Monday, August 21, 2017

Four Things to Do to Keep Your Skin Healthy

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Summer is not the only time of year we should be mindful of taking good care of the vessels of our intellects and personalities. Without further ado...

1. Avoid sun overexposure.
The sun is the leading cause of all kinds of skin damage, from sunburn to wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer. It’s the ultraviolet radiation emitted by our sun that damages the skin. UV rays break down the collagen and elastin in skin; these chemicals keep your skin plump and smooth. When collagen and elastin decrease in skin, the skin becomes wrinkled.

Sunlight also enlarges melanocytes, pigment-containing cells. A smaller dose of sun may make your skin tan, but larger amounts can lead to patches of brown spots called age spots.

Another thing the sun does to your skin is release free radicals. These are harmful chemicals, unstable atoms, often oxygen, that have an unpaired electron. This imbalance in electric charge makes the free radicals highly chemically reactive. Free radicals can damage DNA, and this can lead to aging of body systems and development of skin cancers. (NOTE: Free radicals are also created by smoking and other environmental factors.)

The best way to avoid sun damage to skin is to avoid overexposure. Stay out of the sun during mid-day when the radiation is strongest. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB and has an SPF (sun protective factor) 30 or greater. Apply sunscreen every two hours; more frequently if you are sweating heavily or in water. You should also wear protective clothing and a hat to protect your scalp and face.

While some skin care products contain antioxidant ingredients to help fight the effects of free radicals, the best defense is to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables containing vitamins C and E. Good dietary sources of antioxidants include berries, carrots, spinach and broccoli.

2. Stop making faces.

Did your mother say, “Stop making the face or it will grow like that!” when you scowled? Mine did. Maybe our Moms were right. While smiling and frowning are ways we communicate, these movements stretch the skin. As we age, our skin becomes less elastic and does not snap back into shape as readily as when we were younger. Compounded with the loss of elasticity produced by sun damage to skin, facial movements can lead to the formation of wrinkles.

3. Don’t smoke, or quit smoking.

Did you know that smoking damages skin as well as lungs? Smoker’s skin doesn’t heal from small injuries such as nicks and pimples as well as non-smoker’s skin does. This is because smoking causes blood vessels to narrow, restricting the availability of oxygen and nutrients that the skin needs to nourish and repair itself.

Smoker’s skin wrinkles more easily that non-smoker’s skin. Smoking causes elastic skin fibers to thicken, which will increase sagging. The more you smoke, the worse the damage to your skin.

Please consider not smoking, or quitting if you do smoke. It will not only benefit your lungs, it will help your skin stay healthier.

4. Avoid skin irritants.

Your skin can be sensitive or allergic to any number of chemicals, including ammonia, bleach, laundry detergent, and cleaning products. Contact dermatitis is reddening and scaling of the skin. But some people experience burns from contact with these chemicals.

The best way to protect your skin from irritants is to avoid them, for instance by wearing gloves to clean house or wash dishes. If you have mild contact dermatitis, moisturizing your skin will make it feel better. If you have more problematic irritations, try using an antihistamine or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen). If the problem is severe, please contact your healthcare professional.

It is always a good idea to take care of the skin you're in!

Image Credits: Pixabay

Friday, August 18, 2017

Get a Home Energy Audit

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

With autumn approaching soon, it is not too early to start thinking about ways to improve your home's heating efficiency as outside temperatures begin to drop - or rise, depending on in which hemisphere of the planet you live.

Often your local utility company will come out to your home and perform an energy audit. This is probably the most accurate way to learn how to use energy efficiently. However, it will mean scheduling the visit for several hours during the workday, and this may not be feasible for your schedule.

An alternative is the online energy audit. You will spend a few minutes inputting data, and in return will receive valuable information about your energy usage.

Several sites offer these audits. Many local utilities will add in local weather and housing data, making them quite accurate.

You can also check out the US Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver site at: This site helps you calculate your energy usage based on your ZIP code. It also includes several videos of energy saving projects such as insulating your water heater and hot water pipes, as well as interesting blog posts.

Another online energy audit option from is found here: Not only will you learn how to look for areas in your home where you are losing energy, but you will be offered methods for improving the building’s energy efficiency.

Beware, though, of advertising sites that want to collect your personal information. If an offer related to energy audits or energy savings seems too good to be true, it probably is. Use only sites from your local utility companies, universities, or government agencies.

