December 27, 2012

Abbey St. Clare Pomegranate Protection Hydrating Mist

Despite being in the middle of a midwest winter, my skin hasn't been needing the heavy duty moisturizers that I had purchased in preparation for the cold. Instead, I've really been loving light moisture sprays like this Pomegranate Protection Hydrating Mist from Abbey St. Clare (see also: my post on Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin). This mist is an extra step up from a basic moisturizer because it is filled with a cocktail of known good-for-skin natural ingredients. To name a few, this spray has MSM, DMAE, Green Tea, Rooibos Tea and Hyaluronate Acid. These are known to treat everything from wrinkles to acne to eczema to scarring. Pretty much any skin issue you can think of, this spray has an ingredient to help. It also happens to be a great makeup setting spray. It prevents makeup from looking too cakey, but leaves an extra smooth and finish that looks and feels natural.

Out of the bottle it smells really nice, like the pomegranate and rose hydrosols it contains. A faint hint of sulfur from the MSM can linger, which isn't ideal, but is never is too bothersome or strong. The product also has a really fast spray pump that takes some practice to get used to. I think it disperses the product into a fine mist, because I've noticed that despite using the product frequently, I haven't gone through that much of it. I also really love the metal bottle. Its sleek and a great alternative to plastic packaging.

Overall, this is a great multitasking product that is perfect to spray on before bed or when setting makeup. It's also nice to have around when I don't feel like putting any effort into skincare; just a couple quick sprays refreshes and treats my skin.

On a sidenote  in my last post, A Beginner's Guide to Healthy Cosmetics, I wrote that one of the advantages of choosing natural brands is that it often means supporting small, female-owned businesses. Abbey St. Clare is a perfect example a small cosmetics company by women, for women! They sell a huge range skincare and makeup items, and you can also check my beauty products Pinterest board for some of the other items I've had my eye on!

Ingredients: Rosa damascena, Santalum album, Lavandula angustifolia, Pelargonium roseum, and Melissa officinalis hydrosols; Extracts of Punica granata (Pomegranate), Camellia sinensis (Green Tea), Aspalathus lineans (Organic Rooibos Tea) Extract, Camellia sinensis (White Tea) Extract, Salix nigra (Black Willowbark); Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Dimethlaminoethanol (DMAE Bitartrate), Hyaluronate Acid, Vitamin E Tocopherol, Potassium sorbate, Sodium citrate, Rosemary verbenon essential oil, Pelargonium graveolens essential oil.

Where to buy: $16.50 at

Disclosure: Product provided by Abbey St. Clare. Opinions are my own. 

December 22, 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Healthy Cosmetics

Tips for buying and transitioning to safer products
I know this is a text heavy post, so for the Cliff Notes version, check the green portion.

I haven't done a post like this in quite a long time, and I wanted to provide some helpful tips for those who are beginners in the healthy and natural beauty world. I have been using natural products for about two and a half years, and and happen to have a little addiction to makeup. I know that making the switch can be very overwhelming at first, but it is also fun and exciting to discover all the great safer brands out there. I wanted to share some of my experiences, and some tips on what to expect for anyone who is just starting out.

First off, when you choose to select products with better ingredients, you won't be buying much from the drugstore or Sephora anymore. There are some exceptions to this, such as select products from Organic Wear by Physicians Formula from the drugstore, and some of the Bare Escentuals products. An important rule of thumb is that just because a company makes some products with acceptable ingredients, does not mean that everything they make does. This holds true for every brand and every website I mention in this post!

So you've cut out your drugstore/Sephora habit. Then where do you go? In general, there are a couple routes. One of the more affordable ways to go is to seek out independent handmade brands that are often sold directly through their own websites or local boutiques and markets. These brands are often sell skincare formulated with natural ingredients and mineral based makeup. This is a wonderful route to go because purchasing from such companies means supporting small, often female owned businesses. Examples of these brands are Silk Naturals, Nessa's Naturals, By Nieves, The All Natural Face, Madison Street BeautyPriia, and Bubble and Bee to name a few. I guarantee there are hundreds more, and I am always discovering new ones.

