The Importance of Beauty

As a professional esthetician, I often hear people connecting esthetic services with “mere” vanity, either directly, or as an underlying assumption. Have you  ever thought about facial services as vanity services; something that has an effect on the surface of our skin, but doesn’t really have a deeper effect on our overall well-being? I know I have, in the past. After giving this topic a lot of thought, and considering what I know about skin care, I think underneath what might seem like a superficial desire is really a deeper desire for better health. Make a list of the qualities of healthy skin, young skin, and attractive skin. You’ll probably find that the 3 lists are basically the same. The qualities about youthful skin that make it attractive demonstrate healthy vitality (smooth, firm, unblemished, etc.)

Even if that were not the case, there are folks making the case for beauty as something to be valued for itself, apart from other apparent virtues. Piero Ferucci wrote “Beauty and the Soul: The Extraordinary Power of Everyday Beauty to Heal Your Life.” I haven’t read it, but I’d like to. A friend of mine recently wrote a blogpost that I loved, for many reasons. His post is written from the perspective of the creative arts, and craftsmanship, including this quote: “Reacting to beauty and wanting to create it does not make you strange or malformed. Everyone craves beauty. A lot of people want to create beauty. Few are willing to do the required work. People will pay you to create beauty for them. Creating beauty does not make you important. Having a good character is important. You are not the first and you should not be the last to create beauty.” For the full post, read here.

Another friend of mine was telling me a story recently about an attractive man from her past. She said, “I’m sure he’s much older now. In my mind I still think of him as this Adonis.” My reply? “He’s still an Adonis; he’s just an older one.” She smiled, acknowledging those cultural blinders that we allow to constrict our vision from time to time. At our best, we help each other to feel beautiful, and to see beauty everywhere; that authentic quality that springs from vitality, (com)passion, and joy in connecting with the world around us.


Have You Tried THIS With Aloe?

This post is about using aloe as a burn remedy, and taking your results from mediocre to marvelous. Most of the information I’ve seen about using aloe for minor burns says to apply the fresh gel to the burn a few times a day, and…that’s it.

In my experience, the key to getting the best results with aloe is to keep the burn cool, moist, and bathed in aloe for hours on end.

I had already wrapped up my burn for about an hour, but re-did the bandage so I could take a picture for y’all. I kept the burn covered with aloe underneath the bandage for the first 24 hrs., adding fresh aloe and changing the dressing about 3 times.

After the first 24 hrs. the blister itself doesn’t look that different, but the surrounding redness and swelling is decreased, there’s almost no tenderness at all, and the blister is no longer raised. At this point I leave the blister uncovered, and kept it well-moisturized with an herb-infused skin oil that I made.

The pictures above show the blister at the 46 hr. mark. Good stuff! With more minor burns and fast remedy response, I have seen an overnight aloe dressing cause small welts to disappear, or blisters to be completely re-absorbed by morning.

I like to add a drop of lavender essential oil to my aloe gel; it seems to strengthen the pain-relieving qualities of the aloe, soothing the discomfort while it begins the healing process.

Scrub Your Dishes With Wool

After several months of using my modified Wooltangle, I’m ready to report back. Back in August, I posted about some items I’m using to reduce the presence of plastic in my life.

At the top you can see the brand new wool scrubby, and just underneath is the same scrubby a few weeks old, with the hemp thread I added for extra scrubbing power. To the far right is the 6 month old scrubby, after many trips through the microwave for disinfection, and lots of dish scrubbing. It held up fantastically! A few days after this last photo, a hole finally wore through. The effectiveness did diminish in the last month or so, as the wool and hemp degraded. A full busy household might want to replace theirs more frequently. A soft pressure is gentle enough for no-stick cookware, and firmer pressure for less delicate pots and pans.

There are some tips I discovered to make it work better:

  1. I think most people’s instinct would be to bear down when scrubbing. Counter-intuitively, I find that a firm side-to-side pressure works best. Focus on sliding the scrubber back and forth, rather than pressing down, rinsing off the bits that release easily so you can see what’s left.
  2. Barkeeper’s Friend is…well…your best friend. The main ingredient is oxalic acid, and it will help release stuck-on particles of food. Sprinkle and scrub, or for really stubborn jobs, sprinkle, moisten with water to make a paste, and let it sit for a while, then scrub.
  3. Be patient. With the rice cooker, I’ll usually soak it in some soapy water first, and then loosen the heavy particles with my dishgloved hands. Next I scrub with my wool and add Barkeeper’s Friend to any stubborn spots. Sometimes there’s still some diehard bits left. Those get a Barkeeper’s Friend paste layer, and I just clean it off an hour or so later. Sparkly.

These wool scrubbers will definitely be a permanent addition to our household. My next step will be to try making my own from some wool batting. I found the rectangle shape a bit too floppy, and I’d like to try a round shape instead. These scrubbers have replaced the synthetic kitchen sponges we used to buy and greatly reduced our steel wool usage, too.

The Plastic Challenge

This past July I participated in the Story of Stuff’s plastic challenge. Although one of their aims is to make plastic a “thing of the past,” I think it’s more realistic (and desirable) to both reduce our use, and support efforts to create systems that break plastic down into harmless components. There is research with mushrooms that makes plastic breakdown a real possibility.

For this post, I just want to share a list of plastic substitutes I came up with, and a bit about my experience. A couple of these may get their own, longer, blogpost in the future.

