hair products

Endless Summer…Coconut and Mango!

I think I have well established the fact that I am addicted to fragrances. I use them to affect a mood that makes me feel…happy (hopefully). Since the scent-center of the brain is so strongly bound with memory, coconut (or coconut-inspired) scents are like summer in a bottle for me. Put a little bit of mango with that, and I am whisked away like in those old Calgon ads, except to a tropical island drenched with sun and sweetness. And in the face of the impending time and season changes to something ever more dreary and less sunshine-y, I intentionally cling to my summer with coconut and mango inspired products.

I know most people are all into the “pumpkin spice” or chocolate or mint or other seasonally appropriate scents, but not me. Not yet. So…let me, as your all-natural product guide who is also addicted to summer, offer some things worth trying and some things to avoid.

Let me first start by admitting that Alba Botanica is the brand that first introduced me to “good for you” products in the form of it’s Honey Mango Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel.  This product literally smells good enough to eat.  When you look at the details of the ingredients, you will even find that there is no actual honey in the product, meaning that it is vegan (the company also conducts no animal testing and is cruelty-free).  This bath gel creates a creamy, moisturizing lather that seems to work (for me) against the drying powers of more wintery weather.  You can find a 12 oz. bottle for about $8-ish in natural stores and probably for less online.  If you aren’t super excited about a “honey mango” fragrance, they do have other scents like French Lavender, Island Citrus, etc.  I haven’t tried ’em, but I am sure there is something everyone can love.  I give this product a “Hooray!”

And just as a refresher, straight from the company’s website:

Alba Botanica® products are formulated without: parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, propylene glycol, aluminum, mineral oil, petrolatum, oxybenzone, PABA, nano-particles, DEA, MEA or TEA, PEGs and PEG derivatives, ethoxylated ingredients associated with 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde donors, or GMOs.

Which leads me to the second Alba Botanica “Endless Summer” selection:  “Coconut Milk” Shampoo and Conditioner for “mega moisture.”  I bought a dual-pack of these two (also in a 12 oz. size), for around $11 at the end of September.  I expected something that looked, well, like coconut milk.  I also expected it to smell like, well, like coconut.  So, the shampoo is clear and gel-like and smells like coconut mixed with something that reminds me of that oh-so-popular potpourri fragrance:  mulberry.  Now I like the smell of mulberry, but I don’t think it smells like coconut, and I’m not sure how they arrived at that fragrance given the ingredients listed like pineapple and papaya and ginger.  Must have been a magical alchemy of sorts.  The shampoo works to clean my hair, but it seems to take a bit more than usual to get a good lather going and I sometimes feel compelled to “wash, rinse, repeat.”  So, that’s a bit wasteful.  The Coconut Milk conditioner is very thick and creamy, coming out of the bottle very “dollopy” instead of runny.  It smells like a lighter version of the shampoo, which is fine.  Still not too coconutty.  It does a good job at detangling and moisturizing without weighing my hair down.  So.  I’ll give this duo a “Yay.”  It does the job, and it smells fine, but just not what I’m looking for to satisfy my “coconut” craving.

On to Desert Essence, another brand I have featured before…they are dedicated to natural products that are phtalate-free, cruelty-free, organic, etc.  The Coconut Shampoo/Conditioner (Nourishing for Dry Hair), is also specifically touted as having no:  “parabens, sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates, Phthalates, artificial fragrances or colors, silicones, EDTA, glycol or petroleum based ingredients (from drugstore.com’s product details).”  For about $7.49/8oz., I think this product (on sale) is a bit too expensive for me.  But I wanted coconut shampoo and it was on sale!  This shampoo is also clear, but lathers really well…I’d say it’s just like “regular shampoo” with a nice rich lather that really leaves my hair feeling clean.  Unfortunately, I think the fragrance is…terrible.  I’ve really tried to like it, but I just can’t.  Again, it is another instance of coconut not being the “superstar” of the fragrance.  This was meant to smell like a pina colada, I think, but…sigh.  Okay, I’ll tell you what it smells like to me.  You know that white shoe polish people use to write on their car windows?  Yeah.  That’s what it smells like to me.  If I *try* to think about pina colada, I can kind of get it, but no.  White Shoe Polish.  The conditioner is similar to the Alba Botanica above, thick and rich, moisturizing without being heavy.  The fragrance is much diminished in the conditioner and I WOULD consider using just the conditioner with some other shampoo.  So…in the end.  This shampoo gets a “Not So Great” and the conditioner gets a “Yay.”

