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.