all natural beauty

Essential Oils Without The Pseudoscience

guide to essential oils
This post was written by Catherine Harper and originally appeared on Walking With Cake.

As my interest in natural beauty has grown over the last several years, I’ve started using essential oils in a variety of ways.  I’ve been a perfume lover for years, but after an allergic reaction a few summers ago, I stopped using artificial scents. Essential oils initially appealed to me because I can add one single oil or a blend to unscented lotion or a carrier oil to create my own fragrance. Most of my essential oil use is for aromatherapy purposes, and I maintain a healthy dose of skepticism regarding their effectiveness, specifically when it comes to medical claims. I’ve done a bit of research and found some interesting facts, as well as a few safe, practical ways that essential oils work for me.

I have friends who sell different brands of essential oils and I’ve heard many claims about their benefits. As an ethical consumer, I prefer to dig into the details of a product before I buy it, and it’s especially important to do your own research before dabbling in essential oils. Young Living and doTERRA are the two most popular multi-level marketing brands on the market, and doTERRA was founded by former Young Living employees after an internal company disagreement. In 2014, the FDA issued a warning letter to both Young Living and doTERRA, as well as a third essential oils brand, for marketing their products as potential cures for the Ebola virus and other serious illnesses.



It’s my opinion that strategic marketing is behind the resurgence and success of these essential oil brands, and I also find it especially telling that their use has increased as health insurance and quality healthcare become less accessible in the United States. There is very little data to suggest that essential oils offer much more than a placebo effect for many health concerns, though in my research, I found a few studies that were interesting. If you are in the market for essential oils but prefer to avoid MLM brands, Now Foods (sold at many grocery stores and at Amazon) and Eden’s Garden are two great options. Everyone who uses essential oils will have a different opinion on the quality and scents of different brands, but as a skeptical consumer of oils, I’ve found very little difference between all of the brands I’ve mentioned. It really seems to come down to a scent preference.

Also, common sense usage is important with essential oils. 

I’ve encountered what I perceive to be a metaphysical reverence held by some lovers of essential oils, and I also chalk that up to brilliant marketing campaigns. Essential oils are a product, much like any beauty product or over-the-counter medicine you might buy, and there is no spiritual transformation that occurs when you use them. Should you experience a skin irritation or rash, it’s important to stop using the oil immediately; it’s not a sign that your body is working through unexplored feelings with the oil or that toxins are being removed. It just means your body chemistry does not work well with the oil you applied to your skin. My skin has reacted poorly to beauty products containing citrus and rose oils, so I stopped using them. It’s also true that some essential oils can be taken orally or used when cooking, but it’s best to do your own research before trying them or giving them to children or pets.

In my day-to-day life, I’ve found a few beneficial uses for essential oils. Many oils smell lovely, and I enjoy diffusing them throughout my house. It’s an easy and safe method to enjoy the fragrance of oils without using them on your body. I’ve also found that mixing lemon or orange oil with vinegar as a cleaning spray is a great way to add a bit of refreshing scent while I wipe down my bathroom counters.

Lavender, one of the most commonly used essential oils, has been studied and found to have some short-term benefits, including aiding in relaxation. I will add a drop to my younger son’s evening bath when he is feeling sick or cranky, and it helps him to relax before bed. If I am particularly stressed, I will apply a few drops of lavender mixed with a carrier oil to my temples or under my nose before I fall asleep, too.

Rosemary oil is known to help with hair growth and a recent study found that it produced similar results when compared to the drug minoxidil as treatment for androgenetic alopecia. I add a few drops to my shampoo and conditioner bottles and also recently tried this easy-to-make hair serum using castor oil as a base. I apply a drop to my eyebrows before bed and I have noticed a small amount of growth along the outer edges of my brow line. I have thyroid issues, which can cause brow thinning, and the new hair growth could also stem from successfully controlling my thyroid hormone levels via medication.

I enjoy using a few blended oils by various companies as natural perfumes, and my very favorite is DoTERRA’s ClaryCalm. I use it strictly as a perfume and love its light and refreshing smell. My husband also uses AromaTouch, along with daily stretching, to ease his sore muscles after running. I also use a few natural beauty products that contain small amounts of essential oils as secondary ingredients, though I have to be selective about which products I try.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed testing various oils and scents by different brands, and with a bit of research and some general understanding of how they work, I feel comfortable using them on a daily basis. As with any natural product, your experience might be different and I definitely recommend doing your own research, too.

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Read more from Walking with Cake here.

Makeup Free for 40 Days: 5 Things I Learned

what i learned when i gave up makeup for lent


It was late February and Lent was quickly approaching. 


Lent is a season of fasting and deep reflection that mirrors Jesus' 40 days spent fasting in the desert in anticipation of the hardest test of his time on earth: his radical, self-sacrificial death on the cross. For many Christians, the practice of giving something up is meant both to remind us of the immensity of Christ's sacrifice and to keep us rooted in spiritual disciplines that help us let go of material things and focus on what matters.

I had been feeling guilty about a few recent expensive makeup purchases and had some eye irritation as the result of a new eyeshadow, so makeup was on my mind. It seemed like the natural thing to give up. I've never worn a lot of makeup, not because of any moral stance but more out of a sense of lazy-ness. I also have easily irritated eyes, so heavy eye makeup is out of the question. When I told a few friends I had given up makeup for Lent, the response was mostly: "Do you even wear makeup?"

But see, this test wasn't about others' perceptions of me. It was about my perception of myself, right down to the core of my identity.