  1. Started using a Green Panda toothbrush with bamboo handle & bristles. This already has its own blogpost.
  2. My Oxo plastic watering can was disintegrating after several years, and I replaced it with a galvanized metal one from Ace hardware, complete with a rosette-style spout. It works quite well, with a smooth thick handle that doesn’t cut into my palm. As much as I liked my OXO, I like this better.
  3. I started using undyed wool yarn to tie up large plants/small shrubs such as my tomato plants, so I can phase out that green plastic ribbon they sell you at the gardening center. The yarn is softer & kinder to the plant stems than the natural fiber twine they also sell at the gardening center.
  4. I am currently experimenting with using different types of rubber tubes & straps for large shrubs/small trees.
  5. I bought a set of beeswax wrappers to cover food bowls. It’s still an experiment-in-process. They’re pricey when compared to a roll of plastic wrap, but they can be gently washed in cool water. These have been useful to cover up pans of baked goods, and the like. Not recommended for meat.
  6. I’m most excited about eliminating synthetic sponge purchases from my shopping list. I’m not even using steel wool scrubbers as much. These 2 items have been replaced by my Wooltangles! These come in a pack of 3, and definitely deserve their own blogpost. I took a few minutes to sew a hemp cord border around mine for extra scrubbing power. This gives me a scrubber soft enough for non-stick cookware, and strong enough for my big roasting pan, when combined with a pre-soak & some Barkeeper’s Friend. The history of these Wooltangles is right in the phrase “steel wool.” That differentiates steel wool from regular wool, which is what folks used to scrub up with, back in the day. I had no idea!
  7. My mom was telling me about a guy who makes all kinds of different plant starter pots from natural materials, so I cleaned out half a grapefruit rind, poked some holes in the bottom, and dried it outside over the course of a few dry hot days. It’s now wrapped up & waiting to be used in the spring. I’ll have to update you all on that. 🙂 I’m interested to see how the seedlings respond, and how the container itself breaks down when planted in the soil.

As a final note to the July challenge, I want to give a lot of credit to Story of Stuff for helping provide a framework for community-wide and global change in the realm of plastic disposal. Although our homes are where we feel we have the most control, our local & global community networks are what will effect the best, most long-lasting change. I wrote a letter to one of our local restaurants asking them to consider offering plastic beverage straws on request, rather than including one automatically with each beverage served. One of the founding partners responded to my email with firm agreement, and promised to bring it up at their management meeting later that week. Each and every effort counts. Together we can reach the tipping point.

A Greener Toothbrush

Every so often I re-visit a search for the best eco-friendly XYZ that I can find. For certain items I give up, and settle for the mainstream version again because the product isn’t as eco-friendly as I thought, or it doesn’t perform effectively enough, or it’s just not going to fit into my budget. After a while the bee starts buzzing around in my bonnet again, and enough time has passed that I renew my search, looking for recent innovations and introductions to the marketplace. Such is the case with toothbrushes!

I really dislike using that hunk of plastic & nylon for a few months, then tossing it away to sit in our landfill, while I unwrap a new stick of plastic & nylon to use. About 6 weeks ago I found something new to try: the Green Panda bamboo toothbrush. I really like it! The owners of Green Panda have done their best to create a biodegradable toothbrush that is a pleasure to use. The bristles are soft, which is a big plus for me, and the handle is sturdy & comfortable. You can buy a pack of 4 online, and with the shipping cost it works out to $3 per brush, which is only about 50 cents more than a basic toothbrush from Walgreen’s.

You can read more about them here:

Although it may seem like a small, silly thing, finding a better earth alternative for the commonly used items in my everyday life makes me a happier person. I feel that much more aligned & connected with how I want to be in the world.


Massage As The Embodiment of Love

When thinking about massage as the embodiment of love, my 2 favorite definitions for ’embodiment’ were: “to make concrete & perceptible” and “to bring together as a whole.” At its best, massage is love made tangible, bringing an experience of wholeness to both giver & receiver. It can be a gift of love for oneself, as well as a gift that is given to another. When you book an appointment like this for yourself, you are embracing yourself with love. Did you feel that? That warm hug you just imagined giving yourself?   🙂

As a person who is usually giving the massage, I can say that there is plenty of wholeness & gratitude in my experience, too. When I come to the end of a massage or facial, I am in the habit of saying “thank you” to my client. That “thank you” can mean many things. Most often, it means, thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable with me, and for trusting me to take good care of you. Thank you for sharing this time with me, where I, too, can slow down, breathe more consciously, use my senses, get comfortable in my body, and listen to its messages.

Wishing you true, deep, abiding love,


Be A Juicy Fruit: Exercise & Skin

Exercise may actually be able to reverse some signs of aging. Yes, I said “reverse!”

There have been a couple of studies done in Canada at McMaster University which suggest that exercise cannot only keep you younger looking, but may be able to reverse some of the sagging and thinning of skin that happens with aging.

Dr. Tarnopolsky is one of the scientists involved in these studies, and was recently quoted in a Time magazine article on the benefits of exercise. In one particular study, people 65 years and older rode a stationary bike, 30 minutes, 3 times a week. That’s thirty minutes, 3 times a week! That’s completely doable for most of us. After 3 months, skin samples examined under a microscope appeared 20-30 years younger. Tarnopolsky says the exercise prevents the deeper layers of the dermis from thinning, and keeps superficial layers (the stratum corneum) from thickening, something that commonly happens in the aging process.

In other words, think of that orange you left sitting on the counter too long. The outer peel became dry, thin, less pliable; that’s the outermost layer of your epidermis. The fruit on the inside gets soft and saggy; that’s your dermis. Exercise can keep your skin juicy, plump, and pliable, like a good looking orange!

So far, it seems the effect is tied to cardiovascular exercise. This will not protect your skin from other factors that lead to wrinkling, such as lacking good quality sleep, or overdoing your sun exposure, so keep up all that good work you’re doing in other areas.

To be even more inspired  with the many benefits of of exercise,  I highly recommend you read the Time article listed below.