19 March 2017

New for Spring: Exciting Green Beauty Launches!

Green beauty is booming these days, which means a TON of exciting new product releases.  For spring, I've put together a list of some of the best launches that have grabbed my attention recently -- most are available now, with a couple scheduled to release over the next few weeks.    

Maya Chia Highlight of the Day // Birchrose + Co Glow Serums
Technically Maya Chia's Highlight of the Day launched a few months ago, but since healthy, glowy skin is always on trend for spring and summer and I, for one, am still eyeing it, I'm adding it here anyways!  Both Highlight of the Day and Birchrose + Co's Glow Serums are nourishing oil-based serums enhanced with mineral pigments for a beautiful glow or iridescence.  Both are available in more than one shade to suit a variety of looks and skin tones.  

Stark Petrichor Toner
Stark's products, which are formulated with weather and environmental stresses in mind rather than traditional skin types, have been on my radar for quite a while, but I haven't actually tried anything yet.  I love that Jess, Stark's founder, has taken a less traditional approach to the beauty industry and is passionate about creating luxury products without insane luxury price tags.  It's, of course, right up my ally.  Along with the already available City Recalibrating Oil, I've got my eye on the new Petrichor Toner, available for presale this week.  Petrichor is described as a protective and purifying mist that's supposed to feed your skin, calm inflammation, fight free radicals, and act as an antioxidant shield from the environment.  Sounds pretty dreamy, right? 

Mabrook & Co. Clean Sprays // Clean Candles // Clean Dry Shampoo // Clean Lip Balm

[Full Disclosure: I work part-time for Mabrook & Co., but that doesn't make their new releases any less great.  I was not asked or paid to include them here.]
Mabrook & Co. started out making just deodorant, but they've recently expanded the line quite a bit with dry shampoo, multipurpose aromatherapy sprays, soy wax candles, and lip balm.  My favorite of the new products is the Glow Spray, an uplifting mist that perfectly blends together crisp mint and zesty citrus.  It makes a great cooling and tingly face mist and also works well as a room spray or body mist.  The Clean Dry Shampoo is another big standout.   

RMS Beauty Signature Sets
RMS products are pretty pricey and the pots last a long time, so I was so stoked to see the new Signature Sets, which offer a way to try out multiple products from the brand at a significantly lower cost than purchasing everything individually.  There are two sets available, each containing five of RMS's most popular products: two lip2cheeks, two highlighters/bronzer, and one lip & skin balm.  It's a lot of bang for your buck -- I've got my eye on the Mod Collection for sure! 

Alima Pure Eye Primer // Ilia Beauty On & On Eye Primer // Batty's Bath Eye Stick It To Em Eyeshadow Primer
For as long as I've been into green beauty, eye shadow primers have been hard to come by, but not any more!  I've spotted three new ones in the last couple months alone -- from Ilia Beauty, Alima Pure, and Batty's Bath.  All three promise a better surface for eye shadow application, longer wear, and no creasing.  Ilia's does contain dimethicone, if that's a concern, but the other two are silicone-free.

Inika at The Choosy Chick
I've played around with Inika, an Australian certified organic, vegan, and cruelty free makeup line, a little, but they've always been a challenging brand to get a hold of here in North America.  No longer!  The Choosy Chick, one of my favorite green beauty shops, has become the first US online retailer to carry Inika's products and I couldn't be happier to have easy access to this wonderful line.  I highly recommend the Cream Eye Shadows -- they double as beautiful subtle face highlights -- and I'm definitely eyeing up a few other things too!    

Pacifica Spring Makeup Collection

Pacifica makes great inexpensive clean makeup and their upcoming spring releases look pretty amazing!  The new makeup collection consists of four completely new products: liquid lipsticks, liquid strobe highlighters, a mattifying powder, and an opalescent highlighting powder -- and three new eye shadow palettes.  If you're in the US, the new products launch at Ulta in April, and hopefully elsewhere shortly thereafter.

Rocky Mountain Soap Wellness Bombs
Rocky Mountain Soap is one of my favorite bath and body companies and the newly launched Wellness Bombs sound fantastic!  Basically, they're the company's bath bombs taken to the next level -- enhanced with essential oils that specifically target different wellness concerns.  Whether you're looking to unwind and destress or re-energize, the Wellness Bombs have you covered!

