Posts Tagged With: Burt’s Bees

Green ‘n Healthy Gift Basket (or Stocking) Ideas – Part 1

I don’t know a girl alive who doesn’t enjoy a good “basket o’ stuff” for the holidays. Of course, it is important to personalize this basket for the particular girl you have in mind, so I thought I might offer some basket filling ideas that are green and healthy! And clearly, you can stuff a stocking with this stuff, too.

If you are looking for some healthy bath products for a girl who likes tropical or beachy themes, try these:

Indian Coconut Nectar, Island Vanilla, Hawaiian Ruby Guava, or Brazilian Mango Grapefruit perfume and body butter by Pacifica. Each one is an exquisite blend of tropical and luscious fragrances. The coconut is reminiscent of your favorite summertime sunscreen, but more subtle (though surprisingly lasting). The vanilla is really an all-year kind of fragrance that reminds me of Aquolina’s Pink Sugar, but richer, less candy-scented, and all-natural guaranteed. Hawaiian Ruby Guava is fruity, warm, and floral, while the Brazilian Mango Grapefruit is fruity, crisp, and bright. Pacifica is one of my favorite makers of natural perfumes…you can normally find them in stores like Whole Foods, Central Market, Sprouts, etc…but they are also online and you have plenty of time to order now! They often have candles, diffuser reeds, and solid perfumes to pair with their perfume scents, as well. They also have a relatively new line of face care and makeup that is getting rave reviews.

Honey Mango or Island Citrus body wash by Alba Botanica are very much like “standard” body washes that smell incredible, hydrate the skin, and omit the following types of ingredients: artificial colors, parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate or sodium methyl sulfate. Alba Botanica is a company focused on vegetarian and earth-friendly products and is usually easy to find in your natural grocery stores. Try iherb.com for sweet online prices.

Coconut & Hibiscus Body Butter by SheaMoisture is a luscious lotion that is super softening and moisturizing—so much so, that I keep it on my desk at work. When I first started using it, my co-workers immediately commented on how “lovely” it smells. It’s a nice floral and tropical scent that works with those Pacifica perfumes above and it should be fairly easy to find at your local Target.

Himalayan Pink Salt Scrub – Grapefruit or Brown Sugar Body Polish – Kumquat by Hugo & Debra Naturals make great scrub options for your basket. Hugo & Debra Naturals are committed to creating vegan products that omit the following ingredients: parabens, phenoxyethanol, sulfates, PEGs, propylene glycol, petroleum products, silicones, phthalates, synthetic surfactants, artificial colors, or synthetic fragrances. Also soy free, gluten free, and cruelty free. These products smell amazing and are gentle enough to be used on the face and décolleté. Find them at your local natural grocer or online.

Coconut Foot Cream by Burt’s Bees is, in my humble opinion, Burt’s best creation. Not only does it have a wonderfully simple coconut (and rosemary and peppermint) fragrance, it is the best healing “balm” type of product I have ever found. It’s super rich, and although it is oily, it works wonders at smoothing out rough heels! I even use it on my hands in the winter time because they get chapped and cracked…this is the only thing that heals that dryness. I cannot recommend enough. Also, it should be super easy to find at stores like Target and Walmart.

And it might sound weird to give your gal deodorant, but if you do, it will be a very special treat for her. Fancy deodorant by La Vanila comes in all kinds of scents, but Vanilla Passion Fruit or Pure Vanilla will stay within the “tropical” theme we have going here. These puppies are expensive for deodorant, but are all-natural and effective, luxurious and lasting. This is Oprah’s deodorant of choice, if that means anything to you. I find it hard to spend this much money on deodorant, personally, but that’s what makes it such a special treat! You can get this from Sephora or directly from Lavanila.com.

Round out your basket with a natural loofah, pumice stone, nail brush, and towel, and you have got a magnificent gift to give that someone special.

Dang. I wish someone would buy all of this stuff for me. Note to self…have hubby read my blog.  Happy gifting, y’all!

