Tqwana Explains…Skinny Dip Noodles

Trying something new again. I don’t remember how I found out about this particular brand of shiritaki noodles, nor how I started getting weekly emails from them. But, when I got an email about a trial/tester pack, I figured I might as well test them out.

The brand is Skinny Dip Noodles. It’s called the 1x Variety Pak Sample and cost $23.95. In the ‘pak’ you get one bag each ofย  Angel Hair (I see a stir fry in my future), Fettuccine (chicken and broccoli Alfredo), Rice, Lasagna, and Spinach Linguine. They come in a compact brown box from a Weight Loss Media company. Bonus, the mail carrier is too lazy to bring things up to my apartment, so these stayed at the post office for a couple days. Still good to go when I picked them up.

Today I tried the spinach linguini. Don’t be put off by the liquid they float around in.
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First impression after removing it from the bag: still just as smelly as every other shiritaki noodle I’ve had, but they seem a little more dense and feel a bit more like fresh, homemade pasta and not like slimy worms.

Preparation is easy. First, rinse them thoroughly with cold water. This helps get rid of the smell. Then, boil them for one minute. The fresh pasta impression was even greater then. Drain, pat them dry with paper towels, and serve.
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The taste is bland. Really, they taste like nothing. Texture-wise, they are a little rubbery and chewy. Kinda reminded me of tofu, which I normally hate. I didn’t mind so much with these noodles.

Each bag is 2 servings, which I didn’t know when I started eating. No matter, they are incredibly filling, which I assume is because of the fiber. I ate half and was satisfied. Looking at the nutritional info, you’ll see that they are low carb, fat free, gluten free, etc.

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A good pasta substitute overall. Give them a try.

Until next time…

Tqwana Explains…Skin Care

Warning: I am about to post pictures of myself that are less than flattering.

I am approaching the age of 35 – tomorrow! – which means I’m now closer to being 40 than I am to being in my 20s. Excuse me a minute while I have a panic attack…

Okay, I’m back.

Let’s talk about my 35 year old skin, with its laugh lines that no one seems to see but me. I swear they exist. But, I do have some things working to my advantage. Good genes, I suppose. And you know what Oprah says: “black don’t crack.” Or maybe you don’t, in which case you should look up melanin.

Yet, I don’t believe that’s enough to keep my skin looking the way it looks. It needs help. Check me out 4 years ago. Notice the mess that is my forehead and the hyper-pigmentation in other places. *shudders*

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Close up of the zits and acne scars:

forehead1Here’s my face now, fresh from the shower. No products at all. Yes, it is not just the acne that’s changed. More about that here.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

20140328_154628And a forehead closeup.

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Loving that bathrobe and satin bonnet look, aren’t ya?

Dramatic difference, right? A few spots, but nothing as substantial as what it once was.

So, what is my secret, you ask?

First – I spare no expense on skin care products. Drugstore brands just weren’t cutting it for me. But when I spend that money, I earn reward points and then get free stuff to try out and you get a post about it. I highly recommend it. The free stuff, that is.

I frequent both Sephora and Ulta for my Dermologica and Murad needs, both of which I was introduced to during monthly facials at Massage Envy. Nothing else – okay maybe some Urban Decay – touches my face. If you have sensitivity to perfumes and dyes, then Dermologica is great for you, since it has neither.

Second – And I know it may be tempting, ladies, but you can’t wear makeup everyday. You just can’t. Your pores need a break to breathe. The more you wear it, the more you’ll need it to cover the damage it’s doing to your skin.

So, here’s Tqwana’s routine to healthier, clearer skin.

Note: This is what I use, which others have said is too strong for their skin. And they are expensive. Know your skin type before trying any product. If you like your current products, stick with them. I do recommend exfoliation and toner/astringent in addition to regular washing. So, if you take nothing else away from this post, remember that: Exfoliate and tone.

1. Move to a colder climate (Just kidding. Sort of. It did help.). This should really be eat healthier and drink lots of water.

