Saturday, 10 December 2011

Winter Lip Saviours: Hurraw! Lip Balms

It is that time of year again (if you live in the northern hemisphere): cracked and dry lips due to cold, wind and general weather nastiness!
I have never been a fan of lipbalms: to me they taste strange, make my hair stick to my lips and their smells could be over-powering.  Also, if you get a tube lip balm, they always roll off the table somewhere and take a journey of their own...
That was all till I had particularly dry lips this winter. I saw my friend use this strange-looking, slightly squashed red tube of Hurraw! lip balm in Black Cherry. I borrowed it for a couple of sweeps, and was hooked! 
The lip balm made my lips soft and moisturized, completely got rid of dryness and cracked feeling. And importantly it improved the conditions of my lips in the long term, not just for a few minutes, which often happens with lip balms, and actually makes you crave them more. 
In addition to being great at nourishing lips the Black Cherry balm is an amazing subtle red tint, adding a healthy colour and glow to your lips without being over-powering. The colour is achieved by adding the alkanet infusion to the balm.  And of course, the balms are all-natural, vegan,  raw and contain organic components! Here is the list of ingredients:

***Alkanna tinctoria (alkanet root)  infused *Prunus dulcis (sweet almond) oil; ***Euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax; **Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, *Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) oil, **Theobroma cacao (cocoa) butter, *Ricinus communis (castor) oil, *Olea europaea (olive) oil,  organic black cherry flavor; Tocopherols (vitamin e)
*cold pressed / organic  **raw & organic ***wildcrafted

Hurraw lip balms are available in a great many flavours and colours. The Black Cherry and Cinnamon balms are tinted, while most of the others are not, so you can choose what suits you. Conclusion: highly recommended for winter... and it won't roll of your desk!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Interview with Steffany Boldrini from Ecobold

This is the first (hopefully) in a series of interviews of lovely people who dedicate their lives to creating or distributing natural and safe products. Steffany Boldrini, the CEO of Ecobold has kindly spent time to answer my questions!

We may know that we want green and natural products, but the question is where does one find them, and if you are making such products, where does one sell them? That is where Ecobold comes in: it is a US-based market place for people to buy and sell natural, green and non-toxic products. Ecobold currently has over 3,000 products from over 130 sellers and is growing fast! You can find anything green on it: products in categories like skincare, cleaning products, books, gardening, food and much much more! It is a great way to shop for everything green under one online roof. At the same time it is great for manufacturers to have such a website where they can present their products. If someone wants to sell their product on Ecobold, it undergoes thorough checks to ensure that it meets all the health and environmental requirements. Ecobold team consists of experts on green and non-toxic products, who do research, investigate the ingredients and also provide the very handy video reviews of different products to educate the customer. Ecobold was founded by Steffany Boldrini, who I have the pleasure of asking a few questions about her experience with her business as well as green products.  

Steffany Boldrini
Hi Steffany, thank you for taking time to do an interview for Core Beauty. How did you come about in being interested in green and non-toxic products and wanted to make this your job? 
The person who influenced me the most has been my mom, she always made sure that we read the ingredients of the food we buy and she keeps feeding me information on why our products are much safer for our health than convenient products out there. The most amazing part of all this is that even if you pay 10% more for a non-toxic product, it ends up being much cheaper than the pain you might go through when they get all kinds of diseases that ingredients in “bad” products can cause. Plus the vast majority of the products on our site have a price that’s the same, if not cheaper, than conventional products!  
How was the idea for Ecobold born? 
Ecobold was born out of my personal mission to teach people how to shop better, I initially wanted to be a consultant and go to people’s houses, wipe out all nasty products, go to the grocery store with them and teach how to shop better. Later I decided that the one-on-one basis of consulting wouldn’t make such a big impact as having something where everyone could access online. Helping manufacturers of these awesome products sell online was also another driver to make the switch.  
What was the process of setting up your own business like? 
Setting it up wasn’t the hardest part, the hard part is getting the word out to the people who care and have them come back for more, a.k.a. marketing!  
What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced in developing Ecobold?  
Everyday there is a different challenge! In the beginning it was finding the right co-founder, then it was launching, and now we are in the process of looking for investment - the hardest part at this time.  
What was the most difficult thing about switching to non-toxic products? Were there some products that you found most difficult to find a natural substitute for? 
It’s actually not hard at all. If you look you’ll find that there’s a safe alternative for almost everything you use: lipstick, makeup, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, cleanser, body lotion, perfume, anti-aging lotions, and the list goes on and on. There are a few products that I still sin with because I haven’t found an alternative that works yet: nail polish, nail polish remover, deodorant and the things that my hairdresser users for my highlights – that’s it!  
Can tell us about your favourite natural skincare and cosmetics brands?  
There are so many good ones out there, it’s hard to choose! I’ve used these serums before, gave to friends and family and we all love them: I also can’t wait to try this makeup and lipsticks: For soaps, I love these: and http://  
What is the morning skincare routine of the Ecobold’s CEO?  
Wash my face with water, spray a fruit mist that my mom gave me the other day, put on my mineral makeup and I’m out the door! I also sometimes I use olive oil around my eyes which I heard works really well for a beautiful skin.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

