19 June 2017

Pure Anada Smooth Priming Serum

I'm a firm believer that healthy, optimal skin needs both water and oil.  It's possible to get both components from a single product -- as is the case with standard water/oil emulsion moisturizers -- but with the prevalence of anhydrous (waterless) butters, balms, and oils in the green beauty realm, many people are missing out on the water element entirely. 

Another great way to illustrate these separate needs is the distinction between dry and dehydrated skin.  Dry skin generally feels rough or papery to the touch and might flake or peel, while dehydrated skin feels tight and sensitive and tends to show more prevalent fine lines.  In simplest terms, dry skin is lacking moisture (oil), whereas dehydrated skin is lacking hydration (water).  As such, skin can be dry, dehydrated, or both.  

I'm very conscious of incorporating both water and oil components into my  routine, but when my skin started looking generally lackluster and feeling dry and tight towards the end of the winter, my regular oils and moisturizers just weren't cutting it, so I knew I had to up the water component in my regimen.  Enter the Pure Anada Smooth Priming Serum....



The Smooth Priming Serum ($25 CAD for 30ml) is advertised as a hydrating and plumping makeup primer, and while I'm sure it works great for that function, it's, at its root, a very basic hyaluronic acid serum.  I purchased it with the intention of adding it into my skincare routine and that's where I've kept it, rather than as a first step in makeup application. 

The ingredients are incredibly simple: just plant-based hyaluronic acid and organic chamomile floral water.  Chamomile is a favorite ingredient of mine that smells wonderful and is fantastic for sensitive or irritated skin.  Hyaluronic acid, a humectant that draws water into the skin and binds to it, helps skin retain moisture, keeping it plump and hydrated.  (Be aware that in dry climates hyaluronic acid can have the opposite effect and actually pull water OUT of the skin if there's nowhere else for it to draw from!)  

The ingredient simplicity is what first drew me to this product -- a lot of water-based serums are made with glycerin, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not an ingredient my skin enjoys in large amounts, so it can be an issue for me in some formulations.  Glycerin can also sometimes feel sticky or tacky on the skin, and has the potential to clog pores in larger quantities too.  The Smooth Priming Serum, on the other hand, has a lightweight consistency and sinks into the skin beautifully without any residue or residual tackiness.  It does a great job plumping up the skin and (temporarily) reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.



I prefer to apply the serum onto damp skin, either from a toner or just a spritz of water, since it immediately gives the hyaluronic acid some moisture to bind to.  Usually I do a two-step routine, following the serum with a separate oil or cream moisturizer, but I've also enjoyed blending a couple drops of the serum and an oil together in my hand to create a sort of micro-emulsion.  I was using the serum daily in the winter, but since the weather's warmed up -- and all the humidity that comes with that here in Toronto -- I only find I need to use it 1-2x per week now.

The Bottom Line
Pure Anada is a great Canadian company and, clearly, I'm a fan of the Smooth Priming Serum!  The serum does a fantastic job hydrating and plumping the skin and its simple ingredients are gentle and perfect for sensitive and reactive skin.  I prefer using the serum as a skincare step rather than a direct makeup primer, however, I think it does prime the skin for makeup this way also.  Healthier, hydrated skin inevitably creates a better surface for makeup to sit on top of and reduces the number of crevices and fine lines for products to slip into throughout the day.  Whether you're looking for a skincare serum or a makeup primer, The Smooth Priming Serum is a great inexpensive option to consider.  You can also purchase samples directly on the Pure Anada website.  


Contains affiliate links.

28 May 2017

Sheer Lips for Spring (ft. Inika, Marin Bee, Mineral Fusion, Jane Iredale + Burt's Bees)

Opaque lip colors are great, but day to day, I'm much more of a tinted balm or gloss girl.  I've been fully embracing sheer color this spring with a few new-to-me lip products...


Marin Bee Lip Repair*
The Marin Bee Lip Repair has the least color of today's bunch.  The box describes it as "high gloss hydration," and I think that's very fitting.  Made with castor seed oil, olive oil, honey, and shea and cocoa butters, the Lip Repair is a nourishing lip treatment with a subtle tint and glossy finish.  It feels great and does a fantastic job keeping my lips soft and moisturized.  I like using it as an overnight treatment too!

