Four Activated Charcoal Health Benefits

activated charcoal health benefits

I don’t know about you, but the thought of putting black powder on my face (or on or in other parts of my body) just doesn’t seem very appealing to me. Truth be told, I don’t much like to put powder of any kind on my face. But activated charcoal health benefits are well documented within the natural health remedy world, and even mainstream beauty product manufacturers are starting to catch on.

Charcoal comes from natural sources like coconut shells, bone char, peat, coal, olive pits, or sawdust. It can also come from non-natural sources, such as petroleum coke, so use caution when purchasing activated charcoal beauty products.

So, what’s the difference between activated charcoal and regular charcoal (like the kind you grill hamburgers with)? Activated charcoal is processed at very high temperatures, which change the charcoal’s internal structure to be more porous.

This porous texture gives the charcoal a negative charge, which enables it to attract positively charged molecules, such as those found in toxins. Since the charcoal is not absorbed by your body, the toxins it attracts are excreted from your body through feces. This is what gives activated charcoal its detoxing power. Here are four specific activated charcoal health benefits.

Whiter Teeth

One of the more popular uses for activated charcoal is to help whiten your teeth. It can take some getting used to, since you are using the charcoal powder to brush your teeth, but it has been proven to be very effective. I have not yet tried this myself, but I know there are some people who swear by it

Activated charcoal helps change the pH balance in your mouth, so this not only helps to remove the coffee and tea stains on your teeth, but it can also help fight bad breath and even prevent cavities. This not a miracle mouth cleaner. You will still have to brush and floss regularly, but you’re pretty much brushing when you use the powder, anyway. And you can even buy charcoal toothpaste to make it a little easier to incorporate into your morning routine. 

improved Digestion

Do you suffer from digestive trouble? I know I’ve suffered with irritable bowel syndrome (the diarrhea/soft stool kind) and acid reflux for several years now. Major digestive issues like these are almost always caused by an excess of toxins in the digestive tract.

Using the same process described above, activated charcoal can help to remove many of these toxins and help improve your digestion and overall immune health. Your gut health, after all, is directly tied to the strength of your body’s immune system. When you clean out your digestive tract, you are doing more than helping with tummy troubles. You are improving your body’s energy supply and boosting your mental function.

Activated charcoal has long been used (since the end of the 19th century) as an antidote for poison, and some people have had great success using it to treat their food poisoning and stomach bug episodes. I have not yet tried ingesting activated charcoal, but given the powerful evidence for its many digestive benefits I’m definitely considering giving it a try.

To help heal stomach upset, you’ll want to take the activated charcoal in tablet form. You should proceed with caution, however, if you experience bouts of constipation, because activated charcoal can make this worse.

young healthy skin

Looking younger

Everyone wants to fight the signs of aging, and that usually means minimizing facial fine lines and wrinkles. Before you turn to drastic medical procedures or expensive department store creams, try a natural remedy like activated charcoal.

Charcoal can help improve your skin’s appearance and reduce the signs of aging by preventing and even, in some cases, repairing damage that has been done to your kidneys, liver, and adrenal glands. When this happens, you are getting rid of toxins in these organs that make your body and skin look older than they really are.

looking healthier

Activated charcoal can also work wonders for your skin besides just reducing the signs of aging. Any time you have a skin irritation, you can combine activated charcoal powder with a little bit of coconut oil. This will reduce redness and puffiness, and it also helps ease itching and pain. Try this combination any time you’re outside and get bit by a pesky mosquito to ease the discomfort. This combination, however, should not be used in the place of first aid ointment should the need arise for that. 

In addition to mixtures of powder and coconut oil, you can pamper your skin with a charcoal face mask like the one I review in this post.  While I didn’t see a huge visible difference, I did notice a decrease in redness and puffiness after just one application. I call that an amazing success, and I’m looking forward to trying to face mask again this evening before I go to bed.

I don’t know what took me so long to realize how many awesome activated charcoal health benefits there are to enjoy. I’m just glad I discovered the face masks, and I can’t wait to try the tablets to improve my digestion. And I might even try out the charcoal toothpaste sometime soon.

Which activated charcoal health benefit resonates most with you?

Healing with Gemstones and Crystals

christianity gemstones

If you are interested in natural and holistic health, like I am, you might have thought about using healing gemstones and crystals in your daily wellness practices. This involves either wearing, decorating your home or physical space with, or drinking water charged with the energy from various gemstones. Healing with gemstones and crystals requires them to be either in their raw, just dug up from the ground, state or in a tumbled version for the effective removal of negative energy from your body.  This post explores some of the most commonly used types of stones for healing. 

amethyst healing stone


One of the more popular healing crystals to start out with is amethyst. This is also included among the beginner crystals, which can be placed on your body or in your pocket, worn on a necklace chain, or even rubbed between your hands to remove negative energy.

Amethyst provides some excellent health benefits, including improving your sleep and reducing fatigue, relieving headaches, and improving the look of your skin.

quartz healing stone


Another healing crystal that is good for beginners to use in their search for holistic health is quartz. There are several different types of quartz with other various benefits.

The main benefits of clear quartz are reducing anxiety, and improving mental issues like stress and irritability. Rose quartz, on the other hand, is helpful for reducing fatigue and correcting emotional imbalance.

bloodstone healing stone


If you can find bloodstone (also known as heliotrope), which is a little rarer and harder to find, you can use it to improve your circulatory system, especially balancing your blood pressure. This is one of the few stones that has this healing property, so it’s always a good idea to have it around. Bloodstone also helps boost your immune system, so you can use it to prevent, or reduce the severity of, colds and various other illnesses. 

opal healing stone


Opal is one of my favorite gemstones ever. It is a beautiful, translucent crystal gemstone that is perfect for improving your imagination, inspiration, and creativity. If you are an artist or someone who’s just looking for ways to be more creative, you need to add opal to your healing crystals collection. Opal is also useful for helping relieve headaches and reducing various PMS symptoms.

citrine healing stone


Citrine is a orangish-yellow crystal that is great for your mental health. With citrine in your hands or placed near your head, you can spark creativity and give your memory and concentration a nice boost.

