Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ms. Sparkles Chats about New York Times: "The Price Of Nice Nails"

It is still Wednesday right Sparklers?  I made my deadline? Hooray!

As you know, I'm very passionate about bringing you original content from my brain to yours.  However, recent events mean that I've been really busy and I also think I'm getting sick (sad face). Rather than leave you all without a dose of Ms. Sparkles this week, I want to do a quick "Ms. Sparkles Chats" post to point you towards this amazing 2 part piece in the New York Times called "The Price of Nice Nails" and "Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers". If you have not heard of it, it was an expose by 

Picture taken by Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times.  This image is property of the the New York Times and/or Nicle Bengiveno.  I'll gladly take it down if someone contacts me about it.  

As part of the collective world of beauty, I think it is important to make sure we do our best to be as ethical as possible.  I think it is our job as humans to try and be aware and conscious of social issues in general.  The conditions described in this article were horrible and really brought awareness to the issues with some nail salon businesses.  I get cranky when I see people not treating those preforming salon services (or any service industry job) like machines/non-humans.  A simple smile or "hello, how are you" goes a long way guys.  That person helping you is someones child/parent/sibling/friend.  That was before becoming very aware of the horrible conditions some nail salon workers face every day!  I'm quite determined to make sure I do not support unethical nail salons in the future.  Hopefully after reading this article, you will take it into consideration in your decision making process.  End Rant.

I do not want to go into too much detail about the article because I really think you should read the real thing.  It is expertly written and very interesting.  I could not do it justice in trying to summarize the article for you.  I will, however, provide you with copious links to the article, so that you have no excuse not to know where to click to read the article.  Do you know where the article is yet?  If you were wondering, there is a link at the bottom right of the article to go part 2!  Do so please!

After learning about this article initially through KQED's May 12, 2015 episode of Forum, I was made aware of this great organization for my fellow California-NailSalon-Goers  called "California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative".  I'm not sure if they have such an organization that can guide you to voluntarily more ethical nail salons, but on the Forum episode, the representative noted that they are willing to work with other cities and citizens to get this type of program established.  If you feel passionately about getting such a program started in your area, you should try and contact them!  Maybe you can google to find a similar thing in your area already!

Overall, I thought that this article, podcast, and collaborative organization were really informative and needed to be shared.  I felt it was my duty to offer the opportunity to learn to my lovely Sparklers too.  This way Sparklers can make as informed decisions as possible before getting their nails done!  Hooray!

Hope you enjoyed this chat!

As Always,
Shine & Sparkle

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How To Get Rid Of Dark Under-Arms

Sup Super Spiffy Sparklers?

I know I have been neglectful.  So I'm here to make up for it with a full report post!  Summer is coming, so is the season for sleeveless tops.  This week's topic might be a little bit TMI, but really, this is a thing.  Many girls with more pigment in their skin worry about the skin under their arms being darker than the rest of their skin.  Yes, I know, this sounds insane to some but it is a major source of insecurity of others.  As someone who didn't even know this was an issue, I didn't even realize I had darker under arms until I read about it on another blog (lets not talk about the "thigh-gap" thing...I'll rant your head off about how silly that one is...)

This other blog had a ton of crazy DIY tips like "put baking soda paste under your arms every other day", and "rub lemons on them every day" and a gamut of other steps to get the skin color under your arms to match that of the rest of your skin.

While I personally believe that I have other more important things to worry about (like a huge zit in the middle of my face), I did become interested if I could make my underarms lighter if I tried.  And low and behold, it is possible!  Who knew?!  And it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.  What are the 3 magic steps that I take to achieve matching under-arm skin color?  Things I would do for hygiene purposes anyway.  Having nice healthy skin under your arms is good for not only your skin, but also helps you not smell bad. Win-win.