Editor's Note: While the above links are for US consumers, many countries have corresponding services available to their citizens. Be sure to seek them out.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Humpday Hint: Staying Safe on Social Media

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Why should you think about social media safety? Two main reasons are the potential for identity theft and the large number of existing social media scams.

Probably the most important advice on how to stay safe on social media is to set your profiles to “Private” and restrict contacts to people you know personally. Don’t accept random friend requests.

Be especially careful of people you meet through social media sites who offer you something you want or need, such as romance or a cure for your incurable disease or easy money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Avoid clicking links unless you know the person sending the link and the reason they are sending it to you. Otherwise you may end up downloading malware onto your computer.

It’s best not to respond to “limited time offers.” That’s a common sales technique to get you to spend money you might not have spent if you had more time to consider the offer

Don’t overshare personal information. You don’t have to fill out all the blanks on your social media profile. Nobody needs to know your home address or phone number. Also, don’t give out account information. Ever!

Editor's Note: You only need to fill in those fields that are required in your social profile (they are usually marked with a red asterisk, like this: *)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Budgets, Money and (Maybe) Peace of Mind

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Although everyone ought to work from a budget, how their budget is made is up to each individual. Some people keep a paper budget, others use a spreadsh
eet or app. Below are six different types of budgets, who they work best for, how they work, and a resource to start from.

Envelope Budget
This works best for people who need to control their spending, people who are very visual, or people who deal mainly in cash.

What you do is create sturdy envelopes labeled with spending categories (e.g., rent, utilities, groceries, medicine, transportation, eating out, entertainment). Put the amount you will spend for the coming month into the envelope at the beginning of the month. When the envelope is empty, you have to stop spending in that category.

This budget type also works with other budget types. If you know you tend to overspend in certain areas (such as fast food or movie rentals), you may only need an envelope for particular categories.

This budget type also works virtually. Check out the app Goodbudget which is available on the web or for Android or iPhone.

For simple record keeping based on receipts, try Wally for iPhone or Wally+ for Android:

50/30/20 Budget
This budget method may be the best for you if you are just beginning to use a budget.

It’s simple. You divide your monthly income into three pieces: half (50%) should go to meet your needs. That means rent, utilities, groceries, medicine, and transportation. About a third (30%) will be for “wants” which includes eating out and entertainment, but also things like your cell phone and cable plans and new clothes. The remainder (20%) should be used to pay off debts and add to your savings. Think of this smallest portion as how you’re going to eventually get ahead financially.

For more information about this budget type, and information about its flexibility, please see this article:

Need help figuring out how much for each category? Look half way down this page:

Bottom-Up Budget
This is the budget type most useful for people with large fixed expenses, and anyone trying to understand their spending pattern better.

When you have large medical or child care expenses, or a mortgage, you can’t really cut back on that area of spending. Your budget should begin by acknowledging the actual costs of your daily expenses in these categories. The remaining categories are where you can economize, and that amount can go toward savings.

Personal Capital offers a free mobile app that may help with bottom-up budgeting.

Top-Down Budget
The opposite of bottom-up budgeting, this budget style works best for people with a strong savings ethic and specific saving goal, who are able to look at the future as a “big picture.”

This type of budgeting is like the 50/30/20 budget, but you set your own categories and percentages, based on your financial goals and future plans. It takes personal discipline to make this budget plan work.

Zero-Sum Budget
This budgeting style requires frequent oversight. It’s best for very detail-oriented people.

The idea is to “pay yourself first,” by setting money aside for your saving goals or to pay down your debt. After that, you allocate the remainder of your monthly income to your expenses, until nothing remains. Some people say this is like “giving every dollar a job.”

Consider using a mobile app like You Need A Budget to achieve your goals using this style of budgeting.

Reverse Budget
This budget is not for everyone; it works best for people who already have a financial safety cushion, who are experienced at using a budget, and who have specific savings goals.

Reverse budgeting is similar to zero-sum budgeting because you pay yourself first toward your saving goals. After that, you do away with categorical spending and just pay for everything else as it comes along, knowing that the amount needed for each category will change month to month.

An app like Qapital can help with this advanced type of budgeting.

What happens when you don’t keep a budget?
A study by Bankrate found that about 20% of Americans says they budget “in their heads,” which often means “not at all.” This might partly explain why the majority of Americans can’t dip into savings to cover a small ($1000) unexpected expense, let alone a catastrophic financial need.

Image Credit: Pixabay