And now, the piece de resistance…the one that has NOT let me down, once again…Pacifica Perfumes, I love you.  I swear they are not paying me.   This IS summer in a bottle, to me.  It is a “true” coconut in my mind, not mixed with a variety of other fruity fragrances that detract from the star of this show.  There is some vanilla in the mix, but even with the dry down, coconut is the feature of this perfume.  I also think that this particular perfume lasts longer than some of the other, more citrusy fragrances that I love from Pacifica.  Here it is 3pm on a warm day and I still smell great.  One of my friends says it smells like sunscreen…which is just fine with me.  I wish they sold “Coppertone” as a fragrance.  All those childhood memories of my favorite time of the year come rushing back when I use this perfume.  Winter-schminter…now I can keep it summer all year long (which makes me happy–mission accomplished)!  So, if you haven’t guessed…this one gets a “HOORAY!”

I am still on the search for a natural shampoo/body wash that will really strike home that coconut summer of love when January rolls around.  If you have any favorites that achieve that feat, please DO share!  Stay tuned…I’ll share if I find some other good ones!

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A “Yay” for Nature’s Gate

Of any single brand, the one I have tried the most has got to be Nature’s Gate.  This company was founded 40 years ago with a natural-mindedness from the start.  Sounds like some guys who ran an herb shop started making shampoo with rainwater, and it became a major hit with the Venice Beach crowd.  Now they make tons of stuff including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, soaps, toothpaste, acne-treatment products, skin-care products, and sun care products.  I have tried a handful of these, but certainly not all of their products…it’s extensive.  Nature’s Gate is relatively easy to find in most natural stores, and costs around $7.  You can find deals online, of course, and sometimes when a formula change happens, you can find these items reduced significantly.

Nature’s Gate Shampoos and Conditioners are my go-to products, now. I’m not going to stop trying other things, but I know I can rely on these shampoos and conditioners to suds like I want, to smell good, and keep my hair clean and manageable. Generally speaking. These products, however, are not really significantly different than regular shampoos, meaning I still have issues with fly-aways and split ends.  The fact that I am not “committed” to using Nature’s Gate makes the “Yay” grade for most of these products.  There are a few exceptions in the plus and minus, so here goes…

One “Hooray”

Nature's Gate Herbal Daily Conditioner

I have been reluctantly converted to using the The Herbal Daily Conditioner.  I will be honest in the fact that it was a bit off-putting at first, because it is, well, um, brown. And sort of has the consistency of a creamy balsamic dressing. And it smells very strongly herbal, and the fragrance does linger after you rinse and style your hair. I went into work asking my friends, “Do I smell like a hippy?” because it smelled to me as if I had been sitting around some sort of incense. HOWEVER, I don’t notice it now that I have gone through a whole bottle, and my friends often say, “What perfume do you have on? Smells like fabric softener,” and then it turns out to be my hair.

So, this conditioner, on my fine, tangly hair is very much more like a “cream rinse” that adds a little bit of conditioning power, but is super awesome at detangling. For me, detangling is really the name of the game because THAT is how tangly my hair is. It is recommended for daily use and all hair types. I will admit to switching this out with other conditioners when I feel like I need to add a little more moisture, but I look forward to the days when I use this conditioner. It is definitely worth a try, in my opinion, so don’t be afraid to try the brown conditioner and see if it works for you.

The “Yays”

Awapuhi Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner: This stuff smells really great and very similar to other salon brands that feature awapuhi. I will say that the volumizing intent of this set of products is meant to not weigh hair down, and is intended for hair like mine. The shampoo is great, but the conditioner is a little too light and not really great for detangling. If you have hair that tends to be already voluminous, well, this stuff might not be for you. If you have less tangly hair that tends to be easily weighed down, try this. It’s quite decent, but just a tad lacking.

