5 Tips to Maximize Your Social Presence on a (Time) Budget

In an ideal world, every business, from a mom-and-pop to the international grocery powerhouse you hate to need, would have at least one dedicated full-time social media manager. Or, since we’re talking in ideal terms, a multi-person social media and external communications team. But, a quick glance at the room temperature coffee by your keyboard, and the sudden realization that you’ve been sitting in your less-than-ergonomic office chair for the past two hours with the posture of Notre Dame’s guardian will indicate that this is far from an ideal world.

While every business owner may not be able to afford a social media manager, every business does need a web presence. If you’re basically your business’s entire C-Suite, just go for the bare necessities: a website and a Facebook page to provide your company information, including who you are and what you do. (A website may sound daunting, but plenty of sites like WordPress, Weebly and Wix make the web — and alliteration — easy.) You want to provide a resource for your customers and potential customers to access when they need your phone number, address and hours, as well as any other pertinent information, rather than making them rely on a possibly incorrect and probably out-of-date third party website for your information.

(If creating this basic web presence is still too time consuming or overwhelming for you, hire a freelancer. You can hire someone from Fiverr or a similar site, or a local teenager. Chances are, 95% of your patron’s children could set these up in about 10 minutes without breaking a sweat.)

If you can swing just a few more hours per week to maintain a social presence, you’ll be able to engage your current customers, inform your potential customers, and create a brand awareness in your community. It may seem scary, but if my hunt-and-peck typist of a father can maintain a consistent Facebook presence, so can you.

1. Know your audience.
Who are your current customers? What kind of customers do you want to attract? If you’re a business owner, you probably know the answer to that question already. But, your audience on social media could be drastically different, especially across different platforms. For example, you could be very popular among middle-aged women on Facebook and 13-18 year-old males on Twitter, but your main customer base is actually senior citizen veterans. Most sites, Facebook and Twitter included, will provide you the analytics of your platform audience.

The content you post should largely hinge on your audience, both current and desired, and the platform. But, I’ll elaborate on those later. If your customer base actually is senior citizen veterans, patriotic posts may be your thing. But, if you want to attract a younger audience, you’ll likely need to be a little more irreverent, and definitely more casual. Taylor Swift is a fantastic example of knowing her audience.

2. Know your platform
If you don’t understand Snapchat, chances are you shouldn’t be on it right now. Having a strong social presence takes time and, if you don’t have much of that to spare, it’s vital that you don’t spread yourself too thin. A Twitter account with one post every four months can look just as bad, if not worse, than no Twitter account at all. So, before you start creating accounts in every social medium, step back and consider 1) what that particular platform can do for your business, and 2) how much time you’ll be able to devote to it. If you’re not sure where to begin, I’ve broken it down below, but this is also a good place to begin.

Facebook: We’ve all heard that kids and teens aren’t on Facebook anymore because their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles have profiles. But, that means that everyone else is on Facebook. The social giant averages almost 1 billion (yes, “billion” with a B!) unique visitors every month. Get on Facebook. Try to post once every day, but no more than three times each day. No one likes their newsfeed to be saturated with whatever it is you’re trying to sell.

Twitter: Roughly 310,000,000 unique monthly visitors. Twitter is a fantastic venue for releasing news quickly, but if you’re not posting often and regularly, or you’re not posting relevant information, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Twitter may also not be for you. If you sell a product or own a boutique, for instance, Pinterest or Instagram may suit you better than Twitter because of the visual opportunities.

Instagram: If you can tell a visually compelling story, Instagram provides a much less needy audience (est. 100,000,000 unique visitors every month). Like Facebook, you don’t want to post too much, but you can also get away with only posting a few times a week. But, because Instagram only allows picture posts, think long and hard over what you would share.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a wonderful site if you have the time to devote to it. It isn’t demanding in the sense that you should post X times a day. But, you do want to have carefully curated boards. The East Baton Rouge Parish Library doesn’t sell a product (like many companies on the site), but they have several pin boards that provide resources and ideas for anyone who visits their page. The platform has 250,000,000 unique monthly visitors, and they’re mostly women.

Snapchat and Tumblr: If you’re reading this in sincerity, then, no, you probably don’t have time for either of these.

3. Know your voice.
Social media is beautifully casual, and it’s almost expected for most brands to be just as casual. (Unless you’re a bank or something else kind of boring. If that’s the case … break the mold!) But, beyond your cool, casual tone, who are you? What sets you apart? Are you funny? Snarky? Inspirational? Witty? Informative? Thought-provoking? You don’t have to be just one thing all the time, but you do need to be consistent.

It’s also a good idea to have a second set of eyes review all posts to avoid making a list of social media don’ts. If you’re using Hootsuite, there is an option built-in to require posts to be reviewed before it goes live.