John Masters Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo

Well, as some of you may have noticed I have not done a post in a little while... The reasons are the same as always: work, general business etc. etc... But now I am back! I have not been completely out of the natural and organic loop, as during this time I have tried and used various interesting natural products which I will now be reviewing.
I thought I'd start with a review of a natural shapoo. It seems to be quite a basic part of the personal care regime, and some may be surprised that I have not done review of a natural shampoo already. The reason for that is that until now I have not used a natural shampoo that I was satisfied with. That changed after I tried the John Masters Organics Bare Unscented shampoo.
I have gone on about John Masters as a brand, and my other favourite of their products (and perhaps of all products in the world!) the Blood Orange and Vanilla body wash here
As the name of the shampoo suggests, it was created for someone who is not so keen or is allergic to overly-fragranced (even if natural) products. I am not such a person, I just wanted to try it as all the other shampoos did not really fit my hair description. The biggest difficulty with natural shampoos that many of you may have experienced is that it is hard to find one that actually cleans hair thoroughly, without leaving that slightly oily residue at the back of your head. The JM shampoo came the closest at giving me a fresh and clean feeling after washing my hair. I won't lie, it is not exactly the same as if I washed my hair with a  'dirty' shampoo, but the difference is really negligible. I am prepared for this in order to avoid the nasty chemicals in other shampoos. But that said, JM shampoo was significantly better at giving me a clean hair feeling compared to some other naturals that I have tried. After blow drying, my hair was soft and full of volume, which I really like, it was not weighted down at all. 
The shampoo contains organic extracts of chamomile, white tea and jojoba in order to gently cleanse the hair. In addition it contains wheat amino acids that add shine and smoothness, and evening primrose to nourish and moisturize hair. 
It is suitable for all hair types, which I liked a lot. I have relatively normal, quite fine brown hair with a tendency to become greasy in a couple of days, and this shampoo has been great at cleaning and nourishing hair and scalp, without over-stripping. 
In all honesty, you have to give a natural shampoo a few tries, before you make a decision about whether or not it is suitable for you. If you judge it from the first wash, you will be putting lots of bottles in the bin. Give it a few washes and see your hair and scalp adapt to a more gentle, less harsh shampoo, and if you are looking for one, I would highly recommend the JM Bare Unscented shampoo! 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Skincare Chemicals to Avoid: 1,4-Dioxane


I dont know if anyone has noticed, but it has been a little while since my last post on the nasty chemicals we should try to avoid in skincare. So lets try to take a peek into what is really going on in our products behind the branded facade.
Today's victim is 1,4-Dioxane, a clear liquid that dissolves in water. It is usually used as a solvent in chemical processing. For example, it is used in things like adhesives, cleaning and detergent preparations, varnishes, polishing compositions, and after all this it is also used (wait for it!...) in cosmetics and deodorant fumigants. 
People can be exposed to this chemical through inhalation, oral (food/water consumption) and dermal contact through the use of contaminated products such as cosmetics or shampoo. 
1,4-Dioxane is considered to be a probable human cancerogen. It has been shown to easily penetrate skin. In addition, 1,4-Dioxane is listed as an animal cancerogen by the National Toxicology Program. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics highlights that perhaps using one contaminated product once in a while may not cause serious harm, but considering how many products we use each day and every day, it all adds up... 
You may think: well that does not sound very pleasant, I shall avoid it! The problem is that 1,4 Dioxane is actually a by-product, it is formed as an impurity in the manufacture process of alkyl ether sulfates or other ethoxylated substances used in products like cosmetics, detergents and shampoos. The process of ethoxylation involves adding ethylene oxide (a known canerogen!) to other chemicals in the product to make them less harsh. The funny thing is that because it is a contaminant by-product, 1,4-Dioxane does not have to be listed on the ingredients list, so it is quite hard to know whether it is present or not. In terms of personal care products, it is reported that it is likely to be present in products that create suds, like shampoo, bubble bath and some soaps. It is reported that high percentages of all products from these categories contain 1,4-Dioxane. Horrifyingly, an independent test in 2007 revealed that many popular brands of children's bubble bath and body wash contained the chemical. 
It is possible for companies not to produce 1,4-Dioxane. For example, they can vacuum-strip it from the ethoxylated product or just not do the ethoxylation process by using non-harsh ingredients from the start. It is not allowed to ethoxylate under organic standards. So if you purchase a certified organic product, it should be safe to know that it does not contain 1,4-Dioxane. It is also possible to search for products that contain no known impurities on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Lip Colour Variations: RMS and Ilia Beauty

I found that the most difficult thing about getting new natural and organic products instead of the 'dirty' ones is that many of the brands are only available online. So, that makes  it a bit difficult in deciding on the right consistency of a cream, but even more difficult in deciding on the suitable colour when buying make-up. 
So I decided to do a little post on the colours of my favourite brands, RMS beauty and Ilia

