Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Breaking the Habit: 5 Beauty Habits you need to STOP Today!

As my fiancé would say "You telling people what NOT to do, that's a first!" (he loves me, I swear! ;). You may have noticed my posts normally revolve around giving you advice on what to do rather than not. So I've decided to 'break' that habit and give you some insight on bad habits I noticed we ALL (especially us Middle Eastern chicas) tend to fall into. Some of these 5 habits can be accounted to just plain laziness (you know i'm right!) and others may be misinformation but they are definitely things you should STOP doing today and never go back to again! (I just wrote that with the sound of my mother yelling in my head! *blushing*  Apologies.)

#1 Conditioning = good. Over conditioning = BAAD! 

Let's face it our weather between the sweltering heat, sandstorms, dust and then sudden cool in the evenings can take a toll on our normally *ehm ehm* luscious locks. So conditioner is a staple in every girl's shower, maybe even a leave in conditioner after the conditioner to get extra soft 'Kim Kardashian-esque' hair. However believe it or not there is such a thing as over conditioning your hair which can leave it sticky, dull and greasy.
No one understands the need for baby soft hair more than me and if your hair is over processed or highly heat damaged you may need to use more conditioner than others but as a general rule you should condition your hair ever time you use shampoo. In my experience you should not wash your hair more than 3 times a week and if you condition in the shower I would skip the leave in condition afterwards to avoid weighing down your hair (especially if you have fine hair like me).  It is important to know (especially if you have hair that tends to get oily) that your hair produces natural oils that condition your roots and most of the hair at the top of your head so when you do use conditioner that is NOT the hair that needs the most nourishment. Instead focus on the middle and ends of your hair which do not receive as much natural oils. If you do feel like your hair is over conditioned, don't fret: the it's fixable! Just do a vinegar rinse on your hair or use a clarifying shampoo (Pantene makes them in a transparent container, it's sold at most pharmacies in Egypt) once a week and you'll hair will back to it's old 'normal conditioned' self in no time.

#2 Not using SPF

It's a no brainer that you need to use sunblock every time you are at the beach and most of us (I hope! ) slather on the SPF loaded lotions and potions during the summer months thinking that we have done our part to protect our skin. WRONG! SPF should be the first thing you look for when buying your daily moisturizer and even foundation. Especially if you live in the Middle East where we have longer sunnier months SPF is a must , it protects your skin from the harmful UV rays which  keeps it looking younger and wrinkle free longer. If you have oily or combination skin you can opt for a tinted moisturizer that has a lighter formula than liquid foundations and heavy SPF sunblock. You can even make your own tinted moisturizer at home just add a small amount of your foundation (whether it be liquid, mineral or powder) to your daily moisturizer and mix them on the back of your hand (you can use a container if you want to make the tinted moisturizer in quantities in advance) and apply the mixture to your face just like you would any moisturizer. Here's a fun and easy tutorial on this DIY project.

#3 Not cleaning your make up brushes

When I started applying make up no one had told me that the brushes I used needed to be cleaned ( don't ask! did I think make up was a self cleaning product?!). After several unexplained break outs I was told by a very wise friend (thanks Sarah wherever you are!) that the acne maybe because I didn't clean my foundation brush after using it . SOOO I did!  and the difference in my skin since then has been drastic, I've had fewer breakouts and my make up always glides on flawlessly. I'm thus passing on my accumulated wisdom to you my fellow 'acne prone, nasty makeup brush using' women of the world. A little baby shampoo and warm water rinse for your make up brushes will go a long way in helping you have better skin. Make up brushes accumulate oils and dirt from your skin, combine that with your leftover make up and you have a hot bed of bacteria that is more than happy to give you that huge red zit the next day.