#1: Epilate My Under Arm Hair-  Yes, this is the number one thing that changed the appearance of my under arms.  Basically, when I used to shave my under-arms, it would leave a little black dot of hair below the surface of the skin.  This is mainly what gave the look of darker under arms.  I bought an Emoji Soft Caress Corded Epilator ($60USD), and this had 2 major benefits.  A) It quickly pulled the hair out at the root; B) I only have to remove my underarm hair with it once every 2 weeks or so.  This can also be used on legs and they say face, but honestly, I feel it works best for me on my under arms.  Other areas will depend on the thickness of your hair and pain tolerance.

For those who do not know what an epilator is, it is many electricity powered tweezers that quickly pull out hairs.  I went with the corded one because it was the least expensive and I don't use it enough or long enough to care about cordless charging or bothering with batteries.

I'm not going to lie to you, the first couple of times I did it, it was a little painful, but after that, it doesn't really hurt at all.  I will say that if you are very sensitive to pain, it might not be for you.  Also, if you are more tolerant than I am, you might be able to use it to remove every hair on your body.  But not I--said the Susan Sparkles, not I.

Mini-Tip:  I like epilating because it is much more affordable than getting my underarms waxed at a salon.  However, if you would like to wax your under-arms, it should give the same results.  If you want a totally pain free method of getting rid of hair below the surface of your skin, you can try chemical hair removers such as Nair.

#2: Exfoliate-  Nothing crazy, no weird products.  Just make sure you take some sort of abrasive bath object (body brush, exfoliating loofa, even an old tooth brush) and use your regular body soap to exfoliate any dead skin cells from your under arms 1-2 times a week.  You could also try using a mega batch of my DIY Lip Scrub, it will work on your body too!  No biggie, but it keeps the area nice and clean, free of dead skin cells. Hooray!  Really, no need to use steal wool or sand paper guys, just exfoliate.

#3: Tone/Moisturize- If you have a toner for your face (which I highly recommend as part of your skin care routine-I talk about mine in my dealing with oily skin post) use it on your under arms as needed.  If you don't have a toner or you want a cheaper option, drugstore isopropyl alcohol can also work.  Do this after exfoliating to remove any dirt/impurities/leftover deodorant in the skin.  It will also help with body odor.  Hooray!  After this, take your favorite lotion and put some under your arms as well.

So there you have it, basically, take good care of the skin under your arms and it will most likely be lighter in color.  If this does not work, it is possible, that genetically, your skin is just darker under your arms.  My tip if this is the case is to be comfortable and confident.  Do not let something small like the color of your under-arms dictate your life. Wear sleeveless shirts and reach for the peanut butter on the top shelf.  Wear a swimsuit and play volley ball on the beach!  I'm sure that if you carry yourself with pride and are living life to the fullest, nobody will be worried about the color of the skin under your arms.  While in the beauty world we try and alter and enhance ourselves so that we are the most confident in ourselves, I think it is important to embrace what we have and try not to be too critical of ourselves.

As Always,

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Top 5 Healthy Nail Tips

Hi Sparklers!

I know I've been MIA Sparklers.  I'm so so sorry!  Life has been...well life.  Sometimes you have to put something you love on the back burner to make sure other parts of  your life shine and sparkle too!  However, lets just jump right back into it.  Over Chinese New Year dinner (I realize this was ages ago...), my Aunt mentioned that she liked my Wet n' Wild Mega Last Nail Polish* Review and Comparison post. We got on to talking about how we both have weak nails that like to peel and break.  I learned a tip form her which is also included!   Thus, I have amassed a quick list of tips that will keep you nail tips looking in tip-top shape! (See what I did there?).  Without a long intro, lets get into the tips (in no particular order).


#1: Don't Use Bar Soaps-
This is the wonderful tip that I learned from my Aunt.  In order to create all bar soaps, the soap makers have to use lye.  Lye is a very harsh chemical that can really affect the quality of your nails.  Am I torn because I think bar soap is way more economic than liquid soap? Yes. but if you are battling naturally weak nails, switching to liquid soaps might just help maximize your chances for strong nails.