RMS beauty Lip2Cheek:
I was in love with RMS Lip2Cheek in Modest for a while now. I was not too afraid of buying it online, as it seemed a soft dark pink colour that would suit pretty much everyone. I was however quite intrigued by their Rapture colour, it seemed to be an intense, dark, almost brick-red colour. But how can you  be sure, and how will it look on you? I got a sample of Rapture, and it is truly a very deep dark red colour. Initially I thought I would not be able to wear it. What is good about RMS products however, is that you can play around with how much you put on. With Rapture, you can dab a tiny amount on your lips and it will give life and warmth to your lips, apply another sweep and you will get deep, dark red evening look. 
Then I thought, well I really like Modest, but sometimes it would be nice to add more depth to it. Easy! Just add/mix up Modest with Rapture (depending on what effect you would like to create). Here I have a photo of Rapture on its own at the top, followed by Modest, and then about 50/50 mix of the two:

RMS Lip2Cheek in Rapture, Modest and mix of the two

No matter how hard I try to get an accurate picture of the real colours it never looks quite right. This is as close as I could get it. It does look similar, maybe Rapture is a little more brick-red and Modest is a little bit more 'dark pink'. 
If you are more interested in a lighter, more pinky and less intense lip colour, check out the lovely RMS lip shine in Bloom: gives your lips a little bit of a sheer pinky glow:
RMS Lip Shine in Bloom

Ilia Lipsticks
Finally, if you are looking for a real wonder-product, check out Ilia lipsticks. One sweep gives you a little bit of colour,  while moisturizing and nourishing your lips. And a few more sweeps provide an intense and beautiful stain. I have Ilia in Bang Bang, and when you open it it is bright red. I put one layer on in the day just to moisturize my lips, and then if I want more colour, just sweep some more on! So, it is a moisturizing lip tint and a proper red lipstick all in one!
Ilia in Bang Bang
The above colours show the difference between just one sweep (above) and a few. The real colour is a little bit more scarlet red than what it came out on the picture. I hope it was useful anyhow, despite all the 'but the real colour looks more...'.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Apodea Body Emulsion for overall skin softness

Apodea Organics is an Italian brand of natural high-quality products that combine many  active ingredients: honey and propolis are important components of the line. The company was founded by the Rossi family, who started the line with the now best-selling propolis balm. They then extended their  line and developed more products that contained their key ingredients: honey, propolis and beeswax mixed up with a selection of other lovely natural ingredients. Propolis and honey have well-known moisturizing, anticeptic and healing properties. Most of the bee-produced ingredients of the products are made on Apodea farm in Umbria, Italy. The bees are truly looked after: they fly freely around the wild plants, no harmful pesticides are used on the farm, bees wings are not clipped and they are never fed with sugar solution. 
All Apodea products are free from GMOs, synthetic fragrances and colouring, propellants and are never tested on animals. The whole range is approved by Detemer International certification, which have a separate certification for bee-based products. They provide stringent guidelines about how the bees must be kept and how the products must be made. For example, it prohibits wing clipping of bees, the wax cannot come in contact with any thinners or solvents etc, honey extraction must not exceed 35 C, any pollen substitutes are forbidden... and these are just a few examples of the strict rules that apply!

Apodea was kind enough to send me a full-sized bottle (125 ml) of their Body Emulsion. Upon opening the package I found the lovely matte glass bottle with a pump. It came at a really good time, as I was out of body moisturizer. As advised, I have been using the emulsion on slightly damp skin after a shower, and I must admit the result has been fantastic. The cream is dark creamy-yellowy colour and is quite light, not super rich. You need to rub it around for a bit for it to get fully absorbed, but it does not take long at all. I usually have normal skin, but perhaps due to approaching winter, central heating etc, my skin was on the dry side the last few weeks. In all honesty I was very impressed by how it performed: my skin was silky smooth and soft. I especially liked applying it to my hands, they became deliciously soft! I would not say that the emulsion has a strong aroma: it has a subtle smell of healthy propolis/honey balanced by other ingredients with an addition Sicilian lemon oil. It does leave a pleasant scent on your skin, not over-powering at all, and I really liked it: smelt very natural. 
Overall, I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with this delicious body emulsion. It is suitable for all skin types: not too rich for oilier skin, but fantastically moisturizing, enough for dry skin. I am now very keen to try out their other products, I think their best-selling propolis balm will be my first purchase! Apodea Organics can be ordered from

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Antipodes Organic Avocado oil & Rosehip

