Why I’m Leaving the STEM Field

This blog entry is partly for my own therapeutic needs, but also partly to inform others of what it’s like to be a woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

To give you some background, my career trajectory has been very unconventional. When I started university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I transferred to a different university after my first year, and my first year of university ended up being a waste–nothing counted toward my degree requirements at my new university. When I got to my second university, I bounced around a bit. One thing I loved was my culture and foreign language classes. My love for language ended up putting me in the English department with minors in Japanese Studies and Chinese Studies. This was as close to a linguistics degree I was going to get at my university. I thought with my foreign languages (3.5 years of Japanese and 2.5 years of Chinese, as well as three years of Spanish in high school and being a native German speaker), I wouldn’t have a problem finding working. Ultimately, I wanted to do a master’s in linguistics, but as I graduated in December, I thought I would work until I could apply/start a program. Well, employment never came.

It was the beginning of 2011, and even grocery stores wouldn’t hire me. Eight months after graduation, I decided I couldn’t just sit around and wait for employment to come to me, so I decided to go back to university, except this time I would go into a field with more security: STEM. My major? Chemistry.

I had always loved science, and I would never say I didn’t enjoy the classes I took for my chemistry major. Chemistry (rather than biology) seemed a hard enough science to provide some job security, but not so difficult I wouldn’t be able to get through it (like physics). My decision was very intentional. I started undergraduate research my second semester of my new degree. I did well in chemistry! I brought my GPA up from a 3.35 for my English degree to a 3.48 by the time I received my chemistry degree. So there was no question of my academic capabilities. I felt pretty good about my decision and decided to pursue a master’s by research in England to get more lab experience.

This is where things started to change a little. For my master’s, I took on a research project in a bioanalytical lab. My project was essentially an engineering project: I designed a part for an instrument that we used for analyzing compounds. I actually had to learn to use AutoCAD and design this part, find a place to manufacture it, and then troubleshoot the part. Despite the fact that I did this with some success, and my project created the foundation for a fully funded PhD project, I always felt like my qualifications as a scientist were in doubt. This was typically felt during discussions with my colleagues, who were mostly PhD students and all men. Even though I had more experience in biology than any of them (having worked in biochemistry research for most of my undergraduate research experience), they rarely seemed to receive the information I shared as anything of value. It was like it went in one ear and out the other, almost like my information was less valuable than what the other guys were sharing, even when it was relevant to the conversation. Simply put, it felt like I had nothing valuable to contribute to the conversation as a scientist.

To paint a bit more of a picture, even as a chemistry student, I never really blended in well. I always wore skirts and dresses, liked cute accessories and shoes, and wore lacy items whenever given half the opportunity. At first, I didn’t draw the connection. I figured, I have proven my success and capability as a scientist academically, first as an undergraduate and now as a graduate student who is making a difficult project work (and everyone was in agreement that my graduate project was a very difficult one).

I brushed it off for a while and thought maybe it was because I was American. People in England generally didn’t hold a very high opinion of Americans, and it had often felt like being American in England did not play in my favor in many other circumstances as well. So, I didn’t take it personally.

When I returned to the US and started job hunting with my newly earned master’s degree, things began to look a little different. My first job, which still took me nine months to get, was a contract job as an analytical chemist. My master’s was in analytical chemistry using the same analytical techniques, so it was a fairly natural fit. Without going into the moans of working as a contract chemist in industry (worst job ever), I felt like I was treated very differently, even from the other women who worked with me. I was required to wear pants to work, which was fine, but I still wore nice tops that were cute, slacks, and cute shoes while everyone else came to work in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. My manager, the quintessential tomboy-type who was especially buddy-buddy with my male coworkers, seemed to have a special place in her heart for me–and not in a good way. She picked on me, saying things like, “We need to toughen you up” or “We need to work on those muscles” and essentially telling me I need to stop being such a girl. She praised the boys when they had done a good job or finished a project quickly, but no words of praise were ever handed out to me. There were only two other women who worked in our contract worker group, and they seemed to be pretty good friends with my manager but almost in a love-hate way. The dynamic was a bit odd really.

Anyway, once again, I shook it off as being just a bad work experience. I could feel my manager aiming at the core of my femininity and trying to destroy it and turn it into something “bad”. She was certainly not feminine. She was bossy, powertrippy, a know-it-all (even though she had no background in the sciences, she told people how to do their jobs), and a micromanager. Still, I tried to chalk it up to having an unfortunate manager and moved onto another job as soon as an opportunity opened up. Luckily, this was only about four months later!

My next job was at a research lab at a university. It felt like home being at a university again. Furthermore, instead of there only being 3 girls out of 12 workers, the odds seemed to be in my favor: 5 women and 2 men. Maybe it would have been different if I had been working under one of the women, but unfortunately my job was working under one of the men. Again, I experienced the same thing I had as a graduate student: the information I provided and the background I brought to the table was not valuable. Met with only doubt and brushoffs when it came to information exchange or discussion, I was only a pair of lab hands with no brain.

To be honest, I had thought for some time that despite that my facial features aren’t especially feminine and that I’m not really especially pretty either, the way I presented myself could have an impact on how men in the sciences received me and what I brought to the table. However, it never occurred to me to what extent this would be true, until I read this article from the University of Colorado, posted just last year in 2016.

In their second study, Banchefsky and her colleagues strove to see how strong the effect was. They found that a woman’s feminine appearance still affected career judgments even when participants were not asked to evaluate her appearance, and regardless of whether the photos of scientists were presented grouped by gender or randomly mixed.

