Sisi Fuss

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Fine Art, History, The Arts

Kirsti and I have not written much for the blog this summer, and over the past month I haven’t felt like swooning over anything except the oppressive heat, but I’ve been roused today from my self-imposed sabbatical to commemorate, of all things, an assassination.

On September 10, 1898—120 years ago today—Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known familiarly as “Sisi” (i.e. sissy), was stabbed in the chest by a disgruntled anarchist (is there any other kind?) as she was about to board a steamship in Geneva, Switzerland. In the chaos of the attack, neither she nor her lady-in-waiting realized what had happened until Sisi collapsed and was carried aboard ship, where her tight corset laces, which had been stanching the flow of blood, were cut open to help her breathe…and that was all she wrote.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1865.

Years ago, when I’d grown my hair below my waist and was in thrall to trailing tresses, I encountered a painting of Sisi by famed royal portraitist Franz Xaver Winterhalter and developed an adult case of Princess Syndrome. In the painting, Sisi’s famously long, thick hair is unbound and flowing down her back while one creamy shoulder is exposed by the drape of a sumptuous gown. I was enchanted, and thus began my fascination with this complicated consort.

Sisi’s marriage to Franz Joseph I of Austria initially seemed like a fairytale. His mother had arranged for him to marry his cousin, Sisi’s older sister Helene, but when then-Princess Elisabeth joined Helene and their mother to meet the young Emperor for the first time, he only had eyes for Sisi. In a rare display of defiance against his domineering mother, Franz Joseph declared that he’d marry none but Elisabeth, and their betrothal was announced five days later.

This Winterhalter portrait from 1864 was Franz Joseph’s favorite painting of his wife.

The courtship and marriage were highly romanticized in the 1955 film Sissi,* but real life did not lead to a happily ever after. From the beginning, Sisi chafed at the strictures of court life, compounded by the open disdain of her overbearing mother-in-law, who took charge of raising Sisi’s two daughters and is rumored to have threatened her over not producing a male heir. By the time Sisi gave birth to a son, her first child had already died of illness, and she’d fallen into a depression that plagued her throughout her life.

Her misery manifested as a number of (likely) psychosomatic ailments and an obsession with weight and beauty involving extreme exercise and fasting regimens, daily cold showers, and hours spent brushing and styling her hair. But despite her neuroses and melancholy, Sisi was intelligent and curious, taking delight in defying convention and shocking those in her stifling milieu. She spoke several languages, was an avid reader, and had a passionate thirst for knowledge that led to wanderlust in her later years, but the death of her only son at the age of 30 in a murder-suicide with his mistress was the final blow from which she never emotionally recovered.

Winterhalter’s famous 1865 portrait of Sisi wearing crystal hair pins and a tulle gown covered with shimmering foil stars.

During her 44 years as Empress of Austria, Sisi found periods of solace by visiting Hungary, of which she was also queen through her marriage, and showed a clear preference for that country and its people. While this angered many Austrians, she remained a subject of fascination and was lauded for her charitable works and sympathy with the common man. When she was assassinated at age 60, Sisi was deeply mourned throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an area that continues to make a fuss over her to this day.

Kirsti traveled to Vienna a few years ago, where she visited the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg Imperial Palace and scored me several choice items of “Sisiana,” including syrup and jelly, tea and truffles, and a beautiful reproduction of one of the crystal starburst hair pins that adorn Sisi’s coiffure in Winterhalter’s most famous portrait of her. I have also ordered Sisi-themed chocolates (surprisingly delicious) and sparkling wine from Austria that arrived on my doorstep faster than many orders I’ve placed in the U.S.

While I enjoy using these items and admiring Sisi’s portrait on my wall (a gift from my cousin), I try not to lose sight of an enduring lesson. The irony and tragedy of celebrating Sisi for her beauty is that she derived her self-worth from her looks, which were doomed to fade over time. And though it would be easy to dismiss her as a pampered, vain royal who cared only about her appearance and didn’t appreciate the good fortune her status afforded, her story is a reminder that beauty, money, and position are no protection against adversity and heartache.

After learning about the lady beyond the canvas, I no longer have Princess Syndrome. People from all walks of life can experience tragedy and self-doubt, and every woman should know that she’s valued for more than just physical attractiveness, her spouse, or a title. The freedom to pursue your own purpose is a privilege, and it turns out that marrying into royalty is not all it’s cracked up to be (I’m looking at you, Hallmark Channel!).