As you may know, I think avocados are absolutely amazing for overall health and skin. I included them in my post about food for skin, and my favourite moisturizer is Pai's Avocado and Jojoba cream for normal skin. However, even though avocados contain healthy Omegas, great antioxidant properties and Vitamins A, D and E, it is not that easy to find a skin product based on avocado.
So, I was thrilled to see a lovely natural brand Antipodes have a few avocado-based products. There were very kind to send me a full-sized Avocado oil and Rosehip to try out and review. I was delighted to see a company use the full potential of avocado oil in its pure and unchanged form and have now been using it for over two weeks. Before I go into the details of this product, let's hear a little bit about the company itself. 
Antipodes is a company from New Zealand. They carefully select and use the bioactive native plant extracts for their skincare. Their products are certified organic with AsureQuality Ltd, which is the leading provider of food safety and bio-security in the southern hemisphere. As we know, it is important to know the standards of each certifying body. For a product to be certified organic by AssureQuality, it has to contain 100% natural ingredients, and 70-95% of them have to be organic, with strict criteria on all the remaining ingredients. The thing I was most impressed with in Antipodes products is their ingredients lists. Yes, it is important that they are organic and natural. But what sets it apart from others further is the interesting, exotic and exciting ingredients combinations that the company formulates. For example, the use of avocado oil is present in great many of their products. It is anti-aging, rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and mega-hydrating. They further use interesting and unusual ingredients in their skincare, such as vinanza grape (improves skin elasticity), kiwi seed (tissue repair & hydration), manuka honey (anti-wrinkle), totara (great anti-bacterial activity), kowhai flower (moisturizing), chamomile, carrot seed among many impressive others!
I used the Divine Avocado Oil & Rosehip for about 2 weeks, mostly in the evenings after cleaning my face and before moisturizing, you just need a couple of drops for the whole face. It has been amazing for my normal skin. The oil is light yellow colour, does not have a strong scent. It consists of a combination of pure avocado, macadamia, jojoba, rosehip, jasmine, and orange oils. The combination of these oils is said to be collagen-boosting, helping to reduce appearance of lines, and scars. It is also recommended for blemishes and sun-damage.  Since using the oil my skin appears more fresh and glowing, even when tired. It feels like you are feeding your skin when using this oil. I have noticed that even if blemishes broke out, using the oil made them heal and disapear much quicker. Even though this oil is suitable for all skin types, I think it would also be especially great for dry skin, as it is very moisturizing and nourishing. Overall, I found this a great oil to use in addition to a moisturizer to give the skin that extra nourishment,  particularly great for the coming winter! 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Multitask! RMS raw coconut cream

Did you ever wish that you would not need so many products in your barthroom cabinet? No separate bottle for a moisturizer, one for body cream, one for make-up remover, one for eye make-up remover and so on... it could just go on forever.
Well, not sure if it can substitute absolutely everything, but RMS raw coconut cream can definitely free up quite a bit of space! As you may know already, Rose-Marie Swift, creator of RMS beauty, developed her make up range to create non-toxic, natural, organic, raw products. Keeping ingredients raw is very important, it means that the precious ingredients such as plant oils are cold-pressed and never heat- or chemical-treated. I went on about the magic Un-cover up (concealer/foundation in a little pot that lasts months and months) and the amazingly natural Lip2Cheek colours here.
The raw coconut oil comes in a lovely matte white jar, in the style of all other RMS products: simple, no loud and bright labels. The consistency of the oil changes with temperature. It is in quite hard form at cool room temperature and below. When it is like that you kind of have to scrape it out with your fingers, and it will melt between your fingers. As it is cold in my house all the time, whatever the weather outside, I usually have the oil in this shape. However, in the summer I went to a warmer climate (which incidentally was in a more northern place) and the coconut cream did become liquid. It is advised that if it melts you can pop it in the fridge, but I actually found it easier using it in a more liquid form. 
So, what is so great about coconut oil? Well, as I mentioned in my healthy oils post, coconut oil is very moisturizing, and very easily absorbed through skin, therefore not leaving a oily residue. It is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, which makes it great for acne-prone skin. 
Now the uses of coconut oil: there are so many! My favourite use of the oil is for make up removal. The great thing is that you can use in on eyes as well, it is gentle but effective enough to remove all make up and dirt. I just melt a bit on my fingers, and rub it around my face and them remove it with a cotton pad. Coconut oil is a great moisturizer, especially for dry patches, like elbows, heels and legs. It can be used as a hair treatment: put some oil on the ends, leave for 30 mins or overnight and wash out; result: beautiful moisturized hair. Some report coconut oil being used as a deodorant too. In addition it can be used as a eye cream, massage oil, lip balm, hair gel/style, to relieve skin problems such as psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema, acne treatment, for healing of scars, treatment of bug bites... And unlike some other oils it smells absolutely delicious! Not bad for one little pot?!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Tata Glow

