Forbes: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now worth $100 billion

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Just In: Muslims begin downsized hajj amid pandemic

Continue reading “Just In: Muslims begin downsized hajj amid pandemic”

Don’t cancel your wedding yet: follow the new coronavirus rules

The venue is booked. The invites are sent. You’ve found The Dress. And then the pandemic happened.

The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have left many couples unsure what lies in store for their 2020 weddings.

Weddings have been able to restart since July 4, with up to 30 people able to attend under social distancing rules. However, only two households will be permitted to attend a reception held at an indoor hospitality venue.

With these conditions in place, some couples might be uncertain about going through with their wedding this year.

We have spoken to wedding industry experts to find out what a socially distanced celebration might look like, and whether you should postpone your wedding for the foreseeable future.

Are weddings back on in Nigeria?

Yes – but not as you know them. The Government announced that there will be gathering of not more than 20 people – this is including the couple, guests, suppliers (such as the photographer), and registrar or celebrant. This is provided they comply with social distancing rules. Guests will have to stand or sit at least one metre apart, as well as take other safety precautions – such as wearing a face mask. 

For those who were originally planning a big bash, this means seriously downsizing if your venue is still able to accommodate you safely; although the measures may come as a blessing for couples already grappling with a spiralling guestlist.

What are the new safety measures?

Wedding ceremonies in England should be kept “as short as reasonably possible” and limited to just what is legally binding, according to the new guidelines for gathering. Religious ceremonies which would usually take a number of hours or days will need to adapt to a very short and limited number of people. 

As mentioned above, no more than 20 people should be in attendance and only two households should be present. 

Wedding receptions which typically follow the ceremony are “strongly advised not to take place at this time”. If you do want a wedding reception, government guidelines state only two households can attend an indoor venue or six guests from different households can attend an outdoor celebration. 

Should I postpone my summer wedding?

If you have a wedding booked for this year, should you postpone it? It depends on whether you are comfortable with having a socially-distanced celebration of only 20 people, with only two households allowed in an indoor reception venue.

Wedding planner Katrina Otter has had a lot of her weddings postponed to 2021.

“All my couples up until October have postponed because they want the weddings that they dreamed of, and have spent months, if not years, planning,” she says. “These days, weddings involve so much more than just a legally binding ceremony; they’re a celebration of friendship and families, and this is something that the current guidelines don’t allow.” While many of her clients remain “optimistic” about their weddings next year, she said that whether future ceremonies will be able to operate at full capacity remains uncertain – particularly if there’s a second wave. 

Another popular option is to press on with a small ceremony with a handful of guests this year, and postpone the big celebration until we can party properly again

Some might opt to have a small ceremony in the summer, with a handful of guests, and postpone the big party to next year. “I can see an increase in couples having a simple ceremony this year when allowed for just them, the registrar and witnesses,” says Chapman. “And in 2021 they will plan a larger wedding for all their guests but opting for a celebrant ceremony.”

Will my wedding next year be OK?

It’s all a matter of “speculation”, Otter says, and the situation could change so rapidly. “At this present time, no, I do not see 2021 being an issue,” she explains, “but have this conversation with me in two weeks’ time and I might be saying something totally different.”

If you do postpone your wedding to next year, you might face another challenge: finding an available date. Given that most weddings this year will be postponed to 2021, on top of the weddings that were already planned to go ahead next year, suppliers and venues might have limited dates available. As such, a lot of couple are having mid-week weddings, according to Otter, “so they can keep their suppliers”.

She tells me that one couple wanted to move their wedding, which was supposed to take place this September, to any Saturday between the beginning of April and end of October 2021. There was only one date that the suppliers could do.

When restrictions are lifted, what might the weddings look like?

Wedding planner Matthew Oliver, who specialises in international weddings, says weddings will “absolutely” have to adapt in the future.

“I feel like we will need have to look at bigger venue options,” he says. “For instance, if you’re working with a couple that are inviting 150 guests, instead of looking for venues that hold exactly 150 people, we’re going to have to look for venue options that are larger.”

This would be to allow guests to socially distance – which, he thinks, will still be our mentality after lockdown is over. “After this whole situation is finished, people are still going to have that in their way of life – of ‘I don’t want to be close to you,’” he says, adding that venues and suppliers might be more “protective” about their contact with guests.

Other wedding venues have also found creative solutions. Bijou Wedding Venues, which specialises in country house weddings, will use “airport quality” temperature reading cameras to test all staff and guest temperatures on arrival, and will live-stream the ceremony to different areas of the venue, so the mandatory witnesses can be present at the ceremony and the other guests can view it from a safe distance. 

The wedding venues company also plans to replace buffet queues with table service, install marquees and gazebos to maximise time outdoors, and hold ceremonies outdoors where possible.

Otter does not see the need for such changes. “I think when we are allowed to get back to weddings as they used to be, weddings will go back to how they used to be,” she says, adding that “if social distancing rules are relaxed, things will very quickly get back to normal”.

Some couples might opt for “alternative” ceremonies on Zoom, even when the restrictions are lifted, but this won’t work for everyone. “It’s going to work for some couples,” Otter says. “It’s definitely not going to work for the majority.”

What about international weddings?

Whilst travel restrictions are slowly starting to lift, Oliver does not imagine there will be any international weddings this year because “people are scared”.

If weddings are able to go ahead in the coming months, he says they “might be smaller weddings, they might just be elopements”.

Most of his clients have postponed to next year, or cancelled altogether. Usually, he takes on between 15 to 20 weddings this year, but says next year he will have double the number due to the postponed weddings from this year.  

He’s still getting new bookings for 2021, as “people are looking past this whole situation,” he says. 

Have you postponed your summer wedding? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Time management tips that will help you boost your productivity

By Rabiat Mustapha

Time management is the art of scheduling and allocating time to several activities for efficiency and better result. The ability to manage time effectively is one of the essential skills for accomplishing goals and achieving success. Developing effective time management skill is highly dependent on our daily habits. If time is not well managed, productivity is unlikely to be achieved. Having 24 hours a day may not seem to be enough to get things done. However, if we have to get things done, we must learn to get more things done in the less time.

Here are few time management tips to help you achieve better productivity.

  1. Set Clear Goals – Write down goals you need to accomplish. Your goals should be SMART- specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. When you set SMART and clear goals, they are more likely to be reached with less stress and better productivity.
  • Plan Out Each Day Using A To-Do-List – You could write out list of task you need to achieve for each week and assign task  to weekdays or create a to-do-list of tasks you need to achieve the next day at the end of each day or you create task list in the morning before starting out your day.  Planning ahead allow you focus on achieving your goals and lessen distractions. Avoid creating a long list of task for a day. Assign 3-4 tasks to each day and be sure to carry out the task with optimum attention. Doing less is more.
  • Prioritize Task And Set Time Limit For Each Task – Make sure to list task in order of their importance. Urgent, important and challenging task should be done first in the morning. This should be followed by important but not urgent task. Urgent but not important task could be delegated or outsourced. Tasks that are not urgent and not important should be eliminated.
  • Stay Organize – Stick to your schedule and try as much as possible not to lose focus. Ensure all you need to carry out the days task is readily available and your work environment is tidy and in order.
  • Do Not Multi-Task – In as much as you want to complete the entire task in your schedule for that day, it is advisable to avoid carrying out different task at the same time. Multi-tasking in reality waste time, reduces work quality and lessen productivity. Rather than dividing your attention between two tasks try focusing all your attention on one task.
  • Keep Track Of Time – Time tracking let you know how many minutes of your time is spent on a particular task, average amount of time it takes to complete a task, your most productive time in a day and so on. Time management apps or online calendar such as Toggl, RescueTime, Google calendar, Evernote, TickTick, FocusMe e.t.c. can also be use in tracking time.
  • Schedule Recess Between Task – Take breaks between tasks e.g. you could take 10 minutes break after every 1 hour. This gives you time to refresh, clear your mind and improve productivity.
  • Avoid Perfection And Distraction – Striving for perfectionism makes nothing seem good enough. This doesn’t mean you should give less attention to a task rather; you do your best and move on. To avoid distraction, trying going offline,  putting off your phone, keeping your phone outside your work room, working in a quiet room, taking breaks, etc.
  1. Get Enough Sleep – Sleep for about 6-7 hours each night. This enable you get enough  rest and prepare ahead for the next day schedule.

Three ‘holiday’ fragrances to cheer you up

On the hunt for a new men’s grooming essential?  Every week, grooming expert, Lee Kynaston, will be rounding up the best grooming products that have earned his seal of approval. 

This week, he talks all things scents and the four fragrances that will whisk you away…

A fragrant world tour 

Places have long provided perfumers with inspiration for their creations, with fragrance the perfect medium for transporting us to exotic locations and far-off destinations. After all, when a perfumer uses a note of French lavender they’re effectively dropping a pin in Provence.

So if your holiday plans have become a casualty of coronavirus, as mine just have, how about taking an olfactory adventure instead, courtesy of Creed’s Green Irish Tweed (an evocation of Ireland that’s only missing the Guinness); Heinrich Barth’s delicious fig and sage body wash (a personal fave that’ll have you longing for the Aegean); The Library of Fragrance’s Caribbean Sea; or 4160 Tuesdays’ excellent Dark Heart of Old Havana, all coffee, tobacco, and overripe fruit?

OK, so I might not be able to go to New Mexico as planned, but Ireland, Greece, Cuba and the Caribbean? Thanks to fragrance, they’re all still on the menu. 

Scent from afar

 Green Irish Tweed, £165 for 50ml edp, Creed 

Green Irish Tweed, £165 for 50ml edp, Creed 

N. 07 Mykonos Skin Softening Body Cleanser, £22, Heinrich Barth 

N. 07 Mykonos Skin Softening Body Cleanser, £22, Heinrich Barth 

The Dark Heart of Old Havana, £55 for 30ml edp, 4160 Tuesdays

The Dark Heart of Old Havana, £55 for 30ml edp, 4160 Tuesdays  
Public health officials recommend wearing a mask during sex with a person who doesn’t live with you or who isn’t in your exclusive circle of contacts.Credit...Getty Images

Dating and sex in a pandemic: masks, no Kissing and ‘a Little Kinky’

Public health officials recommend wearing a mask during sex with a person who doesn’t live with you or who isn’t in your exclusive circle of contacts.Credit...Getty Images
Public health officials recommend wearing a mask during sex with a person who doesn’t live with you or who isn’t in your exclusive circle of contacts.Credit…Getty Images

Pandemic life is tough on everyone. But for a single person, the prospect of dating and sex — while social distancing to avoid a potentially life-threatening respiratory illness — feels impossible.

How do you date without touching or kissing? How do you have sex without breathing on your partner and putting each other at risk?

“I’ve gone at least two months without sex or other physical connection, and even in my 50s, that’s a long time,” said one man from Austin, who asked not to be named to protect his privacy. “My only venture outside has been to walk the dogs and run a very rare errand, for Pete’s sake. Dating seems even a more remote possibility.”

When the man, who is gay, raised the issue with his online therapy group, he was surprised by the compassionate response. “Over all, folks were supportive, knowing that we need connection, dating and sex,” he said. The fact that the topic hadn’t come up sooner “spoke in some ways to how inhumane the pandemic is.”

number of public health agencies have offered tips for dating and sex during the pandemic, but the New York City health department has recently updated its Safer Sex and Covid-19 fact sheet with more-detailed and descriptive advice. The new guidelines still say “you are your safest sex partner,” and that the “next safest partner” is someone in your household.

However, the guidance also acknowledges that not everyone has access to an exclusive sex partner at home. People who are dating or “hooking up” should still try to minimize close contacts. Safer sex during Covid-19 also means wearing a mask and avoiding kissing. “Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further,” it says. A recent commentary from Harvard University researchers also recommended that people wear a mask during sex with someone from outside their household.

The New York City guidelines discourage group sex, but give advice for those who do “decide to find a crowd.” “Pick larger, more open, ventilated spaces,” it states, among other things.

Individuals can try to find creative alternatives to traditional sex, such as sex toys, masturbating together and sexy Zoom parties, or they could try to “make it a little kinky,” the guidelines state, suggesting, among other things, people can avoid close contact by having sex through holes in walls or other barriers. “Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face-to-face contact,” the guidelines state.

If the language seems surprisingly direct, it’s supposed to be, said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“Our health department has a really strong record of being very sex positive,” said Dr. Daskalakis. “Abstinence for the duration of the pandemic is not going to work. We tend not to shy away from giving people realistic recommendations. There’s no reason for Covid-19 to be different.”

Dr. Daskalakis said the updated guidelines are in addition to existing guidelines for safer sex to lower risk for sexually transmitted disease, and they are a response to hundreds of questions New Yorkers are asking. The new rules also advise people who decide to hook up to get tested monthly for coronavirus, or within five to seven days of a hookup. They caution that a confirmed case of Covid-19 or a positive antibody test isn’t definitive proof that you are immune from re-infection. Dr. Daskalakis said the tone of the updated guidelines was inspired by a 1983 pamphlet, written during the start of the AIDS crisis, called “How to Have Sex During an Epidemic,” which pioneered the public health strategy of harm reduction and safer sex.

“You can’t tell people to stop being human,” said David Lauterstein, founder of the Nasty Pig men’s clothing brand in New York and an L.G.B.T. community leader who helped with the concept of the guidelines. “People are going to have sex. When they’re not educated, they’re going to make bad choices.”

While the new guidelines give people detailed advice about safer sex, many single people say it’s tough to imagine even getting to the point of having sex because of the limits imposed by social distancing and the challenges of trusting other people to take needed precautions.

Wendy Worthington, 45, who lives in St. George, Utah, had hoped to stay connected through online dating during the pandemic. She was excited after meeting someone on a dating app, but after some promising “witty banter” from him, she expressed wariness about meeting in person during the early stages of the crisis. The man immediately blocked her.

“When that happened, it was the tip off that not everyone was going to view what’s going on the way I do or take it as seriously as I was taking it,” she said. “Most people were too nonchalant about it. I realized it was going to be an exercise in futility to try dating.”

Ms. Worthington says she does not expect to go back to dating any time soon. “Now we’re not even worried about S.T.D.s so much as, I just hope you weren’t around someone who coughed on you,” she said. “Dating is already so hard as it is, and then you don’t think people are taking the necessary precautions. I’m putting all of my energy into D.I.Y. projects instead.”

Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor in the department of population medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the guidance for single people who want to date is much the same as for people who have partners: Practice social distancing, socialize and dine outdoors, and keep your overall number of contacts low to reduce risk.

But single people have the added challenge of minimizing risk while trying to date. While there’s no formula to tell you how many dates with different people are safe, try to reduce your other contacts — like shopping or work events — if you want to expand your circle to include dates. Anyone who is dating should be mindful of their personal risk of coronavirus and the risk of others in their circle, like parents and grandparents.

“The more dates you go on, the higher your risk,” Dr. Marcus said.

If you meet someone who is worthy of mask-free time, talk about how they live their daily life. How many contacts do they have? Do they live with multiple roommates? Or do they have a grandparent they see regularly, which would require you to take extra precautions if you become intimate?

“Now you have to have those conversations before you even make out with someone,” said Dr. Marcus. “You basically have to have the safe sex conversation before kissing.”

In the Netherlands, public health officials advised that locked-down singles find a “seksbuddy” — a trusted person with whom to have an exclusive sexual relationship even if it wasn’t a potential long-term partnership.

A 47-year-old woman from Fayetteville, Ark., who asked that her name not be used, said she does have occasional sex with a trusted friend, although she has continued to try to date during the pandemic. “I have physical contact and sex with someone. We care about each other, but it’s not love,” she said. “It’s harder to date because everything is closed. The drive to date is not as intense because it’s less convenient.”

Some relationship experts say that in addition to the obvious challenges, the pandemic poses a unique opportunity to foster deeper connections with others because we are forced to slow down the dating process.

“It takes people out of that swipe circuity, the hookup circuity, and it makes people rethink what they’re looking for,” said Ken Page, a psychotherapist and co-founder of DeeperDating.com. “This is the time to build new muscles and skills of intimacy that so many of us desperately needed but didn’t have time for.”

Despite the challenges, including uncomfortable conversations and the need to wear a mask, starting a new relationship during a pandemic is possible. Sam Goldman, 28, a finance director for a Boston media company, was resigned to giving up dating for at least the rest of the year. But he happened to connect on the dating app Hinge with a woman who had relocated to the city to live with her parents during the pandemic. The couple texted, spoke on FaceTime and then decided to meet for a picnic. They wore masks walking to the park, stayed on opposite sides of the blanket and talked for five hours, and agreed that a hug goodbye would be safest.

“I don’t think I would have asked to go for a picnic for a first date,” Mr. Goldman said, but it “ended up being such a fun time. She mentioned she loved playing tennis, so I asked her to play tennis for the second date. I definitely would not have done that before.”

Mr. Goldman lives alone, while his date lives with her parents, so he has tried to be more careful, taking precautions like social distancing, staying six feet apart and limiting contacts to protect both the woman and her family. He said he hopes his experience gives other people hope that it’s possible to explore new relationships despite the pandemic.

“I’ve had friends who are struggling with dating during coronavirus time,” he said. “And now I’m in the midst of what seems to be a new relationship that’s blooming and working out.”

Make Music Lagos

Make Music Lagos is going virtual for the 2020 edition

Make Music Lagos
  • 2020 schedule of events, which comprises of returning & new events, announced
  • Set to launch COVID Took My Job initiative to support industry professionals

“The pandemic may rage on but the music must keep playing,” so said the Make Music Lagos 2020 organizing committee, comprising of Showgear and its partners, as they announced the schedule of events for MAKE MUSIC LAGOS 2020 as part of the buildup to the upcoming celebrations of WORLD MUSIC DAY in Lagos which will run for a week from Monday 15th June to Monday 22nd June.

Make Music Lagos, which is now in its fifth year of existence, is going to be exclusively online for the first time following the restrictions on large public gatherings by the Lagos State Government. A move and experiment, by its organisers, that promises to be interesting and could possibly offer a solution to the near collapse of activities in the Nigerian music and associated industries.

The Chair of the organizing committee and COO of Showgear, Mrs Deola Akinyemi, had this to say about the announcement, “The 2020 edition of Make Music Lagos had been in the works long before the pandemic struck and many feared that we would not be able to pull through with this edition, but I am thankful for the tenacity of my team and the availability of the technology to power a virtual edition. We are in uncharted waters, but we believe that we can make a positive impact in the lives of music enthusiasts as well as in the industry as we go on this exciting journey.”

The MML 2020 organisers have also announced that they will be launching the COVID Took My Job initiative to provide support to select industry professionals whose livelihoods have been adversely affected as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

This fifth consecutive edition of Make Music Lagos kicks off on Monday 15th June with a two-day LEARN TO PLAY event in partnership with Rainbow Fingers, The Saxophone School, Chrysolite and host of other music schools/teachers. The event, which will take place simultaneously across multiple free-to-access digital platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Zoom Skype etc., is designed to provide music instrument lessons to as many music fans as possible at no cost.

Another learning event for people to look forward to is the LEARN TO DJ event, which comes up on Wednesday 17th June on the Zoom and Instagram platform. In the past years, MML has collaborated with A-list DJs like DJ Jimmy Jatt and DJ Magnum to teach and inspire the next generation of DJs, and 2020 will be no exception as DJ Nana, DJ Obi and DJ Cypha have already confirmed their participation.

And next on the lineup on Thursday 18th June on the Zoom/YouTube platform is the MUSIC BUSINESS CONFERENCE, a new addition in 2019 that was a surprise hit. Expect hard-hitting conversations from industry insiders and influencers on the Nigerian music industry during and post-Covid-19.

While on Sunday 21st June, which is World Music Day, Make Music Lagos is going to be hosting a variety of FREE ONLINE MUSIC EVENTS to get the music fans super excited. There is the HOME STUDIO, a new addition to the lineup, which will have leading music producers (like Music Magnate, Olaitan Dada, Mr. Wols, Crackermallo, etc.) make beats from their home studio in real time. In the past, these beats would have been made on the streets of Lagos as part of the STREET STUDIO events. There are also the MAKE MUSIC LAGOS CONCERTS, hosted in collaboration with partners, which will give many upcoming acts the opportunity to perform to large audiences on YouTube and Instagram. And finally, there is the DJ ONLINE PARTY, another addition to the lineup, which will have a leading DJ and Hypemen hosting a high-energy online party.

Last on the list of events for the 2020 edition of Make Music Lagos is the LAGOS SHUTDOWN CONCERT, hosted by L’avenida Multipurpose Centre, which historically has had the largest audience and some of the biggest names in Nigerian music on stage each year, on Sunday 21st June on YouTube.

The full schedule of activities for MML 2020 and other exciting content from the pre-event activities and past editions are available on the Make Music Lagos website (www.makemusiclagos.org.ng) and social media pages @MakeMusicLagos.

Make Music Lagos 2020 is a member of and endorsed by the Make Music Alliance (the global body promoting the World Music Day with HQ in New York) and supported by TVC, Max FM, and a host of other partners. And the organizing team is led by SHOWGEAR and its partners: IMPREVA, IPC EVENTS, LEGACY PLANET, and ZANNOZA ENTERTAINMENT.

Our Media Partners are TVC/MAX FM, Accelerate TV, COOL FM, Guardian. We welcome more partnerships.

And as it is the global practice of Make Music Day, ALL EVENTS ARE FREE. Meaning that you do not pay to attend or perform at any of the events. It is open to all without any strings attached.

The 8 best solutions to defeating tech neck

The Bloomgist

Even before smartphones, I had a tendency to what was quaintly called chicken neck. Short-sightedness, incorrect desk ergonomics and sloppy posture have conspired to make me Not Audrey Hepburn. So what are the solutions? 

I asked Mary Helen Bowers, founder of Ballet Beautiful. She recommends pulling in the core, keeping your shoulders back, lifting your chest – standing like a ballerina, in other words – and holding your phone at eye level. I’ve tried it all week and it does make a difference.

You can also buy posture correctors, which pull your shoulders back while you’re at your computer, for around £10 on Amazon.https://cf-particle-html.eip.telegraph.co.uk/021a45ce-df84-4a22-9801-b89fbd6e5e3a.html?ref=https://www.telegraph.co.uk/beauty/body/8-best-solutions-defeating-tech-neck/&title=The%208%20best%20solutions%20to%20defeating%20tech%20neck%C2%A0

As for the lines – I’m not that bothered. There are specialist neck serums, but most get fairly meh reviews, though the BBC’s Horizon found Boots’ No7 Restore & Renew Face & Neck Multiaction Serum, £28, effective.

If you’re really concerned, Profhilo is a treatment that delivers hyaluronic acid deep into the dermis and gets great results on necks (try Dr Sophie Shotter). 

No7 Restore & Renew Face & Neck Multiaction Serum, £28

An infrared light mask will increase circulation, relieve inflammation and ease muscle pain, which can improve appearance. Try The Light Salon’s at-home Boost LED face mask, £395.

Otherwise, use your usual collagen-rich moisturiser (Balance Me Collagen Boost Moisturiser, £26, is vegan and free from sulphates, mineral oils, etc), and use a good SPF such as iS Clinical’s Eclipse SPF 50+ sunscreen, £28.  And do facial exercises to tighten things up. Search on YouTube, or sign up for facial yoga.

5 tech neck fixers 

Posture Corrector, £11.99, Branfit 

Posture Corrector, £10.19, Branfit 

Boost LED mask, £395, The Light Salon 

Boost LED mask, £395, The Light Salon 

Collagen Boost Moisturiser, £26, Balance Me 

Collagen Boost Moisturiser, £26, Balance Me 

Is it safe to go to a pool during coronavirus?

The weather is finally turning and you’re ready for that cherished summer tradition: spending the day lounging by the outdoor pool or splashing through a water park.

But is the pandemic going to dash your watery summer dreams?

If you’re safe and understand the risks, not necessarily.

First, the growing consensus among experts is that the possibility of catching the coronavirus outdoors is much lower than indoors. But it is not zero.

Second, for those who want to enjoy pools and water parks during this extraordinary time, the guidelines are the same as for any other outdoor activity: Practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, disinfect surfaces and wear a mask when possible to keep that risk low.

However, pools and water parks present unique challenges for following those guidelines. Wearing a mask is all but impossible while swimming, and social distancing may be difficult at crowded locations.

The danger, experts say, isn’t in the water.

“There’s nothing inherent about ocean water or especially pool water that is risky. The bug isn’t transmitted via a waterborne route,” said Dr. Ebb Lautenbach, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “Chlorine and bromine that are in pools inactivate the virus and makes it even lower risk in terms of catching it from the water.”

“There probably is a theoretical possibility you could get infected by coronavirus from the pool water itself, but it’s so negligible it’s probably effectively zero,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

The risk of catching the virus at a pool or water park, rather, comes from the other people there.

The current consensus among experts is that the primary way coronavirus spreads is person to person, when an uninfected individual breathes in droplets expelled from an infected person through coughing, sneezing or talking. While it is possible to contract the disease from touching a surface with active virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

So worry less about the water and the surface on that lounge-chair, and more about the person standing next to you at the water-park entrance or wading in the shallow end as you swim by. Remember, you are more at risk indoors, like in a crowded locker room or indoor cafe.

