Sunday, February 27, 2011

Winter skin blues...or more precisely reds...

Ever since I stopped using chemical laden products (in 2008) I have been struggling with keeping my skin blemish free and looking healthy. It is easy in the summer when the sun (even though I hide in the shade or under a hat/clothes) keeps those pimples at bay and the humidity keeps my skin from drying out but the winter is always troublesome. This winter has been especially bad with breakouts on my face, chest and neck and dry skin everywhere! I know that I am getting older and my skin is definitely changing BUT this is out of control! I always thought getting older meant getting dryer skin and wrinkles, not getting huge breakouts!

I used to be the girl who always wore makeup and never left the house if my blemishes weren't covered. Ridding myself of all makeup (except special occasions a couple of times a year) and other products was a huge step but in the end I felt free. I no longer had to spend 30-60 mins in the morning getting ready or 30 mins at night getting ready for bed. However, I think that letting go has also gotten me to neglect my skin. So now I think I need to get back into some sort of routine, that maybe isn't makeup oriented but rather with the goal of healthy skin.

I had started a new beauty regime in the summer of 2009 (see my post here) and I am not sure why but I fell out of it. Of course 2 years later, I don't even remember if it was working! So I have come up with a new regime that I think will promote healthier skin. I have decided on a rather aggressive assault on my unwanted guests in hopes that I can get the breakouts under control and have healthy glowing skin. It is a combination of what I posted in 2009 and some new ideas for smoothing and nourishing the skin. I personally don't mind wrinkles, I am not the type of person that obsesses over them. I think they are natural and beautiful but smooth skin and slowing the appearance of wrinkles is a product of healthy skin and a healthy diet and lifestyle which is something that I am striving for. All of the information and recipes below come from various internet sources that I found in my research.

Routine and Benefits of the Ingredients
  1. Use a mixture (2:1) plain yogurt and lemon juice as a night cream. I mixed one cup of my homemade yogurt (see recipe here) with 1/2 cup of lemon juice. This makes a lot of cream and I would recommend making 1/2 to 1/3 of the batch and make it more often. I rinse my face, neck and chest with water then rub the cream on and let it dry before hopping into bed. The lactic acid in the yogurt is a gentle exfoliant. The yogurt also contains vitamins A and D which help to nourish the skin and help to sooth dry and itchy skin. The lemon juice contains citric acid which helps to slough off dead skin enabling new skin cell growth, flushes out pores and improves the skin's elasticity.
  2. Use a 1:1 mixture of rosewater and lemon juice as a cleanser/toner. Rosewater stimulates blood flow to the skin, balances sebum (oil/wax produced by the skin) production and pH, tightens pores and has antibacterial properties. It is reported to be effective against acne, blemishes, scars, wrinkles and both dry and oily skin. Not to mention that it smells wonderful and has been used to treat many ailments for centuries and is extensively used in aromatherapy. I apply this using a fleece wipe after rinsing off the yogurt/lemon cream from the night before. I let is absorb and wait 30 mins before rinsing it off.
  3. Use EcoYogini's sugar scrub in the shower. I made this recipe using peppermint oil to stimulate and revitalize, which is GREAT in the morning! The scrub contains honey which is touted as the oldest moisturizer in the world! It has antioxidants and anti-microbial properties helping to protect the skin from the sun but also fighting the bacteria and microbes that can cause acne. It also has a great ability to retain moisture. The scrub also has sugar which when rub gently on the skin helps to remove the flakes. I usually rinse off my rosewater/lemon toner in the shower, then apply this scrub to my face, neck and chest. I leave it on until the end and rinse it off with the suds of my shampoo.
  4. Use a damp washcloth with a few drops of tea tree oil to wipe over my face, neck and chest. Tea tee oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. However, it is toxic if taken internally so keep out of reach of children.
  5. Massage a very thin coat of Sweet Almond Oil to my face, neck and chest. Almond oil balances moisture in your skin and is a good moisturizer for all skin types. It is also said to have anti-aging properties and it is used to fight wrinkles and dark circles under your eyes. I also eat almonds almost every day in my yogurt.
  6. Drink 2-3 cups of nettle tea per day. Stinging nettle has a long history of medicinal uses and as a food source. It is a diuretic which help the body excrete toxins from your blood stream which can cause acne, among other health issues. This is touted as a tonic for general health because it has lots of vitamins such as calcium, iron, folic acid and zing among others. So I am on board for giving it a try. Stinging nettle grows here locally, so if I like it I may try to harvest my own!
  7. Drink 3-10 cups of green tea per day. Green tea has lots of antioxidants that have protective effects against free radicals cardiovascular damage, some cancers, infections, toxins and much more. See my post about foods that fight cancer. Green tea has been shown to inhibit enzymes whose excessive activity contributes to the age related deterioration of the skin.
I know that acne can also be caused by changes/imbalances in hormones. Rosewater and stinging nettle are also thought to help in balancing hormones.