4. Know your strategy.
It’s immeasurably helpful to have a social media strategy to reference and to make sure everyone is on the same page. Much of the three previous points tie into this, but a good strategy will outline several key factors:
Who will post?
How often will you post, and to which platforms?
What will your content be?
What are your goals? Growth? Sales? Loyalty? Brand Awareness?
How will you track your progress? (Again, many sites provide analytics.)

Hootsuite University provides many resources to get you started. (As does a Google search.)

5. Know your plan.
Technically, I mean more that you should plan ahead, but I obviously had a theme going and didn’t want to break it.

If you only have a little bit of time every week to dedicate to social, make it easy on yourself. Take a few hours every Monday to plan each post for the week. These posts should be exact, so that you can just copy and paste when you’re ready. Sites like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to schedule your posts, so once you’ve planned everything on Monday, you don’t technically have to do anything the rest of the week.

Pictures and videos tend to perform better across all platforms, but they’re exceptions to the scheduling rule. Facebook has built-in scheduler to make your life easier, but Twitter doesn’t. If you do plan to schedule your posts on Twitter, my preference is to post photos and videos directly from Twitter. But, Hootsuite does allow you schedule photo posts.

If you have any other tips that I failed to mention, or have comments or questions, feel free to let me know in the comments section below or reach out to me directly.

This is What Depression Looks Like

I lived two lives for more than a decade.

From the time I was in seventh grade until my early 20s, there was the me that everybody knew — the happy, funny, outgoing Lauren — and the me I hid from the world — the introverted, sad Lauren that, if left alone too long, got lost in the dark recesses of her mind.

Here’s the thing, though: I always felt like both lives were the real me. I never felt like I was putting on a show for my family and friends. I truly was as happy as I was sad. As loving as I was self-loathing. The difference was that I knew others wouldn’t want to know the sad version of me. My unhappiness, my eating disorder, my suicidal tendencies would only make others uncomfortable.

When I was 23, a series of events and mistakes led me to the darkest place I’d ever been. So dark, in fact, that I was no longer able to separate my two selves and my relationship began to suffer. Stephen urged me to get help.

I didn’t want to see a therapist. I didn’t want to open old wounds. I didn’t want to invite a stranger into my life to analyze and judge me. But, more than anything, I didn’t want to admit that I needed help.

But, I loved Stephen so much more than I loved myself, and so I consulted Google. On a page full of “Baton Rouge therapists,” I found the friendliest looking woman, swallowed my pride, and called.

Voicemail.

That’s it. I tried.

An hour later, she called back.

Dammit.

As my rational side knew she would be, Brittany was fantastic. She listened intently. She offered practical suggestions for dealing with anxiety. And she told me what I needed — but certainly never wanted — to hear: I had major depression.

Of course I did. I’d always suspected I did but maintained a “this couldn’t happen to me” mentality. Admitting I had a mental illness felt like admitting I was crazy. And admitting I couldn’t manage “my crazy,” as I called it, by myself. It felt like losing my power.

But, admitting all of that, realizing that my daily thoughts of suicide were not normal, and accepting that I did, in fact, have depression, was empowering in its own right. It was owning my crazy. I was able to face my demons head-on with the help of my pretty little friend, Pristiq.

It didn’t get better overnight. Just as depression isn’t a headache, anti-depressants aren’t ibuprofen. But, it did get better as the medicine helped increase my brain’s serotonin.

Once it got better, I was able to get off the medication. And then, my relationship became long distance and it got so, so much worse. I cried myself to sleep every night. I gained 80 pounds in a year. And I got back on my medicine.

That’s the thing society doesn’t seem to understand: depression is a disorder. Often (as I suspect in my case), it’s genetic. It doesn’t just go away forever like a virus your body has fought off. Stephen and I have been living together for two years, and I have countless other blessings in my life. But, it’s still a struggle. Every. Damn. Day.

But, I now know I have the support of friends, family and the love of my life. I know exactly what is happening when a suicidal thought starts creeping into my head — and exactly how to squash it. I know the mantras to keep my crazy in check. I know the workouts — not the foods — that relieve the most stress and produce the most endorphins. I now know how to manage my depression by doing things I love like writing and spending time with Stephen.

That’s all I’m doing, though: managing it. I’m not cured because I’m happy. It’s something I’ll manage my entire life. But, it will never manage me again.

Am I terrified that opening up like this will hurt me professionally? Of course. I know the stigmas. For the longest time, the stigmas are what kept me from getting the help I needed. But, when I told my first boss, she was nothing short of incredible. She increased her mentorship of me but made sure to never relieve my responsibilities. When an asshole at my current job told both my supervisors — and all my coworkers — that I was suicidal, I thought it was the end of the world. But, my boss actually started being nicer to me. (There’s a silver lining to everything, right?)

I am well aware that publicizing my mental illness could hurt my career. That clients and potential employers will judge me on this rather than the incredible work I produce.