#2:  Use A Base Coat-
Nail polish colors are drying to your nails no matter if it is free of the 3-5 worst chemicals (This post by* does a good job talking about the chemicals in nail polish).  Using a base coat protects the nail from all these chemicals and has beneficial ingredients that can help with strengthening, moisturizing, or growing your nails (see my how to get salon perfect nails at home post to learn more).  Over time I have tried lots of brands of base coats.  Most preform pretty well, how ever, one base coat is BY FAR the best I have ever used.  It's a little pricey at $30 for 0.6oz, but Pink Gel Coat  rocks my socks.  It dries fast and my nails have never been as nice as when I started using this over a year ago.  One bottle lasts a long time, so I feel like it is totally worth it.  You can also use this as a top coat, which cuts down on the number of nail products you have to buy!

#3: Do Not Pick Off Polish-
I know this is super hard.  Your polish is peeling up and it's so tempting just to pick it off.  But you inevitably will take off some of the surface of your nail and damage it.  I know, the OCD in you might not be able to stop, but try and think about which is worth more to you:  strong healthy nails, or picking off polish leaving a trail of a little colored flakes.

#4: Properly Remove Your Polish-
In keeping with tip #3, please try not to use pure acetone to remove your polish.  Yes it works really fast (which is why salons use it) but it is by far the most damaging to your nails.  I prefer using soy nail polish remover which is actually quite good for your nails.  I wrote a review of soy nail polish remover if you are interested in trying it. It's the only remover I have used for over a year and I've been very satisfied with the long term results!  Always remember to wash your hands after using nail polish removers and apply a moisturizer or oil to your nails/cuticles for a few minutes before painting your nails again.  This will help restore some suppleness to your nails. You'll have to use rubbing alcohol or wash your hands again before painting (since the oil/lotion will drastically reduce the life of you manicure, but even a few minutes without polish and adding moisture will help the condition of your nails a lot.

#5: Nourish From the Inside-
Your body appearance reflects your overall health.  If you are not eating healthy and getting enough water, your hair, skin, and nails will be some of the first places you will show this.  Make sure you are drinking enough water, and eat enough vegetables, protein, and nutrient rich foods.  You might be surprised how much this improves the condition of your hair skin and nails.  I'm not a huge supplement taker, but I do think a high quality daily multi-vitamin can be a good place to start.

I hope you found this post helpful, and I promise to start posting regularly again every Wednesday!

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. Also, like all my images, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image used in this post or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DIY Lemon-Sugar Exfoliating Lip Scrub

Hope you are staying warm Sparklers!

In keeping with my month of Valentines Day themed posts, my last post in February is my favorite sugary sweet lip scrub recipe (as promised in my post on my favorite lip balms for kissable lips!).

Chapped lips in the winter (or year round if you are me), you might need to exfoliate away dead skin from your lips more often.  If you want to buy a lip exfoliator product, they can cost $10 for less than 1oz of product!  This is a super cheap and easy recipe that uses items that most people have lying around their kitchen--which is good, because you wouldn't want to put things that are not edible on your lips right?  Bonus, this lip scrub tastes a bit like lemonade. Lastly, if you can get organic/food grade/minimally processed ingredients it is always better.

-1 tablespoon sugar (brown, white, or raw sugar are my preferred sugars for this recipe. I find raw sugar granules are too large and coarse for my lips and better for body scrubs). Mini-tip: size up this recipe and use as a body scrub as well!
-2 teaspoons oilve or coconut oil (or just enough to create a paste with the sugar).
-1 teaspoon lemon juice
-Bowl and Stirring Spoon

1) Add sugar to a bowl.  The sugar is the physical exfoliator that removes dead skin cells.
2) Add the oil to the bowl.  This recipe is so hard right?  Just kidding.  The oil is your moisturizing ingredient.  Both types of recommended oils are great for adding moisture to your lips.  Add about two teaspoons of oil to the sugar, or until the mixture is a toothpaste-like consistency.
3) After mixing the oil and sugar, add the lemon juice.  The lemon juice is the chemical exfoliator.  It will also naturally help cleanse and brighten the skin.

