Saturday, 28 April 2018

Carbon Coco

Happy long weekend, everyone! I meant to have this post up yesterday, but I was too busy having a lovely relaxing public holiday with my family, like many of you did, so I thought I'd hold back a day.

I should start off by saying I've been using a black charcoal-containing toothpaste for almost a year (this one if you're interested). However, when Carbon Coco approached me and asked if I was interested in trying their products*, I said yes as there aren't many black toothpastes around in SA and it's always nice to try an alternative, especially since I'd previously seen Carbon Coco products on sites like Buzzfeed (yeah, I'm a guilty BF reader). Their products are available online on their website.

Before you get disappointed, there are no slightly-hideous-but-also-hilarious photos of me with a mouthful of black toothpaste in here, simply because once it's on the internet, it's there forever, and I'm not sure I want that image out there, haha!

How do charcoal toothpastes whiten your teeth? Well, like the silica in normal whitening toothpastes, the charcoal is abrasive, so it helps polish teeth as you brush and may reduce staining in the long term. Small particles of the dark charcoal also remain after brushing, which acts as a sort of colour corrector, cancelling out the yellow tones in teeth as an optical illusion, giving you the instant illusion of whiter teeth (just like your yellow concealer cancels out your dark under-eye circles)

"Activated" charcoal is a form of charcoal that has lots of little pores on the surface, so that the total surface area is very large. This means that there is a lot of space, relative to a non-porous sphere, for things to adsorp (yes, that's a real thing, I didn't misspell absorb) onto the surface.

I use my normal charcoal toothpaste twice a week in the shower (the rest of the time I use my normal Colgate), while I'm shivering standing around with the water off waiting for my conditioner to work (this water saving is considerably less fun now that summer is gone!). Instead of the normal white toothpaste foam, you have a mouthful of (very minty) black froth that is a lot easier to see splattered everywhere, so the shower is a good place to contain the mess! I did the same trying out this product, just in case (heads-up: definitely a good idea until you've got the hand of it!)

I was sent the "Ultimate Carbon Kit", which contains a toothbrush and the activated charcoal toothpaste, as well as an activated charcoal tooth polish powder.

The kit comes with a toothbrush with darker bristles, so you don't notice any black staining building up. The toothbrush bristles are also lovely and super-soft (they're made of bamboo, not nylon, which is awesome), so you don't damage your teeth with any strong abrasion. I didn't notice any additional tooth sensitivity after using this kit for the last 2 weeks or so.

The first morning I tried the system, I just tried the toothpaste. The toothpaste is pitch black and has a strong (but pleasant) spearmint flavour. The foam, however, is a very pale grey, so it's not very messy to use at all. My teeth felt lovely and clean after brushing, but I didn't see a dramatic change colour-wise (although that may be because I'm used to using a black toothpaste).

That evening, I decided to try the powder tooth polish, which they recommend using at bedtime. The second step was the big wild card - that black charcoal powder! It is sold separately to the kit, in case you want to try it on its own. Carbon Coco recommends you did your (clean!) wet toothbrush into the powder, and then brush it onto your teeth for 2 minutes. Well, that went about as messily as you would expect, so be prepared! (I've only used it in the shower, while I've used the toothpaste normally). I first picked up a bit too much powder, so I spilled a fair bit of powder between the jar and my mouth, and this time I had the expected mouth of black goo! There isn't any minty flavour added to the powder, but I did feel like my teeth looked and felt cleaner after using it. After using the polish, you rinse and then go in with the toothpaste.

(They also recommend oil pulling as a third step, but that's stepping over the line into no-evidence pseudoscientific BS so I wasn't going to waste my time giving it a go, sorry.)

Overall, this kit is great for anyone wanting to try the world of charcoal-based teeth whitening. There is a bit of a learning curve regarding not making a mess, especially if you live in a water-scarce region where washing down surfaces twice a day is not something you can do, but I do find my teeth feel cleaner and look whiter since using a charcoal toothpaste. Will I switch to this system instead of sticking to my previous toothpaste, probably not, but it was nice to see what else is out there.

You can check out Carbon Coco on their website, Instagram and Facebook.

*Carbon Coco provided the products free of charge but did not pay me to write up anything. (I also had to pay customs fees for the import, FYI, so be aware that that cost may need to be factored in to your purchase)

Friday, 23 February 2018

Bullet Journal Update

If you haven't yet heard of the Bullet Journal, check out my "introduction to the bullet journal"blog post and my post where I set up this journal and then come back here. Know the basics? Then let's jump in and see what my journal has been looking like the last few months. As you can see vs my previous posts, I've been having more fun with coloured pencils, lettering and trying to improve my handwriting, as well as trying my hand at monthly mood mandalas! I also have just done a flip-through of my journal on my Insta stories which I've added to my profile as a highlight, so you can check that out too (I'm @whimsyisforever).



Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Beauty products to help cut your water usage

For my readers not from South Africa, you may not be aware that Cape Town is currently having a record water crisis and may soon run out of water. We went past the level 1, 2 and 3 water restrictions and now every few weeks the government has to invent a new level. (Where are we now, 6B or something? I've lost track.) As things currently stand, residents are limited to 87 liters of water per person per day, reducing to 50 liters per person per day from 1 Feb (although the water-conscious are already using < 50 liters). However, only about 40% of Cape Town residents are using less than 87 liters and so our water is running out. Fast. By the beginning of April, our taps are getting turned off and we'll go full-on disaster mode, lining up to get our allocated water rations.
For now, all we can do is try save as much water as possible.

Obviously, by now we've (unless you're a major asshole) stopped watering our gardens, topping up our pools, having full baths, bothering to keep our cars shiny and generally using large amounts of unnecessary water. We've stopped flushing our toilets with drinking water and instead use grey water collected with buckets in our showers and sinks. We wash our dishes and clothes less, have ridiculously short showers and generally try to save every single liter we can. I thought I'd share some of the products I'm using to help keep my water usage as low as possible.

(A note to add that while Cape Town is currently the water crisis poster child, many parts of the country have water restrictions to some degree. No matter where you live, we can all stand to be more aware of both our water usage and our environmental impact.)

Obviously, number one should go without saying: dry shampoo. I have straight, fine hair and combination skin, which adds up to hair that needs to be washed every day. (And now with the drought, I can confirm that my hair isn't the type that "adjusts" to only getting washed twice or three times a week.) Nevertheless, I can stretch washing my hair to every third day with Batiste dry shampoo (and probably further if we have less water and I have to just get used to not having beautifully clean hair). My all-time fave is the tropical scent. Be sure to lift your hair and spray at the roots, as well as not not spray too close (i.e. follow the instructions on the can) to make sure you don't get a white-grey precipitate of rice flour in one place.

Now that my hair is so long (tailbone length) eliminating greasy roots is only half of the problem. My hair needs daily conditioning. Since rinsing out a traditional conditioner every day is out of the question, it's leave-in conditioners to the rescue! My two faves at the moment are the L'Oreal Elvive Extraordinary Oil Oil-in-Cream and the Matrix Biolage Keratindose Renewal Spray. After using my dry shampoo, I add one of these two to the lengths and ends of my hair, put my hair in either a bun or a braid and let it do it's thing. (I mean, you could leave your hair loose, but long hair plus Cape Town summer wind is a no-no unless you love brushing knots out!)

For facial cleansing, I've tried lots of makeup remover wipes but I find them drying. I much prefer using a micellar water. In the morning (if I'm not showering), I use Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water for sensitive skin and at night I use the oil-infused version to effortlessly dissolve makeup and gunk.

BONUS: Use micellar water to spot-clean your makeup brushes so you don't have to wash them as often. Simply swirl your dirty brushes on soaked cotton pads until the cotton no longer changes colour.

At the moment, I've having stop-start showers (more on that at the end of the post) every second day. I spend most of my time inside and don't do much activity on non-shower days. To stay fresh in between however, I go old-school and use a washcloth and a small bowl of water. However, if there is no water, baby wipes are the way to go. I relied on these so much last year when I went camping in the middle of nowhere with no running water! Make sure you stock up before day zero hits. Also, ensure you buy fragrance-free, alcohol-free baby wipes (look for ones branded "sensitive") if you are going to be using these anywhere near your lady bits!

(Oh, and don't forget some good old-fashioned antiperspirant and deodorant. Why do so many of those viral whatsapp messages seem to make it sound like we need to invent alternative deodorants??)

Then of course, cut down on the number of times you open a tap by switching to hand sanitizer as much as possible. I carry a mini bottle with me at all times. My favourite is the Oh So Heavenly brand as they smell lovely (especially the variety pictured) and don't dry out my hands. If you do find that your hands dry out with repetitive use of hand sanitizer, make sure you use a nourishing hand cream like Helping Hands from Lush.

