Health, Pregnancy, Pretty Well

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga has been such a blessing during my pregnancy. We are fortunate enough to have an instructor in Athens who works with moms to be and holds a class once a week for expectant mothers. I was very early in my pregnancy when I walked into the door for the first time, but I was determined to give my body the best care possible from the beginning. As the baby grows and my body changes, I am more thankful than ever for yoga and the difference it makes for my overall health and wellness. I don’t get to attend the class every week, but I have found many great online resources for prenatal yoga. I would just make sure you attend a class to understand proper technique before taking on a practice of your own from home!

Here are five ways I have personally benefitted from yoga while pregnant: 

  1. I get to connect with other expectant mothers at various stages in pregnancy. 
  2. I feel strong and empowered even as my body shifts and changes. 
  3. I get to have time to myself without any distractions (like the phone! Can I get an amen?). 
  4. It’s equipping me with techniques to use during labor. 
  5. And, most importantly, it helps me feel great both physically and emotionally. 

If you are a mom to be, I highly recommend checking your local area for prenatal yoga classes or even exploring online resources. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made during this pregnancy, and I think everyone (as long as your doctor gives you approval) can benefit from an hour focusing on you and baby!

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My favorite little yoga partner…Chewy Man!
Health, Pretty Well

Trending Healthy

I walked out of the Indie Beauty Fair feeling more overwhelmed than encouraged. The process of fighting the crowd, going from booth to booth, and hearing about countless products left me exhausted. I wasn’t sure how I could possibly know which product claims were true and, ultimately, which products would work best for me. I’m analytical to a fault at times, and my trip around the Indie Beauty Fair brought out my need for things to be black or white. I flew back to Georgia the following day with many questions still on my mind.

Green, organic, clean, natural, non-toxic. They are buzz words of our generation. We are valiantly attempting to reverse the effects of mass production and consumption while working to provide our children with more simple and cleaner lives. Mindsets and companies are beginning to make changes. It’s encouraging to see changes taking place and the many voices advocating for clean living. Yet, navigating this landscape proves challenging.

I sat reading a few research articles and blog comments on cleaner living the other night. I was shocked to find an absurd amount of hateful talk and fingers pointing here and there about who is right and who is wrong. I closed my computer, looked over at my husband and said, “This is more complicated than I realized. There is confusion surrounding certain ingredients and companies with no definitive answers in sight.” I sat thinking about different arguments swirling around individual ingredients in products labeled as natural or clean, and on a deeper level, I couldn’t help but think about my own life and perceived contradictions.

Like the fact that I occasionally eat the really unhealthy cereals (okay, maybe more than occasionally) or that I take medication for my autoimmune disorder. There is also the fact that my family is involved in conventional farming. Does that disqualify me from having a voice in this area? Does that make my experience less valuable? I felt concerned about products on my blog, figuring it’s a matter of time before the Green Police start disagreeing with my decisions.

My mom is full of wisdom and she makes an effort to live a more healthy lifestyle, so I decided to bring up my thoughts to her. “It feels like there are no clear answers when it comes to living a cleaner and more healthy life. How do I help make a difference when the answers are not clear?” I asked her. She reminded me of the many women struggling with self-confidence and skin issues, and she also reminded me of my own struggles leading to this journey.

Like the time in middle school when I was crying in her arms as we stood in front of the bathroom mirror. My acne was horrible. Kids were mean. There was also the time we traveled to see a prominent esthetician. The results were horrible and made everything about my skin worse.

I also remembered people constantly telling me that I, “need to wash my face,” as if I wasn’t doing that and it would heal all my skin problems.

Most recently, I remembered my first autoimmune disorder related sun rash and walking out of the doctor’s office with the autoimmune disorder diagnosis knowing my life was forever changed. I promised myself that I would make changes in order to give myself the best life possible.

All of these moments and many more are part of my story. It’s so important that we not let confusion or opinions hijack our sense of purpose and passions on any journey. It’s important to hold your story in the forefront so you’re not easily distracted by the many voices lining the road.

I believe, for the most part, we are all living life the best we can with the information available to us–whether that is related to food, children, or beauty products. One of my favorite ideas is the idea of “trending toward” something. That is how I like to think of my life and clean living journey these days. I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to ingredients and products, and I don’t know that anyone ever will. I know that some things are a big “No” while others are still in question. I know that opinions vary on different companies. Most importantly, I know what works for me and what to avoid to prevent autoimmune flares.

I am trending toward making better decisions for my family and personal health one day at a time. My goal here is to help you trend toward a better life. A life where you are confident in your beauty, decisions, and health. Yes, the choices can be overwhelming at times, but this is a journey rather than a final destination. You simply have to start somewhere.

