Sunday, July 22, 2007

21 Days of Ugly

100% pure natural plant essences.
Active plant-based essential oils.
Immediate skin absorption.

These claims all sound great, right? Wrong. Not when the plant in question is poison ivy.

I happen to be one of those people who are highly allergic to poison ivy. Apparently, I am also one of those people who accidentally lets her guard down when gardening and pulls out a weed without even considering that it could be my plant kingdom nemesis.

Needless to say, I was rather confused when an itchy welt appeared under my chin a day later. And more confused still when my whole neck and face became red and inflamed. It was only when the rash had developed its characteristic blisters on my arms that I got clued in. And did it hit me like a ton of bricks!

I marched into my doctor's office without an appointment, and once the nurse saw the condition of my face, she got me in immediately. My doctor confidently announced, "Well, it's not anthrax." This is what happens when you see a city doctor for a country problem. After confirming a diagnosis of poison ivy, he gave me some high-powered steroids and allergy medicine, but could not assure me it would be cured immediately.

Rather, it continued to get worse before it got better. Sleeping was practically impossible, and being awake was miserable. And I didn't want to leave my house, such was the state of my face. (Why did I have to get it there? All over my legs would have been much more convenient for a girl whose alias is "beauty chick"!).

For days, I could not shake the feeling being self-conscious of my appearance and feeling that not only was I ugly, I probably disgusted other people. It made me realize what it must be like to have really severe acne or a disfiguring dermatological problem. It's just so emotional when your face is affected, because it's the very center of how you commuicate to the world.

So, holed up at home, I had plenty of time to research poison ivy treatments for me to use in the future - and for you, God forbid you have the same problem.

The trick is not to get poison ivy at all. First of all, follow the adage: Leaves of Three, Let it Be. Second, if you will be hiking or gardening and feel there's a risk of exposure, cover up with long pants, socks, etc. Or, use a topical skin protectant. IvyBlock is the only FDA-approved product that’s clinically proven to help prevent poison oak, ivy and sumac rashes before they start. It produces a clay-like barrier on the skin that protects against the oily resin in poison ivy, oak, and sumac. It must be applied at least 15 minutes before coming in contact with the plant.

If you do think you were exposed, cleanse the skin immediately. It can bind with proteins in the skin in as little as 5-10 minutes!
  • Technu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub - the first medicated product proven to remove poison ivy, oak and sumac oils and prevent it from spreading after the rash has started. This powerful cleansing scrub quickly removes the oils and prevents spreading, allowing the skin to heal. Active ingredient stops pain and relieves itching immediately. Use to stop the itch up to 24 hours after exposure.

  • Zanfel promises to completely wash away poison ivy, oak & sumac oils from the skin in 30 seconds. Zanfel works by surrounding urushiol and bonding with it, thereby enabling it to be rinsed away. It's priced around $40, but when you're in itchy agony, you'll pay any price.

  • IvyCleanse - easy to use wipes. Removes harmful Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac oils on skin, clothes, tools and sports equipment. If you're going to be hiking or camping, be sure to carry these with you!

  • Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap - Perhaps a bit less high-tech than the other products, this soap is 99.82% natural. It's a unique blend of jewelweed, clay and pine tar are carefully formulated to offer a mild and cleansing bar of soap, perfect for anyone who enjoys the great out-of-doors.

If you've got the rash, there's not a ton you can do. It can take up to 5 weeks to completely heal. (Fortunately, my face was better in a week due to the medicine). In the meantime, you are going to itch a lot. These products and tricks can help.
  • Try not to scratch. Instead, apply cold packs to itchy areas to calm the itch impulse.

  • Take a soothing oatmeal bath. Aveeno's Soothing Bath Treatment comes in single-use packettes of powder, which is 100 percent pure colloidal oatmeal. It forms a milky bath when mixed in water. The Aveeno bath gently cleans ... no soap is necessary. When you're ready to step out of the tub, you'll find that your skin is softer, smoother and--best of all--your itchiness has been relieved.

