Thursday, October 25, 2012

Store Bought Conditioners and Hair Treatments vs Natural Ingredients

When I purchase a deep conditioner or any hair treatment I have a habit of looking through the ingredients first. Usually there are a few ingredients listed that I cannot identify unless I look them up. Then there are the elements that really make the product worth buying, ingredients such as honey extract, avocado oil, coconut oil, egg protein, apricot oil, olive oil, grape seed oil and the list goes on. The problem is that usually when you purchase a conditioner, shampoo or treatment there are only miniscule proportions of these essential ingredients included yet they are the most beneficial and often the reason people purchase the product.

Some hair products can cost a lot of money and if you want good quality natural hair products with no harsh chemicals, sulphates and parabens then you probably have to pay a bit more. Organic products are usually even more expensive yet you are still only getting a tiny amount of all the essential oils and extracts that make the product what it is.

I have spent up to $40 dollars for one tiny jar of conditioner that boasts macadamia oil among other things as a part of its miraculous cure to heal and rejuvenate hair, yet a bottle of pure macadamia oil costs a lot less at my local grocery store.

I had an epiphany moment the other day, it seemed pointless to purchase these expensive products for the tiny amount of essential ingredients I want for my hair so I decided to start purchasing the ingredients themselves. I have now acquired a small stash of oils and honey that are all natural and the best part is I can use as much or as little as I want and the shelf life on most of these products are very long.

Here is a short summary of the oils you should consider:

Olive oil: Helps smooth hair cuticle, reduce dandruff and split ends, adds shine, softness and manageability
Coconut oil:  Helps reduce protein loss, adds shine, reduce dandruff, promotes hair growth, and reduces breakage (see previous blog on the benefits of coconut oil for more info)
Hemp seed oil: Aids in keratin formation, contains essential fats that nourish the follicles, and helps develop stronger thicker healthier hair.
Grapeseed oil: Moisturizes the scalp and hair, adds shine, and reduces brittleness, breakage and split ends.
Almond oil: Nourishes hair to help make it thicker and stronger. Cleanses the scalp and reduces inflammation. Helps get rid of dandruff and controls hair fall.
Argan oil: Penetrates to nourish hair, increases elasticity and helps with growth. Helps strengthen hair and repair damage and helps restore hair from environmental extremes.
Tea tree oil: Helps eliminate dandruff, helps seal cuticle and lock in moisture, helps prevent hair loss and promotes growth.
Rosemary oil: helps darken hair if used overtime and helps manage grey hair, helps stimulate follicles to aid in hair growth, slows down premature hair loss and balding, nourishes the hair and scalp and reduces dandruff.
Jojoba oil: Helps in hair growth and to counteract hair loss. Replenishes and stimulates natural oil production.
Shea oil: Coats the hair to help seal in moisture, softens dry brittle cuticles, conditions and strengthens hair.
Castor Oil: Adds shine, improves circulation, controls split ends, thickens hair and can aide in growth, helps treat dandruff and dry scalp.

Not all these oils can be found in the grocery store but if your grocery store carries a good range of products you may be able to find the following oils:
Grape seed oil
Coconut oil
Olive oil: Adds moisture and shine to hair.
Macadamia oil: Helps hydrate hair, reduces frizz and breakage, strengthens hair and improves elasticity, helps combat dry hair and skin.
Avocado oil:   Helps moisturize, nourish and strength hair while helping to prevent and reduce damage.  Helps stimulates blood flow to follicles which aids in new growth and the essential fats absorb into the scalp and protect against environmental factors.

Some other places you may find these oils are your local Whole foods store, organic markets and online.

And let’s not forget raw organic honey which isn’t oil but it is a new element I am adding to my conditioners and oil treatments for extra strength, shine, and overall scalp health so I thought it deserved an honourable mention.