2. Pre-Cleanse. This is a new part of my regiment. I got a free sample from Ulta of Dermologica’s PreCleanse oil. I was iffy about trying this b/c my skin is already combination/oily. So far, though, I’ve noticed my face feels a little smoother and softer than before, and I’ve not experienced any breakouts. It goes on clear, but turns white when wet. No suds, so don’t expect any. I’ll probably make this a permanent part of my routine.

20140329_2053563. Exfoliate. My go-to is Dermologica’s Daily Microfoliant. It’s made of rice, so it’s gentler than other scrubs. It says not to use it in the shower, but I do all the time. All it takes is a small amount in your palm. Get it a little damp and scrub, scrub, scrub. Gently, of course.

20140329_2032364. Wash. I love Murad’s Anti-Aging Acne line. Use a rotating brush with your cleanser of choice. You get a deeper clean and a little more exfoliation.

20140329_2033195. Toner. Astringents and toners are a must for deeper pore cleansing. I love that tingle that tells me it’s killing bacteria…or something.

20140329_203415You may think after all I’ve done up to this point that my skin is squeaky clean. This says otherwise. This is why you need toner.

20140329_2056316. Moisturize. All this stuff, ending with the Murad Anti-Aging Moisturizer. Notice the SPFs on these. Make sure your moisturizer has at least SPF 15. You can’t really stop the aging process, but make sure you’re not helping it along either. SPFs, people.

20140329_203530Bonus: These are more freebies that I’m trying. I haven’t noticed much of a reduction in fine lines or dark circles, so feel free to skip them. I haven’t reached the 8 week period when I should start seeing results, so you never know.

2014-03-29 20.46.32Tip: Unless it says it’s specifically for the eyes, don’t put it around your eyes. And use your ring fingers to gently tap in product in the eye area.ย  The skin there is the most delicate you have.

Tip #2: Work against gravity when applying products. Work them in using a circular motion or smoothing back and up toward your hairline. There’s a reason estheticians sit at the top of your head when doing facials.

7. Results: A recreation of the old picture. Side-by-side comparison. You be the judge.

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Yes, I like aviators.

For those times I do wear makeup…like in the above pic on the right:

Dermologica SkinPerfect Primer, SPF 30 (this was also a freebie and I really like it. I was using Murad’s primer before. I won’t be going back. Most days, this is all I put on.);

Boots No.7 Beautifully Matte foundation ($10 at Walgreens; this is my first ever liquid foundation, as I was always wary of them, but I love the natural coverage. A little goes a long way. And I use matte, b/c my skin is oily enough; I don’t need extra shine.);

Revlon ColorStay Ultimate liquid lipstick in Premiere Plum (Sometimes I feel this dries out my lips, but it lasts even after eating and drinking, and the color looks like I’m only wearing gloss, which is good for everyday use.);

They’re Real mascara (best mascara I’ve ever used, not that you can see it in this picture. Good separation and lengthening.).

Urban Decay De-Slick Makeup Setting Spray (works great with my oily t-zone and does wonders for stopping that midday shine).

Until next time…

Tqwana Explains…Straightening My Hair

I really wanted to love this product. Really, I did.

My hair had other ideas…

20140408_211322I heard about this thermal straightening kit from my friend Nappy Nikki. She tried it and her results were fabulous! Of course, I had to follow suit. Let me give you some background on my hair before I get to the review.

I’ve been chemically processing my hair since the age of 8, first with the jheri curl (shut up! It was the 80s), then with relaxers. By the time I made the decision to go natural, my hair was a hot ass mess. Wearing sew-ins nonstop didn’t help either. Damaged, thin, broken. I had a bald spot in the middle of my head. I’d dealt with scalp infections. It was past time to start over.

I haven’t had a relaxer since April 2012. I transitioned for 8 months, which means I stopped processing my hair and let the natural texture grow out some. That was a frustrating process, dealing with 2 different hair textures. And God – the shedding! I decided to just cut off the relaxed part of my hair in December of 2012 and I’ve been completely natural since.

