25 November 2014

Brand Focus: The Honest Co. + Discovery Kits Review

Like a lot of other natural companies, The Honest Co. was started by two parents who couldn't find the products they wanted for their babies and homes, so they decided to take things into their own hands and make them.  The difference here is that one of those parents is the quite famous Jessica Alba!  

The company has a great selection of natural products that includes baby products, bath and body items, cleaning products, and supplements.  Everything is covered by the company's Honestly Free Guarantee - a core commitment to safe, non-toxic ingredients and full transparency.  It also includes a money back guarantee if you are unhappy with your purchase.    

Photo Credit
One of The Honest Co.'s main features is a bundle system, where you receive a fully customizable monthly bundle of products at a discount from what you would pay to buy them individually. There are three bundles to choose from:  Diapers and Wipes, Essentials, and Health & Wellness.  The company also currently offers Discovery Kits as a free trial, where you pay only for shipping.  When you sign up for a Discovery Kit, you will be enrolled in the bundle service, but you have 7 days after receiving your kit to cancel your subscription, should you want to.

I recently had the opportunity to try out two of the Discovery Kits.  The Diapers and Wipes Bundle Trial* comes with seven diapers (you choose the size) and a travel pack of 10 wipes, while the Essentials Bundle Trial* comes with trial sizes of five of their most popular personal care and home cleaning  products.  

Keep reading to see what I thought...

Diaper and Wipes Bundle Trial

Since I don't have any wee ones, I passed the diapers along to someone else who could make use of them.  I don't know how they performed, but they looked pretty comparable to other disposable diapers.  That said, since they're made from sustainably harvested pulp and plant-based materials and use only natural odor-inhibitors and no fragrances, lotions, or latex, they do seem like a much better option that standard disposable diapers - both for the environment and your baby's health.

The Honest Wipes are cheekily marketed as "the only wipes you'll need from cheek to cheek," and are made with a blend of purified water, citric acid, silver, decyl glucoside, and several fruit and herb extracts.  Again, I can't speak to how they work for diapering, but I tested them out as a face/makeup wipe.  The cloth itself feels very thick - definitely the thickest wipe I've used - and the wipes, which are fragrance free, have a mild, clean scent.  I found them very gentle and they didn't irritate my face, but they also struggled to remove all my eye makeup.  If you're someone who only wears face makeup, they'd probably work, but for things like mascara and eyeliner, I either had to reach for something else or rub my eyes a good bit more than I'm comfortable with.

Essentials Bundle Trial
When you enroll in the Essentials Bundle, you get to customize your bundle with any five products from The Honest Co.'s  selection of bath and body, baby, and cleaning products, but for the purposes of the trial, everyone receives minis of the same five items.  

Organic Healing Balm - I mentioned how much I liked this product in my Post-Flu Pamper Routine and that still holds very true.  It's a great USDA certified organic balm that works well for everything from rashes to cuts and scrapes, dry lips, and irritated skin.  You really only need the tiniest dab for most things, so I forsee even the mini size lasting me a good while.

Lavender Hand Soap - A good basic soap.  It lathers well and hasn't dried out my hands.  I don't know that it's something I'd rush to buy, but it works well.  Also available in Mandarin and Lemongrass scents.

Face & Body Lotion - I've been carrying this mini lotion in my purse and I've enjoyed using it on my hands.  It's unscented - so I don't have to worry about offending anyone should I want to use it in the middle of a crowded subway or other public place - and it absorbs super quickly - almost instantly - without any greasy residue.  I tend to want my lotions a little richer for all over use, but if The Honest Co. started selling these mini sizes, I might pick up a couple more for travel or keeping in my purse.

Multi-Surface Cleaner - We have a glass table in my kitchen that I'd venture to say is one of the absolute worst surfaces to clean (food bits, dust, fingerprints, puppy nose smears, oy!), but this has done a pretty decent job.  I'm not crazy about the fact that it has phenoxyethanol in it, but since it's a cleaning product, I doubt you're getting much, if any, on your skin.

Shampoo & Body Wash - This was my favorite out of everything.  It didn't do much for my hair, but I love it as a body wash.  It's gentle, has a good lather, isn't drying, and it smells amazing.  Back when I was working in the health food store, everyone was obsessed with John Masters' Blood Orange & Vanilla products, and The Honest Co.'s Sweet Orange Vanilla scent is in the same family, but I'd argue it's even better.  If you're familiar with the JM, this one is equally sweet and delicious, but the scent is a little fresher and lighter.     

The Bottom Line
I'm really happy I had the chance to try these!  I wouldn't rush to repurchase every single product, but I found a couple new favorites and I like the company as a whole.  Whether or not you have kids, I think The Honest Co. has a lot to offer.  I've already placed an order for more Body Wash and a couple new things to try too!