These days I am giving myself some grace and extending that to others. It has helped ease the burden I feel to make the absolute best, right, cleanest, most perfect decision possible.

-Jess

Beauty Products, Health, Pregnancy, Pretty Well

Facial Moisturizer Tips

Moisturizers.

There are thousands of them out there, especially in the clean beauty category. It’s a product we look to as the holy grail of beauty…the product that will make the most difference for our skin. It was only three years ago that I started wearing a moisturizer. I was terrified to put it on my already oily skin and, instead, constantly reached for my medicated acne cream.  The day I started using a moisturizer made the most difference for my skin. I put away the acne medicine and started focusing on nourishing my face. My skin is not perfect these days, but it’s so much better. I haven’t touched the medicated creams since.

There are many different types of facial moisturizers and they go by various names: serum, oil, cream, moisturizer, balm, etc. There are several different specific categories within these names that point more specifically to how the moisturizer works. It can be very confusing and overwhelming to even get started. I am going to share what I have discovered works best for my skin and make suggestions for other skin types. Everyone is very different, though, so keep in mind that this is not a one size fits all post. For example, I have 4 sisters and no two of us can use the same routine.

My biggest piece of advice: stick to one brand at a time. 

Often, products within specific brands are meant to work together. You may actually do yourself a disservice by mixing several product lines together. As you make the transition to cleaner products, you will learn what can be mixed together. For now, I recommend sticking to one line. Keep it simple! I’ve tried several different product lines, and I always come back to these:

Favorite Safer Skincare Brands

Beautycounter

 Indie Lee 

One Love Organics

 Juice Beauty 

Another reminder, give products the time to work! It can take days to weeks for results to become visible.

My Current Routine 

My experience mainly consists of products to help combination-oily, acne prone skin with redness and discoloration.

Right now, I’m working on evening my skin tone, keeping breakouts at bay, and helping my skin age gracefully. Beautycounter is my go-to line during this season, and I am seeing great results with this combination. I was starting to develop a few pregnancy related skin issues, but they started cleaning up when I became a consultant and started using more and more Beautycounter products. I use the same combination both morning and night.

new-rejuvenating-toner-pads-40-padsRejuvenating Toner Pads 

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Rejuvenating Radiance Serum 

bc_bc_3-balancingfacialoil_selling01_webBalancing Facial Oil 

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Balancing Facial Mist 

You could also just use the Balancing Collection without adding the Rejuvenating line in. I love Vitamin C, though, and use the Rejuvenating line to get some Vitamin C into my skincare routine.

My mom loves the Plumping Collection along with the Rejuvenating Day and Night Creams. My friends with dry and sensitive skin love various product combinations from the Nourishing Line. If you’re interested in Beautycounter, I am happy to help you develop a custom routine for moisturizing and treating your skin!

So, what are some of my other favorites?

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Squalane Facial Oil by Indie LeeUntitled_design_46_large

Skin Savior Multitasking Balm by One Love Organics

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Redness Rescue Cream by Fitglow

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Green Apple Brightening Moisturizer by Juice Beauty 

Please feel free to comment below with any questions or if you want any advice on the products listed in this post! Happy Moisturizing!

Beauty Products, Health, Pretty Well

Facial Cleanser Favorites

Let’s talk about Facial Cleansers. It’s one of my favorite beauty products, and I have to be careful not to constantly buy new ones! I used to wash my face with really harsh products, many medicated with acne treatments or full of harsh exfoliators. I later learned that more gentle cleansers are best for everyone…even acne prone skin. Most of my acne cleared up when I switched to cleaner and more gentle cleansers. It was the first step on the journey to better skin for me. You will find my current cleanser routine & links to two others cleansers I love below.

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Currently Using

Charcoal Bar by Beautycounter: I use this at night to remove makeup, but it could be used both morning and night. Made with organic green tea and coconut oil! It helps clean pores, control blackheads, & absorbs skin impurities. A great, low cost product that makes a HUGE difference. It’s also great for the men and children in your family. I seriously love it!

Shop Here

Nourishing Cream Exfoliator by Beautycounter: I use this in the morning. It has a wonderful refreshing citrus scent. It’s very gentle with aloe and coconut oil and contains jojoba beads to give your face an extra scrub. It’s a perfect morning cleanser for me! I can do samples of this, so let me know if you’re interested!

Shop Here

Other Favorites

Easy Does it by One Love Organics: This face wash is made on St. Simons Island, GA, which is where I got married. It’s super gentle and calming, leaving your face feeling clean and soft. It also doubles as a body wash and shampoo! One Love Organics is one of my favorite brands!