What new products have caught your eye?

Contains affiliate links

11 March 2017

Outstanding Body Care from Sola Skincare

Sola Skincare is a family-run Canadian business, handcrafting skin and body care products in Vancouver, B.C.  The company's products are made with fairly minimal ingredients and are enhanced with traditional Chinese herbs.  I first discovered Sola last year and immediately fell head over heels for their Balancing Oil, which, almost a year later, is still one of my very favorite face oils.  (You may have spotted it in my 2016 Best in Green Beauty or caught me raving about it on instagram!)

More recently, I've been trying out three of Sola's body care products and I'll tell you right off the bat: they don't disappoint either.  Keep reading for my detailed thoughts on the Coconut Deodorant*, Soft Skin Balm*, and Relief Balm*.

Coconut Deodorant
The Coconut Deodorant is one of Sola's best sellers and I can easily see why!  It's a great formula that ticks all my deodorant boxes.  Basically, it...
  • smells good
  • keeps you smelling good
  • has a great texture/consistency
  • applies easily 
  • doesn't stain or leave marks on clothing 
  • doesn't irritate my skin or cause rashes  
The ingredients start off pretty standard -- coconut oil, baking soda, arrowroot powder, olive or sweet almond oil, and beeswax -- but true to form, Sola also includes antibacterial Chinese herbs zhi mu and sheng di huang, both known to cool excess heat in the body, calm inflammation, and nourish the skin.  Sola doesn't add any fragrance or essential oils, so the sweet coconut scent really shines through.  I can be fussy about coconut smells -- even natural, coconut oil ones -- but the Coconut Deodorant is a winner for my nose.  It smells fresh, sweet, and delicate, and is more reminiscent of actual coconut than coconut oil, if that makes any sense at all.

The deodorant has a very smooth, buttery consistency that melts into the skin beautifully without any gritty or grainy baking soda texture.  It also doesn't feel oily or leave behind any greasy residue, so you don't have to wait or delay pulling clothes on.  With regards to irritation, baking soda deodorants are hit or miss for me, but I haven't had any problems with Sola's Coconut Deodorant.  I usually use a non-baking soda option if I've just shaved, but that's true across the board, not specific to this one.

And, perhaps most importantly, the deodorant offers great odor protection too.  I apply it once in the morning and it keeps me smelling good until the next day -- so, roughly a full 24 hours.  I don't notice the coconut scent beyond when I apply it, so it's not so much covering up bad smells as actually preventing them. I don't sweat a ton, so your mileage may vary here, but I find it keeps me pretty dry as well.

I'm looking forward to testing the deodorant more as the weather warms up, but since it's held its own through a few sweaty workouts, I'm pretty confident it'll do just fine in the summer too! 

Soft Skin Balm
The Soft Skin Balm is a wonderfully nourishing moisturizer perfect for treating ultra dry skin.  The balm is thick and rich, courtesy of shea butter, beeswax, and olive oil, and while it doesn't absorb immediately, it sinks in slowly and deeply nourishes dry skin.  The four Chinese herbs included in this one -- shu di huang, bai shao, he shou wu, and gan cao -- are all intended to nourish and bring moisture to the skin, and combine nicely with soothing lavender and patchouli essential oils.  The scent is very light and unobtrusive.  I mainly smell olive oil in the tin, and while the essential oils come out a little on the skin, it's still very mild.

I've been using the balm mostly on my feet and elbows, and it's also a great thick moisturizer to slather all over your hands before bed.   I even used it as a lip balm in a pinch one day!  I probably wouldn't repeat that experience, if only because patchouli isn't my favorite taste in the world, but it did leave my lips nicely moisturized and supple!

Relief Balm

The Relief Balm is a gentle warming treatment for aching muscles, minor sprains, strains, and arthritic pain.  I deal with occasional back and shoulder pain and the Relief Balm has helped a lot in those moments of discomfort.

The balm is a very soothing and gentle product made of only herb-infused olive oil, beeswax, vitamin E, and essential oils.  The herbs and essential oils are all chosen to not only relive pain, but also to target the source of that pain by reducing inflammation and improving circulation and blood flow in order to promote healing.