Pomegranate Sunflower Hair Defense Conditioner:  I don’t know why I didn’t buy the shampoo…this might have been a find at a place like Marshall’s or Ross where they sometimes have big containers of hair products on sale for like $10. I was using this before my phthalate-free/BPA-free/other-harmful-chemical-free life began. It has a nice fragrance that doesn’t really linger. It is my “more moisturizing” conditioner and touts UV protection for color-treated hair. I *do* have color-treated hair, but I can’t imagine why a person wouldn’t use it anyway. It might lend itself to being too heavy when used continuously, which is why it is a “yay” and not a “hooray.”

I also tried the Hemp Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner, but I honestly have nothing to say about it. It worked, I guess. It didn’t smell bad or anything. My hair got cleaned and conditioned, apparently, because I used it all. But the fact that I don’t really remember anything about it (I used it back in Feburary and March), and wouldn’t be inspired to buy it again seems to imply that it is “nothing to write home about.” I’m not going to say it’s bad, just ho-hum. I don’t know if that makes it a “yay” really, but it isn’t “not so great” because it certainly is servicable as a general shampoo/conditioner. It is supposed to repair and nourish dry hair, but I am not sure that was really the case. If you find it at a good price, might as well try it. I guess.

The “Not So Great”

I bought some of Nature Gate’s Moisturizing Liquid Soap to have on the counter in the bathroom for regular hand-washing. Now, I am not really a “dry skin” person unless it is the dead of winter and I am living northward of the Oklahoma border. So, I didn’t think for an instant that this “moisturizing” soap would be problematic in the area of causing dryness. I mean, why would I doubt what this brand says about its own products when I have been generally pleased with everything else? Well, hold the phone.

This soap was so drying, I was, for the first time I can remember since moving away from West Virginia, driven to put lotion on my hands and lower arms minutes after washing my hands. After a week of using this soap, my skin started hurting it was so dry. Now, I will confess that I might have washed my hands more often than usual because I discovered poison ivy in my backyard, but this soap was supposed to be “moisturizing.” I can safely say, this is not the case. Regular dish soap seems less drying. And I imagine a person with truly dry skin would be more affected than I was, too. So. Steer clear of this. It’s much too harsh.

However, this isn’t going to keep me from trying other Nature’s Gate products. I think I might splurge on one of their deodorants and maybe one of the fancy face products…the Avocado Night Cream sounds fantastic. I will, of course, report back, when I do.

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Post Christmas Splurge!

So, I couldn’t resist…I bought some more shampoo, hairspray, and toothpaste.  They were all on sale!

First, Everyday Shea Shampoo in Vanilla Mint.

Vanilla Mint Everyday Shea Shampoo

This came in a gigantic size (32 oz.) for $13.99 (about $0.44/oz).  I’ll use it for body/hand soap, too, to justify the cost.  The mint (spearmint), in my opinion, overpowers the vanilla, but it’s still lovely and makes me feel all happy.  It produces a nice lather and doesn’t leave hair feeling…shall I say… TOO clean?   If you’ve ever washed your hair with Dr. Bronner’s you know what I’m talking about.  It’s not like that at all.

Shea butter and oil, as well as coconut oil, are the saponified fats in this product, so it should be quite moisturizing.  I’ve only used it for a few days, but so far, my hair seems manageable and not greasy and not crunchy.  So far so good.   The company uses fair trade ingredients, no synthetic fragrances, no parabens, and does not test on animals.  The fragrances are created with essential oils (and they have unscented versions of their products, too).  This means no phthalates!

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss an ingredient: cocamidapropyl betaine.  This is a surfactant that is synthetically made by chemically manipulating coconut oil and it can be an allergen to some people.  If you know you have skin reactions to surfactants, you may want to avoid this product.  If I notice anything strange, I’ll report back.

Second, Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz!

Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz

Okay, so I delayed getting hairspray after my purge, thinking I didn’t “really” need it and most brands cost about $10/bottle.  Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t wear my hair up, because I can’t stand the falling-down fly-aways that happen without hairspray.  And, honestly, I’m one of those people who like my hair to be neat and without the hairspray, all of those little pieces that wouldn’t lay flat after midmorning drove me nutso.

THIS hairspray to the rescue!  Giovanni products are vegan with a few exceptions of beeswax in their lip balms and milk in some of their products.  They do not test on animals, they do not put phthalates in their products, most fragrances are created naturally from essential oils and plant extracts, and many of their ingredients are certified organic.

This hairspray smells slightly floral, and holds lightly all day without being stiff (although this is touted as “maximum hold,” I don’t think it can be compared to the hard/crispy hairsprays we remember from high school).  At least the hairspray holds enough that I don’t have to fuss with my hair in the  mirror at work with those crazy fly-aways.  I haven’t tested the up-do hold, yet, but I’ll do more homework and get back to you on this.  It also hasn’t had to stand up to any crazy humidity yet.  I’m happy with it so far, so I hope it works for the occasional bun or ponytail.  It cost $7.95 for 5 oz…which will probably last about 4 months for me.  Not bad. And yes, ANOTHER toothpaste:  Now XyliWhite Cinnafresh Toothpaste Gel.

I have decided for my own health concerns to avoid fluoride.  This toothpaste doesn’t have any fluoride, but it does have xylitol, which works to prevent cavities by killing bacteria.  It also contains papain (a fruit enzyme) for whitening effect.  The paste itself is very much like gel, but it has the same color as beeswax, which I suppose could be a bit off-putting at first, but at least it’s not full of fake food dyes.  Here are the other ingredients: water, hydrated silica, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium coco-sulfate, carrageenan (Chondrus crispus), cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) leaf oil, tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) leaf oil, potassium sorbate.   Keep this FAR away from dogs, because the high quantity of xylitol could be fatally toxic (this is true for anything containing xylitol, obviously).  I like the cinnamon flavor, but it certainly isn’t as powerful as Jason’s Powersmile pepperminty-blast of fresh.  It does foam up nicely even though it doesn’t have any SLSes, and the slick-clean sensation is about a 9/10 for me.  I feel like my teeth keep that quality longer than with regular toothpaste…like it’s 11 pm now (I brushed my teeth around 8:30 am), and there’s no noticeable plaque-y feel on my teeth like there normally would be.  I find this amazing!  It  cost about $4.39 for a big 6.4 oz tube.  On www.iherb.com, you can get other flavors, and it is on sale for $3.81 right now.  It’s a definite thumbs up, and I am happy to feel un-conned on fluoride with this one. AND…although I haven’t tried any of their products, the Yes To Inc. company that creates Yes to Carrots and Yes to Cucumbers (and other vegetables)…have passed the no phthalate test!  They have a wholly organic line of baby products, which of course are good for adults to use, too.  They also avoid the use of parabens and SLSes.  They try to use as many organic and non-synthetic ingredients as possible, so just read the labels to see if there might be anything objectionable in it.  They do not test on animals and most products are also vegan…those that aren’t contain only beeswax and honey.  This is another brand that is widely available at WalMart and drugstores, but you might find a better selection at a “natural” store.  You can also shop at their online store, of course.  So, huzzah for finding another good and easy to find natural brand.  Options are awesome and variety is the spice of life!  Next time…the deodorant test continues.  Spoiler Alert!  I am breaking up with Tom’s of Maine forever!

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Is it Christmas, or is it just me?

Since I have recently been avoiding the pollutant-laden products that I have been accustomed to since…I dunno, BIRTH…I have begun to notice some changes.  I was hoping one of these changes would be some instantaneous weight-loss, but no such luck.  Oh well, I will keep my fingers crossed on that one.

1.        I have always had what I dubbed “sensitive skin” meaning a variety of things seemed to make my oily skin break out in “blemishes,” as my mother calls them.  I saw Dr. Murad on some morning show once where he first clued me in to the break-out evils of “isopropyl miristate.”  This extreme surfactant might as well be labeled “zit maker” for me. 

