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Quasar Baby Blue

So, yesterday on Gilt, I’m trolling around, looking for deals, no real intention of buying. And THEN I see the Quasar Baby Blue. Now, at first glance it looked like a shower head to me. Or something a dentist would use. I was unsure. Then I read that it’s a device that uses blue light to target the sebaceous glands on the face, killing the bacteria that causes acne. So I’m intrigued. I Google reviews. Sure enough, people like this thing. It seems to work. And for a girl like me who (1) has battled her skin for her entire post-pubescent life, (2) has bought countless items from late-night informercials, and (3) just has hope that something will work as promised, darn it, it was a perfect storm. Plus, Gilt has never disappointed me. So I winced, paid $250 (on sale from $350—hooray!), and am now anxiously awaiting its arrival at my door. I’ll tell my husband it cost $25. Just kidding—sort of. Anyway, I’ll keep you all posted!

Your turn: What’s the most indulgent/expensive/ridiculous beauty product you’ve ever bought? Did it work? Share!


Uplifting jasmine

Posted by Colleen McKie Categories: Advice, Health

Jasmine_flowers_190605_kpjasI have never been a huge fan of flowery scents.  While I love the smell of roses and lilacs outside, the artificial scent of rose or lilac candles, air fresheners or perfumes tends to make me gag.  Ditto for jasmine, I scent I use to detest, until I realized there was a HUGE difference in the smell of artificial jasmine and jasmine essence oil.

When a friend gave me a jasmine scented all natural soap for Christmas, I smiled, said thanks and then shoved the soap in a drawer when I got home.  About a month ago I stumbled upon the soap and, feeling guilty, unwrapped it.  Once I took one whiff of the jasmine essence oil that was used in the making of the soap, I was hooked.

Yes, jasmine is a strong, sometimes heady scent, but in the essential oil form, it is light and uplifting.  In fact, there are many benefits to jasmine essence oil, some that may surprise you.

Oh, my nerves!
Jasmine is a natural nerve relaxant.  No, one sniff of jasmine will not make you fall on your face with no control over your body; rather, if you tend to be a nervous person, jasmine can help relax you, making you less stressed and anxious.  On the flip side, it increases moods of happiness and joy.  Just think of it as a natural anti depressant.

No pain sounds good to me
Jasmine is excellent at relieving menstrual cramps and also in helping with labor.  A nice belly message will do just the trick.

Yeah, baby!
Did you know jasmine is a natural aphrodisiac?  Well, you do now!  The “king of oils” is great for increasing sexual drive, helping with impotence and just making a person want to do it.

Jasmine has become one of my favorite essential oils to use in body lotions, soap and massage oils.  Now, if you’ll excuse, I must go light a jasmine candle or two:  hubby should be home any time now.

About two years ago I decided to cut out all artificial sweeteners that weren’t plant based out of my diet.  No more aspartame, sucralose or sorbitol for me.  The decision was arrived at after I did a bit of reading and came to realize that none of these products were originally designed to be consumed.  The discovery of their usability as sweeteners was accidental., and they contain all kinds of bads stuff making them generally not very good for our bodies.  I’m not big on ingesting toxins (like the ones found in aspartame)  or eating loads of laxatives(sorbitol) so I’ve cut them out of my diet.  But once that decision was made, I came to realize just how prevalent artificial sweeteners are.Artificial Sweeteners - Splenda & Equal

Bye bye gum
Almost all gum, except for bubble gum, has artificial sweeteners in it.  So I haven’t had any of the breath freshening gums in almost two years.  At first it was hard, but after a while I didn’t even miss it anymore.  Now, I rarely ever think about the fact that I no longer chew gum.  And if I need to freshen my breath, I have a mint.  After checking to make sure it doesn’t have any artificial sweeteners, of course!

Water anyone?
I am one of those people who hates the taste of water.  I know that I don’t get my daily amount and I was thrilled when, a few years ago, different companies started putting out flavoured water.  I loved them and found that I was having no problem getting in my eight glasses of H2O a day.  Then I started reading the labels.  Yep, you guessed it: artificial sweeteners in almost all of them.  Danone does have an all natural water, but it’s almost impossible to get where I live. 

So now I squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice in my water.  It tastes great, and I don’t have to worry about artificial sweeteners.  I also drink a lot of herbal tea, which helps because hot beverages count toward your daily water intake, as long as they don’t contain any caffeine.

Sweet fish
I am deathly allergic to lobster and crab, but I love the taste of them.  So when I used to get a hankering for seafood I would buy simulated crab meat and that would take care of the craving.  Sure, it doesn’t taste exactly like lobster, but it was close enough for me.  And heated, dipped in garlic butter?  Pure Heaven.

But once I started paying closer attention to what I was eating, I was shocked to read the label and
discover that it had sorbitol in it. I was very disappointed and curious as to why seafood would need to have artificial sweetener added.  Never have I had once said, “Gee I want something sweet.  Fake crab meat it is!”. So, there goes that food.  I haven’t had any in ages and, as with the gum, I no longer miss it.