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm (Sweet Violet)

I'm super late to the game on these tinted balms, but I picked one up last month in support of Burt's Bees finally pulling out of China (and therefore regaining their cruelty-free status).  It's a basic lip balm -- protective and moisturizing, but nothing to write home about on that front -- but what I really like are the creamy, glossy colors.  There's no shimmer in these, just soft, buildable tints.  Sweet Violet is a beautiful plummy-pink that can be worn sheer or layered up for a surprising amount of color payoff.  



Inika Certified Organic Lip Tint (Candy)*
Inika's Lip Tint has quickly become one of my everyday go-to's.  Candy is a shimmery light pink and looks to be the most subtle color in the range.  It's shimmery, but not to the point of looking frosty, and basically just gives the lips a pretty, polished-looking sheen.  The tint is creamy and buttery and despite the shimmer in this particular shade, it doesn't feel at all gritty on the lips.   To create the Lip Tints, Inika took their popular lip balm formula and just added mineral pigments for color, so this is another one that can absolutely stand in for your favorite regular lip balm.   They've also got an energizing peppermint scent that I really like.  Easy to wear and ultra-nourishing, they're definitely a new favorite!

Mineral Fusion Lipstick Butter (Honeysuckle)
Mineral Fusion's Sheer Moisture Lip Tints are one of my all-time favorite lip products, but the packaging -- specifically the lids, which have an annoying tendency to pop off -- means they mostly sit on my desk at home, so I was hoping the Lipstick Butters would be a similar, more purse friendly option.  Honeysuckle, a peachy-pink tint with some shimmer, is a pretty color, but alas, I can't get past how it smells.  To my nose, it has a fake honey, slightly sickly scent, and unfortunately it's one that lingers and is noticeable for at least a couple hours.  The lipstick butter itself seems great -- more pigmented than the Sheer Moisture Lip Tints but less so than Mineral Fusion's regular lipstick line -- but I almost always find myself wiping it off after just a few minutes because of the scent.

(L to R) Marin Bee Lip Repair, Inika Candy Lip Tint, Burt's Bees Sweet Violet Tinted Lip Balm, Jane Iredale Forever Pink Lip & Cheek Stain, Mineral Fusion Honeysuckle Lipstick Butter)
Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip & Cheek Stain (Forever Pink)
The Just Kissed Lip & Cheek Stain is one of those products that starts out a translucent pink in the tube (and on a first swipe), but transforms into a more noticeable color with the warmth of your skin.  Jane Iredale claims that the shade adjusts to your own chemistry and skin tone, which is always a little gimmicky, but it's true that the final color of the Lip & Cheek Stain varies a good bit on different people.  I've seen it look like a soft, neutral pink on some, but on my lips it's a noticeable pop of bright pink.  The arm swatch is much more indicative of how the color shows up on my cheeks -- it's much more vibrant on my lips.  As a cheek color, it gives a soft dewy flush, but it's pretty subtle, so while I think it's a fairly universal product for the lips, I'm not sure how well it would work as a cheek stain on darker skin tones.

If you watch out for synthetic dyes, be aware that the Lip & Cheek Stain does contain lake dyes, however, like all Jane Iredale products, they're naturally-derived and bonded to a calcium substrate instead of the traditional petroleum-derived variety.  

(L to R) Marin Bee Lip Repair, Inika Candy Lip Tint, Burt's Bees Sweet Violet Tinted Lip Balm, Jane Iredale Forever Pink Lip & Cheek Stain, Mineral Fusion Honeysuckle Lipstick Butter)
The Bottom Line
If you're in the market for sheer lip products, I hope one (or more) of these will spark your interest!  With the exception of the Mineral Fusion, which I suggest smelling in person before you commit, they're all pretty universal and suited to just about anyone.  For bolder -- though still sheer/buildable -- color, I'd suggest the Burt's Bees and Jane Iredale, and for ultra-dry or chapped lips, the Inika and Marin Bee would be your best bet.  

What are your favorite tinted balms and sheer lip colors?