If you’re looking to treat a particular disease, healing gemstones and crystals can help you with that too. For example, blue jade and amber are useful for treating asthma, and moss agate or green aventurine can be used to treat Crohn’s disease. You can find a stone to heal almost any mental or physical ailment. For a good beginner’s guide, check out the book above. To go more in depth into crystals and healing, check out this book.

healing stones for the vital organs

Wait a minute – i thought you were a christian. what’s with all this woo-woo stuff?

I’ve always been fascinated by gemstones and crystals. When I was little, we lived in a newly developed subdivision where construction was still ongoing, so I would take walks with my dad and pick up big chunks of beautiful crystal quartz. I kept that quartz collection for years, and I still might have it somewhere. I’ve just lost track of it somehow.

Fast forward a few decades, and I started making my own beaded jewelry.   At first, I used cheap plastic beads and string and whatever I could find to use without spending a lot of money, but then I discovered the beautiful, amazing world of gemstone beads, and I’ve never looked back. Now almost every piece I make uses gemstone beads, either exclusively or as a featured item.

Because I was working with the gemstones, I decided to learn more about them. Admittedly, a lot of the information out there on gemstones and crystals is of the New Age-y, Wiccan bent. And I didn’t want to go there. When I first felt the desire to create this post, I wondered if I could do so while still honoring God. Or was I just too intent on doing what seemed right to me, thereby opening a door for Satan to come in?

So, I asked God what He thought about it. Was it okay for me to write a post about the healing properties of gemstones and crystals? He led me to this wonderful blog post. Basically, the author argues that crystals and gemstones were created by God (which is true), and God called all His creation “good” after He created it, so crystals are inherently “good.” And they have living energy (Don’t believe me? See this post for a discussion of the living energy of rocks) that can be used to harmonize the energy in and around us.

Crystals, gemstones, and rocks are mentioned throughout the Bible, and the ancient Hebrews even used them in their worship and communication with God. We don’t have to use them in this way because we have the Holy Spirit living inside us, but we can use the energy of the rocks to help balance our energy and get us to a healthier state of being. We just have to be careful about using them as a crutch or a replacement for God. So we must be constantly vigilant about how we’re using the crystals, so we don’t give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27).

The devil has taken much of God’s creation and used it to deceive men for thousands of years (I’m thinking specifically of all the beautiful stars and constellations in the sky that point to the Lord Jesus Christ, but so many have turned them into man-focused fortune-telling tools). That’s because we gave up our dominion over the earth when Adam ate from the tree God told him not to eat from. He listened to the creation, instead of the Creator. I think it’s about time that we, as God’s people, took back dominion. And one of the ways we can do that is by learning about the healing powers God has built into His creation and using them wisely.

What do you think? Have you ever tried healing with gemstones and crystals? What have your experiences been?

GMO Foods: The Good and the Bad

benefits genetically engineered food

Genetically modified organisms (most commonly known as GMOs) are animals and plants that have been genetically altered in a laboratory. They are modified so that our crops are more resistant to pests, weeds, and any other diseases that typically threaten them. Foods made from these types of plants tend to have a longer life, and they travel well. Furthermore, genetically engineered crops are becoming increasingly popular among farmers and food producers because they are more cost efficient. 

GMOs are commonly found in mass-produced products, but they are not often listed on nutrition labels. The US passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law in July 2016, which required disclosure of all genetically modified food ingredients. However,  the USDA has until July 2018 to issue regulations for the implementation of the law, and even then it’s expected that food producers will be allowed another one to three years to make their disclosures.

Under the law, manufacturers will have several options for disclosing their genetically modified ingredients. One is to add a statement on the product label, notifying consumers that the product contains ingredients from a genetically modified crop. Another is to include a special symbol created by the USDA on the food package. The third is to include an electronic or digital link through a QR code that takes consumers to a designated website with the disclosure information. It is likely that most food producers will choose this third option, since that will free them from having to list “genetically engineered” or “GMO” on their labels, which would be negatively perceived by a lot of consumers.

So, even though there’s not yet a lot of labeling being done, GMO’s are prevalent in processed food in the United States. And there’s a lot of hype and misinformation about them, so let’s explore the facts.

The Widespread Use of GMOs

The majority of both soybeans and corn that are grown in the US have been genetically modified. In fact, The Center For Food Safety reports that it is believed that around 70% of American processed foods stocking the supermarket shelves now contain at least one ingredient that has been genetically modified. There are a number of crops that are unrestricted and while there have been court orders to prevent their planting, the USDA hasn’t enforced it.


the dangers of gmo foods

Is It Safe To Eat GMOs?

Dozens of countries across the planet have placed restrictions (or bans) on producing GMOs. Why?

Quite simply, they do not believe that GMOs have been proven to be safe. The consensus in research studies so far is simply that it doesn’t appear GMOs are unsafe. It is hardly the win that GMO activists have claimed it to be. And, certainly, the creator of the above picture isn’t really buying it. I’m not sure I buy it myself.

What Will GMOs Do To My Health?

While there have been numerous studies on GMOs, the general consensus (only reached recently) is that they do not appear to be unsafe. However, because the products weren’t labeled or tracked for so long, it is almost impossible to get a true picture of what potential human health problems may stem from the consumption of GMOs. While we don’t know that GMOs actively harm human health, we also don’t truly know whether they are unsafe.

See, the process of constructing GMO foods isn’t really a new thing. Farmers and Nature have been doing it hundreds and thousands of years. It’s simply a matter of cross-breeding a gene from one species into another species to make something different (and hopefully better).