With ingredients like cinnamon (gui zhi), ginger (gan jiang), and white camphor, the balm generates a gentle warming sensation when applied.  The warmth penetrates slowly and gently eases muscle tension and relieves pain and discomfort.  It's very soft and light and not at all hot or uncomfortable like some other warming muscle products I've used in the past.  In Chinese medicine, cold accumulation is seen as a common source of pain, so from that angle too, a warming product like the Relief Balm is targeting not only the pain, but the root cause of that pain.

If you deal with aches and pains, I think this would be a great one to keep in your arsenal!

The Bottom Line
Sola Skincare is a great Canadian line and I really like everything I've tried from them!  The products work as promised and both the handcrafted nature and the way Sola brings together classic natural ingredients and components of traditional Chinese medicine really resonate with me.  I doubt you could go wrong, but I'd especially recommend the Coconut Deodorant and, of course, my favorite, the Balancing Face Oil.  If you deal with aches and pains, the Relief Balm is another fantastic pick.

*Press sample

2 March 2017

5 New Things: Curly Girl Hair Edition

I've been test-driving a bunch of new hair products the last few months, so I figured it was well past time I sat down and started writing about them!  For those of you who don't already know, I have naturally curly hair that appreciates moisture, but also quickly gets oily from products that are too rich.  My hair also has a tendency towards frizziness, so it's definitely a fine balance!

Bröö Malted Mint Invigorating Shampoo // Conditioner
Water makes up the bulk of many products, shampoo and conditioner included, and Bröö, true to their name, replaces the water in their formulas with all-malt freshly hopped craft beer.  It's a little gimmicky, but it's not just a gimmick, since the beer brewing process releases B vitamins, minerals, and proteins that nourish and strengthen hair.  Ever heard of people using beer as a hair rinse?  The idea is the same, only the benefits are already built into Bröö's products.  

I'm already on my second tube of the Invigorating Shampoo, a gentle and somewhat creamy wash that cleanses hair without stripping away its natural oils.  The conditioner is surprisingly rich and luxurious, and I only need a small amount to sufficiently hydrate my curls.  The invigorating duo is marketed as a "daily detox for hair and scalp," and the formula, which is boosted with caffeine and peppermint essential oil, is intended to stimulate the follicles and encourage hair growth.  I can't speak to any definite effects at this point, but the conditioner in particular does generate a refreshing minty tingle on the scalp.

The company claims that Bröö products have no beer scent, but I don't find that completely true with this pair.  To my nose, the beer scent is mild but still noticeable in both products, along with a nice minty/herbal aroma.  It's completely non-offensive and any beer scent is gone by the time hair dries, so there's no chance you'll be walking around smelling like a brewery.   For me, the scent is a major improvement over the old Bröö formulas -- the ones in plastic bottles, not tubes -- which had much stronger, sweet scents that I couldn't tolerate.  

Original Sprout Natural Hair Gel
Original Sprout is a hair stylist-created line of vegan hair and body products designed to be allergen-free and safe for the whole family.  The Natural Hair Gel, labelled for "babies & up," is a great gentle hair gel that I love using for lightweight curl definition.  Made without added fragrance or essential oils, the gel has just a mild sweet scent and offers medium-hold without any gross sticky or tacky feeling.  It can get a little crunchy if you use a lot, but it's nothing that can't be scrunched out with your fingers.  I started my second tube this week and I also just picked up the company's Miracle Detangler to try out next.  

Beautiful Curls Curl Enhancing Shampoo
The Curl Enhancing Shampoo, specifically formulated to maximize waves and curls, sounded like it'd be perfect for me, and since I've enjoyed other Beautiful Curls products, I had high hopes going in.  Unfortunately, it ended up being a complete dud for me.  The shampoo is rich in shea butter and coconut oil and has a creamy consistency that you'd think would be moisturizing, but no matter what conditioner I paired it with -- both traditional rinse out options and leave-ins, it consistently left my hair dry, frizzy, and feeling stripped of moisture.  The shampoo hardly lathers and after a few washes, it started building up on my scalp, feeling gummy, and not actually getting anything clean.  I'm sure this product works for somebody, but it definitely wasn't me.  

