Magic Soap

I am a big fan of soap.  I’m into the handmade variety (as I also make it) instead of the mass-produced stuff.  If I had to choose one (and only one) reason alone for endorsing the use of real soap instead of body wash (aka detergent) I would rest my case on this simple fact: soap does not remove oil and dirt.  Such a statement sounds surprising, sure, but it is true.  The makers of various body washes would have us believe that soap strips and dries the skin while body washes are gentle and moisturizing.  They aren’t telling you that they are referring to mass-produced bars of soap which use a host of strange ingredients including beef tallow (which is one of the more harmless additions, let me say).

Like I said, soap (the real stuff) does not remove oil and dirt; it dissolves it.  For a body wash to work, it has to remove everything from the epidermis (including the natural good oils) and try to put some kind of moisture back in so your skin doesn’t feel stripped.  Soap doesn’t have to strip your skin because is breaks down impurities and dissolves them.  Your skin feels clean without feeling chapped and dry when you step out the shower.

Liquid Castile soap has become a staple in my home.  It lathers beautifully, cleanses without stripping, and a little goes a long way.  My favorite liquid Castile soap is Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Pure Castile soap.  I particularly like the Lavender and the Rose liquid soaps.  Dr. Bronner’s is made with organic ingredients and has been ever since the beginning.  The soap was organic even before it was the ‘in’ thing to do.  Recently, I started using Dr. Bronner’s soap to wash my hair instead of shampoo.  I’ve been pleased with the results.  My hair and scalp feel clean without the use of an SLS shampoo, and I get the lather I crave when washing my locks.  There are loads of uses for this soap, as any one who has ever read reviews for the product can tell you.  People use it in their dishwashers, to clean the house (it cleans the bath tub with incredible ease) and even as tooth paste, although I can’t say I’m interested in using it for that purpose.

The whole story behind the soap maker and the company (now run by his son) is an interesting read.  A lot of people say Dr. Bronner brings his own particular brand of crazy to the world, but I’m more focused on the actual product, which is great.  I will say this, it takes guts to stamp your life’s philosophy on the label of your product.

I smell an imposter!!!

Something very terrible has happened.

Let me start at the beginning.

What seems like many years ago, Dolce & Gabbana released their first fragrance for women.  It was simple known as Dolce & Gabbana with the red top (aka pour femme).  The perfume was a love it or loathe it creation.  With its citrus and herbal top notes, heady floral heart and vanilla-musk base, there was nothing shy about it.  The jus had tons of sillage and could easily wear the wearer instead of the other way around.

I was just out of high school when I discovered this heavenly creation.  It was love at first sniff, and it was the first fragrance that was powerful enough to affect my mood.  All I had to do was wear it and I felt like a confident, sexy, bombshell instantly. It was brash and brazen, yet somehow still sophisticated.  It was my mother who treated me to my 3.4 oz bottle, and whenever I wore it, the compliments came all day long.  I was careful with my bottle of treasured perfume, so I only wore it on special occasions.  Recently, I took a good, long look at what was left of it and decided to retire it.  Here’s why: My bottle of D&G was purchased in 1998 and I was pretty certain that the jus had been altered since then.  I resolved that I would buy myself a new bottle and keep what was left of the vintage elixir for any super special moments.

When Your Nose Knows:

I received my new bottle of D&G pour femme and tested it on my arm.  Instantly, I knew that something was wrong. Very wrong.  The top notes seemed thin and not rich as they should.  As they developed into the heart of the fragrance my nose couldn’t get past a particular synthetic note that overwhelmed and altered the entire composition of the jus.  The dry down was the ‘politically correct’ version of what it used to be.  The fragrance itself had changed drastically.  It was an imposter!

To further convince myself of what I knew to be true, I asked my hubby to smell the new version of the perfume.  He has always loved the ’98 version on me.  He smelled the new stuff (not knowing what perfume it was) and declared that he didn’t care for it.

So am I crazy? No, not at all.  There is a great explanation as to why a perfume that is the same brand can (and often does) smell different that a previously purchased bottle.  Companies and Perfume Houses (especially the big ones, ie. brands found in a dept. store) often substitute or swap ingredients or change the composition of a fragrance for several reasons.  The raw ingredients needed may become scarce, the powers that be may issue the order to make the jus more cost efficient, etc.  The most troubling reason of late has come from the IFRA who are set to ban a host of natural ingredients that have been at the heart of great perfume making for the last hundred or so years. Classics will soon become ghosts of themselves without ingredients such as oak moss and jasmine.  Instead, fragrances will become synthetic in nature (which they already are, sorry to say).  Out with real ingredients, in with man-made formulas made to smell like the genuine article.  Needless to say, there are many people (myself included) that see this as the death of the art of perfumery. Good-bye Chanel No. 5, Farewell Joy.  I can’t help but wonder why the perfume houses are essentially agreeing to these restrictions and thereby, actively contributing to their own downfall.  As I type this post, I am sitting here, wearing the imposter fragrance sold to me as D&G.  I will have no choice but to stockpile certain favorites of mine before they are altered.  I wish I could say that this has been my first encounter with a fragrance that has been drastically reformulated; unfortunately, it has not.  Lucky for me, I have my original, beloved D&G tucked away for safe keeping (what is left of it, anyway), and the perfume I wore when I married.