“This is important because it means that people don’t have to be asked to consider a woman’s appearance for it to still affect their judgments about how likely she is to be scientist,” said Banchefsky. “It also indicates that people use variation in women’s feminine appearance as a cue to her career even when gender differences are made more obvious – that is, when photos of women are interjected with photos of men.”

Exploring the idea of feminine facial features, I came across this online program called pictriev that uses a photo to analyze for feminine or masculine features and tries to estimate age. I used a non-touched up photo for this, so you can see the photo is a little bit dark. My makeup was also light. The photo was taken with a $600 Nikon camera, though, so I have some confidence in it’s quality. Several articles had cited this website, but whether it is accurate or not, I am not entirely sure. It was the best thing I could find to determine whether I had underestimated how feminine my features are, though.

Pictriev

After getting some insight from this mysterious face attribute calculator and reading the previously cited quote, in addition to some other articles, it all began to make sense. Reading further:

The research confirms the all-too-real experiences of many women in STEM fields. The paper opens with the story of Isis Wenger, whose photo was featured in her tech firm’s ad to recruit more engineers. Because she was deemed “too attractive” to be a “real engineer,” some doubted the ad’s veracity.

“We knew there were accounts out there in the literature for decades that women (scientists) can’t wear skirts if they want to be taken seriously. They are seen as ‘too feminine,’” Banchefsky said. “One paper shows that about 75 percent of male and female engineering students believe the perception that scientists cannot be feminine is a problem for female engineers.”

This hit home so hard, it nearly crushed me. It was a very bittersweet moment of realization. That was what I had experienced, and it was a relief to know that it wasn’t me, it wasn’t personal, and it wasn’t in my head, nor did it have anything to do with my capabilities as an individual! What was hard was the fact that this is still how it is in STEM: become one of the men or become disqualified as a legitimate scientist.

“These feminine-looking women have ‘heard’ verbally or nonverbally that they don’t look like scientists, that they don’t belong in these male-dominated, highly prestigious fields,” Park said. “The message that your appearance matters and that it is relevant to your career choice likely leads other women — as undergraduates, as high-school students and even as young girls — to conclude they just don’t fit with science.”

At the end of the day, I chose to keep my identity as a woman instead of my maybe-would-have-been career as a scientist. I love being a woman, and I love being feminine. My desire to express my femininity should not impact my ability to be accepted as a competent scientist, or anything else for that matter. But the truth of the matter is that it still does. So, that’s why I’m leaving STEM. To preserve myself, I feel like I must, because it is not a battle I want to fight.

So what will I do from here? I will go back to my first career path: linguistics. For more than seven years now, I have tutored as a English as a second language teacher and have continued to study languages (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, Russian, Finnish, Greek). Simply put, I think the field will be more accepting of me and suit me better for it.

Advertisements

My Favorite Lounge Bras!

It has been a little while since I’ve written, but I wanted to share some eBay finds.

Let me start by explaining what I mean by lounge bra. When I look for a lounge bra, I want something wireless with great support. Usually these end up being wireless, foam push-up bras, which are actually perfect for lounging in. They give great support and lift, and because they are wireless, they’re super soft and comfy to lay around in–or even sleep in.

I discovered this type of bra by accident, but after having a couple I found I absolutely loved them. They’re also great for summer when you want to avoid sweating in a wire bra, because the wires can start to rust and can get a very distinct metallic smell.

Another great thing about these bras is you can find them on eBay at a very low price! (These bras are all under $20, and some even come with matching panties!) The downside is that they can be really tricky to search for! The listings don’t always say whether they are wireless, sometimes they don’t have enough pictures to give you an idea what the product actually is, and sometimes a bra can look like it’s wireless and then when it arrives you find out it isn’t.

That is why I have listed my five favorite lounge bras with links to the product I ordered. This way, you don’t have to go through the bother of trying to figure it out yourself. Okay, here are my favorites (in no particular order)! Oh, and P.S. I don’t get any benefit from promoting these items. I just like sharing great products with others! Typically, the sizes offered by these brands are 32-38, A-C cups.

Smooth Seamless Bra: Great for T-Shirts

s-l500

Thoughts: This bra is fantastic for wearing under t-shirts or delicate tops. It’s seamless and very smooth, and it also comes in several cute patterns: Swiss dot, hearts, or leopard print, with a couple of different colors as well. The band is nice and wide with three rows, giving a really good fit and good support. The padding also gives really good support and is so soft! I love this bra. I actually bought two in different colors: pink with hearts and navy with Swiss dots.

s-l1600

Sizing: All of the sizes on these products will run relatively small, as they are Chinese or Japanese products. This is really good if you have a hard time finding bras with a small enough band to fit snugly and give proper support. In Western sizes, I wear a 28DD, and a lot of 28’s still don’t give a very snug fit. A 32 for this bra was perfect! I still wear it on the tightest column, but it gives a very supportive fit. The cup conversion will be the same as it would be for Western band sizes, i.e. 28DD->30D->32C. I bought a 32C, and the cup was perfect.

