Category Archives: health

Fighting winter dryness with Green Esthetics

I recently moved from Texas to Germany, and I was concerned about the sudden change in climate and resources my skin and hair would have to endure. I visited Germany in June 2015, and after a few days of showering I noticed that my skin would get super dry and itchy, and it started peeling within five days. This was odd for me since my face is normally oily.

I soon learned that Germany’s water has a lot of chalk in it, and it was quickly drying out my skin. Great for my bones apparently, but not for my face.

Inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Kassie from CloudyApples, I have been trying more homemade, simple products that do not use harsh ingredients. Her skin and hair is dreamy, so I trust this earthy approach to beauty. Green Esthetics, a certified-organic online shop, contacted me and asked if I would like to review one of their products. I had been considering repurchasing Josie Maran’s Argan Oil before my move, but I noticed Green Esthetics carried their own pure Argan Oil, so I tried it out.


It comes in a slender bottle with an attached pump. This is the 15 ml bottle that retails for $16.95.

I set expectations for this little guy. I cut my own hair, so I expected it to keep away split ends and keep it soft. I don’t take care of my nails, and they have started to peel, so I waited for it to seal the nail like a wound. I get adult acne on my neck, and I routinely worked this oil into the blemishes to hopefully wake up to clearer skin.

I even took a before photo:


But much like Tom Hansen’s ill-matched Expectations vs. Reality in “500 Days of Summer,” my expectations were not met. This isn’t a bad thing.

Split ends need routine trims. This, coupled with a pump of the oil, has helped my hair grow and maintain shine, but does not armor it against splitting. My hair grows aggravatingly slow, so if you are experiencing the same fury, try incorporating more oil into your hair.


I play guitar, so I generally keep my nails cut short and slap on some polish. I noticed that I kept needing to trim my nails more often, and this was after two weeks of rubbing the oil into my cuticles and on my hands. I kept waiting for the peeling to disappear, all while griping about needing to cut down these persistent thick nails.


May not be long to you, but this is pushing my limit. I can feel my nails hitting against the keyboard as I type this. Gah. If you’re into long, healthy nails, definitely try this.

But ah, the best and most unexpected part: My plump oily skin. I never thought I would have appreciated oiliness so much, but I have not had any breakouts or peeling in the 3+ weeks I have been in Germany. I apply two pumps of oil in the morning after a shower, and two at night once my makeup is off and my face is clean.


Aaaand the blemishes are gone. An expectation met. I will still get the occasional zit, but my skin has been drinking this oil and filling in the fine lines I had near my eyes and forehead. I never understand what “skin elasticity” improvement felt like until I used this product. I feel a difference in the way my skin adjusts itself while I apply makeup and poke and prod at my eyes.

My bottle after a month and a half of use:


I know we are all feeling the effect of winter on our bodies, so I encourage you to try using oil instead of lotions and balms. If you would like to try out this particular oil, you can use the code “GREEN40” to get 40% off all products and free shipping! That’s just over $10 for a product similar to the ones sold at Sephora for $17+.

If you would like to learn more about Green Esthetics and their selection of natural products, check them out at or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you to Green Esthetics for sponsoring this post.

Smile Brilliant – Update and Giveaway!

I started a teeth whitening regime several weeks ago called Smile Brilliant! and I am excited to share my results. I drink a lot of coffee, so my teeth were very noticeably stained. I was most self-conscious about my canine teeth and bottom row, and paid extra attention to these areas during the process.

The active ingredient in the whitening gel is carbamide peroxide, which is broken down and uses oxygen to oxidize the stained organic deposits to whiten your teeth. Smile Brilliant’s products are safe to use, though may cause some tooth and gums sensitivity, which can easily be avoided through proper application.

After I received my trays in the mail, which I demonstrated how to make in my last post, I was impressed with how well they fit in my mouth, and even thought they looked a bit creepy and cool. The whole system is rather sophisticated and easy to use, and I put together a little demonstration video to show how simple it is to achieve brighter teeth in a short time.

My mom and I both followed this process for a week, wearing our trays in the morning for at least 45 minutes. I wore mine as I got ready for work, or at night before bed. We’re proud of our results, and I wonder how much my teeth would have improved if I had worn the trays for an hour or more. Perhaps it’s something you can try.