Cough, cold and sorbitol?
I recently came down with a pretty bad cold and nasty cough.  I was okay during the day, sucking on mints and drinking tea, but was having a hard time sleeping at night.  So I went to the pharmacy to buy some cough syrup.

Did you know that almost ALL cough syrups have artificial sweeteners in them?  Well, they do!  I searched for half an hour and finally left empty handed, heading home to cough my head off through the night.  The next morning I headed to my favourite grocery store that has a wonderfully large natural food section and found a natural cough syrup, Nin Jiom.  I was pleasantly surprised with the taste, a nice mix of menthol and honey, and it worked wonders.  Better than some of the other cough syrups I’ve tried over the years.  And because it was all natural, there weren’t any other unwanted chemicals or medicines in it.  And a 250 ml bottle cost ten dollars, so it was very reasonably priced, too.

Always be wary
If you have decided, like me, to cut artificial sweeteners out of your life, be wary:  they can show up in the most unexpected places.

Minty goodness

Posted by Colleen McKie Categories: Advice, Health

Mint is one of my favorite scents in the world.  I quite often have a peppermint candle burning and most of my beauty products have some form of mint in them.  There is nothing quite like starting the day off with a hot shower, apple spearmint shampoo and lavender peppermint body wash.  It helps wake me up and gets my creative juices flowing.

I have also recently discovered the joy of peppermint tea. I find it’s a great mid morning perk me up without the negative effects of a caffeine headache. 

While some of the enjoyment that I get from peppermint is based on the fact that I genuinely love the scent, there is more to it than that.  Peppermint has long been a staple of aromatherapy, helping with a number of ailments and both mental and physical problems.

All snuffled up
Vicks is great, isn’t it?  Nothing helps a stuffed up head like a whiff of menthol.  A few years ago I discovered that by adding a drop or two of peppermint essential oil to an oil burner and sitting next to it I can get the same relief, but without all the stickiness of Vicks Vapor Rub.  Putting a drop or two of the oil into a dehumidifier at night works wonders, too.  Even brewing a cup of herbed peppermint tea can help unclog your sinuses and make breathing a whole heck of a lot easier.
Rumbly tummy
I don’t get nauseous a whole lot, but when I do I want one thing and one thing only: my peppermint tea.  Peppermint, whether consumed in a beverage, inhaled or applied topically can work wonders on your digestive system.  It can help keep nausea at bay and also help with gas and bloating.  Sipping tea or rubbing some essence oil on your belly can instantly make you feel better. And having a peppermint candle burning can help keep the nausea away.

Heads, finger, lips and heels
Ever wonder why almost all foot creams contain peppermint?  Well, there are two reasons.  The first is that peppermint acts as a cooling agent of sorts and is great for sore muscles and spasms.  So applying it to sore feet after a long day helps to work out the tension and achiness.  The second reason is that, contrary to popular belief, peppermint is a moisturizing agent.  It helps to stimulate the skin’s natural production of oil.  Your peppermint lip balm makes more sense now, doesn’t it?  And, thankfully, peppermint tastes great.

Above all, think
Regardless of why you are using peppermint, there is one other, very important benefit: energy.  Peppermint is a stimulant; therefore it is energizing in nature and promotes mental clarity.  And God knows we could all use some of that.

So the next time you are sick with a cold, the flu or are just felling blah in general, light a peppermint candle, grab a cup of mint tea and slap on some lip balm.  Trust me, you’ll feel better in no time.


We quite often read food labels to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies.  But how about what we’re putting on them?  You might not think too much about what’s in your make-up, shampoo or body lotions, but maybe you should.  Some of the most popular ingredients in beauty products can also be harmful.


There has recently been much controversy over the use of parabens in products with both sides of the debate being very clear on their position.  Some health officials swear there is nothing harmful about using parabens, while others swear they are extremely harmful.  My main concern with parabens is the potential for harm.  It’s a chemical and has proven to be absorbable through our skin.  The studies against using parabens have found that in cancerous breast tissue cells there is an elevated amount of the chemical.  Has it been proven to cause or increase the risk of breast cancer?  Nope.  But remember, at one time it was thought safe to powder your face with lead.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This cleaning agent can be found in soap, shampoos and body washes.  Oh, yeah and as car engine degreaser.  Sodium Lauryl sulfate and any of the other sufactants can cause skin and scalp irritation, irritates your eyes, cause hand, face and arm swelling and dries out skin and hair.  The reason it’s used?  Because it’s cheap. 


If you have sensitive skin and use a product with sodium lauryl sulfate, you can irritate the underlying problem making your skin even drier and itchier.  And what do we generally do when our skin is dry?  Put on more lotion, probably full of parabens.

I have decided to become a beauty product label reader and will only use products that do not contain either of these chemicals.  Because I think they are 100% toxic and will kill me?  No.  Because I want to live healthy and that includes what I put on my skin as much as what I put in my mouth.