What I Learned When I Gave Up Makeup for Lent


1. Makeup is a security blanket

One of my friends, an older woman named Mary, passed away a few weeks ago. When I got the phone call, the first thing I thought was "I wish I was wearing makeup." The shock of grief hit me square in the face and I just wanted to wrap myself up in something and feel safe. Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that makeup was about security, but I guess I felt like, if everything else was going to be wrong in the world, at least my pores would look small. It sounds trivial, but I can see how it's mixed up in lots of legitimate emotions.

2. People don't notice your flaws the way you do

Aside from one rather observant - and absurdly critical - volunteer, no one commented on my face at all. If I mentioned to a friend that I had gone makeup-free, they would universally tell me that they hadn't noticed a change. Of course, I could see the minor differences, but that eventually stopped bothering me as time wore on.

3. Flaws are human, and I shouldn't have to apologize for them

When I was a teenager, I remember reading an article in a fashion magazine on the topic of the best concealers. The author measured the efficacy of the product by how "awake" she looked in meetings after a long night of work the day before. It occurred to me then that the burden shouldn't fall on her to look perfect if she was being overworked. If you're tired, why aren't you allowed to look tired?

Seeing my skin without makeup made me acutely aware of the way my skin reddens when I'm nervous, the largeness of the pores around my nose, and the dark circles I get when I haven't slept well. It was oddly freeing to accept my skin in that state, to call it good.

4. My body tells me what it needs

On a related note, being able to see the sunburns and pimples and dark circles made me want to do right by my skin by treating my whole body better. I focused on getting rest, drinking water, and using nourishing skincare products to improve my skin rather than covering up the issues. I also tackled some recurring health concerns by making sure I was getting enough protein and taking probiotics. I feel much better because I learned to pay attention.

5. It's ok to have rituals

One of the things I missed the most about my daily makeup application was the ritual. I liked being able to focus in on my skin, paying attention to the nooks and crannies of my face as I applied powder and blush, carefully curling my lashes before applying mascara, and tracing my lips with tinted balm. But I got my tattoo about a week into Lent, so the process of caring for it became a new ritual.

Framing my routine as a ritual made me more observant of the other little things that help me start and end my days, like boiling water for pour-overs and herbal tea, applying lotion, even shaving my legs. These tactile things we do add a great deal of meaning even when they mostly go unnoticed.

what i learned when i gave up makeup for lent

So what's the game plan now?


I wore makeup on Easter morning and it felt weird. I had expected to love the return to normalcy, but I actually felt less like myself with makeup on after all of those days without it. For now, I've eliminated tinted moisturizer, powder, and eyeshadow completely. I've reintegrated light blush and my beloved Glossier Boy Brow. I've found that my lashes stay curled all day if I don't add any mascara, so I've said goodbye to mascara, as well.

It's really satisfying to have arrived at this place of confidence and renewed self awareness. Until the last week of Lent, I was still complaining about going makeup-free, but now I feel good in my own skin. And, though I know it shouldn't be about others, it's satisfying to know that people who care about you really don't care if you're wearing makeup or not.

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Related Reading: 7 THINGS I LEARNED WHEN I STOPPED WEARING MAKEUP FOR 3 WEEKS, Terumah

Safe + Natural Tattoo After-Care

I got a tattoo!


Surprise! If you've known me (in person) for very long, it's actually not much of a surprise that I ended up getting one. I've been talking about it for 10 years. My college roommate and I spent many a night scheming up the perfect tattoo design and placement. She got one last summer, so it was only natural that it was time for me to follow suit.

Why a bee?

My nickname growing up was Leah Bee. There's no origin story there, it just flowed nicely and was picked up by my relatives. My older cousin, Meghan, even gave me a cute little bee backpack for my birthday (I must have been 8 or 9) and I cherished it for years until I felt I had grown too old for it.

I was stung by a bee at Disney World as a very young child. But my mother told me that the bee was just afraid and didn't mean to hurt me. That has stuck with me, and as an adult I appreciate the way she diminished my fear by allowing me to empathize with that little creature instead of learning to hate it.

I vividly remember a moment in elementary school - I must have been 9 or 10 - when the class was sitting cross-legged outside waiting for our teacher to pick us up from the cafeteria. A bee approached us on the hunt for flowers and, seemingly in slow motion, each child jumped up into the air, shrieking and fleeing. But I stayed, leg over leg, calm as Yoda, just observing. I'd learned, thanks to my mother, that bees didn't want to hurt me.

I wonder now if that story, embedded in me, has affected my approach toward inclusive relationships. If even the bee is worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt, how much more grace should we extend to humans?

Anyways, I'm happy that I got it and have been pleasantly surprised with the speed of the recovery process. (And yes, it hurt, but I found breathing through the pain to be very effective.)

This list contains a few affiliate links.

After-Care


After interviewing Kerrie Pierce on safe cosmetics, I've changed my tune a bit when it comes to "all natural" products. While my sensitive skin thanks me for using mild, naturally derived ingredients in most cases, I'm learning to trust my skin when it tells me it isn't responding to a particular product.

I've eliminated the aggressive skin oils that burn on my skin and thrown out the mascara I was using that contained no preservatives, allowing bacteria to thrive.

Apply Two Times a Day:

Anti-Bacterial Soap

When my tattooist recommended I use an antibacterial soap for the first few days, I decided to listen. Antibacterial hand soaps are generally a bad idea for everyday use because they encourage the bacteria that survives to mutate into super bacteria, but when it comes to cleaning an open wound, it can still be the best choice. After the first week, I transitioned to an unscented bar soap. My friend, Faye, recommends Dr. Bronner's.

Recommendations: 
Dial Gold Liquid Handsoap (for first few days)
Dr. Bronner's Baby Unscented Bar Soap (contains palm oil)
Tree Hugger Soap Co. Castile Soap (palm oil free!)