Here are our results:


before and after_leah_1

before and after_leah_2

My mom:

before and after_lydia_1

before and after_lydia_2

The main thing I notice is that the yellow/gray shade of our teeth became whiter and brighter. Our teeth look healthier and have a white ombré fading to the tip of our enamel. Continued use would probably result in even more dramatic results, but I am pleased with this process.

If you are interested in purchasing your own teeth whitening kit, be sure to check out Smile Brilliant so that you can read more about the process and make sure it’s right for you. For a 5% discount, enter “morningink” at checkout.

The giveaway can be found here. You can win $139.90 in store credit which buys all of the products mentioned at the end of the video. This giveaway is open to everyone. Good luck!

Best Teeth Whitening

Smile Brilliant!

My smile is really important to me in photos, since I like to take close-ups of my face to show jewelry, makeup, to scare you, etc. I’ve always been quite proud of my teeth, and took decent care of them…until I became a vegetarian and just RUINED MY LIFE. Not really, but my teeth definitely went downhill. I’ll save you the scientific explanation for why this occurred, but I was really excited when Smile Brilliant! contacted me to ask if I would review their product.

I’ve managed to improve the health of my teeth, but not the appearance. I have stains from all the coffee I inhale on a daily basis, and am self-conscious about the yellow tinge that is noticeable on my cuspid teeth, or canine teeth, from the wine and beer I drink at all those parties I go to. Haha yeah. Socializing. I uh, totally do that.



I’ve tried teeth whiteners in the past, but nothing as advanced as this. While cosmetic dentists use teeth whitening gels and laser light to improve the appearance of teeth, Smile Brilliant only requires the use of their 22% Hi-Intensity Teeth Whitening Gel for 12 consecutive days. The carbamide peroxide in the gel gently breaks down stained organic deposits and oxidizes them until they’re white. This gel is used by dentists worldwide and produces the fastest and safest results in the least amount of time. Basically, you spend less time (and money) sitting in a dentist’s chair getting your ivories blasted with heat.

Before you can begin whitening, you have to first make an impression of your teeth to send to Smile Brilliant’s dental lab, where they create your custom bleaching trays.



Making my own teeth impressions was extremely easy. I was a bit intimidated by all the contents in the box, but it came with a clear, handy guide for how to make your molds.


You first combine one base paste with a catalyst paste until it is a solid blue.


You then fit it into your mold, making sure the paste is even throughout.



You press (don’t bite) the mold into your top teeth and hold it there for about 2 and a half minutes, or until the paste hardens a little. You’ll know it was a success when it comes off easily and doesn’t stick to your teeth.


Admire your teeth impression. I stared at mine for a bit just to see how freakin’ uneven my teeth are, geeze.


Repeat the process for the bottom half of your teeth, and try not to drool as much as I did. Seriously, Niagara Falls erupted out of my mouth.

Once you’re done, let your impressions sit for at least 30 minutes to let them harden, and slip them into the provided super convenient pre-paid packing envelope. Your whitening tray is expected to arrive within a week. Pretty sweet.


I plan to post updates during this process, so to make the results accurate and interesting, HERE ARE MY TEETH.



I definitely had to lower the brightness because the sun was being too generous. And if that wasn’t fun enough for you, my mom is joining in on the process.




If you would like to learn more about Smile Brilliant! and the teeth whitening process, here is a 2-minute video that may answer a few of your questions or pique your interest further:

Aaah wish me luck!

My weight loss journey + fitness apparel picks

You don’t see many fashion/beauty bloggers that are a size 8-14 so I’m happy I’m able to step into that middle threshold of limited bloggers. Three years ago, when I was 70 pounds heavier, I would have never dreamed of putting full body photos on the internet, much less showcase my style.

fat collage

I love putting little collages of my old photos together because it reminds me of how far I’ve come. I question my progress and am still upset with my body but all of those feelings disappear when I look at these photos.