  • Apply an anti-itch product. I avoid creams, because the act of rubbing them in can distrub fragile skin. Go for Cortaid's Intensive Therapy Cooling Spray. You can spray it wherever you itch (almost anywhere; it has alcohol in it so avoid sensitive spots.) The spray cools and the 1% hydrocortisone relieves itching on contact.

  • If you remember calamine lotion as a kid, you'll remember being covered in pink polka-dots. Now there is CalaGel Medicated Anti-Itch Gel, a clear, cortisone-free, antihistamine gel that stays where you put it. You'll get quick relief without the messy pink fluid on your skin and clothes. CalaGel dries quickly, leaving an invisible, anti-itch skin protectant shield on your tender skin.
Plant essences can be wonderful beauty-enhancers, but in the case of poison ivy, can make you look and feel ugly for weeks. So enjoy the great outdoors -but be careful! And should you get a case of poison ivy, hopefully the treatments listed above will help you.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Pedi Crimes

Every weekend, I say that I need to go get a pedicure. And somehow, every weekend I manage to get busy (ok, lazy), and I don't do it. It's no longer the beginning of the summer. It's July 1 - and I've run out of excuses. It's time for a DIY Pedi.

Fortunately, I got my hands on some great products that make doing a pedicure at home a much more pleasant and easy experience.

Dr. Scholl's is a brand that knows feet - they've been in the foot care business for over 100 years. Recently, they've gotten much more hip and understanding of how women's feet are different from men's - and the fact that our sense of aesthetics is far more advanced! Hence, the new Dr. Scholl's For Her line. They bring you pedicare products, shoe insoles and problem solvers in seriously upgraded, cute packaging. With the following steps, my at-home pedi was almost as good as one in the salon.
1. Soak feet in warm soapy water.

2. Scrub with Dr. Scholl's for her Pumice Foot Scrub (if they're seriously bad, use their battery-operated Rough Skin Remover tool - shown above - to remove calluses).

3. Hydrate with Advanced Foot Repair Cream. Or, if you're going places immediately, I love the Foot Serum - it provides intensive moisturization with a super light, silky feel so you're not slip-sliding in your shoes.

4. If necessary, take care of any problems (corns, calluses, warts, blisters) with the appropriate Dr. Scholl's fix-her-up-ers. Nobody wants to see that nastiness!

Between Sephora and the Sally Hansen section of my local drugstore, I was able to find all that I need to create a great at-home pedi... and at reasonable prices, too!

1. Trim nails straight across with a good toenail clipper. Don't try using a fingernail clipper, or you'll get scalloped edges along the edge of your big toe nail. File smooth.

2. Push back cuticles with a great tool. I love this one from Sephora.

3. Trim off any hangnails or excess cuticles with a Cuticle Nipper

4. Use nail polish remover to clean nails of excess lotion and old polish.

5. Separate toes if necessary with a foam separator, cotton or just wound up paper towel.

6. Apply base coat to protect nails from yellowing. I like multi-tasking products, so Sally Hansen Diamond Shine Base & Top Coat is a good one because it's a base and a top coat.

7. Apply 2 coats of color. I'm in love with Sally Hansen's new Salon Nail Lacquer. Here's why: you don't see any brush marks in the color after applying! It kind of self-heals and forms a uniform coat on my nails, even when I apply it clumsily. Perfect for when you're a bit unsteady bending over your toes or applying with your less-dominant hand. Best colors? For me, I just love deep, shimmery red for pedicures, so Wine Not? and Ru-be or Not to Be are awesome.

8. Finish off with an application of top coat and DO NOT DISTURB. Go read a magazine or sip a glass of wine while they dry.
Now, that wasn't so bad! I didn't have to worry about the cleanliness of my tools or squirm with ticklishness when the pedicurist tried to scrub my soles. Plus, it was cheap and easy - and I'll always have the color on hand to do my own touch ups. You can flaunt a cheap & easy pedi for up to two weeks, if you hydrate feet nightly and apply more top coat every few days.