Up next: Peppermint and Cinnamon!

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WHAT? Only 7 Shopping Days Left?!

AAAAAAHHHHHH!  How did this happen?!  Time is flying!

All the more reason to make living greener a priority now.

My whole blog started a year and a month ago, because I watched “Bag It,” the documentary.  And I started learning about all the harmful chemicals we have around us, not only in toys and products and all things plastic, but everywhere.  It takes a real commitment and continued vigilence to start living a cleaner, greener life.  But it doesn’t have to be hard.  That’s the part where I think a lot of people get overwhelmed.  I think blogs like mine and stores you should have near you (and yes, online stores, if you are more rurally-located) are making it much easier to live healthier, less polluted lives.

So…with 7 days left until Christmas, I am going to point  you in some directions for last minute shopping, if you haven’t already found them yourselves.

1. Sprouts/Whole Foods/Central Market – These grocery stores have a wide range of all kinds of products that are suitable for stocking stuffers and gift baskets.  Each of these stores have quite the treasure trove of natural/healthy personal care products in all sizes and for all purposes.  Even a gift card for one of these stores could be a most excellent gift!

2. Target/Walmart – I KNOW most of you are close to one of these stores.  If you are looking for personal care products that might be nice for gifts, I have had luck finding Burt’s Bees products in most Walmarts.  They also usually have “Yes to” products.  These are normally in the cosmetics aisle, not where shampoo or lotion are.  Depending on your store, they may have much, much more to choose from–this seems to be especially true for Target.  Not only do they have Burt’s Bees and “Yes to” goodies, they may also have Shea Moisture (a luxurious line of bath and hair products), Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps (Peppermint is a nice wintery zing!), natural candles by Mrs. Meyer (in Iowa Pine!) and Beeluxe (Mandarin Clove is a awesome seasonal scent), and I even found some Caldrea products (on sale, no less!).  Take a tool around the aisles and see what you find!

3. Your Local Department Store – Okay, so call me crazy, but TRY IT.  You might be surprised.  There are a few premium brands that are healthy and you never know what your store might carry during the holidays.  It seems like Origins might be your best bet for a higher end product line that “are formulated with natural and certified organic ingredients and 100% natural essential oils.  And formulated without parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin, DEA and animal ingredients.  We manufacture using a combination of renewable resources, wind energy, and earth-friendly practices.”  They have lots of great gift sets that are probably perfect for someone on your list.  Maybe yourself? (I totally bought myself a gift box of this stuff on Black Friday…shhhh…don’t tell).

4. Sephora/Drugstore.com/iHerb.com – All of these places have a bevy of products with a lot of information about ingredients (usually in separate tabs on the product pages).  You can get reviews at these places, too, to see if you really want to get something.  If you are going to buy something here, though, you better do it asap because they do have to ship it to get it there before C-Day.  Sephora is probably the best bet for sussing out perfumes and specific products within a brand line (like Philosophy) that are better than others.  Drugstore.com has really huge variety of things, especially things that are hard to find in a store.  iHerb.com has more “regular” products, but you can find some items at super awesome prices.  Give ’em a whirl…but do it today!

5. Amazon – Same thing goes with Amazon for the shipping, but this is (as most of us know), the new general store of the world.  Because individual vendors can post their own products, you really can find almost anything.  I was looking for more BeeLuxe products, and that’s where you can find them.  Of course you can also get books and media and other things…where Amazon started it all.  Look up some books about natural products and/or how to make your own products for the craftier folks on your list…everyone likes new know-how and recipes (at least I do).

6. Pinterest – Okay, so maybe you have some time to do some last minute creations…go perusing for ideas here!  I think I just might go find some of the more excellent recipes, print them out on some nice paper, create a little box or book of them, and use this for a stocking stuffer for some of the cooks/bakers in my life.  It doesn’t have to be super elaborate…maybe even write a few recipes out by hand and tie them with a ribbon.  Or, heck, make some of those marvelous creations and take them with you to the office party or give out samplers to your friends in lieu of “stuff.”  Your only limitation at this point is time!