“You can imagine waiting in a long line to go down a water slide, or hanging out in a pool like a pool party the way we saw in the Lake of the Ozarks, those types of environments are probably higher risk,” Dr. Rasmussen said.

Dr. Lautenbach added that the nature of public pools offers far less space to spread out than other activities, like a picnic in the park, but you should still try to practice the same safety measures.

“The challenge with a pool is really that the same rules apply,” he said. “We can say that if you’re at a picnic, it’s easier to wear a mask outside in that context, but you can’t really wear a mask in the pool. We don’t want people to drown either. So that’s the real challenge.”

Still, Dr. Lautenbach said that if you’re able to stay at least six feet away from people and wear a mask when possible, you’re doing about the best you can do. He also suggested minimizing activities in the water that would bring you physically closer to other people.

For more information, the N. C.D.C. published a set of guidelines for pools and water parks.

Andrew B Myers for The New York Times

Three stretches to ease the aches and pains while working from home

Andrew B Myers for The New York Times
Andrew B Myers for The New York Times

By A.C. Shilton

On March 16, Nancy Black left her office for what she thought would be the last time. On March 19, however, she was back and ready to pilfer (with permission) parts of her office workstation. Dr. Black is an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at the Université de Moncton in Canada, specializing in ergonomics. In three days it was clear her home office was not going to meet her standards. So she came back and got her desktop computer, a large monitor and a desktop sit-to-stand apparatus, which lets her toggle between sitting and standing. Now she’s working from home pain-free, which is more than most of us can say as we toil away on tiny computers, sitting in our sweatpants on rigid kitchen chairs.

Two studies demonstrate the toll we exact on our bodies as we do office work. These studies, one from India and one from Greece, show that 75 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of computer or office workers reported work-related musculoskeletal discomfort. All of the workers in these studies had office desks and full-size computers. So, they were starting in a better position than most of us working from our couches.

Joy Baganz, the lead occupational therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, says she’s already steeling herself for an influx of patients with neck and back pain as more and more workers report for duty on their sofas. The problem with working from your bed or your couch is simple: It’s too comfortable, says Ms. Baganz.

Gravity is the sedentary worker’s nemesis. “Anytime you’re in one position for a long time, there are problems,” Dr. Black warns. As you sit — or even stand — gravity compresses the discs in your back. Over time, those compressed discs may cause back pain and nerve issues.

As gravity collapses your spine, it pushes fluid out of the discs, explains Dr. Black. Just 20 to 30 seconds of moving around, however, draws fluid back into the discs. This sets everything back in its proper position. Ideally, she says, microbreaks for movement every 40 minutes is ideal. That movement, though, can be as simple as getting up and stretching or walking to the kitchen for a glass of water.Aching Neck? Sore Back? Simple Fixes to Better Work From Home

One important thing to remember regarding ergonomics is that work-related musculoskeletal injuries sneak up slowly. You may not end up with carpal tunnel during quarantine, but 10 years from now, you’ll be glad you took a little bit of time every day to do some stretches to keep your body feeling good.

As for your back posture, don’t stress about it too much. It’s great to think about sitting up with your back straight and your shoulders down. Start there, but don’t be surprised when you find yourself with the spinal rectitude of a sea slug.

“It’s the nature of the beast. People’s posture always tends to fall,” says Ms. Baganz. You can try setting a reminder to check your posture, but Dr. Black quickly found that apps and reminders just annoyed her. Luckily, she has another method that works in these weird times: children. “One thing I’m finding as a real benefit of working from home is that there are so many interruptions around me,” she says.

Try to do this set of three stretches three times a day to prevent aches in your wrists, back, neck and arms (or at least as much as you can).

Think of these as preventive maintenance, suggests Ms. Baganz. While she uses them often in her occupational therapy clinic, the goal for you is to implement them now and avoid the clinic altogether.

( 1 )

By Andrew B Myers
  • Stand with one arm out in front of you and your palm facing the ground.
  • With your other hand, gently pull your fingers of the outstretched arm back. You should feel the stretch in the underside of your wrist.
  • Hold for a moment or two, then release.
  • Next, keeping your arm straight, use your other hand to push your fingers and palm down and toward your body. Hold a few seconds, then release.
  • Repeat with your other arm.

( 2 )

By Andrew B Myers
  • Shrug your shoulders by bringing them up toward your ears and holding for 3-5 seconds.
  • Release and repeat 3-5 times.

( 3 )

By Andrew B Myers
  • Clasping your hands behind your head, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold this squeeze for 5-6 seconds.
  • Take a breath, then repeat one more time.

8 reasons you are always hungry: you eat too fast

It’s been an hour since your last meal and you’re already raiding the refrigerator. You feel like a bottomless pit every day. What’s going on?

Even if you’re always hungry, it may not be because your body needs more calories. Diet, hormones and emotions drive hunger.

Chrisanne Urban, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian, explained 10 reasons why you might feel overly hungry. Once you figure out why you’re always hungry, you can make changes to control your appetite.

1. Thirst.

The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that regulates hunger and thirst. “Sometimes it gets confused and tells you you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty,” Urban said. Next time you’re hungry and it’s not mealtime or you’ve already eaten, drink a glass of water and see if the feeling goes away.

2. Drinking too much alcohol.

Alcohol dehydrates you, which can confuse your hypothalamus and make you feel hungry. Stop the “drunchies” by drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume.

3. Skipping meals.

An empty stomach stimulates production of the hunger hormone ghrelin. “A lot of ghrelin makes you more prone to binge eating,” Urban said. “Once you start eating, you can’t stop.” Instead of eating less by skipping meals, you end up eating more.

4. Eating too fast.

It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. If you eat quickly, you may feel hungry even though you’ve finished your meal.

5. Not sleeping well.

Poor sleep hygiene causes fatigue and brain fog, which can make you crave simple carbs that don’t keep you full very long. Poor sleep also stimulates ghrelin production and decreases production of leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full.

6. Stress.

Stress makes you produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which are involved in the body’s fight or flight response. “You feel hungry and think you need more energy when your body feels like it’s under attack,” Urban said.

7. Food images and aromas.

Seeing pictures of delicious food on cooking shows and social media actually can make you hungry by stimulating ghrelin production. Food aromas do the same thing.

8. Medications are making you hungry.

Certain psychiatric medications and steroids like prednisone stimulate appetite. Talk to your doctor if you think medications are affecting hunger.

If you feel overly hungry, create a healthy eating environment to control your appetite or make an appointment with a dietitian for help.

“Remember that you’re in control of what you eat,” Urban said.

Sleep is all you need

Did you know that you have the ability to reduce your chances of having a car accident, improve your ability to fight off illnesses, and decrease your risk factors for cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s?

Yes. Everyone has that superpower; in fact, we use it every day – sleep. Sleep is one of the most powerful activities that our bodies undergo. Often times, sleep is thought of as a passive process in which we merely lay in bed and wake up the next morning, with nothing happening in between. This could not be farther from the truth.

What goes on when we sleep?
When we sleep, our eyes close, and muscles relax. We gradually lose consciousness and our body cycles from one stage of sleep into the other – Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and REM sleep and back again. Each cycle takes about 90 minutes. We cycle between these stages about 5 times every night. During this period, your body undergoes repairs after the rigorous activities of the day.

It is vital for learning and for the formation of new memories, growth, and development. The American Society of Sleep Medicine advises adults to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Getting even an hour less than 7 hours in a night increases your chances of making errors or getting in an accident and it even significantly increases your risk of dying from a heart attack.

It is often said that the pillars of good health are diet, exercise and sleep. Matthew Walker, a professor of Sleep at the University of California further argues that sleep is the foundation for all the other pillars. Have you noticed that when you do not get enough sleep, you often reach for sugary carbohydrate foods? Sleep controls the types of foods your body will crave for. During sleep, the production of leptin (the hormone responsible for satiety) is increased and ghrelin (the hormone responsible for hunger) is suppressed.

Good sleep helps you make better decisions
Another benefit of sleep is the ability to make better decisions. We often make use of the phrase ‘I’ll sleep over it’, this is an apt recognition of the ability to made useful connections and decisions after sleep. After a good night’s rest, you will often wake up alert and be better prepared to take on the new day, and this includes making smart food choices.

Good sleep protects your heart
A lack of sleep puts you at risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, arrhythmias and heart failure. In a 2011 study, it was reported that lack of sleep increases a person’s risk of getting or dying from cardiovascular disease by 45%. When we sleep, the heart relaxes and starts to pump blood at a lower pressure. However, when you do not get enough sleep, your blood pressure goes up and your heart does not relax. This is partly why people who do not get enough sleep are at higher risk of high blood pressure or hypertension.

Good sleep helps boost your immune system
In a study carried out in the US, where they deliberately infected test subjects with another type of Coronavirus (rhinovirus- responsible for the common cold), it was observed that subjects who got at least 7 or more hours of sleep at night were 4 times not likely to be infected. While those who got less than 7 hours, were reported to have a lower number of T- killer cells responsible for eliminating foreign invaders from the body. The immune system is particularly boosted during slow-wave sleep stage (stage 3). The brain clears amyloid proteins through the lymphatic system during sleep. The presence of these proteins has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep deprivation can be fatal
Sleep deprivation increases a person’s risk of developing cancer, it suppresses the immune system, and it reduces the brain’s ability to retain and process memories. You are more prone to moodiness, forgetfulness, difficulty with concentration, high levels of stress and inflammatory hormones, anxiety and a substantial decrease in immune function. I encourage you to take full use of this superpower and get more sleep.

How to remove gel nails at home

For those previously wedded to their fortnightly gel appointments, the last eight weeks will have been difficult. When lockdown was announced, nail salons were among the closures: the hands-on nature of the job was especially high risk.

As such, nail devotees have been fending for themselves since, and while nail bars look set to open on July 4, that’s still another five weeks without professional help.   

Maintaining a clean manicure is one thing, but those with any specialists nail treatments like extensions or gel polish will need an extra hand. Whether your shellac is on its last legs, or your acrylic nail extensions have grown out and are in need of desperate help, we’ve answered every SOS nail dilemma. 

To DIY, or not to DIY

When you’re staring at your outgrown colour, investing your own UV lamp and gel polish or acrylic powder is all too tempting, but experts advise against it. 

‘The best products – like CND Shellac, for example – are only available for professional distribution,’ says a representative for DryBy nail bar. ‘It means the type that you’re able to get hold of isn’t the best in class product at all.’ Dodgy products can cause more harm than good, so you may well end up having to grow out any DIY treatments and let a professional bring your nails back to life post-lockdown should it all go wrong. 

‘Bear in mind nail technicians have to complete a qualification to apply gel polish,’ says a spokesperson for nail bar London Grace. ‘There’s a lot of skill and practice in getting that 2-week chip-free finish.’  

Keep them short

If your current gel manicure or acrylic extensions are still going (sort of) strong, the length’ll be fairly long, so it’s best to cut them down: experts have warned that to keep nails as clean as possible, they should be short.

‘It’s far easier to keep the nails clean if they’re shorter,’ says expert manicurist, Margaret Dabbs. ‘While we have Covid-19 concerns, nails shouldn’t be kept long.’ 

Acrylics can be trimmed using nail clippers, then filed so the edges are slightly rounded and the free edge is minimal. Similarly with gel polish: trim your tips down and ensure the edges are smooth. 

The removal process

If you’re keen to start fresh, removing your current nail treatments as safely as possible is key. Whatever you do, peeling either off is a terrible idea as it can prove painful and will ruin your nail beds, taking months to grow out and restore health. 

Instead, ‘lightly file over the nail to take the shine,’ Kim Treacy, celebrity nail technician told The Telegraph. ‘Then apply some pure acetone nail varnish remover on a cotton pad on each nail and wrap with a strip of kitchen foil. “Leave it on for ten minutes,” says Treacy, “and then gently remove with a cuticle pusher.”

For acrylics, the process will be slightly longer. To speed it up, nails can be soaked a bowl of pure acetone but this is harsher on the surrounding skin, so the foil method is preferred. 

What to do in the meantime

If you’re a constant gel or acrylic wearer, think about giving your nails some time to breathe. 

‘Lockdown is a good time to wean yourself off of gels and get nails into better condition,’ suggests Margaret Dabbs. ‘If you’re not great at painting nails, gently use a shiner buffer after filing and shaping to get a groomed look. You can also wear a conditioning base coat to help stop breaking and splitting whilst also improving the appearance.’ 

Equally, it’s a great time to experiment with colours: be sure to stick to health-promoting formulas like London Grace or Nailberry and take good care of your cuticles, too. 

So you had a bad day…

It was the tail end of a long day of small, stupid things that in normal times would have been tiny grains of sand to knock out of my shoe. But on that day, another pandemic day in a long string of pandemic days, those small, gritty things — the dog wanted too much attention, work was causing stress, the neighbor’s kid was outside, screaming, again — became boulders.

But I set those things aside, I thought, and got ready to do a tele-seminar for a few hundred strangers.

And then my recycling blew down the street.

“I can’t take it anymore!” I shouted from the middle of the road while chasing boxes and newspapers.

It’s not uncommon for the small to become the insurmountable right now. “There’s a lot more coming at us and fewer ways to discharge it than ever,” said Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of “A Mindful Year: 365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred in Everyday Life.” “A lot of us are taking on more than we can really process in real time and more than our nervous systems can digest.”

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Your nervous system is in overload, so it’s no wonder you don’t know what you’re feeling anymore. This is called “experiential blindness,” said Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Northeastern University and author of “How Emotions are Made.”

Essentially, our brain takes cues from what our body is doing at any moment. If our heart rate goes up, the brain parses info about whether we’re running from a lion or merely walking up the stairs. From there, the brain reacts — often in the form of emotions. However, we rely on our memories to tell us that indeed, this is the drab flight of stairs to our walk-up. Most of us, however, have never been through a global pandemic. There are no previous memories for our brain to draw on.

Hence, my shouting in the middle of the street about a crushed beer can blowing in the wind.

Remember, however, that you don’t have to stay in that awful place for good. You can rebound. Here’s how.

As clichéd as it sounds, stopping to take a breath can snap you out of your mood. When you are feeling your worst, stop and take two minutes to inhale and exhale deeply, said Alexandra Elle, a wellness consultant and author of “Today I Affirm: A Journal that Nurtures Self Care.” Doing this kind of breathing helps her “remember to be in the moment and to be present with whatever is in front of me, behind me and what’s to come,” she said.

Dr. Barrett says she tries to either consciously reason out exactly what she might be feeling and why, “or I take a more Buddhist approach and think, OK, I’m feeling something, I’m just going to sit with it and let it wash over me,” she said.

You don’t have to retreat to a special place to do this, whether you need this breath now or later. “We’re not all ‘sit on a pillow and mediate’ type folks,” said Mrs. Elle. Wherever you are works just fine. (Though maybe, for your own safety, get out of the middle of the street first.)

It’s fine just to take some time to think about what is happening and how you feel. Just be aware that constant rumination or getting stuck in negative thoughts may be a sign that it’s time to reach out to a mental health professional.

If your blowup involved another person, simply apologize.

And after apologizing, try to tell the other person what happened, “not to justify it, but to explain it,” said Philip Levy, Ph.D., family therapist and co-author of “The Resilient Couple: Navigating Together Through Life.” Then discuss with the other person “what did we learn from it, and what can we do differently moving forward.”

Talk about what you need from the other person, especially if they did something well-intentioned (like interrupted your work to tell you that a delivery had arrived, or spent way more than you had budgeted for groceries). “It’s important for you to be able to try to listen and not get into whether you’re right or wrong or debate it, to demonstrate that you hear the other person and that you care about how they felt,” said Dr. Levy.

Laughing about it doesn’t hurt either. I turned my follies into a Twitter thread, which made other people laugh, which in turn made me feel better, too.

Yes, it takes effort to get your workout clothes on when you already feel lousy, but quite a bit of research, including a 2015 review of studies published in Frontiers in Psychology, shows a single bout of exercise can boost positive feelings for a few hours afterward. (However, that same review found data on reducing negative emotions was somewhat inconclusive.)

Sometimes you just need a distraction. A hard puzzle or game can be the perfect antidote, says Dr. Barrett. When completed, the sense of accomplishment will further boost your spirits.

“Humans need to be around other people, we’re social creatures,” said Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, an urban anthropologist and an adjunct professor at Drexel University. Ms. Johnston-Zimmerman studies behavior in public spaces and says that even micro-interactions — like watching a rat pull a piece of pizza down the street with two strangers — enrich our lives. Most of us feel starved for that contact right now. Call a friend, do a video chat, or even just sit on your fire escape and wave at the person in the next building over.

Venting your anger may actually make you feel worse, said Lennis Echterling, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at James Madison University. “Merely venting negative emotions by screaming or yelling does not have any health benefits,” he said, and the research on the topic seems to point away from venting diminishing our rage in any tangible way.

A lot of things in the world are bad right now, but figuring out what you’re thankful for can help you bounce back.

Expressing gratitude for the people or things in our lives “can help us feel more connected and inspired to help others,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of psychology at the University of California, Riverside and author of “The How of Happiness.” It can also lift you out of whatever sent you into a spiral. It “takes attention off you and directs it onto someone or something else,” she said.

The gratitude could be for small things, like getting a bag of coffee beans from your favorite roaster, or big things, like being safe and secure in your home.

You can express this gratitude by telling another person what you’re thankful for (about them or not) or by writing it down privately. However, gratitude needs to come from you. Don’t ask for it from someone else; just like telling someone to calm down inspires the reverse, telling someone why they should be thankful is most likely to inspire ire, not thanks.

For example, if you’re mad at your kids and someone tells you that you should be thankful for them, “in that moment, I’m thinking, I know that I’m grateful for my kids, don’t tell me what to be grateful for,” said Dr. Lyubomirsky. And if this is the thing that sets you off, well, take a breath and start over again.

A.C. Shilton contributed to reporting.

Coronavirus is speeding up the evolution of porn

In porn, there is no social distancing.

“You’re inside the other person,” said Chad White, 2018 nominee for Best Three-Way Sex Scene at the Adult Video News awards. “You’re plugged in.”

White has been in the industry for years. For someone who spends at least part of a typical workday “plugged in” to colleagues, you’d think that a pandemic would be terrible news for performers.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

COVID-19 has apparently created a massive demand for porn. Traffic to Pornhub spiked nearly 25% in March, and OnlyFans, a site for independent porn producers, says they’re getting 200,000 new signups each day. But large studio shoots have completely stopped — meaning that independent producers have a unique opportunity to capture the attention of a world looking for sexual content.

White, who started producing his own content at home years ago, says he’s seen an uptick in sales of his content since people started sheltering in place. The same goes for models whose pages he manages.

“Even though people’s money is running out, they’re still buying porn,” he said.

Evelin Stone, a performer who lives in Miami, has also seen similar increases in activity on her paid subscription sites. She also has experience in traditional porn shoots, but she stepped away, partially because of creative control, and partially so that she could be her own boss financially.

“I did big productions for about a year and a half,” she said in an interview. “At the end of the day… it’s all for them. They own you. They own what you do.”

Going independent also meant she didn’t have to worry about studios pressuring her to do things on camera she wasn’t comfortable with. “I can have fun, controlling what my body goes through, what my body does,” she said. “I control everything.”

Now that the large studios are shut down, Stone says she’s even more convinced that she made the right move.

“I wouldn’t be sitting here in a pandemic able to work,” she said.

We spoke to porn-industry professionals to see how the industry is changing – and what might be next.

Cover:Evelin Stone, an adult performer based in Miami.

DJ Cuppy tunes up her beauty when she rocks pink hair

We are taking inspiration today from DJ & Media personality DJ Cuppy Otedola. Known for her edgy barbie-esque hair and makeup looks, the Greenlight crooner has made us fall in love with rocking bold and bright tresses.

Because the colour is bold and subtle at the same time, beauty enthusiasts can’t seem to get over the pink hair trend.

On Cuppy’s page, we scrolled through a sea of pink hair colours, from pastel to bright bold shades, to bring you the best inspiration ahead of your next hair appointment.

SOURCE: Bella Naija

How the global luxury market is responding to coronavirus

Significant disruptions to major events in the luxury calendar, store closures and market freefall have reinforced the setbacks the industry is facing due to coronavirus, or Covid-19. Over 3,083,445 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with 212,494 deaths and 935,137 confirmed recoveries.  

As the UK observes lockdown alongside many countries worldwide, a number of luxury brands have announced major donations and initiatives to help fight coronavirus.   

Swiss watch brands continue to support the fight against Covid-19. Hot on the heels of independent Urwerk’s charity auction lot, comes news that Breitling has made a special edition timepiece in aid of global healthcare charities.

On 14 May, via an online auction, Urwerk sold No.1 of its 25-piece UR-100 Gold watch inscribed ‘Fight C19’. The watch fetched CHF96,500 (approx. £81,200), which was donated to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK – a charity chosen by the winning bidder, which provides expertise to the NHS, Public Health England and the WHO.

Breitling’s rainbow-dial Superocean Heritage ’57, a huge success when it was launched online in April this year, was aptly chosen as the model for the brand’s latest charitable initiative launched today. The overwhelming response to the initial white-faced watch, has led to a second edition of 1,000 pieces being produced, this time with blue dials.

A proportion of the profit from each watch sold will be donated to healthcare charities in some of the areas of the world most heavily impacted by coronavirus. In total Breitling will give CHF500,000 (approx. £420,000), which will be shared between six organisations, including the UK’s ‘NHS Charities Together’.

Breitling UK has added to the initiative by agreeing to give a further £1,000 for each watch sold on its website and has also given official retailers the chance to do the same – so far, all those asked have agreed to donate.

Italian fashion duo Dolce & Gabbana has announced it’s strengthening its efforts to support Humanitas University in the fight against Covid-19. A new campaign for the brand’s iconic Devotion bag, which features a Sacred Heart, has been released, and a portion of its online sales proceeds will be donated to the university to help fund vaccine research.

“The whole world and all of our lives will never be the same again,” the duo wrote in a co-signed statement. “We truly hope that all of this will lead to a rebirth, and want to do our part so that all of us, especially future generations, can one day benefit from these fundamental scientific discoveries.” 

Although Dolce & Gabbana has already worked with Humanitas University on a scholarship project, this is their second installment of aid directly relating to the coronavirus. Back on February 17, the duo announced a sizable unspecified donation to Humanitas University, in support of a study aiming to understand the responses of the immune system to coronavirus. 

“We felt we had to do something to fight this devastating virus,” Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana said at the time. “Even a very small gesture can have enormous significance. Supporting scientific research is a moral duty for us, we hope our contribution will help to solve this dramatic problem.”

Roberto Cagliero, Director Fundraising of Humanitas said, “Dolce & Gabbana has been proactive since the very beginning in support of scientific research to fight against the coronavirus, even before it was a global emergency. We stand with scientists and researchers who are dedicated to studying the largely unexplored role of the immune system in fighting against this deadly virus.

“Thanks to their donation, a dedicated team lead by Professor Alberto Mantovani at Humanitas University, in collaboration with the virologists of Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, is working on an expansive research project studying the responses of our natural defenses to coronavirus, in an effort to lay the basis for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Together we are working towards a resolution to this global problem.”

On April 23, Luxury Italian jewellery house Bulgari announced it has ramped up its efforts to support the fight against Covid-19. The brand is donating over 160,000 units of medical-grade hand sanitising gel to the UK, which will be supplied to the NHS at the beginning of May in 75ml recycled plastic bottles. This mini format will allow medical staff to carry the protective gel in their pockets at all times.

A statement read, “frontline medical staff are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly as the UK is now one of the worst affected countries in Europe, and Bulgari is proud to support invaluable efforts to treat affected communities whilst also keeping them as safe as possible from infection. The UK has always been a major market for Bulgari and the company feels it is time to give back during this critical situation, in return for what the UK has given and contributed to Bulgari’s international fame.”

Of the donation, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said, “Tackling coronavirus is a global effort. I’m grateful to Bulgari, which has turned its capability to making vital protective hand gel. It is playing its part, helping people stay safe in these challenging times, and no doubt saving lives. I salute the brand’s generosity and the part it is playing in winning the battle against this virus.”

Bulgari had already boosted its support to its home country, Italy, on March 26, with the announcement that it would produce  hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand gel in collaboration with its fragrances partner, ICR (Industrie Cosmetiche Riunite, Lodi). These have been supplied to all medical facilities through the Protezione Civile (Italian Civil Protection Department).

Jean Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari CREDIT: Getty

Both of these efforts come in addition to an initiative announced over one month earlier – a major donation to the Research Department of the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital in Rome. On March 6, the CEO of Bulgari, Jean-Christophe Babin and Lelio Gavazza, Executive Vice President Sales and Retail, visited the Research Department of the Spallanzani Hospital where they met the virology team and delivered the 3D microscope, purchased through the donation, which they hope will lead to the prevention and treatment of the virus.

Babin said, “We are conscious that the donation is a first small drop in the ocean of research which has to be conducted but thanks to the wonderful people who are working on it day and night with incredible optimism we are sure that in the weeks to come we will make giant steps towards containing and then eradicating coronavirus, not only from Italy, but from the rest of the world.”

The closed Loewe store in Madrid CREDIT: Getty

On 20 April, luxury fashion brand Loewe announced that it is working to ensure a better future for children in socially vulnerable groups by donating €40 for every product of the Paula’s Ibiza collection sold between May and August 2020 in Loewe stores and on loewe.com. The brand has kicked this off with an initial donation of €500,000. 

