How I Finally Achieved A Clear Complexion

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Finally, after years of trial and error, I am enjoying a naturally clearer complexion

Ok, so skin problems (especially adult acne or any acne for that matter) certainly don’t classify as a glamorous topic. But, while this blog certainly reflects my love of all things glamorous, it is – more importantly and over-archingly – about sharing helpful hints and life hacks with those that want to look their best, be their best and, ultimately, live their best lives.

I am not a hoarder (as evidenced by my fascination with Marie Kondo and her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”) and it’s thus very much against my grain to hoard information that might make someone else’s life a little bit easier. Last but not least, I’m far from perfect. And, in a world where we often use social media to portray our lives through literal and figurative filters, it’s liberating for me to point out one of my many imperfections, right here in broad cyber-light.

That being said and whether we like it or not, we live in a world where our appearance matters. Not only does the outside world often judge us by our looks, but it would seem that some of us can be our very own worst critics. Whilst we struggle to live up to the unattainable ideals portrayed by Hollywood & the Instagram It girls, most of us nevertheless strive to do so.

So, hopefully, with all that in mind, my story about how I radically transformed the appearance of my imperfect skin (by taking some very simple and side-effect-free steps) can inspire some life-changing magic.

It all started in my very early teens when my face (almost overnight, I swear) went from pimple-free perfection to resembling pepperoni pizza. Not the ‘hot’ kind either. My parents, the wonderful and well-balanced human beings that they are, never wanted to put too much emphasis on appearance and, in hindsight, my first eventual visit to the dermatologist’s office probably came a few years later than it should have. But, be that as it may, the problem was eventually addressed.

PHARMACEUTICAL TRIALS & ERRORS

medicine_pills.jpgAt first, I was put onto a course of RoAccutane (a very strong, commonly prescribed acne medication that comes with a long and scary list of serious side-effects. It can cause birth defects in pregnant women, it’s very heavy on the liver and it can cause dry lips, skin and joint pain). Although it helped clear up my skin at the time, once I had completed the course, it only took a few months for the problem to rear its ugly head again.

The second option I tried, along this very long and frustrating journey, was a contraceptive pill called Diane. Again, this was and is a commonly used method of treating acne, often prescribed by many skin specialists who believe the problem to be hormonal. Although it was extremely effective at clearing up my skin without the drying effects of RoAccutane, Diane’s own side-effects of weight gain and mood swings barely made it worth it.

The third and final (medicated) attempt I made at solving my skin problem (which continued to affect me well into my twenties), was taking a maintenance or low dose of RoAccutane (at one tablet, twice a week). The dermatologist told me “all the models were doing this”. Of course, I was sold:) In practice, this ended up working well for me insofar as it cleared up my skin, without drying out my lips or causing any of the other side effects.

THE SIMPLE SOLUTION

In my early thirties, as my interest in holistic and, specifically, nutritional health started growing, my desire to go off the RoAccutane completely and seek a more natural solution to clearer skin, steered me in a new direction.

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After much of my own research (and I’ll save you the details of said research, as it’s A Long Story), I started cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar from my diet. I am pretty much an all-or-nothing girl, so I stuck to this new regime pretty rigidly. My diet consisted mainly of a variety of vegetables (especially the green kind), protein and healthy fats like avocado, seeds and coconut oil. This was no mean feat but, after two to three weeks, my skin started taking what can only be described as a dramatic turn for the better. It was almost unbelievable. After struggling with periodic skin problems since the age of 13, it was only now in my early thirties that I finally experienced what it was like to have naturally blemish-free skin, without the assistance of pharmaceuticals. Having witnessed this radical transformation first hand, I was in hindsight disappointed that none of the specialists I had consulted, throughout the years, had made this rather simple recommendation to me. I suppose there’s little money in telling your patients to ‘stay away from milk-based products’.

So, if you are battling breakouts and seeking a solution free of harmful side-effects, do yourself the favour of changing your diet and seeing what happens. (Of course, everyone is different and some skin conditions are related to serious hormonal disorders or other medical conditions that might not respond to dietary changes alone.)

Icecream.jpgFor me, the biggest change has definitely come with eliminating all sources of dairy. Sugar and gluten are known to cause inflammatory reactions in the body as well, so for maximum results I would recommend limiting those two common culprits too. The only bad news is that, at least insofar as my experience goes, if I have even just one cheesy cheat on Monday, I’ll wake up on Wednesday with pepperoni pizza problems, which will take about a week or more to clear. But, as they say, knowledge is power, which means I can live with the odd breakout more easily.

In the end, life is all about trade-offs and, of course, for the die-hard cheese- and chocolate lovers out there, cutting out dairy (let alone gluten and sugar),  might be too much of an ask. For me, it has been absolutely worth it. Because, simply put, no amount of Chanel or Armani foundation can give you the kind of confidence that a clear complexion can.

HELPFUL HINTS

  • there are many dairy-free foods, treats and snacks (including vegan ice cream) available on the market today, so don’t feel despondent
  • use ghee (a dairy-free, clarified form of butter) or coconut oil, instead of regular butter, for cooking purposes
  • a good skin care routine, including an anti-bacterial cleanser (I use Image’s Clear Cell salicylic acid cleanser) is, of course, essential
  • always wash your face immediately after exercising
  • omega 3 fish oil supplements are widely known for their skin-enhancing benefits (I take The Real Thing Mega Omega Supreme)
  • when the craving for chocolate strikes, go for the very dark kind that contains no milk (it’s so good for you anyway and you’ll get used to it quickly). I love Lindt’s 85% Cocoa slabs
  • drink plenty of water (this is so obvious, but I had to include it)
  • get enough sleep (again, another super obvious one)
  • limit alcohol
  • keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day by eating low-GI foods
  • limit stress
  • avoid oily makeup products and keep your makeup brushes clean
  • high-frequency or blue light treatments (offered at some beauty salons) work very well at clearing up breakouts quickly
  • avoid over-stimulating facials
  • Cetaphil makes a great oil-free sunblock with SPF50 that doesn’t cause breakouts (this popular skin care brand is available at most pharmacies worldwide)

CELEBRITIES WHO SUFFER FROM ADULT ACNE

This part of the post is just to make those of you suffering with problem skin feel a bit better and a little less alone. To name but a few, Victoria Beckham, RiRi and Cameron Diaz have been battling breakouts for years. As they alway say in those cheesy (no pun intended:) tabloid magazines: “see? they’re just like us”!

