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Do you think you’ve got packing your gym bag down to an art?  Think again.  It’s no longer enough to throw your gym shoes, MP3 player, headband, and protein bar into your bag.  To make the most of your workout, and to stay in peak physical condition, you need to add these five new fitness accessories to your workout packing list.  They do everything from keep your skin clear to keep your energy levels up, and they’re all widely available, affordable, and absolutely essential.

Bamboo Hand Towel

If you’re still using the ragged, old hand towel you accidentally borrowed from your college gym, now is the time to upgrade to a 100-percent bamboo hand towel.  Bamboo beats cotton in softness, absorbency, sustainability, and natural germ-fighting powers.  In fact, you can expect your bamboo towel to fight bacteria and fungus even after 50 washes, making it the skin-friendly option for wiping a sweaty forehead or dusting off chalky hands.

Bluetooth Headphones

Ditch the bulky waist belt and itchy armband, and invest in a high-quality pair of cordless Bluetooth headphones.  These fitness-friendly earphones connect wirelessly to your phone, allowing you to leave your device in the water bottle holder on the treadmill or beside your weight bench, while still playing your music uninterrupted.  Newer models are designed especially for workouts, with sweat-resistant materials, stay-put designs, and even washable components.

BPA-Free Water Bottle

BPA is an industrial-strength chemical that is present in many plastic products, including inexpensive water bottles.  Over time, the chemical can leach into the liquid in your water bottle and potentially cause long-term health problems.  Choose a water bottle made from stainless steel or glass in order to reduce your exposure to BPA.  No matter what your chosen bottle is made from, keep it clean by rinsing and drying the bottle between each use, and washing it in warm, soapy water at least once each week.

Cleansing Facial Wipes

If looking great is part of your motivation to work out, exercise-induced breakouts are likely one of your pet peeves.  The combination of hot sweat with the oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria that naturally exist on the surface of your skin, is a recipe for disaster.  Packing cleansing facial wipes in your gym bag may be all you need to maintain your clear complexion and slim figure.  Look for a formula that contains exfoliating ingredients, such as salicylic acid, and use them before and after your workout.

Electrolyte Replacement Tablets

When you sweat, your body loses essential electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium.  Electrolyte levels that dip too low can result in cramps, exhaustion, and nausea.  Tossing a tube of electrolyte replacement tablets into your gym bag means that even your sweatiest workouts won’t pose a health risk.  Just dissolve one of these tasty tablets (they come in flavors like berry, tropical, citrus, and grape) in 500 ml of water and drink up; you’ll feel better within minutes.

Don’t let your workout do more harm than good.  Pack these five new gym-bag essentials, and you’ll be looking and feeling better than you ever imagined.

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Natural Beauty: 3 Homemade Face Masks For Sensitive Skin

Ingredients found in store-bought beauty products can be too harsh for sensitive skin, leading to irritation, eczema or even allergic reactions. Making your beauty products from gentle and natural ingredients is a safe way to take care of sensitive skin. Here are three homemade face masks for sensitive skin.

Banana, Oatmeal, and Honey Mask

Bananas contain antioxidants and other nutrients that help to fight the signs of aging. Oatmeal is a natural cleanser and exfoliator often used in homemade face masks. Honey helps to soothe and repair damaged skin while leaving your face feeling soft and moisturized.

To make the mask, mash a ripe banana using a fork, then add 1 tablespoon of honey. Add the oatmeal 1 teaspoon at a time (up to 6 teaspoons), mixing until all of the ingredients bind together and you have a thick paste. Apply a thick layer of the mask to your skin and leave on for half an hour. Rinse and cleanse your face as usual.

Cucumber and Milk Mask

Cucumber is well known for its ability to soothe and freshen the skin. It is also an astringent that can help to remove dirt and dead skin cells from the pores. Milk is an excellent skin cleanser and moisturizer that will leave your skin feeling soft and silky.

To make the mask, use a juicer or blender to extract the juice from half a cucumber. Alternatively, you can peel the cucumber and strain it through a sieve or piece of cheesecloth to remove the juice. Mix equal parts of cucumber juice and powdered milk to form a paste. If the mixture is too runny, add a small amount of milk powder or bulk it out with oatmeal. Apply the mixture to your face and leave on for at least 20 minutes. Rinse the mask off and use cleanser or toner to remove any traces of the milk.

Simple Egg Mask

Eggs are packed with nutrients and are among the best ingredients for homemade beauty products. The egg white removes excess oil, tightens the skin and cleanses the pores, while the egg yolk is great for nourishing the skin.

Merely whisk one whole egg and apply a thin layer to your skin. If you prefer masks with a thicker consistency, you can add some oatmeal, powdered milk or graham flour to make a thick paste. Leave the paste on for at least 10 minutes, then rinse off and cleanse your face as usual.

Homemade face masks are ideal for people with sensitive skin, as all the ingredients are entirely natural and are unlikely to harm your skin. However, even natural ingredients can sometimes cause skin reactions for some people, so it’s best to test the mask’s components on a small patch of skin at least 24 hours before applying them to your face.

Next week, we’ll take a look at 3 homemade masks for oily skin. Stay tuned!

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