The brand will be collaborating with Plataforma de Infancia – a Spanish alliance of social organizations that works to protect children and adolescents’ rights – to launch a series of educational programs this summer in Spain which aims to reduce inequality and school dropouts. “Joy, in these troubled times, means to maintain a positive outlook on things. Children are joy and deserve joy,” read the statement. 

Loewe is also donating 100.000 surgical masks to the Spanish Red Cross and producing non-surgical masks in its Getafe factory. The masks are to be distributed to volunteer workers, Loewe employees and their families.

Earlier this month, luxury handbag brand Demellier pivoted production in its Spanish factory to produce face masks and protective screens to donate for local hospitals. 

French luxury brand Hermès has promised to maintain the basic salaries of all its staff CREDIT: Reuters

Hermès Group has promised to maintain the full basic salary of its 15,500 employees worldwide without having to resort to any additional government support provided by various countries, notably in France. 

The French luxury brand will donate €20m to public hospitals in Paris, as well as donating over 30 tonnes of hand sanitiser produced by its fragrance manufacturing site in Vaudreuil and more than 31,000 masks.

On April 16, Ralph Lauren ramped up its support with a UK donation and fundraising initiative in support of The Royal Marsden Hospital and other programs in support of NHS frontline workers. This donation to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity that will enable The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to purchase a specialist machine to test for Covid-19.

Ralph Lauren has extended support to the US adn the UK CREDIT: Getty

Professor Mitch Dowsett, Head of the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at The Royal Marsden Hospital, said, “thanks to The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, we can bring Covid-19 testing in-house, increasing the volume of NHS staff and cancer patients across London, that can be tested and significantly speeding up the turnaround of results.”

The brand had already responded on its American home turf on March 26, allocating $10m to provide financial grants through the Emergency Assistance Foundation. This will be divided up between Ralph Lauren colleagues facing special circumstances, a contribution to the World Health Organization Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and go towards the brand’s Pink Pony cancer charity, supporting those who are vulnerable at this time.

The house will also give an inaugural donation to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) / Vogue Fashion Fund for Covid-19 relief to support the American fashion community impacted by the pandemic.

The American brand is also producing 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns with its U.S. manufacturing partners.

The Tod’s store in Hong Kong CREDIT: Getty

On April 6, Tod’s announced that The Della Valle Family has allocated €5 million to support the family members of health personnel who have lost their lives in the fight against Covid-19. “Their selflessness and courage will forever be an example to all of us,” read a statement. 

Brooks Brothers announced last week that it was to commence manufacturing up to 150,000 surgical masks per day at its U.S. factories. America’s oldest retailer, which usually crafts ties, shirts and suits, is switching brief to masks and gowns to help increase access to protective gear for health care workers and others battling the spread of Covid-19 at American hospitals and medical facilities.

“We consider this a duty, and part of our DNA at Brooks Brothers,” said Claudio Del Vecchio, Chief Executive Officer. “These are challenging times that are impacting us all. We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part and join our peers in retail to provide protective masks that our healthcare system critically needs.”

Louis Vuitton left a positive message on its boarded store front in Soho, New York CREDIT: Getty

LVMH has updated its already staggering pledge of support with the news that Louis Vuitton has started producing gowns in its ready-to-wear atelier located on rue du Pont Neuf in Paris. These gowns will be provided to frontline workers in six Parisian hospitals of the “Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris”, also known as AP-HP, which is taking care of patients suffering from Covid-19.

Last month, LVMH, which owns brands such as Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, and beauty labels such as Guerlain, Acqua di Parma and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, was one of the first to make a move to help the fight against coronavirus. It announced that it was going to use its French perfume factories to produce mass quantities of hand sanitiser gel from Monday 16 March.  

The statement read, “Given the risk of a shortage of hydroalcoholic gel in France, Bernard Arnault has instructed the LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics business to prepare its production sites to manufacture substantial quantities of hydroalcoholic gel to be provided to public authorities.”

It went on, “LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands to produce large quantities of the gel from Monday. It will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities and as a priority from this Monday to the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris. LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities.”

The Canali Group has donated €200,000 to the San Gerardo Hospital in Monza through the brand’s nonprofit foundation Fondazione Canali Onlus, to help the fight against coronavirus in Italy. Founded by the Canali family in 2013, the foundation takes in the family’s own human and social values. 

Michael Kors at the finale of his spring/summer 2020 show last year CREDIT: Getty

The Michael Kors brand is donating $1 million to support local relief efforts in New York City. In addition, founder Michael Kors and John Idol will make personal contributions of an additional $1 million towards these efforts.

Of this $2 million packet, two of New York City’s largest hospital systems, NYU Langone Health and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, will each receive $750,000 to support emergency patient care, financial relief to frontline medical staff, and related clinical and diagnostic research.

God’s Love We Deliver will receive $250,000 to fund meals to be delivered to the city’s most vulnerable individuals living with serious illness across all five boroughs. The Vogue Fashion Fund for Covid-19 Relief will receive $250,000 to provide financial relief for small businesses in the fashion community affected by the pandemic.

In Milan, Versace is donating a total of $500,000 to support local efforts in response to the pandemic; this is in addition to the ¥1 million that Versace donated in February to support the Chinese Red Cross Foundation. These additional funds will support the San Raffaele Hospital and Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana’s initiative to donate ventilators and medical equipment to the country’s hospitals. 

Donatella and Allegra Versace attending the Met Gala in 2019 CREDIT: Getty

This is the second donation from the brand. Friday March 13, Italian fashion house Versace announced that Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra personally donated €200,000 to the intensive care department of San Raffaele hospital in Milan to support the fight against coronavirus. 

A statement from Versace herself read, “In times like this, it is important to be united and support those who are on the front lines, fighting every day to save hundreds of lives. This is why Allegra and I have decided to make a personal donation of €200,000 to the intensive care department of San Raffaele hospital. This is when we, as a society, need to stand together and care for one another.”

In London, Jimmy Choo will donate $500,000 to support relief efforts both in the brand’s home country of the United Kingdom and globally.The National Health Service Covid-19 Urgent Appeal by NHS Charities Together will receive $250,000 to support hospital staff, volunteers and others on the front line caring for Covid-19 patients.

The World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund will receive $250,000, enabling countries to prepare for and respond to the crisis, and supporting medical professionals and patients worldwide by providing critical aid and supplies.

From April 1, Acqua di Parma is donating 100% of its revenues from the online sales of all home products, such as candles and diffusers, and personal care items, such as shaving creams, to help the situation in Italy. This is part of the brand’s new #StayHome campaign, encouraging buyers to spruce up their living spaces with fragrant products and raise money to fight the coronavirus at the same time.

“In these difficult times of suffering and strife that grip Italy so severely, it is natural and right to make a strong gesture of solidarity. With the #StayHome campaign, we can do our part and demonstrate the love that the Maison has for our mother country,” said Laura Burdese, President and CEO of Acqua di Parma. 

On March 28, Burberry announced the dedication of its resources to support those impacted by the disease and prevent further infection. By leveraging its global supply chain, the brand will support world-leading research and provide funding to increase food supplies, help to meet the most immediate medical and community needs, and support the development of a longer-term solution to the global pandemic.

The brand will utilise its global supply chain network to fast-track the delivery of over 100,000 surgical masks to the NHS, for use by medical staff, and retool its trench coat factory in Castleford, Yorkshire, to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients. It will also fund research into a single-dose vaccine developed by the University of Oxford that is on course to begin human trials next month and donate to charities including FareShare and The Felix Project, dedicated to tackling food poverty across the UK.

Marco Gobbetti of Burberry CREDIT: Getty

“In challenging times, we must pull together,” said Marco Gobbetti, CEO, Burberry. “The whole team is very proud to be able to support those who are working tirelessly to combat Covid-19. The pandemic has fundamentally changed our everyday lives, but we hope that the support we provide will go some way towards saving more lives, bringing the virus under control and helping our world recover from this devastating pandemic. Together, we will get through this.”

On March 27 the Zegna Group pledged to donate €3 million to the Civil Protection in Italy, to support the nurses, doctors, scientists and volunteers across Italy who have been working tirelessly to fight the epidemic. The Group will also convert part of its production facilities in Italy and Switzerland to the manufacturing of medical masks, that will provide critical supplies to both Zegna’s employees and to the wider needs in Italy and Switzerland. ​It has also made a direct financial contribution to provide several hospitals with ventilators and medical masks.

Hugo Boss announced on March 26 that it will dedicate the clothing production site at its global headquarters in Metzingen to the manufacture of face masks, which will be donated to public facilities. In the coming weeks, it will manufacture 180,000 masks. They will be crafted in a cotton-blend material that can be washed and reused at least 50 times. These masks are not for clinical use. However, they can be used in other settings, such as in nursing homes, fire departments, and by police.

Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti in Paris last year CREDIT: Getty

Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti also announced that, through their Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti Foundation, they are donating €1 million to support the fight against the Coronavirus. The donation will benefit the new Columbus Covid 2 Hospital, a new area fully dedicated to the Covid-19 cases at Rome’s Agostino Gemelli University Policlinic. The Columbus Covid 2 Hospital was officially inaugurated on March 21. 

“In such a dramatic moment for the whole world,” said Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. “We wanted to give our contribution to win this crucial battle against this invisible, but terrible enemy. Our deepest gratitude goes to those women and men who are fighting night and day to save human lives in our hospitals. We will never be thankful enough for the love and dedication they are demonstrating in such a dramatic moment.” 

Designer Giorgio Armani puts on a face mask as he arrives at the venue of his autumn/winter 2020 collection  CREDIT: Reuters

On the same day, Giorgio Armani announced increased support in the fight against Covid-19. All of its Italian production plants have now switched to manufacturing single use medical overalls, to be used for the individual protection of healthcare workers engaged in the fight against coronavirus. Armani had already made a donation of €2 million to four Italian hospitals and the national Civil Protection Agency. 

Canada Goose announced on March 25 that the company will leverage its manufacturing facilities to begin production of medical gear for frontline healthcare workers and patients across Canada. The company will begin making scrubs and patient gowns, which are in short supply across the country, and will begin distributing them to hospitals on the week beginning March 30.

“Across Canada, there are people risking their lives every day on the frontlines of Covid-19 in healthcare facilities, and they need help. Now is the time to put our manufacturing resources and capabilities to work for the greater good,” said Dani Reiss, President and CEO. “Our employees are ready, willing and able to help, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s the Canadian thing to do.”

Moncler autumn/winter 2019 CREDIT: AP

Earlier in March, Luxury fashion brand Moncler announced a huge contribution of €10 million to go towards the construction of a hospital with 400 intensive care units in Milan.  The new site will be dedicated to patients testing positive for Covid-19 and is being constructed in the former fairgrounds of the Italian city.  

“Milan is a city that has given us all an extraordinary time,” said CEO Remo Ruffini. “We cannot and must not abandon it. It is everyone’s duty to give back to the city that has given us so much.” 

Prada announced its donation of two entire intensive care units to each of Milan’s three biggest hospitals: San Raffaele, Sacco and Vittore Buzzi. Luxury shoe brand Sergio Rossi pledged to give 100% of proceeds from online sales to ASST Fate Bene Fratelli Sacco hospital in Milan. Alongside hoping to inspire shoppers to part with their money for a vital cause, the company also made a donation of €100,000.

On the same day, Giuseppe Santoni, CEO and namesake of the luxury shoe brand Santoni, launched a fundraiser to assist hospitals in the Marche region, kicking it off with a personal donation of €50,000. Marche is one of Italy’s high-end shoemaking hubs and has been harshly affected by coronavirus. 

Santoni said, “Marche is the region I belong to, the region where my family, my company, my people are groundedIt’s a beautiful territory that is suffering and that has to prepare to face the even more difficult emergencies that are expected in the next few days. Now I want to give to this region that has always given so much to me.” 

Earlier that week, Italian influencer and businesswoman Chiara Ferragni crowdsourced €3.8 million for Milan’s San Raffaele hospital. Currently on lockdown with her husband, Italian rapper Fedez, and their son in the family’s Milanese home, Ferragni has been extremely vocal online over the past few weeks about the devastating effect of coronavirus in Italy. 

In one of her diary-style posts she wrote, “every day at 6pm, you’ll find us at the window singing Inno d’Italia. It has probably become my favourite time of the day: a moment that brings us Italians together and makes us feel like one great community. I’ll try to give back all the love that I have in me to this world in this moment of need.” 

How to grow a better tomato

As prime tomato-transplanting time arrives this month up north — once the danger of frost has passed — you may be in search of seedlings. Or maybe you started your tomatoes from seed, or have young plants (homegrown or store-bought) already in the ground, or in a big pot on your balcony.

Whatever stage of the tomato timeline you’re at, you may be wondering: What needs to happen next, in the weeks before that first ripe tomato?

I asked Tom Stearns, who founded High Mowing Organic Seeds in 1996 and has grown a lot of tomatoes.

“The first seed I ever saved was a tomato’s,” said Mr. Stearns, who in the decades since has trialed heirlooms and hybrids at his Vermont farm, helping breeders from Cornell, the University of New Hampshire, Oregon State University and elsewhere fine-tune the development of new organic varieties.

Mr. Stearns’s company, which has the largest selection of certified organic seed varieties in North America, has seen a 300 percent increase in home-garden sales since mid-March. With other seed sellers reporting similar upticks, that probably means a lot of people are trying their first vegetable gardens — and their first tomato plants.

He shared his advice.

Big-box stores typically have limited choices, familiar basic varieties. “Farm stands and farmers’ markets will have much more diversity — more options, and more interesting options,” Mr. Stearns said. Many independent garden centers also buy from local farmers, if there is no stand nearby.

“Plus, the farmer knows the varieties, and not just their flavors, but how they grow in your area,” Mr. Stearns said.

Ask about the disease-resistance and how big each variety gets — whether it’s a determinate or bush type, with less of a vining habit than rangy indeterminates that can grow as high as 10 feet.

The sculptural fluted fruit of an heirloom Pink Accordion tomato.
The sculptural fluted fruit of an heirloom Pink Accordion tomato.Credit…Margaret Roach

Tomatoes want a full-sun spot, period. Warming the soil, especially in northern areas, provides these tender perennials of South American ancestry with additional comfort. A mulch of black plastic is an easy solution.

“There are not too many cases where I think the use of a fossil-fuel product is worth it on the home-garden scale,” Mr. Stearns said. “But tomatoes are one case where that has merit.”

Landscape fabric is a more resource-conscious alternative, he said: “A 20-foot strip can mulch a row of 10 plants for 10 years.” Roll it up at the season’s end to store and reuse.

Southern growers get a pass on this. “If you’re in a warm place, where heat is not your limiting factor, go with straw,” Mr. Stearns advised.

All mulches suppress weeds and conserve moisture, fostering what Mr. Stearns calls “tomato-hygiene management,” which is critical because tomatoes are susceptible to fungal, bacterial, viral and other diseases.

A clean mulch layer between the soil surface and the lowest leaves — the bottom rung on the ladder on which disease spores can splash up and start to climb the plant — is a key defense.

Bonus tip: Remove the lowest set of leaves before planting, so the first rung is that much harder to reach.

“Especially in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and upper Midwest, as an example, the fungal diseases Septoria and early blight are in your soil all the time,” Mr. Stearns said. “Rotating where you grow your tomatoes from year to year is not really going to help — you must managethe disease.”

In the Florida weave method of trellising tomatoes that High Mowing uses, successive bands of twine are woven in a figure-eight style between stakes as plants grow, to give pruned plants support along with air and light.
In the Florida weave method of trellising tomatoes that High Mowing uses, successive bands of twine are woven in a figure-eight style between stakes as plants grow, to give pruned plants support along with air and light.Credit…High Mowing Organic Seeds

Tomatoes have the ability to produce roots off their stems, known as adventitious roots. Capitalize on this.

“A lot of tomato seedlings can come to you leggy and weak,” Mr. Stearns said. “So planting the seedling deep, halfway up the stalk, is good.”

Deeper rooting also helps with drought resistance later on.

Although tomatoes are always classified as heavy feeders, this can be misleading. In well-prepared, fertile soil, a tomato plant is resourceful.

“Tomato root systems are enormous, and most varieties are pretty good at foraging for nutrients three or four feet away from the main stem,” Mr. Stearns said. At his farm, fish emulsion is added to the irrigation water, providing beneficial micronutrients.

The heavy-feeder reputation can prompt unnecessary fertilization. “There is a risk that concentrated nitrogen fertilizer can promote green growth at the expense of fruit,” he said, “and even make plants vulnerable to disease.”

Fungal diseases like nothing better than a humid jungle. So make sure plants in a row are 18 inches apart, and leave at least four feet between rows with pruned plants that you have staked or trellised (or more with unpruned caged plants).

And don’t hesitate to prune, because increased airflow and light help plants stay vigorous.

“A tomato makes about twice as many branches and leaves as it needs to produce fruit,” Mr. Stearns said. “So you can cut off all the suckers” — those small shoots that sprout where the stem and a side branch meet — “and every other leaf, and have no negative impact on yields.”

Just don’t prune before the dew dries or after a rain: Stay out of the tomato row when foliage is wet to minimize spreading trouble.

Although many gardeners use tomato cages — the best choice if you’re not planning to prune — only the biggest ones can accommodate an indeterminate plant. Trellising and pruning allows more light and air to reach the plants.
Although many gardeners use tomato cages — the best choice if you’re not planning to prune — only the biggest ones can accommodate an indeterminate plant. Trellising and pruning allows more light and air to reach the plants.Credit…Margaret Roach

Cages, stakes and trellises can get tomatoes up off the ground. If you are not going to keep up with pruning, use a large cage.

But Mr. Stearns recommends trellising: “It promotes good yields; it’s easy to see what’s going on with your plants; and fruit is easy to harvest without damaging anything.”

There are various trellis techniques, including the Florida weave, where twine is woven, figure-eight style, in and out of a series of posts set a foot deep in the tomato row (get the how-to on the High Mowing blog). As plants grow, more weaving is added every eight inches or so up the posts.

“Again: Think air circulation,” he said. “Never do a tomato tepee, with several plants tied up to one support. Inside, it will be like 100 percent humidity — dew will never dry off in there. All the plants need is 24 hours at 100 percent humidity and disease is happening, disease you can help prevent.”

Mulch helps, but in the extreme situation of a fast-draining sandy soil in hot weather, your plants may require twice-weekly watering. Stick a finger into the soil to feel whether it is slightly moist — which it should be at all times.

Always be on the lookout for yellowing leaves, which should be removed promptly and disposed of.
Always be on the lookout for yellowing leaves, which should be removed promptly and disposed of.Credit…Margaret Roach

“Tomato problems can kind of sneak up on you,” Mr. Stearns said. “You can walk out one day and the plants look fine, and a week later they’ve melted.”

One thing to always look for and remove at once: yellowing leaves. Dispose of affected foliage at a distance from the garden. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s fact sheet includes photos of common foliage diseases.

While tomatoes are technically self-pollinators, with male and female flower parts in each blossom, wind movement or a bumblebee helps pollen move from anther to stigma (the receptive female part). Sometimes temperature extremes, or even high humidity that makes the pollen too sticky, can interfere, and flowers don’t get pollinated thoroughly, or even drop off.

“Some diseases can affect flower branches and knock back the yield, too,” Mr. Stearns said. “And then there are all those things that steal the fruit before you get to them.”

Sometimes plants are lush with tropical growth, but no flowers or fruit — in which case, you may have over-fertilized, Mr. Stearns said: “Water more to wash out some of the nitrogen. It’s water-soluble, and you can leach it out a bit.”

An empty egg carton becomes the gift box for an offering of the first batch of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes to share with a neighbor. 
An empty egg carton becomes the gift box for an offering of the first batch of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes to share with a neighbor. Credit…Margaret Roach

At harvest time, make sauce to freeze or can, and also freeze whole fruits in freezer bags to substitute for canned tomatoes in soups, stews and sauces. It’s just the kind of plan-ahead ingredient we all wish we had on hand right now, while waiting for tomato time.

Tomatoes crave full sun and warm soil. While Southern gardeners can just mulch with straw, in the North, preheat soil before transplanting with black plastic or reusable landscape fabric. And don’t transplant until the danger of frost is past.

Practice good tomato hygiene: Prevent soil splash, potentially laden with disease spores, from getting up onto plants. A mulch layer helps, and so does pruning off the lowest set of leaves before planting.

Open plants up to light and air by spacing 18 inches apart within a row and leaving four feet between rows. Cage if you don’t plan to prune, but better yet: Prune and trellis your plants.

Plant deep — really deep — because tomatoes form roots off buried stem tissue, becoming more drought-resilient.

Don’t overfeed: In a fertile soil, tomatoes don’t need the bagged stuff, which can cause excess green growth at the expense of fruit, and promote disease.

Be vigilant for trouble signs, especially yellowing leaves. Remove and discard.

How to have a fun conversation again

When you don’t leave your house for days on end, it can be challenging to be a dazzling conversationalist when friends and family call. Anytime someone asks me what’s new lately, my mind goes blank. Looking around for inspiration, I usually mumble something about the weather. There’s also a lot of heavy sighing on my end, which isn’t particularly entertaining for the other person.

It’s hard to strike an equilibrium in conversation if you’re feeling overwhelmed, unhappy and drained. “Some may be struggling to have positive conversations because the world is dark,” said Alison Wood Brooks, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “Others are struggling with conversational fatigue as they manage crowded households. Still others wish they could have more conversations as they combat profound loneliness.”

Even though there’s plenty we can’t control right now, there are things we can control when it comes to the conversations we’re having. We can pick what things we read and listen to so we have fodder to comment on. We also control the attention we bring to the conversation. We can listen deeply and ask follow-up questions.

We can also choose who we communicate with.

“Try to choose to talk to the people that bring you joy,” Dr. Brooks said. “Think about how you feel during and after your conversations.” If someone consistently drags you down, “you may be better off interacting with others for now.”

Finally, we are in charge of our attitude about this situation, too. We can crack jokes and be silly. Research suggests that humor is an excellent coping mechanism that helps distract — and heal — from negative news. So, Dr. Brooks said, try to make people laugh. And don’t forget to laugh at yourself! “Even if you must discuss serious topics, the whole interaction isn’t required to be serious, dreadful or dark,” she said. “You’re allowed to cry and smile at the same time.”

With these basic principles in mind, here’s how to keep conversations interesting when life is feeling drab:

Do a little homework. In Dr. Brooks’s research, she found that jotting down one to three topic ideas before the conversation starts lowers anxiety during the conversation and increases the enjoyment of the interaction. “Even just thinking about one or two ideas in the 20 seconds before a conversation seems to help,” she said.

Start the conversation off on the right foot. When people ask Debra Fine, author of “The Fine Art of Small Talk,” how she’s holding up, she responds with something lighthearted but real: “I haven’t reinvented myself yet!” Or, “I have one more episode of Ozark to watch. I can’t wait.”

“This gives others a factoid or topic to keep the conversation going,” she said.

Ms. Fine also starts conversations by saying things like:

  • How are you entertaining yourself?
  • What is your favorite quarantine outfit?
  • Tell me about your best meal so far.

Avoid one-upping each other. Yes, things are hard for both of you, and it might feel like you’re sympathizing — I hear you! Life is hard for me, too! — but it makes the other person feel dismissed. So, don’t do this:

First friend: “Ugh, I’ve been in Zoom meetings all day. I am completely drained.”

Second friend: “You think that’s bad? At the end of my work day, I need to entertain and feed two teenagers.”

First friend: “I am feeling claustrophobic now that parks and trails have been closed.”

Second friend: “Try living in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.”

Instead, Ms. Fine said, we should listen and offer empathetic responses. Say things like, “That does sound draining,” “I feel for you” and, “What’s worked for you when managing stress like this?”

Ask about the day-to-day business. Sherry Turkle likes it when people ask her what she’s been up to, as she is engaged in interesting work at the moment. The M.I.T. professor and author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” wants to talk about everything she’s been doing to adjust in this new normal. “Similarly,” she said, “my quarantine-mates are doing the most fascinating work in business, finance, strategy and thinking about the future of human resources, hiring and marketing.” With them, she says, getting into the nitty-gritty of their lives is the best talk. It’s “endlessly interesting.”

It’s also important to be sensitive to those who have been furloughed or are out of work for the foreseeable future. If your friend seems open to talking about what the world may look like once restrictions are lifted, follow their lead. “Together you may actually have interesting ideas about how their skills will fit,” Professor Turkle said. Make sure the person who is out of work feels supported, whether they want to address their work concerns at this time or not.

Keep the conversation balanced. There has to be give and take. Avoid constantly bringing the focus back to yourself, a habit many people may not even realize they have. This tendency annoys conversation partners, who then “leave the conversation feeling tired and like you weren’t interested in them,” Dr. Brooks said.

Find a way to make unexciting things exciting. Marvel at the absurdity you’re finding in everyday life. R. Eric Thomas, a senior editor of Elle.com and author of “Here For It: Or How to Save Your Soul In America,” loves hearing about the most mundane trivia when he connects with his people. “You would be surprised how interested I am in hearing about what my friends are putting on their toast in quarantine,” he said. “Tell me more about your life and less about the uncertainty of the future.”