I have recently been sent a sample of Tata Harper Rebuilding Mosturizer with my previous purchases at Being Content in London. It was a little pot, although somewhat bigger than other samples I've had. I wanted to give this cream a try as the lovely and small yellow-green tubes caught my eye. I did not have high expectations, as I thought, what could be new?
Well, I have to admit, hands down I have not been so impressed with a beauty product in a long long time! I have been using the small pot for about 5 days now, and still have some left! 
In all seriousness, after a day of using the moisturizer, my skin, which had a rough patch last week, was looking glowing! I don't think I ever had that before. The moisturizer is dark creamy colour, not too think, just glides on your skin, and literally soaks in, without leaving a residue or leaving your skin wanting more. The fact that I needed the tiniest amount of cream for my whole face shows just how concentrated the product is. That took my worry about the small size of their product bottles far far away. I've read some reviews on the internet saying that the aroma of the product (made from natural oils and extracts) was over-powering, but I did not find this to be so at all. It has a light refreshing natural scent. The product is 70.23% EcoCert certified organic, 100% natural. It includes some delicious ingredients such as mango butter, aloe leaf juice, calendula flower, rose water, willow bark extract, alfalfa flower, borage flower, witch hazel among many others. 
Tata Harper realized the potential harm of nasty chemicals in our everyday skincare after her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, and his doctor gave him instructions not to use most of his existing products due to their chemical content. So, that was how the idea for creating a natural luxury line was born. Tata grows many of her ingredients right on her 1,200 acre farm in Vermont, where everything is handpicked and the products are made on site in small batches to keep things fresh and natural. All of the work on the products, including formulation, packaging, marketing and distribution are carried out in-house, which is so rare these days, even for a natural brand. The aim of the line was to make a luxury skincare brand which is also 100% natural and non-toxic, so that women do not have to sacrifice their health to have beautiful youthful skin. 
Tata carried out research on the ingredients for 5 years before launching the line. She traveled around the world meeting world's best botanists, chemists and different experts. Through her quest she collected some of the most exquisite and beneficial ingredients the earth has to offer to develop the brand's own formulations from scratch. 
The line consists of Regenerating cleanser, Replenishing cleanser, Refreshing cleanser Hydrating Floral Essence, Rebuilding moisturizer, Repairative moisturizer, Rejuvenating serum, Resurfacing mask, Restorative Eye cream, Revitalizing Body oil, Strengthening body lotion and some aromatic treatments. I would really love to try out the face mask and one of the cleansers.
In some ways unfortunately, these lovely products come with a rather high price tag. For example, the moisturizer that I tried  out costs £80. Of course it is really expensive, but no one would think of accusing La Prairie for making their products expensive, because they are a well-known luxury brand. But Tata Harper is also a luxury brand, as to use handpicked, home grown exquisite ingredients costs money, there is no other way around it. So if you are looking for an amazing natural product that delivers, and can afford it, I think these products can definitely deliver the promised Tata Glow

My little sample

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Male Grooming... Naturally!

At times it can feel like beauty blogs and articles often neglect the male population. I believe that green and organic products should be present in everyone's bathroom cabinets, gentlemen included. It may sometimes not appear so, but men use quite a few skincare/grooming products, most of which can include some nasty chemicals that can be substituted with just as effective and lovely-(masculine)-smelling natural products. If you are one of the people who think that you do not use any grooming stuff, lets count: shower gel, shampoo, shaving cream and deodorant are usually a must? Then we have more optional aftershave, hair gel, and maybe moisturizer? They all add up, and as we know, what we put on our skin soaks in, and therefore it's better to step towards natural and organic products. In this post I wanted to put together a few options for a typical male grooming routine, to give gentlemen some ideas for swapping their dirty products for clean and natural ones! Let's start:

Shower Gel
This one is quite easy. There are numerous clean body washes that are formulated for men. For example, if you want to avoid strong flowery smells or smells altogether, a great option would be the Bare Unscented Body Wash by John Masters Organics. With different natural hydrating and cleansing ingredients, this body wash will be great to clean up without over-powering aromas. 
If you like a stronger, more masculine smell, there is special range by Organic Homme, with its Cool Style Body Wash. It contains mild foaming agents from coconut and corn, and is very revitalizing and refreshing, making it a great body wash to wake up in the morning or revitalize after sport. At the same time it is moisturizing and suitable for people with eczema, psoriasis and skin blemishes. It is certified organic with EcoCert. 

Similarly, John Masters has a few great shampoos that are fairly gender-neutral. The brand uses certified organic ingredients wherever possible, and avoids using parabens, or any other harsh synthetic chemicals. You would need to choose a shampoo for your own hair type. There is the Unscented Shampoo suitable for every hair type, Zinc and Sage Shampoo with Conditioner, Lavender and Rosemary for normal hair and Evening Primrose for dry hair. 
Organic Homme also do shampoos, and have a certified organic Itch Away Shampoo formulated for itchy, flaky and irritated scalps. 
Lavera, another great natural brand, includes a Men Care Shower Shampoo with mild coconut and sugar based washing ingredients. It has a gentle revitalizing natural citrus fruit and tea tree fragrance. 

