xoNecole Freelance Associate Editor. When Mika isn't writing, she enjoys bottomless brunching, taking long strolls down Sephora aisles, and checking out some of the hottest spots in the Big Apple. Keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter @astoldbymika. And check out her blog here.
For as long as I can remember, I've always had a love-hate relationship with drinking water. I've always had to make the conscious effort to drink water – it wasn't something I was ever programmed to do, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. Growing up, not many adults around me pushed the "drinking water" agenda. I don't want to dive into the learned unhealthy eating (and drinking) habits that plagues the black community but I kind of picked up this lack of water drinking from home and have always been on the mission to change it.
However, years later, I am finding myself in a bit of a conundrum as I address my water drinking habits: should I buy whatever water is on sale or should I buy the "superior" water because I look forward to drinking it? In my broke college days, the obvious answer was get whatever is on sale. Now that I have a little bit less of a strong hold on my money, the question is, should I spend more on water that I prefer (and promises to benefit me more)?
Through some pre-grocery shopping research, I found this now eye-opening chart of the pH levels of various waters on the market:
I wasn't 100% sure what these pH levels meant, but it dawned on me that those "expensive" waters that I've always favored all had pH levels of 7 or higher, which is considered alkaline. That fact that all the waters that I prefered were alkaline intrigued me to dig a little deeper into this whole alkaline water thing.
By definition, alkaline means "having the properties of an alkali, or containing alkali; having a pH greater than 7." pH level pertains to how acidic or alkaline a substance is. When water is alkaline, although it can naturally occur in nature, for most bottled water, the end result is replicated through a chemical process called electrolysis.
Here are the pH levels of my 3 favorite bottled water brands:
- Core - 7
- Fiji - 7.5
- Essentia - 9.5
There are a few claimed health benefits of alkaline water but there is little to no scientific research to show they are actually real. Some of the alleged benefits of alkaline water include:
- Superior and quicker hydration compared to regular water
- Immune system boosting properties (neutralizing the body's acidity due to poor diet, stress and toxins)
- Slowing down the process of aging with antioxidants (alkaline water is rich in antioxidants)
- Improved skin health
I decided the only way for me to really know if these claims were true was to drink alkaline water for two weeks and see for myself.
Through my research, I found that Essentia was the most alkaline water on the market. For this experiment, I drank primarily Essentia water, so it may be possible that's a major factor in my results. In my local convenience store, one 33 ounce bottle of Essentia water would typically cost me $3. In the past, I've also bought 6 bottles from Target for about $10.99. As I mentioned, I preferred the taste of high pH level water like Essentia, so I was open to spending the extra cash.
By day 3, I was drinking two-three 33.8oz bottles of Essentia water a day. Here's what I experienced during the two weeks that I drank alkaline water:
I did not lose weight.
Let's just get that out the way. I didn't magically get snatched or shed water weight drinking bottles of alkaline water everyday. It would probably take much more time and some cleaning up of my diet in order to experience these kind of results from drinking alkaline water.
However, I did feel and look less bloated.
To some, this may be just as good as actually losing weight. After week one, I did feel like I looked slimmer. Even during my period, when I usually feel as big as a house, my stomach wasn't bulging. I was very happy about that.
My skin did not magically clear up.
Many people think that drinking alkaline water (and a ton of water period) is the magical answer to clear skin but it's not. At least from my experience, my skin still was having minor breakouts and congestion on the right side of my face as it usually tends to. My skin was less problematic during my period but drinking alkaline water did not save me from hormonal breakouts. It wasn't as bad as it had been in the past but I've also been putting more effort into my skincare as of late with the major changes in weather.
Also, drinking a ton of alkaline water did not magically hydrate my skin. Though my skin this time of year has the tendency to be much worse than it is now, I still had to load up on moisturizer to keep my skin hydrated in freezing NYC weather. However, my lips, which usually show the first signs of dehydration, were very hydrated this time of the year. This was a shocker to me and might be because of the alkaline water.
Surprising to me, my menstrual cramps were significantly reduced.
