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Friday, May 31, 2013

Oh, the Joy of Swimsuits...

"Between being totally naked and breaking the law, a bathing suit is a real bargain!" ~anonymous

Oh, goodie, goodie! It's time for bathing suits!! 

Why are you rolling your eyes at me? That's not very enthusiastic of you. 

Some of us get so touchy about running around in what amounts to little more than glammed-up underwear and feeling totally over exposed.  I know I'm repeating myself, but in case you're going there, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the way your body looks, so don't start with me. I'm not interested in hearing it. I want to hear what fun you had in the water, how wonderful the sand felt between your toes, how relaxing it was to listen to the kids playing…(or not, as the case may be,) how good it was to have that margarita by the pool with your friends…  

Now that we've gotten to the proper frame of mind, lets work on getting you in a suit that works best for you, and will make you feel as good as you look. 

First a few design line rules. The name of the game is balance- we look our best when we look visually balanced. It doesn't matter how tall, short, thin, fat, big boned, skinny hipped, narrow shouldered or whatever-imagined-flaw-you-can-dream-up you are- if you pay attention to a few simple rules to visually balance what you've got, you've got the foundations for looking great at the pool or on the beach. And everywhere else for that matter- but we're talking swimsuits today.

If you want to de-emphasize a horizontal element, use vertical elements. And vice versa. Let's say your hips are wider than your shoulders. To visually balance this figure, use predominantly horizontal elements up top and vertical elements on the bottom.  Below is a somewhat over-simplified visual explanation. I used the above type figure as it's probably the most common one, and a two piece- the suit that inspires the most anxiety.
This is 'imbalanced- it's the opposite-
vertical on top and horizontal on bottom.
This is 'balanced'- horizontal on top,
(more) vertical on bottom.

See? It's pretty simple. If some aspect of the actual design of the suit isn't horizontal/vertical enough for you, think about finding one with pattern that also emphasizes what you want- stripes or seams, for example.

This simple truth also applies to embellishments- keep them where you want emphasis, and going in the direction you want emphasis. 

Now on to color; unless you're going to the Playboy Mansion, you probably won't wear as much in the way of makeup or accessories when going swimming. So it's best to be less adventurous with color- stick with your very, very best color if possible, and err on the side of caution with print and contrast. When you're dressing for a normal day you can compensate for a brighter color or bolder pattern by wearing slightly bolder makeup- when in a swimsuit this usually isn't much of an option, so keep that in mind. Don't want a too bold color or pattern washing your coloring out. Unless of course you look your best in bright colors- then just be very sure it's a color that looks great on you when you're not wearing any makeup. 

At this point it's all to easy to just grab the BIGGEST t-shirt you can find to throw over your suit when you've had enough sun, and whatever bag fits your (also un-thought-out) towel. That's where it all fails. (This is my downfall, unfortunately.) Try seeing this as an entire 'outfit,' just as you do with your day-to-day clothes. Nice if you can have a few of these 'ensembles.' Have a hat that compliments the suit, maybe some matching sandals, and bag.  A cover-up that you feel good about going into a restaurant in, that also looks good with the suit. If you have budget considerations, try to do one 'ensemble' per year, perhaps.  And you can always buy a very simple suit and create different 'ensembles' around it- a black bathing suit, and a blue cover-up and sandals, and another cover-up in a black and silver pattern with a black and silver bag, etc.

The point is, make getting dressed to go swimming as much fun as you can, and another opportunity for self expression. Why not? It's another opportunity to feel great…

Happy Dressing!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Poo Poo the No-Poo

'If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?' ~Lily Tomlin

A couple of months ago (April 12 'Look Ma, No Poo!) I blogged about how I'd decided to go 'no-poo;' no shampoo- meaning 'washing' your hair with just baking soda/water and rinsing with vinegar/water. As is often the case with me, when I first try something new on my hair all goes splendidly at first. But then it eventually goes back to some version of the way it was to begin with. Which is why I was up for trying something new in the first place. I think this time failure was caused by a combination of two factors- one, hard water, and two, my naturally dry hair that's also been color treated.

When I first started the no-poo both my scalp and my hair loved it. My hair had been getting too heavy from the conditioning cleanser that I'd been using forever, and yet the ends still needed extra conditioning on a regular basis.  When I'd first started the conditioning cleanser both my scalp and hair loved it. That was when I realized just how uncomfortable soap had always made my scalp. Then when I tried the no-poo  my scalp was even happier- so, best to have nothing on it- no soap residue, and not the residue left by the much gentler cleansing conditioner. It liked the clean left by the baking soda, and the balanced ph left by the vinegar. (Not sure about the scientific veracity of that statement- so don't quote me on that.) 