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Makeup Maestro Reneé De Wit Reveals Her Best-Kept Beauty Secrets

reneedesambento1Meet Reneé De Wit, makeup artist extraordinaire. I first came into contact with this insanely talented creature when she painted my face for my 21st birthday party. Since then, I have come to rely on Reneé for many more of those momentous occasions when faces had to be painted, perfectly.

It’s no wonder then that she holds a very special place in my Little Black Book but also in my heart. Believe me, I wouldn’t have let just anyone do my makeup on my wedding day. This self-proclaimed Bridezilla certainly held no prisoners (I still don’t know how she put up with me, one makeup trial after the next, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some mild tranquillisers were involved).

As gorgeous as she is talented (a double threat for sure), Renee’s portfolio is both vast and impressive.  Her work has been featured in several leading international magazines (including Vogue and Marie Claire UK) and she has beautified the cover girls of over 30 print publications (including Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated). Last but not least, her magic hands have transformed the faces of serious celebrities like Petra Nemcova, Steffi Graff, Julie Walters and Bonang Matheba, to name a few.

Here, Reneé divulges (super generously, I might add), some of the beauty industry’s best-kept secrets, her personal must-have makeup products and some really nifty tricks of the trade.

What led you to becoming a professional makeup artist?

As a child i was the youngest of four daughters and and I grew up doing my sisters’ makeup for parties and matric dances. My natural love of makeup artistry eventually developed into a career and, by the age of 21, I was spending half of my time in London and the other half in Cape Town, working on fashion editorials and catalogues.

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Makeup by Renee De Wit

Tell us about your big break?

I was 19 years old and working as a fashion assistant to the late Sue Ferrier, then fashion director of Elle magazine in South Africa. Sue encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me the opportunity to do makeup on an Elle fashion editorial.

Who has been your makeup mentor?

I was mentored by Algria Ferreira, widely regarded as the doyenne of the South African makeup world. I first met Algria when, at age 16, I was booked as a model on a knitwear shoot. That day, Algria’s makeup made me feel more beautiful than I had ever felt! I realised then the effect that makeup can have on a woman’s confidence and my love affair with makeup grew even stronger. I am so grateful for my years in the modelling world, where I got to learn the tricks of the trade first-hand, from the best in the business.

What is your signature skill as a makeup artist?

I do a killer smokey eye. My favourite eyeshadow palette right now is Bobbi Brown’s Bobbi’s Cools Eye Shadow Palette (limited edition).

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Makeup by Renee De Wit (note the smokey eye perfection)

What is your favourite mascara?

Sensai 38 Degrees and MAC Extended Play Lash.

What is the best trick for keeping makeup on all day?

Before applying makeup, I always prime my skin with a good moisturiser (by Bioderma or Skinceuticals) containing sunblock. This prevents makeup being absorbed by dehydrated skin.

I finish with a light dusting of pressed or loose powder on my t-zone and a fixing spray like Bobbi Brown’s Face Mist.

What is the most universally flattering eye pencil for green/blue eyes?

Teddy Eye Kohl liner by MAC.

What is the most universally flattering eye pencil for brown eyes?

Either a dark grey colour like Industry Powerpoint Eye Pencil by MAC or a deep navy like Blooz Eye Kohl liner, also by MAC.

What are your favourite makeup brands of all time?

Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury, NARS and Giorgio Armani Beauty.

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A selection of best-selling products by Charlotte Tilbury. The stuff that makeup dreams are made of.

What is the quickest way to make a tired face look fresh?

Invest in a good under-eye colour corrector and concealer (try Bobbi Brown or Sensai).

What are the best lip colours for fair, medium and olive skin tones?

For fair skin tones | The iconic Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat Pillow Talk lip pencil and Penelope Pink lipstick are two of my favourites;

For medium skin tones | Viva Vlam 5 by MAC; and

For olive skin tones | Raisin Berry by Bobbi Brown.

With which red lipstick can a woman conquer the world?

Chanel Rouge Hydrabase Crème Lipstick 60 New York Red is the ultimate red!

What is the most common beauty faux pas women make?

Wearing too much makeup. It looks unnatural and ageing. I also detest the “Instagram brow” that is currently so popular.

Which are the three makeup products no girl should ever be without?

Sensai’s under-eye concealer brush, Armani’s Maestro foundation and Bobbi Brown’s Shimmerbrick bronzing compact series.

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Armani’s Maestro Foundation 

Who is your makeup icon?

Pat McGrath, she is a visionary and pushes creative boundaries like it’s nobody’s business. I just adore her newly launched makeup range.

Which famous face would you most love to paint?

Madonna!

Who is your beauty icon?

Monica Bellucci. She is a timeless beauty with perfectly proportioned features.

What is the best makeup advice you can give to women over 30?

Always curl your eyelashes and apply at least two coats of black mascara. It has an immediate lifting effect.

What is the secret beauty weapon in your makeup kit?

Lansinoh Breasfeeding Salve nipple cream – it’s amazing for chapped lips.