I know it sounds like a lot of effort but really it is WAY less (~10 mins per day) than my old make-up routine! You can also opt to use only parts of my routine rather than all of it. Either way, you should see a reduction in acne in about 2-3 weeks but can see and feel the benefits in your skin almost immediately. After 2 days, my skin is smoother and the flakiness is starting to go away. I will definitely report back in a few weeks on my progress.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another Product Review!

I have decided to do another product review fro CSN Stores. CSN stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything you need from office desks to gardening tools and bakeware! I only mention bakeware because this is what my review will be about! I have been baking bread quite a bit and am not fully equipped for it. So if you are into baking definitely stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

EYCC: Decreasing Tree Products Part II

After 2 weeks of regular use I am still as enamored with cloth TP as I was the first day. My only issue with it so far is the name Family Wipes that seems to have taken a hold on the web. I prefer Toilet Cloth (TC) or just Cloth Wipes. Whatever you call it, it is definitely not for everyone. I have read lots about it and those who actually try it LOVE it and those opposed are VERY opposed. What I will do here is summarize two of the main issues with TC and how I have gotten around it. I will also share some of what I have learned along the way.
Our collection in a cute basket.

A lot of comments from those opposed that get posted are about:
  1. Smell and
  2. Diseases
One thing I am definitely not interested in is a smelly bathroom. Many people put their used wipes into a garbage can with a lid for later washing. Assuring everyone that there is no smell or only a smell when you open the lid. Others use a vinegar and tea tree oil solution in their can to "kill" the diseases and quash the smell but leaving a vinegary solution mixed a can for a couple of days...definitely not up my alley. So I have come up with what I think is a good solution for this issue. I have decided to wash my wipes with my hands after every use! You are supposed to wash your hands anyways after you go just in case you got any on you, so why not wash your wipe(s) too! Did you know that 92% of Americans say they wash their hands after going to the bathroom but only 78% of women and 66% of men actually do (ew!)! If everyone used my TC method, they would all wash their hands!

With the exception of Hepatitis A and E, all of the diseases transmitted via the fecal-oral route can be prevented with proper sanitation (keeping food and fecal matter separate and drinking treated water) and hand washing. So if the simple act of washing your hands with soap kills the diseases transmitted via bowel movements, why would this be any different for TC? The simple fact is washing your TC with soap and water whether it is boiling or not will kill everything on them the same way it kills the bacteria and viruses on your hands when you wash them. Except Hep A and E which can be killed by using bleach. So unless you have Hep A or E, washing your wipes with your hands also addresses disease transmission. Since you are washing your own wipe(s) you won't be exposed to anything that is not already in your body!
TP Line for drying after washing.

This is also helps to protect the people who actually do our laundry. Since we don't actually have a washing machine, pre-washing our wipes keeps them from encountering anything they weren't expecting. It also keeps them from being exposed any bacteria whether they are harmful or not. Humans naturally have bacteria, fungi and protozoa in our digestive tract that help us digest our food but they also suppress the growth of pathogenic microbes, boost our gut's immune system, play a key role in gut metabolism, mediate the synthesis of vitamins and are known to play a role in preventing allergies and inflammatory bowel syndrome. But not everyone's gut flora is the same and although it may not be harmful, it is best to keep them to yourself. However, if you do find yourself with Hepatitis A or E, you should take every precaution necessary to not spread it to anyone, including family members, so it might be best to discontinue the use of cloth wipes until you are no longer contagious and talk to your Dr. about it.
Diagram from:

We settled on washing our wipes with soap and warm water under the bathtub tap (not on full blast!) after every use and hanging them on our makeshift line in front of the window to dry. We opted for the tub to keep them away from things like toothbrushes. We also toss them in the laundry once a week to get that extra dryer fluffiness. This system works really well! We always have a clean and fluffy supply of soft TC!
I had the stomach flu (or Gasteroenteritis...which is not actually related to influenza, so calling it a flu is a misnomer) last week so I really put the wipes to the test! We all know the SF can make things a little messier than this case you may just want to jump right in the shower and skip the wipe altogether! This works on a normal day but when you have the SF, 20 showers a day isn't great for your skin or the water supply! Alternatively, a quick rinse of your wipe before a thorough soaping goes a long way. I also have to add...there is nothing like a fleece wipe to keep your behind happy in a heavy use situation! No more irritation or stuck on paper bits.

Finally, there is the issue of guests. We definitely don't want to impose our ways on anyone, so we have kept a role of paper in the bathroom for our guests. I still have to think about how to deal with guests who would like to try using TC. Perhaps a separate "guest" pile and line? It will definitely need more thought. I would love any comments in the whole TC issue and any suggestions on methods and guests would be much appreciated!