But I still really love that hair.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice in this post:

Empress Elisabeth of Austria

 

Sissi* chocolates and sparkling wine can be ordered online from Austrian Shop, but be aware that availability is often unreliable.

 

*Sisi’s nickname is often misspelled as Sissi is film, literature, the performing arts, retail, and various other areas.

Sisi might remind you of another beautiful and beloved princess whose unhappiness with her marriage, royal restrictions, and public scrutiny led to depression, low self-esteem, and an eating disorder, but also sparked a streak of defiance, an interest in philanthropic endeavors, and an affinity for the common people that led to an outpouring of grief upon her untimely death.

Franz Winterhalter also painted a famous portrait of another beautiful aristocrat with fabulous hair.

 

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Bring Out the Best Skin Ever

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Fragrance, Wellness

Even in her 80s, my Auntie Jo had beautiful skin, which I attributed, in part, to her lifelong use of cold cream. In her day, it was common to cleanse the face of dirt and makeup by slathering on a thick, oil-based cream, then wiping it away with a warm, wet washcloth. Her preferred brand was Albolene, and I used to love dipping my fingers in the large jar as a kid while she went through her evening ablutions.

Having seen her perform the ritual numerous times, I was accustomed to the practice of using oils to “wash” the skin, which is why I was eager to try the Best Skin Ever line of cleansing oil blends from Living Libations.

According to the company’s website, “Washing the face with pure pressed plant oils is an ancient Ayurvedic and gracious gypsy method to cleanse and gently exfoliate the skin.” If you’re like me, you just tried to say “gracious gypsy” five times fast, then you added several of these exotic elixirs to your cart.

Featuring a heady medley of natural essences in a base of jojoba and virgin coconut oils, these potent potions cleanse and soften* skin at the same time while leaving behind an intoxicating fragrance. My favorites are Lavish Abundance (who could resist that name?), Neroli (like an orange tree in full bloom), and Tropical (island flowers with Hawaiian sandalwood).

Unlike the cold creams of old, which contained mineral oil and petrolatum (dead organisms), Best Skin Ever oils are all plant-based and bursting with life. It only takes a minute or two of massaging them into the skin before they are absorbed completely, leaving no oily residue. The only thing that lingers is the lush aroma.

I am a fairly frugal person, but I lost all sense (and cents) over these scents. While I used to wash-and-go, now I tarry over my toilette, so if you haven’t taken the time recently to stop and smell the roses (and the jasmine and the gardenia and the orange blossoms…), bring out the Best Skin Ever and let it bring out the best in you.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Living Libations Best Skin Ever

 

Instructions for how to use these oils for cleansing can be found below the description of each blend on the Living Libations website.

As of this writing, The Raw Food World is having a “Below Cost” sale on Best Skin Ever blends for a limited time, so get yours at an incredible discount while supplies last. These are the 50 ml sizes, which are bigger than they look in pictures and come in attractive frosted glass bottles with wooden caps and a convenient plastic pump. You can use the coupon code “honeymoon” at checkout for an additional 7% off your order. Stock up!

 

*I used to be a product trainer for a skin and hair care company, and it still makes me a little crazy when people refer to oil as a moisturizer. Oil is an emollient, which makes skin soft and supple, but can’t moisturize, because it contains no moisture (i.e. water). Oil can act as a protective barrier to hold in existing moisture, or be blended with water and an emulsifier to create a moisture cream, but it will not moisturize skin on its own. For a moisturizing effect, apply oils immediately after taking a shower, while the skin is still damp, or hold a wet washcloth to your face for a few minutes before massaging in the oil.

 

More Powder to You

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

Readers of this blog know that I like to use an unorthodox hair wash in place of shampoo. As someone who’s also used henna to dye my hair and clay masks to deep-cleanse my scalp, I’m comfortable playing with paste and mud when it comes to my hair care regimen, which is why I pounced on this trio of plant powders from Khadi Omorose.

Amla, reetha, and skikakai have a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine. When the fruits of these plants are dried, ground into powder, and mixed with water to make a paste, they provide numerous benefits for the hair and scalp.

Amla, which comes from the Indian gooseberry fruit, is high in vitamin C, a key nutrient in slowing the effects of aging. It is believed that using amla paste and oil on the hair and scalp can prevent hair loss and premature graying. When used in conjunction with henna, amla can improve dye uptake and intensify hair color.

