Archive for Gear

Automatic CPAP cleaner

I think it’s fair to say most CPAP, BiPAP, Auto-PAP, etc., users dislike having to clean their equipment. If you’re like me, you think about it right before you need to use it. I’d been hearing good things about the SoClean 2 from Better Rest Solutions, and decided it would be a good idea to try it out.

Price
The price is a bit on the expensive side. I got mine from National Sleep Therapy with a coupon code and that helped. I’ve been having so much trouble with colds and other viruses, I thought it was worth trying. Luckily I had FSA money to use.

Functionality
The unit includes a short instruction manual that made it quite easy to figure out how the SoClean 2 works. My CPAP has an attached humidifier and there are directions for those with or without humidifiers. There are also additional instructions for those with heated hoses. The SoClean 2 can run on a programmed scheduled, or be ran manually. It comes preset to clean at 10am. After I wake up in the morning, I place my mask into the cleaner, shut the lid, and it’s clean when I come home.

How it works
I’m no scientist and therefore am unable to accurately describe exactly what happens. The SoClean 2 uses activated oxygen to clean your mask, cushion, hose, and humidifier. It runs for 5 to 10 minutes, and then you must wait 2hrs before using your CPAP again. With all my breathing issues and winter woes contracting sickness from everyone I’m around, the last thing I need is my own medical equipment perpetuating sickness. There are some comments about a smell from the cleaning process, and I read one review where it was described as a swimming pool/chlorine smell. That kind of makes sense, and I want to point out it doesn’t bother me at all. It doesn’t stick around very long. It is suggested you run your machine for 20 seconds or so to clean the smell out. All I know is that if I’m lazy and don’t clean my mask/cushion for a week, the smell from that is much, much worse than what the cleaning leaves behind.

Recommendation?
I would definitely recommend this unit if you have the money to spend on it. There are some replaceable pieces you do need to take care of every six months, similar to replacing parts of your nebulizer or CPAP. The cost isn’t too bad, currently $30 gets you the replacement kit from Better Rest Solutions. You can still clean your machine as usual with soap and water. I’m finding this convenient, time saving, and it gives me piece of mind.

 

Beard Oil Flyweight Sampler Pack

A little over a week ago I ordered Pugilist Brand’s Beard Oil Flyweight Sampler Pack. It contains:

  • Buccaneer Blend beard oil sample
  • Cedar Atlas Shrugged beard oil sample
  • Citrus Grove beard oil sample
  • Frontiersman beard oil sample
  • Zen Musk beard oil sample
  • $3 off coupon for your next purchase of a full-size, 1 ounce beard oil

This retails for $8 with a couple bucks for shipping. I’m not sure on the size of the sample bottles, but you should get at least a couple applications per bottle as long as your beard is less than 5-6″ long. My beard is a about 5 months old at the moment and 4″ long. I didn’t fall in love with any of the scents, but I still dig what Pugilist Brand is doing and here is why.

Customer Service

There was a slight hiccup with my order when it arrived, and like any social media user I contacted Pugilist Brand through Twitter. They responded immediately, most of my order was refunded, and for that reason I’m calling this a sponsored review. Too many times I’ve tried to contact a company for good or bad reasons and have been stonewalled or treated poorly. Pugilist Brand knows how to treat their customers, and welcomes feedback.

Sample Pack

I love that they offered a sample pack I could try to see if I liked their products. I’m picky about how things smell. I’m also not really into cologne/scents/fragrances, so I’d hate to spend $15-$30 on an entire ounce of beard oil to find out I really can’t use it. If you’re like me, be sure to check out return policies if you’re leery of spending the cash not really knowing what it’s going to be like. For $8 you can try all five of their beard oils and get at least 10-14 days use out of the samples.

Pugilist Brand also has many sets and combinations of their products for beard enthusiasts at discounted prices. If you want to buy multiple beard oils, or combine oil with soap, pomade, mustache wax, etc; their is most likely an option for you that coincides with your budget.

Quality Oils

If you look at how they make their beard oil, it contains the usual suspects: almond, jojoba, argan, and castor. I would have to say Pugilist Brand’s beard oil was probably the most lightweight I’ve used so far. I felt like I needed to use slightly more for an application than oils I’ve used from other companies, but that might be what you’re looking for in an oil. Comparatively, this beard oil goes for $19 an ounce while Beard Brand and Beard Baron sells for $25. So even if you’re using slightly more, it does cost less. I did not notice any real difference in the condition of my beard while trying out Pugilist Brand’s compared to other oils I’ve been using.