And finally, some bonus items. A spritz of facial mist really helps keep my face feeling hydrated in this hot weather and I am still in love with the Vitamin E Face Mist from The Body Shop (my bottle is almost finished, so I better go get another one stat!). And for pure vanity: L'Oreal Magic Retouch. My hair is naturally dark blond but I dye it dark brown. And I doubt with the declining water supply that there will be enough water to wash dye out of my hair every 6 weeks for the foreseeable future, so there are going to be some roots hanging around. Although I don't have any grey yet, blonde roots plus several days of dry shampoo does look rather unattractive after a while. This little spray is great for covering up roots, even if your natural hair is grey. A little spritz on the hairline and/or part and no-one will know!

And that's it for now! Let me know in the comments section what's your favourite water-saving hack!

Oh, and about those 90 second showers: people keep asking me how I can wash my hair in that little time. Obviously, buy a water-saving shower head if you haven't already. Then, embrace the stop-start. I like that my current shower head lets you turn the flow off on the shower head itself, since I have separate hot and cold water taps. I get into the shower, turn on the water and take 30 seconds to get my hair properly wet. I then turn off the water, lather up my shampoo (roots only, no lengths!) and lather up my body with shower gel and wash my face. I then turn the water back on and rinse for 30 seconds. I then apply my conditioner, detangle my hair (makes rinsing a lot easier!) and shave before a final 30 second rinse. All-in-all, the process takes about 5 minutes but I only have the water on for 90 seconds instead of leaving it on the whole time.

Friday, 1 December 2017

DIY Painted Wooden Sign for Christmas

Hand-painted wooden signs are all over Pinterest, from wedding must-haves to Christmas decor. I recently painted a bunch of signs for my bff's wedding and thought it was time to try the technique again for Christmas. (Incidentally, the sign I'm painting today is on the back of this one I made for the wedding.) I love that these signs look like chalkboards but you don't have to worry about the writing rubbing off. 
The truth is, you don't have to have gorgeous handwriting, stress about even spacing or pay someone else to make them for you! They're surprisingly easy to make with relatively inexpensive supplies.This is a perfect craft to get the season started.

You will need:
Something to cover and protect your worksurface from paint.
A piece of wood. Get the cheapest you can find at your local hardware store  (for almost nothing they can cut your wood for you too) or upcycle something lying around the garage.
Black and white acrylic craft paint. 
Large and small paintbrushes. Cheap ones are fine here.
Containers for water and/or mixing paint.
White chalk.
Optional: Gold or silver acrylic craft paint.

Note: If you want, you can use a white paint pen instead of a brush and paint. Personally, I prefer the look of the brushstrokes and painted-by-hand look but it is completely up to you.

Start off by cleaning your piece of wood of any dust. Paint the entire piece with black craft paint and a large, wet paintbrush. If your paint is on the thicker side, thin it out a bit with water (I've used a washed-out yogurt pot as my mixing bowl). If you would rather have a natural wood look, you can try using a wood stain to darken your wood without covering it.

Leave the black paint to dry completely. If possible, pop it outside in the sun to speed things up. If there are any sheer spots once it has dried, add a second coat.

Grab your favourite font (I'm obsessed with brush lettering so that's what I went with for this one) and print out the quote you want to paint at the correct size. I used MS Publisher to create a page 30 x 50 cm (the size of my wood) and then taped the printed sheets together to create the correctly-sized quote. Play around with the size of your font and the spacing on your computer until you are happy before printing. Make sure to only place tape or glue on the front of your pages, not the back.

Now to transfer your template to your wood! Rub your white chalk behind your words liberally. Then place the template on your wood and trace your letters with a blunt pencil or ballpoint pen. (As you can see, I haven't done this obsessively neatly as this is just a guide.) The chalk should transfer to your dark wood. If the chalk outline is too faint, add more chalk to your paper and outline your letters again. If you make a mistake, you can just rub it away.

Now for the fun part! Grab your white craft paint and a small paintbrush. Based on the consistency of your paint, you may or may not need to add water to get a nice flowing paint. Follow your chalk lines to outline your letters and then fill them in. If you are a bit more confident with a paintbrush and brush lettering, you can use a larger paintbrush and paint your letters normally, using the chalk as a guideline for spacing and placement (this is what I did for most of mine).

Carry on going until you have your full quote.

If you want any flourishes, print them and transfer with chalk again (a quick google search gives you endless flourish options). If you are like me and forget to flip a flourish for symmetry (whoops!), don't worry, just rub the chalk off with a dry cloth or brush and do it again.

Grab your brush, trace the lines and colour in.

Optional: For a final festive touch, paint the edges of your wood gold or silver.

Brush away any chalk peeking out on your sign with a dry cloth or brush and that's it! From start-to-finish, this 30 cm x 50 cm sign took me 45 minutes (excluding drying time).

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas! If you attempt to make your own sign, please tag me (@whimsyisforever) in any pictures you post on Twitter or Instagram!