The downside was, well….the eventual effect on my hair. Not so good considering the whole purpose of this was to improve the quality of my hair. 

The water here in L.A. is hard. Your hair reacts differently when washed in hard water vs. soft water- be it with soap, (natural shampoo) detergents, (conventional shampoo) or baking soda. Hard water contains minerals that can cause the scales on the hair shaft to not lie flat, making hair feel 'rough.'  That's not good with already dry hair. It can also interact in a not-so-nice way with whatever you use to wash your hair, leaving a soapy residue. And that is the extent of my (rather sketchy) understanding of what happens when hair and shampoo meet hard water. What I clearly understand is that the last time I washed my hair with the 'no-poo' method it came out feeling both greasy and dry- which is really quite amazing if you think about it. And as soon as I washed my hair with a sulphate-free shampoo, (natural) it was happy again.

I was most disappointed that this didn't work out. I liked the idea of no scary chemicals, and also the price- nearly free. Even though it ultimately didn't work out, I got invaluable information from the experience which will hopefully set me on a more effective path. 1- my hair apparently likes change, and 2. my scalp doesn't like ANYTHING.

So. Back to the drawing board for a new plan. Since my hair doesn't like the same product used all the time, I'll switch it up- sometimes a natural (meaning sulphate-free) shampoo, sometimes a natural cleansing conditioner. And after washing my hair I'll use the the baking soda/vinegar thing- using squeeze bottles with a small tip so I can keep it on just my scalp, and out of my hair. From past experience I know that the ends of my hair are happiest if I drench them in my home-made hair oil for at least a half hour before washing, so I'll keep that up as needed. And every so often a very mild vinegar rinse for my hair to help counteract the hard water effect….it's all very complicated. But if it works, it's worth it. 

Oh- the sulphate-free shampoo I used the last time is Whole Foods brand 365, fragrance-free shampoo. It's about $4 for a 16 oz bottle. That's close enough to 'nearly free,' even for me.

I'll continue to post about the success/failure of all this as I go along.

The things I'll do for a great head of hair…..

Happy Dressing!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle...

I never worry about diets.  The only carrots that interest me are the number of carats in a diamond.  ~Mae West

Ah, jewelry. Decidedly one of my obsessions. 

As with colors and design lines in your clothes, there are flattering ways to wear jewelry and…less flattering ways to wear jewelry. If you follow a few simple guidelines you can be pretty sure that you're going to look your very best. 

Here are the two elements I use to create said guidlines-

First up is size- often people assume that their jewelry should be proportionate to their body size. Although this does come into play, it's actually not the most important part. More important is the size of your facial features in relation to your facial plane.  If you have larger features in a smaller facial plane, the scale of your jewelry should be larger. If you have smaller features in relation to a larger facial plane, your jewelry should be smaller. 

Next comes contrast- if you have lots of contrast in your coloring (black hair and pale skin and eyes, for example) then you can wear highly faceted stones in brighter colors, and shiny metals. If you have low contrast coloring (dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes) then you'll look best in stones in muted colors, faceted or cabochon (non-faceted) and 'brushed' or patterned metals. 

So, let's try putting this together. 

If you have larger features in relation to your facial plane- if you would say you have large eyes/nose/mouth in comparison to your face, then you'll do well with large size stones, and larger pieces of jewelry in general. If you also have high contrast coloring, stay with big, bright color stones and/or large pieces with shiny metals. If you have lower contrast coloring, stay with the same large pieces but with muted coloring and maybe brushed or patterned metals. 

If you have small features in relation to your facial plane- your eyes nose and mouth seem small in relation to your face- then you'll look your best in smaller sized pieces. 'But-' you say- 'I'm a fuller figured/tall woman and small pieces just get lost on me!' Ok, so here's how to work with body size; if you're fuller figured, taller, bigger boned with smaller facial features and you wear larger size stones and larger jewelry pieces overall to work with your body size, it overwhelms your facial features and your facial features end up getting lost instead. A better approach is to group multiples; have a slightly larger piece with pave stones, perhaps, or several smaller scale pieces together. A few necklaces, or more than one pin, maybe. The object is to have the eye-catching points- the stones or stations or whatever- be similar scale to your features, and yet avoid having the jewelry get lost by having more pieces. 

Of course there's a judgement call involved in determining what 'large' and 'small' mean for you. What's 'large' on a 4'8" size 2 woman will quite possibly be downright 'small' on a 6' 1" size 24 woman, right? 