I have to talk about it, though. Because, until society understands the realities of depression and mental illness as a whole, the stigmas will continue. I will still be told to “just get over it.” Work “friends” will still consider it to be a juicy bit of gossip. And those undiagnosed will continue to suffer in silence.

 

If you suspect you may have depression or a mental illness, please tell your family or friends. If you’re too afraid to do that, seek out a therapist (most are covered under most health insurances). If that’s out of the question, go online for resources. Hell, message me. I’m in no way qualified to give you advice, but I can listen and help you find the resources and help you need. But, please, don’t continue to suffer. There’s a whole life worth living. A day worth seizing. And it’s up to you to take control.

Life Lessons I Learned from My Father

I have always been a Daddy’s Girl. As a child, he was my protector, my provider and my teddy bear. For the 28 years I’ve been on this Earth, we’ve had a very one-sided relationship — he constantly gives, and never asks for anything in return.

Today, I’m looking back at some of the most invaluable things he’s given me throughout my life, and hoping to pay his kindness forward by sharing them with you.

5 Things My Father Taught Me

  1. Never be too proud to say “I’m sorry.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched my father humble himself to apologize to those he’s wronged. And those he hasn’t. I’ve seen take responsibility in almost every argument with my mother, apologizing for the role he played as soon as he calmed down. He’s apologized to me as we’ve fought about politics, religion and what we want to watch on tv that night. But, perhaps the best apology I’ve ever heard him make was to someone he will never meet. He was on the phone with a customer service agent and was furious with whatever injustice the company had served him. He. Went. Off. He raged at the customer service agent until his face was red and slammed the phone down to hang up. Ten minutes later, he picked up the phone, called the company back, requested to speak with the same agent, and apologized most sincerely. To this day, I always remember that moment when I’m struggling to humble myself and apologize.
  2. Stay strong in your convictions. For every argument my father and I have about politics, (he a diehard, blue-collar Republican and I a roaring, feminist Democrat), my father apologizes. But, and this is key, he only apologizes for hurting me or fighting with me. He has never once apologized for his beliefs. He has never once changed his beliefs. When I present him with evidence that contradicts something he believes in, he cedes my point, but doesn’t change sides. Think of that what you will, but the man stands firm, and I respect that.
  3. Respect others. Throughout our disagreements, I know my father respects me. He even respects the boyfriend, who, on more than one occasion, has been a little too verbose about his liberal beliefs in a house full of conservatives. My father will enthusiastically debate us without ever insulting us. Of course, it’s easy for him to be respectful of his daughter. Where he truly shines, though, is speaking with others outside of the family. As I mentioned, he has very strong convictions about a number of issues, people and their choices. But, when faced with a stranger who represents the antithesis of every belief my father holds dear, he still treats that person with kindness, love and respect.

    The Brown Family. From Left to Right: Nathan Brown, Lauren Brown, Gary Brown, Elise Brown, Stephen Brown, Gayle Brown, Cory Brown
  4. Give until it hurts. And then give some more. In the best of times, my family was middle class, but we certainly had our share of struggles. For most of my life, our clothes were hand-me-downs, handmade or from Goodwill. (To be clear, those handmade clothes my mother stitched were probably some of the highest quality clothes we ever had growing up. They had to be to make it through five kids.) But, even in the toughest times, my mother and father gave ten percent of every paycheck to their church. The gave food to the homeless shelter. They “adopted” children in Africa. They prepared meals for those in their church who were sick, experienced a loss or had a baby. They bought Christmas gifts for those less fortunate than them. For richer or poorer, my parents gave. They both grew up in homes where money was scarce, and they worked hard for every cent they brought home. But they always knew they were blessed, and that others were struggling more.
  5. Take care of your family. As made obvious in number 4, my parents are givers. As much as they give to others, they give to their children tenfold. Even as each of the five children has grown into adulthood, my parents have supported us in any and every way they can. When I was fresh out of college and couldn’t find a job to save my life, my parents made sure I knew I would always have a room in their house. If my parents had $10 in their bank account, but I was short on rent money, there would somehow be $50 extra dollars in my bank account the next day. When my sister and I ran out of gas halfway between New Orleans and Shreveport, my father already in his car to come rescue us when a policeman helped us out. When I ran out of gas (yes, there’s a pattern here) on my way to work in high school and my phone had died, I looked up through tear-blurred eyes to see my father running across the interstate to my truck. And, my parents have instilled that familial duty in all of us. When one of my brothers had a crisis, every member of the family, no matter where they lived, left their bed at 2 a.m. to be by his side. And, throughout my struggles in adulthood — not being able to find a job, moving cities, trying to leave a toxic workplace — each of my four siblings has assured me, time and time again, that if I ever need anything, they will come running.

 

Of course, my father’s taught me other things, as well — how to change a tire, how to find a stud, how to cook red beans and rice — but these five things are perhaps the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned.

