3 Easy-To-Master Braids

Summer is the perfect time to get hair off your neck–and braids are a classic, easy way to match both dressy and casual looks. While braids may seem intricate and complicated, most are fairly simple to master with good instructions and some practice. Check out this list of trendy braids that look great, but don’t require a professional stylist to achieve.

1. Four-stranded braid. Using a similar weaving technique as a classic braid, the four-stranded braid is surprisingly easy to create and provides a chunky, interesting look. Get the YouTube tutorial here.

Four-stranded braid. Via: www.bobbyglam.com

Four-stranded braid. Via: http://www.bobbyglam.com

2. Fishtail braid. This style looks extremely intricate and although somewhat more challenging than a classic braid, it shouldn’t take more than a little practice to master. Just remember to keep strands taught and as neat as possible (unless you’re going for a messier look). View the tutorial here.

Fishtail braid. Via: www.abeautifulmess.com

Fishtail braid. Via: http://www.abeautifulmess.com

3. Waterfall braid. While this braid is the most difficult (you’ll want to learn to french braid first), it is far simpler than it looks. It’s impressive-looking and works well for special occasions and everyday looks alike. Don’t get frustrated–it’s all about practice! Check out the tutorial here.

Waterfall braid. Via: www.luuux.com

Waterfall braid. Via: http://www.luuux.com

What’s your favorite braid? Have you tried any of these?

Update Your Wardrobe With Handmade Hair Accessories

For most people, the months after Christmas are spent patching financial holes created by present-buying, trip-taking and all those other unforeseen, expensive necessities that invariably seem to present themselves around the holiday season. This also happens to be the time of the year when I start longing for the first signs of spring and begin to tire of my winter “uniform” (jeans, boots, sweater and a scarf, literally everyday).

Although it’s not exactly balmy here in Denver yet, we’ve been lucky enough to have several over-60 degree days in the past couple of weeks, and stores have started to rid themselves of thick leggings and jackets in anticipation of brighter, lighter, more cheerful inventory. As much as I’d like to start investing in cute new spring styles, I simply can’t justify it (at least yet). Instead, to revive outfits I’d rather stick in storage and not revisit for the next 8 months, I’ve turned to accessories: headbands, jewelry and nail polish.

Inexpensive and widely available, accessories will easily transition into warmer seasons and will help to resuscitate dull winter clothes in the meantime. In particular, hair accessories are a great way to dress up old clothes and add interest around the face, instantly brightening up an outfit for a special occasion or night out. While hair accessories can be found anywhere from Target to TJ Maxx, I’ve found that some especially unique and beautiful pieces are available in abundance on Etsy.

Which are your favorites?

1. Dreams By The Sea: Gorgeous, delicate headbands, barrettes and more. Although primarily made as weddings accessories, several of the nature-themed accessories are low-key enough to work for year-round beautiful hairstyles.

"Daphne" Leaf Bobby Pins are available for $38.00.

“Daphne” Leaf Bobby Pins are available for $38.00.

2. Where The Moon Goes: Offering hand-beaded bracelets, necklaces, belts and headbands, this shop is full of gorgeous, colorful accessories that are sure to attract compliments with any outfit.

"Sonus Lilium" Beaded Headband available for $45.00.

“Sonus Lilium” Beaded Headband is available for $45.00.

3. Academy J: With a vintage vibe, these headbands and clips are perfect to dress up or dress down and come in a variety of styles and colors. Affordably priced, these accessories are great statement pieces to pair with a range of everyday or special occasion outfits.

"Sonny" Beaded Headband is available for $24.00.

“Sonny” Beaded Headband is available for $24.00.

Holiday Survival Guide–As Told By Infographics, Charts & More

holidaystress

‘Tis the season–for finding the perfect gifts within budget, for surviving family get togethers and work parties, and for creating the perfect holiday outfit that exudes the festive season without being too red-and-green literal. In all senses (money-wise, socially-wise and time-wise), the month of December may seem like a stressful, dread-filled whirlwind. Add to that air travel (if you’re going somewhere) or pickup trips to the airport (if you’re not), and it’s easy to forget how fun, relaxing and rewarding the holiday season is supposed to be.

Here, we’ve compiled some of the most useful, appropriate and (hopefully) interesting infographics, charts and lists from all over the web to help you simplify, conquer and ultimately enjoy your holidays.

  • For travel. From shipping your bags to getting the first flight out of the day, click here for must-know tips for holiday air travel.
  • For family gatherings. Have differences of opinion with your family members that rise to a boil every holiday season? Arm yourself with these tools for diffusing conflict and learn to agree to disagree this year!
  • For work parties. Not sure what’s appropriate for your particular occasion? Check out these guidelines and view a slideshow of suggested outfits. Added bonus: Impress your coworkers with your superior wine knowledge by taking a look at this handy infographic, which explains types of wines by style and taste.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Favorite Winter Products

winter-skincare-essentials

I recently moved to Denver, Colorado, just in time to see the leaves change in all the beautiful parks around the city, taste various butternut squash soups at newly discovered restaurants, and take to the slopes for the beginning of ski season. And also, just in time for an already dry climate to reach an extreme that causes my sweaters to crackle with static and my skin to (literally) flake off if not moisturized. I’ve never had much of a dry skin/hair problem, but my new surroundings have left me scrambling for intense (but non-greasy) ways to keep my skin from cracking and my hair from being a frizzy, dry mess.