Talk about what you’re reading, watching and making. Mr. Thomas has had success getting people gabbing by commenting on pop culture: books, television shows and movies, and music. People also love lingering on nostalgia. He recommends asking friends:

  • Who is your favorite Disney princess?
  • What is the first film you remember seeing in a theater?
  • What TV show episodes do you always rewatch?
  • What music never fails to get you in a good mood?

“We are surrounded by a world of mood-lighteners, and sometimes it’s a welcome respite to revisit them,” he said.

You can also share your silliest pet stories, too. Has your dog been barking up a storm while you’re on conference calls? Is your cat chewing on your prized stash of toilet paper? Talk about it!

Be honest. If you’re feeling like you’re not in a place to hold a conversation, you can let the other person know. Sometimes, Mr. Thomas said, it’s OK to just be present and not engage. Or, it’s OK to say, “I’m having a hard time finding positivity right now.”

“In fact,” he said, “it may free others up to be honest about the ways that they feel, too.”

Give a different kind of graduation gift

The class of 2020 is graduating into an off-kilter world. Ceremonies are canceled and it’s not safe to throw an in-person party. But graduates are still celebrating. And gifts are still in order, though in interviews many graduates acknowledged the country’s economic problems, and did not want to create a stress or burden on their families. For many joy and pride are enough.

“The greatest gift can be just spending time with the ones I love,” said Zeeshan Parupia, a senior marketing major at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Based on dozens of suggestions from real graduates, here are some gift ideas to help them celebrate their accomplishments.

Emma Lingo, an 18-year-old from Kirkwood, Mo., wants to make memories, to make up for experiences she lost because of the pandemic. “I missed out on a lot at the end of senior year, from banquets to bonfires,” she said.

Kirkwood High School held a parade for seniors, where they wore their caps and gowns and drove through their community in decorated cars. She thought it was fun but not quite the equivalent of a formal graduation ceremony.

Once it’s safe to go outside, she wants her aunt to take her out for coffee, or to visit an aquarium with her little cousins.

To give an experience to your graduate, create a certificate redeemable for a future hang.

Dylan Campos wants to concentrate in English literature and political science when he begins at Hampshire College in the fall. Mr. Campos, 17, has been doing his schoolwork remotely on the shared family computer. He’d like a laptop.

“I have no expectations, and I know that if they could provide me with the latest state-of-the-art technology, they’d do it in a heartbeat,” Mr. Campos said.

Mr. Campos, a first-generation American, knows he will need to use videoconferencing once classes start, either to attend them from his home in Branford, Conn., or to keep in touch with his family from campus.

Money is not an uncommon graduation gift, but this year’s recipients may be spending it in different ways. Amelia Loeffler, a senior at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky., is trying to save up for a geology course she is taking this fall at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The class takes an annual trip to California over fall break, the coronavirus permitting.

“Students have to pay about $500 in fees for the trip, so I’m saving the money I’ve been gifted by friends and family to pay for this experience,” she said.

Lexie Overstreet, 18, loves her job at a coffee shop in Louisville, Ky. Before she goes to Centre College in Danville, Ky., this fall, Ms. Overstreet wants to spend time with her friends out and about in Louisville.

“I would take exploring downtown or going to a coffee shop with them one more time over any material item,” she said. “If I did get a gift, I’d love anything local or that gives back to my hometown community.”

Supporting the area’s businesses is especially important to her now, so a gift certificate to one of them would be perfect.

“Walmart and Amazon don’t need support during this pandemic, but the little shops that donate to local events and charities throughout the year do,” she said.

Also: They will not have photos of prom or graduation, but all those Zoom screenshots need to go somewhere, so consider getting prints and frames for grads. And portable Bluetooth speakers bring the beat to even socially distanced events and will be useful whenever dorms reopen.

It can be expensive, but your graduate might wear a class ring for the rest of his or her life. It’s one of the most enduring symbols of honest-to-goodness graduation.

Leah Abrams, who majored in public policy and history at Duke University, has worn hers since the fall, when her grandmother helped her buy it. Her friends have been teasing her, “Why don’t you wait until graduation?”

“I guess graduation never came, and now I’m so happy to have this physical reminder that my experience at Duke is always with me,” she said.

It’s especially meaningful because the virtual commencement ceremony, over in 30 minutes, was such a letdown.

“My grandma was like, ‘Was that it?’” Ms. Abrams said. “And I had to be like: ‘Yep, thank you all so much for coming! It means a lot!’

“I hadn’t cried yet, but I cried after that.”

It was hard for Marcella Anderson to miss out on a traditional ceremony. She has three older sisters and remembers their blowout parties. She tries not to think about what she is missing. It makes her too sad.

Instead of gifts, Ms. Anderson, who is graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in food and nutritional sciences, wants the physical acknowledgment that remote graduation can’t provide.

“To know that my family and friends are still supporting me during this time is all that really matters to me,” she said. “I think a graduation card, or even a piece of paper folded into an envelope, is all I really need right now.”

Victoria Eavis wants photographs taken by her father. He takes a camera with him wherever he goes.

“I’d like four of his photos — in whatever size he sees fit — that are in some way representative of my four years in college,” said Ms. Eavis, who graduated with a degree in cultural anthropology from Duke. “I don’t want to be in them, rather I want to look up at them on my wall and be reminded of the beauty of Durham’s sticky light and infinite skies.”

In usual times, many recent grads specialize in takeout for dinner. After spending much of the last semester at home eating family meals, they may be more inclined to cook. Help them.

“I’ve been spoiled by my kitchen at home, equipped with any cookware I could ask for,” said Hala El Solh, who studied at Yale University.

Both a wok and a cast-iron skillet truly last a lifetime. They distribute heat more evenly than most other pans and are not coated with chemicals. If your graduate also loves to bake, present him or her with a piece of cookware, a few printed-out recipes and some spices, tied up in a bow.

Amanda Gordon, who majored in journalism and history at Northwestern University, has been reading more during the quarantine and knows that the first few months out of college can be daunting.

“I would love for the women of my family to send a book they read in their early 20s, one which helped them through tough moments in early adulthood,” she said. “It’s my hope that these stories can shed some light on the very murky waters I find myself wading into.”

Also: Consider a coffee maker and a thermos. The real world starts a lot earlier than college and making your own coffee and taking it with you saves money and cuts down on the waste of disposable cups. You could also go for a mixology kit: Bars will most likely be among the last places to open, so D.I.Y. refreshments and entertaining at home may take precedence. And one final idea, a watch: Even if it is the most traditional gift ever and may seem obsolete in the age of cellphones, it’s a sign of adult life. And punctuality is always in.

A guide to covid-19 cams, and what not to fall for

Glenn Harvey

Never have we been so attractive as targets for fraudsters and scammers as we are right now.

That’s because the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic has created more opportunities for robocallers, hackers and other thieves.

For one thing, millions of people are filing new claims for unemployment benefits and awaiting stimulus checks. So when a phone call or an email from someone purporting to be a bank or a government official comes in, it is tougher for us to ignore.

Plus with so many people being required to work from home, our personal tech devices have become an attractive target for those looking to infiltrate businesses.

While there is little data about the extent of such shadowy activities, security experts said they had seen an increase in scams invading our inboxes, phones and websites. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning, advising people to not respond to digital communications from those claiming to have information about checks from the government, among other schemes.

“It’s a Pandora’s box of opportunities that they can leverage,” said Sam Espinosa, an executive at Next Caller, which develops technology to detect fraudulent calls. “The first time you’re dealing with unemployment may not be the time you’re thinking, ‘This is a fraudster.’”

In a survey by Next Caller last week, 37 percent of the respondents said they believed they had been targeted by fraud and scams related to the coronavirus, up from 32 percent last month. In addition, 44 percent said they felt more vulnerable to fraud now that their businesses were allowing them to work from home.

I talked to security experts about some of the most prominent scams and ways we can protect ourselves. Here’s a guide of what not to fall for.

Even the simplest things, like buying a bottle of hand sanitizer, feel hard right now. Many of us have anxiously turned to the web to search for solutions. Fraudsters are trying to capitalize on our behavior by creating fake websites.

Some of the fraudulent sites look like clones of legitimate government sites containing information about Covid-19 but also show malicious ads asking for your personal information. Other fake websites are stores that pretend to sell face masks and cleaning supplies but exist only to collect your credit card information. Then the scammers can use the information you unwittingly provided to gain access to your finances.

“The number of sites and stores that popped up all over the place has increased,” said Ron Culler, a senior director of technology and solutions for the security firm ADT Cybersecurity. Shortly after the government began issuing stimulus checks, he said, scammers registered 15,000 fake websites posing as the I.R.S. to steal people’s personal and financial information.

Here are a few measures to protect yourself from fraudulent websites:

  • Check the website’s URL. A phony site may look identical to a government or banking website, but the domain name in the address bar is a giveaway of a fake. Click on your address bar and look for domains ending in “com.co,” “.ma” or “.co” instead of more legitimate domains like “.com” or “.org.”
  • Install an ad blocker. To prevent your browser from loading a shady ad seeking your personal information, you can download an ad-blocking extension for your browser. For computer browsers, I recommend uBlock Origin, and on iPhones I recommend 1Blocker X.

Robocallers have a reputation for sounding dumb, but in reality, they work hard for your money and are resourceful.

They do their homework on you and adapt to your responses. Most of the time, they “spoof” phone numbers, manipulating phone networks to ring your phone from numbers they aren’t actually calling from — including digits that belong to your bank or a government agency.

In extreme cases, two scammers work together — one is on the phone with your bank while the other is on the phone with you — asking you for personal information so they can immediately trick the bank’s customer support agent into granting access to your account.

“What they’re looking for is any crack in the system,” Mr. Espinosa said. High-risk calls to financial institutions are 50 percent higher than before the pandemic, according to his company, which tracks the number of potentially fraudulent calls being made to businesses. One bank is getting 6,000 more high-risk calls per hour, he said.

So here’s what to do:

  • Hang up the phone and call back. Robocallers have been a nuisance for years, but now more than ever, we should be wary of any call from a business or an organization. If, for example, your bank calls with a fraud alert, hang up and call the customer service number on the back of your credit card and ask your bank whether it truly tried to call you.
  • Remove businesses from your address book. A saved entry in your address book could give you false confidence that a call is legitimate. Let’s say you have Citibank’s support number saved in your address book and labeled it “Citibank.” If a fraudster spoofed Citibank’s support number and called you, your smartphone would show that a call is coming in from Citibank. It’s best to delete these phone book entries so scammers don’t catch us off guard.

Phishing, in which a scammer impersonates someone to ask for your personal information, is one of the oldest internet scams. But it still happens because it works.

Fraudsters have adapted to the ever-changing news cycle in the pandemic. In emails and texts, they have worn several disguises, pretending to be the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Internal Revenue Service and more, according to ADT.

Their emails and texts purport to have information about the virus or how people can get financial assistance. But their messages frequently contain links to websites asking for personal information, or they download files containing malware.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Check the sender. Similar to fake websites, fraudulent email addresses will look like legitimate ones but often be off by a character or two. Similarly, scam texts tend to come from phone numbers with more than 10 digits.
  • Check — but don’t click on — hyperlinks. In most email programs, you can use your mouse cursor to hover over a link and see a preview of the page it will open. If the link looks suspicious, mark the email as spam and delete it.In a text, generally avoid clicking on links from unknown senders — and don’t respond.

What’s unique about the pandemic is that millions of office workers are working from home. That means the attacks on our companies are increasingly being directed at us at home. Hackers trying to steal information from a business might look to attack our personal email accounts or home networks, Mr. Culler said.

The onus is on us to follow some best practices to protect our employers’ data security in addition to our own, he said.

Those steps include:

  • Check your network security. Like computer operating systems, Wi-Fi routers need security updates. Check the instruction manual for your router to log in to the settings and confirm if it’s running the latest version of its firmware, or software system. If your router is more than seven years old, it probably no longer gets security updates, so your best bet is to buy a new router. I recommend modern Wi-Fi systems, such as Amazon’s Eero or Google Wifi, which automatically download security updates.Obvious but also important: Make sure your router has a strong password.
  • Keep work and business tech separate. To work from home, employees may be tempted to start using their own tools, like their computers, personal email addresses and messaging apps. However, your equipment and apps were probably not set up to protect your company’s network security.It’s best to do work on company-provided equipment, internet accounts and software. If you lack a tech tool you need for work, make a request to your I.T. department.

All of the precautions above may sound complicated, but if in doubt, turn back to something you learned in childhood and add a twist: Never talk to strangers, especially when they ask for your personal information.

The 6 best lip balms to re-hydrate your lips

CREDIT: YULIA-IMAGES/YULIA-IMAGES

Lip balm is a year round beauty essential, and in the midst of winter and early spring when the weather and central heating takes its toll, it’s always a balm that helps to replenish dry, chapped lips. A great formula will improve the condition of your lips in minutes. 

Plus, smooth, hydrated lips are the foundation for long-lasting lipstick – ask any make-up artist and they’ll agree. To get the most out of your balm, it’s worth exfoliating your lips first. Use a lip scrub, such as Fresh Sugar Lip Polish, £19, or a spare toothbrush once or twice a week to get rid of any dead skin. 

For those looking for a new balm, here are the best ones to invest in, including the luxe buys and the budget finds… 

Best tinted lip balm: Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector, £18

If you find lipstick too drying, try these tinted balms from Clarins. The formula has the pigment quality of a sheer lipstick and the moisturising powers of a balm. It’s a win-win beauty buy.  

Best lip balm with SPF: Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Nourishing Lip Balm, £20

We often forget that our lips are constantly exposed and therefore, like our face, need to be protected. This clever cream contains SPF 20, as well as plenty of  nourishing vitamins to keep lips in tip top condition.

Best luxury lip balm: La Mer The Lip Balm, £45

Spending almost £50 on a lip balm seems extortionate, but this is like no other balm you’ve tried. The waxy balm re-hydrates and replenishes, as well as giving your lips a protective coating. As a result, it’s had a cult-like following since it launched. 

Best budget lip balm: Vaseline Lip Therapy, £1.89

Despite having a multitude of benefits, including a skin hydrating highlighter for cheekbones, Vaseline is best known as a lip balm. It’s a beauty classic and no round-up would be complete without it. For those who are prone to losing their balms or on a budget, this is easily the best option. 

Best lip balm for your handbag: EOS Lip Balm, £7

The round packaging was specifically designed to not only make it easily for you to apply this balm wherever you are, but also to find it at the bottom of your handbag. The formula is nourishing and the variety of flavours are a bonus. 

Best anti-ageing lip balm: Sensai Cellular Performance Lip Treatment, £74

If money is no object, then this formula is worth the investment. Technically a treatment, this product has been formulated to be used overnight. Smother it on before you get into bed and you’ll wake up with plumper, firmer lips. 

The stresses of the way we work now

Closed offices and restaurants. Shuttered stores and museums. Darkened schools and theaters.

The current pandemic means that millions of Americans have lost their jobs or are working fewer hours. Those who are fortunate can work from home, or are slowly returning to work.

Vocational psychologists, who study the links between jobs and mental health, say that the current employment crisis and its impact on mental well-being presents some unique challenges. For many workers, mere days separated the warnings about Covid-19 in their area from the shelter-in-place orders that jolted, or ended, their employment.

And while the financial impact of unemployment or underemployment is a top concern, psychologists and social scientists have long understood that jobs are more than a paycheck. For many people, work provides a sense of identity, as well as psychological benefits that come from being productive. Many workers also benefit from the structure of a daily routine and a connection to the larger community.

“Work connects us to the rhythm of the world. It gives us a temporal sense of life,” said David Blustein, a professor of psychology at Boston College and the author of “The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty: The Eroding Work Experience in America.”

A typical work schedule requires a person to get up at a set time and go through a routine in order to leave the house by a certain hour. “For people who are quarantining or in lockdown, we don’t have the same opportunities for that kind of structure,” Dr. Blustein said.

For some people, that lack of structure can feel like a deeply personal loss, Dr. Blustein said. Disrupted workers may have trouble organizing their time or even creating expectations for the day. “It can almost feel surreal to them,” he said.

This sense of unease and the stresses of unemployment, or of finding new ways to work, will be likely to continue in the coming months, as many states maintain various degrees of shelter-in-place orders. As the crisis continues, Dr. Blustein said that the negative impact on mental health will only increase.

People who are unemployed for six months or longer are at twice the risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders compared to the general population, Dr. Blustein said. “The psychology of not being able to provide is devastating,” he said.

“You cannot deny having no money in your bank account. This is the highest level of stress,” said Ryan Duffy, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida. “There are dozens of years of research showing that any kind of stress around survival needs and meeting those needs will be the highest in producing negative mental health outcomes.”


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Studies by Dr. Duffy and other vocational psychologists have found, for example, that while a person’s sense of well-being drops significantly during periods of unemployment, it typically rebounds quickly to former levels when new work is secured. The exception to this well-being rebound, other research suggests, is when workers must change occupations. Employees who had been forced to switch to a new line of work that they hadn’t planned for reported a steady decline of job satisfaction that lasted for up to six years.

While the unemployed are at greatest risk for mental health issues, those new to telecommuting also face unique emotional challenges, Dr. Blustein said. Part of that comes from a blurring of boundaries between work and home, he said, as telecommuters face the challenges of setting up places to work in their private spaces.

Bouncing between conference calls and household chores can mean that work and domestic responsibilities are no longer compartmentalized. For parents, child care or remote learning are additional responsibilities. The result can be a sense that tasks are never completed, work never ends, and days are blurred together.

“It is often hard to denote when the week is over and the weekend begins, because we are not shifting our location, daily activities or even our outfits,” Dr. Blustein said. “Life is interwoven in a web of endless days and, for many, a lack of clear structure and boundaries.”

Telecommuters who feel that work never ends can experience a continuous sense of stress or anxiety. Although social media is filled with jokes about working in sweatpants or forgetting the day of the week, the experience can feel isolating.

Dr. Blustein said telecommuters and furloughed workers also miss the connection of a larger shared experience. A rainy day, for example, that drenches commuters before they enter the office is a shared experience and an opportunity for commiseration. “Talking three or four minutes with a colleague or an administrative assistant about the weather — those are treasured parts of our lives. That’s part of what has been so unmooring about this experience,” he said.

The uncertainty about how long all of this will last compounds the problem. “I call it the age of uncertainty, because we don’t quite know what will happen,” Dr. Blustein said. “But we know the world of work has changed.”

Displaced workers, or those who are unemployed, who begin exhibiting self-destructive or dysfunctional behaviors, such as excessive drinking or “not being able to get out of bed,” should seek counseling or other forms of mental health treatment, said Robert Chope, a psychologist and professor emeritus at San Francisco State University. Signs of trouble may also be more subtle. “They are cynical. They are emotionally exhausted. People don’t want to be around them,” he said.

Organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association have websites with information and resources, including ways to connect with a therapist, Dr. Chope said. Free or low-cost treatments might be available by contacting local chapters of these organizations, he said, or by calling your local mayor’s or public health office and asking for a community mental health referral. Community and local faith-based groups may also be able to help.

Dr. Blustein also advises his clients to focus on other areas of their lives that can bolster a sense of identity and purpose, such as relationships, care giving, leisure activities and volunteering. Building an identity in other domains can help give people a sense of who in they are in the world separate from who they are in the work world.

“We need to find other sources of meaning for our lives,” Dr. Blustein said.

10 amazing ideas for online family activities

Get the kids cooking with cook-along sessions from well-known restaurants and chefs. Photograph: Jovo Jovanovic/Stocksy United

There are few things as wonderful as quality time with your little angels, but there really is an awful lot of it about at the moment, isn’t there? Happily, we’ve come up with plenty of ideas to help you fill this time, and keep it fun too. So explore everything your broadband can deliver, and let the adventures begin …

1. Sing with the stars
Whether you like to sing in glorious harmony or are more into belting out chart favourites at the top of your voice, there’s a digital choir to suit you. The Sofa Singersbring people together via Zoom to sing classics by artists from Bob Marley to Spandau Ballet. Numbers are limited, but the sessions are live streamed on YouTube so you can join in regardless. Lifefulness Live takes the choir idea and adds in celebs – José González and Rufus Hound are two guest performers who’ve taken part. Singalongs run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and are organised around a lovely ethos: “To feel connected when we’re being kept apart.”

2. Hand over storytime to Michelle Obama
If you’re going to deputise storytime, you may as well hand over to someone almost as charismatic as you. Check out the former first lady reading The Gruffalo and There’s a Dragon in Your Book on the PBS Kids’ YouTube channel. Or, for more UK-centric versions, there’s Floella Benjamin’s YouTube channel where she tells a mixture of her own and classic stories. The kids’ publisher Puffin is also doing daily weekday storytimes. On Mondays and Fridays there are picture book reads and draw-alongs for the under fives, with the other days aimed at kids aged six and up.

3. Take your board games digital
Family board games such as Ticket to Ride (eight and over) and Love Letter (10 and over) can be played online via the gaming platform Steam or using phone/tablet apps. For gaming accompanied by riotous laughter, Drawful 2 is drawing-based fun for all the family, with points handed out for guessing what others are sketching. If you screen-share via Zoom you can play with family and friends locked down elsewhere.

4. Laugh with Alex Horne and Greg Davies
Channel 4’s comedy panel show Taskmaster and its madcap creative challenges have gone digital since lockdown started. Throughout the week, host Alex Horne sets tasks on Twitter for families to complete by making 20-second videos. Think “Re-enact a momentous moment from history” or “Make and demonstrate the best method of transport in your home”. The very best are compiled into a Greg Davies-helmed video that’s posted on YouTube. Be warned, the bar is high.

5. Get your kids to make something V&A-worthy
Twitter art clubs have become a thing since lockdown started. The Great British Bake Off host Noel Fielding is retweeting kids’ pictures every Saturday between 3pm and 5pm, and the the V&A museum is running design-based challenges on Wednesdays aimed at seven- to 11-year-olds. It’s called #LetsMakeWednesdays. Or you can download brilliant (and free) activity packs featuring contributions from British artists including Antony Gormley, Grayson Perry and Gillian Wearing. Head to Art is Where the Home is to get started.

6. Take a virtual zoo tour
A little animal magic is always good for the soul, so to see how everything from pandas to penguins are faring during lockdown check out live webcams at Dublin Zooand Edinburgh Zoo. Chester Zoo is really pushing the boat out with occasional live-streamed Virtual Zoo Days. If you miss one, you can catch up with all the action on its YouTube channel. Chester also has approximately 100 activities on its site for animal-loving kids to try out.Advertisementhttps://0ab240567c3b96a9b5e482e088cbc6e2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

7. Have the kids sort dinner
May as well get the kids to help out with feeding everyone while they have time on their hands at home. There’s a huge choice of kid-friendly videos from 14-year-old Aussie chef Charli on Charli’s Crafty Kitchen. Watermelon lollies and rainbow cookies seem a particular favourite. BBC Food, too, has plenty of treats for kids to make, from banana pancakes to rainbow pizza. If you’re quick off the mark, each weekday Delish is running an Instagram Live cook-along for kids. It’s available for 24 hours if you can’t join in real time. For something more adventurous, you could give your older children a hand and help recreate their favourite restaurant dishes. Wagamama and Nando’sare both running cook-along sessions showing how to make the dishes customers are missing most. Bon appetit.

8. Send your children to Hogwarts
If your children need introducing to the world of Harry Potter (surely not?), Audible has just made the first book free to listen to. For those who are already hooked, the new official Wizarding World website offers hundreds of magical Harry Potter activities – for zero pence. Think quidditch quizzes, a guide to making Ravenclaw shoelaces and Q&As with the films’ stars. There’s a slightly more cerebral take for older kids at the British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition. In the words of JK Rowling: “That’s what Hermione does. When in doubt, go to the library.”

9. Dive into high culture
There are child-friendly classical music clips online from the Seattle Symphonyorchestra, while the Royal Opera House has a series of challenges to inspire creativity in kids. To put that newfound love of high culture into practice try out the daily Facebook music lessons from the Benedetti Foundation. Take a look, too, at Myleene’s Music Klass – the clue on who’s leading the fun is in the name.

10. Get away from it all
You can still take your kids on holiday: you just need broadband. The family can head to St Lucia thanks to its tourist team’s live videos on Instagram, or if you’re really adventurous types, how about joining a virtual trek up Everest. Not sure where your fancy takes you? Go globe-trotting from the comfort of your home on Skyline Webcams. Rome! Madrid! Easter Island! The world is your oyster.

Vodafone #KeepingTheUKConnected
Our digital lifelines have never felt more essential than they do now.

That’s why every day, we at Vodafone are working hard to maintain our network.

So even when we’re apart, nothing can stop us being together.

Stay up to date with the latest information on what we’re doing to keep the UK connected. Find out more


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How to manage your loneliness

Shelter-in-place orders have hit those who live alone particularly hard.

Afia Ofori-Mensa, 39, has lived alone for 16 years. For nine of those years she taught at Oberlin College in rural Ohio, where she had a limited social network. Last August, she moved to New Jersey to become director of Princeton University’s presidential scholars program — which provides resources to help undergraduates, including those from populations underrepresented in academia, pursue Ph.D.s. She said she was finally hitting her social stride, reconnecting with Oberlin alumni and family members in the area and routinely hopping on the train to attend events in neighboring cities. But then the coronavirus hit and it brought her feelings of isolation into sharp focus.