Shop Here

Brightening Cleanser by Indie Lee: The Indie Lee story is pretty amazing. I’m constantly inspired by this company. This cleanser was the first I tried when transitioning to clean beauty, and it’s still a tried and true staple. It removes makeup and helps brighten your skin. This is a great face wash for everyone, but I would especially recommend it for preteens and teens.

Shop Here

Beauty Products, Health, Pretty Well

My Beautycounter “Why”

Never in a million years did I see myself as a consultant for any product. I’ve dreamt off and on about opening a small, retail business whether in natural cosmetics, fashion, or a lovely store full of all things paper and journals. I grew up at my grandparent’s small business, and it’s definitely in my blood to want to connect people to products and provide an amazing customer service experience. Yet, I’ve hesitated to dive right in and run my own business largely because of financial and time commitments.

As I started researching safer beauty product lines, I discovered Beautycounter during their popup shop with Target and through browsing the Skin Deep website. I kept meaning to make a purchase, but I never did and time just slipped away. I later learned that I could not only purchase the products directly from the Beautycounter website, but I could also join the movement and become a consultant. I started the consultant signup process only to discover that I would have to choose a mentor, which promptly led me to close out of the page. To this day, I’m not sure why I was so opposed to the idea of having a mentor. I’m stubbornly independent at times so there’s your likely answer!

After I started Pretty Well, a friend contacted me about becoming a Beautycounter consultant. She felt that I was a perfect fit for the mission and the products. She no longer lives in Georgia, but I knew her and felt comfortable with her being my mentor. I took a few days to think about the opportunity and to weigh out the pros and cons. I determined that this was actually a great, relatively risk-free way for me to enter the cosmetic industry and be able to connect people directly to awesome products all in one place. And, in some sense, learn a few things about running a business.

Why I became a Beautycounter consultant: 

  • I have the most sensitive skin. I’ve yet to find a Beautycounter product that hasn’t been wonderful for me. It truly speaks to the awesome quality of the products. I LOVE THEM ALL!
  • I enjoy connecting people with solutions. Whether that’s beauty products or everyday advice, I am a solution driven person. Beautycounter gives me tons of solutions right at my fingertips.
  • The startup cost was low. There are several packages to choose from when getting started. You can choose your initial investment when getting started as a consultant.
  • I am a cosmetic nerd. Seriously, I love this stuff! Sending out samples, hosting socials, and giving people information is so much fun!
  • We deserve better! This is the most important part! I often feel like the cosmetic industry could care less about the impact ingredients are having on our bodies and health. Beautycounter has made safer products, continues to do research, and advocate for industry changes. That is a mission I love taking part in and sharing with others.
  • It’s nice to make a little extra money. Who doesn’t love making extra money doing something they love?

I truly believe everyone should give Beautycounter a try. There is a 60 day money back guarantee on the products. There are ways to try samples; I am always happy to connect you with some. And, if you love the products, then becoming a consultant could likely be your next step!

So, I am totally one of those consultant nerds now. I am loving it, though! And, perhaps, one day I will create a business of my own. For now, this is great training!

Shop Beautycounter by clicking here!

Interested in becoming a consultant or learning more about our products? Shoot me an email at prettywellblog@gmail.com or visit this link.

Follow my Beautycounter journey through Instagram and Facebook!

-Jess

Beauty Products, Health, Pretty Well

When Natural Beauty Fails

I was sifting through old pictures on my phone a few days ago. I found a few pictures from my early days of switching to natural beauty products, and they gave me a good laugh. They reminded me of the phase I went through in elementary school of using hairspray to spray down every single flyaway in my hair. I seriously looked like a greaser. In all fairness, there was no reasoning with me so my mom just let me go at it every morning. My youngest sister also went through this phase a few years back…hair slicked right down to her head. I guess it just runs in the family! It’s a wonder all of my hair didn’t fall out during that period.

As I experimented with natural products, there were definitely items that did not work for me. I thought I looked good but the fact that I did not continue to use those products and the photographic evidence prove otherwise. And, it wasn’t just makeup. I remember my skin feeling like a seashell from the natural body wash I was using. My hair also returned to early greaser days as I switched to natural hair products. Then, there were my attempts at making homemade laundry detergent, which my husband eventually (and so kindly) asked me to step away from. The entire process ended up being wildly disappointing. I looked older and worse than ever and our clothes felt dirty. Great.

Sometimes natural products do not work. 