7.  Etsy.com – Again, time/shipping is of the essence, but this website is the website of crafters the whole world wide.  You can buy anything from art to  jewelry to homemade soaps or purses or shirts or even vintage items…just anything really at this site.  Individual crafters/collectors have their own pages, so you will be paying them and they will be shipping the items. HOWEVER, there is a “search by” feature that can limit your options to a zip code or town.  I can’t guarantee that a seller would be willing to have you come over to their home, but you can communicate directly with people via a messaging system (if you create an account)…you could probably work out some sort of “pick-up” method.  This way you can get something super-special and unique from a local crafts person AND avoid the shipping (thereby reducing your carbon footprint).  You might even make a new friend or become a loyal customer if you find the right craftsperson.  You never know until you look.

I hope this gives you some ideas at the very least…GOOD LUCK, Last Minute Shoppers!  Go get ’em!

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The Natural Toothpaste Taste Test (and research)

So, hey, everyone…I know you are dying to hear about TOOTHPASTE!  That’s right toothpaste is on the board today, and I have spent about two weeks testing 3 different brands.  First, though, a little lesson about toothpaste (okay, it’s kind of a big lesson, but bear with me).

I think it is safe to say that the things we want toothpaste to do are:  clean the tooth surface, prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis, and whiten the tooth surface (or at least reduce the staining that can happen with food, drink, smoking, and age). 

Cleaning and whitening are usually accomplished with detergents and abrasives. 

The most common detergents in toothpaste are sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, and no doubt, if you are reading my blog you may already have seen it listed as things that companies are removing from their products.  Why are these bad, you may wonder?  Why the heck are they in everything from shampoo to…toothpaste?  Well, as a surfactant, it makes things slippery and disassociate from surfaces (helps get things unstuck) and it also emulsifies, keeping things in solution (those unstuck particles stay unstuck).  This is ideal for cutting through grease, dirt, and for your teeth…plaque and bacteria.  Not a bad thing.  For hair, these surfactants can be too strong, stripping hair, and leaving it feeling like straw.  They’ve been officially labeled as “human irritants,” with the “laureth” version being much more irritating than the “lauryl” variety.   If you want to avoid these, it’s not hard to do these days…do as you like, but I wouldn’t call them “toxic” or “dangerous,” just irritating.  If you are prone to “canker” sores or “gum boils” (as my grandmother called them), it may be the SLSes to blame.

Abrasives can be any variety of particles meant to polish your teeth with the physical action of scrubbing.  These should be mild, obviously, to prevent damaging your tooth enamel.  Common abrasives are aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, calcium hydrogen phosphates, silica, mica, zeolites, and hyrdoxyapatite.  Based on my research, the only one you should try to avoid is aluminum hydroxide for its suspected toxicity.  Most whitening-action toothpaste, as it turns out, whitens more than regular paste due to “more polishing” and therefore more abrasiveness.   Be mindful of these varieties as they may end up doing more harm than good in the long run. 

If you want a quick listing of abrasive ratings for common toothpastes (it even includes some Tom’s, straight baking soda, and some brands, like CloSYS, that come in fluoride-free versions) check out this link:  http://dukeslc.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/toothpaste-abrasion-ratings/

Prevention of cavities

This is probably the most controversial topic I’ve written about yet, because if you start looking, you will find whole websites dedicated to the vilification of fluoride, while others (like most of us have been taught) promote fluoride as THE ingredient that prevents cavities.  There are so many studies about this, and so many things that people claim are fact without any references, so I don’t want to promote a culture of reactionary assumption.  Honestly, you are going to have to decide for yourself on this one, but I’ll summarize my findings.