#4 Going to the Nail Salon Unprepared

We have all used tools (nail clippers, cuticle trimmers, nail files, nail brushes...etc.) at the nail salon before ( if you always take your own tools, then high five to your awesomeness! ) where we've had second doubts about their cleanliness. TRUST me when you had second thoughts about that nail clipper the manicurist used on your toes you were definitely right and should have said something that instant. Nail salons are filled with nasty germs from the foot baths to the technician's hands. The range of infections you can catch from an unsanitary nail salon range from staph, fungal , bacterial to hepatitis and even herpes (Yes gross, I know but i had to)! 
I have certainly been guilty of being too embarrassed or lazy to take my own instruments to the nail salon but since I've started my visit has always been anxiety free and frankly way more pleasant. When you do go to the nail salon please make sure that:
a)  the foot baths are washed with warm water and sprayed with disinfectant before you use them
b)  the technician has washed his/her hands before starting your treatment
c) if you do not take your own tools (well shame on you!) that the tools they use are sterilized and opened from the sterile bag right in front of you
These are just a couple of tips that I have found helpful but for a flu article on nail salon safety check this article out.

#5 Not Using a Heat Protectant

I discovered heat protectant in my twenties and have never looked back since! It is just not prevalent in our culture to use it as a styling product, the hair dresser never uses it  at the hair salon (which is where 90% of Middle Eastern women get their hair done) , you've never seen your mom use it growing up and very few people actually tell you about the great difference you will see in you hair once you start using it. 
You will notice that your hair feels less 'fried' after using your straightener or curling iron and you'll notice less split ends as well as less breakage. Let us just be clear I am not condoning excessive use of heat but when you do it's always better to protect your hair from it's damaging effects.  So the next time you go to your hair salon take you heat protectant with you and ask the stylist to spray it on your hair before starting your blow out. You can thank me later ;) 

As always if you have any questions about all of the info above just let me know BELOW in the comments box and if I have the answer I'll be sure to get back to you or write a post for your specific request.

Come back for more every 'beauty tuesday'! 

Lots of Love!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Warning: Dangerous Curves Ahead!


I am a size 16 and I just admitted it on the World Wide Web!

Let's face it ladies of the Middle East: How many of us are a size 0? Really! Even though the clothing stores would like us to think that all the women who shop there are in fact only sizes small and extra small (am I the only one who never finds a large? YES, I'm bitter about it) it is absolutely false. The average size of a woman is a (believe it or not) 14. Also, more than half of women out there have a pear shaped body (narrow shoulders and fuller hips) so model sizes we are not!

In my experience it has been VERY difficult to find clothes that not only fit properly (I have an hourglass shaped figure which is busty, small(ish) waist and full hips) but that also make my body look great and in turn make me feel good about myself. If you've never walked into a store looking for a great outfit for an occasion, only to storm out an emotional wreck because nothing fits and you feel even worse about yourself than when you walked in, you're one of the lucky chosen ones!
It is also not a topic that your mother, sister or friends talk about , is it? I've never had someone teach me what to wear to flatter my figure or where to get it from? SOOOO I learned the HARD way and several of 3/4 length pants, ill fitting shirts and muffin top nightmares later I'm here to share some of my collected wisdom with curvy women everywhere!

First things first, if you don't know what body shape you are go to this amazing website and find out! Then come back here and take in all of my awesomeness! (JK a bit of narcissism never hurt anyone! )
Most of the tips below apply to ALL body types but I'll be focusing more on the hourglass shaped figure because that's what I have the most experience with. Please note that this is solely my opinion and what I believe is right and has worked for ME; if your stylist, mother or the Guatemalan exchange student whose style you love think otherwise, I apologize to them in advance.

The Underwear chronicles
I am about to speak of your 'unspeakables', your delicates, your lingerie, your 'shhhhhs'...etc.

# 1 Don't underestimate the power of the almighty bra, it can make or break an outfit. A LOT (some say more than 70% but I'm no expert) of women wear the wrong bra size so you may have been told you're a 34B when you were 16 and just stuck with it. Trust me honey you're no 34B anymore and you need to get measured for a new bra STAT! The right bra can make you feel lighter, create the illusion of a longer upper torso and make your clothes look incredibly flattering.
Many lingerie stores in Cairo can measure you for a bra, so don't be shy and go ask the sales lady for a new measurement and maybe treat yourself to some cute undergarments while you're at it! 