Here are a couple pictures. I always like to compare customer pictures to what companies post on their web sites.  For starters, they have an awesome rubber stamp they slap on their envelopes.

pugilist_envelope

Here are what the samples look like.  That is their business card for size reference.

pugilist_beardOil1pugilist_beardOill2

 As I mentioned above, I didn’t love any of the scents, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. I’d love to know what others think of Pugilist Brand, especially compared to other similar beard products.

Lucky Scruff’s Pine Tar Soap and Holy Beard Oil

A few weeks ago I happened to be on Facebook and noticed Lucky Scruff was looking for people to review some of their products.  I’m all about writing reviews for stuff I like, so I volunteered and a week or so later I received a box with:

lucky_scruff2

Lucky Scruff makes their own soaps and oils, and is based out of Antioch, Tennessee.  They seem to really care about helping people enjoy beards, and they do so with wit and humor.  They sell quality products that are modestly priced, and hold up to other beard care and maintenance products I’ve used.  Oh, and if you live in the state of Tennessee I think you’ll like their shipping perk.

Right from the start I have to comment on the packaging itself.  Both the soap and the oil came in white, cloth, drawstring bags.  It’s classy and gives more opportunity for branding.  I’ve never been great at gift giving or gift wrapping and Lucky Scruff does it for you.

lucky_scruff1

Beard Oil

I also thought the literature was great.  The first piece was post-card sized with beard care and maintenance tips, and a coupon code for my next order.  It also highlights the three most basic beard care items: a comb, soap, and oil.  The simple step-by-step instructions on how to properly use and apply beard oil are key as some customers may be first time users.  The brochure highlights their products, the company, and how to contact them on the web.

lucky_scruff3

I only started using beard oil this past year and have been using Beardbrand’s Blank Slate Oil, so Lucky Scruff’s Holy Beard Oil is my second.  Comparing the two it seems like the Holy Beard Oil is slightly lighter than the Blank Slate.  Neither leaves my beard feeling oily, greasy, or weighted down.  I’ve been using a slightly larger amount of the Holy Beard Oil on my beard, but I can’t quite say if that’s because it’s a lighter oil or my beard has grown in the 2-3 weeks I’ve been trying it out.  Either way, I think it’s a great product and it smells great.  I’ve never worn scents or colognes and this is just enough without being overpowering or too noticeable.

Beard Soap

Similar to beard oil, I also started using beard soap this year.  Hudson Made makes an excellent product, but it’s a little on the expensive side.  I’m not saying it’s not worth it, just not the right solution for someone on a tight budget.  Pine Tar soap has been around for decades and is a staple for many beardsmen.  Before I tried out Hudson Made’s soap, I read in many places on the internet that pine tar soap “smells like a wet campfire” and will stink up your house.  If you’ve read much else on my blog you’ll notice I have severe respiratory issues and anything connected to smoke is not a good thing.  I’ll be honest – I was a little worried when I saw Lucky Scruff had sent me pine tar soap, but I wanted to try it out to be fair.

I’m happy to report the soap is great, it lathers awesomely well, it cleans my beard, the scent is subtle, and it in no way smells like a wet camp fire.  The price is also right at $5 for a bar.  Lucky Scruff sent me a sample size and after heavily soaping my beard 6x in the past few weeks, the bar looks like it has hardly been used.

Results

Overall I am very satisfied with the soap and oil from Lucky Scruff.  Looking at their other products, I’d love to try out their Honey Oatmeal soap as well.  I’ll probably get a bar after I’ve used up more of the other two soaps I already have.  People have been loving the beard these past few weeks.  I think it’s fair to say if you use Lucky Scruff beard products, babies will love you.


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Dr Carver’s Magnamimous Post Shave

I’ve been writing enough about depressing lung disease stuff, it’s time to switch gears a bit.  For the past couple months I’ve been trying out Dollar Shave Club’s newest product – Dr Carver’s Magnamimous Post Shave.  I’m sometimes asked why I like the Dollar Shave Club so much when I have a full beard; I shave my head on a regular basis, not so much my face.  Along with it comes dry skin all winter and the need for daily sunscreen the rest of the year to keep the skin cancer away.

Dr Carver's Post Shave

Dr Carver’s Post Shave

Moisturizing your scalp can be difficult because many standard moisturizers have the potential to clog your pores and trust me dude, you do not want ingrown hairs and acne on your chrome dome.  I usually buy non comedogenic moisturizer which is generally for your face.  The stuff is a bit more expensive, but it works.  I had been wishing Dollar Shave Club had something I could just add to my order, similar to their Dr Carver’s Shave Butter.  Lo and behold, a month or so after my pining I received notification of their new item for sale.