The trouble with GMOs is that it takes this natural process and turns it into something synthetic. Instead of Nature running its course, scientists are forcing it in a lab. And any time you take something natural and try to simulate it with something synthetic, you’re not going to have anything nearly as good or valuable (I’m specifically thinking about gemstones here, but the same could very well be true of GMO food).

environmental impact of gmos

What Do GMOs Do To The Environment?

The purpose of genetically engineering crops in a laboratory is to make them more resistant to insects and viruses and to make them more tolerant to herbicides. But these advantages don’t come without cost, especially where the environment is concerned.

GMOs may be seriously harmful to insects that are not dangerous to the plants being grown, especially bees and butterflies. Bees are crucial to the pollination process of many food crops, but they have become endangered as a result of the use of genetic engineering. Likewise, monarch butterflies face specific threats from genetically engineered maize plants. Birds, which work as biological control agents and pollinators, are also at risk from the harmful pesticides. What’s even more frustrating to consider is that the pests that are targeted by GMO crops can easily adapt to the genetic changes in the genetically engineered plants, rendering them almost ineffective against the pests they are attempting to kill while still remaining toxic to the other creatures that are not supposed to die.

Some evidence suggests that small genetic changes in plants may produce larger ecological shifts, meaning that GMOs may negatively affect whole natural ecosystems. These negative effects come mainly in the form of a reduction of biodiversity. Heritage seeds are seldom used in the production of GMO crops, which leads to fewer weeds and less nectar for the pollinators. Toxins released into the soil through the plants’ roots means fewer beneficial bacteria to help the plants grow without chemical fertilizers. And because of the nature of the GMO crops, no nutrients are returned to the soil, as is the case with natural growing practices. The problem of the environmental damage that is caused by the GMOs is much bigger than that of a potential human health hazard.

How To Avoid GMOs

With all of the above in mind, it may be best to simply avoid GMOs as much as possible. The best way to do this is to buy organic foods. Organic food producers use methods that ensure your food hasn’t been genetically modified, nor is it subjected to being planted on land that has been treated or sprayed with chemicals. Separate machinery is used to prevent contamination, and the ingredients are stored separately too.

While it’s true that organic products are quite a bit more expensive than other products, I’ve found that the costs is well worth the peace of mind it provides. That being said, if you really don’t have the money to buy organic you can shop a little safer by choosing fruits and vegetables with a harder, thicker skin. This makes it more difficult for toxins to reach the fruit or vegetable itself. When it comes to those fruits and vegetables with soft skin (or skin that you eat), you should always buy organic. Try finding local farmers’ markets or co-ops you can buy from to get the most value for your dollar.

So, what do you think? Is all the concern about GMOs unfounded? Or do we really have something to worry about? Let’s start a discussion in the comments section.

Lemon Water Health Benefits: 4 Reasons You Need to Start Drinking It Today

health benefits of lemon water

When it comes to taking better care of yourself, you have probably heard of drinking more water as one of the best things you can do. However, it can be even more helpful to add something to your water. And one of the easiest things to add to your water to enhance its flavor and nutritional value is fresh lemon juice or lemon slices. Just take a look at these different lemon water health benefits.

Vitamin C is Great For Your immune System

Lemons, like oranges, are citrus fruits that contain a lot of healthy vitamin C. When you drink lemon water each day, you are providing your body with an essential vitamin C immune system boost.

To get the maximum immune-boosting effect, make sure you don’t try to peel the lemons. Slice them up and add the slices to your water, peel and all. This will ensure that all the essential nutrients from the lemons transfer to your water for optimal health benefits.

Vitamin C pumps up your immune system, helping you to avoid colds, the flu, and various other illnesses (or at least enabling your body to fight them better if you do get them). Try to drink one or two glasses of lemon water each day to improve your general health.

Lemon Water is Great For Your Skin

Everyone wants healthier-looking skin, right? We spend millions of dollars a year to try to get it. But what if I told you that all you have to do is start drinking a glass or two of lemon water per day?

That vitamin C that you’re getting from the lemons, in addition to the hydration from the water, is going to detox and clear your pores and rid your skin of all those nasty free radicals that damage it. Vitamin C is also helpful in promoting collagen production. This keeps your skin firmer, smoother, and more elastic, .the end result of which is much younger-looking skin.

natural ways to improve your skin

It Helps You Lose Weight

If you are currently trying to get healthy by losing weight, lemon water is the perfect thing to start with. The flavor you’re adding to your water will help encourage you to drink more of it each day, which is important for weight loss.

Lemon water also contains pectin, which is an important fiber that works as an appetite suppressant by helping you feel fuller longer.  Lemon water can even help boost your metabolism, especially if you drink it warm in the morning before you put anything else into your mouth – even your morning coffee! 

It Cleanses Your System

One of the top benefits of lemon water is the fact that it can help to cleanse toxins out of your body. In fact, drinking it is one of the easiest and most natural ways to detox your body. Having a tall glass of lemon water every day will really do wonders for your body because lemon water’s atomic structure is similar to your own stomach acids, which tricks your liver into producing more bile. This improves enzyme function and helps keep things moving in and cleaning out your entire digestive system.

improve your immune system naturally

best lemon water recipe

It’s best to drink your lemon water warm. Cold lemon water will work too nutritionally, but it may be a shock to your system that you don’t want to experience. Warm lemon water is a much more soothing experience for your body. I know when I first thought about drinking warm lemon water, it didn’t sound very appetizing. But then I started thinking of it as just drinking some warm lemon tea, and that was enough to make it sound less gross.

Here’s one of the best ways to make your lemon water: dilute 1/2 cup of lemon juice into 3 tablespoons of boiling water + the rest cold water in an 8 ounce glass.

How to prevent tooth decay

Because of the acidic nature of lemon water, you’re going to be putting yourself at risk for tooth decay. The same is true if you drink apple cider vinegar and honey mixed with water, which is one of my favorite drinks.