Coconut Oil

My tattooist also recommended coconut oil in place of ointment, because it has mild, anti-microbial properties that may aid in healing and absorbs into skin more effectively than a product like Aquaphor. I know I'm way late to the coconut oil party, but now I see why everyone was (is?) obsessed with it. It smells incredible and leaves you with soft skin free from residue. I used store brand unrefined, organic Coconut Oil.

Recommendations:
Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil


Apply as Needed:

Unscented Lotion

To ease itching and skin discomfort during the day, I brought a bottle of Cetaphil to work. Every few hours, I rub a little bit on the tattoo for quick moisture that doesn't suffocate the skin.

Recommendations:
Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
Tree Hugger Soap Co. Unscented Whipped Body Butter (palm oil free)

Shea Butter

Faye also recommended Shea Brand Whipped Shea Butter for after care (Shea Brand sent me some products for review). Shea Brand uses hand-whipped, sustainably and fairly harvested, organic shea butter with a hint of Vitamin E and essential oils.

I didn't start using this on my tattoo until about a week and a half in because it needs to be thoroughly rubbed into skin and a flaking tattoo can't handle that. But while I was waiting for the tattoo to heal a bit more, I applied it to a rash I'd had for over a month and it started to fade almost immediately. Within a week, it was gone! Shea is a nut-based cream that goes on thick, but dries matte. It's great for cuticles and chapped lips, too. I've been carrying a little tin of it in my purse to ease the dryness caused by cold wind and indoor heaters. I highly recommend it as a multipurpose skin product.

Recommendations:
Shea Brand Original (Unscented)
Shea Brand Rose

Shop Shea Brand here.


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Are you thinking about getting a tattoo or do you already have one? Feel free to ask questions and make suggestions in the comments. 

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Related Reading: 
How Ethical Are Tattoos?

My Beauty Routine: Help Me Make It Better

fair trade and natural beauty routine

Out of all ethical lifestyle categories, revamping my beauty routine has been the most difficult. 


It continues to be a challenge for brands and consumers to trace raw materials, but even when the product is mostly organic, it's likely not ethical from a labor or wage perspective. It's not surprising considering the immense variation and number of ingredients in a given elixir. Unlike a cotton t-shirt, you have to sort out the origin of a half a dozen oils, fragrances, and minerals just to verify the ethics of a single beauty product.

That being said, I've got a decent thing going with my current routine (with a few notable exceptions). As I've mentioned before, I have sensitive, combination skin that will react to almost anything - natural or not - if it's too potent. I can't slather on natural products that are too rich in concentrated essential oils, so I tend to mix them with unscented lotion to keep my skin calm and balanced.

This list contains some affiliate links.

My Go-To Products

Skincare:

Whole Foods Skin Cleanser
Hypoallergenic and unscented. Whole Foods generally has a higher standard for trade than conventional retailers.

The Body Shop Tea Tree Toner
Palm oil free, and the tea tree is fairly traded from The Kenya Organic Oil Farmers Association.

Whole Foods Skin Lotion
Hypoallergenic, unscented, and oil based. This item contains palm oil (the palm oil industry has destroyed thousand of acres of forest habitat and contributes to extreme violence against workers and activists) so I want to phase it out.

Desert Essence Restorative Face Oil
Organic, gentle ingredients. I mix 3-4 drops with my moisturizer at night to reduce flaking.

Makeup:

my go-to ethical beauty products
The complete look
The Body Shop Tea Tree BB Cream, Shade 01
Not the most natural in the bunch, but this product has really helped calm my acne-prone skin and smooth my complexion without heavy foundation. I blend a very small amount in with my moisturizer in the morning and apply as a tinted moisturizer.

The Body Shop All-in-One Face Base, Shade 02
Finely milled in my perfect shade. The sponge is also thick and sturdy. The Body Shop prides itself on trading fairly across the board, which is why I've turned to their products in recent years.

The Body Shop Baked-to-Last Blush, Petal
My preferred shade is currently sold out, but I love the soft shimmer on this blush and that it perfectly mimics the natural blush of my skin. I might try Root's Petal blush if it doesn't come back in stock.


The Body Shop Color Crush Eyeshadow
I've tried many shades in this product, but my favorite - a pearly beige - is out of stock. If it doesn't come back, I'll try Root's Peach Pearl Eyeshadow.

Root 100% Natural Lash Mascara
This 83% organic, palm oil free mascara is the first natural mascara I've tried that doesn't flake or get cakey. It's superior to nearly any other mascara I've tried.

Glossier Boy Brow, Brown
I responded to Glossier's aggressive targeted ads and purchased Boy Brow during their Black Friday sale. While not particularly natural, the effect is understated but satisfactory. I like that this product defines my brows and keeps them in place without making me look like a Kardashian.

I need your help!


I want a palm oil free option for moisturizer. It must be free of fragrance and potent essential oils. Plain oils don't do the job for me, so a lotion consistency is preferred. Do you have suggestions?

I'd also love your suggestions for a more natural BB cream and eyebrow tint option.

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What are your go-to ethical and all natural beauty brands?

Greenwashing: Deception in the Beauty Industry + 1 Company Doing It Right

Credo Beauty Clean Beauty Discovery Kit

As much as I want to make better choices when it comes to my beauty and skincare products, sometimes I get so confused by the advertising claims and ingredients lists that I just throw up my hands and buy what looks good. In the below post, Jacalyn Beales talks about the problem of greenwashing: intentionally misleading customers to believe that the product we're buying is green, clean, and good for us. In addition to her research, I've included some photos and info about Credo, an authentically green beauty boutique that has helped me find better products without all the confusion (Credo links are affiliate links). Thanks for allowing me to share your words, Jacalyn!
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This piece was written by Jacalyn Beales and originally appeared on jacalynbeales.com.