Seamless Bra with Lace: Also Great for T-Shirts, but With A Little Extra Cuteness

s-l16001Thoughts: Like with the previous seamless bra, this is also a great t-shirt bra, though I would probably not recommend as much for delicate tops. The lace and bow detailing may show through! That being said, the lace and bow detailing are part of what make it adorable. Like the previous bra, the band is wide with three rows. The type of padding is also essentially the same in terms of shape, making this another bra that gives really nice supportive lift while keeping you free to roll around on the couch as much as you want without concern for pokey wires.

tb2m5a0asik-ebjszfsxxbxzpxa_161087090Sizing: The band size on this actually runs smaller than other bras I have bought from China. This pretty much never happens to me, but I was actually wearing this bra on the second from the tightest column as the tightest was, well, too tight. The cups also run a little shallow: I was spilling out like crazy in the 32C. That being said, I think that is the way it’s designed, so it wasn’t a fit issue. However, if you want a smooth silhouette, you don’t want to be spilling out of your bra. I reordered this bra in a 34C.

Lacey T-Shirt Bra: Doesn’t Look Like a Lounge Bra At All!

s-l5001

Thoughts: This bra is really cute and has just enough lace on it to make it cuter than just a t-shirt bra. Because the lace is on the side of the cups, wearing this with a t-shirt is still okay, but the contrasting lace and center bow just makes it a really nice bra that doesn’t really look like a lounge bra at all! This bra has a smaller band that isn’t nearly as supportive as the first two, but is still a decent width (I have certainly seen much more narrow bands). The padding on this bra is also not super push-up, so if you’re just looking for something comfortable to wear that won’t necessarily give you a push-up effect, this bra is for you!

tb2ghz-pxxxxxcgxxxxxxxxxxxx_161087090tb2a-m9pxxxxxctxxxxxxxxxxxx_161087090Sizing: This bra runs about the same size as the first one. I ordered a 32C, and it fits fine. It isn’t the most snug fitting band, so the support isn’t amazing. This will probably be less of a problem for people with a wider rib cage than mine (in other words, everyone).

Lace Overlay Bra: Cute With Moderate Support

s-l16002Thoughts: This bra is cute to look at, but the design is a little odd. I love the look of the bra, but the fit is just not really what I was going for. It is shaped very differently from the other bras. If you want something that’s less of a push-up bra and gives a more toned-down look, this bra is probably perfect for you. The contrast bows also give it a very cutesy touch! This may not be the perfect t-shirt bra as it has lace overlay, but it is still great for support and very cute!

tb2d3blpb0kpufjy0fjxxcbbvxa_161087090Sizing: The width of this bra’s band is a little bit wider than the previous bra, but not as wide as the first two. 32C was a really good fit for me, with a really nice snug band. The cups seemed a little bit shallow, but it’s honestly hard to tell with the straps in the middle of the cups.

Floral and Lace: Super Padding

s-l500Thoughts: If you’re wanting something with a lot of padding, this is a great bra. It also has a very wide band (the widest of all of these bras). The design is very cute, and it is very supportive. For me, personally, the amount of padding is actually excessive. It makes me really self-conscious wearing this. However, the padding is very soft, and this is also a great bra for just hanging around in!

2536573264_1310376075Sizing: Again, I ordered a 32C for this, but the band was still not quite as snug as I would like for good support. The padding, however, gives really good support, and I didn’t have any problems with the cups, even with the amount of padding.

Tips For Finding Bras Like These

When you’re doing your own online search for wireless bras, there is one thing most of them have in common.

As you can see, four out of the five bras I recommended have pictures on the item page that show the bra rolled up, which is obviously impossible if the bra has wire in it. If there’s a bra you’re eying and the product page has an image of the bra rolled up, you know it’s at least wireless. Determining the amount of padding it has will be trickier, but this is a good starting point.

I hope you found some cute bras through this post!

Managing/Healing Seborrheic Dermatitis: My Skin Routine Now

It’s been a long time since I last wrote, but I have been hard at work trying to get my skin and overall health in a better place. My whole life, my skin has been a series of woes and complications. I have always had to put in twice as much effort as others even just for mediocre skin. After hundreds of products, many years, and many more tears, I am finally in a place where I can say, “I HAVE GREAT SKIN!!” Knowing there are many others out there who struggle with acne, oily skin, seborrheic dermatitis, and other relentless skin conditions, I decided to compile a comprehensive article of what I am doing now and what changes I have made. I hope this post will be helpful for others, although be ready for a pretty lengthy article, though I will do my best to cut out anything that isn’t essential information. Feel free to ask questions if there’s something you want to know. Let’s start from the beginning.

A Little History

As a teenager, I had moderate to severe cystic acne (closer to the severe side than the moderate side) and undiagnosed seborrheic dermatitis, mostly on my scalp. I started puberty very early, having my first period at 8 or 9 years old. By the time I was 10, I was having some pretty serious skin issues, and by the time I was 13, I had stopped growing (I still say I was cheated out of my true height). My periods were horribly painful events as well, which eventually led to seeing an endocrinologist at around 15. At that time, I was diagnosed with high testosterone and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I was having issues with blood sugar, probably as a result of the PCOS, so I was put on metformin, but quickly stopped taking it after it made me sick (and I mean sick all the time). In addition, I was put on birth control pills to help with the PCOS and testosterone dominance.

While the birth control pills helped with my periods, even after seeing a dermatologist since I was 12 and being put on a series of topical antibiotics and oral antibiotics and using every skin care regimen under the sun (tried Proactive twice, tried Clinique for several years, etc.), I saw practically no resolution for my acne. The dermatologist eventually decided to put me on Accutane, and this cleared up my skin beautifully–for a few years anyway. I was 19 when I was put on Accutane, and by the time I was 22, my skin seemed to start rebelling against me again. At 22, I also decided to stop the birth control pill, but my periods were wildly irregularly after that, and who knows what the heck was going on with my hormones! As I got into my early 20’s, I also started using more and more natural products, doing a lot of research on diet and nutrition, and started my long road of overhauling my entire lifestyle.