But you can avoid the tooth decay problem by following these simple steps:

  1. Drink the lemon water through a straw. I know it seems strange to drink something warm through a straw, but it’s really going to help.
  2. Rinse your mouth with plain water right after you drink the lemon water.
  3. Don’t brush your teeth for at least 60 minutes after you drink the lemon water and rinse your mouth.
  4. Use a soft toothbrush, and don’t brush too vigorously.

you have nothing to lose – and a whole lot to gain

I hope by reading this article you’ve learned a few things about why drinking lemon water is important and why you start adding it to your morning routine immediately.

Have you tried drinking it? What’s your experience been? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. And if you have any questions, you can leave those in the comments section, as well. I’ll do my best to answer them.

How to Talk to a Stranger: 7 Can’t-Fail Tips

how to talk to a stranger

lf you’re a natural introvert, you may cringe every time you even think about talking to a stranger. I feel your pain. I’m an ambivert, which means I can go either way depending on the day and situation. But I know the cringe well. 

And sometimes you need to talk to strangers, especially if you find yourself in a job where you’re having to sell something. Why would you choose a job in sales, you ask, if you’re an introvert? Well, there could be a number of reasons.

I, for one, love to write. I’m a writer. I’ve written and self-published a number of books. But, since I’ve self-published, that means I’m responsible for marketing those books myself. Truth be told, in this day and age, even if you did traditionally publish you’d be responsible for most, if not all, of your own book promotion because publishers only throw the big marketing money at promoting the authors they know are sure things. And if you’re a newbie, you’re not a sure thing. By any stretch of the imagination. And a lot of that book marketing ends up being in face to face events and conferences, where you’re meeting a lot of strangers and trying to sell yourself to them in a very short period of time.

So, even if you do choose a career that you’re pretty sure will never necessitate talking face to face with another human being, you may find yourself thrust into a situation (or two) in which you just can’t avoid it. In such situations, especially if you don’t know the person you’re talking to, it can be extremely difficult to figure out what you’re going to say, or how to say it. Even the thought of opening your mouth to say something to somebody with whom you are not familiar can seem daunting, so here are some tips on how to make it a little easier to talk to a stranger.

Smile and say hello

Sometimes it’s as simple as smiling and saying “hello.” To most people, this will send across the message that you are open to communicating with them and learning more about them. Trust me. A smile can go a long way in breaking the ice in any social situation.

Of course, there are those few people who will ignore both your smile and your cheery greeting, and you may feel crushed if this happens. But try not to let it bother you too much. Remember, if they rudely ignore a friendly outreach like that, it’s not about you. They’re just really unfriendly, unhappy people, and you don’t need to waste your time with them.

a smile is a curve 

Imagine they’re already your friend

The more you think about the fact that you’ve never spoken to a particular person before and that you don’t know them at all, the scarier the thought of trying to make conversation with them will be. Instead, try to trick your brain into reframing the relationship.

Look at the person in front of you who you have never met before, and imagine that they are not a stranger. They are your friend. This is just the very first time you’re meeting them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the whole uncomfortable situation can change into something positive with just this one change in mindset. 

look for something to talk about

I know you, introvert. You don’t like small talk. But you have to remember that, to most people in the world, small talk is absolutely normal. And sometimes necessary. If you want (or need) to talk to people you’ve never met before. You’re going to have to start somewhere, and that usually means engaging in small talk.

I always try to start with a compliment. Note: this has to be a GENUINE compliment. Don’t try to fake it. You’re not good at it (come on, you know you’re not), and people will see right through it.

Something as simple as, “Oh, I love your earrings (or shoes, or whatever)! Where did you get them?,” can go a long way as a conversation starter.

Or this one works well for our family, because my girls almost always run at any stranger with a dog that comes into view: “Do you mind if we pet your dog?”

It doesn’t have to be anything profound or earth-shattering. It really doesn’t. I know you think it does, but I promise you it doesn’t. Start small, and build from there. 

list open-ended questions

Ask open-ended questions

If you want to start a real conversation with a stranger after the door has been opened with small talk, you need to ask open-ended questions instead of closed ones. Don’t let them off easy by asking a question they can just answer “yes” or “no” to. Ask them how long they’ve lived in the area, what their favorite color is, or even what type of book they like to read (or if they read at all).

This will force the other person to either completely ignore you (most people won’t do this because they don’t want to seem rude) or to give a longer answer, which will initiate further conversation.

know when to walk away

If you see the person regularly (like at monthly meetings or weekly kids’ ballgames or something) and you want to speak to them again, don’t scare them off by being too full-on at first. Be genuine, but be genuinely interested in THEM

Don’t spend so much time talking about yourself that their eyes start to glaze over. Ask questions about them, and let them answer and ask questions about you. But keep your answers short. And really listen to what they’re saying when they answer your questions, rather than just thinking about the next thing you want to say. And when you do start to see their eyes glaze over or their face scrunch up in a frown, that’s your cue to walk away and save the rest for another day (or another person, if you’re at a networking event).

Don’t worry so much about what other people think

The main reason we choose not to do many things in life is because we’re worried about what others will think about them. The fear of rejection is one of the greatest fears we experience as humans, which is why that abovementioned interaction with the stranger who doesn’t return your smile and greeting stings so much.  

But if you tell yourself that their reaction doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t like you on a better day (everybody has bad days), and that even if they didn’t that doesn’t change the fact that you’re an awesome person who has a lot to offer, then it will be a lot easier for you to overcome the fear of rejection. Pretty soon, if you keep practicing looking at the interaction in a different way, any rejection you do face will just naturally roll off your shoulders like water off a duck’s back.

water off a duck's back


hold onto your confidence

The key to any successful interpersonal interaction is knowing yourself. Have confidence in your skills, abilities, and innate worth as an individual. Take some time before you meet anyone new to really examine the reasons why you want this interaction to be successful. How does it fit into the broader plan for your life? How will it help you reach your ultimate goals and dreams?

If you stay focused on those, your self-confidence will come shining through, and you’ll naturally be more attractive. Pretty soon you will find that’s it not that hard to talk to strangers at all, because they’re the ones who are approaching YOU.