One final note.  It truly does peeve me that these perfume houses are substituting real, quality ingredients for poor substitutes without admitting it or lowering the price to reflect their now inferior product.  Perfumistas, we must find a way to make our voice heard.

Mascara Woes: Diorshow NO NO

I’ve been using Fiberwig Mascara very happily for several months now.  Unfortunately, I started getting really curious about the Diorshow Mascara and had to try it.  I blame all the great reviews on Sephora’s website.

I’m so glad I didn’t buy it at the full price.  I should have known that Diorshow wouldn’t work for me.  Why? Well, simply put, the brush.  The mascara brush, wand, whatever term you would like to use, is very big, very thick.  My lashes are very puny, very thin.  I have to say, I was sorely disappointed in the performance of this product.  I’m sure it works wonders on other lashes, but it doesn’t work for me.  It was somewhat clumpy, goopy (is that a word) and dry, all at the same time.

My lashes would've looked like this if I didn't know any better!

My lashes would've looked like this if I didn't know any better!

I can’t go into detail because it really didn’t do anything but clump and flake for me.

Fiberwig, I’m so sorry I betrayed you, and vow not to stray so easily again…

Scentimental thoughts

I love perfume.

I suppose, my love affair with perfume falls in line with my preoccupation with all things hair and beauty.  Honestly, I don’t think I had a choice when it came to falling hard for perfume.  It is said that a powerful link between scent and memory exists.  I believe this to be true.  It is because of (and through) my mother that I am a lover of perfume.  When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was look at the beautiful perfume bottles that graced my mother’s dressing table.  I can still remember many of the names on those bottles: Guerlain, Givenchy, Rochas.  The scented elixirs were gorgeous, and, to me, my mom was the loveliest smelling person I knew.  In the center of all these perfumes on her dresser was a tiny cream box, outlined in black.  In this box held the treasure of my mother’s collection: 1 ounce of  Chanel No. 5 Parfum.  The bottle was tiny, delicate, and yet, with no more than a dab, the perfume lasted all day.  A quarter of an ounce of the same Parfum today would cost more than a hundred dollars, so I look back in wonder that she allowed me to hold, examine, and dab on, a perfume that many women can only enjoy in Eau de toilette strength.  As I became older, perfume became a necessary finishing touch for me when it came to getting ready.  In middle school, I would creep in my parents’ room in the morning and steal a spritz of Amarige de Givenchy or whatever else appealed to me.  Never was I told to stop, so it became a habit.  On the weekend,  I would go to The Bay in Yorkdale Mall with my mom and head straight to the perfume counter.  All the ladies in that department knew my mom pretty much by name.  It seemed that she could get what no one else could, whether it be a great deal on perfume, extras thrown in or generous samples that were supposed to be finished.  By no means is my mother a wealthy woman; however, she was savvy enough to save and put her extra pocket change away so that when she saw something she really wanted, buying it wouldn’t be an issue.  In high school, I went from visiting my mom’s room for perfume, to having my own impressive collection.  While most of my friends were putting their money into the latest sneakers and buying clothes full price retail, I was fully obsessed with perfume.  My mother encouraged this obsession/addiction and by graduation, the tables had some how turned and mom was visiting my room to spritz just as often as I visited hers.  On my wedding day, she presented me with a bottle of Vera Wang, knowing I had been coveting it.  It was my ‘something new’ and fitting, somehow, since I couldn’t very well afford a Vera Wang wedding gown.  After I started having babies, loving perfume went on hold.  It just didn’t seem kosher to have my baby’s face against my skin while doused in a potential irritant.  I felt naked without wearing it, but stopped wearing  for a few years.  As of present, I’m trying to slowly rebuild my collection.  At 30, I honestly wish I had the collection I had at 17.  I have revisited some old favorites, which still smell fab on me, but I’ve also discovered that as one’s body chemistry changes (having kids, menopause, you name it) so does what works with one’s chemistry. A perfume that may have smelled lovely on you at 20, may not smell the same on you at 40.  Strange but true.  So, with sharing this little history of mine with perfume, look forward to seeing some posts featuring fragrances in all their glory.

Frizz be gone!

no-frizz-hair-productsI try to stay off of and away from the store.

I try.

Sometimes failing miserably can be a good thing.  Case in point: this summer, I found myself on the afore mentioned website to discover a new product that I had to have.

Living Proof’s No Frizz Styling Treatment is what I’m talking about.  So, how is this potion different from a silicone-based anti-frizz serum?  In the easiest of terms, this product has no silicone in it. Nada.  The inventors found that silicone weighs hair down and doesn’t penetrate the hair shaft; therefore, your hair feels heavy, and some (or most) of it still frizzes when it rains or becomes humid.  For the full story and science behind this new product and how it works, I recommend going to Sephora’s website and visiting Living Proof’s page.

