31 March 2018

Alaffia Everyday Shea Hand Soap: A True Holy Grail

Hand soap may not be the most glamorous product out there, but, it’s a staple that most of us use multiple times a day and, as anyone with severe dry hands or eczema can attest, finding the right one can be pretty vital.  I featured Alaffia's Everyday Shea Hand Soaps in January’s Cheap Products Worth Splurging On post and I’ve mentioned them a few more times on Instagram, but, as I was getting ready to swap out my latest empty bottle for a new one, I felt like I was doing a disservice to one of my favourite products by not giving it the dedicated blog post that it so deserves.   


The Everyday Shea Hand Soaps ($5.39 USD for 12 ounces) have a pretty traditional gel consistency and they easily produce a rich lather.  And, most importantly, they do a fantastic job cleansing without over-drying or stripping the skin. My biggest hand soap challenge is the kitchen, since cooking can have me washing my hands upwards of six or eight times within a 30-45 minute period.  With other soaps, this has sometimes ravaged my hands, particularly during the winter, but the Everyday Shea Soaps are a glorious wonder product that delivers on both the cleaning AND hand care fronts.

The soap uses a mix of cocamidopropyl betaine, a mild coconut-derived surfactant, and naturally saponified shea butter soap.  The formula is also rounded out with moringa leaf extract and argan oil, plus essential oils that vary by scent.  The soaps are vegan, biodegradable, and free of synthetic fragrance, harsh preservatives, and other nasties.

The fruity Mandarin Mango is my favourite, but I have also repurchased the Peppermint Tingle, a mild and fresh mint scent.  The Lemon Verbena is nice too, but it smells more like a spicy lemongrass than the fresh citrus I typically associate with lemon verbena.  All three of these are noticeably scented but the aromas are not super strong or overpowering and they don't linger very long on the skin. There are also Honeysuckle, Vanilla Passion, and Lavender Spice options, none of which I’ve tried.  

I’m on bottle five or six at this point, and I can honestly say that I haven’t purchased another liquid hand soap since I discovered these.  I also have a couple backup bottles on hand, as they do have a tendency to go out of stock on iHerb, where I most frequently buy them. [One slight downside for Canadian readers: I’m not actually sure if these are in Canada at this point.  We have other Alaffia and Everyday Shea products, but I’ve not seen the hand soaps in stores here or from Canadian retailers like Well.ca.]

The Bottom Line
I recommend these for anyone with hands that need washing.  More seriously, the Everyday Shea Hand Soaps are a winner for me in all ways -- great ingredients, both highly functional and non-drying, mildly scented, and inexpensive.  Alaffia, also makes a point of giving back to the African communities from which they source many of their ingredients and I feel positive about supporting a company with so many ongoing charitable projects.


Contains affiliate links.

23 March 2018

Rocky Mountain Soap Company: 4 Customer Favourites

I've been a longtime fan of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company -- no surprise if you’ve been here for long! -- so when I was asked if I’d be interested in reviewing some of the company’s best selling products, my answer was an immediate (and enthusiastic) yes.  I've used a fair number of Rocky Mountain’s products over the years, but, as it happened, all but one of these items were completely new to me. All Rocky Mountain Soap Company products are completely natural, cruelty free, and handcrafted in the company’s eco-friendly Canmore workshop, and these four items are vegan as well.  


Transformative Cleansing Oil
I love a good cleansing oil as a first cleanse in the evening and the Transformative Cleansing Oil fills that role perfectly.  With a base of sunflower, jojoba, and rosehip seed oils, it removes makeup like a champ and wipes away easily without any oily residue.  Skin is left feeling clean and moisturized. The formula, which also includes anti-inflammatory arnica, restorative chamomile, and soothing calendula extracts, glides across the skin easily and feels very gentle too.

And, it also smells beautiful -- a mix of blue chamomile, rose, and sandalwood that turns oil cleansing into the best kind of sensory experience.  I don’t always tolerate rose scents very well, but, to my nose anyways, the rose isn’t the prominent scent here and I haven’t had any issues.   All in all, a fantastic product and definitely something I’ll consider buying again.

