Friday, 23 November 2012

Black Friday: Etsy Edition

Hello friends! Hope your Turkey Day turned out as well as mine. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people, to work a great job, and to be blessed with great health. As a friend said on facebook, there should be a 'first world problems' meme to the effect of "I have to stop overeating so I can get up early to go sale shopping." Anyone reading this blog right now is likely better off than the majority of the world, so I wanted to take a minute to share my thanks for the many blessings in my life.

This year I'm trying to shop local or small business for all my holiday gifts, so naturally I've been perusing Etsy! In the process, naturally, I've found many items to add to my own Christmas list ;) Here are some favorite shops and the items I've been drooling over...they all have Black Friday sales so now may be the time to pull the trigger and experience products from some great new stores!

I've only posted images of one listing from each site but I'd encourage you to browse each store's whole selection as there are many many goodies to be had!

Black Friday: Etsy Edition

1. Verbena Apothecary: My mom's feet always get very dry in the winter so I'm eyeing up their organic footcare products as a Christmas present. 10% off all products with the code GIVETHANKS until November 30th!

2. Skin Apotheke: I've heard wonderful things about Ria's Ubtan Cleansing Scrub, and everything is 15% off with code BLACK15!

3. Oh Sudz:  At 15% off with code HAPPYTHANKS15, I may have to pick up the Acne Zapper and Concealer that I've been ogling.

4. French Girl Organics: a generous 20% off discount with code Merci12 may be enough to have me purchase the beautiful facial moisturizers that have been in my shopping cart for weeks!

5. Sam's Natural: this manly-man store is offering free shipping with code BFS12. I've been reading up on soap nuts as laundry detergent, but the man in your life will appreciate their man-centric lotions, waxes, deodorants, etc.

6. Haven: This Brooklyn-based shop sells all manner of natural cleaning supplies, and I'm a sucker for their pretty packaging.

I also wanted to tip you guys off as to a great website I've come across, called A Cut Above the Retsy, which digs through the crapload of junk that is now on Etsy to offer up only the best in home, fashion, beauty, furnishings, and more. It's easy to become overwhelmed by Etsy's offerings, and I've found this a great way to be introduced to some neat shops that I may have otherwise overlooked!

Happy shopping everyone!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Quick review: Badger Damascus Rose Beauty Balm

Hi guys! Just popping in quick with a brief product review of the Badger Damascus Rose Beauty Balm. We're having friends over for Thanksgiving since we all are from out of state and can't make it home for the holiday--and life has been so crazy lately that I completely spaced the fact that Tgiving is tomorrow! Busy busy busy.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the lovely Damascus Rose Beauty Balm offered up by Badger Company.

As I've shared before, I've been on a constant hunt for a great facial moisturizer since I have converted to all-natural beauty/skincare products. I've tried coconut oil, RMS Beauty Oil, Acure Organics Night Cream, straight jojoba oil...and the list continues, all of which made me either break out or gave me a horrible allergic reaction. So when I came across some great reviews for this rose beauty balm I decided to give it a shot.

The balm is a mustardy yellow color, which I wasn't expecting at all--took a minute to wrap my head around it! The balm is a solid in the container but quickly melts under your fingers. I wish there were a better way to apply it, as sticking my fingers in the jar seems a little unsanitary, but it is what it is. The jar is cute and glass, and I think it looks classier/more vintage-cute than the photo above would lead you to believe.

I use the balm on my face, although the packaging says it's designed for under eye, hands, and other chapped areas. It doesn't bother my sensitive eyes at all--yay! The balm goes on a little oily/shiny and that sticks around for a minute or two, but after a bit it all soaks in leaving your skin nice and soft. I've been using it at night and when I wake up in the morning I love the feeling of my skin!

I will say, however, that this isn't quite up to winter-in-Utah standards--I feel like I need a heavier-duty moisturizer than what this provides. I'm sure this would be great in the summer though! I also have really dry skin so people with normal skin would likely find this to be enough moisturizing. EDIT 1-8-13: (I'm not sure what I was thinking writing those last sentences when I first wrote this review. This balm is the only thing saving my winter-dry skin! Love love love it.)