What has your father taught you?

Hair Styles That Are The Kat’s Meow

When I moved to Houston, I avoided trying a new hair salon for months because I had loved my salon in Baton Rouge so much and was terrified of a botched job.

Sure enough, the first salon I tried six months after moving here gave me Anna Wintour when I’d asked for Jennifer Lawrence. Then, a friend introduced me to the beautiful, magical Instagram feed of Rina Dee, a stylist at Kat’s Meow.

Rina took my hair’s virginity and helped me pass for something of a cool kid with stunning purple ombre hair, and then gave me hair so perfectly white it rivaled the Mother of Dragons.

 

Kat’s Meow, decorated in vintage hair salon dryers, curlers and hair pins, sits on a block in Midtown that celebrates vintage culture. This fun area is full of rockabilly-style restaurants, bars and shops, letting you step back in time with a small community of friendly faces adorned with beehives and pomade. “Once I found the Rockabilly scene here in Houston, I knew I found my tribe,” shared owner Crissy Salazar. “The style of the era is something that can’t be topped.”

But, it’s not just the time travel that makes Kat’s Meow so special — it’s the expertise, as well. Rina, known on Instagram for her transformative iterations of mermaid hair and colorings worthy of anime, recently led a conference course on Iro Iro semipermanent hair colors. As a product educator, the brand tapped her to teach local beauty professionals about the relatively new vibrant color line.

All of the stylists are Redken certified and specialize in vintage styling. Don’t let the vintage decor and specializations fool you, though. “Even though we do a lot of vintage styling, our stylists are up to date with all the current trends,” Crissy said. “More than anything else we really specialize in corrective color. So, if for some reason another salon or friend didn’t quite get that hair color right, give us a call. We can fix it for ya.”

Crissy and her husband, Edgar, opened Kat’s Meow Salon and Big Kat’s Barbershop side-by-side in February 2011. “This style is our style. [Rockabilly is] something we both have been into for many many moons,” Crissy shared. “We felt that our love for the vintage culture would make a unique backdrop for our shop. Even if a vintage styled ‘do is not what you want, everyone seems to love the environment. It’s different and unique, yet familiar.”

Kat’s Meow takes appointments, but Big Kat’s doesn’t — men wait outside the barber shop for up to two hours to get the perfect pompadour. You sign your name to the list, then head to Double Trouble or Natachees for a quick drink or bite, or take advantage of the shop’s free beer while you wait.

Whatever the wait, though, it’s worth it to get the best vintage ‘dos and colored tresses in Houston.

3 Simple Ways to Prevent Acne

I’ve talked before about certain everyday items that can trigger breakouts, but, for most people, skincare and acne prevention go far beyond avoiding coffee or sterilizing your phone.

Though there are several things you can, and should, do regularly to prevent acne and breakouts, they all boil down to three basic principles: hygiene, health and products. Throughout your skincare routine, be sure to check the labels. You always want products that are hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and water-based (not oil) when possible. Avoid fragrances and irritants such as citric extracts, menthol and denatured alcohol.

Diet and Exercise

  • Protect your skin. You know you need to wear some kind of sunscreen daily. Do you do it? Probably not. But did you know wearing daily SPF not only helps protect against skin cancer, but can also prevent acne? Overexposure to the sun can exacerbate acne, redness and irritation.
  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Staying adequately hydrated throughout the day helps your body function better, increases your metabolism and clears up you skin. When you don’t get enough water, your body can build up toxins and excrete them through your skin. Drinking at least eight cups of water each day will help your body flush the toxins the way they’re supposed to. Think of it as a daily detox.
  • Eat healthy. Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, zinc, vitamins and minerals helps prevent acne by keeping your skin healthy and functioning properly.
  • Avoid potential irritants. While modern scientists put much less stock in the idea that chocolate causes acne than scientists of the last century, certain foods can worsen your acne or cause breakouts. Every person is different, though. Try cutting out different potential risk foods—dairy, sugar, legumes, high-glycemic foods and wheat—from your diet to see what does and doesn’t work for your skin. Cut out each food (one at a time) for two weeks for the best analysis.
  • Get the patch. You know smoking and drinking are bad for your health, but they’re also bad for your complexion because the toxins in tobacco and alcohol can act as skin irritants or contribute to the unhealthy toxic excretion that happens when you’re not your healthiest you.
  • Lace up. Stress is a huge contributing factor to your acne. Putting on your sneakers and getting outside, up and moving can relieve stress and help acne. Even better, regular exercise will help your heart, overall health and mortality.
  • Catch your zzz’s. Just like exercise, proper sleep can help your body function better and reduce stress which, in turn, helps prevent acne. Each hour of sleep lost beyond your normal allotment can increase your stress level by up to 15%. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night (9-10 if you’re younger than 18).

