Monday, 20 October 2014

If You Smoke, Your Future's Not Pretty

This post was sponsored by Queenland Health. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

Now that we're in the 21st century, we all know smoking is bad for your health and gives you cancer - in fact, it's considered the single biggest preventable cause of death and disease. But because that doesn't happen until we're older, and we humans tend to ignore long-term risks (I know I certainly do!), so it's easy to convince ourselves that we can smoke one more and it won't make a difference.

Well, unfortunately - it does have an impact!

Along with the well-publicised long-term health effects (being unfit, lung cancer, heart disease, yellow teeth, bad breath), one of the biggest effects is on your appearance. And scarily, that occurs pretty early, so you could look a few decades(!) older by the time you're in your 30s. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals which hit a whole heap of ageing mechanisms in your body:

- Tobacco smoke speeds up the production of an enzyme which destroys collagen in your skin, the scaffold that holds your cells up and keeps skin firm and elastic. This translates to wrinkles and saggy skin.

- Smoking also degrades elastin fibres in your skin which leads to additional sagging - eye bags, saggy boobs, lower lip lines.

- Vitamin A is also reduced by smoking - vitamin A has lots of great effects on skin.

- As well as making your teeth yellow, smoking encourages plaque and damages the gums, and makes your nails more prone to breaking.

If all this information isn't enough to convince you, Queensland Health are holding "make-under" sessions around Queensland this week. Make-up artists use their skills and a generous amount of latex to transform your face into a mock-up of how you might end up looking if you have a smoking habit. The results are shocking! Here's mine:

I was really shocked with the transformation! There's no way to accurately predict the exact effects of smoking on each individual, but this is a great wake-up call. I'm not a smoker, but after this transformation... I'm never smoking!

The next two make-under locations are Thursday October 23rd on the Sunshine Coast (Sunshine Plaza Maroochydoore) and Saturday October 25th in Brisbane (Westfield Garden City). The booths will be happening from 10 am - 4 pm. (They'll fix you up with a makeover afterwards so you don't have to walk around looking haggard.)

If you can't get to a booth, you can visit the campaign's virtual booth online (from anywhere in the world!), upload a pic and see what you look like after 10 or 20 years of a smoking habit

If you're a smoker and you'd like to quit, the good news is that all of these problems will improve from the moment you quit, and there are heaps of sources out there to help! Queensland Health has a great page full of information on quitting, a confidential, free telephone hotline, Quitline, which is manned by trained anti-smoking counsellors, and an app, QuitTracker, to help you keep track of your progress. Plus, think of all the money you'll save!

The If You Smoke site is located here, with additional facts on the dangers of smoking and helpful advice on quitting.  

If you're a Queenslander in Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast, check out the make-under booths this week (Thursday October 23rd at Sunshine Plaza Maroochydoore and Saturday October 25th at Westfield Garden City).

Friday, 17 October 2014

Skincare Addiction is live!

The Skincare Addiction website has launched! I'm the chief science editor and I'm really excited about this project.

Skincare Addiction is a site that's dedicated to skincare based on solid science (well, what little solid science there is on skincare, anyway). There's a team of about 25 people working on it, both the content that you see, as well as the behind-the-scenes coding that lets the site do cool stuff.

There's a lot of grunt behind the site - so far, you can look up ingredient lists for products, read about the science behind skincare ingredients, and find other products containing those same ingredients. There are also examples of skincare routines for a variety of skin types. A lot of websites with product info are US-centric, but while there are lots of US products in this database, I'm proud to say that there are lots of Australian products on there too.

There's also a blog on the site with articles about everything skincare - explanations of the basics, personal stories, tips for treating skincare emergencies, new innovations and more. I've written an article on the different types of moisturising ingredients which is up already! There's also a competition running at the moment, so make sure you enter that. 

It's still a work in progress with some rough bits around the edges, and over the next year or so there'll be thousands of new products added (you can also submit new products through a form). There are heaps of other cool interactive features planned too, so look out for them in the next few months.