As long as the oils are organic and 100% pure then you can try them on your hair and even on your skin as a moisturizer. Each of these oils have different properties and while some will have different benefits for your hair many of them will do similar things like add shine, moisture, softness and help with dry damaged hair. I should also mention that not all oils will work for every hair type equally. People who tend to have oily hair or hair that is easily weighed down may not want extra oils in their hair but people who suffer from hair loss, breakage dryness, split ends, dullness and damage may strongly benefit from the nourishment these oils provide. Some of you will prefer certain oils over others so the key is doing some research finding some oils that match your needs and then trying them out to find one you like best. Keep in mind that if you plan to use an oil for a hot oil treatment than you should find out how the oil reacts to heat, some oils lose some of their nutritional value after being heated.

 So the next time you are at a department store and you are browsing for a good conditioner or hair treatment consider going right to the source of what makes that product great and try the natural ingredients to treat your hair instead.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Trip to Remember

My trip to: Puerto Rico, St Thomas, Barbados, St Lucia, St Kitts and St Maarten

In September 2012 I found myself on a spectacular vacation. As my plane hit the tarmac in San Juan Puerto Rico and I gazed around at the city lights I knew it was the start of a wonderful vacation. 

I had never been to San Juan before but two days was not nearly enough to experience all that the city has to offer. New San Juan is a bustling city just like any other except it has a beautiful coastline and the beaches are great for surfing during high tide.

There are also many restaurants and great shopping. I would suggest Plaza Las Americas you may not find the best deals in town but you will find a huge selection of stores with great merchandise.

Old San Juan
El Morro
 Although I stayed in Conado Old San Juan was my favourite attraction. I loved walking through the narrow cobble stone streets that looked very European. A day spent exploring the forts like the famous El Morro and riding the free trolley while sampling fresh tropical sherbet from local vendors was a day well spent.

Mofongo: a dish made with ground seasoned plantains

 I would recommend Punto de Vista, a restaurant close to the cruise port which offers fabulous local dining. We tried the fresh octopus salad and the mofongo stuffed with chicken which was delicious.

 No meal is complete without a refreshing drink so why not try 
Medella the local beer.

The coast around the old city is breathtaking and although you get a feel for the old architecture and civilization you also get to experience modern extravagances like shopping at your favourite name brand shops and shipping local beer with a view of the beautiful cruise ships. 

my brunch at Under the Trees restaurant

Also in Conado located on De Diego Street right next to the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel (which is where we stayed) is a nice restaurant to go to for breakfast and brunch called Under the Trees. Try the Pancakes they are fluffy and delicious! Just look at that picture don't tell me you don't want a big bite!! 

The best way to get around San Juan if you are going to be there for more than one day is to rent a car. Taxis can be expensive if you are always on the go and the locals including the staff at our hotel, police officers and citizens as nice as they were don't seem to be very knowledgeable about the bus routes so don't depend on them to help you get around the city. The bus is only 75 cents per person but they take a long time to come and they are not very reliable. 


After two fun filled days in San Juan we boarded the Carnival Victory and set sail for a 7 day cruise that would take us to 5 different islands each with its own beauty and splendour.

Megans Bay Beach

St Thomas was our first stop and since I had visited the island previously I decided to spend a day relaxing on Megans Bay beach and shopping at the many souvenir and jewellery shops. 

If you are visiting the island for the first time I would recommend taking a tour of the island and stopping by Coral World before heading to the beach.

Barbados was probably my least favourite of our stops. Although the island does have nice beaches the cruise port wasn't in an area close to any of the most beautiful beaches and the tour stopped off in the less desirable neighbourhoods. I did get to see Rihanna’s childhood home as well as other stars who have property on the island. 

The view from the highest peak is a nice place to take some photos but the tour lacked in attractions and the island was quite flat and not as lush and spectacular as some of the other islands we stopped at. When you visit Barbados you definitely have to make sure you head to the all the right locations in order to be satisfied with your trip. **(note: I don't have any photos to post for this stop because my digital camera stopped working and I had to purchase a new one the next day so all my photos from Barbados are on a disposable camera.)
View of the coast from the tour boat

The Pittons

St Lucia was next and it was by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I loved the green mountains and the beautiful beaches. The sand was black from the sulphur emitted from the volcano but it was fine and powdery and the water was clear and warm. The pitons which are the two highest peaks were breathtaking in all their glory and the tour was relaxing and enjoying. We took a speed boat right from the ship port which took us on a tour around the beautiful coast.