Finding the Right Products

  • Benzoyl Peroxide is a common ingredient in acne medication because it kills the bacteria that causes acne. Look for products with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide concentration; less won’t be as effective, and more can irritate the skin. It also removes dead skin to reveal brighter, rejuvenated skin.
  • Salicylic Acid also helps kill acne-causing bacteria. It causes the skin to shed more rapidly and promotes the growth of new skin. Apply small amounts to affected areas after you wash your face at night.
  • Tea Tree Oil is a natural home remedy that acts as an anti-inflammatory, making pimples less noticeable in size and redness. The oil is often concentrated, so be sure to dilute it with water before applying to affected areas with a cotton swab.
  • Airbrush Makeup is one of the best and simplest ways to prevent acne. Using airbrush makeup on a daily basis keeps your skin hygienic (no dirty hands or brushes touch your face), moisturizes your face (it’s water-based and so hydrates your skin), covers current blemishes without being heavy and improves skin texture.

Keep it Clean

  • Wash your face. Dermatologists suggest washing your face in the morning and before bed. While you’ve likely always heard to wash your face with hot water to open your pores, exposing your skin to extremes can cause irritation, excess dryness and blood vessel ruptures. Always wash and rinse your face with lukewarm water. If your skin runs dry, take care to select a cleanser and products that have moisturizer. Contrastingly, if you have oily skin, be sure to avoid overly moisturizing products.
  • Wash your hands. It’s important to avoid touching your face as much as possible, but when you have to do it—such as when washing your face or applying sunscreen or moisturizer—wash your hands first. Dirty hands can transfer bacteria, causing breakouts, irritation and possibly infection.
  • Moisturize. Ensuring your skin is properly hydrated is as important as making sure it’s not oily. Apply moisturizer after every face wash to avoid dryness and irritation. If you have oily skin, choose a gel-based moisturizer, which will provide hydration without overdoing it. If you have dry skin, use a cream-based moisturizer that will, by nature, be heavier and longer-lasting.
  • Exfoliate. You may have read blogs from women who talk about exfoliating as part of their daily ritual (we’ve seen our fair share), but over-exfoliating can irritate your skin, cause excess dryness and make your breakouts worse. You should exfoliate, at most, once a week, to remove dead skin and unclog pores.
  • Take it off. Removing your makeup at the end of the day is one of the most important steps of your skincare regimen. Sleeping in your makeup can clog your pores and worsen your breakouts. Even sleeping in mascara can cause little infections in your eye area. It’s important to wash your face after removing your makeup to remove all traces of makeup.
  • No touchy. As we said earlier, touching your face—with your hands, brushes, sponges or anything that could potentially harbor dirt or bacteria—can cause breakouts and infection. This especially means no popping your pimples, as the dirt from your fingers can get in the open sore and worsen the blemish.
  • Sleep clean. While you sleep, oils transfer from your face to your pillowcase, causing dirt, grime and dead skin to spread night after night and cause acne. Try washing your pillowcases once a week. If that’s not enough, wash it more frequently and switch the side of the pillow you use every night. If you don’t have time to wash it frequently, keep several pillowcases you can alternate.

What are your tried-and-true methods to preventing acne?

 

Originally published on blog.luminessair.com

How to Make Any Meal Instantly Healthier

As much as I know about eating healthy, I know even more about eating junk food. I didn’t start truly paying attention to the foods I ate and how they affected my body until I was about 22 or 23 (roughly five or six years ago).

Before that (and maybe a bit after that, too), I had a lifetime of eating pizza, burgers, quick-fix meals and everything else you’d expect to see in Peter Griffin’s home, never giving a second thought to the fact that my choices were expanding my waistline, decorating my face with little red dots and shortening my years on this planet.

But, whether you’re in the same place I was in 2012, or where I hope to be in another five years, there are certain things you can do to make any meal healthier. Some are simple changes you probably already know — use olive oil instead of butter, swap out white grains for whole grains, substitute turkey for beef — and some you and I have never thought of.

Thankfully, these few I have heard of and use as often as I can. So, without further adieu, here are four superfoods you can add to any meal to make it healthier.

Avocado – Long avoided for its high fat content, and currently lauded as a millennial luxury, the rational among us can appreciate avocado for what it is: a yummy, healthy source of good fats. This hipster favorite is loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium and monounsaturated fats. You can easily add diced avocado to some pico de gallo for a quick, healthy guac alternative, and even add it to pancake batter for a thick, creamy carb replacement.

Turmeric  – I’ll never forget a retired LSU professor telling me about his colleague’s research that showed turmeric not only slowed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, but actually reversed them. It also has shown that it can slow the growth of certain types of cancer, specifically colon, and may fend off viral infections. Incorporate it into your diet by mixing a little in your oatmeal, or add a pinch to your daily lemon water.