When you’re not waving your magic makeup brushes, which other creative outlets do you enjoy?

Baking (especially with my girls) and interior decoration.

A few years ago, you launched a mobile makeup agency called Gorgeous2Go, which has become a huge hit with the Cape Town crowd (myself included). What prompted you to start this business?

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Renee, in her element

There was a demand in the Capetonian market for a high-end makeup, hair and beauty concierge service. We thus offer clients an array of services, including makeup applications (for social events), hair styling, personalised makeup lessons, spray tans and manicures, all of which can be performed in the comfort of your own home.

The artists we represent have been hand-selected and all of their portfolios are available on our website. Our aim is to be a one-stop mobile shop for all things beauty-related. You can visit our website for more information.

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How I Ended Up In Bed With Colin Farrell

With this year’s re-launch of my blog, I wanted to create a category called “My World” – a little collection of posts that are very personal and unique to me and can offer those that might be interested, some insight into, well, my world. This category is where you’ll find “dear diary” scribbles, some peanut-gallery opinions I might get the urge to share from time to time and, generally, just a few glimpses into my life “behind the scenes”.

As it happens, I am very excited to introduce the “My World” category to you by means of a true story about a one-time Hollywood crush of mine, Colin Farrell, and – as the title of this post suggests – how I ended up in bed with the man.

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The 2006 film was set in Los Angeles, but filmed almost entirely in South Africa

At the time that this all played out, I was in my very early twenties and full of beans, to put it mildly. It was circa 2004 and I had read in a local gossip magazine that Colin Farrell was in town filming a Depression-era romantic drama with Salma Hayek called Ask The Dust. It was apparently being shot at Pinelands High School. Now, just to give you some very relevant background here: at the time, in my little world, Colin Farrell was The One. The rugged good looks, the Irish accent, the bad-boy attitude and general cockiness…it was all just too much for my and my starry-eyed, impressionable self.

So, given the amount of metaphorical beans in my system and the severity of my (for lack of a better word) “crush”, there was really no doubt in my mind that I had to make a plan to meet him. Of course, the ultimate goal was to get him to fall in love with me and propose, but the necessary “pre-goal” was to at least let him know of my existence.

So (…and even I can’t believe this as I am re-telling the story), I decided to grab some random wannabe model photograph of me I had lying around (at least it was taken by a very talented photographer, so it wasn’t a complete disaster), get in my car and drive to Pinelands High School. I scribbled my name and number on the back of the photograph with the intent of handing it to whomever was in charge of casting. Just to be clear: I had no agency, I was certainly no actress and I had never done any work on a movie set before. I was literally just taking a Big Fat Chance.

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Colin Farrell portrayed struggling writer Arturo Bandini

I will never forget, as I arrived at the school, stepping onto the sports field next to the parking lot and bumping – slap bang – right into Mr Farrell. Of course, I pretended to barely notice him and continued straight into the building where I ended up handing the aforesaid random photograph to someone who worked there. He told me they had already cast all the extras they needed, but they would let me know if anything came up.

Six weeks later, I got a call from Moonlighting Films, the local production company shooting the film. They wanted to know whether my hair was still brunette (I was literally sitting in a hairdresser’s chair at the time, about to get highlights) and they also enquired as to how tall I was. After answering their questions, in a state of complete disbelief, they asked whether I wanted to be the the stand-in for Idina Menzel, one of the supporting actresses who played the part of Vera Rivkin in the movie.

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Idina Menzel, in the supporting role of Vera Rivkin

A few days later, I was on set with Colin, Idina and the whole darn Hollywood gang. After the second or third day, Colin and I began greeting each other in the mornings (he knew my name, so I guess my “pre-goal” had been accomplished). Most of the time, I acted extremely disinterested in him (probably not the best way to catch the attention of a Hollywood mega-star), but I was young and it was probably just too much excitement for me to handle. My job basically involved ‘standing in’ for Idina, so that lighting, angles and positions could be pre-determined prior to her arriving for the actual takes.  Seeing as many of her scenes involved Colin, let’s just say, I was often in close proximity to the man. In fact, and, yes this was the highlight, I will never forget having been instructed to lie on a bed that Idina and Colin would share in one scene, and Colin plonked himself down on the bed right next to me. As if that wasn’t enough for my little beating heart to bear, one of the production assistants came around and offered him chocolates, which he, in a most gentlemanly fashion, offered to share with me.

After production had wrapped and Colin failed to show up to the wrap party (to my great disappointment), the fairytale was instantly over. Fortunately, my school-girl crush has in the interim died rather a dramatic death. So – while I can now certainly live with Colin’s departure from my life – I will always relish the memory of lying in bed, right next to my biggest Hollywood crush, being offered chocolates by him (and, of course, politely declining).

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Seeing as I don’t have any actual photos of The Incident, herewith the film’s lead characters, Arturo and Camilla, sharing an intimate moment in bed. My and Colin’s incident wasn’t quite as up close and personal as this, but it was unstaged, spontaneous and certainly good enough for a starry-eyed Capetonian girl.
FUN FACTS
  • Idina Menzel, the actress whom I stood in for, went on to become a massive Broadway star, best known for her role in the critically acclaimed musical Wicked.
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    Idina Menzel in Broadway hit musical ‘Wicked’

    I remember Zooey Deschanel (then an unknown aspiring actress, now the star of hit sitcom New Girl) visiting her father, Oscar-nominated Caleb Deschanel (the rather strict and somewhat grumpy Director Of Photography) on set.

  • More than a decade later, during Marco’s and my recent honeymoon in the USA, I ended up sitting next to world-famous movie producer Don Granger at a private Malibu dinner party. Don, who is known for producing films such as ‘Jack Reacher’ and ‘Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation’ and is a true gentleman, ended up telling me all about this film he’d produced once upon a time in South Africa. Turns out, it was none other than ‘Ask The Dust’.