Fast Forward to Today Relatively Recently

I’m getting ahead of myself ! We need a little more background.

My irregular periods continued until I started bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. To my surprise, I was not diagnosed with high testosterone, but with low progesterone, so now I am supplementing bioidentical progesterone (not to be mistaken for plant-based [phyto] progesterone or phytoestrogens). So my hormones were all good at this point, but my skin was still…well, mediocre.

My skincare regime had evolved several times at this point. I had tried oil cleansing, oil cleansing with steam, carrot masks, tea tree oil, honey: the extreme of all natural. This stuff works for a lot of people, and that’s great. However, much to my dismay, it did not work for me. My only guess is that my skin is so complicated and has had compounded effects of using very harsh products (Clinique and Proactive? Super harsh) in addition to my already existing skin problems, especially seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis seemed to cause excessive layers of dead skin on my face and scalp, worsened by increased oil, which made these layers stubborn as hell when trying to remove. It took me a very long time to even figure out I had seborrheic dermatitis. I gave up on the dermatologist after 20, as they were really not helping me at all and were unwilling to try a different approach. They just kept throwing the same stuff at me, hoping it would work. Well, it never did.

Rant aside, I used oils for a while and went completely natural. Because of my seborrheic dermatitis, though, it wasn’t very effective. It was like the oil would just sit on top of my face and would have almost no cleansing effect at all. Needless to say, that didn’t last very long. After a while, having switched back to somewhat more traditional cleansers, I read more about sulfates in cleansing products. Sulfates, which are actually used for desiccants (absorb moisture to keep products dry), are so harsh that they remove more moisture from the skin than the skin or any lotion can replenish. Sulfates dry the skin down to such a deep layer, your lotion will never reach how far your skin has been stripped of moisture. This has a compounding effect: dry skin will become increasingly dryer, and oily skin will freak out and increase the amount of oil produced to make up for the moisture loss–except the oil produced is usually poor quality oil and it ends up just giving you very greasy skin.

After this revelation, I immediately switched both my skin cleansers (face and body wash) and shampoo to sulfate-free. The change was immediate and improved more with time. I saw probably an 80% reduction in the oiliness of my skin once I started using only sulfate-free cleansers. To illustrate this, before switching to sulfate-free products, I had been using French green clay on my face once a week, and this was perfect to manage my oiliness for a week. After I started using a sulfate-free cleanser, the French green clay was way too drying, even with jojoba oil added to it! This was a pretty dramatic step toward amazing skin, and I recommend to everyone, even those who do not have skin problems, switch to sulfate-free! Your skin will thank you for it. Sulfate-free products are also becomingly increasingly easy to find. I eventually even switched to sulfate-free hand soap, because I get eczema on my hands. I don’t get eczema on my hands anymore!

As I was making this sulfate-free switch, I was also getting more acquainted with high-quality skincare brands. It is still a lot of trial and error, as some products are just the right composition to be brilliant for one person’s skin, but may not be worth the price tag for another person’s skin. It can be overwhelming how many options there are now, but I can speak from experience in saying that it is worth trying a ton of different products when you finally find the ones that work. One of the greatest resources for me has been a website called My Pure. It is a UK-based company that ships worldwide (only ~$7 for shipping, too!) and has some of the best all-natural and organic European brands on the market. My favorite for body wash, body lotion, and hand lotion is Madara. Their products are amazing. The cost is a little bit high, but try it just once, and I think you will find it worth it.

Okay, Now Fast Forward to Today

Yay! Now I get to tell you about what I have done in the past few weeks that has really transformed my skin!

Facial Products
Let’s start with facial products, as I have already discussed the body lotion I am using. I have fallen in love with South Korean skincare products. They are the leading country in formulating great skincare products that are plant-based, while Western countries tend to believe in the power of chemicals to make great skin products (this does not work well for a lot of people). Many people who have very sensitive skin have had great success switching to South Korean products, and I don’t mean “South Korean” products sold at Sephora. I mean South Korean products directly from South Korea.

These can be found on Amazon, though some people claimed to have received fake products (I’ve never had this problem, and you can buy from South Korean shops through Amazon). I prefer to order all my Asian cosmetics from YesStyle, as it is a store I trust and have been shopping on for years. Some brand names that spring to mind if you aren’t sure where to start is Innisfree and Etude House. The Face Shop and Nature Republic are two brands that are also very good and a little less expensive than Innisfree or Etude House. I have been very happily using a combination of Innisfree, The Face Shop, and Nature Republic for months now. They all have a green tea series, which is what I have really been liking, as green tea has lots of great properties. I recently decided to switch completely to Innisfree products for skincare, as it has received slightly better reviews, a few of which were written by girls with oily skin issues. Once I have tried these, I will post my own review. Right now, this is what my routine looks like:

Morning
Face: Innisfree Green Tea Cleansing Foam, The Face Shop Green Tea Waterfull Emulsion for face and neck, Replenix CF Cream for eyes, Nature Republic Fresh Green Tea 80 Cream
Back of neck, upper arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back: Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer (contains retinol/vitamin A, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E + B5, and green tea)
Evening
Face: Skin Blossom Gentle Cleansing Milk or baby oil for makeup removal (for both, I just massage the product on my face and use toilet tissue to gently wipe the makeup away. It works great and makes a huge difference in how oily my skin gets overnight.), The Face Shop Green Tea Waterfull Serum, Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer
Breasts and decollete: Mio Boob Tube+ with a few drops of Evening Primrose Oil
Back of neck, upper arms, shoulders, and upper back: Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer

There are a couple more items I want to mention about my skincare. I have been getting microdermabrasion treatments for a few weeks, which has made a world of difference in removing those excessive layers of dead skin on my face. Since I started getting these treatments, which I get every 8 weeks, my skin products absorb MUCH faster and are much more effective. If you have seborrheic dermatitis, I highly recommend going through a series of microdermabrasion treatments. I am hoping it will “reset” my skin. Once those layers of dead skin are removed after years of skin abuse, I hope my skin will not feel the need to create such a barrier now that my skin care routine is much gentler. This is also one of the reasons I decided microdermabrasion over chemical peel. As the name suggests, chemical peels are very harsh, and I know my skin: it has a tendency to overreact and then I am worse off than I started. I am still getting the microdermabrasion treatments now, but I am really curious to find out how my skin does when I stop getting them.

Also, I do exfoliate once a week, but now that I’m getting microdermabrasion treatments, I can use a really gentle exfoliator and get great results! I had tried the Japanese product Natural Aqua Gel Cure (available on Amazon) without a very satisfying outcome several months ago before getting microdermabrasion. However, now it is the perfect exfoliant: gentle enough not to cause an overreaction in my skin, but just enough to smooth my skin very nicely and help my products absorb better. I hope this continues to be a good option for me even after I stop the microdermabrasion.

Now that I’ve discussed all of my skincare products, there are a few other essential changes I have made to my lifestyle.

Detox
This is important for overall health and even more important for the skin. The skin is a major elimination organ, meaning anything the body wants to get rid of gets pushed out of the body and through the skin. This means that if your body is overloaded with toxins, chemicals, anything at all that the body is wanting to remove, your skin is going to constantly be impacted negatively. Your body probably needs some detox support to effectively clear everything out, and by properly clearing things out, your skin will eventually reach a point where it is not always being irritated by what the body is trying to get rid of.

There are lots of different ways to detox. I prefer the daily/weekly mild detoxing methods over the debilitating once a year liver detoxes that I have only ever read about. As such, I will limit my discussion to what I’m doing now. First, I go to the sauna twice weekly for 30 minutes. Sauna is amazing for detoxing and deep skin cleansing! I have read of people who have healed their seborrheic dermatitis using sauna as part of their treatment. Sauna has a lot of the same benefits as cardio workouts, including increasing human growth hormone. Known as the “hormone of youth”, human growth hormone is essential for repair. I would caution against using sauna too often, as it can cause dehydration if you’re not careful, but 2-3 times a week is great. To read more about the benefits of sauna, read here, here, and here.

Another detox element I have added to my lifestyle is some detox supplements. As part of my bioidentical hormone therapy, I have been taking supplements containing DIM, 3-indole-carbinol, and milk thistle (I use EstroSense). All these support liver detox, especially hormone metabolism. The pills tend to be slightly too large for me to swallow comfortably, so I have been breaking the capsules open and dumping it in with my daily protein shake.

The last step I have added is daily skin brushing and weekly exfoliation. Skin brushing using a dry brush helps stimulate the skin and increase blood flow. It is also great if you have skin problems, as it is a light exfoliation that you can do on a daily basis. I brush in the evening before using my creams. I also use a salux (available on Amazon) once a week for a slightly more intense exfoliation. This is especially important for my chest, back, and upper arms/shoulders where I still have a lot of active acne. I love being able to do this, because it is a really easy way to add some detox support specifically to the skin on a daily basis.

One more thing that’s really important: Collagen Protein Powder
This is probably the basis of my great skin now. Collagen is a building block for skin (and joints, hair, and nails, but let’s focus on the skin). The body loses its ability after age 30 to product its own collagen, therefore supplementing collagen is very important if you have skin troubles. The way you supplement it is critical, though. The body is best able to absorb collagen when it is in a liquid form. The good news is, this is really easy to find. I use Bulletproof Collagen Protein Powder daily. Powder collagen is a little more expensive than tablets, but it is much more effective and easier to take. It dissolves readily into any liquid, and a good quality collagen powder will have no flavor. It will take a minimum of 4 weeks to see results, though for people over 30, it may take up to 8 weeks, so be patient and consistent with taking it.

The jury is still out on this one, but I will mention it anyway: Injuv Hyaluronic Acid
One of my previously mentioned creams, the retinol cream, contains hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is essential for cells to maintain intracellular water levels, which means this is directly connected to moisture levels for skin cells. Injuv variety hyaluronic acid (available at a reasonable price through Swanson Vitamins–especially when they have it on sale) is an oral supplement that has undergone an enzymatic process that makes it absorb more easily. I recently started taking this, as some say it is even more important for skin health than collagen! The two together should make a killer combo, but as I have not been taking it long enough to say one way or the other, the jury is still out. I will report back once I have gone through the first 4 weeks. There are other benefits to taking hyaluronic acid, though: detox. Hyaluronic acid is needed by cells to help remove metabolic debris and dead cells out of the system. This in addition to its moisture benefits makes hyaluronic acid a great one-two for both skin support and cellular detox.

