Monday, August 26, 2013

A Manicure That Can Withstand a Week at the Beach

Have you heard about gels, the latest craze in nail color?  How do you they work?  Similar to regular nail polish, you apply a gel base coat, then as many coats of the gel color as you desire, and finally, a gel top coat.  Each coat must be cured for 30 seconds with a UV LED light.  Afterwards, there will be a little bit of an oily residue left on your nail, which you simply wipe off with an alcohol wipe.  

The biggest names in the business currently are Sally Hansen, Nailene SensatioNail, Kiss Everlasting, Red Carpet, and OPI.  Most of these brands sell some type of starter kit, which include all of the products that you need for a few gel manicures, refill kits, and individual gel polish colors.  Gels are definitely pricier than nail enamel.  Starter kits will be at least $50 (LED lamps are expensive to produce!), and a bottle of gel nail polish will be at least $10.  But, at a normal nail salon a gel manicure can cost around $25.  The DIY kits are pretty easy to use, so it's a great cost-efficient way to get those elegant gel nails.

Why are gels great? 
  • They last 2 weeks with a shiny finish and no chips no matter how much cooking or cleaning you may do - very professional looking!
  • No dry time - After you cure the last coat, you're done :)

The downside?
  • The removal process is pretty awful I must say.  You have to soak your fingertips in a special gel remover for 15 minutes to loosen up the formula before you scrape it off.  Many people claim that gels damage your nails.  If you don't remove it properly, it definitely can.  It's super tempting to try to rip the gels off before the 15 minutes is up when you see the first sign of peeling.  You really need to wait the full 15 minutes and perhaps even longer until there is no longer any polish stuck to your nail. 
  • The LED lamp does emit UV light, which can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.  Personally, when I use it, I always slather some sunscreens onto my fingers as a precautionary measure.
  • Gels are a thicker formula than regular nail enamel, which means that you have to be a little bit more precise.  If you make a mistake, you can't simply wipe it off instantly or clean up around your cuticles with regular nail polish remover.  Another reason why you really need to be careful that you don't get any gel on your skin during the application process is that in order to harden, the gel polish is transformed under UV light.  If there is any gel polish on your skin, you will feel a slight burning sensation.

Since gels are a relatively new on the market, there is a smaller shade selection available across brands.  As I mentioned, gels give you a more professional look, meaning that they are less suitable for funky nail art looks because they come in more traditional colors and in fewer "fun" shades.  They are also thicker and a little bit harder to work with for nail art.  Many brands are however, branching out and beginning to offer classic nail styles in gel form.  Nailene Sensationail, for example, sells French, shimmer, metallic, magnetic,
and glitter gels.  Additionally, Sally Hansen produced their famous Salon Effects nail appliques in gel form with their Insta Gel Strips ($15 at Ulta).  Basically, they work just like regular gels, but the gel is in a sticker that you stick on your nails.  They definitely don't hold up as well as traditional gel polish (they peel more easily).  The nice thing though is that they remove with ordinary acetone nail polish remover.  And they come in cool patterns and prints that are hard to create with traditional gels.

In my opinion, gels are a cool concept, but I'm just a little concerned about the potential health risks associated with using them consistently.  Frequent exposure to the UV light is definitely dangerous and risk of cancer is even stated as a warning on the packaging of gel kits.  As with new drugs, we don't know enough about gels yet.  I am still a little bit cautious of the formula because we don't know if prolonged use can permanently damage your nails or worse, your respiratory system (due to the fumes).  There are already debates as to whether or not gels damage your nails.  If you don't remove them properly, they definitely can.  Even if you do remove them properly, many people that I've talked to, have found that although they don't necessarily weaken your nails, gels are definitely harder on your nails then regular polishes are.  For those of you, who use gels regularly, try a fortifying and conditioning nail treatment between manicures to prevent any potential nail damage.  I would recommend being selective about your gel manicures.  Personally, I use gels only for my annual beach vacation, where my nails will be exposed to extreme wear and tear from sand, salt water, and chlorine, and I can't be bothered with retouching my them.

I did my nails in Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish in Back to the Fuchsia ($12 on for my beach vacation last week.  It's a really pretty hot pink color.  Check it out:


How do you feel about gels?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Farm to Face: Complete Your Skincare Routine Using Only Items in YourKitchen

Look no further!  Some of the best facial treatments can be found in your kitchen.  Why spend hundreds of dollars on products, when you can make them yourself?  

1.  Cleanser = Baking Soda + Honey
Not only does baking soda draw out impurities from your pores like a packaged face wash would, but it also provides gentle exfoliation (much gentler than salt or sugar).  It is a little difficult to rub over your face, so use honey to make a more user-friendly paste.  Honey is, in my opinion, one of beauty's best kept secrets.  It has moisturizing and antiseptic properties and is packed with anti-oxidants.  This powerful combo will leave your skin glowing!


2.  Toner = Rice Water + Green Tea

Take some uncooked rice and dump it into some water.  Swirl the rice around in the bowl, until the water becomes cloudy.  Strain the rice out of the mixture, so that you're left with the cloudy, rice water.  Rice water has the ability to naturally soothe and calm skin with its anti-inflammatory, hydrating, and nourishing properties.  Next, soak a green tea bag in the rice water for 10 minutes.  Green tea will help remove left-behind residue, tighten pores, and provide anti-oxidant protection.