If you are doing a tour in St Lucia I would recommend doing the land and sea tour, it is just as beautiful as the land only tour but a lot less time consuming. Also if you get motion sickness the drive through the mountains although beautiful can be a bit treacherous.

The coast
As we whisked through the blue water around the mountains we listened to calypso and drank rum punch.We arrived at a beach close to the pitons where we boarded a tour bus that took us up to the sulphur springs and then to a waterfall where we could swim. The tour ended with a picnic on the beach and time for more swimming.
Since September is hurricane season the tides push jelly fish and other marine life into the beaches and I had the unfortunate experience of being stung. Although it was painful it did not slow me down or stop me from enjoying the rest of the trip. I think St Lucia is a good choice for destination weddings and honeymoons.


Volcano in St Kitts

View of the coast: St Kitts

St Kitts was next on our cruise. The tour we took on St Kitts took us around the entire island and stopped at all the points of interest. There is a volcano on this island as well and lots of local fruits and shops. We avoided the beach because clusters of jelly fish could be seen in the water but as you can see I got some great photos of the landscape.

St Kitts

Maho Beach
 St Maarten was the last and final stop on the cruise and it was one of the best. The beauty of the island reminded me of a combination of Greece the way the houses were built on the rolling hills and the beautiful Caribbean with white sandy beaches and crystal blue water. St Maarten is definitely an island where you need more than a day because of all the beautiful beaches and great shopping.
Orient beach

One of the beaches we went to was Orient Beach and not only was the water perfect for relaxation and snorkelling but there are many restaurants and bars on the beach with food and great music. We rented chairs for $5 dollars each and it came with an umbrella and a drink, that’s a deal you can’t beat!

There is also one section of the beach that is a nude beach, however if you are well over onto the non nudity side you will have no unpleasant or unwanted  views.

warning sight at Moho beach

Maho Beach is also something very unique. The beach is right beside the airport so you have the opportunity to watch the planes land right above your head! The experience is daring yet incredible.

People who stand too close to then fence sometimes have accidents when the jets from the planes blow them back and up into the air. As long as you stay on the beach and a safe distance away it is safe to visit.

This is a photo I took as we drove to the beach, as you can see the island is very developed.
photo I took of the fish at the beach!

As we were swimming in Orient Beach we saw schools of angel fish. It was a great idea to get an underwater camera!

Cruising: The Ultimate All Inclusive Vacation 
Our ship as we pulled into port

A cruise is a wonderful and affordable way to see many different places on one trip. On a resort you are limited to whatever events they have planed; on a cruise you have the options of so many different activities, musical shows, comedy shows and five star dining experiences every night.  In my opinion taking a cruise is the ultimate all inclusive vacation that comes with impeccable service. The staff that wait on you and make sure the ship is sparkling clean work around the clock cleaning your stateroom a couple times a day, making sure you have fresh beach towels in your room for your next day’s adventure and offering free room service 24 hours a day. 

Adult only area

One of my favourite things to do is relax on deck, The Victory has a comfortable adult only area with hot tubs, lounge chairs and hammocks.

The ship's gym

The sauna

The ship also has a state of the art gym, and after working off all that food you have been eating there is no  better way to relax than spending some time in the sauna which has a wonderful view! You can also lounge pool side and watch a movie on the big screen.

There also also many other things on board like the casino, bars, lounges, live music, night clubs, mini golf, library, internet cafe, shushi bar and the list goes on.

our ocean view Stateroom 

There are many rooms to chose from on the ship that accommodate every budget. This time we opted for the ocean view room which came with a king size bed, a big sofa and a nice window that gave us a view of the islands as we pulled into port.  

ship departing from St Kitts

I loved being on deck when the ship pulled away from the islands! you get an amazing view.
The photo on the left is one I took when we were leaving St Kitts.
Sun set as I left St Kitts

You also get an amazing view of the sunset as the ship pulls away and the deck party begins!

The worst thing about vacation has to be the end. I would recommend this cruise itinerary to anyone looking to have a fantastic vacation. I hope everyone enjoyed looking at all my pictures and reading my suggestions.