This wasn't something that I was expecting. Usually when my period is coming, I can tell a few days to a week before because I usually have cramps and backaches. It's been that way for as long as I can remember, and for the first time, I couldn't clock my cycle. The Essentia water is loaded with electrolytes, which have been known to ease period cramps. Alkaline water is made through electrolysis or adding electrolytes to water, so I'm confident that drinking so much alkaline water around my period helped ease my pains.
My energy levels have increased without feeling the need for caffeine.
Usually in order to get through the madness of the day, I have to have coffee, tea, or even a Red Bull first thing in the morning and throughout the day to survive. Once I started getting in the habit of drinking alkaline water, I didn't feel the "need" for caffeine and drastically decreased my intake without struggling to be productive.
My urge for sugary drinks decreased.
This probably was my favorite result for this experiment. Over the summer time, I became a chronic soda and juice drinker (thanks to the plethora of brunches and happy hours). It's been hard to curb my craving for sugary drinks but upping my water intake has helped tremendously. In fact, by week two, I found myself thinking about reaching for water before sugary drinks. I was only planning on doing this for two weeks but considering it usually takes 21 days or more to break a bad habit, I'm going to continue drinking alkaline water until drinking water is second nature and not a forced act.
My final thoughts on drinking alkaline water:
Though I didn't experience all the benefits that people attribute to drinking alkaline water, I'm very happy with the things it did do. My lips haven't been chronically dry as they usually are when temperatures go below 40 in New York. It was also nice finding that it "cured" my menstrual cramps without me having to result to medication. Alkaline water will definitely be heavy in my diet around my period for this reason. Lastly, I haven't reached for my morning coffee as much, which may have been the most surprising result yet.
If you can afford to drink alkaline water regularly and enjoy it, go for it. Buying it bottled of course is the easiest way to drink it but you can also add baking soda to regular water to alkalize it or purchase alkaline drops to alkalize water at home, I would recommend having bottled alkaline water strictly for on the go so you won't be emptying your pockets on bottle water.
Although regular water is considered best for most people, due to my personal taste preferences, drinking alkaline water is ideal for me. It has significantly helped me increase my water intake because I genuinely prefer the taste. I only intended on doing this for a couple of weeks for this experiment, but I'm so happy with my results, I'm making drinking alkaline water an official lifestyle change.
Disclosure: In order to conduct this experiment to the best of my ability, I reached out to Essentia Water to provide a two-week supply of alkaline water. The experiment was initiated by myself and these are my honest results.
Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)
Featured image by Shutterstock
Originally published on January 2, 2019
Protective styling is a life-saver and a game-changer for natural girls. It's the perfect low maintenance way to let your hair grow and breathe while looking absolutely flawless. One major downfall of protective styling is that it can sometimes be costly. From box braids to getting sew-in weaves, protective styling is an investment. And much like any other investment, you need to protect it and not let your hard-earned money go to waste. Depending on the style, protective styles can last you anywhere from 1-3 months without damaging your hair in the long run.
If you're looking to put your hair in a protective style, what you need to keep in mind is that while protective styles are low-maintenance, you still need to maintain them in order to make them last and get the most bang out of your buck.
To help you maximize your protective styles, here are 7 tips for you to keep in mind:
1. Go with a Trusted/Recommended Stylist
Technique matters when it comes to long-lasting protective styles. Going to a stylist that can install protective styles without damaging your hair or compromising the style in itself is key. Specifically, when it comes to braids and twists, you need to ensure that the styles are done neatly so they can last. If you need help finding a stylist, try heading to StyleSeat, where you can see their work or, ask for a recommendation from a friend.
2. Wear a Scarf at Nighttime or Sleep on a Silk or Satin Pillowcase
This may be a no-brainer for some, but covering your hair at night is a major key if you want your protective style to last. This will cut down on frizz and keep your style in tact.
3. Manipulate Braids or Twists with Oiled Hands
From high buns to half up-half down dos, we all know how fun having braids and twists can be. Before you manipulate, them rub a lightweight oil between your palms to cut down on friction. Absolute game-changer.