3.  Mask = Banana + Yogurt
Mush up a banana with a fork and then mix it with some plain yogurt (you don't want to have chunks of preserved fruit your face) and then smooth it over your face.  Leave it on your skin for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off.  Bananas are a natural skin conditioner.  Rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E, this anti-aging fruit brightens and restores moisture to dull skin.  Yogurt also offers a variety of skin benefits.  First, it tightens pores and evens out your complexion.  Second, it has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, which helps keep breakouts from forming.  Lastly, the lactic acid will help exfoliate, soothe, and moisturize.

4.  Treatment = (Aspirin + Cinnamon) or (Red Wine) or (Apples + Strawberries)

If you are concerned about blemishes, you can find a natural version of the common acne-fighting ingredient, salicylic acid in aspirin.  Simply, take an un-coated (coated tablets don't break down very easily) and allow it to dissolve in a bowl of water.  Add a dash of cinnamon before applying the concoction to your skin.  Cinnamon will dry out zits and pull nutrients to the skin's surface.

If you are concerned about wrinkles, put a few drops of red wine on a cotton ball and rub it over your face using a gentle, circular motion.  One of the strongest anti-oxidants in skincare is resveratrol, which comes from grapes, and helps delay signs of aging.  Red wine is full of resveratrol, and it's much less sticky than rubbing a grape against your face.

If you are concerned about dark spots, place an apple slice and a strawberry in a small bowl
of water...mush and stir the ingredients to release the fruit juices.  Use a cotton ball to sweep the solution over your skin.  Apples contain natural alpha-hydroxy acids, which promote cell turnover.  Strawberries also contain alpha-hydroxy acids and are rich in vitamin C...a great brightening agent.  Many of us have heard of using lemons to lighten hair.  Lemons have bleaching properties, so they can also be used to lighten skin, but they can also make your skin very sensitive to the sun, so be careful if you decide to use it.

5.  Moisturizer = Olive Oil 

Olive oil (or you can substitute it for almond oil or grapeseed oil) is an ancient beauty secret. The premier skincare brand, DHC, even features olive oil as its main ingredient because it creates a barrier against free radicals and irritants.  And not to mention, it has great hydrating properties.  Pat some over your face and then rinse off the excess with a little bit of cool water.


The best part about making your own skincare products is that you can ensure that they're healthy and toxin-free.  Whether you're short on cash, have sensitive skin, or are an organic products geek, these quick and easy steps will leave you looking radiant and feeling fresh.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cosmetics You Should Buy Organic

We hear all of the time that there are certain produce and meat items that you should buy organic.  How about personal care products?  Well there are definitely a few beauty products that have a bad rep.  So, you should try to go natural when it comes to these:

1.  Hand Soap

90% of Americans wash their hands at least five times per day (American Cleaning Institute).  Unfortunately, most popular hand soaps including Softsoap and Dial products use triclosan as a cleansing agent.  In other words, Americans are exposing themselves to one of the most potentially toxic personal care ingredients on the market multiple times per day.  Most natural hand soaps are triclosan-free and just as effective at killing germs.

Product Recommendation:  Method Gel Hand Wash ($3.99 at drugstores)

2.  Nail Polish

Nail polish can be filled with toxic chemicals.  The most dangerous chemicals found in nail polishes are the Big 3: formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate.  The majority of popular nail brands have removed these chemicals from their formulas.  Even without the Big 3, nail polishes contain other controversial chemicals, which make it a water-resistant varnish.  In fact, nail polish is extremely flammable and emits fumes.  In landfills, it can leak harmful toxins into the soil and water...all red flags that should make you question how safe nail polish actually is.  Although nail polish in general can pose health risks, natural products pose fewer and come in many of the same pretty colors :)

Product Recommendation:  Zoya Nail Polish ($8 at Ulta)

3.  Deodorant

Attention women!  A recent study conducted by the Journal of Toxicology found that 99% of women with breast cancer had at least one type of paraben present in their breast tissue.  Why?  Drugstore deodorants often contain either parabens, which mimic estrogens in the body as well as aluminum.  In addition, many breast cancers develop in the area that is close to the armpit, where the large pores can absorb anti-perspirants.  In general, these parabens and aluminum can be dangerous, but on your armpits, you are putting yourself even more at risk.  Keep in mind that the study was preliminary, did not consider how many parabens were present in non-cancerous tissue, and did not actually prove any causal link.  But, my philosophy is better safe than sorry!

Product Recommendation:  Desert Essence Dry by Nature Deodorant ($6.25 at Whole Foods)

4.  Body lotion

Many grocery store body lotions are filled with parabens, phthalates, and mineral oil...yikes!  However, most people end up smoothing this stuff over their entire bodies and allow it to sit on the skin for hours.  Since body lotion is a product that you are exposing your entire body to, you should put extra effort into making sure that your moisturizer is a healthy one.
Product Recommendation:  Kiss My Face Moisturizer ($11.95 at drugstores) 

What products do you buy natural?