Like everything in life, we often have to work to find a great fit. What may work for one person may be a total misfit for another. I had to learn to step away from reviews and start trusting my gut on certain products and, for a while, I did go back to my less than natural favorites. I went back to my trusted products that I had used for years because at least I looked okay while using them. I came back around, though, and was determined to discover new favorites that were also safer and without completely breaking the bank. I also had to accept a few things about myself. Like the fact that I am not a maker of products. There are plenty of laundry detergents out there that are safe and do not require me to spend time grating soap. You may be very skilled at that, but it just wasn’t for me.

Sometimes you find a wonderful natural product that you just can’t live without!

I decided to really use samples to my advantage, and that is one of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone making a transition with their beauty products. I quickly learned that there are a few brands that I love and that work for me. I try to stick with those companies rather than spending all of my time trying new brands and products. Along the way, I’ve discovered some really awful products. Some really disappointing brands. I’ve also discovered that what may be awful for me may be your absolute favorite and that is perfectly okay.

What works for me? 

  • Beautycounter: Seriously my favorite brand at this time. I use so many of their products. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, facial oil, foundation, lipstick, etc. I LOVE that I can get all of these products in one place. My husband even uses it and loves it. I also love that I get to work as a consultant and connect friends and family directly with items I believe in! Let me know if you’re interested in any samples by emailing prettywellblog@gmail.com. 
  • One Love Organics:  I haven’t used anything by One Love that I haven’t loved. Everything is made in small batches and you can really tell that they put a lot of thought into the quality. LOVE!
  • Indie Lee: I love their glass bottles and I love their products even more. Only one product from them has not worked for me. Everything else has been a dream!
  • Vapour Organic Beauty: I would call Vapour the Cadillac of natural beauty. It’s luxurious plus they offer samples so you can try it before diving right in!

Of course, there are very popular companies that have not worked for me & are not on my list. There are also a ton of companies I have not tried at this point. My best advice: find what works for you slowly but surely. And, for goodness’ sake, do not turn into a greaser! If it’s not working, move on!

-Jess

Beauty Products, Health, Pretty Well

Redefining Beauty

My history with beauty hasn’t always been clean.

I held my breath as the doctor approached my forehead with a syringe. The waivers were signed. The possible outcomes were understood. Today was the day I would say goodbye to that pesky line between my eyebrows. I was 23 years old and a few years of looking at the computer screen and thinking too hard were beginning to show on my face…specifically right between my eyes. The line had become a catch-all for my makeup and a source of insecurity. I was much too young for this, and I knew there was already a solution in place. So, I called up my esthetician and scheduled a consultation and then an appointment. Within a few days, I walked out of the office with a shiny new forehead.

As I went to sleep that night, I felt a wave of panic come over me as I realized I could not exactly move my forehead. The connection between my brain and muscles had ceased, and it freaked me out! While I spent the next few months more confident in my looks (goodbye forehead crease!), I promised myself I would never go through the process again. I started to ask why this was the latest beauty craze. Sure, we want to look young. Sure, it can help with headaches. But, there was something that was now missing from me..from who I am…my ability to express myself felt completely stifled. Some people are perfectly okay with that, but I was not ready to let it go.

Today, my forehead line has returned. It’s a little deeper than before. I know that no cream or natural remedy will fix it. I even went through a few nights of trying to use wrinkle tape to help smooth it out. Lately, I’ve really been working through accepting the aging process and focusing more on self-care and wellness rather than just outward appearances. Putting something on my skin that is toxic simply is not worth it. I’m already dealing with a compromised immune system, and I am on a mission to give my body the best chance to be healthy.

And, the reality is, this injection was not my first attempt to look better. At a young age, I started having chemical peels and going through Retin-A treatments. I had acid applied to a scar on my chin to help it heal again in a less noticeable way.  My chemical peel journey ended after the peel refused to settle down…leaving me with the worst feeling face ever. All of these moments…all of these instances…made me look at myself and question the underlying insecurities.

What is beauty? Why is our society pushing so hard against the aging process?

And, you may ask, what is the difference between injections and simply using a natural cream with promises of brightening your skin? Honestly, I do often ask myself this question. Isn’t the motivation ultimately the same?

I think the difference ultimately lies within the risks we are willing to take in the name of beauty. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel prettier but…what happens when prettier means taking major health risks?

What is the definition of beauty? What value has our culture placed on that definition?

For me, I am in the process of redefining what beauty means to me and how I perceive beauty in others. I want to tell young girls that makeup does not define them. That perfectly shaped eyebrows and smooth skin are not necessary. I want to tell them that they are enough, and they are beautiful.