My Entry Into the World of Charcoal Face Masks

charcoal face masks

Charcoal face masks are all the rage

In recent years, charcoal face masks have gained in popularity because of their detoxifying power. Here are just a few of many charcoal face mask benefits:

  1. They deep cleanse and shrink your pores.
  2. They balance out oily skin.
  3. They soothe and heal skin irritation.

They also prepare your face to receive other cosmetic products better (I don’t wear makeup, so that’s not an issue for me), and they can even help prepare your underarms for the switch to natural, aluminum-free deodorants and antiperspirants.

Why would you want to switch to natural deodorants? One word: cancer. Some studies have shown that the aluminum that is in many popular brands of deodorant/antiperspirant is linked to increased breast cancer risk, although the research isn’t conclusive. Still, as far as I’m concerned, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so I made the switch to natural aluminum-free deodorants a couple of years ago. And I’ve never been sorry. One of the best brands I’ve found comes from my favorite online shopping club. One tube lasts for almost SIX MONTHS, and it’s as effective as most aluminum-laden brands I’ve tried.

But this isn’t a post about deodorants. It’s a post about charcoal face masks, so back to those…

The Charcoal face mask I chose

As a Gemsta/Jewelscent consultant, I want to really believe in and know about the products I’m selling. I’ve known about and loved the Jewelscent candles for years now, but I’m not as familiar with all the Gemstra partner brands. As I mentioned before, I don’t wear makeup, so I’m naturally not going to spend much time examining the world of Pulse Cosmetics, for example.

But one thing I do care about is my skin, and especially the skin on my face. So the Measurable Difference face masks were the perfect choice for my first foray into the broader Gemstra universe. The Measurable Difference line offers cruelty-free, mostly natural products aimed at making women feel like their most beautiful selves, both inside and out. With that in mind, I had no problem putting this activated charcoal mask on my face, and I was more than a little curious to see what it would do for me.

Here’s the complete ingredient list. The only marginally questionable things on here are the “fragrance” (we can’t really know what’s in anything that has this catch-all term in the ingredient list), “methylparaben” (the EWG lists this as a moderate hazard, but it’s low on the ingredient list, so we can assume there’s not that much in the masks), triethanolamine (again, a moderate hazard, but it’s higher up, so there’s more of it), and diazolidinyl urea (moderate risk of a formaldehyde allergy, but it’s pretty low on the list):

  • Water (Aqua)
  • Glycerin
  • Butylene Glycol
  • Trehalose
  • Carbomer
  • Triethanolamine
  • Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract
  • Centella Asiatica Extract
  • Portulaca Oleracea Extract
  • Allantoin
  • PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil
  • Fragrance
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Methylparaben
  • Charcoal Powder

The Charcoal face mask Experience

Here’s my “before” picture. Every post like this needs a “before” picture, right?  Here’s mine. Obviously, I’m not well versed in the art of taking selfies.

Here’s a picture of me with the mask on. I did this on a Saturday morning, and my girls were both awake. They weren’t at all sure how they felt about the creepy black thing hanging off of Mommy’s face, but I assured them it was supposed to help me look better and was easy to remove (all you have to do is peel it off, and the thing was literally about to fall off of me at any moment, anyway). That seemed to ease their minds a little.

As you can see, the one-size-fits-all approach takes a little adjusting. I had to keep moving it over slightly and slapping the bottom and sides to my face to help it hold a little better.

The Measurable Difference Detoxifying mask set comes in two versions – cucumber and tomato. I chose the cucumber set because I thought it had obvious skin advantages over the tomato one (although I could be wrong about this). I just hear more about people putting cucumbers on their face than I do about people splattering tomatoes all over their faces. Just the thought makes me laugh!

The cucumber scent was strong on this mask from the time I pulled it out of the package, so if you’re not a fan of the cucumber scent, you might not enjoy that. I didn’t mind it so much, but I can’t imagine how strong the tomato scent would be on the tomato version on the mask. Now I want to buy some of the tomato masks just to see what they’re like!

The mask is wet and a little slimy, and very, very cold! I was surprised at how cold it felt going on my face. I imagine this would be an especially lovely treat on a hot summer’s day. In the winter time, though, it’s a bit of a shock to the system.

You keep the cold, cucumbery-smelling mask on your face for 15 minutes, and then you peel it off. When I did that (and then massaged the excess liquid from the mask into my skin, as you’re supposed to – you don’t rinse anything off!), this was the result.

I didn’t see a great big difference when I looked in the mirror. A little bit of the oily sheen was gone, some of my natural redness was gone, and I think I saw some pores that looked a little bit smaller.

I felt a big difference, though. My skin felt tighter and cleaner, so I really think the mask did something – even if it wasn’t totally conspicuous.

The detoxifying masks come 5 in a package, and at just $10, that’s not a bad price at all for an at-home beauty treatment. Visit my Gemstra site today to buy some masks for yourself, and take a look at all the other amazing products we have to offer.

Rethinking Failure As Part of the Process of Success

failure is success in progress

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail. Sometimes, I avoid doing things just to protect myself from failure. I don’t think I’m completely alone in that.

It seems that most people tend to think of failure as something shameful or undesirable. Understandably, failing to achieve success can often cause negative feelings, no matter how big or small the goal was. I know the sting all to well. It hurts, even if it’s a small one. And I don’t like it. But I’m fairly certain that avoiding failure by doing nothing is not a healthy way to cope, so I’m trying to learn better ways of dealing with it. 

And one of the best ways to overcome those negative, painful feelings that are associated with failure is to change the way we understand failure. It’s not the definitive end of everything good that we think it is – at least, I tend to think of failure that way. Rather, it is part of the process of success, and we can learn some valuable lessons for us if we take time to examine it constructively.

failure isn't failure unless you don't learn from it

Albert Einstein, arguably one of the most successful people (and certainly one of the smartest) on the planet, once said, “Failure is success in progress.” I like the way he thought. I can’t say I’m always 100% ready to think of it that way, but it’s something I’m working on.