#2 Shape-wear has changed my life! Whatever you want to call them Magic knickers or Spanxx they will change the way you look at yourself and body forever. Trust me! They also make them for every problem area: there are the full shorts that can suck in your thighs and hide those *cough* belly rolls , the full body  that will hug your curves and give you a flat tummy and finally the high waisted knickers that will rid you of that unsightly muffin top forever. So try out some shape wear under that new dress or jeans and إدعولي.
I know for a fact that Carina stores in Cairo make the full shorts shape wear (كورسيه) and that Marks & Spencer's carry all sorts of shape wear in their lingerie departments! My abolsute favorite is the Marks and Spencer full body because it is so versatile you can wear it everyday under jeans and a tshirt or for a night out under dresses and skirts to give you a cinched waist and flat tummy! 

"Empire" State of Mind: No More! 
Most curvy women, especially if they are a larger size are always tempted to either wear really loose clothes, an empire waistlines or wide leg pants. PLEASE STOP CURVY WOMEN OF THE WORLD!
The empire waistline will work pretty well if you have a pear shaped body because your bustling isn't as prominent as us hourglass shaped gals. The stylist who keeps recommending waist belts to curvy/busty women needs to stop doing that! All they do is basically create an incredible 'unsexy' shelf for your *ehm ehm* chest to sit. It's NOT FLATTERING! Don't create an empire waistline with that belt if non is needed.
So if you really love that tunic in the back of your closet or that flowy top you got on vacation then please keep in mind to pair them with fitted pants and without a belt
Never and I repeat NEVER wear a loose top like that with hugely oversized wide leg pants. It gives your body no shape except that it accentuates the size of your bust and shortens your legs especially if the top is a longer length. "Uh-Uh" not a good look. Here's what I have found to be much more flattering:


#1 Fitted Tops with a nice 'boyfriend' blazer (pictured above with cute floral cuff detail), jacket or cover up. The fitted top will accentuate your curves the right way (especially with the right shape wear) and the jacket or cover up will hide anything you don't feel comfortable showing (i.e. arms back or tummy).Pair that with:


#2 A great pair of dark wash flared jeans. No, I'm not talking about 70s throw back bell bottoms
(لا مؤاخذة شارلستون) I mean just a little bit of a flare at the bottom like the 'GUESS' jeans in the picture above. Dark flared jeans create the illusion of slimmer thighs and longer legs. Unlike skinny jeans they do not accentuate wider hips the flare actually balances them out! Aim for simple jeans without too much detailing or fading: the simpler the jean the more streamlined it makes your figure look. Finally add:


#3 Killer heels! NOT LITERALLY!  I don't mean ones that will actually 'kill' your back or feet but ones that make a statement. Shoes are every woman's guilty pleasure for a reason: they always fit regardless of what weight you are at, they can make any outfit pop and give you an IMMEDIATE boost of self confidence. On a practical level (which is not always why we buy them MEN of the world) high heels elongate your legs and give your booty a lift. Wear ones that are a bright color or a bold print (leopard <3) to give your average outfit an instant WOW factor. With curvy girls rounded toes are always more flattering than pointed ones because they keep your lines soft and clean.

"Dress"or Skirt to Impress! 
If you're like me and the thought of having to find a dress for a special occasion (or any occasion for that matter :( ) makes your stomach do back flips then let me help put you out of your misery. The secret words are: V or sweetheart necklines and maxi dresses.

I've found that the V-neckline make my shoulders and upper body slender, paired with a floor length skirt in a block color makes the perfect dress for the hourglass figure. The block color and long vertical line of the skirt elongates the body and hides all the flaws without being too bulky.
The sweetheart neckline also works wonders for women with a pear shape because it accentuates the bust therefore balancing out the top and bottom half of their bodies. Be careful not to go for a fitted skirt if you're a pear shape because you probably do not want anything hugging your hips and creating any more 'curvature' down there than need be.
If you have killer legs by all means go for shorter length skirts but I would steer clear of any mini dresses or skin tight ones if you have a curvier figure. I would also avoid any skirts with too much bulk at the bottom (i.e. ruffles or pleats) because they draw attention (*the bad kind*) to your lower half making you look fuller.