Another bonus of the balm is it hasn't made me break out or get clogged pores, which in the world of natural beauty I'm finding to be a small miracle.

Lastly, it does have a fairly strong rose scent. I think the scent is really lovely and not fake-rose smelling like so many products, but if you're prone to headaches from scents this may bother you as the smell does last maybe a half-hour or so. 

All in all, it's a great little balm. The best price I've found for it is at Vitacost. It's worth a shot if you're looking for a multipurpose, hard-working little balm that doesn't have a lot of frills but gets the job done! EDIT: after using this for a couple months now, I do have to say that my opinion of this balm just gets better and better. I even gave some out for Christmas presents to friends, I love it so much! Highly recommended :)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Willow Tree Naturals product review!

I recently put in an order for several samples through the Etsy shop Willow Tree Minerals. I've used each product a bit and thought I'd write up a product review of the items I purchased.

First off, I like that this shop has many options for sampling. Each sample is 50 cents--she has options for 6, 12, or 18 samples for $3, $6, and $9 respectively. I opted for 12 samples plus a mini-sized eyeliner. The photography of products are gorgeous--very nature inspired. Lora, the shop owner, was great to work with--I had sent her a note asking her to verify that the products I ordered don't contain jojoba oil (I'm allergic to it), and she promptly responded. My order arrived very quickly in a nice package, including an eco-friendly envelope (I enjoy when natural product stores pay attention to the details!). 

The products I bought include: the Chamomile concealer, Sheer Pink highlighter, Indigo Sky eyeliner, Pinch Me blush, Passion Fruit blush/shadow, Sahara shadow/bronzer, and eyeshadows in the following colors: taupe tourmaline, shell, bitten, soft wildflower, chocolate truffle, and iced latte. Lora, the shop's owner, kindly sent an extra sample of her flawless tinted veil. I also got the mini eyeliner in Roasted Coffee.

The packaging provided was cute, if messy. Here are some (admittedly shitty) shots of each--most of them have a metallic sheen to them so it was hard to get an accurate shot. Swatches below each image.

Chamomile Concealer, Flawless Tinted Veil, Sheer Pink Highlighter

Passion Fruit blush/shadow, Bitten shadow, Pinch Me blush

Left to right: Chamomile Concealer, Flawless Tinted Veil, Sheer Pink Highlighter, Passion Fruit blush/shadow, Bitten shadow, Pinch Me blush

Taupe Tourmaline shadow, Indigo Sky liner, Shell shadow

Soft Wildflower shadow, Chocolate Truffle shadow, Sahara shadow/bronzer, Iced Latte shadow

 Taupe Tourmaline shadow, Indigo Sky liner, Shell shadow, Soft Wildflower shadow, Chocolate Truffle shadow, Sahara shadow/bronzer, Iced Latte shadow

Let's start with the products I didn't like, so we can end on a great note :)
Left to right: Chamomile concealer, Taupe Tourmalene shadow, Sheer Pink highlighter

1. Chamomile Concealer: 
I am admittedly not a frequent user of concealer, so weigh that in when you decide whether to take my review for much value. I thought the chamomile concealer, which was designed to "target redness, pale skin, bruises and dark under eye circles," was much much too light--it made my already-pale skin look freakish. It provided good but uneven coverage. Not a fan. Although to Lora's credit it's supposed to be worn under foundation, not alone, so maybe it would work better had I followed instructions...

2 and 3: Taupe Tourmalene Eye Shadow and Sheer Pink Highlighter
I found the sheer pink highlighter and taupe tourmalene eye shadow to be overly glittery, to the point that they were unusable. Sad--both colors are very pretty in the package, since you can't see the glitter as much. If Lora were to turn down the glitter on the two products, or if I were a pre-teenage girl heading to my school dance, I would be a happy customer.

Now for the products I did enjoy!

Left to right: Chamomile Concealer, Flawless Tinted Veil, Sheer Pink Highlighter, Passion Fruit blush/shadow, Bitten shadow, Pinch Me blush

4. Flawless tinted veil: I was happy to get a free sample of this product and pleased with how well it worked. I'm not really a mineral foundation fan, but people who enjoy powder coverage would probably like this. It did seem to even out my skin tone and felt very light on my skin. As you can kind of see on my arm (second swatch from left), it's a light flesh color with a bit of yellow tinge. I can't imagine it being a good color match for anyone with skin tones that are darker than most companies' 'medium' tone, unfortunately.