First, let me explain that there are three different versions of fluoride used in toothpastes:  sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, and stannous fluoride (which is actually a naturally-occurring salt).  My research has turned up evidence that only one version of fluoride actually helps harden teeth and this is stannous fluoride.  The only toothpaste brand using this version of fluoride today is Crest Pro-Health.  There are also “fluoride treatment gels”  like Gel-Kam, OMNI Gel, and Flo-Gel  that use stannous fluoride, but these aren’t intended for daily use and aren’t “toothpastes.”    If you leave stannous fluoride on your teeth too long, it can discolor your teeth (but usually it’s not permanent), which may be why most companies don’t use it.  Usually the discoloration is as white flecks (not that bad), or a golden brown (pretty bad).   I could get into other chemical reactions, but let’s not.

The research I am citing is from the American Journal of Dentistry, August 2011; 24(4) 205-10, from an article called: Enamel Protection: a comparison of marketed dentrifice performance against dental erosion.  Note: dentrifice is just a fancy word for “toothpaste.”  The authors, Faller, Eversole, and Tzeghai, compared our three previously mentioned forms of fluoride on actual cores of human teeth and with human saliva (okay, kind of gross, but at least it is realistic).  The results were that stannous fluoride protected enamel the best against citric acid and phosphoric acid (common acids we consume in food and drink), while sodium fluoride and sodium monofluorophosphate were not significantly different than the control nor each other.  So, long story short, if you want to use fluoride, you should go with the stannous fluoride.  That’s Crest Pro Health.  Have at it.  It gets a 3/10 from EWG’s database.

NOW, why might you want to avoid fluoride altogether?  A summary of reasons goes like this:

  1. Fluoride accumulates in the body.
  2. Some people are more sensitive to fluoride than others, and this usually applies to children…the impact goes beyond tooth enamel discoloration, as described below

(Specific to fluoride in your water, but also applicable to fluoride’s impact on the body)

  1. There has never been a single randomized clinical trial to demonstrate fluoridation’s effectiveness or safety.
  2. Fluoridation’s role in the decline of tooth decay is in serious doubt.
  3. Fluoride may damage the brain, lower IQ, and may cause non-IQ neurotoxic effects.
  4. Fluoride affects the pineal gland, thyroid function, causes arthritis symptoms, and damages bone.
  5. Fluoride may increase hip fractures in the elderly.
  6. Fluoride may cause bone cancer.
  7. Fluoride may cause reproductive problems.
  8. The chemicals used to fluoridate water are not pharmaceutical grade, but are usually the byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry and may be contaminated with a variety of other impurities that may include substances like arsenic.
  9. Many scientists oppose fluoridation.  As of July 2011, over 3700 professionals have signed a statement calling for an end to water fluoridation worldwide (this statement and a list of signatories can be found on the website of the Fluoride Action Network (see: www.FluorideAlert.org)).

So, like I said at the beginning of this section, there is so much research you can go hunting for yourself and make your own decisions.  Another site you might want to check out is www.fluoridation.com

Other things you may find in your toothpaste

Xylitol – you probably recognize this from some sugar-free gums and candies, but it works to prevent bacterial growth and therefore prevents cavities and gingivitis; it also makes your toothpaste sweet and comes from natural sources.

Stevia extract – a not so new to natural-living proponets, but new to most of us mainstream people, this is a  natural non-caloric sweetener. 

Saccharine – less natural, used for zero-calorie sweeting, associated with cancer in rats, but is generally accepted as safe in small quantities…this is the sweetener in Sweet-n-Low.  It only gets a 2/10 toxicity rating.

Essential oils and plant extracts – in some natural toothpastes, this is another bacteria-fighting and additional cleaning ingredient.

I would obviously read other things on the ingredient lists of the toothpastes you use and avoid those things that are otherwise harmful.  The EWG Skin Deep database does contain a large number of toothpastes, so you can check out their toxicity ratings per ingredient.

NOW, lesson over.  Sheesh, I apologize.  On to the taste tests!