Happy travels!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Your Makeup Bag

Makeup essentials

And Summer Tips

 There are tons of beauty products on the market so walking into MAC, Sephora of even your local drug store may be a bit overwhelming for those of you who do not know which products are good and which essential products you may need in your beauty bag. In this posting I am going to list some essentials as well as recommend some great tips for the summer. Enjoy! 

1.  Eye primer:
For those of you have not yet used an eye primer before applying your eye shadow you are missing out!

 Summer Tip: Eye primer is a great way to smooth out your upper lid and keep your eye shadow from creasing. It also makes your shadow last all day without getting messy and coming off which is especially useful in hot humid conditions.

Eye primer also helps make the true color of your eye shadow visible and vibrant. I would recommend Urban Decay`s Primer potion, I have been using this for years and I cannot do my makeup without it!

2. Eye shadows and Palates:
Eyes shadow selection really depends on your personal preference, you are drawn to the colors you like and the colors that will complete whatever look you are trying to achieve. One great palate is the Costal Scents 88 shimmer palate or the 88 matte palate. In these palates you get 88 colors in a wide range which can help complete any look. This is a great palate to start off with because you can experiment with blending and matching colors together for different looks. You can order this palate from:

 Another two palates to consider are the Urban Decay Naked 1 and Naked 2 palates. When it comes to these you only need one of the two depending on the shades you prefer. These palates have nice neutral warm shades along with great brow highlighting colors and great crease shades to help you create wonderful light summer looks.

If you are going for a more daring look the Faces single sparkle dust eye shadows or the sparkle dust towers come in a beautiful array of shimmery ultra pigmented colors that will give you a bold look which is perfect for the evening. 
Quick tip: Apply your eye shadow first before applying your foundation, sometimes eye shadow residue falls onto your face which you will then have to wipe off along with any foundation you have already applied.

Always be sure to check out your local drugstore where you can find great eye shadows on sale from popular brands such as Maybelline, Covergirl and Revlon. Sephora also has an abundance of shades and brands that you can swatch and sample against your skin tone. MAC gives you the option of creating your own custom palate as well as single shadows, highly pigmented lose shadow and much more. 

Quick tip: using a shimmery shadow right around your inner tear ducts and swept under your inner bottom lash line can brighten up your eyes and really make them stand out.

3. Brow pencil or filler:
For those of you who have sparse or thinner eyebrows, or even those of you who have slight spaces and gaps in your eyebrows a brow pencil or filler is a great way to make your eyebrows look full and even. Try to get a color that closely matches your brow color.

Brushes and applicators: 

For eye shadow application you can begin with the basic brushes and expand your collection from there.

*Eye shadow brushes are a great way to start; you can get them in varying sizes but begin with a wider set brush for all over lid application. You can also use this brush to apply a highlight color under your brow.

*An angled eye shadow brush is also great to have for creating that nice V shape in the outer corner and crease of your eyes.

*A fluffy blending brush is great to have for blending in your crease color and blending out the areas between your lid, crease and highlight color. 

*It is always good to have the classic sponge eye shadow applicator that will come with most eye shadows and palates; I find these applicators to be the best for applying loose or shimmery shadows.

4. Eye liner:
Whether you use a gel, liquid or pencil eye liner it really comes down to personal preference but for beginners liquid or gel eyeliner may be easier for application and control. I personally use the Revlon Color Stay eyeliner pencil which works great for me and never needs to be sharpened.

Summer tip: For summer waterproof eyeliner is your best bet, it will stay on longer prevent smudging and won`t run down your face in the heat.

I would also recommend you purchase the basic colors such as black which looks good with any eye color and brown. For the summer right now colourful eye liner as a fun accent on the lower lash line is very popular, so if you like this look then blues, greens, gold and silvers can be added to your bag. 

Quick tip: white eyeliner on your lower waterline can make you eyes appear brighter and larger

5. Mascara
Great mascara can really kick up your entire look. If you are like me and you do not like to wear cumbersome false lashes work with what you have!