This bit can be quite tricky. This product may be the hardest to find a good natural substitute for. My male guinea pig of the house has been asked to try out the Stay Fresh Deodorant by Organic Homme, and he admits he loves it. He has used up one bottle completely and now starting on the second one. For a person who works and moves around a lot, I can testify that there have been no unpleasant odours whatsoever. The deodorant has a lovely natural woody scent. 
In addition, my favourite natural deodorant by Soapwalla Kitchen has a light fresh scent, so it can easily be used by both men and women. Read full review here. 

Shaving Cream
Shaving may be an everyday routine for many men, but it is nevertheless a stressful process for the skin, often causing dryness and irritation. That's why it is important to ensure the shaving product is as moisturizing and nourishing as possible. A New Zealand brand Living Nature have a Soothing Shaving Cream, which is suitable for the most sensitive skin, ensuring a gentle yet still effective shave. The difference with the natural products is that they foam much less (if at all), but it is simply something to get used to after a couple of uses.
Lavera do a moisturizing and nourishing shaving cream for men. It is full of natural herbal ingredients such as witch hazel and calendula to calm the skin. It also has a gentle refreshing citruicy aroma. 
Spiezia Organics, a 100% certified organic company, have a shaving oil. This multi-tasking product can be used during, or after shaving. It contains moisturizing jojoba oil as well as cypress and frankincense essential oils, which all help to protect against shaving rashes. Using the oil pre-shave softens bristles. 

Men's skin suffers from occasional or everyday shaving, and so it is good to moisturize to re-hydrate and revitalize the skin. There are great many moisturizers that are especially formulated for men on the natural market. 
If you are looking for something very nourishing and anti-aging, La Creme de l'Homme by Absolution is a wonder. It contains bamboo and baobab seeds, which contain numerous fatty acids, as well as toning ginseng, nourishing jojoba and olive oils. 
Live Native have a great balm called Head to Toe for Men, which is great for after-shave moisturizing as it is nutrient-rich. It is a great multi-tasking product, as it can also be applied as a hair gel/hold. 
Both Lavera and Organic Homme have great moisturizers too, and at a cheaper price than the two mentioned above.
But a great moisturizer does not have to have 'men' written on it. My favourite moisturizers by Pai are very nourishing, and can easily be used by men too: avocado for normal skin, rosehip for super-sensitive (and great for after shaving) and macambia & rose for dry/mature skin. 

Hair products
There are various hair gels/holds that are just as effective as a natural, chemical-free product that you have been used to. And overall better for your hair and scalp health as well. John Masters Organics has a wide range of various hair holds. Intelligent nutrients is another brand specializing in different hair products. Have a look and pick one that suits your needs, there is plenty to choose from! 

Monday, 19 September 2011

John Masters Organics Body Wash

In all seriousness I have to say that the Blood Orange and Vanilla (how great does this sound?) Body wash by John Masters Organics is the most delicious skincare product I have smelt in ages! The bitter/sweet/sour scent of orange is balanced beautifully with the gentle and sweet scent of vanilla. The two blend together, so the overall aroma of the body wash is neither too citruicy nor overly sweet.

The brand was started by its creator,  John Masters, a successful hairdresser, over 20 years ago. Through his work in prestigious US hair salons, John started to realize the potential harm of all the chemicals used in hairdressing on an everyday basis. His aim was to create a brand that used natural and organic ingredients, avoiding harsh chemicals, but without compromising on the quality of product. In fact, it was considered that using natural ingredients will only improve the function of the products, as cheap and low quality synthetic ingredients will be replaced with natural high quality ones. And that was how John Masters Organics was born. The brand's organic ingredients are certified by EcoCert, and it has the following guidelines for what is included in the products:
1. No sodium laurel sulfate, parabens, DEAs, MEAs, or TEAs
2. No GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism)
3. No petro-chemicals
4. No animal testing
5. No artificial colors, fragrances or fillers
6. Ingredients must be as organic as possible
7. All plant extracts and essential oils must be certified organic whenever possible
8. All essential oils used must be steam-distilled and not extracted with propylene glycol - which kills the effect of the oils
9. All plant oils must be cold pressed, not heat distilled - which kills the therapeutic properties of plant oils
10. All ingredients must be proven to be beneficial to the hair or skin
11. All ingredients must be harvested in an environmentally-friendly manner (wild-crafted)
12. All ingredients must be bio-degradable as possible
13. Fair-Trade ingredients must be used when possible
The body wash lathers up into a luxurious foam (John Masters only use mild surfactants from corn and coconut). It washes out the dirt without over-stripping the skin. Although it smells delicious, the aroma does not linger on the skin, so it will not interfere with your perfume. However, if you love it, and want to smell of it all day long, you can use the body wash in combination with the Blood Orange & Vanilla body cream, which will leave your skin soft, smooth and smelling delicious... naturally!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Skincare Chemicals to Avoid: Fragrance

