Posts Tagged With: phthalate-free

Make It Yourself – Simple & Sweet – ONLY 6 Days ’til Christmas!

ornaments

I know! It’s crunch time! Only six days left until December 25th! You have gifts to give and not a lot of time to go hunting down special items to give to friends and family that are in keeping with the whole “green & healthy” thing you are trying. AND you are probably thinking you don’t have time to make stuff, either, because “OMG the mess!” or you think of yourself as “craft-challenged.” Or maybe you think your unconvinced giftees won’t want your homemade crafty crap. And maybe they won’t (because, hey, some people are just like that—whatevs).

But maybe, JUST MAYBE, a Christmas miracle will happen and that anti-green Scrooge in your life will realize that the simplicity of your gift is a perfect representation of the spirit of the season. Or that the freshness of essential oil fragrances are not only sweet to smell, but also elegant in their homes, and uplifting to the spirits. Or—and this would be the best realization—that these homemade things are really superior to the chemical laden versions they are used to buying in the stores. AND, you can even let them in on your crafting secret, if you so choose, and share the cost savings with them, because srsly, people…a little goes a long way.

And it’s not hard, I promise. If you can melt stuff, you can make some amazing gifts for people. Here’s a guide to making candles and a balm that is commonly referred to as “un-petroleum jelly” but works well for lips and soothing chapped hands. I *could* go into making soap, but that’s pretty involved and you don’t have time for that, but tune in during January and I’ll share my soap-making secrets with you, too.

Making Candles
First, you DO have to go to a decent craft store or some location where you can buy wicks, soy wax, and/or beeswax. Also, you need some containers. I used recycled jars with the labels soaked off (a little orange oil will take off any sticky remainders, and alcohol will take off any inky date-stamps). Beware that the size wicks you need to buy are dependent upon the diameter of your jars. For example, your average spaghetti jar is somewhere between 3-4 inches in diameter. Just look at the wick package–it should tell you what size container they are for.  Be sure your wicks are lead and zinc free, and for the sake of ease, look for the kind with the “pre-glued” metal disk (also called a “tab” in the candle-making world) that you can stick to the bottom of the jar. If they don’t have the pre-glued kind, pick up a pack of the candle wick stickers or Stickum that should be in the same candle section of the craft store as the wax.

Now you have a choice at this point to splurge on a wax melter like this (also called a pouring pot):pouring pot

Or just use your own pots/pans to do this. Most of your ingredients are food grade, and should clean up readily with the help of paper-towels and heat, so you can opt to use what you have, or head over to Goodwill and pick up some cast-offs. Your choice. I bought a wax melter because I am serious about making these things for a good long time and wanted the handle and pour spout to make my life a little easier. You need to set up a double-boiler situation, for this project (a larger pan with water in it, and a smaller pan or bowl goes over this to melt the wax with the boiling water’s heat, not direct stove heat).

If you have a vegan giftee, please note that you should avoid using beeswax in your candles.

Now, for calculating how much wax you will need, there’s a formula. Each pound of wax (16 ounces by weight) will fill about 20 ounces of volume. You could, in this instance, make it super easy on yourself and find some 20 ounce jars for your gifts—that way you just have to melt a pound for each one. But, if you’d like a formula with more explanation, check out this blog post.

For the sake of making this quick and easy for you, I’m going to assume you will be using a 16 ounce jar (this is a pint-size canning jar (aka mason jar), which can be found at your local grocery or craft store). I’m also going to assume that you just want to make one candle, but you can just increase the recipe by however many times for more candles.

You will need:
Double Boiler
1 16-ounce glass jar, preferably intended for canning or previously used as such
1 tabbed wick, at least 2 inches taller than the height of your jar
1 wick sticker (to attach the wick to the bottom of the jar, if needed)
2 drinking straws, chopsticks, pencils, etc. (to help you stick the wick to the bottom of the jar, and to hold the wick upright during the cooling period)
4 ounces beeswax (if vegan, just replace this four ounces with additional soy wax)
9 ounces soy wax
Essential oils in the following combination:
25 drops of clove
22 drops of lemon
15 drops of cinnamon
10 drops of eucalyptus
8 drops of rosemary
(this is a historical blend of essential oils that has the reputation of not only smelling amazing, but also working as an effective anti-bacterial)

NOTE: If you don’t have these essential oils on hand, you can work out your own blend, but it should be about 80 drops per 1-jar recipe. Be advised that most essential oils are flammable and need to be kept away from open flames.