Quick tip: One of my tricks is to apply a thin layer of Vaseline to my lashes before I go to bed at night! It may sound weird but it really helps moisturize my lashes and helps them grow longer and thicker! You can also purchase mascaras that help your lashes grow but the Vaseline trick is a lot easier and a lot cheaper.

Before you apply your mascara it is a good idea to use an eyelash curler to achieve nice fanned out curled eye lashes, especially if your lashes tend to be on the straighter side. These are very inexpensive and they can be found in almost every makeup section.

If you want that false lash look there are tons of mascaras on the market that claim to give you exactly that. One of my favourites is the Loreal Voluminous falsies. This mascara has lengthening fibres that attach to your lashes and make them look longer and fuller. The only downside is that the fibres may travel into your eyes later on in the day and cause some irritation, so contact wearers beware.

Maybelline also has a line of falsies mascaras, which does not give quite a dramatic finish but they are very easy to remove at the end of the day and will give your lashes some definition.

 Summer tip: Another great tip for summer is to look for waterproof mascara, waterproof mascara will last longer and stay put in the heat and humidity but they can be a bit more difficult to remove at the end of the day.


1. Sunscreen and moisturizer:
Before I apply anything to my face I apply a sunscreen or a moisturizer that has sunscreen in it. This step if very important if you are going to be outdoors in the summer time, UV rays are strong and exposure to sun can cause sunburn, and premature wrinkling and aging of the skin so  it is very important to protect your skin. Opt for a cream that is non-greasy and oil free. The Nutrogena SPF 70 sunblock is great.

2. Face Primer
Summer tip: a great way to help your foundation and concealer stay put in the hot summer months is to first apply a face primer. Face primer will smooth out your skin making application easier and also help keep your foundation on your face.

One of my favourite primers is the MAC prep and prime face primer, but Smashbox also makes an excellent face primer. For those of you looking for something more affordable try the NYC perfecting face primer.

3. Concealer:
There are many concealers on the market but if you are purchasing your very first concealer I would suggest you go into a store such as MAC or Sephora or a brand of your choice where the sales associates will try different colors and match one to your skin tone. After you have some idea of what your color match is you can branch out and try other brands. Concealer is a great way to cover any blemishes, redness, marks or scars on your face and give you an even complexion. I use the MAC Studio Fix Pro Long Wear Concealer which gives excellent coverage but there are a lot of brands to choose from.

Quick tip: when you are considering purchasing concealer or foundation from places such as MAC you can always ask for a sample before you buy, that way you can go home and try out the product for a while to make sure you like the match.

Brush: for concealer you can use a concealer brush but I find that for precise application your fingertip can work just as well if not better.  Put some concealer on the tip of your finger and pat it into the area you need to conceal. Using a makeup sponge will just suck up too much product and waste it.

Summer tip: in summer most people do not like to wear a lot of makeup, if you get a full coverage concealer that matches your skin tone you can use the concealer and a setting powder alone without having to use foundation.

4. Foundation:
Summer tip: There are many brands of foundation that now have SPF protection in the formula, try to opt for one of these for some extra sun protection.

Like concealer you will first have to go into a store and actually try out a few foundations to find a match for your skin tone. Foundations should be as close a match as you can possibly get, if the color is too light your skin will look gray and chalky.

 When choosing a foundation shop around and see which formula you like best.  You may find that you prefer light weight foundations or you may want a heavier foundation. Foundations also differ by coverage; you can go for light, medium or full coverage foundation depending on your needs. You can also chose foundations based on what finished look you are going for, some foundations will give you a dewy finish while others will give you a matte look. I use the MAC Studio Fix liquid foundation.

Foundation  brush
*A good foundation brush is an essential tool for your beauty bag. Get a brush that is soft but has stiff enough bristles and apply the foundation using the stippling method. For example dab the foundation onto the tip of the brush and using just the tip press the foundation into your skin instead of swiping or painting it on. If you stipple the product into your skin you get a nice air brushed and even look, if you apply it in swipes you get a streaky messy look. 

Stippling brush
*Stippling brushes are another great way to apply foundation, use the same stippling method mentioned above and purchase a brush with soft sturdy bristles. 