5. Passion Fruit blush/shadow: This was a pretty bronzy salmon color with a hint of shimmer. I personally wouldn't use it as an eye shadow but it would work well as such. It gave me a summery glow that I really liked.

6. Bitten shadow: in the package Bitten is a dark purple with a metallic shimmer and seems heavily pigmented--I worried it would be too dramatic for my pale skin. However, I was pleasantly surprised--it sheered out just enough to be very wearable but also noticeable. I'm debating purchasing this (only because I don't wear much eye makeup usually). I think someone who is good with eye makeup would find a lot of uses for this. It's a really pretty color, good for many skin tones, that can be subtle or more intense if put on with a wet brush.

7. Pinch Me blush: It's easier to go overboard on this blush, so know that a little bit will do it. It is a matte blush, which I don't usually like, but it gives such a lovely rosy glow that I'll overlook that. Really pretty!

 Taupe Tourmaline shadow, Indigo Sky liner, Shell shadow, Soft Wildflower shadow, Chocolate Truffle shadow, Sahara shadow/bronzer, Iced Latte shadow

8. Indigo Sky liner: I'm not that talented at applying shadow eyeliners so this turned out to be a bit of a mess for me. For people who are used to shadow liners, this is probably a great option. It had great staying power and looks almost black but has just enough dark navy/indigo blue to make it interesting. I would buy this if I were better at applying powder liner.

Next on my arm are the shell and soft wildflower shadows...since you can't see these or the sahara very well on the above pic, I'll review them below.

9. Chocolate Truffle shadow: this was a pretty brown, less sparkle than some of the others. I didn't find this anything special, but it wasn't offending in any way either. I wouldn't recommend purchasing this as I've seen prettier, more interesting brown shadows elsewhere, but it was fine.

10. Iced Latte shadow: I really like this color. It's got a hint of metallic shine to it, but not overly shiny--just enough to bring attention to your pretty eyes without overpowering your lids like the highlighter or the taupe shadow. This is a great shadow.

                                                    Shell shadow, Soft Wildflower shadow, Sahara shadow/bronzer

11, 12, and 13: Shell and Soft Wildflower shadows and Sahara shadow/bronzer: These three are reaaaaaaaaaalllllllly similar, so much so that I thought I'd swatch them heavier so you could see the difference between them. The Shell shadow is pinkier, with a more iridescent look to it than the other two. The Sahara bronzer is indeed a hint more bronze than the other two--more coppery. The Soft Wildflower shadow rides the line between the other two--coppery salmon pink, with the same amount of shimmer as the bronzer. If I were to buy one of the three I'd probably go with the soft wildflower, but those with darker skintones would probably look great with the Sahara.

I also tried the Roasted Coffee eyeliner. I am liking it so far--pretty good staying power, smudges enough to make different looks but not too much so that it slides off your face.

Final Verdict: I am still playing with the products, but right now I'm thinking of purchasing full sizes of the Passion Fruit blush/shadow, soft wildflower shadow, and roasted coffee eyeliner. I don't wear a lot of eye makeup, but I think that this is a great shop for those that do, and I highly recommend trying samples first as some of the colors looked very different online than in reality (especially their sheen--how glittery or matte they were). The samples come in baggies, which are a bit difficult to use, but they contain enough product to really give them a good trial.

If you'd like to try out these or any of the other products available through Willow Tree Minerals, they can be found at her Etsy page.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Art to Room: Michelle Armas and Bijou and Boheme

Normally I'm very anti "_________ to Room" posts. But this one just fell into my lap over the last two days and I can't stop myself from posting it.

My love for Michelle Armas' beautiful art is long-documented (I even made a post about what I'd ask for if I commissioned a painting from her, back in grad school when I was considering doing just that then remembered I was--duh--a broke-ass grad student with zero expendable funds...wha-whaaaaa). I'm also very pleased that she reads my blog and love reading about her house projects, musings on life, and recent work on her blog.