Toothpaste #1:  Tom’s of Maine Whole Care with fluoride in Spearmint flavor.  The fluoride is in sodium monofluorophosphate variety.  The other ingredients are glycerin, water, calcium carbonate, hydrated silica, xylitol, carrageenan, spearmint leaf oil and other natural flavors, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and zinc citrate.  It’s not animal tested, and Tom’s is committed to sustainable practices, recycling, being as natural as possible, and giving back to the community.   So, it was not too gritty, and seemed adequately paste-y in a way that sort of reminds me of my childhood Colgate.   It foams up like a “regular” paste and has the same level of refreshing minty-ness.  It seems like the clean-lasting factor is about 3 or so hours, which is decent.  Basically, this is your average paste with average results with natural ingredients.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Toothpaste #2:  Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste:  Multicare with Fluoride in Peppermint flavor.  The fluoride here is also sodium monofluorophosphate.  The other ingredients are glycerin, hydrated silica, xylitol, calcium sodium phosphosilicate, sodium cocoyl  glutamate, titanium dioxide, cranberry fruit powder, stevia extract, carrageenan, xanthan gum, silica, natural flavor, lecithin, and maltodextrin.  So, this is free of SLSes, and you can tell since it is less foamy.  The paste is noticeably grittier than average, and it looks slightly off-white and speckled from the cranberry fruit powder.  The peppermint flavor is refreshing but doesn’t last.  If you don’t get enough paste on your brush, it does seem to “go away.”  When you DO get enough on your brush, the clean-feel lasts longer than Tom’s, which may imply more abrasiveness.   I’ve already chatted up Burt’s Bees in other posts, so I’ll refrain now.  And I also noticed a saltiness that isn’t extreme in any way, but noticeable.  I would give this one 2.5 stars.

Awesome stuff!

 
 
 

Toothpaste #3:  Jason Powersmile All Natural Whitening Toothpaste in Peppermint flavor.  There no fluoride in this toothpaste and I’m going to count that as a good thing.  The other ingredients are calcium carbonate, purified water, vegetable glycerin, sodium cocoyl glutamate, peppermint oil, carrageenan, aloe vera leaf gel, bamboo stem powder, parsley extract, perilla seed extract, baking soda, silica, stevioside, grapefruit seed extract.  I’m just going to come right out and say it.  I love this toothpaste!  It is strong on the peppermint side, so maybe that makes me “feel” like it is cleaning better?  Very refreshing and lasting in flavor (think Altoids), as well as in that clean feel.  And I’m not joking.  On days when I used this paste, in the afternoon, I was still thinking, “wow, my teeth feel clean.”  Again, this may be due to increased amounts of abrasives, but it may also be due to the increased amount of plant extracts that act as anti-bacterial factors.  The paste color is a little tiny bit on the gray side and less paste-y in texture…more like a white gel, which I guess is the aloe.  I’m giving this one a 4.5 out of 5.

Now, interestingly, as I was doing all of this research I found this:  “Most of the cleaning is achieved by the mechanical action of the toothbrush, and not by the toothpaste. Salt and Baking soda are among materials that can be substituted for commercial toothpaste.”  So, you know me, I went and brushed my teeth with the magical baking soda.  It seems to foam up on its own…this is the reaction of the basic pH of the baking soda with the acidic pH of the saliva.  From an abrasive point of view it is mild, and it seems my brush alone would do a fairly decent job, and without the zing of peppermint or cinnamon, I’m left feeling just…salty.  And it’s not very pleasant.  And it’s drippy…like you can’t walk around the house brushing your teeth this way…at least I couldn’t.  I would use baking soda if I ran out of Jason’s, but I’d prefer something like paste.  1 out 5 stars.  Sorry baking soda.

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In the Aftermath…A Small Win

After my shopping excursion yesterday (during which I spent way too much money), I had the unsavory task of ridding my house of those products that likely do contain phthalates among other offensive chemicals.  And I was shocked. 

