Saturday, February 26, 2011

Top 5 Must-Have Health & Beauty Products

And here we go: a real post! This is a list of products that have, in one way or another, changed my life for the better (psoriasis or no psoriasis.) Each of these items have been personally used by me for at least a year, so rest assured that none of this is bs. :D

#5. Probiotics
Probiotics were one of those things that I heard about ages ago but never bothered to try until recently. Spurred by a few anecdotes about helping clear up one's skin (spoiler: they don't. Not noticeably, anyway), I finally decided to pick some up. Even though I never noticed any improvement in my psoriasis, I was really glad I did. The main major improvement I saw was in digestive system health; my stomach rarely hurts (even if I eat garbage) since I began taking probiotics. Having a healthy, problem-free digestive system can take a LOT of stress out of your life, which is always a good thing.

I use Culturelle because they have a dairy/gluten-free version (most probiotics contain dairy in one form or another.) Also because it seems to be perpetually on sale at

Tip: Keep them in the fridge. I usually take mine around lunchtime, but there doesn't seem to be any noticeable difference if you take them at the same time, or with food, or not.

#4. Menstrual Cups
Any males that happen to be reading this can go ahead and scroll to #3 (unless you are looking for the perfect gift for your girlfriend, in which case, read on!) This is yet another product I wish I had tried sooner. In fact, if I could go back in time, I would prevent my younger self from ever learning of the existence of pads or tampons, and let myself believe that menstrual cups were the only option.

Anyway, since there are tons of sites out there dedicated solely to these things, I'll keep this short: clean, comfortable (like, ACTUALLY comfortable), makes your period WAY more tolerable (I actually kind of look forward to mine now), extremely easy to use (after a few practise runs), wallet and eco-friendly. I personally opted for a Diva Cup, which I love. It's very soft and easy to insert. I did find the stem a bit annoying, so I cut it off, but it is still very easy to remove. There are plenty of other options on the market, so don't be shy about doing some research to find out which product will suit you best.

Tip: It took me about 2 periods before I was a pro at insertion/removal. Don't let that scare you off, seriously. If you can put in a tampon, you can put in a cup, and you will be so much happier; trust me. It might be a good idea to keep your nails clipped short until you've got the hang of it.

#3. MAC Cosmetics Strobe Cream
I think it's safe to say that if Jesus came back as face lotion, he would be MAC Strobe Cream. Use it after your moisturizer of choice, but before applying foundation. It has a very faint shimmer (not like glitter; more of a subtle iridescence) that will diffuse light and make your skin look flawless. Apparently it also has vitamins, green tea, and other skin-helping stuff in it. It seems expensive, I know, but it's well worth it, and a little goes a long way. (I'm only just now running out of the tube I bought 3 years ago.)

Tip: It is especially useful for photographs, and you don't have to limit it to your face. I use it on any exposed skin, or just apply it to highlight areas (collarbones, shoulders, bustline). See it in action here. (Note the glowing effect on my shoulder.)

#2. LUSH Cosmetics Solid Shampoo - Soak and Float
If you have psoriasis, you prooooobably have dandruff. You may also have icky red spots on your scalp (especially not fun when you shave part of your head.) LUSH's
Soak and Float Solid Shampoo
is the best dandruff cure EVER. Not only that, but as a solid shampoo it requires no packaging, and lasts a surprisingly long time (I've had a bar last over 9 months.)

This stuff works almost instantly. After just one use, itchiness was gone, flakes and redness were reduced. After 3-4 uses (about a week's worth), my scalp was normal. (Feeling normal in any way is a big deal when you have psoriasis. :D) It's great for your hair too; I got my boyfriend to use it (he has WAY more hair than I do—big, long, curly stuff), and his hair came out soft, shiny, and frizz-free (even after we went to the ocean!) I pair it with
Veganese Conditioner
, which leaves your hair soft, light, and very shiny, you should be able to use any conditioner you like and still experience the benefits of Soak and Float.

Don't have dandruff? You're a lucky bastard. But LUSH has a large selection of solid shampoos and conditioners, so you should be able to find something to suit your needs.

Tip: For the longest lasting bar, store it out of the shower (away from water) when you're not using it. Keep it in a self-draining soap dish, or use one of LUSH's custom made tins (after it dries.) Oh, and I neglected to mention the infamous smell of this honestly doesn't smell half as bad as some people say (people who, I imagine, are used to all their cosmetics smelling like artificial candy and sunshine). I rather like it; it's smoky and peaty, like Lapsang Souchong or a good scotch. Also, the smell doesn't linger in the slightest after use, so who cares? Besides, it smells at least 1,000 times better than coal tar or steroid scalp treatments!

image from WikiCommons user Wikimol
#1. Green Tea
Oh...any tea, really. It's all made from the same plant. But green tea is especially known for its health and beauty enhancing powers. I could (and probably will) dedicate an entire entry to the wonderful stuff, but for now I'll just do a quick overview.

There are tons of health claims regarding tea out there, but very few are actually confirmed by real scientific studies. That doesn't mean it isn't a great idea to drink lots and lots of it, but it does mean that you shouldn't expect it to magically cure all your diseases instantly. (As a side note, it won't make you lose any significant amount of weight—unless you're drinking tea instead of eating food.)

While tea (camellia sinensis, or "true tea") does contain caffeine, it doesn't give you the same jittery buzz that coffee and sodas do. This may be due to the compound theanine, which is both relaxing and stimulating. The result is that, after drinking tea, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and energized, but are less likely to experience a "crash" or other negative effects of coffee consumption.

If you still can't do caffeine (let's be honest, decaf tea is pretty pointless), go for tea-less herbal concoctions, but especially rooibos. Rooibos is not only tasty, but it is purported to have many of the same health effects as green tea. I have read some studies about using rooibos as an aid in reducing psoriasis symptoms, but haven't had much experience in testing that personally.

Tea is available just about everywhere, but you will really notice a difference if you drink high quality, loose tea. My favorite places to buy from are Lupicia and Red Blossom. Both have amazing quality teas; Lupicia also carries many of their teas in pyramid tea bags and also have a number of awesome flavored teas in addition to their unflavored traditional teas.

Tip: A lot of people ask which tea is the "healthiest". This question is best answered with, "The one you will drink often." Don't worry too much about whether white tea or gyokuro has slightly more health compounds; get a fruity flavored green tea if that's the taste you prefer. The key is to drink it everyday, so just buy whatever tastes best to you.*

*It should go without saying that I am referring to real tea that you brew yourself and don't add anything to, not canned or bottled teas, which (with a few exceptions) have about the same health properties as soda.
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