Here are some ways we can redefine failure and learn from it effectively.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Learning from your mistakes is about thinking about what went wrong, but it’s more than that. The first step towards using failure as a tool for success is to stop seeing mistakes as shameful. Don’t do what I normally do and beat yourself up over every little mistake.

Acknowledge that you messed up, and then let go and try to focus on how you can do better the next time. And make sure there IS a next time. Again, this is something I’m still working on improving in myself. Usually, I fail and give up … or I give up before I even start because I want to avoid failing.

failure is part of the human experience

 Mistakes are a natural part of embarking on a new project, but their even more than that. They represent part of the overall human experience. As such, they should be accepted as a necessary step towards achieving your goals.

In her article “Strategies for Learning from Failure,” Amy C. Edmondson classifies mistakes into three categories:


These are the mistakes we often think of as bad. They result from lack of focus or attention to the procedures needed to achieve a goal. These are the ones that really sting, especially when they’re responsible for a major failure. The little things don’t always seem so little when they’re the ones we know we could have prevented in the first place. But they’re also the ones that are easier to learn from, because we can see what went wrong and can prepare to fix it the next time. 


These mistakes happen when the goal is the product of many factors – your own motivation, previous skills, environment, support network, and the resources you have available to accomplish the goal. If any one of these fail, you might be unable to achieve your goal. These mistakes are harder to control and avoid in the future, but it’s still possible to learn from them. You just have to try a little harder. 

Intelligent mistakes

According to Adam Mendler, in his article “What Sales Executives Can Learn From Failure,” having the freedom to make mistakes increases creativity and work performance. Without unnecessary pressure to avoid mistakes and the shame that comes with it, employees contribute more frequently and are able to express more original ideas. Many great inventions were discovered by accident, from Post-It notes to penicillin. I try to remember this every time I feel myself starting to get paralyzed by fear of failure. That fear is stifling my creativity! 

Inventions That Were Made by Mistake

Whatever the source of the mistake, it’s important to remove any negative feelings about it and re-frame it as a source of new knowledge. This is the first step towards learning from failure effectively.

But what are the next steps? In a nutshell:

Rethink how you approach your goal

Now that you’re looking at the mistake without judgment, think of how you got into the situation.

In his article, “The 4 Keys to Learning From Failure,” Guy Winch suggests you analyze your motivation levels, focus, and mindset. Did you feel less motivated to achieve your goal at some point? Did something else distract you from it?

If your dedication and focus decreased at any time, make note of it and try to find the cause. Identifying the internal and external influences on your resolve helps you prepare to adjust for them in the future.

In some cases, discussing the failure with someone you trust can help you see the issues from a different perspective. Rely on your support network to pinpoint what went wrong and how you could prevent that from happening in the future.

Plan ahead

Identifying what caused the mistake is not enough to prevent it from occurring again in the future. You have to take steps to prevent it.

If your goal was to write a novel in six months (I’ve actually aimed at writing a novel in one month before – once I succeeded, every other time since I’ve failed), you’ve probably identified a few reasons why you couldn’t achieve the goal – lack of time, insufficient planning, or lack of motivation. Or, in my case, too many distractions – Facebook, kids, cats, Netflix binge-watching opportunities.

What can you do to prevent those issues from getting in the way of you reaching your goal in the future? In the novel example, you could scale down the scope of the story, spend more time planning it, or set aside a specific time to write undisturbed. In my case, that means lock the cats out of the room, turn off Facebook and the TV, and write when the kids are asleep.

failure is not permanent

This is something I have to keep telling myself every day. I love that Albert Einstein quote above.  Go take a minute and look at it again. By accepting failure, analyzing its causes, and defining how you can eliminate them, you’re on your way to turning your failures into successes in progress.

Ideal Boost: Best Healthy Water Enhancer

ideal boost weight loss drink

You need to drink it, But water is boring

Drinking water is so important in order to stay healthy, but many people don’t like the taste of just plain water. I like water, but I’ll be honest: even I get tired of drinking it plain. Sometimes I like a little flavor. And I used to get that flavor fix by drinking diet sodas … until I discovered the dangers of diet sodas. Although there are some who argue that diet sodas may not really be that bad for you, I choose to err on the side of caution. Diet sodas are out.

Since I’ve given up diet sodas (for the most part – I’ll occasionally get one while I’m out somewhere), I’ve started drinking a lot more unsweetened tea. But I’ve also started exploring the world of water enhancers.

most water enhancers contain artificial sweeteners

I started out trying Mio Energy. Well, actually, my first water enhancer experience was with Crystal Light, ages before. But my goal was to avoid artificial sweeteners, so I knew that was out. Sadly, however, I soon discovered that Mio Energy has artificial sweeteners too, as well as taurine which (although it does not come from bull’s urine, as some Facebook memes would have you believe), does have some health concerns attached to it, in addition to a number of health benefits.

In fact, if you’re trying to avoid artificial sweeteners (and I strongly suggest that you do) you’ll want to steer clear of almost every water enhancer on the market (with the possible exception of Stur, which uses stevia leaf extract, but even that’s not without some safety concerns).

except this one

But there’s some good news. There’s one water enhancer I’ve found that does not contain any artificial sweetener at all. I’m not sure how it gets its sweet taste (maybe it’s the potato starch?), but there is no sweetener listed on the ingredients list of my pick for the healthiest water enhancer on the planet – Ideal Boost.

ideal boost ingredient list

not just another water enhancer

The chart below shows you how Ideal Boost stacks up in other ways against the most popular water enhancers available today – and diet soda. It has a lot of things, including the Slendesta hunger blocker, that none of those other products has. That’s what gives it its super weight loss power. So, when you’re drinking your Ideal Boost, you’re actually doing something that will help you lose more weight.
best water enhancers

Here’s my take on the Ideal Boost

If you’ve read my review of the Ideal Shake, you’ll know that I got the shake samples and the Ideal Boost samples as part of the starter pack I bought. Note: I bought the starter pack for $9.99, but I just noticed that it’s listed for $8.99 on the site now, so you can get it for a dollar less than I did!