First, in honest admission of my consumer foolhardiness, I was able to fill an entire tall kitchen trashbag with just the hair/body/skin grooming products in my bathroom.  I didn’t get to cleaning products even! Or the kitchen!  And, because I was raised by sensible folks who must use everything before it is thrown out or recycled, I had portions of bottles of shampoo and lotion and hair gel and shaving cream that must have been over five years old…some certainly older.  And what’s worse is that I have numerous products that are not phthalate free that are either a few uses short of new or have never even been opened.  I simply can’t make myself throw these out.  Karmically speaking, I probably should, but if there are people in the world who could use new liters of Dove Nutrium Cucumber and Aloe body wash, I think they should have them.  Ug.  First world problems, I know.

I normally keep a variety of shampoos and conditioners and body wash/soap in my shower for no other reason than the fact that I like options.  I grew up in a house in which my parents would buy the same things for years.  Flex shampoo and conditioner—the balsam and protein type, pink Caress soap, regular paste-form (not gel) of Colgate toothpaste, and Final Net (non-aerosol at least) hairspray.  It got boring.  I am still excited by new products (as you can tell by my whole trashbag worth of crap that got purged), and yes, I will admit that I am excited to try my new purchases.

I will report, thankfully, that I did NOT have to purge everything.  I have …

…Noah’s Naturals “Natural Age Repair Moisturizing Body Lotion.”  It smells marvelous!!  A coconut-vanilla scent that doesn’t smell like suntan lotion.  More grown up, I guess.  However, I don’t know why I’m even telling you about this product because, sadly, the company is defunct.  Sigh.  I think this might be a problem with natural products.  If they can’t compete with cheaper brands, they won’t be able to keep the product on the shelves.  If you feel like scouring ebay for this brand, you can find some things, but they are likely 2-3 years old.  Just fyi.  But Noah’s Naturals did promise to use “no harsh sulfates, no parabens, no propylene gycol, no petrolatum, no phthalates, no animal by-products, and no animal testing.”  Sorry to see you go, Noah.

Alba Botanica “Very Emollient Cream Shave” in Mango Vanilla scent.  Can you tell I have a penchant for tropical-smelling things?  Anyway…the package indicates a similar mantra:  No animal testing, no artificial colors, parabens, phthalates, SLS, or Sodium Methyl Sulfate.  I love this fragrance…it really smells like mango to me.  They have other bath products in a Honey Mango that smell equally scrumptious.  I can find this line of products at Sprouts and Central Market (Central Market was cheaper, by the way) and probably Whole Foods, too.  You cannot buy directly from the company like you can with some other brands, but I will tell you a secret…www.drugstore.com has (right now) 38 products available at about the same or less cost as the store.  Yes, there is an environmental impact associated with shipping, but if you only order once in a while, it won’t be that significant and you’ll have this wonderful, healthy product in exchange. 

… A collection of Burt’s Bees products.  I can highly recommend the Coconut Foot Crème for rough heels and recovering from long hikes or even sore dancing feet.  Burt’s Bees promises that, “All Burt’s Bees products are paraben free, SLS-free, petrochemical free, and phthalate free.”  If you are interested in trying their products, you can find a collection in most Walmarts these days (as well as many natural grocery stores).  But if you go to their website, obviously you will have the whole range of products to choose from.  They actually have an “outlet” tab on their homepage that will take you to the sale items.  Right now they have a grab bag for $25 (normally $50) if you are feeling lucky.  Based on customer reviews, the contents of the bag are either “awesome” or “disappointing.”  I guess that is the nature of the grab bag, though. 

By the way, since it occurred to me yesterday, I put in another request to a customer service e-mail, this time at Teva.  I prefer Teva sandals for flip-flops (because they are durable and less flip-floppy than cheaper brands), and I wear them year-round here in Austin.  So, I asked:  do your shoes contain phthalates?  I have an answer already on this Sunday morning from customer service!  Customer service doesn’t have that kind of information (boo).  However, the customer service agent gave me a number to call, which I will do tomorrow when the offices are open.  Stay tuned for that update.

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