Prepare your container by ensuring it is clean, dry, and sitting near your work area…you want it to be a little warm when you pour the wax in.

Get the double boiler set up and the water heating.

Attach the wick tab to the bottom of the jar with a wick sticker or stick-um, using the straw (or chopstick or pencil) to help you really push it down. Make sure it is centered in the jar for even candle-burning.

Add your wax to the top of the double boiler, and wait for it to melt. You can stir the wax around a little to help it melt, but don’t do so too vigorously or you will end up with a bubbly candle that burns unevenly. Don’t walk away from the wax at this point. It shouldn’t take long for all the wax to melt. Make sure the double boiler doesn’t run out of water, but also be sure that no water gets in your wax, or again…uneven burning or a wick that won’t work.

Once all the wax is melted, you can turn the heat down on the double boiler, but leave the wax over the hot water. Add your essential oils and stir well to distribute the scent throughout the wax. Pour this mixture into your prepared jar. Leave the jar in a place it will not be disturbed and wait for it to cool. Use your tools of choice to prop the wick to an upright and centered position in the jar.

DON’T clean up yet! As your candle cools, you may notice a “well” developing in the center of your candle around your wick. All you need to do is melt a little more wax, add a few more drops of essential oil, and pour it into this well. Depending on how warm or cool your house is, it should take about an hour for the candle to solidify (at least mine did). At this point, you can trim your wick, to about a ¼ of an inch and decorate your jar for gifting.  Voila! They’ll look something like these from the gardentherapy site

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For the balm I mentioned above, aka “unpetroleum jelly,” you can go through the same double-boiler process of melting stuff together, but this time it’s going to be a little bit of wax mixed with your oils and/or butters of preference. This is my recipe:

For 8 ounces of balm:

2 4-ounce jars (like baby food or pimento pepper jars)
1 ounce of beeswax (or soy wax for a vegan balm)
1 ounce of cocoa butter
4 ounces of coconut oil
1 ounce of olive oil
1 ounce of Vitamin E oil
40 drops of your essential oils of choice (I use the same combo as above, but half of each oil)

NOTE:  You can also use shea or mango butter instead of cocoa butter, if you prefer.

Prep your jars…baby food jars are a great size for this product—you will need two. Or if you can find smaller glass “pots” for a purse-sized, use those. Make sure they are clean and dry.

Melt the beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and olive oil together in a double boiler. Once everything is melted, turn the heat off the double boiler, and add the Vitamin E oil and essential oils to the still-hot mixture and blend well.

Pour the mixture into the jars and let solidify.  Decorate the jar to your liking!

BAM!  A second homemade gift item, just like that!

I LOVE this balm. I put it on when I sleep at night and wake up with perfect lips every morning. Do be careful with some essential oils—they can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you use one such essential oil in this balm, be careful not to let your lips get sunburned when you use it outdoors.   Please note that this is going to be more solid than actual petroleum jelly, but it works wonders, I promise.

So, there you have it. Two amazing gifts you can give to friends and family. You can add a store-bought soap (South of France brand is a fave of mine), or a clove-studded orange (which becomes a pomander once it is fully dried), and you have the perfect green and healthy AND homemade gift.

Whew! I think this post might be my longest yet, but it’s so worth it!  Good luck with your crunch-time gift making!

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What Matters Most?

Since we are getting close to the new year, I’m planning my future research and product reviews and wanted to pose to the people: What matters most to you?

I’ve listed the top-ten most common things that crop up as questions regarding the healthful qualities of a better-for-you product.

Please let me know what matters to you and I’ll put those things highest on my list to delve into this coming year.

And thanks in advance for playing along!

The Southern Girl

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Green ‘n Healthy Gift Baskets Ideas – Part 2 (Minty Spicy Delights!)

So, last time I wrote, I recommended a slew of “beach-themed” gift-basket fillers for the person on your gift list who yearns for summertime year round. For something more seasonally appropriate for winter and holidays and warm-feely-good feelings, you might be looking for gifts that have more some traditional fragrances like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mint, or pine. Try some of these green & healthy products for a wintery-basket for those who relish the season of snow!