You can save $10 off your first purchase by signing up with my referral link.  I also recommend making an account and signing up for emails, as The Honest Co. regularly has deals and sales just for email subscribers.  

Have you tried anything from The Honest Co.?  Let me know your favorites in the comments!

*Press sample
Contains affiliate links.

20 November 2014

Raw Gaia MSM Beauty Spray & Raw Chocolate Face Pack

Raw Gaia is a UK skin care line that's passionate about making 100% natural products that really work.  The ingredients lists are short, but they're packed with pure, minimally processed, unrefined and organic ingredients.  I was generously sent a couple products to review: the MSM Beauty Spray* and Raw Chocolate Face Pack*.  After reading a number of positive reviews from other bloggers and skimming the glowing testimonials on the company's own website, I was really eager to give these a try!

MSM Beauty Spray
MSM, often called the beauty mineral, is an organic sulphur compound that's anti-inflammatory and very beneficial for skin repair.  When taken internally, MSM can help with a whole host of things - everything from arthritis and joint health to strengthening hair and promoting radiant skin.  By applying MSM topically, as in Raw Gaia's MSM range, the MSM is directly absorbed by the skin, thereby maximizing its skin benefits.

In addition to MSM, the Beauty Spray contains wild crafted argan oil, organic rosehip oil, and wild crafted frankincense water and essential oil, all blended together to create a gentle spray that I think would suit just about any skin type.  The Beauty Spray is described as a light moisturizer, but I like to use it more as a hydrating toner.  It's a liquid spray with some oil in it (I recommend shaking it before you spray!), but it's definitely more on the watery side.  It's not hydrating enough for my skin to use it on its own, but I love using it either to dampen my skin before applying an additional face oil, or as an intermediate toning step between cleansing and moisturizing.  It smells like frankincense, but it isn't overly strong or overpowering in any way.  

Raw Chocolate Face Pack
The composition of this mask is a potent mix of organic raw chocolate powder, red clay, organic turmeric, and organic amla fruit powder.  The clay tones and decongests your pores, while the chocolate provides a boost of free radical fighting antioxidants.  The amla powder gives a high dose of vitamin C, great for increasing cell turnover and brightening the skin, and the turmeric is both anti-inflammatory and very effective at evening skin tone and fading hyperpigmentation and scarring.  

It smells phenomenal - just like chocolate - and it felt lovely and cool while it was on.  It wasn't overly drying and I was looking forward to radiant, glowy skin when I washed it off.  Unfortunately, what I found instead was that my entire face had been stained orange.  Bright, bad fake tan, Snookie orange.  I'm guessing it was the turmeric - in combination with how fair my skin is - but, needless to say, it wasn't a pretty sight.  I got the color off by washing my face a few times with Evolve's Gentle Cleansing Melt, but my skin doesn't thrive on a lot of touching/scrubbing, so by the time I'd gotten all the orange off, I felt like I'd probably negated many of the benefits of the mask.  I've been reluctant to reach for it since, so I'm not sure how I feel about this one.  I'll make sure to post an update once I've used it some more.

The Bottom Line
I'm conflicted on the Raw Chocolate Face Pack, but I'd wholeheartedly recommend the MSM Beauty Spray.  I don't generally fall hard for toners or sprays, but I really like this one.  I could definitely see myself buying a full size in the future.  If your skin is more on the oily side, it might even work as a light moisturizer.

Have you used anything from Raw Gaia?  Any tips to prevent the face pack from staining so badly?

*Press Sample

11 November 2014

The Post-Flu Emergency Skincare Edit

People always talk about their skin suffering when they are sick, but it's not something I've ever experienced until this past week when I was laid up with a stomach virus.  Aside from feeling sick, I was barely able to manage basic skincare - or really anything much more than lying in bed - and my skin definitely started to show it.  It became simultaneously dull, congested and dehydrated.  Not a great combo!  Once I started to feel better, getting my skin back in shape was one of the first things I did!  Here's what I used...

SkinnySkinny The Cleanser + Root Science Face Scrub*
I've been using SkinnySkinny's cleanser for close to two months now and I really like it.  It's extremely gentle, but still leaves my skin feeling very clean, and it also works amazingly well as a base for the Root Science Face Scrub, which I received in September's Petit Vour box.  Mixed with just water, the scrub is a little too harsh for my face, but the SkinnySkinny cleanser helps it glide across the skin a little more softly, and the pair has become my favorite, most-used exfoliant of late.  These were were the first things I reached for to get my skin back to normal and they worked great for both exfoliating away dry patches and kicking dullness to the curb.