“The moments that are most difficult are when I think about not knowing when I’ll be able to touch another human being again,” she said. As someone with no pets, no partner — not even a plant — she said she felt profoundly lonely. “Sometimes I feel like I’m disappearing,” she said.

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University who has studied loneliness extensively, says social connection is something we biologically crave. “We’re social beings and our bodies respond when we lack the proximity to others,” she said. So the new normal prompted by Covid-19 “is a difficult kind of situation where we need to try to still remain socially connected while being physically distant,” she said.

Dr. Holt-Lunstad has found that loneliness can lead to serious consequences. One of her studies found that lacking any social connection may be comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day as a risk factor for mortality. Another study found that loneliness increases the risk of an earlier death by 26 percent. She also found that social isolation, loneliness and living alone exceed the risks of death associated with obesity, physical activity and air pollution.

Susan Pinker, a psychologist and author of “The Village Effect,” said that loneliness is a subjective feeling of being alone against your will. She said that you can be alone and not be lonely or you can be lonely even if you’re surrounded by people. It’s “a feeling of being excluded and of existential angst,” she said.

Afia Ofori-Mensa is learning how to cope with the feelings of loneliness caused by living alone under the coronavirus lockdown.
Afia Ofori-Mensa is learning how to cope with the feelings of loneliness caused by living alone under the coronavirus lockdown.Credit…Afia Ofori-Mensa

The situation is particularly serious, given that many Americans had been lonely even before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

According to a January 2020 survey of 10,000 Americans ages 18 and over conducted by Cigna, 61 percent of adults — three in five — reported they are lonely. That number is up seven percentage points from 2018. With Americans more physically isolated now because of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, the sense of loneliness is even greater, said Dr. Doug Nemecek, Cigna’s chief medical officer for behavioral health. Cigna’s study indicated that major factors corresponding with loneliness were a lack of social support and too few meaningful social interactions; it also found those who telecommute are more lonely than those who work in an office.

“Because of Covid, this is impacting many more of us. We’re socially distanced. We can’t interact with friends or neighbors. We can’t visit elderly parents who are in nursing homes,” he said. “All of this has the potential of impacting how we feel from social connection and loneliness.”

The Cigna study indicated that 79 percent of those aged 18 to 22 considered themselves lonely. Among this group, heavy social media users were more likely to say they’re feeling lonely, Dr. Nemecek said, “so leveraging social media in the right way to make and maintain meaningful connections with someone else is very important.” For example, he said it’s likely to be more beneficial to have a video chat instead of just reading the news on social media or scrolling through Twitter posts.

There can be a greater risk of depression among those who have no social contact or social support, said Lisa Cox, a licensed clinical social worker and professor of social work and gerontology at Stockton University. But she says if those individuals exercise self-care, they can fare well. This includes participating in online support groups, yoga and stretching, keeping a gratitude journal, practicing mindfulness and immersing yourself in creative endeavors like drawing and listening to music.

Dr. Cox acknowledged that it can be difficult to exert the energy to try new things when you’re lonely, but said it’s worth giving it a try. Dr. Pinker said video chats are the next best thing to being there — anything that mimics the reciprocity of real interactions, or where you’re all “paying attention to the same thing at the same time.”

It’s an ideal time to pick up the phone and check in with friends and family with whom you’ve lost contact, she said. And just getting out and taking a walk around the block can help replicate the routine of your day as you once headed to work or a coffee shop, creating the opportunity to “see people in a casual way,” Dr. Pinker said. Both she and Dr. Cox say apps like Houseparty, which allows you to participate virtually in activities like games with friends or Netflix Party, where you can watch movies with friends who aren’t with you, can provide a means of social connection.

This time can be particularly challenging for older adults. A 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that nearly half of adults ages 60 and older report feeling lonely. Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation, cites AARP findings that over 42 million Americans — a third of the population age 45 and older — were lonely before coronavirus hit and says those numbers are on the rise in the current situation. She suggests that older adults prepare a “Friendventory,” a list that begins with an inner circle of friends and neighbors and expands to include former work colleagues and classmates. “It’s hard for people to take the first step, but it’s important to reach out,” she said.

She also suggests that everyone else call at least one older adult each day who may be at risk for loneliness to ask how they’re doing and listen to their response. Perhaps you can also help by offering to talk them through setting up virtual chats with their friends and family.

Dr. Ofori-Mensa has started pushing herself to address her feelings of loneliness during this challenging time by connecting more to her surroundings. She’s begun to actively listen to her downstairs neighbor’s recordings of classical and jazz piano music that he plays in the evenings. Another neighbor has been cooking with garlic more often. “And I like to pause in the hallway and take a deep breath every time I go out for a walk.”

Daily walks allow her to share space with other people, even if only from a distance. “In the absence of being able to touch anyone, I’ve become so much more aware of other sensory details that remind me that I’m not alone.”

Need a Haircut?

A few weeks ago, Samuel Logan, a fashion executive, put on a protective mask and took a short subway ride to Greenwich Village for a highly anticipated, clandestine tryst. In the middle of a sunny afternoon, he covertly met his barber on a deserted street to get a haircut and beard trim.

The appointment had little in common with a typical trim. They walked silently up an empty flight of stairs, through a darkened hallway and into the vacant barbershop, its window shades drawn to conceal the activity inside. Mr. Logan brought along two items that seemed essential: disinfectant spray, in case the barber’s chair needed a germ-busting spritz, and a baseball cap to hide the evidence of newly shorn locks when he left.

“It felt like I had just made a deal to buy a case of bathtub gin,” Mr. Logan said.

He was understandably furtive. Salons in New York have been closed by government order since late March, as they have across much of the country. (In a few states, including Georgia, they’ve recently been allowed to reopen.) Since then, a longing for professional grooming has become a leitmotif on social media, with a deluge of images of scraggly, overgrown hair and sad attempts at self-administered haircuts, along with instructional videos on how to do a trim at home.

Inevitably, some hairstylists and their regular clients have, like Mr. Logan, been skirting governmental restrictions.


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“In terms of barbers getting out there to cut hair, they’re going to do that,” said Damon Dorsey, president of the American Barber Association, a nonprofit organization with several thousand members across the country. “There are going to be some people who are just going to say, ‘I’ll take my chances’ and some barbers that are saying that, too.”

Getting a haircut at the moment tends to be focused more on efficiency than on pleasure. Recently a loyal client of a salon in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles — let’s call her Michelle since she asked for anonymity because she was dodging government regulations — met her stylist for an overdue trim in his shuttered space.

Michelle had washed her hair at home to speed up the process; their usual relaxed banter was curtailed, in no small part because their faces were covered by masks.

“I was anxious to get it done,” she said. “I didn’t want to lean into that moment. I wanted to be in and out.” She left the same way she arrived: sneaking through an alleyway to her discreetly parked car for a drive down a traffic-free highway.

Some hairstylists are seeing regular clients on house calls, often in a client’s yard or garden. Joey Silvestera, the owner of the Blackstones salons in downtown Manhattan, did his first such appointment a few days ago. His barbershop was the backyard of a client’s home, a 15-minute drive from East Hampton, where Mr. Silvestera has been staying with his family since both Blackstones locations closed in mid-March.


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Instead of his usual work wear of a black T-shirt and leather jacket, he dressed in a de facto hazmat suit: a Dickies cotton jumpsuit he described in a phone interview as “a onesie.” The appointment was a test run for a weekly cut he plans to schedule with a faithful client, vetted through a list of health-related questions that, in calmer times, would be reserved for a doctor’s office.

“I’m not playing around,” Mr. Silvestera said. “If I don’t feel that they’re on the same page, I’m not going.”

Julien Howard, a barber who lives in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, is planning to cut hair quietly on the roof of his apartment building, or on clients’ terraces. He has done one such haircut already, upstairs from his top-floor apartment, wearing a makeshift version of personal protective equipment that included black nitrile gloves and a pair of round Saint Laurent sunglasses.

“I feel like in the open air there’s less chance of getting a germ than if I’m in a closed environment like someone’s bathroom,” Mr. Howard said.

For the rooftop service, he brought an array of equipment, including a hot towel machine and a glass bottle of disinfecting Barbicide. “I had the whole experience of the barbershop but outdoors, in the open air,” he said.

In lieu of cash or a Venmo transaction, he was paid with a handful of N-95 masks, along with a protective contraption that a graffiti artist might wear to keep spray-paint fumes at bay.

Mr. Howard is accustomed to cutting hair outside of a salon. Before the lockdown, he was making house calls through the Vélo Barber, a business he founded. Those appointments have been suspended since salons, including Blind Barber in the East Village where he also worked a few days a week, closed.

Other businesses that usually facilitate at-home haircuts — like the on-demand app and website Glamsquad and Paul Molé, the venerable barbershop on the Upper East Side, which normally send stylists to people’s homes — have similarly halted house calls for the time being.

While most salons are following government orders strictly, the temptation for both stylists and their customers remains.

“Until there is enough testing, we can’t in good conscience break with the social distancing protocols,” said Steve Marks, the owner of Persons of Interest, a chain of three barbershops in Brooklyn. “That said, people can’t wait till July to get a haircut, so they’ll find a way.”

He has heard, he said, that one of the barbers from his Williamsburg salon is planning to see clients in his backyard nearby. He’s not standing in his way.

How a ‘coronavirus hairstyle’ is helping raise awareness in east Africa

Martha Apisa (left) and Stacy Ayuma. Photograph: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The coronavirus has revived a hairstyle in east Africa, one with braided spikes that echo the virus’s distinctive shape.

The style’s growing popularity is in part due to economic hardships linked to virus restrictions – it is cheap, parents say – and to the goal of spreading awareness about the coronavirus.

The hairstyle had gone out of fashion in recent years as imported real and synthetic hair from India, China and Brazil began to flood the market and demand by local women increased. Pictures of the flowing or braided imported styles are tacked up in beauty salons across much of Africa.

But now, in a makeshift salon beside a busy road in Kibera, a slum in the heart of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Sharon Refa, a 24-year-old hairdresser, braids young girls’ hair into the antennae-like spikes that people call the “coronavirus hairstyle”. Girls shift in the plastic chairs as she tugs at their scalps.

“Some grownups don’t believe that the coronavirus is real, but most young children are keen to sanitize their hands and wear masks. Many adults do not do this, and that is why we came up with the corona hairstyle,” Refa says, her face mask tucked under her chin.

Children have their hair braided at the Mama Brayo beauty salon in Kibera, Nairobi. Photograph: Brian Inganga/AP

Kenya’s number of confirmed virus cases was nearing 700 as of Monday. With the widespread shortage of testing materials, however, the real number of cases could be higher. Health officials are especially worried about the possible spread of the virus in crowded slums.Advertisement

Margaret Andeya, who is struggling to make ends meet, said the coronavirus hairstyle suited her daughters’ styling needs and her pocket. Virus-related restrictions have stifled daily work for millions of people with little or no savings.

“This hairstyle is much more affordable for people like me who cannot afford to pay for the more expensive hairstyles out there yet still want our kids to look stylish,” Andeya says.

It costs 50 shillings, or about 40p, to get the braids, while the average hairdo costs 300 to 500 shillings). That is money most people in Kibera cannot afford at the moment.

The technique used in braiding the coronavirus hairstyle is threading, which uses yarn instead of synthetic hair braids. This is the secret to making it affordable, residents say.

“Covid-19 has destroyed the economy, taken our jobs from us, and now money is scarce. I therefore decided to have my child’s hair done up like this at an affordable 50 shillings, and she looks good,” says 26-year-old Mariam Rashid.

“The hairstyle also helps in communicating with the public about the virus.”

How to spice up your sex life in lockdown

Getty Images/iStockphoto

xperts predict baby boom next year,”the headlines screeched at the end of March. We were just one week into lockdown, and the assumption was that couples stuck at home with each other would be at it like rabbits. After all, what else was there to do? But to many, it soon became clear that life under the shadow of a global pandemic was not actually the aphrodisiac they were promised.

Almost half of couples isolating together said they were having less sexsince lockdown began, according to a research conducted by OnBuy. The survey of 1,360 18 to 45-year-olds also found that 41 per cent of women were currently unhappy with their sex life, while 60 per cent believed it needed spicing up.

Meanwhile, condom sales have dropped dramatically due to fewer people having sex during lockdown, according to Durex. Social distancing is negatively affecting “intimate occasions”, said Laxman Narasimhan, chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, the company that owns the condom brand. Narasimhan claimed that people in the UK were having “significantly” less sex than before lockdown, adding that the number of people having intercourse in Italy had also “gone down a lot”.

Narasimhan added that even established couples seemed to be having less sex due to “increased anxiety”.

It’s a theory that holds up, according to psychosexual therapist Janice Hiller. “It’s a neurochemical thing,” she tells The Independent. “When we feel fear and anxiety, our nervous system prepares us for a fight, flight or freeze response – we go into protection mode. We need a different part of the nervous system to engage for us to feel aroused and want to have sex.”


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Then there’s the familiarity aspect – the fact that couples isolating together have no space or time apart in which to miss and desire one another. “There’s not enough distance,” says Hiller, “and on top of that, we’re missing out on the feel-good aspects of going out and seeing friends. We feel happier and more motivated, and then we bring that feeling back and want to share it with our partner. Feeling sexual has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves as well as our relationships – and we don’t feel as good when we haven’t had those experiences.”

Sex expert Alix Fox, a writer and broadcaster who acts as a script consultant for Netflix series Sex Education, agrees that many have found their sex drives taking a nosedive during quarantine due to stress. “Worrying about the health and wellbeing of loved ones, financial instability, job insecurity, and… well, total global upheaval and pandemic panic is not exactly an aphrodisiac,” she says.

Contraceptive concerns could well be having an impact, too. “Women have reported to me that they’re worried about not being able to get supplies of their usual contraceptive pill, or are concerned that their implant or coil is coming to the end of its recommended lifespan but they’re struggling to get an appointment to replace it – so they’re either using condoms as back-up, or avoiding penetrative sex altogether because they don’t want to risk pregnancy,” says Fox.

The good news is that many sexual health clinics and GPs are still offering online, telephone and postal pill renewal services to avoid people having to visit clinics, while some pharmacy chains, for exampleSuperdrug, are offering several common pill brands for direct delivery.

But contraception issues aside, how can we jumpstart our love-lives under lockdown?

Don’t stop making an effort

It may sound obvious, but completely giving up on your personal appearance is not exactly a turn on. And yet it can be very tempting when we’re not leaving the house for days at a time. “Stop hanging around in pyjamas or exercise clothes all day,” advises Hiller.

“Don’t get into a habit of not bothering. It can be quite unappealing if you stop making any effort at all. Grooming, appearance, hygiene – it may sound superficial but these things do matter, and you want to reduce the number of turnoffs as much as possible.

“It’s also about you – the better we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to feel good about sex.”

Start talking

If you’re not in a good place with your partner emotionally, that’s likely to be reflected in your sex life. Fox advises starting with a compassionate conversation to get things back into more positive, connected and comfortable territory. “Excellent sex therapist Sarah Berry taught me how useful it can be for couples to separate different emotions into ‘jugs’, to help them ‘pour out’ their feelings in a calm, structured way that’s less likely to end in tears or yet another blazing row,” she says. “First, discuss the things you respectively feel scared about. Next, ‘empty the jug’ of all the stuff that’s making you mad; then sad; and finally, glad.

The better we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to feel good about sex

“Pragmatically categorising your feelings, and the reasons behind them, like this can help you get your head straight, and make it easier to avoid accidentally taking out your fear about lack of vaccines or ventilators, for example, on your partner.”

Fox recommends always finishing with a discussion of things you’re glad about to finish on a high and leave both parties feeling soothed and hopeful.

Forget penetration

Well, you don’t have to forget it completely. But it’s important to remember that there’s far more to sex than genitals, according to Fox. “Exchanging massages can be relaxing, sensual and bonding, but for a playful twist, try a ‘texture tour’. Blindfold your partner, then gently stroke, roll, tap and press the skin all over their body with items you’ve gathered from around the house that have different textures: a chilly metal fork; a velvet cushion; the tie from a silky robe; a leather glove; a spiked tumble drier ball; one of those frothy shower puffs…”https://cdn.jwplayer.com/players/9yyOtuqL-9ygSIn9G.htmlSex Education star says she thought masturbation ‘was only a boy thing’

The blindfold heightens the other senses and creates an element of anticipation, plus takes the pressure off you to “perform”. “This is a cost-free way to bring an element of curious exploration back to your love life, and to have a much-needed tension-breaking giggle,” adds Ms Fox. “It’s OK to laugh during sex! It’s OK not to actually have sex, but to enjoy some other physical fun instead!”

Surprise each other

It’s easier than ever to get stuck in a rut under lockdown. Days blur into weeks, which blur into months. According to Hiller, injecting some surprise into your relationship with curated date nights can help reignite the magic.

“One of the couples I see for therapy has decided to take it in turns to surprise each other with a meal. They cook it, set the scene and even officially invite their partner,” she says.

Get playful

Sales of sex toys have gone through the roof according to Fox: “For example, German brand Womanizer – famous for inventing a type of clitoral stimulator that uses pulses of air rather than traditional vibration to create sensation – tell me they’ve seen an 88 per cent surge in UK trade compared to their projections.”

In particular, toys that can be controlled remotely via an app, which could appeal to couples who are separated from one another during quarantine, have seen a sales boost. Items connected to role play and BDSM, “which speak to bored couples looking for something fresh or couples finally crossing off adventures that have long been on their ‘F*** it bucket list’”, have also experienced a popularity spike. Sales of a 10-piece beginners’ bondage set from online sex shop Bondara, for example, have skyrocketed by 4,541 per cent.

It’s never too late to invest in your own accessories to help get things going.

Sexual healing: using lockdown to ignite desire

Home truths: sex boosts our mood and increases feelings of connection.

For many of us right now, sex couldn’t be further from our minds. Our usual routines have been turned upside down and the way we are living can be challenging for even the most harmonious of relationships. But what if we viewed this time as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset and refresh our sex lives?

The fact that sex isn’t a priority for a large proportion of people fits with findings from sex research along with, well, common sense. Stress and anxiety are known to reduce our sexual desire and a preoccupation with the news, our finances, the health of our loved ones, or how much is in our store cupboards, can understandably slow the wheels of our sex life to a standstill.

But for some of us, the opposite happens. Sex boosts our mood and increases our feelings of connection and wellbeing. Some people are motivated to have sex to relieve stress or find that they naturally feel more sexual in times of fear and anxiety, so for them desire might be on the up and an important means of coping.

For the good of your relationship, it’s worth considering whether you know how each of you relates to sex in times of stress and make this knowledge explicit. How does dramatic change affect the libidos of you and your partner? What if one of you sees a rise and the other a fall in sexual appetite in the next few months? How can you manage this discrepancy? Research shows again and again that it’s not the difference that can be damaging, but the lack of discussion and acknowledgement around it.

It’s also useful to know a little bit about how desire actually works. We have been socialised to understand sexual desire as a drive, a feeling you have out of the blue. It’s true that many of us experience these feelings – and more so in the early years of a relationship – but this is certainly not the only way to experience desire, and definitely not the most common way in a long-term relationship.

At these times, sex may well be the last thing on your mind

Every day of the week I see evidence of the 34% of women and 15% of men in the UK with concerns about their lessening interest in sex as they arrive at my clinic for counselling. The truth about desire is that we don’t truly understand how it operates and, if we did, we’d manage our sex lives very differently indeed.

This is the opportunity we have ahead of us right now and some of us may be in the right headspace to take advantage of it.

It’s important to know that in long-term relationships, many people don’t ever feel like sex out of the blue, but instead need to have their desire triggered. These are the people who say to me in therapy: “I never feel like having sex, but when we do it’s great and I say to my partner, we should do this more often!” This is a normal manifestation of desire in a long-term relationship and not feeling like it from the outset shouldn’t be something to worry about.

Our societal expectations of desire have trickled down from the findings of sex science in the middle of the last century, as pioneers such as Alfred Kinsey, and Masters and Johnson made headlines with the study of human sexuality and how sex “worked”.

In sex research, the popular view of the time was that desire came first, before our bodies become aroused. When I speak to my clients for therapy, I hear the practical legacy of this societal understanding: “We don’t kiss passionately other than as part of sex”; “I never feel like it so I avoid going to bed at the same time as him/her so he/she doesn’t get the wrong idea.”

Over the decades, attitudes and understanding have progressed and we know now that sexual desire is a more complex process. Often we can start from a position that isn’t triggered by sexual longing alone, but other factors – think “stress relief” or “wanting to feel connected” or even “wanting to feel like it”. This motivation – which is neither a sex drive nor unbridled lust – encourages us to either make advances, or be open to advances in the right circumstances. Only once there is sexual stimuli – such as a passionate kiss – might desire then make an appearance. This means we’re often instinctively doing the very opposite of what our desire might need, and curtailing any opportunity we have to trigger it.

Couples who do fun activities together feel more connected

When I talk through these newer understandings of desire with my clients, it can be a complete game changer. Not only do they realise that they are not broken, but they understand that the way they have been managing their sex lives is all wrong.

Waiting to feel like it in the context of a busy life when you only have half an hour alone together a day and you’re both exhausted, does not constitute “the right circumstances” and is very unlikely to work anyhow. All the elements that we rely on to fuel sexual desire, such as novelty, a lack of pressure that “A must lead to B” and a lack of predictability, make it even more challenging in long-term relationships. Challenging, but not in the slightest bit impossible.

Another danger is to assume that sex should be the last thing on our minds at the moment, with so much else to worry about. Even though it is viewed in our society as a frivolous recreational pursuit, it is anything but. Sex meets psychological and relational needs, and sexual satisfaction has been shown to boost mood, self-esteem and wellbeing.

A good sex life has also been shown to act as a buffer against a drop in relationship satisfaction – and I think we can all agree that feeling connected to our partners and experiencing improved psychological wellbeing are important right now.

In this sense, there is no better time for many couples to nourish their desire. Long-term monogamous relationships bring with them the most challenges for maintaining desire – especially for women – and there are many reasons for this. One is the dilution of our roles as sexual partners by the prevalence of other less sexy roles, such as being housemates or co-parents.

Many of us currently find ourselves suddenly seeing an increase in the amount of childcare in our day, or by the introduction of a new role at home together – as work colleagues. These changes are necessary and temporary, but risk the squeezing out of any time we might have left to relate to each other as sexual partners.

Sexual currency reminds you both of your role as sexual partners

There are two ways we can respond to this. One is to increase the moments in the day we relate to each other as sexual partners, which I call “sexual currency”. Sexual currency can be defined as anything that’s not “sex”, but you would only do with a partner. It might look like a five-second lingering kiss rather than a peck on the cheek, a suggestive glance, a compliment, an unexpected touch as you pass each other in the kitchen. Sexual currency not only marks out and reminds you both of your role as sexual partners, but can also be a stepping stone to a natural transition to more sexual ground, should you wish to head in that direction. Sexual currency is also, of course, a trigger for desire.

The second change you could make is thinking about how you spend the time you have together. Research tells us that couples who engage in challenging, exciting or fun activities together have more desire than couples who spend that time doing something else (think Netflix). This means that swapping one of those evenings watching TV to cook something elaborate together, play a game or even planning where you’ll go when you can finally travel again, could be just what you need to feel connected sexually.

Only you can know whether this time is fertile ground for your sex life or not – and whether you use these weeks to nurture it, or put it on hold. One thing is for sure – your sex life is unlikely to be unaffected by the strange and difficult times we find ourselves in

Dr Karen’s top three tips for boosting desire

Stop Faking It Faking orgasms reinforces the sexual scripts we currently have available to us by creating the illusion that women are just as satisfied by the way sex is happening as men are. Faking it also affirms the false belief held by society that most women can come from penetrative sex.

Plan time for each other The mistake many couples make is waiting for desire to emerge without doing anything to encourage it, so no desire emerges. The key thing here is that having a good sex life is not always about needing to be on the same page, or wanting as much sex as your partner, but the success with which you navigate these differences.

Plan time for yourself Masturbation provides a great opportunity for people to enjoy their sexuality outside of a relationship, connect with their sexuality, know what works for them, and trigger arousal and desire.

Dr Karen Gurney is a psychosexual therapist for the NHS and author of Mind The Gap: The Truth about Desire and How to Futureproof Your Sex Life (£14.99, Headline). Buy it for £12.89 at guardianbookshop.com

The five-minute workout that really works

Will you be tempted to squeeze a 5 minute workout in your lunch hour? CREDIT: Clare Winfield

At a time when health and well-being are at the forefront of all of our minds, the bookFeel Better in 5 by Dr Rangan Chatterjee is well worth a look. According to Dr Chatterjee, a GP, the trick to sticking to your workout goals, especially when motivating yourself feels impossible, is to do it in easily manageable chunks five days a week. He calls these bite-sized workouts – and other small lifestyle changes he suggests in the book – ‘health snacks’. So will one of his five-minute workouts, the so-called Power 5 series of HIIT circuits, do the business?

First things first, what does the workout entail?