 So, that’s what first started me label reading.  From time, to time, however, I would break out and chalk it up to stress or hormones or whatever.  But now that I am washing with home-made soap and facial toner, and applying an all-natural moisturizer (Desert Essence Daily Essential Moisturizer), it seems that my skin is having a reaction.  And it’s not from extreme surfactants this time.

I am told, by other natural-product-using friends, that this is just my body re-balancing itself.  All those accumulated toxins are making their way out of my skin, or my body is deciding to expel them.  While this was always the ultimate goal and something I certainly want to happen, it’s not much fun to look at myself in the mirror in the morning and see Rudolf the red-nosed 37 year-old.  I am not gonna let it bother me, though.  I’m getting healthy, and if this is what happens on the way there, whatevs.  Anyone who wants to judge can just…well…stuff it.

2.       I have always had (what I thought was an extension of my oily skin) oily hair.  Oily, fine hair that tangles very easily.  Now, I will confess that I color my hair.  This is a blog for another day, but regardless, my hair has always been something to deal with every morning.  It has to be washed and conditioned at the least.  I have been known to throw it in a bun or ponytail while it is wet and just go to work that way.  If I don’t put it up, though, it has to have some sort of “holding” product like gel or styling cream, be blow-dried, and maybe touched up with a flat iron, and usually hair-sprayed into place for me to feel like it is “presentable” by normal southern standards. 

So, I’ve been washing my hair with Nature’s Gate Awapuhi Volumizing Shampoo.  It is spectacular!  Smells great and contains none of the following:  “artificial color, alcohol, animal-derived ingredients (with no animal testing ), parabens, or phthalates.”  The formula I bought, which may be a newly improved version (check the ingredients if you want to purchase this shampoo), also contains no sodium laureth sulfate.  My hair really used to feel like straw no matter what products I put in it.  Now it is soft, manageable, and shiny.  I’m sold.  And did I say it smells great?  It does.

One of the salvages from my product purge was also Nature’s Gate Sunflower and Pomegranate Conditioner.  It’s similarly lacking in “bad” stuff and is recommended for colored hair.  It doesn’t weigh my hair down and yet leaves it detangled and easy to comb through.   When the bottle is empty, I might have to go get the Awapuhi conditioner just to try, but not until this one is all gone!  No need to have 15 different types of conditioner again.  Cross my heart.

I have been using Aubrey Organics B5 Design Gel for styling purposes.  Now, let me tell you, I have medium length, very fine hair, and I am only interested in keeping it from flying around too much.  Honestly, this product smells…well…“medicinal” at best, but I think most people would say it stinks.  I only use about a dime-sized amount of it, and honestly (I promise), when I’m done blow-drying it, there is no smell of it in my hair.  If you want your hair to be more “gelled,” or if you have courser hair, I’m not sure how it will work.  However, it’s doing the job for me now, so I’ll use it until it’s gone.  This will likely take a while considering I use so little.  I have discovered that if you go to the Aubrey Organics website, you can buy smaller sizes than what is available at the stores…so you can buy a half size to try if you don’t want to commit to a full-size product. 

3.  The oddest thing though—is really odd.  Especially considering all the “blemishes” that are happening on my face right now.  Maybe my awesome hair is compensating for that.  Or maybe, since I’m not covering up the way I smell with a bunch of harsh chemicals, my pheromones are working to…attract the opposite sex.  Now, I’m not looking for anyone, because I have someone whom I love very dearly, but I have noticed complete strangers, like…smiling at me and holding the door open for me and talking to me out of nowhere.  Of course, at first, I thought maybe I had spinach in my teeth or something.  And honestly, maybe it is just Christmas and people are being more friendly than usual.  Or maybe this whole detox is cleansing my aura in such a way that I am more approachable.  I don’t know. 

But I noticed.  Maybe it’ll be a nice side-effect for you, too, if you try to cut some of the pollutants out of your life.   You never know.