Pomegranate Day Cream
I first tried the Pomegranate Day Cream back in 2016 and I've enjoyed cycling it in and out of my skincare routine ever since.  The Day Cream is a rich moisturizer, but it never feels greasy or overly heavy on the skin. I loved using it this past winter and was actually bemoaning the end of my jar just a couple of weeks before this new guy showed up at my door!  

In addition to its namesake pomegranate oil, the Day Cream also includes other beautiful oils like jojoba, apricot kernel, squalane, and babassu, as well moisturizing shea butter, cell-stimulating beech tree bud extract, and reparative black oat extract.  The cream smells mainly of citrus, with just a touch of sweet floral peeking through. It’s a well balanced scent and another one that I quite enjoy.


Blood Orange Sugar Scrub
I’ve used Rocky Mountain’s Juicy Orange Soap before and the Blood Orange Sugar Scrub smells just as delicious!  As sugar scrubs go, Rocky Mountain’s, which is made with cocoa butter and sunflower, jojoba, coconut, and olive oils, is very rich and buttery.  It’s not overly abrasive but does an excellent job sloughing off dead skin and leaves my skin feeling so soft and moisturized that it can basically function as a 2-in-1 exfoliator and in-shower moisturizer.  The last two ingredients in the scrub are potassium olivate and potassium jojobate: saponified oils or soap. There isn’t enough in the scrub to create any kind of lather, but it seems to help the scrub feel a little less oily and also helps to prevent turning the bathtub into an oil slick each time you scrub up.  I’m also a huge fan of the packaging, or, more specifically the lid -- a large flip top that opens fully, versus a standard screw off lid that needs to be completely removed.


Lavender Body Oil
The Lavender Body Oil was my surprise favorite of the bunch.  I rarely purchase lavender products since it's a very hit or miss scent for me, but this one is just gorgeous.  Relaxing fringed or French lavender is uniquely blended with a hint of organic chocolate flavour -- it’s not enough to make the oil smell chocolatey, but it adds a sweet, decadent and, dare I say, sexy note to an otherwise common scent.  In the bottle, the oil smells very much like your typical lavender, but once it hits the skin, it gains a beautiful richness and I seriously cannot get enough of it!

In addition to the scent, the body oil is a beautiful blend of organic sesame, jojoba, coconut, and sunflower oils.  Like most body oils, it absorbs best on damp skin, but it’s lightweight and sinks in quickly enough that I’ve had no problem applying it onto completely dry skin as well.  It moisturizes very well either way. The oil is also infused with soothing organic calendula and comfrey, so it’s great for irritated or inflamed skin too.

The Bottom Line
I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: the Rocky Mountain Soap Company is a fantastic Canadian brand and I don't think you can go very wrong with any of their products. This latest batch reconfirmed my love of the Pomegranate Day Cream and introduced me to three other great items too. I’m especially smitten with the Lavender Body Oil, but I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed trying the Transformative Cleansing Oil and Blood Orange Sugar Scrub.

Have you tried Rocky Mountain Soap yet?

Press sample

4 March 2018

A Year of Empties {Part #4: Makeup}

Makeup is always the tiniest of empties categories, but since I've been collecting these for so long, I've actually accumulated a fair number of products to share!  


BASE
I’m a big fan of Everyday Minerals's mineral foundations and the Matte Base in Ivory (1N) has been my go-to since last summer.  I'm working through a second jar now.  I also used up a mini jar of the The All Natural Face Mineral Foundation in Porcelain Kissed By Honey.  Also a solid product, though probably not something I'll buy again since there are other mineral foundations that I prefer.  

The Ecco Bella FlowerColor Face Powder in Fair is my favorite powder for setting liquid or cream makeup.  It offers little in the way of coverage, but has a beautiful, natural finish.  Definitely something I intend to re-buy in the future.  The Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder in Geisha is another good one -- medium coverage and super quick to buff onto the skin.  I think the ingredients have changed since the last time I purchased it, so I'll have to check into that before I buy it again.