The soapnut tree, known as reetha in Hindi, produces a fruit that contains saponins: natural surfactants that gently remove dirt and oil. (Soapnuts make a surprisingly effective organic laundry detergent that is quite capable at cleaning without harsh chemicals.)

The pod-like fruit of shikakai can also cleanse the hair, but is primarily touted for its conditioning and detangling effects. It is said to strengthen hair from the roots and promote hair growth.

I have been experimenting with this trio and found that each plant works well for different purposes. Unlike my sweet-smelling hair wash, these powders are “earthy,” to say the least. The upside is that there is no lingering odor once they’ve been washed out. I applied each of them in the same way by mixing equal parts powder and aloe vera gel in a small bowl before working the paste into wet hair. (I discovered that using aloe gel in place of water gives the paste some slip, which makes it easier to massage into the hair and scalp.) For my medium-thick, long hair, 1-2 tablespoons of powder with an equal amount of aloe gel was sufficient for each application.

Reetha worked best as a cleanser. It actually foamed up a bit, like soap, and removed all traces of oil and dirt. This is something I might use once a week or every two weeks to remove buildup and clarify the scalp.

The amla paste did not work for me as a shampoo, leaving some oil behind (and necessitating a follow-up wash), but I’ve found that it makes a great dry shampoo. With its neutral tan color, it blends well with my brownish-blonde hair,* and just ½ teaspoon of the dry powder massaged through the scalp absorbs oil and livens locks on days when there’s no time to wash.

Another way to receive the benefits of amla is to mix 2 teaspoons of powder with 8 oz. of hot water, steep until the liquid cools, strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and pour into a dropper bottle. Apply the liquid to the scalp a couple of times a week, massage in, and let dry. (There’s no need to wash it out—simply brush hair when dry.)

The real star of this lineup, in my opinion, is shikakai. It worked as both an effective hair wash and a stellar conditioner, leaving my hair feeling softer and more manageable than I’ve EVER felt it. I noticed the difference from the moment I rinsed it out in the shower and continued to feel it when my hair was dry. I have no idea what chemical constituents in the fruit are responsible for this effect, but it’s remarkable. Follow the directions for steeping above (replacing amla with shikakai) and strain into a spray bottle for spritzing on dry hair between washes to boost shine and manageability.

As with my Terressentials hair wash, combing out wet hair after washing with these powders is quick, easy, and painless—no conditioner required.

For taming all types of tresses, these plants are a natural, so if you’re searching for hair care solutions that have stood the test of time, more powder to you!


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Amla, Reetha, and Shikakai Hair Powders

 

As of this writing, the Khadi Hair Care Combo is no longer available from Amazon, but lately I’ve been using this convenient Hair Wash Powder that includes a blend of amla, reetha, shikakai, bhringraj, aloe vera, neem, and brahmi together in one pouch.

 

*For darker hair colors, add unsweetened cocoa powder until the desired shade is achieved.

 

Out for Dragon’s Blood

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

If you watch Game of Thrones, you already know what dragon’s fire does to enemy lines, but do you know what dragon’s blood does to facial lines? Croton lechleri, a flowering plant commonly known as “dragon’s blood,” produces a deep red sap that has both medicinal and cosmetic benefits. Its natural latex forms a protective barrier on the skin, acting as a liquid bandage to stop bleeding and speed the healing of wounds and other skin disorders. (When added to hair gel, it also helps smooth split ends while holding styles in place.)

In the short term, dragon’s blood can plump the skin, giving the appearance of smaller pores and smoother lines. Simply squeeze a few drops into the palm of one hand and rub with the fingers of the other hand until the sap turns white, then spread evenly onto the skin. It creates an almost imperceptible second skin that gives a refined, matte look. Dragon’s blood is also high in antioxidants and taspine, which promotes tissue regeneration and elasticity with regular use.

But the benefits of this red resin go more than skin deep. I initially bought dragon’s blood for the intriguing name and the fact that it really does look like blood, but I discovered that it’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for a variety of physical issues, both internal and external. I will not list them all here, because the good folks at The Raw Food World have done that for me (link below), but I’ve been known to swirl a few drops around in my mouth to encourage healthy gums. It always seems a little magical to ingest dragon’s blood, no matter how mundane the reason.