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2.5 out of 3 ain’t bad

It’s been a while since I last posted, and of course I have a hundred new things I want to write about. But let me start where I left off.  I had contacted three companies to ask for information, further confirmation, that their products were indeed phthalate-free.

1. Kuumba Made fragrance oils have been CONFIRMED as phthalate-free. The actual language from the e-mail went like this: “Our fragrance oils are created using the finest oils and resins of flowers, plants, roots and trees. They are free of any dilutants, alcohols, petroleums, phthalates, and animal products. However, they are not 100% natural, some items such as musk is not available naturally.” Good to know they aren’t using animal musk. However in the artificial musk world, there are three types…two are questionable, much like phthalate, and one is considered safe. CRAP! I guess I need to press them further about which type of synthetic musk they are using. That will be a blog for another day. But it seems safe to assume that the non-musk fragrances are 100% good to go. I personally like Water Lily (and Egyptian Musk…so now I have more research to do).

2. Pacifica skin care, including perfume, is, according the e-mail response I received from customer service, “made without: Animal testing, animal bi-products (sic), phthalates, parabens, sulfates, propylene glycol, benzene, GMOs, mineral oil, peanut oil, and triclosan. All Pacifica products are cruelty-free.” So this is more good news. The body butter, in Mediterranean Fig is still quite nice, but once I found out that their perfumes were 100% safe, I went on down to my Central Market and sprayed nearly every inch of my arms with a sample of their fragrances. Now, the selection on Pacifica’s site is much broader, but at my local store, there are approximately 8 scents. I purchased Waikiki Pikake, a light, white floral. But I’ll be going back (or asking Santa?) for Mexican Chocolate and Malibu Lemon Blossom. They are seriously yum! And free of nasty chemicals, which is the best part, I think.

3. After e-mailing customer service at Teva (the maker of sandals and flip-flops and, yes, even more complicated shoes), I got a reply indicating that they didn’t have material details about the products, but they did provide a handy phone number I could call. So I called, I asked my question of the helpful customer service staff, and she put me on hold for quite a while, but eventually came back with good news! Teva uses EVA plastic for the footbed of their products, and polyester for the straps. EVA is a type of plastic that does not require further plasticizers to make it bendable and “squishy,” and is actually considered to be inert enough to make children’s toys from in lieu of phthalate-based “squishy” plastic. This is good news since I live in my Tevas much of the year. By the way, I prefer this brand because they make durable products that can last for years and years. It’s worth the investment over cheap-o flip-flops, for sure. Not only are the straps fashionably cute, they last, and now we know they have no phthalate to absorb through our skin. Yay for Teva!

So, have I had any regrets about pursuing a hippy/natural-product lifestyle? No, because I think I am on the road to being healthier.  When you know better, you do better, right?  There’s really no going back for me now, and actually a broad door of questioning products everywhere has opened, and I am concerned not only for my own health, but the health of my family, friends, and yes, even perfect strangers.

I will confess that overcoming vanity is part of the process. I would still like to look nice (and smell nice) and this has suddenly made that task a little more challenging.  From my purging of grooming products, the product I regretted having to throw out the most (so far, that is, since I haven’t yet culled my perfume collection)? Don’t laugh at me, but it was a stash…yes, a stash…of discontinued Dove Straight and Soft Sleek Styling Cream. I LOVE this product so much that when it was discontinued, I went on ebay.com and bought 10 tubes. I KNOW! This makes me *almost* a hoarder…but it works so well on my hair! When you research its ingredients, this product is somewhere on the scale of about a 5-6 where 0 is pure water and 10 is considered extremely toxic/carcinogenic/allergy-causing/etc.  So I haven’t really found its replacement, but I am trying a styling product I’ll blog about tomorrow.

I do want to extend an offer to research the toxicity of your favorite product and perhaps offer a replacement product of similar qualities. Just leave a comment and I’ll start the search. First up, as requested by my co-worker, is Philosphy products. Tune in next time…

Categories: endocrine disruptors, hair products, perfume, phthalates | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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