Each minute is dedicated to a different movement, with a rest time dependent on your ability. You’re asked to jog on the spot, do jumping jacks, mountain climbers, press-ups and sumo squats, with all moves explained in detail. Beginners do 20 seconds on with 40 seconds of rest; intermediates split the time equally; and the advanced do 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off. If any of the exercises feel too hard or cause pain, you’re allowed to replace them with an easier option. There are also suggestions of how to increase or decrease the difficulty of a move. I opted for advanced and found that 40 seconds of push-ups definitely wasn’t easy, but I liked the challenge.

Do you really get a sweat on?

Yes. As this is a HIIT circuit, you will work up, at the very least, the start of a sweat; and as you get stronger, you can reduce the time you rest and extend how long you spend doing each exercise to intensify it. By the end of a session, I often felt motivated to do a little more (even when initially I didn’t feel up to it).

Are there health benefits of such a short workout?

HIIT workouts, however short, are good for muscles, brain and bones, and attack ‘visceral fats’, which are linked to increased rates of type 2 diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. Dr Chatterjee also claims that Power 5 in particular helps with sleep.

When’s the best time to do it?

Any time, though before lunch is advised, as apparently it helps you process your meal better.

HIIT: A couple of things you should know…

Tip 1
Leave enough time to change into your workout gear beforehand. There’s nothing worse than scrambling for kit, just to realise your five minutes are up.

Tip 2
Unless you were doing workouts likethis every day before lockdown, don’tjump straight in at the deep end. Learn the techniques slowly, so you will build up and get a more effective workout.

Tip 3
Leave a few extra minutes at the end to do more moves – some days you’ll feel pumped enough to do a little more and you’ll be glad you did.

Be honest: will you keep it up?

I’ll do this on my most sluggish of days and, as the lockdown rolls on, I’ll probably rely on it more and more. It’s just five minutes but still gives the smugness of knowing you’re doing your body some good.

What I learnt from a bra-fitting video call

Nudea’s bra fitting service is now available via video call

I’m nearly five months pregnant, so nothing I own fits me right now, and that includes my bras. This situation would be fine if I had a smaller cup size – I’d embrace the opportunity to go braless – but I’m normally a 32D, and as anyone with a larger chest size will understand, a well-fitting bra can transform the way your clothes look, as well as delay the inevitable pull of gravity.

Of course with lockdown in effect, I can’t go and get a fitting at Selfridges or M&S as I normally would, so I was thrilled to discover that chic lingerie brand Nudea is offering virtual fittings to anyone who buys one of its tape measures (£1 including postage at Nudea).

I was paired with pro bra fitter Carlotta, who talked me through the process, which can be done with or without a top on, though it’s a little easier without. We began with my back size: using her own tape to demonstrate, she told me to take the end with the gold hoop, and put the side that says ‘start’ against my body, under the bust. I threaded the other end through the gold hoop and pulled until tight. Carlotta said I should go as tight as possible, as bras are stretchy and the tape measure is not, so a snug fit won’t feel uncomfortable with an actual bra. This revealed that I’d gone up from a 32 to 34. c

Tamara on Zoom with Nudea pro bra fitter Carlotta

I was paired with pro bra fitter Carlotta, who talked me through the process, which can be done with or without a top on, though it’s a little easier without. We began with my back size: using her own tape to demonstrate, she told me to take the end with the gold hoop, and put the side that says ‘start’ against my body, under the bust. I threaded the other end through the gold hoop and pulled until tight. Carlotta said I should go as tight as possible, as bras are stretchy and the tape measure is not, so a snug fit won’t feel uncomfortable with an actual bra. This revealed that I’d gone up from a 32 to 34. 

Nudea’s bra fitting service is now available via video call

If you don’t have the time or inclination for a Zoom call, there are also easy instructions and a video guide to measuring yourself on the Nudea website, but my 15-minute conversation with Carlotta gave me a much better understanding of what I need, giving me more confidence when it comes to choosing between different styles. 

My ‘The Boss’ Full Cover bra in a pretty sheer black jacquard (£45) arrived within two days and fits like a dream – I’m already tempted to order an Easy Does It bralette too (£35). 

It’s proof that even something as nuanced and intimate as bra-fitting can be effortless in this Zoomy new world. All you need is a tape measure.

How to preserve almost everything – from jam-making to chutneys

Sugar, spice and all things nice … a selection of homemade preserves and pickles. Photograph: Yuliia Chyzhevska/Alamy

More than any domestic appliance, preserving is the home cook’s secret weapon. If you have a vegetable garden, fruit trees or an allotment, it is the age-old way of making the summer glut and autumn harvest last through the winter dearth when there is nothing to grow or pick. Even with year-round fresh produce in the shops, a gleaming row of gem-hued jars filled to the brim with crunch and spice can brighten up the most lacklustre meal.

The idea of making your own kimchi or bottling a batch of chutney might scare you off. But all you need is a few key ingredients and some patience. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

What to preserve

Knowing what is in season wherever you are in the world is key. In the UK now, you will find the last of last year’s apples and pears, but cauliflower and cabbage are going strong and a soft-fruit glut is just around the corner. Come springtime in the US, meanwhile, Serious Eats’ Preserved column suggests rhubarb-strawberry jam and tomato jam, among others.

More than any domestic appliance, preserving is the home cook’s secret weapon. If you have a vegetable garden, fruit trees or an allotment, it is the age-old way of making the summer glut and autumn harvest last through the winter dearth when there is nothing to grow or pick. Even with year-round fresh produce in the shops, a gleaming row of gem-hued jars filled to the brim with crunch and spice can brighten up the most lacklustre meal.

The idea of making your own kimchi or bottling a batch of chutney might scare you off. But all you need is a few key ingredients and some patience. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

What to preserve

Knowing what is in season wherever you are in the world is key. In the UK now, you will find the last of last year’s apples and pears, but cauliflower and cabbage are going strong and a soft-fruit glut is just around the corner. Come springtime in the US, meanwhile, Serious Eats’ Preserved column suggests rhubarb-strawberry jam and tomato jam, among others.

It sounds obvious, but be sure to go for something you like the taste of, and in quantities you can reasonably get through. I say this from experience: there is no point in filling a two-litre Kilner jar with pickled, skin-on kiwis if you are the only one who is going to eat them. Use small jars. Use flavours you enjoy. The point is not to waste anything.

It sounds obvious, but be sure to go for something you like the taste of, and in quantities you can reasonably get through. I say this from experience: there is no point in filling a two-litre Kilner jar with pickled, skin-on kiwis if you are the only one who is going to eat them. Use small jars. Use flavours you enjoy. The point is not to waste anything.

ccc Spotless … sterilising Kilner jars in the oven. Photograph: CW Images/Alamy

As Toni Kostian of Grön restaurant in Helsinki puts it: “Preserving is about having only the right kind of bacteria in your produce and getting rid of any harmful ones.” Pickles, jams and ferments can be safely done at home with basic cooking equipment.

Be sure to clean hands, surfaces, utensils and produce thoroughly. Wash all jars, bottles and lids in warm soapy water, and rinse thoroughly. They need to be hot, dry and sterile when you fill them. So, for preserves you intend to use up quickly, place your jars in a 140C (120C fan)/285F/gas mark 1 oven for 20 minutes, timing it so that they are ready when your product is. And top whatever you are storing with a circle of wax paper before sealing.

For anything you intend to keep a long time in a store cupboard, use proper canning jars (which close with lids and rings) and, ideally, the boiling water-bath processing technique. This is more than any novice needs to attempt on their first go – but if you want to learn how, check out Marisa McClellan’s tutorials on foodinjars.com.

Into the briny … ingredients for dill pickle. Photograph: George Fisher/Alamy

Pickles

Quick – or refrigerator – pickles are what the food writer Rachel Roddy calls entry-level pleasers. She uses a simple pickling brine: 550ml white wine vinegar, 200ml water and a heaped tablespoon each of fine salt and sugar (plus the aromatic of your choosing: chilli, garlic, bay, dill …) for 1kg of chopped-up garden fare (carrot, turnip, red cabbage, beetroot, fennel, red onion). Bring the brine to a boil, add the veg for one minute, then divide among the jars (into which you have spooned one tablespoon of olive oil), cover with the liquid and spices and seal. The pickles can be eaten within 24 hours, and will last for two months in the fridge.

Rice wine vinegar makes gentler quickies, although the lower acidity means they have a shorter lifespan. You can go very sweet (Kylee Newton’s Japanese brine adds 380g of sugar to 450ml rice wine vinegar and 450ml water, with only ¼ teaspoon of sea salt and a few peppercorns) or not sweet at all (Anna Thomson infuses her brine – 350ml rice or white wine vinegar, 800ml water, 4½ teaspoon salt – with lemongrass, garlic, fresh ginger and red chillies.)

Another great thing to have in the fridge is mixed spiced pickles – half salad, half condiment – such as Malaysian penang acar. The veg here requires a bit more preparation. Huangkitchen.com’s Angie Liew says to mix 200g each of chopped-up cabbage, carrots, green beans and pineapple with 500g cucumber (skinned, soft centre removed, and sliced) with 1 tbsp salt, and leave it for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the liquid then blanch in boiling water and vinegar, before draining and leaving to dry out for an hour. Meanwhile, grind together a mix of 10 fresh and 5 dried chillies (soaked in water until soft), 10 shallots, 5 garlic cloves, 2cm each of turmeric and galangal root (I would substitute these last two with a 4cm piece of ginger if I couldn’t find any), 20g each of coriander seeds and shrimp paste, and a few candlenuts (or use macadamia nuts or cashews instead). Fry this spice paste in oil until fragrant, then stir in 200ml vinegar, 180g sugar and 1 tsp salt, followed by 100g ground peanuts, the vegetables and lastly 100g toasted sesame seeds, mixing well after each addition. Store for at least 24 hours before serving, and up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

There are the more pungent varieties that take time to mature. Some version of cucumber pickle is found in most countries, but everything from green beans to new peas work too. For Iranian torshi bademjan, aubergine is first parboiled in equal parts vinegar and water, then squeezed, sliced down the middle and stuffed with garlic cloves, dried mint and a little salt. Pack tightly into a jar small enough that the pickling liquid (125ml fresh cider vinegar to 1 tbsp boiled and cooled water) covers the veg. Seal and store them in a cool dark place for at least a month and keep in the fridge once opened.Advertisement

Fruit, too, loves to be pickled. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall bottles cherries – stones, stalks and all – in a hot syrup (200ml water, 300ml white-wine or cider vinegar, 250g caster sugar, 6 black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, 2 juniper berries, and 2 cloves) and leaves for a month before using. Nigel Slater uses a similar syrup for stone fruit, but cautions that since no amount of vinegar will soften hard fruit, it’s best that peaches be first stoned and parboiled, then skinned; with apricots, he leaves the skin on. Conversely, these pickles are ready within three days. Which is to say: follow recipes carefully. Don’t skip any steps and stick to all specified timings.

Alive and kicking … fermenting cauliflower and vegetables. Photograph: Maryna Mashkina/Alamy

Ferments

For Kostian, lactic fermentation not only comes with reputed (though unproved) health benefits but flavour-wise is the most interesting place to start. He recommends gooseberries, though any other fruit will do. For quick ferments, your jars don’t need to be sterilised, but they do need to be squeaky clean. And you need to use good filtered water (no chlorine) and good sea salt (no caking agents).

Mix 1kg of fresh berries with 30g of salt in a large lidded glass jar, and lay clingfilm over the top of the produce, pressing it down with a small weight. Then put the lid on, loosely. Leave at room temperature (18-22C) for 15 to 30 days. Taste after 15 days, and decide if you want to take the funky flavour further.

Yeast or moulds can grow on the surface if whatever you’re fermenting comes into contact with the air, or if your kitchen is too hot. Trust your senses. If anything smells off-putting, start again. If not, remove the top layer and carry on. The food writer Regula Ysewijn recently found two jars of sourdough starter – essentially, fermented dough – in a box in her cellar, where they’d sat, forgotten, since she moved house two years ago. One smelled rank, and she binned it. The other smelled sweet, like traditional dark rye bread, so she fed it till it bubbled and is now baking with it.

Variations on sauerkraut use celeriac, apple and carrot, as well as cabbage – and are ready within seven to 15 days

For something quicker, try the two-day carrot and cabbage ferment from Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s studio kitchen in Berlin: mix 2 grated carrots and a small shredded cabbage with 1 tbsp salt and place in a large glass jar with a lid. Leave in the fridge for a couple of days, or longer, for a stronger flavour.

Of course, the more time you have to make your preserves the better. For a proper sauerkraut, massage 1 tbsp salt into 1kg shredded cabbage until it releases its juices then pack tightly into a jar, pressing down until the liquid rises above the surface (add a little filtered water if needed). Seal and leave at room temperature for at least four days, until bubbles appear. The chef Tom Hunt says that at this point, you can continue fermenting at room temperature for months or even years. Putting it in the fridge will slow down the process, and temper the flavour. Online you’ll find recipes for kraut variations using celeriac, apple, and grated root veg.

Kimchi is another wildly adaptable cabbage-based ferment. Koreanbapsang.com’s Hyosun Ro has over 20 different recipes, from easy to vegan to trad. Food52, meanwhile, has an excellent how-to for making any kind of kimchi without a recipe. It is a world unto its own, so do read up.

Olia Hercules makes fizzy tomatoes by placing 500g medium-sized fruit in a large sterilised preserving jar and covering with a cooled brine (1 litre water, 7 tsp salt, 5 tsp sugar), along with some allspice berries, black peppercorns, 2 heads of dill, 1 bay leaf and 4 chopped up celery sticks. She leaves the sealed jar in a warm place in her kitchen (25C) for one week, then transfers it to the refrigerator or a cellar, where it can be kept unopened for months.

Lastly, for something quite thrillingly slow, make Clare Lattin’s lime pickle. Mix the wedges of 2-3 limes (250g) with 1 tbsp salt and 1 tsp sugar. Pack into a sterilised lidded jar and leave to ferment for four weeks (put a note in your diary). When ready, heat 4 tbsp mustard oil in a pan, and fry the spices (1 tbsp turmeric, 3 tsp cayenne, 3 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp fenugreek seeds) until the seeds start to pop. Add the limes with all their juice, along with 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and cook for five minutes. Leave to cool, then pack back into the jar and store for another week, so the flavours can combine. No citrus has ever been this rewarding.

Chutneys

Newton likes how you can use anything a bit overripe in a chutney (just remove brown or bruised bits). Her apple and ale medley is a good place to start. Put 900g diced onions, 600ml cider vinegar and 400g granulated sugar in a large, wide-rimmed pot and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, until reduced by one third. Mix in 1.5kg apples (peeled, cored and diced) and the zest of 2 lemons. Fill a little muslin bag with 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 1 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp peppercorns and 1 bay leaf, tie with a string, and add to the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring occasionally (cover the surface with a pierced round of parchment paper) for 20 minutes. When thickened, stir through 2 tsp salt and 300ml ale and simmer for five more minutes. Fill warmed sterilised jars to 5mm from the rim, seal, label, date and store in the cupboard for up to 12 months. Once open, keep in the fridge for up to three months.

Getting stuck in .. homemade raspberry jam with chia seeds. Photograph: NelliSyr/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jams

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Sweet preserves range from creamy curds (lemon, but also blackberryraspberrygooseberryorange and blueberry) to jellies and whole fruit recipes. You name the fruit, sugar will do wonders with it. The Irish chef and founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School Darina Allen points to raspberry jam as a good starting point. To win over panicked students, she sometimes makes some scones, then gets to work on the jam. “By the time the scones are out of the oven,” she writes, “the jam is made. It’s that easy!”

Mash 900g fresh or frozen berries in a wide, stainless-steel saucepan and cook for three to four minutes over a medium heat until the juice begins to run. Add 900g warmed sugar and stir over a gentle heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for about five to six minutes, stirring frequently. Test for set by putting about a teaspoonful on a cold plate and leaving it for a few minutes in the fridge. If it wrinkles when you press it, it is set. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim, pour into sterilised jam jars and cover immediately.

Infusions and aromatics will embellish the basic idea, from Nigel Slater’s plum with almonds and rosewater to Lillie O’Brien’s fig and earl grey tea. And roasting your fruit – as Anna Jones does plums – will enhance its built-in sweetness. Some fruit – grapes, say – are sweet enough to need no added sugar. Of course, the sugar being the preservative, the less you use, the shorter the lifespan of your product.

Chia seeds, meanwhile, make a cheat’s instant jam, which lasts about two weeks. Simply stew some fruit, then mix in a sweetener, some lemon juice and the chia seeds, and leave for five to 10 minutes to thicken.

Photos from Teleola and Edidem’s beautiful wedding

We are smiling today because of the beautiful #TELDEM2020 couple. Teleola and her forever love, Edidem had such an amazing wedding. We love everything about love and seeing two people come together, these two brought so much delight to our eyes through the pictures of their day.

If you love a rich display of beauty and culture, then you will enjoy every bit of their traditional wedding. The Yoruba bride and her Efik groom were an absolute delight to see. The ceremony started off with the tradition according to the Yoruba culture and then later, they were fully dressed in the Efik wedding attire. The couple totally slayed all their wedding looks. The bride, Teleola was a complete dream in her two gorgeous outfits for the day and we bet you’d like to see all her gorgeous looks.

If you haven’t seen their beautiful pre-wedding shoot or read their love story, then read all about it here on www.bellanaijaweddings.com.

BellaNaija Weddings wishes the couple a lifetime of love, joy and happiness together.

SOURCE: Bella Naija

Are you washing your hair properly? The secret to getting it right

There’s no doubt lockdown has altered our daily lives, and with that our regular routines. But while some of us may have ditched the razor or let our roots grow out, there’s one aspect of our routine that is soaring amid quarantine: hair washing. 

Despite being confined to our homes with little excuse to spruce up besides weekly Zoom and Houseparty catch ups, it seems we are washing more than ever. According to L’Oréal, hair washing is up by 76 per cent on account of more leisure time, the closure of hair salons and the need to feel clean, as we continue to practice necessary self-care. 

Now, while it may seem a simple task and one that you might have paid little attention to before today, believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to wash hair. Hairdresser, Michael Van Clarke, says “from my professional experience of over 25 years, I can say consumers do not know how to use products properly to get the best results.”

From aggressive washing to picking the wrong ingredients for your hair type, there are a host of things that can contribute to damaging your tresses in the shower. With that said, this is everything you need to know before your next wash day…

The basics

Know your hair type

Michael notes that most people are unsatisfied with hair care products because they’re unaware of their hair type. To avoid disappointment, first get to know your locks, analyse whether it’s coarse, oily, thick or thin and consider if it has been chemically treated. 

“Think about whether your hair is a different type at the roots and at the ends,” says Michael. “It is generally best to select a shampoo that will benefit your scalp and root area, and then select a conditioner that will work for the middle and ends of your hair.”

Once you’ve determined your hair type, picking the right shampoo gets a whole lot easier. For fine to medium hair, opt for a product that offers volume and is free of weighty silicones (more on this later). If you have dry or coarse hair, look for a moisturising shampoo which will nourish and protect against further damage. And for coloured hair, use a product that offers UV protection as this will help to prevent any loss of hue.

Wash the right way

When it comes to washing, it’s not just your hair you should be paying attention to. “I wish the term ‘hair washing’ was changed to ‘scalp cleansing’,” says Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist at Philip Kingsley. “It’s not so much your hair you should be focusing on when you shampoo, it’s your scalp – which is a living, sweating, oil and skin-cell producing tissue.”

Begin washing by thoroughly wetting your hair first, then apply a small amount (the size of a 10p) of shampoo to the root area and the underside of your scalp, near the nape of your neck, apply more product if your hair is longer or thicker. Then, gently, but firmly, massage your scalp for approximately one minute, after which you should begin squishing the suds through the lengths of your strands a few times, which will be enough to cleanse them without the need to apply more shampoo. 

As much as you may feel inclined, “there’s no need to scrub your hair, as this can damage it. Also, don’t pile your hair on top of your head when you shampoo as this can tangle your strands and cause breakage. Instead, let your hair fall behind you and rinse well until the water runs clear,” says Anabel. 

As for how often you should be washing, this really depends on your hair type, but Anabel advises against going more than three days between washes as doing so could negatively impact your scalp. Of course, there is the exception of coarser or curlier and coily hair which usually benefits from fewer wash days.  

L-R: Grow Gorgeous Volume Bodifying Shampoo, £14, and Shea Moisture’s Extra Moisture Retention Shampoo, £10.99

The ingredients 

There are ingredients to look for in a shampoo and ones to avoid. Those which we definitely want to be using hinges on our hair texture; fine hair will need thickening aids like rice protein (try the Grow Gorgeous Volume Bodifying Shampoo, £14), while coarse, curly hair will benefit from formulas with moisturising agents like shea butter (Shea Moisture’s Extra Moisture Retention Shampoo, £10.99, is a treat).

Silicones

Silicones and some sulphates are the ingredients we want to steer clear of. Michael says, “silicone is not good for your hair and scalp, but unfortunately it’s in 99 per cent of shampoos and conditioners because it’s cheap and instantly cosmetically effective. Silicone will lubricate your hair but it will not nourish, rejuvenate, restore or hydrate it, which is why it is so important that you avoid any hair product that contains it.”

Quite like a cling film sheath, silicones might immediately make your hair seem shiny, silky and smooth, but as a hydrophobic it pushes water away and displaces moisture. The result? Our hair’s protein structure becomes more brittle, less flexible and breaks down, you might even see it as premature ageing of the hair. 

Sulphates

Not all sulphates are created equal and Michael points out that there is much misinformation about these cleansers, which can actually do a world of good. “Commonly used in shampoo, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is a very effective surfactant (surface active agent) which helps the shampoo dissolve grease and dirt, but can then be easily rinsed out. This can be good or bad depending on hair type or skin sensitivity.”

There are various sulphates out there, and while SLS might be the harshest or most effective degreaser and foam producer (not ideal for dry hair or sensitive scalps), other sulphates like Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS) are gentle enough to do their job without irritating sensitive skin or fading hair dye.

L-R:  Aveda’s Colour Conserve Shampoo, £20.50, Philip Kingsley Pure Blonde Booster Weekly Shampoo, £23, and Mask, £26, Michael Van Clarke LifeSaver Pre-Wash Treatment, £29, and LifeSaver UV Spray, £19.50

The secret tricks

If you’re washing your tresses more than usual at the moment, the fading of your hair colour is a given, but you can deter this by using colour-locking shampoos, like Aveda’s Colour Conserve Shampoo, £20.50, a gentle and organic plant infused product that extends colour life by resisting fading. 

If you have blonde hair, Anabel says, “use a weekly violet hued shampoo and mask, like ourPure Blonde Booster Weekly Shampoo, £23, and Mask, £26, which contain next generation pigments that brighten blonde hair and eradicate brassiness – while hydrating and moisturing strands.”

Michael also suggests using a treatment twice a week, like the LifeSaver Pre-Wash Treatment, £29, as the cashmere proteins it features will repair and recondition hair. Use this alongside the LifeSaver UV Spray, £19.50, especially when outdoors, as it styles, treats and works wonders for maintaining hair colour.

Before washing your hair, it’s also worth brushing through your strands to remove knots which can cause unnecessary pain, breakage and damage in the shower.

The world’s most expensive bed: what do you get for N138 million?

Creating the ultimate sleep experience has always been something of a holy grail in terms of furniture design – and inspires a certain degree of one-upmanship among bed brands. Right now, during lockdown, the perfect bed is more important than ever, as the interior-design world’s focus turns to well-being in the home, and most of us are spending more time sleeping in our own beds, rather than hotels.  

Enter Swedish bed brand Hästens, a favourite with luxury hotels and the super rich, which has just launched the Grand Vividus, now the world’s most expensive bed, with a price tag starting at £310,000 and rising to £780,000 for a massive 305 x 305cm version.  

The company, usually identified by its signature blue-and-white checked mattresses (reportedly more recognised in Sweden than the country’s own flag), isn’t short of celebrity and royal fans, and the musician Drake has already snapped up the first Grand Vividus to be made for his Toronto mansion. The dramatic look of the bed – all black, with metal studs and gold detailing – marks a new aesthetic direction for the brand, and a glamorous, edgy one at that.   

Ferris Rafauli, the bed’s designer

As for what makes it worth the eye-watering price, each bed will weigh a ton and take 350 man hours to make entirely by hand, by craftspeople who have trained with Hästens for a minimum of eight years.

The design process itself, which took two years, also involved an encylopaedic level of research, as the bed’s creator, Canadian architectural designer Ferris Rafauli, explains: “I spent countless hours searching the globe to source the right materials – touching and feeling different types of fabrics and materials that both look and feel luxurious – before even putting pen to paper.

“Once I had sourced these materials I took inspiration from their textures and the way they feel, and only then did I begin to draw.”   His final design, reached after “countless weeks, days and hours of sketching and resketching”, respects Hästens’ heritage, referencing the company’s beginnings as a master saddlery when it was established in 1852, but adds an ultra-contemporary twist.   

“I have integrated various layers of incredibly high-quality exotic leathers, suedes and precious metals accents,” says Rafauli. “These materials represent the brand’s saddle-making roots, married with my interior architecture and the cues I take from high fashion.”   

Each Grand Vividus mattress is hand-stitched at Hästens’ Swedish factory

The interior of the mattress is similarly a work of artistry – the combination of coils, spring height, and filling materials such as horsehair and wool, are precision-designed to make lying on the bed feel like floating on a cloud.   