I told you in that post that I would write a review of the Ideal Boost after I tried it, so here it is.

I started with the Peach Mango flavor (which I don’t even see listed on the site anymore) because I thought I would like it the least. I’m not a big mango fan – at least not unless we’re talking about a mango that’s been picked right off the tree (I had one like that in Venezuela once, and it was AMAZING!). Still, I like experimenting and I always appreciate a challenge, so I went for it.

ideal boost weight loss drink

And I was pleasantly surprised. I actually tasted the peach more than I did the mango, which was just fine with me. The drink, although a little thicker than most water enhancers you get (probably because of the Slendesta), was really yummy. I drank it all down pretty quickly, and that’s the goal for me when it comes to water enhancers – drink more water faster. It seems that now, instead of the Peach Mango, they’re offering a Peach Raspberry flavor, which I think I might enjoy even more. I can’t wait to try it out!

The next day, I tried the Pineapple Passion flavor. Yes, it’s heavy on the pineapple, but I loved it. Yes, the water was still thick, but I was starting to get used to it. I’ll be honest, it can be a little startling at first to expect to be drinking flavored water and find out that the water is thicker than usual, but the consistency really didn’t bother me that much after the initial shock wore off.

ideal boost weight loss drink

I have to tell you now that you might get some funny looks at first when you’re drinking this. I tried my Ideal Boost in the break room at work after I ate my lunch, and one of my coworkers thought I was drinking beer! It does kind of look like beer. So, I had to explain to her what it was, and what it wasn’t. And we had a really good laugh over it!

Did it really curb my hunger?

The Slendesta hunger blocker is supposed to keep you from feeling hungry for two to three hours. Did it work for me? I have to say I think it really did.

I usually eat my lunch around 11:30 in the morning, and by 2:00 or 2:30, I’m ready for a snack – like, REALLY ready for a snack. On the two days I drank this water-enhancing weight loss drink, I didn’t feel the usual hunger pangs. So, yes. It works.

Bottom line: Ideal Boost is an excellent water enhancer. It really is probably the best one that is currently out there on the market. It has a lot of cool stuff in it (as you can see from the above chart), and it’s missing a lot of the things that make other water enhancers harmful to your health.

If you’re looking for a healthy water enhancer, you need look no further than Ideal Boost, another excellent product from Ideal Shape!

Marconi Union’s “Weightless” Song: Best Music for Relaxation

best music for relaxation

The Study and the Song

According to a study commissioned by Radox, a UK manufacturer of relaxing bath products, the British ambient music band Marconi Union and sound therapists have created the best music for relaxation ever created. The study featured music from artists as diverse as Adele and Coldplay and genres from classical to techno. This study basically looked at every form of music known to man to find the most relaxing song.

The winner, “Weightless,” is an interesting mix of underlying bass tones, rhythms, frequencies, whooshing sounds, and note intervals that relaxes its listener like no other tune can, apparently.

A continuous rhythm with a tempo comparable to a human heart’s 60 beats per minute (BPM) causes the listener’s brainwaves and heart rate to slow to that tempo. Total synchronization occurs in a process known as “entrainment.” It takes at least five minutes for your body to be entrained by any particular piece of music. The song itself is just over eight minutes long (the whole Weightless album is just over 42 minutes long, and there’s an extended version looping for 10+ hours on Youtube), which you can check out below.

Mindlab International, the organization that conducted the research, found that “Weightless” reduces anxiety by 65% and even decreases physiological resting rates by 35%. This song can relax you so much, in fact, that it’s recommend you not listen to it while you are driving because you may fall asleep at the wheel!

The study found that this song is more relaxing than a massage, a walk, or a cup of herbal tea. As Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, a scientist with Mindlab International says, “‘Weightless’ induced the greatest relaxation – higher than any of the other music tested. Brain imaging studies have shown that music works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions.” That’s partly why this song works so well to calm people down.

My own personal experience

In my own personal experience, I can say that this is definitely the most relaxing song I’ve ever heard. The first time I listened to it, I found the droning bass tones somewhat annoying, and I didn’t think it was really going to work to relax me. I didn’t fall asleep, but I did notice that when I tried to stand up after I finished listening to the song I was completely unable to. I mean, I couldn’t get my legs to work at all at first, and when they finally did they felt like jelly. I would say I was almost fully relaxed — and I didn’t even listen to the song all the way through the first time!

Then, a few days later, I took my Chromebook to the daycare where I worked so I could play the extended version on Youtube during naptime. This particular day, the kids (a classroom full of two year olds) had been running me ragged, and I was ready for a break, as in a quiet naptime. Several of these kids have a hard time settling down, and some wake up screaming soon after naptime starts. Still, I thought it was worth a try.

I was not disappointed. That day, I (and the kids) was (were) rewarded with TWO HOURS OF UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP TIME! Well, I didn’t sleep; the kids slept. I just got to enjoy the quiet. Nobody fought; nobody fussed. They all just slept. It was musical magic!

I was in another class with slightly younger children (about 18 months old) some time after that, and I thought I would try this song out with them. Yes, it worked like a charm again! The next day, I didn’t play the song, and everybody was up within an hour. They were fussy and cranky because they didn’t get their nap out, and I was completely convinced that “Weightless” has to be played during every naptime from now on.

Now, you may not have a room full of screaming toddlers you’re trying to get to go to sleep, but maybe you do have one or two. Or maybe you’re having trouble sleeping yourself. This song may be just what you need to finally settle down and get a good night’s sleep. It can’t hurt, right? And it’s most certainly worth a try.