4. Limit Washing between Styles
Washing your protective style too much will not only cause frizz, but it will also potentially loosen the style due to all the manipulation from washing. Instead, use products like no-rinse shampoos to gently cleanse your scalp between styling.
Products To Try:
5. Moisturize Using the Spray Bottle Method
Low-manipulation is the name of the game when it comes to making protective styles last. Instead of moisturizing your hair with moisturizers that you need to massage through your hair, opt for using a spray bottle concoction instead. You can put water and an oil of your choice in a spray bottle to moisturize your hair with little to no manipulation.
6. Re-do the Perimeter if Needed
This specifically pertains to braids and twists. Usually the perimeter is the first of your protective style to look a bit old. If this is the case, try just re-doing those parts instead of re-doing the whole style.
7. Weave-Wearers, Get your Hairdo Tightened to Get More Bang for your Buck
If your weave starts to look loose, go back to your stylist to get it tightened. Typically, they also do a scalp treatment to ensure you're getting the most protection out of your protective style. It will come with a fee but not nearly as much as paying to get the whole style redone again.
Featured image by Shutterstock
Originally published on January 15, 2019
Whether you believe in New Year's resolutions or not, there is no better time than the start of a new year to really reset your mindset and go full throttle with your ambitious goals.
Whether your major goal for the new year is launching that business idea that you've been sitting on or trying to get a better hold of work-life balance, there's a world of knowledge out there for you to learn from and listening to a podcast is a great way to take it all in. Whether it's during your morning commute or while you're getting your living space in order, listening to a podcast designed to feed your entrepreneurial spirit and answer all of your questions as an aspiring girl boss is a great way to spend your "spare time."
From faith-based motivation to informational interviews, here are 10 podcasts that every aspiring woman looking to boss up should be listening to in 2019:
Featured image by Getty Images.
12 Must-Listen Podcasts For Women Who Want To Glow Up – Read More
Our Top 5 Business Podcasts For Millennial Women of Color - Read More
14 Podcasts You Should Listen to With Your Girlfriends - Read More
There are so many things to love about being a woman, but I think we all can agree period cramps are not one.
Once a month, mother nature pays us a visit to remind us who's boss while silently beating our uteruses into submission. You've probably heard stories of women whose cramps are so painful that they it inhibit their everyday lives during that time of the month. Some women have to miss out on work and life's precious moments for the simple fact that their period keeps them bed-bound. Every woman doesn't experience period cramps the same but we can agree period cramps can be a bit aggravating.
One thing that may slip our minds about our period, is that the cramps we feel a due to a muscle (in our uterus) contracting in order to shed and keep the blood flowing. Like other muscle cramps, there are some great ways that you can beat your period cramps without turning to painkillers every few hours. Of course, period cramping is a spectrum, ranging from intermediate pain to severe. Those who fall at the latter end of the spectrum may indeed need to seek a professional, however, starting with some at-home remedies never hurt a soul.
Here are 6 for you to try:
This is the age-old and most common answer to period cramps and that's because it works. The heat from the pad does wonders for soothing the pain associated with your period. If you've been sleeping on this you need to get with the program. Of course, this isn't a viable option for on the go.
This is another one of the not-so-secret age-old remedies that work especially when you're home. Not only will a warm bath be what the doctor ordered for your cramps, but it also gives you an excuse for some much needed self-care.
CBD Muscle Cream
You may have been hearing about the hype surrounding the wonderful healing powers of CBD, but guess what? It's not hype and what you've heard is true. Many people use creams or balms with CBD for muscle soreness (specifically post-workout) but it is also great for period cramps. CBD can be applied topically to soothe cramps but it can be also used in other forms throughout your cycle (i.e. sublingually, through CBD infused snacks, Vaped). In addition to being the ultimate cure for period cramps, CBD is also a great way to deal with other PMS symptoms that some women may experience during that time of the month, such as anxiety and depression.