Now that I’ve spilled the beans about this fantastical beauty secret, you’ll be out for dragon’s blood, so tip the scales in your favor and enjoy skin that’s fit for a queen.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Dragon’s Blood

 

From now through the end of September, The Raw Food World is offering Dragon’s Blood at cost ($10.46, reg. $14.95). For the full list of September’s “At-Cost” Specials, click here. Enter the code “honeymoon” at checkout to get an additional 7% off your order.

 

Taking the Waters

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Cold Drinks, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Savories, Sweets, Wellness

Here in Southern California, we’re on the tail end of yet another summer heat wave. It feels like we’ve been pummeled with them this year, barely having time to enjoy a week of “cooler” temps (90s instead of 100s) before the next one rolls in. This latest wave brought some dreaded humidity that made going outside feel like stepping into a wet sauna. Ugh. We’re only midway through the season, so to keep my cool and freshen up when there’s no time for taking a bath, I’ve been taking the waters.

I discovered the culinary delights of rose water and orange blossom water when I got to know my Persian co-workers many years ago. They explained that Middle Eastern cooks use these floral waters in cooking and baking the way that most Americans use vanilla. I quickly learned that the waters also make fragrant and refreshing toners and tonics. During the summer, my favorite cooling trick is to pour them into spray bottles and keep them in the fridge for sweetly-scented spritzing throughout the day.

For years, I could only find Indo-European brand rose and orange blossom waters at Whole Foods and the ethnic foods aisle of some chain grocery stores, but then a large Middle Eastern market opened a few miles from my house and introduced me to a whole new world of culinary waters. There were familiar ingredients, like dillweed, cumin seed, and licorice, alongside less common ones, such as borage, sweetbriar, and willow, but some of the names were unrecognizable to me. What the heck is hedysarum? And fumitary water sounds like a treatment you’d be given on the road to wellville.

I bought them all.

Since I’m more of a baker than a cook, the dillweed and cumin have languished on a shelf, but orange blossom continues to be a favorite scent, and a rose by any other name—whether Naab or Ghamsar Kashan—smells as sweet. A whiff of willow holds hints of violet and rose, while fumitary emits the unexpected essence of peppermint. On sweltering summer nights, nothing beats a mist of mint water on sheets, pillows, and overheated skin, especially under the cooling currents of a fan.

Many of the descriptions online recommend taking these waters as a tonic beverage with plain water and sugar added. According to one, chicory water can “refine the blood,” promoting skin and liver health. Another claims that fenugreek water helps lower blood sugar and strengthen hair. Willow is said to stimulate the appetite, while fumitary (sometimes called fumitory) is beneficial for treating eczema and psoriasis. Hedysarum, which has a flavor completely unfamiliar to my American palate, tastes slightly medicinal, with a sharp earthiness and a trace of fruit that is both strange and exotic … and, apparently, useful for whooping cough.

In addition to Indo-European, I have found culinary waters from Cortas, Al Wadi, and Sadaf, but the largest selection is produced by Golchin. Most of them are only $3-5 a bottle, so stock up this summer and hydrate liberally, inside and out, because taking the waters is (almost) as therapeutic as a trip to the spa.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Culinary Waters

 

If you don’t live near a Middle Eastern market and can’t find these culinary waters at your local grocery store or gourmet food shop, many are available online from Persian Basket.

 

Sharing o’ the Green

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Tea, Wellness

What is it about mints and gum that prompts people to share? I can’t remember a time that I’ve been out with a group of friends when I haven’t had an open tin or pack offered to me. It’s like the universal gesture of amity and goodwill. In this spirit of generosity, I will share with you my sweet secret for healthy teeth, fresh breath, and a strong jaw: Green Tea Chewing Gum from Spry.

As I’ve written about before, I am a stickler for oral hygiene, but I’ve had my share of dental issues over the years. One hygienist I spoke with said she’s seen patients who are meticulous about brushing and flossing, but have new cavities with every visit, while others never floss and don’t brush regularly, yet enjoy a mouthful of flawless pearly whites. Genetics, diet, and lifestyle all play a factor, but you can tip the scales in your favor by chewing gum daily.

Not all gums are created equal, however. Some contain sugar and are little better than candy, while others are filled with artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. Spry uses xylitol, a naturally-derived sweetener that reduces cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect teeth and gums while neutralizing unpleasant odors.* I also find that Spry gum is slightly tougher than most other chewing gums I’ve tried, which is great for strengthening the teeth and jaw.