The Takeaway

  • Sulfate-Free! This is so important. If you do nothing else, switch to sulfate-free cleansers, even if it’s only for your facial cleanser, body wash, and shampoo. This will help your skin better maintain its moisture balance and will help make your lotions and hair conditioner effective.
  • Detox For overall health, detoxing is essential, especially today when we are surrounded by all kinds of pollution, chemicals, and stress. There are lots of different detox targets from overall detox to liver detox to cellular detox. Any kind of detoxing you can add to your daily routine will help. I don’t recommend doing harsh liver detoxes that last for only a few days or weeks. I believe more in including detox as a part of lifestyle, as I think removing toxins as they enter the body is more effective than letting toxins hang out in the body for a while before removing them.Sauna is a great overall detox method and is fairly easily accessible through a gym. Sauna has other great health benefits as well, such as increasing human growth hormone, which is essential in repair functions of the body. Sauna is also said to help in healing all kinds of skin conditions. For the best results, use only 2 or 3 times a week for 30 minutes. If you don’t have access to a gym with a sauna, but still want to use a sauna, you can find sauna kits for your home online (and the prices are surprisingly reasonable).

    Adding detox support supplements to your diet is the easiest daily detox step you can add to your regime. If you’re targeting hormone detox, milk thistle, indole-3-carbinol, and/or DIM are great. To target the skin more specifically, using hyaluronic acid helps with cellular detox and is essential for maintaining moisture.

    Skin brushing, while a little more effort, is an easy way to add daily exfoliation to your skincare routine. Using a salux once a week can help maintain smooth skin in stubborn areas where you’re still waiting for seborrheic dermatitis to resolve. These both can help manage acne as well.

  • Collagen For the most effective collagen supplementation, use powdered collagen. It’s really easy to mix with beverages you’re already drinking like coffee, tea, or even just water. Collagen is the building block for joints and skin. After age 30, the body begins to lose its ability to produce its own collagen, so supplementing even before 30 can only help your skin.
  • Be Gentle Avoid harsh products. They will only aggravate your skin, and your skin will in turn aggravate you for it. As much as you’re able, it is best to use natural products. South Korean skincare products are well known for their very gentle ingredients, and most people who have a history of very sensitive skin do great with these products! The price for these products is also quite reasonable, especially in comparison to some of the products you will find at places like Sephora.
  • Most Importantly, BE PATIENT, BE CONSISTENT The body needs time to make adjustments. Taking collagen supplements is important, and you will probably start out very enthusiastically, but you won’t start seeing a difference in your skin for 4-8 weeks as the skin is the body’s last priority (it will use the collagen as needed in other areas first). Hyaluronic acid supplementation will also take a few weeks to see results with. It may also take longer to see results with sauna and other detox methods, as the body will have a lot of detoxing to do initially and with time will have less to eliminate. In the case of exfoliation methods (microdermabrasion, skin brushing, and salux use) and switching cleansers, you will see a difference right away.

I hope this article has been helpful and informative! Please feel free to leave comments if you have any questions and best of luck on your journey to amazing skin!

Some Thoughts on Breast Health and Natural Breast Enhancement

For a long time, I treated my breasts like I treated my arms and legs. I basically moisturized my arms, legs, and torso and forgot about them. Recently, I started thinking, though… I do all this special stuff for my face. I have a meticulous routine for taking care of my face and using anti-aging products and applying antioxidant exhibiting products and always have treated it differently from the rest of my body. Well, it didn’t occur to me until recently that my breasts aren’t like the rest of my body at all. Arms and legs are mostly muscle and bone, and the skin on these areas is usually pretty sturdy. The breasts aren’t muscle or bone–not even a little, and the skin is very thin and delicate. Therefore, breasts should be given special treatment just like the face should.

What kind of treatment should the breasts get? Well, I started thinking how can I nourish the breasts, meaning the skin and the tissue. One of the things I’ve learned is how toxins tend to build up in fatty areas of the body, and the breasts are one of the fattiest areas of the body. This means it tends to be an area where a lot of toxins build up. What can be done about this? Massage.

There are many massages out there for the breasts, and many different techniques depending on what you’re wanting out of the massage. Massaging helps increase blood flow, which helps move toxins out of the breast tissue and fat. It also stimulates cell growth, which has an anti-aging effect on the skin and tissue. So this led me to a couple of different types of massages: lymph massage, which is really about moving bad stuff out of the breasts, and breast enhancement massage, which helps stimulate all the cells and tissue that make breasts … well, breasts. This is the breast massage that I started doing, and bought the book Breast Massage and Acupressure: for Improved Breast Health and Increased Fullness. Of the breast massages from the book, I just picked four that I felt were easy to do (a couple which are a technique known as fat brushing) and just made a routine of doing massages before bed. It wasn’t long before I started noticing that my breasts weren’t as hard, and my breast pains went away. Instead, my breasts were both firm but soft, whereas before I had some stiffness and often had trouble with breast pain, especially in conjunction with PMS. My breasts were also fuller and perkier. In addition to doing these massages, I started using IsoSensuals breast enhancement cream, a non-hormone-based cream. My logic was that this would provide moisture and nutrients that breasts need to stay healthy and young, and applying it topically should be effective. I didn’t use it as directed: I only applied it once a day before bed instead of twice a day. My goal wasn’t really breast enhancement, but it really did help keep the skin well hydrated. I can’t say that I’ve noticed a difference in terms of size. I haven’t outgrown any of my bras, but as I said, that wasn’t what I was going for.