Now, a second route is to check out some of the many vitamin sites online. From what I gather, vitamins must be a big industry, and many sites that specialize in supplements also carry a large array of more natural products. I'm talking about websites like Vitacost (my favorite), Lucky Vitamin, iHerb and Vitaglo. These sites carry a large variety of products, some truly natural and some more "greenwashed." When shopping on these sites you will need to be discriminating, and also check with the manufacturer, because ingredients lists are not always up to date. However, if you can find the good products, you will score some great deals. These sites carry many of the same products that are sold at Whole Foods, but are almost always at a significant discount. Examples of brands you might find on these sites are Dr. Bronner's, Badger Balm, Acure Organics, Ecco Bella, Heritage Store, Weleda, Dessert Essence, Blum Naturals and Honeybee Gardens.

For skincare, you can also simplify with many of the products sold on these sites. Tons of great natural skincare lines exist, but some of the easiest and most affordable ways to go natural are to use basic ingredients and to make DIY items. Want examples? You can use honey to wash your face. There are a billion and one uses for unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Essential oils can be added to skincare for almost any skin condition imaginable. There is a wide array of carrier oils that are fantastic to moisturize with, and many often work well for particular needs. In fact, there is a blog called Beauty Huile completely devoted to the joys of using oil for skincare. And for more DIY inspiration, check out Crunchy Betty.

Another niche of the natural beauty market are the more luxurious brands sold on high end websites, such as Spirit Beauty Lounge, Charleston Naturally, Nobu Nau, Nature of Beauty and the naturals section of Dermstore.comThese stores carry many brands that have beautiful packaging and a higher price tag. This often corresponds to great ingredients and performance, but is absolutely not always true. Some of the brands you will find on these sites are Vapour Beauty, rms beauty, Ilia, Intelligent Nutrients, Revolution Organics, 100% Pure, Alima Pure, Jane Iredale, Juice Beauty and Dr. Hauschka.

Now, you have some ideas of where to look for products, but the work is not done yet. How do you select what products are the cleanest within these stores? My basic tip is this: learning the ingredients you want in your products is just as important, if not more important than learning what you don't want. For example, many people decided to avoid parabens, and seek out paraben free products. The issue with this is that there are many ingredients just as questionable, and often times brands replace parabens with other preservatives that are no better. Can you see how it is problematic when you are only scanning ingredients list for what to avoid? 

Instead of only checking lists for you don't want in your products, look at what is there and see if its something you want to use. Some of the things you will want to see are natural oils and waxes, plant extracts, and minerals (iron oxides, for example). Remember that INCI ingredients listed in their Latin names, so while simmondsia chinensis or olea europaea might sound a bit scary, this is the way jojoba oil or olive oil will be written on a label. Also, ingredients are listed on labels in order of their composition in the product (most to least), so you especially want the first ones you read to be beneficial.

The EWG Skin Deep database is a great way to start learning about ingredients, but you will soon find that finding healthy products is more nuanced than any numbering system can explain. Many have pointed out how some ingredients will get very high scores despite being relatively safe, while other chemicals that are concerning can get very low scores. As with many things in life, black and white thinking will not lead you in the right direction

Toxicity is related to dose and exposure, so you want to take this into account when selecting what products to buy and use and which ones to discard of. Consider how frequently you use a product  or are "exposed" to it.  Is it more important to chuck that bold eyeshadow you save for special occasions, or a moisturizer you apply all over your face twice a day? Make ingredients a high priority for the products you use heavily, and also consider what makes you happy. If you are really in love with that drugstore or high end lipstick you save for special occasions, don't throw it out — I certainly didn't.

Lastly, remember that every person has their own standards that they hold products to. What's not clean enough for one person may be fine for another. As long as people are making informed decisions, I am happy. We also have a great supportive community on blogs, twitter, YouTube and Facebook that are full of information, and are always willing to answer questions.

So that brings me to the end of this post. Switching to healthier products can be daunting, but it is absolutely doable. I absolutely love hunting around for products that have great ingredients and work well. I am a firm believer that you do not have to sacrifice performance of products when you make the switch.

With that said, if you are a veteran healthy beauty aficionado, what types of tips do you have for beginners? If you are new to healthy cosmetics, what questions do you have?

Disclosure: Some links are be affiliate. (Bubble and Bee, Vitacost, iHerb, Lucky Vitamin,, Spirit Beauty Lounge)
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