The post shave comes in a 3.4 oz bottle and can be added to any order for $9.  As usual, shipping and handling is included.  The moisturizer is a semi-thick, white, paste that is easily absorbed into your skin and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy.  I haven’t done any scientific experiments, but I feel like it pairs really well with the shave butter.

Dr Carver's Magnanimous Post Shave

Dr Carver’s Magnanimous Post Shave

At first I was a little concerned about the price and bottle size, but it’s going to last me a very long time with the amount I use on a daily basis.  At the moment I’m only on my 2nd bottle of shave butter with the first one lasting me about six months.  As usual, I am more than satisfied with the Dollar Shave Club and whole-heartedly endorse their shaving products…and if you’re interested in using my referral link I can get a little kickback on my next order.

Time to replace your nebulizer

Do you clean your nebulizer cup regularly?  Do you ever replace it?

I’m almost embarrassed to say at one point in my asthmatic life I used the same nebulizer cup for years without ever really cleaning or replacing it.  Yes, that is gross and unsanitary if you were wondering.  Last year I wrote up a post about how to clean your nebulizer which probably gets the most hits out of anything on this blog.  I used to clean them with vinegar, but a soak in warm water with dish soap for 30min to an hour is just as effective and you don’t run the risk of “inhaling pickles” afterward.

Today is July 1st which means the start of the 2nd half of the year.  Nebuilzer parts: cup, tubing, and filter, should be replaced at least every six months.  To make it easy on myself I do this January 1 and July 1 of every year.

Pari LC Sprint and filterPari LC Sprint and filter

Where do I find replacements?

If you’re in the ER/hospital or receiving breathing treatments at a doctor’s office, that’s one easy place to acquire replacements parts.  If they’ve never offered to give them to you, just ask.  They do not reuse them for other patients and are immediately trashed.  They’ll probably even bag up the tube and nebulizer cup for you like take-out dinner.  Most nebulizer cups and tubing will work with most nebulizer compressors, but it’s good to check.  Occasionally I’ve been given tubing with a much too wide mouth from the hospital, but that’s because it’s made to fit onto those giant nozzles in hospital rooms for room air and oxygen.

You’ll still need to replace the filter in your compressor and that is something you won’t be able to get from the doctor’s office.  Some people like to use durable medical equipment supply companies, but I’ve never had much luck due to having an opinion about the equipment I use.  I’ve also had several local companies try to screw me over with what I’m purchasing, trying to make me buy overpriced bundles instead of just buying what I need, etc.

I like to use JustNebulizers.com to buy all my neb parts.  I’ve even purchased two Pari Trek S systems from them over the years.  They always have a promo code to use, they always provide a promo code with your last order, and the one time there was an issue with my shipment it was immediately fixed.  It’s hard to argue with good customer service.  If you are having trouble deciding or knowing what filter you need, check out their Nebulizer Filter Finder or give them a call for assistance.

Some nebulizer compressors call for more or less frequent filter changes than every six months, but if you’re using it on a regular basis like I am it’s good to replace.  I’ve even replaced at 3 months before just because the filter looks dirty.  Remember dudes, you’re asthmatic and don’t want to be breathing this stuff in.

Lastly, don’t forget to file with your insurance.  Every plan has different rules about how often you can buy stuff, but sometimes you will be reimbursed and the cost will count towards your deductible and/or max-out-of-pocket expenses.

So long, Maxair

Shortly after being diagnosed with asthma I was given a proventil inhaler, which didn’t always seem to work, followed by a maxair inhaler.  Albuterol, or albuterol sulfate, is probably the most commonly prescribed medication for those with respiratory problems.  Maxair is slightly different – pirbuterol acetate, and it did a slightly better job for me.  They eventually came out with an auto-inhaler model that was sort of an inhaler-spacer hybrid.  I loved Maxair.  Maxair has served me well these past two decades plus change, but the United States Environmental Protection Agency deemed CFCs, the process of getting that wonderful drug out of the canister and into my air sacs, harmful to the environment, therefore banning all inhalers using them.

proventil

Proventil inhaler

maxair

Maxair inhaler

maxair-autohaler

Maxair Autohaler

The result has been an entire new line of inhalers using HFAs to propel the medication in combination with new deployment devices containing counters and new copyrights, trademarks, and what have you.  This is one of the big reasons medicine costs so much in this country.

If you search the web, you’ll find many official and non-official documented gripes against these new inhalers.  Everything from rescue inhalers to steroid and combination maintenance inhalers have switched methods.  If you really hate them, your other option is the powder based, inhaled meds, but those aren’t an option for everything.