The Life-Changing Effects of Transcendental Meditation

My Introduction to Transcendental Meditation 

Meditation (in its general form) is something I only recently cared to start learning about. I am almost embarrassed to say that the whole thing used to sound like a whole lot of hippie hogwash to me; something only fruitarian, barefoot individuals who don’t believe in shampoo and don’t have day jobs, were into. Boy, was I wrong. Especially considering what I know now: that numerous captains of industry  and the cream of Hollywood’s crop (including Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Cameron Diaz and Kate Husdon) are all devoted fans. And, while one can never say never, I’m pretty sure these individuals all have regular hair-washing regimes in place.

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Cameron Diaz, a big TM fan, has said “I learned TM and it was exactly what I needed, the easiest thing I have ever learned.”

Personally, my attitude changed when, what I believe to have been somewhat serendipitously, the idea of transcendental meditation came to me. It was much like the saying goes: “the teacher will appear when the student is ready”. It was a good friend of mine, who – during one of our lunches – started explaining it to me when I was yet again complaining about the stresses of running a start-up business. She mentioned that, since she had begun practising it a few years ago, it was as if “life still happened”, but she was in something like a protective bubble. I guess she described the practice as a type of “stress-filter” or “stress-response deactivator”. I was sold – at least insofar as giving it a try was concerned.

The purpose of this post is not to write a mini textbook on TM or try to push it onto anybody, in any way. Instead, I am humbly sharing what little experience I have with it, because I believe I have stumbled across something worthy of sharing. I believe in spreading good news and, most of all, I believe in doing whatever we can do to live our best (and most stress-free) lives.

About TM

TM is an ancient, evidence-based technique, the neurological benefits of which have been studied more than that of any other meditation technique. It was introduced to the West by  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who famously taught the technique to the Beatles. It has since been proven by a myriad of published studies to alleviate stress and anxiety, improve cardiac health, increase brain function, ease addiction and alleviate insomnia (amongst other things).

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TV queen Ellen DeGeneres “can’t say enough” about the benefits of TM

It is not a religion, philosophy or lifestyle. It is simply a very powerful relaxation method. It is also the easiest form of meditation out there, unlike all the others. Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can (I can barely watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy without checking my three email accounts, Instagram and Whatsapps simultaneously. And that includes those Grey’s episodes where the uncomfortably attractive McDreamy/McSteamy duo of deliciousness were still around.) Unlike “mindfulness” practises, TM requires no active concentration, control or focus.

In essence, it requires the use of a simple sound or “mantra” (chosen for you, based on various personal factors) by a qualified TM instructor, for twenty minutes twice a day. Its neurological effects are cumulative, meaning they get better and more tangible with time.

How I Knew TM Worked For Me

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My first experience of the benefits of TM occurred on an aeroplane whilst traveling from Cape Town to the Kalahari Desert

When I went to see Liz (my instructor, details hereunder), I was skeptical. There is a small ritual at the beginning of the first lesson which made me feel a tad uncomfortable, but Liz assured me this was simply a tradition of “giving thanks” to the founders of TM. She assured me this was the only esoteric or non-scientific bit and that the rest of the course was, quite simply, rather uneventful. So, I decided to let it go and see what all the fuss was about.

After the four-day course, the diligent student in me started practising the technique as instructed (twice a day). Liz told me not to expect immediate results and said that the benefits of TM would slowly start creeping into my life, “through the back door, not the front”. She said even if I didn’t believe it was going to work, it would (as long as I was doing it right, of course).

For the first two weeks, I didn’t feel any major changes and started to wonder whether I was wasting my time. However, what followed – about three weeks into the practice – was rather remarkable and made me sit up and take notice.

My childhood best friend, Lara (who has known me for no fewer than 28 years and had traveled with me on innumerable occasions) was with me when it happened. We were on a small private aeroplane en route to our family’s game farm in the Kalahari desert. Lara and I were making coffee up front when the pilots warned us of upcoming turbulence and asked us to take our seats. As the turbulence started to do its thing, I looked at Lara (almost inquisitively) and asked her whether she was nervous. Knowing what a super anxious passenger I usually am, she turned to me (very surprised) and said: “No, you know me, turbulence does nothing to me. How about you?” I shrugged and said “nah, if you’re fine, I’m fine”. We finished making coffee and casually went to take our seats. Where I would normally be clutching my husband’s hand so tightly the blood supply to his fingers would be jeopardised, I sat there relaxed, just chilling, just drinking my coffee. The outside turbulence was still happening, but – like the friend who introduced me to TM had told me – there was a definite protective bubble around me. It was rather surreal, but extremely welcome.

The outside turbulence was still happening, but…there was a definitive protective bubble around me.

After that, the benefits started becoming more and more apparent. My husband remarked how much calmer I seemed, especially during those rather volatile (;) times of the month. I started feeling more motivation and excitement at the prospect of going to work in the mornings. I remember sitting in the Kalahari one evening, on that same trip, experiencing a sense of joy and contentment that seemed deeper and more unfettered than usual.

Since starting the practice, I haven’t looked back and it is something that has become just as important to me as exercise, good nutrition and getting enough sleep. I see it as a daily dose of detoxing my mind from all the excess stress that living a fully-charged, hyper-dynamic life can bring. I can say, without a doubt, that – on the days where I have skipped one or both of my TM sessions – I always feel it.

For more (and probably more exciting stories) about TM, click here: click on “Menu” then “TM Stories”. Scroll down for “experiences with TM”. Here’s a quick video by the gorgeous and talented Cameron Diaz, on her experience with the practice, which she calls “the easiest thing I’ve ever done”.