I'm also a big fan of Christine from Bijou and Boheme's work. It's often much more feminine than how I live so it's fun to feast my little eyeballs on some girly loveliness (example: see her daughter's new bedroom with my favorite oh Joy wallpaper--LOVE).

So when Michelle posted on some new paintings the other day (all of which I am would do bad things to own, naturally) and Christine posted a mood board yesterday, it was fate. Enjoy!

The amazing Shari painting by Michelle Armas:

The equally-lovely moodboard by Christine of Bijou and Boheme:

And the side-by-side:

I mean seriously. Don't they just belong together? I see the painting over the sofa, across the room from the mirror so you get double-doses of painting loveliness via the reflection in the mirror. Mmmmmm.....

What I love about both of these creative works is that they combine colors that I would NEVER think to put together. The unexpected combinations make your brain work extra hard to comprehend and thus take more interest (that's my scientific analysis of each work... :)  I can't even handle how much I'd love to make this post a reality in my home!!  Good work, ladies!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Going Green!: Cleanse and Moisturize product reviews

As long-term readers of my blog know, I've started converting my skin and makeup products to greener/organic alternatives. I've finally spent enough time with most of these products to feel comfortable in giving them a review.

Here's a review of the products I use to clean and moisturize; next up will be my makeup! Also, these are all products I'm loving right now; I'll be posting on some products that haven't worked so well for me personally in the future, including what I did and didn't like about them.
Scrub a Dub Dub

The top half of the image above is what I use in the shower; the bottom products are daily/nighttime use products for me. As you can see, I use a lot of Acure Organics!

Ok starting top to bottom, left to right, here's my review of the organic natural skincare products I am using right now.

1. Acure Organics Facial Brightening Scrub: I really really like this product. It's a dark green product, gritty but not too harsh, that I use about every other time that I shower (and I shower every other day or 1-2 times per week I use this). I'm careful about how much I rub because the exfoliants are larger than other scrubs I've used, but it feels like a nice massage when I rub in a circular motion, and my skin feels so smooth after! My only critiques are: I don't like products that claim to 'brighten' as I don't think that's a measurable quality--like how do you tell how much 'brighter' your skin is? So I think that's a dubious claim. Secondly, supposedly the hot-ticket ingredient is the sea algae, but it's near the end of the ingredient list so that doesn't seem right to me either. Whatever they're doing, though, it's working--I love this product and so does my surprisingly product-picky boyfriend! Thumbs up overall.

2. Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar With the 'Mother': Apple cider vinegar (or ACV to those in the know... ;) is purported to have tonnnnns of beneficial qualities and uses. I was skeptical but seeing as I already had some on hand as a food product, I mixed a 1:4 ACV: water mixture and kept it in my shower for a while. And I love it! I use it about 1-2 times a week after shampooing, dumping it on my head and massaging it in. It obviously doesn't get foamy or anything, so it's a little hard to tell where it ends up on your head, but afterward I find that my hair is smoother, shinier, and has less product buildup. Supposedly it helps with dandruff/dry scalp too but I haven't noticed that benefit. On the days I don't use the facial scrub in the shower, I also rub the 1:4 mixture on my face, which works as a toner and makes my face feel squeaky clean :)

3. Acure Organics Mint Shampoo: Love this! I used to use the lemongrass version, which I also loved and think is more moisturizing (in fact, the lemongrass version may be too moisturizing for those with greasier hair), but it contains jojoba so it had to get returned during the Great Jojoba Cleanse of 2012. I picked up the mint version instead, which is for normal/limp hair, and actually I like it better as it's more volumizing. It's not the same as a 'dirty' shampoo, in that it doesn't foam as much and the volumizing effects don't hold as long. However, as a clean shampoo alternative I love it. I put a small amount on my head, really massaging it in--it won't foam much so I just do it for a minute or two and rinse it out. I then do the process again (for some reason the second time seems to foam better?), just to make sure I'm squeaky clean. Probably an unnecessary step, but oh well. I highly recommend this shampoo and would use it even if I went back to dirty products.