As Rafauli puts it, “The Grand Vividus is more than just a bed. It is a statement of high design that will be made in each bedroom that it graces.” There’s already a waiting list, too: proof perhaps that you really can’t put a price on top-quality sleep.    

Meet the New York couples getting married on Zoom

Sayaka Fukuda and James Storr Brown. Photograph: Saya Fukuda

Sayaka Fukuda and James Storr Brown had been trying in vain since January to get married after coronavirus disrupted their wedding plans.

So when New York state announced it was legalising video wedding ceremonies last weekend, they immediately decided to get married on Zoom, and were among the first to take advantage of the new law.

Just a few hours later they were saying their vows in the living room of their Manhattan apartment, presided over remotely by their officiant in upstate New York and watched by dozens of friends and family around the world using the video conferencing service.

“We have family in Japan and the UK and of course all of the United States and Italy, so I texted some couples saying: ‘Hey, in two hours I’m going to have the ceremony,’” said the 41-year-old shoe designer and business owner. They ended up with 30-40 guests.

In true Zoom style many of them were dressed up from the waist up with pyjama bottoms out of shot, and friends sent messages of congratulations.

Sayaka Fukuda and James Storr Brown’s Zoom wedding.
 Sayaka Fukuda and James Storr Brown’s Zoom wedding. Photograph: Saya Fukuda

They had a virtual toast, with Fukuda and Storr Brown, 48, who works in finance, on their rooftop. A neighbour, who was also a witness, took photos from a safe distance.

Fukuda said it ended up being a unique and intimate experience that was “way better than going to city hall”.

But, with so many of her friends having lost jobs in the fashion industry as a result of the outbreak, she added: “It’s just a sad and emotional time. To see everybody on the screen, it’s actually very nice and I feel closer to them.”

The couple, who have been together for three and a half years, had planned to have two weddings – one in Tokyo in May and one in upstate New York in June. But following the coronavirus outbreak they, like thousands of others who planned to get married in New York this year, were forced to reassess their plans.

They still plan to do in-person weddings in both cities, but will wait until either later this year or next.

She said living in lockdown is “a great test for marriage”, adding: “If you can go through this, stuck in an apartment all day with your partner, this is an amazing test … We passed it, I hope.”

James Storr Brown and Sayaka Fukuda. Photograph: Sayaka Fukuda

April and May are usually among the busiest months for weddings in New York. But following the shutdown, marriage bureaus have been closed and marriage licences not issued.

The new executive order allows marriage licences to be issued and ceremonies to be carried out using “audio-video technology” providing that a series of conditions are met, including the couple must provide valid ID during the conference, it must be performed live and the couple must be within the state of New York.

They then have to send the signed document to the town or city clerk, the witnesses and the officiant on the same date it was signed.Advertisement

As it was announced, New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, made reference to the challenge that lockdown presents to some couples, saying: “Marriage rate is going down, divorce rate is going up.”

He joked: “Video marriage ceremonies, there’s now no excuse when the question comes up for marriage. No excuse. You can do it by Zoom. Yes or no?”

Brian Teagle and Jennifer Pettus. Photograph: Brian Teagle

Brian Teagle and Jennifer Pettus, both 37, had planned to get married near their home in Westchester, New York, in March but they cancelled their wedding and honeymoon a week beforehand because of coronavirus. They are now considering getting married remotely.

The morning of their cancelled ceremony, Teagle, who works in sales for a not-for-profit, said he and Pettus, a marketing director, had “a tear-filled ceremony between us where we gave each other our rings and said vows to each other, so in our minds we’re already married”.

While they were excited to hear about the new rules and want to get legally married, they are still trying to decide whether it’s right for them. “We’re going back and forth on it,” Teagle said.

Sarah Ritchie, a Manhattan-based officiant for Simply Eloped, has yet to do a legally binding Zoom wedding but has done a symbolic ceremony virtually and found it “much more intimate than I thought it would be”.

She said: “We’re going through a pandemic… there are all sorts of good reasons that people intending to get married should be able to get married now. Whether it’s health decisions, health insurance, it’s a really scary time.”

Grabbing life and having a moment of hope and good cheer soothes all of usSarah Ritchie

She added: “Grabbing life and having a moment of hope and good cheer soothes all of us.”

Officiant NYC, a group which performs wedding ceremonies, said that as soon as Cuomo made the announcement they had an influx of inquiries. But they are waiting for clarity from city hall on protocol for signing the document before they go ahead.

They hope to be back to performing in-person weddings again in September. But Lucas Calhoun, an officiant at the company, said he expects it to be different from before the outbreak.

“I just don’t see it being the same when we go back to it. The days of massive gatherings for these weddings where there’s 200 people, we’re a ways off from that. But intimate weddings, five to six people, I see that happening probably around September.”Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

New York city council said the city clerk’s office is working on launching a system for virtual marriage ceremonies.

Six money traps to avoid in your 30s

By Akujor Clinton 

You indeed have witnessed the change in the life of a single, carefree college graduate into a serious future as you start a family and fulfill your job duties for the next stage of life. Your 30’s is the most important part of your life. At this stage of your life, you are mature and can make a huge difference.

Keeping your adulthood from entering middle ages warrant a change of priorities. Once you stop counting the days for the next paycheck, it’s time to start preparing the financial future. There are so many cash errors, and you can not even know it.

Don’t let your social responsibilities erase it now that you have a respectable salary. There are six money traps here, which you should stop in your 30s at all costs.

1. Buying a Car you can not afford

Don’t buy an expensive car today only to affect other expenses tomorrow. Citizens need travel, but there is so much price volatility that you must carefully invest. In the first year, a new car from the supplier loses about 30% of its value and half by the end of three years. Learning to secure and appreciate what we already have makes it easier to spend more on investment.

2. Buying a house that is too costly.

It may be a reasonable expense to own a house that raises its value, but there is a point of decreased returns. If you drink every penny, you get into a home mortgage that you can’t afford; there’s no room for emergencies left. Don’t spend more than 20% of your net worth to get a house. For example, if your annual income is one million naira, don’t spend more than two hundred thousand per year in getting a house. This is called the 20% rule.

A monthly payment you can hardly afford could, on average, weigh 30 years on your budget. Instead, keep an eye on the local market and buy if you can get a home at a moderate price.

3. Not Investing or Not Investing Enough.

While some people prioritize short-term investment gains, pension planning is a marathon, not a sprint. The faster you start, the more you can build up. Starting savings and retirement plans require the balance between covering your bills, reducing existing debt, and putting aside funds that will help you repay. Make sure you make the most of your 30s savings using the advantage of compound interest.

Life is moving fast, so you don’t want to miss your chances. Investing now gives you decades to develop expertise and trust and watch your money grow.

4. Not being Financially Literate

Smart money management isn’t always easy when you want to start a family, develop and appreciate the money you work for. You will have to make decisions that can affect your money’s short and long-term viability. Educate yourself on the money. Know how to read and interpret financial statements. Speak about money to your spouse and children

5. Not having Financial Goals

Make sure you have clear financial goals. Know how much you want to make and invest.

Most couples get married and know very little about financial habits. This money mistake extends to all generations who enter a partnership. Take the time to talk to your loved one about financial ambitions and spending habits before you tie the knot. The third leading cause of divorce is financial issues. A successful marriage is more complicated than managing assets, but merger financing can often be a challenge in the early years of a partnership. Make financial targets together and hold daily talks on monthly spending and accounts. This may take years to complete joint finances, so be flexible and prepared to negotiate if you both see the money differently.

6. Not having high-income skills

Strive to increase your active income. High-income skills involve generating income on your side. It is not a side hustle or company generated. It is transferable and can be learned personally. Use the internet to learn some of these skills today.

Most people at this stage don’t know how to develop high-income skills. While luckily, you avoided these financial traps in your twenties, in your thirties, there are a lot of cash errors! If you can avoid this trap, you can have financial success.

Life starts to take your 30s a little more seriously because you have more responsibilities at home and work on your shoulders. You can do both financially and emotionally by focusing on living within your means and making a plan for the future. Only note that time is the greatest asset you have. You still have decades to overcome any obstacles on the path known as life.

How to look younger in 60 minutes with a ‘virtual’ facial

A facial, over video chat? Surely not. But like many other service industries, the beauty world has had to adapt to working remotely with new, innovative ways to engage with their clients; you can have live-chats with your hairdresser now as they talk you through cutting your fringe, or follow an expert tutorial on removing your own gel nail polish. With a little help from the experts, during lockdown we’ve all had to skill-up in the beauty stakes. 

So a virtual facial? Why not. Especially when it’s with the leading facialist Beata Aleksandrowicz, who usually commands a long waiting list for her clients at her London clinic. Since lockdown began last month, she’s been offering one-hour video call sessions with clients old and new, for a virtual facial. 

But can you really give yourself a face-lifting, skin-smoothing facial only with the guidance over a laptop? I was doubtful but it really did work. The hour video call over Zoom begins with Aleksandrowicz identifying where you are holding tension in your face. Like any good therapist worth her salt, she’s brilliantly intuitive and can spot your ageing trigger points a mile off (well, several miles off, in this case). For me, it turns out I hold tension in my jaw and forehead – something she’s seen a lot of in clients since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Tension doesn’t evaporate, so if we are stressed, it shows in our skin almost immediately,” she tells me. “But if done correctly, facial massage can take years from the face.”

As a beauty journalist it’s a pet peeve of mine when a ‘facial’ only consists of merely applying and removing three or four different cleansers and creams, without actually massaging the face or working the muscles. Sounds pretty basic, but facial massage really is the key to looking more youthful.

The beauty of this facial was I didn’t need to use any expensive oils or lotions, just any face oil I already had at home (I used the Almond Soothing Facial Oil by Weleda, £18.95) or even olive oil from the kitchen. Aleksandrowicz then guided me through a series of movements to help lift and brighten my skin combined with tailor-made face exercises. These are the three I found most useful, and the exercises I’ve been continuing to do in the evenings. 

Face de-puffer 

Apply a few drops of oil on your palms. Use a sweeping motion from under your ear, down your neck and across to the opposite collarbone. This stimulates lymphatic drainage, which helps to drain fluid in the lymphatic system that can cause the face to look puffy or bloated. Repeat this sweeping motion 10 times on each side. 

Cheekbone lifter

Using both index fingers, sweep up from the jawline to under the cheekbone in a repetitive motion, with one finger following the other in a quick motion. This made a big difference to my skin, making the muscles look more lifted, and it’s something I’ve done since my one-to-one with Beata. 

Forehead relaxer  

Take four fingers of both hands and meet them in the middle of your forehead in a vertical line. Using the tips of the fingers, sweep across to the temples and repeat ten times. This helps to relieve tension in the head as well as soften any tension lines on the forehead if repeated often enough. 

“Do you want to get rich”, it’s probably more easier than you think if you do this.

Ask a poor man why you want to get rich, they will give you all kind of answer but the point is clear that he clearly wants not to be poor again. There is a nasty feeling about being poor, everyone rejects but again most people who aspires to be rich don’t take the right action to become successful even when obvious they doing so but in the opposite way of success.

Confused right?, we will be discussing that today.

Clearly anyone that wants to make it must avoid these behaviors and habit. Although, not easy but the world never give you what you don’t fight for.
So, today make sure you get the right information to put up a good fight.
Coley an acknowledged business man based on USA speaks of eleven habits that obstruct sucess.

1 Gambling: “There is no such thing as getting rich quick,” Corley writes.
“Financial success takes time, takes initiative, and requires relentless effort, he continues. Those who gamble are deluded into thinking there is a shortcut to success. In his study, 52% of poor people gambled on sports at least once a week and 77% played the lottery every week. Conversely, 84% of rich people did not bet on sports and 94% did not play the lottery.“Self-made millionaires don’t pursue any get-rich quick schemes. Instead, they make a habit of pursuing their dreams and their goals.”


Weekend briefing

Processing…
Success! You’re on the list.

2. EATING AN UNHEALTHY DIET: Don’t be surprised by this. Don’t you know the popular adage that says, “Wealth is money”. The value of your money is your health so doesn’t joke with this. Wealthy people value their health and in addition to eating healthy, they exercise consistently, sleep seven or more hours every night, and make a daily habit out of flossing.

3. DRINKING TOO MUCH ALCOHOL: While the occasional glass of wine or beer is fine, drinking too much could impede your chances of financial success. Drinking too much could affect your memory and ability to think clearly doesn’t advise good health.

4. HANGING OUT WITH TOXIC PEOPLE: Who you hang out with matters more than you may think. Eighty-six percent of the rich people made a habit out of associating with other success-minded individuals. They also make a point to limit their exposure to toxic, negative people. You are only going to succeed in life if you surround yourself with the right type of people.”

5.   WATCHING TOO MUCH TV: The rich would rather be educated than entertained. They replace TV time with reading, thinking, exercising, or any other form of self-education.“Making productive use of time is a hallmark of self-made millionaires,” Corley says.“Wasting time is a hallmark of poor people.”

6.    NEGATIVE THINKING: The problem for most people is that they’re completely unaware of their thoughts, positive or negative, he explains: “If you stop to listen to your thoughts, to be aware of them, you’d find most of them are negative. But you only realize you are having these negative thoughts when you force yourself to be aware of them. Awareness is the key.”

7. PROCRASTINATING: Procrastination “prevents even the most talented individuals from realizing success in life,” Corley writes. This goes hand-in-hand with author Napoleon Hill’s assertion that the wealthiest people are also the most decisive people.

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Whether you realize it or not, procrastination is a big reason why you are struggling financially in life. It damages your credibility with employers and fellow colleagues at work. It also affects the quality of your work and this affects the business you or your employer receives from customers, clients, and business relationships.

8. AVOIDING FEEDBACK: Fear of criticism is the reason we do not seek feedback from others but feedback is essential to learning what is working and what isn’t working. Feedback helps you understand if you are on the right track. Seeking criticism, good or bad, is a crucial element for learning and growth. Additionally, it allows you to change course and experiment with a new career or business.

9. OVERSPENDING: Spending more than you make is a surefire road to financial stress. Spending more than you make and putting saving on the back burner “creates long-term poverty, with no hope of escape,” he writes.

10. KEEPING A JOB YOU HATE: The wealthiest, most successful people pursue their passions. Passion trumps education, intelligence, skills, and any other advantage those who lack passion might have in life. Passion makes work fun. Passion gives you the energy, persistence, and focus needed to overcome failures, mistakes, and rejection. It infuses you with a fanatical tenacity that makes it possible to overcome obstacles and pitfalls that block your path.

11. STICKING TO YOUR COMFORT ZONE: We so desire to blend in, to acclimate to society, to be a part of the herd, that we will do almost anything to avoid standing out in a crowd. Yet failure to separate yourself from the herd is why most people never achieve success. While the average person finds peace of mind in familiarity, and hesitates to leave their comfort zone, rich people find comfort in uncertainty.

The pursuit of wealth requires that you take risks. Most don’t, and that’s why most are not wealthy.

Be wise and make wise decisions if you want to be rich.

You can be filthy rich if you want.Do you this is possible?Let’s hear your thoughts on this in the comment section.

The best gel nail kits to try at home now

For years women who manicured had to become dexterous in the most inventive ways. A drying manicure meant everything had to be done with the heels of the hands, not those delicate, still tacky fingertips.

Thirty minutes to ‘touch dry’ on wait-dry formulas was a luxury too far after an hour having varnish painstakingly and perfectly applied. And yet, that first day when varnish is super shiny, perfect and chip-free was all worth it. However, traditional nail varnish formulas, no matter how well they are applied, can fall foul of a hard surface and chip easily while one too many hand washes dull that mirror-like gloss of freshly painted lacquer.

Gel nail polish was a game-changer in salons for the fact that once you were done, you were done. No risk of dinging or chipping your polish by reaching into your purse and that high-shine finish lasted as long as two weeks. Then along came the gel nail kit, complete with LED light, for the manicure fan with a steady enough hand to replicate a salon finish at home.

If you’re missing your regular trips to the salon while you currently practice social distancing, check out these at home gel nail kits…

Best Gel Nail Kit for The All-Inclusive 

Red Carpet Manicure Starter Kit with Pro LED Light, £89.99

A comprehensive kit complete with classic red to get you started.

Works in exactly the same way as a salon gel manicure and this kit contains all the necessary steps you need. A prep, base layer, colour and top coat that all cure under the LED light. Great plus points for this set is that the colour selection available is vast, we challenge you not to get lost on their website choosing your next must-have shade…

Buy now

Best Gel Nail Kit for Beginners

Elegant Touch Lux Gel Polish Starter Kit, £34.99

You’ll get lost in the rainbow of colours you can add into this handy starter collection.

We know this brand for its useful manicure tools and their extensive range of press-on nails, but this kit is something different and includes everything you’d expect to achieve a salon-quality finish in the comfort of your own home. Comes with two colours, a classic red and suits-everyone nude, so you have two looks to choose from.

Buy now

Best Gel Nail Kit For a Salon Finish

SensatioNail Starter Kit, £49.99

Comes with a classic shade, but when you’re ready to add colours there’s a whole rainbow of fashionable shades to choose from.

Here’s a kit that comes with a classic red – the kind of scarlet red you’d see on fingertips in the Mad Men typing pool – and is easily cured for a two-week wear with a prepare, polish and protect system. Plus there’s a rainbow of colours including fashion and trend shades to keep your nails on point.

Buy now

Should I be wearing SPF indoors?

I like to think of myself as a serial SPF wearer. Battling acne for most of my adult life taught me early on the importance of sun protection in the quest for healthy skin. For one, infrared heat from the sun can cause acne to flare up, and second – and by far a greater concern to me – sun exposure leads to darkening the pigmentation of acne scars. Having to deal with acne on top of the remnants it leaves behind is a feat no one wants to endure, and so in SPF, I found my first line of defence.  

Then there’s the all-important protection from premature and accelerated signs of ageing – fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dark spots and textural changes – which are all at the mercy of religious SPF use (genetics and lifestyle choices aside). That said, sun protection, as we all probably know by now, is part and parcel of a healthy skincare routine. And, if you’re anything like me, lockdown – coupled with the abundant rays of sunshine that have been bouncing off my dining table (aka home office) of late – may have made you wonder one thing: should I be wearing SPF right now?

In a nutshell – absolutely. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that says otherwise. Abi Cleeve, Ultrasun MD and founder of SkinSense, points out, while UVB (the burning rays) can’t reach us through a window, “UVA (ageing rays) penetrates unhindered through glass, so it’s still important to ensure that your daily skincare routine includes a broad spectrum protection product.

Sun safe | How much sunscreen do the doctors wear?

Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic in London

“Every morning, after I’ve showered, I apply an SPF 30 sunscreen including UVA protection to my face and to the back of my hands, which are the areas where you’re going to get steady amounts of photodamage, such as benign brown sunspots, accelerated skin aging and possible skin cancers.

In addition, if I’m out on a sunny day I will wear specialised sun protective clothing, because regular T-shirts don’t protect very well. I still use my sunscreen in winter, and I take a 2,000 I.U. vitamin D3 supplement year-round.”

Klaus Witte, consultant cardiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

“I burn when I go out in the sun, so I put sunscreen on. But I certainly don’t avoid the sun. In winter, I take a little vitamin D supplementation, and I do the same for my kids.

I think it’s all about being sensible: covering up and putting on some sunscreen when the sun is really bright or strong, and not staying out for too long. But it’s also nice to sit in the sun; it gives you a positive feeling and some vitamin D which may have a positive health benefit too in due course.”

Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic in London, and British Skin Foundation spokesperson

“Personally, I use a factor 15 to 30 sunscreen, but I am not absolutely religious about wearing it every single day on my face. We know that people with darker skin types have a lower risk of skin cancer and it also takes longer to produce vitamin D from the sun. So, while my fair-skinned best friends might need to use a factor 50, the chances are that I don’t.

I am much more mindful about my sun protection if I go off on a hot sunny holiday though. The only supplement I advocate is vitamin D. I try to remember to take it daily between October and March.”

Monty Lyman, dermatologist and author of The Remarkable Life of the Skin (Transworld)

“Like the ancients, we need to revere, but not fear, the sun. I don’t sunbathe, but do enjoy spending time in the sun. In the spring and summer I limit my unprotected sun exposure to roughly half the time it takes for me to burn – and with my fair skin, that’s about fifteen minutes – three times a week. That is enough to get my vitamin D levels topped up.

Outside of those times, I protect my skin from sunlight. If my head, arms and neck are exposed I slather on about two teaspoons of factor 30. If I’m at the beach, two tablespoons should be enough to cover my whole body. “

As one of the biggest contributing factors to skin ageing, UVA rays are present all year round, seeping through clouds and glass alike, which is why Abi says “UVA protection is essential for those who have set up a home office near a window.” 

When picking a sunscreen it’s therefore important to consider how well it can protect you from UVA rays, as well as UVB. Abi notes, “Ultrasun’s formula is lamellar, so it absorbs just below the skin’s surface for non-greasy protection that doesn’t rub off. It has a UVB and UVA filter of over 90 per cent (EU standard is 33 per cent), plus the face formulas contain additional skincare actives such as hexylresorcinol to tackle pigmentation”.

But it doesn’t stop there. While working from home, there’s also another potentially skin damaging light source to bear in mind.  High energy visible light (HEVL), also known as ‘blue light’ (emitted from electronic devices like tablets, computers and yes – even your smartphone) poses prospective skin harm via free radical generation that can contribute to skin ageing. “HEVL penetrates deeply into the epidermis and generates free radicals, which cause skin cells to produce enzymes that break down collagen and elastin in the skin. This process is known as oxidative stress and can lead to photoageing and hyperigmentation,” notes Abi. 

If you’re currently working from home, and next to a window, here are four skin-protecting products to try now.

4 SPF skin saviours

Face SPF50+ Anti-Pigmentation, £32, Ultrasun

Face SPF50+ Anti-Pigmentation, £32, Ultrasun 

Moisturing, smart ageing and anti-pigmentation, this all rounder protects against UVB, UVA and infrared, while reducing the appearance of skin damage brought on by the sun. 

Anti-Age Volume-Filler Day Cream SPF 15 UVB + UVA Protection, £21, Eucerin

Anti-Age Volume-Filler Day Cream SPF 15 UVB + UVA Protection, £21, Eucerin

With magnolol, oligo peptides and hyaluronic acid, this indulgent anti-ageing cream plumps and redefines the face whilst protecting it from harmful sun rays.

Photoderm Max Mist SPF 50+, £17, Bioderma

Photoderm Max Mist SPF 50+, £17, Bioderma

Amazing for sensitive skin types, this is my go-to SPF for its high protective properties and easy-to-use spray on formula.

Anthelios Sun Intolerance SPF 50+, £20, La Roche-Posay

Anthelios Sun Intolerance SPF 50+, £20, La Roche-Posay

Formulated with an antioxidant complex of baicalin, vitamin E and calming neurosensine, this sunscreen prevents against sun induced discomfort, itching and redness.

5 ways to hypnotise yourself calm in lockdown

‘I don’t care if you look into my eyes, you can look where you want. I just want you to  listen to me.’ It’s this kind of  direct approach to hypnotherapy – or simply ‘a relaxed state of mind’, as she puts it – that’s made Malminder Gill so successful.

She’s been helping clients at her Harley Street practice for the past six years, and has a steady stream of people who come to her to manage everything from relationships to anxiety.  Well, she did have a steady stream – now people are accessing her help in a different way.

Her online courses in hypnotherapy (there’s even one specifically to deal with anxiety around the coronavirus) have been extremely popular. I have personally found them very useful. Here are some of Gill’s top tips for staying calm through these strange times.

 Malminder Gill

Follow a routine 

In a way, we are all mourning the loss of the routine of work. If you’re working from home, try your best to follow what you did while in the office. Get ready in the morning at the same time you would for work, don’t hang around in your dressing gown and, if you only have two coffees a day at work, there’s no reason to suddenly start drinking a lot more caffeine just because you’re at home. 

Breathe yourself calm

Yoga and meditation are excellent tools for managing stress, but they won’t make a big dent in your anxiety if you’ve never tried them before. You need to  figure out practical steps you can follow to reduce panic. The quick answer? Breathe in for seven, and out for 11. That will always calm down a panicked state in the body. 

Think back to childhood 

We’re all predicting the absolute worst. Our primal brain is doing that so we can prepare. But we need to channel this imagination elsewhere, so our mind can have  a break from anxiety. Panic is a childhood response, so think back to when you were younger. What did you find calming or relaxing? Painting, colouring in or drawing, perhaps? These homely exercises can be really comforting. 

Fill the void

Loneliness is grief over a loss of connection, but you don’t have  to be around people physically to feel connected. Do cook-alongs, listen to podcasts or connect with a character in a book. Whatever you do, just don’t have the news on all day or constantly check your phone for alerts. It’s not healthy. Fill that time with things that bring you joy. 

3 fast relaxers

Inner Strength Bath and Shower Oil, £49, Aromatherapy Associates 

Inner Strength Bath and Shower Oil,  £49, Aromatherapy Associates 

Great Day Body Scrub, £34, Neom Organics 

Great Day Body Scrub, £34, Neom Organics

Neroli candle, £42, Malin + Goetz 

Neroli candle, £42, Malin + Goetz 

30 places to visit, virtually

Travel and travel planning are being disrupted by the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. For the latest updates, read The New York Times’s Covid-19 coverage here.

