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The Vanilla Plant

Vanilla Plant Illustration

The vanilla flavor is well known all over the world, but only some of us are aware of its source and origin. There is much more about this flavor that has been a part of many different desserts for centuries.

Vanilla ice cream, and other desserts that we love eating, attribute their flavor to the presence of an extract derived from vanilla beans. These beans are sun-dried pods obtained from orchids of the genus Vanilla. It’s fragrance and amazingly soft and sweet flavor make it a popular ingredient in sweet drinks and confectioneries. Obtaining these beans is a labor-intensive process.

The vanilla plant is an herbaceous climbing vine that requires a supporting tree or pole for optimal growth. It has trumpet-shaped flowers which are naturally pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. Vanilla pods turn yellow as they grow to be about 5 to 8 inches long and are ready to bloom. These are harvested, placed in boiling water, sweated, and sun-dried for a few weeks until they turn dark brown and wrinkled. The white crystalline essence known as vanillin is extracted from these quality beans. This essence is referred to as the vanilla flavor.

The most common form of vanilla is vanilla extract which is prepared by soaking chopped vanilla beans in ethyl alcohol and water for about 48 hours. The mixture is stored for several months and then filtered. Several varieties of vanilla are available in the market; Madagascar vanilla is the most widely used accounting for 75% of vanilla production. Tahiti and Mexico supply the majority of the rest.

Vanilla pods contain several tiny black seeds which are used to flavor many desserts and chocolates. Vanillin is the essence of vanilla bean, but artificial vanillin is also produced on a large scale from wood pulp by-products. The vanilla flavoring is often a blend of pure and imitation vanilla. The appearance of tiny black specks in a vanilla flavored dish is an indication that real vanilla beans were used.

The nutritional value of vanilla makes it beneficial for your skin, hair, and health. Vanilla extract is known as the storehouse of essential oils, vitamins, and minerals as well as sugars.

Next week, I’ll post about the health and skin benefits of vanilla.

Aveda Dry Remedy Oil

Aveda Dry Remedy Oil Bottle

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard of the Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil. If not, it’s time to get hip. Here are a few ways to use this holy grail product.

  • Detangle: Apply a few drops into your hands and smooth through hair to help eliminate tangles.
  • De-frizz: Apply 1 to 2 drops to hands and gently smooth over crown to tame frizz and flyaways.
  • Moisturize: Apply along with your favorite styling product for a moisture boost, then continue to blow dry or style as usual. If you have thicker hair, apply a little more once hair has dried.
  • Finish: Apply a few drops, then follow with a flat iron to get a straight, sleek looking finish.
  • Shine: Apply a few drops to hands and smooth over hair to add a little extra shine.

Uses for Coconut Oil

There are many uses you can get out of using coconut oil, here are just a few:

  • Hair Loss

    Coconut oil has been used since ancient times in India for grooming hair. Various remedies were prepared using herbs and coconut oil to prevent hair loss. One such remedy can be prepared in modern times by boiling sage leaves in coconut oil. This mixture can be applied to the scalp for the improvement of healthy hair, and its use will also help prevent hair loss.

  • Hair Damage

    Using coconut oil on hair helps to reduce protein loss in both damaged and undamaged hair. Coconut oil, rich in lauric acid, has a high affinity for hair proteins and, due to its low molecular weight, easily penetrates inside the hair shaft. It can be used for pre—or post-wash hair grooming.

  • Hair Conditioning

    Coconut oil is a better conditioner for hair than any synthetic one available on the market. The use of warm coconut oil helps keep hair shimmering and soft. Apply some warm oil at night and wash your hair the next morning. This can be repeated every few days for healthy, strong, and well-conditioned hair.

  • Lip Balm

    Chapped lips don’t stand a chance against ultra-hydrating coconut oil. Scoop some into a spare contact lens holder and throw it in your purse so you can dab it on with your finger throughout the day.

  • Cuticle Softener

    Get double duty from your new DIY coconut oil lip balm case and say goodbye to ragged cuticles. Using your finger, swipe a small amount of the oil onto each of your cuticles and allow it to sink in. The coconut oil will strengthen your nails and hydrate the delicate cuticle skin, making your hands look more youthful.