4. Acure Organics Facial Cleanser: I use this at night to get the day's accumulation of gunk off my face. Seems to work well. It may be a little drying for some with really dry skin, but they have a creme version to that may work for others? (not sure, as I haven't tried it). It comes out as a light-yellow gel, which you massage onto your wet face. It seems like a pretty simple, straightforward product, and I always feel clean after. I may try a different product when this runs out, not because there's anything wrong with it but rather it's just not anything overly special either. It's a good, cheap, readily available product (at least for those with a Whole Foods nearby), and I'd use it again if I don't find anything better down the road.

5. Honeybee Gardens Toner: I received this free from HG after I contacted them regarding a terrible reaction to their mascara (which, for the record, I looooved other than my reaction--so I don't have anything bad to say about that product other than my personal reaction to it. Jojoba reactions are uncommon from what I've learned so the majority of people should be able to use the mascara to great success :). I've never used toner before so I can't compare it to others, but I like this one--makes my face feel extra-clean after my cleanser, and sometimes I use it mid-day if I feel like my face needs a pick-me-up. I haven't used it long enough to attribute any positive reactions in my skin to it, but I'll definitely use up the bottle and think about repurchasing.

6. Acure Organics Lavender Body Lotion: As I said in my NMDL guest post, this lotion works just ok for my body. It's not super moisturizing, but a benefit is that it's not at all greasy and sinks in quickly. I apply it right after my shower and can get dressed right away, unlike other lotions where I stick to my clothes if I try to get dressed too soon! My new puppy also loves licking it, and on the plus side I don't get too worried about her consuming it as the products are so clean. However, the reason I will repurchase this lotion is not for its body lotion qualities, but rather as a face lotion!

Of all the green products I've used, I'm finding it hardest to land on a great face moisturizer. After I quit using Acure Organic's night cream because of its jojoba, then quit coconut oil because it was comedogenic, I had a brief bout with shea butter and rosehip oil. I didn't like either of those options--shea butter felt too greasy too long, and rosehip oil made me break out. So I needed something one night before bed and didn't have any face lotions on reserve. I decided to compare the body lotion I already had on hand to the ingredients list for Acure's other (non-jojoba-filled) face lotions, and guess what? Most of the ingredients in the body lotion are also in the resurfacing face lotion (the face lotion just has a longer ingredients list). I decided to try it out and have been enjoying it for the past week or so, no breakouts! What I didn't like about it as a body lotion (seemed too light to really make a difference) is perfect for the face--it's nice and light but still moisturizes sufficiently. And for $10/7 oz compared to the resurfacing lotion's $20/1 ounce, it's an absolute steal! I'll continue to use this unless I eventually react to it or find it not moisturizing enough. Until then, I recommend it! :)

So that's what's keeping me clean and moisturized lately! Anybody have any great body lotion recommendations? How about a nice cleanser??

Friday, 9 November 2012

Going Green!: What I've Learned So Far

All right guys, it's time to fess up: going green with my beauty routine has not been as easy as I'd assumed/hoped it would be. Here are some lessons I've learned along the way, with the hopes that if you're transitioning to natural beauty products you won't make the same mistakes I did!

Lesson 1: Do Not Switch everything all at once: I'm the type of person who, once she puts her mind to something, gets it DONE (you could call that determination, or just impatience....). So I did a lot of research, figured out which products I wanted to try out first, and bought new products.  I quickly transitioned out of my old 'dirty' products and switched to the new regimen within about a week:

First Round Green Beauty


I've always heard that your skin takes about 6 weeks to adjust to products, and it's recommended to only switch your routine one product at a time to see how it works for your skin. I never believed it, as I've never ever ever had problems with products. Boy did I this time around!

Long story short, I tried the above-pictured new mascara, eyeliner, blush, sunscreen, moisturizer, facial scrub, facial cleanser, night cream, deodorant, and shampoo all at once. I liked most of the products initially, but the Honeybee Gardens eyeliner/mascara made my eyes/cheeks swell up like balloons, my nose run, and I was extremely tired! Hooorrrrrrriible allergic reaction!