The first time I picked up what I thought was an ethically-made beauty product, I ran towards the bright light and never looked back. It was a moisturizer from LUSH called "Vanishing Cream," and in this cream, I thought I had found my saving grace.

Fast forward five years later, and I haven't touched a LUSH product since.

Well, wait: that's a lie. People keep getting me LUSH products as gifts because, at one point in my naive and ignorant life as a younger 20-something, I foolishly believed LUSH was the answer to my green-beauty prayers.

I was so wrong.

Chances are, you've heard of "fast fashion" - a phenomenon in which fashion such as clothing is produced quickly and at low costs in order to mimic and keep up with ever-evolving trends in fashion. Retailers such as H&M and Zara have long been proclaimed as fast-fashion moguls, disregarding sustainability and ethics to produce collection after collection of clothing and accessory items as quickly as humanly - sweatshop? - possible. In order to keep up with trends and consumer demand, fast fashion labels like Forever 21 produce cheaply-made, low-quality items to feed the masses.

Fast fashion is said to have taken root in the 1990's, when fashion retailers began to experience more serious pressure to increase their profits after department stores started creating their own cost-effective versions of the latest styles. This led to many brands utilizing cheap labor, running a robot-like enterprise whereby people in developing and poor-off countries were being paid far less than anyone ever should be and working in deplorable conditions, all so brands could churn out Chelsea boots and rompers to unsuspecting shoppers in Europe and North America. People looked the other way when it came to the realities of fast fashion: exploitation of fellow humans, poor labor and working conditions, sweatshops...you get the picture.

You can read more about the evolution of fast fashion here and here.

As of late, there has been a growing awareness developing around the dangers of fast fashion, but one thing I rarely see in the world of eco-conscious living and sustainability is a focus on what could be considered "fast beauty."

This may come as a surprise, however, just as many retailers and brands practice fast fashion, so too do brands practice fast beauty.

That is, beauty produced using cheaper yet harmful ingredients which impact the planet, humans, and our fellow sentient beings negatively.

If fast fashion can be characterized by a brand's desire to increase profits, decrease production costs and utilize materials not totally ethically made or sourced, then fast beauty can be characterized the same way. Many beauty brands - especially those who claim to be "green" - often utilize ingredients such as palm oil, animal by-products and other additives which are available to us at the expense of humans, wildlife, and the environment. It's obvious that beauty brands like MAC, Sephora and those created by designer labels such as Channel utilize a range of artificial ingredients that many a consumer is blind to, but it's the green beauty brands you have to watch out for.

Why? Because unlike those brands mentioned previously, which really don't even bother to hide their use of gross, unpronounceable ingredients, green beauty easily fools you into believing that something is "green," even if it isn't, which means you could be buying into what I call the "green gimmick."

Credo Beauty Clean Beauty Discovery Kit
Credo is an example of a beauty company that really does check the ingredients before advertising their products as "green."

It's actually called "greenwashing," and a perfect example of this is LUSH. Claiming to be a vegan, good-for-you green beauty brand, you might be shocked to learn that not every LUSH product actually is vegan, nor is it totally green. The trend of labeling products "green" simply because they aren't tested on animals also implies that the products themselves are made with natural, ethically-sourced ingredients. But as EcoCult points out here, LUSH makes many of their items with artificial additives like fragrances and parabens, a fact easily overshadowed by the brand's "cruelty-free" mantra. Just because a brand doesn't test on animals doesn't mean it's totally green.

Another example of this (which I'm sure many people will harangue me for) is Herbivore Botanicals (*see update below). Having tried a few of their items myself, I can attest to their effectiveness but, sadly, not their "greenness." In many an HB product, you'll find palm derivatives ranging from glycerine to straight up palm oil. Yet, there is no information available as to where these ingredients are sourced from, and simply adding "sustainable" in front of the words "palm oil" doesn't make it so. In fact, as Selva Beat explains here, the terms "certified" and "sustainable" don't mean what we've been led to believe they do.

There's also the slightly tricky issue with the use of ingredients in "green" beauty products which make the whole "vegan" claim null-and-void. If a product says it's vegan but contains, say, honey or beeswax, for all intents and purposes that product isn't actually vegan. You could also consider a self-proclaimed "vegan" product not vegan if it utilizes additives like palm oil, considering the production of palm oil has led (and continues to lead) to the destruction and degradation of human, wildlife and environmental rights, including plummeting numbers of wild species and the exploitation of both wildlife and humans. How can a product be "green" or "vegan" if it contains such an environmentally-harmful ingredient(s)?

What it funnels down to is convenience. 

Fast fashion retailers want to increase their profits and do so by using cheap, easily-sourced labor and materials. Fast beauty does the same thing. Palm oil, for example, is so easily attainable and often at lower costs than less common ingredients that a soap maker, for instance, might prefer to use palm oil in their soaps and save a few dollars rather than source a more ethical and sustainable alternative. They keep their costs down but can upsell or price their products as they desire, which is similar to fast fashion brands using cheaper, lower-quality materials to make their product. It may also be more cost effective for a brand to use artificial fragrances in their moisturizers or night creams than, say, pure essential oils, which themselves can be pricey. If a brand can manufacture slightly organic products with smaller and sometimes kinder ingredient lists than a Sephora cream, for instance, but at a lower cost by using not-so-awesome ingredients like palm, why wouldn't they? They decrease their expenses and can increase their profits, simultaneously.

Read the rest here. 

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Credo Beauty ruthlessly checks the ingredients and sourcing of the products they carry, so they're my first pick for organic, green skincare products. They just came out with the Clean Beauty Discovery Kit to help newbies sample products at an affordable price point before taking the leap to full size. 