I did that for a few months and did end up getting some growth pains, so I guess as a side benefit, I was getting some breast enhancement. About a week ago, I decided to buy some supplements that would continue with the good things my topical cream and massages were doing. I started looking around and stumbled across this Japanese woman named Chiyomilk. She used natural supplements, massage, and fat brushing for three years to go from a B cup to an I cup. My brain still doesn’t know what to do with that. It ended up being a great resource for finding supplements that would be good for breast health, though, since the idea is to give the breasts what they need to grow, which should be the same things the breasts need to stay young and healthy, too, right?

So the products Chiyomilk uses are really expensive. She invests a lot of money into her supplementation. I decided Amazon carried plenty of supplements that were the same, but less expensive, and probably still just as good–or good enough anyway. I ended up ordering some collagen I and II tablets with vitamin C (they’re so small, I can actually take them!), and I also ordered bovine ovary. The idea behind it is that like cures like. It makes sense if supplement all the nutrients found in breast that it will be beneficial for your breasts, right? My only concern with it is that it can effect hormones, and I’m just finally getting those all in order! (More on that later.)

But anyway, after reading about what Chiyomilk accomplished (and seeing pictures on her Japanese website, which be forewarned show nude breasts, but if you’re okay with that proceed to here), I couldn’t help but look at my breasts sans bra and feel unsatisfied. I wear a 28DD in Freya bras, a 65D in Chinese bras, and a 65E in Japanese bras, but my breasts themselves are not that impressive! I couldn’t help but consider trying natural approaches to go up a cup size or two–nothing as dramatic as Chiyomilk, but some enhancement.

One of the popular ways of getting results relatively quickly is using breast enhancement pumps. They work by pulling the breast tissue away from the chest, creating a gap that the body then fills with new tissue. Over time, this creates larger breasts by stimulating new tissue growth. Prices can range a lot. I’ve seen some $30 pumps on Amazon, but with something like that you want to be careful. The breasts are delicate, and you don’t want to destroy them through being cheap. Most websites I’ve read about breast enhancement pumps on recommended pretty much the same three brands. There’s the Noogleberry, which is the least expensive (around $80), but is a manual pump and takes the longest to see results with. There’s also the middle of the road in terms of expensive called the Bosom Beauty (about $160), which is an electric pump that self-manages the pressure, and you can see results in about 8 weeks using it 15-30 minutes a day. The most expensive one, the Brava bra, is really meant for being slept in. You wear it 10 hours a day, and it costs $2,000 (yikes!). For a lengthier discussion and review of these systems, you can read this.

I feel like the Bosom Beauty is probably the best choice. It is a little more expensive than the Noogleberry, but my biggest concern is with being able to properly manage the pressure. It’s also nice that it doesn’t require nearly as much of a time commitment, which I feel like I don’t have enough time as it is to do the things I want. I also feel like using supplements that help balance hormones and supplements or creams that provide what the body needs to keep the breasts healthy will also make a big difference.

In my next post, I want to talk more about hormones, as I’ve been going through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and want to share what I’ve learned.

Finally Options for Girls Who Wear Bras Smaller than a 32!

It took me years to realize a 32 band was still too big. When I did realize it, though, I quickly found that options didn’t exist for petite girls. Luckily, over the past three years, I’ve found lots more options emerging for girls who wear a 28 or 30 band size. It gets better! They’re no longer available in only A or B cups either, and there are adorable varieties out there, too. There are lots of 28A-E+ options now, and I want to share them with you.

European Brands

It’s a little surprising to me that Europe has better selections in terms of bras. Even the UK has a lot more brands that carry 28’s in a variety of cup sizes. Think Freya (longline bras), Curvy Kate, Panache, Fauve (also has some longline bras). Doing a Google search will bring up mostly UK websites that sell these brands, but most of them will ship them to the US. Most UK shops also have very reasonable shipping rates: $5.00-7.50 for shipment if orders are under a certain amount–you pay this much for shipping within the US! Here are a few shops you can start with:
Fig Leaves
Uplifted Lingerie
Boux Avenue
Bravissimo

Asian Options

I say Asian options, because China has a tendency to unbrand a lot of clothing they sell. I’ve bought so many bras from Chinese merchants online, and 90% of them have no brand name on the tag. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good bras, and they’re actually some of the best bras I’ve bought. The quality is usually quite good, especially for the price. You can’t beat the cost for a bra and panty set. Be forewarned, though, a lot of them are padded, some very heavily and most with additional removable padding. My favorite place lately is AliExpress. You can find a wider variety of bra styles and sizes on AliExpress than eBay. You get the same buyer protection with AliExpress, too, and they even require you to send an “item received” notification, so they know when you get your stuff! It’s great! Search for your European size when using AliExpress. Cup sizes are usually pretty close to American cup sizes. I don’t recommend using the size filters on the side, though. They don’t work very well and won’t show you all of the bras that come in the size you’re searching for, which is usually part of the keyword search in the title of the item.

Sadly, while Japanese stores carry a greater variety of sizes and adorable styles, most Japanese shops and brands won’t ship outside of Japan. So a great site I recently stumbled across is Shiro Hato. This is a Japanese store in Kyoto, Japan, that sells Japanese lingerie and ships to the US (so far the only one that I know of). They have adorable items in a huge variety of sizes, even more size variety than AliExpress. That being said, the Japanese size chart is quite different from the US. I’ve only just placed my first order with them to see how their sizes match up, but I’ve read several other people who mentioned that the sizing is pretty dramatically different … Shiro Hato has a size chart that you can follow, which is what I did, but I’ll share my experience once I’ve completed the transaction. Shiro Hato also has adorable lingerie. If you’re looking at bras, though, make sure you also look under the junior’s section. There are some cute bras and panties sold separately there.