Beautiful on Raw gives a concise explanation for how thorough chewing can inhibit bone loss and increase density by applying stress to the teeth and jaw, which draws bone-building minerals to the area. It also increases the flow of calcium-and-phosphorus-rich saliva to help prevent tooth demineralization. I have a friend who is primarily interested in how chewing gum regularly can change the shape of one’s face, giving it a more attractive structure.† In any case, the practice is so easy and the benefits so numerous that it’s time to get busy chewing!

I like to chew gum for 5-10 minutes after I eat and 45 minutes to an hour on my nightly walk. I simply pop a piece in my mouth before I head out the door, then discard it when I return. This way, I get in a good amount of daily exercise without offending anyone by chewing in social situations.

But why green tea? Simply because it tastes great! Sugarless gums all seem to come in standard flavors of peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, and fruit, but the Green Tea version from Spry has an almost floral note that is refreshingly unique. You won’t need mint to freshen your breath when xylitol is on the job.

This St. Patrick’s Day, instead of looking over a four-leaf clover, turn over a new leaf and start chewing on the idea of deliciously improving the health and beauty of your mouth and jaw with Spry Green Tea gum. Then pay it forward by sharing o’ the green.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Spry Green Tea Chewing Gum

 

Spry gum can be found at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and The Vitamin Shoppe, but many stores don’t stock the Green Tea flavor, so look for it online from Xlear and Amazon.

 

*Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, so NEVER leave an open purse or container of xylitol-sweetened gum within reach of your pets.

†For this purpose, he recommends Falim gum, which is quite tough to chew. I tried it once and could definitely feel the stress on my teeth and jaw, but I didn’t enjoy the taste or the level of difficulty involved.

 

Essential Soil

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Fragrance, Wellness

terressentials-super-protection-deodorantYears ago, when I developed a sensitivity to deodorant, I tried virtually every brand on the market before finding one that actually worked and didn’t make my underarms feel like the pits. This miracle product was the Super Protection Deodorant from Terressentials, a small company dedicated to environmental responsibility and 100% natural and organic body care. I could devote an entire post to my regard for this roll-on were it not for the fact that underarm deodorant isn’t a particularly swoon-worthy topic. Fortunately, I discovered that Terressentials also makes an unconventional hair wash that functions as a Shampoo Worthy Of Our Notice.

Always on the lookout for simple, natural hair and skincare solutions, I jumped on the “no ’poo” bandwagon a few years ago, using a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse to clean and condition my hair. Apostrophe slang aside, I loved how this crack combo cleaned my scalp without weighing down my waves, but when I read several articles about the harsh effects of baking soda, I knew I had to find a fresh fix.

terressentials-lavender-garden-pure-earth-hair-washAfter trying several different products and conducting a few disastrous homemade experiments (turns out you have to SIFT the rye flour), I spied Terressentials’ Pure Earth Hair Wash while on a deodorant run at my local health food store. I’d seen this product before over the years, but had dismissed it as not suitable for my scalp, which tends toward oiliness. However, in the interest of research, I decided to try the sweetly-scented Lavender Garden.*

This wash takes some getting used to. Composed primarily of organic aloe vera and bentonite clay, it contains no soap or detergent and does not foam up. You must massage the mud-like paste into wet hair for 2-3 minutes to make sure it comes in contact with all parts of the scalp. It’s also recommended that you repeat this process the first few times you use it in order to thoroughly clean your hair.

terressentials-pure-earth-hair-washWhile it may seem like a paradox, washing with dirt actually works! Without harsh cleansers or heavy conditioners, my hair was squeaky clean and untangled with ease, while the essential oil fragrance surrounded me in scents of lush lavender, sweet orange, and rose geranium. Just a dab of unscented hair gel to tame frizz and flyaways and I was good to go.

When it comes to pure and natural hair care, sometimes you have to get your strands dirty, so dig up this essential soil and bring your shampoo down to earth.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash

 

*It turns out that Lavender Garden is recommended for normal-to-dry hair, but it works well for my scalp.

Mother of Dragon’s Blood

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

Blood of the Dragon Styling GelAs I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy laziness. I usually shower at night, because I can go to bed with wet hair and it will be dry in the morning with no effort on my part. As I’ve also discussed, my hair is prone to frizziness…and frizziness + laziness = craziness. Fortunately, I’ve found a Method for solving this equation.