 Final Pearls of Wisdom
  • Please don't be too attached to the number on the tag! Wear the clothes that fit you perfectly and if that means the tag says size 12 when you're actually a 10  doesn't mean you should starve yourself for the next decade. 
  • Shop with someone whose opinion you really trust, don't take someone who will tell you "you look great" in everything because they're too afraid to hurt your feelings! Take someone who will tell you the truth but in the nicest way possible of course  (Not a Simon Cowell wannabe!).
  • Play with accessories. Experiment with different statement pieces: bold colored bracelets or necklaces, feathers, big brooches or dangly earrings . They don't have to be expensive pieces but they must match your personality (and outfit of course) while enhancing the overall look. Accessories are always a fun item to shop for especially because in their case size doesn't matter! 
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: DON'T LET UNREALISTIC FASHION INDUSTRY STANDARDS GET YOU DOWN! You are beautiful whichever weight, body type, height, skin color....etc you are. There is no right or wrong when it comes to fashion, it's a way of expressing your creativity so don't let anyone else's idea of 'perfect' get in your way. Make your wardrobe a fun and exciting place to be and ALWAYS love who ARE!

As always if you have any questions about all of the info above just let me know BELOW in the comments box and if I have the answer I'll be sure to get back to you or write a post for your specific request.

Come back for more every 'beauty tuesday'! 

Lots of Love!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Say Goodbye To "Panda Eyes" !

Of course you don't have under eye circles!! The skin under your eyes is perfectly colored and not at all darker than it should be! How dare I speak of such horrendous things??

OK now that we have the pleasantries out of the way: 'Shhhhh' I promise won't tell a soul that concealer is every girl's best friend! Well I'm here to try and fix that, I'm not going to say that I will completely heal you of your 'concealer addiction' but I will definitely try to help with the symptoms. Keep on reading if you want some natural tips to get rid of those unsightly *whisper* dark under eye circles.

So first things first, none of the the tips below are a substitute for a restful night's sleep and drinking at least 2 liters ( 8 full cups) of water a day. If you're working (or partying *wink wink*) late every night and only getting 3-4 hours of sleep only to wake up and find dark under eye circles than NOTHING neither natural nor chemical can help rid you of them. You need to get plenty of rest and take good care of your body by eating iron rich foods (they are your best friends when trying to get rid of those pesky circles) such as spinach, guava, pomegranate, red meat (in moderation) and beans.

Now let's get to the tips:

#1 Cucumber isn't just for your salad anymore !  

As cliche as it sounds and just like you see in the movies adding a couple of cool cucumber slices to your eyes for 15 minutes every other day can do wonders for the dark circles. You could also just use the juice of a cucumber dipped in a cotton pad and apply it to your eyes instead of the whole slices. They have the same effect. Take this time for yourself to relax, maybe put on you favorite music and just sit back and enjoy the cooling healing effect.
Cucmbers have plenty of antioxidants and naturally help with blood circulation which will not only reduce the appearance of under eye circles but with puffiness as well.

#2 Tannin-tastic Tea! 

Don't throw away the tea bags after your morning or afternoon tea, keep them and let them cool completely then put the cooled tea bags on your eyes for 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a week. All types of tea will work for this treatment but my absolute favorites are green, chamomile and just plain black tea. On the long run you'll notice your eyes look less puffy and you'll see the circles fade away
The tannin in the black tea will again help with blood circulation, the antioxidants in green tea will help rejuvenate your skin and the calming effect of the chamomile tea will reduce puffiness. 

#3 Unlike For Your Figure: Starch is your Friend! 

Or shall I say "Spuds are your buds" (oh yes i did!) . Ok moving on from my corny moment back there: Peel a potato and then slice it into really thin almost translucent slices and apply them to your eyes for about 30 minutes then wash and moisturize your face as you usually would. If you have pretty prominent dark circles this might be something you'd like to do every other day but in my experience 3 times a week is more than enough.
If having potatoes on your face is just not your thing you can mix a couple of table spoons of corn starch (نشا) in about 1/4 cups of hot water to create a 'milk like' color and let it cool completely. Then dip cotton pads in the mixture and apply to your eyes for 10-15 minutes. 
Potatoes contain enzymes that help lighten the skin (they are used in many commercial skin lightening creams). Starch can help combat inflammation and will  reduce the appearance of tired eyes. 