Find Out More

  • Visit the international TM website & find a local instructor | www.tm.org
To stay updated on the latest The Global Critic posts, follow me on Instagram @clarewiesewentzel or enter your email address under “Get Posts Via Email” on the left-hand side menu bar

 

Who I’m Following On Instagram

I often get asked by friends which accounts I’m following on Instagram and, to be honest, I find this social media platform a super authentic, accessible & useful way to find cool style tips, shopping inspiration & enjoy exquisite imagery. There isn’t always the time to buy or page through a fashion magazine and, sometimes, at the end of a long work day, when my concentration span resembles that of a (lazy) gold fish, there’s no online place I’d rather be.

So, here is my round-up of the best blogger accounts worth following on Instagram.

(1) Sincerely Jules (@sincerelyjules) | 4.3m followers

This hip & happening LA girl knows just how to combine high-end luxury brands like Cartier and Louis Vuitton with all-American high-street labels. Nobody can pull off sneakers & a floaty evening dress better than this social media sensation.

(2) Rocky Barnes (@rocky_barnes) | 887k followers

Rocky has got to be one of the most annoyingly gorgeous girls on Instagram. Her boho-chic festival-inspired “living la vida loca” outfits seem to continuously strike the perfect balance between trends and inimitable originality.

(3) Lolariostyle (@lolariostyle) | 544k followers

For fabulous ripped jeans teamed with iconic designer handbags & chunky knits, Sasha Simon has one classy Instagram account full of great, easy-to-imitate fashion ideas captured in a beautifully edited way.

(4) Blank Itinerary (@blankitinerary) | 600k followers

The style of Paola Alberdi, sultry Spanish fashionista, is sometimes glamorous, sometimes casual and never too contrived or self-conscious. Here are some of my favourite Blank Itinerary looks.

(5) Negin Mirsalehi (negin_mirsalehi) | 3.7m followers

As is evident from the number of her followers, it’s fair to say Negin is a social media icon. Influencers in her league get paid top dollar to advertise some of the world’s largest brands and – judging by her account – it’s easy to see why.

That’s it, guys, those are my top five Insta accounts! Hope you find them just as inspirational. Happy gramming! Follow me on Instagram @clarewiesewentzel.

Hopefully Life-Changing Advice For Itchy Scratchy Dog Owners

FullSizeRenderSo, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything – in fact, it’s been a whole year. I’ve decided it’s high time to post something again and, in the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to share some advice with those of you that love your pets as much as I do; advice that could hopefully change the quality of your dog’s life and, in so doing, make your life a little easier too.

Meet Kimbey: my ten-year old Maltese Boomer (50% Maltese, 25% West Highland Terrier and 25% Pure Heaven). (I could go on here about her insanely cute and intelligent personality, all the special little things she does and how crazily in love I am with her, but – if you are reading this – you probably feel exactly the same about your dog, so you ‘get it’).

Kimbey, like most dogs with white or light skin, in her later years developed a chronic kind of skin problem. The technical term for it is ‘atopic dermatitis’ which basically refers to an allergic skin disease. Earlier in this year, the problem became worse and worse and, despite top veterinarian care, it got to a point where I wondered whether she was enjoying life at all anymore. It was heartbreaking and frustrating to the highest degrees: she was scratching non-stop, making herself bleed in certain hot spots, the hair around her eyes and around her bum was falling out leaving her with bald little patches, her skin was excessively oily giving off a bad smell and, the worst part was, she had lost all of her trademark lust for life. She was clearly incredibly frustrated and sad.

The vets, sharing my frustration, told me that this was a very difficult problem to treat seeing as Kimbey is such an allergic dog (we had special lab tests done in the USA to determine all of her allergies, which include grass, many meats, house dust mites, feathers, washing powder etc.) The situation felt almost helpless. The only relief that seemed viable at the time was in the form of cortisone, which, although it brings temporary alleviation of symptoms, suppresses the dog’s immune system and – in the end – can cause all sorts of horrific effects including cancer and a shortening of life span.

So, given the dire situation and a resolute feeling that there must be a solution, I went on a mad research tangent, googled myself silly, tried every single piece of advice out there and even got on the phone to a specialist US veterinarian homeopath (which cost me a pretty penny, but – of course – I was desperate).

I am extremely proud to say that, in the end, with the help of two amazing vets, I managed to swing Kimbey’s ‘impossible’ skin condition around by 180 degrees. Her skin has never looked better, her fur is shiny, soft and smells beautiful, the hair around her eyes and her bum have grown back beautifully, the scratching (which used to wake me up as many as 5 times a night) is virtually gone and she has ALL of her bouncy, mischievous and joyful personality back!

BEFORE THE INTERVENTION

So, here is what worked for little Kimbey (please check with your veterinarian before following this advice, as I am certainly not a qualified vet, I am simply sharing what worked for me, in the hopes that you may reap the same benefits):

1. Breaking The Initial Cycle If the scratching is at a point where the dog is making him/herself bleed and the situation is clearly out of control, you first need to break the cycle. The more the dog scratches, the more histamine is released and the more they feel the incessant urge to scratch. To break Kimbey’s cycle, we had no choice but to administer low levels of cortisone, injected at a dose recommended by our vet. Do not administer cortisone other than through your vet. Your vet might also recommend a tranquilliser of some sorts to get the dog to sleep through the night. I strongly recommend Dr Reena Cotton, Vet Point, Sea Point, Cape Town (http://findplace.co.za/Western-Cape/Cape-Town/Vetpoint-Dr-Reena-Cotton) or Dr Barry Hindmarch, CAMC, Kenilworth, Cape Town. A natural alternative for calming your dog down is Rescue Remedy, available at any pharmacy (but be sure to use the alcohol-free tablet form, not the drops),

2. Washing/Bathing This is a tricky one. Too much bathing can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause an increase in oil production which causes a bad smell. Too little bathing is also problematic as, when the skin gets too dirty, this increases the itchiness and of course also causes a bad smell. We found for Kimbey what worked was one to two times a week. Again, ask your vet about how often you should bathe your dog. Very important: use a calming, natural oatmeal shampoo (completely avoid anything with a fragrance in it) or ask your vet for a medicated anti-itch shampoo (Dr Reena Cotton, Vet Point, Sea Point, Cape Town). Make sure you dry your dog off completely after bathing, using either a hair dryer with cool air or a towel. If your dog has an ear infection too, make sure to wipe the ears out softly with a cotton pad so that they are completely dry. Be sure to get the ear infection under control as well: your vet should be able to recommend ear drops.

3. Avoidance of Allergens This is incredibly important, especially in the beginning phase when your dog’s system is still very weak and needs time to build up some strength again. It’s no use trying to control the allergic reaction if you are not avoiding the allergy-causing substances in the first place. If you can afford it and are willing to spend the money, ask your vet about blood allergy testing (Cape Animal Medical Health Centre, Kenilworth, Cape Town, Dr Barry Hindmarch). You will have to be vigilant, especially at first. For instance, if your dog is allergic to grass, you will have to wipe their paws off with luke warm water when they come inside. Don’t spray perfumes or household sprays near your dog.

4. Pet Clothing This might seem silly and spoiled, but I found this incredibly helpful. Kimbey seems to scratch a lot less when she is wearing one of her little pet t-shirts or tops (make sure it’s a good quality one, though, made of cotton and not synthetic material). I reckon it protects the skin from environmental allergens, but it also puts a barrier between the skin and the dog’s nails and teeth, when it tries to scratch or bite itself. Just make sure, in summer, to use light-weight clothing (you don’t want the skin to heat up). Wash their clothes with a non-chemical laundry detergent.

5. Diet Everyone has and it entitled to their own opinion, but I, personally, do not believe in feeding your dog pellets or dry food. Quite simply, it’s not real food and if you take the time to read up on exactly what’s in it, you will probably be shocked and very quickly discover for yourself why so many people stay far away from it. Of course, feeding your dog real food is costly and time-consuming. For an allergic dog, however, this makes a big difference. The skin is one of the organs your dog’s body uses to try to get rid of toxins. If you clog up that system by feeding your dog undesirable food, of course the already-burdened skin is going to suffer even more. If you are able to obtain blood allergy test results to determine which foods to stay away from, obviously use that as a guide.

What made a tremendous amount of difference to Kimbey’s health was changing her diet to one that consists of vegetables and protein. Personally, I strongly believe in the raw food diet for dogs, as advocated by leading holistic veterinarian Dr Richard Pitcairn. His best-selling book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, is truly fantastic and offers holistic health advice for a whole range of symptoms and illnesses (not only skin-related issues).

I feed Kimbey steamed vegetables (mostly broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, butternut and gem squash) with either raw protein (minced lamb or other meat) or cooked fish (cooked in a tiny amount of coconut oil), twice a day. Some people are concerned about parasites in raw meat, but I sprinkle a bit of diatomaceous earth (a natural anti-parasite product, available at most pet stores) on her food and Kimbey has never had a parasite problem. Dogs’ stomachs are a lot stronger than that of humans. If you don’t have time to cook and prepare food for your dog, try Vondi’s Pet Store in Sea Point, Cape Town. They sell ready-made healthy meal options.

Note: some ‘human’ foods are highly toxic to dogs (e.g. xylitol, chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocado, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, dairy produts etc) so read up on this and avoid giving these to your dog under any circumstances.

5. Supplements We add a small amount of coconut oil to Kimbey’s food (it’s excellent for their general health and for any skin-related disorders) and we also add a special fish oil blend to each meal (specifically formulated to reduce the symptoms of skin diseases) available at Vet Point. In all the research that I came across, fish oil and coconut oil are the two supplements that kept being mentioned for dogs with itchy, scratchy skin. Bear in mind that it could take a few weeks for the effects of these supplements to start showing, but be patient, they will.

6. Anti-histamines Last but definitely not least, we have put Kimbey onto a daily dose of anti-histamines. It took 2-3 weeks to build up in her system and start showing proper results, but – when it did – she became a completely different dog. Check with your veterinarian which anti-histamines and what dosage, is recommended. We use a combination of Allergex and Phenergan, which really has worked wonders. Kimbey was on another antihistamine before and it certainly did not work half as well as this combination. Finding the right antihistamine or antihistamine combination can make all the difference. Again, I cannot stress this enough, do not self-medicate your dog. Speak to your vet (I recommend Dr Reena Cotton, Vet Point, Sea Point, Cape Town).

Since Kimbey’s skin has settled so nicely now, I am going to try wean her off the Allergex and get her started on Allex (a natural Patrick Holford product) since this is probably something she will have to take chronically to keep her skin in check. This is available from Dr Barry Hindmarch, CAMC (link above) or Wellness Warehouse.

7. Homeopathy This is an excellent treatment option as well, if none of the above works for you or if you feel you want to start here. Homeopathy seeks to address the underlying causes of any illness and, in so doing, help the body heal itself. I obtained the details of one of the leading veterinarian homeopaths in the world from Dr Richard Pitcairn himself. Her name is Dr Wendy Jensen and her email address is jensenhvp@gmail.com. She practises in the USA but is available for international Skype consultations.

8. Classical Music This seems to be very soothing and comforting to them, especially during the acute phase and if you have a particularly musical dog (Kimbey enjoys singing along to the piano, when I play).

9. Regular Exercise This is a no-brainer and of course helps to maintain the general health of your dog and assist the body in flushing out toxins. It also distracts them for their discomfort a bit.

AFTER
AFTER: HAPPY, HEALTHY KIMBEY

DISCLAIMER I re-iterate that I am not a qualified vet and my advice is given simply from research and practical experience i.e. what has worked for me and Kimbey. I strongly suggest that, in treating your pet, you seek the advice and supervision of your vet. If the first vet you try is not able to help, go for a second opinion or even a third.

Finally, please don’t get despondent and don’t give up hope. Seeing your furry loved ones  suffer from something out of their control, is absolutely heartbreaking. I know. However, when it comes to atopic dermatitis, there are solutions and there most certainly are ways of dealing with it or lessening their and your discomfort.

Feel free to email me at clarewiese82@gmail.com if you have any questions at all.

Ida Elsje on Designing Fine Jewellery & Her Favourite Cape Town Hangouts

Ida Elsje is arguably at the forefront of South African contemporary jewellery. Not only is her work regularly featured in South Africa’s top glossy magazines, but high-profile international publications such as Brazil Vogue and New York’s Superior Magazine have also filled their editorial pages with some of her handmade masterpieces. At the same time, her oversized earrings and elaborate head pieces have graced the catwalks of New York and London Fashion Weeks. Every piece of Ida Elsje Jewellery is created in her small studio on Cape Town’s bustling and centrally located Church Street (where her beloved dog Elvis keeps her company on a daily basis).

I spent five minutes talking to this jewellery genius about what inspires her, where she likes to hang out and her tips for aspiring jewelers:

What are your biggest vices? Records, Norwegian and Art Deco furniture and Fire King crockery.

Where does your design inspiration come from? Mostly natural shapes I see on my walks with my dogs, the shapes of flowers and tree tops, the curves of the mountains and pods. I love old and modern buildings and often find inspiration in the structure and detail thereof, such as tiling and railings.

What are your favourite eating/drinking/coffee spots in Cape Town? 

There are so many…

Advice for young aspirational jewelers? Grow your business organically, let the demand for your work determine the growth of your business. Listen to your customers’ dreams and create your own style.

Favourite way to spend a weekend? A weekend away with friends, long walks in nature, cooking together and sitting around long dinner tables and fires talking till the sun comes up.

Favourite city to travel to and why? Srinigar, Kashmir: where heaven meets earth. It is very peaceful and beautiful there, especially when you go into the mountains. I love the jewellery shops there – they are all covered in gold mirrors from wall to ceiling and have counters with chairs. You have to sit down and drink tea with kashmiri biscuits, before they start bringing out the trays of 22ct gold jewellery. I aslo love Berlin and Tel Aviv.

Ida’s work:

Ida is the head designer for my luxury jewelry brand Paka Paka.

Ida’s own jewellery collation (Ida Elsje Jewellery) is stocked at Olive Green Cat, Church Street, Cape Town, South Africa.

Credits:

Fashion Photography Stephan Glathe, Styling Michael Cooper, Model Bailey, Hair and Makeup Alba Frei.  Product Photography Tim Atkins.

The Singapore Report

I was recently invited, along with my Significant Other, to join my father on a business trip to Singapore. I had visited the city before and, let’s just say, it wouldn’t quite make my Top 20 Favourite Cities In The World list.  In three words, I would describe it as ‘sterile, boring and soul-less’. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but when you’re from scenic Cape Town and have been lucky enough to spend time in culture-rich cities like Rome, New York and Paris, the city of Singapore leaves a lot to be desired.

However, when we were offered the chance to travel in the spoilt-rotten comfort of a private jet and attend the world-famous Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, I decided to give this city another shot. Who wouldn’t;)?

The Hotel

The Singapore Shangri-La
The Singapore Shangri-La, Orchard Road

We were booked in at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel. I had previously stayed at the Shangri-La in Shanghai and, let’s just say, it was like comparing creme brulee to vanilla sponge cake. If the Singapore branch had been my first taste of the luxury Shangri-La group of hotels, it would have been my last. Let me summarise.

The pros: It’s close to Singapore’s designer-lined Orchard Road, and the fabulously decadent ION shopping mall. The in-house nail bar did a good job of my mani and pedi and they’re well-stocked with loads of OPI, Shellac and Gelish colours to choose from. The cons: the rooms and common areas are in need of a serious style injection and refurbishment, the breakfast buffet restaurant The Line felt more like an eat-all-you-can dormitory hall than a five-star foodie spot and the housekeeping service was unsatisfactory. The verdict: my last stay in Singapore was at the Mandarin Oriental in Marina Bay, a far superior hotel on all accounts.

Day 1 (Friday)

Raffles Hotel
The Raffles Hotel

For our first night out in Singapore, I decided to introduce Marco to the Raffles Hotel, a glamorous and old-world Singaporean institution. Dinner at the Long Bar Steakhouse took the meaning of ‘pricey’ to a whole new level, when a couple of glasses of bubbly and two steaks (one being Wagyu) left us about USD600 poorer! I guess that’s what you get for dining in one of the world’s most expensive cities, in one of that city’s most luxurious hotels.  The verdict: good steaks, good service, decent decor, but not quite worth the price tag.

Touristy and cheesy as it may be, I could not let us leave without at least one Singapore Sling at the world-famous Long Bar, frequently rated by travel guides as one of the best bars in the world.  Coming to Singapore without having a drink at the Long Bar is almost like visiting Cape Town without seeing Table Mountain. The verdict: fabulous drinks, great live music and a bustling atmosphere make this bar a must-visit.

Day 2 (Saturday)

The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Marina Bay
The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Marina Bay

We spent the day shopping at Takashimaya on Orchard Road where I picked up a few fabulous printed blouses from Diane Von Furstenburg‘s new collection. Verdict: this mall is a huge (almost too big and too busy) department store, which I would not recommend if you dislike mall-crazed crowds.

Diane Von Furstenburg
Diane Von Furstenburg

For pre-dinner drinks, we met up with some fabulous friends currently living in Singapore. They treated us to drinks at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, a well-known five-star hotel right on the beautiful and modern Marina Bay. This was followed by a feast of truly delicious tapas dishes at trendy Spanish restaurant Catalunya. Patatas bravas, truffle finger sandwiches, croquettes and suckling pig were just some of the mouth-watering treats we tucked into, whilst enjoying the spectacular views. The verdict: I would recommend both these spots for a fabulous dinner-and-drinks night on the town.

Day 3 (Sunday)

The Chanel Little Black Jacket
The Chanel Little Black Jacket

The majority of Day 3 was spent dragging my poor father and boyfriend along in my hunt for the iconic Chanel Little Black Jacket. We eventually found My New Love at the Chanel branch in Takashimaya mall. They both deserve a medal for patience.

That night, we eventually made it to the Singapore Grand Prix, the only Formula 1 race held at night-time. The heat, humidity and deafening noise of the cars whizzing by us at lightning speed were not quite my idea of the perfect night out. Of course, most people don’t go to these kinds of events to watch the actual sport. Unfortunately, we didn’t last long enough to make it to the mingling stage of the evening, as – by the fourteenth round of watching the same thing over and over again – we decided to head back to the hotel for a glass of bubbly and chicken fingers. (Apparently, the drool-worthy David Beckham was in the same suite as my father, who had been invited by some fancy bank. Had Golden Balls been in closer proximity to us, on the stands, I am sure my verdict would have been somewhat more positive.)

The Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix
The Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix

Pros? As we entered the arena, Tom Jones was up on stage singing Sex Bomb. That was pretty cool. Other performers at this year’s event included The Killers, Rihanna and Justin Bieber.  It was exciting to be there, amongst the rallying crowds, watching cars fly by faster than I’d ever seen before…for the first hour. Cons? The noise (I know I sound like a granny, but seriously it’s impossibly loud. I ended up buying very dorky (:) protective head phones), the food (really really bad takeaway stalls are all that’s available) and the monotony of watching the sport for someone who doesn’t know or really care all that much about the intricate technicalities.  The verdict: The event itself was a bit of an anti-climax, but nevertheless got me ticking off an item on the Bucket List.

My Favourite Wireless Headphones

beats-wireless-white
Beats Wireless Headphones in White

Truth be told, I was hesitant to run this post as I wouldn’t want anyone thinking this it’s been paid for. There is a LOT of marketing going on around Beats By Dr Dre Wireless Headphones. But know this: there are few things I dislike more than paid-for posts or bloggers who sell their souls to big advertisers. That ain’t me.

Last night, while mindlessly surfing the net on my laptop, my nifty other half quietly and inconspicuously got the wireless headphones I purchased a while ago, during a trip to London, synced up to his iTunes and…placed them on my head to play me a song. To put it mildly, I was instantly and magically transported from a mundane, internet-surfing, vanilla world into a land of crystal clear, energizing and soul-uplifting music – the kind that makes you want to get up and boogie all by yourself in the living room (you know, like those hot chicks always do in cheesy radio station ads).

To put it another way: whilst listening to whatever tune it was (I don’t even remember which particular one was playing when I was overcome by the wonder of Beats By Dr Dre), I actually found myself looking forward to next week’s gym sessions (a Very Rare Occurrence). I should probably add, this is kind of the reason why I bought these wireless babies in the first place: running/jogging/training is enough of a challenge, I don’t need annoying and tangly wires running up and down my arm, just so that I can tune out of cardio hell and into my favourite playlist of embarrassingly corny gym tunes. I want ease, I want comfort and, of course, I want crystal clear sound. Thank you, Dr Dre, you have provided.

Awesome Photo by Jean-Pierre Uys
My 30th Birthday Party. Awesome Photo by The Incredibly Talented Jean-Pierre Uys.

Pros Controls on the ear cup let you switch tracks and adjust volume without pulling out your music player. Headphones, though wirelessly enabled, can also be used with a wire (to connect to non-synced devices on aeroplanes, at the gym etc.) Headphones are rechargeable with a USB power cable and they don’t take batteries. They’re also pretty easy to sync up to your bluetooth devices.

Cons All the Dr Dre headphones are super expensive, but after trying them out, I can see why. They cost in the region of USD 279.00, depending on which country you’re in. (Tip: try buying them at any international airport to at least get them tax free.)

Stockists Visit beatsbydre.com and select your country for information on where to buy.

Best of NYC Fashion Week 2013

david-beckham-harper-beckham-anna-wintourThe week of 5-12 September 2013 saw the Spring 2014 collections of some of the world’s most influential designers unveil themselves to the world. Of course, most of us (including yours truly) would have been been willing to exchange a front tooth for a spot in the front row (or ‘FROW’, to those in the know) at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week. Personally, I would have called dibs on the seat next to David Beckham and little Harper (right there where dear old Anna W sat, at the VB show:)

Anyway, back to business, my thoughts on fashion, in a nutshell, are the following: clothes (as beautiful or sculptural or theatrical as they may be) are for wearing, not displaying in a glass case at a museum. Yes, that gets done too, I know. But – at the end of the day – fashion exists as a means for us to express ourselves, hide our flaws, accentuate our assets and feel fabulous.  And, in any event, as the brilliant Yves Saint Laurent once said, “fashions fade, style is eternal”.

So, with that in mind, I have taken the pieces I’d most want hanging in my wardrobe from this year’s September shows and created a little style gallery for you to view and, hopefully, draw inspiration from. Just click on any of the images below to flip through the pics in slideshow format.