I recently had to switch from Maxair to Proair, and while I was fully prepared to HATE IT, I’m actually enjoying it.  The reason would be the extra thing I’m carrying everywhere.

Asthma-Aerochamber

That’s a spacer.  You pop the inhaler into one end, puff-puff goes the magic dragon, and then you suck all that glorious, airway-opening magic into your mouth through the other end.  Spacers are key to proper metered-dose-inhaler (MDI) use.  If you are taking a daily steroid, LABA or combo inhaler you really need to be using a spacer.  You can cheat on them with rescue meds cause you’re most likely in a pinch, but let me repeat that.

USE A SPACER

In addition to properly inhaling your new, unwanted medicine – keeping your tools clean is also important.  Similar to cleaning out your nebulizer, you need to clean your spacer.  Your MDIs probably also suggest some sort of regular rinsing/cleaning as well.  The good news is all you have to do is rinse them out or drop them into some warm soapy water for a soak.

Hudson Made: Beard and Shave

The hair on your face needs to be washed just like the hair on your head.  I’ve used shampoo from time to time, but that usually results in dry skin, “beard dandruff,” split ends, and annoyance.  Often I can skirt this problem by just thoroughly rinsing it out in the shower, but eventually that doesn’t cut it either.  On top of this all, I live in an area with hard water and this can add to the flakiness as well.

For the past month or so I’ve been cleaning my beard on Saturdays with Hudson Made: Citron Neroli Beard & Shave Soap.  I was hesitant at first to try this seeing one bar of soap costs just over $20 for 3.5oz.  The reviews were amazing though, and I decided to give it a whirl.  I am also leaving the soap in a container by the sink so as not to lose any by attrition in the shower.

Hudson Made: Citron Beard Soap

The first time I tried the soap I ran a little water through my beard, lathered up a little bit of soap on my hands, and then applied it to my face.  The soap didn’t really lather up much at all, which was surprising because the most common comment about this soap was the insane amount of lather it generated.

The following week I thoroughly soaked my beard at the sink and made sure to use warm water.  This time instead of trying to lather soap on my hands, I dipped the soap under the water and then immediately rubbed it across my beard.  The amount of lather generated was impressive.  This soap can double as shaving soap, you know – the kind you mix up in a little mug with a brush.  After making sure my entire beard is soaped up and massaged a bit, I can either rinse it out at the sink or take a shower.

Another type of soap many people suggest trying is pine tar soap.  I’m quite hesitant to use it because I’ve heard it smells like a wet campfire.  Call me cautious, but that would probably irritate my eyes, sinuses, airways, or just make the bathroom reek.  This soap is made with cedar and citrus essential oils, and isn’t overly strong.  Another concern I had was the scent of whatever soap I started using could be an overpowering scent on my face all day.  That hasn’t even remotely been a problem.  If I cup my hand over my mouth and nose, and breathe in, I can kind of smell the soap for a day – and that’s it.

One other benefit to soaping up my beard once a week is it helps with CPAP beard.  Some people exhibit a bad case of “bed head” upon awaking.  I tend to get CPAP beard from the straps of my mask pressing against my face all night.  Rinsing my beard out in the shower, applying a little beard oil and combing it in the morning mostly keeps it in shape.  It just looks slightly more disheveled day after day by the end of the week though and the deep cleaning gets it back to normal.

After one-two months of use I can hardly tell the soap has even been used.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this lasts me a year.  I’d like to try out some other soaps because I have found some in the $10 or less range, but I’ll probably wait until this current bar is much more used before purchasing something else.

Sometimes I look like a masked bandit

In an effort to not repeat last summer, I’ve been really trying to up my game this year and be more proactive.  A couple months ago I was looking into face masks and was told they’re kind of pointless because they don’t seal to your face.  My concern at the time was a plane ride for work.  If the air quality, allergens, irritants or somebody reeking of smoke doesn’t bother me, the cabin not pressurized properly will.  Now that allergy seasons are in full swing, I need a little help some days when the pollen counts are approaching 12 out of 12.

For $14 I picked up one of these on Amazon.  They’re reusable, washable, not too hot, adjustable, and easy to store in a pocket.

Yeah, so the picture makes it look like a bean bag chair or maybe a guinea pig hiding under a piece of material.  It actually covers my face quite nicely and my beard does a good job filling in the gaps where it doesn’t “seal” to my face.  There’s a bendable, metal piece you can shape to your nose.  It doesn’t do a great job by itself, but the mask in conjunction with my sunglasses works great.  Oh, and my glasses don’t fog up from my breathing.