Click through to the Skincare Addiction site, or go straight to my post on moisturisers!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Daiso DIY Expanding Sheet Mask Pellets

I went on a trip to Daiso last weekend and this cute little sheet mask set fell into my basket! For those of you who aren't lucky enough to know, Daiso is a Japanese variety store where everything costs 100 yen, which somehow translates to $2.80 in Australia. This set contains 10 "blank" sheet masks compressed into little pellets, that expand into the full-sized masks when you wet them with serum. Massive novelty value, so of course I had to try it straight away!

The set comes with a helpful little well for preparing your mask. There were a few hiccups along the way. My first two tries were pretty terrible:

1. I first tried Apivita Express Beauty with Carrot mask diluted with water. Unfortunately, since these pellets require water to expand, the high shea butter content actually stopped the mask from expanding properly, forming a waterproof seal around the pellet pretty quickly.

2. I tried a water-based mask next - Uriage AquaPrecis Express Mask, diluted with water and a few drops of Daiso's hyaluronic acid serum (this is a humectant that draws water to the surface of your skin). This was a lot more successful, but still required a lot of prodding to get it to expand.

3. Finally, success! Check it out in action:

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Lemon-Free Flutter (DIY cuticle balm)

Want to get that Lemony Flutter goodness on your fingers without having to worry about burning when you hang out in the sun, or do your gels under a UV lamp? Or perhaps you're allergic to lanolin? Don't worry, I got you covered - here's a really simple recipe for Lemon-Free Flutter that has the main good bits of Lush's Lemony Flutter without the problematic ingredients.

First, let's have a look at the top 10 ingredients in Lemony Flutter:

- Fresh Organic Lemon Infusion
- Shea Butter
- Beeswax
- Lanolin
- Soya Oil
- Organic Cold Pressed Avocado Oil
- Organic Cold Pressed Flaxseed Oil
- Mango Butter
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Castor Oil

The first ingredient (the one we have the most of) is lemon infusion, which is made by boiling lemons with water, then straining. There are some scary side effects of using lemon juice on your skin, but since cuticle cream is usually used at night and on thick, resilient skin, it's not a huge issue. It can increase sun sensitivity though, which might be a problem for sensitive skin, people who are in the sun a lot, or are using UV lamps for gels and acrylics. So it's something we'll take out of our formula.

The other potentially problematic ingredient is lanolin. The Lushopaedia describes lanolin as "a soft, yellow, waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep" - but let's not mince words. It's sheep grease. Which is kind of gross. But, because it's so similar to human sebum, it's pretty awesome as a moisturiser. Unfortunately, it's also a reasonably common allergen - my sister, for example, is allergic to lanolin. We'll go with a sheep-free formula.

That leaves us with a bunch of plant butters (shea butter, mango butter, coconut oil) and oils (soya, avocado, flaxseed, castor). Shea butter is a biggie, since it's the 2nd highest ingredient, and from how Lemony Flutter crystallises out, you can tell that it's a big percentage of the formula.

Beeswax is there to make the formula harder and more balm-like. Since we've taken out watery lemon and squishy lanolin, we'll want to dial back the beeswax to keep the formula soft.

To simplify the formula, I only used 2 other oils - olive oil and coconut oil, which I picked because they're so easy to get a hold of. You can probably get away with adding just one more liquid oil. I went with olive oil because it has a somewhat similar profile to avocado oil, but it won't matter too much because shea butter will be doing most of the heavy lifting in this recipe. The liquid oils are mainly there to make the recipe softer.

After tinkering around with the proportions, I ended up with this formula:

7 parts shea butter + 1 part coconut oil + 1 part olive oil + 1 part beeswax

I used a 1/4 teaspoon as my "part", giving me 10 x 1/4 teaspoons = 12.5 mL total volume. I used a tub with 3.5 cm diameter and 2.5 cm tall (left over from 2012's body butter!) - it filled it about 2/3 of the way, which left enough room for stirring.

The procedure is a super simple melt-and-mix - I used the same procedure as for re-melting Lemony Flutter, which is pretty much "zap in the microwave until liquid, stir until thick, let cool".

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