I'm slowly incorporating some of these items into my daily routine so I can properly review them (I like the eye cream so much I forgot to include it in these photos), but I have previously reviewed full size editions of some of the products they carry, which you can read here. They also have a Clean Beauty Swaps resource to help you track down the green version of your favorite mainstream beauty product. 

*From a comment made August 2018: "I actually have to correct you for the comments on Herbivore Botanicals. Although they don’t have every piece of information on their website, I’ve reached out before about the glycerin and palm oil. The palm oil is sustainably sourced, meaning it isn’t harvested from habitats but is actually on a separate plantation. The glycerin is derived from coconut oil."

Going Au Naturale: A Review Roundup of Credo Beauty Products

Credo Beauty all natural eco beauty review

I don't wear much makeup because I honestly think I look better without aggressive amounts of foundation, blush, and eye shadow. If my eyes weren't so sensitive, I could see myself doing a cat eye every now and then, but it's just not in the cards.

As I've said before, I have ridiculously sensitive skin. It built up over time, and I'm sure years of prescription benzoyl peroxide face wash did nothing to help. So, when I manage to find a beauty product that works for me, I will use it until they discontinue it which, unfortunately, is fairly frequently. I've been using The Body Shop products almost exclusively for the past few years. Their Tea Tree BB cream has great coverage and keeps my skin clear, and their eye shadow and blush shades are great for pale skin. They also source some ingredients from fair trade co-ops and recently re-committed themselves to their ethical and all natural stance.

That being said, I still *needed* to find a truly all natural mascara for my sensitive eyes, an aluminum free deodorant for my sensitive arm pits, and a new tinted balm or gloss just for fun.

Enter Credo Beauty...

Credo Beauty all natural eco beauty review for sensitive skin

Alden at EcoCult recommended Credo several months ago and I was just waiting for the right time to place an order. To get my free shipping, I went ahead and ordered 4 products: Lily Lolo mascara, HAN lip gloss, Fig + Yarrow Green Clay Mask, and Meow Meow Tweet deodorant. I purchased everything at regular price, but please note that there are some affiliate links in this post.

Here are my thoughts on each product:

Lily Lolo Mascara

Chemical and fragrance free, this mascara is both all natural and awesome. I've tried a handful of all natural mascaras before and they always, always flake or smudge. But this one doesn't and it makes my lashes look great with buildable coverage.

MY RATING: 5/5

Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream

Meow Meow Tweet makes this cream with and without baking soda because baking soda can irritate sensitive skin. I wasn't really sure which one to choose because I've never tried this or a similar formulation before, so I went with their standard cream at first, which includes the baking soda. First, let me say that this stuff really works. One application in the morning was all I needed to tame odors all day.

After a few days of use, however, I did have an allergic reaction, so I purchased the formula without baking soda through Amazon Prime (had to get it before I left town for the weekend!) and it's been working out well. I would say the staying power isn't as apparent in the baking soda free version, but it still does a better job than other natural deodorants.

MY RATING: 4/5

Fig + Yarrow Green Clay Mask

This was definitely a bit of an impulse buy, but I thought it would be fun to take it with me when I visited my parents for some mother-daughter bonding time. Though it may seem a little bit pricey, it comes in powder form that you can mix with yogurt, honey, or water for a custom facial. That also means you can make just what you need and the rest will store well, so it's a better value in the long run.

I liked this mask. My face seemed smoother after application, but not noticeably brighter or happier. To be honest, I'm not sure what I was expecting.

MY RATING: 3.5/5

HAN Lip Gloss in Nude Rose

Maybe it's because I've been nostalgic for childhood recently, but I am obsessed with this lip gloss! The vanilla fragrance is exactly the same as a gloss I had in middle school and it's fun to apply with the little wand.

A real throwback. But it's also a really good consistency - not sticky at all - and the subtle color is perfect for every day wear, especially with a fall color palette.

MY RATING: 5+/5

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Are there all natural products you can't live without? I'd love to hear about them!

Review: Nourish Organic Night Cream + Recovery Serum


100% USDA Organic Skincare


A few weeks ago, I received an email from Nourish Organic asking me if I'd like to sample two of their products. I'm always on the hunt for organic, ethically sourced skincare that won't irritate my skin, so I happily said yes. They sent me their Restorative Night Cream and Overnight Recovery Serum, valued at $25.00 each, to try. All Nourish Organic products are 100% organic, packaged in at least 25% post-consumer recycled content, and cruelty free. Their factory uses renewable energy and their warehouse is underground to reduce utilities waste.

I've been using both products for about two weeks now and I'm happy to say there's been minimal irritation and evident results...

Nourish Organic Skincare serum review
The first thing I noticed about both products (besides their lovely package design) was their heavenly fragrance, comprised of essential oils and other organic fragrances. Since my skin is quite sensitive, I generally shy away from scented products, so it felt like a spa-like indulgence to breathe in the floral and citrus fragrance as I gently layered the serum and moisturizer on my face.

I can feel the potency of these products as soon as they're applied, so I've done my best to adapt my routine to the path of least irritation.

Restorative Night Cream


The night cream is primarily comprised of aloe and shea butter, so the consistency is relatively thin while being quite moisturizing. Since using this product, I have seen a reduction in flaky skin and fine lines around my eyes. I don't need to exfoliate as often throughout the week and I haven't seen an increase in acne or irritation.