Advice to New Cosmetology Students

Around the Institute at Cinta Aveda

Finishing the last phase of my education here at the Cinta Aveda Institute, I realize that I’ve learned a lot. I have some advice that I think prospective students would find helpful.

As with any type of schooling, organization is key! For a cosmetology student, this could not be truer. Although you will be doing a lot of hands-on activity, you will still need to acquire or use organizational skills. You need them to keep your school kit orderly, your schedule on track. You need to be aware of deadlines and events and keep track of when you have to study for quizzes or finals.

Another piece of advice I would offer new students is to minimize absences. Making up the hours later on becomes a big hassle.

Also practice what you learn from school at home or on your downtime. Practice on doll heads or on family and friends. You will master the techniques you’re learning much faster if you practice at home as well as school.

Personally, I stayed motivated and excited about school and the beauty industry by keeping up on trends. Whether it be your favorite blogs, or watching YouTube tutorials, stay in tune with all that is going on in our industry. Seeing emerging trends will stimulate your creativity and make you want to experiment with your friends or clients. This will make you a better stylist.

Enjoy your schooling and your career.

Facial Tips and Tricks

Woman getting facial.

An Aveda facial consists of an aroma sensory journey, a deep cleansing, skin analysis, having an educator look over your analysis, a refinement with a hand and arm rub, a facial massage, a mask with either a foot rub or a neck and shoulder rub, and ending with eye cream, serum, and moisturizer. You can also add on treatments such as a revitalizing eye treatment, a plant peel, enbrightenment, outer peace, or green science which targets certain skin problems.

Here are a few tips to really making your facial extra special and leaving your clients feeling pampered and relaxed.

  • Put essential oils — lavender, vanilla, rose, tangerine or bergamot—in your water bowl
  • Mix up different masks. For example, use deep herbal clay mask with exfoliant, enbrightenment toner, or green or sea science
  • Mix in tea with a mask
  • Use energizing composition oil during the hand and arm massage
  • Use a composition oil, mixed with the essential oil of their choice, during the neck massage
  • Place a hot towel on their back after the treatment. (This is such a crowd pleaser, it really ends the facial with warmth and soothing while also wiping excess oil off the skin.)

These are some techniques I have personally used in my treatments. The response is always great.

Making the treatment your own is a great way to please a client, and it is more likely that they will come back to you because you added your unique touch. And having some clients who follow you is really important when you’re looking for a job.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a succulent plant that has many uses. Historically, it was commonly used because of its healing properties. It can be used on sunburn, insect bites, rashes, dry skin, and as a base for many beauty products.

It is a very light fluid that is mostly water. The light viscosity of the gel makes it useful in things like masks, moisturizers, and makeup for people who are sensitive, have acne prone skin, or are concerned with using heavy makeup.

One must be cautious when buying aloe vera to be sure that there is no alcohol or irritants added. Generally, the aloe bought in a store will be modified because aloe naturally contains an irritant called aloin. This is the yellow fluid that lies directly under the surface of the plant. People who are allergic to latex, garlic, tulips, and onions will also commonly be allergic to aloe when the aloin is still present. People who are allergic should be very careful to only use aloe with the aloin removed. This means that if aloe vera makes your skin red, itchy, tight, or dry feeling, it may not be a good idea to continue use.

Aloe is also often taken internally but doctors are pushing people to be cautious of overuse. Many different ailments claim aloe as a solution, however, aloin can wreak havoc internally. Aloe was once used as a laxative but, in 2004, all of those products were pulled off the shelf because it was not FDA approved.

Magical Volume in a Bottle

Woman with Fancy Hairstyle

Who doesn’t love big, beautiful hair? Aveda’s Pure Abundance line specializes in creating volume. One of my favorite products from the line is Pure Abundance Hair Potion. Hair potion works great on finer textured hair, instantly creating volume.

Hair potion gives the hair a matte finish, thickening each individual strand of hair. This is the ideal product for voluminous updos or achieving that sexy, bed head look. Aveda uses natural plant-derived ingredients such as acacia gum and kaolin clay to give hair abundantly full volume.

Hair potion is an extremely versatile styling product. For a light amount of volume, spray into hands and work into dry or damp hair. For a stronger effect, spray (using the bottle as a pump) directly onto the root area to create instant volume.