For some sweet, Christmas-y perfumes, look no farther than Demeter. Demeter makes all kinds of crazy scents that are “at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and…use no artificial color or phthalates or parabens” (from their website). The best-reviewed holiday-themed fragrances are: Egg Nog, Christmas in New York, Cinnamon Toast, or Fraser Fir. They also came out with a Candy Cane Truffle this year. Sounds delish! This is a very affordable perfume line and the fragrances are great for layering. I recommend spraying this perfume on clothing, rather than skin, for a longer-lasting effect. Since Demeter doesn’t use the harmful phthalate-based chemicals, these fragrances do tend to volatilize faster than non-natural perfumes when sprayed directly on the skin.

candy cane truffle

For a good body wash, look for JASON Orange Clove, Cranberry, or Frosted Plum. I’ve seen some combo packs with a natural sponge included for about $6. JASON is a company created and committed to the purpose of providing healthy products based upon scientific knowledge and human-based testing, only. This product is terrifically moisturizing, too, which means it will not only smell great, but also chase away the itchiness of the dreaded winter skin. Hooray!

You might also want to try Nourish Organic’s Spiced Citrus body wash paired with the Spiced Orange Hydrating & Smoothing lotion…these products are certified organic and come highly recommended not only for the lasting and delicious fragrances, but also for the product effectiveness and extremely high standards of purity. Nourish Organic also promises the following: “No parabens. No phthalates. No sulfates, petrochemicals, synthetic dyes, or silicones. No propylene glycol, mineral oils, synthetic dyes, triclosan, EDTA, or aluminum. And absolutely no artificial fragrances or preservatives. Period” (from their website). They are also cruelty free, use recycled packaging, and most products are vegan (except those containing beeswax). They also have several products in Lavender Mint, which is seasonal, but also can be used year-round.

spiced citrus

Everybody knows Aveda, right? They are preferentially featured in fancy hotels and chic hair salons and their Rosemary Mint is a great, greeny-wintery fragrance that works well for men and women. You might be a little reluctant to buy hair products for your giftee because everyone has hair product issues, but you should be fine getting the body lotion and maybe even a bar of soap in the Rosemary Mint. According to their website: “Aveda’s products are formulated without parabens, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfate.” And their “definition of a green ingredient requires that it meet at least one of the following criteria: Be naturally derived, which we define to be those for which more than 50% of the molecule comes from a plant, non-petroleum mineral, water, or some other natural source; be certified organic; and/or be sourced from sustainable or renewable plant-based origins, and does not negatively impact the ecosystems from which they are sourced.” And because they do specialize in hair products, look for the travel-sized sampler—enough to try and still experience the splurge of a special product.

And you might like to try a few things from Love + Toast, which touts its products as having “No parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil, no propylene glycol, no retinol, no synthetic color, never animal tested.” Sounds cool, right?

Wait. I just realized something.

Maybe you’ve noticed a plethora of citrus-y things on this list…It just now occurred to me that “citrus” might not seem Christmas-y to many people. Well, before I recommend yet more citrus for this list, let me explain. When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve, there was always a big church pageant with the kids and a candlelit “Silent Night,” and when we left church all sleepily excited for Santa (yes, the cultural amalgam of religious/secular Christmas was completely, overwhelmingly, and magically confusing), some dear soul at our church passed out mesh stockings full of oranges, grapefruits, apples, uncracked nuts, and hard candy. The smell of those ripe oranges and grapefruits in the midst of the cold, quiet hush before bed has been burned into my olfactory memory forever. Put my grandmother’s orange-spiced tea recipe with that and I’m in Christmas heaven. That’s why oranges and grapefruits equal Christmas. Sorry if it doesn’t for you (but get these things anyway, because hello, they smell delicious!)…

ANYWAY, Love + Toast has a “classic” collection called Mandarin Tea that features a blend of these fragrances: African rooibos, Pomegranate, Neroli, and Orange blossom. YUM. The collection includes one of each: Handcreme, Eau de Parfum, Little Luxe Eau de Parfum, and Vanilla Chai Lip Balm.  They also have a classic scent called “Sugar Grapefruit” that just sounds good enough to eat!  One of their newer fragrances is Persimmon Plum, a wonderful blend of fruity + woodsy that will be sure to remind your giftee of a delicious, juicy winter punch. They have body butter and sugar scrubs among other body care items to choose from. Sounds marvelous!

persimmon plum

And again, fill your basket or stocking with some all-natural extras like a pumice stone or natural-fiber wash cloths, a loofah or a natural-bristle nail brush to round out the gift set.