Here are some of the great standbys I’ve found–what are your favorites?

  • Face. For a dry face that needs intense moisture without causing breakouts, I love Snowy Owl Cove’s Daily Sanctuary Face Cream. Using all natural ingredients such as aloe butter and raspberry seed oil, this rich cream leaves skin supple and smooth without any of the unwanted grease.
  • Body. For a body moisturizer, I like something that absorbs quickly and leaves skin feeling supple, but dry to the touch. For this purpose, I like Burt’s Bees Soothingly Sensitive Aloe & Buttermilk Body Lotion. Creamy, but non-greasy, this 99% natural lotion leaves my skin moisturized with no irritation (even after shaving).
  • Lips. Although I’m sure many of you are familiar with this product, I just thought I’d throw my endorsement for Smith’s Rosebud Strawberry Lip Balm out there. This product is hassle-free, smells good and lasts for months. Although it comes in many varieties, I like the strawberry best, as it smells good enough to eat and seems slightly thicker than the other ones. Bonus: Per the packaging, it can be used for everything from cracked cuticles to dry elbows!
  • Hair. I recently got my hair cut for the first time in Denver. Admittedly, it had been since August, and my hair was basically a bird’s nest of split ends. The salon was using a product line called Unite, which I’d never heard of before, and when I left, I was amazed at how soft, shiny and manageable my hair was. While all the products of this brand seem excellent, I would especially recommend their 7 Seconds Condition Leave In Detangler. While somewhat pricey (it’s available on amazon.com for $19.95), in my opinion, it’s worth it for healthy, moisturized, non-greasy hair.

Ancient Skin Remedies For Modern Times

Via: italiantribune.com

Via: italiantribune.com

So many trends in the fashion and beauty world (and beyond) move in cycles: in the past few years, we’ve seen the reemergence of everything from 70’s inspired flower child wavy locks to the neon spandex styles of the flashy 80’s. Mad Men helped re-popularize the glamorous, well-tailored fashions of the 50’s and 60’s, and when it comes to beauty, the rise of Pinterest and prevalence of beauty blogs beckoned us back to an older, simpler time when beauty products could be prepared with everyday, natural items.

In a rat race world of complicated situations we can’t necessarily control, why not simplify what we can? In my search for age-old skin remedies that are still easily obtainable, here are the ingredients that stood out to me in their reputed efficacy and ability to stand the test of time:

  • Honey: The Ancient Greeks, as well as those in Africa, the Middle East and India have used honey for thousands of years on wounds to help speed up the healing process. Able to ease pain, reduce swelling and infection and promote healing, honey is still a great way to keep skin smooth and blemish-free.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Used by the aboriginal people of Australia for over 3,000 years, this oil has been employed throughout history as a treatment for infections and various other medicinal purposes. Now, tea tree is again rising in popularity as an effective therapy for everything from acne to dandruff. With strong disinfectant properties, it is therapeutic for troubled and damaged skin.
  • Olive Oil: Referred to as “liquid gold” by the Ancient Greeks, olive oil has been widely used for thousands of years as a natural moisturizer for both skin and hair. Used to anoint kings and athletes in Greece, this oil was considered sacred for many years due to its amazingly effective and versatile abilities. Still used in many beauty products, it is ideal for those with allergies, as it is extremely gentle on skin.
  • Almond Oil: Before there was Botox or expensive anti-aging creams, Ancient Egyptians relied on the powers of almond oil to look younger. Popular in skin products used in almost all classes of society, almond oil has remained prevalent due to its rejuvenating abilities and high antioxidant content in the form of vitamin E.

Strong Styles With Romantic Touches Reign for Fall

Temperatures are slowly dropping, the humidity has been replaced by a slightly crisper breeze, and up in New York, Fashion Week has begun to reveal some of the styles that we’ll be seeing for the upcoming season.

I’ve checked out the runway photos, compiled some of the new beauty trends that most excite me, and put an all-natural spin on these fashions:

  • Lips: Look for vampy, romantic shades of burgundy, purple and deep red. Dramatic lips paired with more neutral eye colors will be making a major appearance this fall. Try Honeybee Gardens Natural Lipstick in Vintage Merlot for a paraben-free take on this trend, complete with all-natural moisturizing ingredients such as coconut oil and shea butter.
  • Hair: Perfectly coiffed, intricately styled hair is making way for lower effort, simpler styles this fall. Think low, sleek ponytails, hair that looks as if it’s been air dried, romantic styles involving loose braids and twists and more casual versions of 1960’s bouffants. Check out Harper’s Bazaar’s slideshow for inspiration, and for an all-natural way to keep hair smooth and styled in a braid or updo, try Kiss My Face’s Natural Styling Gel.
  • Nails: Tired of neons? For those who favor the classics, you’ll be happy to learn that rich, elegant jewel-tone shades will make a comeback in the upcoming months. Shades like wine and eggplant, along with neutral grays and metallic coppers will make for less trendy, more tasteful nails for the fall season. I’m loving Zoya Nail Polish’s formaldehyde-free polish in Toni, which they describe as a “dark, warm raisin-wine cream.” Yum.
  • Accessories: Headbands, which have gained popularity in the last couple years, are still popular going into fall. Look for beaded and sequined designs with a vintage flair to lend interest to an updo or to loose, wavy hair. Check out these handmade fall favorites from Bethany Lorelle’s shop on Etsy.