DIY Healthy Scalp + Hair Growth Oil
I've gotten into a constant cycle of pulling my hair back into tight ponytails, loosing hair at the temples, re-growing it, and then repeating the entire awful cycle over again.  I'm back in the growth stage now and trying to speed things up with a homemade blend of hair and scalp-friendly essential oils -- namely rosemary, peppermint, lavender, cedarwood, and tea tree.  The blend does double duty -- I massage it directly into a clean scalp after washing my hair, and it can also be added into hair treatments and masks. 

Along with these five, I've also been experimenting with henna the last few months, but I think that deserves its own dedicated post.  Have you discovered any exciting hair products recently?

 Contains affiliate links.

25 February 2017

Real Purity: Affordable Pressed Powders Without Talc or Silicones!

Real Purity is a four generation, family-owned, all-natural and cruelty-free company that's been around since the beginning of the natural product wave. The company makes makeup, skincare, and bath and body items, and specializes in products for sensitive and reactive skin.  I was offered the chance to try a couple products from Real Purity's makeup line and I chose the Pressed Powder* and Desert Rose Powder Blush*.  Real Purity's pressed makeup is made with minimal ingredients and is free of both talc and silicones.  Pressed powder makeup is increasingly available in the green beauty sphere, but inexpensive options are still a little scarce, so I was eager to test these two out!  Keep reading for my thoughts on both...

Desert Rose Powder Blush

I tried a sample of this blush years ago and always intended to come back for the full size.  Now that it's back in my life, I remember just how much I loved it!  The color is a beautiful mauve/plummy-pink unlike anything else I own and Real Purity's blush formula is phenomenal.  Desert Rose is completely matte, and is both pigmented and easy to blend.  Because I'm so fair, I like using a stippling brush to control the amount of product and slowly build the color on my cheeks.  It's super pretty and also very long-wearing.  A lot of blushes tend to fade and disappear off my face throughout the day, but Real Purity's is consistently still there at night when I remove my makeup.

The ingredients are super minimal -- just non-nano minerals, vitamin E, and pycnogenol (pine bark extract).  I genuinely think these are some of the best powder blushes in the green beauty realm and with an affordable $14.99 price tag and thirteen beautiful colors to choose from, you really can't go wrong!  Samples are also available for $1.50.

(L to R) Real Purity Medium Pressed Powder, Desert Rose Powder Blush
Pressed Powder
The Pressed Powder -- again made with only minerals, vitamin E, and pycnogenol -- is a great lightweight powder that can be used on top of liquid and cream products or worn alone, as a light powder foundation.  My first inclination was to pick the lightest shade, but the folks at Real Purity suggested Medium based off my photos and I'm glad they did.  The color looks dark in the compact, but it swatches and applies a little lighter, and anything paler would probably be too light for my skin.  Swatched, the color looks very peachy/neutral, but on my face it leans warmer.  It starts out looking a little too yellow initially, but the powder settles and melts into the skin within about the first half hour, at which point the color looks very natural.

 Check it out beside a few other powder foundations for a better idea of how the color compares:

(Top to Bottom) Real Purity Medium, Honeybee Gardens Geisha, Ecco Bella Fair, Ecco Bella Pale, Everyday Minerals 1N Ivory
The Pressed Powder is matte, but not flat-looking -- more of a natural or satin finish.  Coverage-wise, it gives light coverage, but you can build it up to a decent medium coverage with a couple layers.  Whether you wear one light layer or multiple, the powder really does sit nicely on the skin and doesn't look cakey or overly powdery.  Like the blush, it also wears really well and even does a good job absorbing/controlling oils.  My skin isn't super oily by any means, but I usually blot once in the afternoon and I find it less necessary on days wearing the Real Purity  The powder itself is a little dustier than the blush and it does kick up some extra powder as you apply it, but I think that same soft texture is what makes it so great at absorbing oils throughout the day.  

My only criticism is that, like a lot of smaller natural companies, the shade range is pretty limited.  There are shades for both light and dark skin, but with only four colors, I definitely think there's lots of room to expand.  Personally, I'd love to see a cooler/neutral shade of a similar depth to Medium.