Next up: MAKE IT YOURSELF! (I promise it’s easy and people will be so impressed)

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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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Only 19 Days ‘Til Christmas! Stocking Stuffers!

I *hope* you have already begun to use more natural products for yourself.  But maybe you are having a hard time convincing others to follow suit.  It can be hard to let go of favorite products and to venture out into the world of reading labels and knowing what to avoid.

So, an easy way to get some people to just *try* something new is to give them a collection of samples or maybe just fill their stockings to the brim with travel-size products.  If the product is a good one, they may just seek it out for that reason, not BECAUSE it’s good for them, just because it’s GOOD!

Try some of these:

Burt’s Bees has some easy to find, inexpensive, and varied sample-size collections.  You can find one for everyone on your list from babies and new moms to teenagers and dads.  If you can’t seem to find one in a store local to you, try their website.  If you go to “Gifts,” you will find “Gift Sets” and also “Travel & Trial,” where there are 21 different products you can buy individually to create your own little sampler.  Fun!

Aubrey Organics has a variety of pre-packaged travel sets for right around $10, which will give someone a good amount to sample.  They have six different collections to address different skin types and conditions.  They also have natural lip balms and 2oz. sizes of some products like the Natural Baby line. 

South of France Soaps is a new and surprising find for me…from their webpage, it says: 

The luxurious South of France® soap is kettle cooked in small batches using a traditional Marseille recipe with all natural vegetable ingredients. Each fragrance is chosen specifically for its cleansing and calming qualities. All South of France® soaps, lotions and body wash are free of sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, EDTA, paraben and phthalates and never tested on animals. As a result of its superior quality and fragrances, South of France has quickly become one of the best selling natural bar soap brands in the United States.

Many of the soaps also indicate they are soy free, gluten free, and vegan.  You can find this soap in various on-line stores, which will probably afford you the best prices.  I found it at World Market on sale 2 for 1.  At $5.99, regularly priced, it is kind of expensive, but the fragrances are really wonderful and the 8 oz. bar seems to be lasting a long time.  They do have a half-size bar that comes in a 2-pack if you can find it, which might make a better stocking stuffer.  But I’d be happy with a big ol’ bar of good smelling soap in my stocking!  With fragrances like Lavender and Tea Tree Sandalwood, even the men in your life will enjoy it. 

And to stick with the idea of soap bars, if you want to try a shampoo bar, look for J.R. Liggett brand.  You can find sample sizes easily online and they even come in a variety of scents…Peppermint is even a seasonal scent that is available!  These are made by hand in small batches with all natural ingredients.  Mr. Liggett, himself, indicates that you don’t even need conditioner with his shampoo bar.  Might try it myself!

Jojoba & Peppermint 3.5 oz.

And a new/old perfumer that is bringing some wholly natural and “mostly” natural options is Demeter.  They have a new line of fragrances called Demeter Naturals, but per their FAQs on their website:  “Demeter Naturals fragrances are completely natural. And while some Demeter Classic fragrances are all natural, we do use some synthetic ingredients in most Classic fragrances. Generally speaking, the ingredients in our fragrances are at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and we use no artificial color or Phthalates or parabens.”  They also conduct no animal testing.  The full size Demeter Natural fragrances (1.7 oz) go for about $30 online, but you can probably find them for less in stores or on sale.  They also have purse-size 0.5 oz sprays that might be better for stockings.  The Vetiver and Mimosa fragrances have gotten pretty good reviews.

So, these are just five ideas, but I hope they lead you to giving your family and friends the gift of healthier and more natural living this year!

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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!

Categories: hair products, perfume | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: hair products | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hoorays, Yays, and Not So Greats

Hello, all!

If you read this blog often, you know my most recent post was the first “real” post since way back in the winter.  Well, what happened was that I had bought a lot of products, but needed to pace myself on actually using them for awhile, finding replacements for the duds, and well, using everything I had bought with all that money before I went to go buy more products.

So, I’m ready now with some new reviews.  My ratings go like this:  Hooray = I”m a FAN and will buy this product as long as they make it!  Yay = it’s good, but there’s some sort of issue, either cost or ingredients or something that hasn’t convinced me not to try something else.  Not So Great =  it might have been a good idea, but definitely not worth buying again.