I also tried samples of several liquid bases.  I had similar issues with the Pure Anada Tinted Moisturizer in Porcelain and Smooth & Conceal Liquid Foundation in Arctic Alabaster as I did with their moisturizers -- they sat on top of my skin and, as such, didn't look natural.   The Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue in Opal is a well-loved product, but I found it a little dark and a lot too luminous.  I'm all for glowy skin, but this crossed the line into oily for me.  I also wasn't wowed by the 14e Cosmetics Aloe Nourish Sheer Tint in Birch (1.5).  I don't remember there being anything wrong with it per say, but I didn't like it enough to pick up a full size.  


MASCARA
The Pacifica Stellar Gaze Supernova Mascara, which I used two tubes of, has become my new go-to mascara.  It's good and black, non-irritating to my sensitive eyes, and reasonably water resistant.  The other two were total flops: the Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Work It!, because it was practically invisible and still managed to smear all over my glasses despite stay-put claims to the contrary, and the BareMinerals Lash Domination Mascara, because while it looked and wore fine, it also seemed to make my lashes considerably more sparse during the two or so months that I used it.  Ingredients leave a little to be desired in the Bare Minerals too.

EYELINER
You wouldn't think brown pencil liner would be something to be picky about, but there you have it -- there's actually quite a bit of variation across brands! The Lily Lolo Brown Eye Liner Pencil, a dark brown with a creamy formula, is a definite favorite.  The Pacifica Fringe Natural Eye Pencil was a little too light and warm-toned for my liking -- disappointing because the black from the same line is one of my favorites.  The Honeybee Gardens Smoking Gun JobaColors Eye Liner is the most beautiful metallic cool taupe shade, but I'm not too impressed with the new ingredients since these were reformulated (and renamed), so it’s not one I’ll be replacing in my collection.


EYE SHADOW + EYE SHADOW PRIMER
The Lavera Eye Shadow Base was just okay.  It worked well at preventing creasing, but I found that colors tended to mash together over it, so it’s not ideal for more complex eye looks. I also finished a couple no longer available indie eye shadows: Shiro Cosmetics Baker’s Boy, a beautiful shimmery gold, and Detrivore Cosmetics Contamination, a perfect warm matte medium brown. I love wearing colors like this blended out in the crease.  

LIPS
Clearly I use a lot of lip balm! The Crazy Rumors Raspberry Sherbet Lip Balm and Wedderspoon Peppermint Lipcare are two great ones that I've bought many times over.  The Epic Blend Hemp Mint Lip Balm and Eco Lips Apricot Peach POGO Lip Balm were also good, although the shape and sturdiness of the latter left a little to be desired.  I used up one tinted balm: the Everyday Minerals Tinted Lip Balm in a mystery color (the label's worn off), which was the most perfect mauvey-nude.  My one gripe with Everyday Minerals is how frequently they discontinued their color products, which was the case with this one. There's a new incarnation of the tinted lip balms, but nothing that looks very similar color-wise.

I didn't finish the Eco Lips Peppermint Mongo Kiss Lip Balm, but I'm tossing it because I had a reaction every time I used it.  The only ingredient that was new to me was the mongongo oil, so I'll definitely be proceeding with caution with any other mongongo oil-containing products!  I'm also finally chucking out my Vapour Elixir Lip Glosses in Enigma and Twinkle.  I loved these glosses, but they've been long discontinued so it's well past time I got rid of them.  I'm not sure how Vapour’s doefoot glosses compare, but they're on my to-try list!


BLUSH/MISCELLANEOUS

The Silk Naturals Lovelace Sheer Blush was one of my first blushes and it’s one I loved right to its very end.  The Sheer Blush formula offers medium pigmentation and blends like a dream, and Lovelace, which is advertised as a dupe for Nars Deepthroat, is a beautiful shimmery peach.  I've got a new jar sitting pretty in my cart for my next Silk Naturals order.  I also sampled a few Everyday Minerals products: Berry Berry Luminous Blush, which I loved but which was no longer available by the time I got through the sample, Let's Pink About This Luminous Blush, which was just okay, and the Peach and Yellow Primers, both of which I like using to set or prime under eye concealer. I have a larger size of the Yellow Primer that I'm currently using. I also used at least one pack of the Blum Naturals Oil Absorbing Facial Tissues, basic blotting papers that I keep in my purse for midday touchups.
And that's a wrap on this batch of empties -- I'm so happy to finally chuck all these out!
Contains affiliate links.

