub will always be my fave.  On the weekends, I'll mix it up with a chemical exfoliant. Or maybe I use Dr. Gross' Alpha Beta Peel at night as a mild chemical exfoliant gentle which is enough to use daily.  When I hear people mention daily exfoliation, I assume they are using some sort of scrub.  But if your skin isn't up to the challenge, you can do it 3-4 times a week. Another option is the super gentle Cure Gel exfoliator (written about in this post), which does the trick with very little irritation to the skin. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

One thing I realized, in my personal development journey, is that without constant reinforcement of positive messages.  Just a quick trip to Youtube can set my mind on the right course towards achieving my goals.  On the flip side, if I go too long seeking messages of personal improvement, my gains seem to diminish.

Although I've viewed hundreds of positive videos, there are a few that I've watched multiple times.  Today, I'd like to share some videos with you that I've watched half a dozen times or more and why I like them.  

This has to be one of my favorite videos of all time.  Will Smith shares his thoughts on belief, the power of choice, and the value of hard work.  I watched this video for the first time in a while and got all energized all over again.  His level of conviction is inspiring.  "I will not be outworked...period" is one the best quotes of all time.

"Sometimes you gotta get up from your dream and go get it!"
Sometimes when I need that extra push to move into action, I watch this video featuring Diddy.

"If you're chasing, your dream, you're not running fast enough. Run faster!"

If you're looking for a video that's less motivational and more specific on how to reach your goals, this one is great.  John Assaraf was one of the speakers featured in the movie The Secret.  He created a three part serious on how to achieve your goals complete with flip charts and a real world example of how he used these principles to become a millionaire.  I must have watched this video a dozen times.

The last video I'll be sharing today is actually an audio excerpt from a lesson series titled "Your Wish is your Command."  Each part of the series is around 1 hour long.  I actually prefer longer videos because I play them in the background while I work around the house.  I've listened to the entire Your Wish is your Command series several times. Each time I do, I get something new about it.  Some of the stuff he talks about (secret societies) is a bit loopy.  But the in depth discussion on the LOA is interesting.

This is just the tip of the ice berg, I'll share more videos in future posts.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Once upon a time, a coworker invited a group of us to his home for dinner. When we arrived, we were immediately blown away at the lengths his wife went to create a traditional Korean feast for us.  After a few minutes of introduction, we all sat down for a wonderful evening of food and laughs.  Months later, I ran into his wife again, this time, I got down to business and asked her a question that was on my heart since our first meeting.  You  see, his wife had the most flawless skin I had ever seen.  I absolutely needed to know her skin care secrets.

When the opportunity came, I gently pulled her to the side and asked the important questions.  She received the compliments I gave her in a generous and humble way.  She then proceeded to tell me that she once had troubled skin and saw improvements after using an egg based soap.  Once I got home, I got to researching for this soap made with real egg whites.  While on the hunt, I discovered the level of seriousness that Koreans place on their skin care regimens.  I learned that a traditional daily regimen could involve as many as a dozen steps!  After seeing this video of Michelle Phan layering product after product onto her skin, I became bewildered and slowly backed away from a multi-step routine.  There was no way that I was going to invest that amount of effort day after day.  It just seemed excessive.

In the back of my mind, I couldn't deny the amazingness of Michelle's skin.  It was flawless perfection.  That was a few years ago. I wasn't ready to take my skin care routine to that level.
Youtuber Steve Jan
But when the student is ready, a teacher (re)appears.  Just the other day, I stumbled upon this video of a 40+ year old man with the skin of a teenager.  His bare skin glowed like that of an angel.  He too had a multistep routine that included layering of various products for enhanced results.  There was no denying the quality of his skin.

Finally, I gave in and tested process for myself.  After double cleansing with the Clarisonic Pro, began my journey into multistep skin care.  First I added a little coconut cider vinegar to a cotton pad and applied as a toner.  The acidic nature of the vinegar calms my skin and keeps dermatitis flare ups at bay.  Next I layered serum after serum starting with Snail Bee Essence, then Truth Serum Vitamin C booster. Finally, once that dried, I layered the Glycolic and Hyaluronic acid serum hybrid purchased from MakeUpArtist Choice.  Actually, I'm not sure what order I used the serums but either way, it's the first time I've ever done such a thing.  By the time I finished the process by adding eye cream and vitamin C moisturizer, my skin glowed.  I stood in front of the mirror in awe of what I was seeing.  Who's skin was this?