Dove campaign for real beauty Shortly before I got married last May, my amazing mom—who knew I’d been wanting to get back in shape—gifted me 20 half-hour sessions with a personal trainer. Fast forward five months. I received a call from 24 Hour Fitness; it seemed they checked their records and I still had 18 of my 20 sessions remaining. (Oops.) Did I want to come in and use them? Damn, I thought. But my summer of blissful post-wedding eating had taken a toll—ten pounds, to be exact—on my figure. I’ve always been pretty small, so that increase made a major difference in the way my clothes fit and the way I thought about my own body. So I said grudgingly, “Okay. I’ll go in tomorrow.”

Since then, several things have happened, all amazing in their own right. (1) I weigh the exact same as I did in September… but my body fat has dropped by 6%. I’ve gone from the “Acceptable” to the “Lean” range! (2) I’ve committed to participating in a triathlon in May… How did that happen? (3) I renewed my training sessions—twice—and am now in another class three days a week to prepare for the triathlon. All in all, I’m working out seven days per week—crazy! (4) I can do awesome man-pushups, and I feel strong and powerful. (5) My skin is clearer… a happy surprise, to be sure!

Of course, to be fair, half my pants still don’t fit, and I’ve been sore every day for, oh, five months.

Click to continue reading What’s Your Locker-Room Body Image?


I am, in some cases, a true girly girl. I love beauty products. Lotions, lip glosses, body washes, perfumes, I love them all.  I had totes of them stored in my closet because I ran out of room. And I probably had enough to open up my own drugstore.

You’ll notice I said “I had”. I have recently started thinking long and hard about all of my beauty products, what was in them, and really what they meant to me. I knew I had way more than I needed, but I really liked having the option of scent and color on a daily basis. But after doing some research I soon discovered that maybe my beauty products weren’t all that healthy for me.

So I purged. And I purged big time. I got rid off a lot of stuff, some that I had forgotten that I even had! And if I didn’t know I had it, I obviously didn’t need it.

So now I’ve gone organic. Lotions, shampoo, make up. The whole nine yards. It wasn’t easy. For me, gone are the days when I would just pick up whatever was on sale. I have now become an avid label reader and on line shopper. I get excited when I discover a new company or product that is all organic.

I’ll be sharing tips and secrets to going organic and why you should. But don’t worry, I won’t be climbing up onto any soapboxes and preaching from the gospel of organic. I just want to let you in on some information and you can decide for yourself.

New Year's clock It’s the tenth day of the new year, and how many of us have already strayed from our resolutions? That may be because those goals we make each December 31 often revolve around breaking bad habits or spontaneously forming new, better ones. Who among us hasn’t vowed, at least once, to eat healthier, to work out three times a week, to drink less, to read more, to be spontaneous, and so on? While these resolutions may be noble, they’re also decidedly vague. (After all, doesn’t eating only one bowl of ice cream after dinner count as “eating healthier”?) So why not give yourself a chance to actually achieve your goals by making them smaller and more realistic? Below, 15 little ways to live healthier and happier—starting now.

Click to continue reading 15 Little Ways to Live Happier and Healther—Starting NOW!

blueberries I’ve been thinking about the best way to start blogging about health issues that really matter to women. And I decided that, in addition to product reviews, exercise and eating advice, etc., it’d be a good idea to spend some time each week focusing on a particular health threat. Why not start with one that’s close to my heart (and bladder)?

One lovely Sunday morning about seven or eight years ago, my mom cornered me before breakfast and asked if I could have gonorrhea. I sputtered and shook, furious that my own mother could think I had an STD. I told her that I hadn’t put in the dirty work for that one, and we awkwardly moved on. But the truth is, her question was valid. For about a year, I’d been getting frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), but as of late, every test had come back negative. No bacteria, no infection; I was fine. Fast forward four years. I had just graduated from college and reached a sulky sort of resignation that I would simply always have “my” symptoms: stinging pain when I peed, urgent/frequent urination (often with nothing to show for my effort), and pain in my bladder/pelvic region. Then my grandmother said the two magic words: interstitial cystitis.

Click to continue reading Health Bulletin #1: The disease that poses as a UTI—and affects more than 1 in 300 women

A pre made-over Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada

Now, clearly I love the beauty and fashion industry. I delight in it. But this wasn’t always the case. Back in high school, I was the girl who took pride in arriving to class with her hair in a messy wet bun, wearing only lip balm and a snug t-shirt with drawstring pants. Vans were my footwear staple. I considered myself independent, a little bohemian, and I looked scornfully at the girls with smoky eyes and straightened hair. There was also, I’ll admit, a little bit of envy. In their fashion, their stilettos that clacked across the beige tiled hallways, those girls had what I didn’t: sex appeal.

Last night, I watched The Devil Wears Prada with my 12-year-old stepdaughter. She is uncommonly beautiful, with no trace of the awkwardness I suffered at her age. She is smart, perceptive, and a budding fashionista. (The night before, she’d killed thirty minutes by trying on half a dozen pairs of my shoes, then texting all her friends back in Seattle about her newfound love for high-heeled boots.) But as we watched Prada, she’d declare, “Ugh! I have such a big butt!” or “Look at all this baby-flab over my hips! You don’t have any of that!” or “I’m confused. How come my thighs touch when I’m standing up? That’s not right, is it?”

Click to continue reading When Should We Start Worrying About Beauty?