What are your favorite fall trends? Who’s ready for cooler weather, boots & tights?

What’s in Your Shampoo?

shampoo

After a day in the jungle that’s been the American Southeast this summer, nothing feels better than lathering up greasy hair with clean-smelling shampoo. However, like (some of) the best things in life, this practice probably isn’t good for you, largely because of the makeup of many shampoos you might find in your local drugstore. So what can you do to avoid potentially harmful chemicals short of letting your hair devolve into a stringy mess of unmanageable filth? While many swear by letting hair regulate itself, rinsing it occasionally and letting natural oils nourish the strands, my (very) long and (very, very) straight hair just does not allow for this method. My attempts at washing my hair less go something like this:

Day One After Washing — OK-looking side braid with questionable-looking bangs

Day Two After Washing — Questionable-looking side braid with pinned back I-have-given-up-on-you bangs

Day Three After Washing — Does not exist*; let’s be honest, I barely ever even last until day two

(*exceptions: sleeping through alarm, being lazy)

Upon doing some shampoo-related research, it seems that there are in fact alternatives to mainstream shampoos that treat your hair more gently and keep the harsher chemicals at bay. First, let’s look at the things you might want to avoid when lathering up:

  • Sodium and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfates — These are the ingredients in shampoo that attract dirt and oil, washing them away. They also create the foam that many of us are used to, but which serves no actual purpose in cleansing hair. These chemicals have come under scrutiny due to the fact that they can be irritating to eyes and skin and can be harsh on hair, sometimes creating breakage and damage.
  • Fragrance — Present in most shampoos, “fragrance” in mass produced products is essentially chemicals created in a lab to emulate natural smells. In fact, when you see this ingredient listed on your product, it can refer to up to 4,000 different chemicals, including acetone (yes, like nail polish remover), formaldehyde and alcohol. Like you might have already guessed, these ingredients aren’t great for your hair, stripping it of essential oils and maybe even causing damage to the hair follicle itself.
  • Propylene Glycol — Allowing the shampoo ingredients to penetrate deep into the hair shaft, propylene glycol serves the purpose of making hair look shinier and healthier. However, over time this chemical has the potential to ravage the hair follicle and damage the integrity of each individual hair.

While the above information may make you want to promptly remove 90% of your shower’s contents, remember that these ingredients are more likely to cause harm over long periods of use, so your best bet may be to use up what you have and then try some of the more gentle shampoos free of major irritants to see how they work for you. In my search to find more natural shampoos, these are some that look worth trying:

1.  Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash

  • Pros: Yes, this is technically for babies, but that just makes it all the more simple, gentle and great for sensitive skin. Burt’s Bees cites this product as being 98.9% natural and is sulfate, phthalate, petrochemical and paraben-free
  • Cons: Still contains fragrance

2.  Intelligent Nutrients Organic Hair Cleanser

  • Pros: A mild cleanser safe for color-treated hair, this product is free of sulfates, silicone and parabens; cool-looking bottle!
  • Cons: Contains fragrance, although the fragrance is a “certified organic natural aroma”; and at $29, this cleanser is not exactly cheap

3.  John Masters Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo

  • Pros: This daily shampoo is said to gently cleanse hair without the use of sodium lauryl sulfate; it is fragrance-free
  • Cons: Has a long list of complicated-sounding ingredients; however, many of the ingredients are certified organic

4.  Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo

  • Pros: Suitable for all hair types, this shampoo contains no laurel sulfates, is cruelty free and employs certified organic botanical ingredients
  • Cons: The tingling sensation and strong tea tree smell may be off-putting to some people; some reviews report it as “drying”

What’s your favorite shampoo (all natural or otherwise)? Do you think it’s important to avoid the harsher chemicals? 

Easy Heat-Free, Damage-Free Hairstyles

Michelle Phan’s “bag curls” create beautiful, damage-free results.

If you’re anything like me, simply reading about how to execute a hairstyle might result in a wasted 15 minute session in front of the mirror followed by a frustrated admission of defeat (read: throwing hair up into a quick ponytail in order to avoid being late for work).

I’m not naturally hair savvy, which is why YouTube hair tutorials have transformed the way I and everyone else without inbred superhuman braiding abilities are able to learn how to curl, twist and smooth hair to perfection.

Some of the most innovative videos I’ve seen lately are the ones involving beautiful styles without the use of damaging heat styling tools, such as blow dryers, curlers or straighteners. Not only do these styles keep hair in its naturally shiny, bouncy, healthy state, but they also require little effort, and in the case of creating curls, may last for several days. Some of my favorite videos include:

What heat-free styles have you picked up from YouTube? Let us know!