Americans spent over $40 billion on sleep aids in 2015, and within the next two years that figure’s expected to go up to over $50 billion. Why spend money on sleep aids that may or may not work (and upon which you may grow dependent) when you can listen to some super soothing music for free, or at least very cheaply, if you choose to buy the song or album? In my experience, “Weightless” really works wonders. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Try it our for yourself today.

the 10 most relaxing songs ever

“Weightless” not your style? Don’t worry about it. Here’s the full list of the 10 most relaxing songs, just in case you want to check them all out:

1. Marconi Union and Lyz Cooper – Weightless

2. Airstream – Electra

3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)

4. Enya – Watermark

5. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing

6. Barcelona – Please Don’t Go

7. All Saints – Pure Shores

8. Adele – Someone Like You

9. Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria

10. Cafe Del Mar – We Can Fly

most relaxing songs ever

So, if you’re feeling particularly stressed out (or if you’re having trouble sleeping), take a listen to one or more of these songs. You’re sure to find something that will relax you. And if you want to find even more ways to relieve stress and anxiety, you might want to check out this post.

What Is A Meal Replacement Shake Diet … and Is It Right for You?

What Is A Meal Replacement Shake Diet … and Is It Right for You?

The object of any diet plan should be sustained weight loss — weight loss that you can keep off in the future, but finding a diet plan that works for you can be difficult. As is the case with dating, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince and live happily ever after. Many people feel that a meal replacement diet will be their diet true love, but some find that it’s just another frog. In this post we’re going to explore the reasons why. 

A meal replacement diet is one of the easiest and most impactful weight loss programs you can adapt to your lifestyle. Most dieters choose a low-calorie shake as an easy and fast replacement meal, but there are also other options – such as bars or a salad, as opposed to a burger.

The meal replacement diet is simply one type of diet plan you can choose. As with all diet plans, this one has both benefits and drawbacks.

slim fast

the popularity of meal replacement diets

I remember back in the 1980s when Slim-Fast was first gaining popularity. It seemed so easy — a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and then a sensible dinner. It also seemed a little scary (remember: I love food). I mean, not eating solid food for two whole meals? Really?

Meal replacement diets have gotten even more popular in recent decades. One reason for this is that they take very little time, and you don’t have to think about various options or plan extensively to begin or carry through with your diet plan. And, instead of replacing two meals a day, most of the current plans only have you replacing one.

Many people choose a meal replacement diet specifically for weight loss, but those with digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease, gastritis, and ulcerative colitis may lack the appetite to eat three solid, fresh meals per day. For these individuals, a meal replacement diet can be a godsend, providing essential nutrition and much-needed calories they might otherwise miss.

How does it work?

For those who need to lose weight, the meal replacement diet is considered a rapid and easy way to do so. This is the type of weight loss plan that’s targeted to busy, on-the-go people who have little time to plan or cook healthy meals. When you replace at least one meal per day with a low calorie or liquid meal and enjoy healthy, low calorie meals and snacks at other times during the day, you will decrease your calorie intake.

While it’s best to focus on good habits such as exercise and a healthy diet plan, meal replacements can work for some people to help them stay satisfied without having to consume or be tempted by high-calorie meals. When you burn more calories than you put into your body, weight loss is bound to occur. 

diet shakes for women


it’s not all peachy keen

There are some drawbacks to the meal replacement diet. For example, although the shakes and other types of meal replacement products (such as Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig) advertise that they provide essential minerals and vitamins, they also contain super-processed ingredients — and some of them contain a whole lot of sugar. Side note: I was on the Nutrisystem diet for a while, and so was my dad. It works. I lost 30 pounds, and he lost a whole lot more. But when we quit buying and using the products, we gained all the weight back (well, I did. He only gained back some of it). Still, remember: we want SUSTAINED weight loss. 

Choosing whole foods on a low-calorie diet plan can provide a more balanced and nutritious meal than does a replacement. Plus, when you choose real foods, you’re more apt to make the choices you need to continue making to help you keep the weight off for good.

But if you prefer a liquid meal replacement to a healthy meal, you might want to try making your own smoothies as an alternative to pre-packaged shakes and meals. Smoothies made with healthy fats and protein can provide you with great nutrition and can be a filling meal substitute.

If you still want to give meal replacement shakes or food substitutes a try, be sure you read all the labels to see if you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and perform at its best.

meal replacement shakes for women

is the meal replacement diet right for you?


Obviously, the meal replacement diet is going to be more appropriate and effective for some people than it is for others. Some may find it’s very easy to stick to, while others won’t be able to suppress the urge to break away from the diet plan and engage in some major binge eating.

You might find the meal replacement diet particularly appealing if:

  • You’re not sure how to put together the most nutritious low calorie meals and snacks
  • Meal planning and preparation, in general, is a definite challenge for you
  • You love the convenience of having something you can carry in your purse or backpack so you can have it with you wherever you go
  • You don’t need to lose a lot of weight, but you want the pounds you do need to lose to go away fast
  • You cringe at the thought of counting calories; it’s a no-brainer with this type of diet

meal replacement diet


You might want to stay away from a meal replacement diet if:

  • You prefer a more satisfying meal; i.e., one that you actually have to chew before you swallow. You may fall off the wagon really quickly if you feel deprived in such a way.
  • Shakes and substitute meals are often laden with sugar, preservatives, and other unhealthy ingredients. There are some good alternatives out there. You just have to know where to find them.
  • Replacement meals may also prove to be too expensive for your budget. This is the main reason my dad and I stopped using the Nutrisystem diet. Be sure to some comparison shopping before you choose a plan.
  • You may not learn how to make healthy choices if you rely heavily on pre-packaged meals.

Before you decide to start on a meal replacement diet, you need to carefully weigh the pros against the cons to see if it’s the right diet choice for you. If you discover that it’s the perfect choice for you, you’ll want to look out for next week’s post, in which I’ll discuss how to prepare for a meal replacement diet.