How to Use:
1) Apply scrub to lips.
2) Massage scrub into lips for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (depending on how much you want to physically exfoliate).
3) Leave scrub on lips for another minute.
4) Rinse away scrub. Mini-Tip: Apply your favorite lipbalm afterwards.  You can see my latest favorite lip balms in guessed it...Favorite Lip Balms post.

Hope you liked this quick and easy DIY recipe.

As always,

Shine & Sparkle

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. Also, like all my images, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image used in this post or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Strawberry Champagne (or Soda) Cocktail Recipe

Sweet edible treats for you today my loyal Sparklers.

Since Valentines Day is in February, I thought I'd do a bunch of appropriately themed posts.  In the spirit of this the heart filled month, I thought I would take a break from beauty themed posts to give you this romantic beverage idea.  I know a lot of my viewers might not drink alcohol and I also know a some of my viewers are health conscious.  So I made sure that there are 3 ways to make this super simple but romantic drink to satisfy everyone!

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
-1 pint of fresh (frozen can work, but it isn't as good)
-1-3 Fresh Mint leaves (dried mints isn't going to work, sorry)

-Exra-Dry Champagne (it is slight sweet so it's my recommended champagne for this drink)
Lemon-Lime Soda (if you like a decadently sweet non-alcoholic drink)
Soda Water (if you like a less sweet and more healthy non-alcoholic drink)

-Fine Sieve/Strainer.
-Glasses (champagne glasses preferred!)


1) Make strawberry mixture.  Place strawberries (without strawberry leaves) into a blender with 1-3 mint leaves depending on how big the leaves are/how minty you want your drink.  Blend this until it forms a liquid.  Strain it through the sieve/strainer.  Alternatively, you can smash the ingredients through the strainer to get the juice.  I prefer to blend-then strain so that I extract maximum juice, flavor, and nutrients. Divide the strained mixture into glasses.  

2) Fill glasses with bubbly liquid of your choice.  This is where you decide if you want champagne, lemon-lime soda, or soda water.  Options are awesome right?

3) Garnish the edge of the glass with a small sprig of mint leaves.  If you set a few fresh strawberries (if you are using fresh berries) aside and cut a vertical slit 1/2 way up the berries.  You can slide them on to the edge of the glass for an extra-special decoration for your romantic beverage.  My last garnishing suggestion is to cut one small fresh strawberry into thin vertical slices.  You can put a few slices directly floating in your beverage.  They soak up the flavor of the drink and are very yummy to eat at the end of your fancy drinking experience.   

Mini-Tip:  Never fear if you only want to make less beverages.  You can either cut the recipe in half or store the strawberry mixture in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.  If you store the strawberry mix, you can keep enjoying fancy-pants drinks for multiple days!

I hope you this share this romantic beverage with your loved one (or super awesome friends) this February.  Let me know if you do!  I read every comment on the blog or any of my social media accounts because I love and appreciate every one of you! Hey, you could drink fancy-dancy drinks while reading past Shine and Sparkle Report posts.  That's a great idea if you ask me...

As always,

Shine & Sparkle

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. Also, like all my images, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Healthy But Decadent Egg with Goat Cheese Recipe and Earth Balance Spread Review

Special Post Lovely Sparklers!

This post about a very rich and romantic breakfast you can make for you loved one for Valentines day (I did promise that all of February is going to be Valentines inspired posts remember?)

Even better, Influenster has honored me with the opportunity to try another product for free! How cool for lil' ol' me!  If you follow me on instagram  or twitter, you probably have seen the pictures for this post already.  That's why you should follow me! Get the inside scoop and be a Super Sparkler!  I picked up my complementary product on a rainy day from Whole Foods aka "Whole Paycheck".  This obviously meant that I left the store with not only my Earth Balance Buttery Spread: Omega-3*, but with $75 of other groceries too...sigh.  I ran home immediately to get out of the rain this post out for you guys!  Lets jump into the review, then I'll give you my recipe.