Terra Tribe Green & White Detox Facial Dry Mask*
While I was sick, I received a lovely package from Indie Beauty Shop, a Canadian online store specializing in natural products made by smaller, independent companies, and this face mask sounded perfect for revitalizing my post-virus skin.  It contains a mix of kaolin and green clay, as well as green tea extract and white willow bark.  The two clays detoxify your skin and absorb excess oils, while the green tea extract delivers antioxidants and the white willow bark - which contains salicin, the natural precurser of salicylic acid - gently exfoliates and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.  I've only used the mask the one time so far, but I was impressed.  My skin was left looking clearer, brighter, and overall healthier.

The Honest Co. Organic Healing Balm*
Another lovely side effect of this stomach bug was being left with some of the driest, most chapped lips ever.  Regular lip balms weren't cutting it, so I decided to try The Honest Co.'s Organic Healing Balm.  (I got a mini size of the balm in the company's Discovery Kit - which you can still get for free here.)  The ingredients list is superb, packed with moisturizing organic sunflower, olive, tamanu, and coconut oils, as well as organic beeswax, shea butter, and calendula extract, and it's a great multipurpose ointment to have on hand.  It smells sort of earthy and natural and the tamanu scent is definitely noticeable - though not overly strong - so it's probably not something I'd use on my lips except under extreme circumstances like this, but it worked great and quickly whipped my ailing lips back into shape.

The Bottom Line
Being sick sucks, but at least there are great skincare products to help bring your skin back to normal!  These four really came through for me this week, and they're also products I'm happily incorporating into my regular routine.  
Do you have superhero products you reach for when your skin is not at its best?

*Press sample
Contains affiliate links

8 November 2014

Brand Focus: Portland Bee Balm (+ A Giveaway!)

According to the US Department of Agriculture, bees pollinate 80% of the world's flowering plants, which accounts for about one third of our food supply.  Factor in the number of bee colonies dying off in the last several years, and these statistics become pretty worrisome.  There's still no consensus on the cause of this colony collapse, but one thing everyone does seem to agree on is that supporting sustainable beekeeping practices is one of the best things we can do.  One way to do that?  Buying honey and other bee products from local bee keepers.

Brad and Anika, Portland Bee Balm's creators, have been hobby beekeepers in Portland, Oregon for years and this love of honey bees was the true genesis for starting Portland Bee Balm.  The two set out to create a high quality product that reflected the environmental values they hold true and Portland Bee Balm was born. 

Photo Credit
The lip balm is made of just four high quality ingredients, all of which come from sustainable and/or local sources: certified organic extra virgin coconut and olive oils, Oregon beeswax, and organic Oregon peppermint essential oil.  It doesn't end at ingredients either.  Rather than using paper, labels are made of non-pulped wood, which requires fewer chemicals and less energy to manufacture, and the ink used to print the labels is soy-based, reducing our use of non-renewable fossil fuels.  Both the labels and handmade displays are made locally in Portland, Oregon.  

Setting aside the environmental aspect for a minute, the actual lip balm is excellent as well.  It's pretty solid in the tube, but a couple passes over your lips will warm it up and give it just enough slip.  My favorite is the Oregon Mint, which has a great fresh peppermint scent, but the Unscented, which smells just like sweet beeswax, is lovely as well.  Both scents are very natural and not overpowering in the least.  The balms leaves my lips feeling soft and the beeswax feels very protective on the lips, which I think will be especially great once the colder months roll in.  I'm pretty sure this is going to be my go to lip balm this winter! 
Photo Credit
The best part?  Portland Bee Balm has offered one of you the chance to try the balms for yourself!  The giveaway is going to be US only, but fear not, I've got more great giveaways coming soon that will be open internationally.  Fill in the Rafflecopter widget (below) to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Press sample

6 November 2014

October Empties / Products I've Used Up

Latest empties post ever?  Pretty much.  I had this almost completely drafted and ready to go Monday and then got hit with what I thought was food poisoning, but later realized - when the rest of my house came down with it a couple days later - was some kind of nasty stomach virus.  Either way, it meant I wasn't able to get this up until now.  So, somewhat belated, here's what I finished up during October:

The Honest Co. Honest Wipes*

Technically these are diaper wipes, but not having anyone in diapers, I used them to remove makeup instead.  I can't speak to how well they work for diapering, but they were only so-so on my face.
Repurchase? No.

KYI Unscented Argan Oil Serum with Vitamin C*   [Review]

I really like how minimal the ingredients in KYI's products are, and this serum is no exception.  Made of just argan oil and vitamin C, it's a great oil for hydrating and brightening the skin.  The serum uses tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, aoil soluble form of vitamin C that's much more stable than the more frequently used ascorbic acid, so you don't have to worry about the vitamin C breaking down or degrading the formula.  Initially I used this as a face serum, but after setting it aside for a few months, I ended up using the second half of the bottle as a body oil.  
Repurchase? Not right away.

Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser   [Review]

I've raved about Kahina's cleanser many times, but it really is one of my all time favorite cleansers.  It's gentle, creamy without being overly heavy, and the 200 ml bottle lasts ages!  It also removes makeup - even toughies like mascara and eyeliner - and thanks to blue tansy and neroli essential oils, smells pretty darn amazing.  I would (and frequently do!) recommend this cleanser for almost anyone.  
Repurchase? Yes!

Acure Argan + Argan Stem Cell Shampoo   [Review]

Another favorite of mine, this shampoo is one of the best I've found for my curly hair.  I've gone through multiple bottles before and just recommitted to a giant 24 oz. bottle of the stuff.
Repurchase? Yes, I already have.

Earthpaste Lemon Twist Toothpaste   [Review]

This fall marks two years of using Earthpaste, but this was my first tube of the Lemon Twist flavor.  I enjoyed it while I was using it, but since switching back to one of the mint ones, I realize the lemon doesn't leave your mouth as fresh as the other flavors.
Repurchase? Yes, but probably not this flavor.

Scentuals Goat Milk Mint Soap*   [Review]

I've really enjoyed using this soap.  It lathers well, smells great, and doesn't dry out my hands.  It's also lasted me longer than any other bar soap I can recall!  Seriously, I've been using this same bar of soap since the summer and I've still got a small sliver hanging on in my soap dish.  Yes, I generally only use bar soaps on my hands, but that's still significantly longer than other soaps last me.  
Repurchase? Probably not.  I prefer to buy palm oil free options.

Frangipani Regenerating Flower Cream*   [Review]

A nice cream made from a nourishing base of rosewater, almond oil, rosehip seed oil, and beeswax.  I didn't love the floral scent and I found it a little too rich for my face, but I did enjoy using it on my hands and legs, especially before bed.  
Repurchase? Probably not.  

Pollen & Wax Lapiz Facial Toner   [Review]

It's really hard for me to find a toner that blows me away and sadly, this one just didn't do it.  I ended up repurposing it as a spray deodorant for days when I'd shaved.  My Weleda deodorant, which contains alcohol, can sting quite a bit after shaving, but Lapiz's gentle blend of aloe, calendula, lavender, and chamomile was soothing and did a pretty decent job keeping odors away as well.
Repurchase? No.

Zuzu Luxe Onyx Mascara   [Review]

I can't even count how many tubes of this mascara I've gone through over the years.  It may not be the most dramatic mascara out there, but it doesn't irritate my eyes and once it's on, it doesn't go anywhere, which makes it the one I always come back to.
Repurchase? Yes, I already have.

Hurraw! Mint Lip Balm   [Review]

If you like tingly peppermint lip balms, Hurraw!'s mint balm is for you.  It's not my favorite for winter - both because of the cooling peppermint tingle and Hurraw!'s thinner formula - but I can see myself possibly buying it again in the spring/summer.
Repurchase? Maybe.

Epic Blend Hemp Mint Lip Balm   [Review]

In case you couldn't tell that I like mint lip balms, I managed to finish two in the same month!  Epic Blend's balm packs a seriously minty punch, but, unlike the Hurraw!, it doesn't make your mouth feel cold or tingly.  Epic Blend balms give a lot of moisture and also have that perfect balance where they protect your lips, but don't feel waxy or heavy.   I'm a big fan!
Repurchase? Yes, definitely.

Kaia Juicy Bamboo Cleansing Cloth 

I like how convenient the individually wrapped cloths are for carrying in your purse, but there are other wipes I like more.    
Repurchase? Probably not.

Dr. Bronner's Spearmint Peppermint Shikakai Soap (sample)

From other reviews I'd read, I didn't have very high expectations for this soap, but I ended up really liking it.  It didn't dry out my skin and the Spearmint Peppermint scent was nice and fresh.
Repurchase? Maybe.

Suki Creamy Foaming Cleanser (samples)   [Review]

I have a tendency to hoard samples, so even though I knew I liked this cleanser, I'd been resisting using these samples.  I think calling this a foaming cleanser is a bit of an exaggeration, but it does lather slightly.  I like it, but I'm not sure I like it enough to commit to a full sized bottle.  
Repurchase? Probably not.

Suki Pure Facial Moisture - Balancing (samples)   [Review]

Another victim of sample hoarding.  I'd previously found the Balancing Oil very helpful for "time of the month" skin, so I'd tucked these away in case of a skin emergency.  When I finally pulled them out, my skin was not at its best, but not at its worst either.  These samples gave me about a week's worth of oil, but sadly, I just didn't find the results anywhere near as spectacular this time around.  
Repurchase? Not sure.

Weleda Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash (samples)

I liked this, but I'd probably be more likely to buy one of Weleda's creamy body washes over this, since I like a few of those scents a lot more than the Calendula.  
Repurchase? No.

*Press Sample
Contains affiliate links

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