My Grade: A

Overnight Recovery Serum


The serum is a blend of safflower, argan, evening primrose, jasmine, sweet orange, avocado, and pomegranate seed oils. The fragrance is really lovely and the application is smooth (I generally use two pumps). I have to be careful with essential oils because their potency often irritates my skin, so I apply this over, rather than under, the moisturizer, because it feels like the small barrier of moisturizer reduces irritation, and I only use it every other day. Paired with the night cream, I have noticed a reduction in fine lines and flakiness. I apply a little more in areas that tend toward extra dryness. I have noticed minor irritation and have had some trouble keeping the serum from migrating to my eye area - it stings if it gets in my eyes. I also avoid using serum in the morning because the oil tends to smudge my mascara.

My Grade: B

Keep in mind that these are personal preferences based on my particularly sensitive skin. I am really impressed with the products overall and think they're priced fairly competitively for their market.

The packaging: My samples were packaged in a cardboard box. The plastic containers were each packaged in small, cardboard display boxes. Nourish is committed to using at least 25% post-consumer recycled content in their packaging, though I can't say which parts were recycled.

I'm thinking about trying the deodorant in Lavender Mint.

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Shop Nourish Organic here. 


Natural Sunburn Remedies, by Stephanie Villano

This post was written by Stephanie Villano and originally appeared on My Kind Closet.
natural sunburn remedies aloe, tea

Even though you’re typically diligent with your sun protection and make every effort to reapply your  eco-friendly sunscreen and take other precautions like wearing a hat, this weekend you had a little too much fun in the sun and are now the sad bearer of a painful, itchy sunburn.  Even the lightest touch of soft fabric against your skin feels like sandpaper and you feel as though you’re radiating heat hot like fire or perhaps you’ve started to peel.

The following remedies will help to soothe and reduce the inflammation, pain, and itching often associated with sunburns.  The best part is that all of these remedies can be made at home and, with the exception of the aloe plant, you’ll likely have all of the ingredients already in your cupboard.  These are all vegan friendly and they’re certainly more eco-friendly than purchasing store bought creams, ointments, or gels that might have unsustainable packaging, or contain unnecessary additives or chemicals that may have been tested on animals or are not so good for the environment.

Aloe


Aloe plants are really pretty and easy to care for. As a bonus, they offer the benefit of being a natural skin soother and protectant for all types of burns: solar, thermal, and radiation.   Rather than spending the money to buy some aloe gel at your local pharmacy, keep a plant at home.  Please note that some people may be sensitive to aloe, so it’s best to test an area of the skin first.

For burn care simply choose a nice plump leaf, slice it open and place upon the area you wish to be treated. Or, you can squeeze the gel-like substance from the leaf and gently smooth it over your skin.

Cucumber Paste


There’s a reason that imagining a spa day by the pool might include cucumber water or the application of freshly sliced cucumber placed over each eye: cucumbers are cooling and anti-inflammatory.  To soothe a minor sunburn blend chilled cucumber into a paste and add some aloe gel or juice to get the benefits of both!

Green or Black Tea Compress with mint


Tea compresses are an old remedy used for sunburn. There is increasing evidence that shows both green and black teas have a variety of properties that lend themselves to soothing and repairing skin damaged by the sun.  It is believed that the tannic acids and theobromide found in both black and green teas help to remove the heat from sunburns.  It has long been held that polyphenols in tea provide benefits when ingested, but newer research shows the topical application to be beneficial as well.  For example, when applied topically, research has shown that green tea will provide a photoprotective effect, reduce the number of sunburn cells, and can even reduce the DNA damage formed from the sunburn.

To treat skin: Simply brew several bags of green or black tea in boiling water. Add some mint for an additional cooling effect. Cool the tea and then apply to the skin as a compress using a washcloth.

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See additional remedies at My Kind Closet

3 Simple DIY Beauty Recipes, by Annie Zhu

I love the freedom of summer's long days. The lingering daylight makes me feel like I can spend more time doing things I love and nurturing myself. It's also a season that requires very little concern for clothing, as it's almost always warm enough to wear a single layer and be done with it. So instead of obsessing about the weather and the shopping that comes with it, I like to spend more time doing things with my hands, reading books, and experimenting with DIY projects. Annie Zhu's all-natural beauty recipes, below, fit the bill.

This post originally appeared on Terumah. Illustrations by Elizabeth Stilwell.


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It’s not hard to make your own beauty products at home. The few ingredients required are readily found at your local supermarket and health food store. Empty jars and containers are perfect to reuse for this. By making your own products, you’re guaranteed to end up with something that’s 100% natural.

Here are 3 super easy beauty recipes you can whip up in the kitchen:


salt scrub recipe

Peppermint & Sea Salt Body Scrub


  • 4 tbsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp almond or jojoba oil
  • 1 tsp fresh mint
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 drops grapefruit essential oil


Mix sea salt, fresh mint and almond/jojoba oil in a bowl. Add essential oils. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Scrub can keep for up to 6 months.

beet lip balm recipe

Beet Lip & Cheek Stain


  • beet juice
  • 2-4 drops freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • optional: coconut oil, almond oil or vitamin E oil


Make fresh beet juice with a juicer. If you don’t have a juicer, cut the beet into quarters after taking the top and root off. Toss into a blender with some water. Pour juice through a strainer into a small bowl. An eyedropper can help you get the juice from bowl to jar. An empty roll-on jar would work best. Be careful, as beet juice can stain.

Depending on how big your container is, add 2-4 drops of lemon juice. This helps preserve the color. Lemon juice can be drying, so add some oil for moisture.

Keep this in the fridge and it will last up to 2 weeks.

natural face powder recipe

Face Powder


  • 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 2 tsp or more cocoa powder
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil


Mix cocoa powder and arrowroot powder in a box. Stir in lemon essential oil until color is uniform. Add more cocoa powder to match your skin tone as needed.