It has been a while since I did my last post on Skincare Chemicals to Avoid here, and thought it was time to expose another nasty chemical hiding in our everyday skincare routines. Today I will be discussing something (seemingly) without a scary chemical name, something that sounds so everyday and even lovely: Fragrance
Fragrance in our skincare is also referred to as parfum or perfume, again not sounding so scary. What is scary however, is that because of trade secret laws, the manufacturers are not required to disclose what exactly hides behind this 'fragrance' term. Fragrance is added to a product to give it a unique and pleasant aroma. However, it could be anything from essential oils (relatively harmless, but nevertheless can be skin irritants, and a person needs to know if a specific oil is present if they are allergic to it) to much nastier things that may have nothing to do with scent, such as preservatives and phthalates. In fact, manufacturers are allowed to cover over 200 chemicals behind 'fragrance'. It can be seen as a special dark box where manufacturers can hide potentially harmful and controversial ingredients, without having to disclose them.
The advice I myself follow is to avoid any product that simply states 'fragrance' or 'parfum' without disclosing what it consists of. This may be especially important for people with sensitive skin, there is a higher risk of something hiding behind the term that may be a skin irritant. Overall it seems that as consumers, we should be entitled to know exactly what goes in the product that we put on our skin that will get soaked into our system. So, no mystery fragrances for me please, no matter how lovely they may smell. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Tea for Skin

 Since some food for skin has already been covered here, I thought the natural progression would be to write about drink for skin. Herbal teas and blends have been used for centuries to improve people's health and subsequently skin conditions. 

Green Tea
Green tea is made from Chinese Camellia sinensis plant leaves. Main benefits of green tea boil down to its antioxidant properties. This helps getting rid of free radicals  in our bodies that can lead to premature aging of the skin. Green tea is particularly rich in an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This powerful antioxidant has been shown to help lower cholesterol, and even to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.  
The processing of green tea leaves sets it apart from other teas that come from the same camellia sinensis plant (black tea, oolong tea). The fact is, the leaves that make up green tea are steam-treated, which preserves the EGCG antioxidant's properties, unlike black tea, where the leaves are fermented. Fermentation results in EGCG being broken down into other compounds, which are not as effective as EGCG in its original form. 
Green tea is great for clear and healthy skin not only because of antioxidants, but also due to its antibacterial properties. Green tea helps fight bacteria, which was found be great in decreasing inflammation of acne, and even fighting gum disease.  
Green tea has lovely gentle taste, which most people can enjoy. There are many varieties of green tea, it is possible to enjoy it with various flavours such as lemon, jasmine and elderflower to name a few. 

Rosehip Tea
Rosehip tea is made from the pods that form at the base of rose flower. One of the most well-known health properties of rosehip tea is its high content of Vitamin C. There is about 1.7 grams of Vitamin C in 100 grams of rosehips, which is far greater that in an orange. The high content of of Vitamin C makes it a great warm drink to fight off colds and flu. 
Apart from Vitamin C, rosehip tea also contains many other vitamins, such as A, B, E and K. Rosehip tea is known to combat many internal infections, and help flushing out the kidneys and the urinary tract. In addition, rosehip tea contains minerals, tannins, pectin and beta-carotene. All of these lovely ingredients make rosehip tea so effective in preventing and fighting off infections and inflammations. For example, pectine is known to bind waste such as various fats and cholesterol in the intestines, before they are absorbed in the blood, aiding their removal from the body. 
Rosehip tea is of beautiful ruby-red colour and has a tingly sour taste, which nevertheless is very enjoyable and can always be sweetened with some honey. 

Dandelion Tea
Yes, dandelions are those annoying plants that everyone tries to get rid of in their garden. However, the great benefits of dandelion tea are slowly but surely becoming known. The leaves and roots of the plants are known to contain vitamins A, C, D and B complex, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and calcium. 
 Dandelion tea helps to reduce inflammation and to reduce high cholesterol. It is great for detoxing your system, cleansing the liver, which in turn produces better blood circulation. Because of all of these benefits, dandelion tea helps cleanse the complexion, improving skin clarity. 

Nettle Tea
This tea comes from that annoying plant all of us probably had the misfortune of brushing against in the country or a park. However, the nettle herb has numerous health benefits beneath its stinging surface. 
Nettle tea can be made from the whole of nettle plants: roots, stems and leaves, meaning nothing goes to waste! Nettle tea leaves are super rich in Vitamins A, B1, B5, C, D, and K as well as iron, potassium, calcium, zinc and magenesium.  All of these minerals and vitamins make nettle tea  great drink for clear skin, it has also been found to relieve eczema. Nettle tea has great cleansing and antiseptic properties, making it useful for facial steams and rinses. It has been known to improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure because of high iron in the tea. It is a great help to an organism suffering from mental and physical exhaustion. So when you come home after a tiring day, instead of reaching for a coffee, try a cup of nettle tea instead to truly regain your strength!

Chamomile Tea
Camomile is a daisy-like flower plant, native to Egypt. It has a delicious and soothing taste, which corresponds to its main function: to sooth and calm. One of the main active elements in chamomile essential oil is bisabolol, which has many anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. This makes chamomile tea a great drink to help sooth a stomachache. Chamomile tea can also help with insomnia if taken before bed.  Another great use of chamomile is to place cooled organic chamomile tea bags on your eyes to help soothe tired eyes and reduce under-eye bags. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Organic Certification

  I thought I'd do a post about what it means to have an organic product certified and go through different organic certification organizations. I found this bit rather confusing when I switched to clean products: why is it important for a product to be certified organic and what do different certification organizations mean and stand for? Do they all have the same criteria? Are they the same across the world? Turns out, things are far from simple! I shall try to provide an overview:

Why Organic?
Organic produce is grown without use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. Organic produce is not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents or chemical food additives. Pesticides may be connected to acute and delayed health issues. Artificial pesticides may cause short-lived effects such as skin irritation to more severe and long-lasting effects, such as affecting the nervous system, hormone functioning, and even cancer. Pesticides and artificial fertilizers enter our system not only through food, but also through the skincare that we use. 
  Organic certification bodies monitor what is included in a product, and how the ingredients are produced (i.e. whether they are truly organically grown). This system aims to provide an impartial and independent assessment of the origin and quality of ingredients of different products. However, things are far from simple with many existing certifying bodies that all seem to have different standards for issuing their organic certification.

                                         UK: Soil Association
Soil Association (SA) is a UK certifying body. SA is one of the strictest organizations with high standards for a product to be certified organic. SA demands that a product must contain at least 95% organically grown ingredients in order to be labelled truly organic. A product can still be labelled organic if it contains at least 70% organic ingredients, but the exact percentage must be clearly stated on the packaging. The products must not be tested on animals, not include any radioactive radiation or genetically modified produce.  

                                      Europe (France): Ecocert
Ecocert is a European certifying body, with very different standards to SA. To be certified organic by Ecocert, a product must contain at least 95% ingredients derived from natural origin (i.e. not necessarily organic). A product can be certified organic if it contains at least  10% ingredients from organic farming. Ecocert furthermore checks for the  absence of GMO, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced by them: milk, honey, etc.). 

                                                   USA: USDA
USDA is an American certification organization, with strict guidelines for the percentage of organic ingredients. In order to display the USDA seal, a product must contain between 95-100% certified organic ingredients. If a product contains 74-94% organic ingredients, it can be labelled as ‘Made with organic ingredients’. These products will not bear the USDA organic seal. Therefore, if you see the USDA label, you can be sure that the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients. 

                                                     Italy: ICEA
ICEA is an Italian cetification organization, based in Bologna. Judging from their website, ICEA provides organic certification for farming of food, however, for cosmetics it provides only Eco Bio Cosmetics Certification.  To gain this certification a product must not contain any GMOs, various prohibited substances, animal final product testing, ionizing radiation. It must contain certified organic vegetable and animal materials whenever available.  

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Soapwalla Magic Deodorant

Probably everyone who writes about clean beauty products has written about Soapwalla Kitchen deodorant, giving it the highest of praise. Nevertheless, soon after receiving and using this little deodorant pot, I knew I also had to write a post about it, in order to spread the word on this amazing natural deodorant. 
 There is not too much to say except that Soapwalla deodorant works. As simple as that. It works just as good as my old dirty deodorant that was full up of aluminium and parabens. Aluminium blocks cell glands, blocking sweat from getting to skin's surface. It is suggested to be able to penetrate the skin and accumulate in the body. There is some research suggesting a link between aluminium and Alzheimer disease. Aluminium is said to influence changes in estrogen receptor cells.  Read my post on parabens here. Those deodorants kept me dry and smell-free during the day and after sports sessions, so I would not have thought that an absolutely natural deodorant could do the job. That was until I tried Soapwalla deodorant. 
 Just have a look at this wonderful list of ingredients:

Organic jojoba, sunflower, and rosehip seed oils; shea butter; a combination of all-natural and gluten-free vegetable clays and powders; aluminum-free sodium bicarbonate; organic vegan kosher glycerin; a combination of organic lavender, peppermint, sweet orange, 
bergamot and tea tree essential oils

The deodorant comes in a small jar, is a creamy-yellow colour and has frosting-like consistency. I put a little on my finger and apply to under my arms like it was cream. I usually wait a little before dressing fully so that the deodorant can dry a bit and therefore work better. But not long at all. It smells quite fresh, but the smell is not over-powering and does not linger, which I particularly liked.  I have been using it for almost a week, and I did not have any irritation to any of the ingredients. But most importantly, it works just as wonderfully as a non-clean counterpart. I have been to work, rushed to meetings, ran somewhere, did exersize  and the deo kept me fresh, dry and absolutely smell free! So here we have it. An absolutely clean and natural deodorant that actually undoubtedly works!
 This deodorant can be purchased from Soapwalla Kitchen Etsy shop and costs very reasonable $10 USD. All Soapwalla Kitchen products are freshly made in small batches by Rachel in the kitchen of her Brooklyn apartment! Do you have a favourite natural deodorant?