Product Review:

The Earth Balance Company Says: Earth Balance® Omega-3 Buttery Spread is a blend of expeller-pressed natural oils with added EPA/DHA & ALA for a complete omega offering. Totally vegan, gluten-free and free from genetically modified ingredients of any kind, Earth Balance® Omega-3 Buttery Spread is the perfect way to incorporate a daily dose of essential omegas to your diet. Spread on toast, top your favorite muffin, and enjoy any other way you spread!
-Expeller-Pressed Oils
-0g Trans Fat

Ms. Sparkles Says:  ZOMG!  I love this stuff! 100% Sparkles Endorsed Product!  Don't get me wrong, I still love my Brummel & Brown Spread made with Yogurt, but this has a richer/butterier flavor.  Brummel & Brown has less calories per tablespoon (45 calories) vs Earth Balance (100 calories for the Omega-3 version).  But if I want a richer more decadent taste without being actual butter or hydrogenated bad stuff (boo margarine sucks), this is going to be on my list for sure.  This retails for about $5 at Whole foods for 13oz.  Not too shabby!

Cooking with this product is just like using butter.  It got it pretty hot to char my asparagus (in the recipe below).  While there was a little smoking at the highest temperature, it wasn't too bad.  You a good too cook on high heat (if you are attentive) for things like pancakes on a griddle with it no problem.

Healthy But Decadent Egg with Goat Cheese and Vegetables Recipe:

Calories In Dish: 170 calories.

This is a quick and easy breakfast/snack that is surprisingly healthy and protein packed.  The Omega-3's in Earth Balance Spread are great for encouraging a healthy and beautiful body.  I'm not a doctor, and I did find this "on the internet" which we know by now to take with a grain of salt, but I found that "Omega-6 fats predominate the diet in the US, and this encourages the production of inflammation in your body. Many scientists believe that one reason there is a high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some cancer forms today is this profound omega-3-omega-6 imbalance." Source.  If nothing else, the buttery spread and the goat cheese give the egg a very rich and luxurious taste--which is what really matters.  Seriously, this egg was soooo good.

1 tbs Earth Balance Buttery Spread: Omega-3
1 oz Goat Cheese (I love the rich creamy flavor and that it is high in protein.  If you do not like goat cheese, you can substitute feta or you favorite low-fat cheese)
1 Egg (add 70 calories if you'd like 2 eggs)
2 Asparagus Spears (bottom woody bits removed)
1/4 cup of water
7 Grape Tomatoes

1) Beat egg(s) in small bowl.
2) Heat Earth Balance Buttery Spread: Omega-3 in a small non-stick pan on medium-high heat.
3) Scramble eggs in pan until barely set, then add goat cheese until goat cheese is warmed/slightly melty and the eggs are set. Remove from pan.
4) Add asparagus to the pan and then add 1/4 cup of water.  Cover and steam asparagus for about 1-2 minutes until asparagus is bright green.
5) Add chopped tomatoes on the side.  You can heat these too if you'd like, I just like the cold raw tomatoes with a bit of egg and goat cheese personally.
6) Eat it quick!  The egg is best when piping hot!

That just about wraps up this special post for you, I hope you enjoy it! 

Shine & Sparkle! 

* Hopefully it is obvious by the whole introduction to this post, but this is actually a sponsored post (so excited)! I received these products to review complementary from the company that produced them.  However, I have not received any additional monetary compensation other than the opportunity to try them and give you my honest thoughts.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Favorite Lip Balms For Kissable Lips

It is February my lovely Sparklers.

Hallmark seems to have declared all of February (and most of January) to be Valentines Day.   Therefore, I thought I'd do a bunch of appropriately themed posts.  In the spirit of this the love and heart shaped month, I will be doing a bunch of appropriately themed posts.  This week I'm going to share my favorite lip balms for soft and kissable lips.

I admit to being a lip balm junkie.  I buy (and lose) a lot of lip balm.  I like to apply it before bed.  I like to apply it under lipsticks, I'll even apply it to rough patches of skin on my elbows or knees in emergencies.  This means that I've tried a lot of different products because who wants to lose the same thing over and over again?  For the sake of this post, I have stuck to just plain/un-tinted balms.  Many of these brands also have tinted products, so if you would like to get one with color, you often can.