But, I don’t wear my natural hair out, mostly because dealing with it is so time consuming. Nor am I good at all those twist-outs and bantu knots, and natural styles in general. I inherited my mother’s hairstyling skills, which means I have none. I’ve been wearing Senegalese twists and wigs since cutting my hair, which was only about 4 inches long, and I wasn’t comfortable with that length.

Now, the last few times I tried straightening my hair, it did not go well. Before I could even finish blow drying one section, it was reverting and shrinking. Shrinkage sucks! You’ll see why in a minute.

This is what my hair looked like today when I took out the twists that I wear under my wig. Dirty, frizzy, icky.

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This is what my hair looks after Step 1 of the kit, which is shampooing with the clarifying shampoo. Drawn up tight! This is shrinkage people. Didn’t I tell you it sucks?!

20140408_214936I really don’t like the way my hair feels when I use shampoo of any kind. It always seems brittle and stripped of its natural oils, but I’m rolling with this kit ’til the end.

Steps 2 and 3 of the kit are simple. Divide your hair into 4 sections, apply the foam, detangle, let it process.

I used 4 pumps of foam from step 2 in each section of my hair and let it process for 12 minutes under a plastic cap. At this point, I wasn’t feeling so optimistic. Detangling was difficult. I didn’t like how my hair felt, but I had to keep going.

You go right from processing to the leave-in conditioner in Step 3, no rinsing. My hair was feeling a little better by then. I combed the product through and felt a bit more slip.

Then the blow drying. And look at this!!

No shrinkage! No reverting! But, this is where my happiness stops.

I tried flat ironing using my InStyler thingy (only 2-3 passes), but my hair needs a professional trim, so that didn’t make much of a difference. Okay, that’s not necessarily true; it polished the hair shafts somewhat, but not much else. Maybe a little more softness. After playing with it for a while, trying different styles, it still didn’t revert or shrink! But, it wasn’t straight like I expected either. There might’ve been a futile attempt at wrapping my hair, but I won’t admit to any such thing.

It is now the next morning, and I’m disappointed. It’s back to looking like the above pic, as if I didn’t flat iron it at all. It feels dry, and I’m sure there’s some heat damage. My scalp also feels a bit sore. I’ve put some tea tree oil on it, hoping that will help. I’m not optimistic… My hair and scalp are special cases, though. They’ve been extremely sensitive my whole life, so that could be part of the problem. Don’t let my issues stop you.

My results are nowhere near as good as Nikki’s, whose hair looks like she has a fresh relaxer. I still say, with caution, give this kit a try.

On a positive note, I can’t tell you how great it is to finally see how far my hair has come in 2 years, to finally see what a year and 4 months of growth looks like. It can be so disheartening going back natural, especially when your hair shrinks up as much as mine does.

before_and_afterHAIRI have no real choice but to stick with this blow out for a week. I’ll also update this post after give it a hot oil treatment and deep conditioning to try fixing what I’m sure is heat damage. Needless to say, I won’t be straightening it again anytime soon.

Until then…

UPDATE:

I let a week pass before washing. Actually, I didn’t wash. I co-washed and did a hot oil/deep conditioning treatment. Helped a lot with this dryness; so did the Isoplus Hair and Scalp treatment I started using. And no heat damage like I thought. Blowing out was still very easy. So, was detangling. In fact, I think it was easier to detangle this time than when I used the kit originally, but I’m sure that had more to do with the conditioning that the straightening products. Despite my previous claim not to, I tried again to flat iron it after blow drying, and had really good results – for about 5 minutes. I didn’t even bother taking a picture. So overall, this product works, when your hair is in really, really good condition. But, I doubt it’ll last the 4-6 weeks like ORS claims. Your hair reverts back when you wet it, albeit with a little more relaxed curl pattern. But, after a day it shrinks back as if you hadn’t used the kit at all. I will give this a try again in 6 weeks, for better manageability if nothing else.

P.S. I’ve also started the Manetabolism hair vitamins. Keeping my fingers crossed.