*Press sample
Contains affiliate links



15 May 2017

The 1st Annual Holistic Beauty Expo (Toronto 2017): Highlights + New Discoveries

The Holistic Beauty Expo took place this past Friday in Toronto.  It was a day focused on holistic skincare, self-care, and self-love, and brought together Canadian natural and holistic brands, each with their own story and a focus on overall well-being.  The event included brand booths, speakers, and a unique Walking Facial that allowed attendees to experience some of the skincare lines right then and there.

I can't cover everything, but I want to share some photos from the event (excuse the quality -- I was relying my phone!), along with some of my favorite discoveries and highlights.

It's always a pleasure to see what's new with Province Apothecary.  I'm eager to try out Julie's new Natural Face Lift Ritual, a two step technique that combines acupressure point stimulation and facial massage.

Cocoon Apothecary's rebranding looked beautiful. (I'm kicking myself now for not getting an overall photo of their table!)  I was especially eager to swatch their new Reflector SPF 30 Face Sunscreen.  We all know sunscreens are tricky, but Reflector seemed to sink in really nicely with no crazy white cast.  The sunscreen offers broad spectrum mineral protection from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and is also biodegradable and reef safe.  This one definitely jumped to the top of my summer wishlist!

Also new to my wishlist is the Kiss My Curls Nourishing Hair Oil Spray from Clean Kiss Organics.  Clean Kiss's founder, Jodie, is a fellow curly girl, and Kiss My Curls is a lightweight blend of rosewater and marula, argan, and jojoba oils.  Everything from Clean Kiss smelled amazing and Kiss My Curls was no exception!

I'd never heard of Boosh before, but their lipsticks were incredible!  Beautiful mineral-based colors, organic ingredients, and a moisturizing formula.  I also tried out the Lip Plumping Balm, a lip treatment that's equal parts elegant and effective.

Ground Soap is an Ontario company that makes some of the very best palm oil-free soaps I've used.  After many years as a fan, it was great to chat with Angela, the company's founder, and finally put a face to the brand!

Okoko Cosmetiques was one of the lines I was most excited to check out upon first seeing the exhibitors list!  With an aesthetic reminiscent of May Lindstrom, everything looked super luxe and gorgeous.  I've heard fantastic things about Okoko's products and I love the company's focus on overall skin radiance and luminosity.  I'm especially intrigued by the bright-colored, multi-purpose Sublime Balm, which can function as a cleanser, mask, and moisturizer.

Another brand I'd heard of but not seen in person before was Bella Aura Skincare.  Yasmine, Bella Aura's founder, keeps it real and was lovely to talk to.  Bella Aura is donating 50% of the sales of their Essential Energy Boosting Kit this month to Lilly from Genuine Glow's GoFundMe, which is raising funds for her husband's cancer treatment.

Uniquely-Pure, an aromatherapy-centered line, was another new discovery for me.  The Dreamy Hair Treatment and Bath/Body Oils sounded especially fantastic!

I also enjoyed talking with Christine from BodyCherish.  Her product line, which incorporates crystal essences, smells incredible, so it was amazing to hear that she herself actually has no sense of smell!  Cherish is an energy healer and Reiki practitioner and all her formulating is done from the vibrational feel of the ingredients.  


All in all, the Holistic Beauty Expo was a great event and I'm happy I was able to attend.  Andrea Ashley, HBE's founder, is aiming for a bi-annual expo that will take place every year in Toronto and Vancouver and I'm excited to see where she takes it next!

Contains affiliate links.

23 April 2017

4 Months of Henna: Pros, Cons, Tips + Tricks

There's a lot of conflicting information out there about coloring your hair with henna and it can be a really intimidating thing to try out.  I've been using henna on my hair since December, and after mentioning it a few times in passing, both here on the blog and on Instagram, I've gotten a number of questions.  I'm not a hair stylist or a henna expert, but I want to talk about my experiences, the pros and cons, and also share some tips and tricks I've picked up along the way.  



Henna -- What Is It?
Henna, if you aren't familiar with it, is a plant based dye made from the leaves of the lawsonia inermis plant. Today, it's most commonly used for temporary henna tattoos and as a hair dye, but it's historically also been used to color leather, wool, and other fabrics and textiles.