Quick Tip: For people with oily skin I would suggest a foundation with a matte finish, the dewy finish can make your skin look even more sweaty and oily. These foundations tend to dry quicker.
For those of you with dry skin you can go for the dewy look to add a nice glow for the summer. These foundations tend to have wetter formulas.

Summer tip: you can try a powder foundation for the summer if you do not want to wear a heavier liquid foundation. Powder foundations can feel lighter on your face while still giving you excellent coverage.

5. Setting powders
After you apply your foundation you will need to set it with a powder. You can get a powder that is pigmented and matches with your skin tone or you can opt for a translucent setting powder. Again there are many different brands out there that you can sample. I use the Cover Girl powder in creamy beige to set my makeup.

blush brush

Brush: for your setting powder use a big fluffy powder brush or a Kabuki brush.
kabuki brush

6. Blush:
Blush is great for the summer time because it can add a subtle touch of color to your cheeks and give you a radiant look. Blush also depends on what colors you like for your skin tone but some popular colors right now are pinks and peach tones. Blush should be applied to the apples of your cheeks.

Brush: to apply blush use a soft blush brush.

Quick tip: When applying blush a little goes a long way.

7. Highlight:
Sumer tip: brushing a highlight over your cheek bones and in your t-zone where the light would normally kiss your face is a great way to get a summer glow that will make you look radiant.

There are many highlight products out there including compacts and cream highlights so look for one that compliments your skin tone.  What you choose will depend on how much shimmer you want to add to your face. Some highlights have a lot of shimmer and some are more tamed down and give you a brighter look without the shimmer so it depends on what you like.

I use the Lorac Tantilizer Baked Bronzer which I use as a highlight and sometimes as an eye shadow.

Brush: The consistency of your highlight will depend on what brush works best. If you choose a highlight in a compact you can use a smaller sized brush similar to a blush brush, if you prefer a cream highlight you can use the pads of your finger or a concealer brush for application. 

8. Bronzer:
Bronzer is a great way to give shape and contour to your face. Again get a bronzer that works with your skin tone.

Bronzer brush
Brush: for bronzer you can purchase a bronzer brush, I prefer the angled ones. 

9. Makeup setting spray:
Summer tip: Applying an even mist of makeup setting spray after you have finished applying all of your makeup will help keep your makeup in place the entire day. It sets your entire face and will keep your makeup looking fresh through the heat and humidity.

Makeup sprays vary but some popular brands are Model in a Bottle, Urban Decay De-slick Setting Spray and the MAC setting spray.


Quick tip: before applying color to your lips make sure they are exfoliated which means they are smooth and not cracked or peeling. There is nothing worse than having cracked lips under a nice bright lipstick! Start off by gently exfoliating your lips the night before while you exfoliate your face and then apply a moisturizing lip balm before bed.

Summer tip: use a lip balm that contains SPF protection to help keep your lips protected and prevent cracks and peels.
1.  Lip balm:
Start off by applying a thin coat of lip balm to your lips and then blotting off any excess. I use the EOS organic lip balm which is my favourite. Also good are the Baby Lips by Maybelline and the Sugar clear lip balm by Sephora. 

2. Lipstick:
Summer tip: for summer don`t be afraid to do a bold bright color on your lips.

Pinks, reds, corals and even purple-pinks are very popular for the summer time; they brighten up your lips and give you a fun splash of color. My favourite brand is the Revlon crème and lustrous lipstick because they are affordable creamy and come in wide variety of nice colors. 

3. Gloss:
Gloss is always great; it keeps your lips from getting dry while adding a splash of color. You can even pair up a lipstick with a gloss over top.

Caring for your brushes:
My last tip is to make sure you wash your brushes regularly because bacteria can build up on the bristles and cause you to break out if you do not wash them. There are brush cleaners on the market but they are unnecessary, all you need is a container of water and shampoo. I would suggest washing your brushes at least once every 2 weeks but if you want to get away with doing it less make your own cleaning solution. Add rubbing alcohol to a small spray bottle of water and spritz your brushes and wipe them off after every use, this will help sanitize the brushes and you won`t have to wash them as often.

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