Now that I've tasted the wonders of a multi-layering, multi-step facial routine, how can I ever go back to the old way of doing things?  In fact, my first thoughts were of how I needed to add a facial essence and a hydrating serum for night time.  I've been eyeing SK II facial essence for a very long time. I may finally take the plunge. But first, I think I'll try the cost friendly skin essence available from Missha which is less than half the price of SK II and has higher reviews.   It makes me giddy thinking about it.  And to think that I was patting myself on the back for how little effort I was putting into my facial routine while still getting by.   After years of dealing with horrendous acne, I was happy to not have to fuss with a rigid regimen.  But I was sacrificing the opportunity to have the skin of my dreams because I decided to get a little lazy.

For those of you who want to dabble in the labor intensive, skin transforming Korean skin care regimen, here's a quick breakdown.

STEP 1:  Pre-cleanse | Typically means the removal of makeup using a makeup wipe, cleansing water or cleansing oil.

STEP 2: Cleanse | Use a gentle cleanser to throughly remove dirt and oil.

STEP 3: Exfoliate |  Removing dead skin cells helps absorption of serums and creams.

STEP 4:  Tone | Bring the skin back to it's proper pH balance.

STEP 5: Essence | Promotes healthy cells by promoting cell turnover and removal of toxin.  Makes skin brighter and healthier.

STEP 6: Serum | Applying a concentrated serum to address skin needs.  This may require using several different serums if you have multiple concerns.

STEP 7:  Mask | Not necessary for every day but adding a sheet mask to the routine can help target specific areas such as moisture balance, brightening, collagen boosting etc.

STEP 8: Eye Cream | To promote youth in the eye areas.

STEP 9:  Moisturizer | Hydrate the skin all over

STEP 10: Night Cream for intense repair.

Honorable Mention:  Massage |  To promote blood flow to the skin. You can do a separate massage routine or incorporate massage as you layer on each product.

Ten steps sure seems like a lot to contend with but the pay off is high.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The other day I was rewatching the documentary Broke which explores the unfortunate situation  many professional athletes find themselves in.  Although they receive millions of dollars in compensation, many of them find themselves literally living paycheck to paycheck.  They're paid per game and some, are practically broke come off season.  As I listened to their stories, I shuddered in horror.  The thought of having no money until next payday, freaks me out.  After reflecting on it for a moment, I realized that being broke was a deep seated fear of mine.

Before, if you asked me what my fears were, I'd mention how I don't like heights or spiders, I hate looking at clustered holes (trypophobia) and I used to be afraid of dogs.  All these fears are legitimate, but at the same time, they're pretty "stupid."  By stupid, I mean that these fears are pretty insignificant.  They don't affect the course of my life much at all. But the fear of not having any money has made me an adamant saver which, in turn, makes me work hard so I don't have to experience the reality of being broke.

Then I asked myself, what are the other "fears" that I have which could actually benefit me?
1. There's the fear of failing.
2. The fear of regret. For not having experienced the life I wanted.
3. Fear of experiencing less than what is possible because I didn't try.

These fears lurk deep beneath the surface.  They don't come up in casual conversations as easily as talking about being afraid of heights.  In all honesty, being freaked out by a bunch of small holes is nothing compared to not having lived to my fullest potential.  The normal fears that you and I have are fears that keep us paralyzed.  We avoid action in order to avoid the experience.  But there are greater, next level fears that serve a much higher purpose.  If cultivated correctly, these "elevated fears" can help us become greater versions of ourselves.
Remember, when we are afraid of something, we do what it takes to avoid it from happening.   You're not supposed to allow a fear of failure to stop you, you're supposed to identify what "failing" actually means for you and take actions to prevent that outcome from happening.  Let your fears become your fuel.  Being afraid to fail at the big dream you have doesn't mean that move away from the big dream.  It means that you do what is in your power to prevent the worst case scenario from occurring.  When you place all of your energy on the insignificant fears, you lose power.  You lose the ability to create transformation in your life.

Realize that focusing on being afraid of the dark, hating needles, or being scared in a thunderstorm is insignificant in the big scheme of things.  Turn your focus to bigger fears, like Will Smith who once said that his biggest fear was being afraid.  He didn't want to go through life being afraid to do anything.  Now that's a fear that moves someone into powerful action.

It's up to you now to shift your focus and leverage your greatest fears so they bring you the highest good.  Take a moment to identify your greatest fears.  Not the things you are most afraid of, but the fears that if you faced head on, would create the greatest change in who you are.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

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