Unlike traditional hair dyes which penetrate the hair cuticle and interact with the melanin in the hair cortex, henna just coats the outside of each strand.  The coating (and color) wears off over time --- usually between 4-12 weeks -- but regular use of henna can actually add noticeably more body to the hair, since it's adding that extra layer/coating with each use.  

I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about why traditional hair dyes are problematic -- there's plenty of other resources for that -- but needless to say, there are a number of questionable chemicals found in regular hair dyes.  Yes, there are dyes that use less chemicals, but henna is the only completely natural method of coloring your hair that I've come across to date.

Grey Hair (Or Why I Decided to Henna My Hair)
I've had grey hairs on the top of my head since I was 18 or 19, courtesy of thyroid issues I dealt with as a teenager.   They're not a big deal in the scheme of things, and I know that, but they were definitely the deciding factor in trying henna and also the main reason that I've continued with it these past few months.  I'm pretty low key with my hair, but it's really nice not to have noticeable grey hair for the first time in 10 years!

Henna Brands -- Which Should You Use?
More so than any one particular brand, it's important to make sure that you're getting pure henna made from 100% natural materials.  Avoid compound hennas that contain metallic salts, metals, or synthetic dyes.  Instead, look for companies that mix the henna only with other plants and herbs.  Common add-ins include clays, indigo, cassia, amla, turmeric, and chamomile.

I've tried two brands of henna thus far -- Rainbow Research, which I purchased myself on iHerb, and Henna Color Lab, which was kindly sent to me by the company.  Both brands sell henna free of synthetic additives, chemicals, metallic salts, and metals.  Choosing a powdered henna over a pre-hydrated cream also minimizes ingredients and eliminates the need for preservatives.

The supplies!
Burgundy is sold as a dark auburn, but that's not how I'd describe the results on my hair.  My natural hair is a light/medium brown -- as you can see in the sidebar photo -- and this really didn't darken it at all.  It gave it a red tint, but depth-wise, it was pretty much the same as my natural hair.  In fact, the difference was so subtle that a lot of people didn't even notice that I'd colored my hair.  The most noticeable difference was that it turned my grey hairs from grey to gold and made them look like strawberry blonde highlights.  It also completely changed the texture of the greys and got rid of their wireyness and inclination towards static.

Overall, I liked the color, but it wasn't exactly what I expected after looking at the Rainbow Research color charts.  On the plus side, the color lasted very well and I was able to touch up my roots after 6 weeks and have them blend into the rest of the hair seamlessly.  After another 5-6 weeks, I did notice the color fading, particularly on the grey strands.

Wine Red is the darkest red in the Henna Color Lab catalogue, and is described as "a pure deep red with few to no brown undertones."  From my experience, this is pretty accurate!  It's a pretty color -- very vibrant and very red.

My experience with this one was quite a bit fussier than the Rainbow Research Burgundy.  The paste stained super easily -- both skin and virtually anything it touched -- and I had a brief night of panic when I first washed the color off to find that both my scalp and the edge of my forehead were also dyed bright red.  Thankfully the color came off my forehead right away with some oil on a cotton ball and it faded off my scalp within 24 hours too.

The color also bleeds a lot.  Every time I showered, for the full 5 weeks before I recolored it, the water ran gradually paler shades of orange and yellow.  A number of the reviews on the Henna Color Lab site mention a similar experience, so it wasn't totally unexpected.  You definitely want to use dark towels and rinse out the tub after showering -- the bleeding color won't permanently stain the tub, but it does take some scrubbing to get it clean if any of the drips are left to dry.

The bleeding also went hand in hand with color fading.  In my understanding, henna by itself doesn't typically bleed, so I'm assuming it's the other herbs and plant additives here that do.  As they bled out, the color also changed -- after about 4 weeks, I was left with a lighter and much more coppery color than the initial vibrant red.  It was significant enough that there's no way I could do a root touch up with this one and expect the freshly dyed roots to blend with the length of the hair.

Wine Red definitely requires more upkeep, but the color -- especially initially -- is super gorgeous.  I don't think the bleeding is indicative of all the colors at Henna Color Lab either,  as I only saw it mentioned in the reviews for this one shade.  I'll update if I try another color!