This tasty fruit juice is more than the perfect mixer for your favorite cocktail. Pineapple juice contains an enzyme, brolemine, that is a natural muscle relaxer. Many people run to pineapple juice to induce their period because it helps the uterine lining shed but it also calms cramps.
If sex is your favorite form of exercise (or your only), you're in luck. A little (or a lot) of penetration has been proven to lessen period cramps so you may need to pencil in a D appointment or two with your partner during that time of the month. When you have sex, your body releases endorphins such as oxytocin and dopamine that act as natural pain relievers. If period sex isn't your cup of tea, you may want to reconsider.
Same concept as sex--when you exercise, your body produces those natural mood lifting endorphins that also make coping with period pain 10 times easier. Even if you aren't usually in the gym, hitting the treadmill or taking a light jog outside is a holsitic way to minimize the cramps you experience.
Period cramps might seem like a pain - literally and figuratively - but they're not impossible to beat. What are some of your favorite ways to alleviate your period cramps?
Featured image by Getty Images
More and more, our social media timelines are being filled with carefully curated content. From your high school friend who "randomly" became an IG model to the college buddy who started their own business, everyone is using social media to get ahead. Guess what? So should you.
Whether you have a passion or hobby that you're turning into a business, or have knowledge about something specific that people can gain from, now is the time to get familiar with social media and all of the advantages it can have for business. In 2019, everyone is a personal brand. We can no longer deny that personal branding is a determining factor between those who are average and those who reach success beyond measure.
Social media is a tool that anyone can leverage to shape their personal brand and inevitably take their business to another level. The day I decided that writing and blogging was a passion of mine that I wanted to turn into an income, it hit me that I had to change up the way that I approached social media. For as long as I could remember, I've had a love hate relationship with social media (specifically Instagram). Only since the past year or so have I taken social media seriously and used it for my benefit as it pertains to my writing career. Even with a small following, I've been able to create business opportunities for myself and use my "influence" as an expert to build a personal brand.
On a run to Barnes & Noble after getting a recommendation, I picked up the bookInfluencer: Building Your Personal Brand In The Age of Social Media by Brittany Hennessy.
Brittany Hennessy is the Senior Director of Influencer Strategy and Talent Partnerships at Hearst Magazines Digital Media, which means she knows a thing or two about building an audience and being able to grow and monetize your influence. She's the behind the scenes expert that knows everything there is to know about leveraging social media and influence to build a lucrative personal brand or business. The book starts with the preface where she discloses about a instance where she cut a $32,000 check for four social media posts from a dog (yes, a dog)--from that moment I was hooked. From start to finish, Influencer is jam-packed with gems to help influencers at any level and business owners that are looking to get ahead with the help of social media.
Author Brittany Hennessy
Though Brittany's book mainly focuses on those looking to monetize their influence, it's also a great tool for those looking to start or build a business using social media. Brittany sat down with xoNecole to really break down how aspiring influencers and entrepreneurs can leverage social media to bring their respective brands to the next level in 2019.
Here are some of the gems she left us with:
1. Network & Get to Know the Key Players in your Field
Just because you're building a business or career with limited face to face interactions doesn't mean networking isn't a huge part of building your personal brand. Knowing who's who in your field will be able to get your product (or yourself) in front of the right people. From my own personal experience, developing a personal brand online has helped me connect with PR companies that I have been able to build relationships with as a professional writer. Whether I need products for an article or expert quotes, having a Rolodex of contacts has been a game-changer.
According to Brittany, here's what you need to be doing during the first quarter of the year:
"Figure out what kind of brands you want to work with. Who are the key people that you will need to talk to [in order] to work with those brands and how are you going to get to those people. You want to be featured in Cosmo in the the travel section? Great. Who is the travel editor? Look her up on LinkedIn. Do you have a mutual friend? Did she go to your college? You [have] to start doing the legwork now so you can get to a point where you can introduce yourself. You have a story to tell her and a reason why she should cover you [or your business]. That [will] take your career to the next level."