I could write individual posts for most of the items in the Morrocco Method line of hair care products (and I just might), but their Blood of the Dragon Styling Gel has been a workhorse for me this summer and deserves its moment in the sun. My hair dries quickly in the arid heat of Southern California, so I’ve been massaging a dollop of the gel into my wet hair and allowing it to dry naturally during the day. The Light/Medium hold of this non-greasy gel helps to define curls, smooth split ends, and bring out shine. While there’s nothing unusual about how it works—most hair gels can get the job done—there IS something unusual (and swoon-worthy) about the ingredients and the method by which it’s made.

Aloe Vera LeafOver the 50 years that Anthony Morrocco has been cutting and styling hair for celebrity clients, he’s learned that holistic care leads to beautiful hair. Dissatisfied with many so-called “natural” products on the market, he created his own pristine hair care line from pure plant botanicals and naturally-derived minerals. All MM products are synthetic-free, cruelty-free, gluten-free, sulfate-free, soy-free, Paleo, and raw. Blood of the Dragon Styling Gel is also wildcrafted and vegan (top that!). Made from a base of aloe vera and dragon’s blood powder, it has a neutral fragrance that won’t interfere with other scented products, washes out easily, and can be used with impunity, since it’s safe for you and the planet.

Targaryens and wild hair-ians agree: Blood of the Dragon is the mother of natural styling gels. So if you have an insane mane like me, apply some Method to your madness and take a summer vacation from bad hair days.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Morrocco Method Blood of the Dragon Styling Gel

 

PMS – ProMeno Swoondrome

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

(For men who think that this post does not apply to them, read or scroll to the end.)

ProMeno Women's Wild Yam CreamYears ago, I worked at an alternative healthcare center where a client casually mentioned to me that she actually enjoyed her monthly cycle, seeing it as a time of cleansing and renewal. I just sat there with my mouth agape. I had never before heard those words from another woman, particularly the ones in my family, whose hormonal fluctuations could give Six Flags a run for its money.

I mentioned this to my neighbor, who has a wealth of knowledge about biochemistry and natural remedies, having worked with a multinational nutraceutical company for the past two decades. She told me about a medicinal herb called wild yam that can help balance the endocrine system and smooth out the rollercoaster.

While researching the subject on my own, I came across MoonMaid Botanicals, a company that produces creams and salves containing wild yam, which, according to their literature, is most effective when absorbed through the skin. I read some compelling explanations of how wild yam can assist the body to produce progesterone—a balancer of estrogen and testosterone—but their products seemed to be marketed primarily to menopausal and perimenopausal women. Knowing (hoping!) that this was still years away for me, I bookmarked the website and moved on.

ProAndro Men's Wild Yam Cream

“I yam what I yam.” Even big, strong men like Popeye can benefit from the hormone-balancing effects of wild yam.

About a year ago, I suddenly started breaking out like a teenager and experiencing mood swings. Having just read about how women of all ages should use a progesterone cream due to the prevalence of estrogen mimickers in our food and environment, I decided it was time to get some wild yam and get off this wild ride. I found the bookmark and placed an order with MoonMaid Botanicals for their ProMeno Women’s Wild Yam Cream.

The first thing I noticed was that it had a lovely aroma and silky texture. After using it regularly for a few weeks, both my skin and my emotions began to settle down. My next “moon cycle” was a breeze, and each subsequent month has gotten easier. Coincidence? Conceivably. Placebo effect? Possibly. But when two women at work complained of hot flashes and I recommended ProMeno, they bought it and said that their symptoms went away. Why didn’t I discover this stuff in my teens?!

RadiantRose Nite CreamWild yam even has benefits for men, who can experience andropause and are exposed to the same estrogen mimickers as women. To help balance testoterone, MoonMaid Botanicals offers a ProAndro Men’s Wild Yam Cream, which also contains herbs that support prostate health.

The company sells a number of other bath and skincare products, my favorite of which is the RadiantRose Nite Cream—a rich, fragrant moisturizer with a natural pink blush that will make your skin petal-soft—but they are small potatoes next to the wonders of wild yam. So whether you’re having hot flashes or you’re just a hot mess, get a case of ProMeno Swoondrome and chill out.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

ProMeno Women’s Wild Yam Cream
ProAndro Men’s Wild Yam Cream
RadiantRose Nite Cream

 

MoonMaid Botanicals’ all-natural creams do not contain synthetic preservatives, so I like to stay extra chill and protect my products by storing them in the refrigerator.