Pour into a powder jar (an old mineral powder jar is perfect.) Use the powder to set foundation and to mattify skin.

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Get 21 DIY Beauty and Makeup Recipes from Terumah here.


Review: Calypso Glow Ethically Sourced Body Care


It can be exhaustingly difficult for beauty and body care companies to ensure that all products were sourced with the environment and worker welfare in mind, especially traditional drugstore brands that incorporate dozens of ingredients into a single product. But even companies with an eco or ethical stance have to work hard to trace their ingredient sourcing.

Calypso Glow, which specializes in Caribbean-inspired organic skincare, is dedicated to this process, communicating regularly with the farms where they source their ingredients and, more recently, working with the St Lucian Agricultural Department’s Coconut Platform:

The St Lucian Agricultural Department’s Coconut Platform [is] a network supporting local farmers through training and access to distribution channels, ensuring fair pay and sustainable plans for growth. We are also making new connections with a grass roots women’s farming cooperative in St Lucia, helping to empower and sustain their small businesses, so that they can provide for their children’s education and long-term livelihoods. These activities take time to develop but we’re thrilled to be taking these steps towards meaning social impact.

calypso glow organic skincarePatricia from Calypso Glow kindly sent me several items from their current collection to review, including the Lemongrass Moisture Rich Body Oil, which they just debuted this season. 

My skin is finicky when it comes to skincare. I started using organic and all natural skincare products years before I adopted a more ethical stance toward consumption because my skin had become intolerant to nearly all conventional products, even those marketed for sensitive skin.

That being said, just because something is natural doesn't make it suitable for sensitive skin - getting the correct balance of highly potent ingredients is essential - so I used these products with caution.

So far, I've incorporated the Body Oil and Coconut Water Enriching Body Bar into my regular routine. I add some body oil to my Whole Foods lotion in the evenings and apply it to my face. I've noticed that the skin under my eyes looks more nourished and supple, smoothing out the fine lines that are starting to appear there (too much smiling, I suppose...JK).

The body bars are sealed in compostable packaging - which is awesome - and contain exfoliating granules (shredded coconut and sand) which, while convenient for a quick shower, means I can't use my natural shower sponge without damaging it (I learned that the hard way from a previous bar of soap).

The ingredients are simple: coconut oil, algae extract, essential oils, olive oil, grated coconut. It makes it easy to check the list for anything your skin might be sensitive to.

Based on my preliminary testing and research into the brand, I would highly recommend Calypso Glow products, particularly their body oil. The price point seemed high to me at first, but I only need to use a small pump of it each night, so it's bound to last me a long time.

Shop Calypso Glow here. 


natural bodycare and home products you can make yourself, by Hanna Baror-Padilla

This post was written by Hanna Baror-Padilla and originally appeared on the Sotela Blog.
diy skincare recipes

Sotela is a forthcoming ethical clothing brand that supports and encourages women through all seasons of their lives by providing well-designed, versatile clothing in a range of sizes. Click through to discover more simple beauty and home recipes. 
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In Hanna's words:

...here are all the DIY beauty and home recipes I use daily, which I’ve found on Pinterest or other blogs. And get this: every recipe has 5 ingredients or less! Everyone is different so these may not work perfectly for you, but give it a shot before you decide it isn’t for you.

I’ve become even more zero waste with my beauty routine since this post because I mostly make everything myself. Instead of buying packaged beauty products every couple months, I buy packaged bulk items, which last a couple years.

FACE LOTION

(Recipe adapted from Wellness Mama)

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 3-4 tablespoon shea butter
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil

Directions:

If you go to Wellness Mama’s blog, you can see how she makes the face lotion. Each batch of lotion lasts about 6 months and I haven’t had any problems! Talk about budget friendly and minimal.

TOOTHPASTE

(Recipe by Trash is for Tossers)

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 25-30 drops organic food grade peppermint essential oil

Directions:

You can watch Lauren of Trash is for Tossers make toothpaste! If you feel like it is too much oil, you can add more baking soda, which is what I did. Either way works for those pearly whites!

DEODORANT


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 20-40 drops lavender essential oil

Optional: Lauren of Trash is for Tossers adds 1/4 cup of shea butter. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m going to for my next batch because sometimes my armpits get sensitive.

Directions:
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a double broiler and stir until melted. I use a large jar and place it in a pot of boiling water.
  2. Once all of the ingredients are melted together, I mix one final time and add 20 drops of lavender. You can use any oil you like!
  3. To apply, simply scoop some out with your finger and rub on your armpits.

Get more simple recipes on the Sotela Blog.


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BONUS:


I made my own Lavender Body Spray after getting inspired by Hanna's recipes. Instructions are below (adapted from this website). 
diy lavender body spray

BODY SPRAY


Ingredients:
  • 5 tbsp rubbing alcohol (90% or higher)
  • 1/4 tbsp essential oil
  • 2 tbsp distilled water
  • 1/4 tbsp jojoba oil

Directions:
  1. In a glass measuring cup, mix alcohol and essential oil. Add distilled water and jojoba oil slowly. You may adjust each as necessary. 
  2. Pour into dark (preferably glass) container. 
  3. Let sit for a few days for ingredients to meld. Shake thoroughly before use.

What are your favorite DIY recipes for home and body care?



My top 7 ethical beauty and wellness products

ethical beauty and wellness products on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
*this post contains affiliate links.

(I'd planned to post this tomorrow, but figure a lot of you on the East Coast are at home today due to the blizzard. I wish you all the best in your snow shoveling efforts - we've still got a lot of shoveling to do here.)

Today I want to talk about my favorite wellness products, the little things that help me take care of both my body and my spirit. I didn't always value ritual, but I'm increasingly grateful for the time I get to spend sipping hot tea or slathering on lotion, especially during the dark, winter months (I have mild seasonal affective disorder). It adds a lot of value to my life.