2. Stop Worrying About What Everyone Else is Doing
When you see people gaining success on social media, it's easy to fall into a rut of comparison. You may even feel the need to do what other people are doing in hopes of getting ahead. According to Brittany, this is the last thing that you want to do. When you're developing your own personal brand online, don't use what other people are doing as a blueprint – that's not your brand. Do what feels right for your brand or as a Brittany shared with us:
"[Ask yourself] 'What's your story?' It's never good to just do what everybody else is doing because they got that angle covered and they're going to do it better than you. So you have to figure out what is your angle."
3. People No Longer Buy Products, They Buy into People
Think of some of your favorite influencers out there who have started their own business or have collabed with a brand to create a product. Chances are, regardless if the product is something that fulfills a need that you have, you'll support it because of the influencer attached to it. Just think of Fenty Beauty. Even with Rihanna not being significantly influential in the beauty industry prior to building her own brand, she did have influence as a celebrity and was able to leverage that. Fenty Beauty instantly became a household name that often sells out. You can buy any makeup but you choose to buy Fenty Beauty because you support Rihanna and what Rihanna stands for (as a personal brand).
People also are hooked on the behind the scenes stuff. How many times have you seen popular brands on social media showing you the process behind developing a new product? Each time, it makes you more excited because you feel like a personal connection because the brand allows you to be a part of the process. According to Brittany, this is a part of your story that will separate you from other brands out there.
"All of these newer brands that are popping up, people are looking at the founders and they know the founders' story. We're in an age of nosy, everybody likes knowing your business. So if you're making a product, we want to know the story behind the product. For example, if you makes clothes, people want to see you in the garment district looking for fabrics. If you make food, they want to see you at the farmer's market."
"People want to know the story behind the things that they're buying. You've got to be able to tell that story because that will really be the difference."
4. You Don’t Need a Ton of Money to Build a Personal Brand or Create Amazing Content
When people are first starting out as aspiring influencers and business owners, they feel the need to dish out tons of money on equipment to create content. From a professional camera to booking locations for photoshoots, according to Brittany, these are unnecessary expenses that you can easily forego, especially in the beginning.
"I think the first thing people need to realize is that you don't have to create all of your content. You don't have to shoot in these exotic locations. You know people want to be influenced but that doesn't necessarily mean it's by your photos. People are also influenced by captions. Depending on what your subject matter is, the photo may not even be that important. You can also curate with other people's content. If you look at the biggest people on Instagram, some don't create any of their content and have tons of followers. Look at the success of Huffington Post –for years they didn't write any of their content. They're curators."
5. Start with Small Goals
It's easy to look at your favorite brands and influencers posting exceptional content day in and out and think you need to post 5 times a day to get to their level. Pump your brakes. It's best to start out slow and find your groove instead of becoming overly ambitious.
"It's just like going to the gym. You didn't go to the gym all [last year] and you tell yourself I'm going to go everyday. Good luck doing that. You're going to go [the] first few days, go too hard and then you're going to be out of commission the rest of the week. It's the same thing with posting online. Get started by posting two really good posts a week [then increase from there]. You want to start off small and just get into a routine."
6. Stay Consistent and Develop Good Habits When No One is Looking
We've all heard the phrase, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." This can sometimes be true when building a brand but in all honesty honing your skills is the only true way to get ahead. Brands aren't going to pay Mediocre Mary to create content for them and people aren't gong to buy from Slacking Sally. You need to be consistent and put in the work.
"You want to develop your good habits when no one is looking because the minute you have eyes on you, if you make a mistake your audience will call you out on it."
7. Remember: Social Media Isn't Reality
With every one and every brand posting these perfect feeds, it's easy to get caught up in comparison. Brittany keeps it really real with us, sharing why comparing your life to anything you see online is the LAST thing you should do:
"You might think you know what somebody else is doing. [Your favorite influencer] got all these great clothes but she hasn't paid student loans in six months. Like you don't know what people's stories really are. Everybody is struggling. Celebrities are getting their homes foreclosed and losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Social media is really just rose-colored glasses. In general, a lot of people are only sharing the really good stuff that happened to them. So you can't compare yourself because you don't know what else is happening when this picture is not being taken. You can only be in a competition with yourself."