Back to the review.  I visited the store the next day and received the last deluxe samples they had.  I was excited, for sure, armed with both curly and straight treatments for thick to course hair.  The instructions given to me worked like a charm, so here they are:  When your hair is still damp after washing, put in whatever conditioning treatment or leave-in that you like to use as long as it is silicone-free.  This is important.  Silicone and No Frizz do not get along at all.  Apart from that, put whatever magic potion you usually use on your damp tresses.  After adding your leave-in of choice, use a generous amount of No Frizz, making sure that you saturate each and every strand of hair.  I used the treatment for curly hair first, and was amazed at how beautiful my curls looked.  There was a little bit of crunch going on (just a lil bit), but it wasn’t an issue.  My hair did not frizz at all, which is saying a lot.  I brought my sample for straight hair to the Dominican salon where I had my hair blown out.  The stylist followed my directions in applying the No Frizz and one week later my hair was still shiny and smooth, even as I went to Jamaica.  Once on holiday, I witnessed first hand how amazing No Frizz can be when used correctly.  Through sweat and all, my hair stayed fabulously straight and smooth.  My cousin, who was also vacationing in Jamaica, bought a bottle and found the result just as good, even with relaxed hair.  I’m a big believer in the motto, “Everything ain’t for everybody” when it comes to hair and beauty, but I do think this formula is worth a try.  If you can get a sample made (or 2 or 3) from Sephora, go for it.

Natural Hair Day???

tyrabanksI was wasting time online the other day when I came across the most hilarious piece of “news” one could possibly publish.  Stop the presses: TYRA BANKS HAS DECLARED SEPT. 8TH NATURAL HAIR DAY.   Now, before we get into this, please, take a moment to digest the uppercase info.  The story in a nutshell is as follows: Season 5 for the Tyra Banks show will air on Sept. 8th.  Tyra wants to “take it to the next level” and have women (including herself) “rock what they’ve got and be proud!” (Her words, which is why I’m being a good English graduate and using the quotation marks.)  She is encouraging women to go natural with her.

I read the article and had to laugh because, well, I’m not sure why, but I do know that confusion has already spread like wildfire.  Tyra’s definition of going natural is to wear her ‘real’ hair instead of a weave.  This in itself brings up the whole debate of  what is natural.  She didn’t say she wouldn’t relax it, show her kinks & coils or anything of that nature, and there I give her some credit.  She fed her audience enough for them to grab hold and tune in, but has made no distinctions or promises.  I read some of the comments from readers after finishing the article and needless to say, some were positive, most were not.

Here’s the thing.  I’m not going to hate on Tyra, but I will give my honest opinion.  I’m sure she’s done her part in some ways to help weaken the stereotype that the fashion powers have when it comes to models that don’t look like a pasty stick figure.  Everyone has differing opinions on what natural hair is, and I’m sure that to some, my hair wouldn’t be natural enough, and that’s fine.  To me, natural hair is free of chemical processing.  I have a semi-permanent colour in my hair at the moment, and I like it.  Sometimes I get my hair pressed.  Most times I wear it the way God gave it to me: curly and wild.  I think it is possible to be natural and have extensions put in or a weave.  The major factor involved is that it may be something you may do occasionally, and is not a case of never showing your real hair.  A friend of mine went on vacation and put extensions in: she swam every day, looked gorgeous and never once worried about the humidity or fussed about how her hair looked.  To me, it’s all about using your head (no pun intended).  There are a lot of women who have hair issues who can’t live and let live.  Instead, they project their junk onto others.  Personally, I don’t believe that every woman who relaxes, wears weaves or such is ashamed of their hair.  I think it’s silly to come to this conclusion, although I’ve read this comment quite a few times on different hair blogs.  There are women like that, sure, but it can also be a case of something just working well for a person and her lifestyle.  As for Tyra…well, I don’t think she falls into the ‘natural’ category.  What can I say, I deal with my hair every day.  I am my own stylist.  Sometimes the hair cooperates, sometimes it doesn’t.  I don’t need to mark my calendar for a natural hair day since every day has been natural for the last few years.

An Epiphany

It’s been a busy summer for me.  I helped plan a much needed, long awaited family reunion that was very much a success.  I spent two wonderful weeks in Jamaica and during that time, I had a major epiphany:  my home environment is no good for my skin.  I’ve come to accept that I will not ever be one of those women with a flawless complexion.  The fact is, most of my skin woes are tied to my hormones, and no cream can solve that.  However, during my vacation, I was having so much fun that I pretty much ditched my regular skin care routine.  I did everything that is a no-no for achieving good skin: drank too much alcohol, indulged in a couple of Cuban cigars, stayed up late, woke up early (not enough rest), didn’t drink enough water, and ate whatever looked delicious and most of the time I fell into bed (forget about washing my face).  The biggest surprise is that at this very moment, I have the skin I’ve always wanted.  It doesn’t have a mark or pimple.  It’s even (thanks to the island sun) and smooth.  I didn’t expect this at all.  Interestingly enough, there were a few others in my family that experienced the same phenomenon.  Now that I’m back home, I am awaiting the dreaded blemishes that are bound to appear on my face.  The only conclusion I can come up with, as to why my skin cleared up so beautifully, is that island life must agree with me.  I need to start playing the lottery and move some where tropical.

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