Though I've made great strides in my ethical clothing journey, I still struggle when it comes to finding beauty and wellness brands that prioritize fair labor, consumer health, and environmental impact. For that reason, much of what I use can be considered better than average, but not perfect.

The fact of the matter is that it's very difficult for skincare companies in particular to track their ingredients to the original source, so even if care is taken to ensure that factory workers are treated well, we have little information on the miners and growers. This is changing - and larger brands have better resources to track their supply chains - but we still have a long way to go.

The other issue is that we expect our skincare and wellness products to work! What use is fair labor if your lotion makes you break out? What good is an "all natural" designation if you have an allergic reaction? This is an area where progress over perfection is a really important thing to remember.

MY FAVORITE BEAUTY AND WELLNESS PRODUCTS:


1. Freedom Soap Company Bar Soap


freedom soap company review

Palm oil free, all natural, simple ingredients: these are my priorities when buying soap. Since my skin is sensitive, I need to stay away from synthetic fragrances and anything too heavy (like olive oil) and I've found Freedom Soap Company to be the best soap for my needs.

The scents are refreshing (from what I can tell, I've tried Lemon & Grapefruit and Oatmeal as Odds and Endsand you can purchase Odds and Ends pieces for only $2.00 a piece. That's a great bargain!


2. The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Skin Clearing Toner


Made with fair trade tea tree oil, this toner has managed to clear up my acne without the side effects brought on by harsher chemicals like benzoyl peroxide. It's a bit drying, but I don't experience redness or pain like I did with other chemical acne products. Plus, I really like the pungent, herbal smell of tea tree oil. I use it after I wash my face in the evenings. Shop it here.

The Body Shop recently re-committed itself to its original focus on providing fair trade and sustainable products, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the company improves its ingredients and process in the next few years.

3. Whole Foods' 365 Gentle Skin Cleanser


Fragrance free and gentler than Cetaphil, Whole Foods' skin cleanser is the only cleanser I've tried that my face will tolerate long term. I use this morning and night. If my face needs a bit of exfoliating, I just apply a bit of the cleanser to my damp face and gently rub a wet washcloth in circular motions over my skin for about a minute. Whole Foods' products must meet their guidelines for personal safety and environmental impact, though not all products they carry are created equal.

Find a local Whole Foods here.

4. Thistle Farms Body Butter in Citrus Vanilla


thistle farms body butter review
I was introduced to Thistle Farms after founder, Becca Stevens, gave a talk at my church last fall (read my article about it here). They set up a booth in our parish hall and we all went wild smelling things and buying gifts. I meant to buy this body butter in a different scent, but I'm glad I ended up with Citrus Vanilla. The essential oils are a mood booster, particularly during this time of year. I apply a generous amount of body butter to my hands and feet every night before bed and I've seen a clear improvement in the health of my skin this winter. Shop it here.

Thistle Farms is an extension of Magdalene House, a long term care facility and resource center for trafficked, abused, and marginalized women in Nashville, TN. They're committed to using natural and fairly sourced ingredients, and proceeds benefit the women of the Magdalene and Thistle Farms communities.


5. Burt's Bees Peppermint Lip Balm


Do you remember when you could only find Burt's Bees in specialty shops? One time in middle school, my uncle gave me - of all things - a Cracker Barrel gift card for my birthday and I bought myself a tin of Burt's Bees Peppermint Lip Balm. I've been hooked on it ever since. The ingredients are all natural and nourishing (beeswax, coconut oil, and peppermint are the primary ingredients) and I hardly ever suffer from chapped lips as a result. Shop it here.


6. Thistle Farms Candle in Tuscan Earth


I smelled this candle at my church's event, but I wasn't quite ready to commit. Fortunately, Latitudes Fair Trade in nearby Staunton, VA has an entire wall dedicated to Thistle Farms' products, so I picked one up about a month ago. Daniel likes this fruity-earthy scent, too, and we burn it often. Shop it here.

Thistle Farms' candles are made of soy with cotton wicks, so they're vegan, earth friendly, and clean burning.

7. Thistle Farms Moringa Blend Tea


thistle farms moringa blend review

I love this stuff! High quality black tea mixed with fairly harvested Moringa leaves and lemongrass, this blend is a great pick-me-up when I get home from work. I prefer to drink it black - no sugar or milk needed. Shop it here.

Moringa is a plant native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan that has lots of (yet unproven) medicinal benefits. It is vitamin and mineral rich and, as an antioxidant, may help prevent cell damage.




What products and rituals help you care for yourself?

*I purchased all products in this post. My reviews are based on long term use.

review: The Body Shop Lip and Cheek Stain


After my last post on The Body Shop, I purchased a few more items! I'd been thinking about trying a lip stain for awhile. I like the lipstick thing, but often I feel a bit like a clown with bright red lacquered lips and I don't like getting lipstick on my mug at work. As I previously noted, The Body Shop participates in community fair trade programs and also works to ensure that their products aren't sourced through slave labor. They're also cruelty free (no testing on animals!). Their Lip and Cheek Stain is produced in Italy.


The top left image is me sans lip color. To apply, I use the rim of the container to wipe off excess stain from the wand, then brush it across my bottom lip. I smoosh my lips together, making sure my lips get coated evenly, then apply a second coat as needed. It dries within seconds. Like most stains, this one has a matte finish and can be a bit drying. I normally apply The Body Shop's Born Lippy Stick in Plum over it for moisture.


My lips stay vibrant for hours, even after drinking coffee or eating a snack. I like the understated way it brightens up my whole face.

What are your go-to makeup products?