Matcha – I’ll admit, matcha is an acquired taste, but one that’s well worth acquiring. It’s more potent than average green tea (because you’re ingesting the entire tea leaf) and, therefore, packs a powerful punch of antioxidants. It has been tied to possibly protecting against heart disease and some cancers; lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure; as well as aid in weight loss and slow the growth of breast cancer cells. The most common way to consume matcha is in a tea, but you can also add the powder to eggs, soup, guac and whatever else you’d like. I’ve even had some delicious matcha cookies!

Ginger – There is nothing like a glass of ginger ale to calm my upset tummy, but this best friend of sushi is also used to fight osteoarthritis because it as amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have also shown that eating a small dose of dried ginger in the morning increased fat burning for 13.5 percent for two hours. Get your ginger in by adding it to stir-fry, eggs, fruit salad, or, really any dish.

What’s your go-to healthy add-in?

How to Keep Your Youthful Glow As You Age

I’m convinced that the secret to never looking old is to utilize every anti-aging treatment and practice I can now, in my 20s. I started using preventative creams and serums in high school, but, in line with basically every other aspect of my life, I’ve always been too ADD to stick with one product or method.

I’ve flitted between anti-aging moisturizers, serums, cleansers, oils and devices, but I do have one constant: my lifestyle. These three lifestyle and regimen changes are part of my everyday life, and will help keep your skin looking young, even into your 90s.

  1. Kick butts. Smoking is one of the most detrimental habits a person can have. You know what it does to your body—the cancer, the lung damage, the yellowing of nails and eyes—but it can also exacerbate wrinkles. Not only do the chemicals and products in cigarettes age your skin, but the constant, day-after-day lip puckering that happens when a cigarette is in your mouth creates deep furrows. Smokers as young as 20 exhibit early wrinkling. While their wrinkles may be difficult to see at first, they will worsen and become more frequent with more years and packs smoked. Wrinkles are also likely to be much deeper in smokers than in those who don’t smoke.Solution: Stop smoking. I know stopping is easier said than done, but it is so vital to your good health. Whatever method you decide to choose, whether that’s a patch, cold turkey or hypnosis, is fine as long as it’s healthy and works for you.
  2. Tap it in. Your eyes are not a magic lamp; don’t rub them! Every morning when we wake, we yawn, stretch, rub the sleep from our eyes, and cause wrinkles to form. Every time you rub your eyes when you wake up, are removing your makeup or applying an eye cream, you create wrinkles. In your youth, your skin springs back easily, so the effects don’t show until you get older and your skin loses its elasticity. As you age, springing back becomes harder and less frequent, resulting in more permanent grooves.Solution: If you need to remove the sleep from your eyes, gently wipe it away instead of rubbing. To remove makeup, apply eye makeup remover to a cotton ball and let sit on your closed eye for a few seconds. This will allow the skin and makeup to soak up the remover, making it easier to gently pat away. (If you still need to wipe, do it lightly and with care.) To apply an eye cream, serum, moisturizer or any other product, get a small amount on the tips of your pinky or ring fingers and gently tap into the skin around the eye area.
  3. Keep it clean. As troublesome as removing your makeup at night can be, it far outweighs the risks of leaving it on. Sleeping in your makeup prevents your skin barrier from functioning properly. Your skin can’t breathe or repair itself, and the makeup and environmental pollutants accumulated during the day settle into your pores, breaking down collagen and elastin, and therefore speeding up the aging process.Solution: Before bed, you should remove your makeup, cleanse your skin (yes, you have to wash after removing makeup) and moisturize. When you use moisturizer, you’re not putting moisture onto your skin; you’re keeping moisture from leaving your skin. As you age, your skin loses its moisture more and more easily. Since dehydrated skin also accelerates aging, it’s necessary to moisturize daily.

While these tips prevent against the three major contributors to wrinkling, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, keeping a balanced diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3s, and exercising regularly can go a long way to your skin’s overall health and help you keep your youthful glow.

These 6 Everyday Things Could be Causing Your Breakouts

I swear that every day it feels like I’m being told something else is bad for my skin or will give me acne. And, to be honest, a lot of times it seems like mixed messages. Exfoliate, but not too much. Never touch your face, but go ahead and apply makeup with your fingertips.

I researched and researched and researched to learn what things I’m doing that actually do make me break out, and how to remedy those pimple perpetuators. While it is a bit annoying to adjust a daily ritual, the good news is that, once your skin clears up, you can add all of these back — as long as it’s in moderation.

 

Your Morning Fix
In my humble opinion, coffee does more damage than good to your body. If you’re like me and love your coffee with milk, sugar, syrup, whipped cream and everything else the barista wants to throw on there, there aren’t many redeeming qualities in your blended cup of joe, other than the endorphins and sugar high. But, even just a cup of black coffee will raise your body’s acidity, throwing off its pH balance and making your skin inflamed (most usually as a pimple around your mouth).