To start, since the products I tried are quite numerous, a few Hoorays!

Tuscan Blood Orange Spray Perfume

Pacifica perfume sprays, lotions, and candles.  I’ve raved about this product in more than one place online, bought it for my mom and sister-in-law for Christmas, and pretty much wear it everyday.  The body butters are moisturizing without being too greasy and they absolutely smell delicious.  I pretty much replaced my vast collection of perfumes with about 6 different fragrances from this company.  My favorites are Tuscan Blood Orange and Island Vanilla.  Okay, and Malibu Lemon Blossom is a very close third.  This company is committed to only the best and most natural of ingredients, ensuring no pthalates or other “bad for you” chemicals, they do not test on animals, all products are 100% vegan, and by the way, gluten free.  They have some crazy good online specials once a month and can also be easily purchased at Whole Foods, Central Market, and other naturally-minded stores for around $20 for a 1 oz. perfume. They also have yummy all-natural lip balms with shimmer and tints, body wash, bar soap, reed diffusers, and more. I am. in. love. HOORAY!

Shea Moisture body wash – specifically the Coconut & Hibiscus scent…Holy moly, does this product smell so totally yum.  I was so sad that I had to give away all of my moisturizing and bubbly body wash for fear it was full of phthalates and other dubious ingredients.  Bar soap is fine, but it *can* be more drying than other soaps, as we all know.  This brand, Shea Moisture, has a broad variety of products that list all-natural products, fragrance created from essential oils, and promises “no parabens, no phtalates, no paraffin, no formaldehyde, no propylene glycol, no mineral oil, no synthethic fragrance, no animal testing, no PABA, no synthetic color, no DEA, and no animal ingredients.”  Their website is currently down for reconstruction (I imagine it was flooded with fans once their products became so widely available), but you can find their products at reasonable prices at places like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and the like.  They have lots of other scents, and they specialize in hair products for ladies of color (more on this in another blog), so there is something for everyone with this brand.  Again.  Major win!

On a side note, I am impressed with the growing availability of natural products at places like Target and Walmart.  You do need to know where to look, though, because you aren’t necessarily going to find those “good for you” products in the same aisle as similar products.  While I did find the Shea Moisture products above in the usual aisle in Walmart, the Burts Bees, “Yes To” products, and other things like Dr. Bronners are often in a dedicated section of products near either cosmetics (Walmart) or in my local Target, they get their own side of a whole aisle between cosmetics and the pharmacy!  As you can imagine, the selection at Target is pretty extensive if it can fill up a whole aisle.

Next time…the “Yays.”

Categories: perfume | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Deodorant Debate: Spring/Summer Edition

I think it is time to revisit that age old debate…the one about being stinky or not.

For some of you, I will suggest that you have something of an easier task in finding an antiperspirant than my poor, old, sensitive arm-pitted, living in Texas self.  If you don’t have to face 90+ degree weather everyday, there’s that.  If you DO, then you likely have the same debate I have.

So, there was the baking-soda and water spray, which I used for about a month.  And the verdict:  Doesn’t really work on really hot days.  AND, even this water and baking soda formula was too “hot” for my sensitive skin.  I never switched it up with aloe vera or anything more moisturizing, because I discovered I didn’t really like the mess of it…waiting for it to dry and dealing with it dripping everywhere.  Yeah.  Gross.

Lafe’s, which I had also reported on back in December, is still on my counter as an effective back-up for not having something else. It is also water-like in its drippy-ness and needing to dry, and it does contain potassium alum, which contains aluminum. This concerns me for more than one reason, but if you read this article at Mother Nature Network, it seems to suggest that potassium alum isn’t as absorbable as other forms of aluminum commonly found in other deodorants/antiperspirants. And, when you look it up on the Skin Deep Database, it is graded with just a 1. Combine this deodorant with synthetic clothes, however, and it is lacking…at least for me. It does not irritate, my skin, though. So, that’s why it is still on my counter…good enough for most days, but when I have an important event or meeting, I have backup.