2 March 2018

A Year of Empties {Part #3: Body Care}

Body care is a big one -- apparently I use a lot of soap! Keep reading for the nitty gritty -- pun intended -- on all the body products I finished up over the course of the last year...


BODY WASH
The Lavera Refreshing Lime & Verbena Body Wash was a good, basic shower gel -- it smelled good and did the job.  I adore the Nourish Organic Moisturizing Cream Body Washes, especially the now discontinued Wild Berries scent.  I have one more hoarded bottle in my shower and then I'll have to reconsider the other scents. I also enjoyed the Honest Co. Sweet Orange Vanilla Shampoo + Body Wash, although I probably won't buy anymore Honest due to all the hoopla surrounding the brand. The Apricot Kiss version also smelled terrible -- like gross, fake honey.  I used it up as laundry detergent -- since there was no way it was getting near my person -- and thankfully the scent did not linger.  I also used a bottle of the BR Naturals Lavender Body Wash, and while the lavender wasn't my favorite, the wash itself was nice, as was the DivaWash Cleanser, a multi-use product that I finished off as a body wash when my Diva Cup ended up sitting mostly unused in a drawer.  

HAND WASH
The Nourish Organic Moisturizing Hand Wash has also been discontinued, but I'm fairly certain it was identical to the body washes, packaging aside.  Both make a great non-drying drying hand soap and the fig scent is a good fruity go-to.  The Everyday Shea Hand Soaps have become my absolute favorite -- dare I say holy grail?  My hands dry out easily, especially in kitchen situations where I'm washing them countless times in a short period of time, and these are the best.  I haven't strayed to another hand wash since discovering them mid-2017.  The Mandarin Mango is my top pick of all the scents I've tried, and while the Lemon Verbena wasn't bad, it mostly smelled like lemongrass to me and isn't one I'm rushing to buy again.


BAR SOAP
I use bar soap in the shower, as a hand soap, and also as an ingredient in my homemade laundry detergent, which explains how I went through so very much of it!!  I’ll continue to purchase longtime favorites like the Green Beaver Castile Sunflower Soap, Rocky Mountain Soap, and Mamma Oceania, all three of which are lovely and palm oil free, but I likely would not buy the BR Naturals Exfoliating Peppermint Leaf or Dr. Jacobs Luscious Lavender Loofah Exfoliating Castile Soap, both because of their palm oil content and the exfoliating bits -- I generally prefer a smooth bar of soap.

CASTILE SOAP
A Dr. Jacobs product that I do love is the Liquid Castile Soap, used here in the Peppermint and Citrus scents.  Dr. Jacobs uses a mix of saponified plant oils -- like traditional castile soap -- and coco-glucoside, a mild surfactant, to create a hybrid soap that's the best of both worlds.  It's ultra-gentle, thick, and foamy. These are great for sorts of uses -- body wash, deep cleaning makeup brushes, laundry, and household cleaning.  

DEODORANT
As a green blogger and, more specifically, after judging the CertClean awards last year, I literally have a shelf of deodorants that I rotate amongst, so it's a wonder I finished up any at all! These are two of my very favorites: the Ursa Major Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant, which is the only natural deodorant I’ve used that actually mimics the feel and consistency of mainstream deodorants, and the Mabrook & Co. Clean Deodorant, a more ubiquitous coconut oil/baking soda formula, but one that's executed extremely well.  Both are ones I’ll happily continue to use!