Your Solution: If it’s the caffeine you need, switch to tea. There’s obviously a huge variety in the world, but if better skin is your biggest concern, opt for green tea. Once you’ve had a fix, drink plenty of water to hydrate your body, restore your skin and flush out toxins. If you just can’t do without your coffee, though, you can add a few pH drops to make it less acidic.


Your Bedtime Ritual
Adequate sleep is one of the most vital, precious gifts you can give your body. But, if you like to watch TV, play on your phone or catch up on emails in bed, the light from the device will make your body think it’s daytime and keep your mind awake. Devices like your smartphone will also emit electromagnetic wave frequencies that can run through your body and mess with your circadian rhythm. Your sleep pattern will be disrupted, your immune system weakened, your mind stressed and your face broken out.

Your Solution: Turn off all of your electronics 30 minutes before bedtime, and place your phone far away from you. If you need something to do before bed, read a book — a real, tangible, made-of-paper book — to calm your mind. You can also drink a cup of calming tea, like chamomile, to help make you sleep so that you get your full 8 hours and keep your body functioning properly. (Want more sleepy time tips? Read this.)


Your Daily Face
You know that sleeping in your makeup is horrible for your skin, but, depending on your foundation of choice, just wearing it can wreak havoc, too. Thick makeups can clog your pores, trap sweat beneath your layer of foundation and attract dirt, which can sit on your skin, allowing bacteria in (and further clogging pores), which will cause pimples to sneak up on you. (Not to mention the bacteria transfer that happens if you use dirty brushes or sponges to apply your makeup, which can also lead to breakouts.)

Your Solution: Opt for lightweight, water-based foundations like airbrush makeup, which offers the added benefit of never having to touch your face with dirty fingers, brushes or sponges (which dermatologists strongly advise against). Airbrush makeups also tend to be noncomedogenic (don’t clog your pores), oil-free and completely buildable, so you can determine how light or full you want your coverage to be simply by the number of layers you apply. You’ll also want to always wash your face after removing your makeup. No matter what makeup you use, there can always be occlusive residue that a makeup wipe simply won’t get.

Conture Skincare Dessert Acne

Your Mini-Binge
That after-dinner dessert, when combined with that morning-meeting donut and afternoon pick-me-up, may help with endorphins, but it’s not doing your skin any favors. When you consume too many processed carbs, breads and sugar, your body’s glycemic index will elevate, making it produce more oil. The sugar can also break down the skin cells (in a process called glycation) which will weaken your collagen and elastin, causing fine lines and wrinkles to appear. Your skin will also suffer from the overdose of bad bacteria in the body caused by the yeast in bread.

Your Solution: Moderate your sugar intake (the World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons a day for adults) within a well-balanced diet with the right proportions of protein, fiber, leafy greens and complex carbs. And, of course, drink plenty of water.

 

Your Slight Addiction
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you give up Instagramming your cute new shoes (I wouldn’t dare). But, if you’re on your cell phone all the time — you know, talking — and tend to breakout on one side of your face or jawline, it’s likely because of your mobile device. Every time you touch your phone’s screen to text, to post, to catch ’em all, you’re transferring all the germs from your hands onto your cell. That bacteria will then be transferred onto your face, creating blemishes.

Your Solution: Make it a point to regularly wipe down your cell with sanitizing wipes, especially if you’re about to make a call. If you’re completely grossed out by the idea of the bacteria getting on your face and don’t think a wipe is good enough, you can invest in a phone sanitizer (many often charge your phone, as well), which can kill 99.9 percent of your phone’s bacteria in about five minutes. These will typically run around $80.


Your Skincare Routine
The obvious solution to oily skin is to dry it out, right? Except that drying out your skin — from harsh cleanser, too many spot treatments, etc — can ruin your skin’s natural protective barrier. This will cause more bacteria to get into your pores and cause breakouts and, if you’ve let your skin get so dry that it cracks, that bacteria can cause infection.

Your Solution: Learn the best skincare solutions based on your skin type. You should wash your face at least once a day, more if you have oily skin, and pay special attention to the type of cleanser you use. Charcoal products like a charcoal soap or a charcoal mask will get rid of the bacteria and clear your pores without over-drying your skin. Make sure you’re not over-using your acne treatment, and finish your routine with a lightweight moisturizer.

 

This post contains affiliate links, from which I earn a small commission if you click on them, and a bigger commission if you purchase from them.

The Top 5 Mother’s Day Gifts

If you’re like me, then every year, around this time, you start wondering what you can possibly get your mom for Mother’s Day that will be … sufficient.

Sure, there’s flowers. But, she gets those for every other occasion, not to mention the probability that your father and/or siblings are planning on a bouquet, as well. So, what’s out there that’s not cliche or tacky, that she doesn’t already have and that somehow manages to convey how much you love and appreciate her?