As with all my other suggestions, the idea is to simplify life.  If you know your best colors, pick 4 or 5 to stick with, know what design lines work best with your proportions and pick a handful to use consistently, and know how best to wear your jewelry and other accessories, then life just gets easier, and it all becomes about figuring out new ways to express your aesthetic. 

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, May 3, 2013


“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship” - Benjamin Franklin

Continuing on my DIY jag (read: though I've improved, I still haven't gotten my budget totally under control) today I'm sharing what I've been learning about DIY facials. 'Cause a gal needs herself a facial. On a regular basis.  But this girl can't afford to have someone else do it, OR fancy-schmancy (meaning expensive) name-brand goodies usually recommended.  

So this facial focuses on not only the freebie aspect of DIY, but also inexpensive materials for said facial. Not only is this easy on the budget, but you can do this at your own convenience, in the comfort and privacy of your own home. True, it's nice to have someone else pamper you and clean up the mess, but personally I'd rather have the cash. At least these days. 

If you have issues and you want extractions- unplugging pores, removing blackheads or other impurities- then you need to see a licensed aesthetician. This is simply not something that can be DIY.  One option is to do the DIY facial on a regular basis, then get a professional facial for your extractions once every month or two.  Though be aware that there is apparently quite the debate as to whether or not extractions are necessary or even advisable. Those in the anti-extraction camp feel it does more harm than good, and that regular lymphatic massage (see last weeks blog) and steaming, masks and the like are the best route, and will serve the same purpose in the long run.

So. The 5 steps of a DIY facial are thus: 1) cleanse, 2) exfoliate, 3) steam, 4) mask, and finally 5) moisturize. 

For cleansing, use what you always use to wash your face. I've never heard an argument that convinced me that anything is better than good, old, inexpensive Cetaphil. (Or, if you're like me, whatever the generic version is in the store I happen to be in.) I have heard skin care professionals left right and center say over the years that there's simply no need to use soap on your face. I find Cetaphil is also perfect for removing makeup- except eye makeup, for which I use Target's brand of eye makeup remover. You can't say I'm not consistent in my cheap-ness, right?

Now that you've removed any makeup and cleansed, it's time to exfoliate. One of the world's foremost MUA and one if my personal fav's is Rae Morris, and she has a fabulous little recipe for this. Pour a little Cetaphil in the palm of your hand, and then pour in a little..ready?…baking soda!  Mix this, and gently scrub your face with this mixture. She says this should not be used if you regularly use a Retin-A product, but I use a Retin-A product every night, and I use her exfoliation formula once a week with great success. So it's up to you- you may find this to be too much for you if your skin is very sensitive. I find the exfoliation gets a little more intense if I add a little water at the end and again scrub gently before rinsing- this is my own occasional addition, and really is quite intense, so don't try it if you have sensitive skin. 

Right- now for the steaming. There's the traditional approach for steaming, or a simpler (lazy?) one. Of course I like the lazy one. :-)  Along the traditional lines, you can get yourself one of those fancy things designed to steam your face, (which defeats the budget-friendly aspect of this post) or you can boil water in a pot, remove the pot from the heat and hold your face several inches above the pot for a few minutes. Then there's the lovely lazy one- run warm water from the tap,(I like it pretty hot, but that's not recommended) wet a washcloth, and hold the hot washcloth on your face for a few seconds till it cools; repeat 2 or 3 times. Now your pores should be opened.

Time for the mask; I was reading Crunchy Betty's blog page, and came across one I'm dying to try. Take a little milk; put lemon juice and a generous slice of lemon in it, and leave it on the counter- not the fridge- for 3-4 hours. Apparently this becomes a very effective alpha-hydroxy mask.  I discovered if you google 'lemon and milk mask' you come up with all sorts of variations- as one would expect, some of them are downright crazy. Read and try at your own risk. :-)

There's also my blog from March 8- which has ideas and links for other DIY facials. Take into consideration your overall skin type, current condition of your skin and the weather to decide on what type of mask to use on a given day. There are wonderful, natural DIY masks for dry, oily, combination and sensitive skin- there's bound to be the perfect one for your needs.

The last step is moisturizing. My skin always seems to do best after a facial if I simply apply some light-weight oil and leave it at that till the next morning. Currently I'm using pure Maracuja oil which was very expensive.,_requestid=42976,cm_mmc=us_search-_-GG-_-pla-_-,ci_src=17588969,ci_sku=1468438  I've been using apricot kernel oil when I do my facial lymphatic massage, and I think when I run out of my Maracuja oil I'm going to switch to the apricot oil for apres-facial time.   If you compare the prices I think you'll see why….

It's amazing how very, very effective all-natural, DIY skin care can be…..and how affordable!

Happy Dressing!