BODY MOISTURIZERS
I finished up one body oil, the Sukin Wellbeing Body Oil, which smelled incredible -- Sukin’s signature citrus-vanilla - and moisturizes like a dream, as well as several body butters.  The Duckish Natural Skin Care Unscented Shea Lotion Stick is my favorite for dry, scaly legs in the winter, and I also loved the Nourish Organic Pure Unscented Body Butter, also a victim of Nourish’s mass discontinuations.  The Rocky Mountain Soap Lemongrass Body Butter was nice too, although I definitely prefer the consistency of the Duckish.  Rocky Mountain’s body butters are equally moisturizing, but they're a little heavier on the beeswax and don’t melt into the skin quite as elegantly.  

I stayed loyal to my two favorite hand creams: the Trilogy Ultra Hydrating Hand Cream and the Rocky Mountain Soap Vanilla Mint Hand Cream.  I have another tube of the Trilogy on the go now and although you can’t buy this exact version of the Rocky Mountain anymore, I am curious to try the reformulation that just launched.  I also used up samples of the Gabriel Organics White Seaweed Hand & Body Lotion and the John Masters Organics Lemon & Ginger Hand Cream, both of which were fine, if not standouts.  

OTHER/MISCELLANEOUS
A shaving cream I always come back to is the Kiss My Face Key Lime Moisture Shave.  It’s inexpensive, works great, and a bottle lasts ages.  If I’m not shaving with an otherwise unloved conditioner or other re-purposed product, the Moisture Shave is likely what’s in my shower.  I also really loved the Perk Citrus Mistress Body Scrub.  I'm not sure if Perk is around anymore, but Citrus Mistress was top notch.  Lastly, while I'm not a big user of hand sanitizer, I always keep a bottle of Young Living Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier in my purse for times when I can’t get to a sink.  It does the trick and, although it’s, of course, full of alcohol, it doesn’t seem as drying as many other hand sanitizers.  

That was a long one!  Makeup is still to come over the weekend and more regular content will resume next week.

Contains affiliate links.

1 March 2018

A Year of Empties {Part #2: Skincare}

Chugging right along to skincare!


CLEANSERS + SCRUBS
I stocked up on the old versions of some Andalou Naturals favorites as soon as I heard they were reformulated, so several of these will be versions you can no longer get your hands on.  The Citrus Kombucha Cleansing Gel, Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk, and Chia + Omega Radiant Skin Polish have been longtime favorites, but I can't speak to them in their current, updated forms.  The Osea Ocean Cleanser was my favorite Goodbeing Box discovery and is something I’ll be buying in full size sometime soon.  It’s a gentle non-foaming gel that smells fresh and lovely and leaves skin clean but not squeaky.  The POLYN Invigorating Face Wash is a multi-functional foaming castile-based cleanser that works equally well for face and body, and as a shaving foam.  I also used samples of the Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash -- a longtime favorite, I have a full bottle in my bathroom right now -- and the Pure Anada Refreshing Cleanser, which I really don't remember much about at all.


OIL CLEANSERS/MAKEUP REMOVERS
I fell hard for the Clean Kiss Organics Kiss Me Clean Cleansing Oil, a phenomenal oil cleanser that takes off every last speck of makeup and leaves my skin happy.  Definitely something I’ll re-buying at some point.  The Province Apothecary Moisturizing Cleanser + Make-Up Remover is also lovely, although I’m not sure I'd spend the extra money when I love the more affordable Clean Kiss (and Holiskin) cleansing oils so much.  I’m also a big fan of DIY Cleansing Oils and, blended with castor, rosehip, and essential oils, that's how I used this bottle of Aura Cacia Organic Sweet Almond Oil.

MAKEUP WIPES
It's a little horrifying to see how many wipes a person can get through in a year! I used five packs of my current favorite Everyone Chamomile + Aloe Baby Wipes, two travel packs of the Honest Co. Honest Baby Wipes, which I tend to pick up when I need something more compact or at the last minute, and one pack of the Avalon Organics Brilliant Balance Purifying Towelettes, which were pretty terrible. People complain about wipes being too dry, but these are on the complete other end of the spectrum -- ultra-saturated and almost soapy.  They smell strongly of (cheap/bad) lavender and leave a weird film on the skin. I used them purely for cleaning off swatches and dusting around the house.