The Bottom Line

Real Purity often falls slightly under the radar in the green blogging sphere, but they're a fantastic company with a long history of making natural products.  I love the brand's emphasis on ingredient purity and on using simple, minimal ingredients to suit sensitive skin, and also that they maintain an affordable price point across the entire range.  The Pressed Blushes are truly some of the best out there, and I also really like the Pressed Powder, although I certainly wouldn't say no to a few more shade options.

Real Purity is offering 20% off site-wide until February 28, 2017 with the code WINTRY.  Alternately, you can shop through my referral link and get $5 off your first purchase.  

*Press sample
Contains affiliate links

18 February 2017

Brand Feature + Review: BR Naturals

BR Naturals is an Ontario company that was created to make products that are "100% natural and safe to use but at the same time smell good, feel good, and are good for the body."  Sounds pretty great, right?  The company is passionate about sourcing top quality ingredients and even aims to grow as many of them as possible on their own organic farms in Yobaín, Yucatán México.  

I was sent a generous box of goodies to try and I'm excited to share my thoughts on everything!

Lavender Body Wash
BR Naturals' body washes are castile-based, detergent-free soaps made from coconut, olive, avocado, apricot kernel, sunflower, and sustainable palm oils.  They also contain added vegetable glycerin, a natural humectant that helps drive moisture into the skin.  The consistency is a little thin but it's very workable and lathers nicely on a loofah or sponge.  The Lavender Body Wash has a genuine lavender scent to my nose -- slightly herbal and not overly flowery.  It's gentle and leaves skin feeling very soft.  I like it as a hand wash too! 

Exfoliating Bar Soaps -- Lavender Flowers // Peppermint Leaf
Similar to the body washes, the bar soaps are natural soaps made from just plant oils and essential oils. I've only used the Peppermint Leaf so far -- BR Naturals' most popular cleansing bar -- and I really like. As opposed to something more abrasive, the exfoliating bits in the soap are ground up peppermint leaves -- lavender flowers in the lavender bar -- which provide texture and delicate exfoliation without being harsh or scratchy. The bar smells fresh and minty and with 25% avocado oil, it creates a rich lather that cleanses without stripping the skin.

Lip Balms -- Cucumber // Strawberry
I use lip balm multiple times a day without fail and BR Naturals' vegan balms are lovely. They're creamy and buttery and have been doing a good job keeping my lips moisturized and protected. The Cucumber flavor didn't end up being my cup of tea, but the Strawberry, which reminds me of the old school Lip Smackers I used as a kid, has a nice fruity scent. There are tons of other flavors to choose from too!

Lotion Bars -- Vanilla // Mint Vanilla
Solid lotions have become one of my favorite ways to moisturize recently.  They're ultra nourishing and with minimal ingredients and no added water, there's no need for emulsifiers or preservatives.  However, not all solid lotions are made the same and I find a lot of brands lean too waxy, whereas my preference is for something that's solid in the container, yes, but also very emollient on the skin.  BR Naturals hits that sweet spot dead on.  The Lotion Bars are solid, but they melt with the heat of your skin and turn into almost a creamy oil on contact.  Coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, and sweet almond oil provide a generous dose of moisture and nourishment, and mango seed butter, one of favorite body butter ingredients, helps keep the bar from feeling greasy or sitting too heavy on the skin.  

Again, I've only dug into the Mint Vanilla so far.  It has a sweet, creamy, bakery-type vanilla scent offset with a hint of fresh peppermint to liven things up.  The plain vanilla smells quite similar, just, obviously, minus the mint.  The bars are quite hefty in size, so I've actually been cutting it into smaller chunks, which keeps the unused portion clean, and makes application easier and a little less messy.  

Papaya Seed Oil
Papaya seed oil is unique in that it contains the enzyme papain, a gentle exfoliant that dissolves dead skin cells and excess sebum. It's an ingredient I've used in other products, but never on its own and, as such, I was a little thrown by the oil's strong scent. The aroma is very pungent -- almost fishy smelling -- but completely normal according to BR Naturals. I haven't worked out how to best use the oil yet, but I'll definitely post an update if/when I do.

The Bottom Line

The exfoliating bar soap and lotion bar were my two favorites, but I'm happy to have had the opportunity to try everything out.   I love BR Naturals' emphasis on sourcing top quality ingredients and that they're a Canadian brand too!

*Press sample
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