When we published our list of 52 places to visit in 2020 three months ago, no one could have guessed how much our world would change. And now, given our stay-at-home circumstances, we’d like to invite you on a series of virtual journeys: You can wander into the belly of an Egyptian pyramid, explore the house where Mozart was born, or fly over the rocky peaks of Glacier National Park. Sure, you’ll be looking at a screen, but you’ll see new places, hear new languages and pick up some interesting tidbits about other cultures. Call it a warm-up for that moment when you’ll actually be packing your bags and heading out for your next adventure.

[Sebastian Modak, the 2019 52 Places Traveler contacted friends he met on his journey around the world to see how they were doing during the pandemic.]

Credit…Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The U.S. capital makes for an engaging and varied virtual destination. Without leaving your sofa, you can commemorate the 100-year anniversary of American women winning the right to vote by visiting the Library of Congress’s online exhibition about the suffrage movement, then click through another informative exhibition from the National Archives. To explore the city further, tour the buildings around the Capitol, wander through the National Museum of Natural History, and explore the many online resources offered by the National Air and Space Museumthe National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which was due to run through April 12, has gone completely virtual. Visit the festival’s website to take a video tour of the tidal basin and watch highlights from previous years.Se

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Credit…Robert Rausch for The New York Times

Anyone dreaming of white sand beaches might enjoy browsing the views from this collection of webcams scattered around the British Virgin Islands. Admire the shifting light over Scrub Island Marina, or just watch the breeze wafting through the palms in front of Soggy Dollar Bar. You can also sail around the islands with a group of friends who visited last year.

Credit…Federico Rios for The New York Times

The Amazon jungle is about as remote as you can get, but you can get a sense of the place from home by reading the remarkable story of the tourist who spent nine days lost in the region’s dense rainforest (he said that monkeys helped him survive). Or skim around the waterways and look out for birds, turtles, caimans and other wildlife.

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Credit…Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

Get a bird’s-eye view of Greenland’s stunning frozen scenery in this elegant nine-minute video from the Swiss filmmaker Stefan Forster. Without leaving your sofa, you can also watch the Northern Lights shimmer over the country’s snowy mountains, or even learn a few words of Greenlandic (Aluu!).

Credit…Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times

Australia’s wild northwestern corner is another out-of-the-way region that offers a gorgeous natural escape. To visit from afar, start with Tourism Australia’s guide to the Kimberley, then dive into a vivid photo gallery of the otherworldly Bungle Bungle Range, and wrap up with a fun video tour of some of the region’s most popular spots.

“Field of Light at Sensorio” installation is closed, but can be viewed online.
“Field of Light at Sensorio” installation is closed, but can be viewed online.Credit…Beth Coller for The New York Times

Paso Robles is known for its wineries, and good news: You can now visit many of them online, while enjoying a glass of whatever you have on hand at home. The area’s vast and dreamy Field of Light at Sensorio installation is closed to visitors, but this collection of images and videos gives a vivid sense of the place.

Credit…Susan Wright for The New York Times

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Embark on your own Sicilian adventure by exploring this series of panoramic photographs and videos from around the Italian island. (Just click on “Sicilian tour map” to get started.) Gape at the ceiling of the Monreale Cathedral, admire the ruins at the Valley of the Temples, or take in the sweeping coastline at Cefalù. For a loftier perspective, spend a few minutes watching this impressive footage of a recent eruption of Sicily’s Mount Etna.

Credit…Andreas Meichsner for The New York Times

Get an online taste of Austrian tradition through some entertaining snippets offered up by the Salzburg Puppet Theatre. Start with 10 minutes or so of The Magic Flute — composed by Mozart, Salzburg’s famous native son, then skip over here to take a virtual tour of Mozart’s birthplace.

A view of Tokyo from the Skytree tower.
A view of Tokyo from the Skytree tower.Credit…Andrew Faulk for The New York Times

Tokyo’s MORI Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderlessoffers a range of immersive videos that take you inside the museum’s trippy and wonderful exhibits. Start in the forest of resonating lamps, then move on to the universe of water particles, or the weightless forest of resonating life. Want to get “outside”? Head over here for a virtual rickshaw ride around the city.

Credit…Andreas Meichsner for The New York Times

The Roman ruins of Caesarea occupy a beautiful stretch of Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Enjoy the landscape, as well as a lofty view of Caesarea’s impressive amphitheater, in these sweeping aerial shots. Then head over to the Jewish Virtual Library to find more detailed images of the ruins and to read about the history of the site.

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Credit…Marcus Westberg

The world’s remaining giant panda population is set to get a helping hand from China’s proposed new Giant Panda National Park, which will spread over five mountain ranges and more than 10,000 square miles. You can read about the development of the park here and here. Or just get straight to the point and enjoy the highlights of these panda cams, which offer a glimpse into a panda center that lies within the proposed park.

Ploughing fields outside Maloti-Drakensberg Park in Lesotho.
Ploughing fields outside Maloti-Drakensberg Park in Lesotho.Credit…Joao Silva/The New York Times

One of the top sights of this tiny mountain kingdom is Maloti-Drakensberg Park, which straddles part of the country’s border with South Africa. The park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in sub-Saharan Africa. Check out these images from around the park, then enjoy some drone shots of the country’s dramatic landscape.

Credit…Benjamin Rasmussen for The New York Times

There are a number of ways to get to the top of Pikes Peak, the 14,115-foot mountain that rises above Colorado Springs, without leaving your house. You can ride the cog railway (which — in real life — is scheduled to reopen next year after major renovations). You can hike. You can drive yourself up the Pikes Peak Highway. Or, if you’re maybe a little bit crazy, you can even try to run.

The Main Market Square in Krakow, Poland.
The Main Market Square in Krakow, Poland.Credit…Andreas Meichsner for The New York Times

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This ancient city in southern Poland can be fully explored through an extensive virtual walking tour. Go for a guided stroll through the Old Town, admire the ornate interior of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre, or visit the peaceful grounds of the Old Jewish Cemetery. Then head over to the National Museum in Krakow to peruse its collection online.

A clothes presser in the old part of Jodhpur, India.
A clothes presser in the old part of Jodhpur, India.Credit…Poras Chaudhary for The New York Times

The 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, which stands at the top of a cliff above the city of Jodhpur, can be visited online. Wander through the ornate rooms and admire the views down to “the blue city” spread out below, then visit the Mehrangarh Museum Trust to learn about the history and architecture of the site. You can also check out these highlights from the international folk festival that the fort hosts every year.

Credit…James Silverman for The New York Times

Good news, nature lovers: Without leaving home, you can spot a moose in the forest, go for an evening swim, or enjoy the views from the top of a spectacular waterfall. These 360 videos of the Swedish outdoors allow you to choose your own perspective as the scene unfolds. Enjoy.

Credit…Getty Images

Explore some of the great pyramids of Egypt with this panoramic video, or this clickable virtual tour. Then have a look inside the Pyramid of Giza with this 360 video from the BBC. You can also watch this video or read this story about the development of the Grand Egyptian Museum, an enormous complex that is nearing completion.

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Credit…Beth Coller for The New York Times

La Paz sits on the coast of the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California), which has been described as “the world’s aquarium” because of its extraordinary biodiversity. The region’s islands and protected areas have been recognized by UNESCO, although the site was added to the organization’s “in danger” listlast year because of ongoing threats to the vaquita, an endemic porpoise. Learn more about the region, then check out UNESCO’s gallery of images. You can also get lost in this mesmerizing scuba-diving video.

Credit…Robert Rausch for The New York Times

Get to know this tiny barrier island off the coast of Louisiana with this short video, then read about how environmentalists are working to protect the island’s remaining maritime forest, which serves as a critical habitat for migratory birds. Finally, get a sense of the size of the place with these flyby shots along the coast.

The Chow Kit Market in Kuala Lumpur.
The Chow Kit Market in Kuala Lumpur.Credit…Lauryn Ishak for The New York Times

Kuala Lumpur’s Chow Kit neighborhood is home to one of the most popular markets in the city. Following along with an American family, you can wander among the stalls loaded with pineapples and plantains and plucked chickens. Then take a few minutes to learn some words of Malay, the native tongue of more than 33 million people.

Kistefos Museum in Jevnaker, Norway.
Kistefos Museum in Jevnaker, Norway.Credit…Laurian Ghinitoiu

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You can explore the many sculptures of Norway’s futuristic Kistefos Museum and Sculpture Park by clicking your way through this interactive map. You can also watch this video of the museum’s emblematic “Twist” structure taking shape (and get a taste of the Norwegian language at the same time).

Credit…Danita Delmont/Shutterstock.com

So brilliant is the sunshine on display in this panoramic tour of the Bahamas that you might be tempted to put on sunglasses (or at least dim the brightness of your screen). Gaze at the turquoise waters of Pipe Cay, stroll across the boardwalk through Lucayan National Park, then gape at the size of the ships in the cruise terminal in Nassau.

Credit…Poras Chaudhary for The New York Times

Ride along with two young travelers as they explore Cambodia’s riverside city of Kampot and tour a nearby pepper plantation. Or just enjoy some drone shots of the city and nearby Bokor Mountain, which is home to a waterfall, a Buddhist temple and a towering statue of Lok Yeay Mao, whom locals revere as the protector of the mountain and sea.

Credit…Lauryn Ishak for The New York Times

The largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch offers a range of cultural attractions, some of which are available on the web. Start with a tour of the online exhibitions of the Canterbury Museum, including a look at the evolution of New Zealand’s tourism posters. Then head over to the website of the Christchurch Art Gallery, where you can browse the artwork and even create your own gallery.

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Credit…Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

The Asturias region in northwestern Spain is home to dramatic mountain scenerysacred sites and even an extensive network of ancient Roman gold mines. Asturian dairy farmers continue to produce the region’s celebrated products, including cheeses and various types of milk, cream and butter. You can browse a photo gallery of local farmers at work, and other lovely images from the region here.

Credit…Ema Peter for The New York Times

Get your first taste of this remote Canadian archipelago with this panoramic video from Parks Canada. You can also take a close-up look at some of the area’s bald eagles with this GoPro footage, or learn about the proud history of the Haida nation.52 Places to Go in 2020We picked destinations to inspire you, delight you and motivate you to explore the world.

The Jester King Brewery in Austin.
The Jester King Brewery in Austin.Credit…Stacy Sodolak for The New York Times

Austin, the capital of American cool, is packed with quirky landmarks, vibrant street art and sparkling green spaces. Dive into all of them thanks to YouVisit, an immersive virtual reality platform whose Austin tour will take you from the elegant grounds of the Texas Capitol to the summit of Mount Bonnell and even to the packed, smoky barbecue pit of Salt Lick BBQ. And for a taste of Austin’s celebrated live music scene, take a look back at last year’s Austin City Limits music festival.

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Credit…Marcus Westberg

Amid the volcanoes, dense rainforest and fluorescent blue water on this corner of Borneo, Sabah’s Mount Kinabalu, with its distinctive granite peaks, sits like an imposing crown. And now you can hike to its summit from home, thanks to Google Street View, whose trekkers captured sweeping panoramas all the way to the top. Want more thrills? Follow along on the world’s highest via ferrata (a mountain pathway of bridges and cables), which sits on Kinabalu.

Credit…Laurens van Engelen

Wildlife enthusiasts head to Churchill, Manitoba, the Polar Bear capital of the world, for a glimpse of these incredible white mammals. Get to know some special sea bears, then climb into a Tundra Buggy, an all-terrain vehicle that can handle snow drifts, via an on-dash webcam, whose stunning footage can be viewed from home.

Credit…Marcus Westberg

There is perhaps no better spot on earth to see gorillas than Uganda, home to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park, a habitat for half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. And the virtual reality house VR Gorilla will take you right into the dense forest to meet them up close.

Mikel Obi & his adorable twin girls are really enjoying the lockdown

Mikel Obi’s adorable twin daughters are growing so fast!

The proud dad took to his Instagram to share cute photos of Mia and Ava and noted how fast they are growing, and their sharp sense of humor.

We are sure Mikel and his Russian partner, Olga Diyachenko, are super thrilled with their little sweethearts.

See the photos below:

I can’t be the only one who is enjoying the little things

Ifound a bottle of multipurpose antibacterial spray the other day. It was in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, hidden at the bottom of a box of random dishwasher tablets, J-cloths and Marigolds that I had been rummaging through in the hope of finding a pan scourer. When I saw it, I could barely believe it. I picked it up and I turned it again and again in my hands, as if to check it was actually real. When it dawned on me that it was, I leapt up and started to dance.

‘Harry!’ I shrieked up the stairs, bouncing as I did so. ‘Harry! Guess what? I’VE FOUND SOME MULTIPURPOSE ANTIBACTERIAL SPRAY!’

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Harry was as thrilled as I was. Even Edie got excited.

It was the 10th birthday of a neighbour last week. That day, at 11am, we all went into our back gardens and sang her Happy Birthday, a slight twist on the weekly applauding of the emergency services and key workers that we – like most of Europe – do every Thursday at 8pm. My daughter’s seventh birthday occurred a couple of days later. I sent out a note to the street WhatsApp group and everyone went into their gardens and did the same. I cried – obviously – big, splodgy tears of joy.

The night before our daughter’s birthday, my husband and I stayed up late baking a cake. It was the worst cake that had ever been baked in the history of the entire world, but we laughed a lot doing it, and it tasted sugary and chocolatey, so she didn’t really care what it looked like.

We completed a 1,000-piece jigsaw recently. The euphoria was such that I actually felt high.

We appear to have trained the guinea pigs to dance to Dolly Parton. Don’t ask me to explain: just believe that it is true.


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Before this, before the world as we knew it changed – and my goodness, that was only three or four weeks ago – I sometimes had to run at least 13 miles to make myself feel joyous. I needed to be planning an exotic holiday, or asking myself what my next career goal was, to get the sense that I was achieving things.

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Now? Now, all it takes is a bottle of Dettol, or a neighbour being kind, and I can go to bed feeling like I have won the lottery. This crisis has recalibrated expectations; it has shown us that, really, the only thing that matters is our health, and the health of our loved ones. Everything else can wait. Everything else feels somehow woolly and unimportant.

It is the small things that make a difference, the tiny acts of kindness from neighbours and friends, the realisation that you will never again take for granted a phone call from your mum and dad. The bigger picture has changed, yes. But now, more than ever, the little things have the power to bring great joy, and for that I am eternally grateful.

The best hair removal products for waxing, shaving and laser treatment at home

Deep breath) Body hair. Like it or loathe it, it’s a topic we’re talking about right now. And while it’s clearly not the most important issue facing us all at present, maintaining a sense of self through grooming (if you so choose) is a sure enough way to preserve some normalcy during these incredibly unnerving times. A form of self-care, if you will.

Since lock-down was first introduced last month to help quell the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve seen the temporary closure of most non-essential stores, including our favourite brow bars, waxing salons and laser clinics, leaving many of us to take beauty matters into our own hands – and it shows. 

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The beauty gadget retailer CurrentBody recently reported a 56 per cent rise in home hair removal purchasing, with questions around this technology leaping by 91 per cent. Emily Buckwell, Head of Brands at CurrentBody, says “We’ve seen many people wanting to maintain some normality with their routines and day-to-day life. People are keeping up with daily exercise at home, manicures and home-dyeing hair to maintain their usual beauty standard, and hair removal is all part of this, especially as we move into the warmer months.”

With many now looking for at-home alternatives, it’s fair to say between epilating, depilatory creams and IPL, the world of hair removal can seem a confusing place, especially for those who are currently in between laser treatments and unaware of how to upkeep their progress. The good thing to note is that there are plenty of readily available products to help with any hairy problems you may have while you practice social distancing at home. These are some of the methods to try right now…

Waxing

Originated in ancient Eygpt way back when, waxing remains a popular method of hair removal to this day for its long-lasting results.  Suited to all hair types, waxing removes hair from its root, located in the second layer of the skin (the dermis) and as the hair cycle regenerates every 30-45 days, most of us can enjoy hair-free skin for much longer than if we were to use other methods like depilatory creams, which only remove the hair shaft visible on the first layer of the skin (the epidermis). Waxing over time also means that hair will grow back weaker and reduce in quantity. 

While your wax therapist can give you the gift of smooth, hair-free legs in just a few swift pulls, achieving the same results at home requires some effort. “Waxing is all about confidence,” says Zainab Siddiq at the Ministry of Waxing. “Once the wax is applied to the skin, the removal is the most important step. A strong removal with a supporting stretch on the skin is essential.”

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Before you start though, Zainab notes that your hair must be at least half a centimetre long so the shaft as well as the root can be removed. If your hair is longer than one and a half centimetres it should be gently trimmed to avoid getting tangled, which could cause undue damage to the epidermis.

For delicate, sensitive areas like the bikini, Zainab recommends hot wax which does not stick to the skin, but adheres to the hair itself – allowing you to get a good and direct pull at the root of this much coarser, terminal hair type. But whatever area you’re waxing, “stretch the skin beneath the wax when removing and keep the shape of the wax in a rectangular shape, you should also apply wax in the direction of hair growth and remove against it,” says Zainab. 

Nair Rose Sugar Wax, £13.99

Nair Rose Sugar Wax, £13.99

Shaving

Let’s be honest, shaving has been around for millennia. Though quite possibly a prehistoric method of hair removal, it’s seen some suave reinventions over time. While it’s not the most sophisticated of the bunch, it definitely bears some merit as the quickest, most pain-free method on the market.

With everything from quintuple blades to wet and electric razors on offer, if shaving is your gig, here’s what you need to note.  First, the difference between wet (your run of the mill tool) and electric shavers is that wet razors cut close to the skin and when the hair is hydrated with water it becomes softer and easier to cut with the device. Electric shavers on the other hand, provide more comfort, less irritation and won’t cause nicks in the skin. 

Once you’ve picked your tool, prep is key and Zainab says bi-weekly exfoliation and daily skin hydration is good practice. When you’re ready to shave, remember “if the hair is long, shave in the direction of the hair first, then shave against the hair growth, this will stop irritation on the skins surface”.

Extra Smooth Swirl Razor, £11.99

Extra Smooth Swirl Razor, £11.99

Epilating

Epilating your hair can be just as effective as waxing. This small, hand-held device used to remove hair by mechanically grasping multiple shafts simultaneously and pulling them out at the root, is a fairly quick and mess-free method to use.

Should you opt for it, Zainab says “exfoliate the skin prior, hold the machine steady at a 90-degree angle to your skin, and pull the skin tightly with your other hand to ease the glide of the device. Don’t press down too hard or go too fast over the epidermis.”

Braun Silk-épil 9 Flex 9010 Wet & Dry, £159

Braun Silk-épil 9 Flex 9010 Wet & Dry, £159

IPL

Used to treat skin conditions such as acne, as well as hair removal, Intense Pulse Light (IPL) machines emit a broad spectrum of light wavelengths which scatter within the skin and target the pigment found in hair. Working similarly to a flash-lamp, the beam of light produced is absorbed by the pigment in the hair and quickly turns to heat which then damages the growing cells that make up the hair, causing a reduction in growth. 

While IPL treatments have always been readily available in clinics, advances in at-home technology means you can now employ more permanent solutions to hair removal without leaving the house. Like all lasting hair removal machines, an IPL at-home laser “will require you to remove the shaft of the hair only prior to the treatment which can be done by shaving the area. The root must stay in the dermis to be treated,” says Zainab.

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Before using the machine, you should also check your suitability as grey or white hair which has lost its melanin cannot be treated and red hair does not have enough pigment to benefit. Similarly, Zainab notes, deeper skin tones with more melanin will need to be more cautious as there is a risk of discolouring and pigmentation.

If you’re tempted to get on board with IPL, make sure your skin is tan-free, whether natural or fake.  After you’ve treated the hair avoid anything that can trigger sensitivity, like perfumes, in the first 24 hours and if you decide to sit in the garden be sure to lather yourself in sunscreen.

SmoothSkin Bare+ Ultrafast IPL Hair Removal Device, £179

SmoothSkin Bare+ Ultrafast IPL Hair Removal Device, £179

Laser

A constantly evolving and developing method in the field of hair removal, laser treatments are usually conducted by trained practitioners due to their technical and highly efficacious nature. Unlike IPL, lasers emit one, single pulse of light that travels down the hair follicle and converts into heat energy which cuts off the blood supply to the dermal papilla. As hair is nourished by blood, without a supply, the hair will cease to grow.

The huge popularity of laser means that pre-lockdown many of us will have spent a lump sum on a course of treatments, only to find that our very rigid treatment plan of one session every six weeks is now on a hold. But those who are currently mid-treatment need not worry about any disruption to their hair removal journey. Zainab says, “you can maintain the area by shaving until your next treatment. Do not remove the hair from the root as this will interfere with the laser treatment”.

Zainab adds, “The strength and power of a professional laser machine will be greater than any device that can be purchased for homecare removal. That said, with the uncertainty of how long one will not be able to attend a salon, a home device can maintain the hair reduction in the meantime”.

Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X, £279

Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X, £279

Tear it up and start again

I’m a big fan of awful first drafts. All of my writing (even this article) starts with an incriminatingly bad first draft, riddled with typos and clichés, grammatical errors and half-finished sentences. No one else sees those drafts. I tear up that awful first draft and start again — and that’s when things start to click. That’s when sentences start to flow coherently, when ideas and themes make sense, and when the real work gets done.

Too often, when it comes to self-improvement, we create idealized, top-down systems with unnatural rules and regulations. We naïvely assume that we will somehow stick to our rigid plans when life gets random and hard, throwing unavoidable chaos and crises into the mix. Monday might be leg day in the gym, but if your kid falls off her bike and needs stitches, your carefully calibrated eight-week squat plan isn’t going to get a look.

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It’s not just sudden shock events that bring our optimistic plans and productivity systems crashing down; it’s also the inevitable creep of time and clutter that gets most of them. It sounds like a great idea to keep your inbox empty, responding to or archiving every email as soon as you’ve read it, but as soon as one message lingers for a few days, the whole thing can start to collapse. One email becomes two becomes 10. The strict rules you’re now ignoring, rather than freeing you to be productive as planned, just stress you out. Within a few weeks, your inbox is back to being as bad as it ever was — if not worse.

Really, the problem isn’t that plans fail, it’s what we do when they fail. When we miss a day or two at the gym, or order takeout when we meant to cook, most of us just shrug, give up entirely, and say, “Well, there’s always next year,” or we find another milestone to look forward to, and we repeat the whole embarrassing process over again.

That’s the wrong attitude. Yes, there is always tomorrow. But there is also right now.


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Every productivity system or health plan starts off like an awful first draft. You make bad assumptions and stupid mistakes, things you thought were a great idea turn out to be unsalvageable dead ends, and at the end you just need to tear it up. But then you need to start again — and that’s when things will start to click.

When a plan or resolution fails, the solution isn’t to dismiss it and try a new, equally rigid prescription next year or next time. It’s to build on what worked, ruthlessly cut what didn’t and start straight away on a much-improved second draft. Trying to run three miles every day while eating nothing but raw vegetables might be a terrible idea — but running a few days a week isn’t.

Nelson Mandela probably didn’t say: “I never lose. I win or learn.” However, whatever pop-psychology guru did say it was on to something.

All of us fail to meet our goals sometimes. (If you’re not failing occasionally, the goals you’re setting are too safe and easy.) That is not a problem. What is a problem is failing and not learning from your mistakes. That keeps you in the brutal cycle of making the same resolution every New Year’s Day — and never achieving it.

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The trick with an awful first draft is to use it to get everything down on the page. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s good or bad or clumsily phrased, you’re exploring different things to find out what works and, more important, what doesn’t. When you (inevitably) break your New Year’s resolution, let your inbox fill up with emails or skip a few gym sessions, don’t just accept it and vow to try again next year or next Monday. Take some time to reflect on what went wrong — and what went right. You have to read over your first draft and make edits to write the second. But then you get to tear it up.

After writing an awful first draft, a lot of things tend to become clear. You learn what the essay you were writing was really about, what points you were trying to make and the conclusion you were reaching toward. It’s the same with any goal or productivity system. When it collapses, you can look back and see what bits worked; which parts you found fun and easy to stick with; and which you couldn’t handle even when you were filled with that early-January drive. Flaws you couldn’t appreciate at the time are writ large.

The second draft is where you build on the strong points and cut the weak ones. Lines of reasoning that you merely touched on in the first draft become the central argument, and ideas that never went anywhere get cut mercilessly. It’s where you should embrace the parts of your plans that worked — and gut the rest.

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If you loved running outside but hated the indoor strength training in your fitness program, in your second draft ditch the gym and take it all outdoors. Schedule longer runs through the forest and, if you need some strength work, join an outdoor fitness class. If you found it easy to journal in the morning but struggled to do it in the evening, then just journal in the morning. And if it suits you to use your email inbox as a to-do list, come up with a way that lets you do that — without letting it get out of hand.

By building from the bottom up based on what works for you, rather than enforcing top-down rules and regulations, you will slowly develop a system you can stick with. One that fits into your life and excites you, and that can handle both the mundane and the madness of daily living.

And if your second draft doesn’t work out quite as planned, you tear it up and write a third. And, if needed, a fourth. This essay is on at least its sixth draft. But if you build on what’s good and cut the rest, eventually you have something that works.