Don’t worry, friends; I’ve got you covered. I always strive to get my parents gifts that are beautiful, personal and cherishable. I’m kind of a gift whisperer. So, I’ve gathered my top 5 gift choices for Mother’s Day — no matter what your mom’s interests are, she’d love at least one of these!

Perfume

I’ve recently fallen in love with Jo Malone’s fragrances. Each scent is beautiful, flattering and complements her other scents. You can wear the Peony & Blush Suede cologne with the English Pear & Freesia hand lotion and smell absolutely divine, not cacophonous as you might when mixing other scents.

Miracle Serum

Ok, maybe “miracle serum” is a big claim, but, honestly, this is one of my favorite products in the world. Designed for all skin types, Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair is meant to combat signs of aging (don’t tell your mom), but it does so much more! It actually repairs skin to also fight dryness and dullness, and is our go-to medicine for small burns. It instantly soothes the sting after you got too close to the oven and helps skin heal faster.

A Classic

My mother has always loved Waterford Crystal, but has never gotten any for herself. In high school, I had the opportunity to visit the Waterford factory in Ireland. She asked me to bring her back some crystal; I, not knowing a thing about crystal, got her a thimble. As an adult, I can appreciate the beauty of classic pieces, and better know what she’ll be able to love and admire for years.

Jewelry

I know I promised no cliches, but what’s better than a beautiful piece of jewelry that’s unique to your mom? Mark & Graham is one of my favorite sites for gifts because they offer free personalization. Whether you want a monogram on a suitcase, children’s names on a necklace or the family name on a bocce ball set, the site is full of wonderful, personable gifts.

The Perfect Purse

One of the beauties, I’m sure, of having your children all grown up is that you no longer have to tote around their diapers, snacks, crayons, toys and more. Another beauty is that your grown up children can get you real gifts (instead of sweet, adorable handmade cards), like this beautiful Rebecca Minkoff Clutch. Nothing says “my kids are all grown up” quite like an extremely impractical, un-motherly, stylish clutch.

 

What about you? What are you planning to get your mom this Mother’s Day?

7 Things to Drink for Amazing Skin

If you’re like me, you take care of your skin. You use sunscreen every morning. You wash your face every night. You even started an anti-aging regimen as a teenager. (Or, is that last one just me?)

But, is your skin the best it can be?

All the topicals in the world can’t guarantee great skin if your diet is lacking. Great skin is helped by great nutrition—specifically, incorporating plenty of Omega-3s and antioxidants. While there are definitely food choices you can make for better skin, today I’m focusing on your drink choices, and how exactly you can drink your way to better skin.

Water. Water is vital for both skin health and overall health. It keeps the body functioning properly and makes your skin look plumper and firmer. Experts agree that the right amount of water for each person is half their body weight (in ounces). For example, if a woman weighs 140 pounds, she should drink 70 ounces of water each day.

Lemon Water. Starting your day with a big glass of lemon water (like I discussed here) can help flush toxins out of the body to rejuvenate skin. Added bonus: lemon water also helps with digestion, increases metabolism and boosts your immune system.

Green Juice

Green Juice. Vegetables, especially kale, are amazing multi-vitamins for your skin. Kale is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C and copper, which are all staple ingredients in anti-aging creams. Kale also helps promote healthy cell growth and healthy cell turnover, getting rid of old, dull skin, and keeping skin strong. Need a little guidance on how to create a green smoothie you actually like? Start with the recipe below, then tinker with it based on your preferences. It provides a perfect combination of natural sugar to sweeten it, and green veggies to hydrate and de-puff the skin.
Combine all ingredients in a juicer or high-powered blender

  • 1 apple
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 beet
  • 1/2 handful of kale
  • lemon and ginger to taste

Soy Milk. Using soy milk instead of regular milk in your morning coffee or tea can help protect collagen and prevent new wrinkles from forming due to sun exposure. The minerals and proteins in soy milk can also help brighten and even-out your skin tone.

Green Tea. Green tea, like I’ve mentioned before, is excellent for your skin. It’s loaded with antioxidants that protect the skin against sunburn and reduce redness and inflammation in your cheeks. For best results, drink two or three cold cups a day. If you do go for cold green tea, be sure to make it yourself. The bottled kind you pick up at the store is loaded with sugar and not much else.

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Pomegranate Juice. This super juice is packed with twice the anti-oxidants and polyphenols as green tea, and nurtures your skin’s fibroblasts, which make collagen. Drinking a glass of this a day produces more collagen, results in less wrinkles and fine lines, and evens out your skin tone.

Cucumber Water. Cucumbers are already mostly water, so when you infuse them with a daily glass of water, they help super-hydrate your skin. They’re also filled with magnesium, potassium and other minerals that help keep the alkaline pH of skin and decrease inflammation.

 

What are you favorite drinks, regardless of health value? (Let’s just say, if Long Island Teas were health, I’d be in a world of trouble.)