I also used a pack of the Boo Bamboo Skin Balancing Makeup Remover Wipes, which used to be my favorite but seem to have very inconsistent quality of late.  I think I have another pack tucked away somewhere, but since they've started to vary a lot pack-to-pack -- in feel, smell and efficacy -- I won't be buying anymore.   Lastly, I used two travel packs of the Boo Bamboo Baby Boo Wipes.  I don't love these ones either, but they don't irritate my skin, so I’ll pick them up in a pinch.

To the best of my knowledge, all of these brands are biodegradable, but I do still ultimately want to move away from using so many disposables like wipes.


TONERS
Not a big year for toner! I have a couple teetering on their last legs now, plus I made my own witch hazel concoctions for much of the year, but the only non-DIY I finished completely was the Niora Naturals Alpha Clear Exfoliant, a very gentle AHA product that's good for those with ultra-sensitive skin. I liked it at the time, but it's not something I'd go out of my way to use again as I've since found more effective acid products that I prefer.

SERUMS/OILS
The Sola Skincare Balancing Face Oil is one of my all-time favorite oils and was almost immediately repurchased when this bottle ran out.  It’s light textured and moisturizing, and is especially ideal for anyone looking to target acne, oil production or irritation. I also really enjoyed a sample of the Province Apothecary Rejuvenating + Hydrating Face Serum, which I'd consider buying in the future.

I used a sample of the Pure Anada Smooth Priming Serum early in the year and ended up scooping up a full size bottle.  It’s a basic hyaluronic acid serum made of just hyaluronic acid and chamomile floral water that's gentle and inexpensive enough that I have no gripes about adding a few drops into my body lotion or foot cream when things are looking especially dry.  Another great sample was the Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel, which I like to use as a targeted/spot treatment on blemishes and other small irritations.


MOISTURIZERS/BALMS
The Andalou Naturals Probiotic + C Renewal Cream used to be my favorite moisturizer from Andalou. I recently bought a trial pod of the updated version to see how it compares, but I haven't broken into it yet.  The Andalou Naturals Night Repair Cream was nice too, but again, this was the old version.  

I loved the Rocky Mountain Soap Pomegranate Day Cream, a rich moisturizer that sinks in nicely and thoroughly moisturizes without feeling heavy or greasy.  Rocky Mountain recently sent me a few of their bestsellers, including a new jar of this guy, and I'm excited to have it back in rotation.  The Huna Skin Nutrition Balm is also a lovely product, if a little too heavy for my skin as a moisturizer.  I adored using it as a balm cleanser though!  

I was not a big fan of the Pure Anada Green Tea & Grapeseed or Scentless Moisturizers.  Both were a little too heavy for me and seemed to just sit on top of the skin.  The Green Tea & Grapeseed also smelled way too strongly of a strangely pungent neroli for my liking.

EYE PRODUCTS
I have a lot of love for the POLYN Cooling Under Eye Serum, a beautiful aloe-based eye gel that feels ultra cooling and works wonders on under eye puffiness.  I even used it as an all-over face serum a few times during the summer and it was lovely for that too!  The Pure Anada Awake Eye Gel, on the other hand, was just okay and didn't seem to do a lot for me.

SHEET MASKS
No regular masks used up, which I think tells you something about both the state of my life (busy) and that of my mask stash (unreasonably large). I'm not a huge sheet mask user, but I did try out two: the Andalou Naturals Lift & Firm Hydro Serum Facial Mask, which I found cold, sticky, and ultimately unimpressive, and the Boo Bamboo Pore Refining Bamboo Fiber Charcoal Sheet Mask, which I quite enjoyed. It’s not pore refining in the same way as a clay or other detox mask, but it felt nice and left my skin plump and hydrated, which, really, is about all I think you can reasonably expect from a sheet mask.   I did end up buying a few more of this one to keep on hand.


And that's a wrap for skincare! Body care and makeup are still to come...

Contains affiliate links.
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