Some people ignore it and many look like idiots staring at me.  One day I was driving and put it on at a stoplight.  Some guy in a car next to me became quite concerned.  I think he’s seen too many mob movies where hits are made at stoplights.  Some student at work the other day was staring at me with his mouth hanging open and open walked into a pole.  I eyeballed him for 5 seconds and then loudly declared, “HEY YOUR MOUTH IS HANGING OPEN.”  One positive is I can yell at drivers with it on and no one sees my mouth moving.

The good news is for $14 I notice a distinct difference on high pollen days, and that can be all it takes for me to feel miserable or feel not so bad.  Last year there were some issues at work with construction dust and this would probably make a big difference if I needed to wear it inside.  I’m not sure how often you should wash it or how long until it needs to be replaced, but for now I’m pretty pleased with it after three or four weeks of use.

Beard oil

I’ve been growing beards since I was 18, but now that I’m in my 30s I’m more interested in easy management tools so I’m not finding myself in the situation where I’m sick and tired of something I could have fixed weeks ago, but now just want to cut it off.  I really dislike shaving and am one of those guys who can have a nice looking full-beard in 3 weeks.  If I’m too lazy I soon have something I have to deal with for better or worse.

Towards the end of the calendar winter, cause we all know winter has just been lasting and lasting, I had a solid, four-inch beard all around.  Mine ends up being curly so combing it out makes it seem actually longer, and I also have one spot that grows a little faster than everything else.  My problem is trying to manage the sideburns so I don’t look like Bozo the clown.  Every once in a while I try to trim down the sides but usually end up messing it up and having to cut the whole thing off.

Earlier this month I got myself a new beard trimmer, my old and crappy one had surpassed 10 years, and some beard combs by Kent.  I also started looking around on the internets for tips and advice on what to do which led me to Beardbrand and The Beard Baron.  They both sell similar products, have decent marketing and web presence, and both create great videos for information and tutorial purposes.  The Beard Baron just happened to have a video specifically for managing your sideburns.

So I’ve been combing out my beard every day for a while now and it’s been making a huge difference for me.  In the past I’ve noticed when trimming down my beard there can be an odd abundance of oil on my face.  That was basically coming from the cut hairs.  Combing my beard out helps to evenly disperse some of that, it gets rid of tangles, and has been helping the cowlick in my beard to really chill out.  I basically have hair growing in two directions which meet in one part of my face creating an inverted part or mini-fauxhawk.

This week I started using some beard oil I purchased from Beardbrand.  I went with the unscented stuff because I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about my face smelling minty, spicy, or like a forest.  There can also be issues with allergies and some of my respiratory stuff breathing in certain scents.  The stuff is really easy to use and there is a stopper/restricting piece in the top of the bottle so the oil cannot pour out.  I dab a couple drops on my fingers, run them through my beard, and comb it in.  Afterwards I can’t even tell oil had been on my hands.

My first observation was the color of my beard really popped the other morning.  I have an almost tri-colored beard depending on the day, sunlight, and length.  Throughout the day the color became less vibrant, but I think part of that is because this is oil, not water, so it oxidized.  The texture of my beard seems softer and more manageable.  It’s hard to really have a good opinion after only a few days, but I’d say I’m enjoying this easy way to hep manage my face hair.

Beard combs

I’m one of those lucky, but sometimes unfortunate, guys who can grow facial hair.  I have horrible allergies and have a hard time breathing most days, but the beard thing is not a struggle.  I’m a low maintenance kind of person, and don’t like having to do things like mess with my hair in the morning, so in the past I’ve rarely done anything to ensure my beard looks good.  I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf.

Last week I got myself some decent combs to help with my beard.  The standard, cheap combs can actually mess up your hair and often generate a lot of static for me.  I went with Kent and so far have been loving them.

The first is one of their smaller combs labeled as a “beard comb.”  I didn’t realize how small it was until I actually got it.  I’d call it a mustache comb because unless your beard stays around 1/4″ or so, I’m not sure how this works for your beard.

 

Their medium-size, pocket comb is pretty solid.  It’s about 4.5″ long with half of it for fine hair and the other half for coarse hair.

Like most people I have a weird spot in my beard that is kind of like a cowlick on my face.  The direction of my beard goes in opposite directions and this is where it comes together, kind of like an inverted part.  If I just trim it down, I have an obvious short spot when it gets longer.  If I leave it as-is, there’s this weird, long section.  For now I’m coming it every day to get the tangles out and to try and encourage my weird spot to chill out.  We’ll see how that goes.  I’ve also ordered some beard oil to give a try.