Options if you have a smaller cup size (A, B, and maybe C): YesStyle is a great place to shop for bras if your cup size is less than a D. They have a huge variety of styles. If you wear a D, you might occasional find something in your size, but I haven’t really seen anything bigger than a D.

I’ll post an update of the bras I receive from Shiro Hato once they’ve arrived and feel free to share any other websites that should be added to this list!

Miracle Makeup Products For Oily Skin and Seborrheic Dermatitis

There are a couple of makeup products that have revolutionized my makeup bag. One is a primer. Now, I’ve tried many different primers (Make Up For Ever, Benefit, other expensive brands), but the result is always the same: it doesn’t adhere to my skin and my makeup slides off my face with the slightest touch. It’s almost like my skin rejects the primer, and my skin actually ends up oilier with the primers I’ve tried. I had given up on primers until I recently saw some makeup videos using Korean cosmetic products (not the kind sold at Sephora, but the kind that you can only order online and get directly from Asia.

It seems like Asian cosmetic companies do something different from Western cosmetic companies (which seem to just do variations of the same thing). So, I want to introduce a couple of products that are absolutely amazing if you have oily skin or seborrheic dermatitis, starting with a primer.

・゚:*Etude House: Face Blur*:・゚
4127oeyif9l

I tried Etude House’s Face Blur primer out of curiosity without much expectation. It was so worth the wait. I ordered it from YesStyle (~$18 for 1.23oz, but usually on sale), but you can order it from Korean shops through Amazon, too (~$13 for 1.23oz, but longer wait time).
This product is great for smoothing the skin, which is important for applying foundation to the uneven textured skin that is the signature of seborrheic dermatitis. I rub a very small amount in well before applying my foundation, but my foundation doesn’t just slide off my face the way it does with other primers. It also gives my makeup better staying power, and my skin doesn’t freak out and get overly oily like it does with other primers. It smells really nice, too. 🙂
There are a couple of things I want to mention about this product, though. It isn’t very good as an eye primer. It gets into creases and creates creases both under the eyes and over the eyes. I apply a lot of concealer under my eyes (mixture of dark eye circles and puffiness from my eyelids swelling), and I was hoping it would keep my concealer in place better. It doesn’t work as great under the eyes, but if you’re careful with the application, you can make it work.
Overall, this is an amazing primer for a great price. If other primers haven’t worked for you, or if you have oily skin or seborrheic dermatitis, you should definitely try this one.

・゚:*Innisfree: No-Sebum Mineral Powder*:・゚51eb4j7e0ll-_sx522_

Instead of making my makeup super heavy by using a powder foundation to help keep my T-zone under control, I decided to try this product. I heard about this product through makeup tutorials that used mostly Asian cosmetic products and was intrigued by the ingredient list (Jeju mineral powder, corn starch, mint). Most oil-control powders I’ve tried have had the reverse effect, or they shrivel my skin and make the texture look awful. Just a small amount of this keeps my skin oil-free for most of the day. I do need a touch up in the evening, but it does a very good job. It also has a very nice and delicate scent to it. It’s available as a loose powder or a compact. I bought this on YesStyle for ~$15 for 5g (usually on sale for less), or you can buy it on Amazon for ~$7 from a Korean shop. I noticed you can also order two of the 5g loose powders through Amazon Prime for ~$17.

I hope these products work as well for you as they have for me!

Review: Organic Liquid Foundation by Zuii Organic

So I’ve been looking for an organic liquid foundation for a while now. I’m currently using Kat Von D Lock-It Liquid Foundation, and I really like it. The tone matches my skin beautifully (I wear Light 42 Neutral), which finding a foundation to match my skin tone is incredibly difficult as most brands don’t go light enough. However, I wanted to find something with more natural ingredients, so I came across an Australian brand called Zuii Organic. They have a liquid foundation that is flower-based, using rose, chamomile, and jasmine extracts.

I wanted to love this foundation, because I like everything about it: natural, jojoba oil-based, and smells lovely. But it doesn’t go on my skin very evenly. Even worse, it made my skin mildly itchy. It seemed to come off very easily as well. It also carries a relatively high price tag when comparing to other foundations: around $45 for 1oz, whereas the Kat Von D foundation is $35 for 1oz. The Zuii Organic foundation coverage is medium. The Kat Von D foundation is definitely one of the heaviest foundations I’ve used, probably second only to Cover FX Total Cover Cream Foundation ($42). Kat Von D foundation lasts me easily a year, as I apply so little to get good coverage, and I wouldn’t expect the Zuii Organic foundation to last nearly as long.

On the positive side, the shades they offer for the Zuii Organic foundations go very light. If you’ve ever tried Illamasqua’s Skin Base Foundation in 02 (this was actually too light for me, but I think they’ve reformulated since I tried it), then you’ll have a good idea how light the Zuii Organic’s Light Rose is (again, turned out to be too light for me).

dscn0204

    I took a picture in natural lighting of Zuii Organic’s Light Rose next to my Kat Von D Light 42 Neutral for reference.

I tried the Zuii Organic again without putting any moisturizer on to see if this would resolve the application problems I was having. It didn’t. I also found the Zuii Organic didn’t build very well. When trying to add an additional layer of foundation, I found it just left many bare spots on my face.

Sadly, this foundation didn’t work for my skin. Maybe you’ll have better luck. Zuii Organic does offer little sample pouches for their foundations, so you can try it out for relatively inexpensive. However, I will be sticking with Kat Von D’s foundation for now.