Henna Color Lab Wine Red
General Tips + Tricks

  • Apply onto Freshly Washed Hair (No Conditioner) -- Any dirt, oil or conditioner will make it more difficult for henna to adhere to the hair.
  • Pudding Consistency -- Add just enough water to the henna powder to create a thick pudding/cake batter consistency.  If the mixture is too thin/runny, it may start to drip while the henna sets.  
  • Do a Strand Test -- Because color can be so variable, I recommend strand testing any new colors before dying your whole head.  Wait a full 48 hours for the color to develop.
  • (Optional) Apple Cider Vinegar -- Adding 1-2 tablespoons of ACV can help bring out red tones and/or help color stick to grey hair.
  • Always Wear Gloves -- Henna hair dyes are the exact same thing as the henna used for henna tattoos.  As such, they WILL stain your skin if left on.  The Henna Color Lab dyes come with disposable gloves and you can also buy them up separately.  Rubber dishwashing gloves work too and can be washed and reused.   
  • Coat Hairline/Ears/Neck with Shea Butter -- A generous coating will help prevent any henna from adhering to the skin.  Any oil or butter -- or even lip balm -- should do the trick.  
  • Newspaper the Floor -- Henna can be messy and laying down some newspaper to stand on means you don't have to think about/worry about dripping.  
  • Cover Head with Shower Cap -- While henna sets.  I've also used a clean plastic bag. 
  • Avoid Shampoo for 48 Hours -- To help color set and develop.  Rinse out henna paste with water and conditioner only.  

The Pros

  • Natural + Free of Synthetic Chemicals
  • 100% Vegan and Plant-Based
  • Long-Lasting Color -- It's recommended to re-dye every 4-6 weeks as the color gradually fades, but I've yet to have the color completely disappear/wash out.
  • Effectively Covers Grey -- Results may vary, but I've had 100% coverage of my greys every single time.
  • Conditioning + Strengthening Benefits -- While coating the hair, henna smooths the cuticle of each strand, leaving hair stronger, smoother, shinier, and conditioned.  I can especially notice a difference on my grey hairs, which completely lost their wireyness and blend in much better with the rest of my hair now.  Some people even use colorless, neutral 'henna' just for the conditioning benefits!


The Cons

  • Limited Color Choice -- Henna itself is red, so most shades have red/warm undertones.
  • Dyed Color Depends on Starting Color -- Henna adds a coating over the hair, but it doesn't actually alter its color.  The color you see is a combination of the hair's starting color, reflecting through the henna coating.  Because of this, two people can use the identical henna and end up with vastly different results, depending on their natural/starting color.  You generally can't go lighter, as you just won't see any noticeable results.  This is also important to consider if covering grey hair, as the greys and non-greys will come out two different colors.  On my hair, I think it blends pretty naturally and just looks like subtle highlights, but if you have a bigger contrast between the greys and other hair (ie. salt and pepper hair), the difference may be more noticeable.  
  • Permanent/Long-Lasting Color -- Henna is generally considered a semi-permanent color, but it lasts a long time and it's not easy to remove.  The color fades, but is still visible on the hair several months after application, so it's probably not the best option for anyone who likes to make dramatic changes often.
  • Messy -- The henna mixture, once hydrated, is like applying wet mud or pudding to your head.  
  • Time Consuming -- Application aside, henna needs to be left on the hair for 1-3 hours for color to take.  Once rinsed out, it can also take up to 48 hours for the final color to fully develop.
  • Potential Interaction with Chemical Dyes -- From everything I've read, it's usually additives in poor quality henna that interact badly with any ammonia or dyes that might still be on chemically treated hair, but we've all heard the horror stories!  Definitely proceed with caution and perhaps contact any henna company directly before using it over traditional hair dye or before dying over it with traditional dyes.


The Bottom Line
There are a few potential cons to consider, but I do generally think henna is a great option for naturally coloring hair.  Beyond having to be left on the hair longer, I don't think the actual process of coloring hair with henna is all that different from that of traditional chemical dyes.  It's safe and effective and offers conditioning and strengthening benefits too!  I'd recommend both Henna Color Lab and Rainbow Research -- as long as you find a color you like, I think you'd be equally good going with either one!  

Have you used henna before?  