This initiative has been a great success. We have eliminated the use of toilet paper, which was our #1 use of paper products, and we are loving it! :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

EYCC: Decreasing Tree Products

About 2 weeks ago I joined EcoYogini's Earth Yoga Challenge for Change (EYCC) challenging us to truly connect with our environment, with ourselves and to make a change rather than just think about it. It is a truly inspiring initiative that I signed up wholeheartedly for...thinking this might just be the sort of thing I need to take my eco-game to the next level.
Typical Nova Scotia Forest
First item on the Challenge: Decrease our dependence on unnecessary tree products. So I went over the things we already do to decrease tree products in our household.
  1. Cancel all deliveries of flyers or junk mail
  2. Reuse both sides of every envelope (great for lists!) or other scrap paper
  3. Don't buy processed foods
  4. Don't buy paper towels or tissue paper
  5. Reuse all gift wrapping
  6. Print on both sides of my paper at work or re-use it as scrap
  7. Buy only post-consumer recycled paper and toilet paper
  8. Encourage my students to print double sided or re-use paper already printed on one side
  9. Read all my references for my PhD as a .pdf on my computer
These are all great and have reduced our paper consumption to one recycling bag a month! I realized that our biggest consumption of paper was toilet paper used for its intended purpose and as tissue paper. Ever since I heard about family wipes or cloth toilet paper I had been seriously thinking about it. Well here it was something I had been thinking about doing but never actually did it...

As most of you know I was pretty sick over the weekend and I was appalled at the amount of paper I was using to blow my nose! All of the garbage cans in my house were filling up with used tissue! That was the straw (or tissue) that broke the camel's back. So on Sunday I set out not only to make cloth TP but also some handkerchiefs.
I read a few websites to get sizes and materials for my two items and settled on ~4-5" for the cloth TP and ~8" for the handkerchiefs. You can make your TP and handkerchiefs out of anything you want but the thickness of the material, especially for the TP, can be an issue. Most sites I read also re-purposed old clothing for this new function. T-shirt material being the thinnest usually needs 3-4 layers to be absorbent enough. You also want to consider the softness of your wipes, whether for your nose or other you definitely want it to be I opted for fleece. I had the remnants of the sweater I used to make my tea cozy to be used up... so out came my machine and I was determined to stop using paper that very day.
I only had the top half of the sweater left but managed to make 16 cloth TP wipes (small grey and blue squares) and 6 handkerchiefs. Of course I had to decorate my handkerchiefs. The Calgary logo is where the sweater came from, Diego drew the two sharks for me and I made them out of bits of blue fleece leftover from the sleeves, the sea stars are bits of t-shirts that were kicking around and the flowers are from the same t-shirt my fish on my tea cozy came from! The only new material in all of this was the thread! :) It took 5 hours to make because of the detailing on the hankies but also because I stitched the edges of each of the cloth wipes and hankies to keep them intact even though fleece is not supposed to it looks nice to have a border!
The seastars are my favorite. They are anatomically correct (leave it to a marine biologist!) albeit a little crooked...they were quite fiddly to sew! They were made in the image of a sea star found here in Nova Scotia, Asterias vulgaris or the Northern Sea Star.
Photo from:
As you can see they have many different colour variations but they all have one thing in common...the white dot. This is called a madreporite and is where they take in seawater for their muscles to work against in their tube feet so they can move. It is also part of their circulatory system and they extract oxygen from the water they take in and release wastes. It is called a water vascular system.
Photo from:
Ok...enough of a tangent...back to the issue at hand cloth TP and handkerchiefs. You might be asking has it been working so far? Well, I fell in love from the first wipe! They are so soft!! The handkercheifs are great, I can use the up to eight times before I need to wash them and I love the TP too...up to 3 wipes per square if you are adept at folding! I will continue to use them for at least a week and report back on my methods, techniques and the outcome in Part II of the cloth TP and hankie saga!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Calm after the Storm

I don't know what it is with me and Wednesdays these past 2 weeks...last week was crazy and this week was too but in a different way! This week was had a huge snowstorm on Wednesday afternoon/evening. They were predicting up to 45 cm of snow! So much that they closed the University (which almost never happens unless it is a state of emergency!) at 12:30 pm to let everyone get home safely. It was a good call BUT that meant that my 2:30 pm lab was canceled! So I stayed home to nurse my developing head cold and watch the snow come down...
The first 15 cm fell before 4 pm and the snow just kept coming. While shoveling I was hoping that the University would be open on Thursday (I have 2 labs on Thursdays!) and I wouldn't have to run 3 make-up labs...but definitely doubting that it would since the snow was predicted to continue through the night.
The next 15 cm fell before 9 pm and luckily the storm abated with 15 cm to spare. However, my head cold raged on. I slept for a total of 3.5 hours the whole night and woke up to this amazing sunrise!
Luckily, the University was open on Thursday and I only had to run one make-up lab that evening. After 6 hours of teaching and only 3.5 hours sleep, I was happy to come home to a delicious dinner (thanks Diego!) and a cozy bed. After 12 hours sleep, I feel refreshed and am happy that today is a University holiday! Today was supposed to be a day to work on my thesis but I think it will be a day of rest and taking care of my cold.

Happy Friday!