I lost it the healthy way and completely on my own, I’m glad to report. I was unemployed at the time and fresh out of college, so my body and health were the only thing I had control over. I lost my first 23 pounds by cutting the amount of calories I ate in half, completing Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred and running a mile every day. What started out as 23 pounds soon turned into 30, then 50, and then not even five months later, 70. I had gone from 244, obese for my height, down to 174.

I’m not done. I won’t ever be done. Even once I reach a healthy weight, I need to maintain it. I made a choice in June of 2011 to not give up on myself or ever be that big again. It hurts, it’s difficult and I hate it most of the time, but holy crap, I do not want to ever gain that weight back.

Workout bottoms for touching thighs

From left to right:
Old Navy Active Compression Capris
GapFit gStride Running Shorts
Aerie Midi Yoga Shorts

I swear by these three bottoms for girls with bigger thighs and middles. The first set of shorts are ideal for running, because they can pull up over your stomach and keep your thighs from moving too much when taking strides. The Gap shorts in the middle are the only pair that I can run comfortably in without fear of them riding up. They’re also ideal for home or gym workouts, and have a handy zippered pocket in the back. The yoga shorts are awesome for, well, yoga. I don’t need to pull down the legs every few seconds and the fold over top is flattering on larger bellies.

Boob sweat trappers

From left to right:
AE Racerback Boyfriend Tank
Old Navy Active Sports Bra
Old Navy Active Mesh Top

As for tops, I usually wear old concert t-shirts layered over a tank top. 100% of my tanks are from American Eagle because they’re thin yet durable, fit to my body and don’t move while running. I buy all my sports bras from Old Navy because they have the best fit and are so damn affordable. I recommend eventually getting a mesh top for any outdoor sports or biking, especially in the summer. They keep your torso cool and don’t collect sweat, which typically weighs you down.

Do you have any fitness goals this summer? What is your favorite fitness clothing brand? I’m happy to see more clothing stores like American Eagle and DailyLook incorporating active wear into their shops.

Have a great Wednesday and thank you for reading.

Hair health

For the first time in my life, I’ve been receiving compliments on my hair. This is uncommon for me since I used to butcher my hair and suffered with split ends and awful dye jobs throughout my teenage years and early 20’s.

I attribute my hair health to watching beauty videos and trying products that my faithful gurus recommend. I have noticed a huge difference in the thickness and elasticity of my hair by changing and adding a few steps in my daily routine.

It’s been a long process, but hair generally yields instant results. Here is my hair from two years ago:


I kept my hair parted down the middle and had short bangs with split ends from using a hair straightener on them every morning, even when they were still wet. My ponytail was the thickness of the circumference of a penny and it never grew. I used a lot of cheap Revlon hair dye in college and always cut my hair with kitchen scissors. I know, I know.


My hair still isn’t perfect, and I am in desperate need of a cut, but it’s definitely thicker, shinier and far more voluminous than before.


Organix Macadamia Oil Shampoo and Conditioner

I stopped using any shampoo that contains sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a lathering agent, and within a month I saw a dramatic change in the shininess and strength of my hair. I had less hair coming off on my brush and falling off when styling. I even cut the amount of shampoo I use in half, and now use about a quarter-sized dollop.


Tangle Teezer

I have a bad habit of brushing my hair when it’s wet, and I always used a regular paddle brush which is extremely unhealthy for vulnerable wet hair. The Tangle Teezer is a gentle brush with thin flexible bristles in various lengths that releases tangles without snags and is suitable for sensitive scalps.


Tresemme Dry Shampoo and Heat Tamer

I let my hair air dry and separate it into sections when straightening. I mist heat protectant on to the section of hair and wait a few seconds for it to set. For second day hair, I repeat my straightening method on any parts of my hair that need a touch-up, and then spray a thin layer of dry shampoo on my part and on the ends of my bangs. I massage it into my scalp and it adds volume to my roots and will usually last a full work day depending on the weather.


When I can’t get to a salon (or I’m poor) I maintain the ends of my hair by snipping any split ends with a pair of hair cutting scissors. I have set my kitchen scissors aside and now use this sharp little beauty.


However, my hair will get to a point where I can no longer keep up with its health and need a professional to even the length and make me look a little less like Yoko Ono.

How do you maintain your hair? Do you have any products or methods that you’ve adopted that have made a dramatic change to your hair health?