Hair Potion can also be used as a prep for updos after shampooing and blow-drying to give the hair a gritty texture that makes it easier to hold, without weighing down the hair.

Is Beauty School For You?

Classroom at Cinta Aveda Institute

Should you pursue a career as a licensed cosmetologist or barber? Being a stylist isn’t for everyone. Some people may enjoy working in an office more, while others may dread it. But for me, a career as a cosmetologist seems promising. If you enjoy having the freedom to set your own schedule, work as much or as little as you like, and control your income, you may consider looking into a career in cosmetology.

Attending Cinta Aveda Institute was, for me, the first step toward a career that has a wide range of opportunities. Cosmetology always offers something new and interesting. Whether you’re working side-by-side with other stylists, helping celebrities look their best for the camera, or doing the hair and makeup for your clients (while they share new, interesting details about their lives), being a stylist is mostly about people. It’s about working with people you like, helping people you enjoy, and making a great living in an exciting profession.

Aspen Bark is a Natural Preservative

Aspen Tree Trunks

Most products need a preservative and many have them. Everything has a shelf life. Not having a preservative makes the product go bad quickly which isn’t beneficial to the retailer or the customer.

The most common preservatives found in skin care lines are parabens. There are a lot of different kinds of parabens, but they are problematic. Research in 2015 links even small amounts of parabens to breast cancer.

Aspen bark extract offers a natural alternative to traditional preservative systems, and it also has some benefits for the skin.

Aspen bark— Populus tremuloides —comes from the North American Aspen. The bark is rich in salicylates, which, for the tree, may function as a defensive mechanism against invading parasites. These salicylates are isolated from aspen bark and used in some cosmetic and personal care products as a natural alternative to more traditional preservatives. It is added to emulsions during the cool-down phase to avoid any destabilization issues. As a secondary benefit, aspen bark extract, a water-soluble powder, can also impart a smooth feel to skin.

Some of its benefits are:

  • It’s a naturally derived botanical extract
  • It’s a water-soluble powder
  • It possesses a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity
  • It has a broad pH range: 3 to 9
  • It’s compatible with a wide range of cosmetic ingredients.

Products for Damaged and Frizzy Hair

Aveda Damage Remedy

Do you color your hair often? Does your hair feel damaged and weak? Aveda has a solution for you with its Damage Remedy Reconstructive Treatment.

Once you start coloring your hair, it is difficult to stop especially with all the new trends and beautiful colors you can achieve. The Damage Remedy mask provides a solution for damage created through chemical services.

Packed with Quinoa protein, the Damage Remedy will strengthen damaged or chemically treated hair. By replenishing your hairs natural oils with jojoba, you will regain a healthy shine and feel to your hair.

I absolutely love this product because it is one of the only options on the market which delivers a protein-packed treatment that is derived from natural proteins rather than chemical-based proteins, eliminating the risk of adding too much protein to your locks. (If dryness is your issue, Aveda has a solution with its Dry Remedy Moisturizing Mask.)

How to use:

Use in place of conditioner once a week and leave in your hair for at least five minutes if possible. Pair with Damage Remedy Shampoo for optimal results.

Fight your Frizz

Aveda Smooth Infusion

Do you find yourself always fighting frizz when styling your hair? Is your hair in need of frizz control? Aveda has the answer for you in its Smooth Infusion haircare line. The newest member to the Smooth Infusion line is called the Nourishing Creme, which nourishes hair and helps fight frizz in intense humidity, making it perfect for us ladies in San Francisco.

Smooth Infusion Nourishing Creme aids in fighting frizz by utilizing botanicals, including certified organic cupuaçu and shea butters.

I find that this product works well on most hair textures, but proves most successful with curly or coarse hair textures. In addition to taming frizz, it replenishes dry hair giving it a softer smoother touch.

How to use:

Apply when your hair is about two-thirds dry after using any of Aveda’s style prep products. I like to pair it with the Smooth Infusion Style Prep.

The amount of product used should be determined by density and texture of your hair. I recommend starting small and adding more product as needed. Proceed by either air or blow-drying hair and enjoy your frizz-free style.