I stopped the mascara and eyeliner and was doing ok, had a few breakouts but nothing crazy. I went on a trip and tried a sample of the RMS Beauty Beauty Oil, which isn't anything fantastic as a product, but also I didn't like it because it caused the same reaction as the mascara/eyeliner!!

By comparing products, I narrowed down the allergen to either jojoba oil or tocopherol (aka Vitamin e). Neither are common allergens, but after using a couple products again (like the RMS Beauty blush from above) and having similar symptoms, I realized: I'm allergic to jojoba oil! BOOOO, since it's in tonnnnns of natural beauty products precisely BECAUSE not very many people are allergic to it!

This lead me to Lesson number 2: Listen to your own body more than you listen to other people's opinions. I kept reading that jojoba isn't allergenic and kept messing up my skin because I'd use jojoba products, until I finally dug deep enough and found some reports of people with similar reactions to jojoba as mine. Just because a product works for lots of people doesn't mean it will work for you. Conversely, even though I can't use these products, you probably can and probably would enjoy them like I did for a short period of time!

So I returned all my products that contained jojoba oil:

Great Products with Jojoba Oil

Note: I actually loved every single one of these products, especially the RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek and the Honeybee Gardens mascara. If not for my allergic reaction I'd still be using them all!

And that's how I learned Lesson number three: Contact the makers of the products if they don't work for you. In my case, I talked with Honeybee Gardens and they were fantastic to work with--they actually sent me two products (their toner and a lipstick) that don't contain jojoba, which I'm enjoying so far. The natural beauty world is ever-expanding but still comparatively small, so these companies tend to work hard to keep your business if you express why you're not satisfied with one of their products (and aren't bitchy about it!). Even though I can't use the mascara/eyeliner, I will continue to support Honeybee Gardens because of their great service--and their great products! I also enjoy purchasing products from Spirit Beauty Lounge and Whole Foods, as they both have a satisfaction guarantee (I was able to return everything I had problems with, no questions asked).

On to Lesson 4: Skin purges shouldn't last weeks and weeks. At about the same time I was figuring out my allergy, I was published on No More Dirty Looks. Thanks to some helpful feedback from their great readers I came to the conclusion that coconut oil was just not the right moisturizer for me--it was clogging my pores. I thought that the whiteheads I was experiencing on a daily basis were just my skin purging built-up impurities. Nope--turns out coconut oil can be highly comedogenic for some people!

Side note on skin purging: according to some, oils like coconut oil can cause your skin to have whiteheads/breakouts for a short period of time and then your skin adjusts--the thought is that because coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal, it may cause your skin to 'purge' impurities that are hidden in your skin. But this purging period (also known as a 'healing crisis') SHOULD NOT last a long time! It took me too long before I wised up and just switched to a different moisturizer.

Lastly, I've learned Lesson number 5: the path to cleaner beauty is long and winding. What works for one person won't necessarily work for another; what works for a little while may cause a reaction down the road. For example, I didn't have any problems with the RMS blush--even though it contained jojoba--until after I had my two really bad reactions to other products. It seems like those intense reactions have caused an increased sensitivity to jojoba, so I can no longer use the blush or any other product with jojoba without feeling tired, with a runny nose and itchy/puffy/red eyes... :( Basically, I just need to listen to my skin/body more and work with, rather than against, what my system can handle.

So what am I using now?? Glad you asked:

Green Beauty Round Two

I'm still not 100% satisfied with the moisturizing part of my routine--I think shea is a bit comedogenic for me, so I'm trying to find a  better night-time alternative--but my skin is clearing up after its bad allergic reactions and weeks of comedogenic product dosage. I also received Sprout Skincare's Cocoa Lip Balm in my last Birchbox, which is now my all-time favorite lip balm! Highly recommend!

Long (Loooooong) story short, play around with what works for you. I plan to review in detail some of the products I love, so if you're curious just hold your horses! :)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Exercise your rights!

Hello hello! As most everyone knows, today is election day, or as I like to call it, "Put Up or Shut Up" day. As in, exercise your right to vote or forfeit any future bitching about the government, health insurance, immigration laws, war, education system, general state of our country....etc etc. Happy voting! :)