I said I would do it, and I did.  I splurged on LaVanila’s Healthy Deodorant.  It cost $18.  That is not a typo, and it isn’t missing a decimal.  I chose the Vanilla Passion Fruit, but I didn’t think it smelled too much like either–it did smell nice, though. Similar to the other natural deodorants, it worked decently with natural fibers and less so with synthetic fibers.  I didn’t notice it feeling wet or sticky, and it was very much like a standard solid deodorant stick, which I personally prefer.  The sad news for me, though, was that something in this “healthy” product was still too strong for my sensitive skin.  My significant other, though, liked it and said he didn’t notice it smelling too girly.  Truth be told, he actually went looking for it when I had misplaced it one morning saying “where is MY deodorant?”  He works construction in the Texas heat, and though he specifically prefers deodorant over anti-perspirant, he was happy with it’s de-stinking abilities.  The major problem, however:  when I told him how much it cost, he was shocked and a little upset that I would spend so much on something like deodorant.  “For this little thing?”  Yeah.  Not worth it for me, but maybe for you, if you don’t mind the expense.

The major disappointment for me was Desert Essence Tea Tree Deodorant.  Now, one of the things that is difficult about blogging about products is that the formulas change, like, almost every day.  I purchased this deodorant around January, but the kind I bought isn’t on the market anymore, unless you happen to find it in store that doesn’t turn over products often.  Anyway, don’t bother.  My main complaint with this product is that it is hard to apply.  It seems more “gluey” and sticky than glidable and applicable.  It just didn’t want to “go on” and maybe that’s why it didn’t work.  Stinky pits by midday.  Like didn’t work at all.  My significant other also gave a thumbs down on this one as “not working.”  Desert Essence has many other fine products, which I totally encourage you to try.  If you are brave, you might even try one of the new formulas of deodorant, but I would honestly try something else. Especially at almost $7 a pop.

And, just one more review that is really more of a “beware.”  In one of those moments where you are at the drugstore at midnight picking up random things you need (like a gallon of milk, tweezers, a birthday card for a co-worker, and deodorant), beware of the “natural-sounding” versions of deodorant that you may find from a reliable-sounding brand.   For example, Sure has made deodorant for decades.  I think some of us might remember commercials that had people dressed in business professional clothing stopping in the middle of a meeting to “raise your hand if you’re sure!” or some such.  Anyway, as it turns out, their recent formulas for just “deodorant” seem fairly mild as far as toxic chemicals go.  The asterisk next to that statement, of course, is the fragrance formula may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates.  Or it may not.  We don’t know.  However, and this is my main point, as odd as it may seem, Sure’s “Natural Extracts” version has a worse ranking than than its regular stuff on the Skin Deep database.  Now, it’s still not that bad, but it has more “non-active” ingredients making up the base of the product, and some of these are considered more toxic than less.  Go figure.

Also, you may think Arm & Hammer’s Essentials Natural Deodorant sounds like it would be pretty awesome.  Well, not only do we not know what is in the fragrance formula, but this version also uses Triclosan, an endocrine disruptor, as an anti-microbial to keep the stink down.  This is definitely something you do not want to put on freshly shaved skin every day, and serves as prime example of “what not to buy” when you are wandering those drugstore aisles too late at night.

Of course, one glaring reality that I have yet to discuss in this blog is the fact that all of these products are delivered in the form of a plastic container of some sort.   Many do not have recycling labels, and many, even if they do have a number on it, aren’t really readily recyclable, because the inner workings or caps are made of different plastic types.  Can you imagine how much plastic goes into landfills just because we feel the need to apply chemicals to our pits so we won’t stink/sweat?

You can, of course, like me, go back to the drawing board, and make your own.  My dear friend, Rebecca (fellow naturalist and good food foodie), swears by a simple powdery mix of baking soda and cornstarch dispensed by a glass spice-shaker…you know the kind they have at pizza parlors for the red pepper flakes?  Just a dusting seems to work for her.  I haven’t tried it yet (I will, I swear), but she smells pretty nice every day, and she even rides her bike to work in the Texas heat!  That sounds like a winning product review to me!

I personally think I am going to return to my original preference and create a spray formula of some sort (alcohol? water? aloe?) that will be scented with essential oils or oil blends that do not contain any crappy chemicals in them.  Hey, it works for me.

I will keep you posted on this on-going debate, but until then,  feel free to share any good finds or recipes that really work.  Any good ideas are welcome here!

Categories: aluminum, deodorant, endocrine disruptors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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