#4 For my DIY (Do It Yourself) Enthusiasts Out There! 

Mix equal amounts ( I like about a tablespoon each) of rose water (ماء ورد ), sweet almond oil (زيت لوز حلو) and whole milk and apply the mixture under and if you like around your eyes and leave for 20- 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and a mild face wash then moisturize preferably with an all natural moisturizer. This DIY recipe is amazing because not only is it great for under eye circles,  it's also amazing for your whole face as well as your body and you can use it every day or night because it's all natural and safe. Just please make sure to rinse it thoroughly because milk is a fresh ingredient that if left on your skin for too long can breed bacteria.
Almond oil is rich in vitamin E which is essential for great skin, the rose water is soothing and the whole milk is a great moisturizer that has been used since the times of Cleopatra (big up for our Egyptian heritage!!). This recipe is one of my absolute favorites and it's been in my family for a long time. 

Finally if the dark circles are chronic, getting worse or are just not what you are normally used to, they might be an indication of an underlying physical problem so if you're noticing a difference go get it checked out. Dark circles can also be a hereditary problem so if your mom or sisters have them then it may mean that you will as well.

Like with all natural alternatives the most important ingredient of all of these tips is patience and you have to stick with them for a couple of months before seeing a drastic difference (but trust me the wait will be worth it!!) . You also have to keep in mind that all skin types are (sadly! wouldn't we all love Natalie Portman's complexion?) not created equal so some skin types will react and improve faster than others. No need to give up after the first time when your dark circles are not completely gone. GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT!

As always if you'd like to know how to do anything naturally or have any questions about all of the info above just let me know BELOW in the comments box and if I have the answer I'll be sure to get back to you or write a post for your specific request.

 Come back for more every 'beauty tuesday'! 

Lots of Love!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Top 5 Natural Beauty Tips and Tricks (for the lazy gal!)

So this is the first of hopefully many more installments of natural beauty tips that will come your way. I've chosen these because they are simple, easy and come mostly right from your kitchen! You don't have to run out and buy some expensive lotions and potions for any of them. They are pocket and Eco-friendly. YAY :) . So if this sounds like your cup of tea, read on ladies!

#1 Beautifully White Teeth
For Pearly whites that would put the Colgate smile to shame try this easy mixture. Mash up a couple of ripe strawberries with some baking soda ( In Egypt you can get it pretty cheap from العطار and they call it bicarbonate of soda)  then dip your toothbrush in the mixture, brush your teeth for about five minutes then simply rinse out like you would toothpaste. DO NOT use this mixture more than twice a week on your teeth as it could wear out your tooth enamel. 

Bicarbonate of soda is an essential ingredient in most toothpastes and works as an amazing whitener, add that to the citric acid in the strawberries and you have a wonderful concoction of whitening goodness without harsh chemicals or expensive doctor's visits.  

#2 Radiant Baby Soft Skin (and Lips !)
Throw away your pharmacy bought scrub with all of it's oil stripping ugliness and REJOICE because the perfect (and yummiest) natural scrub is here. Winter can leave our skin a little dull and our lips very chapped and flaky so jump on the  natural bandwagon that will rid you of your winter blues. Mix brown sugar (or white I just like the extra stickiness that brown sugar offers) with some strongly brewed cooled plain green tea and use as a fantastically easy scrub. Scrub your face, neck and lips in GENTLE circular motions (don't go too hard with the scrubbing you're not trying to remove a layer of skin here!) and then rinse off with warm water (or your favorite gentle face wash if there's a sticky aftermath). This scrub is amazing because  you can easily personalize it to your skin type. If you have dry skin that needs a little more moisture add some baby or olive oil to the mixtureIf you have oily skin add lemon juice to absorb all of the excess oil and give your skin a boost of radiance. Use this scrub 2-3 times a week and do not go overboard with daily scrubbing, too much friction is definitely not a good thing for your skin.