If my lips are feeling rough and like they need to be exfoliated, I start off by using a lip scrub.  You can buy lip scrubs, you can just use your toothbrush with toothpaste, or you can use my DIY lemon-sugar lip scrub which I will post and link here very soon.  Stay tuned for that!  Then I apply one of my favorite lip balms.

I picked my top 3 lip balms (which I purchase again if I lose them).  They are all color-less (so they are great mini gifts for men as well).  They are also in 3 price ranges to fit anyone's budget.

#1:  Sugar Lip Treatment by Fresh-$22.50USD for 0.15oz

The Company Says: Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15 moisturizes, protects, and smoothes the lips with an exclusive blend of moisture-preserving sugar, nourishing precious oils, antioxidant-rich polyphenols, and essential SPF protection. Fresh’s best-seller, Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15 is proven to provide 6 hours of significant moisture for soft, supple lips. Its sublime texture and addictive citrus flavor make it positively irresistible.

Ms. Sparkles Says: If you are good at keeping track of your lip balms (and not losing them to the same gnomes/elves that steal just one of my socks) I think this lip balm is well worth the splurge.  The texture and effectiveness is simply fantastic. I dare even the driest of lips to not be helped by this stuff.  I like the citrus scent of it as well.  I have been loyal to this for years.  I love that the cap of the packaging screws into the base of the tube part.  It means that it is extra secure and will not get lost in your purse.  That doesn't stop me from losing the whole product, but at least I don't lose the cap.  The packaging is also made of a good quality, scratch and finger print resistant metal, so it never looks ratty.

#2: Smith's Rosebud Salve Tin by Rosebud Perfume Co.- $6.00USD for 0.8oz

The Company Says: A miracle in a can! Our world famous Rosebud Salve has been a family favorite since 1892. Celebrities love the consistency and emollient texture of this #1 selling lip balm and all purpose salve.

Ms. Sparkles Says:  This is an amazing deal! You get almost 1oz of product for only $6! I'm putting it as midrange because you still only get one tub of salve, meaning it is just as easy to lose as any other product. This is great because you can use it for lip balm, or rough patches of skin.  I have also used it on my nail cuticles with great results.  Men, never fear about the smell or color.  It goes on clear and does not have a feminine smell.  It smell faintly like roses, but in a gender-neutral/not overpowering way.  Lets just say I have secretly used it on my man and he approved of it and didn't notice anything about smell or color. This is my go-to lip balm to use right before bed.  I always wake up with soft lips when I use it.  My only problem is that the packing--while cute and made of good quality metal--can be hard to open if you have anything slippery (like lotion) on your hands.  That being said, you don't have to worry at all about the top coming off in your purse.  It is stuck on there I promise!

#3:  Beeswax Lipbalm with Vitamin E and Peppermint by Burt's Bees- $3.30USD for 0.15oz

The Company Says: The original. The best. And still your favorite. Our must-have balms have been playing in purses and pockets since 1991. Beeswax conditions skin, while antioxidant Vitamin E moisturizes. A final hint of Peppermint Oil provides that one-of-a-kind refreshing tingle. The result? Smooth, supple lips everyone will be buzzing about.

Ms. Sparkles Says: Cheap, available everywhere and absolutely amazing.  If you buy this in a multi-pack or on sale you can get these lip balms for way less than $3.30USD, this is just the suggested retail price.  This is your classic chap-stick packaging so it's nothing to write home about.  That being said, it product inside is really effective.  It provides a minty tingle and great hydration to the lips.  If you tend to lose a lot of lip balms, I would highly suggest buying a bunch of these so you always are able to find one when you need it.  They are cheap enough that you can have one in every purse if you want to.  I also love that this product is 100% natural.

Hope you enjoyed this Valentines Day inspired post!  Let me know through social media or the comments below if you have ever actually FINISHED a lip balm before you lost it...or it got melted in the clothes dryer...

As always,

Shine & Sparkle

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. Also, like all my images, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image used in this post or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit.