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What is Maskne and How Do You Treat It?

Public health guidelines advising people to wear masks have proven effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19, but such recommendations have led to some unforeseen and unwanted side effects. For example, wearing masks that cover the lower portion of the face has led to an uptick in instances of acne.

U.S. Dermatology Partners advises that regular mask wearing can lead to skin health issues, including flare-ups in chronic skin conditions. It’s become such a widespread issue that the term “maskne” has now become a part of the lexicon. According to Dr. Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, maskne is a real thing. The most common kind is acne mechanica, which is the type of acne that occurs when something rubs up against the face. Oil, sweat and a lack of fresh air to the face can cause the formation of acne just about anywhere beneath protective masks. Health care workers may be especially susceptible, but just about anyone who wears a mask for an extended period of time may develop maskne.

Dr. Shari Lipner, an associate professor of clinical dermatology and an associate attending physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says anything that causes friction on the face can cause the skin to become irritated and inflamed. Couple that with trapped bacteria, sweat and oil, and acne can result. Dermatologists are seeing a rise in patients visiting their practices for acne issues and treatments. Mask-related skin issues have become such an issue that the COVID-19 task force of the American Academy of Dermatology has released advice on the subject, including ways to mitigate maskne formation.

• Wash masks frequently. Those who opt for fabric masks should look for ones that are made of 100 percent cotton or silk for the most breathability. Also, wash the mask as frequently as possible to avoid reapplying dirt, oil and sweat to the face.

• Follow single-use mask use. People who prefer disposable masks should use the mask and properly discard it after using it once.

• Reduce beauty product usage. Consider going without face makeup under the mask to reduce the potential of it contributing to the formation of oil and bacteria. Otherwise, look for products that are noncomedogenic or oil-free.

• Use gentle, fragrance-free products. Wash the face with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser each morning and night. Harsh products can further irritate the skin. In addition, apply a light, fragrance-free moisturizer to serve as a friction barrier between face and mask.

• Try OTC products. Over-the-counter solutions of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid may help treat acne. However, if acne does not improve within a week or two, visit a board-certified dermatologist.

Maskne is a condition marked by a flare-up of acne from prolonged mask use. There are ways to keep skin issues at bay with self-care and the advice of dermatologists.

Low-Maintenance Lawn Alternatives

A traditional lawn may not be right for every property nor desired by every homeowner. There is no denying that lawns take time and effort to establish and daily or weekly maintenance to thrive. Homeowners who find that a traditional lawn is not practical can explore some low-maintenance alternatives.

Wildflower meadow

Homeowners with wide swaths of property may discover meadows are cost- and time-efficient. Stores sell special wildflower meadow mixes of seeds or homeowners can use wildflower plug plants throughout areas where grasses are left to grow longer. This natural area can be a home to wildlife and an idyllic backdrop to a home. Most meadows only require a spring or summer and autumn cut to thrive and look good.

Ornamental grasses

Partition areas of the property for ornamental grasses to grow. The gardening resource Elemental Green says ornamental grasses tend to be drought-resistant and low-maintenance. They won’t need much fertilizer and are often resistant to pests as well. Ornamental grasses grow in tufts or sprays and will not require mowing. However, they are not ideal for areas that get foot traffic.

Moss

Moss can thrive in shady areas and ones where the soil tends to stay a bit damp. Moss is velvety soft and green, so it can mimic the look of a traditional lawn but won’t require mowing and other upkeep. Because it spreads quickly, moss can take over quite rapidly. You will need to protect areas where you do not want moss by creating barriers to stop spread.

Gravel

Stone and gravel areas can reduce maintenance in the landscape and require very little upkeep. When gravel is installed correctly, weeds may not grow readily. Gravel installation may include laying heavy-duty, semi-permeable landscape fabric, which is available in home improvement centers. Gravel is cheaper than pavers and can be just as beautiful.

Artificial turf

If the desired look is a lawn without all the upkeep, there are various artificial grass options on the market. Homeowners who opt for artificial turf can save money and space devoted to lawn mowers and other lawn tools.

Grass may be ideal for some, but there are alternatives for people who have troublesome landscapes or desire a low-maintenance product for their homes.

Fun Activities to Enjoy This Spring

With its increased sunshine and warmer temperatures, spring is a beloved time of year. For those who live in areas where the weather changes dramatically throughout the year, spring can be a respite from the snow and also a chance to enjoy the outdoors prior to the arrival of the muggy, hot days of summer. Families can create a bucket list of entertaining and perhaps educational spring activities. Those who want to try something new can explore these ideas.

• Check out a cherry blossom showcase. Cherry trees are popular and beautiful trees that flower in the spring. Their masses of pink and white blossoms are one of the first signals that winter has ended. Cherry tree varieties bloom over the course of several weeks, and climate will dictate how early or late these trees will showcase their spectacular flowers. Visit public gardens and other areas known for their dramatic cherry blossom displays.

• Watch a sunrise or sunset. Take advantage of longer days by enjoying nature’s light show. Wake up extra early and start the day with the sunrise. If you’re not a morning person, then wait until the last of the amber and red streaks light the sky and watch the sun drop below the horizon.

• Fly a kite. There is a reason why the adage “March goes in like a lion and comes out like a lamb” is so fitting. Early spring weather can be gusty and unpredictable. Take advantage of windy conditions by flying a kite by the coast or in an open field.

• Head to a farm. Spring is not only about the rebirth of trees and flowers, but also a prime time for various animals to give birth to their young. A visit to an area farm or petting zoo can be a great way to catch a glimpse of some of these adorable little as they enter and adapt to their new environments.

• Check out a small town. Take a road trip to an out-of-the-way hamlet. Spend the entire day there shopping, dining and supporting a small town community.

• Enjoy al fresco dining. While outdoor dining during the pandemic may have been done as a necessity, do not forget how it also can be a relaxing way to enjoy a meal. Find a restaurant with a particularly scenic backdrop and dine outdoors.

• Visit a thrift shop or flea market. Spring cleaning can serve as the catalyst for people to put items on sale. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Spring can be a great time to shop for antiques as well.

Spring is a perfect season to enjoy various activities.

8 Tips for Dyeing Easter Eggs

Coloring eggs is a beloved Easter tradition. Eggs long have been symbols of fertility and rebirth, making them fitting icons for spring. One story links eggs to Easter as well. According to some religious scholars, Mary Magdalene, the woman who was the first person to see Jesus Christ after His resurrection, was holding a plain egg in her hand while waiting for the emperor to share the good news. The emperor then told her that Jesus’ resurrection was as improbable as that egg suddenly blushing. The egg then turned red.

Dyeing eggs is an entertaining activity, but one that also may have some religious significance. Many families will color eggs this Easter, and these guidelines can make the process go smoothly.

• Wait until just before coloring to hard-boil eggs. Good Housekeeping recommends boiling eggs for 11 minutes for a hard boil. Do not chill the eggs afterward; warm eggs absorb color more effectively for more vivid results.

• Egg dye can stain furniture, clothing or tablecloths. Therefore, dress in clothing that you’re not worried about staining. Also, cover work surfaces with an old tablecloth and newspapers to soak up any spills.

• Make a drying rack to ensure that eggs will dry evenly. This can be a rimmed cookie sheet lined with layers of paper towels to absorb any excess dye that runs off the eggs. Or push pins into thick foam board and place the eggs on top to allow air to circulate.

• Consider using glass bowls or ceramic mugs to house the colored dye solutions. These vessels are more sturdy than plastic cups, and less likely to be overturned by eager young hands.

• Scissor-style tongs are ideal tools for retrieving eggs from the dye. Eggs tend to slide off of the spoons or wire rings provided in kits, leading to splashing and kids dunking their fingers in to grab eggs.

• Stir dyeing cups often to guarantee consistent color.

• Use electrical tape to make patterns on Easter eggs. Dip the eggs and let dry. Afterwards, remove the tape to reveal the designs.

• If food coloring-based dyes seem too messy, use watercolor paint sets and allow everyone to get creative.

While some people may want to use Easter eggs for recipes later on, it may be safer to boil up a fresh batch of eggs for that purpose, even if it seems wasteful. According to Emily Rubin, RD, LDN of the Thomas Jefferson University Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, “hard-boiled eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and discarded if left out for more than two hours at room temperature.” Chances are it may take two hours or more for children to find hard-boiled eggs hidden by the Easter bunny.

5 Hobbies to Keep Your Body and Mind Healthy and Happy

As the pandemic continues to restrict many of the places you are able or inclined to go, finding ways to stay active is important for keeping the body and mind healthy and happy. Here are some ideas for new hobbies to try:

Learn a language: Bonjour! ¡Hola! With an array of online language classes and tutorials available at your fingertips, learning a new language is more accessible than ever. Start now while you fantasize about a post-pandemic vacation overseas.

Play an instrument: Learning to play an instrument is not only a great distraction for the current moment, it can provide you with years of joy as your skill develops. Consider starting your musical journey on a Casiotone keyboard. By connecting the keyboard to the free Chordana Play app, you can easily learn to play your favorite songs from downloaded MIDI files. Once you’ve mastered the instrument, the portability of the keyboard will come in handy, whether you play solo or join a band.

Become a home chef: From sushi to soufflé to dumplings, there are likely a range of dishes you have never attempted making at home. Tackle your culinary bucket list, one-by-one.

Go hiking: There is no better hobby for staying fit and communing with nature than hiking, which works every muscle of the body, boosts cardiovascular health and even improves mood and mental well-being. Track your hike using a wearable tech tool geared for outdoor enthusiasts, such as a watch from the Casio’s Pro Trek line. Quad Sensor technology packs all the measurements you need into one compact hiking watch, including a compass, altitude/barometer and temperature measurements, along with an accelerometer that tracks step count. Calorie calculations use both step count and altitude information to take upgrades and downgrades into consideration, and data is recorded by the Pro Trek connected app.

Volunteer: At a time when many people are struggling, consider volunteering your time to serve those in need. There are plenty of safe, socially distant volunteer opportunities, from delivering meals to the homebound, to video conferencing with socially isolated seniors to helping boost adult literacy via remote tutoring.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, staying busy and positive may take creativity. However, discovering new hobbies and pursuits you love can nurture the body, mind and soul.

Healthy, Safe, and Affordable Home Cleaning Tips

When it comes to keeping your home healthy, safe and clean, it’s all about balance. Using the following tips, you can make 2021 the year you perfect your cleaning technique affordably:

Get Prepped

Before getting started, wash your hands. Not only does it help you to avoid spreading germs, it’s also a great way to get into a cleaning mindset.

You can also give yourself a little motivational boost by putting on some great tunes. Check out the Ultimate Cleaning Playlist on Spotify, which features danceable hits spanning decades, or create your own. According to the experts, a bit of preparation can even streamline your efforts.

“Before any cleaning session, I take a few minutes to de-clutter. This makes the process of dusting and wiping down surfaces so much easier,” says Erin Chase, AlEn Cleanfluencer and busy mom of four.

Strike a Balance

Contrary to what you might assume, there’s no need to use a disinfectant cleaner on every surface, even in the age of COVID-19. High-touch areas such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes and countertops should be disinfected daily. You should also be sure to disinfect after visitors, and continually disinfect surfaces touched by sick household members. However, it’s important use strong cleansers mindfully. The power of bleach is a great way to disinfect properly where and when it’s needed. Be sure to use approved products, such as Cloralen Disinfectant Bleach, and follow the instructions on the label. Don’t use bleach on porous surfaces and never mix cleaning products — in particular don’t mix bleach with ammonia. This can result in dangerous fumes you shouldn’t breathe.

Go Green When You Can

For everyday messes, use naturally-derived cleaning products, such as Art of Green wipes and sprays, which are hardworking and safe for sensitive skin, making them good choices for “over and over” cleaning around kids and pets. Voted a 2020 Product of the Year by more than 40,000 consumers, Art of Green works on many surfaces and comes in two uplifting scents, Lavender Eucalyptus and Citrus and White Flowers. You can also help protect the planet by choosing products from companies committed to building a cleaner, more sustainable world. Many products from AlEn USA are made with sustainable ingredients, and the company recycles more plastic than it uses.

“The good news is that these products also offer great value, making it possible to get an effective eco-friendly clean at an affordable price,” says Chase.

To learn more, visit alenusa.com, artofgreen.com and cloralen.com.

Celebrate a Job Well-Done

“Cleaning is an opportunity to refresh your mindset,” adds Chase, who makes sure to celebrate a job well done with self-care rituals. “After cleaning, I always wash my hands and apply my favorite hand lotion.”

With a few smart cleaning tips, you can create an environment that helps protect the health and safety of your family and your pets.

4 Ways to Uplift Small Businesses in Your Community

With nearly half of all Americans employed by a small business, these establishments need our support more than ever.

According to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, 46 percent of business owners surveyed have seen a drop in revenue over the past 12 months, with some entrepreneurs seeing even more severe impact.

“Small businesses are at the heart of our communities and the key to millions of jobs,” says Steve Troutner, head of Small Business, Wells Fargo. “Keeping spending dollars in local communities is an impactful way to rally around small business owners.”

Wells Fargo is sharing four ways to uplift small businesses near you:

1. Shop local. While one-stop shopping on leading e-commerce sites can be tempting, the simple act of purchasing something from your favorite local retailer can go a long way in keeping business afloat and money in your community. Returning or exchanging gifts? Ask for store credit instead of cash. It helps keep money with a small business and makes their cash flow more stable.

Many shops have safety measures in place, such as limiting occupancy or offering contactless pick-up.

2. Eat local. Support your neighbors by dining at locally-owned establishments. Getting takeout or having food delivered? Order directly from the restaurant rather than through third-party sites that take a cut. When it comes to food shopping, opt for neighborhood grocers, which often carry produce from small family-owned farms and other locally-sourced goods. Many offer the same curbside pickup and delivery options as major chains.

3. Uplift diverse-owned businesses. Keep in mind that minority- and women-owned businesses have been hard hit by COVID-19. Many are counting on your patronage to survive.

To help entrepreneurs stay open and support local jobs, Wells Fargo is deploying approximately $400 million from its Open for Business Fund to nonprofits serving small businesses. The initiative focuses on increasing access to training and flexible capital that businesses can use for rent, utilities, payroll and other business needs. If you are a business owner looking for assistance and resources, visit wellsfargo.com/shoplocal to learn more.

4. Shine a light on your favorite business. Whether it’s expanding outdoor patios and installing heat lamps or updating tech to facilitate contactless checkout, small businesses have had to get creative to stay relevant. One simple way of supporting businesses as they make these changes is to follow them on social media and give positive reviews on websites like Yelp.

As part of its “Many hearts. One community” campaign, Wells Fargo is highlighting the determination, resilience and creativity that so many small business have shown this past year.

“Community has meant everything to me,” says Kadijatu Ahene, owner of Dija’s Touch Designs, which benefitted from Wells Fargo and Local Initiatives Support Corporation working together. “The challenges we’re dealing with have brought us closer. Whether its friends and neighbors checking on me and my girls, delivering food and more, COVID has reminded us that we need each other to move forward in unity.”

How to Prepare a Garden for Spring Planting

The final weeks of winter, and even the first few weeks of spring, are still chilly in many parts of the world. Despite those last vestiges of winter chills, late winter is a great time to begin preparing gardens for the coming planting season. Gardens may have to withstand months of harsh weather each winter, and such conditions can take a toll. Gardeners can consider the following tips as they try to restore their gardens and get them ready for spring planting.

Disinfect your tools. It’s common to clean tools in late fall or whenever they’re typically placed in storage for the winter. But cleaning and disinfecting are not necessarily the same thing. If tools were not disinfected at the end of the previous gardening season, disinfect them before doing any work on the garden. Doing so can ensure any lingering bacteria or fungi on tool surfaces are killed prior to the beginning of gardening season. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, plant pathogens, including bacteria and viruses, can be transferred to and infect plants through bits of soil and plant debris left on shovels and pruner blades. Thoroughly disinfecting such tools prior to using them in the spring is a great way to reduce the risk of disease in your garden.

Clear debris from garden beds. Leaves, twigs, sticks, and other debris may have gathered in the garden over the winter. Such debris can inhibit the growth of plants and vegetables, so make sure all of it is removed prior to planting. Weeds might even begin to sprout up in late winter and early spring, so remove them before they go to seed.

Test the soil. Testing the soil prior to planting can help gardeners determine what their gardens will need to thrive in the coming months. Garden centers and home improvement stores sell home testing kits that are effective and easy to use. Once the results are in, speak with a professional at your local garden center about the best time to amend the soil.

Loosen compacted soil. Soil can become compacted over winter. If compacted soil is not loosened prior to planting, plants will have a hard time getting the water and nutrients they need to thrive. Loosening the soil also provides another opportunity to inspect the garden for any underlying issues, such as fungi or weed growth, that you may have missed when clearing debris or testing the soil.

Late winter is a good time to assess a garden and address any issues that developed over the winter so plants and vegetables can thrive come the spring planting season.

Explore Your Travel Options, Including Staycations

Daily life was upended in March of 2020, when most of the world was first introduced to the novel coronavirus COVID-19. People from all walks of life were adversely affected by the pandemic, and certain industries, including travel and tourism, had an especially difficult time as the pandemic wore on.

Tourism greatly affected

Travel was largely restricted in early 2020, with some countries prohibiting tourism from travelers from critically impacted areas. As the second wave of the virus arrived in late 2020, many nations returned to full or partial lockdowns to combat virus transmission, further hurting the travel and tourism industry. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the tourism industry accounted for 330 million jobs in 2019. Estimates now suggest that approximately 121 million of those jobs have been eliminated due to the pandemic. Countries whose economies relied primarily on tourism either continued to stay open to travelers or have reopened to make ends meet.

Travel considerations

When the weather becomes colder and inhospitable, people often seek out warmer climates. Though travel figures to decrease dramatically in the winter of 2020-21, there may be some tourists who are willing to leave home for the promise of beaches and sunny skies. As of December 2020, Mexico had no entry restrictions for Americans, apart from limiting land-border crossings. Visitors can get a temperature check on arrival and will be schooled in basic information about social distancing. John Spence, president of the tour company Scott Dunn USA, says Kenya is a relatively safe East African destination to visit, and the country has been transparent about its reopening conditions. Costa Rica and Caribbean islands have been cautiously reopening to tourists, starting with nations reporting lower infection levels. Anyone who chooses to travel is strongly urged to quarantine for at least 14 days upon returning home.

Home modifications

Individuals who prefer to stay close to home may want to invest their vacation dollars into home renovations that can simulate getting away. While they may not serve as a substitute for a sandy beach, home renovations may make riding out the colder temps a bit more tolerable. Here are some ideas to make staycations more enjoyable.

• Improve lighting. Increase bright, indoor lighting to simulate longer hours of sunlight. • Invest in a hot tub. You may not be able to swim outdoors in the winter, but sitting in a hot tub can chase away the chill and prove very relaxing.

• Renovate a bathroom. Create a spa resort experience with a bathroom overhaul that includes multi-jet shower heads, towel warmers and ultra-plush linens.

• Join a gym or indoor pool club. A chance to swim even when it is cold outside can be refreshing and make for great exercise.

• Visit an indoor water park. Indoor water parks can include wave pools that recreate the conditions of beach resorts, but all in a climate-controlled environment.

It’s the time of year to escape the cold, and people are weighing their options as they try to decide if they will travel or stay home this winter.

Should I DIY?: 3 Questions to Determine if It’s Best to Renovate On Your Own

A do-it-yourself mentality has taken hold in millions of households across the globe. Popular television channels like HGTV and DIY Network as well as accessible home improvement content on apps like YouTube has inspired many homeowners to tackle renovation projects around their homes. Taking such initiative is admirable, though it also can prove costly if homeowners end up biting off more than they can chew.

Home improvement videos and television shows have a tendency to oversimplify renovation projects, potentially giving homeowners a false sense of confidence in their DIY abilities. A concerted effort on the part of homeowners to determine if it’s best to renovate on their own or hire a professional should always be the first step of any renovation project. No two homeowners are the same, but the following three questions can help homeowners determine if DIY is their best option.

1. Can I afford to DIY?

Professional home improvement projects are costly for a variety of reasons. Materials can be costly, but so are the tools and labor necessary to do the job right. Homeowners may not have the tools necessary to complete complicated projects. Specialty tools can be expensive to purchase or even rent, and the cost of acquiring such tools should be included in any DIY project cost estimates. Labor also factors heavily into professional projects, and for good reason. Talented contractors have unique skills that have been developed and perfected over many years. Those skills can ensure projects are completed quickly and correctly. Labor may seem costly, but such costs may ultimately prove to be a bargain compared to the cost of fixing DIY mistakes. Projects that are minor in scope and don’t require the use of potentially costly specialty tools may be better suited for weekend warriors than more complicated renovations.

2. Do I have the time?

Homeowners must determine how much time they have to complete a project before deciding to do it themselves. No one wants to spend months staring at an unfinished renovation project. Homeowners who are already pressed for time may not be able to complete projects in a timely fashion, which can make homes less comfortable and even less safe.

3. Can I pull this off?

DIY projects can instill homeowners with a sense of pride in their homes, but it’s imperative that homeowners considering the DIY option conduct an honest assessment of their skills. A lack of renovation experience does not necessarily mean a homeowner cannot successfully complete a DIY project. But in such instances, it may be best to start with small, straightforward projects and then gradually move up to bigger, more complicated projects as skills are fine tuned. And homeowners who have never been at their best with a hammer in hand should not be ashamed to leave the work to the professionals.

Television shows and online tutorials can make renovations appear easier than they actually are. Homeowners considering DIY renovations can ask themselves a handful of questions to determine if they’re ready for the challenge of renovating their homes on their own.