Green tea is chock full of anti oxidants that are both good for your body as well as your skin and not only will  the sugar lift all of the dead cells with its grainy texture but it also produces glycolic acid which is an amazing alpha hydroxy acid that you'll find on many of your store bought moisturizers. It works wonders for your skin!

#3 Thicker Healthier Hair (like your Mama used to do it)
I don't know about you but growing up my Mama used to always use some sort of oil on my hair to make it extra thick and strong, it was a weekly ritual that I despised. Now looking back I really appreciate what she taught me and I'm going to share my new and updated version of the ritual with you guys. I use a mixture of equal amounts of PURE coconut oil ( زيت جوز هند), aloe vera oil (زيت صبار ), castor oil (زيت خروع ) and Amla oil (you can buy it at most pharmacies in a dark green bottle). Mix all of  the oils together in a microwave safe bowl and microwave the mixture for about 10 seconds or till it's just warm NOT SCORCHING HOT. Part your hair in equal parts and apply the mixture from roots to ends (except if you have REALLY oily hair then I would only focus on the ends) and massage well into the scalp. Leave it on for about 20 minutes and then shampoo, condition and style your hair as you normally would. Keep with the treatment 2-3 times a week and I guarantee your hair will start to be more manageable, look healthier and shinier and grow faster too! 

All of the oils mentioned above can be bought from العطار in different quantities and at pretty affordable prices. Please make sure that you're buying PURE coconut oil which in its raw form is SOLID at room temperature. You can leave the mixture on your hair as long as you want (even sleep in it!) to give your hair the longest time to absorb all of the nutrients from the oils. There will be no damage to your hair and if you wash it out with warm water and a mild shampoo your hair will not come out oily or greasy. 

#4 Blindingly SHINY hair
I was very skeptical when I read about this tip and thought that it was a load of BULL, but I had the guts to go for it and I'm so glad I did. Mix 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (you can use white vinegar) to 1 cup of water and rinse your hair with it after shampooing. YES I said vinegar! To add an even extra boost of shininess give your hair a final rinse with the coldest water you can handle. I know what you're thinking did she just tell me to use a salad condiment on my hair? TRUST ME on this one! The vinegar balances the pH level of your hair, seals your cuticle and clarifies your locks from all of the product buildup. Then the cold water further seals you cuticle for hair Kim Kardashian would be jealous of.

This is also meant to be a twice a week ritual and is not meant for everyday use (not that you're supposed to be washing you hair everyday and if you are PLEASE STOP). Overly exposing your hair to the acidity of the vinegar could have a reverse effect so please be gentle to your hair. 

#5 Moisture, Moisture and more Moisture! 
Confession: I have not used a store bought moisturizer in the last 6 months! YES 6 months! After many trials and tribulations I give you what I believe to be the best natural moisturizers out there:
1) Sweet Almond oil mixed with equal parts castor oil and rose water for your face (and body if you like). The oils make your face really supple and the rose water gives it a dewy glow that would rival even the best of highlighters
2) A ripe peach mashed into a smooth paste with heavy cream as an evening extra rich moisturizer. You'll wake up in the morning with the youngest looking fresh skin EVER!
3) Mix Natural yoghurt with a couple of tablespoons of honey and use it as a weekly mask for some mid week pampering for your skin
4) Coconut oil mixed with whole milk (optional) and any essential oil that you prefer (vanilla, lavender, coconut) for an after shower moisture locking miracle to use all over your body. P.S. If you do decide to use milk only leave the mixture on no longer than 40 minutes then wash thoroughly because milk is a fresh ingredient and if left for a long time can breed bacteria.
5) AND FINALLY believe it or not olive oil (not an expensive kind) for everywhere and anywhere!! Face, body or hair olive oil can be fantastic way to keep your skin looking healthy, sealing your split ends and even growing your eyelashes longer naturally!

I hope all of this helps you guys out if like me you're attempting to cut down on the chemicals you use in your beauty products as well as save yourself some money.  As I said there will be more installments to this series so if there's more beauty related issues you'd like to know how to do naturally just let me know and if I have the answer (or can google it :) ) I'll be sure to include it next time.

Lots of Love!