 

The One Hair Product I Can’t Live Without

Author: Kirsti Kay, Beauty, Fragrance

Lush R&B 1How does a relatively sane person end up going around to all the people she knows and asking them to smell her bangs? How does a mild-mannered girl from the Valley sit smugly at a concert silently thinking, “You’re welcome,” because we are packed in like sardines and everyone is able to breathe in the intoxicating aroma of her fragrant hair? Is it weird to wake up in the night and smile because your awesome-smelling hair woke you up, and then fall back into blissful dreams of jasmine petals and orange blossoms?

Our story begins on a rainy winter’s day in Portland, Maine. After a wonderful visit, our dear friend Treena dropped my husband and me off at the bus station, where we were catching a bus to the Boston airport. It was gray and drizzly and we were sad that our trip had come to an end. When it was time to queue up for the bus, there was an adorable gal with a service dog in front of us in line. Aaron asked if he could pet her dog, and as we started chatting, I was suddenly overcome with the most delicious scent. I could barely concentrate on our conversation because I was just breathing in this strange, invisible perfume that wafted from this woman, hypnotizing me with its floral majesty.

It turns out she was heading to L.A. with her sweet dog Lula to live with her boyfriend in Sherman Oaks. Wait. Sherman Oaks is about 15 minutes away from where we live! And, you say…your boyfriend works in the entertainment industry? Aaron works in the entertainment industry! Oh, and you’re obsessed with your dog? We’re obsessed with our dog too! And, hey, you smell so good and I happen to love good smells! By the time we got on the bus, we were friends.

I said to Aaron, “Wow, didn’t she smell amazing?”
“I guess,” he said.
I thought about it the whole flight home.

Lush R&B 2

The contents of this tiny tub will Revive & Balance your hair while enveloping you in a heavenly floral scent.

The first time she came over with her boyfriend and Lula, I gave her a hug, and not-so-subtly buried my face in her hair like a woman-starved pirate from a cheap romance novel. “Wow, you smell so good,” I said like an idiot. She casually mentioned it was a hair conditioner from Lush. As I poured the wine, I made a mental note to GET THEE TO THE NEAREST LUSH, ASAP!

The next morning, I went straight to Lush’s website, but they had so many conditioners I had no idea which was the one that had bewitched me body and soul. I was going to have to ask her again. I had anxiety. Some people don’t like to reveal their recipes or the name of their perfume…could conditioner fall into this quagmire of personal secrets? Would I be gauche for asking AGAIN?

The next time we met, I was slightly sweaty with anxiety. But the moment I got into her car and smelled that now familiar floral cloud, I just blurted out, “Please tell me again what that conditioner is!” She laughed the confident laugh of a woman who knows how good she smells and said, “It’s from Lush and it’s called R&B.”

I immediately went online when I got back to my office and discovered that R&B is actually a hair moisturizer, not a hair conditioner. The website also said it’s good for curly or African American hair, which was a little concerning, because I have the finest baby hair in the ENTIRE WORLD. Whatever, it shall be mine! And it was.

Lush R&B 3

Just a dab of this Lush-ious styling cream will tame flyaways and smooth curls.

At $24 for 3.5 oz., it’s not cheap, but a little goes a long way. It is very thick, almost like body butter. At first, I put a little bit on my freshly washed hair as a leave-in conditioner and it was too much for my baby fine hair. The best way to use this product is to apply it to dried hair as a styling cream. If you have wonderfully thick and curly hair, this will cradle each curl in fragrant shine and softness. If you have fine hair like me, rub about a pea-sized amount into your hands and smooth down flyways. I also rub a bit into my bangs since that hair is the closest to my nose. Immediately, I am enveloped in the scent of angels, if angels lived in a hair product inside a mall store. The ingredients are vegan and mostly natural, featuring orange flower absolute, Indian jasmine absolute, and organic avocado butter. And, like all of Lush’s products, R&B is cruelty free.

I’m sure I seem like a ding-dong asking my friends and co-workers to smell my hair, but all of my lady friends have swooned right along with me. I made sure to give everyone clear instructions on how to buy and use it. I’m ready to pay it forward, one awesome-smelling set of bangs at a time.

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Lush R&B Hair Moisturizer