*Press sample.  Contains affiliate links

11 April 2017

Spring Body Oil Standouts ft. Sukin + Flora Remedia

Are you a body oil convert?  Personally, I switch back and forth between lotions and oils, but I've been having a moment with body oils recently, and two in particular: the Wellbeing Body Oil from Sukin, and the Detoxing Body Oil* from Flora Remedia*. 

General body oil gospel is to apply oils onto wet skin before toweling off, but my first priority post-shower is always my hair.  As fellow curlies can attest, letting curly hair dry too much before styling only results in unnecessary frizz and struggles, so my routine is always hair, then face, then body.  As a result, I prefer more lightweight body oils that don't require soaking wet skin to absorb properly.  I still want my oils to pack a moisturizing punch, but they also need to allow for some versatility in application.

Both of today's picks are just fine to apply onto mostly dry skin, and that's how I usually use them.  If I'm feeling fancy, I might mist myself with some kind of hydrosol or aloe spray before going in with the oil, but more often than not, I just slap them on and go.  Neither one leaves me feeling greasy or requires any significant wait time before pulling clothes on.


I really like Sukin products and the Wellbeing Body Oil has been on my mental wishlist for years, but it wasn't until I spotted it severely discounted at Winners that I finally took the plunge.  Now that my bottle is on its last legs, I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to finally get my hands on it!

The Wellbeing Body Oil has Sukin's signature vanilla-orange scent.  Citrus and vanilla is a fairly common scent pairing, but I think Sukin's version is one of the best.  It's sweet and pleasantly reminiscent of creamsicles, but also elegant and not overly young or sugary.  To draw a couple comparisons, I'd say Sukin's aroma is lighter and more citrusy than the Rachel's Plan Bee products and much less sweet than Andalou Naturals' candy-like mandarin vanilla line.  For me, it's a very wearable scent.  I enjoy the smell when I use the oil and I can smell it on my skin for close to a day, but it doesn't overwhelm the senses or cause me any problems.

The oil itself is a nourishing blend of sunflower, jojoba, rosehip, marula, evening primrose, avocado, sweet almond, wheatgerm, and soybean oils that's further enhanced with soothing calendula extract and vitamin E.  I could do without the soy oil -- it's just generally not an ingredient I love -- but the product as a whole is beautiful.  It's a medium weight oil, but one that sinks in very nicely, even on dry skin.  It does a fantastic job moisturizing and leaves skin feeling extra soft and silky.


Flora Remedia uniquely blends together plant based ingredients, essential oils, and flower essences to create products intended to help you feel your best -- mind, body, and soul.  Along those lines, the Detoxing Body Oil promises to do more than just moisturize the skin.  The act of massaging in any oil helps stimulate the lymphatic system, which in turn contributes to normal and healthy detox processes and Flora Remedia has formulated their oil with thoughtful ingredients to maximize these benefits.  The product description specifically talks about reduced cellulite and water retention, but since I don't deal with a lot of either one, I'm not comfortable judging it on those criteria.  Whether or not you observe any clear detox perks, the oil makes a fantastic body moisturizer!

I think the liquoricey scent will be a little more polarizing than the Sukin, but I, for one, like it a lot.  With essential oils chosen for their detoxifying benefits as well as their fragrances, the oil contains a distinctive mix of grapefruit, fennel, rosemary, lemon, and juniper, but the predominant scent, to my nose at least, is without a doubt the fennel.  It's sweet, fresh, and liquoricey.  I don't find the fragrance lasts on the skin beyond a few hours, but liquorice and fennel are such love-it-or-hate-it tastes, so I think a lot will come down to that preference.

The oil has a lightweight base of sunflower and safflower oils that, again, absorbs very well into the skin.  I think the Detoxing Body Oil would be a great choice for someone newer to moisturizing with oils or for anyone who usually finds oils too heavy, as it has a lovely light and nongreasy feel on the skin.  The oil also contains crab apple, impatiens, and larch flower essences, which offer extra feel good benefits.
  
The Bottom Line
Whether you're a longtime body oil convert or a newbie, you can't go wrong with either of these!  Both smell great, moisturize well, and absorb easily into the skin.  As an added bonus, the Flora Remedia Detoxing Oil also offers potential detox and mood boosting benefits.

Have you used either of these oils?  What are your favorite body oils?


*Press sample
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