The quest for perfection is trickling down to younger and younger generations. It has to stop somewhere and it’s going to take a generation of young women standing up and saying…

“I’ve got some lines and that is just fine. My skin is not perfect, but I will not sacrifice my health in the name of beauty.”

No one will ever be perfect on this journey. I am surely not. What can we do? We can begin to redefine beauty, and we can begin to encourage our mothers and sisters and friends to trend toward wellness and health. One step at a time.

 

Beauty Products, Health

Sunscreen Favorites  

It’s awful to admit, but I used to never wear sunscreen. Getting tan was my only goal as I would lather up in anything that may accelerate that process…even baby oil. As I have grown older, I’ve become very aware of the importance of sunscreen and desire to spread that awareness to others. Having an autoimmune disorder also means that it’s important for me to protect myself from the sun as much as possible to prevent rashes and flares. These days, I wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing during the especially warm months. I’ve learned that all sunscreen is not created equal. Sunscreen should protect us, but there are some bad ones out there.

It’s not the case for everyone, but I wear sunscreen most everyday. I was surprised to learn about the nasty ingredients in many sunscreens so, like my beauty products, it has been important to choose wisely. I am rounding up my favorites for you below.

The Environmental Watch Group provides a guide to sunscreens every year. The 2017 one is not out yet, but you can find the 2016 one here. It’s one of the best resources when selecting sunscreen for your family.

TIP: Not ready to commit to a product? Many brands will offer a travel size. It’s a great way to sample products!

My Everyday Favorites 

la roche

La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 15, 3.4 Fl. Oz.

This rubs in very well and doesn’t leave any white residue. It’s quick and easy to apply.

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Devita Solar Body Moisturizer SPF 30+, 7 Oz

A great everyday sunscreen and moisturizer combo. It works great, but you do have to work to rub it in to prevent any white streaks. 

My Heavy Duty Favorite 

suntegrity-body-z

Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Sunscreen For Body, SPF 30

Suntegrity is a go-to favorite. I love all of their products, and they are a guaranteed safe brand for sun protection. I love their sunscreen for days at the beach or when I know I will be out in the sun for an extended period.

My Face Favorites

josie

Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 with Sunboost ATB (Full (2oz/60ml))

I love the smell! It’s super moisturizing and goes on smooth. I wear it under my makeup and even as a moisturizer at night from time to time.

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Juice Beauty Green Apple SPF 15 Moisturizer, 1.7 fl. oz.

This moisturizer helps protect your face from the sun while always brightening your skin. I love it and have continued to purchase it. I like to alternate between this product and the Josie Maran Moisturizer during the week.

Faith, Health

The Autoimmune Journey

I’ve gone back and forth on sharing my health struggles since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder a few years ago. It was one of the darkest seasons I have walked through to date and it changed my life in so many ways. There are a lot of people suffering, often silently, with autoimmune conditions like Lupus and too many others to name. As I have opened up about my own struggle to individuals, I have learned about others walking down a similar path. Still, I find myself trying to sweep it all under the rug…continuing on with life as normal. Continuing on is fine (because you truly have to), but I think the sweeping creates an issue. It makes us feel isolated and alone in the diagnosis and the life changes that come with it. I hope to offer a story of hope as I share various aspects of life with an autoimmune disorder. So, I am making the decision to start sharing more.

I am technically diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. I have antibodies for Sjogrens but it symptomatically acts more like Lupus. The two are often closely related. I had not felt well for a large portion of my life, especially after getting ill multiple times in high school. I made it through college and a few years after college with a few symptoms. A lot started to change as I got older, and my husband (who I was dating at the time) encouraged me to go to the doctor. The story gets a little complex from that point, but I was finally able to get connected to great doctors and explore treatment options after about a year. I’m terribly stubborn and refused to take the medicine I needed for the longest time (thanks to my curiosity and the terrible stories online). I’ve battled the fear that accompanies this sort of thing. I’ve spent morning in tears because my joints ached so bad. I’ve gone from someone who loved a good tan to embracing paleness in the name of being well. I’ve felt guilty and lazy when clean eating plans have failed to make a difference. I’ve wondered if it would ever get better. And, guess what?

You adjust and life does get better. I have gotten better. I had to learn to let go of the past, of what used to be, of who I used to be. Things like this have the ability to change you. You either get better or you get bitter.

I’ve had to learn a new way of life, but that life is perhaps better than before. As I sat with my Rheumatologist for the first time, big tears in my eyes, she assured me that there would be a time of adjustment and transition. Honestly, I think knowing that was the most important part…giving myself and continuing to give myself the grace to navigate life differently. And, through it all, I’ve had to trust in the Lord’s plan for my life and his promises to protect me and watch over me. He has done just that.

-Jess