On your journey to building your personal brand and business in 2019, remember these major keys from the expert herself, Brittany Hennessy. You should also check out her bestselling book Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand In The Age Of Social Media to get all the knowledge and actionable steps you need to slay your business goals in 2019.
Featured image courtesy of Brittany Hennessy
Ever since I could remember, I've been a sweaty person. Especially as a preteen during puberty (as most of us were).
After deodorant causing breast cancer became a big thing in the news, I remember my grandmother buying me natural deodorant to replace my Teen Spirit. I hated every second of it. When I used it on days that I attended school, I was super self-conscious because I knew it wasn't doing quite the job that my preferred deodorant did. I was used to my fruity-scented deodorant and I felt like the natural deodorant left me with wetness under my arms by the end of the day. Since that time in middle school, I stuck to my Dove and Secret, which have been my favorite deodorants over the years.
I've contemplated trying natural deodorant again as an adult but I kind of have PTSD from my childhood experience. I'd try it one day and be back to my holy grails the next. There was something major that I didn't understand about deodorant as a child that I now understand as an adult. Deodorant and antiperspirant are two totally different things. While deodorant is meant to mask the smell of odor under the arms (hence the name), antiperspirant is meant to control the wetness or how much you sweat under the arms. To me, this discovery was eye-opening and pushed me to try one of the natural deodorants that I had laying around.
One of the deodorants that I tried and gave up on was The Crystal Mineral deodorant stick. Not only was trying this pulling me out of my comfort zone, I decided to start the experiment around the time of a vacation. If worse came to worst, I could buy a new deodorant while travelling, but luckily for me that would not be the case. The Crystal Mineral deodorant stick is made of one ingredient and one ingredient only: mineral salt.
According to the label, one stick can last up to one year, can be used by men and women, and prevents body odor for up to 24 hours. Though it isn't an antiperspirant, I was still willing to give it a second chance. Here's how it went.
I thought about totally giving up on my natural deodorant experiment...but I stuck through with it. To be completely honest, I made a huge mistake on day 1 and that was not reading the instructions. It explicitly says on the label that you must moisten the stone/deodorant in order to apply it. Oops! That explains why it felt like I was applying a dry stone to my underarms.
I was so used to smell-good deodorant that I had to cocktail my regular deodorant and my Crystal Mineral Deodorant to get through the day. Sometimes, taking baby steps is necessary to get to the finish line. I missed the smell of my usual Secret clinical strength deodorant. It may be all in my head but getting a whiff of my deodorant is super gratifying and makes me feel extra fresh. Not having my deodorant scent linger was a little off-putting while using the mineral deodorant, so I decided to go half and half just one last time.
Finally, I was able to go full on with the natural deodorant; I just had to suck it up. I must say I did not sweat nearly as much as I thought I would have. Being in the NYC cold and then Canada may have played a part, but usually heavy sweaters do contribute to my perspiration and odor.
I started missing the smell of my Secret deodorant and just had to apply a little before heading out the door. After years of smell-good deodorant being a part of my body care routine, it's quite hard to break away.
Day 5 & Day 6
These two days were a breeze. Honestly, making the switch is mind over matter more than anything. After I embedded that in my head, it was much easier to stop myself from applying even a tad bit of my usual go-to deodorant.
My Final Thoughts
The one major downfall for me with trying out this natural deodorant was the fact that you have to wet the stone before you apply. For starters, I hate the feeling of any wetness under my arms and it was another step that I had to remember when getting ready in the morning. Yes, it only added a few more seconds to my routine but it makes putting on deodorant a bit more of a conscious effort.
Natural deodorant might not be for everyone but it's definitely worth trying out. With the exception of those who perspire excessively, natural deodorant may be good for those who just need to feel fresh throughout the day. If you're like me and choose deodorant based on scent, making the switch over to natural deodorant may be tough in the beginning, but with its overall health benefits, it might be worth the move. For me, it's still going to take some time to get used to the naturalness of a natural deodorant but I find myself reaching for it more and more.
Featured image by Getty Images